John Carpenter’s Halloween is my favorite horror movie of all time. It’s a high bar that all the follow-up films in the franchise have failed to even approach, but David Gordon Green’s 2018 Halloween still gave me just about everything I wanted from a revival of the property. It was funny, suspenseful, packed with great kills. It also featured key players from the original without feeling like a legacy sequel that simply passed the torch.
When the second in Green’s trilogy, Halloween Kills, came out to mixed reviews, I found myself in the minority of critics who liked the film. After batting 2 for 2 with me, I had expectations for Halloween Ends to be a solid exclamation point on Green’s trilogy.
Instead, I got a question mark.
It’s difficult to explain exactly all the ways that Halloween Ends goes wrong. It’s easy to say what the film gets right, which is our opening scene and first kill. This is, unfortunately, probably the only part of the 2-hour movie that does work.
Halloween Ends features a mix of old faces – chiefly Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode and Andi Matichak as Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson – and franchise newcomer Rohan Campbell as Corey Cunningham. Set years after the events of Halloween Kills, Laurie and Allyson are picking up the pieces and finally feeling functional again after Michael Myers killed Laurie’s daughter. So functional that Laurie is even writing a memoir about facing her fears and finds herself flirting with Deputy Hawkins (Will Patton) over groceries.
Allyson, meanwhile, meets and falls for Corey, a social pariah who’s subject to the townspeople of Haddonfield’s dirty looks and whispers after committing manslaughter several years ago. Corey is struggling to see the good in people and himself, both after being subjected to the town’s hatred for so long, and after a chance encounter with our old friend Mr. Myers.
Halloween Ends is a few different movies smashed together, almost like it tried to achieve in its runtime what Green may have wanted to do across the course of all three movies. Each of these films is an interesting idea, but cramming them all in the confines of one film is too little, too late, creating a jarring experience.
Somewhere between the indie drama vibes of the first half, coming of age “let’s get out of this town” romance middle, and rushed Halloween film at the end, I felt myself constantly interrogating what I was watching and why. Sprinkle in Laurie’s memoir narratives throughout the film as a connective device (as a friend said to me, this is Laurie Strode by way of Carrie in Sex and the City – just replace the word “sex” with “evil” and you’ve got a solid idea of the experience). The entire experience feels like a vision board or collage of ideas instead of a proper film.
While the film as a single piece of media is choppy, it also makes for an uneven experience in the trilogy, something akin to the latest Star Wars saga. But where Star Wars faced a tug-of-war from different directors with different visions, this Halloween trilogy had only one. This makes it hard to explain the fact that these movies feel so disconnected, or the way they zig and zag away from one another, both in quality and tone.
In reaction to one end of the Halloween Kills’ criticism, for example, Halloween Ends overcompensates. While its predecessor leaned into the gore and violence a little too hard for most, Halloween Ends spends vast amounts of its runtime with no killer at all, and then makes the perplexing decision to cut away from its kills that eventually do appear, making only a small handful of exceptions. On the other end of the previous films’ criticisms, such as dealing with the true meaning of evil using the town of Haddonfield as a vehicle, Halloween Ends doubles down. It’s the worst of both worlds, and the exact opposite of what I’d have hoped for in this finale to a troubled trilogy.
There’s no simpler way to say it. Halloween Ends lives up to its namesake, likely killing the franchise’s revival for long enough for audiences to forget and start over again. And after this film, it’s a mercy kill.