'Halloween Ends': An Ambitious, Scattered Ending to an Iconic Franchise
As stated by its star, Jamie Lee Curtis, the rebooted Halloween trilogy is about one thing at its core: trauma. While Curtis's insistence on this theme has become a meme, it is rather undeniable that this is the common thread that bonds David Gordon Green's new trilogy together. Halloween 2018 deals with re-opening old wounds, and how those who experience trauma are affected by it over time. Halloween Kills widens its scope to make a statement on mob mentality, and explores the ripple effect that trauma can have on a large group of people. With Halloween Ends, we once again go back to the well of trauma, but this time, we see how the seeds of evil can be planted, and how people's reactions and perceptions of trauma can greatly impact the actions and emotions of others. It's certainly bold to tackle these themes through the lens of a slasher film, and the execution of these ideas throughout the trilogy can be very hit or miss. On top of that, most people who are going to see these films are going because they're expecting a tried and true slasher, and don't care to engage with them beyond the surface level. While I wouldn't say that these films are incredibly deep, I will say that they at least have a clear vision, even if that vision doesn't always translate to the screen as well as it could have.
Up until this point, I have not been overly impressed with this new Halloween trilogy. I liked Halloween 2018 just fine, and I thought Halloween Kills was merely okay at best. With both films, I appreciate what David Gordon Green and company are going for, but it's hard to fully appreciate them as continuations of John Carpenter's 1978 classic. Part of this could be because I consider the original to be nearly-perfect, but I also feel that Green's trilogy is hampered by the mix of ideas that he and his co-writers are grappling with, which often clash with the ongoing plotline between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. Halloween Ends is not immune to this, but despite its flaws, there's something about it that just really worked for me. It's easily the most ambitious of the trilogy, and subverts audience expectations wildly. It's a huge swing from Green, and while what he is trying to accomplish might not always work, it's still quite fascinating at the very least.
Based on the marketing, you would probably think that the film is primarily about Laurie Strode (played once again by Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers facing off one last time. While this is part of the film, it takes up much less of the runtime as one might expect. Instead, the film focuses largely on Corey (played by Rohan Campbell), a timid young man who finds himself as the town pariah after being accused of murder. He crosses paths with Laurie after being picked on by some local teenagers, and he sparks a relationship with her granddaughter, Allyson (played by Andi Matichak). Meanwhile, Laurie is finishing a memoir detailing the impact that Michael Myers had on her life, and is ready to put the past behind her and find peace. But through a turn of events that involves a growing darkness within Corey and the re-emergence of Michael Myers, Laurie must confront the forces of evil that have plagued her for so long once and for all.
It is quite clear to me why some viewers might dislike this film. For one, it is more of a character study on a brand new character than a straight-up continuation of the franchise. This is sure to be disappointing to those expecting the film to be focused solely on Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, as a fair amount of the stuff that involves them is minimized and almost feels shoehorned in at certain points. This is sure to be a major complaint for most people, and I can't help but take issue with it as well. As the ending to a trilogy, and in essence, the franchise (at least for now), it feels a bit unfocused. It's a classic case of essentially having two different films in one, and they clash quite a bit throughout. I feel that if there was more of a balance between the two main plotlines, the film would work much better than it does, but it does feel a bit lopsided towards focusing on Corey's arc.
I do wish the film spent a little more time on Laurie and Michael Myers, but I was quite fascinated by what David Gordon Green does with the character of Corey and his storyline. This portion of the film is bifurcated by the increasing rage within him and blossoming romance between him and Allyson. On its own, it's actually quite well done, and gives Green the opportunity to showcase his talent for depicting relationships and humanity on screen. But in the context of a Halloween movie, it feels a bit strange. It feels as if the film is hearkening back to the third film in the franchise proper, Halloween III: Season of the Witch. This is the one installment that does not feature Michael Myers, and was an attempt to make the franchise more anthology-based. It was not well-received at the time, primarily due to how big of a departure it was from Halloween and Halloween II, but has since become a cult classic. While Ends does connect to previous films in the franchise, it has more of an anthology feel to it, as we spend so much time with a character that is only tangentially related to the events of the other movies. If Green were to take Corey's plotline and expand it into a movie on its own, I think it would have been great, as his sensibilities are well-suited to this part of the film. He could have even had this be a one-off movie within the Halloween universe and it would have worked better than it does here. But in the context of Ends, it feels a bit off at times, and doesn't always mesh with Laurie's storyline.
The film doesn't do a bad job with Laurie's character necessarily, but it does minimize her in a way that perplexed me. I get that what Green and company are going for is something larger and more wide-reaching than just a story about Laurie and Michael Myers, but you would think with this being the last film in the trilogy that both of these characters would have a bigger presence than they do. I would argue that Michael Myers is used just enough, but Laurie could have easily had a bigger role than what she gets. Again, it all comes down to the weird imbalance this film has in dealing with Laurie's arc and Corey's arc. Both are done fairly well, but both feel at odds with each other at several points during the film. I appreciate the big swings that are being taken here, but it does come at the cost of this being a wholly satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, as it feels somewhat scatterbrained, and might be off-putting to some viewers.
While the character of Laurie is a bit lacking on a script level, Jamie Lee Curtis gives it her all, and gives the character a great farewell. It's a very personal performance, as this is arguably her most defining character, and she leaves it all on the table. I don't know if I would say this is her best outing as Laurie, but it is certainly her most heartfelt. I kind of wish that her big moments were a little more emphasized, but Curtis is able to give them the impact that they need. I like how the film portrays her relationship with Michael Myers, as she desperately wants to move on from it, but is unable to, mainly due to the perceptions that the people of Haddonfield have towards her and the killings in the previous films. It serves the overarching themes of the film so well, and Curtis portrays the complicated emotions that come with processing trauma so well. If this truly is the last time we see Curtis as Laurie Strode, I definitely feel like this is a solid way for her to say goodbye to the character.
I went into this film expecting Laurie to be the main focus, so when the film started spending a lot of time on the character of Corey, I was a bit thrown off. Considering that this is a new character and that he is played by an actor I wasn't familiar with until this film, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging the character is, even if he is maybe a bit underdeveloped. This is mainly due to Rohan Campbell, who embodies Corey with pathos and a sense of genuineness. His character has the biggest arc of the film, and he pulls it off quite well. He has a specificity in the role that shows itself in Corey's quieter moments, and the way he portrays the character's evolution over the course of the film is both methodical and highly compelling.
Of all the directors that could have potentially taken on a Halloween trilogy, David Gordon Green wouldn't have been high up on my list. While he certainly doesn't do a bad job of directing these films, I feel that he is at his best when he is making more grounded and naturalistic films. George Washington and All the Real Girls are great examples of this, and even Pineapple Express has this sense of authenticity to it that gives it a big boost. Some of this shows up in Halloween 2018 and Halloween Kills, but Halloween Ends is easily the one that feels the most in line with the rest of his filmography. This is mainly because it is the most grounded of the three, and it focuses so much on the relationships between the characters. As a result, the direction is much stronger, even if it yields some unexpected results. I have no doubt in my mind that this is the specific vision that Green had for the film, and while some might be turned off by it, I truly appreciate what he's going for. Some of the more conceptually ambitious elements don't always work, but I honestly liked quite a few of these big swings he takes. I would much rather have this film take some risks and be messy than to have it amount to little more than fan service and be boring. It's a bold move on Green's part to end his Halloween trilogy end in a way that is guaranteed to divide audiences, but I appreciate his ambition, and the choices he makes at least make for a fascinating film.
One of the defining elements of the original film is John Carpenter's iconic score. He returned to score all three of Green's Halloween films alongside his son, Cody Carpenter, and musician Daniel Davies, and their score for Halloween Ends is quite solid. It keeps some of the famous motifs from Carpenter's original score, while also acting as more of its own thing. The use of synths especially stand out to me, and the score as a whole is easily of the better horror scores in recent memory. I also thought that some of the camerawork was pretty great, particularly in how certain shots are framed. There are also a couple of great homages to other films seen in certain shots, namely Wong Kar-Wai's Fallen Angels and David Lynch's Lost Highway. The film does suffer a bit from dim lighting, which muddies up some of the more intense scenes that take place at night, but it's not quite as bad as I feared. Some of the promotional materials gave the impression that this was going to be a bigger issue, but it's really only bad in a couple of scenes. Otherwise, I thought it wasn't half bad. Some of the more violent scenes seem a bit choppily edited, but I think it kind of works in the context of the film. Even when the camera doesn't linger on some of the kills, they still have an impact, but make no mistake, there's still plenty of blood and gore throughout the film. Some might argue that it's not enough, as the violence is a bit more scarce compared to your typical slasher, but for the film that Green and company are making, it feels like just the right amount.
Halloween Ends is bound to polarize audiences, and die-hard fans of the franchise might be sorely disappointed. However, I enjoyed the film far more than I was expecting to, and it's definitely my favorite of the new trilogy. It might not always work, and as a trilogy capper, it doesn't fully add up, but it is still an ambitious and rather enjoyable film nonetheless. Personally, I think it's a breath of fresh air after how middling I found Halloween Kills to be. It honestly makes me appreciate that film just a little more, in all honesty. It's just nice to see a big studio film from a major franchise take some big swings, and even if some of them aren't executed very well, I can't help but appreciate the ambition. I have my issues with the film, but on the whole, I liked it quite a bit. I can definitely see this being a film that people will come around on in about ten years or so, and could end up being a cult classic, much like Season of the Witch. But as for right now, this may not be the ending that most people wanted David Gordon Green's Halloween trilogy to have, but I certainly think it ends on an interesting note at the very least. It's a strange, yet arresting film, and explores how trauma affects a community in a fascinating way. It's quite subversive, and won't be for everyone, but it worked for me much more than I was expecting it to. If this truly is the end of the Halloween franchise, it is a bold, intriguing note to end on, and I'll take it over a more fan service-y finale any day of the week.