(Photo by ©Compass International Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)
Ever since John Carpenter first unleashed the terror known as Michael Myers on unsuspecting moviegoers in 1978, the pale-masked villain has stalked cineplexes and thrilled audiences… to varying degrees of success. In 2018, director David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride debuted the first of a planned new trilogy, Halloween, to fantastic results, and its second chapter, Halloween Kills, just rocked the weekend box office to the tune of $50 million, despite also streaming on Peacock.
But like any long-running horror franchise, Halloween has had its critical ups and downs — let’s be honest, the downs kind of dominate the series — so what is it about these movies that keeps audiences bloodthirsty for more?
That’s what we set out to uncover on this week’s episode of our podcast Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong, digging into every sequel, reboot, and sort-of-sequel-sort-of-reboot — as well as a curiously conspicuous detour — to determine if the Tomatometer scores line up with what fans have come to expect of the nigh-unkillable man in the repurposed William Shatner mask and the Final Girl to outlast them all, Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode.
Does the Halloween franchise as a whole deserve to be Fresher? (Only two of the entries — the original Halloween and the 2018 film — have met that threshold.) Is Halloween III: Season of the Witch a misunderstood gem that should be judged on its own merits? And what exactly does it take to make an effective horror film anyway?
Joining regular co-hosts Jacqueline Coley and Mark Ellis is a guest who knows a little something about the horror genre: Michael Kennedy, who wrote the Certified Fresh 2020 body-swap horror-comedy Freaky and has a new slasher called Time Cut in the works. Will he be able to successfully argue that Halloween H20 is, in fact, a better film than Halloween 2018?
Check in every Thursday for a new episode of Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong (A Podcast From Rotten Tomatoes). Each week, hosts Jacqueline and Mark and guests go deep and settle the score on some of the most beloved – and despised – movies and TV shows ever made, directly taking on the statement we hear from so many fans: “Rotten Tomatoes is wrong.”
Check out some more episodes of Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong:
If you have a suggestion for a movie or show you think we should do an episode on, let us know in the comments, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the hosts
Jacqueline Coley is an editor at Rotten Tomatoes, with a focus on awards and indie coverage but with a passion for everything, from the MCU to musicals and period pieces. Coley is a regular moderator at conventions and other events, can be seen on Access Hollywood and other shows, and will not stand Constantine slander of any kind. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter: @THATjacqueline.
Mark Ellis is a comedian and contributing editor for Rotten Tomatoes. He currently hosts the Rotten Tomatoes series Versus, among others, and can be seen co-hosting the sports entertainment phenomenon Movie Trivia Schmoedown. His favorite Star Wars movie is Jedi (guess which one!), his favorite person is actually a dog (his beloved stepdaughter Mollie), and – thanks to this podcast – he’s about to watch Burlesque for the first time in his life. Follow Mark on Twitter: @markellislive.
What does being a ‘final girl’ mean to horror’s original final girl – and her successor to the blood-soaked throne? We sat down with Halloween Kills stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Judy Greer to find out just that. In an extended conversation ahead of the horror sequel’s release in theaters and on Peacock, Curtis and Greer talk about what being a final girl means to them and to horror audiences, where we find their characters in the new film, and why the women of some of our favorite slasher films continue to inspire audiences to this day.
Halloween Kills opens in theaters on October 15, 2021.
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:
“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
“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
(Photo by © Universal)
“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
“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
(Photo by © Universal)
“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
“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
(Photo by © Universal)
“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
“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
(Photo by ©Universal Pictures)
“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
“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
“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
(Photo by © Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)
“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
“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
(Photo by © Universal)
“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
“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
(Photo by @ Universal)
“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
“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
“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.
If you really thought Michael Myers burned to death in Laurie Strode’s rat-trap basement bunker at the end of Halloween (2018), all we can say is we envy you in what is clearly your first slasher franchise experience. Not to stomp all over your new snow, but the Man in the William Shatner Mask is very much coming back again, along with ultimate Final Woman (c’mon, you’re not calling the incomparable Jamie Lee Curtis a “girl”) in Halloween Kills.
With our full first glimpse at Part Two – Part 2 Vol. 2? Part 2B? – in the form of a just-released full trailer, this franchise has gotten extremely messy with its timelines and continuity. To help, we have gathered up everything we know so far about Haddonfield’s favorite son and his refusal to retire gracefully.
Right from the start, director David Gordon Green (Our Brand is Crisis, Pineapple Express) and writer Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride) planned their return to the Halloween franchise as a trilogy. In fact, they intended to shoot all three back-to-back-to-back but decided to pause in between: First to gauge the response to Halloween (2018) and make sure fans and new audiences were down with their franchise-course-correcting efforts, and second, because, reportedly, Halloween Kills was a really intense shoot. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, actress Andi Matichak (who plays Laurie Strode’s granddaughter, Allyson) explains, “They thought about doing them back to back. But Halloween Kills was just so ambitious. It was such an intense shooting schedule that it would have been a bit much to try to do them at the same time.” The final installment, bluntly titled Halloween Ends, is slated for a 2022 release.
(Photo by )
Perhaps no horror franchise is messier than Halloween. You’ve got reboots, remakes, disowned sequels, and warring continuity all jumbled together into a hodgepodge of indecipherable nonsense. There’s the original 1978 Halloween, then the straight sequel Halloween II (which added the “huh?” element of Laurie being Michael’s sister), and then things get really nutty. Halloween III: Season of the Witch takes a hard left turn by having nothing at all to do with Michael Myers or Laurie Strode. (It’s a standalone story about a sinister corporation making killer Halloween masks.) The franchise then spiraled into increasingly silly and more generic cash-ins like Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (which added the “huh?” of Laurie having a daughter named Jamie out of nowhere); Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (said daughter shares a psychic link with Michael? Because, sure, why not?); Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (Um, Michael was “created” by a Druid cult?); then Halloween H20 (which sees Curtis return as Laurie because this movie pretends that Halloween 4, 5, and 6 didn’t happen – the first but not last instance of selective memory); and then Halloween: Resurrection (also known as the one where Michael fights Busta Rhymes). Exhausted? We’re not even done.
After all this, Rob Zombie decided to do a complete reboot with Halloween (2007) that starts from scratch with new actors, and then he followed it up in 2009 with a second Halloween II. And finally, in 2018, Green and McBride gave us their own Halloween, which is actually a third try at Halloween II, since it’s meant to be a direct sequel to the original 1978 Halloween and ignores everything that came after it. Whew. It’s a lot, but streamlining and focusing the main storyline is exactly what this franchise needs – especially since it looks like the events of Halloween, Halloween Kills, and Halloween Ends will all take place in a relatively short period of time.
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Although it’s a shame the late Donald Pleasence won’t be able to join in as indomitable Myers hunter Dr. Loomis, Halloween Kills is taking a page from Cobra Kai and bringing back all of the familiar faces (or at least character names) that it can. Actress Nancy Stephens will reprise her role as Marion Chambers, a nurse and colleague of Dr. Loomis who appears in the original Halloween (and the original Halloween II and is actually killed off in the opening of now-retconned Halloween H20) – which seems especially appropriate given that the trailer suggests Halloween Kills could heavily reference the original Halloween II with some hospital-based horror. Kyle Richards (of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills fame) will return as Lindsey, one of the two kids Laurie babysat in the original 1978 film, and Charles Cyphers, who played Haddonfield sheriff Leigh Brackett (whose daughter Annie was one of the original film’s victims), will also be back. A grown-up Lonnie, who is name-checked in the 2018 movie, will actually show up too. And finally, the character of Tommy Doyle (the other kid Laurie babysat in 1978) will be back as well… for the second time.
Yes, Tommy actually returned once before, in 1995’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, where he was played by none other than Paul Rudd (Ant-Man). Read that again: Yes, it’s 100% true. Although it would be absolutely show-stopping if Rudd reprised his role in Halloween Kills, it’s just not happening. But Tommy will be played in Halloween Kills by another cult icon: Anthony Michael Hall.
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The 2018 Halloween dealt primarily with Laurie’s trauma, and how it shaped her life and turned her into a paranoid, bunker-dwelling alcoholic. But there is more than nostalgia behind bringing back so many old characters – Laurie wasn’t the only one traumatized by Halloween night, 1978. The trailer shows glimpses of the town’s collective angst, and the movie was filmed under the working title “MOB RULES.” This installment is about all of Michael’s victims facing unstoppable evil once again and confronting their own traumas and scars – from the nurse who treated Michael in the sanitarium to the sheriff who couldn’t protect his own daughter, much less the town. It may be The Town of Haddonfield vs. Michael Myers.
In a recent interview, Curtis explained more about the “mob rule” theme behind Halloween Kills and how it was influenced by the politics of the past four years. She says the movie will deal with “what happens when trauma infects an entire community, and we’re seeing it everywhere, with the Black Lives Matter movement. We’re seeing it in action, and Halloween Kills, weirdly enough, dovetails onto that.” Speaking with NME, director Green added, “it’s one thing to be afraid of the Bogey Man, to have someone who might be in the closet, under the bed, creeping around your house, but what we wanted to explore next was confusion, misinformation, and paranoia. What happens when fear goes viral? You can’t stick your head under the covers anymore.”
Halloween Kills has been in the can for a while now. It was originally due to come out in October 2020 but was held back due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the mass closure of theaters.
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One of the reasons fans were excited about the 2018 Halloween wasn’t just because it meant a proper return for Laurie Strode/ Jamie Lee Curtis (can you believe they tried to kill her off – via an off-screen car accident, no less – in Halloween 4? Put some respect on her name), there was another monumental reunion to celebrate. For the first time since the disastrous Halloween III, John Carpenter agreed to lend his name to a Halloween project not only as a producer but also to retool and revamp his classic score alongside his son (with The Fog actress Adrienne Barbeau) Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies (son of The Kinks’ Dave Davies). The trio will be back for Halloween Kills (and Halloween Ends).
When asked by MovieWeb about Halloween Kills, new writer Scott Teems – who came on to collaborate with Green and McBride on the sequels – called it “like the first one on steroids, I guess. It really is the bigger, badder, meaner version of the first one.” If that’s enough to make horror hounds howl, even Carpenter himself was taken aback by the new film’s bloodlust. Speaking to IndieWire, Carpenter mentions seeing an early cut of the movie and describes it as “fun, intense, and brutal, a slasher movie times one hundred, big time. It’s huge. I’ve never seen anything like this. The kill count!” When a Master of Horror is that impressed, you know you’re onto something…
Halloween Kills opens in theaters on October 15, 2021.