Halloween Ends (2022)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2022-10-23 23:29

Written by: David Gordon Green, Paul Brad Logan, Danny McBride, & Chris Bernier (screenplay), John Carpenter & Debra Hill (characters)
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, and Rohan Campbell

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman (@brettgallman)

"I thought you were the Boogeyman. But you're only a man who's about to stop breathing.”

A familiar set of credits heralds Halloween Ends, the finale of David Gordon Green’s reboot trilogy: longtime franchise fans will immediately recognize the italicized blue font that once opened Halloween III, the first of many divisive entries in the series. It’s arguably the most infamous of that particular bunch thanks to the bold decision to discontinue the exploits of The Shape, forever condemning it as “the one without Michael Myers.” And while Halloween Ends doesn’t go that far, it soon becomes obvious that its choice of credits isn’t a mere homage but rather a mission statement. Up to a certain point, this is the least interested a Halloween sequel has been in being a Halloween movie since John Carpenter and Debra Hill tried to turn the series into an anthology 40 years ago. The comforting, warm blanket nostalgia of the 2018 film is even more distant than it was following the cold, alienating Halloween Kills, an entry that now feels more like a minor digression in light of the utterly strange, daring Halloween Ends. The title promises valediction, yet Green is largely unconcerned with taking a nostalgia-gazing victory lap for his revival, choosing instead to carve yet another divisive path, at least until he suddenly (and frustratingly) punts at the last minute and delivers exactly what you expect of a movie promising the final showdown between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. His invocation of Season of the Witch ultimately feels slightly hollow, like a jack-o-lantern whose candle is suddenly snuffed out, leaving behind only a faded husk with tangled, messy innards.

Still, these tangled knots are fascinating to sift through, and, to its credit, Halloween Ends does commit to its bit for much of its runtime. Instead of delivering on Laurie’s promise to hunt down Michael and kill him following his Halloween night rampage, it skips ahead to one year later, where none of our principal characters are to be found. There is, however, the familiar sight of a babysitter tending to a child on Halloween night when Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell) hustles over to the Allen residence to watch their kid Jeremy. The night goes well enough until Jeremy decides to play a prank on Corey that goes horribly awry when he falls to his death just as his parents return home and accuse the babysitter of murder. Three years later, Corey has been legally absolved of the tragic accident, yet he’s still the town pariah: dubbed a freak and an outcast, he’s mercilessly bullied, a fate that earns him sympathy from Laurie Strode. A fellow survivor of Halloween trauma, she’s moved on with her life and now lives happily with her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). Their paths ultimately cross, and Corey and Allyson strike up a relationship that could promise salvation for both—if they can escape the shadow of Haddonfield’s boogeyman first.

For much of Halloween Ends, Myers is exactly that: a boogeyman who still haunts the town despite his disappearance four years earlier. Tragedy still looms over Haddonfield, where the citizens feel compelled to believe The Shape walks among them whenever death comes to their little town. Many of them feel especially bitter towards Laurie and blame her for provoking Myers’ rampage, a weight she carries with her even during routine trips to the grocery store. We’ve seen this franchise occasionally reckon with the fallout of Michael’s reigns of terror, but Ends does it on a remarkable scale, painting the portrait of small town Americana whose idyllic façade obscures the darkness lurking beneath the surface. At times, it evokes Carpenter’s unused pitch for Halloween 4, which would have featured a spectral Myers stalking a traumatized Haddonfield, whose hysteria and paranoia would wind up conjuring The Shape once again. Ends isn’t quite that cerebral or elemental in its treatment of Myers (who is still very much flesh and blood here), but most of the film seizes on that chilling suggestion at the end of the original film: for the residents of Haddonfield, he could be anywhere. They still haven’t vanquished this boogeyman, no matter how much they’ve tried to move on.

Corey and the audience eventually learn the truth: following his Halloween night rampage four years ago, Myers took to the sewers, where he’s continued to claim victims. The presence of a homeless guardian of sorts recalls the strange hermit that nursed Myers to health in Halloween 5, yet this somehow feels even stranger than that because this incarnation of The Shape exhibits a strange sort of vulnerability. Somehow, Myers becomes an even more uncanny presence when he’s dwelling below ground, weak and struggling to slaughter the unfortunate souls who cross his path. For whatever reason, Corey’s intrusion doesn’t end in expected fashion: instead of adding this kid to his growing body count, Myers peers into his eyes and, in one of franchise’s most bizarre moments, either senses a lurking darkness within him or transfers his evil to him. Because the moment is so ambiguous, it’s tough to tell if Michael has found a kindred spirit or if he’s just infected this kid with his madness, effectively hijacking his body to carry out more Halloween carnage.

Either way, it paves the way for the film’s boldest choice when Corey embraces his role as the town boogeyman and carries out a murder spree alongside Myers. At first, he’s content to lure his victims to the boogeyman and let him do the dirty work, a premise that evokes another threequel in Son of Frankenstein, with Corey in the Ygor role, manipulating the monster to his own ends. As someone who has always maintained that Son deserves the same reverence as its predecessors, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the parallels, no matter how odd it might be for Michael Myers to be in a subservient role. Eventually, however, Corey’s surname (Cunningham) graduates from a nod to an unabashed homage (or, really, appropriation) of Christine, complete with a “show me” scene where the kid learns the tricks of Michael’s murderous trade. Soon enough, he’s donning his own mask and stalking random Haddonfield residents, essentially working the kinks out until the moment he claims the iconic Shape mask for himself and targets the band kids who torment him throughout the movie.

Weird, right? Franchise digressions are one thing, but it’s especially daring to stray out into left field in a final chapter. Not since Jason Goes to Hell—which infamously “sidelined” Jason by having him possess different bodies—has a sequel had the temerity to scrap the formula while also promising closure to an icon. Green might not be summoning a demonic hellbaby here, but the effect is largely the same in terms of bucking audience expectations: anyone hoping for 100 minutes of Michael Myers returning to stalk a fresh batch of victims en route to a final showdown with Laurie Strode isn’t just going to be disappointed. They’re going to be downright repulsed by the thought of the iconic slasher taking a backseat to a franchise newcomer, who actually becomes the de facto protagonist alongside Allyson. This isn’t really Laurie Strode’s story at all, which might be even more surprising than Michael’s diminished presence.

While Green and his trio of screenwriters weave her into the story by leaning into the Loomis role (she claims to see the same devil’s eyes in Corey and naturally wants to protect her grandaughter), we missed the most pertinent part of her story arc between movies. When we meet her in Halloween Ends, she’s living a normal life: living in a normal, non death-trap house, baking and fucking up pies, and trying to play match-maker. She and Deputy Hawkins (Will Patton) have a sweet, flirtatious relationship that the film could use more of (Patton is sadly confined to a handful of scenes), and, while she still feels like a town pariah, she’s fairly well-adjusted. It’s no longer about confronting and eradicating the evil; it’s keeping it at bay when it resurfaces in the form of her granddaughter’s weird new boyfriend.

Allyson and Corey’s relationship is the odd, unexpected crux of Halloween Ends. It’s as jarring as all of the other choices, but it also means this one feels more like a vintage David Gordon Green movie than the previous two entries. Haddonfield becomes the canvas for his striking, slice-of-life vision of dead-end towns, and its despairing, almost melancholy depiction is Myers’ ultimate triumph: this once idyllic portrait of suburban Americana is a paralyzed husk of its former self, drained of vitality and vigor, haunted by the faces of his victims on missing persons billboards. It’s a ghost town of a different sort, cursed by a spiritual desolation and a long history of bloodshed that can't be washed away. Corey’s rampage is simply the latest, tragic chapter in a sordid story where catharsis has been elusive.

Green crystalizes this despair in Corey and Allyson, whose yearning to escape Haddonfield feels preternaturally doomed to fail. While their romance feels slightly rushed, it resonates thanks to Campbell and Matichak’s affecting performances, with the latter truly coming into her own. Allyson is a startlingly different person after these four years, her bright-eyed, honors kid demeanor a distant memory now that she’s grown a little more weary and cynical, trapped by small town life. She has a steady job at Haddonfield Memorial, but her flirtatious, sycophantic co-worker blocks her chances of earning a promotion, and she’s still being harassed by her ex-cop boyfriend who seems to be about twice her age. It also seems like we’ve missed a lot with her, too, because it’s clear the past four years did a number on her. In many ways, it feels like she’s switched roles with her grandmother, and it’s easy to imagine this is what Laurie was like too just a few years after her first encounter with The Shape: lost, lonely, and desperately looking for anything good in her life to make all of this shit worthwhile. You can understand why she'd want to flee Haddonfield because she's seen the ghost of her own future in Laurie.

Allyson finds possible salvation Corey, whose once-bright future has also been extinguished, leaving him to toil away at a junkyard and ward off accusations from the locals who believe him to be some kind of monster. Campbell is appropriately moody, but he and Green really lean into the melodrama of it all: he’s doing a little bit of early Brando and James Dean in sketching this portrayal of this sensitive, wounded kid whose life has gone completely haywire. His bullies, his overbearing mother, Laurie’s wariness—it’s all tearing him apart, and it’s obvious that even his budding relationship with Allyson isn’t going to save him. One of the film's best scenes comes when he and Allyson try to lose themselves to some Dead Kennedys tunes at Lindsay Wallace’s Halloween party, only for reality to intrude when Jeremy’s mom confronts him, sending him fleeing the club, insistent that Allyson can’t fix him. It’s heartbreaking not just because of the two performances involved, but also because you know in your gut that he’s right. There’s no version of this story that ends well for this poor kid, something Green makes obvious even during Allyson and Corey’s more wistful scenes, like a nighttime ride though Haddonfield on his motorcycle, where the dream pop soundtrack feels more nightmares than it does dreamy. Visions of young lovers desperately clinging to hope in the midst of a creeping, suburban darkness will naturally earn comparisons to Lynch, but, really, this also just feels like vintage David Gordon Green.

Green effectively hijacking Halloween to make a strange, personal film like this is understandable. A trilogy capper like this needs to be more substantial than Michael Myers returning to terrorize Haddonfield for the umpteenth time, and it’s commendable whenever a filmmaker navigates franchise filmmaking in this manner. At one point, a pair of characters watch John Carpenter’s The Thing on television, an obvious nod to how Christian Nyby’s The Thing from Another World haunted Haddonfield’s airwaves 40 years earlier. More than that, though, it’s another mission statement: just as Carpenter once took a familiar premise and reshaped it, Green is now doing the same thing for Halloween. While Carpenter is still on-board as a producer and composer, this entry feels the least beholden to him outside of the opening sequence, which turns the familiar jolts of its original counterpart on its head. It’s quite reminiscent of what Rob Zombie did for Halloween II, which remolds the franchise’s iconography in the shock rocker’s image, resulting in a film that simply felt more vital than the few films that came before it (including Zombie’s own first film). At the time, I bristled at the notion, but I’ve grown to appreciate it when franchises want to do more than simply play the hits. Besides, Green has essentially given us the best of both worlds in this respect, offering a conventional return to form in 2018 before delivering a pair of more daring films that expand the notion of what a Halloween film can be.

I would have to say Halloween Kills the more successful of the two, if only because it completely follows through on its weird premise and feels more organic to the franchise. Ends, on the other hand, wanders out in left field before it dutifully sprints for home with a turn of events that awkwardly relents to expectations. Laurie and Michael’s final showdown was always the obvious endgame for this trilogy, but it winds up feeling like a weird afterthought here, tacked on to Corey and Allyson’s doomed love story (it’s also worth noting that the latter is never forced to truly confront the former’s horrific crimes, robbing this story of its effectiveness). In taking such a wild, crooked path to this obvious climax, Halloween Ends winds up feeling a little contrived, and the rousing moment these three films have been leading up to—complete with returning characters from the previous films—feels more obligatory than it does cathartic. Green makes the same stumble Rob Zombie made with his first film: instead of completely leaning into his own sensibilities, he eventually acquiesces to the formula, and Halloween Ends feels odd and disjointed. For nearly a 100 minutes, it thumbs its nose at fan expectations before serving up exactly what they want down the stretch.

I almost wish Green and company had gone all-in on the copycat concept and kept Michael’s presence completely spectral and ambiguous. Not only would this have underscored their musings on the recurrence of evil, but it also wouldn’t have necessitated the bizarre depiction of the boogeyman whose reputation they’ve sought to restore during the past two films. One of the big draws of this Halloween trilogy was a return to The Shape, a phantasmal, otherworldly evil with no motivation other than an insatiable bloodlust. The only reason he stalked Laurie Strode in the first place is because she crossed his path, just like all of the other unfortunate victims he’s claimed. Halloween 2018 couldn’t make this more clear when Dr. Sartain learned what Dr. Loomis always knew: there is no conscience, reason, or method underlying Michael’s madness. Halloween Kills only doubled down on this, and further insisted that something supernatural allows this evil to endure, that murder and bloodlust somehow makes this boogeyman so strong nothing can kill him.

Ends does hint at this itself because it seems like Corey does nurse Michael back to strength by feeding him victims. However, it seems altogether strange that he’d even be in this shape to begin with considering how the end of Kills suggested he's literally immortal. This depiction of a weakened Myers is fascinating in theory but a little contradictory in practice, and it’s one of the many questions that’s raised here at the last minute that never feels properly resolved. His relationship with Corey is the biggest question mark: the film suggests he’s perfectly fine killing alongside this kid until Corey gets a little too bold and steals his mask. It all feels a little too base and human for Michael, and it even reeks a little bit of Freddy needing to put Jason down because he’s stealing his glory. Normally, I’m all for anything that reminds me of Freddy vs. Jason, but this feels a little at odds with Green’s insistence of restoring Michael’s mystique. I’m not one to get too precious about horror icons’ depictions these days (especially this one, considering how many iterations we’ve seen of him), and evolutions have allowed many of them to thrive; it’s just that this particular instance seems at odds with what Green himself has been working towards.

Still, this is a stumble born out of ambition, which is always preferable to half-hearted retreads. Throughout this entire trilogy, Green has had a lot on his mind, from generational trauma to the nature of evil itself. He’s been especially preoccupied with how evil can be an infectious plague, condemning those in its wake to resort to hysteria and violence. between Laurie’s voiceover monologue as she completes and a ubiquitous radio station that doubles as a Greek chorus, there’s plenty of these musings to go around in Ends, though I’m not sure any of it winds up being any more insightful than previous entries, mostly due to the contradictory nature of the twin depiction of evil on display. Michael has always persisted as an inexplicable evil, while Corey represents a fairly banal take on how evil can be forged by torment and trauma. One is a boogeyman, the other is Frankenstein’s monster: misguided, misunderstood, driven to evil as a final, suicidal resort. Laurie insists Corey’s eyes portend the same darkness she once saw in The Shape, but it doesn’t feel like the same evil.

Then again, I suppose that’s ultimately the point here, and it’s underscored at one point by Laurie’s memoir: evil changes shapes, and surviving it can be hell. But it can be survived, something Green makes clear during a wonderful little coda, where the film lives up to its title in an unexpected way. Halloween has definitely ended, and Laurie Strode finally has a chance to move on. A final montage mirrors the ending of the original Halloween, only, this time, Michael’s breathing doesn’t haunt the film’s locations. The boogeyman is vanquished, leaving behind a blustery November day, and this touching finale ultimately makes the weird, sometimes frustrating crooked path worthwhile. Considering the unrelenting nihilism of its predecessor, the sweet, uplifting final notes here are striking. It occurs to me that this might be the only way Green could convince us that this is truly the end: it’s not just that Michael has been physically pulverized, but he also no longer casts a pall over those who have survived him. Horror—and especially the Halloween series—often insists that evil never dies, and that you can’t really kill the boogeyman. This Halloween offers the exact opposite: don’t fear the reaper because boogeymen only haunt us with the power we afford them, and they can be put to rest.

It goes without saying that Halloween Ends isn’t all the conclusion most would have expected. While Green does deliver the requisite stalk-and-slash theatrics with aplomb (that poor kid’s death at the beginning is absolutely gut-wrenching), he’s much more invested in the fallout than the shock and awe. He has a rare understanding of how to make slasher movie carnage truly resonate because he knows the violence should be viscerally and existentially haunting. His trilogy has been preoccupied with descent into madness, whether its Laurie’s survivalist paranoia, Dr. Sartain’s obsession with understanding that which can’t be understood, or the entire town of Haddonfield losing their damn minds.

Ends is a harrowing, slow-motion spiral of a damned soul circling the drain and pulling others into the void, a notion that ultimately speaks to the existential threat Myers posed in 1978 when he descended on heartland America, representing a latent, unspoken darkness that can’t be ignored. Green hasn’t painted the exact same portrait, but he’s retained the broad strokes, and, sure, it’s alienating at first blush; however, the same can be said of all the oddball entries we’ve come to embrace over the years. After all, few people 40 years ago could have ever imagined anyone invoking the Halloween 3 credits as a loving homage. I have no doubts Ends will find its place in the Halloween pantheon, especially once the franchise is resurrected again. When that inevitably happens, I can only hope it’s done with the same thoughtfulness and care that Green brought to this trilogy. And if this actually is the end, I could make peace with it since it sends Michael off in operatic fashion, complete with a funeral procession befitting an icon that's endured for 40 years. Hollywood isn't likely to let him rest in peace, but I hope they're respectful once they exhume his grave.

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