(Originally published at Gunaxin on October 14, 2022.)
Where does evil live? The body or the soul? Or is it something else altogether? Are we the product of our traumas, or are we alive in spite of them? Halloween Ends – an effective series closer for the Halloween 40 (H40) timeline – goes hard in the metaphysical paint, asking us to truly consider the pain we inflict on others and its effects. It’s more than just a simple slasher sequel, more than just our possible last glimpse of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her bête noire, Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney and original portrayer Nick Castle); it’s a reckoning.
A reckoning of 44 years of mayhem and terror. It’s what Michael has always represented: the oncoming storm, the unstoppable force, the ultimate killing machine, the totality of the world’s evil crammed into human form. Since the character’s first appearance, theories have abounded about what drives him to do what he does and why he feels the need to kill young women. The theatrical version of the 1978 series originator bore no explanation; its novelization had a prologue’s worth of definition, regaling us with the tale of a pre-Druidic murderer ripped apart by a village and whose soul was cursed to roam the earth forever, seeking ruin through whomever he possessed.
All Halloween films from 1980 through Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (except for the standalone Halloween III: Season of the Witch) established him as Laurie’s brother, a notion that the H40 timeline hastily threw out the window. The H40 timeline hit the reset button on the entire series continuity, dispensing with all canon except the 1978 theatrical film (the extended TV version need not apply). In this series of events, Michael only ever had the one night to commit his mass murders, killing three teenagers, a mechanic, and a police officer. And now, as an escaped mental patient who’d been locked up prior to the events of October 31, 2018, he’s an old man in hiding, but the specter of his legacy has colored Haddonfield in sorrow and anguish.
As we open on a street full of trick-or-treaters in 2019 (one year after the events of Halloween and Halloween Kills), Laurie’s narration tells us what we need to know: The town may look alive, but just beneath the surface, a frightening undertow is pulling on its citizens. Suicides and violence plague Haddonfield, and it is no longer the cozy, safe place it used to be. And all of it comes to a head when college student Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell) accidentally kills a child he’s babysitting. It’s a pure accident, but in a town where “murder” and “babysitter” are mentioned in the same breath, it doesn’t take much for one’s mind to make the connection, however illogical.
This is where the heart of Halloween Ends lies – in the darkness and the acceptance of it. While there’s still no official explanation for what turned Michael into a two-night serial killer, we see a similar journey in Corey. A four-year time jump shows it hasn’t been easy for him; his formerly promising life has turned into a job at an auto yard run by the man shacking up with his mother while random encounters with others yield disdain and straight-up animosity. Only one bright spot shows itself in the form of Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who sees in Corey the same dislike for people looking at them like “psychos and freakshows,” as the film puts it.
While both Laurie and Allyson are making a run at a normal life in a new home (which looks eerily similar to the Carruthers residence in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers), Corey is slowly succumbing to the rage inside him building since the prank that ruined him four years prior. His overbearing mother does nothing but treat him like an infant, possibly hiding a Jocasta complex; the townspeople think he got away with murder and take every opportunity to shove it in his face. Allyson could be his only link to something better, but she isn’t there when he loses his tenuous grasp on the good, turning toward evil after a chance meeting with Haddonfield’s favorite boogeyman. And although Laurie looks like she’s got a handle on things – writing her memoirs, trying to make a normal life for her and Allyson, and functioning at least on a level that most would call “human” – she’s a hairsbreadth away from the darkness herself.
Random, mirror-like encounters Laurie and Corey separately have with some of the more outspoken Haddonfield citizens remind them of the horrible damage they’ve caused. There’s an almost slut-shaming quality to taunts thrown at Laurie, claiming that she teased a mentally-ill man to the point of homicide or that she didn’t care enough about the people around her to make sure Michael was dead, leaving him able to perpetrate the massacre depicted in Halloween Kills. Corey’s tormentors sling hurtful comments at him and physically harm him over a situation they know nothing about. And while one is apologetic and remorseful, the other marches off in anger. The script by Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, and returning writers Danny McBride and David Gordon Green (who also directs) starkly delineates the difference between Laurie and Corey, one having support and love while the other slowly loses the light.
It’s the loss of the light, the way forward, that director Green wants us to internalize. There are so many ways for us each day to lose sight of the good in our lives; it’s all too easy to give into the darkness that infects us and takes hold of us, fueling us with despair which leads to hatred and eventual dehumanization. Laurie, Allyson, and Corey have all suffered the slings and arrows of this dehumanization, with almost everyone around them labeling them or minimizing their existence with rumors or conjecture. It’s what each of them makes of their situation that creates the difference between their outcomes, and it comes down to whether they allow Michael’s evil to inhabit their minds and bodies.
Halloween Ends doesn’t work like its predecessors; while there are the expected nods to previous films (check out the typeface of the opening credits!!), this one doesn’t revel in the kills. There isn’t the usual, morbidly clever staging of bodies for survivors to find (except for one); we are only here to deal with the immediacy of what’s going on and how it’s going to end. What it hopes to impart upon us is the emotional damage Haddonfield continues to reap after two nights of murders and terror. We find Green bringing it back to a more emotional, gut level where the mayhem is secondary to the redemption of the soul and what happens when it’s no longer possible.
The horror that the script hopes to make us feel is in the sadistic, almost petty torments enjoyed by the man in the mask. We’re on the fence about one certain victim, but they’re only left alive long enough to see what happens to their companions. Yet there’s a certain removal from these murders that we feel (for reasons that become obvious as the movie goes on) because most of them actually deserve it on some level; right from the off, we know exactly how we should feel about every character that crosses the lens, and we’re all too happy to see some of them get their comeuppances.
But even those kills come with the knowledge that the light is lost. We feel for those teetering on the edge, only to fall into the abyss of evil or death. And we feel for Allyson, who may have finally found a safe harbor with Corey, only to have it undone by Laurie’s meddling. But Laurie ain’t meddling for shits and giggles; everything she has ever done in the H40 timeline is to make sure her daughter and granddaughter are prepared and safe. The last movie saw her fail, so she’s making sure she doesn’t make the same mistake with Allyson.
David Gordon Green and his creative team have worked hard to make the H40 timeline stand out and mean something more than your average Saturday afternoon slasher flick. While the first rode on suspense and dread and the second made its bones with social commentary, the third picks us apart as humans and how we can either be the help that someone needs or the straw that breaks their backs. And when the final frame rolls, you’ll be thinking about this one for a long time to come. Halloween Ends is not merely the closing chapter of Green’s trilogy; it’s a plea to do better by each other and to fight the specters of the past for a better future. That it wears the mask of a slasher film is par for the course… after all, it is Halloween.