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edge staff writer


The tricks are hardly treats in ‘Halloween Ends’

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It can be difficult to remember, living as we do in the age of franchises and cinematic universes, but there was a time not so long ago when the notion of ongoing sequels was viewed with indifference or even outright disdain.

For a long time, the sequel was largely considered the realm of shlock, an effort to cash in on low-rent continuations of genre series. It used to be a joke; now, it’s a mainstream business model (and a massively successful one at that).

Take “Halloween,” for instance. John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher was an instant horror classic, its murderous villain as relentless as he was inscrutable. But that film’s success led to a spate of sequels, creating a tangled and often incomprehensible web of expansive and self-contradictory lore. Ironic, considering that the initial film’s success was built upon the idea that we didn’t know anything about the why of the killer.

We got half-a-dozen films from that franchise, followed by two films that retconned away all but the first two entries, followed by a pair of hybrid remake/reimagining offerings courtesy of Rob Zombie, followed by a sequel trilogy that retcons the entire continuity and throws out everything but the first film.

That’s where we’re at now, at the end of that sequel trilogy. They say that all good things must end, but if “Halloween Ends” is any indicator, bad things end too.

David Gordon Green is the man calling the shots in the trilogy – he directed this film, as well as previous installments “Halloween” (2018) and “Halloween Kills” (2021), while also co-writing the script with Danny McBride and others – and the returns have most certainly been diminishing, with the first film being quite good, the second film being OK and this third film being … something.

What is clearly intended to be a closing of the book is instead a haphazard and messy collection of illogical leaps and twists, with very little of the perceived closure being the least bit earned. “Halloween” was never about the “why” – or at least, it was never supposed to be – but Green and company get lost in that why, resulting in plot developments that at times border on the nonsensical. In all the ways that matter, it’s a sad and ultimately unsatisfying conclusion.

We open in 2019, where we meet a young man named Corey (Rohan Campbell). He’s a bright young man, an aspiring engineer, looking to make a few extra bucks babysitting on Halloween night. A tragic accident leaves a child dead and Corey a pariah, yet another boogeyman story for the town of Haddonfield.

In the present, Corey’s once-bright future is now spent working at his dad’s junkyard. When he is targeted by some local teens, he’s rescued by none other than Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who has used the tragic events of the previous film as an impetus to rejoin the world. She takes Corey to the hospital to be treated for an injury – the same hospital where her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) works.

Corey and Allyson hit it off; they’re drawn to one another due to the respective stigma that surrounds each of them. But the specter of Michael Myers still haunts the town, even after his years-ago disappearance. And when Corey stumbles upon a secret – that Michael Myers may be closer to the people of Haddonfield than any of them might think – he’s left to struggle against his own darkness.

Along the way, all sorts of people get killed in all sorts of ways. You know, the usual bloody slasher stuff, only this time, it’s informed by, I don’t know, the shadows that swirl beneath the benign surface of Haddonfield or whatever?

The truth is that this movie, despite having had two previous movies to set up the message it seeks to deliver, doesn’t seem to have any idea what it wants to do or say. Honestly, the only thing keeping me from blowing the whole damned thing up is my underlying opposition to spoilers. The easy thing to do would be to just tell you the “twist” that basically undoes all the work that preceded it. But I won’t – principles and all that.

What I will say is that “Halloween Ends” largely undoes much of what the previous installments in this particular trilogy so interesting. It felt like we were progressing toward something, toward this idea that deconstructed the notion of trauma, engaging with it on both an individual and a community level. Was it the most nuanced effort? No, but at least there was something resembling an ethos. This third film seems content to just say to hell with it and burn it all down (a sentiment directly expressed within the movie itself, by the way).

It's too bad, because this trilogy had a shot at earning a place in the horror canon. Instead, it’s just more cannon fodder.

In the interest of fairness, I will note that “Halloween Ends” has a couple of pretty gnarly kills; if that’s your horror jam, then by all means, you should partake. And I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not like Carpenter’s original “Halloween” was some sort of complex social commentary; frankly, it’s a classic because it didn’t really worry about any of that. But that only works once – if you’re going to dive back in, you better have an interesting take, because otherwise, what’s the point?

(Spoiler alert: There is none.)

It’s a bummer that this is Jamie Lee Curtis’s ostensible farewell to Laurie Strode. She’s been playing the character off and on for over four decades at this point. You’d like to think she’d get a chance to go out with a bang. Instead, we get a nonsensical whimper, though to be clear, it is not her fault – Jamie Lee Curtis goes hard in this movie; she’s the only reason there’s any kind of connection to Laurie here. But the circumstances undercut her. She’s giving a high-quality performance in a low-quality movie.

Everyone else is … present? Campbell and Matichak are bland and forgettable, except when they’re being over-the-top and forgettable. Campbell especially is asked to do some stuff that seems beyond his capabilities. James Jude Courtney fits the costume and it’s nice to see Will Patton get a check. Oh, and there are some of the WORST teenagers you’re ever likely to see in this movie. I’m not even going to name them, but you’ll know them when you see them.

“Halloween Ends” lives up to the title, for sure, if only because after this, one imagines that execs are going to think long and hard before going to the Michael Myers well again anytime soon. This movie is dim – both in terms of lighting and in terms of intellect. The choices being made, whether in crafting the film or within the film itself, are almost universally dumb. And the fact that we’re not made to care about Laurie Strode – who horror fans have known for nearly half-a-century – is practically criminal.

Maybe he’ll stay dead this time. We should be so lucky.

[1 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 17 October 2022 15:10


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