It all began in 1978 on Halloween Night for Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) as she survived an attack by Michael Myers (Nick Castle), though her friends were not so lucky. This story, co-written by Debra Hill and John Carpenter and directed by Carpenter, would serve as the origin point for a total of 12 more films. Each one would either continue to the legacy of Michael Myers as the infamous Boogeyman, the mysterious Shape, or, in the singular non-Myers-related film, Season of the Witch (1982), opt to tell a different sort of malevolent tale. Each of these films serve their own purpose and highlight a moment in time, bringing together Laurie and Michael again and again, expanding and ending, rekindling and revitalizing the pair’s terrible bond. Serving as the end of a new trilogy of films which used the ’78 original as its springboard, director/co-writer David Gordon Green concludes his Halloween story with the divisive Halloween Ends, a film that’s as philosophical in nature as 2021’s Halloween Kills from a chillingly different perspective.
It’s been four years since Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) disappeared from Haddonfield having survived a mob’s attack and killed Karen Strode (Judy Greer). Laurie and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) live together, each working on living each day looking toward the future despite both being tethered to their past. An accidental meeting places Laurie in proximity to Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), a young man ostracized by the town as he was accused of killing a child in his care three years prior. Understanding what that feels like, she brings him to the hospital where Allyson works to help him get cleaned up, unaware that the two would find a connection in their not-so-dissimilar isolation from society. But all is not well in Haddonfield as the citizenry continue to blame Laurie for Michael and Corey for the death of the child, resulting in incredible resentment and fury lingering everywhere, the kind of festering that calls to evil to return.
Let’s get one thing clear as a lot of the reactions to Ends seem to be born from this: I haven’t seen any of the other Halloween films in full save for the original and the two prior Green stories. I know of the other films and played around with some of the late ‘90s/early ‘00s films because Scream (1997) made horror seem more accessible to my scaredy cat self. Because of this, my view of Ends isn’t colored by stories past or what I would have wanted the film to be (something a good critic should avoid, anyway). So no comparisons or mentions to other stories will be found here as I have not enough experience to delve into it. In a way, I think this is helpful as one of the major criticisms I’ve seen is the lack of Michael Myers and the lack of slashing in Ends, at which point, I would refer you to the original story. Myers is little more than a specter in that film, The Shape who lurks, creating unease by his presence and only until very late into the film, does he start slashing teenagers. The same is here (though the ages of the victims are different) with Myers being almost a literal specter, an energy permeating Haddonfield, pushing the weaker citizens to give in to their baser instincts.
While that idea seems out of place at first, consider the lore created *within* Green’s films. Each of the films — 2018’s Halloween, 2021’s Kills, and now Ends — offers an exploration of the Laurie/Michael relationship from the perspective of trauma survivors. Additionally, each film, when one pays attention to the text, outright states that Michael himself has no interest in Laurie personally, even if, to her, it is personal. Michael only comes to Laurie in 2018 because he’s pushed to her; whereas in Kills, the two never meet and everyone he does murder is merely on the path from Laurie’s home to his childhood home. Almost all the victims are a matter of access, each one somehow making him more unstoppable. Addressing this, in Kills, as Michael is attacked by the mob at the end, Laurie talks about evil and how she thinks Michael feeds on it, at which point he stands up, despite some truly debilitating injuries, and murders the entire mob. All of this sets up the notion, whether the audience buys it or not, that Michael is both man and myth, a vessel or something unholy which grows stronger the more violence he causes. He is a physical manifestation of the trauma cycle when someone fails to break it.
With Ends, Green and co-writers Danny McBride, Chris Bernier, and Paul Brad Logan delve deeper into the seeping trauma within Haddonfield that none have dealt with, extending the metaphor of Michael and his influence onto the town in unexpected and truly satisfying ways. They show us Allyson and Laurie struggling each day, trying to find happiness in moments, grappling with how the town sees them, thereby making their respective healing harder. They show us Corey, a good kid, whose violence comes because he’s shown unvarnished violence, causing him to face a darkness within and make a choice about how to battle that darkness. Within the larger theme of Ends and Green’s Halloween films as a whole, Corey comes to represent someone like Laurie for whom a choice must be made regarding how they respond to the violence they endure. If this is too metaphysical for you, one of the kids who bullies Corey, the act which sets Corey on a path to intersect with Michael, is shown as someone who is bullied himself by his parent. Green deliberately shows that violence is a circle that you can either perpetuate or break. If violence is all you know, all you’re shown, all you live with, then more violence you shall have, as it feeds upon itself, the desire to gorge upon the trough of hatred increasing by the day. To this end, much as humanity was shown to be weak in Kills, Ends goes further, implying that we create our own boogeyman through our fear and disdain for others. So while the complaint that Michael Myers himself is not on screen for very long, the shape of evil is never far from frame, lingering on the outskirts, its tendrils bringing out the worst parts of humanity.
To that end, what Green presents is not only a profoundly satisfying conclusion to the concepts established by the 2018 film and carried over in 2021, but makes the Halloween films, when examined through the four films (1978, 2018, 2021, and 2022), a richer and compelling franchise that goes deeper than the suburban terror that prompted their humble start. In the first film, what seems to get Michael’s attention is Laurie’s appearance in front of his childhood home, at which point, he begins to follow her. When viewed through the lens of the end of Kills, which sees Karen die in his Michael’s sister’s former room, all Michael’s wanted is to get home to that window and remove anyone who would tamper with it. In the 2018 film, it’s Michael’s new doctor who brings the killer to her. In Ends, well, there’s a specific and intentional reason for Michael to appear before Laurie and it falls in line with everything Green and his creative team, as well as Carpenter, created. Not only that, but said final confrontation is satisfying as hell, a battle that feels decades in the making while leaning into who Laurie is now: a survivor who is trying to do the work to become more than the hermit wrapped in her pain. Admittedly, one can see where Ends fails the litmus test of a slasher film, especially one in which the masked killer is the supposed headliner, thereby failing to deliver what longtime fans have come to want. However, as someone plastic-wrap fresh into the franchise, not only does Ends deliver an emotional ending to the Laurie/Michael narrative dyad, it does so in a way signifying the power of breaking trauma cycles. What if we didn’t allow the Boogeyman to terrify us? What if we chose a different path? That’s a hard road to hoe, but it’s definitively more satisfying than any kind of brute force ending one thinks they want.
So is Ends the end? There’s little doubt that audiences haven’t seen the end of Michael Myers in some form or another. But for Green, this is the last film in *his* series and, the rights for Halloween are reverting from Blumhouse back to the family of original producer Malek Akkad. So it’s likely not the end for Myers in the same way that Freddy or Jason never stay down for long, but this seems to be the final ride for Curtis and it’s an extraordinary final performance for the character. She really gives it her all and the actor brings forth all the versions of Laurie that we’ve seen across these four films: the fear and the strength, as well as the wisdom that comes with age. In fact, for all the legacy characters and new ones, Green’s Halloween films serve as an exquisite conclusion to Hill and Carpenter’s original creation, each offered a chance to shine at some point along the way as Strode and Myers give their final goodbyes. Most impressively, what started in 2018 as a means of exploring Laurie’s specific grief wrapped in a slasher covering revealing itself, with the dermis layer removed, to be a powerful and profound tale of breaking the chains of one’s trauma through the active participation of self. You can’t lock yourself away for the pain to heal, you have to open yourself up, sometimes in ways you can’t possibly imagine, if you want to restore yourself in some form or another. Much like evil, good, too, can change its shape. We just have to remain vigilant to the possibilities.
In theaters and streaming on Peacock October 14th, 2022.
For more information, head to the official Halloween Ends website.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5.
Categories: Films To Watch, In Theaters, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming
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