Jamie Lee Curtis tried to warn us. “It’s going to make people very angry,” she said of Halloween Ends more than a year ago, stoking anticipation (or managing expectations) for her final, for-real-this-time pas de deux with the masked boogeyman Michael Myers. Judging by the reviews, of both the professional and pissed-off-Twitter-screed variety, Curtis was right. The conclusion to David Gordon Green’s rebooted horror trilogy, which is currently in theaters and streaming on Peacock, is indeed leaving people angry, as well as confused, contentious, and generally dyspeptic, in a way that no amount of yogurt can soothe.

You do have to give Green credit for one thing: it’s remarkable that Halloween Ends manages to provoke any passion at all, considering that this 44-year-old slasher franchise has, in Green’s hands, largely traded in the horny, homicidal abandon of its youth for a bloated middle age spent morosely wondering what it all meant. With this latest and last at bat, Green also deserves some admiration, however tempered, for delivering one of the boldest misdirections in horror history. Not since the Michael Myers–less Halloween III: Season of the Witch (a movie to which Halloween Ends pays knowing homage with its title card) has a sequel shown such gonzo willingness to break with formula. For a while, anyway. 

Although Halloween Ends doesn’t do away with Myers completely, it’s nearly an hour before “the Shape” (played once again by James Jude Courtney) finally steps out of the shadows. It’s even longer before someone meets the business end of his butcher knife. In the meantime, Halloween Ends takes the audacious step of focusing most of its run time on an entirely new character: the gawky “boy babysitter” Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), who immediately subverts our expectations by killing his young charge on Halloween night 2019, in a pre-credits sequence that ranks as Green’s single most memorable contribution to the series. 

The kid’s death is just an accident—a prank gone horribly awry, which Corey feels terrible about. As we soon learn, it’s also just one of the many unfortunate acts of violence that have plagued the town of Haddonfield, Illinois, ever since Michael Myers seemingly vanished, again, at the end of 2021’s Halloween Kills. But when the story picks up again several years later, the acquitted Corey has become a pariah nevertheless, hounded by locals who refuse to let him forget that one horrible Halloween night. (Chief among them: some particularly menacing bullies from the high school marching band. Surely a cinematic first.) 

This makes Corey a kindred spirit of sorts to Curtis’s Laurie Strode, who takes a protective liking to her fellow PTSD-suffering sitter. After losing a fresh batch of loved ones at the end of Halloween Kills, Laurie has traded in her hardened veneer and survivalist ponytail for a cozy, Nora Ephron’ed life of baking pies and being a meddling grandma to the orphaned Allyson (Andi Matichak). Unfortunately, much like Corey, Laurie can’t so much as smile in public without somebody getting in her face, blaming this perennial victim for inciting all of Myers’s rampages in the first place.

Baffling—and factually incorrect—as it may be for Haddonfield to turn on Laurie, it is of a piece with the rebooted Halloween’s overarching theme of trauma as a kind of lingering malaise, forever poisoning the lives of those who survive it. This is also what makes Halloween Ends, uniquely among the films in the recent trilogy, feel most like a movie made by David Gordon Green, that Richardson-bred indie-film wunderkind who was once hailed as the second coming of Terrence Malick. Strange as it may sound, Halloween Ends contains echoes of Green’s name-making debut George Washington, another small-town tragedy that similarly spun out from the accidental death of a child. And its meditations on the inescapability of violence and the sins of abusive fathers give it a spiritual connection to Joe. The way Corey’s bad reputation clouds his romance with Allyson, set up by a match-making Laurie, even recalls All the Real Girls in the film’s slow-burning opening stretch, during which Green seems content just to linger in his prairie gothic tale of grief and sublimated rage. 

But eventually, of course, Green has to make yet another Halloween movie. Michael Myers has to return. And it’s here that Green’s more naturalistic, idiosyncratic tendencies are once again bludgeoned to death—less by the Halloween franchise’s immutable demands for a proper body count, which the film perfunctorily delivers in its back half, than by Green’s attempts to wrest, yet again, some grand, unifying statement on the nature of evil from the senseless gore. Without giving too much away, Myers becomes another kind of soulmate to Corey, with the latter embarking on an explicitly named “dark journey” into his own murderous impulses. Corey’s internal struggle is posed repeatedly as a philosophical quandary about whether evil is really something incarnate and pure, as John Carpenter’s original Halloween suggested, or if it’s more like what Halloween Ends repeatedly describes as an “infection”—something that festers within a community that’s always looking for some thing to condemn.

According to Curtis, that very dialectic is why Halloween Ends might leave some viewers upset. “They’re going to be angry because we’re saying something about all of us as a society,” she said recently, elaborating on her remarks from 2021. “This is about victims. This is about victim shaming. This is about what happens in a town when we have all become monsters.” Again, Curtis is right about that—although any dissatisfaction with Halloween Ends will have less to do with its message than with how clumsily it’s conveyed. As graceless as Halloween Kills was in its social commentary on mob mentality and the monsters within, at least it never had its characters ask each other, point-blank, “Am I a bad person? Are you?”  

Most of that freshman philosophy musing comes from Curtis herself, whose Laurie is frequently seen tapping away at a memoir that allows Halloween Ends to lose itself in pretentious voice-over whenever the actual dialogue risks becoming too subtle. Laurie’s book seems to be made up entirely of concluding epigrams like, “It’s up to each of us whether or not we lock the door and find our resolve, or let evil inside,” as though she’s forever fishing around for some profound thesis—not unlike Green’s film itself. In her sweet, halting flirtations with Deputy Hawkins (Will Patton), in which he natters on about the cherry blossoms in Japan, Laurie also latches on to some symbolic mush about the ephemerality of life, which she then folds into her newfound determination to stop living in fear. None of this pontificating really lands, either with the people to whom she’s spouting off or with us in the audience. And of course, it all feels a bit silly, considering that in Laurie’s life, “evil” and “fear” aren’t just heady conceits, but a large man trying to kill her. 

By the time the promised, really-for-real, final confrontation between Laurie and Michael Myers arrives, their clash is sagging beneath the weight of all this portentousness, huffing and puffing like a seventy-year-old serial killer behind his rubber mask. It’s further sapped of any suspense or surprise by the fact that we’ve already seen these two tangle for the very last time in Halloween H20, not to mention Green’s first Halloween film in 2018. As in both of those movies, there are fleeting, nostalgic joys to be found in this reunion between star-crossed stabber and stabbee, much as horror fans will surely delight in the film’s many homages to Carpenter’s entire filmography. (Corey’s transformation is straight out of Christine—he even shares a surname with the actor who played its protagonist—while an omnipresent radio station feels like a tribute to The Fog. There’s even an in-universe screening of The Thing, which raises all sorts of existential questions.) Yet after three of these movies, Green has failed to make a compelling case for his rebooting Halloween at all, save for perhaps his own movie-nerd self-indulgence, or the mercenary demands of the modern film business. 

Green deserves some modicum of praise for taking such a big risk with his final outing, delivering a threequel that, like Halloween III, seems destined to attract its own passionate defenders. Given that he’s mostly received spite, however, it’s hard to see him carrying that willingness to experiment over to his upcoming reboots of The Exorcist and Hellraiser. Even as his Halloween Ends puts as definitive a period as it possibly can on Laurie and Myers’s story—concluding with a final scene that, for once, leaves no ambiguity about where they go from here—it’s all undercut by our own jaded assurance that someone’s just going to resurrect this franchise anyway, which makes his whole trilogy feel like a fitfully diverting, yet ultimately redundant tangent. You won’t be angry at Halloween Ends—just disappointed.