Letterboxd Review: Halloween Ends (2022)

Evil shrugs tonight. Evil shrugs tonight. Evil shrugs tonight.

Just like last year's Halloween Kills, I'm not sure exactly where I will eventually land on Halloween Ends. I'm sure time will be kind to them both, the way time is inexplicably kind to almost every entry in this franchise. But at the moment, my headline is "Halloween Baffles."

It's interesting how David Gordon Green's first foray into rebooting this franchise was a fairly straightforward affair, a legacy sequel with the now-requisite generational trauma angle. It worked for me. Most of all, I enjoyed Halloween (2018)--which I've taken to calling it H40--as a rebuttal to 1998's Halloween H20: 20 Years Later...what a title on that thing. While that sequel sought to depict Laurie Strode as a broken woman struggling to move on from the life-altering ordeal she survived, H40 took a different approach and showed us a Laurie who never dreamed of moving on, and instead built four decades of emotional armor along with a doomsday-prepper compound and an extensive collection of weaponry and traps. It was a fresh approach to largely the same material as any other sequel to John Carpenter's unimpeachable slasher classic. Fact of the matter is, after viewing this latest one, I'm one of those stuffy people who now believes we never should have seen Michael Myers again after 1978.

The second and third films in this new trilogy have Green and co-writer Danny McBride taking the bold choice to swerve the franchise away from Laurie and away from Michael Myers almost entirely in order to focus on the most unlikely of murderous villains and breathless survivors: Haddonfield, Illinois itself playing the part of both. It's a concept at once both potentially clever and ultimately aimless. In Kills, the various rude mechanicals of the town whose lives were touched by evil in 1978 end up forming a mindless, self-righteous, hilariously unprepared lynch mob and seek to hunt down Myers for good. The result was a movie completely at odds with itself tonally, with lots of big ideas about human nature and mob mentality, and how survivor's guilt and PTSD can warp perspectives and rot good intentions from the inside out. It said none of this coherently, mind you, and undercut most of it by peppering in sarcastic comedy and gore moments that bordered on slapstick. It also had very little to say about Michael Myers or Laurie Strode, both only showing up out of contractual obligation. Overall it's not the worst Halloween sequel, as it's at least taking some big swings and trying something new, but it was a signal that Green was either terribly bored of Halloween or incredibly fascinated by the wrong parts of it.

Only a short year later, Halloween Ends is very much a continuation of that incoherence and muddled tone, only this time the fun elements of a traditional slasher movie are completely missing in action. By my score, that sure makes for a worse entry. Now, rather than using the town as a macro-protagonist, we've drilled down to an original character portraying Haddonfield in microcosm. Corey Cunningham is everyone in Haddonfield, simultaneously. He's a good kid tapped to babysit on Halloween night, like Laurie in '78. He's a shell-shocked husk of his former self marked by tragedy, same as Laurie in '18. He's a blue-collar worker marked by his town's inescapable reputation for bloodshed, like Tommy and Lindsay and everyone else chanting "Evil dies tonight!" in Kills. And most importantly--and frustratingly undercooked--he is a normal hometown boy infected with evil that transforms him into an unstoppable killing machine. He is Michael. But before we can reach that final form, we need to sit through an hour of unconvincing romance between him and Alison, Laurie's equally damaged survivor of a granddaughter. 

Where the hell are Laurie and Michael during all of this? Well, that's the stink of it. Since H40 so neatly wrapped up Laurie's story without any real need for a sequel, she is hanging around and waiting until the final act demands her to step in and fight whichever monster wins the honor of trying to murder her. Michael, similarly, is cooling his elderly heels in a drainage sewer for four years. This isn't the first time he's disappeared between movies for that long, but this was the first movie to ponder the logistics of it and come to such a bizarre conclusion. Ultimately, the point here is that Michael and Laurie have ceased to be essential to the series' ecosystem, because Green is far more interested in telling a story about how the town of Haddonfield is somehow to blame for the inescapable horrors that happen every few years on October 31. The ordinary citizens of Haddonfield who aren't already dead, or forever marked with scars or psychic wounds or grief at the loss of loved ones, are almost all uniformly rotten pieces of shit who deserve to be killed in the worst ways that Corey and Michael can cook up. They are to blame for the young man's psychotic break that turns him into the next generation of the Boogeyman. Why? To what end? Well...uh...you see...um...

I'm willing to admit that if this were handled better, it might make for an interesting avenue to explore in a sequel to Halloween. The problem is that Halloween Ends also carries the burden of its title's promise: it has to be a final, definitive farewell to the saga of Michael Myers and his pursuit of Laurie Strode. It must tie up the character threads left from the previous two movies for Laurie and Alison. It also needs to close the book on the concept of Michael's power over the town, and how his enduring legacy of fear has ruined any chance of closure for those left behind. And, if possible, it needs to deliver the goods on a mechanical level; the previous two movies have set the tone for visceral gore moments, sometimes at the cost of maintaining the straight-faced mood that all these big themes demand. 

That's more than enough for a final movie that would be ultimately not that interesting, so instead Green mops it all up in the final few minutes and spends the bulk of the run time focused on Corey, a character introduced as some kind of attempt to give The Shape a sympathetic backstory. First off, Rob Zombie's 2007 reboot already tried that with Michael himself. Secondly, I have a hard time keeping straight if Michael Myers is a run-of-the-mill man with brain damage whose violence is merely a reflection of human nature within the ordinary people of the town, or if he is somehow infecting them with evil via some supernatural element that keeps him and his monstrous legacy alive, or something in the middle. These movies can't seem to pick a lane. The really baffling aspect of this is that I could see Corey and Michael's "legacy sequel" dynamic being a perfectly functional back-door for more sequels, if say Michael came to his ultimate end while Corey disappeared with the William Shatner mask to carry on killing. But no, Corey exits the movie more in a manner befitting one of the multiple endings to the movie Clue

The issue with Halloween Ends is not a lack of thought, but a feverish need to fill a blender with ideas and switch it to puree without securing a lid. As a capper to Green's trilogy, it succeeds inasmuch that it definitively provides the series with closure, and puts to rest any real need to return. Doubtless, we will probably see that iconic mask again, and hear the name Michael Myers, and it will all be in yet another alternate timeline where these three movies never existed. Or possibly another hard reset with the pale imitation of the origin story. You can't kill the Boogeyman, not if movie producers have anything to say about it. But it won't be from a lack of trying.

Rating: ✰✰

This review is a part of Kyle's Letterboxd profile, which includes reviews and movie lists not covered here at the blog, including a ranking of several franchises and excerpts from the book, Cinema Autopsy, which is available on the Amazon Kindle store.

Previous Post Next Post