Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): ‘Halloween Ends’
by Ben Martin
Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
Most folks, myself included, go to certain movies around the holidays. However, my favorite holiday of Halloween did not gain a film that genuinely celebrated it until 1978’s Halloween. John Carpenter’s classic slasher flick is rightfully considered one of the best horror movies ever made. It gave us an icon of modern horror in Michael Myers. More than that though, it created a franchise that spanned 12 movies, 5 continuities, and 45 years. A franchise that I’m returning to for the supposed “final time” with Halloween Ends (2022)!
Yes, I know I’m a little late to the party. But, as we enter this hectic time of year, I figure I can’t be the only member of the horror community who still feels a bit like celebrating Halloween during the Yuletide season — bringing me to the latest installment of the Halloween franchise: Halloween Ends. Halloween (2018) and Halloween Kills (2020) have not aged well with me. Halloween ’18 isn’t all that rewatchable, and I hated Halloween Kills. A film so bad, not even the “EVIL DIES TONIGHT!” drinking game could improve it. (If you’ve seen Kills, that game is self-explanatory, though highly unadvised.)
Based on my reception of the previous two installments, I admittedly found myself going into Halloween Ends feeling like I had to watch it more than I wanted to. It’s that sense of being a completist that is somewhat obsessive-compulsive; a compulsion I would have for these films even if I were not reviewing them for this column. In any event, I was morbidly curious about the movie in review, but, ultimately, I wanted to be done with this current franchise iteration.
Even still, despite Ends dropping day-and-date in theaters and on Peacock, I couldn’t bring myself to watch this film at home. Well, at least not for an initial viewing anyway. On the contrary, I trekked to the theater to see a one-night-only double feature of it with Halloween (1978) — which was a real treat. Or was it a trick? Would screening Halloween ’78, ’18, and Kills have been a more complete and enhancing experience? Once again, my completionist self rears his ugly head. Nevertheless, the original Halloween was a darn fine lead-in to Ends. Still, I would never have expected what I would receive with the final entry to this trilogy.
Before the pandemic, director and co-writer David Gordan Green (of the upcoming Exorcist reboot) and co-writer Danny McBride (The Righteous Gemstones) stated that this entire trilogy would take place on the same titular night. However, as with everything the rest of the world, unexpected changes had to be made thanks to COVID-19. Thus, Halloween Ends picks up three years and some change after its predecessors’ bloody events, which have placed a permanent atmosphere of fear and hatred over the little town of Haddonfield, Illinois. The townspeople either fear the inevitable return of Michael Myers/The Shape (James Jude Courtney), or they are someone else’s boogeyman. Everyone, at least, except Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). Both have repaired their relationship, as they are now living together.
Sadly, a young man named Corey Cunningham’s (Rohan Campbell) life has only gone downhill since Halloween a year prior. After a tragic event that night, Corey finds himself a pariah in this small town. Well, until he makes the acquaintance of Laurie and, more importantly, Allyson. Corey and Allyson bond over their respective traumas and quickly spark a romance. But that honeymoon phase rapidly turns into a nightmare when The Shape finally returns to Haddonfield! Now, Laurie must confront her boogeyman once and for all!
The plot synopsis above may sound like the standard; even repetitive fare audiences have come to expect from a sequel in any iteration of this franchise. But this proverbial ending is anything but the same old, same old. Ends is a film that’s a real love-it-or-hate-it affair, and frankly, either perspective is understandable. I, however, fall into the former category. After the blood bath that was Kills, this movie brings something genuinely different to the table.
That difference is to the point of being refreshing, albeit uneven. Halloween Ends is the most character-based entry in this entire franchise — even more than the overblown, trauma-laden “character study” of Laurie Strode we were presented in 2018. Speaking of Laurie, this is the first time the headlining heroine of many of these films felt like the wise but hardened woman, one who evolved from the young lady created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill in the 1978 original. This quality is true both on the page, and in the performance Curtis delivers.
Ends is also the first time in this current trilogy that I empathized with Laurie; and for two simple reasons. In Halloween ’18, Curtis just wanted to play a badass, so her character becomes an Ellen Ripley or Sarah Conner rip-off of sorts. Following that, Halloween Kills completely wastes the character, giving her nothing to do but scream about how Michael is after her. Thereby repeating the sin committed initially back in 1981 with Halloween II. Thankfully, though, in Ends, Curtis imbues Laurie with legitimate humanity. This interpretation of Laurie Strode shows a person whose light may have been dimmed by the darkness of the past, but she still has hope and soul about her.
The Laurie Strode presented here is so faithful to the one we were introduced to 44 years ago that it leads me to believe that Halloween Ends is what Green and McBride truly wanted to make all along when they initially rebooted this franchise in 2018. To not focus so much on Laurie nor The Shape, but instead, illustrate that the evil that haunted a rural town one Halloween can return in different forms. In other words, the same thing Carpenter and Hill tried to achieve with the anthology approach of Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1981) — a film to which this trilogy has given many nods. That intention was also attempted again when Carpenter and Dennis Etchison (1943-2019) — who novelized Halloween II and III — tried once again (but with the inclusion of The Shape) in their unproduced Halloween IV screenplay.
If that’s indeed the case, Green and McBride weren’t allowed to do such a thing right off the bat. I’m sure Universal Studios, Blumehouse, and most likely Trancas International Pictures, put their feet down instead of letting things kick off that way. Hence, a reboot via the legacy sequel, which at the time was purportedly a one-picture deal. Unsurprisingly, Halloween (2018) exceeded expectations as it grossed over $250 million worldwide.
After this, the studio immediately wanted to make a trilogy out of that reboot. Unfortunately I don’t think McBride and Green had ideas for three movies that tell one complete story. Instead, the pair made the 2018 flick after conceiving a concept (much like) the one we’ve arrived at with Halloween Ends. If my intuition on this strung-together trifecta is correct, that explains the emptiness of Halloween Kills. The duo wanted to pitch a curveball into this franchise, which is precisely what they finally get to do with this trilogy.
Unlike the majority of the sequels throughout every incarnation of this series, Halloween Ends makes the pointed decision not to focus on The Shape. Instead, Michael Myers is very much like a dark specter that haunts the town, which is how that character is at his most effective. This third entry takes an entirely different tact than the previous couple of installments; it focuses on Allyson and Corey and the romance that blossoms between them all too quickly. Ends spends much of its first two acts developing these characters. In doing so, it achieves a greater level of characterization than its two predecessors even attempted.
Your level of interest in Corey and his relationship with Allyson will make or break this flick for you. I enjoyed seeing their dynamic develop, even if it is overly-expedited in its evolution. Then again, one of the notable flaws of this flick is that it’s messy; the feeling that plenty of story was left of the cutting room floor is tangible. So much so that elements of the narrative almost make it feel like the pilot episode for a Peacock Original Halloween TV series based around the citizens of Haddonfield. In the third act, though, the kills pick up to the point where it should satisfy half the fanbase, or at least that seems to be the case from divisive discourse over the film thus far.
As I said at the beginning of this review, this movie will understandably only please some. For me, though, Halloween Ends is a Franchise Expansion because it does something original in this series for the first time in a long time. And like many other fans who sounded off in the positive column for this entry, I feel Ends will eventually garner a beloved cult classic status among genre fans just as Halloween III: Season of the Witch did before it. If anything, the biggest flaw of Ends is that it doesn’t feel seasonal enough. It takes more inspiration from John Carpenter’s Christine (1983) than the Hallow’s Eve tone previously established by this legacy trilogy. Even still, Halloween Ends exceeded my expectations to the point where I’ve watched it multiple times. I would recommend any fan of the franchise give the film a shot just for the uniqueness of it all.
But the real question is, “where does this franchise go from here?” Despite supposedly being the end of the series, we all know that’s not true. It’s merely the titular end of this franchise iteration, particularly since this trilogy capper has grossed over $100 million worldwide at the box office on a $20 million production budget. And who knows how much on Peacock Premium, which leads me to where I think the franchise might be headed.
A current genre trend is to take established franchises to TV via streaming services. Thus, there’s a possibility we’ll either get an anthology series or a limited series based around Season of the Witch, which would be a Peacock exclusive. Or at least, that’s what producer Jason Blum (of the upcoming The Visitor) has vaguely hinted. Be it on the big or small screen; I know both myself and the fans will be there to see what tricks ‘r treats the future of this franchise holds.
Halloween Ends is currently streaming on Peacock (Plus & Premium). The film will also be available thru all digital platforms, 4K UHD, Blu-Ray, & DVD on December 27th.
Treat yourself to the other Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion) Reviews in the Halloween series:
Halloween II (1981)
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Halloween 6: The Curse Of Michael Myers (1995)
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007)
Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009)
Halloween Kills (2021)