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This Horror Franchise Needs to Die

Hoping for a banger, I rolled the dice on ‘Halloween Ends.’

Dorothy Woodend 28 Oct

Dorothy Woodend is the culture editor for The Tyee.

Oh man, what a way to go out. Halloween Ends, the 13th instalment of the storied Halloween film franchise, staggered into theatres a few weeks ago. If folks were hoping for a bowing out of epic magnitude, I have some bad news. The film bows alright. In fact, it bow-wows-wows like the sad puppy it is.

You’d think that after decades of deteriorating returns, one would get used to disappointment. But no: with the Halloween franchise, horror hope springs eternal. So it was with this most recent outing. Maybe it will be good this time? Maybe they’ll pull it together and end with an almighty banger. Nope. More like a wiener-y whimper.

The word “ween” means to have an opinion. No one quite has as deeply held, vociferously expressed feelings as horror fans. They could argue the paint off a barn door. Naturally, these folks have some sentiments on this latest Halloween chapter. Halloween Ends has been so poorly received that fans are calling for a reshoot of the ending. Halloween Ends: the Re-ending, if you will.

I can’t say I blame the punters. I also wanted so much more for protagonists Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, who have mostly propelled Halloween’s core action since the legendary first movie of the franchise premiered in 1978. Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake brought in other actors to take on the iconic roles but the less said about that version, the better.

The pair first met when Michael was a budding young serial killer and Laurie, the only victim to escape his spree, was still in high school. At some point, it was revealed they were actually brother and sister, but in the 12 different films since the original was released, a lot of narrative ground has been trampled, dug up, reburied, reinvented, disinterred, reinterred, regurgitated, masticated, intubated, expurgated, bloviated and finally, end-a-lated. (Not a real word, but does it really matter anymore?)

Somewhere in the middle of the franchise’s history, Laurie moved to California and had an entire other family. Michael was dealing with his own issues, but they always found a way back to each other. In one outing Laurie decapitated him with an axe. Another time she burnt down her own house with Michael locked in the basement. Oh, family!

In this supposedly “final” finale, the end has finally come. And with it we return to small-town life in good old Haddonfield, U.S.A., where we first met Laurie as a high school student with Farrah Fawcett-like feathered hair and giant flared pants. Those two things alone are more terrifying than the current edition of the film.

There is a strange subtext to Ends. Instead of living in mortal terror after all they’ve been through in the previous Halloween movies, Haddonfield townsfolk seem strangely inured to the fact that at some point Michael will show up again and get busy with the old routine of murdery murders and, um, butchery butchering.

In the meantime, most local residents have descended into petty assholery. Haddonfield crawls with nagging mothers, teenagers with bleached eyebrows, mullets and baby bangs, a snarky radio DJ, corrupt cops and a horny old goat of a doctor. Is there anyone in this damn town who doesn’t deserve to get horror-movie murdered? Anyone with baby bangs is just asking for it.

Even Laurie herself is a mite annoying in this go-round. Gone are her witchy-poo hairdo and vigilante streak from Halloween Kills. That was so 2021. In Halloween Ends, she has trimmed her hair into a sensible mom bob and is penning her memoir.

Seeing the mightiest of final girls reduced to fuzzy cardigans and blond highlights? Just kill me now. No really, I mean it. This is the worst, until it gets worse. As if being a scream-queen version of Sex in the City’s Carrie Bradshaw wasn’t bad enough, this transformation also comes with internal monologuing about word placement in her book. It’s little wonder that editors probably want to kill writers on occasion.

The first two thirds of the film circles around a dullish plot about Laurie’s granddaughter and her would-be boyfriend, who accidentally killed a kid and since became the new town pariah. Together, this trio of outcasts mope about, alternately abused and mistreated by their fellow citizens. There are long meandering bits where we have to endure the new couple’s first date and other bloodlessly mortifying moments.

Frankly, it comes as something of a relief when Michael finally shows up and gets to work.

Where has he been all this time, you might wonder? Apparently stuck in a drainpipe for no reason. I’m not sure why this bothers me so much, especially when there’s a bevy of other bad ideas to pick from in the film. The writing, the editing, the hairstyles. But onwards!

As the plot flows downhill like an unblocked sewer drain, there are a few things to relish. One being that no matter how many times he gets killed, old man Michael just keeps on trucking. Like a particularly stubborn piece of poo, the dude just won’t go down. He just keeps popping back up again. It’s something that you can count on, a continuity of sorts, like flowers in the spring and the return of pumpkin spice flavouring in the fall.

In re-reading all 12 plots of the Halloween films that preceded this one, a few things jump out. One of the most profound is that simple things are sometimes the best things. The reason that John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s original film worked so well was that it didn’t mess too much with twisty narratives or boring old backstories. It just got on with it. The introduction of the uncanny into ordinary everyday life was enough to scare the bejesus out of most people in 1978. It still works. The original film made even hedges scary.

Also, music is terrifying. Carpenter’s score, with its tinkling electronic notes, made the film work on a deeper level. All good horror filmmakers know this. Think The Exorcist and Tubular Bells or The Shining and "Dies irae."

But back to the current state of terribleness. The biggest sin that Halloween Ends commits is that of limpness. It squanders its two archetypal characters. What should have been the showdown of all showdowns is more like a scuffle in the kitchen.

Ever the trooper, even Michael doesn’t seem quite like his usual self. Sure, he’s got the nifty jumpsuit and his ghostly white Shatner mask, but his heart just doesn’t quite seem into it any longer. Time and the endless shootings, stabbings, burning and falling off random balconies that defined previous films have not been kind to him. He’s looking his age. Accordingly, Halloween Ends, with its distinct lack of narrative juice, needs to be taken out behind the barn and sent across the rainbow bridge to that great big pasture in the sky, like an old warhorse. Be free, old fella!

To be fair, a few vaguely interesting ideas peep out, like evil as an infectious agent. Or the overall shittiness of small-town America, where no one seems to like their neighbours anymore. But the foundational fear that comes from a silent, implacable killer is gone with the next generation of psycho killers. I don’t mean to give away a key plot point here, but the guy who would take the mantle of Myers is a distinctly underwhelming villain who spends most of his time blubbering and fighting with his mom instead of, you know, being terrifying. I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.

Leaving the theatre, all I could think about was what a truly imaginative filmmaker could have done with the material at hand. Just think of a Jordan Peele Halloween or a Jennifer Kent version. Aieeee!

It’s clear that we’ve reached a point of cultural exhaustion for ye olde Halloween. Maybe it really is time for some new blood. And I don’t even mean that figuratively.  [Tyee]

Read more: Film

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