Movie Review: Halloween Ends (Universal Pictures)

“A psycho meets a freakshow.” Halloween Ends is a 2022 Universal Pictures release produced by John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis. Directed by David Gordon Green, it is written by […]

“A psycho meets a freakshow.”

Halloween Ends is a 2022 Universal Pictures release produced by John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis. Directed by David Gordon Green, it is written by Green, Danny McBride, Chris Bernier, and Paul Brad Logan. It is the direct sequel to 2021’s Halloween Kills and concludes the trilogy began with 2019’s Halloween. That film is a follow-up of John Carpenter’s original Halloween from 1978, completely ignoring the myriad subsequent films in the series. Curtis, Will Patton, Andi Matichak, and James Jude Courtney return in starring roles. They are joined by Rohan Campbell, Joanne Baron, Rick Moose, Michael Barbieri, Destiny Mone, Marteen, and Joey Harris along with Keraun Harris, Kyle Richards, Candice Rose, Michele Dawson, and Michael O’Leary.

A year after his malevolent return to Haddonfield IL in 2018, Michael Myers (Jude Courtney), the homicidal madman known as the Shape has gone silent, completely disappearing after dispatching Laurie Strode’s (Curtis) daughter, Karen to cap off his rampant night of revenge and butchery. Laurie hasn’t left Haddonfield, unable to move on. She is hunkering down with her granddaughter Allyson Nelson (Matichak) in a new house, scorned and largely isolated by her neighbors. They believe somehow she lured Myers to Haddonfield on purpose. The traumatized town is terrorized anew after the startling death of Jeremy Allen occurs on Halloween. The main suspect is a shaggy youth named Corey Cunningham (Campbell) who was babysitting the ill-fated boy. Charged with manslaughter, Corey is ultimately acquitted in Court but the court of public opinion turns decisively and decidedly against him.

Three years later, after cycling through the system, he battens the hatches and tries to carry on, besieged by his helicoptering harridan of a mother (Baron) when at home and finding scant refuge at his stepfather’s (Moose) junkyard where he works in relative anonymity. A gang of local kids (Marteen, Mone, and Harris) led by neighborhood ne’er-do-well Terry (Barbieri) confronts Cunningham. They back off when he inadvertently breaks a bottle and bleeds all over the place.

Strode sees the situation and sympathizes with the wounded boy. She takes him to meet Allyson, who is working as a nurse and can patch Corey up. Allyson takes a liking to Cunningham and tries to get the withdrawn and defensive youth to open up. They begin a tentative relationship while at the same time a skittish Strode flirts with Deputy Frank Hawkins (Patton) who’s had a thing for Laurie for a long time and has been dealing with the fallout from Myers’ mayhem since the beginning.

Allyson is slowly able to coax some semblance of normal human responses out of the damaged and depressed Corey. He agrees to accompany her to a costume party. There the pair drink and dance. Allyson watches with delight as Corey relaxes his guard and for the first time in years, enjoys himself. His exuberant glee is short-lived when Mrs. Allen (Rose), disgusted to find Corey walking about free but even worse, having fun, drunkenly and belligerently bellows at him until Cunningham flees the bar. Wrapped back in the deep shadows of his self-loathing, he’s oblivious to his environs and doesn’t notice that Terry and his goons are at his heels. They surround him on an overpass, badgering Corey as they work up the courage to batter him in earnest. He attempts to stand up for himself, but it’s for naught, and Terry pushes him off the precipice, sadistically watching as Cunningham plunges into the depths before gathering his punks and venturing back to the party.

A bruised Corey wakes confused and filthy in a claustrophobic nest of overgrown and unused pipes belonging to the Haddonfield sewer system, unsure of how he got there. As his eyes adjust to the darkness, Cunningham notices, to his horror, the presence of Michael Myers looming in the shadows. The Shape is staring at him, studying him dispassionately. Suddenly Myers one-hands Corey around the throat and lifts him into the air like Darth Vader. Prepared to dispatch him like so many others, Myers stares into Cunningham’s panicked, desperate eyes and something inexplicable happens. He sees Corey’s history, from his clash with the law following the death of Jeremy Mills through to the moment he is heaved over the railing’s edge earlier that evening. The Shape sees in Cunningham someone that the townsfolk despises and disdains as well. A strange bond is established. Myers releases him and a shaken Cunningham scrambles his way out of the sewer pipes to wrestle with the knowledge that the mass murderer Michael Myers sees him as a kindred spirit. This shatters his self-image and leads Corey to question Allyson’s faith in him.

Can Laurie work through her traumatic stress? Can she relax and try romance again? Can Allyson and Frank help their partners work through their pain? Has Laurie made a huge mistake by inviting Cunningham into the fold? Will Corey keep his head on straight and report his encounter with the rapacious killer taking a reprieve from his odyssey of stabbings in the sewers of Haddonfield? Can Strode pull the pieces together by herself and stop Myers before he slaughters again, or will Michael Myers FINALLY get the “girl”?

Jamie Lee Curtis has been playing Laurie Strode for a very long time and it shows. She is a very talented actress who knows the character intimately and is able to run through the gamut of extreme emotions, letting stress and trauma play across her features before submerging them and allowing her countenance settle into iron resolve. When pressed, her Laurie Strode is as ferocious as the serial killer stalking her and her loved ones.

For the most, James Jude Courtney is appropriately ominous as the mute murderer, Michael Myers. However, there are moments where Courtney’s age betrays him and a viewer can tell by the way he moves in several scenes that he appears to be less of an implacable force of nature and more an old man in a fright mask.

Andi Matichak is a relative newcomer who has hit her stride in Green’s Halloween trilogy as Allyson Nelson. The contrast between how she handles her scenes with Curtis and Campbell is fascinating. She’s able to slip into a familial comfort in her moments with Curtis while treating her scenes with Campbell with the delicate deference one gives a wild animal that you don’t trust and who doesn’t trust you either. Though she makes an odd decision and turns on a dime later in the film, all of the emotions she displays are grounded by events and follow her own particular logic.

Will Patton exudes a warmth and humanity as Deputy Frank. His gentle pursuit of Laurie is in direct contrast to Allyson and Corey’s tumultuous relationship as well as the Shape’s obsessions. Corey ultimately isn’t interested in Allyson’s consent and Myers isn’t aware of the concept at all. Frank is kind and patient with Laurie, a half-smile on his face showing his pleasure at the progressive baby steps made with her paranoia and the slow processing of her feelings. Determined to defy the townsfolk, Frank is on Team Strode and has cast his lot with Laurie.

Rohan Campbell’s Corey Cunningham is a mop-head with a clay-like, malleable face. Rohan is able to play a hapless and helpless buffoon who can switch on the fly into a monster with the flat, predatory eyes of a shark. The malevolent Michael Myers becomes Corey’s mentor while the angelic Allyson acts as a counterweight in the scales of his mind and Campbell lets that clash of consciences play across his features between lines of dialogue. That interesting push-and-pull dynamic at work within Cunningham is similar to the one in Oliver Stone’s 1986 film Platoon, with Corey trapped between the opposing poles of Allyson and Michael’s influence. They take up similar roles in Cunningham’s heart as William Dafoe’s Sgt. Elias and Tom Berenger’s Sgt. Barnes did with Charlie Sheen’s Chris in Platoon.

Michael Barbieri’s Terry is a vulgar and privileged ass, a one-note bully seen in hundreds of films in the genre. He inhabits the sadistic schmuck and imbues him with a certain manic exhilaration that leads to a moment of audience satisfaction as Terry gets his comeuppance.  It’s not a deep or subtle role, but Barbieri does what he can with what he’s been given.

Halloween Ends is an odd duck of a movie. It is an unnecessarily convoluted mashup of a slasher film and a family drama. As the climax of a horror trilogy, it suffers from not being particularly dramatic, particularly scary or particularly gory. It needs FAR more arterial spurt. Blood is under pressure (hence, “blood pressure”). Pierced carotid arteries spray.

“Corey Cunningham: the Origin of a Killer” is basically a separate movie than the nuanced character study of Laurie Strode and her family working through her PTSD. Whether it’s an intentional homage or not, the parts of the film where Cunningham attempts to adopt the methodology of Michael Myers and seek revenge on his tormentors are shot with far more garish lighting, are much flatter scenes and could’ve been ripped from any number of Halloween imitators released in the Eighties.

 Micahel Myers is 65. James Jude Courtney, playing Michael Myers is 65. He’s old and moves like an old man. The implacable formidable, fearsome Shape is an inconsistent, stumbling mess in this film. The decidedly un-super screw-up Corey slams him to the ground and snatches his iconic mask. The Shape’s strength and plot-armor kicks in as needed allowing him to shrug off massive injuries while throwing people around with one hand, impaling them with knives and pinning them to walls but then losing fights and his fright mask to fuckups like Corey.  

Green is a functional director with a decent story that doesn’t work in a few places. Has Myers really been living in the sewers for four years? Was there NOT a massive manhunt, did they just overlook the sewer system?  It’s a little goofy that his obsession with Strode would compel him to return to his unfinished business from decades earlier, but then just lie fallow for four years. It defies credulity in a film where other inconsistencies raise their heads periodically, gnawing at the suspension of disbelief. Green’s workman-like direction does establish everything nicely, albeit in a somewhat linear fashion.  The industrial shredder in the junkyard is given a nice, lingering camera sweep worthy of Chekhov, and the overpass’ geographic relationship in Haddonfield is firmly tied down. The radio tower in the distance helps to ground every location and orient them within the town.

At one point a character concedes, “You were right about Corey.”  Yeah, no duh.  That got a laugh out of the review audience, but it probably wasn’t supposed to.  As an individual film, Halloween Ends works in places but it fails as the climax of the larger Halloween trilogy and unfortunately, the blood-soaked denouement is a bit silly.

Halloween Ends is in theatres now.

The Shape, Michael Myers, and Laurie Strode were created by John Carpenter.

About Dan Kleiner

Dan Kleiner is a strange visitor from another planet who resides in Brooklyn, New York with two cats and his amazing girlfriend. When not plotting world domination, he spends a great deal of his time watching movies and anime of all sorts, reading comic-books and book-books, studying politics and history and striving for the day when he graduates as a Class A-Weirdo.