After 44 years, the saga of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers finally concludes—or we’re supposed to believe it does, anyway, with Halloween Ends. The film wraps up the cycle of movies that began in 2018 with David Gordon Green’s eponymous franchise reboot, as well as the entire history between Strode and Myers, save for the installments whose mythology does not fit into (or was actively rejected from) the timeline that began in 1978 with John Carpenter’s groundbreaking original before jumping unceremoniously 40 years forward. Necessary though it may be, eliminating all of that interstitial storytelling feels like a counterintuitive choice for a finale not only obsessed with its characters’ legacies, but determined to make you feel them; but maybe that’s also why, sadly, this finale isn’t particularly good.
Though it marks a significant improvement over the cartoonish political commentary and dim-witted characterizations of 2021’s Halloween Kills—and how could it not?—Halloween Ends does not thread the needle needed to stitch together the three most recent films, much less provide a suture for almost four-and-a-half decades of canon. Instead, Green again attempts to simultaneously deliver a grisly, relentless slasher movie, a measured character study, and an examination of decades-old trauma (or “TROW-ma,” as star Jamie Lee Curtis pronounces it)—in the process leaving viewers without even the benefit of a temporary sugar high.
Four years after the events of both Halloween 2018 and Halloween Kills, both of which you may have forgotten took place on the same night, Laurie Strode (Curtis) has recovered from her injuries and (mostly) fully moved on from her obsession with Michael Myers. Not only is she completely over the murder of her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), but Laurie has fully transformed into a pie-making, Halloween-loving sexagenarian whose chief activities include writing a memoir about her experiences and caring for her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who’s now a nurse.
Although (or perhaps because) some of Haddonfield’s citizens blame her for Michael Myers’ reign of terror—which ended only with his complete disappearance after Kills—Laurie extends compassion to fellow outcasts like Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), who was involved with the death of a local child a few years earlier. She initially encourages him to ask Allyson on a date, but after Corey has an unexpected encounter with Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney), who meekly survives in the town’s sewers, the young man develops a newfound confidence—and a clarity of purpose—that scares Laurie into warning her granddaughter of dating him. By then, however, Allyson and Corey have begun to develop deeper feelings for one another, forcing Laurie to revisit her traumatic past in order to save her granddaughter, even if the process of doing so risks alienating them from one another forever.
While narrating the book that she is constantly revising, Laurie talks often about the evil in individuals’ lives changing shape; the choice of language feels more like an Easter egg for fans of the ’78 original (where Michael was called “The Shape”) than any profound psychological insight. But it also gives this film an explanation of exactly how a young man like Corey could share, absorb, or inherit Michael Myers’ murderous instincts (which one of those it is, the movie never decides). But for a film about people who cannot outrun their legacies, it also feels like a tell that this is no better or smarter an installment than any before it, since more Myers-related mythology has been forgotten over the course of the series than this conclusive trilogy is willing to remember.
Green and co-screenwriters Danny McBride, Paul Brad Logan, and Chris Bernier soft-pedal the possibility that any real “transference” occurs between Michael and Corey, but they let the encounter between the two plant a seed that gets watered every time Corey’s bullied by local teenagers, or menaced by a cop who’s romantically interested in Allyson, or eventually, by Laurie’s sober admonitions to leave her granddaughter alone.
That the prospective victims all end up being so one-dimensional makes it easy to want to see them die. But Green, via Laurie, acknowledges that Haddonfield is collectively mired in unresolved pain, grief, or anger—so shouldn’t they be treated with the same empathy as poor Corey? Questions like this are too complex for Halloween Ends, which after Kills depicted Karen’s death so dismissively, gives formerly haggard and reclusive survivalist Laurie Strode an all-timer of a glow up as she immediately gets over her unimaginable loss in a glossy “moving on” montage. Meanwhile, the film sidelines Michael Myers, whose diminishing powers of regeneration necessitate the rise of another to take his place, to instead follow a kid who answers the challenge of making Haddonfield’s sewers run red with blood.
Whether or not this is the last time she plays Laurie Strode, Curtis performs with a confidence and ownership that certainly suggests it’s the last for a while; after Halloween 2018, in which Laurie was depicted (if understandably) as a stringy-haired kook, she’s become the ultimate sex-positive, progressive grandma who also happens to be lying in wait for her mass murderer-nemesis to return. Matichak has matured as an actress in just a few short years, and she brings real substance to Allyson’s frustration and uncertainty about staying in a place that’s both “home” and home to her greatest trauma, even if the script undercuts her ability to sell the fast-moving relationship she develops with Corey. As her would-be boyfriend, rescuer, and eventually, the embodiment of her biggest fears, Campbell primarily looks constipated, as if he’s struggling to wait for the moment to pick up Michael’s homicidal mantle.
Once again, David Gordon Green’s films miss an opportunity to clarify whether or not Michael Myers actually knows who Laurie Strode is, and consequently, to explore a really intriguing notion about the ways individuals center themselves—justifiably or not—in traumatic events. (Thanks to the excision of 1981’s Halloween II from this timeline, the characters have no direct relationship, and the events leading to them crossing paths in Halloween 2018 are pure happenstance. Watch it again.) Intentionality, even just from the filmmakers, could have truly shaped this conclusion to Strode’s timeline into something explosive and operatic, as well as cathartic. But this is another film from Green where the immediate payoffs are more important than deeper, long-term ones, even amid an orgy of sly visual and narrative references.
Then again, it’s important to remember that this is the latest installment of a long-running horror franchise whose reputation, despite its groundbreaking impact and its endurance, is hardly unassailable. These films should not be burdened with too many expectations of greatness. Rather, a Halloween movie has to deliver an escalating series of grisly deaths, even before it provides a resolution (or comfortable resting place) for the most famous monster-final girl relationship in film history. In which case, Halloween Ends is almost passable as a nondescript sequel—a little blood pumped into the carcass of an indefatigable slab of intellectual property. But for somebody who has fought and lost and survived for so many years, it’s less vital a finale than Laurie Strode deserves.