David Gordon Green wraps his take on the franchise with a bizarre & depressing twist in Halloween Ends.
Where do we even begin?
The original Halloween is one of the best horror movies ever made. It’s unimpeachable. A masterwork in both pacing, and convincing the audience that they’re seeing more than they really are, many have tried to imitate it, and none have succeeded. Most importantly, it proved that you don’t need a complicated backstory, or an explanation for why any of it happens. Laurie Strode just has the bad luck to drop off a key at the old Myers house, catching the eye of a soulless killer. There’s no motive driving Michael Myers’ murderous urges, he is simply evil.
Yet eleven sequels and reboots later, nobody seems to know what to do with such a basic formula. An insistence on giving meaning and mythos to why Michael Myers kills (and why he chose Laurie to terrorize) has turned it into an incomprehensible, shaggy dog of a franchise, where the only better than “eh” films in it (Season of the Witch and Rob Zombie’s Halloween II) barely resemble the original. Now we come to the end of the fourth attempt to reboot it with David Gordon Green’s Halloween Ends, the final film in a trilogy that purported to cancel out everything that came after the original, but then resorted to the same silly, tiresome supernatural elements and a pressing need to explain what Michael Myers means in the grander scheme of things.
Whereas 2018’s Halloween, written by Green and Danny McBride, was a story of trauma, and its multigenerational effect on families, last year’s far inferior Halloween Kills tried to say something about the disastrous results of mob justice, and failed miserably. I’m not even sure what exactly Halloween Ends is trying to say, other than evil can be passed from one person to another like a cold, but it’s a puzzling, sour slog, twenty minutes too long and focusing far too much on the wrong characters.
It’s a few years after the events of Halloween Kills, when seemingly half of Haddonfield was decimated in one night by Michael Myers, who simply skulked away afterward (that nobody seems to be actively looking for him is but one of many very odd aspects of this film). It’s now a town full of assholes, many of whom inexplicably blame Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) for what happened (a local DJ claims she “harassed a brain damaged man,” which is such a baffling accusation that one wonders if some sort of mass gaslighting experiment has taken place at some point). Despite that, Laurie has inexplicably elected to remain in Haddonfield, and has made a miraculous turnaround from the cold-blooded, pistol-packin’ mama she was in the last two movies. She’s stopped drinking, started working on her memoir, and is even celebrating Halloween again, in an effort to make life as normal as possible for granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), her only surviving relative. For all appearances, she’s simply decided to not spend the rest of her life looking over her shoulder, waiting for Michael Myers to return.
Now you might think that much of Halloween Ends would be focused on Laurie struggling to maintain some sense of stability and sanity, only to have Michael Myers blow it up once more. But wait, hang on a minute, the movie is barely started before we’re introduced to an entirely new character, college-age Corey (Rohan Campbell), who, like Laurie, is a town pariah after a child he was babysitting died in an accidental fall. Also inexplicably staying in Haddonfield (is this place on an island or something?), he leads a miserable existence, bullied by high school students, working a nowhere job at his stepfather’s auto garage, and harangued by his overbearing mother. Laurie initially sees a kindred spirit in Corey, and introduces him to Allyson, who’s immediately head over heels for him. They’re bound in their desire to find some sense of acceptance, when everyone else treats them as objects of curiosity, to be gawked at or gossiped about.
Alas, the course of true love never did run smooth. Corey, after he’s once again harassed and beaten, encounters Michael Myers hiding out in a drainage ditch. Weakened from both the massive injuries he’s sustained, and presumably a diet of dead rats and newspaper, Michael…well, I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice to say that, whatever you think is going to happen, you won’t see this coming.
I will say this: Green and McBride came into the Halloween franchise with a lot of ideas. A long, winding scroll of ideas. So many ideas that after they filled a whiteboard with them, they had to go to Staples to buy a new whiteboard and fill that one. This is not a situation like Halloween 4 and 5, which were essentially the same movie. The problem is that they refused to narrow any of those ideas down to maybe two or three they could develop, rather than throwing them all at the screen with the gusto of a toddler throwing a handful of spaghetti. You want to suggest that a paranoid, traumatized Laurie may be as dangerous as Michael? Sure! Or maybe that Michael isn’t a person, but a force of nature, who becomes stronger with each kill? Go right ahead! How about that maybe there’s something wrong with Haddonfield itself, a mean streak and a lack of empathy in all but a select few who live there? Yeah, man! While we’re at it, why don’t we throw in that evil is transferable, like a sort of psychic organ transplant? Absolutely!
Some of these ideas, on their own, are solid. Hell, a couple are good enough to carry three movies. But this “take one from column A, and one from column B” approach to building a plot leaves the trilogy a jumbled mess, and Laurie ultimately a supporting character in what’s supposed to be an emotional conclusion to her story. She at least fares better than Will Patton and Kyle Richards, carryovers from Halloween Kills who only pop up when they need to stretch the movie out another few minutes (which, at an hour and fifty minutes, they absolutely do not). Because Corey is a new character, and all we know about him is that he accidentally killed a kid and feels real bad about it, we don’t care enough to be invested in his plot arc, and yet, it’s the primary focus of the film up until maybe the last fifteen minutes or so. He exists mostly so that a new aspect of Michael’s now otherworldly powers can be introduced, even though it should have been introduced two movies ago.
Though Halloween 2018 and Halloween Kills tried to balance scares with humor, Halloween Ends is serious to the point of depressing, with long scenes of characters moping, weeping and contemplating suicide. Now, to be fair, Rob Zombie’s takes on the franchise were also depressing, but they were consistent. Here, the dour turn, in which victim blaming and the court of public opinion are co-villains along with the masked murderer whose kill count is now well into the double digits, feels unearned. Worse, the dramatic stakes are considerably lowered, because the vast majority of characters who are killed off here are truly awful people, whose deaths are neither surprising, nor particularly upsetting. It’s easy to predict who’s going to end up getting their tongue ripped out, or their head run over with a tow truck, as they’re the same people who make the protagonist’s life miserable. Compare that to the original, where, again, the victims were chosen strictly at random, leaving the audience clutching their theater seat armrests in suspense over who could be next.
On the upside, Jamie Lee Curtis is as good as ever in her iconic role. She brings a realistic sense of exhaustion and resignation to her performance, as if she’s as ready to put the whole thing behind her as Laurie is. Her best scenes are with Will Patton, as they play two broken people who sweetly fumble towards some semblance of a romantic relationship (although Patton’s character having accidentally killed another cop as a young deputy seems to have been forgotten). Andi Matichak does some interesting things with her role, suggesting that something dark and unknowable might be going on in Allyson’s mind, though I didn’t buy her strange relationship with Corey for one second, which is unfortunate, because that drives much of the plot. It’s supposed to be an instantaneous, powerful attraction borne out of shared trauma and grief, but it feels like they were just shoved at each other and told “Okay, now act like you’re in love.”
“Enough about all that,” you might say. “Does Halloween actually End?” Well, yes, it does, and it’s a mostly satisfying conclusion, if not a bit melodramatic. It almost certainly fulfills the viewer’s desire for both gore, and vengeance. More importantly, it definitely brings the Halloween franchise to an unequivocal close. That is, of course, until they make another one.
Halloween Ends (but probably not) in theaters and on Peacock October 14th.