Is David Gordon Green trolling us? The director rescued John Carpenter’s game-changing slasher classic from the dumpster of disposable sequels by going back to the core mythology in 2018’s Halloween. He then sacrificed any goodwill that reboot earned by sidelining Jamie Lee Curtis and abandoning narrative coherence for random, unimaginative mayhem in 2021’s witless Halloween Kills. The conclusion of his trilogy, Halloween Ends, which promises the final faceoff between Laurie Strode and her psycho stalker Michael Myers, just seems to throw its hands in the air and surrender.
What starts out with a clever refresher steadily descends into self-serious trash, with laughable dialogue and plotting. But as with the last round, that’s unlikely to deter the series’ completists when the new film opens in theaters and simultaneously begins streaming on Peacock this Friday.
The Bottom Line
Release date: Friday, Oct. 14
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Rohan Campbell, Will Patton, Kyle Richards, James Jude Courtney
Director: David Gordon Green
Screenwriters: Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
1 hour 51 minutes
Screenwriters Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, Danny McBride and Green pull a playful switch on expectations with a promising pre-titles sequence. While the nutshell of Green’s franchise resurrection has always been the trauma inflicted by the Haddonfield murders on three generations of Strode women, the new movie opens on Halloween Night 2019 with an intriguing detour.
Fresh-faced Corey (Rohan Campbell) arrives to babysit a kid who supposedly has been suffering from night terrors since the bloodletting of the previous year and the unexplained disappearance of Michael. But as soon as his parents leave for the evening, the boy (Jaxon Goldenberg) turns into a mouthy brat. “Michael Myers kills babysitters, not kids,” he tells Corey, before pulling a prank on the sitter that goes very, very wrong.
Sadly, that’s the tensest and most visually stylish sequence in the movie, and it’s over in the first ten minutes.
Corey is cleared of charges in the ensuing tragedy, but a few years later he’s become a town pariah, a freak regarded no less suspiciously than Laurie, who’s blamed by many for luring Michael back there for a fresh killing spree. Laurie’s only friends are fellow survivor Lindsey (Kyle Richards), now a local bartender not required to do much except look sympathetic beneath her bangs; and ambling law enforcement officer Frank Hawkins (Will Patton), whose flirtation includes some nonsense about learning Japanese and taking a trip to see the cherry blossoms.
Laurie, meanwhile, has been working on a memoir covering her decades-long ordeal, which yields a lot of pedestrian voiceover about the nature of evil and how it infects an entire community with grief and paranoia. Following the death of her daughter at Michael’s hands in the last movie, Laurie has left her fortress-like hideout on the outskirts of town and moved back to leafy suburbia with her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). She’s determined to free herself from fear and help others to heal by sharing her story.
But the legend of Michael Myers refuses to die, not least because a local radio deejay, Willie (Keraun Harris), seems to talk about nothing else on air in between spinning spook-night nuggets like “Midnight Monster Hop” by Jack & Jim. “How does a man who gets stabbed and shot multiple times keep getting up?” Willie asks his listeners.
Laurie also is anxious to help Allyson put her mother’s loss behind her and rebuild her life, more or less setting her up with Corey after she steps in while he’s being harassed by a group of teen jerks.
But Corey is going through his own changes, the pressure of local bullies and his suffocating mother (Joanne Baron in a shrill caricature) unwittingly inching him toward violence, a transformation further nurtured by his brushes with Michael (James Jude Courtney). The old masked mouth-breather is hiding out in a town drainage system, looking worse for wear but waiting on his chance to unleash another wave of murderous chaos.
The under-developed hints about the transference of evil remain unconvincing, except to Laurie, who recognizes something in Corey’s eyes that recalls her close encounters with Michael. But the more she tries to warn Allyson to pull back on the burgeoning relationship, the more hostile and distant her granddaughter becomes. This is a young woman scarred by the violent deaths of both her parents as well as her boyfriend, and yet, every red flag from Corey just seems to fuel her eagerness to hop on his motorcycle and flee Haddonfield for a new life of romantic bliss.
Of course, things can’t possibly go that way in a Halloween movie, but the string of deaths and the rift between Laurie and Allyson ultimately are just marking time until the big showdown.
At least here, unlike in Halloween Kills, Laurie is in the thick of it all, revealing herself to be a woman unafraid to mess up her nice kitchen in the name of a good bloodbath — one with more than a hint of sexual congress about it. But the ludicrous dialogue, the rote predictability of every kill (victims are pretty much tagged by their behavior from their first appearance), the lack of suspense and any real emotional catharsis make it more silly than scary. As visceral as it is, with the sound pumped up for every plunge of a knife, even the gore seems tired, a severed tongue on a spinning record turntable notwithstanding.
Sure, Curtis is always compelling, with quick flashes from earlier installments going back to 1978 serving as a tribute to her history in the role. Horror fans might enjoy homages to other films from the Carpenter canon, like Christine, and it’s fun to hear those eerie notes of Carpenter’s iconic synth theme whenever they creep into the score written by the maestro with his son Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies. But this is a sloppy movie whose principal new inspiration feels bogus.
Even Laurie seems to be just going through the motions at this point, looking for a final chapter for her book. The movie gives her one in an unintentionally goofy ceremonial procession through town to put the boogeyman to rest, a sequence that underlines just how far this property has strayed from the chilling efficiency of Carpenter’s original.
“The truth is, evil doesn’t die, it just changes shape,” says Laurie, stoking what for many of us has become the most terrifying fear of all — another sequel.
Production companies: Universal Pictures, Miramax, Blumhouse, Malek Akkad, in association with Rough House Pictures
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Rohan Campbell, Will Patton, Kyle Richards, James Jude Courtney, Jesse C. Boyd, Joanne Baron, Michael Barbieri, Omar Dorsey, Michele Dawson, Michael O’Leary, Keraun Harris, Jaxon Goldenberg, Candice Rose, Rick Moose
Director: David Gordon Green
Screenwriters: Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, based on characters created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill
Producers: Malek Akkad, Jason Blum, Bill Block
Executive producers: John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, Ryan Freimann, Christopher H. Warner
Director of photography: Michael Simmonds
Production designer: Richard A. Wright
Costume designer: Emily Gunshor
Music: John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies
Editor: Timothy Alverson
Casting: Terri Taylor, Sarah Domeier Lindo
1 hour 51 minutes