The “Halloween” Sequel Trilogy Concludes in a Bafflingly Misguided Manner
Last month, Halloween Ends — the final installment of the Halloween sequel trilogy — was released simultaneously in theaters and for at-home viewing on NBC/Universal’s streaming service Peacock. Although the sequel trilogy began somewhat promisingly, it unfortunately limped to a bewilderingly feeble close.
[Author’s Note: This article contains spoilers. If you have yet to see the film and intend to, I strongly recommend that you bookmark this article and return to it after you have seen it.]
Click here for my review of Halloween (2018)
The Road to Halloween Ends
Before I begin, let me provide a quick recap of the (exceedingly confusing) chronology of the Halloween franchise. The 1978 original, which chronicles the Halloween night rampage of serial killer Michael Meyers that ensnares strong-willed babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), is considered by many — including me — to be a horror masterpiece and perhaps the archetype of the slasher genre.
In 1981, John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis returned for the mildly successful sequel Halloween II. A year later came a spinoff entitled Halloween III: Season of the Witch not featuring the characters of Michael Myers or Laurie Strode. It did not fare well. Michael Myers — but not Laurie Strode — was brought back for three more sequels, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995).
In 1998, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later was released, which featured the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie and served as a direct sequel to Halloween II (thus ignoring the entire Michael Myers plot lines featured in the 4th, 5th, and 6th films). Halloween: Resurrection, a much maligned sequel to H20, followed in 2002. After that film’s terrible reception, Rob Zombie was brought on board to write and direct a remake of the original film, which was released in 2007 and also titled Halloween. This was followed by a sequel, Halloween II, in 2009.
In October 2018 — a full 9 years after the prior entry in the franchise (the longest stretch between films yet) — a new film entitled Halloween was released. It was a direct sequel to the 1978 original, chronicling what Laurie and Michael were up to 40 years later and ignoring the nine(!) films in the franchise that followed. The film was a staggering success, receiving positive reviews from critics (a rare fete for a slasher film) and grossing over $250 million on a $10–$15 production budget. Naturally, sequels were instantly commissioned following its release . Director David Gordon Green, star Jamie Lee Curtis, and the producing team (Malek Akkad, Jason Blum, and Bill Block) all agreed to return for two more installments.
The second film in the sequel trilogy, Halloween Kills, was released in October 2021. The film was enormously profitable, grossing over $130 million from a $20 million production budget, and was successfully used to attract subscribers to NBC/Universal’s fledgling streaming service Peacock (where it premiered on the same day it launched in theaters). Nevertheless, critics and fans were largely disappointed in the film, which featured often laughable dialogue, a nonsensical plot, and a significant increase in gore that was apparently supposed to distract viewers from all the problems.
Just one year after Halloween Kills was released, its sequel Halloween Ends followed. The film was released on October 14 in both theaters and on Peacock. Although it has still made a significant profit, with a $103 million gross on a $33 million budget, the profit margin is clearly dwindling with each film. And the reviews were just as weak as they were for its predecessor as evidenced by its 47 out of 50 average rating on Metacritic and 41% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I would love if I could argue that the critics and audiences were wrong and that the new sequel trilogy went out on a strong note, but I just can’t. Hallloween Ends is a massive misfire.
Halloween Ends: Film Review
Whereas Halloween (2018) and Halloween Kills (2021) had some thrilling kills and amusing performances that were unfortunately undercut by weak writing and a sense of predictability, Halloween Ends (2022) has very little in the way of redeeming qualities.
The film begins with a lengthy prologue set in 2019 (one year after the events of the previous two films, which both took place on October 31, 2018). Things are a mess right off the bat as the sequence plays out with exceedingly familiarity and lacks any real tension. It certainly doesn’t help that it features no familiar characters, instead relying on a 21-year-old babysitter named Corey Cunningham (relative unknown Rohan Campbell).
The film flashes forward three years after the tragic events of that night, in which the boy Corey was babysitting was brutally killed. Corey has been cleared of criminal responsibility for the death, but struggles to find acceptance in Haddonfield, where he continues to be treated like a pariah. (Predictably, his social outcast status is conveyed to the audience with an exceedingly trite and cliched scene where he is harassed by teenage bullies.)
He nevertheless has at least one champion in Haddonfield in the form of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). After the horrifying events of Halloween 2018, she began a new life in which she ended her seclusion, renounced her paranoid ways, and decided to move on with her life. She lives with her formerly estranged granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), is completing work on a memoir that is proving to be therapeutic for her, and appears to be rekindling her long-dormant romance with Deputy Frank Hawkins (Will Patton). In attempt to cheer up both Allyson and Corey, she sets the two of them up.
So wait, what about Michael Meyers? Aren’t these films supposed to be about him? Well, it turns out that he just mysteriously went into hiding after the events of the prior two films and not a peep has been heard from him since. He finally appears 41 minutes in when he drags Corey into a sewer with the seeming intention to kill him. Curiously, however, Michael spares him. Corey then is revealed to be a vicious killer who earns the respect of Michael and eventually wins a fight against him and claims his mask.
Laurie becomes increasingly suspicious and eventually realizes that Corey has become another Michael. Naturally, she takes it upon herself to kill Corey. However, before she can, Michael arrives and does the deed. This exceptionally contrived development sets the stage for one final, epic Michael-Laurie showdown. This one ends not with Michael showing superhuman healing powers and popping up at the last minute, but rather ends with Laurie grinding him through an industrial shredder once and for all. This long-awaited climax thing has moments of thrills and a decently satisfying payoff, but it honestly could have occurred without the entire Corey plot line that dominated the prior 90 minutes.
It is difficult to fathom what was going through the minds of the screenwriting team of Paul Brad Logan, Bris Bernier, Danny McBride, and Green. Typically when a new character is introduced at the end of a film series, it is an attempt to create a spinoff. That possibility is eliminated, however, when Corey dies before the climactic fight. So, if he wasn’t there to take over as the new Michael, what was he there for? I am honestly dumbfounded. He doesn’t really advance Michael and Laurie’s characters or plotlines, nor does he create anything new and exciting of his own. To shift the focus away from the franchise’s central players during a highly buzzed entry in the saga that promises closure is bizarre. To do so in such a lame and disjointed manner is unforgivable.
From a thematic perspective, Corey’s plot line is also muddled and problematic. Are viewers to understand that he was outcast from society and thus turned into a monster? Is this just a blatant retread of Todd Phillips’s Oscar-winning blockbuster Joker? Or are they supposed to take away that Corey always a monster and he is really just there to symbolize that evil will always live on? I could get behind a film series that decides to wrap on such a decidedly bleak note, but that can’t be what they are going for given that it ends with both bad guys dead and the heroes having a happy ending. Maybe viewers are supposed to take away that both Michael and Corey will have successors, but Laurie and Allyson can still find happiness because one can have happy endings even in the midst of the unrelenting march of evil? Now I’m just grasping at straws…
The film’s confounding themes also extend to the film’s other emotional dynamics. Allyson and Corey’s relationship never rings true, particularly when he mutters the cliched line “If I can’t have her, no will” before he dies at the hands of Michael. Were we supposed to have been interpreting their relationship as a tale of romantic passion turned to obsession? Because, if so, I missed that.
Also ringing false is Laurie’s decision to completely change her life after 40 years. The writers attempt to explain her motivation to the viewers through Sex and the City-style voiceovers, but they are just a series of schlocky, overly reductionist, and moralizing takes on the prior tragedies that induce eye-rolling. This completely undermines the authenticity and impact of Laurie’s happy ending.
There is another critical problem here with the writing — the community’s blame of Laurie for Michael’s repeated attacks and Laurie’s own guilt make virtually no sense. She was clearly the victim in both films and did absolutely nothing to provoke him. And since these films retcon the plot lines of the original sequels, in which it was revealed that Michael and Laurie were siblings, it doesn’t really even make sense that they are so connected. If the idea is that she is the one he couldn’t manage to kill and he is coming back to finish the job, then that would require Michael to actually be a character with an internal life to which the viewer is privy.
It’s not necessary for a horror film to have a great plot or a tight script brimming with psychological complexity. But if it’s going to be as nonsensical as Halloween Ends it needs to have bigger thrills and bigger laughs than this film is able to muster.
Given the overall profitability of the sequel trilogy, I sincerely doubt that this thirteenth film in the franchise will be the last. But it should be. It is time for us to let Michael Meyers go, just as Laurie was (finally) able to at the end of the film.
Rating for Halloween Ends: 2/5 stars
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