Michael Myers in the Multiverse of Madness (Movie Review: Halloween Ends)
Over time, audiences have been trained to regard franchises a certain way. The understanding is that everything is connected, and a plot point or character that’s introduced will be paid off in a later installment. Look at the MCU. When a person or concept is brought up, those in the know smile and think, “They’re really going to do something cool with that two to six years down the road!”
It wasn’t always that way. Studios got into the habit of treating sequels as “the same, but more” as the original. Die Hard II is basically the same movie as Die Hard, only not as good. If they weren’t doing that, the studios focused on standalone installments. Until recently, James Bond movies had very little connective narrative tissue. You would think, “We’re seeing a James Bond adventure,” and not, “We’re seeing the continuation of James Bond’s story.
And then, there’s the Halloween franchise. Different writers, directors, producers, and actors were involved, creating a crazy quilt of narratives. To say that these thirteen movies were made without a clear endgame is like saying that 9/11 was inconvenient. As a result, five timelines* now exist. To attempt to watch all of them and fit them into some kind of coherent narrative…well, that’s something I’ll leave to braver folk.
I’m a fan of Timeline 5. Life is too short to see Michael controlled by a band of goofy-ass cultists or to see him menacing a baby-faced Paul Rudd. I’m down with the David Gordon Green films because, as clunky as they get, at least they’re about something. Timeline 5 has come to an end with Halloween Ends. Is it the end of Big Mike running amok? Oh, no. Is it good? I think so, and I think time will be kind to it.
Four years have passed since Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) escaped from incarceration and killed the living hell out of a bunch of people. It’s a real good news/bad news scenario, and the bad news is that Michael vanished into the wind. The good news is that he (presumably) hasn’t killed anyone since then, and that’s what we call looking really hard for a silver lining.
So that must mean that everything in Haddonfield is hunky-dory, right? Well, it depends on who you ask. For Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), she’s no longer living in a fortified camp in the middle of nowhere waiting to bust a cap in Michael’s ass. Laurie has processed the death of her daughter Karen and lives fairly happily with her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). She works busily on her memoirs & there are even the beginnings of a romance with former deputy Frank Hawkins (Will Patton).
For Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), things are decidedly less hunky-dory. A few years back, he was in charge of babysitting a mischievous little scamp of a kid. The aforementioned scamp tried to pull a prank on Corey. It backfired, the kid died, and Corey was blamed and ostracized by the town. So that’s kind of a bummer.
Life continues to suck for Corey when he’s hassled by a group of high school bullies. He hides in a sewer pipe and discovers it’s the lair of a certain William Shatner mask-wearing killer. They bond, kind of, and it sets off a townwide embrace of charity, kindness, and decency toward man and woman, young and old, rich and poor.
Just kidding, a bunch of people are horribly murdered.
There are three kinds of people in the world.
- People who are fine with a weird-ass Halloween sequel.
- People who are not fine with a weird-ass Halloween sequel.
- People who hate horror movies.**
I’m firmly in the first group since back in 2018 I already got a well-made Halloween film that features a strong stand-off between Laurie and Big Mike. While I maintain that the series could have ended nicely on that note, it also made quite a lot of money. That brought us two more films by director David Gordon Green. This is a good thing as he’s genuinely interested in how people deal with trauma, how communities deal with trauma, and how trauma has a way of lingering.
So does that mean that Green has made a masterpiece of a film? No, not so much, though he has made something strange and interesting. It doesn’t have the sharklike forward momentum of the first film, nor does it have the looming sense of finality of the 2018 film. Green has kind of made a horror movie inside a drama about a town grappling with its own worst nature. The horror scenes themselves are solid, and Green continues to shoot violence incredibly brutally. That makes Green’s films feel like they’re part of a larger piece, along with winks and nods to the franchise as a whole. To my mind, the real energy comes from moments where people are simply trying to live their lives underneath the shadow of The Shape. We see people bending, breaking, and sometimes trying to do the right thing.
A detail I appreciated with the 2018 Halloween and Halloween Kills was the small character vignettes. For example, in the first film, we met a police officer who’s super enthusiastic about banh mi sandwiches and who evangelizes about them to his partner. The following film introduces a gay couple who have renovated the old Myers place and wish kids would back off about the house’s legacy. Those moments show that the future victims are more than just cannon fodder. Unfortunately, that detail isn’t here as much. I’ll give credit to the screenplay by Green, Danny McBride, Chris Bernier, and Paul Brad Logan since it does a decent job of sketching out the motivations of our main characters. It does a less decent job with a love story subplot involving Allyson and Corey, and the script never quite convinces us why she would be interested in him.
One aspect of the screenplay that’s very strong is the notion of a malevolent evil that corrupts whatever it touches. The town has been diminished due to Michael’s attacks, and Corey himself is strangely infected by Michael, which brings out his dark side. There even seems to be a hint of a notion that Michael isn’t the source of Haddonfield’s evil. He was just claimed by it as a child and used as a vessel. The idea of horror reverberating through the years is a fascinating one. The screenplay’s execution of the concept is clumsy at times. I’ll take that considering the writers are attempting to use the horror genre to make a cogent point.
A lot of actors who started their careers in horror movies either wouldn’t return to a franchise years later or would half-ass their performance and treat it as a payday. Jamie Lee Curtis is not one of those actors. She’s played Laurie Strode as an innocent babysitter, a scarred survivor, a hardened warrior, and now a fairly content grandmother. She takes everything seriously, despite the re-rematch with Michael that becomes a retread of the 2018 film. The better moments are when Laurie tries to figure out who she is beyond being Big Mike’s eternal dance partner. Andi Matichak has some good moments, and we see Allyson dealing with the fallout of the last few years, as well as an attempt to build a life in a town that’s dying.
I implore whoever holds the rights to Halloween to take a risk, a huge one, and commit to something new, an evil we haven’t seen before. The Halloween franchise was originally meant to be an anthology, and each installment would be its own spooky standalone tale. Would audiences accept that now, and would studios be willing to let Michael Myers rest for a time? I don’t know, and I somehow doubt it. Sooner or later this franchise will sit up and clamber to its feet. The story of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers has been told (and told, and told). Halloween Ends brings that story to a close. It’s flawed, dumb at times, and ambitious far more often. It’s also time to see something new lurking in the dark.
*For more information about the Michael Myers mishmash, read this informative article.
**And if you hate horror movies, why are you reading this review? Life is finite! We have a critically important election coming up! Go do something worthwhile with your time, unlike the rest of us!