Halloween Ends debuts in theaters and on Peacock on Oct. 14. Below is a spoiler-free review.
The original Halloween practically invented the trope of the killer rising from his apparent death for one last surprise attack. In that same way, Halloween Ends as a whole feels like one heck of a narrative curveball right before the curtain closes on the franchise as we’ve known it up to this point (well, this time anyway). In opting to jettison all but the original film as canon, director David Gordon Green made an early choice to focus down his Halloween trilogy on the essentials of what made John Carpenter’s classic work, especially on how Michael Myers’ violence represented evil as an elemental force. Halloween Ends furthers Green’s exploration of whether evil and its effects can truly be overcome in ways that are intriguing in their larger implications, but sometimes at odds with its more grounded goal of bringing Laurie Strode’s story to a satisfying close.
If the first two Green Halloween movies explored how trauma affects a family and a community, Ends focuses on how trauma can mutate and form destructive cycles – something the opening credits image of a reincarnating pumpkin announces early on. Halloween Ends’ interrogation of that idea rests largely on the shoulders of new character Cory Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), whose strong introduction sets the stage for a study in how Michael Myers’ legacy has affected Haddonfield’s hopes for the future. A young man with great college prospects, Cory shares a lot in common with Laurie Strode at that age, and Green uses details like him choosing chocolate milk over beer while he’s babysitting to raise interesting questions about his moral compass. A shocking end to Cory’s babysitting gig pushes him further into Laurie’s footsteps, with the whole decaying town treating him as an outcast – he’s even targeted by a roaming gang of dastardly band geeks. Of course, you don’t introduce a roaming gang of dastardly band geeks in a slasher movie without a very bloody end in sight for them, and their increasingly creative demises later on serve as the backbone for one of Halloween Ends’ standout sequences of classical slasher mayhem.
Cory’s inner turmoil and reaction to Michael’s latest activity in Haddonfield provide Ends’ most interesting, if befuddling, character arc and an unexpected lens through which to examine The Shape’s legacy. To this point, Green’s trilogy has used Laurie and the entire population of Haddonfield as a counterpoint to that evil, but in each of those cases, we, the audience, had a lot of prior history with those parties. Bringing all that thematic weight to bear on a single new character this late in the game is a risk that doesn’t entirely pay off. Rohan Campbell gets off to a sympathetic start as Cory, with a boy-next-door charm so pure that the collective cold shoulder his character receives feels almost unrealistic in comparison, but Ends loses its commitment to fleshing out the character near the middle, and so changes in his personality feel less and less motivated. Cory and Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) develop a bond through a mutual sense of unbelonging that’s meant to contextualize his place in the larger morality play, but the more time goes on, the more their connection feels designed to set up the confrontation between Laurie and Michael that Green knows we’re expecting. Matichak gets the short end of the stick here, having to serve as a foil to both Cory and Laurie leaves Allyson without much room of her own in the story.
After spending much of Halloween Kills laid up in a hospital bed, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has a more active role in Ends, which picks up with her coping with everything that’s led to this point in admirable fashion. Now a surrogate mother to the orphaned Allyson, the Laurie who’s flirting at the grocery store with Frank Hawkins (Will Patton) and fumbling around trying not to burn a pie almost feels like a counterpart from a parallel dimension who never encountered Michael Myers. Curtis is just as focused on selling Laurie’s quieter emotional triumphs as she is her latter day ass-kicker persona, and leaves us with a performance that blends both in a testament to how much she reveres the final girl role that put her on the map. But of course, this is the last(?) Halloween movie and so Laurie’s also called on to tangle with that oldest, creepiest dance partner of hers one more time. Green has his eye squarely on audience expectations throughout the climax of Ends, with plenty of nods to imagery from Carpenter’s original film, but the law of diminishing returns prevents Laurie and Michael’s ultimate confrontation from having quite the same punch as their last reunion in 2018’s Halloween. The rematch feels incongruous with what Ends had been building towards, and the immediate fallout of it escalates at such a jaw-droppingly quick rate that you hardly have time to consider what the outcome really means for the survivors.
After a long line of competing visions of the mythology, this new Halloween trilogy has mostly benefited from having one director’s vision to hold it together. Even though Ends starts to distract with its self-serious discussions about “evil,” it does feel very much of a piece with David Gordon Green’s previous efforts and having seen plenty of Halloween sequels that are begging to coalesce around something, it’s hard to argue that having more cooks in the kitchen has ever served the Halloween movies well. Green’s approach to filming Michael’s violence remains as brutal and stylish as ever. Ends may be the best looking of Green’s three Halloween movies, with evocative glimpses at both Haddonfield’s underbelly and upper class that serve as equally haunting backdrops for bloody and tense sequences. The film’s opening scene takes place in what must be the biggest house in Haddonfield, and its opulent design gives Green room to both build dread and misdirect attention to wicked results. Ends is a largely serious affair, but it’s during these signature kill scenes that Green allows himself to wink at us with a number of enjoyably staged tableaus of terror. There’s only so much a drumstick can be twirled before it ends up in someone’s eye, right?
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