You might want to sit down for this: Halloween Ends begins on Halloween night—more specifically, in 2019. It’s been a year since Michael Myers’s killing spree across the first two entries of David Gordon Green’s trilogy, and the surviving citizens of Haddonfield, Illinois, are in a perpetual state of unease. It’s easy to understand where the townsfolk are coming from: Myers slaughtered approximately 40,000 residents (don’t fact-check this) in the ludicrously gnarly Halloween Kills, and then vanished without a trace. To even celebrate Halloween in Haddonfield is to feel like you’re courting death.
Nevertheless, the new film picks up with a couple going to a party, leaving their young son in the care of a 21-year-old babysitter. A babysitter and a little kid on Halloween—we’ve seen this story before, and Halloween Ends knows it. But as moviegoers anticipate the seemingly inevitable reemergence of the bogeyman, the night takes a bloody turn with Myers nowhere to be seen. Myers’s reign of terror in Haddonfield has effectively transcended his physical form: He’s created a culture of fear, and that fear is contagious.
On the heels of the 2018 requel(?) Halloween’s trauma-centered focus—to the extent that Jamie Lee Curtis’s repeated use of the word on the film’s press tour became a meme—and with Halloween Kills setting its sights on the dangers of embracing mob mentality, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Halloween Ends is attempting more social commentary. Last year, Green said the final movie in his trilogy would incorporate the pandemic; for better or for worse, you can connect the dots between COVID-19 and the town’s collective suffering becoming an “infection,” as Curtis’s character Laurie Strode puts it. Myers may not be the perpetrator of the violence that’s starting to spread across Haddonfield, but he’s still the conduit for it.
The Halloween franchise is no stranger to bold creative swings, from the Myers-less Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which made a sharp pivot to science fiction, to the reveal that Myers was the result of an ancient Druid curse in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. (For the purposes of Gordon’s trilogy, only the original Halloween is considered canon.) Even so, the notion of Myers’s evil spreading like a virus throughout a community is a fascinating gambit, not least of all because Halloween Ends sidelines the iconic slasher villain for the majority of its running time. Instead, the movie centers on Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), the aforementioned babysitter who becomes the town pariah when the kid he was looking after is killed in a tragic accident stemming from a Halloween prank gone wrong. Naturally, despite Corey’s acquittal, many people suspect that the death was no accident—in the continued absence of Myers, Corey is the perfect villain in a town searching for one.
Corey has tried his best to live in anonymity since the incident, but three years later, a chance encounter with Laurie at a gas station leads to a meet-cute with her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). But while Allyson believes Corey is a kindred spirit, he highlights an important distinction between their respective traumas: She will always have Haddonfield’s pity for how Myers destroyed her family, while he’s the focus of their wrath for something he never intended to happen. To that end, after leaving a Halloween party at which he crosses paths with the mother of the dead child, Corey is attacked by a group of high-schoolers and shoved off a small bridge. In between falling and regaining consciousness, Corey finds himself inside the town sewer, where he isn’t alone. (I’ll give you one guess as to who could be down there with him.)
It’s at this point that I should note (a) it’s tricky to discuss Halloween Ends any further without getting into spoiler territory, and (b) this sequence of events seems like it was taken from the discarded drafts of a Stephen King novel, which the author himself seems to appreciate. Indeed, it’s clear that Halloween Ends was inspired by both King’s It—see: the sewer and a malicious presence residing within it—and Christine, which was adapted into a film by none other than John Carpenter in 1983. (The protagonist of Christine, Arnie Cunningham, even shares a surname with Corey.) In Christine, Arnie falls under the influence of a demonic muscle car—a reminder that King did a lot of cocaine in the ’80s—and Halloween Ends follows a similarly supernatural logic when Corey is attacked by Myers in Haddonfield’s sewers before later escaping.
From there: hooo boy. Curtis already warned that Halloween Ends is going to “make people very angry,” and it’s not hard to see why when Myers is doing his best Pennywise impression with very limited screen time. (Has he just been … subsisting on rats and sewer water for years? His bowel movements must be terrifying.) But while Halloween Ends has many flaws, the decision to foreground Myers’s influence throughout Haddonfield, rather than the villain himself, isn’t one of them. A movie that imagines Myers’s wicked essence as some kind of contagion that can be passed on to others—and perhaps gravitates toward people who have experienced trauma themselves—is, at the very least, conceptually intriguing. It’s particularly compelling in the wider context of the town: Because residents label Corey a monster, his encounter with Myers feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy, following an arc similar to the tortured protagonist of last year’s reimagined (and somewhat laborious) Candyman.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Halloween Ends won’t be considered extremely divisive. It’s unlikely that audiences will be willing to meet Halloween Ends on its Corey-centric terms, especially when the film has been hyped up as the final showdown between Laurie and her decades-spanning tormentor. (By the time Laurie and Michael meet again, it’s done out of a sense of dull obligation.) But Myers is such a blank slate—in the credits of Carpenter’s original film, he is simply listed as “The Shape”—that such experimentation is practically encouraged, and a refreshing departure from doing another by-the-numbers gore-fest. In other words, I’ll take the go-for-broke weirdness of Halloween Ends treating evil like something that’s potentially transferable over Halloween Kills racking up a meaningless body count alongside heavy-handed commentary about The World We Live In. (Lest we forget that Laurie says Michael is “the anger that divides us,” which, what?!)
While Halloween Ends marks Curtis’s emotional swan song with the franchise, it wouldn’t shock anyone if more films eventually come down the pipeline. (That said, it is the last Halloween movie from Blumhouse Productions, which will lose the rights to the franchise.) Considering the uneven nature of Green’s trilogy, which brought back familiar franchise thrills when it wasn’t trying to jam ham-fisted social commentary down the audience’s throats, horror fans might not be clamoring for a return to Haddonfield anytime soon. But if there’s any major takeaway from Halloween Ends, it’s that an evil like Michael Myers never dies—it merely changes shape.