Evil Takes a Beating as Halloween Ends
It’s been four years since Michael Meyers (James Jude Courtney) returned to Haddonfield and engaged in full-scale slaughter, his final victim before disappearing into the cover of night having been Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) own daughter, Karen. With Michael assumed to be dead, Laurie and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) have moved on, the former attempting to write her memoirs while the latter works as a nurse at the local hospital. They have put the “boogeyman” behind them, and hope the citizens of Haddonfield will someday do the same.
Director David Gordon Green and the film’s screenwriters do almost all they can to subvert audience expectations for Halloween Ends for pretty much 85% of this sequel’s almost two-hour running time. While it is a given that Laurie and Michael will face off against one another for a purportedly final time, their climactic showdown is not the focal point. Instead, the filmmakers have concocted a strange, loopily contrived treatise on violence and the corrosive power of evil that helps birth unstoppable killers like Michael Meyers into existence.
It’s an ambitious enterprise, one that takes some of the more intriguing ideas from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers and Rob Zombie’s Halloween II and attempts to flesh them out into feature length. This is an exploration of how constant dehumanization, condemnation, and blame without even an ounce of forgiveness can twist even the purest soul into something unimaginable. This final chapter in Green’s trilogy — still a direct continuation of the story told in John Carpenter’s original Halloween — is all about how monsters are created, and such will likely throw viewers for a loop.
The new face at the center of this madness belongs to Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), a sad, lonely young man with a good heart who was accused of the murder of a child one year to the day since Michael’s last killing spree, and almost no one Haddonfield will let him forget it. He ends up in a relationship with Allyson. Bringing them together is the pair’s gruesome histories, each finding comfort in the other’s embrace.
But where Allyson is close to finally moving on, Corey is inching closer and closer to the edge of a cliff of eternal damnation. In this way, Green’s slasher has more in common with Carpenter’s superb 1983 adaptation of Stephen King’s Christine than it does with the auteur’s 1978 classic. The central question is whether or not Corey will succumb to the ghoulish pressures to become the unrelenting murderer so many in Haddonfield already believe him to be, a transformation that’s only accelerated when he comes face-to-face with the true evil lurking in the sewers underneath the town.
Does it all work? Not entirely. You can feel the war between Green’s creative selves. His Prince Avalanche and George Washington side is eager to craft a moody character piece, while his 2018 Halloween and Pineapple Express half is eager to cut loose and have nonsensical, deliciously R-rated fun. This creates a noticeable tonal imbalance that takes some time to get used to, especially considering that Corey and Allyson are the primary characters and Laurie is more of a supportive presence.
Until she isn’t, and that’s when all proverbial hell breaks loose. The climax of Halloween Ends is pure, unabashed, blood-soaked nonsense, culminating in that full-throttle showdown that’s been 44 years in the making and promised in the sequel’s title. Laurie and Michael get down to it, and while each isn’t exactly in their prime, they still land a plethora of haymakers, leaving the eventual outcome somewhat up in the air.
I appreciate Green’s ambition. I love that he’s trying to shake things up and go in an unforeseen direction with the material. Most importantly, I feel like he engineers a last act that’s next to sublime, delivering a landslide of bloodletting that’s magnificently staged, suitably suspenseful, and gorily satisfying. He brings substance and weight to Laurie and Michael’s final encounter, ending things on such a melodramatically loopy scene of euphoric dismemberment that I came close to rising from my seat to emphatically applaud.
Yet Halloween Ends is a strange one, and I may not know what I truly think about this last chapter in Green’s trilogy until I can sit down and watch the three entries in sequence. I get what he and his team are going for, but the way this is so haphazardly assembled and structured leaves something to be desired. But when the goods are required, the film delivers. Laurie vs. Michael was well worth the wait, and isn’t that what truly matters?
– Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle
Film Rating: 2½ (out of 4)