The Shape and Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween Ends


Directed and co-written, as the series' previous two installments were, by David Gordon Green, Halloween Ends is something I never expected this slasher flick to be: not bad. Also something else I didn't predict: a helluva lot of fun.

While plenty of viewers and a number of respectable critics would disagree with my assessment, I found Green's “official” 2018 followup to John Carpenter's original Halloween and Halloween II mostly atrocious – needlessly crude and gory; stupidly plotted; a depressing waste of Jamie Lee Curtis in her return as Laurie Strode, the ne plus ultra of terrorized babysitters. Astoundingly, Green's 2021 sequel Halloween Kills was immeasurably worse, filled with ludicrously conceived scenes of the Haddonfield, Illinois townsfolk demanding the execution of unkillable killer Michael Myers, and Laurie – who isn't granted a single physical encounter with her white-masked tormentor – constrained to a hospital for the film's entire running length. There was no reason to expect Green's finale to his trilogy (inarguable) and the franchise itself (ha!) to be any improvement on the largely witless, fright-less, brainless four-ish hours that came before.

Yet Halloween Ends, I'm relieved to say, isn't a total misfire. In truth, it's frequently a hoot. Although Green's cineplex release also debuted this past Friday on the Peacock streaming service, I caught an afternoon screening of it at a bona fide movie theater with a friend. Admittedly, we were the only ones there. (I blame the absence of other patrons less on Peacock than on the movie playing in roughly half of the venue's available auditoriums.) Our lack of fellow viewers, however, allowed us to loudly talk and giggle and make sardonic quips throughout the proceedings, and we had a blast. My pal is already planning to screen Green's wrap-up for her monthly gathering in which fellow fans of impressively trashy films eat, drink, and laugh their way through works that all but demand a group experience. I'm guessing the night will go over like gangbusters.

Unexpectedly, in a sequel admirably rife with unexpected developments, Green's pre-credits prelude to Halloween Ends is anything but trashy. (The opening credits are enjoyable in their own right, with that familiar pumpkin image from Carpenter's 1978 precursor - underscored, of course, by Carpenter's signature three-note piano score accmpanied by synth bass notes - continually morphing into increasingly wicked versions of a Jack-o'-lantern grin.) The setting, as always, is Haddonfield, the year is 2019 – one year following the events of Halloween Kills – and Michael Myers, in Elvis lingo, has left the building. But the sweet-tempered, bespectacled college kid Corey (Rohan Campbell) has been recruited into last-minute babysitting duties on Halloween night, his charge a boy of roughly 10 with disclosed anxiety issues and undisclosed leanings toward asshole-ism. Michael Myers (again portrayed by James Jude Courtney and, in at least one instance, Nick Castle, who was “The Shape” in 1978) won't show up for another half-hour-plus. This segment still results in the most shockingly unanticipated and well-executed moment in the film, leading to Corey's emergence as a town pariah almost as universally reviled as Myers himself.

Jamie Lee Curtis and Rohan Campbell in Halloween Ends

Following the credits, it's three years later, and Corey – a former engineering major now working a crummy job at the local salvage yard – is stuck in a life of constant abuse: by teen bullies, by a vindictive cop, by his shrieking mother. The only person who seems to recognize Corey's inherent decency is Curtis' Laurie Strode, on the mend after her 2018 injuries and determined to overcome her trauma by writing a memoir – one that we see her composing, and hear her narrating, in a series of unintentionally hilarious asides that can't help recalling Carrie Bradshaw in Sex & the City. Playing matchmaker, Laurie introduces Corey to her granddaughter Allyson (series returnee Andi Matichak). The two kids hit it off. But then the loathsome bullies and cop and mother return. And then Michael Myers returns. And then … .

If you've noticed a recurring motif in my reviews of recent horror films (and 2022 has been a doozy of a year for horror films), it's probably that I can't fully describe what these movies are about without giving away significant narrative surprises – a professional hindrance that's also a genre-fan delight. Consequently, even though what eventually happens isn't really that huge a surprise, I'll resist detailing where this story goes from here. But the “twist” that lands less than halfway through the picture is deserving of respectfully quiet acknowledgment. It's the rest of Green's trilogy-ender that's deserving of loud, appreciative cackles and schadenfreude-rific salute.

There's practically no end to the Halloween Ends elements worthy of derision. Even that pretty-great introductory sequence features nearly satirically overblown performances from the actors playing the mother and little boy, and in one sequence after another, you can pinpoint something insultingly stupid about the goings-on: the obscenely chi-chi bachelor pad, complete with in-ground pool and non-enclosed living-room fireplace, that Allyson's boss appears to have air-lifted directly from Malibu; the insanely protracted length of time it takes police to respond to a suicide call; the preponderance of hateful victims-to-be speaking in geographically inappropriate Noo Yawk cadences. (Have this film's Hollywood talents ever been to suburban Illinois?) And the eventual sufferers of all of the stabbings and flayings and excised tongues may as well have “Future Victim!” tattooed on their foreheads. My friend and I notched more than 10 future cadavers within seconds of their characters' introductions, and didn't wind up being wrong about a one of them. Subtlety, it should be said, ain't this movie's strong suit.

The Shape in Halloween Ends

Then again, in a Halloween offering, when has it ever been? Even in Carpenter's original, it was intensely clear from the get-go whom among Michael's targets would survive (Laurie … probably ...) and who would perish (everyone but the little kids Laurie was babysitting … probably … ). Consequently, the fun of Halloween Ends lies not in figuring out who will die, but how they'll die – and if you have a stomach for gore, that turns out to be fun enough. I've long railed against Green for going completely against the initial Halloween aesthetic by making his takes on the series as viscera-soaked as possible. I have to say, though, that watching especially repellant figures die via knife wounds, blowtorches to the mouth, and salvage-yard crushing mechanisms was enormously satisfying and even kind of cathartic. That's because, for the very first time in Green's trilogy of terrors, I actually cared about the people onscreen – even if all I cared about was watching them perish through inventively gruesome means.

One of the most sinful crimes committed by Green's first two Halloween entries was casting the eternally divine second banana Judy Greer as Laurie Strode's daughter and then, prior to her Halloween Kills offing, not giving audiences any reason to mourn that it was Judy Greer, for God's sake, who got killed. (This wonder of character-actor comedy and empathy is treated more respectfully in photographs here than she ever was as a living being in her two previous series involvements.) But as played by the supremely committed Campbell, I really liked Corey until – spoiler alert – we weren't supposed to … and even sorta liked him afterward. I liked the gal amongst the bullying quartet who had obvious reservations about her gang's cruel treatment of Corey. I detested, rather than feeling indifferently toward, the Haddonfield dickheads who were making life awful for Corey and Laurie. (The rhyming of their names has to be intentional.). I adored Will Patton's gentle Deputy Frank Hawkins – another series returnee – who tempted Laurie with a life away from Haddonfield in favor of smelling cherry blossoms with him in Japan. Heaven help me, with one closeup on his impenetrable stare, I even felt something for Michael Myers, which is something Rob Zombie couldn't accomplish, despite two hours of trying, in his awkwardly noxious 2007 reboot of this material.

And even though Green's last two franchise entries done her considerable wrong, I loved Jamie Lee Curtis, who evidently filled in the script's considerable blanks and fashioned a personal history for Laurie Strode's last four years that Green and his co-screenwriters (Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, and Green's longtime writing partner Danny McBride) never fully explored. Curtis is as fierce as you want and hope her to be. But she's also deeply funny and tender and tragic, and in one scene of her sitting on Laurie's front stoop with Deputy Frank sans makeup, her portrayal felt not ravaged and lived-in but emotionally brave; actors have won Oscars for far less than what we're treated to in Curtis' 44th year of living with this role. Is Halloween Ends scary? Not really – and in its easily predicted jump scares, not at all. But is it involving, occasionally startling (for different reasons), and all-around-entertaining? Hell yeah. Green's film, if you can believe it, is the 13th installment in the Halloween franchise. For once, 13 actually is a lucky number.

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