In the last two reviews of David Gordon Green’s Halloween trilogy, I’ve addressed how they resemble the game “plan” of the Disney Star Wars sequel trilogy (insofar as you’d believe either trilogy had actual plans). So I guess I may as well open this review with how Halloween Ends mirrors the coffin nail to Star–Wars-as-cinematic-event The Rise of Skywalker: they are both grand “Final Statements on Everything and Anything” in their respective brands by way of introducing an entirely new conflict ad hoc and divorced from their preceding installments.* I know there’s also a desire of the internet to label Halloween Ends as the Last Jedi of Halloween and I guess that fits insofar as Ends takes some real swings.
Those swings also allow this movie to briefly and all too promisingly map unto the sudden shift in story focus that the third Halloween movie, Season of the Witch, performed. This is apparent by the time the opening credits occur, stylized in bold italicized blue type that would have to be an homage to Halloween III and not Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. Before those credits though, we’re at a pretty great start with an opening sequence that I’d argue is the single best stretch of Green’s entire trilogy. One year later from the events of Halloween ’18 and Halloween Kills, we are introduced to a fresh-faced 21-year-old named Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell) who agrees to babysit neighborhood kid Jeremy (Jaxon Goldenberg). For the little amount of time we spend, we can see that Corey is a little bit extra sensitive to taunts and scares while Jeremy is kind of a little shit that enjoys bullying the hell out of a fella almost twice his age. That’s not going to land well for either of them: as Jeremy gets to the end of his hazing by locking Corey in a dark room, Corey busts open the door either without knowing or caring that Jeremy was on the other side and that door ends up knocking Jeremy over the extravagantly high stairwell of his house and splattering his skull just as his parents came back from their Halloween party.
After the credits, we leap forward an extra year and Halloween Ends plays its hand: David Gordon Green, trilogy co-writer Danny McBride, and this year’s other co-writer models Chris Bernier and Paul Brad Logan have made the protagonist of the film not Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney; this time Nick Castle doesn’t have a single frame under the mask, but he has a tacky out-of-costume cameo) as that big dude appears to have disappeared since Halloween Kills. Nor is it now-orphaned nurse Allyson Nelson (Andi Matichak) after being flagged as the next generation of final girl for the last two entries or the series regular that is her grandmother Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, who I’m willing to bet fucking money will eventually come back to the Halloween franchise), the latter of whom has now moved out of her isolated burnt-down shack outside of the town into Haddonfield proper despite the fact that for some reason she’s become a pariah over “causing” the events of 2018. Did not one person get informed that Michael’s attacks were manufactured by a Dr. Loomis knock-off? Even the Deputy (Will Patton) who was nearly murdered by said doctor? And more particularly where do we get the connective tissue for Laurie’s characterization from “40 years spent in a survivalist trap alienating her whole family” to “2 years since a much larger massacre and one dead daughter and son-in-law later now happily living in the same town where the murderer is still at large and almost everyone hates her”. Ostensibly the 2-years-later conceit would like to paper over these gaps in Laurie and Allyson acting significantly different than the previous entries but that doesn’t stick at all. It’s a massive fucking backwards leap that suggests Green and McBride figured way too late what they wanted Strode to ride through.
Ah well, that rant was interrupting what I was addressing: neither Michael, Laurie, or Allyson are the main character of Halloween Ends. It’s Corey, who has also received a major pariah status that is obviously more warranted but still a little cruel for a timid young man who did not intend to hurt anyone. Still it appears Corey is so very vulnerable that a bunch of high school marching band members could push him off a bridge and get away with it. One of the few helping hands Corey receives is from a concerned Laurie, who is even more concerned for her granddaughter’s libido and ships him with Allyson in a way that hits off without any credibility. This appears to be the worst time for Corey to enter the Strodes’ lives though as he has by chance found the missing Michael deep in a sewer tunnel and upon physical contact has… apparently caught an infectious enjoyment for murder? The weird editing seizure that occurs once Michael grabs his throat and locks eyes with Corey deliberately suggests some supernatural spirit of the knife now transferred on the outcast kid.
By the last two nights of October, Corey begins donning a cool scarecrow mask (though he is interested in Michael’s good ol’ white Billy Shatner mask) and makes his way to vengefully dispatching anyone who troubles him or Allyson (best kill is easily one involving a turntable and a tongue). That it’s connected to snapped tension within the character makes clear the movie would like to use “alienated malcontent lets his toxic masculinity bubble into reactive violence” compound the trilogy-long concerns with “TRAUMA” in a manner disconnected from the reality of living with trauma or familiar with any form of toxic masculinity outside of the movies. Corey’s story is basically just Joker beat-for-beat except the cinematography is less interesting to look at and the performances are across-the-board worse, where Campbell as central performance feels like an impression of the Tom Holland Spider-Man finally getting that symbiote assholery. He’s definitely a lot more committed and interesting to watch than any other entity in the film, including and especially Curtis, but that feels just as default of the film forcing him to be the only dynamic character (outside of the 180 Laurie makes from Corey’s new best friend to suddenly hating him without any knowledge of his killings) rather than the merits of his otherwise gee whiz screen presence. Plus the invocation of Michael as a vessel for contagious murderousness deeply undercuts Corey’s transformation into slasher villain as something coming from a lifetime of external abuse.
Still this new direction is definitely the most radical thing that Green and company have done and I might find it admirable if they believed in their convictions enough to stick by it, even if it would have ended in a terrible movie. No, they decided to suddenly course-correct at the last act to the “final showdown between Michael and Laurie” in a sequence that belongs to an entirely different film than what we just watched, one where Michael ideally had more than 5 minutes of screentime up until then. And the movie shifts the function of Michael rather than a symbol of transmissible evil to a flesh-and-blood man whose power only comes from the despair the people of Haddonfield fall to rather than his own stature, which sounds like an idea I can probably get behind as a grounded back-to-reality response towards Michael Myers as a figure, his relationship to Laurie, and the last two Halloween movies’ hysteria. But EVEN THAT ends up not being the last word on the character or franchise, as the movie slips its final beats into a ceremonious sequence treating Michael as a larger-than-life figure affecting everybody in Haddonfield to the point that they about-face after hating Laurie for battling him right back to respecting her for battling him again? Narrated mind you by dialogue we learn is being typed by a character into a memoir, a move that mirrors the final scenes of that bro-y HBO comedy Eastbound and Down that Green and McBride collaborated on before these movies. So a contradictory set of treatments towards Michael as figure within the story – most of which are slamming into each other in the last 20 minutes – just muddles what were already inarticulate themes in three movies that ineptly attempted looking into Society circa 2018-2022, a disastrous end point for that goal.
And all of that is fine enough to make this the worst Halloween movie since Resurrection and the worst David Gordon Green movie I’ve ever seen (my gaps are The Sitter and Manglehorn and while I’m sure I’ll dislike both if I ever get to them, it would be impressive if they don’t clear the low bar this movie sets). But there’s one element of Halloween Ends that really grinds my gears, more than the dragging pace of this movie’s near-two-hour runtime, more than how Green and company are so concerned with scrambling together every last faux-wisdom they can instead of constructing a singular and focused horror story, more than the movie’s inability to feel in conversation with any other movie in the franchise including the two Green and McBride previously made and thereby being a complete flop as a closing statement for a franchise and subgenre that never ever means it when they have “Final” or “Ends” in the title**. It’s the fact that despite at least feeling somewhat like the midwest atmosphere from the previous two movies is kept intact by cinematographer Michael Simmonds, this is the movie in all 13 entries that feels the least bit concerned with having any sense of Halloween autumnal atmosphere in a movie with fucking Halloween in its name. A couple of pumpkins and that’s it. Ideally the bare minimum of making a movie named after such a holiday is that it feels in spirit of that holiday, so we have the ultimate indication of missing what about a Halloween movie lives up to that name.