Since its release, Halloween Ends has polarized critics and audiences. Many view the departure from previous entries as clumsy and unappealing with the bulk of the criticism centered around the portrayal of series antagonist Michael Myers. Many view his underplayed portrayal as him being relegated to a secondary character with Corey Cunningham serving as the main villain. As a die-hard fan of Carpenter’s original classic, I can definitely understand these arguments. I also happen to disagree with them. I’m going to make a case as to why Michael Myers is absolutely the central villain of Halloween Ends. In this case, though, his villainy is far more interesting than simply repeating the slasher tropes of its numerous sequels, instead going more back to the quiet lurking presence of the original.
The plot of Halloween Ends is deceptively simple. The film follows Laurie Strode and her granddaughter Allyson as they try to recover from their shared experiences with Michael Myers. They cross paths with Corey Cunningham, an ostracized young man blamed for the accidental death of a child he was babysitting. Corey and Allyson fall in love, but things take a dark turn when Corey crosses paths with Michael Myers living beneath Haddonfield, where Corey’s life is inexplicably spared by the mass murderer. The encounter unleashes Corey’s pent-up anger, and, in the ensuing days, he’s pushed further and further over the edge, unsettling Laurie and driving a rift between her and Allyson. Things come to a head on Halloween night when Corey assaults Michael, steals his mask and embarks on a killing spree. The spree ends at Laurie’s home, where she manages to fight him off, only for Michael to show up. Michael kills Corey, and in the ensuing struggle, Laurie and Allyson are able to kill him, mending their relationship and taking the first steps to move on from their personal boogeyman. At a glance, it may not seem Michael has much to do with the plot. The truth is, the story has everything to do with him, him and the legacy of corruption he’s left over in Haddonfield.
Force of Corruption
In the previous film, Laurie says Michael transcends the more he kills. I do not interpret this as him growing more powerful physically, but rather how he becomes more and more of a legend with each victim. Ends begins by showing the cost of that transcendence. In the year following the 2018 killings, Corey Cunningham is on edge after Michael embarked on a massive murder spree before vanishing without a trace. He’s charged with babysitting little Jeremy Allen who has been suffering nightmares about the return of the Boogeyman himself. In an effort to displace his own anxiety, Jeremy plays a prank on Corey. Corey, still on edge, panics, resulting in Jeremy’s accidental fall and death. It’s this accident that subsequently derails Corey’s life and sets up the events of the film. Michael is not in the house nor did he directly attack either character, but he is the catalyst for the entire story.
Michael Myers is still the talk of Haddonfield throughout the movie. With the wounds in the community still fresh, it inevitably bleeds into the lives of his victims. Laurie Strode is not revered as a hero by the community, but is instead accused of provoking Michael. Michael’s crimes are without motive, and so in an effort to find reason, the community turns on its most vulnerable. This is what happens to Laurie Strode, and it’s the same thing that happens to Corey Cunningham following Jeremy’s death. It is that cloud that hangs over Haddonfield that brings the pair together.
As does Michael corrupt the community at large, he inevitably bleeds into the lives of the three protagonists of the film. At the start of the film, Laurie and Allyson are on good terms. When Corey comes into their lives, they are still on good terms, with Laurie even introducing Corey to Allyson. It’s only after Corey meets Michael and starts to relate to him that things change. Corey’s resentment causes him to hallucinate Laurie taunting him, projecting all the voices of rejection he hears onto her. This causes him to call Allyson and accuse Laurie of ‘wanting to kill him.’ This in turn causes Allyson to lash out at Laurie, which causes Laurie to backslide back into alcohol abuse and depression. In a very real sense, Michael is attacking all three characters. It may not be with a knife, and he may not even be aware that he’s doing it, but he’s invaded Laurie’s life once more, going through Corey, through Allyson, and right back to her.
The Shape’s Last Victim
Corey Cunningham has proven a divisive character amongst fans, with many viewing him as taking focus away from Myers. While it may seem like Corey is the main villain, make no mistakes, Michael remains the embodiment of evil. In the sea of body-count-focused sequels, it can be easy to forget that the original Halloween didn’t build tension through killing. Instead the real terror came from Michael’s lurking presence and the invasion of him peering through windows. Throughout most of the film, he’s stalking Laurie, building up to an inevitable murder attempt. Michael is also constantly stalking someone in Halloween Ends. That person is Corey Cunningham. As Halloween put a heavy focus on Laurie and her life, so does Halloween Ends put a heavy focus on Corey, showing his life unraveling as the Shape gradually closes in. Corey isn’t just a Michael Myers wannabe. He’s Michael Myers’ last victim.
Michael Myers thrives less on killing and more on fear. We see that in how he toys with his victims, especially in the original. Moments where he knocks over a flower pot or taunts a victim with her dead boyfriend’s glasses capture a playful sadism that makes the character so chilling. The person who is toyed with the most is Laurie, who loses all her friends to the Shape so he can stage a house of horrors for her. The end goal of it all is fear, and once Laurie shows it, Michael goes in for the kill. Viewing Michael in this way gives an interesting new context to Michael and Corey’s first encounter. Michael also plays with Corey, dragging him into the sewer and leaving a route of escape open for him only to catch him on the way out. Corey however is not Laurie Strode. When Michael attacks the disillusioned and angry young man, he likely didn’t get the reaction he wanted. So lets say he released Corey out of simple boredom. It’s an act that Corey mistakes for mercy.
There are some points to support this in the film. Michael initially shows little interest in Corey. This changes once Corey willingly brings Michael a victim in Doug Mulaney, a local cop harassing Allyson. Michael grows curious about Corey following his willful participation in a murder, and proceeds to stalk him around town. Michael spends much of the film learning his routine much in the same way he did Laurie. Halloween Ends establishes this in two key scenes. One is after Doug’s death when Corey arrives at the Strode house, and Michael is peering at the home from across the street. Another more chilling scene is when Corey attacks a doctor and nurse who collectively sabotaged Allyson’s chances of a promotion. Witnessing the attack, Michael decides to participate, coldly turning to Corey to observe his reaction as he murders the nurse. Corey views this as Michael helping him. He doesn’t understand that Michael’s intentions are purely predatory.
On Halloween night, Corey steals Michael’s mask and goes on a killing spree, unaware the Shape is following him across Haddonfield. It’s ambiguous as to whether Michael watched these murders occur or merely followed after. Regardless, Corey’s murders are what eventually carry the Shape into Laurie’s house where his latest plaything is waiting for him. In the original film, Michael kills Laurie’s friends in an effort to isolate her. Here, Corey does much of the work himself, leaving Michael to sit back and wait for the right moment to strike. When that moment comes, Michael stands over Corey and looks into his eyes much as he did during their first encounter. The difference now is Corey is afraid. Once he has the reaction he wants, Michael murders him just like all his other victims, because, in the end, that’s all Corey was to him. Halloween Ends is one long murder, the murder of Corey Cunningham.
The Final Conflict
At its core, the film is about four relationships. You have Laurie and Allyson on one end, Corey and Michael on the other, with Allyson and Corey forming a bridge between the final relationship of Laurie and Michael. When viewing the story in this way, the final confrontation between Laurie and the Shape becomes an essential part of the story. Eventually, things come to a head with Corey attempting suicide in an effort to isolate Laurie from Allyson. The move takes him out of the picture and sends Allyson out of her grandmother’s house in tears, thereby removing the bridge and leaving Michael and Laurie alone, a fitting way to set up the final confrontation. The fight is brutal, but also manages to work in some interesting character interplay between the two. Michael stabs Laurie with a knitting needle to emulate what she did to him in the original, and later shoves her hand in a garbage disposal to emulate her blowing off two of his fingers in the 2018 sequel. Whether this is genuine hatred or another example of Michael toying with his prey is hard to say, but one thing is clear. The Shape remembers Laurie Strode.
What eventually defeats the Shape is that his victim isn’t isolated. The entire original film was all a setup by the Shape to isolate and terrify Laurie. She’s saved by her ingenuity and determination, but also by outside help from Tommy, Lindsay, and Dr. Loomis. Here, Michael doesn’t directly isolate Corey as he did Laurie in the original, but as he slowly pollutes his chosen victim, Corey starts to isolate himself. His initial encounter with Michael occurs when he rejects an offer by Allyson to help him, leaving him vulnerable to evil’s influence. His attempt to frame Laurie drives Allyson away from both Laurie and himself, leaving him vulnerable when the Shape comes to claim him. The bridge between them collapsed, Laurie and Michael initially face off alone. Laurie is saved by Allyson, who after going out into Haddonfield discovers what Corey has done and goes to mend things with her grandmother. This failure to separate the two is what leads to Michael’s ultimate defeat.
Michael is unambiguously killed at the end when Laurie, Allyson and a procession of townsfolk end up disposing of Michael’s body in a car shredder, finally destroying him. This scene serves an important purpose as it was Laurie’s attempt to destroy Michael’s transcendence, the legend he created that bled into the town and lead to Jeremy’s death, Corey’s corruption, and nearly destroyed the relationship between her and Allyson. With this final act, Laurie has proven to the people of Haddonfield that Michael was not the Boogeyman, but just a man. The legend put to rest, changes are immediately evident in the characters and the town itself. Michael’s death is announced on the news, Laurie is now considered a hero, and both she and Allyson are able to mend their relationship and begin the healing process, sure beyond a doubt that their monster is no more.
Goodbye To The Boogeyman
I can understand people wanting something more grandiose out of the epic conclusion to the fight between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. I can also understand why fans of the series might feel their favorite movie monster and the conflict between him and the final girl was sidelined. Speaking for myself, seeing the return of Michael’s more subtle and cunning side and watching the film dare to be something other than a slasher film was a breath of fresh air and an unexpectedly fitting close to this iteration of the series. When the credits rolled, I got a genuine sense of closure for the characters, and also bloody satisfaction. The original film relied on a less is more approach to build its atmosphere and make the Boogeyman something truly frightening. This film tries a different approach with the Shape, and does something the series hadn’t done in a long time.
It scared me.
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