Friday, May 24, 2024

Halloween Ends…And Disappoints On The Way Out

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Warning for mentions of death, abuse, and violence. Also, spoilers.

The newest movie in the Halloween franchise has come out! Halloween Ends is the end to the trilogy of films started by Halloween (2018), all written and directed by David Gordon Green and ignoring all other films in the franchise beyond the original 1978 masterpiece.

This trailer is very misleading, fair warning

I believe the title of this article tells you everything, but let’s dive in deep here, because there is…a lot to unpack.

How We Got Here

There are thirteen films in the overall Halloween franchise. Twelve of them deal with the iconic boogeyman Michael Myers, starting with the very first, 1978’s Halloween, directed and written by the legendary John Carpenter. This would be followed up with Halloween 2 in 1981, a film that was rather…lackluster, with John Carpenter declaring that the only thing that got him through the writing process was a six-pack of Budweiser every morning.

The follow-up, Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, is an excellent film…but it has nothing whatsoever to do with Michael Myers, instead being an effort to turn Halloween into an anthology series.

Halloween 3
Give this a watch if you can, it’s excellent.

This failed, as audiences just wanted more Michael, and Carpenter would sell the franchise off, resulting in five sequels of varying quality (though none better than okay) from 1988 to 2002. The series would then go briefly dormant until a reboot/remake in 2007 by Rob Zombie.

Rob Zombie Halloween

It was…alright, and it was the mid-2000s when Slasher remakes were all the rage, and so it got a sequel in 2009. Said sequel was a lot more Rob Zombie, but not exactly…good. And so the series went dormant again, until 2018 and we got the franchise’s third film simply called Halloween.

Halloween (2018) was not the first Slasher ‘requel’ (that honor goes to the honestly very fun Texas Chainsaw (2013)) but it was the one that set the standard, a genuine masterpiece that set out to tell a new story by ignoring literally all of the sequels.

Halloween Franchise Timeline
Yes, this is real. It is not an exaggeration. This is what this franchise looks like now.

Halloween (2018) is a genuine masterpiece of the genre, something you should absolutely watch if you’re at all interested in Slashers, Horror, or Jamie Lee Curtis. And it did so well that when David Gordon Green pitched two sequels to Universal, the studio immediately leapt on it.

Halloween Kills came out in 2021, delayed by COVID-19, and was…not great. Not horrible, but it definitely carried the feeling of wheel spinning. That David Gordon Green and his co-writers had too many ideas for just two movies, but not quite enough for three. As a result, much time is spent developing and investing the audience in characters who will never meet the main cast, never impact the main plot, and exist only to die. We spend a considerable amount of time with a gay couple who, while well-written and well-acted, never interact with the main cast and never do anything of importance except die. There’s setting up doomed characters, and then there are plot cul-de-sacs.

However, all of that being said, Halloween Kills was a film with something to say. It had strong themes, strong morals, and heart. It was also very creative and inventive when it came to its kills. So, while far from great, it held the promise of being a bridge between two greater films.

…that is not what wound up happening.

How Does Halloween End?

If I had to describe Halloween Ends in a single sentence, it’d be ‘devoured by its own themes’.

Themes are good. Themes are great, in fact. They are not at all just for eighth-grade book reports. But unless you’re telling something deliberately vague and fantastical, like an opera or a fairy tale, themes cannot be the be-all and end-all of a piece of media. Characters, plot, these matter too. A good plot and performances can make up for shaky themes, but the reverse is not generally true.

The first thing to understand about Halloween Ends is that the marketing, that this

Halloween Ends Marketing

is not truly representative of the film.

Halloween Ends Reality
Laurie and Corey

This is.

The heart of Halloween Ends is not beloved actor Jamie Lee Curtis’ beloved character Laurie Strode. Nor is it Andi Matichak’s Allyson Nelson, the granddaughter of Laurie and one of the central characters of the previous two films. Nor is it Michael Myers.

No, no the lion’s share of Halloween Ends goes to Rohan Campbell’s new character Corey Cunningham. The opening scene of the movie is set a year after the events of Halloween Kills, and is entirely about Corey and setting up the tragic accident that ruins his life. From there much of the plot is about Laurie befriending Corey, Allyson falling in love with Corey real fast, and Corey falling down a dark path before eventually dying himself.

There are two problems with this. The first is that Halloween Ends, the finale of this trilogy, the last Halloween movie for some time if Universal is to be believed, is centering itself on a new character. And not just on a new character, but on what is meant to be a complex fall to darkness, on a good kid being pushed and tormented and broken into becoming a monster.

That is, simply put, too much to put on a single film. Characters that were important in the previous films fall to the wayside. Michael Myers gets maybe a grand total of fifteen minutes of screen time in this whole movie. The movie isn’t even two hours long. Time that could be spent on almost anything else has to be invested in Corey’s journey.

The second problem is, quite simply, that the execution is horrendous. A large amount of this film relies on you being invested in Corey, in believing that Allyson would fall in love with him at first sight, that they’d fall in love quickly and start to become co-dependent and…it does not work. I cannot vouch for Rohan Campbell as an actor. I haven’t seen anything he’s been in aside from this. However…this is not a good performance.

Take Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers, Hayden Christensen in Attack of the Clones, and Adam Driver in The Last Jedi, throw them all in a blender, and you will get Corey Cunningham. It is the most awkward, uncharismatic performance I have seen in years. And it’s fine to have characters like that, but we’re supposed to believe that, in this otherwise relatively grounded film, Allyson falls in love with him on sight, and becomes so deeply infatuated with him that she ignores all his troubling behaviors and is ready to blow up her seemingly happy relationship with her grandma and run away with him.

Now, credit to where it’s due, Rohan Campbell does do a tremendous job once Corey’s mask falls off, when he becomes a bad person and acts like it. He is a genuinely solid portrayal of a toxic abuser. Unfortunately, because he is so without charm and their relationship so devoid of chemistry before he turns, it doesn’t feel true when Allyson is ready to run away and blow up her relationship with her grandmother for him. You do feel that Allyson is attracted to him, Andi Matichak does a good performance there, but there’s never a mutual spark that sells the relationship.

This is not helped by the fact that, while Halloween Kills was set in 2018, Halloween Ends is set in 2022. Allyson and Laurie have gone through four years of off-screen changes and development, and the result is that it feels like there’s a missing movie. Allyson has apparently started and ended a relationship with a cop and become a nurse, while a large portion of the town blames Laurie for Michael’s killings (they feel that she goaded him into it).

A time-skip between films in a series is not an inherently bad thing (gestures at the Original Trilogy of Star Wars) but because we have to spend so much time setting up and developing Corey we don’t have time to explore the changes. There is a new status quo for these characters, and we just have to accept it and try to care about the new guy.

That is, ultimately, the biggest failing of Halloween Ends. It all hinges on you caring about and being invested in Corey and his descent. Which is fine for a standalone movie. Honestly, the tale of Corey would not be a terrible movie all on its own. But it’s a terrible plot for the ending to your trilogy. I cannot stress enough how much Allyson and Laurie are pushed to the side so that we can explore Corey’s plot.

Now, you might be asking, what is Michael getting up to during all of this? Well, he is living in the sewers, hiding out, and only very occasionally killing people. You might ask why he’d be doing this, given that the previous film firmly established Michael as a genuinely unstoppable supernatural being who grew stronger when he killed and who was on the verge of transcending into something worse….I’m asking why too. Michael is introduced as weak and showing his age, then grows stronger and more confident when Corey brings him someone to kill, so they’re not retconning that or dismissing it as metaphorical.

Instead of the inhuman, aloof entity that Michael’s generally been portrayed as, here he is an almost seductive thing, letting Corey live and not only luring him but actively teaching him. There’s a scene of them killing Allyson’s abusive boss and obnoxious co-worker together, implying that Michael is even letting Corey choose their targets. But why is never explained.

The why of Michael’s actions and behaviors have never been very clear in this set of films, which is fine and fitting for the character. For a break in his established character this strong, one expects something. Instead, we just have to roll with the fact that Michael will kill literally anybody and everybody except for Corey, up until Corey beats him up (somehow, this is a man who was able to lift a full-grown woman up with one hand earlier in the movie) and takes his mask.

Oh yes, most of the time someone in the famous Michael Meyers mask

Michael's Mask

isn’t even Michael. David Gordon Green decided to pull a Friday the 13th: A New Beginning on us.

How does this all conclude you ask? Well, a large part of Laurie’s plot is starting to suspect that something’s up with Corey and investigating. Here the movie tries to waffle, not willing to commit to if Corey became what he is due to trauma and abuse or if he was just always like this and the trauma gave him an excuse. The movie is willing to say that there’s a question of if evil is born or made, but not willing to actually answer.

Corey puts on Michael’s mask and murders everyone who’s abused him (and a couple of innocent women), then goes after Laurie. She’s ready for him, springing a trap and catching him off guard. However, when Allyson (who’s been fighting with Laurie about if Corey is bad or not) pulls up to the house in her car Corey stabs himself in the neck, framing Laurie for his death with a declaration that if he can’t have Allyson nobody will.

Allyson stumbles upon the scene and leaves in a cold fury (weirdly not calling the cops), and Laurie goes to despair. While she’s doing this, Michael sneaks in, takes back his mask, and kills Corey.

This is how the Corey plot ends. Three-quarters of the movie is devoted to him, and he just sort of…fizzles out. Yes, there are thematic reasons for this, and it’s fitting and makes sense…but it is deeply unsatisfying from a storytelling perspective. The themes the movie wants to explore consume the characters and emotional connections of the film. With less than two hours the movie has no time to invest us in Corey before he turns evil, and so there’s not really anything there with him.

However…once he’s gone the movie is actually pretty good. We get one last fight between Laurie and Michael, where she uses tactics and her previous experiences dealing with him to effectively trap him, and then Allyson realizes what happened and helps save Laurie and the pair finally kill him. Why being stabbed and bled out kills him this time and not any of the other times is unclear, but it’s the end of the trilogy and Laurie was clever so we’ll roll with it.

Then…the pair decide that the town of Haddonfield needs closure, that if Michael isn’t seen to be dead then his ghost will still haunt the town. And so, with the help of the police, Laurie and Allyson tie Michael’s corpse to the top of their car and parade it through town, then throw his corpse into an industrial shredder in a junkyard.

On the one hand, this act of downright medieval viciousness rather contrasts with Halloween Kills’ condemnation of mob mentality and mob justice. On the other hand…it’s a very cool and cathartic scene, at the end of a very painful to sit through movie, so I’m going to give it a pass.

We then get a happy Allyson leaving Haddonfield in her repaired car (her car has been in disrepair the whole film, something Corey promised to fix but never did. It’s a clumsy but cute metaphor) while Laurie has a genuinely sweet and tender moment with Frank Hawkins (a deputy and friend/old flame of Laurie’s, played by Will Patton, he was important in the previous movies but barely shows up here). The movie ends with a shot of Michael’s mask sitting discarded on Laurie’s coffee table.

The last fifteen minutes or so are honestly a solid end to the trilogy as a whole. It’s strong, heartfelt, sincere, on point, and ends very sweet and well. And I’m always a sucker for horror movies with unambiguously happy endings. …but it’s not at all worth sitting through the rest of this movie for.

Ultimately, my final thought is that, much like how Halloween (2018) ignores the sequels that came before it in favor of just acknowledging the masterpiece that was the 1978 film, so should you ignore the sequels to it. Halloween Ends is not worth your time, and it’s certainly not worth your money.

Images courtesy of Universal

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