‘Halloween’s’ bizarre, thoughtful, sweet End

Images courtesy Universal Pictures.

8/10 In the entire lexicon of ill-advised Halloween sequels, Halloween Ends is certainly the best love story.

Even a basic discussion of Halloween Ends spoils it because the entire movie is the twist, so if I can only say one thing, it’s this: I’ve never been more shocked by a Halloween movie. Spoilers below-

***

Haddonfield, Illinois, October 2022- Four years after the prior two movies, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has finally moved on from her brushes with Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney, credited as “The Shape,” with Nick Castle, who originated the role, providing vocals), bought a new, normal house and spends her time writing a memoir and repairing her relationship with her granddaughter, Allyson Nelson (Andi Matichak), but the evil and trauma she spent decades of her life wallowing in did not effect her alone.

Narrative momentum shifts to a new character, Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), a young man whose college career was derailed three years earlier when a child died under his care. He was cleared of charges relating to the accident, but remained a pariah in the town he now has no way out of. Cunningham strikes up a relationship with Nelson, who is similarly dissatisfied with Haddonfield, but also a relationship with Myers, who he finds living in the sewer, and is forced to choose between one of his new relationships, his existing family and social ties in town, and the allure of running away to something new.

Then the final 15 minutes are an entirely different movie stuck on top of it like a jester hat.

Halloween (David Gordon Green, 2018) was excellent as a remake – it stood on its own, but went out of its way to reward fans of the original film with a story that evolved from both the narrative and paratext of that movie, featured tons of visual quotes and directly interacted with the original movie’s core messages.

The less said about Halloween Kills the better, but Halloween Ends is right back on track – it maintains and transforms the same basic story, recasting it into an entirely different genre, in this case a surprisingly sharp tragic romance, and changing the perspective in ways that call much of the prior work into question. Writer/director David Gordon Green has done what I always want filmmakers in a long-running series to do, but seemingly never see – made a completely different film set in and stemming from the original work. It’s absolutely beautiful.

The best part is that Halloween Ends is an absolute master class in conveying its ideas through basic but effective symbolism, costuming and associative imagery. This movie has some very complicated things to say, but the language it uses to say them is Film School 101 meat-and-potatoes, completely accessible and unmistakable.

It takes a while to get to most of them, but it’s also got the slasher goods with a flurry of bloody, horrifying and spectacular kills. It almost feels like too many for the movie to get through, and the final culling is a little rushed.

Halloween Ends undermines a lot of assumptions other movies in the franchise are built on, some so central that it feels like it can’t coexist with the original film. The core idea of the original Halloween is that Haddonfield is everytown USA, but Halloween Ends, for really the first time, approaches Haddonfield as a specific place with a unique history that has evolved into something very ugly. Myers has always represented pure, elemental, soulless, unalloyed evil, but in Halloween Ends, maybe the evil isn’t really attached to him, and maybe it isn’t so unalloyed and soulless.

The 2018 film flipped the script between Myers and Strode, with the added context that everyone in Haddonfield knew the story. Halloween Ends flips the script between Myers and Haddonfield itself.

It’s hard to overstate what a shock Halloween Ends is to watch in full context. Curtis’ intense performances, first as the iconic final girl in ’78 and then a corollary turn as an emotionally stunted survivalist in ’18, are icons of this series. To see her in her suddenly walking around in her Activia spokeswoman character is an absolutely insane thing to experience. Not only is she in a different movie, it’s a movie you’ve already seen every time “Law and Order” cuts to commercial.

Another basic building block that Halloween Ends executes perfectly is showing its lead couple being happy together. A lot of love stories miss this. Even something as classic as Romeo and Juliet tends to leave out scenes of the duo enjoying each others company in favor of long speeches about how cool love is as a concept, using love as a narrative device and not a specific and transformative human experience. Cunningham and Nelson see each other, work themselves into each other’s lives and make concrete plans to run away together, and it’s heartbreaking when they don’t get to.

As he takes over the film, Cunningham is also in a different movie, sort of a mix between a Stephen King movie and a rural, softcore neon noir. There’s plenty of night scenes and shadow work and enough synth that you consciously remember that “Stranger Things” is still a popular series, but not enough to overwhelm the movie.

A lot of Halloween fan fiction revolves around characters who are the one person Myers doesn’t want to kill and get to be buddies with him, so Halloween Ends kind of takes up that torch, which I guess is appropriate for a movie and series that is fundamentally a reflection on what came before. The only real difference between sequel/remake/reboot/things and fan fiction anyway is money, so the best you can hope for is something thoughtful and passionate instead of corporate. Halloween Ends is that, right up until the final 15 minutes – but those are fun enough to enjoy in a different way.

The deeper we get into Halloween Ends’ exploration of conflicts that existed to the side of Strode’s fear of the elemental force of evil represented by Myers, the more those conflicts seem to circle back and be created by that fear. The prior films questioned the merit of Strode’s fear by showing it corrode her personally, but now we transform further and question whether or not what she’s afraid of is actually a danger. Her morality, shaped by her encounters with Myers, is extremely humanist, centered on murder as the absolute worst thing a person can do. Now, 40ish years younger and living downstairs from her, Cunningham and Nelson are suddenly trapped in stalking and bullying situations severe enough that murder may be their only way out. As their private movie threatens to become Bonnie and Clyde, all Strode can do is keep writing her book.

I liked this movie. I enjoyed watching it, and I enjoy engaging with its themes and what it has to say about the original film, which continues to be a cross-generational pillar of shared cultural experience because it speaks so directly to so many universal fears and questions. Halloween Ends is a good movie, and for fans of a franchise used to hair-brained sequels that you watch ironically, it’s something thoughtful, high-quality and sweet.

Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate. If you liked this post, you can donate to Reel Entropy here. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook and reach out to me at reelentropy@gmail.com. 

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