The film tells the story of two killers...and inadvertently makes all of us out to be the bad guy.
"I met this 6-year-old child with this blank, pale emotionless face and the blackest eyes. The devil's eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized what was living behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply evil."
-Dr. Sam Loomis, Halloween (1978)
John Carpenter's Halloween, which was originally given the working title of The Babysitter Murders, introduced the world to the relentless killing urges of Michael Myers as well as the plucky resolve of babysitter and final girl, Laurie Strode. It also launched the career of Jamie Lee Curtis, who appropriately enough is the daughter of horror legend Janet Leigh, Marion Crane from the 1960 Hitchcock film Psycho (one of the early films to which all slashers can trace their roots).
As the years went by, and the Halloween franchise sequeled itself into oblivion, one thing remained exactly the same: Michael Myers was the embodiment of pure evil. Unlike the Friday the 13th movies, which in later sequels tried to justify Jason Voorhees' unkillable nature by showing him resurrected as some sort of undead ghoul in a Frankenstein-like accident in Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives, Michael Myers withstood all kinds of attacks as a mere mortal, seemingly driven by nothing but rage, hatred, and pure evil.
Sure, The Curse of Michael Myers, the sixth installment in the franchise, tried to add a supernatural element to the mix with the Cult of Thorn, but even with that convoluted story Michael was still understood to be a normal human who is granted special abilities if he's born under the right alignment of stars and if he kills his whole family and...nevermind. The Halloween sequels have mostly been pretty terrible, but that one is especially bad. There is allegedly a "director's cut" of the film out there in the world that includes material that was stripped from the initial release, but no amount of deleted scenes could rescue that poorly conceived nightmare.
2018 gave us a new version of Halloween, a new opportunity for Laurie Strode to face off against ultimate evil. This version ignored everything after the 1978 original, meaning that Laurie's relationship to Michael is strictly business...well, the business of attempted murder. The twist of Laurie Strode being Michael's younger sister was added in the 1981 sequel. Retconning all of the other entries in the franchise means that any of that supernatural mumbo jumbo about the Cult of Thorn and Michael's unexplained psychic connection to his neice are all gone, and once again Dr. Loomis' evaluation stands: Michael is just purely and simply evil.
There is no explanation for it, no cause. Rob Zombie's remake in 2007 tried to give Michael's backstory a bitter flavor of abuse and trauma to help explain his descent, but these films were never part of the continuity anyway, and if they were they would be similarly retconned with all of the other sequels.
No, Michael is pure evil, a force of nature. No one knows why he's driven to do the things he does. No one can stop him. And, most importantly, no one is responsible for it.
And because Hollywood is a greedy money machine and we can't ever just have nice things, the success of Halloween (2018) meant that we were going to be getting not one, but two sequels. I've already done a video about why Halloween Kills, the first of the sequels released in 2020, was a really terrible and unnecessary movie, but for all of the things that it did wrong, the one thing it did right was maintain some consistency with the original film.
Donald Pleasance, the unforgettable Dr. Loomis, passed away in 1995 and was last seen in the Haddonfield universe in Curse of Michael Myers. But his presence is felt in Kills in several ways. Hawkins, a police officer who was part of the team that responded to Michael's original rampage in 1978, remembers feeling a moment of hesitation when they were hunting Michael:
"And in that moment, all I could think was that inside that monster, there was somebody's baby
boy. I could have made this all go away. It's not your fault. It's mine. But now I know - there's nothing inside that man but pure evil."
And just when it seems like the vigilante mob lead by Tommy Doyle may have finally defeated the Shape, Laurie Strode delivers a voiceover monologue about the nature of Michael as he rises again and slaughters the angry mob:
"I always thought Michael Myers was flesh and blood, just like you and me, but a mortal man could not have survived what he's lived through. The more he kills, the more he transcends into something else impossible to defeat. Fear. People are afraid. That is the true curse of Michael. He'll always be here, won't he? Even when we can't see him. You can't defeat it with brute force. If we only knew then what we know now. It is the essence of evil."
As terrible as Halloween Kills was, it at least maintains that internal consistency with Dr. Loomis' original assessment: nothing "caused" Michael Myers except for the presence of evil as a natural, inescapable, unexplainable force.
Halloween Ends should have been an easy success. 44 years ago, Laurie Strode was a meek, unsure teenage babysitter who came face to face with ultimate evil. For decades, she was obsessed with this encounter to the point that it nearly destroyed her family and lead to the deaths of her son-in-law and daughter. Now that she knows that Michael wasn't obsessed with her and was simply trying to get back to his home, she's moving on, writing a book, and helping her granddaughter cope with her own trauma from encountering Michael and losing her mother. Now evil returns for one last showdown, and Laurie can face the evil, not as a cowering teenager this time but as an empowered woman who looks evil in the face and says, "Not today, Satan." Or rather, "Not today, Michael."
That's the movie we should have gotten, and about a quarter of the movie is that...sort of.
But we also get the story of Corey Cunningham, a troubled teen who accidentally causes the death of a young child, becomes a pariah, is ruthlessly harassed and tormented by the residents of Haddonfield, and eventually starts off on his own dark Michael Myers-esque killing spree. I thought that Corey's story was fairly interesting, and in a different context, it could have been great. But Corey's story gets all tangled up in Laurie's story, and that's where things fall apart.
In my video, I talk about all of the problems I had with the film, but I wanted to dig a little deeper into the two conflicting stories in the film. In Halloween (1978), Halloween (2018), and Halloween Kills, evil is very clearly presented as an external force, something that exists and corrupts, something that isn't caused by other people, something that simply...is.
But Corey Cunningham isn't a mindless killer. He's not a six-year-old in a sanitarium with black, soulless eyes. He's a trusted babysitter, a slightly nerdy guy on his way to college to study engineering when he accidentally causes the death of a child he's caring for. The movie doesn't present this opening sequence ambiguously; it's not like we see the child die without context and are left to wonder whether or not Corey meant to kill him. We see that it was a prank gone wrong, and that Corey was branded a murderer for something that was clearly a terrible accident.
And this accident and the ensuing trial isn't what causes Corey to start killing on purpose. For three years, he lives as an outcast, working for his father's scrapyard. We see him being harassed by a group of high school teenagers looking for someone to buy them beer. He runs into the mother of the child whose death he caused at a Halloween party, and she berates and threatens him. The teens show up again and throw him off an overpass. It's not enough to just exclude him, the residents of Haddonfield feel this need to attack him whenever possible. The work out their rages and their suffering on him. Laurie says in the book that she's writing that Michael's disappearance has poisoned the town, and that that poison is being poured out all over Corey.
As Corey develops a relationship to Laurie's granddaughter Allyson, he talks to her about the way that the town is destroying him. He tells her that he tried to stand up for himself, and this only made it worse. When the teens throw him off the overpass, he's taken into the sewers by Michael Myers, and through this weird scene of psychic connection, he starts on the path to becoming Haddonfield's newest menace. Initially he wears his scarecrow mask from an earlier scene at a Halloween party, but later on he confronts Michael in the sewers and takes his mask, becoming the new Shape.
But again, Corey is not Michael. He wasn't born evil, he didn't show signs of corruption as a child like young Michael in his clown costume, sneaking upstairs to murder his sister Judith. If Corey is the new face of evil in Haddonfield, then he becomes that because of Haddonfield. Because of how they treat him. Because the town is hurting from Michael's crimes and disappearance, and as they say, "Hurt people hurt people." Because they need someone to punish for their pain and grief, and somehow it doesn't matter whether the person they punish deserves it or not: they'll just keep pushing them until the person has no choice but to become the monster that they want him to be.
This sort of corrupt vigilante justice was part of Halloween Kills with the whole "Evil dies tonight!" fiasco, but it's shown very clearly to be not only immoral, but worthy of punishment. It's immoral because it leads to the death of an innocent man, and it is punished when Michael rises in the street and easily dispatches the entire angry mob. It's not that Michael's crimes are justifiable, but the film makes it clear that the mob's crimes aren't justifiable either. An eye for an eye leave everyone blind, as they say.
That's why it's a problem to link Corey's story with Michael's. The bulk of the film is dedicated to Corey and his descent into murder. Again, it's not that his murders are justified, but we can't refuse to look at what the town did to make him that way. Haddonfield created a monster, and then destroyed it. And not only does Corey die, he dies by suicide. He tells Laurie, "If I can't have [Allyson], no one can" and then stabs himself in the neck with his own knife. He knows that he has no future - the town has seen to that - and since "hurt people hurt people, he tries to get the only bit of revenge left to him: poisoning Allyson's mind against her grandmother.
Weaving these two stories together could have been a fascinating reconsideration of the series: by looking at Corey's story, we could have been asked to consider whether we - the collective we of the audience, the residents of Haddonfield, Laurie and Sheriff Brackett and Dr. Loomis - were wrong about Michael. Maybe he wasn't a soulless monster. Maybe we should have tried to understand what caused him to become what he was.
But that's not what happens. After Corey's final defiant act against the town that destroyed him, Michael comes back into the picture. He reclaims his mask and the final showdown that everyone has been waiting for since Halloween (2018) was announced finally commences. It's brutal with lots of hard hits, but it doesn't do anything to make us question the nature of this conflict. Corey has died, and he might as well be forgotten.
Of course Laurie wins, and of course Allyson returns to help her fight off the monster. But it's not enough to just kill Michael. The monster has to be destroyed. Laurie and Allyson strap Michael's body to the roof of their car. Escorted by the police and followed by a huge gathering of Haddonfield residents in a bizarre processional, they take the body to Corey's scrapyard and put it in the grinder.
They could have burnt the body. They could have cut it into pieces. They could have exploded it. There are multitudes of ways that they could have disposed of the body, but they chose to put it in the grinder at the scrapyard. The scrapyard where Corey had spent the last three years after the town deemed him an untouchable. The scrapyard where Corey finally struck back at the teenagers who abused and harassed him. The scrapyard that he would never return to because he chose to end his life in one final act of spite against the town that forced him to become a monster, and then insisted that the monster be destroyed.
If you think about Corey's story, and what he represents, and what his arc says about the people of Haddonfield, how can you possibly see Laurie Strode standing on the conveyer of the grinder and throwing Michael's body in, watching it get torn to bloody shreds, as a triumph?
In Halloween Kills, the mob is punished for their transgressions. In Halloween Ends, the town is stripped of any accountability for their role in making monsters and destroying them. Some might say, "Oh, but Michael was born evil! Remember Dr. Loomis? This is different!" But what do you think people will say about Corey as the years pass and current events become local legends? Do you think they speak kindly of him as a bright, promising teenager who took an unfortunate turn down a dark path? Will anyone remember that he wanted to be an engineer? Will it matter that he cared for a little boy, that the boy's father believed that the boy's death was the accident that Corey claimed it was? Or will they just tell a tale about how he infiltrated a family and committed a gruesome act against their trusting child?
The problem with this movie is that it gives us this brand-new story, a fresh take on the nature and origins of evil, and then it completely ignores it and dismantles it. As someone who exists on the margins, who often finds themself demonized by torch-wielding villagers, I was transfixed by Corey's story and his descent, watching him become the monster that the town insisted he be. But in the end, the town wins. Laurie grinds Michael into a pile of meat and blood and bones, and there is no accountability and no repercussions for any of it.
We're supposed to see Laurie's final pose in the grinder as a victory, but I just see a town that hasn't learned its lesson. One that not only won't take responsibility for creating and then destroying monsters out of people who don't fit in, but feels justified in doing it. Revels in it. Corey's story raises the possibility that maybe we've misjudged Michael, maybe there is more to the story than we thought, but the film says, "Nah, ignore that, chuck the body in and grind it up, and just don't think about it too hard."
The original ending of Get Out would have seen Daniel Kaluuya's Chris shot in the street by police, or arrested and taken to jail. But Jordan Peele changed it. The film already presents enough trauma, he didn't want to further traumatize the audience by allowing white supremacy to get the last laugh. That might have been more accurate to real life, but movies serve a different purpose than just presenting the world as it is. Sometimes we want to see a story, or at least an ending, where the world isn't as it exists, but as it could or should be. To have Chris die or face prison would have been an unnecessary final blow at the end of his ordeal.
That's how the ending of Halloween Ends feels to me. Sure, it's not exactly the same: Michael is supposed to be the villain, Laurie is supposed to be the heroic final girl. But it's much more complicated than that. It's a hurtful reminder that in our society, only some of the monsters ever get punished. Yes, that's often true. But it's not how the world could, or should, be.