‘Halloween Ends’ Review: “A Slasher Magnum Opus”
And so comes to a close the David Gordon Green sequel trilogy experiment. The back-to-basics approach of the inaugural feature, 2018’s Halloween, had a positive reception at the time. Over time, it’s begun to face criticism for essentially repeating the original 1978 John Carpenter film with minor tweaks. Last year’s Halloween Kills split audiences down the middle; some finding it aimless, others reveling in its over-the-top violence and commentary on mob mentality. Halloween Ends will undoubtedly be the most divisive of the bunch. It’s an extremely odd, off-the-beaten-path finale to the Halloween saga. Yet, it also might just be the magnum opus of this franchise.
There will be a time to break down every insane bit of this film’s storyline. At this juncture, it’s best to keep things as vague as possible. It’s been four years since serial Michael Myers’ reign of terror on the town of Haddonfield, Illinois. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is making strides to move on with her life, buying a house for her and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). Their attempts to move on are stifled by the lingering guilt of Laurie and Allyson’s sense of stasis. Allyson strikes up a relationship with Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), a timid town pariah blamed for a freak accident years ago. As healing finally starts, the evil that once terrorized Haddonfield slowly puts himself back together. When he resurfaces, it’s time for one final confrontation. Evil either dies tonight or wins for good.
Halloween Ends feels both standalone and inseparable from the rest of the franchise. Following a brutally shocking opening scene leading into the requisite title sequence, Green shifts into cruise control. The slow pace of the initial hour might catch viewers off guard at first. Letting the horror Haddonfield had past endured hang over like a dark cloud makes for a somber experience. Despite the four screenwriters on the project, among them frequent Green collaborator Danny McBride, giving way to some clunky dialogue, i.e. townsfolk making pointed jabs at Laurie, letting the trauma of the previous films simmer.
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There’s a lot going on here dramatically. Curtis pours her soul into her final (?) turn as Laurie Strode. She almost represents the town itself, trying to rebuild out of the shadow of unspeakable evil. Meanwhile, Allyson and Corey’s romance plays like a coming-of-age story. They’re ready to move on completely from Haddonfield, young lovers experiencing a passionate tryst that’s sweet and, dare I say, sexy. That’s, of course, ignoring Halloween Ends‘s secret weapon: Corey.
By far, this is the most riveting character the franchise has sprung since Laurie and Michael. Like Laurie, he carries overwhelming guilt. Campbell walks a fine line in his performance, balancing many disparate qualities. He’s undoubtedly charming, if pitiful, but it’s the internal struggle he deals with that’s bound to spark some fervent conversation. How much can people mischaracterize a person as evil before they start believing it themselves? At the risk of giving away some of the film’s carefully hidden delights, I’ll simply say that Corey, and by proxy Campbell’s performance, puts a lot of faith into its audience to handle some truly challenging material. There’s a tinge of psychologically disturbing storytelling going on here that hasn’t been present since Rob Zombie’s excellent late-2000s spin on the series.
The darkness that Haddonfield has tried so long to conceal comes back with a vengeance. With that darkness comes the avatar of evil, Michael Myers/The Shape (James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle). He’s no longer the ghostly pale white figure of old. He’s a decaying demon in human flesh. The film uses Michael with great precision. His screentime is low, though impossibly effective. The mystery of Myers is deepened. Questions about his nature are given that raise even more questions that will be debated for years to come. And when he kills, he does so with extreme malice. The kills in this film are showy, disgusting, mean, and extremely memorable. The gorehounds will be pleased with both how far they go and how creative the kills are.
We all know what the main event here is, of course. Laurie vs. Michael. Good vs. evil. Haddonfield’s final fight for its soul. This is the match horror fans have been waiting for. Bone crunching, toe-curling, blood spattering; it’s two beasts carrying massive symbolic weight going after each other. Shot in tense hyperkinetic form by Michael Simmonds and backed by the best score of the franchise, courtesy of John and Cody Carpenter + Daniel Davies, the showdown carries the weight of all films in the franchise, canon or otherwise. Anyone who’s followed this series even slightly will be in pure ecstasy. And by the time the film wraps up, an unexpected sort of catharsis arises. When all is said and done, there’s a clear winner. A winner that puts a big fat exclamation mark on Green’s intent with the trilogy.
Moreover, it’s clear that now this series has finally said all it had to say. It’s earned a (hopefully) permanent rest. No matter what, however, this film will continue to be alive via intense debate. The approach it takes isn’t what’s expected, or even necessarily necessary. But it’s a sign of full-on artistic integrity. Make no mistake, Halloween Ends is art. High art in the shell of a franchise picture. If there is justice this film will earn the cult fanbase that initially reviled entries Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and Rob Zombie’s Halloween II have. Either way, Halloween Ends, but the words to be said about it have only just begun. –James Preston Poole
Halloween Ends is now in theaters and streaming on Peacock.
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