‘Halloween Ends’ Changes The Shape of Evil in Emotional Strode Trilogy Finale [Review]
Halloween Ends is an epic and emotional finale to what we will forever refer to as the Strode Trilogy, and it will undoubtedly be one of the most divisive films in the Halloween movie franchise, as it changes The Shape of evil, introducing a new character who expands the mythology far beyond Michael and Laurie.
The opening credits are blue, a subtle nod to those of the 1982 sequel Halloween III: Season of the Witch for this third HalloGreen film directed and co-written by David Gordon Green, and the first hint that this one will be different, much like the aforementioned non-Michael-Myers-centric sequel that gave us the Silver Shamrock mask corporation, already referenced in Green’s 2018 Halloween and 2021’s Halloween Kills.
With so much of this movie kept a secret prior to its release, beyond promising the “final battle” between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, almost every other aspect of Ends feels like a blast of fresh air. It carries far more emotional weight than the previous two films, as a troubled young man’s own tragic story intersects with the surviving Strode women, while the devastation of Michael’s prior rampage lingers in the air – and radio airwaves – of Haddonfield and in the heavy hearts of everyone who lives there. (Minor spoilers ahead.)
Rohan Campbell has the film’s most challenging job of bringing a brand new character to Haddonfield in Corey Cunningham, a young man accused of killing a boy he was babysitting on Halloween 2019, when the town’s wounds from the events from the previous two films had not yet begun to heal, and his performance is phenomenal, leaving me far more sympathetic to Corey than I expected to be. Corey will be a source of hot debate among the Michael Myers fandom for decades to come, but for me, and I predict for many longtime fans, he will ultimately be remembered as a welcome addition to the franchise, much more a beloved Jamie Lloyd from Halloween 4 than a derided Man In Black from Halloween 5.
Picking up on the days just before October 31st in 2022, we find Laurie Strode now living with her granddaughter, Allyson, working on completing her memoir as a way to finally put the trauma of Michael Myers somewhat behind her. This is the most at peace, “happiest” version of Laurie that she has likely ever been since the morning of October 31, 1978, before Michael sliced his way into her life and carved out the next 44 years of it. She is even seen hanging Halloween decorations, making pumpkin pie, and lighting a jack-o’-lantern, all of which would have been scoffed at by the Laurie we met in 2018.
Jamie Lee Curtis turns in another amazingly nuanced, layered tour de force as the iconic Final Girl that she first played in John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween. This is her seventh film playing Laurie Strode, and Curtis has totally given these three most recent movies the gravity that the great Donald Pleasence infused into five of the first six Halloween films as the equally iconic character, Dr. Sam Loomis. She is excellent, and her chemistry with Will Patton, returning for his third Halloween as Frank Hawkins, is charming and refreshingly warmhearted.
Andi Matichack gets to show us new sides of Allyson, who is clearly still in great pain and quite lost, but seems to be trying to take charge of her destiny more than ever before. I love that she now works at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, an understandable path following the deaths of her parents and friends in 2018, and a fun Easter egg reference back to Halloween Kills and also way back to 1981’s Halloween II. This is much more Allyson’s story than even that of Laurie, and it is Allyson who I am still thinking about, much more than Strode or Myers, days after watching the movie.
In his third film behind the mask as The Shape, James Jude Courtney also gets to display shades of Michael Myers that have never been seen on screen before. Michael is – dare we say it, weaker – when we first see him, which is an audacious choice and a bit terrifying in itself. When an opportunity to kill again is served to him like chum to a shark, there is a truly magical moment when Courtney as Myers visibly exhales and commences to do what he does best, seemingly becoming more rejuvenated with each stab. Courtney fully embodies Michael like no other performer to don the mask before him, bringing a depth and soul to even the slightest body movements.
The most haunting image in the entire film is easily what appears to be Michael’s mask engraved into a cave wall, that he apparently carved during his substantial downtime presumably living in Haddonfield’s drainage system since we last saw him. Michael’s been busy, and it’s crazy to think what may have been going on in his mind these past four years, not to mention the 40 before that. These are questions that are not, and should not, be answered, but yet another fascinating part of the enigma that is Michael Myers.
Many fans will not like having shockingly less of Michael on screen in this movie than perhaps any other since Halloween III, and it will be polarizing, but just as Season of the Witch found its audience and has ultimately received a more affectionate reappraisal from the masses, so too will this 13th entry earn its own devoted fans.
There’s in incredibly creepy moment when a homeless man claims, “I’m Michael Myers”, and it reminds me of the scene early in Halloween 2018, when Dave asks if Michael is Laurie’s brother, and Allyson responds, “No. That’s just a bit that some people made up to make them feel better, I think,” recalling how the legend of the Haddonfield bogeyman, as told by Tommy Doyle in Kills, is almost like a myth already.
Another legacy cast member from John Carpenter’s original 1978 film, Kyle Richards is back in an all too brief appearance as Lindsey Wallace, who reads Tarot cards and hosts a Halloween party that serves as Allyson’s fitting first date with Corey.
That’s right, there is a love story within this chapter, another daring first the entire franchise, and it’s so much better for it, as Allyson and Corey both try to defy their fates. With Laurie beginning to notice familiar and troubling traits in the young man, the sun sets on All Hallows’ Eve. Corey’s vintage-style scarecrow mask is an instant must have, as is Allyson’s cool black cat mask, but they also seem to capture the spirits of these young people haunted by their pasts and fumbling through the dark trying to find their way to a brighter future. And I appreciate that the masks are both timeless classic symbols of Halloween itself.
David Gordon Green had indicated early on prior to filming that Ends was heavily inspired by John Carpenter’s movie adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Christine, and this is echoed in many ways beyond just Corey and Christine‘s protagonist Arnie sharing the same last name. Corey is an outsider underdog, like Arnie, who finds an unlikely way to deal to with the gang of bullies harassing him. There are references to other Carpenter films, as well, such as the director’s own remake of The Thing airing on TV on Halloween Night, just like how the Howard Hawks’ original black and white version of The Thing was airing on TV in Halloween 1978. In both cases, this could even be seen as an early hint that what Dr. Loomis always said was true – “This isn’t a man.”
There is also a link to Carpenter’s The Fog, with the fun DJ Willy character (also first mentioned in Halloween Kills), played by Keraun Harris, serving as part narrator, like the DJ Stevie Wayne, played by Adrienne Barbeau in The Fog, but he is also part of what keeps Michael Myers constantly (and literally) in the air and on the minds of the people of Haddonfield.
As in the last two films, the reverence for the source material is abundant, with numerous callbacks to 1978, and there is a great sequence involving a nurse coworker of Allyson’s and their sleazy boss, Dr. Mathis, who was mentioned as being Marcus’s boss in Halloween Kills, that is loaded with visual echoes of some of the most iconic moments from the original Halloween, such as Michael stalking Annie as she’s preoccupied on the phone and of the unforgettable Bob kill. The original Shape, Nick Castle, also makes a quick cameo appearance on screen long enough to revisit a fan favorite line from 1978, in addition to once again performing the creepy off screen breathing of Courtney’s Michael Myers, as he did for the previous two movies.
The soundtrack by John Carpenter and his bandmates Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies has been an undeniable highlight of each of these three most recent films, and Ends is no exception, with a mournful dread dripping from each note, punctuated by intricate piano odes that recall the classic themes of the franchise, and electric guitar cutting into the synth ocean like a rusty knife through flesh.
The song choices are all Halloween-themed, as well, with one in particular serving up a tear-jerking full circle moment 44 years in the making.
There is an especially devastating, very brief shot of the framed childhood handprints of Karen, Laurie’s daughter who didn’t survive Halloween Kills, with the message, “I’ll protect you, Mommy”, all the more heartbreaking knowing Karen’s fate, and then the camera moves up to show a photo of Laurie with her high school friends Annie and Lynda, in reality a photo by Kim Gottlieb-Walker taken on the set of Halloween 1978, a painful reminder of the unrepairable damage left in Michael’s wake.
The ending is powerful and cathartic, with almost religious imagery set to Carpenter’s hauntingly eerie music, and some very welcome, well placed cameos bringing added emotional punch. There are definite rays of hope at the conclusion of Ends, but it is an extremely sad and tragic ending, a final period at the end of Michael and Laurie’s story, though one that does in fact leave a door open for a new beginning.
Halloween Ends is now playing in theaters and streaming on Peacock.
See all of our Halloween Ends coverage here!
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