Film Review: Halloween Ends

Forever my “Scream Queen.”

Michael Myers represents evil and evil never dies, it only changes shape, to quote Laurie Strode, played brilliantly as ever by Jamie Lee Curtis, of course, in her sixth decade running from and/or fighting Michael Myers (1978, 1981, 1998, 2002, 2018, and 2021/2022). For those who don’t recall, Michael Myers since his creation in the 1978 John Carpenter film, has been referred to as “The Shape.” I love that quote for what it symbolizes and within the context of the mythology built around Michael Myers. In the latest and seemingly final installment of the Laurie Strode and Michael Myers saga released this month, Halloween Ends, Michael Myers meets his end, but Laurie knows it is not the end of the evil he represented.

As any highly-considered IP property in Hollywood — from Superman to Star Wars and yes, that includes Michael Myers — films representing those IPs are going to be polarizing for one reason or another. The retcon trilogy, where it only considered the 1978 film as canon (which is obviously amusing in a way since it erased three of Curtis’ prior performances) and started with 2018’s Halloween, has been polarizing from the start among fans and critics alike. That said, one place it hasn’t been polarizing at all is at the box office, despite the challenges of COVID-19 and even releasing Halloween Ends simultaneously on the streaming channel Peacock. It was hard to escape the vortex of this polarization; as a consummate Twitter scroller, I was well-aware of the negative reviews pouring in like blood from a wound. Even so, I went into the movie with two overriding thoughts: a.) I’m easy to please when it comes to Michael Myers; if he’s in a movie, I’m going to watch it; and b.) I was going to try to keep as open a mind as possible and not be blinded by the negative reviews I’d already seen.

Well, let me tell you, folks. I loved Halloween Ends. I got that vibe I talk about all the time when watching certain films: Where you know not too long into it that it is going to be something special and you’re going to feel a certain way about it. I felt that way about Halloween Ends; and I think that feeling was helped by the completely unusual — by this franchise’s standards — cold open (the opening scene before we get the classic opening credits).

Corey Cunningham (played by Rohan Campbell), who has aspirations of being an engineering student in college, is babysitting a young little brat at probably the richest house in Haddonfield on Halloween night 2019. Despite all that Michael Myers did the year prior in Haddonfield, the little brat of a kid is being weirdly blasé about the threat Michael Myers poses, particularly given he’s still out there. Nonetheless, the little kid tricks and traps Corey in a room within the house. Corey knows the parents will be home soon and doesn’t want to be found in such an embarrassing predicament, so he pounds and kicks on the door until it gives way, knocking the little brat over the banister and to the floor, killing him. After which, Corey becomes something of a pariah in Haddonfield.

We then jump to three years later, where Laurie, who is writing a book about Michael Myers, describes the town as essentially being victim to the cancer that is Michael Myers’ evil. Shootings and suicides are commonplace, and townsfolk, particularly those who survived the 2018 slaughterhouse, even blame Laurie for taunting Michael Myers and bringing such evil upon the town. Laurie is still living in Haddonfield in her new house with Allyson (played by Andi Matichak), who is still trying to find her way in a reality without her friends and her parents, all killed by Michael Myers in 2018. Sort of like the accusation that Laurie invited Michael Myers’ evil to the town, Laurie plays matchmaker between Allyson and Corey, who quickly hit it off, with dreams of running away from their tormenters and their lives in Haddonfield. Laurie comes to regret her decision once she notices that Corey has the “darkest eyes, the devil’s eyes.” That’s my quote of the original film, not one that was used, but the idea of evil lurking behind Corey’s eyes is absolutely inspired by how Dr. Loomis would talk about Michael Myers in the 1978 film. In one creepy scene, Corey wakes up on the spot where they little boy died, having slept there overnight.

After Corey is accosted by the weirdest assortment of bullies I can recall seeing (since when are band kids bullies?!), he ends up in a sewer where Michael Myers has been recovering for the past four years. Michael Myers apparently senses the same darkness in Corey’s eyes that Laurie did and decides not to kill him. When Corey comes out of the sewer, he struggles with a homeless man brandishing a knife and kills him. At that point, Corey has the psycho itch and lures Allyson’s ex-boyfriend to the sewer where he and Michael Myers kill him. They then go and kill the doctor and nurse at the Haddonfield Hospital where Allyson works (the doctor passed her over for a promotion to give to the nurse he was intimate with). The scene where the nurse is walking around the huge house and the camera swings over to Corey stabbing the doctor with his scarecrow mask on was creepy, disturbing and unsettling.

On Halloween night, Corey wrestles Michael Myers’ mask away from him and proceeds to carry out a slew of gruesome murders, including cutting the tongue out of a caustic DJ, brutally killing the band kids, and killing his own mother while acting as Michael Myers.

Then, in a scene that about broke my heart because I’m a total mark and bought into it (which is great!), Laurie pretends as if she is going to commit suicide in a bid to lure Corey into the house. It works and they tussle, with Laurie getting the better of him. He then stabs himself in the throat, which gives Allyson, who bursts in the door, the impression that Laurie killed him. Allyson freaks out and runs away. Then, the real Michael Myers shows up and takes back his mask, effectively killing Corey.

In a scene reminiscent of the now non-canon Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, Laurie, after receiving help from a returning Allyson, is able to pin Michael Myers in such a way that she could have decapitated him again! Instead, she slices his wrist and his throat in a gruesome scene. He seems dead, but in Laurie’s words “not dead enough.” So, with the help of the police and the townsfolk of Haddonfield who show up at Corey’s dad’s salvage yard and we watch as Michael Myers’ body is shredded in an industrial shredder. He’s crushed, bones and all. Afterward, Allyson does leave Haddonfield after all, while Laurie stays behind to join in a blossoming (get it, cherry blossoms are their recurring inside joke) romance with Officer Hawkins (played by the always wonderful Will Patton).

I thought Campbell played by Corey to absolutely terrifying and convincing fashion. He portrayed in a somewhat heart-breaking sense — because I was initially rooting for Corey due to his pariah status and getting bullied — the arc of Corey from sympathetic kid who made one bad, terrible mistake to a kid overcome and overwhelmed by evil until he began his own rampage. Of course, the point about his evil eyes raises the question: Was he always like that and was killing the brat kid less of an accident than we would like to think? What’s interesting, though, and what goes back to “evil never dies, it just changes shape,” is that, yes, Michael Myers “killed” Corey, but Corey’s body wasn’t shredded. So, there is a possibility he is still alive in the sense that Michael Myers always managed to live and will continue on as the new Michael Myers. After all, he is younger!

One of the best scenes in the film was Laurie and Officer Hawkins at the grocery store making their jokes about cherry blossoms and such. It was awkward in the cute, romantic way and it was a tender moment to show how fragile Haddonfield’s existence is in the wake of yet another Michael Myers rampage. It’s also after this sweet moment where Laurie is confronted by the daughter (I think?) of one of Michael Myer’s surviving victims. So, that created a nice dichotomy of Laurie trying to “reshape” her trauma versus her trauma nipping at her heels.

I appreciate horror that tries something different, especially with a long-running franchise. Different doesn’t always work, but I thought it did here. It wasn’t a traditional Halloween film, primarily because it flipped the script of the prior film. In the prior film, Laurie was almost on the peripheral while Michael Myers was predominant throughout; in this film, Laurie was predominant and Michael Myers was peripheral. And of course, much of the focus was also on the devolution of the Corey character, which was highly intriguing. I’ve never liked the thought of “passing the mask,” as it were, something they seemed to tease with Halloween Resurrection, and they obviously greatly teased it here, but I don’t know, it worked in how it was done here. It felt more organic.

Trauma infiltrated the town, so much so that it became generational. That’s interesting and I don’t think it’s a slasher film taking itself too seriously; I think it’s just a slasher film doing something interesting. In other words, I’m always going to be interested in movies within the genre showing the aftermath of the horror. This one showed the aftermath before the end and now after the end, well, who knows what’s next.

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