I mean, what the hell? Where do we even start? Halloween Ends is one of the most perplexing conclusions to a trilogy that has ever been put to film. However, despite each bewildering choice and its suffocating and dreary look, the film is unabashedly confident in itself. So sincere when it’s emotive, so boisterous when it’s violent and so verbose in its themes. Yet, for the end of a trilogy, it pulls a nearly unforgivable sin – it doesn’t feel like Halloween. I’m not talking about the use of The Shape in this movie, which we will get to in due time. I’m talking about the mood of the piece, which is much more like a thriller in nature than the eery, suspenseful DNA of a true Halloween film. It lacks that Hitchcockian flavor. If anything, this conclusion feels more like a weird, late-stage Friday the 13th sequel. There are some good entries in that aforementioned saga, but there are also some disastrous detours. And if there’s a number 1 rule to adhere to when juggling an aging slasher franchise: never go full Friday the 13th.

After an intriguing prologue and surprisingly fun opening credits, we’re set 4 years after the events of Halloween (2018) and Halloween Kills. Haddonfield is now a much different place, as Michael Myers has vanished, his whereabouts unknown. Meanwhile, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has a lot of healing to do, which she so chooses by reflecting on her still-in-progress memoir. It’s here where the movie first starts to go over the top with the theatrics, as we hear her voice-over as the events from the previous entries play on screen. Yeah, as franchise films go, these movies have simplistic premises and easy-to-remember events. Do we really need a recap montage for… Halloween??? Rest assured, the lack of subtlety continues.

But as Laurie tries to move on, her fellow townspeople remind her of Michael’s presence – she’s berated multiple times for her connection with the serial killer, isolating the ultimate survivor. It’s perhaps that estrangement that leads her to sympathize with a young man named Corey (Rohan Campbell), an individual whose nearly as infamous as Laurie, but for vastly different reasons. Finally, Laurie sees someone worth her kindness and rehabilitation, while Corey eventually becomes an object of desire for Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). These three damaged souls are soon on course for a whirlwind rendezvous with destiny. For to quote the original Halloween, fate never changes.

There are two schools of thought you could have had about the direction of this movie. One is that different approaches to a formula are generally good. Director David Gordon Green’s vision to show the nature of evil without relying exclusively on Michael Myers illustrates that it is, in theory, admirable. However, as a closing chapter of a trilogy, this movie’s plot line feels too disjointed and underdeveloped to come off as a satisfying conclusion. It has to develop a lot in a short amount of time, and the crux of that is getting you to buy into a story of young & dumb romance, to mixed results given the chemistry of the lovers in question.

I can buy that Allyson is smitten with Corey and his outcast persona, as she is in a similar position. I can even buy that she’s turned on by his darker impulses against her better judgment. But it’s challenging to do so when there are very few instances where we see Corey win her over with his charm or warmth, and thus her decision-making alienates a strong audience segment. Making this storyline an even harder sell is that Corey spends a good portion of the movie wearing the shittiest jacket I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Although Allyson does have a bizarre moment on the dance floor where it seems Crispin Glover possessed her body from Friday the 13th: Part 4, so maybe these weirdos deserve each other.

Then there’s the Michael Myers part of the equation, who may simultaneously be the best part of the movie while also feeling wholly out of place. He’s incapacitated due to his injuries in Kills, and the pandemic now has him working from home. One perk Michael has is I imagine he never has to invest in face masks. But he’ll be called into the office eventually because all roads lead to Laurie Strode. His path to Laurie is often a bit silly and convoluted, as is often the case in this trilogy. The showdown is reliant on us seeing Michael get World Starred in an unintentionally hilarious shot, prompting him to hunt down his property. Even with the injuries, Myers appears much too meek for most of his screen time, only occasionally assuming the persona of the Boogeyman. There’s a particularly captivating scene where Myers is regaining his energy through a murderous act, showing more emotion than we’ve ever seen on-screen from The Shape. It’s as if the art of the kill is like cocaine to him; he’s an addict that just needs a taste, a whiff to come flying off the wagon.

The relationship between Laurie and Michael and how it’s defined in this trilogy creates a unique story issue. If you recall the driving force of the 1978 film – Michael becomes fixated on Laurie by way of a chance encounter. His fascination with the young woman is what moves the plot along. However, the introduction of the sibling twist in Halloween II (1981), a poor choice even disavowed by its brainchild, tainted much of the mystique in the original film. Understandably, Green not only jettisoned the sibling plot line but he’s used his movies to demonstrate that Michael is not pursuing Laurie specifically.

However, this is perhaps an over-correction that causes a recurring flaw in the trilogy: the screenplay has to perform gymnastics to get the two rivals together. This was a bigger problem in the 2018 version, but it still creates an issue here where Green has made a very different movie, yet in the end, Michael and Laurie must be brought together for a last-minute trilogy capper. This could be circumvented if you just switched the roles – have Laurie chase after Michael with desperate intensity instead of them just bumping into each other in these movies. That was supposed to be a major angle of the 2018 film, but I don’t believe it was seen to its full potential. It would not only create tension and urgency, but you’d have an easier time bringing these characters into orbit. The eventual fight is good, a pro wrestling match with Laurie also displaying how she’s learned as a fighter. Curtis, in general, is great as always, and Nick Castle’s iconic standard-setter only equals James Jude Courtney’s efforts as The Shape in these movies in 1978. But the encounter is short, not carrying any of the suspense from 2018 or even Halloween H20 (1998). This isn’t the worst Halloween movie (oh boy!), but what’s good about it is still derivative of better entries, making this the weakest of Green’s trilogy, despite the risk-taking.

Jamie Lee Curtis in her final appearance as Laurie Strode. Source: Universal Pictures.

As the film tries its best to tie these movies with a unifying theme, the character of Haddonfield, IL, is further fleshed out with subpar execution. I appreciate the presence of Kyle Richards, returning as Laurie’s former care-child Lindsey, even as she has fuck all to do. When Lindsey, Laurie, and Allyson are all congregating and chatting as friends, it’s a rare wholesome moment that demonstrates the bond between the characters. Laurie’s kind of corny repartee with Deputy Hawkins is a brief moment of sweetness she gets to enjoy, accompanied by a clever nod to Don’t Fear the Reaper in a grocery store, of all places.

But there’s also the bizarre, such as Joanne Baron (Corey’s mother) giving an absolutely unhinged performance. Like, I get it. It’s alluded that Corey’s upbringing caused him a great deal of trauma, helping lead to his metamorphosis in the story. But Baron is acting like she’s in Kramer vs. Kramer or some other Oscar-worthy film. It’s the most over-the-top performance in the movie, and your mileage will vary on if this is fun or annoying. It’s kind of both, and her scenes are always must-see just for the schadenfreude. There’s a very (read: too much) present group of marching band bullies, with their 1980s dialogue and never changing wardrobe. They’re a lot dorkier than they think they are, making the Van Buren Boys look intimidating in comparison. Occasionally, the film plays its calling card of mirroring shots from the 1978 original. At times, this works, such as a bold shot of Corey outside of a window. Less successful when calling back to Judith Myers’ sexual exploits, as it has very little relation to the situation here.

Once the movie arrives on October 31st, it feels as if Haddonfield forgot it was Halloween – we see none of the pageantries. You could say that maybe the impact of Michael’s prior rampages has made this a taboo holiday that is not heavily celebrated. Except, the very beginning of this movie confirms that this is NOT the case. Can I get some pumpkins, some trick-or-treaters, Monster Mash, some “WE’RE FROM HADDONFIELD, COULDN’T BE PROUDER!!”, a jack-o-lantern, something??? This is how we’re going out, with it just looking like Tuesday?

Yet, what fails the movie the most is its unconvincing connection between Corey and the conflict between Michael and Laurie, glued on to each other rather than stitched together. The movie takes almost the effect of a more literal supernatural thriller in terms of expressing Corey’s psychology, and it doesn’t fit Halloween’s usually implied paranormal undertones. By the end, while we get the message, we’re left wondering if both major stories here would have benefitted from having their own movie to breathe. Instead, there’s a desire to pay off what Myers has done to the soul and psyche of Haddonfield and its citizens, as Laurie consistently reminds us in her overdone voice-over. So why don’t we spend more time with them? Why not a few cues from Twin Peaks or Nashville (1975), allowing 3-4 scenes for us to get better acquainted with Myers’ survivors? Less montages, more personable connection.

Maybe then, this conclusion would hit harder as a true finale. Instead, it feels a bit hollow. The blunt nature of this trilogy, with its many monologues and exposition and having characters explain simple plot elements that we, the audience, can figure out on our own, is the antithesis of John Carpenter’s original. Yes, that movie has a big monologue by the late Donald Pleasance, but it’s the only one needed for the plot. The rest of that film says less, only expository when necessary. For what it’s worth, Ends does bid adieu in an excellent, apropos last shot. One that lasts but a brief moment but says all we need to know. A rare act of subtlety in this film. This fascinating yet messy, stubborn saga finally learns the value of brevity. It only took literally until the very end.