Halloween Ends, the final entry in the Halloween trilogy helmed by David Gordon Green, is nothing short of labyrinthian.
From the opening sequence audience members find themselves at the entrance of a twisting maze of ideas and themes. Try the left path for a story about victim shaming and the communal hurt that results. Try the right path for star-crossed lovers, one a perceived victim, and the other a perceived murderer. Or maybe go straight and find a cautionary tale of Trumpism, sensationalist media, conspiracy theories, and the collapse of empathy.
Whichever path is chosen, the audience is left to shuffle through, finding multiple dead-ends whilst trying desperately to follow the swerving narrative path that leads to the conclusion.
Once the final credits roll it is hard to feel anything but a lot of confusion and a little bit of awe. Laced with visual references to the original ‘Halloween’ film and Easter eggs from the other entries in the franchise, Halloween Ends is reverential. It knows the lineage that it has blossomed from.
And that what makes this film so strange. The same filmmakers gave us two, reasonably straightforward, Halloween films in ‘Halloween 2018’ and ‘Halloween Kills’. Sure they threw in some modern thematic messaging and provided a twist or two, but they were very much the offspring of ‘Halloween 1978’.With Halloween Ends, though, the narrative takes a sharp right turn into the above mentioned labyrinth of ideas.
Considering this is the third film of a trilogy, or arguably the fourth film in a quadrilogy, the fact that it seemingly abandons the films before for new and antithetical themes and ideas is shocking.
Perhaps the filmmakers are following the trajectory laid out before.
Before, we had ‘Halloween’ and ‘Halloween II’, films that took place in the same night and continued the same narrative trajectory with an added twist in the second film (Laurie is Michael’s sister!). We then had ‘Halloween III’, which shared a title but veered far away from Michael Myers and the films before it.
Now, we have Halloween 2018 which continues the mythos of Halloween 1978, following many of the beats exactly. In ‘Halloween Kills’ we have a story taking place during the same night as the first. And yes, we get a new twist (Laurie doesn’t matter to Michael!). So, perhaps with Halloween Ends, the filmmakers used the franchise’s earlier blueprint and departed the narrative line we were on and just went wild.
If so, the trouble is this: they tried to have their Halloween III and eat their Michael Myers too. This film seems to simultaneously distance itself from Myers and revel in his mythos at the same time.
Laurie has gone to therapy, is burning pies, and working on a badly written memoir. Allyson seems to be a shell of herself, walking from scene to scene with very little in common with the character the audience had gotten to know through the first two films. And then there is Corey.
Corey is a main character introduced in the last film of a trilogy, which is generally a bad idea. It is hard to invest in a story when an important element or person is introduced in the final act.
It always feels like cheating, like an unearned misdirection.
And that’s what Corey’s character and arc is, unearned. Not only does it not follow the narrative path established in the movies before, it becomes completely antithetical. While the other films lead to a message of ‘fear, anger, and trauma cannot be battled with fear or anger, only love and empathy can do that’. Halloween Ends seems to cynically shrug and say “What’s the point?”.
Laurie herself says, “I’ve tried so hard to find compassion and mercy, but what’s the point?”
Considering the MAGA/Trumpism references littered throughout the running time, this seems especially bleak. Even bleaker is the ending. That the town reverts to a murder parade in response to a murderer might as well have screamed, “Tommy was right! Vigilante justice is good!”
Corey and Allyson’s romance is also antithetical to the other films. Before, Allyson was portrayed as smart, self-aware, compassionate. Now she is in a haze the entire film, walking from plot point to plot point. She is attracted to Corey because the plot demands so. It doesn’t fit with the lessons she learned from the mistakes of her grandmother, the suffering of her mother, or the evil of Michael Myers. Instead, she is a shell of a character who is a prop for Corey’s devolution, or ‘infection”, throughout the film.
And then there is the issue of hands in this film. The camera dwells on them incessantly, lingering on hands raised, hands injured, hands touching, hands infected. Is this a comment of the blame being exchanged amongst us all? One almost expects a shot of Corey’s hand losing fingers to match the shape of Michael Myers that he is becoming. It is a strange creative flourish that never really manifests into anything but a confusing dead end.
Finally, Michael Myers himself is antithetical to the other films. He is a ghost and, arguably, not even really Michael Myers anymore. Michael Myers might now be a transient man pushing a cart about town.
Myers is reduced to The Shape, a mask, an infection. An infection that has unexplainable team-up scenes with Corey. If the spreading disease of evil was the intended theme, why even include the stalking Michael? The sewer temple with the mask carved into the walls, the sacrifice of the officer, it all leans very hard away from the previous two films and flirts closely with the Cult of Thorn.
Most importantly, though, what he represents as laid out in ‘Halloween Kills’ is antithetical here. He is not the manifestation of a town’s trauma any longer, he is some ancient force of evil that is inevitably handed down through generations. While ‘Halloween Kills’ ends on a nihilistic tinged bit of hope, Halloween Ends has no hope to spare. Evil is everywhere and always will be, might as well join in.
All of this is not to say this is a bad film. Actually, I would argue the opposite. It is maddening, confusing, gonzo, and not an ending to a planned trilogy, but it is not bad.
Considering the end, and then the Extended Cut’s ending, of ‘Halloween Kills’ it would be easy to assume that the Halloween Ends we have received was not the original plan. But these filmmakers made this film with intention.
Every choice was made consciously with the skill and methodology they have displayed throughout their careers. With all its frenetic glory, there is one thing Halloween Ends never even flirts with being: boring.