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TRICKS ALL AROUND, NO TREATS: A Spoiler-Filled, King-Sized Review of ‘Halloween Ends’

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For a point of reference on how baffled and taken aback I was by this movie: I, no joke, felt like I was dreaming this film up midway through the screening at my theatre. Regardless of whether you enjoy it or not, you will be captivated by this movie the whole way through. And that’s all there is to say that won’t spoil things. Skip to the bottom for my summary review and to avoid the

SPOILERS AHEAD

I’m not going to do my usual synoptic blurb I put at the front of my articles. Having to sum up Halloween Ends is a confusing task. The movie itself is a confusing question of whether a roadmap was made or not by Danny McBride and David Gordon Green following the triumphant ending of Halloween (2018) and the fun, but admittedly mindless roller coaster ride of Halloween Kills.

Ends makes little to no sense with the tracks laid by the first two films in the trilogy (quadrilogy, if you include the original ’78 film) and can only be described as a feverish script being performed by delirious actors, all filmed and edited by unsteady and shaking hands. In short: Michael’s mythical reveal of immortality at the end of the last movie is all but glossed over in favor of a plotline where he has to get his strength back through the murders committed by an ersatz of The Shape in the form of newcomer Corey Cunningham (played by Rohan Campbell).

I think?

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I say I think because the movie, unlike previous dabblings into the occult with the likes of The Cult of Thorn, Halloween Ends never truly tries to explain how Michael’s newfound legend status power-up works, or really what the point of any of this is. If he’s fueled by the paranoia and fear of the citizens of Haddonfield, he should be operating at peak condition by the beginning of the film and slaughtering in droves. If he’s only fueled by Laurie’s personal demons and fear of him, he shouldn’t be able to lift a finger and should still firmly be in that sewer that Corey drags him out of to go on a vengeful, Punisher-esque series of kills to try and clean Haddonfield of evil people. If that is his goal, again, unclear. Because what does Michael even need any more than to finish his contractual obligation to be in this? His hatred of Laurie seems to be a fairly low priority, in a movie all about finishing their legendary feud.

Beyond the fact that they’ve given a dog-eating silent psychopath a partner in crime (which is a Halloween franchise sin if I could ever think of one), how Michael even goes about choosing Corey as a vessel for his evil influence doesn’t make any sense, as most of this film doesn’t: things simply happen until they don’t need to. Corey’s involuntary manslaughter of a child and being bullied by local teens somehow baptizes him in evil to become the apprentice of The Shape…until it isn’t enough, and Michael kills him. Relationships shift in this film on a dime, as do motivations and any general sense of direction as it tries to navigate to the promised clash that was all we really saw in the promotional material for this film.

The movie takes great actors and gives them a clammy, terribly written script to work with that turns all of their characters into buffoons whom all sound like Tim and Eric characters, or worse, true crime show hosts waxing philosophical about the nature of evil. Their dialogue and the placement of the scenes are so asynchronous to the movie’s pacing that it feels all too fast and all too slow all at the same time.

And so sadly, the biggest victim in Halloween Ends is one of its most promising characters. The movie, for some bizarre reason, discards the wonderfully charismatic Andi Matichak and Allyson with her. Allyson was a complex character who thanks to this film goes from the inheritor of a terrible burden, the burden of fighting off an immortal evil, a bearer of unfortunate and violent history, to being a side character in her own film. A woman with as little screen time as they could give her, who becomes the dawdling, flat love interest for the film’s newly introduced main antagonist. It’s vexing how shafted she gets by this screenplay.

I wish I could say on a technical level it redeems itself with some cool kills and gory effects, but it has three interesting ones out of a dozen or so forgettable murders that happen in this film, even if the rest are well-done practical effects. The camera work is nauseatingly bad, with random little zooms and distracting camera movement littered throughout it. The film doesn’t aesthetically fit with its sister entries, with lighting that feels overexposed. And beyond the cut-in montage of all the times Laurie and Michael have fought to remind you what is at stake here, the editing is nothing to write home about.

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When it tries something new, it flops face first into a pile of pumpkin guts at the expense of 2018 and Kills; when it attempts to evoke the old films, it helplessly fails at pulling your heartstrings. In the end, every person in Haddonfield follows a car with Michael Myers strapped to the hood, performing a sort of macabre 5k fun run for capital punishment before they toss his mutilated body into an industrial-sized car shredder in a junkyard. And really, is there a more appropriate metaphor for how this movie treats the potential of the films that precede it than that?

BOTTOMLINE: For the most part, the entire movie is a wheezing, asthmatic crawl to the finish line on the final third of the course. Halloween Ends is a true-blue disappointment. Its raisins, razor blade apples, and Necco wafers all in one bite. And while I encourage you to watch every movie I review and see how you feel about it yourself; I have to warn you that you will most likely be upset with this if you’re expecting a more thematically cohesive David Gordon-Green’s Halloween trilogy.

Luis Pomales-Diaz is a freelance writer and lover of fantasy, sci-fi, and of course, horror. When he isn't working on a new article or short story, he can usually be found watching schlocky movies and forgotten television shows.

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Christmas Horror Parody ‘The Mean One’ Successfully Converts Christmas Classic ‘The Grinch’ into a Scary Story

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If Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch was too tame a Christmas-hating monster for your tastes, never fear; The Mean One is here.

How ‘The Mean One’ Wins as a Christmas Horror Movie

This comedy-horror slasher, directed by Steven LaMorte, tells the story of Cindy You-Know-Who (Krystle Martin) returning to her hometown of Newville – where her mother had been viciously murdered in front of her twenty years prior. The sheriff did not take the young girl’s claims that a monster had killed her mother seriously, so the murder remained unsolved. Cindy’s return to town shows a Newville that is wholly undecorated for Christmas, and as a string of murders begins to occur, Cindy knows her mother’s killer has returned.

With the appearance of the Mean One himself and a good balance of campiness and horror, all spread out amongst an intriguing storyline; The Mean One is a fun Christmas horror movie that subverts a beloved childhood classic and makes it its own.

The Horror-Parody Version of The Grinch

One thing the film did exceedingly well was its presentation of The Mean One. The makeup effects were stellar in creating a monster who is at the crossroads of a terrifying cryptid and a holiday icon. From his dirty Santa coat to his black snarl, he checked all the boxes for how a Christmas-hating monster should look.

Of course, to talk about the monster is also to talk about the man behind the mask, David Howard Thornton. After establishing himself as a horror icon in his role of Art the Clown in the Terrifier films, it was fun to see him transcend another role as a horror villain. With another horror flick under his belt, David Howard Thornton is one to keep an eye on. So far, every character he has been behind has been creepy and entertaining, perfectly matching the film’s tone.

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The Approach to Campy Horror

A horror film with rhyming couplets interspersed throughout could never be completely serious, and The Mean One succeeds because it doesn’t try to be. However, the film is not without its creepy moments that would be well-placed in any modern-day horror movie. Like any good scary movie, there are dramatic reveals, emotional turmoil, and suspense building.

It also injects a sense of fear into the holiday itself as it makes the idea of celebrating Christmas a dangerous thing. It’s a delicate balance to create something that is not very serious but simultaneously creepy, and the film does just that.

The Mean One Tells a Story That You Already Know in a Different Way

When making a horror film based on a traditional Christmas story, the added challenge is changing it enough to fit into the horror genre but not so much that it becomes unrecognizable. The Mean One was clearly up to the challenge as it was able to interweave a story that mimicked the traditional Dr. Seuss style of storytelling, with plotlines of a typical scary movie, while still paying homage to the source material. The integration into horror was so smooth that it felt like it should’ve been a scary story all along.

The idea of presenting the recognizable holiday monster as a cryptid is a genius move and calls to question why the Whos down in Whoville never inquired about the existence of the creature who descended from Mount Crumpit to steal their Christmas away in Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

It was not only the Mean One that saw some subversion of Christmas lore. A white-haired bearded man with a red cap who seems to watch over the beginning events of the film (and is aptly named “Doc” Zeus) integrated a little bit of a real-life Santa into the storyline.

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Make no mistake; this film is not a high-budget, major Hollywood production. The blood spray effects are campy to the nth degree, and the movie is not without its flaws. But what it does well, it does very well. The Mean One’s appearance is gritty, fun, and familiar; the storyline is immediately immersive – altogether, it is an entertaining watch.

It delivers everything the premise promises: a presentation of a fun Christmas flick that we all know, but this time for horror fans.

See The Mean One for yourself in theaters on December 9th!

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RUN RUN RUDOLPH, KILLER ROBOT SANTA’S IN TOWN: ‘Christmas Bloody Christmas’ Review

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Seasons screamings, everyone!

I have another wonderful treat for you all, hot out the Shudder ovens. If you’re like me, that means your holiday evenings as a horror fan might be feeling a little bit empty in terms of festivity, and Christmas Bloody Christmas is here to make that right. I’m cheery about the film from the jump. Que raro!

Christmas Bloody Christmas follows what happens when an attempt to turn surplus military technology (a.k.a. killer robots) into friendly department store Santa animatronics backfires; our jolly old Saint Nick ends up painting the town redder than a candy cane’s stripes, terrorizing coworkers Tori (Riley Dandy) and Robbie (Sam Delich) amid their budding romance. Is the premise kind of dumb? Yes, but if you’ve been reading my reviews, you know dumb fun horror is my wheelhouse just as much as the highbrow stuff is. And just because something is silly doesn’t mean it can’t be well made.

Writer and director Joe Begos is getting my second shoutout of the year for his work. I thought the foul-mouthed dialogue of this movie sounded familiar, and that’s because he headed another Channel 83 venture I recommended for October, the 2019 vampires-on-drugs film Bliss. There are many similarities between the two directorially, though this is much more oriented for fun than the psychological nightmare Bliss was. Where Bliss was a dark game of Vampire: The Masquerade, Christmas Bloody Christmas is your classic slasher during the holiday season.

We’ve also left the Panos Kosmatos-esque territory of Bliss’s cinematography, which might be due to the influence of cinematographer Brian Sowell who previously made the film Beyond the Gates, another fun little low-budget horror flick I remember enjoying. Neon wasteland cinematography that is replete with a color palette tuned for blacklight posters and Christmas lights in every single shot, and every scene outside being caked in fake snow and decorations help the aesthetic this movie is going for feel fully realized.

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Composer Steve Moore who worked on both Mayhem and The Guest, two of my favorite action horror films, provides an impeccable score for this film of heavy synth rock with homage to some of the band’s name dropped in the film by our leads. And Josh Russell, who did makeup work for The Night House and a little horror remake you may have heard of called Hellraiser (2022), rounds out that group. The crew on this one is practically a perfect assortment of horror movie production irregulars.

Delich and Dandy have pretty good on-screen chemistry as dirtbag crustpunks who need several mouthfuls of soap scrubbed onto those tongues. Dandy in particular is a veteran of fun, romantic holiday movies, and it’s nice to see she can extend her range beyond being a forgettable Hallmark protagonist whose outfit stepped out of a JCPenney catalog. She makes for an enjoyable final girl for this.

The duo talk like their dialogue is on loan from the Hellbillies of a Rob Zombie film, but they’re believable as coworkers in a long-term “will-they-wont-they” relationship. Their exchanges are genuinely funny at points, even if they stay a bit longer than welcome. These don’t veer into trying to impress you with the character’s pretentiousness about music; they’re just two friends drunk and high on Christmas eve, talking about their flailing romantic lives and which of their bands has the best Christmas song.

Beyond characters, the meat of the film is Silent Night Deadly Night by way of The Terminator in its premise. And in its execution, it feels like a lower-grade SNDN film for how cartoonishly violent and mean the kills can get, and I mean that in the best way. A single axe swing chops a guy in half like it’s a board of wood at a kid’s karate class, several people get thrown around like ragdolls through objects, and there are plenty of fake heads and bodies getting demolished for the gore hounds in the audience. Even the robot gets severely jacked up with sparks flying and explosions.  The special effects are hammy, and I love it more for that.

But as much as I like it, this one isn’t flawless. I feel like our dear Santa could have had a stronger design, maybe with a solid mask, and played with more robotic physicality beyond what we get in the third act. The camera work can sometimes be distracting in its attempts to convey high tension, ending up feeling fidgety instead.

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And to be quite honest, I’m very torn on the films ending. While it’s very entertaining and we get to see the full depth of the crazy animatronic Santa we’ve been waiting for all film which I love, it also drags in a way that is funny for some and might be a bit grating for others. Ultimately some editing flaws are exacerbated by the film being an exceptionally tight 86 minutes (we’re talking stocking stuffed to the brim tight), so it could serve well to have a director’s cut.

BOTTOMLINE: Christmas Bloody Christmas is an over-the-top, grindhouse-y spectacular that gives you exactly what’s in the title. It isn’t your standard holiday horror fare where there’s usually more about the film to laugh at than laugh with, but it definitely isn’t humorless. It’s a solid little film that looks like it could make a reliable staple in the rotation of dumb fun holiday horror for many Christmases to come. You know, assuming you don’t get killed by a robotic Santa Claus before then.

Watch Christmas Bloody Christmas starting 12/9 on Shudder!

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