4.5

Halloween Ends Has Finality, but Mostly It Has Jaw-Dropping Absurdity

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<i>Halloween Ends</i> Has Finality, but Mostly It Has Jaw-Dropping Absurdity

Director David Gordon Green’s trilogy of modern Halloween movies should have been the easiest of writing assignments. They should have been elemental. They should have been simple. They could have been effective.

Alright, wait a moment. We should note that this absolutely never should have been a “trilogy” to begin with, any more than Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit required three films to tell the tale. At the end of the day, this imperative to create an excess of “content” probably played a large role in what led these films astray. But after watching Halloween Ends in particular, you can’t remove Green and his writers from the resulting clusterfuck. They took what should have been a rock-solid central story, and steadfastly refused to commit to it for a good six hours of screentime. To its credit, you can at least say that Halloween Ends does have finality. But good luck enjoying it, when you’re still trying to pick your jaw up from the floor and piece together the film’s inexplicable storytelling. This film is a marvel; a fever dream of absurdity, simultaneously the most wildly ambitious and monumentally misguided horror movie we’ve seen in recent memory.

The pieces were there, to tell a coherent and relevant story. Three generations of Strode women, that’s all you needed. Laurie Strode as the embattled, traumatized grandmother, who has spent the last 40 years living in a nightmare repeat of her harrowing experience in 1978, sure that Michael Myers will return to stalk her again. Karen, Laurie’s daughter, resentful of the life she had to live being raised by a woman cloaked in paranoia, feeling she never truly had a mother because that woman’s only real passion was her vendetta. And Allyson, Laurie’s empathic granddaughter, a young woman naturally curious about her grandmother’s struggle, more receptive to her emotional trauma because it was more distant and less damaging to her own childhood. Together, these three were meant to stand as a bulwark against The Shape that is Michael Myers, as they very briefly do in the most satisfying moment of the entire series, the finale of 2018’s Halloween. So how the hell did not one or two, but all three end up being pushed to the sidelines?

That’s the thing about Green’s Halloween movies—they all seem to suffer from severe attention deficit disorder. The first film doesn’t really focus on the Strode women like we expect it to, because of a strange insistence on dalliances with unimportant side characters. Halloween Kills ramps up this direction again, sticking Laurie in a hospital throughout the movie and holding both Karen and Allyson at arm’s length until the very conclusion. And Halloween Ends ditches them once again, in favor of a brand new protagonist being introduced at the 11th hour. It begs the question: Why were Green and the writers of each film so desperate to avoid the Strode women as primary heroines? Is there a single person in the audience who was clamoring for an introspective look at the life of heretofore unknown Haddonfield resident Corey Cunningham? Why not introduce Corey two films ago, if he’s going to be the crux of the entire series? What did actress Andi Matichak do to piss off these producers, that she was never allowed to become the central star of these movies? What about the granddaughter of Laurie Strode makes her an uninteresting protagonist in Green’s eyes?

Of all things, I can’t help but be reminded of the Star Wars sequel trilogy from J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson, and the way each entry resents the contributions of the previous one, ignoring and disposing of whatever story each film was trying to build in a game of spiteful one-upmanship. Somehow, it’s the same energy here, despite the fact that the same guy directed all three, something that becomes increasingly hard to believe as Halloween Ends spools out. This is a sequel so tonally unrelated to the two previous films in the trilogy, that it arguably has more in common with Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy than it does with Halloween and Halloween Kills.

Does this mean that some people are going to love Halloween Ends? Yes, it actually does, though rank and file horror fans are no doubt going to hate this movie’s guts. It will be even more inscrutable to the casual slasher fan than it is to the rest of us, but Halloween Ends will simultaneously inspire a small cadre of die-hard, film-savvy defenders who will no doubt praise its ambition, risk-taking and willingness to completely cast everything else from the series to the wind in search of some ephemeral, profound meaning. And those people … will be dead wrong. This trilogy does not deserve your impassioned defense, or insistences that “Haddonfield was the main character” all along, as if that half-baked thought somehow forgives basic lapses in filmmaking.

Simply put, a filmmaker has at least some responsibility to carry out the task that they themselves have established. To make two semi-conventional, if badly flawed, slasher films in an iconic franchise like Halloween, and then choose now to leap this far off the rails on the third and final film of a trilogy, is absolute lunacy. If Green’s wish was to radically transform the ideas behind John Carpenter’s Halloween, the time to do it would have been in 2018, when he took the reins of the franchise. At the very least, he could have established the character of Corey in the first film, if he wanted to slowly lead him to this tragic conclusion. Where might that version of Halloween have headed? It’s an interesting thought, but we’ll never know. As is, this version is less a conclusion to the Strode women’s story than it is a completely uncalled-for diversion into the realm of fantasy and metaphor, where Haddonfield has become like It’s Derry, infected by some form of supernatural evil where every bad thing that happens in town is ultimately because of Michael Myers.

Because really, overambitious narrative weirdness is all Halloween Ends has going for it, being the only aspect one might find room to praise. There’s little suspense, or gratifying action. The kills are largely forgettable, with perhaps one hyper-violent exception, and they’re wedged almost entirely into the last 30 minutes of a nearly two-hour film. The dialogue is completely alien and frequently baffling, with every other line sounding as if it’s a response to another line of dialogue cut from the film in editing. Character relationships make no sense and develop seemingly instantaneously, making the viewer question when two characters are introduced to each other whether they’re meeting for the first time or have known each other for years.

In truth, the entirety of Halloween Ends is suffused in some kind of magic or witchcraft, a gauzy layer of unreality that prevents a single character in the film from behaving like an actual human being. To call it a “slasher movie” would be broadly incorrect—it’s more like 80 minutes of a psychological magical realism drama, followed by 30 minutes of deference to a producer’s notes that “people probably expect to see some kills in this thing, right?” It’s a massive swing from its writers and director, and an equally massive miss, left desperately grasping in its closing moments for some kind of profound dramatic impact that the series itself has never earned. Its most interesting question isn’t on the “nature of evil,” as Green would probably insist, but instead a behind-the-scenes interrogation of how the hell the director managed to convince himself to explore this route.

Hell, at the end of the day, perhaps Green was just a bigger devotee of Halloween III: Season of the Witch than any of us realized. After all, that 1982 film doesn’t feature Michael Myers…and neither does Halloween Ends. Not really, anyway, and not in a manner that fans of the series will ever accept.

And to think, we could have just given the Strode women their time to shine. But now, the door has finally shut on their frustratingly hollow story.

Until the next cash-grab reboot five years from now, that is.

Director: David Gordon Green
Writers: Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Rohan Campbell, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney, Will Patton
Release Date: Oct. 14, 2022


Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident genre geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more film writing.