HALLOWEEN ENDS ½
2022, R, 111 mins.
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode / Andi Matichak as Allyson Nelson / Will Patton as Frank Hawkins / Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace / James Jude Courtney as The Shape / Rohan Campbell as Corey Cunningham / Omar J. Dorsey as Sheriff BarkerDirected by David Gordon Green / Written by Green, Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, and Danny McBride
I will say this for HALLOWEEN ENDS in terms of opening this review on a positive:
This third film in the semi-self-contained trilogy set in the same universe of the iconic John Carpenter directed slasher original from 1978 shows co-writer and director David Gordon Green taking some ballsy creative risks with the storyline established in 2018's sort of sequel/sort of reboot entry.
Compared directly to 2021's laughably awful HALLOWEEN KILLS (an installment made with technical proficiency, yes, but one that was fundamentally awful on a storytelling and thematic front), HALLOWEEN ENDS does some interesting things when it comes to exploring not only survivor guilt, but also how Michael Myers' reign of terror on the inhabitants of Haddonfield and his dangerous supernatural stature has imprinted on one troubled youth in particular (and a whole new character to this series).
That's also good!
I like the big
conceptual swings that Green opts for here, which makes his third
HALLOWEEN effort stand well apart from its abysmal predecessor.
Having said that,
what's not good this go-around is that this sequel still commits
the same sins as the last two films in terms of not really understanding
what a a trendsetter like Carpenter achieved all those years ago.
That, and I'm suspicious as to whether or not die hard series fans
will appreciate what's supposed to be a sense of closure and finality to
the saga of Laurie Strode's family versus The Shape taking more stock in
introducing new characters and new relationships that take away from the
established players in the first place.
HALLOWEEN ENDS most definitely deserves points for subverting my
very low expectations for it (that were done no favors whatsoever by the
feeble scripting of HALLOWEEN KILLS), but ultimately there still remains a
rushed feel to the proceedings, not too unlike the same sensations that I
had while watching STAR
WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER a few years ago, another trilogy caper
that had to course correct and undeniably had a made-it-up-as-they-went
aura that didn't sit well with fans.
I admired the storytelling ambition of HALLOWEEN ENDS (it does
things that frankly no one was probably expecting going in), but it's the
overall execution of the picture that leaves it fundamentally lacking.
Of course, I may
have to delve into spoilers in discussing what happened in
HALLOWEEN KILLS, so you've been warned.
The last sequel ended (and ended terribly) with Myers murdering
Judy Greer's Karen Nelson, whom you may recall was the daughter of
long-time Shape victim Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, thankfully and
rightfully given more to do this go around). But instead of this new installment dealing with that
aftermath from the get-go, we're instead given a prologue (set back in
2019) with a whole new character named Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell,
all moody posturing and not much else).
The young adult has been hired to babysit a local Haddonfield kid
whose parent are - uh-huh - going out to a Halloween party.
Late into the evening the child is revealed to be a bit of a snobby
little SOB and decides to play a cruel prank on Corey that taps into just
about everyone's fear of Michael Myers.
The prank goes horribly and leads to the little prankster dying
(and dying a shockingly gruesome death that I honestly thought was in poor
taste), leaving poor Corey looking like the culprit just as his shocked
parents have come home. It
goes without saying that this is arguably the most effective and nerve
wracking sequence in the entire film, but the fact that it doesn't involve
any of the previous established personas may be a warning sign of things
then flashes forward a few years and takes us to Laurie and her
granddaughter Allyson (now living with her after being orphaned), and for
the most part they both have moved on in their own respective ways, even
though past demons still haunt them. Fortunately for Laurie, she begins this film in arguably the
most healthy state that this character has been in since the beginning of
the events of the '78 original, and we see her penning her memoir of
survival against Myers, which obviously serves as a form of therapy for
her. As for Myers himself?
He has not been seen in Haddonfield for three years and not since
the climax of HALLOWEEN KILLS, which has left many in the town still
fearing his return. As for
Corey? The child he was
babysitting that ended up dead all those years ago was legally proven to
be an accident, but Corey had his reputation in the town destroyed and is
the victim of constant bullying. Laurie
sees this troubled twentysomething and understands what a raw deal he was
given in life. She befriends him and hopes to introduce him to his
granddaughter. Allyson too
feels pity for Corey, but - rather astoundingly - the pair become a
romantic item in spite of him suffering from mental health issues.
Then Corey has a very chance encounter with an in-hiding Meyers,
who has been living in Haddonfield's sewers.
Rather inexplicably, the mass murderer takes pity on Corey and the
two strike up a strange friendship that sends Corey down a path he will
never be able to turn back from.
another character into the already crowded mix of things in HALLOWEEN ENDS
- a sequel that, just to remind you, is supposed to...well...end
this series and close up the narrative threads with Laurie, Allyson, and
Myers - takes some semblance of nerve on Green's part.
There's a thoughtfulness to the screenplay here that was hopelessly
absent in HALLOWEEN KILLS, and having this sequel be more character and
psychologically driven (to a fault) makes for an unexpectedly interesting
watch. Corey has had it
extremely rough in life, and the child he was sitting for accidentally
being killed (of no direct or pre-meditated fault of his own) makes him a
sympathetic addition to this mythology. Seeing him shunned by just about everyone in Haddonfield
allows for our emotional buy-in (I mean, this is a town that was driven
nearly made with rage in the last film), and Laurie trying to serve as a
mentor or sorts to him gives the story some compelling forward momentum.
And Laurie has tried to heal from her physical and spiritual wounds
suffered from Myers as well, which leads to her being more clingy and
protective of the only family member she has left in Allyson.
When Corey takes a turn for the dark side and Laurie sees that this
man is going to be another Myers incarnate for the town and a damning
presence in Allyson's life she's forced to spring to action.
For the first 40-50 minutes The Shape is not even an entity in
HALLOWEEN ENDS, but his incalculably large shadow looms large over
everyone, which culminates in a chance meeting between him and Corey that
propels the plot to another violent standoff, albeit this time with two
As intriguing as
all of this sounds, the script begins to slowly unravel under the weight
of some nonsensical choices, most of which revolve around the union of
Allyson and Corey. Green and
his writing team can't seem to find a plausible reason why Allyson would
fall head over heels in love with this creepy outsider that begins to
display some toxically aggressive behavior towards others.
It becomes clear that Corey gets entrenched in Myers' madness and
will eventually become another serial killer like him, but why doesn't
Allyson run as fast and as far away from this brooding
when it's clear to her and Laurie that Corey is going to slash up
Haddonfield alongside his new BFF in The Shape, Laurie still implausibly
seems drawn to him, which just doesn't pass any logical smell test at all.
The whole Allyson/Corey love angle is pretty horribly underwritten
overall and never once feels like an authentic union in the slightest, and
the disjointed nature of HALLOWEEN ENDS - along with the last two films -
leaves Green coming off like he can seen to find a healthy balance between
being shrewdly introspective with the characters and themes and delivering
on the type of stomach churning tension that made Carpenter's pioneering
seventies film click in the first place.
And - sigh -
just when you think Green and company are getting smart with the material
it all takes a U-turn into sadistic savagery and disgusting glory kills.
HALLOWEEN ENDS is not as barbaric as the last sequel, but it serves
up many stomach churning kills, like one deplorable one against a black
radio DJ that's more nauseating than scary.
This unavoidably brings me to what's so wholly missing in all of
these Green-led HALLOWEEN films: scares.
Carpenter may have invented the slasher genre overnight with the
inaugural HALLOWEEN four decades ago, but his film owed more to Hitchcock
in drumming up escalating dread and unease in audiences of the time.
Green's HALLOWEEN films are rarely frightening in the slightest.
At the end of the day, they have the trivial assembly line
brutality of so many modern slashers. Green is a great filmmaker, but he wallows in so many
overused genre clichés and conventions here that his HALLOWEEN trilogy as
a whole rarely has found a way to proudly segregate itself apart from an
overcrowded pack. The problem
with HALLOWEEN ENDS is not (as many have labored to point out) that it's
barely a HALLOWEEN film in how it avoids featuring Myers for long
stretches. The main issue here is that Green has some good and bold
ideas that he wants to play with, but simply can't bring them forward to
successful fruition while given the franchise a sense of a satisfying end.
Now that's scary.