Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Rohan Campbell, Will Patton, Kyle Richards, James Jude Courtney
Runtime: 1 hr 51 mins
Rating: M18 (Violence and Gore)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 13 October 2022
Synopsis: This is Laurie Strode’s last stand. After 45 years, the most acclaimed, revered horror franchise in film history reaches its epic, terrifying conclusion as Laurie Strode faces off for the last time against the embodiment of evil, Michael Myers, in a final confrontation unlike any captured on-screen before. Only one of them will survive. Icon Jamie Lee Curtis returns for the last time as Laurie Strode, horror’s first “final girl” and the role that launched Curtis’ career. Curtis has portrayed Laurie for more than four decades now, one of the longest actor-character pairings in cinema history. When the franchise relaunched in 2018, Halloween shattered box office records, becoming the franchise’s highest-grossing chapter and set a new record for the biggest opening weekend for a horror film starring a woman. Four years after the events of last year’s Halloween Kills, Laurie is living with her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) and is finishing writing her memoir. Michael Myers hasn’t been seen since. Laurie, after allowing the specter of Michael to determine and drive her reality for decades, has decided to liberate herself from fear and rage and embrace life. But when a young man, Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell; The Hardy Boys, Virgin River), is accused of killing a boy he was babysitting, it ignites a cascade of violence and terror that will force Laurie to finally confront the evil she can’t control, once and for all.
44 years after Michael Myers first terrorised the town of Haddonfield, Illinois, ‘Halloween Ends’ promises to bring it all to an end. Whether that is in reference to David Gordon Green’s trilogy that started four years ago as a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 original or to the franchise that has thus far seen 13 movies is anybody’s guess, but at least with regard to the former, there will be no doubt by the end of it that Michael is truly dead.
How satisfying you find this conclusion will depend on how much you buy into Green’s exploration of the corrosive effects of trauma in his reboot. Even as it paid homage to Carpenter, 2018’s ‘Halloween’ was also an examination of the Strode family living under the shadow of what had happened four decades ago. Last year’s ‘Halloween Kills’ expanded that to the community of Haddonfield, with a sobering lesson on how mob justice would not solve anything. ‘Halloween Ends’ takes it one step further by studying trauma in the context of both family and community.
The community in question here remains Haddonfield, which remains infected by violence, death and pain because of Michael (James Jude Courtney). These sentiments in turn fuel the town’s resentment towards Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), a geeky lad whose tragic babysitting on Halloween night in 2019 resulted in a dead child, a murder trial and an acquittal. Though cleared of charges, Corey is regarded as a pariah around town, and is picked on by a gang of four teenage punks who make no apologies for taunting him whenever they run into him.
Likewise, the family in question here remains Strode, or more precisely Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who following the death of Laurie’s daughter (and Allyson’s mother) in the last movie have moved back to Haddonfield. In an attempt to heal, Laurie has been working on a memoir covering her decades-long ordeal, while throwing herself into domestic comforts such as knitting and making pies. A chance encounter sees Laurie standing up for Corey when he is cornered by the punks at a gas station, whereupon she engineers a meet-cute with Allyson by bringing Corey to get his injured hand treated at the local clinic where Allyson is working as a nurse.
Those hoping for Curtis to reclaim the lead after being relegated to supporting player in ‘Halloween Kills’ will undoubtedly be disappointed; despite it being her last ‘Halloween’ film, she pretty much sits out the first hour. Instead, Green, who co-wrote the script with Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier and Danny McBride spend that hour on the burgeoning relationship between Corey and Allyson as well as Corey’s transformation following a run-in with Michael. The former has its own sweet rhythm, while the latter works as its antithesis, threatening to corrupt what is genuine with something both sinister and malevolent. That juxtaposition is inherently tricky, and Green fumbles every now and then in both tone and pacing.
That Green tries to elevate ‘Halloween Ends’ into psychological and sociopolitical horror is admirable, though whether he truly succeeds is suspect. In particular, Corey’s descent into evil is too rapid to be convincing, even as we sympathise with his anger and bitterness at the cruel townspeople, including its deputy sheriff and local radio jock (Keraun Harris). It is probably unsurprising that Corey will slip under Michael’s mask at some point, but that turning point also underscores how the relationship between Corey and Michael needs sharper definition.
That said, Green will eventually fulfil fan demands for a popcorn shocker. Once Corey picks up the knife and Michael re-emerges, the bloodletting hardly stops to catch a breath. A scene where Michael lifts a woman up by his bare hand and plunges a knife into her chest to pin her to a painting on the wall is chilling to say the least. Another scene where Corey gets revenge by blowtorch is wince-inducing. A severed tongue circling lazily on a record turntable provides yet another memorably gory scene. As for the final showdown between Laurie and Michael, we’d say as brutal as it is, we’d wish Green had played it longer with suspense; we suspect though that their fight to the death still provides just gratifying enough finality for loyal fans.
In her final hurrah, Curtis is riveting as ever, rocking it once again as a grizzled survivor who struggles to move on and yet steel herself for Michael’s inevitable comeback. We’d wished Laurie was the main character here, and that she were given a more compelling treatment in the movie, but that doesn’t dim the joy of seeing Curtis find closure with the defining role of her career. That Laurie gets the chance to find happiness with law enforcement officer Frank Hawkins (Will Patton) makes the goodbye more rewarding.
Is it as fitting an ending as we hoped? Not exactly. ‘Halloween Ends’ has intriguing themes, but not quite the sophistication to pull them off, even if the attempt at both emotion and character development is noteworthy. It also does so at the expense of greater screen time with Curtis as Laurie, which will likely be a sore point given how this is her final go-around. It does still have plenty of blood and guts and terror to spare and spill, so it won’t leave fans hanging entirely. Like we said, whether this is just the end of a trilogy or truly the end of a franchise, time (and Hollywood) will tell.
(There's blood and guts and terror to spare, but this much-touted end to a classic horror franchise sidelines its iconic heroine for far too long, in service of a character-driven narrative not quite compelling enough)
Review by Gabriel Chong