After the lacklustre 'Halloween Kills', the iconic slasher franchise returns with a weighty — and gory — apparent farewell to Michael Myers and Laurie Strode.
October 13, 2022
Whenever a kitchen knife gleams, a warped mask slips over a killer's face or a piano score tinkles in a horror movie — whenever a jack-o'-lantern burns bright, a babysitter is alone in someone else's home with only kids for company or October 31 hits, too — one film comes to mind. It has for four-plus decades now and always will, because Halloween's influence over an entire genre, slasher flicks within it and final girls filling such frames is that immense. That seminal first altercation between then 17-year-old Laurie Strode and psychiatric institution escapee Michael Myers, as brought to the screen so unnervingly by now-legendary director John Carpenter, also valued a concept that couldn't be more pivotal, however. Halloween was never just a movie about an unhinged murderer in stolen mechanic's overalls stalking Haddonfield, Illinois when most of the town was trick-or-treating. In Laurie's determination to survive Michael's relentless stabbing, it was a film about trauma and fighting back.
As played by Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All At Once) for 44 years — her big-screen debut made her an OG scream queen, and she's returned six times since, including now in Halloween Ends — Laurie has never been anyone's mere victim. In the choose-your-own-adventure antics that've filled the franchise's ever-branching narrative over 13 entries, her tale has twisted and turned. The saga's has in general, including chapters sans Laurie and Michael, films that've killed one or both off, and remakes. But mustering up the strength to persist, refusing to let Michael win and attacking back has remained a constant of Laurie's story. That's all kept pushing to the fore in the current trilogy within the series, which started with 2018's Halloween, continued with 2021's Halloween Kills and now wraps up with an instalment that flashes its finality in its moniker. Laurie keeps fighting, no matter the odds, because that's coping with trauma. This time, though, is a weary Haddonfield ready to battle with her?
First, a just-as-pressing question: is this David Gordon Green-directed and co-written, Jason Blum-produced movie ready to fight back itself? Green (Stronger, The Righteous Gemstones) has been the mastermind behind the franchise's revival with co-scribe Danny McBride (The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter) — and while their first dance with the boogeyman (James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle), and the woman pursued by him, gave the Halloween series its best sequel yet, their second lurked in lacklustre been-there, done-that territory. Despite a title that's bound to be proven wrong down the line because that's just the way Hollywood goes, Halloween Ends leaps forward after its average-at-best most-recent predecessor, thankfully. It does so weightily, eerily and gorily, in fact, albeit sometimes clumsily as well, in a mostly fitting swan song for Curtis that understands what it means to spend half a lifetime shrouded in tragedy.
Halloween circa 2018 and Halloween Kills sliced into the same night, 40 years after Michael initially attacked Laurie, but Halloween Ends covers two other October 31s. In the first, a year later, a babysitter, a child and Haddonfield's understandably on-edge vibe are all present — as is Carpenter's 1982's masterpiece The Thing, playing on a TV — and a bloody end results. Jumping forward three more years, Laurie is penning a memoir about moving on from her ordeals, and has begun to re-embrace life while living with her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak, Foxhole). Still, around them, their home town is uncertain in Michael's absence. Accustomed to having a big bad responsible for their woes, fears and misery, its residents now point fingers at twentysomething Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell, The Hardy Boys), who's already escaped a murder accusation but is forever branded in the community's eyes.
Seizing new chances — to avoid adding to Michael's body count, to hold one's own against him and to welcome the future — has always been part of Laurie's story, too, and Halloween Ends knows it. Accordingly, it's little wonder that she feels for the outcast Corey, or that she's swiftly setting him up with Allyson. That clunky plot thread and the inevitable return of Michael are intertwined, because Haddonfield is that festering an emotional and psychological mess; see: the viciousness skewered Laurie's way as well, blaming her for her tormentor's decades of horrific crimes. That Green adapts the franchise's usual pumpkin-filled opening titles to show jack-o'-lanterns swelling, birthing new carved and hollowed-out vegetables inside, then exploding as new ones take over, is telling — by design, obviously. (Carpenter provides a new score, as he has for all three recent titles, which also keeps setting the perfect creepy mood.)
Green and McBride's love for all things Halloween, and for Carpenter and his imprint upon horror, has never surprised; why hop into the saga otherwise? Alas, adoring nods and knowing use of the series' template can be a double-edged cleaver — clever in 2018, tired in 2021, but now mostly savvy again. That perhaps there can be somewhat of a conclusion to all the pain Michael has inflicted after all plays powerfully, especially given how past flicks have acknowledged that truly awful things can and do happen for absolutely no reason, and that their imprints slash oh-so-unshakeably deep. Thematically, Halloween Ends is still about that choice to fight back against unspeakable trauma, although it also recognises the choice to take control by other means. This trilogy-concluding movie doesn't skimp on the engagingly staged visceral threats, though, including new and throwback bumps and jumps, plus a hefty willingness to get grisly — or, once he re-emerges, on Michael as a source of terror.
Just as Haddonfield one year on, then four, seems to be drifting, Halloween Ends might've if it didn't buy into everything with such gusto. The winks, the trauma, the truth about life's darkness, the straightforward but on-point social commentary, the gruesome deaths, the determination to just keep fighting back, a few splashes of utter silliness: there's intensity in them all, notably so after Halloween Kills' treading-water mood. Whether facing off against The Shape, as Michael is always credited, or crossing Corey's path and weathering its aftermath, Curtis always ripples with the same force — and with the gravity of a woman whose life has kept leading to this. That's accurate for final girl-turned-final woman Laurie, clearly, and one of Halloween Ends' biggest strengths is grappling with that fact. It's also accurate for Curtis herself, who adds this to 2018's Halloween and the ceaselessly iconic original as undying career highlights.
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