In Halloween Kills (the previous entry in this series), Michael Myers escaped certain death when some unwitting firefighters rescued him from Laurie Strode’s burning home. He then proceeded to lay waste to the entire firefighter squad without breaking a sweat. While Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Deputy Frank (Will Patton) recovered from their injuries at the hospital, Michael made mincemeat out of a self-styled vigilante mob led by survivors of the original. Last but not least, Michael shockingly killed Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer). Ends picks up the story one year later. Michael has not been seen since the prior year, and the town has shifted back towards normalcy. (Sorry Haddonfield, IL, your town will never be “normal”.)
College kid Corey (Rohan Campbell) is babysitting insufferable monster Jeremy on Halloween night. Jeremy plays a trick on Corey, who’s naturally still worried about Michael popping up in the dark. Corey accidentally kills Jeremy and is charged with his murder, but is acquitted. Three years later Corey lives as an outcast, a regular target for the town’s anger over the whole Michael situation. (He’s still on the lam.) Local kids tease him and he has the worst mother since Mrs. Bates. Fortunately, the prettiest girl in town is very interested in him. That girl just happens to be Allyson (Andi Matichak), Laurie’s granddaughter and Karen’s daughter.
Laurie does like Allyson seeing Corey, not one bit. She sees him as heading down the same dark path that turned Michael into an unstoppable killing machine. Instead of meddling in her granddaughter’s life, Laurie should be spending time with interested party Frank and finishing her book on the traumatic events of the last forty-some years. After getting picked on once again, Corey finds Michael in a sewer system. The two bond, and soon Corey is learning the homicidal ropes from the town’s legendary big-bad. The question eventually becomes which mask-wearing maniac will kill Laurie: Michael or Corey?
Thematically, Ends explores how traumatic events like those in Kills can harm others that weren’t even connected to those events, like being hit by shrapnel from a bomb. (The trilogy is a serious exploration of the effects of trauma on different layers of the community.) Corey’s turn towards evil makes sense, albeit in a fatalistic way. (Kids who get bullied eventually kill people.) The problem with Ends is that it depicts Corey’s arc as a Lifetime movie. Take Michael out of the movie and what remains is a low-grade potboiler. Like Frankenstein’s Monster, the movie feels as if it was stitched together with parts of other movies. Since this is a Halloween movie, it has to find a way to include Michael and Laurie’s never-ending death match. As promised, the two duke it out for all the marbles, and the winner is whom you would expect. I respect director David Gordon Green for elevating this franchise above what it had become. Unfortunately, the movie is not scary in the slightest. If you’ve seen the previous two movies, you might as well see how it Ends. There is definitely finality in this movie, and it is interesting, but never compelling. Not Recommended.
Kills picks up directly from the end of the previous movie, with Michael escaping certain death once again. While Laurie and Frank recover from their injuries at the hospital, Michael first decimates a squad of firefighters, then dispatches a large number of the townspeople. A motley crew of survivors from the original movie head out to kill Michael, but they quickly prove they are no match for the slow yet steady killing machine. In the end, Michael kills Laurie’s daughter Karen while Laurie is helpless to prevent it.
Ends begins (sorry) with a flashback to 2019, which is one year after the events of Kills. Collegiate babysitter Corey is terrorized by nasty tyke Jeremy and accidentally kills him. After Corey was acquitted of murder, he’s become a town pariah. Even though he’s twenty-five, he’s bullied by a group of high schoolers. Home life for Corey isn’t much better. While his stepfather Ronald (Rick Moose) treats him fairly, his mother Joan (Joanne Baron) is a nasty piece of work. She seems to have learned her parenting techniques from Mrs. Bates. To make matters worse, local DJ Willie (Keraun Harris) regularly includes Corey in his conspiracy-theory riddled monologues, fueling the town’s continuing belief that Corey got a way with murder. The only thing going right for Corey is his relationship with Allyson (Andi Matichak).
Yes, the girl whose mother was killed by a knife-wielding psychopath has a thing for the boy who accidentally killed a child. To the movie’s credit, the two acknowledge how incongruous their relationship is. The movie does a poor job of actually explaining it beyond chalking it up to “shared trauma”. Regardless, the prettiest girl in town is definitely interested in Corey. For most troubled guys, that would be enough to get past being treated like a leper, but it’s not enough for Corey.
One day, the same group of highschoolers harass Corey and wind up pushing him off a bridge. They believe he’s dead and leave him there. Something pulls him into a drainage tunnel while he lays unconscious. When he awakes, he finds himself in a sewer where, you guessed it, Michael Myers has been living for the past four years. He still has his mask on and wears the same coveralls, and I would have to think he reeks to high heaven. Corey sees Michael hiding behind a wall, and Michael reaches out and strangles him but stops. Michael sees Corey as another tortured soul lets him live. When Corey leaves, he is confronted by a homeless person. Corey kills the guy in self-defense, which is another step he takes down the path of evil.
Like Corey, Allyson has also been marked by tragedy. Unlike her boyfriend, she’s been able to move on with her life because the town has largely given her a pass. Society usually gives pretty white girls a pass for just about anything, but that point is totally ignored by the movie. Allyson does have her troubles, though. She’s in the running for a promotion to be the call nurse at the hospital, but the doctor who will make the decision treats her harshly. Additionally, her mom is very concerned about her relationship with Corey.
Yes, Laurie Strode is in this movie. Until the end of the movie, her character plays second-fiddle to the two lovebirds. In one of the movie’s odd twists, Laurie has gone from gone-toting doomsday prepper to a budding novelist. It’s been four years since Michael killed her daughter, and he hasn’t been seen since. Laurie has decided to close the book (sorry) on her traumatic past and has decided that the best way to do that is by…writing a book about it. In voice-over narration, Laurie tries to make sense out of the awful things that have happened to her. Based on what she’s written, I get the feeling that the project is more about catharsis than anything, but it’s her trauma and she can do with it as she pleases. Also on the plus side is her friendship with Frank. The two meet cute in the local grocery store, and the feeling is that something could develop if both of them would just allow it to happen. Laurie is naturally protective of Allyson, and when she sees the same darkness in Corey that she saw in Michael, she keeps an eye on him. (It’s easy to get distracted when you don’t have a deadline to meet.)
If Laurie had tailed Corey 24-7, she would have learned that he had discovered Michael and was using him as a mentor of sorts. After a tense dust-up with Allyson’s creepy former boyfriend Officer Mulaney, Corey leads him to the bridge underpass where Michael lies in wait. Tired of being a put-upon accused child murderer, Corey wants Michael to show him how its done. After beating up Mulaney, Corey holds him so that Michael will kill him. With each stabbing Michael becomes energized. Eventually Mulaney is dead and Corey decides that with the help of his new BFF, he’s ready to get his revenge upon those who have wronged him and Allyson. And like a dead battery that has been given a jump start, Michael is ready to help him do it.
Corey sets his sights on the two people who prevented Allyson from being promoted, the doctor and skanky Nurse Deb (Michele Dawson). The doctor promoted Allyson because they were sleeping together, so they certainly must die. Corey corkscrews the doctor but finds himself on the outside looking in when Deb locks the patio door. (A frustrated maniac always makes me laugh.) Just like tag-team wrestling, Michael saves the day by turning Deb into a wall hanging. Now that Corey has no fear of killing, he makes quick work of the quartet of evil highschoolers, then his horrible mother. The last item on his murderous to-do list is Laurie. Given her experience with Michael, Laurie knows Corey is coming for her and shoots him. To her surprise, Corey doesn’t try one last lunge but instead stabs himself in the neck. He wants to drive a permanent wedge (sorry) between his girlfriend and her mother. (“If I can’t have her, no one can.”) After a few “false dawn” seconds pass, Michael arrives to have one last go-around with the one person he’s never been able to kill.
The two fight each other in the kitchen like a couple of action movie characters. Somehow, Laurie survives the pummeling and impales Michael on the kitchen counter. Because he’s not dead until he’s really dead, he tries to strangle her one last time. Allyson arrives just in time to free her mom from Michael’s grasp. Laurie slices Michael’s neck and wrist open, draining the blood out of him. To be completely sure that Michael is, as the Munchkins would say, “really most sincerely dead”, Frank helps drive Michael’s corpse over to the scrap yard. (The townspeople follow the car, turning the event into a very weird parade.) Laurie shoves Michael’s body into a grinder, leaving no chance that he would survive yet another seemingly fatal set of injuries. (There was blood left, and with witchcraft someone could, well, never mind.)
Halloween Ends (or simply Ends) is a rare thing among horror movie franchises. It’s the decisive end to both a self-contained trilogy that began with 2018’s Halloween. The movie also marks the decisive “end” of Michael Myers, the monster that tormented the characters in this trilogy and previous entries in the franchise (except for Halloween III). This would put Ends in the same category as Freddy’s Dead: a horror franchise entry that kills off the monster and the franchise at the same time. Based on the ongoing fan interest and profitability of the Halloween franchise over the past 44 years, I believe I would be safe in assuming that Ends is not the last time Michael will appear in a movie. (I give it five years, tops.)
As I mentioned in my review of Halloween Kills, this trilogy ignores all previous entries in the franchise except for the original from 1978. Artistically, this was a smart decision on several levels. First, it made it possible for the current filmmaking tandem of David Gordon Green and Danny McBride to not have to address the many lesser entries in the franchise. Second, it allowed fans of the original (like me) a way back into the franchise without making the previous entries required viewing. This direction proved practical for both the filmmakers and the casual fans of the franchise.
As I mentioned above, Ends brings the current trilogy and Michael Myers to an end. Unlike previous entries in this franchise, the last three movies have the advantage of being made by essentially a company. Curtis stars in each as Laurie, along with Will Patton as Frank and Andi Matichak as Laurie’s granddaughter. (Judy Greer was killed off in the apt named Kills.) All three movies have the same director (David Gordon Green) and writers, (Green and McBride). DP Michael Simmonds, editor Timothy Alverson and production designer Richard A. Wright, among others, were on hand for the entire trilogy as well. The movies feature John Carpenter’s iconic score, as well as updated title sequences featuring an evolving pumpkin. The continuity in the films give them a cohesion that the series has sorely lacked since Halloween II, the impact of which can’t be overstated enough.
Conceptually, this trilogy explores how trauma impacts a community over time. The 2018 entry showed how the events Laurie survived back in 1978 warped her mindset and turned her into a survivalist. The town had largely moved on in the intervening forty years, with citizens viewing what happened back then as myth or legend. Unfortunately, Michael escaped and returned home to terrorize the townspeople, proving that while Laurie was maniacal, she was right.
After seeing Ends, Green’s ambitious take on the material makes more sense. Instead of giving fans more sequels where Michael sneaks about and gruesomely kills people, he puts the idea of an unstoppable murderous psychopath into a larger context. What does it mean for the people of the Haddonfield, IL community to have a monster like Michael in their midst? Each movie of this trilogy answers that question from a different perspective. Halloween (2018) focused on Laurie, a person who survived a direct attack from Michael. She spent the next forty years preparing for his return. Kills shined the spotlight on the adjacent survivors who suffered from survivor’s remorse. When they learned that Michael had returned, they quickly morphed into a doomed, vigilante mob. Ends tells the story of Corey, someone whose life was quickly and unexpectedly ruined by the events of forty years ago, even though he had no connection to them at all. Taken together, Green’s trilogy is about trauma and the long term damage it can inflict on a community.
When viewed in the context of the trilogy’s underlying theme, the outsized role Corey plays in Ends makes sense. He’s an unexpected victim of Michael’s killing spree, similar to someone being struck by a stray bullet. He never encountered Michael when he returned to attack Laurie or the survivors in Kills, but circumstances conspired against him and he became a victim and a survivor just the same. He overreacted to Jeremy’s prank, but who wants to be locked into a dark attic on Halloween night with Michael still unaccounted for?
I give Green a lot of credit for creating three Halloween movies that are about more than Michael playing land shark. Michael’s MO is so well known that if the trilogy had just been a retread of the same old formula, they wouldn’t have been anywhere near as interesting as they ended up being. They probably would have been on par with the last entries of the Friday the Thirteenth franchise, excuses to see thin characters get hacked and slashed for acting stupidly. I’m not saying that those kinds of horror movies aren’t fun on some level. However, when you have a director like Green on board, you expect a bit more than a run-of-the-mill gore-fest.
The problem I had with Ends (and to a certain extent with Kills) is that the resulting story wasn’t captivating. Ends comes across as a mashup of a Lifetime movie and a Halloween movie. The Lifetime movie part is the sad tale of Corey, a college student who accidentally kills a child over a prank. Ignoring the Halloween-specific elements of the movie for the moment, Corey’s story is a straightforward melodrama. Before the tragic event, he had a life of promise. After that point, he lived on the edges of the community, keeping his distance from everyone. Mean highschoolers–who recognize a wounded dog when they see one, pick on him with glee. Surprisingly, the prettiest girl in town takes a liking to him. Corey starts feeling better about himself, and wants to leave town to start over. Unfortunately, Allyson isn’t willing to leave her mom behind. Laurie, the (grand)mother, is worried about her (grand)daughter seeing the wrong kind of guy and follows him. She tries to get her daughter to see what she sees, but Allyson is in love. After repeated bullying, Corey begins to kill those who have wronged both him and Allyson. Corey’s turn towards evil is very similar to that of highschoolers who commit mass shootings. If the movie had no ties to the Halloween cannon at all, it would be serviceable entertainment, something to watch without having to think about it much.
However, since Ends is a Halloween movie, Green is obligated to tie the story to the mythos of what has gone before. As such, the plot keeps taking detours back to Michael. Corey finds Michael in a sewer, somehow still alive four years after his last rampage. Because the two are kindred spirits, Corey is able to recruit Michael as a mentor. Michael helps Corey to get past his queasyness with murder and become comfortable with killing someone. From that point on, Corey is killing people left and right, wearing Michael’s mask and a similar pair of coveralls. In the end, Corey nearly kills Laurie, but is forced to kill himself instead. If the movie had ended there (sorry), it would have been an extremely subversive movie and would have left the franchise open for sequels. (Michael is still on the loose!) Instead, the movie shifts back into Halloween mode and has Laurie and Michael fight each other like combatants in an action movie. Then Michael’s corpse is ground to bits.
The Lifetime melodrama certainly adds an interesting texture to Ends, but it’s not compelling in and of itself. The Halloween elements are fine, but there’s so little of them that they feel tacked-on instead of organic. (There’s also an abbreviated subplot involving a tentative romance between Laurie and Will that had the feel of an indie movie.) Together, both aspects of the plot create a Halloween movie that has more thought behind it than the sequels prior to this trilogy. That’s a low bar to cross, though. While I appreciate what Green aspired to do with this franchise, the results just don’t add up to much.
The main problem I had with Ends just isn’t an effective horror movie. While there are a few tense moments and plenty of gory kills, I never felt scared by anything that happened. Some of this is due to the fact that the movie telegraphs who will be killed from very early on. I was utterly unsurprised when the highschoolers were killed, or Corey’s mom, or even the DJ. They all fall into the category of “jerks destined to die”. What makes matters worse is that there is no suspense to the killings at all. Corey (or Michael) simply shows up and his victim(s) without a struggle. Perhaps the problem is that Green just doesn’t understand how to craft a horror movie. He’s perfectly comfortable with violence and gore, but he is incapable of creating an atmosphere of dread or unease. The sign of a good horror movie is being afraid of what it will show you next. With Ends, it’s all splatter without buildup.
I admit that after being underwhelmed by Kills, I was not that excited about watching Ends. I really only watched this movie because it promised an end to the Laurie/Michael conflict. Similar to Freddy’s Dead, Ends certainly achieves that goal. Watching Michael being rendered to pulp was something new for the franchise, so there’s that. Call me cynical, but I’m dubious that this will be the last I see Michael Myers and his William Shatner mask. He’s the modern horror movie equivalent of Frankenstein, a voiceless, lumbering monster who always comes back from certain death. In a franchise that has already seen its heroine die, been rebooted and forgotten most of its history, anything is possible.