Released: 14 October 2022
Director: David Gordon Green
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Budget: $20 to 30 million
Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Rohan Campbell, and James Jude Courtney/Nick Castle
Four years after Michael Myers/The Shape’s (Courtney/Castle) last killing spree, Laurie Strode (Curtis) is trying to move on with her granddaughter, Allyson Nelson (Matichak). However, when local pariah Corey Cunningham (Campbell) starts down his own dark path of violence, Laurie is forced to confront her bogeyman one last time.
In 2018, director David Gordon Green helmed a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s seminal horror classic to largely positive reviews and an impressive $255.6 million box office. Initially, Green and his co-writer, Danny McBride, pitched filming two movies back-to-back but, after their “requel” proved to be a success, they chose to focus on one film at a time. Although Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle returned for the sequel, Halloween Kills (Green, 2021) received mixed reviews and fell a bit short of its predecessor’s success with its $131.6 million box office, but performed well enough to justify a third and final entry in Green’s new trilogy. Although his stars were set to return, Halloween Ends was understandably delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an element that Green stated would be addressed in the film’s story. Both legacy star Jamie Lee Curtis and franchise producer Malek Akkad hyped the film as being a more self-contained film, one they hoped would enrage audiences with its content, as well as confirming that Halloween Ends would be the final entry in Blumhouse’s trilogy due to rights issues. Ultimately, Halloween Ends released to largely negative reviews; critics were unimpressed by the monotonous presentation of the violence and themes, its status as a definitive finale, and its unexpected focus on someone other than Michael. Some praised it as the best of this new trilogy, however, and praised Jamie Lee Curtis’s performance, though, as of this writing, the film has made only $64.4 million at the box office and the general consensus was that it was a lacklustre finale for the franchise.
I think I’ve made my feeling about this new string of Halloween “requels” pretty clear but, just as a reminder…I wasn’t massively impressed by Halloween; we’ve seen the whole “decades later Laurie comes back to face Michael” thing and I really hated how it just swept away everything but the original film and went out of its way to criticise what the sequels did without really offering anything new. As the film ended, I was begging to see Michael go up in flames and be definitively killed off because at least it’d be something new but, of course, that was never going to happen. Halloween Kills somehow managed to be even worse; the film spent its entire runtime musing on Michael’s motives without coming at any real conclusion, making all of that discussion pointless, and having idiotic characters running around trying to end him and just acting like crazy fools who all ended up being slaughtered. It was filler and nothing more and smacked of a creative team who weren’t properly thinking out their three-film plan, which just made me question why it was even made in the first place. Again, if he’d actually been killed and someone else had took up his mantle then maybe I could’ve gotten behind it but it gave us probably the best chance to legitimately kill Michael (what better visual than the town he’s haunted rising up to stamp him out?) and just went “oop, no, he’s somehow supernatural, or maybe he’s not, we don’t know…he wants to go home! Even though he was at home earlier…look over there!” and then just snapped to the credits like it was clever. So, yeah, my excitement for Halloween Ends wasn’t exactly tipping the scale heading in; it’s hard to deny the allure of these movies and Michael’s iconography, but it’s also very difficult for me to care about these films as they so rarely do anything new because, when the formula is changed, the general audience flip out.
Unfortunately, Halloween Ends doesn’t exactly break the mould when it comes to improving my perception of these new films. In the four years that have passed since the last film, Michael has mysteriously vanished again, the Myers house has been demolished (quite how or why that was able to happen when the last film made it explicitly clear that his entire goal was to reclaim his former home. I guess he didn’t like the décor?), and Laura and Allyson live together in a fancy new house that the former was somehow able to purchase despite the fact that she doesn’t appear to have a job. Instead, Laurie is working on her memoirs, which provides a convenient and entirely pointless excuse to give a recap of the original film and the last two, with footage and such being spliced in to catch us up with the plot, something no Halloween film has ever needed to do before. Framed as a survivor of an extremely traumatic series of events, Laurie has abandoned her paranoia and now throws herself into helping others cope with similar trauma and providing a safe and happy home for Allyson, who’s lost her parents and friends thanks to Michael’s rampage. Laurie even decorates the house for Halloween and considers rekindling her romance with the criminally underutilised Deputy Frank Hawkins (Will Patton), a character who, quite frankly, could easily have been removed from this film (or actually been left as dead as he clearly was in Halloween) and the plot wouldn’t have been affected at all. personally. I would’ve liked to see him take on a Doctor Samuel Loomis-style (Donald Pleasance) role as an aging, somewhat unhinged Myers expert whose warnings are ignore but, instead, he gets a couple of scenes where he flirts with Laurie and talks to her about food and flowers and that’s it. No longer intent on preparing for an encounter with a nigh-supernatural force of evil, Laurie seems to be happy and excitable; she encourages Allyson to put herself out there more, shares drinks with the equally-underutilised Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards) and seems to be in a far healthier place than in the last two films.
It takes time, but this is eventually, awkwardly, revealed to be a bit of a lie. Haddonfield has been left irrevocably scarred by Michael’s actions; the town openly blames Laurie for “provoking” him, an accusation that makes absolutely no senses, especially as it was the idiotic Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) who riled up the mob in the last film and lead to all those deaths while Laurie was given the shaft and confined to a hospital. At first, it seems both Laurie and Allyson are coping quite well despite all of this, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows; Allyson is now working as a nurse, where she’s treated very poorly by her lecherous boss, Doctor Mathis (Michael O’Leary), and she’s constantly harassed by her obsessive ex-boyfriend, Officer Doug Mulaney (Jesse C. Boyd). Although Laurie is the only family she has left, put herself at risk to defend her, and actively advised against joining the mob in the last film, Allyson secretly resents her grandmother and longs to escape the confines of Haddonfield, where treasured memories of her family and friends are mired by unwanted accusations and looks from the public. When Laurie brings an injured Corey to the hospital for treatment in a thinly-veiled attempt to set them up, Allyson is surprisingly and ridiculously instantly attracted to him; it’s not clear exactly why (he’s not that cute, after all), but it’s implied that she feels a kinship in him as the town also turned on him, and that she wants to “fix” him in some way. Corey allows Allyson the chance to indulge herself and to act a little naughty; this only exacerbates when Laurie realises something’s terribly wrong with Corey and tries to warn her granddaughter off, which sees all of her pent-up resentment bubble to the surface and her even encouraging Corey to give in to his dark side, despite her also appearing to have no knowledge of what he’s been up to even though he openly admits to killing people, regularly breaks down before her about the conflict inside him, and is clearly a deranged psychopath.
If you go into Halloween Ends based on the trailers and posters alone, you’d be fooled into thinking this is the climactic showdown between Laurie and Michael. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, as the main focus for the vast majority of the film is Corey’s downward spiral into madness and murder. The film begins with Corey as a simply twenty-one-year-old babysitter with aspirations of going off to college; however, when he accidentally kills the bratty little kid he’s babysitting in what is clearly a freak accident, the town turns against him and he’s forever labelled as a baby-killing pervert. Although he tries to pull his life together and earn a modest living as a mechanic, he’s constantly berated by his overbearing mother, Joan (Joanne Baron) and targeted by a local gang of bullies who go out of their way to antagonise him. It’s because of Terry (Michael Barbieri) and his shit-kicking friends that Corey ends up injured and meeting Allyson, that he gets his first taste of vengeance when Laurie encourages him to flatten Terry’s tyre, and when he has a fateful encounter with Michael Myers. Far from the invincible, inexhaustible supernatural force he was painted as in the last two films, Michael is now decrepit and pitiful, surviving in a storm drain on the outskirts of town and burdened by the injuries he’s suffered in recent years. When he gets his hands on Corey, a strange moment passes between them; either a transfer of power or evil or a recognition that the same darkness that dwells within Michael lies dormant in Corey, and the Shape inexplicably lets him go as a result (despite the fact that he unceremoniously murdered Doctor Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) when he tried to take over Michael’s legacy). Shaken by this near-death experience, Corey descends down a dark path; accidentally manslaughter leads to accidental murder, then premeditated murder, until he’s donning his own Halloween mask and adding more numbers to his body count. Corey even leads Michael to Doug and Dr. Mathis in order to see the Shape in action with his own eyes, which only pushes him further over the edge, to the point where he effortlessly overpowers the once almighty Shape of Evil and steals his mask to reignite the terror Michael started decades ago.
Although every Halloween movie has a thematic undercurrent concerning the power of literal and metaphorical masks, Halloween Ends attempts to explore this a little more explicitly, but ultimately fails in its execution. Laurie is hiding behind a mask of good-natured enthusiasm; far from the paranoid and unhinged drunk she was before, she seems to be much healthier and attempting to let go of her hate and fear, however this mask slips pretty quickly once she gets a look at Corey’s eyes and seems the same darkness dwelling within him as she saw in Michael. Allyson has a similar mask, ignoring the maltreatment she receives at work and from her ex simply to try and get on with her life, but she quickly casts this aside and turns on her grandmother with such vitriol that it appears like she’s encouraging Corey’s killing spree. Corey attempts to hide away, burying his head in the sand and avoiding conflict, but is constantly goaded into fight or flight situations by bullies and accusing townsfolk. When he dons a Halloween mask of his own and goes dancing with Allyson, he finds a freedom and a joy that have been lost for some time, but it doesn’t take much to snap him back into a guilt-ridden, morose state, one that makes him easy prey for the likes of Terry and the infectious evil of Michael Myers. Michael, obviously, famously hides behind a mask, one now aged and heavily damaged, but which still has such an allure and power to it that Corey claims it as his own to foster his bloodlust.
As much I disliked the previous Halloween films, they were mildly salvaged by three factors: Michael, the conflict between Michael and Laurie (and the greater town of Haddonfield), and the kills. As Michael is largely absent until the last act of Halloween Ends, and the film completely wastes the potential of Haddonfield descending into anarchy and increasing violence as a result of Michael’s “curse”, we’re left to rely on the kills. Sadly, these aren’t all that impressive as it’s left up to Corey to shoulder this burden and, as a largely reluctant killer, he lacks the supernatural skill and power of the iconic Michael Myers. I will say, though, that a couple stood out; Corey’s accidentally murder of obnoxious Jeremy Allen (Jaxon Goldberg) in the opening sequences was as shocking as it was amusing, and it was pretty gruesome seeing him take a blowtorch to Terry’s mouth. Probably the best kill is when Corey, now donning the Shape’s visage, mercilessly beats shock DJ Willy the Kid (Keraun Harris) until his jaw is hanging from his face and then cuts his tongue off and leaves it spinning on the record player. For the most part, Corey opts for simple murder tools such as a switchblade and bottle opener, resulting in some unfortunately tame and lacklustre kills; when he lures his bullies to the scrapyard where he works, he switches to using a truck to chase after them and borrows Michael’s head-stomp kill to finish of the unfortunate Margo (Joey Harris). Michael’s kill count is pathetically low in this film and relies entirely on nostalgia for John Carpenter’s original as he stabs and kills Allyson’s work frenemy, Deb (Michele Dawson), in exactly the same way as he killed Bob Simms (John Michael Graham) in the first film. Call-backs such as this are scattered throughout Halloween Ends; not only does the film ape the opening credits of the original, it uses the same font as Halloween III: Season of the Witch (Wallace, 1982) – fitting considering this mess of a film is on par with that ill-fated entry – and there’s even a short sequence shot from Corey’s perspective to mimic the iconic opening of Carpenter’s original. Sadly, though, it takes far too long for the blood and bodies to start piling up; Halloween has always traditionally been a more psychological franchise but the psychology on offer here is weak and flawed. The film attempts to paint Corey as a victim of society and nurture, rather than the pure natural evil embodied by Michael, but we learn paradoxically too much about him and at the same time not enough, meaning he lacks the mysterious menace of Michael and just comes across as a pouty kid lashing out at people who, for the most part, deserve to be punished, rather than killing innocent and otherwise likeable characters.
Upon first meeting, Allyson is instantly smitten by Corey and is inexplicably horny for him throughout the film; Corey initially tries to warn her off, since associating with him is bad news for her, but he can’t resist how good she makes them feel and they’re soon head over heels with very little motivation beyond being young, damaged, and wanting to escape. When Laurie recognises Corey’s turn to the dark side, she tries to warn both of them off but is labelled as a paranoid hypocrite, forcing her to take matters into her own hands. Somehow realising that Corey is walking the same dark path as Michael, she lures him to her house by staging a suicide attempt and shoots him down, apparently prepared to kill him before he can harm Allyson, or anyone else, and thus keep Michael’s curse from growing stronger. However, Corey’s mania is so complete that he willingly kills himself rather than live without Allyson, making the entire runtime up until that point a waste of time as he’s unceremoniously offed and then his thunder is stolen by Michael, who finally gets his shit together after spending the whole movie cowering in hiding and attacks Laurie. Although vulnerable after Allyson caught her holding a knife over her lover’s dead body, it turns out that Laurie isn’t as meek and content as she first seemed, and she engages in a brutal knife fight with Michael in her kitchen. Age, injury, and this film’s efforts to piss all over Michael’s legacy have left him a shell of his former self, however, and it’s not long before he’s pinned helpless to a table and has his throat slit by Laurie. Allyson arrives in time to help finish the Shape off and the two drive his dead body to the scrapyard with a police escort so all of Haddonfield can finally witness their bogyman by unquestionably killed off in pretty gruesome fashion; Laurie shoves his mutilated and lifeless body into an industrial shredder, which crushes him into bloody chunk and finally ends Haddonfield’s long, dark night. Unfortunately, the film really doesn’t deserve this definitive finale; the climactic and emotional finale of Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (Miner, 1998) remains unbeaten, in my eyes, as the most cathartic and dramatic end to Michael and Laurie’s story. I also feel like the finale might’ve benefitted from taking place at the scrapyard, with Michael being forced into the shredder by Laurie and Allyson, but I do give it props for actually killing the Shape off, even if 90% of the movie was focused on an entirely different and far less interesting plot and killer.
Just like with Halloween Kills, I went into Halloween Ends with low expectations; I admit that a lot of this was based on my dislike for Green’s Halloween movies, especially Halloween Kills, but even setting that aside it’s pretty despicable how this movie treats one of cinema’s most iconic slashers. Michael’s absence is to the film’s detriment; at one point, it seemed like him and Corey were going to go on a killing spree together, but that evaporated almost immediately, and it’s depressing seeing this jumped-up loser wrestle the Shape to the ground and steal his mask like it’s nothing, especially after the last two films tried to sell Michael as this unstoppable supernatural force. In another film, Corey’s story might’ve been interesting, and I have longed to see someone else take up Michael’s ways, but it just doesn’t stick the landing here; maybe if Corey had used Michael’s mask all along and Haddonfield had been led to believe the Shape was back, it might’ve worked better but, as is, he’s a very underwhelming character. Jamie Lee Curtis tries her best to get this movie on track, but Laurie’s character turn is so sharp from the last two that she feels like a completely different person, one who I have a hard time believing could go toe-to-toe with Michael. Michael himself makes an impact for the finale, but the ending feels like it was slapped on to an unrelated psychological slasher film and then the script was hastily rewritten to be a Halloween sequel. Ultimately, this entry was as unnecessary as the last one; I didn’t care for Halloween but it would’ve made poetic sense to end things ambiguously and then try another reboot, but these last two films have just dragged the story on for no reason except to cash-in on the franchise name and I was left underwhelmed by this apparent definitive end to the story.
What did you think to Halloween Ends? Where would you rank it against the last film and the other entries in the franchise? What did you think to the shift towards Corey and his descent into madness? Did you buy his relationship with Allyson or did it fall flat for you? What did you think to Laurie’s portrayal and the side-lining of her vendetta against Michael until the ending? Were you also annoyed by Michael’s absence and how easily he was dispatched? Which of the kills was your favourite and where would you like to see the franchise go in the future? Feel free to sign up and leave your thoughts down below and drop a reply on my social media to let me know what you thought about Halloween Ends.