We go into Halloween Ends knowing it will take something drastic for the movie to make good on its name. For 44 years, its central villain, Michael Myers, has proved unstoppable. Nothing has worked to exterminate him—not bullets, fires, electrocution, nor a beheading. This, of course, is the point: A franchise must continue if it is to make money, and no matter how socially conscious the Halloween movies attempt to be (particularly the most recent crop that began with the 2018 reboot Halloween and ends, supposedly, with Ends), they mostly exist to exist, as doing so has proven to turn a handsome profit on meager budgets.
We end up right where we start in Halloween Ends, and it’s where we’ve been for years. After the purported final confrontation between Michael and prototypical final girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis)—the kind of back-and-forth tussling that is designed to seem like it could go either way before going in exactly the way you know it will, with her victory and his demise—Laurie, with the help of her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) and the local police, parades Michael’s body through the town of Haddonfield to show its residents that their nightmare is over. The procession ends at a salvage yard, where Michael’s body is placed in a metal grinder to, theoretically, prevent any possibility of his reanimation. And all that is required is some industrial-grade machinery. Nice!
It takes about 90 minutes for the movie to get where it’s going. The final showdown between Laurie and Michael lasts about 10 minutes, and the denouement runs for about another 10. What precedes it is one of the most baffling shaggy dog stories in a horror franchise since Friday the 13th: A New Beginning—the one that doesn’t actually feature Jason Voorhees, that franchise’s monster.
For way, way too long, Halloween Ends focuses on a new character, a young man named Corey (Rohan Campbell), who accidentally killed the kid he was babysitting on Halloween in 2019 (that’s a year after the events of the reboot and its sequel, the absurdly violent 2021 movie Halloween Kills). As a result of the death, Corey becomes a town pariah, gains Laurie’s sympathy, and survives a near deadly attack from an extremely diverse group of young bullies. In a sewer, he encounters a semi-retired Michael Myers (it’s giving It!), who for maybe the first time ever, spares a life he could easily take because, literally, Corey has evil eyes. Michael sees something of himself in Corey, or something like that, and becomes his mentor, or something like that. A scene in which Michael and Corey double team a cop that Corey lures back to the sewer—with Corey bracing the cop from behind as Michael plunges into him—couldn’t be more homoerotic if it tried, and I don’t think it’s trying.
Laurie, meanwhile, frets. A lot. The majority of her setups feature her looking on while worried. Corey strikes up a relationship with Allyson, and Laurie notices his evil eyes, too, and wants them unfixed from her granddaughter. She frets some more.
That this whole thing was leading up to what amounts to a tangent that provides the excuse for Michael and Laurie to resume their feud and for Laurie to off him in one of the only ways that makes sense is, on one hand, massively disappointing and, on another, somehow perfect. I don’t for a second believe that this will be the last Halloween movie—even with a relatively disappointing opening at the box office this weekend (it also is streaming on Peacock, as did Kills), it still made over $41 million. More or less every Halloween sequel has been shoddy; some are more entertaining than others, but none have possessed the sheer elegance and blunt force of evil that John Carpenter’s 1978 original did. What separates the most recent three—all directed by David Gordon Green and co-written by Danny McBride—is the Nolanesque pretense that they’re about more than finding different ways to put holes in bodies. They’re about trauma, radicalization, the nature of evil. Halloween Ends is about the faultiness of the stories we tell, and how in the telling, we conjure our own oppressors.
Or something! None of it is particularly well-fleshed out—particularly the idea that Michael Myers is “just a man” in a mask, which given his brute strength and indestructibility in virtually every scenario outside of a frappe via heavy machinery, is like calling Donald Trump just a politician in a baggy suit. There is also the notion held by some Haddonfield residents (two who point it out are Black) that Laurie somehow conjured Michael and is responsible for his latest wave of terror. It’s unfair, but it makes Laurie feel guilty nonetheless and gives her the opportunity for more fretting.
The Green Halloween movies embody the kind of representational pretense of contemporary pop culture—this mass striving to be “necessary.” It makes some kind of sense to impose this attempt at meaning onto the slasher form, which had long dried up when the 2018 Halloween reanimated it. It is rarely enough for a movie to merely spotlight a maniac running around killing people. There almost always needs to be some kind of angle, depth, or even trick (see: Bodies Bodies Bodies) to make such a story worth telling in 2022. The problem is, even when these movies are infused with explicitly relevant social commentary, they still aren’t necessarily crucial storytelling. They’re just some more crappy Halloween sequels to add to the pile, like Michael does with bodies.
Halloween Ends really wants to have something to say, but there’s a difference between gesturing and actually saying something, just like there’s a difference between an original script and an obligatory sequel. Though Ends has been planned for at least three years, it feels like a rush job. The fact is that Laurie’s final showdown with Michael—the sense of it’s all leading up to this—already happened in the 2018 Halloween, which portrayed her as a shut-in who had been waiting 40 years for another encounter with the guy who terrorized her as a teenager. That story was effectively resolved, and yet the ensuing churn of sequels was inevitable because that movie made an astonishing $255 million globally.
Curtis has repeatedly vowed that Halloween Ends will be her last turn in the franchise. She even signed a jokey (and non-legally binding) contract on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last week to confirm. But her character, like Michael’s, has died in the franchise before, and that didn’t stop her. The powers that be just expanded the multiverse. With time and a good enough idea, audiences will surely forgive the retraction of such a ceremonious goodbye. As Laurie writes in the memoir that takes up her time in Ends (when she isn’t kitting her brow over Corey’s mean, spider eyes): “I’ve said goodbye to my boogeyman, but the truth is, evil doesn’t die. It changes shape.” For those of us so dissatisfied by the write-around that is Halloween Ends, there’s a weird sense of hope in those words.