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Bathed in blue light, Michael Myers twists Laurie’s arm in the kitchen in Halloween Ends Photo: Ryan Green/Universal Pictures

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Halloween Ends is brutal, in the bad way

Jamie Lee Curtis’ horror trilogy-ender is more like a franchise burial

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2021’s Halloween Kills was the Infinity War of the contemporary Halloween franchise — an ambitious movie that expanded the scope of its predecessor, but ultimately felt like an incomplete story. But instead of bringing things home with an Endgame equivalent, Halloween Ends plays out more like Game of Thrones season 8: a rushed entry that skips over important character development, kind of just forgets about plot points from the last two movies, and ends up betraying what made this reboot worth watching in the first place. David Gordon Green’s trilogy-capper does feel like a definitive ending to the Halloween series led by Jamie Lee Curtis, but fans might be begging for someone to take another stab at it rather than ending Michael Myers’ reign of terror on such a sour note.

Did you remember that Michael was a kid who stabbed his sister, killed a few babysitters, left one survivor who spent decades preparing for his return, then found himself trapped in her burning house, but somehow survived, and escaped to murder the survivor’s daughter? Green and co-writer Danny McBride, working this time with Paul Brad Logan and Chris Bernier, assume you don’t, as Halloween Ends kicks off with a whole flashback sequence recapping the entire story so far. The trust issues only get worse from there, as the horror movie constantly reminds viewers not just of moments in Halloween history, but of things that literally happened minutes before, and of character relationships that should be obvious by now.

Everything that isn’t bluntly pointed out is swept under the rug. Michael’s slaying of Karen (Judy Greer)? Don’t worry about it. The whole town enacting mob justice against Michael Myers at the end of Halloween Kills, then losing miserably? What matters is everyone’s still scared and paranoid. Instead of resolution, Halloween Ends picks up four years after the events of Kills, with everyone having forgotten about Michael, and the Strodes mostly on the sidelines. Green and his cohorts reframe the action on an unrelated character, Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell). And as for the Shape, he’s been in hiding, until Corey stokes his thirst for blood.

Michael Myers in his raggedy white mask holds a bloody knife in the foyer of a rustic home in Halloween Ends
Michael Myers, creep, in Halloween Ends
Photo: Ryan Green/Universal Pictures

Despite this entire trilogy supposedly riding on the shoulders of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode and her trauma, Halloween Ends never dives deeper into the trauma’s significance. It has multiple characters, including Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), to guilt Laurie into thinking that somehow Michael’s return was her fault for obsessing over him —despite both the audience, and multiple character witnesses like Allyson herself, knowing otherwise. The tonal shift borders on victim-shaming, and a complete betrayal to what was supposed to be the core of this movie.

Thankfully, Jamie Lee Curtis still shines as Laurie, who we meet here at a different point in her life. Four years after her brutal encounter, Ends finds Laurie writing a memoir, baking pies for Allyson, and flirting with Will Patton’s Deputy Hawkins. After two emotionally heavy performances in the previous two films, it is actually delightful to see Curtis get to flex her comedic muscles for a while, delivering some genuinely funny moments that should add fuel to the fire of her recent comments about wanting to do another Freaky Friday.

Though Halloween Ends seems in a big rush to reach the finish line, it dawdles toward the action one might expect from a Halloween movie. That’s because most of the 111-minute run time is spent on Corey, who becomes a social pariah after a deadly incident one Halloween night and gets strangely obsessed with Michael Myers.

If nothing else, the turn is ambitious. Halloween Kills expanded the scope to the entire town, and Halloween Ends makes some bold choices through Corey’s storyline, as the film explores whether evil is something created by one’s environment or something already within us, unshakable, and just waiting to be unleashed. Halloween Ends continues the thread from Kills of asking whether Michael Myers is a 70-something-year-old mentally ill man or evil incarnate, a supernatural being that heals himself through the act of killing and can almost pass on his essence to others.

Laurie in a green dress and belt and Corey in a brown leather jacket and jeans stand on a leaf-covered street in the suburbs in Halloween Ends
Everyone’s favorite character Corey hanging out with Laurie in Halloween Ends
Photo: Ryan Green/Universal Pictures

Unfortunately, Green doesn’t seem interested in answering the big questions. Nor can he find new ways to enliven Michael Myers, focusing on Corey for most of the run time, and using a vastly different and more angsty tone that belongs in a Kevin Williamson Scream script rather than a Halloween one. He discards the modernized John Carpenter visuals and camera work that became essential to his first Halloween sequel for a less creative or energetic film where the camera barely moves.

There is, of course, an actual confrontation between Laurie and Michael, one that arrives too little too late after an hour of following Corey. There are some cool and gruesome kills, but most of them happen off screen or are purposefully undermined by staging. Where Halloween Kills was a brutal slasher that seemed to place us in the shoes of the Shape, David Gordon Green tries everything he can to subvert the primal origins of the premise. There’s almost a sense of shame hanging over the entire movie.

The Halloween saga started by John Carpenter and Debra Hill in 1978 ends in this film, but the end can’t vindicate the existence of this continuation of the story. Even if 2018’s Halloween set out to explore trauma through horror, there’s nothing in Ends that pays off the probing. The trilogy wasn’t ultimately about how evil takes hold of us and creates havoc through paranoia. This was an ambitious trilogy that tried to take the Halloween franchise to new places, but it ultimately falls short, introducing so many ideas that it quickly abandons, while forgetting about the one thing it was always supposed to be about: Laurie Strode.

Halloween Ends opens in wide theatrical release and simultaneously streams on Peacock on Oct. 14.