Friday, October 14, 2022


The trick to making the umpteenth entry in a long-running series is getting the exact right balance of new ideas and old familiar ones. David Gordon Green’s been tinkering with that balance for reviving Halloween for three movies now. His first attempt as director and co-writer had one great new idea: bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis and making her original slasher survivor Laurie Strode a doomsday prepper awaiting the inevitable return of her masked killer, Michael Myers. The rest of the movie was content to retread the series’ usual stalk-and-slash set pieces. Green’s second effort, Halloween Kills, was even worse, a procession of characters making stupid decisions in a mindless slaughterhouse of a picture. Third time’s the charm. Halloween Ends dutifully doles out violence, but is also concerned with the effects of all this slasher film violence on the people involved. Instead of trotting out trite therapy talk or easy metaphor, it sits in their discomfort. Curtis and her granddaughter (Andi Matichak) are trying to mourn and move on with their lives, but they, and the entire town of Haddonfield, can’t escape the shadow of the killing sprees in their past. Even with Myers missing for years, the survivors don’t shake the feeling he’ll be back. They still live with the consequences. Early in the movie, Laurie is confronted with a scarred, mute victim from the previous entry whose family blames the Strodes for provoking these attacks. How can anyone ever fully recover when the scars remain? The movie settles into a sensitive groove, watching these women try to make new friends and keep the old, while the menacing shadow of their past looms larger as the eponymous holiday draws near. Because the movie takes its time drawing us into their lives, and the cast of characters surrounding them, the inevitable bloody murders inflicted upon the ensemble will sting a little more than usual.

Green also cleverly makes this a movie about the sick fascination with violence—the grim allure of the potential power it brings, the false sense of control it can lend to the lonely and dispossessed, the nasty curiosity of seeing bodies torn apart—that movies like this (or real life mass death, for that matter) can draw out of some troubled people. He introduces a new character of a young man (Rohan Campbell) who suffers a terrible mishap in the opening scene—one of the film’s best shocks, and the one with the longest-lasting effects. The poor guy then barely recovers to scrape by after such a life-altering incident. Perhaps because of this trauma, in addition to the social ostracism it brought him, he finds himself drawn to dark thoughts. As he gets entangled in the lives of the Strodes, one can see the potential for redemption through shared connection with the ugliest aspects of their pasts. But one also sees an ominous potential for further destruction. Because of the series to which this story belongs, you can make a good guess about where it’s going. And, indeed, the plot’s painted into a corner in its final moments, with only one excessively nasty way out. (The final frames of Myers in this one are especially stupid.) But Green admirably keeps the ideas simmering, and the sympathy flowing, even as bodies start to pile up. Here’s an agreeably mournful slasher picture, that largely keeps the slashing to a few well-chosen moments throughout before a bloody finale. The technical details—a casually blocked scope frame, a sinister score from John Carpenter riffing on his original work, teeth-grindingly convincing gore effects—are impeccable. But it’s the compelling mood and genuine human interest in its ideas that keeps it a cut above the usual pulp.

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