Halloween Ends (2022)

Quick Synopsis: The final (for now) film in the long-running Halloween franchise.

Initial reviews for this were not promising. Early indications were that this was a massive disappointment, one of the most disappointing and poorly written horror films of the year. I was okay with that, people hated Halloween Kills and I actually preferred it to the original (by which I mean the sequel). A lot of people hate when movies go weird, yet I tend to like it. I crave originality and weirdness, and I tend to have an affection for things which are weird and unloved (except myself, obviously, even I have limits), so whilst I knew there was a chance I’d dislike this, there was an even higher chance that everybody else was a big stupid doo-doo head and were wrong. There have been many films in the past that I have LOVED and yet haven’t seemed to receive that same love from critics and large audiences; Table 19 being the most obvious, but even Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which I actually dreaded watching because of early reviews, yet was one of my highlights of last year. Maybe this would continue that run.

Spoilers, it doesn’t. This is not a good film. It feels like a cheap knock-off of the last two films and I struggle to comprehend it’s by the same people. What I loved about Halloween Kills is how it felt like a natural progression, that is how a town would react, with suspicion and fear. For a few days at least the whole place would be a powder keg ready to ignite. Kills was about a town in recovery, Ends is about a town in denial. Think of how Kills ended: Michael Myers was surrounded by a group of townspeople, and he killed them all and walked on. How would a town react to a seemingly unkillable monster wreaking havoc and killing everybody before walking off and not being seen again? Well, according to this film the town responds by doing absolutely nothing. Towns don’t do that with tragedies, large sprawling cities might, but there’s nothing to suggest Haddonfield is like that. Look at places which have fallen victim to mass shootings, they’re still haunted by it. There’s a multitude of different interesting ways this film could have gone, it could have the town turn into a police state, ruled by fear and giving up liberties “for the greater good”. It could have been a weird tourist spot, where the town’s inhabitants are forced to relive their worst day, again and again, to bring money in. It could have even have been a hotspot for conspiracy theorists who deny the killings exist, like those cuntheads Richard D Hall and Alex Jones do. There’s nothing in this which makes it feel like a town in recovery.

It’s not even the town, the named characters seem inconsistent too. Between the two Halloween films (the 70’s one, and the 2010’s one) Laurie Strode spent the time in fear of Michael Myers coming back. So what does she do now that Myers has come back and killed her daughter? She moves into a cosy house and lives a normal life. Logically, she would have thought “my defences weren’t enough, I need to be stricter”, not the other way around.

How about Myers himself? It’s hard to tell as he’s barely in it. The Michael/Laurie showdown is what the films advertising campaign was based around, so it’s disappointing that it’s really the only part he’s in. I’m all for different sequels, but this is a poor way to end this story. If it was the second film in this modern trilogy, it would be more acceptable. But having this as the closer feels like a waste of a story. The end of the film itself is spectacular. and is the perfect ending to the story. It’s good that it does have a definitive ending to the saga, but the rest of this film is pointless. It hints that the Evil that is haunting Myers will continue, and it’s that source infecting Corey (the new killer in this movie) that caused him to break bad.

I’m not opposed to a film about someone taking on the mantle of Myers and going on a killing spree. But the way it’s done here is baffling, Corey accidentally kills a child (in a great scene), is demonised by the town, and nearly dies. Perfect for a “I will get revenge on this town by bringing back their worst nightmare” story. But this isn’t that, what seems to happen is Michael goes to kill Corey, they look eyes and share a moment which turns him evil. Corey had enough of a backstory that would have explained his motives, and the magic eye soul bullshit thing just muddies the water. I would argue it’s worse than the Martha scene from BvS.

There is definitely an evil force that is haunting this film, ruining everything and making things worse for everybody. But it’s not Evil, it’s Corey. I mentioned his character’s relationship with Michael being weird, but his relationship with Laurie’s niece Allyson makes both Laurie and Allyson seem worse characters. It forces both of those characters to act really inconsistently. Laurie is writing a self-help book about not letting fear rule your life, but Allyson accuses her of being too negative, purely to cause a narrative split. It’s a shame as all the performers are great, from a technical standpoint it’s superb. It’s directed well, the soundtrack is brilliant, and it looks fantastic. But it’s hampered by possibly the worst script I’ve seen all year.

This was supposed to be the end of the Halloween saga, but all it’s done is make me want another one, but this time good. This CAN’T be how this franchise ends, it’s too shit. It should have gone out on a high, not gone out as if it was written by people who were high.

Amsterdam (2022)

Quick synopsis: Three friends who witness a murder, become suspects themselves, and uncover one of the most outrageous plots in American history.

This should be the type of film I like. It’s a star-filled cast in a movie based on an underknown aspect of American history (the Business Plot of 1933), it should be fun. If not fun, it should be interesting and a fascinating watch.

It’s not though, despite having all the ingredients of a film I like, the end result just didn’t do anything for me. I think a big issue is the pacing, it’s far too long, and doesn’t use the time well. It spends far too long setting up the mood and time, meanwhile, the narrative itself stands still. A good story is a long-distance runner, it varies the pace when it needs to so it keeps momentum until the end. This film approaches narrative like I approached long-distance running, going way too fast for a minute, and then having to stop for 5 minutes to get my breath. It’s really unfocused, giving us backstories and explanations that we don’t really need.

It also has a huge tonal problem. The subject is very serious, about an attempted coup against the United States government, and the mistreatment of veterans from the first world war. Yet the film is written, directed, and performed like a madcap caper. As the Western World is flirting with fascism, showing the concept of dictatorships our thighs and fluttering eyelashes, it’s hard to take films like these as lightweight. Especially when it’s trying to make parallels to modern times (as in, times which are modern, not the Charlie Chaplin film, which is actually more relevant today). The film wants to be taken seriously whilst not being a serious film. “hey, the threat of fascism is looming and business owners want to control every aspect of your life and kill those you hold dea-oh look, someone fell over, tee-hee”. It also doesn’t feel like the characters are taking it seriously, they all seem too self-aware that they’re not in any danger because they’re the main characters.

It’s a shame as the story is one that should be told, just not by this writer. Adam McKay would have been a better shout to do this. The way he handled The Big Short shows that he can do films of this nature well. David O.Russell doesn’t feel the right choice for this. Then again, I didn’t like Joy or American Hustle much either, so maybe it’s just I don’t vibe with his style. The performances are also really good, there’s not really a weak link, and the three leads have excellent chemistry.

It’s also very very funny. Getting some great reactions from the people I was in the cinema with. Not just small laughs, full-on belly laughs that you rarely get in audiences. I feel this could be edited into a better film, but at the moment it’s just too much of a challenge to get through. I might watch it again if it’s on Netflix and I can skip certain parts. But I’m not going to go out of my way to see it. Mainly because it feels like a film, and more like a drunk guy at the pub telling you a story.

Emily (2022)

Quick synopsis: A biographical film about Emily Brontë, and the writing of her most famous work, a shopping list. No, wait, Wuthering Heights.

It’s weird, this film is supposed to be about the writing of Wuthering Heights, but it doesn’t feature Kate Bush at all. Plus it’s set in the 1840s instead of the 1970s. Such a basic lack of fact-checking. Oh, it turns out Wuthering Heights is not just a banger of a tune, it’s also a book (Books: they’re like television shows for your eyes), huh, the things you learn.

I’m not that familiar with Wuthering Heights, or the work of any of the Brontë sisters truth be told. I worried this would hinder my enjoyment of it. There was a high chance that I just wouldn’t vibe with this film, not just because I don’t know much about the sisters, but also because I tend to not like period films that much. And for a lot of this film’s opening, I was uninterested in this film. It felt like the characters were taking some things far too seriously and ignoring obvious truths which would reduce their anxiety. My fears were justified, I was bored, and I had started to tune out.

Now I’m about to say something I wish wasn’t true. The Brontë sisters are important in a literary sense, and are among the most famous female writers of all time, coming from a time when women were legally second-class citizens. So any story about them has to be feminist AF for it to work, which makes the following sentence make me feel shitty for saying: the film gets a lot better once her brother enters the spotlight more. There’s a turning point where he and Emily are talking and it tells you so much about who Emily is. It’s the first time you see the dynamism and excitement that she has. It’s the first time that she feels like an actual human instead of a character. The two actors have undeniable chemistry and I hope they work together in the future.

I have no idea how historically accurate this is, so I can’t judge it based on that. I can only judge on what I see, and what I see is slightly frustrating at times. As I said, the opening doesn’t do a great job of drawing you in, and the main romance that’s central to the plot feels lacking. Hard to explain why, they have good chemistry, and the way it ends is heartbreaking, it just doesn’t feel quite as real as it should. I think it’s because the meet-cute moment doesn’t land. As I said, the way it ends is brilliant, but the way it starts feels a bit rushed and forced. The performances are great though, the only time I’ve seen Emma Mackey in something was Death On The Nile, where I described her as “distractingly like Lucy Hale, but better”. None of that here, she is completely different and knocks every moment out of the park. Fionn Whitehead has a good energy to him, although I did spend a lot of the film wondering where I knew him from, I thought I was just getting him confused with Matthew Baynton, but now I know he was in possibly the best episode of Inside No. 9. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the two of them do next.

This is the first film directed by Frances O’Connor, best known for her performances in Mansfield Park, Importance Of Being Earnest, and Madame Bovary. I would not have guessed this is her first film as a director. It’s very ambitious, she doesn’t approach it as a standard period film, she uses handheld shots, dynamic camera movement during chases, and very dark colours to give it a slightly modern feel. It doesn’t always work, the scene where characters are getting drunk feels very poorly edited. I get what she was going for, but it didn’t really work. There are some moments when the visual language is unclear and it can be frustrating and difficult to watch. But when it’s good, it’s very good. Although I do have the feeling her future is not in period dramas, but in horror. There are a few scenes in here which are directed as if they’re in horror movies, and I’d love to see her do one. Not a modern slasher, but a retro-style ghost story.

It’s strange, I’m not sure I learnt any facts about Emily, but it did give me great insight into who she was. I’m not sure I could pass a multiple-choice exam on her, but this did give me an understanding of her character to the point where I could probably BS my way through an essay on her. Worth a watch, but not essential.

The Lost King (2022)

Quick Synopsis: Philippa Langley (Sally Hawkins) thinks she knows where the lost body of Richard III is buried, and is determined to prove it to an establishment that doesn’t believe her.

If I wrote this review the minute I left the cinema, it would have been more favourable. But now that time has passed, it’s soured my opinion on it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about it. You don’t walk out thinking you’ve wasted your time, but it doesn’t stay with you.

The cast is all good: Steve Coogan provides enough character without overshadowing the lead, and Mark Addy seems weirdly Reece Shearsmith. Sally Hawkins continues to be one of the best performers around. She is starting to run the risk of playing similar characters though. A lot of her biggest roles are now “slightly downtrodden mother who stands up to people”. There’s a reason for that though, she is so good at it. Her characters naturally have a slight fragility to them, and she has haunting eyes which make it easy to sympathise with her when things go against her. Plus she does a great “shakey scared voice”. But there’s not much in her performance that you haven’t seen before, as good as it is (and it is very good), it doesn’t feel unique to this film.

She’s not helped by some weird script choices, the “ghost” of Richard III has the usual Television Dream Ghost qualities, pointing out stuff she already knew. But then there are moments where it feels like he’s leading her places, and so that he does have sentience and independent thought. If they dialled down on that it would improve it somewhat, and make it feel like her character has more agency rather than “a ghost told me”.

Another misstep in the script is it plays out like we don’t know what happened. That may work overseas, but the discovery of his body was a big deal in the UK, so when the film does try to have the tension of “will they find it?”, it doesn’t feel true. We know he was found in a car park in Leicester, so there’s zero drama to the story. I know it’s in bad form to add things which weren’t there for dramatic purpose, but I feel this needed it. It needed a B-story that it could use for drama and suspense. At the very least it can stop pretending that we don’t know what happens.

I should point out that there is some controversy surrounding the other archeologists involved in the dig. They say they’re being labelled the villains in the story unfairly, and that in reality they were helpful. Which, considering the crux of the movie was “Richard III was unfairly made a villain by Shakespeare”, is kind of ironic.

In summary, this is fine. It’s a pleasant enough watch but I’m not sure I need to watch it again. It’s a standard British movie, for better and for worse. It will make you feel things while watching it, but you’ll be hard-pushed to remember that much about it a month down the line. That’s its biggest weakness: how disposable it is. It’s based on a true story, but they changed so much of it that it doesn’t really matter that much. They change so much of the true story that it doesn’t work as a “learn about what happened” piece. Films are supposed to change you, make you feel, and importantly, make you ask questions. But really the only feeling this gives you, is that you should watch a documentary about it instead. It also made me think of this song. Which is a plus, I suppose.