Halloween Ends (2022)

Wow. Just wow. My expectations were low for this movie but still… It somehow feels like an utter disappointment even with full awareness of the fact that Halloween Ends was bound to be a problematic spectacle.  

Even a simple glance at the production notes found on the film’s Wikipedia page should lead you to realize Halloween Ends was coming together in excruciating pain. In fact, this entire venture was never fully concocted ahead of schedule as David Gordon Green had (at best) enough ideas to sustain two movies; in fact, he may have had enough to sustain a bit less than that. The COVID pandemic provided a convenient smoke screen for all sorts of trouble arising from conflicting ideas as to where to take the series, if it should be a trilogy in the first place and how it should evolve this new iteration of the story that effectively bypassed (and with a good reason) the entire franchise and followed directly from John Carpenter’s timeless classic.  

Therefore, it may be completely impossible to decode why exactly Halloween Kills committed to what it did and – consequently – why Halloween Ends effectively pretends Halloween Kills does not exist in the first place. After all, the two films were supposed to be allegedly joined at the hip and I can only imagine with the original idea of having the two films (originally intended to be shot back-to-back) snowball their narrative stakes and energy, the grand finale of the David Gordon Green iteration of the Halloween mythos would conclude with a bang. Instead, it whimpered and fizzled impotently as it failed to capitalize on the bold moves its predecessor made, even if they were either poorly positioned or narratively unearned.  

In any case, Halloween Ends opts not to pick up where Halloween Kills left off and instead, connects to the lore tangentially by introducing a new character Corey Cunningham, a somewhat stunted youngster who accidentally kills a boy he is babysitting on the night when Michael Myers is wreaking havoc across Haddonfield. The story then moves on by a few years to allow us to reconnect with Laurie and her granddaughter, who are both attempting to move on from the tragedy we witnessed in Halloween Kills. In fact, the entire town is seemingly unable to shake off the collective PTSD of that time, because even though Michael Myers disappeared without a trace, evil still resides in the hearts and minds of Haddonfield residents. Or does it? 

After all, Corey – now an outcast ostracized by his community, bullied by youngsters and domineered by his mother – one day finds out that evil resides more literally within the underbelly of the town as he comes across Michael Myers in the sewers (or does he?) and forms a strange relationship with this iconic monster whose influence slowly transforms Corey into an incarnation of primal evil. And to complicate matters, he strikes up a relationship with Allyson, Laurie Strode’s granddaughter.

Now, it’s hard not to imagine based on this sloppy synopsis alone, that Halloween Ends is (a) a complete tonal departure from what the preceding two films were gleefully setting up and (b) a bit of a structural mess pulling the narrative in a multitude of directions all at once. On paper, there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of the two observations. In fact, I find those bolder, more audacious outliers from the established toolbox of their respective franchises tend to be quite interesting, even if they are deemed completely unsuccessful and canonically messy. After all, it’s hard to see Halloween III: Season of the Witch or Bride of Chucky as logical continuations of what their predecessors set up in terms of tonal and narrative expectations. Naturally, they have their defenders, and I am not here to argue with anyone; all I am trying to point out is the simple fact that sometimes filmmakers prefer to take a few risks and let some fresh air into the room, as it were. Whether this is the case here is anyone’s guess, however.  

This is because Halloween Ends is likely a result of rapid damage control resulting from surprisingly negative reception Halloween Kills received at the time of its release. It may be entirely possible that once the filmmakers and producers realized the series was headed somewhere the fans were not prepared to go, they had to withdraw to the drawing board and rethink a thing or two. Thus, the film does not pick up where the predecessor left off, it introduces a gap in time and a wholly novel narrative attempting to reframe (some would say undo) the context of the previous films. This – again – isn’t exactly news in the historical context of any long-running genre franchise, but within the scope of a trilogy actively adopting a stance whereby the rest of the franchise does not exist at all it amounts to a major paradigm shift. 

One such example from recent memory that should immediately jump to mind is that of the recently completed Star Wars sequel trilogy. I don’t necessarily want to be drawn to regurgitate the well-established body of evidence, but the resemblance between these two cases is quite uncanny. Suffice it to say, for the purposes of this text, that The Last Jedi was similarly met with a polarized reception, which sent producers into a tailspin, presumably because the films they were making risked running the studio into serious financial difficulties should they falter at the box office. Therefore, a wholesale course change was enacted, the director was fired and pretty much everything Rian Johnson’s movie was building towards was scrapped with very little consideration for series continuity.  

Although David Gordon Green clearly kept his job, it is undeniable that Halloween Ends wishes to disassociate itself from its predecessor so vehemently that it could be re-titled as The Rise of Strode so as to forever remind those brave enough to watch this movie that what they are exposing themselves to is at best a compromise between a multitude of opposing artistic voices and at worst a panic-stricken festival of headless chickens scrambling to rebuild a car while driving it at full speed into a concrete wall.  

Thus, it’s perhaps a bit unfair to flog this movie too hard and it may be instead advisable to see its existence as admirable in some way. After all, Halloween Ends has much more in common with a direct-to-TV sequel to Lake Placid commissioned by SyFy, elevated by the fact someone decided to spend a considerable amount of money on producing it and that it somehow managed to sneak into cinemas, as opposed to being dumped into the compost bin of whichever streaming service would be dumb enough to licence it. 

It’s simply inescapable – Halloween Ends is a wholesale mess that lacks focus and determination to perform its main objective of bringing the trilogy it set out on to a suitable conclusion. Granted, certain ideas the movie decides to explore instead of capitalizing on the momentum its predecessors had accrued are in and of themselves quite intriguing – such as the concept of echoing the spirit of John Carpenter’s Christine with its treatment of the ‘new’ central character and by way of visually referencing the film on a few occasions, or the idea of latent guilt likely designed to evoke the post-pandemic malaise – but they are all too disparate and disjointed to amplify the movie-watching experience.  

Hence, despite the seriously gruesome violence and gore that had thus far been a staple of the David Gordon Green-directed take on the series, Halloween Ends is fundamentally unengaging. That is not to say that it is boring because its set pieces are appropriately suspenseful and unflinchingly bloody; however, I found myself for the most part in a position of waiting for the ending to come, as opposed to enjoying the experience of getting there. On one hand I was wondering how this thematic Eton mess would come together in the end (it didn’t) and on the other I was quietly keeping my fingers crossed that not only the film but the entire mini-series within this beleaguered franchise would get a send-off that would at least redeem the seeming lack of directionality (it didn’t), or give the series some much needed closure (it didn’t). 

Instead, David Gordon Green and his rag-tag group of co-conspirators decided – perhaps against their own better judgment – that the series they were piloting should go out with a whimper and not a bang. It is alleged that they were in fact planning on retaining the evil-dies-tonight energy but decided to reshoot the ending to give it a more personal tone, which – at least on paper – would scale down the mythos and re-focus around a simple confrontation between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers. And I am not sure I liked what I saw. On some level I was happy to see this story was trying to do something different, much like I am always excited about an idea of fusing exotic flavours together in an experimental dish. However, to continue with this analogy, such ideas run the risk of only looking good on paper and such is the case here as well.  

Halloween Ends strives to engender an atmosphere of biblical pathos right after unceremoniously disposing with what seemed to be its main storyline, which only goes to show it was merely a distraction or a poorly engineered departure from the beaten track disguising as a bona fide piece of homage to an underrated 80s classic. But pathos cannot materialize out of nowhere, which is something the filmmakers may not have realized; or they just didn’t care. The film limps to the finish line not in an atmosphere of climactic exhilaration but in a collective sense of exhaustion. I suppose even the last runner crossing the finish line of the London Marathon deserves some kudos for sticking with it and persevering, but let’s be honest: when I was sitting down to watch the 2018 Halloween, expectations were set. Just to reiterate, I don’t think I wanted for this movie to top John Carpenter’s Halloween, because not many films in general can come even remotely close to its genius. Though, never did I expect one of the most interesting sequels in this embattled series would birth a duet of schlock so profoundly misguided and uninteresting that I would cheer at the thought of leaving the cinema never to return to watch a new instalment in the franchise ever again.  

In short, evil might not have died tonight, but the Halloween series maybe did. At least one could hope. Because my patience for it most assuredly perished.

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