It’s no real surprise when a franchise, particularly one in the horror genre, erodes over time and drops in quality. Talents, interests, and intentions change over the years resulting in an uneven collection of movies. The new Halloween trilogy — Halloween (2018), Halloween Kills (2021), and Halloween Ends (2022) — has no such excuse as the same filmmakers have shepherded it across a four-year span. The latest film is a dull, wildly miscalculated misfire that foregoes nearly everything that has made this entire series memorable over the years from its characters to its kills. But hey, at least we still get another cracking score by John Carpenter and friends.
It’s been one year since the Halloween night massacre of 2018, and Haddonfield is a town in flux. Corey (Rohan Campbell) is college bound, but after a last-minute babysitting gig goes awry resulting in the child’s death, he finds himself the town’s latest pariah and boogeyman. Three more years pass without an appearance by Michael Myers, but Haddonfield does a good job terrorizing itself as it becomes a festering cesspool of violence, cruelty, and indifference. Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) have moved on — the former is happily celebrating the holiday (she spent forty years as a recluse after some friends were killed, but her daughter’s slaughtered and she’s a ray of sunshine four years later…), and the latter is now an unhappy nurse with even worse taste in men. The next few days bring all three of them together in a violent clash, and the party doesn’t end until the big man returns home one last time.
While David Gordon Green and Danny McBride claimed back in 2018 to have a specific story arc planned out for their new trilogy, Halloween Ends makes it clear that they were full of shit. Their first film is a competent Halloween sequel offering up a clumsy but somewhat admirable stab at pairing the slasher with deep metaphor, and the second drops the ball with laughable themes and a set-piece stretched to feature length. For their various faults, though, they still deliver with stellar kills, the great Judy Greer, and scores by Carpenter, his son Cody Carpenter, and Daniel A. Davies. This time out it’s almost that score alone left struggling to keep the film afloat. (Other highpoints include seeing Carpenter’s The Thing and John Woo’s Hard Target on tvs, so that’s something to look forward to.)
The elephant in the room here is the questionable choice to introduce a new lead character in the third film of a trilogy while knocking back the expected leads to the supporting roster. Viewers irked by Laurie being sidelined in the previous film might find little solace here as both she — and Michael — are inexplicably left to play second and third fiddle to Corey and his journey into darkness. It’s an endlessly nonsensical choice for a trilogy that hit the ground running with three generations of Strode women coming together to fight Michael only to dramatically shift away from them to focus on strangers (in Halloween Kills) and some whiny dude here.
Some will praise the decision as a “big swing,” but that term applies more to the likes of Possession (1981), Malignant (2021), and Barbarian (2022), films with beats that shake both stories and characters at their very core. Dropping what amounts to Christine‘s Arnie Cunningham (Corey’s last name is even the same!) into Halloween as its lead character while leaving returning players to fight over scraps is not a big swing. It’s a whiff that tanks both the narrative and the momentum leading up to the big face-off we all know is coming.
The script — by Green, McBride, Paul Brad Logan, and Chris Bernier — positions Corey as a focal point of its scattershot themes, but none of it works to aid the film’s attempts at drama, suspense, terror, or commentary. He’s a dorky young man when we first meet him, and that continues until a run in with Michael leaves him standing taller, cooler, and hot to trot on a new motorbike. Allyson even falls head over heels for him over the course of three days unaware of his new connection with the evil who ruined her life. None of it works or convinces, but Halloween Ends insists otherwise and subjects audiences to Corey wandering, being berated by his mom, being bullied by band geeks, and more before finally pushing him over the line.
The core idea at play in Halloween Ends is that Haddonfield has itself become home to an evil that’s grown beyond one person. (Ruh roh, the town itself is a character… or some such bullshit.) Michael may still be the triggering element, but the town is infected and rotting from his evil legacy. Introducing Corey in the first film and watching his descent might have made the point more salient, but that’s not what Green and friends chose to do — most likely because back in 2018 they had no clue how they’d stretch a Halloween reboot into a cash-cow trilogy. It’s why this final film devotes so much of its screen time to Corey and to the dickish behaviors of other citizens, some of whom lay into Laurie for “taunting” Michael into attacking the town back in 2018. What?!
Everyone, from the filmmakers to the characters, seems content with the idea that people’s poor choices and circumstances are due to the actions of someone else. No one is to blame for their own misery, no one is accountable for their own cruelty, as Michael is the original cause of it all. It’s an empty conclusion, and it makes the film’s third act — from its too-brief viciousness to its unearned solemnity — feel equally hollow and untethered. Add in some tiresome narration by Laurie, a half-baked effort to explain Michael’s healing abilities, and a surprisingly paltry display of murder and gore, and you have the weakest entry in the current trilogy (and one of the least entertaining in the entire franchise).
“It’s Halloween, we’re gonna have a good time tonight,” says Corey early on, and it’s a tease that doesn’t come to pass for him or viewers. Filmmakers giving an aggressive twist to expectations can be a great thing, and it’s something that’s already happened previously in the Halloween franchise — think the wholly unrelated Halloween III: Season of the Witch or the left-field “cult of Thorn” storyline in parts five and six. Halloween Ends lacks the fun and freshness of those ideas even as its own uber-serious themes feel every bit as goofy and underbaked. It’s hard to say if this is a case of talented people reaching too far with their ambition, or if Green, McBride, and Curtis simply cashed the checks and stopped caring, but the film flat out does not work. Not as a trilogy capper, not as a slasher, and not as a Halloween film. Here’s hoping the inevitable next reboot fares far better.
Halloween Ends is currently playing in theaters and streaming on Peacock.