Previously, in the “Halloween” franchise: the residents of Haddonfield, fed up with four decades of fear inflicted by their local mask-wearing serial killer, Michael Myers, descended into a pitchfork-wielding mob, chanting “Evil Dies Tonight.” Unfortunately, it was a foregone conclusion that they would not be successful in their crusade, because the film “Halloween Kills” was only the second installment in David Gordon Green’s trio of Hallo-reboots, and he still needed a Myers for the final film, “Halloween Ends.” And end it does, not with a scream but a whimper, or perhaps, a sigh of relief that it’s over — the franchise that is, at least for now.
“Halloween Ends” has the feeling of dour obligation, and it’s clear that no one’s heart is really in this anymore, the limits of narrative possibility in Haddonfield stretched beyond their max. The writers, Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, Danny McBride and Green, don’t seem interested in writing real characters, but rather in proclaiming vague archetypes and platitudes about “evil,” declared in narration by Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who is finally writing her memoir.
Laurie describes evil as “an infection,” which is the main plot of “Halloween Ends,” a story about the lasting effects of violence that ripple outward and can reverberate for generations. There’s also a half-baked exploration of the ways bullying and name-calling can result in a self-fulfilling prophecy that in “Halloween Ends” acts as a sort of vampirism, or even a death curse trope.
“Halloween Ends” returns to where it all began, with a twist. A babysitter shows up on Halloween night to take care of a kid, and things go downhill from there. The “boy babysitter,” Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell) ends up in prison for aggravated manslaughter, and can’t shake the “psycho” label that he’s stuck with on release a couple of years later. The only person in town who gives him the time of day is Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), now a nurse, who knows a thing or two about being judged. The pair fall into a dark romance while Corey starts to descend deeper into his own bloody impulses.
There are a few inspired and stylish moments in “Halloween Ends,” as it takes a turn away from the lean slasher aesthetic that marked John Carpenter’s original film, and plunges into a swoony, neon-soaked vibe reminiscent of Kathryn Bigelow’s “Near Dark,” Joel Schumacher’s ‘80s horror films, and even David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart.” But those moments are fleeting, and more important, they don’t feel like a “Halloween” movie at all, which is presumably why we are all here. So after that strange, yet interesting, diversion, it’s back to Laurie to see if she can wrap things up once and for all, complete with refresher clip packages.
By the time we get to the last act for the final, final denouement (really, it better be final), all of the energy has been sapped, and it feels like a compulsory trudge to the finish line. Perhaps that’s the point, that wrapping up this 40-year-plus franchise should be more funeral march than fun. But we come to these movies for the thrills, the chills, and the screams, yet even the kills in “Halloween Ends” feel perfunctory at best. Perhaps it’s for the best that it ended this way, without leaving us bloodthirsty for more. But even if the filmmakers feel dutybound to finish things out, horror fans should know this installment isn’t required viewing.
Katie Walsh is a Tribune News Service film critic.
Rating: R, for bloody horror violence and gore, language throughout and some sexual references
Running time: 1 hour,
Playing: Starts Oct. 14 in general release; also streaming on Peacock