At nearly 45 years old, Halloween is one of the long-running franchises in Hollywood history, and it has become iconic in many ways, from its dread-filled score to its masked villain, Michael Myers.
The original 1978 movie minted a new star (Jamie Lee Curtis), remade the slasher genre forever, and has endured far longer than any of the copycats it spawned, most of whom have been sent to their cinematic graves by now. Yet, last year, Halloween Kills, a sequel to 2018’s Halloween, nearly did what a number of middling ’90s sequels were unable to: kill off the franchise. It was that bad, but much like “The Shape” himself, the franchise survived, which brings us to its actual last stand, Halloween Ends.
Directed and mostly written — like the last two entries — by David Gordon Green, Halloween Ends begins one year after the events of Halloween Kills, and before conveniently cutting to the present day, thereby skipping over the Covid-19 pandemic. Corey, a young man played with a chilling combination of charisma and coldness by Rohan Campbell, is babysitting in Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween night. However, his fate isn’t exactly what you might think. Though he’s accused of a horrendous crime and cleared of any wrongdoing, his psyche has suffered permanent and irreversible damage, setting in motion a deadly sequence of events.
Meanwhile, Laurie Strode (Curtis) is purporting to turn a new leaf on her decades-long obsession with the serial killer thought to be her half-brother in another iteration of this universe. Her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak, still a worthy heir to the Curtis brand of horror acting), has moved in with her, and quickly takes a liking to the troubled Corey after Laurie introduces the two of them.
Allyson is a sympathetic hospital worker who can relate to Corey, who is treated unfairly by the town’s residents, some of whom call him a “psycho,” just as they think Laurie is a “freak show.” Everyone is just trying to recover from Michael’s latest rampage, and for Laurie, that means writing a memoir and knitting — the sight of her with a knitting needle doubling as a fun easter egg for franchise connoisseurs.
What made Halloween Kills so infuriatingly frustrating was the script’s messy attempt to tell a story about evil populism, mob mentality, and the animal nature of humanity. There was way too much philosophizing in the middle of a slasher movie, and the wheels essentially fell off the franchise with last year’s entry. Halloween Ends takes a lot of these same musings about the nature of bullying and victimhood and improbably convinces you that it knows what it’s talking about, whereas the last one did not.
Gordon Green keeps the story focused almost entirely on Laurie, Allyson, and Corey, with a healthy give-and-take between the three characters that feels much more cohesive than the sprawling commentary about society writ large that nearly doomed the prior movie. The filmmakers resist falling into gore and guts immediately and exhibit the restraint that made the original so memorably stressful and terrifying. Curtis’s performance is driven by controlled aggression, and she gets strong support from her two younger co-stars, especially Campbell, who is simultaneously creepy and yet deserving of our sympathy.
Below-the-line kudos belong to the original Halloween maestro John Carpenter, who with his son Cody and godson Daniel Davies recycles the iconic score from the 1978 movie without relying on its familiar cue too much. That creepy, xylophone-like score is one of the few movie soundtracks that have achieved all-time classic status and wasn’t not penned by John Williams. Carpenter knows just how to modernize it while paying homage to the simple style that made the first one so effective. This being a horror film, Tim Alverson‘s subdued editing and Michael Simmonds‘ shadowy cinematography also deserve mention. It’s not easy to light a movie that takes place almost entirely at night, but Simmonds’ work offers enough genre ambiance that you’re able to see everything you need to see and can bring yourself to watch.
Horror sequels are among the toughest cinematic feats to pull off. Bloodier, more gruesome kills are always easy to find, but a reason to care is much harder. And when a script teeters so close to the line of social preaching about difficult topics like child abuse, mental health, and mass murder — topics that are political third rails today — it’s often a recipe for disaster. But Halloween Ends improbably bucks that trend and impresses at almost every turn. It is hard to say more without ruining a story that keeps you guessing, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons this film is so effective.
So, is it really the end of the Halloween franchise? In some ways, it’s hard to believe it. Not only because Hollywood will always come back for more, just like Michael Myers himself. It is difficult to imagine that this really is the end of the road for Laurie Strode and Michael Myers because of the revered space that Halloween occupies in the minds of most film aficionados — not just the movie itself, but the incredible story behind the making of the film, which was shot on a shoestring budget and went on to become the most successful independent film of all time. It inspired countless copycats as well as generations of filmmakers and storytellers, and personally, for this critic, it represents one of the most memorable movie-watching experiences ever and one that helped spark my passion for writing about film.
The above is, in some ways, an epitaph and eulogy for one of the most-beloved movie franchises of all time. And maybe going out on this surprisingly high note is the right move. Perhaps it’s time to put Michael Myers in the ground once and for all and let everyone in Haddonfield move on with their lives.
That said, should Michael ever come back for one more thrill kill, this critic will surely be watching.
Universal Pictures will release Halloween Ends both in theaters and on Peacock on Oct. 14.