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Halloween Kills First Reviews: Bloodier and More Relentless Than the First

Critics say the middle chapter of the new trilogy is more reminiscent of the original classic and boasts an impressive body count, even if it sacrifices some nuance in the process.

by | September 9, 2021 | Comments

When it comes to Halloween movies, it’s easy to be skeptical. Until the arrival of David Gordon Green’s 2018 sequel — simply titled Halloween the franchise had not had a positive Rotten Tomatoes score since the 1978 original. Now fans are hoping the next installment, Halloween Kills, also by Green, continues this new uptick in quality horror in the name of Michael Myers.

The good news is that some of the first reviews of the sequel — filed after its premiere at the Venice Film Festival this week — are favorable. The bad news is that, overall, the reception is mixed, particularly on whether Halloween Kills lives up to its predecessor. But if what you’re looking for is a lot of kills in your Halloween film, you’re apparently going to be satisfied.

Here’s what critics are saying about Halloween Kills:


Is it as good as the last one?

Halloween Kills is here and is just as good as its predecessor.” – Ben Rolph, Discussing Film

“Green offers a functional but enjoyably efficient follow-up.” – Jonathan Romney, Guardian

“Green more or less abandons the previous film’s enjoyable retro flavor.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“[A] hollow, water-treading follow-up.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

“The law of diminishing sequel returns applies here.” – Wendy Ide, Screen International


How does it fit in the Halloween franchise?

“Stylistically, there’s a kinship with the film’s earliest incarnation.” – Wendy Ide, Screen International

“Green and his crew have recreated the feel of the Carpenter original with an almost academic diligence… Halloween Kills certainly feels like more Halloween.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

“For all the deep and troubling psychoanalysis of this film, it’s also a textbook Halloween movie.” – Asher Luberto, The Wrap

“Feels entirely at home within the series’ history and something that tries to journey down avenues unexplored in the previous 11 films.” – Marshall Shaffer, Slashfilm

“Green has made exactly the kind of witless, worthless sequel that bled the franchise dry in the 1980s and ’90s.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“As clever a job as he did on the first film, [Green] wastes no time cutting back to where the Halloween series ultimately landed: in a swamp of luridly repetitive and empty sequels.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Kills is a long-awaited entry to a franchise like no other. But if it was just a bit more like the others, perversely, it might be better one.” – Adam Solomons, HeyUGuys


Halloween Kills - Fire

(Photo by © Universal)

Will fans enjoy it?

“Far from a disappointment for the millions of genre fans for which the Halloween franchise has become canon.” – Adam Solomons, HeyUGuys

“There are enough callbacks to the original film to satisfy Carpenter fans while also expanding the mythology around Michael Myers and the town of Haddonfield in meaningful ways.” – Rafael Motamayor, IGN Movies

“Green seems less interested in rewriting the Halloween playbook than in giving audiences what they came for, from ghastly scares to a ghoulish score.” – Asher Luberto, The Wrap

“As far as franchise installments go, Green and co-writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems show far less interest in checking off familiar signifiers for fan service.” – Marshall Shaffer, Slashfilm

“Finds itself torn between catering equally for the uninitiated and Halloween devotees.” – Philip De Semlyen, Time Out

“The film should connect with genre audiences but is unlikely to bring new fans to the franchise.” – Wendy Ide, Screen International


Is it scary?

“In terms of the film’s scare factor, audiences will be undoubtedly biting their nails in anxiety. Green successfully keeps the viewer on edge.” – Ben Rolph, Discussing Film

“There’s something genuinely disconcerting about it — the dehumanizing effect of blood lust and the desire for retribution. It’s perhaps here that the real horror is to be found.” – Wendy Ide, Screen International

“Green amps up the violence and gore at the expense of actual scares or even a modicum of suspense.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“It’s a mess — a slasher movie that‘s almost never scary.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“The scares barely register.” – Philip De Semlyen, Time Out


Halloween Kills - Laurie Strode

(Photo by © Universal)

So it’s got an impressive kill count?

“It takes the slash in ‘slasher’ up to a thousand, and it’s all the better for it… Halloween Kills is a non-stop, blood-rushing blast.” – Ben Rolph, Discussing Film

“Never was there a film truer to its name… The body count is phenomenal.” – Stephanie Bunbury, Deadline

“The rhythms of the kills are just right.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

“Doubles the body count of the previous installment while roughly halving its IQ… Maybe a town this dumb deserves Michael Myers.” – Jessica Kiang, The Playlist


Are the kills themselves worth seeing?

“Green’s outdone himself… Yes, the massacres will live up to the expectations of a blood-thirsty audience.” – Savina Petkova, Awards Watch

“Gore hounds won’t care [about any of the movie’s flaws], given that Green and his co-writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems pepper the script with an endless procession of violent deaths.” – James Mottram, South China Morning Post

“Green leaves little to the imagination here. Michael stabs his victims multiple more times than necessary… The violence feels cruel, targeted, and quite methodical.” – Marshall Shaffer, Slashfilm

“This is a much angrier, darker, and more violent film than 2018’s Halloween, and it includes some of the most shocking and disturbing kills in the entire franchise.” – Rafael Motamayor, IGN Movies

“There are some absolutely gnarly kills that will become ingrained in spectator’s minds. It’s shocking to the highest degree.” – Ben Rolph, Discussing Film

“Several of Halloween Kills’ kills are creatively executed… Better still are the moments where Green stops for a minute to give these deaths some weight.” – Leila Latif, Total Film

“Some of them are fun… Most are a little bit ho-hum, but if you’re a quantity over quality person, there are sure enough of them.” – Jessica Kiang, The Playlist


Halloween Kills

(Photo by © Universal)

How is the score?

“Slabs of electro co-composed by John Carpenter makes sure Halloween Kills sounds like the 1978 original, even if it doesn’t feel like it.” – Philip De Semlyen, Time Out

“The cherry on the top is John Carpenter’s new rendition of his original Halloween theme; it’s just as chilling as ever.” – Ben Rolph, Discussing Film

“Even John Carpenter’s score is darker, slower, and more dramatic than any of his previous Halloween efforts.” – Rafael Motamayor, IGN Movies

“Big and bombastic… Instead of getting under your skin, the music hammers you over the head. Call it Halloween Overkills.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter


How does it look?

“Once again, Green sticks intimately close to the aesthetics set by Carpenter… Fans and connoisseurs will recognize the singular credit typography, the tracks and glides of the camera, the frequent use of point-of-view shots of either killer or victim.” – Savina Petkova, Awards Watch

“Director David Gordon-Green and cinematographer Michael Simmonds do a great job of recreating the look of Carpenter’s original down to the film grain.” – Rafael Motamayor, IGN Movies

“Despite being clearly modern, a large majority of Simmonds’ visuals evoke Dean Cundey’s original style.” – Ben Rolph, Discussing Film

“The film is expertly shot by returning cinematographer Michael Simmonds, who crafts some memorably chilling images, highly stylized and dimly lit.” – Asher Luberto, The Wrap


Halloween Kills

(Photo by ©Universal Pictures)

And the screenplay?

“It’s a wise choice on the part of returning director David Gordon Green and co-writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems to barely move the narrative at all.” – Leila Latif, Total Film

“There is something inauthentic and occasionally farce to some of the dialogue… [but] one can overlook the somewhat archetypal scripting flaws thanks to the sheer entertainment factor of the film.” – Ben Rolph, Discussing Film

Halloween Kills is no mere gore-fest — it’s about the generational trauma bestowed upon Haddonfield.” – Asher Luberto, The Wrap

“Slathered with ‘topical’ pablum and with too many parallel plot strands that don’t go anywhere.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“There are interesting questions raised about mob mentality and what fear does to a community, but the script never fully decides whether to condemn or celebrate it.” – Rafael Motamayor, IGN Movies

“It tries and fails to speak profoundly about the nature of Fear Itself.” – Adam Solomons, HeyUGuys

“If Scott Teems, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green’s script tries to engage with these questions of generational trauma, recognizing that Myers’s rampage affected more than one family, it undercuts any stab at earnestness in the very same moment.” – Ben Croll, IndieWire

“No script has called for characters to split up with such predictably painful consequences since Kramer vs Kramer.” – Philip De Semlyen, Time Out


Does it do anything new?

“There’s not a massive amount of innovation… but we’re really here for the slaughter, and the reliable repetition.” – Jonathan Romney, Guardian

“Green’s dextrous handling of Halloween actually twists away from some of the old slasher tropes.” – Stephanie Bunbury, Deadline

“Whatever else could be said about this competent and generally pretty entertaining latest addition to the series, surprising it is not.” – Wendy Ide, Screen International

“The new movie becomes all about fusing the Halloween formula with the tropes and obsessions of today. Which turns out to be a real fear-killer.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“In an effort to remake and refresh the mythology of the franchise, the writers have strayed dangerously close to getting rid of it altogether, virtually destroying the one relationship of any substance at all.” – Jessica Kiang, The Playlist


How is Jamie Lee Curtis?

“Curtis, so good in the last one, is mostly wasted this time (you can feel the film trying to think up things for her to do).” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“Disappointingly, the actress is largely sidelined in this installment.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

“She’s basically sidelined in post-surgery recovery… just killing time waiting for the inevitable showdown in the closing chapter.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter


Halloween (2018)

(Photo by © Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)

What about Judy Greer?

“Greer, who rarely gets a chance to kick ass, takes up the Curtis mantle with aplomb.” – James Mottram, South China Morning Post

“The always superb Judy Greer manages to convey undaunted intensity even despite some very autumnal knitwear.” – Jonathan Romney, Guardian

“Pity poor Judy Greer, even her talents cannot do anything with a character who is required to be a totally different person every three minutes.” – Jessica Kiang, The Playlist


Is Michael Myers still an interesting villain?

Halloween Kills explores the myth of Michael Myers in a twisted and more psychological manner as his true nature as an uncontrollable force continues to be dissected.” – Ben Rolph, Discussing Film

“Filmmakers can bend his nature at their will. But when a character can be everything, it becomes quite a thrill to see what they choose.” – Marshall Shaffer, Slashfilm

“What’s interesting is the idea that Myers’ evil is too big to be contained by just one man, even one as relentless and formidable as Michael.” – Wendy Ide, Screen International

“He’s just a mayhem machine, going through the motions.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“After 40 years, that mask is more expressive than any of the actors in Halloween Kills.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety


Halloween Kills - Stairs

(Photo by © Universal)

What about the returning franchise characters?

“Officer Frank Hawkins… is given a nice little section in which we discover the roots of his personal vendetta against Michael.” – Jessica Kiang, The Playlist

“The decision to bring back Donald Pleasance as a hologram (please leave the man alone) also feels cheesy in a way which feels unnecessary instead of playful homage.” – Nicholas Bell, IONCINEMA.com

“When it focuses on its beloved central characters Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), Karen (Judy Greer) and Allyson (Andi Matichak), Halloween Kills flies.” – Adam Solomons, HeyUGuys


Should we care about any of the new characters?

“Some of the film’s most impressive moments come from seeing just how widely Michael charts the life course of characters beyond just the series’ leading lady.” – Marshall Shaffer, Slashfilm

“Many horror movies become frustrating as characters make daft decisions… but Halloween Kills intriguingly suggests these characters are almost doing it on purpose.” – Leila Latif, Total Film

“A dozen or so newbies are introduced for no other reason than to get slaughtered in a back-alley bloodbath.” – Asher Luberto, The Wrap

“There’s barely a reason to get attached to any of them.” – Philip De Semlyen, Time Out

“Less forgivable is how rote [the kills] become and how so many of them are fully reliant on characters to whom we’ve been introduced mere moments before making every class of idiotic choice.” – Jessica Kiang, The Playlist


Halloween 2018

(Photo by @ Universal)

Can you go into this movie cold without seeing the others?

“As far as familiarity with the 11-movie series goes, Halloween Kills requires little. If you’ve only seen the ‘78 classic (as I had), you’ll be fine. If you’ve seen none at all, you probably won’t.” – Adam Solomons, HeyUGuys

“Don’t worry overmuch if you can’t remember precisely the ins and outs of who got offed when and where in the previous film, as Green provides plenty of flashbacks and callbacks to remind you.” – Jessica Kiang, The Playlist

“The prologue is there not just to bring newbies up to speed, but to prod the bit of the brain that keeps the things of childhood sacred.” – Stephanie Bunbury, Deadline


Does the next sequel ruin the stakes of this one?

“Another film, Halloween Ends, is slated for release in October 2022, rather taking an axe to any hopes of closure in this installment.” – Wendy Ide, Screen International

“[The] story must remain in neutral, withholding any logical continuation for 2022’s Halloween Ends.” – Ben Croll, IndieWire

“Much of Halloween Kills is just table setting for the final confrontation, including an abrupt cliffhanger ending that makes this feel like half of a movie.” – Rafael Motamayor, IGN Movies

“The game board is left exactly as it was found in readiness for round 13; the only thing that advances is the body count.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

“What tension can there be when there’s a killer who is virtually un-killable and absolutely ubiquitous?” – Jessica Kiang, The Playlist

“Ultimately, this does exactly what the middle-of-trilogy entry should do, have a blast while ably setting up the big finale.” – Leila Latif, Total Film


But will we leave the movie excited for the next one?

“Perhaps with more runway, this trilogy can complete the thought… There’s good reason to be excited for how Green will bring this all to a head in his grand finale.” – Marshall Shaffer, Slashfilm

“Not only will it leave everyone yearning for a conclusion, which they’ll get, but it also leaves a lasting, memorable impact.” – Ben Rolph, Discussing Film

“We love this stuff. You know we do.” – Stephanie Bunbury, Deadline


Halloween Kills is in theaters on October 15, 2021.


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