It’s a tragic contradiction of modern filmmaking that every story needs an ending, and yet every movie studio needs a franchise that can keep a story going indefinitely, with each entry ending on a cliffhanger or some loose thread for the next sequel to pick up on. Until the franchise is no longer profitable and nobody cares anymore, at which point the series will inevitably be dropped and left unresolved.

This is an especially notorious recurring problem with horror films, as so many franchises have been forced to keep going long past their expiration dates. This inevitably leads to ludicrous efforts at outdoing the previous entry in terms of quality and quantity of kills. Perhaps more importantly, as the villain and their methods become increasingly familiar — and therefore less scary — the filmmakers must resort to preposterous retcons and revelations to freshen up the villain and keep things engaging.

The Halloween series is a prime example. Not counting Halloween III (its own standalone feature that had nothing to do with Michael Myers or any other film in the franchise), the groundbreaking 1978 original film started a story that kept on going until the sixth movie, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, in 1995. I might add that by this point, Michael Myers and Laurie Strode had been revealed as biological siblings, Michael was faced with his own niece (Laurie Strode’s daughter) after Jamie Lee Curtis left the franchise, and Michael Myers was apparently the creation of an honest-to-goddamn evil curse.

Thus came Halloween H20 in 1998, which spun off a totally different timeline that completely disregarded everything after Halloween II. This was followed by Halloween Resurrection, widely regarded as the worst film in the entire franchise. Thus Rob Zombie got his hands on the property and rebooted everything from the ground up. And once again, this timeline was canceled when the sequel bombed.

Which brings us to the David Gordon Green era that began when Halloween (2018) kicked off yet another timeline that nuked everything but the 1978 original film. Supposedly, Halloween Ends was going to be the film that not only ended Green’s sequel trilogy, but the entire franchise as we know it. For extra measure, Jamie Lee Curtis has gone on record stating that this will be her final turn as Laurie Strode.

You’d be forgiven for calling bullshit. Of course Hollywood will keep this franchise going for as long as somebody thinks it can turn a buck. Of course the filmmakers could find some half-assed way to bring back Michael Myers from anything or reboot the entire franchise into ANOTHER alternate timeline. It’s all been done before.

But as crazy as it sounds, this time really is quite different.

For those just tuning in, Halloween (2018) and Halloween Kills both took place on the same Halloween night in 2018, which ended with Michael Myers getting every different color and consistency of shit beaten out of him before disappearing without a trace. Four years later, there’s still no sign of him. But the trauma he left behind still lingers.

Laurie has moved into her own quiet suburban house with her granddaughter (Allyson, played once again by Andi Matichak). Laurie is trying her best to move on and adapt to life after Michael, mostly by writing her feelings and her troubles into a book. Trouble is, she’s surrounded by Haddonfield townies still scared and/or deeply traumatized by Michael Myers, and they’re taking it out on Laurie by rationalizing that she baited him or some shit.

Meanwhile, Allyson has picked up a respectable job as a nurse, but she still has to deal with much of the same public image issues as her grandmother. Moreover, she’s found a potential boyfriend (Corey, played by Rohan Campbell) who, uh… well, he’s got a checkered past of his own, let’s leave it at that. These two are both damaged, and it’s an open question as to whether they’ll help each other heal or bring each other down. Laurie is of course concerned for Allyson’s well-being, but Michael has already conclusively proven that shit happens regardless and there is no worthwhile life without risk.

And that’s not even getting started on the question of guilt. That unsettling and illogical feeling that after so much pain and sorrow, in a time and place where everyone is still picking up the pieces, finding happiness somehow feels selfish and wrong. In fact, there are a great many people in Haddonfield so thoroughly wrecked and miserable by all their loss, so consumed by their suffering that they’ll make damned sure anyone and everyone remotely responsible will be just as miserable. What might be even worse is when people take on other people’s trauma and make it about themselves, internalizing it and passing judgment on it just to feel like they’re somehow helping the community or being part of the story.

This movie offers a succinct thesis statement that’s been lingering just under the surface of all three films in the David Gordon Green era. The trilogy is an examination of evil, not only external, but also internal. Michael Myers is of course an external evil that directly threatens the safety and well-being of Haddonfield and its residents. But what really makes him a true and pure incarnation of EVIL is in how he directly causes internal evil, driving people and communities to tear themselves apart through fear and paranoia and unfounded persecution.

Throughout the character’s 44-year history, many have speculated as to why Michael Myers does what he does, and what it could take to instantly turn an ordinary son of a loving household into such a soulless and relentless killing machine. For ages, the entire point of the character was that there’s no understanding or empathizing with someone who knows and does literally nothing but murder for its own sake. But this movie implicitly suggests a possible explanation.

This whole thing started when Michael Myers murdered his older sister at the age of six. What if he never got past that? More to the point, what if nobody else ever got past that? If nothing else, you can be damned sure that nobody in Michael Myers’ whole grieving family ever got past that, and it would be a miracle if any of his relatives didn’t outright disavow the kid immediately. To everyone else — friends and strangers alike — he would only ever be known as the boy who killed his sister.

To be clear, there’s certainly the possibility that maybe Michael Myers was always a homicidal maniac. Maybe he was always beyond redemption and nobody could’ve helped him. We can never know. All of that being said, how could we be surprised that Michael Myers ended up the way he did if nobody ever gave him a chance at ending up any other way?

From that perspective, probably the single most terribly evil thing about Michael Myers is the possibility that there could be more than one of him. With enough emotional damage and enough motivation, literally anyone in a mask could be the next Michael Myers. Hell, with the right mask, any serial killer could easily be indistinguishable from the real thing himself. Of course, it logically follows that if anyone could be the next Michael Myers, then we don’t know who the next one could be and we’re right back to the fear and paranoia and persecution and so on and so forth.

It’s never been in doubt that Michael Myers is beyond redemption, but this movie takes the bold step of asking the same question about Haddonfield itself. At what point is Haddonfield so deeply scarred that it’s no longer worth fighting for? At what point is the entire town so flooded with terrible memories, so filled with people who remember all the worst things their neighbors have done and been through, that a happy and productive life there is no longer possible? Hell, maybe it would be easier for everyone else if certain people of Haddonfield moved out. After all, if cutting out toxic family members and abusive exes can work for those dealing with trauma, why not apply that same logic to this entire godless town?

Where Halloween (2018) was all about the effects of trauma on a person (read: Laurie Strode) and her family, and where Halloween Kills was about the effects of trauma on a community, this third movie is about how trauma gets handed down through generations. Time and again, this movie shows us all the ways that children are made to suffer secondhand because of the firsthand trauma their parents and neighbors suffered under Michael Myers’ reign of terror. Even when the film gives us one-dimensional teenage bullies to get killed off later (most notably Terry, played by Michael Barbieri), the film takes pains in showing us how they’re directly shaped by their parents’ asshole behavior. I might add that Laurie is not immune from this — we saw for ourselves in Halloween (2018) how Laurie’s extensive damage ruined her daughter and granddaughter in turn, and Allyson makes damn sure to let Laurie know she’s still answering for that all these years later, especially now that Allyson’s parents are both dead.

This brings me back to the crucial reason why this so-called “final film” is different: The theme of closure. Even more than the previous two films, this is a movie all about healing from trauma and moving through dark times. The process is never easy, but closure is always a good first step, oftentimes a necessary one. Haddonfield is suffering in large part because they still don’t know what really happened to Michael Myers, and there can be no peace until he’s dead and gone for a certainty. Even if the damage is still done, his victims are still dead, and Michael Myers may go on to inspire other wannabe serial killers, burying him will nonetheless make it so much easier to bury those he killed.

Speaking as one of the rare few who genuinely loved Halloween Kills for how thoughtful and incisive it was, of course I loved this movie for delivering more of the same. In fact, I appreciate how the film delivered all these marvelous themes through a much tighter and more personal lens that made for a more focused and compelling character study. That said, I do have some rather glaring nitpicks.

To start with, Kyle Richards appears once again as Lindsey. She shouldn’t have bothered. Lindsey barely has anything to do in this picture, which is a huge disappointment after the previous film went so far out of its way to get Lindsey and her fellow legacy characters so heavily involved.

Of course, the far bigger problem is with Corey. Huge tracts of this film are all about Corey, and it’s his development arc that really powers the whole movie. In many ways, this whole movie isn’t really about Laurie the franchise mainstay or Allyson the de facto protagonist of this trilogy, it’s about this guy who wasn’t introduced until this last entry in the trilogy.

To be clear, the problem isn’t necessarily with Corey himself. We needed an all-new character in this entry to explore the central theme of generational trauma. Plus, his chemistry with Allyson is more than potent enough to sell the romantic/sexual attraction between characters, and it speaks volumes that Rohan Campbell is holding his own against so many established franchise mainstays.

No, the problem here is with the ending. For all the screentime and development Corey got, his development arc really needed to go out on a huge note that would make all that screentime worth it. But he totally fucked up the landing. Indeed, Corey’s ending plays out in such a way that the rest of the plot likely would’ve played out exactly the same way if he hadn’t been there at all. After so much buildup, that’s completely inexcusable.

Which brings me to the other big problem: Halloween doesn’t come until roughly halfway through the picture. This sadly means that the kills and scares only come in drips and drabs up until the third act. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem… except that it means spending more time with the cannon fodder before they all get killed off in rapid succession. Sorry, but if I’m spending time with annoying one-dimensional characters who clearly exist for the sole purpose of giving us a reason to cheer when they get killed off in spectacular fashion, I’d rather the filmmakers get on with it rather than waste time letting the assholes flap their gums. It certainly doesn’t help that so many kills — including an especially nasty kill that so much of the film had been leading up to — are kept in the extreme foreground or background such that we barely get to see them.

Overall, I’d say that Halloween Ends is a subpar horror slasher movie, especially by the standards of the other outstanding horror films we’ve seen this year. Hell, I’d argue that Halloween (2018) is the most straightforward and satisfying slasher horror of the entire sequel trilogy. Even so, I have to commend Halloween Ends for doubling down and delivering more of the poignant character drama and incisive themes in relevant ways, even when it led Halloween Kills to a critical drubbing. I commend David Gordon Green for taking its monster seriously to an extent rarely seen within the genre, I commend Jamie Lee Curtis for giving a memorable and compelling badass performance worthy of Laurie Strode’s status as the matron saint of all Final Girls in horror cinema, and I give full kudos to Andi Matichak for playing a worthy successor to said Final Girl.

Above all, I have to give the filmmakers credit for following through and delivering a film that well and truly serves as a final exclamation point on this iteration of the franchise. They crafted a genuinely satisfying conclusion, such that anyone who hopes to keep the franchise going will have to reboot the whole damn thing from the ground up with a totally new cast. You don’t see that every day in modern cinema, and it’s something we could definitely use more of.

If you’ve already seen the previous two films, you owe it to yourself to check it out. And if you haven’t seen the previous two films, you should definitely check those out. All three movies have their flaws with regard to pacing and scripting, but the choice of using Michael Myers as an examination of evil is so inspired and the execution so fascinating that this whole trilogy demands to be seen.

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