HALLOWEEN ENDS fulfills its promise to take the battle between Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers (unknown shape played by James Jude Courtney) to its limits. Boasting four writers, including director and purveyor of the franchise reboot, David Gordon Green, this excursion takes us, alas, into muddled waters. Myers, on the loose since his last spree, becomes less a mindless serial killer bent only on homicide than an avenger of socially accepted cruelty. It’s a twist, to be sure, but one making as little sense as the rest of the film.
Before we rejoin Laurie, currently writing her memoir in the gemütlich house she shares with her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), we turn our attentions at first to Corey (Rohan Campbell), who in a flashback to Halloween 2019 is a callow and sensitive young man taking a gap year before pursuing a university engineering program. Alas, his dreams are cut short when he’s called in at the last minute to babysit an unpleasant kid suffering the lingering trauma of Michael Myer’s 2018 spree. A freak accident while on duty upends his life into that of a mechanic at his stepfather’s junkyard and the object of scorn by the town of Haddonfield, IL. After a particularly ferocious bout of bullying by some high school seniors just before the current Halloween, he is befriended by Laurie, who happens to be nearby, who takes the injured Corey for medical treatment to the doctor’s office where her granddaughter Allyson works as a nurse. Hormones fly, particularly after Corey tells Allyson she deserves better than the arrogant way she is treated by the doctor. She falls for him, the way young women do for troubled young men who are callow and sensitive, and not even his increasingly erratic behavior, the which Campbell essays with James Dean-esque anguish) can sway her. Nor can the concerns of her grandmother, who thinks she may have made a mistake introducing the two.
For this finale to the franchise, or at least this reboot of it, Green chooses to focus on the psychology of evil in the creation of monsters, and while it is a premise worth exploring, the narrative falters. Badly. What we are left with is a giddy and derivative cavalcade of incoherent motivations and a screed against the many forms of bullying that brings to which we turn a blind eye. Yet it brings nothing new to the discussion. It might actually trivialize it with such lazy glibness. So do the all too convenient coincidences like the one that brings Laurie face-to-face with one of Michael’s victims (and the relative that blames Laurie for what happened) or the one that has the inconsolable parents who hired Corey to babysit four years ago hanging out at the bar run by Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), who has been part of the story since she was an 8-year-old being babysat in the original HALLOWEEN. There are moments when one might ponder that this is less a cautionary tale about society’s ills than a spoof that has somehow failed to be as funny as it should be. Or at all.
Not that there aren’t some piquant moments. The expected callouts to the earlier films, and one that puts us in mind of Ms. Curtis’ mother in her most famous movie scene. A poetic comeuppance for the DJ (Keraun Harris) who taunts the community about Michael’s annual return is a nice bit if gory fun. Ultimately, though, it’s all just a prelude for the inevitable final showdown between Laurie and Michael, the which Ms. Curtis essays with admirable passion, gravitas, and rage. She is, as she always has been, a Valkyrie with steely eyes and even steelier resolve. Here she is given a little more to do, with a tentative romance played out with Frank (Will Patton) that adds an unexpected note of sweetness to the proceedings as they try to make small talk while obviously smitten with one another and charmingly awkward about it.
Fear not, eventually the killing starts, and blood doesn’t just flow, it gurgles, and knives tear flesh with suitably unsettling sound design. Kudos for trying to make that aspect of the story less gratuitous (and also less fun), but it is with sadness that I write HALLOWEEN ENDS brings the story to a close with a whimper, not a bang.