The Halloween saga has officially (sure) come to an end. What started as an experimental indie film in 1978 exploded into a decades-long, thirteen-movie, genre-creating franchise filled with ups, downs, and whatever Resurrection was supposed to be. Now, acclaimed indie director David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride have attempted to conclude what John Carpenter started all those years ago, and officially bring the story of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers to an end. In doing so, they take several big risks, and the end result features lots to talk about – some good, some bad, and one of the most morally bankrupt decisions I’ve ever seen.
It’s been four years since Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) escaped from the mental asylum for a second time and murdered approximately fifty people in a single evening. He’s escaped into the night, and people are trying their best to forget about him. This includes perennial victim Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who is now trying her best to be a grandmother to her orphaned granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak).
In an effort to help Allyson open up, Laurie tries to set her up with Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), the local town pariah after a child he was babysitting ended up dead in his care. However, Allyson and Corey’s burgeoning relationship faces some serious challenges once Corey is bullied one too many times and finds himself at the feet of a new mentor – a starving, weakened Myers, now living in the sewers.
As has been rumored for the last few months, and has caused quite a stir in online communities, Halloween Ends is a unique outing in the Halloween franchise because it is, quite frankly, barely a Halloween film. It is instead an intimate character study of a young man ostracized by society slowly driven to a breaking point, unleashing an evil that may have always been there all along.
It’s a confusing choice for a final film in a franchise, but here’s the thing: as an actual narrative, it works. Oh, it makes no sense as a Halloween film, and we’ll get to how the Halloween film here falls flat. But as an original horror story about the birth of a madman and the creation of a slasher villain, it is a fascinating, dark tale that hooks you from start to finish.
There’s something almost Lynchian in the way Green presents his story – and no, this is not solely a reference to the blatant Lost Highway homage thrust into the middle of the film. Ends follows much of the same psychological, almost surreal notions that make David Lynch’s films so strangely beautiful in their understanding of evil.
Green portrays Corey with the perfect balance of “sweet with a sense of malice.” The opening scene, where his emotional outburst accidentally (perhaps) leaves a child dead is one of the series’ finest, in terms of tension and execution. Green then slow burns us for an hour, with never-quite-supernatural elements dragging poor Corey to the dark side, until he slowly starts to mimic the Boogeyman he’s seen as.
Audiences can only watch helplessly as the protagonist they’ve come to root for turns into the monster they’ve been rooting against. We see his angst as he fights against the temptation and questions why he was spared when so many babysitters before him perished. And as the evil begins to consume him, he begins to embody all the traits we’ve come to expect from the franchise. He watches people from outside windows, can disappear on a whim, and the semblance of morality he once possessed slowly dissolved – as one character notes, “The goodness I once saw behind his eyes is completely gone.” It’s an interesting rumination on evil and how it develops, and posits interesting questions on the cyclical nature of vengeance and evil.
The problem is, this great horror film has to work inside the confines of another series’ story. And as good as the Corey Cunningham story may be, it is countered by a Michael Myers/Laurie Strode story that barely wants to exist. It’s almost as though Green had tried to make a completely new film, only to be reminded at the last moment that he should probably include Halloween characters in the, you know, Halloween movie.
Everything that Green had developed, even in the flawed, icky Halloween Kills, is out the window. The hardened, distraught Laurie is now a weirdly hip grandma, using jargon that should never cross Curtis’ lips. And the Michael Myers this series has developed – the so-called “6-year-old boy in the body of a man with the mind of an animal” – barely appears, spending most of the movie gnawing on rats and weakly killing the bullies Corey lures down to their lair. I’m less mad that the film sidelines these characters as I am that they were shoehorned in at the last possible moment in a haphazard manner.
However, despite the tonal mismatch of the stories, I was actually leaning towards a more positive review for most of the film’s runtime. In fact, until the last five to ten minutes. But something happens in the climax that is utterly, dismally unforgivable to me, to the point of souring an otherwise-decent movie.
I don’t want to give too much away, lest you plan on watching it and want me to avoid spoilers. But I’ll do my best to break down my apprehension without hitting the nail on the head. The Halloween series has always been about survival in the face of abject evil. The Shape is neither human nor supernatural – he is a being that represents all the horrors of the world that suburban families try to ignore. Despite efforts to flesh out Michael Myers as a broken human driven insane – Rob Zombie had an admirable go of it in the late aughts – it always falls flat because The Shape is just a symbol of the night.
In Halloween Kills, Green tried to walk a thin tightrope regarding this balance, treating Myers as both a broken human beyond repair and an embodiment of evil. As incompatible as these themes are on paper, he actually came pretty close to accomplishing it. And then comes the climax, which chooses the entirely wrong time to imbue Myers with a humanity long since abandoned by the franchise, entirely too late and entirely too gross.
It is followed by sequences that, as presented, seem to advocate the very idea of mob rule and capital punishment that Carpenter and Green seemed to adamantly reject in previous outings. It creates a sense of empathy that not only should not exist, but is in stark contrast to the very message the film is conveying. It is wrongheaded, poorly executed, and thematically illogical, and it soured an otherwise-decent movie to the core.
It seems kind of useless to discuss the acting in this movie, both because slashers rarely yield great performances and because there are few standouts in a cast of “fine” performances. Probably the best work comes from Campbell and Matichak, who have a relationship that borders on steamy, and probably could have been interesting if any time had been dedicated to it. Otherwise, Matichak feels properly traumatized whilst Campbell really captures Corey’s descent into darkness.
Former child actor turned Real Housewife Kyle Richards still remains the reboot’s surprise secret weapon. Amongst the victims, there are no winners amongst an obnoxious nurse played by Michele Dawson, or a series of marauding band kids (yes, that’s a real sentence) let by an overacting Michael Barbieri. And all I can say about Curtis is that this is the worst performance she’s ever given in a Halloween film – although at least it’s still an interesting performance. She’s a good actress, she’s just not playing a consistent version of the character that made her a star. And that is, quite frankly, a bit upsetting.
Halloween Ends is a mess. It’s a fascinating idea stuck inside a haphazard IP with a toxic, gross ending tacked onto the end. How I wish so many things had gone differently with the good ideas here. I wish that Laurie and Michael got the conclusion the film seemed to want to provide. I wish that David Gordon Green had gotten to make the slasher film he really wanted to make and instead had to shove inside another movie. I wish any of these ideas had been given a second glance, or had been fleshed out to a more logical conclusion. Ultimately, I just wish that someone, anyone in Universal Studios had made a definitive decision. Because instead, the Halloween franchise ends on a half-assed ending filled with half-assed ideas, a roaring fizzle to what was once a powder keg.
Halloween Ends is now streaming on Peacock, and is playing in theaters nationwide