Please Say This is the End
I have not been a fan of the 2018 HalloweenThe franchise that both set the standard for Slasher horror and, at the same time, defied every convention it created, Halloween has seen multiple time lines and reboots in its history, but one thing has remained: Michael Myers, the Shape that stalks Haddonfield. reboot series, a point I've made clear in both the review of the reboot, Halloween, and it's sequel, Halloween Kills. The issue with these films is that they approached the whole concept from the wrong angle. They basically just rehashed what we already knew of the franchise (even as it threw most of the continuity away) without adding anything new. Soulless kill fests that lacked deeper substance.
And they weren't scary. That, more than anything, bothered me. Horror is difficulty, I won't deny that. Despite it being one of the cheapest genres within which to make movies (all you need is some no-name co-eds and a gallon of fake blood), horror required a fine balance of elements that most directors simply can't handle. You have to build tension, you have to play the audience like a violin as you keep them on the edge of their seats. Then you have to pay off the tension with a solid release, be it a kill or a jump scare or even, some times, deflating humor that eases the tension without an actual scare. That too, is required because then, the next time, your audience won't know whether to expect a laugh or a scream. Horror is, in short, hard.
The previous two Halloween films in this series failed to understand that balance. There were sections of each film there were interesting, but the films never built up the kind of tension that actually could lead to good scares. I found them rote and tedious, lacking solid horror artistry. Which is why I found it surprising that I actually enjoyed the final film in this trilogy, Halloween Ends. It's not perfect, still showing many of the story flaws of the previous two films. But, when it comes to what counts -- the horror -- this film actually delivers.
This third entry picks up some three years after the events of Halloween Kills. In that time, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has forced herself to finally move on from Michael Myers. She's no longer living out in the woods, alone, in a compound, waiting for the day when Michael once again comes back. Michael is still out there, a ghost, a whisper on the wind, but Laurie won't be afraid of him anymore. Instead she has a house in town, living with her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), playing the "happy homemaker" as she moves on with her life. She wants to move on, even if the rest of the town is still caught in its terror over Michael Myers.
We meanwhile get to also focus on new character Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), a bright young guy who, through a sheer twist of happenstance and a horrible accident, kills the kid he was babysitting. The parents, naturally blame him for the death, but the cops rule it a total freak accident. Corey's life, though, goes off the rails; his dreams of college are dashed, his hopes of getting out of Haddonfield end. Instead he works at a junk yard (for his mother's boyfriend) and hides inside himself while the whole town berates him for the accident. But Allyson (Andi Matichak), sees something special in him something different, and the two start dating. Unfortunately, Allyson meets him at the wrong time as, soon enough, he'll have a chance encounter with Michael Myers that will change the trajectory of his life once more...
Halloween Ends is an odd duck. It's the end of a trilogy of films about Michael Myers but the film has almost no interest in actually exploring Myers in any real way. He's less important to the plot that Corey, with the film setting the new guy up as a natural replacement for Myers... right up until it gets bored with that as well. It's like the film was meant to be an end to the Myers storyline (thus, the "ends" in the title) but they didn't want the franchise to just, you know, end. They wanted to keep it going, like the curse of Michael Myers (his essence, not that terrible movie), but then got cold feet with the idea at the last minute.
The odd thing is that, with Corey, the series finally finds a villain (of a sort) that's worth following. Not since the original Halloween, where Myers was just "The Shape", has the film had an effective villain. Corey, though, gets the right amount of exploration, the right amount of storytelling attached to him, that you both cheer for him and then get horrified when bad things start happening around him. Had the film committed and said, "hey, Corey is gonna be the killer going forward," I actually could have been on board with that.
But then Michal Myers shows up and the film loses focus. Adding Myers into the mix actually muddies Corey's character arc, and he starts behaving weirdly for absolutely no reason. He gets an urge to kill that seems counter to his character, like there's a good 15 minutes of story that's missing. Yes, he gets bullies by some shitty kids in town, and yes, if he'd just gone off and killed them I don't think anyone would have complained. But there's a lot of murders that happen, even early in the story, and you never get a real sense for why Corey snaps and why he just starts acting, well, like Michael Myers.
I kind of wish the film had taken a longer, different route to get to that point with Corey. Then it could have better explored his relationship with Allyson while he slowly turns into a psychopath. This is a plot line the film sets up and then fails to deliver upon. Poor Allyson Nelson gets so little to do here, her character demoted from Final Girl to half-assed love interest. There was solid potential here for a deep exploration of a murderer under the veil of Haddonfield, but the film wasn't smart enough to actually run with it.
Speaking of wasted characters: Jamie Lee Curtis's Laurie Strode has absolutely no arc here. Again, she's a main character that should be the focus of the story but, instead, she's largely sidelined so the film can deal with Corey. I like Corey, I think he's interesting, but by focusing so much on him the other legacy characters are shoved to the side. We need more development for while Laurie has seemingly moved on and can now play happy homemaker instead of (like for the last forty years) living out in the woods in a recluse shack, waiting for the Shape to return. The trilogy clearly defined the kind of character she is and then, in its third film, threw all that away for a different version of her character that doesn't get explored at all. It doesn't make any sense.
What we needed was a different third movie that sits in between Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends. That film could have focused on Laurie and Allyson as they worked to find, and kill, Michael Myers, putting an end to the fear he brought to them (and the rest of the town). Then, in the fourth movie, call it Halloween Rises, we could see Corey with his fateful babysitting accident. Allyson carries over, but it's just her and him (Laurie isn't needed here and can just cameo, at most) and we explore her and her life post Michael, and Corey and all he's dealing with. He gets bullies, he gets attacked, and then he snaps. Now he has to deal with a rising body count as he exacts his revenge on those that wronged him, while also trying to keep it all from Allyson. Then, in the end, she has to be the one to kill him and this pushes her to her own breaking point... That or he kills her and flees Haddonfield to continue the franchise elsewhere.
This film, though, is too grafted together, to full of logic holes and unexplored ideas, that it never finds its footing. It's two movies worth of story condensed badly into one film. I like many parts of it -- Corey is an interesting character and some of the kills at the end of this film are among the series' best -- but the whole isn't as good as its various parts. Whatever film we needed for this ending trilogy, this wasn't it. And that's stunning since, despite it's faults, its still the best film of this reboot trilogy. Just think about what that says for the quality of the previous two films.