Director: David Gordon Green
Stars: Rohan Campbell, Andi Matichak, Jamie Lee Curtis
The greatest trick in the Halloween franchise came in 1982. After the gargantuan, genre-defining success of John Carpenter’s 1978 film, the 1981 obligatory sequel gave audiences what they wanted and expected. Not nearly as groundbreaking or iconic but muscular and effective, Halloween II made some questionable decisions but holds up well against it’s forbearer. Michael Myers had become a horror legend with only two films under his belt. With appetites whetted, 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch – boldly, madly – threw everything under the bus.
No Michael Myers. No Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). With it’s producers gambling that the fans would embrace the Halloween brand as an umbrella for an anthology series whose entries didn’t necessarily connect, audiences were offered a weird, tense, funny and horrifying Twilight Zone variant starring Tom Atkins. It’s a great, freaky little movie, but it isn’t what anyone expected. It would be six years before another Halloween movie debuted, and you bet Michael Myers would be back; the subtitle even made sure to promise it. There would be no doubt. The Return of Michael Myers.
David Gordon Green and his cohorts of course rewrote all that. This new trilogy of films disregards everything after Carpenter’s original, but some of that same crafty spirit endures in this third (and surely final) outing, which quite knowingly swaps out the series’ iconic typeface (associated intrinsically with Myers) for the lettering that ushered in Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Can you imagine the uproar if Green and co. had the cojones to pull the same shit forty years later?
In a manner of speaking, they have.
Where Halloween and Halloween Kills followed the lead of the original first and second films – taking place over the course of a long, violent night – Halloween Ends makes a decisive change as we punch forward in time. First to 2019, and 21-year-old reluctant babysitter Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), who makes a terrible lapse in judgment, one that causes a tragedy that will haunt him for years to come. Tainted with an inaccurate reputation that has made him the pariah of Haddonfield, we reconvene with Corey in the ramp up to Halloween 2022 and life isn’t going so well. With a deep sense of foreboding we find him working at his father’s junkyard, donned in a very familiar set of overalls. Picked on by kids younger than him, unwelcome at social gatherings and heckled in the streets, he’s become a vector for the town’s ire and contempt following Myers’ mysterious disappearance.
Recognising something in him, Laurie Strode takes Corey under her wing and proffers him toward her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). Allyson knows something about the long shadow of reputation, and seems to have fallen for Corey long before the two of them are introduced. What follows is a 90 minute character piece in which, 40+ years into a franchise, a new player is placed front and centre. Campbell is great as Corey, and once you dispel notions of what Halloween Ends is ‘supposed’ to be, the work here is thoughtful and compassionate, even as the character starts tilting worryingly toward Arthur Fleck mannerisms.
Michael isn’t wholly absent, of course. He’s lurking down below (figuratively and literally). Green and his cadre of writers set up a scenario whereby a struggling outcast has a devil on one shoulder (Michael) and an angel on the other (Laurie), only to ask the question – what happens if your angel abandons you? Halloween Ends pokes into the ramifications of nurture vs neglect. It’s there at a micro level (Corey’s dismal home life) and a macro one (the town itself). As usual with Green, one can’t help but get the sense that he’s using Haddonfield as a petri dish to examine America-At-Large™. The enquiry here seems more thoughtful and complex than Kills‘ herd-mentality line, but is developed from the same DNA.
In the process the creative team have inadvertently tapped into another John Carpenter property; his adaptation of Stephen King’s Christine. Like that film’s Arnie Cunningham (another Cunningham!), Corey is othered (either by himself or the world around him) and increasingly tainted by an external evil as a concerned circle passively observe. There’s even a pivotal junkyard to further a sense of literal connection between the two. Christine was adapted from a Stephen King novel, and Ends stretches out to connect to other properties from New England’s master of horror, not least the eerie sewers and infectious evils of IT.
For a late entry in a slasher franchise, this is willfully obstinate, leftfield, and genuinely refreshing. An attempt to carve out a unique entry instead of another hack-and-slash rerun. And then it all comes crashing down. After a slow but eminently watchable hour and a half, Ends abruptly remembers it has its own necessary evil to deal with. Michael comes crashing back into the main story and sense seemingly exits out the back door. Corey’s through line reaches a jarringly abrupt end, while Michael’s coda is protracted, silly, wildly unbelievable. In horror franchise terms, its comparable to the staggering self-destruct at the end of Alien Resurrection.
I feel as though Halloween Ends – much more so even than Kills – will split the fanbase. It flatly refuses (for most of its running time anyway) to give the audience business-as-usual, but still anchors a new story in the aesthetics and themes inherent to the series. Purists will either respect and embrace that decision or flat-out reject it. What’s tougher to reconcile is how that tessellates with the needs of a series capper. At it’s most interesting and sympathetic, Ends is reminiscent of John McNaughton’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer or, more commonly, Patty Jenkins’ compassionate Monster. Knitting such psychological complexities into the spectral presence of The Boogeyman yields a frustrating and fractal finale that doesn’t quite do either element justice. Because of this, Halloween Ends somehow feels like both the best and worst of the Green movies. Now that’s a trick.