My first thought after watching Halloween Ends: David Gordon Green has to be the bravest person in the horror film industry. Or the craziest. Or likely both.
Let’s do a thought experiment real quick: say for instance…I dunno, Metallica, one day announced that they would be performing their last concert ever. They’ve talked it out and decided that it’s time to hang it up. If you were to go to what was going to be the last Metallica concert ever and they wound up almost exclusively playing B-Sides or tracks from say…St. Anger (or whichever Metallica album you think is the worst or most controversial) while only occasionally playing a song people actually know like “Master of Puppets” or “Enter Sandman,” no doubt you would leave that concert with…many thoughts. It would certainly still rock, but it’s absolutely not how you’d expect things would end, and most people would probably walk out either feeling pissed off and cheated or in sheer awe that the band even dared to try and pull something like this off—with a small number of crazies claiming it was the best show the band had ever played.
This long-winded, no doubt clunky analogy is the best way I can explain what David Gordon Green has done with Halloween Ends. Of all the ways to deliberately, purposefully end the Halloween franchise, if you had said it would end with a 90-some-odd-minute character study that’s basically the lovechild of the franchise’s two most polarizing entries—Halloween III: Season of the Witch and Rob Zombie’s Halloween II—I would have said you were crazy. And having just watched…pretty much that film, I would still say you were crazy. Halloween Ends isn’t the best Halloween film, nor is it the worst one, but it might very well be the single most downright divisive one.
I don’t know if it all necessarily adds up to a good film, but dammit, I can’t help but love the sheer audacity of it. It would have been easy to just play the hits—and there certainly are enough hits to at least remind us of why we love these films in the first place—but where Green and company could have very easily cruised to the finish line off of nostalgia alone, they instead had the bravery and/or insanity to end things with one of the most left-field entries the franchise has seen in years. If they wanted an ending to the Halloween franchise that horror fans would be talking about for years to come, then oh boy, did they certainly get one.
At times, it’s stunning how anti-Halloween the film feels. It’s as though Green and the wider creative team had a brainstorming session, came up with what they thought were the most sacred rules of the Halloween franchise, and made it a point to break all of them in Halloween Ends. Within the first ten minutes or so, we get the death of a child, the Halloween III font over the traditional opening credits instead of the standard Halloween typeface, and the news that the Myers house has been demolished. By the end, we’ve also seen the face of an unmasked Michael (yes it’s at an angle, but the face is clearly seen), someone else wearing the mask, and an ending that deliberately mirrors that of the original Halloween. I’m not a franchise purist by any means, but Halloween Ends almost feels sacrilegious at times—and I loved it. Again, not necessarily the formula for a good movie, but I can’t help but be in awe that David Gordon Green actually had the guts to not only pitch this film, but to get everyone else involved—including Jamie Lee Curtis, Nick Castle, Jason Blum, and John Carpenter—on board with financing and making a film that at times feels like it’s taking the essential things that make Halloween what it is and smashing them one by one like the many heads/pumpkins/things in microwaves that explode into pulp throughout Ends.
In the spirit of Halloween III, Halloween Ends is a film that functions as an anthology segment—for the most part. Yes, Laurie and Michael are still around, but their story is very much sidelined in favor of examining the nature of evil through the story of Corey Cunningham—and because I can’t really think of anywhere else to put it, the film also has the very nice meta touch of a cameo from possibly the most vocal Halloween III advocate on Earth. Like Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, Ends is a very character-driven film, one that’s focused on the trauma and aftermath of previous films, and that’s not afraid to get absolutely weird weird as it explores questions about both the nature of evil and the nature of Halloween.
Does Corey Cunningham go from nerdy engineering student to psychotic killer because he’s been ostracized by a town full of jerks—traumatized jerks, but jerks nonetheless? Or is it because there’s some otherworldly evil that’s trying to take up residence inside him? Is the monster that’s haunted Haddonfield for over forty years Michael Myers, a flesh-and-blood man in a Halloween mask? Or is it The Shape, a vaguely supernatural being that only puts on an approximation of a human face?
None of these questions are definitively answered, mind you, but what you think about each of them is likely a big part of how you’ll see Ends, and likely how you see this particular timeline of the franchise. I’ve previously said that my favorite shot in all of cinema is that shot of Michael in the hallway in Halloween (1978), a shot that very much functions as a Rorschach test of sorts: do you see that shot as Michael Myers emerging from hiding? Or as The Shape manifesting from the darkness itself? Ends aims to make that implicit question an explicit one—with the answer being left up to you, the viewer.
I think the biggest mistake made with Halloween Ends—not the only one, but certainly the biggest one—is advertising it as part of either a trilogy with Halloween (2018) and Halloween Kills or as a tetralogy with those films and the original Halloween. Instead, I think it’s best to think of this timeline as a trilogy with Halloween (1978), Halloween (2018), and Halloween Kills, and Halloween Ends as an epilogue set in the world that Kills left us with, one where Michael Myers has definitively won and a bunch of survivors are left trying to rebuild their lives and move on knowing that evil has won.
Unfortunately, this is a character-driven movie, and at times the characters are tear-your-hair-out levels of insufferable. Corey’s descent into evil is corny, not menacing. Allyson is mind-bogglingly immature and annoying at times. Laurie and Michael are fantastic as always, but there’s just not enough of them. Even their final battle, as awesome as it is, feels more like something tacked on at the end because the filmmakers suddenly remembered, “Oh yeah, there’s supposed to be a final confrontation between these two,” rather than something that is naturally built up over the course of the film. That might very well be the point (likely more so the Allyson and Corey part than the Laurie and Michael part) but as a wise man once said: just because something is intentional, doesn’t mean that it’s immune to being disliked.
Ironically enough, perhaps the least divisive part of the film is the ending. Love it or hate it, Halloween Ends actually…ends Halloween. You can joke all you want about franchises coming back from the dead, but it’s been over ten years since we’ve gotten an entry for either Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street. Jamie Lee Curtis has officially said goodbye to Laurie Strode, Nick Castle has said goodbye to The Shape, John Carpenter is no spring chicken, and Debra Hill is sadly no longer with us. There is, in fact, a nonzero possibility that this is indeed the last we see of Michael Myers, and if/when we do get another Halloween entry it will very likely be one with little to no involvement from the people who made it great in the first place. The franchise might very well be revived at some point in the future, but there’s certainly a sense of finality for this era of the Halloween franchise that comes with Halloween Ends.
So…is Halloween Ends a good film? If you haven’t figured it out by now, the answer to that question is going to be entirely up to you. Many people will rightfully hate it—it’s an entry that feels intentionally divisive and perhaps intentionally disconnected from the rest of the films in its timeline. Many people will rightfully be in awe of the sheer boldness with which Green and company deliver the film. And there’s no doubt a small sliver of insane people who will think that its a work of absolute brilliance, and while I don’t think I’m there yet, so far I have yet to see anyone else argue that Halloween Kills sidelining Laurie was actually brilliant, so I think that safely categorizes me as an insane person.
The one thing I think we can all agree on: Halloween Ends might mark the end (so far) for one of horror’s iconic franchises, but the years of arguments about the film itself have only just begun.