In honor of the release of Halloween Ends, I present you with Kaedrin’s definitive ranking of the Halloween films:
- Halloween (1978)
And that’s it! That’s all you really need to watch.
Alright, fine, I’m being overly snarky and my general distaste for sequels is probably being too strongly expressed, so here:
- Halloween (1978)
- Halloween III: Season of the Witch
- A ten way tie of Halloween Sequels
- Halloween: Resurrection
Alright, still being facetious here, and clearly Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers is pretty bad (it’s not quite the absolute nadir of the list, which is definitively Resurrection, but it’s not far off), but I just can’t bring myself to care that much about all of the sequels and reboots and sequels to reboots and sequels that branch off from other points in the timeline and so on. But here’s the thing: The original Halloween is one of my all time favorites and would rank somewhere in my personal top 100 movies of all time list (perhaps top 20 or maybe even top 10). According to Letterboxd, I’ve seen somewhere on the order of 4500 movies, and the rest of the Halloween sequels probably range in the 3000-4000 range (alright, again, maybe I’m exaggerating – but the point is that there’s a tremendous chasm between #1 and #2 on the list above). Even Halloween III, which has seen a well-deserved rehabilitation over the last decade or so after being unfairly maligned for so long, isn’t that great of a movie. I do appreciate what they were trying to do there though.
A lot of these movies are perfectly cromulent (for a sequel/reboot/whatever) and I’m certainly not immune to nostalgia. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers has some intriguing elements, and I must admit that I always loved how game Donald Pleasance was in all these sequels. Rob Zombie’s remake could have been a solid neo-slasher if they changed the title, a few names, and used different theme music (it would have clearly been derivative of Halloween, but it’d work much better if it was an “original” concept and wasn’t constantly forcing you to compare to a genuine classic). And so on.
David Gordon Green’s recent trilogy, concluding with the release of Halloween Ends last week, has been a real mixed bag for me. The 2018 Reboot had some nice elements and some interesting ideas, but it was overstuffed and messy and never really delivered on its potential. Halloween Kills was downright disappointing, with a tacky and desperate overreliance on legacy characters and a frankly bizarre attempt to monologue responsibility away from the townsfolk, who had formed a mob and murdered some random guy (amongst many other dumb things). Again, some interesting ideas, but none were particularly well executed. So now we come to the concluding entry in this most recent series (Spoilers to follow)…
The Six Weeks of Halloween: Week 5.5 – Halloween Ends
A young man named Corey Cunningham accidentally kills a kid he was babysitting. Three years later, he’s trying to put his life back together, but Haddonfield will have none of it, as they still think of him as a pedophilic murderer of children who got off on a technicality. As pressure mounts, he begins to think that maybe he should stand up for himself… and start murdering those who blame him for killing the child. And oh yeah, he runs into Michael Myers at some point, and I guess they’re kinda friends? Kindred evil spirits with dead eyes or something like that? Whatever. Corey is also sorta dating Laurie Strode’s granddaughter, so eventually Corey and his new friend Michael try to kill Laurie, with predictable results.
Spoilers, I guess, but at this point, does it really matter? It’s telling that this movie isn’t really about Laurie or Michael, but rather a brand new character introduced in this movie. Which is actually a bold choice! As someone who generally bemoans lazy sequels and desperate reliance on legacy characters, I have a lot of respect for this approach. I actually don’t need them to rehash the Halloween slasher formula, and I wasn’t really looking forward to an epic showdown between Michael and Laurie, rinse and repeat. But if you do this, you have to do it well, and I don’t think they pulled it off.
David Gordon Green is a talented director, and the movie looks good. There’s some effective jump scares and some wonderful visuals sprinkled throughout. As with previous movies in the series, there are lots of interesting ideas thrown out there. Laurie’s new strategy for coping with PTSD continues a theme that’s been present throughout this new trilogy and despite modern horror’s obsession with trauwwwma, it makes sense to explore that here (even if it’s an… odd take, more on this below). The way contagious fear and tragedy has weighed on the town of Haddonfield, marked by a cyclical evil manifesting as a boogeyman that’s not always Michael Myers, but just as often the way the town reacts to Myers (as in the “Evil Dies Tonight” mob from Halloween Kills). These are all through lines of the trilogy, but this final installment also adds in a whole new theme about a tortured soul succumbing to pressures and his own trauma to become a murderer himself. It sometimes feels like each new scene introduces a new theme.
These are all weighty topics, worthy of deep exploration. Unfortunately, that’s not what we get. All these ideas and themes are just crammed into each movie with no regard to whether or not they’re actually well depicted or thoroughly established. It’s just like, oh, new scene, maybe this one will be a commentary on consumerism, is that something? We should draw parallels between the band nerds and the police, because bullies become fascist cops, amirite? These sudden turns end up feeling like they come out of nowhere and then just disappear without a trace, turning the whole experience into a disjointed, thematic vacuum where it tries to do so much that it doesn’t really accomplish any one thing particularly well.
I suspect this movie will garner a niche following. People like what they like and I’m glad some folks are really connecting with this. There’s a lot to like here and plenty to dig your teeth into, so maybe my dumbass engineer brain was in a mood for a more cohesive plot or something. However, even the folks I’ve seen who like these movies would probably agree that they’re messy. For example, one person I follow described Halloween Ends as “kind of a bozo masterpiece.”
Honestly, I can probably get behind the “bozo masterpiece” label for this installment. I can certainly appreciate that these movies have ambitions and ideas, but to my mind, if you go that route, you really need to deliver on that ambition. I’ll take a movie with a simple theme that’s executed perfectly over a movie with a jumble of interesting but not very well established ideas. Your mileage may vary, and there’s plenty to chew on here if you really want to. I guess it does deliver on the promise of the title of the movie… at least, until Blumhouse decides to reboot it again in a few years:
Ok, now that I’ve resorted to just posting fun tweets, I think it’s time for more freakish, disjointed thoughts:
- One of my favorite parts of this recent trilogy is that Michael Myers was always portrayed as a force of nature. The personification of evil, like a shark, always moving, always killing, always crafting ironic, elaborate dioramas out of his victims’ bodies like a homicidal Banksy producing spontaneous art installations all throughout Haddonfield (which, believe it or not, actually kinda fits with what he does in the original movie). Unfortunately, that isn’t as present in Halloween Ends, due to the focus on young Corey. That might not be the worst thing in the world, but…
- Speaking of whom: Why doesn’t Michael kill Corey? Michael’s role in this whole movie seems weirdly out of place with his established character traits. It’s kinda implied that maybe Corey is kinda/sorta possessed by the same evil that drives Michael and I guess Mikey senses that? But that makes no sense, because he has lovey dovey conversations with Allyson all movie. Like, I get that the kid is a tortured soul, but why does he think murdering everyone will make things better? When cornered by a disarmed Laurie later in the movie, instead of trying to kill her, he just stabs himself in the neck? Not because he’s conflicted or senses that he’s becoming evil, but because he wants to make a half-hearted, easy-to-see-through effort to frame Laurie as his killer? What the hell is going on here? I mentioned above that I like the idea of taking the franchise in a completely new direction and introducing a new character like this… but man, this really falls down in the execution of that idea.
- Corey’s last name is Cunningham, which seems like a reference to Arnie Cunningham from another John Carpenter movie, Christine. Arnie and Corey have plenty of similarities – bullied nerds who are influenced by a great evil to kill their enemies (and thus become less awkward and more confident). This is one of those referential type things that some people like, but once again, it makes you think of a movie that did the same thing, only much better (in my mind, Christine is one of Carpenter’s more underrated efforts and is certainly a step up from this one).
- Alright, so, after the original Halloween, Laurie Strode (quite understandably!) suffers from PTSD and spends 40 years in a paranoid survivalist funk. She is then completely and utterly vindicated when Michael Myers escapes and goes on a rampage, killing dozens of people (including Laurie’s own daughter!), then mysteriously disappears with no trace. He could return again at any time. Haddonfield has gone absolutely bonkers as a result. But Laurie… decides to buy a new house and live a more carefree life, free from paranoia or fear? I guess you could say it was all a facade, but it was still a jarring decision.
- Laurie kinda sets up a meet cute with Corey and her granddaughter Allyson and keeps encouraging her to get with the nice boy who’s had a rough go of it. Then, halfway through the movie, someone says they didn’t like his eyes, and Laurie executes an about-face, forbidding Allyson to see him anymore? What the hell happened there? Like many things in the movie, this leads to some unintentional comedy and what the fuck? exclamations.
- Extra-special spoiler alert here, but towards the end of the movie, Laurie fights Michael in an epic battle to end them all or whatever. It’s fine, I guess, the sort of conventional decision everyone was expecting and which the movie marketed heavily on (and which undercuts the effectiveness of the whole “Corey is actually the main character here” approach), but Laurie gets the upper hand, pins Michael to the table with some knives, drops a refrigerator on him, and slits his throat. Michael, ever the sneakster, plays dead for a moment then grabs Laurie by the neck. Allyson joins the scene to save the day, they slit his wrist and now he’s dead for sure, right? Actually, yes. Despite decades of Michael always coming back from impossible-to-survive wounds, he just lays there. They strap his body to the top of their car (!?), then lead a procession of police and townfolk to the local dump, where they dump Michael’s body in an industrial shredder. What happened to the guy that took several gunshots and stabbings, then stood up and slaughtered the entire crowd, evaded the police, and snuck up to kill Laurie’s daughter? I wonder if the next Halloween movie, we’re going to see everyone start driving off towards the dump, then the camera will pull back, track into Laurie’s house to find the body of Corey Cunningham, suddenly awakening and grabbing a mask and knife, ready to continue Samhain. Are you ready for the Corey and Allyson saga, which will take us in the 2060s? Ok, I shouldn’t even joke about this sort of thing, should I?
- One of the best and funniest decisions in the movie was to make the bullies that are always pestering Corey a group of high school marching band dorks (as opposed to the traditional jocks). There were many things that made me laugh unintentionally during the movie, but this one made me laugh in a way that I think was right on target. (Not because band nerds are bad people or anything, just because it’s such a random, unexpected choice.)
- I can’t decide if no one chanting “Evil ends tonight!” in this movie was a good thing or a bad thing.
- For all my complaints, there were still some nice touches throughout the movie. The opening pre-credits sequence is fantastic and shocking, even if they fumble the aftermath later in the movie. The Scarecrow mask that Corey uses a couple times is actually pretty cool (and recalls Rob Zombie’s alternate mask usage in his remake). The tongue on the record was a nice, macabre touch. The score, once again provided by John Carpenter himself (along with his son Cody), is fantastic stuff, with just the right amount of nods to the original score while still updating and modernizing. The opening pre-credits sequence is pretty fantastic, even if they fumble the aftermath.
- Diana Prince, aka Darcy the Mail Girl, shows up in a bit part as the radio station receptionist who is cutting paper ghosts, which is nice. It’s only a quick scene; I did the Leo from OUATIH pointing meme in my seat. Apparently her death scene was cut from the film, but will allegedly be available in bonus features (or maybe an extended cut).
So there you have it, a decidedly mixed trilogy in my mind, but I have to admit: they were never boring! Sometimes infuriating and other times baffling, but not boring! I dunno, I’m more excited to rewatch the original for the 40th time in a couple weeks than I would be to rewatch any of these new ones, which is probably the final word on this for me…