It isn’t new for a film in the long-running Halloween franchise to wonder whether the villain Michael Myers was born or made. But Halloween Ends — said to be Jamie Lee Curtis’ final entry in the franchise — is a solid attempt to put a fine point on that idea. The title says it succinctly. You’ve undoubtedly seen (and Curtis knows that you’ve seen) a supercut of the timeless scream queen saying that the latest trio of Halloween movies, helmed by David Gordon Green, is “about trauma.” Halloween Ends, capping them off, is about closure — to the extent that Laurie Strode and the murder-ridden town of Haddonfield, Illinois, can dare to imagine such a thing.
Four years after a killing spree in 2018, and 40 years after the spree that made him an iconic nightmare, Michael Myers lives on, and not solely in the flesh. He’s as much of an idea as he ever was: a monster lurking in the shadows, still capable of making kids wet their beds at night and, as the movie’s tragic opening sequence shows, able to inspire the most primal, irrational fear without even showing face. Laurie has not seen Michael since his last attack. She lives with her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), is trying to move on with her life, trying to move past the nightmares, the alcohol, the flashbacks that still define her life, by throwing herself into domestic comforts: knitting, making pies, caring for Allyson in a new house that’s almost too big enough for them both and still has that shadowy emptiness you’d think Laurie would want to avoid by now. Halloween Ends will reveal the ways in which Laurie is still hypervigilant, still uncomfortably alert to the potential for danger. Even if she weren’t, the world would remind her. She’s trying to write a memoir about the evil of Michael Myers and her attempts to survive it. She’s still accosted in public, called a “freakshow” by some, lambasted by others for luring Michael back out the last time around. “Teasing” him is the word they use, and it’s a word that has all kinds of damning implications for the role Laurie has played in Michael’s persistence, implying that she was asking for it, that the blood of Michael’s most recent victims, including her own daughter, is on her hands. Laurie needn’t see Michael in the flesh for him to be the backbone of her world.
But he is out there. And the best thing about Halloween Ends is its slow, roundabout way of reintroducing Michael to Laurie’s life, even as, for a while, you’re left to wonder about the Michael Myers of it all. David Gordon Green’s background is in capably observed independent dramas. It’s no surprise that his movie takes its time carving out ample dramatic space — with a few harmlessly gratuitous jump scares to remind us why we’re here (will horror movie characters ever learn to look both ways before crossing the street?) — to explore the nature of the evil that’s bolstered this entire franchise. A young man named Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell) makes his way into Laurie and Allyson’s lives, and the result of that is an interestingly complex tangle of emotions and fears that feel strange in a Michael Myers movie, but which feel apt in the context of Laurie’s desire to understand how she got here. The same town that has seemingly turned on Laurie has unambiguously turned on Corey; the people who believe that Laurie is to blame for Michael’s resurgence are at risk of playing a part in the creation of a new monster.
Halloween Ends is a curious and mostly effective mix of slasher antics and dramatically straight-faced themes. It’s a good enough slasher to provoke laughter in some of its grimmer moments, because the deaths are that ridiculous and the targets are sometimes, unfortunately, a little deserving; this is still, for all its talk about trauma, the kind of movie that makes you root for shitheads to get what’s coming to them, even if what’s coming for them is Michael Myers. And even if they have their reasons for being the way they are — because they were made, rather than born, that way.
As for Michael, well, time has not been kind. He’s an old man now, still burned from his last outings, and still a bit of a dick — but isn’t that his charm? Halloween Ends brings us the closest we’ve come to a royal succession of pure evil, one of the handful of ideas in this movie that’s almost creepier than the outright violence, because of what it could mean. It works. Since taking over the franchise in 2018, Green has walked a tightrope between wanting to take the franchise seriously — wanting to make the kind of movie, on behalf of Laurie Strode, that could lure Jamie Lee Curtis back into the fold — and wanting to satisfy the basic, gory, gooey pleasure of the genre, with all the slit throats and bashed-in brains and with enough shots of Michael’s iron grip closing around peoples’ necks to make choking fetishists feel seen. This is Green’s best go of it so far, maybe because it’s the movie that most convincingly falls back on Laurie and the instincts that made her timeless, and on the grim genre pleasures of a franchise that seems to have woken up in the last five years and remembered that mass murder makes for strange entertainment. Halloween Ends cuts through all of that by displaying a willingness to be corny about even its most harrowing ideas. Laurie isn’t just a survivor: She’s a movie hero. Halloween Ends takes her seriously. But it also knows that it’s just a movie.