Movie Review - Halloween Ends
While it’s an easy concept to grasp in real life, it’s a difficult concept to portray in popular culture and it’s nigh impossible to get an audience to accept it. Sure, we have things like the Doctor and his regenerations, new James Bonds, Dick Grayson growing up from Robin to become Nightwing, but these are the exceptions. Many times when content creators try to move beyond what made a franchise popular to begin with, the inertia is nearly always too much to overcome. Take for example, the divisive nature of either of the prequel or sequel Star Wars Trilogies, the attempt to keep Jason dead in Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning and, more pertinent to this review, the two separate times Halloween tried to move on from its original protagonist, Michael Myers, Halloween 3 where they dropped him altogether and Halloween 4 where the attempt was made to transfer the murderous baton to his niece, Jamie.
I’ll have more to say on this, but first, we’d better tackle the synopsis:
It’s been four years since the rampage that culminated in Michael Myers killing Laurie Strode’s daughter. In that time, the town of Haddonfield has moved on, trying to rebuild and put those events in the past. But Evil never dies, it just changes shape. Missing people are on the rise, and the accidental death of a child sets forward a chain of events that will culminate not only in the town being forced to take a good hard look at itself, but also into the evil it has spawned as Michael Myers returns for one last Halloween.
Enter Cody Cunningham, an engineering student taking a babysitting job to help make ends meet. There are two problems though: the kid is a little shit and this is a Halloween in Haddonfield. This will not end well, and it doesn’t…as through the little bastard’s prank, he ends up getting himself killed. Cleared of the death as it was truly an accident, Cody nonetheless is stained by events. He’s a target for the local townspeople, unable to outrun the stigma of child killer. It’s after an encounter with some bullying teens outside a local convenience store where we start to see this is all taking a toll on Cody. Perhaps even more importantly, this is where Cody crosses paths with Laurie Strode herself, once again played by Jamie Lee Curtis (for what she swears is the last time!). Of course, she recognizes what he’s going through and suggests to Cody that he’d feel better if he slashes the tires on the teens’ car. I’ll explain why I bring this up a little bit later. This bullying situation devolves to the point where circumstance has Cody coming face to face with a Michael Myers in seclusion: weak and merely a shadow of himself. And, just like in Halloween 4, we’re given a scene that makes the audience wonder if Michael’s evil has transferred itself into a new host.
This series of events leads us to one of the main themes of the film: the shape of evil. Up to the point of Cody’s discovery, Michael had been gone for 4 years. Remember, the entire previous films take place over a very short span of time, Halloween Kills starting mere seconds after Halloween (2018)’s closing credits. Cody’s incident that starts film, the one resulting in the death of the child that was in his charge, takes place in 2019 and if that’s the case, all of the bullying, gossip, mistrust and what have you that he’s been subjected to has happened while Michael was on his hiatus. No longer the focus on the town’s concept of Evil, the anger that had been channeled toward Michael needed a new target…and that target ended up being Cody.
Of course, then this dovetails into yet another theme present in the film: are we merely constructs of the society around us and the path they dictate…or can we break free? In the example of Cody, having been branded a murderer, constantly reminded he’s a murderer, even though he isn’t, will he eventually evolve to embrace that role that had been put before him? A point is no good unless you have a counterpoint and as such, we’re provided that with Laurie and her granddaughter Allyson (played by Andi Matichak). Where we see point and counterpoint come into direct opposition is the budding romance between Cody and Allyson. Sure, it takes the surface appearance of the girl falling for the bad boy, but the core argument here really is Allyson encouraging them both to leave Haddonfield and create their own identities while Cody, already under the ‘apprenticeship’ of Michael, finds himself slipping very comfortably in the role that townsfolk have put before him: murderer. This particular theme really resonated with me. As someone that left home at an early age because the place I grew up in was so limited and confining, where I simply did not, would not and could not fit in, I chose, like Allyson does by the film’s conclusion, to forge my identity elsewhere. Cody, like so many of the people I grew up with, ends up embracing the identity that has been prepared for him. The argument, while presented here in relatively simple terms, is real. After all, how many people pick up and move away from the places they grew up? Oh, sure, they may move a town or two away, but seriously, who moves more than, say, a two-to-six-hour drive away from their home? Very few. Thus, so many of us do end up succumbing to the same thing as Cody, even if in a far less malignant form.
As I opened the review with, our last theme here deals with legacy. Of course there is a torch-passing in the film and yes, as you’d expect, the film has proven divisive as some Halloween fans are screaming that they paid money for a Michael Myers movie, not a Cody Cunningham one. In some ways, this comes back to Halloween 4 and 5 though. Think about it. The twist ending to 4, where Jamie takes up the mantle of murder from her seemingly deceased uncle, was completely abandoned in the following part 5. Any Halloween fan you run into will lament this, but at the same time, would fans of the franchise be accepting of little Jamie becoming the killer and Michael being allowed to go off to pasture? Well, if reaction to this film or the aforementioned Friday the 13 Part 5’s Roy Burns, I’ll admit, I highly doubt it. So while David Gordon Green and his writers deserve credit for pushing forward with this theme, prior experience dictates that this divisive response should not only be expected, but it was too terribly predictable. It’s a shame, because the tragic downward spiral of Cody into Michael’s footsteps is a story worth telling and certainly worthy of this series.
I did want to take a separate paragraph to talk about Cody. First off, points to Green for the shout-out to Friday the 13th originator, Sean Cunningham. Second though, while I get that the alliterative first and last name are intended…after all, who best to follow Michael Myers than someone of equal alliteration. That said, it does merit a chuckle because it kind of makes the proceedings feel like they were written by the late Stan Lee. Michael Myers, Cody Cunningham…what, are Reed Richards, Peter Parker, Michael Morbius, Matt Murdock and Bruce Banner dropping by any time soon? Joking aside, I do have to compliment the casting department here for putting Rohan Campbell in the role. Yes, the kid’s acting chops are good…there’s no point in the story where you don’t believe his gradual (and not so gradual) descent, but the fact that he’s got a REALLY similar look and vibe to the young Michael Rooker and his appearance in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, it ends up bringing an extra weight to the performance. Even though conditioned by his surroundings, perhaps Cody always had this Evil inside him.
Although I speak highly of the film and really did enjoy it, of course it’s not perfect. Some fans of the franchise are already barking loudly how they don’t like the fact that Michael isn’t in the movie much…which I see, but also disagree with since in many ways, Michael, his evil and how it’s corrupted Haddonfield are at the very core of the story. Still, it is very, very true that you don’t get to see that famous Shatner mask until at least an hour into the film. Like I alluded to, this really didn’t bother me. However, there’s an event near the end of the film that drives a wedge between Laurie and Allyson, one that looks to be pretty damn permanent, and it’s never really logically addressed. You see them argue and then a couple of scenes later, they’ve gone from “I hate you!” to double-teaming Michael Myers and being loving grandmother & granddaughter all over again. It’s such a whiplash that I can see more than a few audience members say “Wait…what?!?” Perhaps Allyson’s ultimate decision to leave Haddonfield for good might have been the movie’s way of addressing it, but given that hints are already being thrown around about an extended cut coming out, likely for the home media release, it’s most likely that there’s a scene that was cut that might give us a bit more satisfying resolution to that conflict.
Halloween Ends tries to do something brave in popular fiction, move the franchise beyond its original boundaries. Sadly, it will likely get the same rewards that other franchises that tried this did, significant fan blowback. Still, in many cases, it needs to be done and, whether you like it or not, I think it’s done well here. Cody proves to be a worthy heir given the gory nature of some of his kills (the DJ was probably my favorite). Its prevalent themes, like Kills, manage to tie into current events exceptionally well while not necessarily being confined to those things or being blatantly heavy-handed with them. Perhaps most importantly though, it manages to deliver on the closure it promises. With plenty of nods to earlier installments of the franchise and picking up story ideas left abandoned, David Gordon Green’s Halloween Ends is a fitting end to his trilogy and a solid entry into the overall series. Some fans may not like the lack of Michael Myers in most of the film, but I felt that the remaining characters and the story around them were strong enough to survive this, earning the film a Happy Cat rating.