Halloween Ends review: Finale fumbles the journey but sticks the landing

michael-laurie-halloween-endsUniversal Pictures

The final film in this iteration of the Halloween series ends Laurie and Michael’s stories in satisfying and suitably gory fashion, but what comes before feels like it’s from a different franchise.

Halloween Kills is credited to four writers – director David Gordon Green, and screenwriters Danny McBride, Chris Bernier, and Paul Brad Logan. One wonders if they all had different ideas regarding how the trilogy should conclude, as the film pulls in several different directions over the course of its near two-hour runtime.

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But the bravest – and strangest – decision made by the quartet is to focus on new character Corey, meaning that for long stretches the film feels less like the ending of one franchise, and more like the beginning of another.

So if you’re expecting The Shape to be hunting Laurie Strode for much of the movie, only for Laurie to then hunt The Shape, think again, as Ends is very much Corey’s story.

What is Halloween Ends about?

The film kicks off one year after Halloween Kills, with Haddonfield still in the grip of Michael Myers mania. Traumatised by those events, little Jeremy is afraid of the dark and wets the bed, as his parents tell babysitter Corey (Rohan Campbell).

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They head out to visit friends, but before leaving, issue instructions reminiscent of Gremlins – no TV, no candy, and bed by 8.45pm. And though he seems like a solid babysitter, Corey nevertheless sticks on a scary movie. Then things go bump in the night in the house, a knife goes missing, and at the end of this lengthy prologue, something terrible happens.

jamie-lee-curtis-in-Halloween-EndsUniversal Pictures
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie and Rohan Campbell as Corey in Halloween Ends.

The film then leaps ahead four years, ostensibly so we don’t have to deal with the fallout from Halloween Kills, wherein Laurie Strode lost her daughter, and Allyson Strode lost her mother. Instead, they’re now playing happy families, the pair living together, with Allyson working as a nurse while Laurie writes her memoir.

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But instead of spending time with the Strodes, we’re with Corey, the events of that fateful night ruining his life, and resulting in his now working as a mechanic in a run-down chop-shop, and being bullied by local kids.

Psycho meets freak show

The people of Haddonfield believe Laurie previously teased and provoked a man with brain damage, thereby placing the blame for Michael’s actions firmly at her door. While Corey is also an outcast for what the town believes he has done.

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So when “psycho meets freak show” it looks like the film will focus on these kindred spirits finding common ground through their shared tragedy and trauma. But then the film takes a sharp handbrake turn, as rather than working through his issues with Laurie, Corey quickly becomes Team Michael.

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The first Halloween movie – and this new trilogy – have questioned the existence of “pure evil,” and asked if Michael is a man, or something more. Halloween Kills takes this one step further, positing that his inclination – or affliction – can be passed on via the film’s most dramatic flight of fancy.

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We then get glimpses of The Shape doing whatever shapes do in his lair. While we hear Laurie’s autobiographical words as she talks about how “truth evolved into legend as people searched for motive and meaning, looking into the shadows for their boogeyman.” But both villain and hero disappear for long periods, as instead we follow Corey down a dark path as he becomes the film’s dominant force.

The Verdict – is Halloween Ends good?

Eventually, the film reaches the destination that the audience signed up for – and the one the title suggests – ending in a showdown between The Shape and Laurie Strode.

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The final showdown. For now, at least.

And mercifully, it delivers. David Gordon Green directs the climax with a brutal hand, while stars Jamie Lee Curtis and James Jude Courtney do justice to that brutality, resulting in a bloody, bone-crunching, battle royale for the ages.

It’s a climax pays off what John Carpenter so spectacularly set up some 44 years ago, ending the Halloween story in satisfying fashion, while also answering that question of precisely who and what Michael is. At least in Laurie’s mind.

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Halloween Ends review score: 6/10

Trouble is, the 90-minutes that precede this denouement will have you scratching your head. There are good kills, which we won’t spoil here. And fantastic callbacks, to the head tilt, to the tableaux, and if you’re listening carefully, to ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper.’

But too much of the movie plays like the middle film in a trilogy, or even the start of a brand-new character’s spin-off. So while it’s fun to see the filmmakers taking big swings, too many of them turn into foul balls, with sub-plots concerning a malevolent mother and random radio host feeling both underdeveloped, and undercooked.

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Which means much of the movie is a frustrating watch; the final Halloween giving both Laurie and Michael the endings they deserve, but making a mess of what comes before.

Halloween Ends is in cinemas now, while for details of where to watch it at home, head here.

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