In 2018, David Gordon Green semi-rebooted Halloween with a direct sequel, also titled Halloween, to John Carpenter’s seminal 1978 slasher. Halloween (2018) took the franchise, long run off its narrative feet by a string of increasingly bad sequels and reimaginings, back to basics, with a simple story about Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and the reverberations of her trauma upon her family forty years later. Halloween (2018) has some good ideas about generational trauma, and it’s well executed as a character study of Laurie and as a slasher. Then came Halloween Kills in 2021, which is just f-cking ridiculous. Now, Green’s trilogy “concludes” with Halloween Ends, which also has some good ideas about trauma, and starts out well enough before spinning off the rails completely.
Picking up a few years after Halloween Kills, in which the town of Haddonfield, Illinois went batsh-t insane when Michael Meyers broke out of prison and resumed his murder spree, and Laurie Strode is trying to get on with her life. Her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), is her last living relative, but even after having lost so much, Laurie is determined to let go of Michael Meyers and her trauma. She bought a cute Victorian bungalow in town, is working on a memoir, and is having a sweet, fumbling romance with Officer Hawkins (Will Patton). Allyson, meanwhile, has become a nurse, and is also trying to move on as best she can after Michael Meyers decimated her family.
Haddonfield, though, is profoundly f-cked up. Halloween Kills has some half-baked thoughts about mob violence and mass hysteria, but Ends takes that idea in a fresher, more interesting direction. Haddonfield seems steeped in misery, where tragedy strikes often, and people are just plain mean and uncaring. Neighbors aren’t friendly, and Laurie and Allyson experience setbacks in their emotional recoveries because no one in town will leave them alone. Allyson is treated as a zoo object, to be ogled and cooed over as a brave survivor, but Laurie is akin to a pariah, blamed for unleashing this evil upon the town (one person even accuses her of harassing a “brain damaged man”, which…what?). Haddonfield as a place of perpetual suffering, where people are casually cruel to one another as a result, is a far more effective portrayal for how entire populations can manifest the same kind of trauma than any of the silliness in Halloween Kills.
But the struggle of the Halloween franchise has always been to resist pinning too much narrative onto Michael Meyers himself. Halloween (1978) is a simple story about a girl who is in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up on a killer’s hit list for no particular reason, the end. Halloween (2018) understands this and returns Michael Meyers to the personality-free specter of “The Shape” (once again portrayed by original actor Nick Castle, with an assist from James Jude Courtney, who has been pitching in since 2018). But Halloween Ends falls into the trap of beefing up Michael Meyers as a character, and imbues him with supernatural powers, which is just dumb. The idea of Haddonfield as a place permanently traumatized by loss is interesting, the idea of Michael Meyers as a literal monster passing his evil around is pure schlock, and while schlock can be fun, that is not what Green is setting up in the first half of the film.
Green, who once again co-writes with Danny McBride (Paul Brad Logan & Chris Bernier are also credited for the script), directs the first half of Ends as an ideas movie, the kind of thing some people call “elevated horror”. But his ideas are not sustained throughout the film, they go flying out the window by the time Michael starts his final killing spree. In its entire history, Halloween has never been able to have it both ways. It works best as a simple slasher, trying to make it more than that only makes for dumber and dumber movies.
Halloween Ends, at least, is not as bad as Kills, which is nigh on unwatchable. And narratively, you can jump from Halloween to Halloween to Halloween Kills and have a mostly neat trilogy about Laurie Strode trying to have a damn life. Just the last twenty minutes of Ends—which is overlong at 110 minutes—will test your patience. But John Carpenter once again provides a cool score full of dread to keep things moving, and Ends features some A+ movie houses, so even when you’re rolling your eyes at the ludicrousness of the finale, you can admire Laurie’s cool kitchen. Never underestimate the power of a good movie house to carry a bad third act.
Halloween Ends is now in theaters and streaming on Peacock.