In 1978, writer/director/musician John Carpenter (“Assault on Precinct 13”) unleashed his micro-budget thriller “Halloween” into theaters, and the movie became a runaway hit. I still remember seeing another movie at a multiplex around that time, and hearing screams from the “Halloween” screening in the next auditorium. I would eventually see “Halloween” on TV, and I quickly came to love it. Not only did the title invoke my favorite holiday, but the spartan simplicity of the storytelling, combined with Dean Cundey’s fluidly innovative camerawork, and Carpenter’s own memorable “Tubular Bells”-inspired theme, quickly set the movie among the genre’s best—right alongside other horror/slasher classics, such as 1960’s “Psycho.”
Many sequels followed; some good (“Halloween II,” “Halloween 4,” “H20”) some not (“Halloween 5,” “Halloween: Resurrection”), and some different (“Halloween III: Season of the Witch”). Carpenter’s fellow writer/director/musician Rob Zombie would reboot the franchise in 2007, garnering a decidedly mixed reaction. Zombie’s 2009 follow-up, unimaginatively titled “Halloween II.” was a bona fide flop. None of the sequels/reboots were ever quite on the same level as John Carpenter’s original. Many years later, I would see 1978’s “Halloween” on a big screen, and even with a modern audience, I still heard a few younger viewers scream at just the right moments. The movie still works.
Note: Personally, I liked “Halloween” 2007 as an alternate take on the original, not a replacement.
In 2018, writer/producer/director David Gordon Green unveiled another quasi-reboot sequel confusingly titled “Halloween,” which rebooted the entire series retroactively, following the first film. Now, single grandma Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) was turned into a Sarah Connor-esque character seeking payback on mental hospital escapee Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney), badly neglecting her own daughter’s family in her quest for revenge. The sequel, “Halloween Kills” (2021) was loud, reactionary nonsense, with Michael Myers returning to slaughter Laurie’s daughter, and much of the town of Haddonfield, before escaping once again, leaving the movie feeling both incomplete and futile. The latest entry, “Halloween Ends,” promises to be the last in the Halloween franchise, though I’ve certainly heard that one before…
I streamed “Halloween Ends” through an HD projector in my darkened home office-theater onto a 7 ft./2 meter collapsible screen, with Bose sound; giving it a fair chance of approximating a theatrical experience.
“Halloween Ends” (2022)
Flashing back to Halloween night, 2019, nerdy Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell) is babysitting young brat Jeremy Allen (Jaxon Goldenberg), and is given a long list of things not-to-do from his parents (Candice Rose, Jack William Marshall), who are going to a Halloween party down the street. Corey seems increasingly anxious about this babysitting gig, as Jeremy begins to tax his patience. Unaware that Jeremy is pranking him, Corey hears a noise within the house, and takes a knife from the kitchen. Peering into a dark upstairs closet, Corey is then locked in by Jeremy. After accidentally cutting himself with the knife, Corey’s patience is officially exhausted, as he angrily kicks down the closet door—sending Jeremy plunging to his death from the high staircase, just as the boy’s parents come home. Despite the circumstances, Corey is eventually cleared of all wrongdoing. However, the town of Haddonfield, Illinois won’t prove to be very forgiving, especially with the recent Michael Myers rampage still fresh in everyone’s memory.
Note: A surprisingly strong opening that I didn’t expect after the tiresome train wreck of “Halloween Kills.” With Rohan Campbell’s boyish, slightly unsettling performance (reminiscent of a young Anthony Perkins), I wish this opener has been for a new horror series, and not an addition to the already over-extended “Halloween” franchise.
Cut to 2022, a few years after the events of “Halloween Kills,” and grandma Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is writing her memoirs, living in a fresh new house with her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), who works as a receptionist at a clinic. Allyson and Laurie have their issues, as the younger woman resents her grandma’s overprotectiveness. Meanwhile, family friend Lindsey (Kyle Richards)—who survived both the original and last movies—stops by to say hello, as Laurie tries to get back into the spirit of the holiday by carving a jack o’ lantern for everyone.
Note: In one of many visual homages to the original movie, Laurie carves the jack o’ lantern with a near-identical face to the one that she carved when babysitting young Tommy and Lindsey in 1978 (yes, that was Kyle Richards playing Lindsey in the original, as well). I was also glad to see the character of Laurie now closer to the character from the original, and not the weapons-hoarding Sarah Connor clone we saw in the previous two David Gordon Green “Halloween” movies.
Living with guilt and a town’s resentment following the 2019 babysitting accident, Corey is now working at a salvage yard and repair shop owned by his stepdad, Ronald (Rick Moose), who gives Corey an old Kawasaki motorcycle in order to increase his stepson’s punctuality. On his way home, Corey stops at a convenience store, where he insistently refuses to buy liquor for a quartet of high school kids, who bully the young man, and knock him onto shattered glass, cutting his hand. Laurie is also at the store, where she compassionately takes Corey under her wing. She gives the meek young man a lesson in payback by slashing the tires of the bullying kids’ car before driving Corey to Allyson’s clinic to fix his hand…
Note: The bullying-abuse that sets Corey down his eventual dark path is also what made the 2007 reboot’s Michael Myers a monster as well, giving Corey’s situation a feeling of ‘been-there, done-that’ within the greater “Halloween” franchise. It’s also arguable that Laurie is the first step in Corey’s dark path, as she introduces him to the deeply satisfying concept of payback…
At the clinic, Corey is stitched up by receptionist Allyson (yeah, that doesn’t happen), as the doctor (Michael O’Leary) and his favorite nurse Debbie (Michele Dawson) are too busy not giving a damn to take care of the injured young man. Allyson immediately develops a Florence Nightingale-complex for the innocent Corey, and she is fully aware of his past. She then later offers to drive Corey home, and the young mechanic offers to fix a damaged muffler in her car at his salvage yard workplace. As their feelings for each other begin to grow, Allyson invites the shy Corey to attend a Halloween party with her at the local bar.
Note: The character of Nurse “Deb” is typical slasher film bait–a selfish, spoiled airhead whose flirtations with the doctor allow her to steal Allyson’s deserved promotion. The minute I saw her, I said to myself, “Yep. Deb’s dead.”
At the Halloween party, Allyson draws Corey out of his shell by playing pool with him and even getting him to dance. Corey is having the time of his life, until he runs into Mrs. Allen–the mother of little Jeremy. The bitter, angry woman still holds Corey responsible for the death of her son, despite his proven innocence. Triggered by Mrs. Allen, Corey then blames Allyson for inviting him to the party, and forcing him from his self-imposed isolation. An enraged Corey then storms out of the bar, and walks home. Adding to his already bad luck, he is then spotted by the high school bullies, who pull over and begin their assault, before throwing him off a bridge. Fearing they may have killed Corey, the four bullies flee the scene…
Note: Corey’s bullying is made even worse by the fact that his tormenters are not only a good deal younger than he is, but they’re also in the high school band—not exactly the most threatening group of kids when I was growing up.
Unconscious Corey is then dragged down a dark tunnel into the sewers below, where he awakens to find his ‘savior,’ Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney), a powerful, 65 year-old monster whose face still remains masked, four years after his fiery 2018 massacre. Instinctively, Michael then begins to strangle Corey (who doesn’t bully this kid?) before he stops—sensing something familiar in the young man. The following morning, Corey leaves Michael Myers’ subterranean lair. Exiting the darkness of the tunnel into the morning daylight, Corey is then confronted by a knife-wielding, homeless old man, whom Corey disarms, before stabbing him to death. Corey keeps the knife, before tossing the old man’s body into the bushes and trash below the bridge. This marks Corey’s first murder, and the loss of his innocence…
Note: It’s nearly a full hour into the movie before we see Michael Myers. Michael dominates the movie’s publicity and poster artwork, even though he’s little more than a supporting character in this sequel, which is more Corey’s story. In a nod to the old Universal horror monster movies of the 1930s and 1940s, Michael Myers’ sewer lair is stony, gray and photographed more like a gothic castle from an old Frankenstein or Dracula movie. The scene where Corey discovers Michael is reminiscent of a scene in “Frankenstein meets the Wolf-Man” (1943) where werewolf Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) finds Frankenstein’s monster (Bela Lugosi) in a block of ice deep underground, below the remains of the Frankenstein castle.
Coming home to his worried mother (Joann Baron), Corey seems different to her and his stepdad, somehow. After cleaning up, he humbly apologizes to Allyson for his behavior at the party, and she forgives him. He also tells her that he’s killed someone, but the scene cuts too abruptly for us to gauge her full reaction to the news (one of several odd editing choices in the movie). Trying to normalize his life, a more emboldened Corey takes Allyson out to dinner, where they catch the attention of a cop named Doug (Jesse C. Boyd), who’s been unsuccessfully trying to badger Allyson into a date as well. Humiliated by Doug during their date, Corey later lures the cop beneath the overpass, where he plans to kill him. Doug then discovers the homeless man’s relatively fresh corpse, but before he can react, Michael Myers shows up and kills him. Corey is turned on by the power of murder, and takes it upon himself to become a new, dark Robin Hood—murdering anyone who wrongs him, or those he cares about. To that end, Corey and Michael Myers strike up a bizarre, master-apprentice partnership.
Note: If this idea of master-apprentice serial killing feels familiar to longtime horror fans, it’s because you’ve probably seen it in “Friday the 13th: A New Beginning” (1985) as well as “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” (1986). Actor Rohan Campbell even bears some resemblance to a young Michael Rooker.
Meanwhile, Allyson learns that her shallow coworker Debbie got a promotion at the clinic; a promotion that Allyson worked hard for. Debbie had the inside track because she’s sleeping with the doctor, of course, which enrages Allyson. She makes the mistake of confiding this to Corey, who dons a cheap kiddy clown mask before stalking Debbie to the doctor’s elaborate estate (which looks more like something an L.A. plastic surgeon might have, instead of a town clinic doctor in Illinois, but sure). Later, as Debbie and the doctor prepare for a night in the hot tub, Corey clumsily kills the doc, before Michael arrives on the scene to show his young Padawan murderer how it’s done…
Note: At this point, Corey is clearly insane, of course, but doesn’t yet have the preternatural killing ability that Michael possesses; his kills are punctuated by pain and emotion, whereas Michael’s technique is more cold and inhuman. Michael also does his classic ‘head cocking’ bit after nailing Debbie to a wall with a long kitchen knife, just as he did with “Bob” (John Michael Graham) in the 1978 original. Yet another of many such visual homages to the original throughout the movie…
After avenging Allyson’s little workplace injustice, she and Corey decide they need to leave Haddonfield in the rearview mirror, once and for all. This newly-minted ‘bad boy’ Corey drops an enamored Allyson off, with Laurie worriedly watching from a window.
Note: I know it’s a minor point, but the movie’s visual stereotyping of Corey’s motorcycling as part of his ‘bad boy’ image feels a bit… outdated. I used to ride motorcycles throughout my 20s, and I am about the biggest nerd on the planet. Motorcycles are a bit like tattoos these days; both were once a shared social image of rebellion, but they’ve long since gone mainstream. Corey could’ve just as easily had a beat-up old muscle car, and he would’ve looked just as ‘dangerous.’ The image of the motorcyclist as automatic, authority-bucking outlaw is an old cliche that needs to be put to bed.
The next morning, Laurie decides to have a talk with Corey, which quickly escalates into the red zone, as Corey warns her that if he can’t have Allyson, no one can—the age old cry of the stalker. Corey also lands a few painful personal punches when he tells Laurie that she is partly to blame for his state, as well.
Note: Despite the horrific things he’s done, Corey is not entirely wrong here. Laurie helped him to avenge himself against the high schoolers by slashing their tires, which was a big no-no right from the start—she could’ve just as easily called her friend, Deputy Hawkins, to help Corey file assault charges against the teenagers. Laurie also helped play matchmaker with her granddaughter by taking Corey to get his hand treated at Allyson’s clinic in the hopes they would meet, and hit it off. Of course, Laurie isn’t to blame for Corey’s descent into madness, but her inordinate compassion for the young man with a ‘killer rep’ did help open the door for him into Allyson’s life. If you’re going to play matchmaker, you need to vet your prospective matches more carefully… or just don’t.
On Halloween night, Corey returns to Michael’s subterranean lair and decides to fight him for his rubber mask. Surprisingly, Corey wins (the student has become the master, yada, yada, yada...), and he scurries off with his spoils. Laurie and Allyson are also having it out as she tells grandma she’s going to leave town with Corey. Laurie tries to warn Allyson about Corey’s darker side, but Allyson throws some of Corey’s earlier arguments back at her. Allyson even blames her grandma for taunting Michael Myers in the previous film, which may have played a part in Karen’s death (ouch!).
Note: I can only imagine how the inside of Michael’s mask would smell after all these years–like burnt meat, raw sewage, and old sweaty rubber. Jeezus, why would anyone possibly fight him for it? Just steal a new one…
Wearing Michael’s mask, Corey initiates a plan of revenge by luring the high school bullies to his stepdad’s salvage yard. Running over them, stabbing them, and enjoying the thrill of his kills, Corey’s rampage accidentally causes the death of his stepfather, as well. This triggers Corey to return home and—still dressed as Michael Myers—kill his own mother as well. Now Corey has gone full-tilt Norman Bates. His killing spree even extends to the local Haddonfield radio station, where he murders a receptionist, as well as a DJ who insulted him once, during a date with Allyson.
Note: Perhaps Corey’s full list of eventual payback recipients will include that kid who shoved him off a swing in kindergarten, or the old lady at the grocer who took the last can of sliced black olives, and that mean orange tabby cat which hissed at him, that one time.
In an audience fake-out moment, Laurie is lighting a jack o’ lantern candle, and jotting down a suicide note. Knowing that Corey will take the bait, she waits in ambush for the young killer, and she shoots him—causing him to fall down the stairs, much like little Jeremy in the prologue. As he lays at the bottom of the stairs, Corey then takes her knife and stabs himself in the neck, just as Allyson arrives, in order to frame grandma for his murder. “If I can’t have her, no one will,” he cries as he plunges the knife into his own neck.
Note: The scene is a partial reenactment/juxtaposition of Jeremy’s accidental death from three years earlier, with Corey now purposefully playing the dying little boy in order to frame Laurie into his role. Allyson would be playing the role of Jeremy’s mother, of course, as she walks in on her grandma apparently stabbing ‘innocent’ Corey to death. This is becoming a nasty little soap opera…
Because that wasn’t quite enough hell to have broken loose, a maskless Michael Myers arrives, because he wants his damn mask back—oh, and he’s got a little holiday score to settle with Laurie, too. Michael finishes Corey off by snapping his neck, before reclaiming his stinky old mask as well. Michael then stalks Laurie throughout the house (with multiple shots homaging the 1978 original, including the business with the sewing needle, and Laurie’s blue top). Laurie finally lures Michael back to the kitchen, where after nearly dying from strangulation, she’s assisted by her granddaughter, who breaks Michael’s arm. With Michael pinned to the kitchen table by knives, Laurie then makes the kill by slitting his wrist wide-open in a single, cathartic motion…
Note: Michael has been shot multiple times, immolated, and who knows what else, yet good ol’ kitchen knives seem to do the trick. It’s interesting that we, once again, never fully see James Jude Courtney’s face as Michael; it’s always in quarter-view, or profile, but never full on. At this point, the ‘mystery’ of Michael as an enigmatic, inhuman boogeyman has been long since dissipated—what purpose does it serve to keep his face partially hidden now?
Taking Michael’s corpse outside, the movie then summons the reactionary, mob-violence spirit of “Halloween Kills” as the entire town gathers around to see the commotion at Laurie’s place. The Sheriff and his Deputy, Frank Hawkins (Will Patton)—who’s long been smitten with Laurie—arrive on scene and help rope the corpse onto the top of a truck, before driving it out the late Ronald’s salvage yard. Once there, they load Michael’s skewered, masked body into an industrial scrap metal shredder and grind the remains into bits—no mourners, no service, just relief.
Note: Maybe they should just take off, and nuke the site from orbit; it’s the only way to be sure…
In the days that follow, we see Allyson arriving at Laurie’s, as the two estranged women finally make peace and reconcile. We also hear Laurie’s narration as she finishes her memoirs, right before the arrival of an off-duty Frank Hawkins, who is keen on rekindling their long-delayed romance…
Note: Despite the movie’s title, the fact that Corey was so abruptly and unceremoniously killed off (after his character’s long setup as Michael’s replacement) leads me to suspect that we haven’t seen the last of him, yet. It might be Michael Myers’ end, but not necessarily the end of Corey Cunningham … and I just realized what a goofy name that is for a movie villain.
Summing It Up.
“Halloween Ends” is (hopefully) the last installment of David Gordon Green’s overrated “Halloween” trilogy, which turned back the clock and rebooted the franchise from the original onward (as did 1998’s “Halloween H20” and 2007’s “Halloween”). Losing the Michael/Laurie brother-sister connection that made “H20” so impactful was just one mistake the Green films have made. “Halloween Ends” advocates compassion for the monsters we help create, while still going full vigilante on them as well, leaving the movie with an oddly mixed message. The original “Halloween” had no such hindrances. Kids having fun on Halloween night got slaughtered. That was it—no reason, no rationale. Even Michael’s psychiatrist gave up trying to understand or sympathize with him. It’s that simplicity that makes the original so enduring, because we realize that Michael Myers is not human—he’s the shark from “JAWS.”
The David Gordon Green trilogy muddies the “Halloween” waters by telling us that Michael Myers is human, and through his protege, Corey Cunningham, we see another boogeyman created from a pattern of abuse and bullying (the same factors that set off young Michael in the 2007 reboot). I commend “Halloween Kills” for its many homages to the original, as well as two very fine performances from Jamie Lee Curtis and Rohan Campbell, but in trying to understand what makes a boogeyman tick, the simplistic, spook-house thrill of “Halloween” is reduced to knife-wielding domestic drama.
In the 1978 movie we were warned that “You can’t kill the boogeyman.” Well, apparently you can, if you’re really sick of him, and you have access to a junkyard shredder.
Where to Watch.
“Halloween Ends” is playing theatrically and is also available to stream exclusively on Peacock.com. I appreciate that its dual release lets an audience decide if they want to make it a night out, or stay at home.