After the genuinely disastrous Halloween Kills, my expectations were not high going into Halloween Ends. It certainly doesn’t change those expectations when before the opening credits we get a nearly fourth wall breaking “it’s Halloween, we’re gonna have a good time tonight.” But more than just that, there’s the simultaneously clever and annoying decision to have a babysitter and child watch John Carpenter’s The Thing, an obvious nod to Laurie Strode watching The Thing From Another World with her babysitting charges in the original Halloween.
But then the child dies a violent death right before the opening credits and I thought maybe things would take a more interesting turn. Albeit the death is accidental, but that doesn’t make it any less brutal or shocking in a mainstream major franchise movie. Killing a kid is a bold choice, as, in a way, it calls your shot and tells your audience “this movie is not messing around” and in horror that’s a very good thing. The fact that this is also another obvious homage to Carpenter killing a kid early in Assault on Precinct 13 only makes that feeling of a shot being called stand out more. The problem is: David Gordon Green and his writing team for Halloween Ends aren’t John Carpenter.
Throughout the movie, the four person writing team on Halloween Ends drop the ball frequently. There’s the truly egregious voiceover from Laurie who is writing a book about her experience as a survivor that seems to be more armchair philosophy than memoir. There’s also the decision to jump forward four years from the last film to tell what feels like a standalone story in a movie that is ostensibly the end of a trilogy. Yet, you have to admire the audacity of some of the choices made here.
Of course there’s starting the movie with the violent death of a child, but it’s more than that. Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) doesn’t show up until about a quarter of the way through the movie where he only makes a brief appearance, and doesn’t kill anyone until about the halfway point. The movie significantly cribs from Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, and mixes it with Hellraiser and just a dash of Natural Born Killers to create an absolutely ridiculous narrative that feels like something straight out of the late 1980s when studios were spinning their wheels to keep slasher franchises going.
The story recenters its focus from Laurie and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak, who carries much of the film on her charisma) to tell the story of new character Corey (Rohan Campbell), who accidentally killed the child in the opening. Over the course of the movie, Corey begins to date Allyson and comes into contact with Michael in a way that no other character has, leading him down (what the movie repeatedly tells us is) “a dark path.” It’s a baffling choice, especially in a movie that promised to be about the final clash between Laurie and Michael; which it does ultimately deliver, but can’t be said to be the focus.
Gordon Green and co. do manage to better control, or perhaps pick, their tone this time around though and the movie has far less distracting humor than the previous two entries in the franchise. And while the writing may not be there, Gordon Green creates some beautiful tableaus and manages to deliver tension (something the removal of constant humor certainly helps with) in the few scenes of outright slasher horror.
Unlike Halloween Kills, Halloween Ends is more bewildering than bad. The writers continue to fumble hefty themes, often through Laurie’s voiceover from her book, and several plot points are unnecessary, leading to a bloated film, but there’s at least something here that’s interesting as a swing and miss.
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Halloween Ends is more confusing for its bold and unexpected narrative choices than it is bad, but it’s still not quite good.
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