Why Halloween Ends is Exactly What the Series Needed

“America don’t like reality, first of all. Second of all, they think this shit is boring. You know what I mean? They want a little razzle dazzle, a little pizzaz, a little thrill in their life. Us being the ones that give it to ‘em … I don’t’ see nothin’ wrong with that.”

-Busta Rhymes, Halloween: Resurrection

Director and co-writer David Gordon Green may have prophesied the series’ painful cycle of trilogy-ending mediocrity when he went to the drawing board of Halloween Ends with the intent of continuing Halloween Kills. So Laurie’s epic promises at the last film’s conclusion fizzle out off-camera, negating the bloody murder mechanisms of the overlong Kills. With screenwriters Logan, Bernier, and McBride, Green nudges Halloween Ends into a sincere conclusion of the whole concept of Halloween without succumbing to the dead-end implied by Kills, the mediocrity of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, or the meta-messiness of Halloween: Resurrection. In hindsight, the trilogy might have been condensed into a two-part legacy conclusion. But against greater odds than any director deserves, Green found meaningful avenues of closure in a matted spider’s web of inspirations. It’s the first Halloween sequel with the dramatic intensity of an original film.

The series has always had tonal outliers in its supporting casts (the cops mulling over their lunch choices in the 2018 film recalled the bumbling duo from Halloween 5). Ends still detours into casually bizarre exchanges, but it clarifies them as a reminder that Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) was a stuck-up babysitter once, in a sleepy midwestern town where hiding pot from your friend’s dad and trying to maneuver a date with the hottest boy in school used to be the most important stuff in the universe. When Laurie tells her granddaughter (Andi Matichak) to let her tits out for Halloween or endures an oddball exchange with the bumpkin sheriff (Will Patton) who hopes she’ll smile again, Green carefully controls tiny explosions of cheesiness into a form of endearment. The original Halloween, after all, had awkward moments when actors didn’t seem all put-together in the lines they’d been given, reading them out of time while trying to ignore the cameramen who sometimes accidentally slipped into the frame. It had a slapped-together feel that encourages its lasting charm. Despite having a more well-funded production, Green seems aware that feeling just a little broken is on-theme.

These moments are respites in the history of Haddonfield, a town as wracked by grief as the terror-torn denizens of Derry, Maine in Stephen King’s IT. Halloween Ends demonstrates character near-exclusively as a response to grief. A husband and wife deal with their son’s death differently (she’s vengeful and he’s resigned). Survivors of previous films voicelessly stare into their abyssal town (the scariest thing is that nothing stares back). Michael brought death to them, even if he disappeared. Laurie and Allyson (Matichak) repress their fear in opposition. Laurie strives for normalcy, stressfully trying to reconcile her years in gun-toting solitude with the desire to be a grandma, while Allyson is untethered. She’s in her “set the world on fire” years, but in her case, the world seems to want it.

Between them, Corey (a reservedly awkward Rohan Campbell), emerges as a new form of a protagonist. His role in a local tragedy (explained in the film's nail-biting opening), has made him the town’s strawman for all its terror. Those who recognize him hate him on principle (they fear what he makes them feel). While Laurie handles her status as a pariah by looking for hope and drifting into self-loathing (she can only hope because she survived), Corey wallows in himself. Curtis roars in this film in a toxic brew of emotions, straining for a grandma’s pumpkin pie dreams but constantly getting dragged back into the dark. For the first time in the series, the film clarifies what makes Laurie special other than her virginity, family history, or protagonist status. It does this by creating a new protagonist who deals with a similar fate so poorly. Though Corey has already been ostracized in the film’s reception as a pretender to the series' throne, this misses the point. He’s not there to lead the series – he’s there to decode the person who has led it all along.

To many viewers’ disappointment, Corey’s dramatic transitions seem to guide the film more than Laurie’s. Yet the screenplay tirelessly connects his struggle to the allegory of Laurie’s (now Allyson’s) grief. The writers turned to King’s novels and Carpenter's other films for clarity, recalling not only Laurie’s circumstantial tragedy as another babysitter but also Arnie’s arc from abuse to violent rebellion in Christine. Halloween Ends plays Corey and Laurie against each other to clarify mob mentality as a selfish act, a cover-up for powerlessness, building on Halloween Kills’ reassertion of Michael as the grieving town’s representative rather than just its terrorist. While the past sequels have tried to clarify Michael with a tragic backstory, Green’s reworked impression maintains his ambiguous nature while clarifying his meaning. In Ends, Michael is a symbol of victimization, not a victim himself. He’s more the movie’s theme than its direct antagonist. For a character who has never had any character, this rendition of The Shape is the first since the original film that uses his identity as “anyone” as a warning for its inhabitants, rather than as an excuse for its screenwriters.

Without the means to pose a direct threat over the plot, Michael’s presence diffuses over the film. Ends breaks the slasher formula’s tired norms by replacing the series’ typical grab and slash scenario with a villain standing in for a feeling. He incites violence by being violent, for those who crave its release. Yet, he’s not mystical. He’s lumbering, ancient. He may not even know where he is anymore. He acts according to his nature (like so many films in his genre, he’s stabbing from muscle memory). Compared to the desperate predictability of the “Thorn trilogy” (films four, five, and six) or the pleas for relevance of the sub-Scream reboot duo, H20 and Resurrection, or any film that introduces a group of horny teens just to shish-kabob their pretty parts, Halloween Ends relies on its series’ unique strengths rather than its genre’s most profitable scenarios.

Its visuals don’t rely on homages, but cinematographer Michael Simmonds uses references to strategically bring the original film's ambiguous dread to a form of catharsis. The ending shots of the 1978 film meant the boogeyman could be anywhere. Recreated here, they mean that he’s gone, like Nosferatu vanishing in the morning sun. The series deserved this closure, even if the script’s treatment of Laurie’s over-explicit monologues (she’s penning a memoir about the town’s tragedy) has been overplayed in the film’s dialogue. But as a closing argument to its cluttered toy chest of predecessors, it’s more organized than Jurassic World: Dominion. It has a more meaningful resolution than Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. In the realm of sequel trilogy enders and legacy films, Halloween Ends is an Autumntime god.

This begs the question of why the film has been received as aggressively as an unwanted child. A petition to reshoot the film cites its treatment of “Our Apex Predator, the King of Slasher Movies Michael Myers” as the culprit. The consensus is that the film doesn’t offer the gory bravado the fans craved. Instead, Ends dares to connect the series’ pain and suffering directly to its villain’s blank-eyed monstrousness, even suggesting that he’s been evil for so long that the world has been remade in his image. This aftershock of his simplistic villainy, which began with a child stabbing his sister over 40 years ago, earns the title of “boogeyman” better than any film in the series since 1978. Yet, despite his over-clarified mythology and the film's numerous kill scenes, the petition still calls him “weak pathetic" in Ends. Why is that?

The core issue with the film’s reception may also be the reason the series should end. Slasher fans from experience have forgotten that the films are cautionary tales. Carpenter said once that he regretted ending the sexual freedom of the 70s with Halloween by punishing sensuality with knives and garrot wire (he was only half-joking). But more regretful is how the film goaded its viewers to mistake the purpose of slashing as a means of empowerment for the audience, rather than just for the slasher. In a way that did not happen after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Psycho, Halloween fooled the audience into rooting for the villain. They became roadies for the boogeyman. The result is a series more about a badass rebel stabbing meat people than about any deeper concept of the cost of slashing, which at a certain point is all that could make it scary. Laurie and Michael have been worked up in the fandom’s hopes like King Kong and Godzilla. They may have wanted nothing more impressive from Halloween Ends than a knife battle workout, like those fan films that retool fights in the original Star Wars movies to be more “epic.” But Michael has always been The Shape. He’s never had enough dramatic intrigue to warrant the resolution of Darth Vader.

Despite already being hated in the way that defilers of sacred temples are hated, the Corey character condenses and fortifies Green’s idea of the series’ themes in a way that Michael could not do alone. In a series full of vision-less sequels that reduce any potential intensity to puffy marathons of goofy tropes and dead-end dialogue, Halloween Ends is a battlefield. It fights for the purpose of all this stabbing and staring. What some fans seem to have wanted from it is what the film directly warns against, which is the natural tendency for society to use violent resolution as a coverup for insecurity. Busta Rhymes called it “razzle dazzle” when he talked about an audience greedy for gore in the clumsy meta-text of Resurrection, but he might as well have been talking about this petition. This disparity between what slasher films mean and their fans' resistance to meaning may not have started when Halloween falsely accused sexuality of being the culprit of society's grief complex. But regardless, we’ve gone from fearing the boogeyman to asking for his autograph. Halloween Ends is not the first film in its series to get a rotten reputation, but it’s the first that’s rotten for the right reasons. It finally gave it what it needed, rather than what it thinks Michael (and his biggest fans) would want.

Image is a screenshot from the film: ©Blumhouse Productions/Universal Pictures

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