"Halloween Ends" will either horrify or delight fright film lovers
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, James Jude Courtney, Andi Matichak, Rohan Campbell, Will Patton and Kyle Richards. Written by David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Paul Brad Logan and Chris Bernier. Directed by David Gordon Green. Now playing everywhere. 111 minutes. 14A
⭐️⭐️½ (out of four)
If we’ve learned anything through 44 years of the infernal “Halloween” horror franchise, it’s never to trust anybody, least of all a mob of club-swinging vigilantes.
The crowd chant “Evil dies tonight!” was doomed to disappoint us in last year’s “Halloween Kills,” as the aggrieved town folk of Haddonfield, Illinois, vainly pursued street justice for psychotic slasher Michael Myers, the Houdini of hell-raisers.
That movie was also fated to let us down, being a numbing time-waster in which the masked maniac laboriously upped his body count while his main nemesis, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), spun her squeals, so to speak, waiting for a chance to show how much she doesn’t like Mike.
Now comes “Halloween Ends,” which finally settles the matter … or maybe not. No spoilers here, but it’s of little consequence how you view the outcome of the 13th instalment of this rage-retreat-repeat ritual. If the Hollywood powers that be want another “Halloween” movie, they’ll find a way to make one, just as they found ways to resurrect supposedly dead characters in previous chapters.
This may well be, however, the final series at-bat for director/co-writer David Gordon Green, who revived and extended the original 1978 John Carpenter “Halloween” storyline in 2018. “Halloween Ends” caps a terror trilogy for Green and he’s vowed to move on. So has Curtis (who has now played Laurie seven times), although it would be wise to check if she and Green crossed their fingers behind their backs.
“Halloween Ends” shows there’s still some spice in a pumpkin-time tale that had been ground into pulp. It explores the notion of evil as a disease, which is an improvement over aimless carnage. It’s not the deepest of thoughts, and the illogical script is laden with clichés, but gosh darn it, at least we have a story!
Set four years after the bloodletting of “Halloween Kills,” the film finds a grieving Laurie abiding in the suburbs of Haddonfield with her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). They’re both trying to restart their lives after enduring the trauma of confronting Myers: Laurie is writing her memoir and Allyson is pursuing a career in nursing.
Judging by extracts Laurie reads aloud about the relentless assailant she calls “my monster,” her prose about scarlet bloodletting is written with purple ink. Along with her physical scars, she’s still dealing with PTSD, alcoholism and a desire for vengeance.
Myers (James Jude Courtney) has been MIA since evading the homicidal mob four years ago. Nobody believes he’s really gone, of course, least of all Laurie. Nevertheless, she’s resolved to live her life without fear, which leaves her open to thoughts of a possible romance with Officer Frank Hawkins (Will Patton), another casualty of Haddonfield’s endless reign of terror.
The “Halloween” routine abruptly shifts when Laurie takes pity on Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), a young man accused of killing a boy he was babysitting. She introduces Corey to Allyson, who can see the kind soul within the shattered shell of the man ostracized by the rest of the town.
Speaking of ostracizing, where’s Myers, a.k.a. “The Shape” a.k.a. “The Boogeyman”? He’s hiding out as usual, this time in a sewer, where he looks even sadder and greyer than before, making him almost disappear into the steel and concrete of his surroundings.
It takes some time for Myers to shift into attack mode and for the inevitable confrontation with Laurie to occur. The film focuses on Corey’s story, which is the antithesis of a boy-meets-girl rom-com as it violently demonstrates how dark impulses, once acted upon, can spread like the most virulent of contagions. Green makes the gloom all the more tangible with intense close-ups and jump scares and a soundtrack laced with hard rock and punk nihilism.
It’s a risky move by Green and his co-writers to turn our attention away from the main “Halloween” combatants. It’s a clever one, though, and to go by the repeat applause I heard at a public preview screening, it’s likely to go down well with fans of the franchise.
“Halloween Ends” provides catharsis, one way or another. But remember the hard lesson of these many years: it’s never really over, even when they say it is. 🌓
(Originally published in the Toronto Star.)