Producers: Malek Akkad, Jason Blum and Bill Block   Director: David Gordon Green    Screenplay: Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green   Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Rohan Campbell, Will Patton, Kyle Richards, James Jude Courtney, Jesse C. Boyd, Joanne Baron, Michael Barbieri, Marteen, Destiny Mone, Joey Harris, Omar Dorsey, Michele Dawson, Michael O’Leary, Keraun Harris, Jaxon Goldenberg, Candice Rose, Jack William Marshall and Rick Moose   Distributor: Universal

Grade: D+

After 1981’s “Halloween II” revealed the bankruptcy—narratively if not financially—of simply trying to continue the story of murderous Michael Myers John Carpenter had so brilliantly begun in his seminal 1978 slasher movie, Tommy Lee Wallace decided to do something quite different in his 1982 follow-up, subtitled “Season of the Witch.”  But “Halloween III” proved so weird a departure from the formula that it nearly killed the franchise altogether. 

It didn’t die, of course, limping along for years by being totally averse to innovation.  It even survived Rob Zombie’s atrocious rebooting in 2007-2009.  Then in 2018 David Gordon Green resuscitated it with a far superior reboot that brought Jamie Lee Curtis back and the story into the present. 

Unfortunately, Green’s sequel “Halloween Kills” didn’t fulfill the title’s promise.  While its box office success paved the way for this final installment in a trilogy, the director and his co-writers seem to have realized that they had to find a new narrative direction for “Halloween Ends.”  So they settled on what might be called a passing-of-the-torch, or more properly a passing-of-the-knife, story, with Michael becoming a mentor of sorts to a younger killing machine.  The result is a bit more intriguing than its predecessor, but because of the makers’ failure to take the premise to the limit and their decision to revert to familiar terrain in the last act, not by much.

It all begins with a prologue in Haddonfield on Halloween night a year after the events of “Kills,” when the Allens (Candice Rose and Jack William Marshall), needing a last-minute babysitter for their son Jeremy (Jaxon Goldenberg), call on their lawn man, nerdy twenty-one year old Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell).  After his parents leave Jeremy turns into a malicious brat, playing a trick on Corey and eventually locking him into an upstairs room.  Breaking the door down, Corey accidently sends the kid falling to the ground floor.  The Allens blame him for the boy’s death and he’s tried for manslaughter but found not guilty.  Three years later, though, the townspeople still look on him as a murderous psycho, and he’s living with his shrill mom (Joanne Baron) and his much more understanding dad (Rick Moore), who’s given him a job as a mechanic—and an old motorcycle. 

Meanwhile Laurie Strode (Curtis) has moved into a house in town with her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who works at the Haddonfield hospital, though many locals blame her for the violence that occurred four years earlier when she lured her masked brother back for a showdown, though former cop Frank (Will Patton) feels differently, obviously smitten with her as he spouts nonsense about visiting Japan and smelling the cherry blossoms.  Laurie is writing a book about Michael which aims to be a psychologically probing rumination on evil.  You know it’s serious since she goes so far as to spout some of the sort of ripe dialogue that would have been spoken by Donald Pleasence’s Sam Loomis in Carpenter’s film.  At a couple of points even Nietzsche is invoked. 

Laurie and Allyson’s story intersects with Corey’s when he’s attacked by some nasty teen bullies (Michael Barbieri, Marteen, Destiny Mone and Joey Harris) and the Strodes intervene.  Allyson is attracted to him, perhaps as a sort of human reclamation project, but the bullies return, tossing Corey over a bridge where he’s dragged into the town’s drainage system by Michael (James Jude Courtney, or Kyle Richards in some flashback montages), who has apparently been surviving there for four years and, rather than killing him, infuses him with a killing spirit.  The two of them then start offing townspeople—those bullies, Corey’s parents (though the dad, being a nice guy, is slain accidentally by somebody else), an aggravatingly verbose radio DJ who promotes the Myers legend (Keraun Harris), a macho cop who’s possessive about Allyson (Jesse C. Boyd), a couple of Allyson’s fellow hospital workers (Michael O’Leary and Michele Dawson).  The violence is pretty random, and by the standards of such flicks not terribly impressive in gross-out terms, though there are a couple of reasonably clever visual allusions not only to Carpenter’s “Halloween” but to a few other films of his, and a joke about a DJ deprived of hus tongue seems appropriate.

That’s all preparation, though, for the inevitable final confrontation involving conflicted Corey, equally conflicted Allyson, and the completely un-conflicted Laurie and Michael.  Everything ends in a communal act designed to rid mankind of Michael Myers once and for all—although, as Laurie observes, evil never dies, it just changes shape.

So “Halloween Ends” may conclude the Green trilogy, but it’s no more likely to kill the franchise than “Season of the Witch” did.  It allows Curtis to close out her forty-four year stint as the last girl standing with some flair, and gives Campbell the opportunity to show some range, but the rest of the cast is pretty much wasted.  (One especially feels for Patton, a fine actor who’s reduced to smiling effusively and speaking ridiculous dialogue.)  Technically it gets better work than most slasher fare, with Richard A. Wright’s production design and Michael Simmonds’ cinematography more than adequate and Timothy Alverson’s editing keeping the plot twists reasonably clear, as ludicrous as they might be.  Carpenter, along with his son Cody and Daniel Davies, contributed the music, which features contains bits of his score for the original 1978 movie.

The musical cues only serve to remind us of how far the “Halloween” series has declined from the brilliance it began with nearly half a century ago.  This installment may not be the worst of Green’s trilogy—its predecessor would be hard to beat in that regard.  But it comes close.