In 1978, John Carpenter and Debra Hill set out to make a gripping horror movie in the form of Halloween. Without a doubt the two succeeded, creating an iconic horror film and “Boogeyman.” Since that movie’s release, a plethora of sequels have been created in its name; the reception associated with these sequels is mixed, to say the least.
40 years after that first film’s release, director David Gordon Green would take on the job of bringing back the franchise in the form of a new trilogy. Green’s first installment, 2018’s Halloween, makes for a compelling sequel to that 1978 film. The follow-up to his 2018 film, Halloween Kills, is more of a mixed bag of polarizing response. And the 2022 follow-up and conclusion to Green’s trilogy, Halloween Ends, is also just as polarizing.
Even for those fans who felt letdown by Halloween Kills, many of us still held out for Halloween Ends, anticipating what kind of conclusion it may provide. Well, while Halloween Ends may be messy as hell and problematic there and then, it is by far one of the most interesting Halloween movies (and slasher flicks) we’ve had in some time.
Since 2018’s Halloween, Green has stayed committed to a central theme throughout his movies: Trauma. Integral to this theme is Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis). In Green’s 2018 film, we see how that initial confrontation with Michael Myers has impacted Laurie’s life, and the enduring battle she faces struggling with PTSD. As a slasher movie, Green succeeds in hitting all the narrative beats we would come to expect and love in such a flick. He also provides us an experience with a great level of emotional depth, as we get to see Laurie rise and confront her Boogeyman.
Halloween Kills strives to be a slasher experience that amps the violence to 11, while keeping to the theme of trauma. However, Green takes an approach that, while interesting on paper, is not executed all that well in the film. In Halloween Kills, trauma is a plague; the people of Haddonfield have become obsessive with the terror that took place in 1978. They reflect on the events of that night and the evil that is Michael Myers. When they learn that Michael is about Haddonfield once again, the townsfolk take to their guns, pitchforks, and other weapons, chanting throughout the streets, “Evil dies tonight!”
Laurie gets pushed to the backburner for most of the film, which is a narrative letdown in this case, given how bad ass she was in Green’s previous film. In attempting to focus on the craze of Haddonfield, Green and his team of writers end up offering a melodramatic experience that lacks focus. The writers spend little time to explore the individual traumas taking place among the residents of Haddonfield. It’s just a general sense that everyone is traumatized – a general sense that everyone has been impacted by Michael Myers. But other than some iconic characters from the 1978 film, we don’t get a great feel of that societal trauma.
However, Green continues to follow this direction of societal trauma in Halloween Ends, albeit, through an intriguing lens. Much like Laurie was pushed to the side in Halloween Kills, she is once again done so in Halloween Ends, with Green providing focus on a new character named Corey (played by Rohan Campbell).
Along with Halloween Ends taking place four years after the events of Halloween Kills, it also opens with a tragic incident involving Corey. (Please keep in mind there will be spoilers pertaining to Halloween Ends moving forward). While on a babysitting gig, the kid he is watching over dies. Due to this incident, Corey becomes a social outcast in the town (being called names like the “babysitter killer”).
However, important context to all of this is that four-year gap in-between stories, for while there has been no sight and reporting of Michael Myers, the townsfolk have been left with no closure (given that Michael was still alive at the end of Halloween Kills). While we get to see a Laurie who is striving to move forward in her life (she’s working on a memoir about her experiences), many of the other people in town have not been able to let go of what Michael has done. It has gotten to the point where Michael’s terror looms over the town with suspicion and dread. A shooting takes place where some people died – a random act of violence or the doing of Michael Myers? A man is found hung – an act of suicide or the doing of Michael Myers?
In Halloween Ends, Green provides a more intimate look at how trauma has plagued the town. While there are some problematic elements to this exploration (e.g., interactions between characters that lack emotional nuance and some logic that seems out of left field), Green succeeds in conveying a relatively stronger approach to this direction (as compared to Halloween Kills).
Where the film is most interesting however is in the story of Corey. In Halloween 2018, we see how trauma has consumed Laurie and how that trauma has been parted onto her daughter. In the likes of Tommy Doyle (played by Anthony Michael Hall) in Halloween Kills, we see how trauma has pushed him towards a vigilante-like mind state. For Corey, trauma manifests in a darker, more sinister manner.
Due to the events of that horrible babysitting incident, Corey goes on to live an isolated life. Besides the presence of his overbearing mother and emotionally distant father, Corey doesn’t go out and socialize – he mostly just works. He is the target of bullies and comes across various forms of harassment. Besides eventually coming across paths with Laurie and that of Allyson (Andi Matichak), Corey has very few positive people in his life (and most importantly, he has no healthy outlet or resources such as therapy).
There’s a point where Laurie is talking to Corey’s mother, and after a couple things are said, Corey’s mom says something along these lines to Laurie: After your boogeyman disappeared, this town needed someone else to be afraid of, and they chose my son.
For a long time, Green casts Corey in a light of pity; he starts out as a likeable guy, and we are able to see how the infamous babysitting incident was not his fault. We feel bad for him when he’s bullied and root for him to have peace of mind. However, the rug gets pulled out from under us once we start to see Corey killing other people and enjoying it.
At one point in the film, one thing leads to another, and Corey finds himself in the presence of Michael Myers; what is jarring about this interaction is that not only does Michael take Corey in after the latter has been harmed, but he also doesn’t kill Corey. There is no explicit reason as to why this is the case, but the two end up developing a kinship with one another. But there is also important context to this interaction that aids in further understanding Corey’s descent.
Prior to meeting Michael, Corey is harassed by some bullies and, after some back and forth, is pushed off a bridge. After plummeting to the ground, the bullies look down and assume he is dead; they then proceed to flee the scene of the crime and leave Corey “for dead”. It is after this instance of violence, along with meeting Michael and being treated like an outcast for so long, that Corey begins to walk a path of darkness.
After his initial confrontation with Michael, Corey begins to morph into the “boogeyman” he has been labeled as. And while considered one of the most divisive decisions of the film, its this Corey narrative that makes Halloween Ends so intriguing.
While the execution of themes is far from perfect, there is a powerful narrative here pertaining to the dangers of how trauma can explode in men – the conversation regarding greater mental health care for men still being advocated to this day. Corey doesn’t come off as a “timebomb” – though, the film does include several winks and nods to his eventual transformation into slasher. That said, he’s someone who, if he had been in an environment that provided mental health care or had a much healthier support system, he could have turned out much more different. The horrendous cocktail that is Corey’s trauma, along with his severe lack of healthy network and resources, leads him to take on the mantle of Michael Myers.
There’s also a meta element to this that is intriguing on a psychological level. Consider how Michael Myers looks: A man in a blue jumpsuit who wears shoes and a white mask. This imagery has become the symbol of evil and trauma that has infected Haddonfield, but the townsfolk don’t know the man who lies under that imagery. So later, when Corey dawns the literal same outfit, in a way, you might as well say it’s Michael. The slasher lives on.
With this context in mind, Corey also serves as an interesting subversion regarding narrative expectations. It may not be that much of a stretch, but many fans probably expected Green’s conclusion to involve Michael rampaging through Haddonfield once again and for him and Laurie to duke it out. This doesn’t happen really; Michael and Laurie’s confrontation is brief within the context of the film. Much of the focus of Halloween Ends is on Corey and his transformation.
Now all this said, I think it’s only responsible to acknowledge how problematic of a perspective this can be. Let’s cut to the chase: Just because someone struggles with trauma, that doesn’t mean they will all of a sudden become violent. We have seen this problematic trope repeated time and time again throughout stories (not just horror). Are there some cases where untreated trauma and specific environments can push someone to do violent things? Sure. Is that always the case? Of course not.
Ultimately, how does Green handle the direction of Corey’s descent into slasher? I feel there is some okay handling, but far from perfect. Green does provide some significant plot details for us to understand why Corey heads down such a dark path, but there’s also a significant chunk of nuanced psychology missing. I’ve seen worse cases of the trope for sure, but it’s worth pointing out how Halloween Ends can be surface level as hell with its psychology at times.
On an ironic note, this is not the first time that the Halloween franchise has dipped into such waters. Back in 2009, Rob Zombie presented a similar portrayal of trauma in his Halloween 2. While Zombie’s movie leans more into psychological horror than Green’s Halloween Ends, the two directors offer similar concepts. How can trauma blossom into something ugly within a person? What could happen if that trauma goes untreated and the individual indulges in negative coping mechanisms?
Funny enough, while Zombie has gotten a lot of crap for his Halloween movies, a cult following has been developing in terms of Halloween 2. Several horror critics have spoken to Zombie’s efforts to do something unique within the world of Halloween. While the current reception for Halloween Ends is a mixed bag, there’s a chance that, in a few years, we’ll be looking back on this movie as an intriguing gem.
Halloween Ends is without a doubt a messy movie; even for all its efforts (regarding thematic exploration), not every scene is written that well, with several scenes relying on shallow writing to present the idea of a concept, rather than really making the audience feel something. That said, it sure as hell is an interesting movie. It’s a slasher that not only subverts expectations – allowing for a plot that catches us by surprise – but it also does provide some food for thought.
With the release of Halloween Ends, there is no telling when we may see another cinematic installment in the Halloween franchise (let’s not kid ourselves, there’s going to be more Halloween movies in the future). But, if Halloween Ends is to be our conclusion for some time, I think Green gave us an ending worth appreciating.