‘Halloween Ends’ Is A Mercy Killing

The Halloween franchise has certainly had its share of highs and lows over the years, but it’s recently been on a relative upswing.

Director David Gordan Green and writer Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride) successfully revived the floundering series in 2018 with their reboot/sequel/rebootquel of the original John Carpenter classic in 2018 with the confusingly-titled Halloween. This installment, which was met with both critical and commercial success, was a welcome addition to the mythology for fans who needed a palate cleanser after several terrible sequels and Rob Zombie’s divisive remake attempt. But after several false starts, Michael Myers was back on the big screen, ready for a rematch with scream queen pioneer Jamie Lee Curtis and her hardened, combat-ready Laurie Strode.

And while it’s follow-up, Halloween Kills, didn’t exactly live up to the standard set by its predecessor, it still served as an entertaining entry into the series. It may have spun wheels for the majority of its runtime, but I’d still choose Halloween Kills over Halloween: Resurrection any day of the week.

Finally, though, after a long year of waiting, we have the conclusion to this modern-day renewal of the Halloween franchise, promising the final, climactic showdown between Laurie and Michael. Halloween Ends, as its title suggests, promises to resolve this seemingly eternal conflict once and for all, with one last bloody bout between these two horror icons. Granted, this is, like, the third or fourth time these two have had their “final showdown,” but since Jamie Lee Curtis isn’t getting any younger, I’m inclined to take them at their word this time.

So, does Halloween Ends measure up to this advertised sense of finality? Does it serve as a fitting end to the Halloween saga?

No.

Dear god, no.

Halloween Ends is not the movie I was expecting it to be. I promise it’s not the movie you’re expecting, either. Hell, I doubt there’s anyone out there who could have expected this.

Sometimes, that subversion of expectation can be a good thing.

This is not one of those occasions.

Halloween Ends is not a movie about Laurie Strode. It’s not about Michael Myers, either. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s barely even a Halloween movie at all. All of the synth music in the world can’t disguise the fact that this film is almost completely incongruous with everything that came before it in the franchise. I’m going to try and be as spoiler-free as possible here, but there’s certain things that I’m going to have to address that aren’t given away in the marketing. So be warned.

Let’s take a second to recall where Halloween Kills left us: Laurie Strode’s daughter is dead. The citizens of Haddonfield have been decimated, with Michael having slaughtered a great deal of them in the mob sent to terminate him. Michael himself has been seemingly proven to be supernatural, with the inhuman beating he sustained by the vengeful townspeople having done nothing but invigorate him. In the final moments of the film, we see a determined Laurie Strode leave the hospital that she was stranded in throughout the entire film, swearing to end Michael Myers once and for all. Whether or not this is possible is left ambiguous, as Michael himself may in fact be more than just a man, despite Green’s insistence that these films would have no supernatural bent to them. Michael’s childhood home is set up as some kind of nexus for his evil, his fascination with one window in particular serving as a major narrative thread in the film. Laurie’s quest for revenge and the mystery behind Michael’s rage and power are the questions left up in the air as audiences were forced to wait a year for the answers.

And surprise! Virtually none of that is followed up on.

Like, at all.

Michael’s childhood home? The one with the spooky window that he seemed primally, instinctually drawn to, and that nearly every character in the film speculated about? The possible source of both his strength and his madness? Demolished offscreen, only mentioned in one offhand line by Laurie, and never acknowledged again.

What was the deal with the window? No idea, and apparently the film doesn’t care to tell you.

Did Laurie continue her one-woman war against the man who terrorized her town and her family?

Nope.

Apparently, she forgot about him the second the previous film ended, because now she’s a cheery, social grandmother who bakes pies and spends her days writing her memoirs. Mind you, this is the same woman who spent forty years obsessively preparing to kill Michael on the off chance that he escaped Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. She knew where he was all that time, and still made sure to arm and train herself in case he ever came looking for her. Now, after Michael did, in fact, come back to Haddonfield, and not only killed a good percentage of the town’s total population, but also the vast majority of her friends and family, she’s decided to just move on? Even knowing that Michael was never caught or killed?

Yeah, that makes sense.

And Laurie isn’t the only one who gets shafted by Halloween Ends. Virtually every surviving legacy character, either from the original 1978 film or the more recent installments, is reduced to cartoonish simplified caricatures, or cast aside entirely. Officer Hawkins, the strong-willed, guilt-stricken cop who feels responsible for Michael’s continued existence? Now a love-sick, awkward weirdo who follows Laurie around like a puppy. Allison, Laurie’s smart, initiative-taking granddaughter? Now an aimless nurse who seems to only exist to date creepy guys she finds around town. And Sheriff Barker, the cool cop in the cowboy hat who kept making appearances in the previous films who surely was being set up for something cool? Shows up for one scene, with maybe two lines of dialogue. Same thing with Lindsey Wallace and everyone else who survived the previous films.

No, instead of following up with any of these characters in a meaningful fashion whatsoever, the focus of the film instead falls on an entirely new figure in Haddonfield lore, one that has never been seen or even mentioned offhand in previous films. Yes, despite Halloween Ends supposedly being the definitive end to the enduring legacy of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, the film almost entirely centers its attention on someone who’s more or less completely unrelated to any of these characters, until the plot requires him to.

Michael Myers himself takes a backseat as badly as Laurie Strode, if not worse. The previous films established him as an unkillable, unstoppable, supernaturally-driven vessel of evil and death. He cannot be understood, planned for, or defeated in any real sense. A bogeyman in the truest fashion. So, naturally, Halloween Ends finds him as a broken, weak hobo-man living in the sewers of Haddonfield, barely hanging on to life. He hasn’t killed in several years (with the exception of maybe a few vagrants, but it’s unclear), and hasn’t returned to the greater Haddonfield area for… reasons, I guess? But through some contrived circumstances, he meets our new character in a chance encounter that leaves them both seemingly smitten with each other.

Yes, dear reader, you read that right: This is Twilight with Michael Myers. Our deranged, infamous masked killer locks eyes with this poor outcast, and something happens. Either Michael possesses him, or they connect on some kind of spiritual level. It isn’t clear (and frankly, I’m not sure I want it to be). But whatever happens bonds the pair together, and Michael spends the majority of the film basically treating this character as his apprentice. They stalk prey together, the spook people together, and I think it’s implied that Michael is essentially teaching him to kill?

Yeah, it’s… odd.

So we have a Halloween movie where Laurie Strode and Michael Myers are essentially background characters, and where the sole focus of this film is a complete and total newcomer who manages to narratively supplant them both. There’s barely a handful of kills, in total, and while they’re sufficiently gross and gory, Michael himself only manages to half-heartedly knife two or three. The rest go to his new best bud. Michael Myers isn’t the main villain in his own movie. And when he finally does take center stage, in the final ten minutes, it’s short-lived and anticlimactic. For a film that promised the epic final confrontation between the hunter and the hunted, Laurie and Michael’s final duel falls about as flat as the rest of the film. It’s not a legendary battle: It’s a flailing, desperate scuffle between two sad characters well past their prime. I get that the marketing was intentionally vague to preserve the film’s twists, but to advertise it as they did only to deliver this as the final product seems disingenuous at best.

In all fairness, I understand what Green and co. were going for here. And, credit where credit is due, it’s an admirable swing in a new direction. As I said when talking about Rob Zombie’s mostly-terrible take on the franchise, I’ll always respect a film’s decision to do something new, especially in a genre as mundane and monotonous as the slasher. But the risk a filmmaker inherently runs with this kind of left-field pivot is that they aren’t always going to work. And, in my eyes, this one didn’t.

Halloween Ends is meant to be about Michael’s greater effects on the Haddonfield community as a whole, and how a broken, traumatized population will seek to create their own monsters in the absence of another. It’s about the pervasive, infectious nature of evil, and how, if left unchecked, it can spread like wildfire and pollute the souls of everyone it comes into contact with. How Michael’s sinister spirit is far more dangerous than his kitchen knife. It’s an interesting idea, in theory, much like Halloween Kills and its exploration of mass hysteria and mob justice. But, much like with Kills, the message falls flat in the presentation. Not to mention that the themes on display here were already largely dealt with in the previous films. The prolonged hospital scene in Halloween Kills, where a crowd of bloodthirsty vigilantes corner and cause the death of an innocent mental patient they’ve mistaken for Michael, pretty much nails every idea that Ends wants to convey. Only, instead of a ten minute scene, we get it for nearly two hours.

The film gives us no answers to our many, many questions. Questions that were asked by explicitly by the previous films themselves, and that were set up as central ideas in this revived era of the franchise. It offers no satisfactory or cathartic resolutions for its main characters and their arcs. It doesn’t even provide the requisite slasher chills and thrills that are traditionally meant to accompany films under the Halloween title banner. As a conclusion to a trilogy, it fizzles out rather than explodes with a ‘bang.’ As the capstone to a franchise, it’s a weak, broad-stroked gesture rather than the sweeping thesis it tries to be. And as a standalone film, it’s a frustrating exercise in half-baked ideas and missed opportunities.

I don’t know that Halloween Ends is a bad movie. It’s not a good one, I know that for sure, but it’s not necessarily terrible. It’s competently made on a technical level, at the very least, with the same slick cinematography as the previous two films in the recent continuity. But with its plot managing to alienate both rabid fans of the franchise and casual audiences alike, I genuinely don’t know who this film is for. Certainly not for me. It’s a bizarre, experimental film, one that feels less like Halloween and more like a student project. If this is the note that the filmmakers want to leave on, then it’s going to leave a lingering bad taste in the mouths of many. Myself unfortunately included.

Had this been a standalone film, one without the burden of being saddled with the lore and expectations that come from following up on so many of these overlooked narrative threads, then it may have been something special. My absolute favorite Halloween film, outside of Carpenter’s original, is Season of the Witch (which you can read more about later this month), precisely because it chooses to abandon the already-exhausted Michael/Laurie plot and go in a fresh, bonkers new direction. And there’s certainly a kernel of that at play in Halloween Ends. But because the film tries to have it both ways, serving as both an introduction to a new story while at the same time being a capstone on everything that came before it, it just feels like a jumbled, inconsistent mess. There’s two great films hidden somewhere in this tangle of conflicting tones and genre elements, but they’re also films that have no business being meshed together as they are.

I’ll say this for the movie, though: It certainly has a sense of finality. It’s definitely the end. I suspect Michael Myers will be back, as will Laurie Strode in some form or another (especially given the box office projections for this weekend), but for now, the characters seem to be well and truly finished. It just wasn’t the ending that I, or I imagine anyone else, was prepared for.

Or hoping to see.

Happy Halloween, I guess?

3 thoughts on “‘Halloween Ends’ Is A Mercy Killing

    1. There is a SHOCKING amount of discourse online right now about how it’s supposedly some kind of misunderstood genius. I just… I don’t know what people are seeing. Is it denial? No clue

      Like

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