Love it or hate it, Halloween Ends, by director David Gordon Green, is a love letter to John Carpenter movies. The conclusion borrows from Carpenter’s movie Christine to create the character Corey Cunningham (played by Rohan Campbell), a nerd who [SPOILERS AHEAD] internalizes the hate he receives after the boy he was babysitting dies in a tragic accident. Corey is modeled after Christine’s Arnie Cunningham, a nerd of a different era, who becomes demonically possessed by the car he’s restoring. In Halloween Ends, Corey and his connection to Michael Myers is the catalyst to bring The Shape and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) together for a final showdown.
Audiences are split down the middle on Halloween Ends. Released simultaneously in theaters and on streaming, it performed just below expectations at the box office, but was a hit on Peacock. Some (like myself, if I may editorialize) think Corey gives a refreshing look at societal evil and the evil within each other. Many more think Corey’s presence cheats Michael and Laurie out of a satisfying conclusion.
But the latter was never the movie David Gordon Green set out to make. When Green was in high school, one of the first school shootings to make major headlines happened at his school. It later inspired the Pearl Jam song “Jeremy.” It could be why his Halloween trilogy is so focused on the effects of trauma.
“School shootings make you scratch your head, because you know there’s a path to destruction, and it doesn’t end with a guy in a mask,” says Green. “It’s something dark, disturbing and fascinating.” In Halloween Ends, Green’s vehicle of destruction is a love story involving a psycho.
We spoke with Green in a spoiler-filled conversation about making a sexy Halloween movie, the movie’s reference to Wong Kar-wai’s Fallen Angels, and using humor to bring characters together. Green also talks about John Carpenter approving the addition of Corey. And he reveals if William Friedkin is involved in his new Exorcist trilogy.
Joshua Encinias: Halloween Ends could be anything you wanted, and you were like, “let’s just make it sexy.”
David Gordon Green: We had to decide how we wanted to wrap up these characters. How do we want to make it not just a nice, neat bow on a franchise? Honestly, we never once considered making a Laurie and Michael movie [Laughs.] The concept that it should be a final showdown-type brawl never even crossed our minds. I wanted to see where it would go. I wanted one to win, one to die. But we were always more ambitious with that. So how did we want to go out? By doing what no one except us would do: make a love story. It’s our version of going out with a bang and opening our hearts to this community and these characters.
Joshua Encinias: But why make Halloween Ends a love story with a psychopath?
David Gordon Green: I’ve had an itch to do a love story, which I haven’t done in a while. I tried to infuse it into my Boston Marathon bombing movie, Stronger, where the concept was so heavy. I said, “How do we not make it about terrorists? Let’s make it about love.” I had a lot of those same urges to not make this just about a psychopath. Instead, we made it about what can create the psychopath, without having to go into a Michael Myers psychological backstory. People have tried to do it and it isn’t interesting to me because it tends to make him less scary as an entity. But can we get into the development of evil? What a community that neglects the well being of their own can unleash on themselves in a way that they didn’t intend. That’s something that’s fascinating and I think it happens all the time.
Joshua Encinias: One of the things that made me realize this was a Halloween movie about love is the shot of Allyson and Corey on his bike. Is that a visual reference to Wong Kar-wai’s Fallen Angels?
David Gordon Green: That’s a good catch because I actually screened that with my cinematographer Michael Simmonds. We’re also referencing the scene in My Bodyguard when they get the motorcycle working again. It’s amazing, but it’s lost in the archives of ‘80s teen dramas. It’s an early Matt Dillon movie that’s a blend of youthful insecurity, angst and joy. I don’t know many movies that are successful in that, in an efficient way. The motorcycle ride with Allyson and Corey has the coolness of Wong Kar-wai and the celebratory moment of My Bodyguard.
Joshua Encinias: You use humor to bring Allyson and Corey together.
David Gordon Green: I asked (Danny) McBride how to infuse these characters with a likability that magnetizes them to each other so early in the movie. His answer, of course, was humor. And I said, “Yeah, but they’re not funny people.” And he was like, “Even better. It’s a bad joke. She tells him a bad joke and he’s gonna fall in love with her.” He’s right. That’s why Allyson says, “Why can’t the bicycle stand on his own? Because it’s two tired.”
Joshua Encincias: In the opening scene, Jeremy say to Corey, “I don’t really feel like pretending to be best friends with an ugly-ass boy babysitter.” It cracked me up and I could hear Danny McBride saying that line. Did he come up with it?
David Gordon Green: It’s a perfect line and it’s not even in the script! I would say 90% of the humor in all of these movies is not scripted. Danny and I write these things pretty seriously, and the honest answer is lines like that come from an actor on set in the moment, which that one did. When you put the movie together you need this levity, I mean, I do. I like it, if it doesn’t betray the tone that you’re establishing. I really like infusing humor, not in a satirical nature, but in the Halloween movies, I feel like it has to be delivered by a smartass kid, a shit talking bully, or a bad joke from a character who isn’t funny.
Joshua Encinias: You use the same blue font from Halloween III: Season of the Witch to open Halloween Ends, and to me, it’s letting us know that your part three is not going to go the way we think. What else from Season of the Witch influenced Ends?
David Gordon Green: There was an ending I wrote, that we never filmed, and it takes place at Silver Shamrock factory as it was spitting out witch, skeleton, and jack-o-lanterns masks… and then it started spitting out Michael Myers masks. I had a temptation to go there, but at the end of the day, I thought that’s just fan service for people who know what Silver Shamrock is. It was in every draft of the script ever published [Laughs.] but we never filmed it.
Joshua Encinias: What do you think of Halloween III: Season of the Witch?
David Gordon Green: I love Halloween three, and I think it could be a vehicle someone can crack and reinvent. One serious conversation I had with our producer Malek Akkad was, do I really want to just throw a gag in my movie that’s gonna f— up what someone could seriously do with that title? It’s a cool movie, so I thought my nods would be the blue titles in the intro for those insightful enough to catch it.
Joshua Encinias: How did John Carpenter respond when he learned Corey would be the protagonist who leads us to Laurie and Michael’s final clash?
David Gordon Green: He was cool with it. He’s like any skeptic, “What are you going to do? Write the same thing over and over?” When he wrote Halloween II, he was like, “Oh, we didn’t know we were gonna go here.” That’s where Season of the Witch comes from. It’s him saying, “No, no, guys, we’re not going to just make Michael Myers and Laurie Strode movies all the time, we’re gonna mix it up, do a little anthology.”
Joshua Encinias: How do you respond to negative feedback for Halloween Ends?
David Gordon Green: It’s funny, when someone says, “Build your dream house on this real estate using this title and these characters,” everybody is going to find a different little thing that’s meaningful for them and they’ll make it their own. That’s what I did. For every bite of backlash, you also get people that are thanking you for taking it to a new place and keeping it alive and full of love.
Joshua Encinias: Finally, will William Friedkin have a role in your new Exorcist trilogy like John Carpenter did in the Halloween trilogy?
David Gordon Green: He won’t. On this journey, we picked Ellen Burstyn to be our spiritual guru. Our Exorcist is linked narratively by its characters, but it isn’t in terms of stylistic parallels. I’m not leaning into what Friedkin did, but it is going deep into who Chris MacNeil is and what she brought to the table. Without giving away too much, the tools and insights that she’s utilized over fifity years find a new application. Ellen’s the one we’ve brought on board, and we filmed eight days with her a year ago to do some technical and creative explorations, and next week we get back in the ring. So to answer your question, Friedkin’s not involved in this. If he’s as good as John Carpenter at making music we’ll get him to do a song in the movie. He can do a trombone version of “Tubular Bells.”
Halloween Ends is now in theaters and on Peacock.
Main image: Michael Myers and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in Halloween Ends.