By Greg Maki
Is this it? Is this really the end?
Forty-four years after Michael Myers stabbed his way and prototypical “final girl” Laurie Strode screamed her way into the hearts of movie-goers in John Carpenter’s slasher masterpiece “Halloween,” director/co-writer David Gordon Green wraps his sequel trilogy with a period rather than the ellipsis we’re accustomed to. (In the not-too-distant future, it’s sure to become more of a semicolon when whoever holds the rights decides there’s more money to be made.)
Perhaps naively taking the movie at its word, “Halloween Ends” (2022) is a mostly satisfying conclusion to a story that evolved from a simple yet terrifying depiction of a masked madman’s murder spree to an exploration of the direct and indirect effects of trauma, of how they linger and spread and, if left unchecked, can become as dangerous as the original cause.
Four years have passed since the bloody events of “Halloween” (2018) and “Halloween Kills” (2021), and Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) has seemingly vanished after a rampage that left more than 30 dead. With the benefit of therapy and the absence of alcohol, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) appears to have found some measure of peace, living with her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) and working on her memoirs with the hope of using her trauma to help others. She and Allyson have leaned on each other to rebuild some sense of normalcy in their lives. Laurie even has an awkward, charming flirtation with kind Officer Hawkins (Will Patton), another survivor.
All is not well in small-town Haddonfield, Illinois, however. Its residents live in a state of constant fear and paranoia. When they confront Laurie, accusing her of drawing out Michael Myers, of bringing the boogeyman to their streets, the cracks in her thin facade start to show. An air of inevitability hangs over the town, the certainty that Michael, his grisly business unfinished, one day will return to wreak more havoc, his specter hanging over Haddonfield as surely as it does the movie itself, for we, as the audience, know without question that he will be back.
The townspeople persecute Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell) even more harshly than they do Laurie. Accused of murder in a case that was no more than a horrible, tragic accident, he’s now free under the law but forever guilty in the court of public opinion. Allyson is drawn to his pain and, after a not-so-chance encounter, quickly grows closer to him than Laurie would like.
Green and co-writers Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier and Danny McBride make some unexpected narrative choices, not the least of which is keeping Michael Myers largely in the shadows until his final showdown with Laurie. How he has survived and a potentially supernatural essence suggested by the conclusion of “Halloween Kills” are left unexplored. “Ends” moves the focus back to Laurie after she spent much of the previous film in the hospital, and—no surprise here—Curtis is exceptional, giving a nuanced portrayal of a woman who has suffered so much yet steadfastly refuses to give in to it while recognizing the place it will always hold within her.
Through excerpts of Laurie’s memoirs read in voiceover and through Corey’s narrative arc, the filmmakers ask weighty questions about the nature of evil and the effects of shared trauma. They might not get around to answering them, but I don’t see that as the movie’s responsibility. Regardless, the subject matter here is a long way from what one might expect from a subgenre that the late Roger Ebert used to refer to as “dead teenager movies.”
Many fans likely will decry the lack of Michael Myers, especially in the film’s first hour. But Green and company are working with ideas far bigger than one man and much deeper than coming up with the goriest, most creative kills—though they don’t slouch in that department either. Besides, we’ve been told for over four decades that Michael is nothing more than pure evil, so what else is there to say about him? He is still very much a factor in the movie, and it all builds to that climactic confrontation.
While it’s hard to believe this will be the last we see of the franchise—“Halloween II” offered what appeared to be closure all the way back in 1981 and look where we are now—it certainly seems to be the end of this particular story. Immediate reactions, especially when it comes to long-running series, tend to be extreme, so I suspect what Green has accomplished with this trilogy will be appreciated more as time goes by. (The divisive “Halloween Kills” plays better on subsequent viewings, by the way.) “Halloween Ends” is an effective capper to the tale, hitting viscerally and, somewhat surprisingly, on an intellectual level, as well. So long for now, Michael. See you in the next reboot.
Rated R for bloody horror violence and gore, language throughout and some sexual references. 111 minutes. In theaters and streaming on Peacock, Oct. 14, 2022.