‘Halloween Ends’ Review: The Horror Series Ends (Rinse, Slash, Repeat)

There “Halloween, which ends this weekend (and if you believe it, I have a set of rusty kitchen knives that I would like to sell you), has always been the least pretentious of the horror franchises. A hulking killer in a rubber mask emerges from the shadows to slash one victim after another. Horror doesn’t get much more basic than this.

But, of course, the “Halloween” series has always had a pretentious side to it too – the side that started with Donald Pleasance buzzing on eee-vile, and the side that extended, over the last trilogy, to the very heavy twist of Laurie Strode’s self-actualized guilt and despair. As for Michael Myers, who started out as a small-town killer, he was transformed, more and more explicitly, into A Force Larger Than Himself. And in “Halloween ends“, this tendency now culminates in a film where Michael, in a way, is barely in the film; he is the film’s totem, its mascot, its threatening emblem of evil. “Halloween Ends” does not end the franchise by being the scariest or funniest entry in the series.(It should have been both, but it’s neither.) Instead, it’s the entry most joyless metaphorical and convoluted.

It opens with a promising sequence staged with a certain amused level of Hitchcockian chops. In Haddonfield on Halloween night 2019, Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), the film’s central character, is hired as a babysitter for an obnoxious boy named Jeremy. In what appears to be a cruel prank, the child soon disappears. As Corey searches the house for him, the director, David Gordon Green, squinting at the suspenseful camera angles, and we’re looking forward to someone – the kid? Michael? – to get out of the shadows. Instead, what happens is Jeremy locks Corey up in the attic, taunting him from the other side of the door. When Corey breaks down the door, he inadvertently knocks Jeremy over the railing of the house’s two-story spiral staircase, just in time for the parents to come home to see their child plunge to death.

It is an abnormal accident; Corey didn’t do anything wrong. But even if he ends up being acquitted of manslaughter, he still becomes a local outcast, known in Haddonfield as the “psychopathic babysitter” who killed a child. He won’t be the only person in the movie accused of things he didn’t do. You would think that Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), at this point, would be some sort of local heroine, but no. People are now holding her responsible for Michael Myers’ rampages.

At first, Rohan Campbell seems like a likeable actor. He’s seductive like a young Roman-lipped Tom Berenger, and the fact that he comes off as such a vulnerable geek makes him a likeable presence. When his hand is severed during an altercation with punk teenagers, he ends up in the clinic where Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), works as a nurse. The two are instantly smitten, which in the words of the film makes sense: Corey is an outcast (for unfair reasons) and Allyson wants to heal and protect him, perhaps because his grandmother has also become an unjust outcast.

But after too many run-ins with local bullies, Corey ends up being dragged into a sewer pipe. We can guess who is hanging around. What we can’t guess – or fully understand, even once it happens – is why Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney), who’s been hiding in that sewer, with rats for company, doesn’t just not kill Corey like he kills everyone. Instead, the two exchange a long, meaningful look, and we’re supposed to see that in that moment Corey absorbs the mind of Michael Myers. Michael doesn’t have to kill him. He now has something better than another victim—he has a follower! A partner. And maybe, in a way, his disciple is the killer in all of us.

Or something or other. David Gordon Green, who directed all three films in the H40 trilogy, approaches this series with tiny green sprouts of “creativity” that prove to be just enough to dampen the series’ overriding entertainment value. His 2018 “Halloween” was slick slasher nostalgia, as it was as basic as the original “Halloween” — an old-school flick about hacking people and hanging them from hooks. But “Halloween Kills” got lost in its soggy jabs at current events, and “Halloween Ends,” while it has a nerd revenge plot and a thematic superstructure that seems a little out of the ordinary, forget to do the basic job of reviving and scaring the public. Corey-as-the-proper-mind-of-Michael-Myers is a half-interesting, half-baked idea that doesn’t exactly inspire terror. He’s just not threatening the way Michael is. Who wants a “humanized” killing machine?

As for Laurie, sorry, but I liked her better when she had less metaphysical inner turmoil. Laurie is writing a book about her experience fighting the evil that is Michael, and she has to keep reading lines like “People create their own stories and make their own choices. They believe what they want to believe. They It’s hard not to cheer on Jamie Lee Curtis, but in this case, I wished she would stop being the Joan Didion of slasher battlers.

Laurie and Michael will fight to the death, of course. Now they complement each other like the Joker and Batman. Still, there’s an inevitability to the kitchen utensils’ final showdown that does it a disservice, and what happens to Michael in the grind’s climax is just “final” enough to give you that “Okay, so how are they going to bring it back next time?” feeling. The truth is, this franchise has been cheating death since 1978’s final “Halloween” hit – a moment so oddly corrupted in its sequel-setting opportunism that you can argue it helped set the stage for the new culture of unreality. Halloween is ending, but the essence of the “Halloween” series is that it never ends. That’s the real power of Michael Myers. No matter how many times they kill him, he comes back with someone’s unholy force with outlets in the background.

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