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Though it may be polarizing, “Halloween Kills” is more than just a brutal bloodbath and gives fans of the franchise plenty to cheer about.

Ask any horror fan what they think is the definitive slasher film, and there’s a decent chance they’ll say the original 1978 Halloween. The John Carpenter classic is a perfect example of style with just enough substance. The spooky score coupled with slow build-ups of suspense made the film a cultural mainstay, along with its human yet inhuman serial killer Michael Myers.

A simple story of an escaped mental patient stalking babysitters around a quiet Illinois neighborhood, there’s just no beating it.

Of course, many follow-ups have come after. And while you can debate their value all damn day, I’m sure we can all agree that these are about as engaging as slasher films get. Now we have a new film added to the legendary franchise with Halloween Kills, an immediate successor to 2018’s Halloween (or as I like to call it, Halloween Returns).

The 2018 film was in my humble opinion the best sequel in the franchise, not only bringing everything back to basics but adding some much-needed subtext to the saga of Michael and his sole survivor, the resilient Laurie Strode (played by the Queen Jamie Lee Curtis, such a gift to these movies).

So does this the new one measure up? Grab some candy and read on to find out why this Halloween killed.

Picking up immediately following the events of the previous film, Kills has Michael escape the fiery inferno he was left trapped in and continue to wreak havoc on his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois. Last time, Michael’s presence was only known to a select few. Here, news of Michael’s return reaches the rest of the neighborhood, and a showdown becomes inevitable as citizens take up arms and scan the streets to find the boogeyman and take him down for good.

A few returning characters make for some serious fan service here. Tommy Doyle, the young boy Laurie babysat the night of Michael’s original spree (now portrayed by Anthony Michael Hall), leads the mob of townsfolk who are fed up with being in a town always in the shadow of tragedy. They adopt the mantra ‘Evil Dies Tonight’, chanting it like an ancient spell, the mob growing bigger and more unruly as the night goes on until the inevitable happens; things get out of control.

While Kills displays some of the most brutal death scenes in the franchise thus far, you might instead find yourself unnerved by the way the film holds a mirror up to human nature and the things fear makes us do.

This is a great theme and a very timely one considering the events at the capitol earlier this year. While the previous film had some subtle commentary of the #MeToo movement, this one is instead about mob mentality and the dangers of trying to take the law into your own hands, even with the best of intentions in mind.

I love seeing this kind of thinking in horror films, and I hope we keep seeing more and more of it. It ain’t all about blood and guts, y’all. It can all mean something deeper in the end.

Director David Gordon Green returns to helm what I can honestly say is The Empire Strikes Back of the franchise.

Clearly intended as the intense, dark middle chapter that glides by with very little breathing room, Kills is a new template for how to structure slasher films.

I do have some gripes with it, don’t get me wrong.

There are plot holes here and there, some cheesy dialogue, and a returning character who is killed off so fast and without ceremony that I kind of questioned why they even brought them back.

But despite the downsides, I thought it was a movie for fans made by fans and was surprised by mixed and negative reviews I’d heard beforehand. I think this one may have been so forward with its brutality that it just turned a lot of people off. The ending (while riddled with the aforementioned plot holes) is quite shocking and leaves you breathless. But come on, that’s the point. This is a horror movie.

Being a longtime fan of these films, it’s great to see them now being taken a bit more seriously in the writing department. No Druid curses and no live streaming in abandoned houses. Just a terrified community and the consequences of a lifetime spent living in fear. Fear makes us do horrible things, to ourselves and to each other.

While Laurie spends much of the film bed-ridden, it actually makes sense to give her character some time to breathe and let other characters take the reins and join in on the hunt for Michael. Most aren’t going into this expecting an angry mob movie, but I feel the simplicity of the original film is preserved here. They’re just trying to say something different with the material.

Yes, Michael is the prototypical slasher villain for a reason but talking about the unrelenting nature of evil gets a bit generic and repetitive after a while.

This film and its predecessor make horror more relatable and truer to life.

The horrors of the real world will always trump the scary movie conceit of a deranged man in a mask.

Everybody brings their A-game to this one. The acting is intense, the comedic moments actually hit their mark (a complaint about the last one which I didn’t agree with, but it’s worth acknowledging), and the direction feels new and fresh but still has just enough of that Carpenter-ness that it never feels foreign.

It is a very well-shot movie; I was particularly impressed with the extended flashback sequence to ’78. It really felt like we were back to that aesthetic and were seeing more of the story that we hadn’t been shown before.

Carpenter’s score gives us all a few new tracks to add to our Halloween playlists (the man himself is still doing the music, we really are lucky).

While I can empathize with the gripes people have with this one, I really enjoyed it. I think this is the second act of the definitive run of Halloween movies and yes, I know that’s big words. I can’t wait to see how Halloween Ends.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 4

Halloween Kills is a fantastic sequel that takes what the previous film did and goes into a new direction with it. There’s more death, more blood and more stakes as Michael made a grand spectacle out of his return home. He stages his murders almost like performance art this time around, shoving more knives into an already dead victim’s back just for the heck of it. What will the bodies look like next time? What is Michael’s true goal now that he’s come home? We’ll find out soon. Until then, I’d recommend you come check out this night in Haddonfield. It’s after dark, Halloween is in full swing, and the Boogeyman is out on the prowl.

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