Horror at the drive-in

Halloween Ends

Dir: David Gordon Green

Scr: Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green

Phot: Michael Simmonds

Ed: Timothy Alverson

Premiere: Oct. 14, 2022

111 min.


Dir: Parker Finn

Scr: Parker Finn

Phot: Charlie Sarroff

Ed: Elliot Greenberg

Premiere: Sept. 20, 2022

115 min.

Who doesn’t love the drive-in? What say? You’ve haven’t been lately? Well, you don’t know what you’re missing.

We set out for our at-least-once-annual drive-in expedition in mid-October – and found a worthy double feature to chow down on, in a new venue – Fort Collins’ Holiday Twin Drive-In. Nothing makes for a more fun double feature than a brace of horror movies.

As the name of the theater implies, there are not one but two screens, set, oddly, perpendicularly to each other, so that you can watch the other two features if you don’t like the ones you’re faced with. It seems an unsound economic model, but it persists. I caught glimpses of Black Adam out of the corner of my eye throughout the evening. It seemed incoherent and gaudy.

No more audio squawk boxes to perch in the driver’s side window. Now you simply turn your car radio to a certain frequency and listen in that way, while your battery runs down. (Helpfully, the staff is happy to jump your car afterward, if need be.)

We settled in with our illicit snacks. (Bringing in food from the outside is frowned on. In fact, it is prohibited.) To their merit, they have an excellent and eclectic assortment of treats at the snack bar, including a twin burger, a beyond meat burger, bratwurst, cheese fries, popcorn, candy, drinks, and even beer.

Now! We were ready, creeping into our designated space just as the movie began unspooling.

Now, you must understand, although this is the fifteenth iteration of the Halloween movie franchise, it really represents a complete reboot executed by David Gordon Green. He did so with Halloween in 2018, which is meant to be a sequel to the original 1978 film, disregarding all the Halloween films intervening. Green followed this with Halloween Kills in 2021, and wraps it all up with this one. Got it?

And for those of you not from Planet Earth, know that Michael Myers is a deranged derail killer, possibly the manifestation of evil on Earth, who strikes again and again at the unsuspecting in a typical American town through no less than 15 iterations of the story. Michael has been killing people since 1978, and has even gone into outer space (Jason X, 2001).

The question is: why do another Halloween movie? The answer is: $$. The first two films in this alternative trilogy did quite well. The project was endorsed by progenitor John Carpenter, who also acted as a producer and provided his patented scores for the three films. In place as the traumatized Laurie Strode, Jamie Lee Curtis gets to play the classic Final Girl character one last time, and he performs like real trouper.

Unfortunately, the material she has to serve is unfresh and convoluted. There is a huge factor in popular filmmaking termed “fan service,” in which certain actions and points are covered purely to satisfy the fan base that congeals around a certain franchise or character. Most often, this need distorts the shape of the film, making little sense to the casual viewer. There is fan service aplenty in Halloween Ends.

The filmmakers needed to spread the killing out into the local population, in order to stage a number of grisly murders. So they contrived a subsidiary character, based on the malevolent outcast character from Christine, and made him a catalyst for Michael’s evil. This doesn’t work. The narrative doesn’t hang together, and the only imaginative parts of the film are those that deal with bumping people off.

The centerpiece of the film, is the final showdown between Laurie and Michael, and it stretches out to operatic proportions. It’s one last match between familiar enemies, and the sequence doesn’t disappoint.

Is it really the end of Michael Myers? It’s difficult to say. As the most stubbornly undying monster in horror film history, I wouldn’t count him out. Not at all.

Smile, pun intended, is a happier event. Its horror is based on a solid gimmick, the deadly and inescapable curse, used to such great effect in films such as Ringu and It Follows. If you’ve seen this kind of movie before, you will be quite familiar with the twists and turns this story takes. Still, it is efficiently made and is quite good for a first feature film from writer and director Parker Finn.

People are grinning frantically, then killing themselves. Those who witness said suicides are themselves compelled to do likewise. (If a bunch of people witness a suicide, do they all have to kill themselves?) Our protagonist, psychiatrist Rose (Sosie Bacon), identifies and tries to outrun her fate. Replete with many “Boo!” moments, Smile is amusing enough to provide a few chills on a dreary autumn night at the drive-in.

Published by bradweismann

Brad Weismann is an award-winning writer and editor. His work has appeared in such publications as Senses of Cinema, Film International, Backstage, Muso, Parterre, 5280, and Boulder Magazine. His first book, Lost in the Dark: A World History of Horror Film was recently published by the University Press of Mississippi. He contributed to the critical collection 100 Years of Soviet Cinema, and he was chosen by the Library of Congress to contribute explanatory essays to its National Recording Registry.

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