Halloween Ends (Review): Not With a Bang, but With a Whimper
Halloween Ends is a Halloween movie that doesn’t seem to want to be a Halloween movie, and suffers all the more for it.
I have to thank director David Gordon Green for his consideration; he made it easy for me to make a review title out of the movie’s name. Other potential candidates were “Halloween Ends any hope I had left for the franchise,” “Halloween Ends up in a rotten pumpkin patch,” and “Halloween Ends but who are we kidding they’re eventually bringing the franchise back.”
Suffice it to say, my expectations were not very high. Horror movie sequels work as well as telling the same joke at a party for the 13th time and expecting anything above a tired snort. Halloween (2018) was tolerable but nothing huge to write home about, and Halloween Kills was a middle act of a larger story stretched out into its own movie with a mob mentality propaganda haphazardly thrown in there. With the constant diminishing returns, all I wanted from Halloween Ends was exactly that: a satisfying end. One that would tie up the feud between Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney/Nick Castle) once and for all before they inevitably announced another reboot.
Set four years after Halloween Kills, Halloween Ends follows Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), who ended up accidentally killing a child he was babysitting on Halloween night. Since then, he’s been labeled as a monster from the townsfolk, shunned at every corner. After a particularly severe blame game, Corey starts down a dark mental path into the evil in his heart, spurred on by hatred piled on him from every side.
Oh, and Laurie and Michael are there too, I guess.
I think my general opinion on Halloween Ends has been made pretty clear from the introduction already. But believe me when I say that, for the first half of the movie, I was genuinely invested and interested to see how things went, and it was all thanks to Corey. Despite having nothing to do with what happened previously in the franchise, he immediately became a sympathetic lead, who has become trapped in a web of blame and guilt that is constantly forced on him by society.
The theme of vilification is clearly present throughout his arc, and it tackles some very interesting questions related to crime and the subsequent fallout. Do accidental murderers deserve to have a life afterwards? How will the victim’s family feel about the societal uproar surrounding them? What happens when you push the perpetrator too far? Unfortunately, I can’t go into his best bits without stepping into spoiler territory, but these themes are all tackled in a pretty consistent manner as Corey undergoes his arc in the film.
However, that strong suit also contributes to the main issue of the film. There is a potentially compelling story here, revolving around Corey. But every now and then, the movie remembers that it is a Halloween sequel and needs to address Laurie and Michael. Thus, the film’s narrative feels like someone’s sitting on the tv remote through a Super Bowl game and keeps switching to a BBC documentary. It’s two different stories that are trying to coexist as one narrative, and thus neither feels fulfilling.
In all fairness, the movie could have meshed the two together through Laurie and her family. It sets up that they have become outcasts due to Michael’s rampage, and the belief that it was Laurie’s paranoia and obsession that provoked him to kill. The setup is considerably more flimsy that Corey’s situation, and I wish there were a couple more scenes devoted to this, but it is nevertheless something that could have provided a parallel between the two plotlines, looking at how people respond to blame in different ways.
The problem is that the movie then chooses Lauren’s granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) as the main interaction with Corey. Even back in Halloween (2018), I found her the least interesting out of the main leads. Her character in her initial debut is too muddled with high school romance, and Halloween Kills prevents any development she could have gotten after that with choppy screentime. Her emotional connection with Corey in the movie feels far too rushed, going yet again for the sudden romance element. Look, people have different standards of beauty, but is Rohan Campbell that good looking, for Allyson to decide on their first meeting that she wants to get close to him? I can’t think of any other explanation as to how their relationship is paced.
Still, it’s not like their story is unwatchable, as some parts of the two stories still succeed in feeling organically combined. There is a certain level of empathy and tension between the two, with Corey inviting Allyson down a darker path that the world pushed him towards. And Allyson thankfully doesn’t hog all of the spotlight, as Laurie is given much more screentime here than what basically amounted to an extended cameo in Halloween Kills. She still doesn’t feel completely in the spotlight and the overall execution is still clunky, but it still would have been reasonably satisfying.
But what really kills the movie is none other than the main scare, Michael Myers himself, or rather, his implementation. Out of all the elements of the Halloween franchise that this movie tries to connect to Corey, Michael feels the most tacked on. At least in Halloween Kills, he had a good amount of screentime and several play of the game moments. Here, however, I think I was past an hour into the movie before Michael actually made a kill.
Of course, there’s the saying less is more, and some horror movies thrive on keeping its main scare behind the curtains until the last minute. Those movies succeed because they have a hefty amount of buildup, and also when the slasher or monster finally does appear, it carries narrative impact and presence. You could aruge the movie was trying to go for that effect to make Michael’s eventual appearance and clash with Laurie all the more satisfying.
But in Halloween Ends, not only is the buildup very light, but every time the movie cuts to Michael and tries to make him relevant, I can’t help but think how unnecessary he is. Every action he takes comes off as aimless. And I’m not talking about the kind of aimless as in an indiscriminate evil that just kills without motive, something that the previous movies pulled off fairly well. I’m talking about the kind of aimless where Michael feels like a bench warmer at a football game, appearing just out of obligation because he’s the mascot character.
This hits its peak at the third act, and where I feel the film crumbles faster than a chocolate chip cookie in a Halloween candy distribution. At that point in the movie, Corey’s story is at its peak, and all it needs now is a conclusion. But then, suddenly, with barely any buildup, the movie drops that plot completely, and Corey only gets a quick line or two at the end. Instead, the movie switches into a Halloween movie climax with practically zero foundation, with Laurie and Michael’s encounter coming off as accidental more than anything else.
To be fair, the 2018 movie also did a similar thing, where Michael just happened upon Laurie’s home through a series of unfortunate events. However, at least there was buildup on Laurie’s part, as she knew about Michael and prepared for him. In Halloween Ends, however, Laurie literally didn’t know she was going to fight Michael until the final fight actually started. And what a disappointing final fight it is, as the lighting is far too poor and the shots too quick to make out any of the moves the two are making. I would call it an anticlimax, but it’s not even that if it had no story to be a climax of.
The movie essentially misses two birds with one stone. Corey’s portion gets most of the screentime but doesn’t get a proper ending, while the Halloween sequel portion gets only the ending without a story. Neither feels satisfying. People who were interested to see new characters and themes be explored will be left hanging, while people who came to see Michael killing will be left feeling cheated.
I can’t help but feel the director didn’t even want to make a Halloween sequel. Maybe he wanted to make an original film with social commentary, but since having the Halloween moniker sells more, he halfheartedly threw in Michael Myers. And that’s the biggest issue: it’s halfhearted. This is easily the worst out of the new Halloween trilogy, not because it is outright bad, but because of how passionless it feels. I can only hope that for his next film, Green gets to make what he is actually interested in, but for now, Halloween Ends what little credibility he had in directing the franchise.
Halloween Ends is out now globally in theaters and streaming only on Peacock.