Walking out of my screening of “Halloween Ends” last week, I witnessed what may be considered a microcosm of most die hard fans’ reaction to David Gordon Green’s final installment in his “Halloween” trilogy: a man, wearing a “Halloween” T-shirt and clutching a Michael Myers mask in one hand, shouting at his friends—or perhaps no one in particular—about how the film was “bullshit,” how the ending did its characters dirty. He’s not entirely wrong; for a series that initially seemed to hinged on the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, older, hardened, and ready to fight back, she’s barely present in the second installment, 2021’s “Halloween Kills,” and isn’t really the focus of “Halloween Ends” either. In fact, neither is Michael (played here by James Jude Courtney, although original Michael actor Nick Castle provides some voiceover work), who is a footnote in this movie as opposed to the central villain.
But that’s also what makes “Halloween Ends” so interesting. Besides the original “Halloween,” my favorite movie in the series is 1982’s “Halloween III: Season of the Witch,” which was maligned upon its release (it did not feature Michael Myers at all, and deviated from the slasher genre in favor of a more sci-if oriented story) but has since gained more of a following. With “Halloween Ends,” Green— along with co-writers Danny McBride, Chris Bernier, and Paul Brad Logan— seems to be taking a page from that film (even the opening title font of “Halloween Ends” mirrors that of “Halloween III”). It doesn’t eschew the inclusion of Michael entirely, but it’s less preoccupied with him than with his legacy, and the seeds of evil and distrust that took root in Haddonfield, IL in the wake of killing spree.
Whereas 2018’s “Halloween” and “Halloween Kills,” similar to the very first two “Halloween” movies, take place on the same night, “Halloween Ends” immediately differentiates itself by taking a massive four year time jump. Laurie and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) are attempting to live fulfilling lives, lives not governed by fear, in the wake of Michael’s 2018 killings, of whom Laurie’s daughter (played by Judy Greer) was one of the victims. Laurie is quite different than she was when we last saw her, her obsessiveness replaced by a blend of contentment and melancholy as she dictates a memoir she’s writing about the events she’s experienced. Allyson, meanwhile, is working as a nurse at the local hospital, and starts seeing a local boy Laurie introduces her to when she brings him in to get a cut on his hand checked out.
This local boy is actually the biggest and most puzzling piece of “Halloween Ends.” The film frequently plays on audience expectations (and after over 40 years of this franchise, we certainly come into any new “Halloween” movie with just a few of those), and never more so than it does in its opening sequence, which finds Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell) babysitting the young boy of a wealthy local couple on Halloween night, 2019. Michael’s attacks from the previous year are still fresh on everyone’s minds, and while it seems like there might be a familiar danger afoot, a different tragedy strikes instead, one that shatters Corey’s life. Three years later, Corey is not the same bright young man he was before, consumed by grief and resentment and the subject of vicious local gossip. When he first meets Allyson, they are drawn to each other, presumably by their shared traumatic experiences with a town that’s turned on them, and the middle part of “Halloween Ends” takes the road of a chaotic budding love story as they shirk their disapproving peers to run wild together, until the evil consuming Corey becomes so apparent it can no longer be ignored—and manifests itself in increasingly violent incidents.
“Halloween Ends” takes some big ambitious swings, the sort that the franchise hasn’t seen in some time, but what may have been an effective commentary on the way one bad event can make people both turn in on themselves and take their anger out on others flops thanks to the film’s poor execution. The dialogue is clunky. The acting, particularly from Matichak and Campbell, is hit or miss, with too many members of the cast apparently forgetting the definition of subtlety. The pacing is all over the place, with the film taking quite some time before it gets around to Michael and the new batch of killings, only to rush through its bloody final act. That climax does eventually spin the focus back around to Laurie and Michael, although their presumably final showdown lacks tension thanks to the build-up to said encounter revolving mostly around Corey. In fact, most of the scenes do, despite some pretty grisly, gasp-inducing kills. A lot of the night scenes are too poorly lit to generate excitement, a lot of the characters make choices that are too puzzling to understand, and the connection established between Corey and Michael’s reappearance too tenuous to feel much investment in what is going on with them outside of confusion.
If there’s one piece of “Halloween Ends,” and this entire “Halloween” trilogy for that matter, that’s consistently good, it’s Curtis. This film does, at least, allow her to express some more range, still getting to be that hardened woman who will drop everything to defend herself and her family, while also revealing gentler shades of the woman she might have been had she not encountered Michael on that Halloween night all those years ago. “Halloween Ends” isn’t exactly the most fitting send-off, nor is it even a good movie, but I would have loved to have seen the alternate universe where “Halloween III” was a success and the anthology the series might have been minus Michel Myers occurred, so I am sort of glad we got this instead of another run-of-the-mill slasher. Anything film that upsets fans like the one I saw is sure to at least generate some interesting conversations, and good or bad, most sequels nowadays don’t even give us that.
“Halloween Ends” is now playing in theaters and streaming on Peacock. Runtime: 111 minutes. Rated R.