Review: David Gordon Green’s ‘Halloween Ends’

Halloween Ends Review - 2022 David Gordon Green Film

Vague Visages’ Halloween Ends review contains minor spoilers. David Gordon Green’s 2022 movie on Peacock stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak and James Jude Courtney. Check out more cinema coverage and soundtrack song listings on VV’s home page.

David Gordon Green and Danny McBride set themselves an impossible task with Halloween Ends. Aside from wrapping up the trilogy they began with 2018’s adrenaline-shot-to-the-arm, Halloween, the director and his co-screenwriter are also putting an end to the series John Carpenter originally kickstarted all the way back in 1978 (Green and McBride’s movies crucially ignore the events of everything after the first installment). It’s worth noting that nobody else has really attempted this, even when cutting off Michael Myers’ head or killing off Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Likewise, regardless of the reverence certain fans have for the Halloween franchise, there hasn’t been a truly great installment since the first one, maybe the second. However, Rob Zombie’s take, and its sequel, are more interesting than most give them credit for. The fact that Green and McBride managed to do such a good job with one movie, let alone two, is a massive achievement. That they’ve taken such a big swing with their closing chapter should be celebrated, even if Halloween Ends is slightly flawed in its execution.  

The first indication that audiences are in for a very different Halloween film occurs in the bold and terrific cold open, which takes place in 2019 — the year after Michael first re-emerged on the scene. Although the franchise villain hasn’t been seen since that night, his specter looms large over Haddonfield, Illinois, and last-minute babysitter Corey (Rohan Campbell) is understandably nervous about spending the night in a stranger’s house; a fact his bratty charge is all too happy to tease him about, gleefully reminding that Michael kills babysitters, not children. During an ill-advised prank, Corey gets locked in the attic. And while he’s desperately trying to escape, the demon child accidentally falls and breaks his neck, dying instantly. That’s it — that’s the viewer’s introduction to Halloween Ends. Michael doesn’t even feature, but his influence is still keenly felt, no doubt about it. 

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Halloween Ends Review - 2022 David Gordon Green Film

In the present day, Laurie’s clunky memoir narration catches audiences up on the previous four years. Death has become part of the fabric of Haddonfield, but the iconic Final Girl protagonist and her wily granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), have carved out a decent little life for themselves. Sharing a well-appointed home and frequently running into friendly returning characters like Lindsay (Kyle Richards, given frustratingly little to do) and the twinkly-eyed Frank (Will Patton, reliable as always), the duo is mostly doing all right. But the townspeople blame Laurie for both Michael coming back and the ensuing carnage, in a similar manner to how Haddonfield locals won’t forgive Corey for what he did, despite the fact that the kid was exonerated for his crime years ago. 

Although Laurie is still, ostensibly, the franchise lead, Halloween Ends switches gears to focus on Corey, who’s drawn to Michael in an increasingly worrying manner. Green, McBride and their additional co-writers (Paul Brad Logan and Chris Bernier) bravely tackle the contentious idea of nature versus nurture, or more specifically how proximity to evil can turn one bad or make one more determined to be good, depending on the individual’s personality. How Corey and Michael are connected won’t be spoiled here, but suffice to say there’s a moment when Halloween Ends reveals its cards. The move will have viewers either cheering or rolling their eyes, depending on the confidence in Green and McBride’s take thus far. Their movies aren’t about Michael, or even Laurie — they’re about Haddonfield. And nowhere is that clearer than in Halloween Ends, which is loaded with slice-of-life scenes with regular denizens, as well as callbacks to previous franchise characters. There’s even some “love wins today” graffiti and a trip to an establishment selling Bánh mì sandwiches. 

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Halloween Ends Review - 2022 David Gordon Green Film

The trilogy has been criticized for referencing Carpenter’s original flick too much, or being needlessly deferential to it, but Halloween Ends solidifies that the filmmaking duo had their wild, polarizing and inarguably intriguing idea fleshed out since the very beginning. This isn’t Star Wars doing something a bit different and then pulling back following fan backlash. If anything, it’s the complete opposite. Longtime Halloween fans will expect another stalk-and-slash, but even despite the rough, inventive and gory AF kills, this is a deeper, quieter and more introspective film than modern audiences had any right to expect. Sure, Halloween Ends is emo at times, and there are some on-the-nose moments — including an infected wound being dubiously treated as an analogy for evil — but the idea of Haddonfield and its citizens cleansing the town’s soul, in all its messiness, is strong and packs a real emotional wallop. Moreover, the question of why anybody stays in this godforsaken town is finally answered. 

Halloween Ends succeeds or fails on the strength of Campbell’s performance, and the young, relatively new performer is a revelation. He’s tasked with communicating quite a lot with little dialogue, as Corey is bullied by some cruel local kids — all band geeks, signaling perhaps the revolution is upon us — and his own mother alike while simply trying to move on with his life. Corey’s budding relationship with Allyson, meanwhile, although slightly rushed, also suggests that Laurie’s granddaughter is drawn to the darkness herself. The question of whether she knows something is off about her new boyfriend hangs heavily over Halloween Ends, and Matichak is utterly convincing once again, whether she’s pulling lengthy shifts at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital or riding on the back of Corey’s motorcycle. The actors have a fiery chemistry, which makes it easier to swallow when they get so serious so fast. (Maybe they’re just dumb kids?) Curtis has some interesting interactions with both characters too, especially as she begins to sense something is very wrong and tries (unsuccessfully) to warn Allyson. 

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Halloween Ends Review - 2022 David Gordon Green Film

As for Michael, he’s less of a physical presence in Halloween Ends, not showing up until almost an hour into the movie, but the prolific serial killer is far from an afterthought. As the trailer reveals, the franchise villain has been living in the sewers since the events of Halloween Kills, surviving by eating rats and dragging unsuspecting victims into his lair. (One gnarly shot of a body disappearing slowly into a drainpipe is bloodcurdling.)

There’s a touch of Pennywise to Michael’s situation, and the argument could be made that Haddonfield is a lot like Derry, but the crucial difference is that the townspeople are generally good. Michael isn’t some supernatural being, but rather a man who has taken quite a bit of damage and needs some time to recuperate before letting loose once again. Gordon ensures that Michael is always lurking in the periphery, even if he’s not necessarily visible. Halloween Ends also builds on the suggestion, first introduced in Halloween Kills, that the focal antagonist gains more strength by killing.

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Halloween Ends Review - 2022 David Gordon Green Film

Inevitably, Michael is going to tussle with Laurie in Halloween Ends, but how the creative team gets viewers to that point is surprising, inventive and complemented by truly bone-chilling frights. There are plenty of great jokes, too, solidifying that Green and McBride weren’t put off by the negative response to the more comedic sequences in their previous films. And, of course, the score — once again composed by Carpenter, his son Cody and Daniel A. Davies — is exceptional and not overused, particularly during death scenes. 

Halloween Ends contains a handful of references to Carpenter’s seminal 1978 classic, but — for the most part — the film is its own strange, messed up little thing, which has already rubbed longtime fans the wrong way. There have been Halloween movies before that utilized similar aspects of this story, but never to such a satisfying and impactful extent. Even when the franchise has tackled serious topics, such as Laurie’s PTSD in Halloween H20, they’re compounded by a goofy-looking Michael or histrionic, exposition-heavy dialogue and weak scares.

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Halloween Ends Review - 2022 David Gordon Green Film

Halloween Ends won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it gets the fear factor and human-interest angles right while also providing a fitting end to Laurie’s story. Cinematographer Michael Simmonds, who shot all three of Green’s franchise movies, continues to give the compositions a murky, grungy look, further emphasizing how Michael’s evil has seeped into every corner of Haddonfield to the extent that the sun hardly ever shines. Consider the fact that Tommy re-told his story in Halloween Kills before even knowing Michael had returned, and it becomes clear how carefully Green and McBride threaded in this idea of the rot at the core of Haddonfield into each movie.

Sticking the landing was always going to be difficult with Halloween Ends, because there are so many moving parts, but the film wraps things up to a rewarding extent in a manner befitting the duo’s ambitious original vision. Whether one likes, or even accepts, the filmmakers’ choices, there’s no denying they’ve stuck to their guns. Given all the terrible, cynical and ruthlessly cash-grabbing Halloween movies that audiences have had to suffer through over the past 40 years, Halloween Ends is a modern masterpiece in comparison.

Joey Keogh (@JoeyLDG) is a writer from Dublin, Ireland with an unhealthy appetite for horror movies and Judge Judy. In stark contrast with every other Irish person ever, she’s straight edge. Hello to Jason Isaacs.

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