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Halloween Ends review: a franchise mercy kill

Well, that’s finally over.

Filmmaker David Gordon Green’s revival of the Halloween franchise, which started out strong with 2018’s Halloween before stumbling with 2021’s Halloween Kills, wraps up with this year’s appropriately titled Halloween Ends, a film intended to be the swan song for both his trilogy and original Halloween star Jamie Lee Curtis’ involvement with the franchise. And while Green’s final installment manages to salvage some of the series’ appeal, Halloween Ends ultimately falls short of realizing the trilogy’s initial potential.

Michael Myers stares at the camera from the hallway of a house in a scene from Halloween Ends.

Ending the story

Directed by Green from a script he co-wrote with Danny McBride, Paul Brad Logan, and Chris Bernier, Halloween Ends picks up several years after the events of Halloween Kills, as Laurie Strode (Curtis) attempts to move past the tragic events of the prior two films. She lives with her orphaned granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), in the same town where serial killer Michael Myers (played by James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle) went on his murder sprees — a town still grappling with paranoia and fear after Michael’s disappearance at the end of Halloween Kills.

The film casts Rohan Campbell (The Hardy Boys) as Corey, a babysitter whose involvement in a tragic accident years earlier has led to him becoming a local pariah and the focus of the town’s unresolved rage. When Corey finds his path crossing with that of both the Strode family and Michael Myers, it sets off a chain of events in motion that brings the Boogeyman back to Haddonfield.

It also makes for a somewhat clumsy, heavy-handed exploration of grief and the quest for closure, as well as the transitive nature of anger, set against a gruesome tapestry of murder.

Jamie Leee Curtis walks away from Rohan Campbell in a park in a scene from Halloween Ends.

Killer confusion

Where Green’s original Halloween did a fantastic job of channeling the creeping unease of John Carpenter’s original slasher film, relying more heavily on the atmosphere and a sense of tension than spectacles of gore, its follow-up reversed course, delivering a parade of over-the-top kills (in keeping with its title, perhaps) that grew increasingly ridiculous as the film progressed. Halloween Ends carves out a place for itself in the middle ground, offering a more balanced mix of subtle scares and messy ultraviolence.

That might seem like an improvement, but the film instead feels frustratingly indecisive as it tries — unsuccessfully — to marry these two types of slasher cinema. The sense of gradually increasing tension that the 2018 film (and Carpenter’s original film before it) nurtured so well is lost in Halloween Ends as the film’s tone pinballs back and forth between creeping terror and explosions of blood and viscera, with the latter never giving the former the opportunity to be properly seeded.

Whether this conflict is a product of wanting to please a divided fan base or an effort to cram too many ideas into a single story, Halloween Ends never feels settled in the type of experience it wants to give its audience and feels like two distinctly different visions that are repeatedly smashed together until they become a singular, messy pulp of a movie.

This type of confusion carries through to the film’s release, which has Halloween Ends premiering in theaters and on Peacock streaming service simultaneously, but its filmmakers insisting that it shouldn’t be reviewed outside theaters.

Michael Myers tries to stab Jamie Lee Curtis' character in a scene from HAlloween Ends.

Final girl forever

Halloween Ends doesn’t entirely lose its way, however, thanks to some fine performances by Curtis and Campbell.

In her big farewell (we’re told) to the role, Curtis continues to remind us why Laurie Strode is still one of the greatest “final girl” characters of all time. After delivering a wonderfully tough return to the role in 2018’s Halloween, then going off the rails (in a fun way) in Halloween Kills, she manages to find a much more nuanced happy medium in Halloween Ends that feels like the glue holding the rest of the film together. She’s the most fascinating element of every scene she’s in — even the ones she shares with Michael Myers — and if it is indeed her final Halloween film, any future installments will be hard-pressed to fill the role (literally and figuratively) she plays in the series.

As Corey, the undeserving focus of Haddonfield’s rage, Campbell also gives a good performance as someone struggling with the dark path they’ve been set on, and who can’t seem to diverge from it no matter how hard they try. Campbell’s portrayal of Corey effectively engenders the sympathy the film wants you to feel for him, and when his character’s arc pivots, it’s his performance that makes that shift feel earned and supported by everything we’ve seen so far.

Michael Myers stands in a tunnel with a knife in a scene from Halloween Ends.

A disappointing denouement

While it seems silly to even consider that Halloween Ends will actually be the final installment of the franchise, which has seen multiple reboots, spinoffs, and retroactive adjustments to its fictional timeline across 13 films and more than four decades, it is a bit disappointing to know it will be the final chapter in a trilogy that began with so much promise.

Few films can generate the level of creeping dread that Carpenter painstakingly crafted in Halloween, but Green came closer than anyone else has — and many have tried — in his 2018 revival, which managed to serve as a narrative and spiritual sequel to the 1978 film. Green’s Halloween suggested that he understood what made the original film such a terrifying touchstone for generations of movie audiences, only to have his 2021 sequel go down the same, campy path as many of the franchise’s most forgettable sequels.

Halloween Ends delivers another closing chapter in the story of Michael Myers, but the film ultimately leaves the franchise in only a slightly better place than previous “final” installments. Given how much potential we saw in 2018 and the uniformity of the trilogy’s creative team across all three films, it’s difficult not to be disappointed with the inability of Halloween Ends to stick the landing and bring things to a more satisfying close.

Franchise fans can take heart, though. Even if we’ve seen the end of this version of Michael Myers — and Laurie Strode, for that matter — there’s always another Halloween coming. Maybe the next one will be even better.

Directed by David Gordon Green, Halloween Ends is in theaters now and streaming on Peacock.

Halloween Ends (2022)
Halloween Ends
111m
Genre Horror, Thriller
Stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Will Patton
Directed by David Gordon Green

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