(Spoilers for the 2018 edition of Halloween and Mother!)
It’s no secret that I love Halloween (the holiday and the franchise) as well as all things horror. There’s something cathartic about a good horror movie. You have two options with horror, depending on its direction. Like the age-old tragedy genre, you can abandon the protagonist just before their inevitable death. There’s something freeing in a world where we understand our mess and neuroses innately, to abandon all that is too difficult, too hard to pursue, and simply enjoy the collapse of it all. On the other hand, you can fight until the bitter victory and rejoice in the moment that even the darkest nights won’t prevail.
There’s very few horror movies I haven’t enjoyed to some degree. In fact, the only one that comes to mind now is the Jennifer Lawrence-led flick Mother! While a poignant reminder to protect Mother Earth, there is something truly un-get-over-able about seeing a baby ripped apart by a hungry, crazed crowd. I suppose that’s the point. But still. I do have a few all-time favorites though: Both Halloween movies, Doctor Sleep, The Conjuring, Annabelle Comes Home, and Kubo and the Two Strings. By far, though, Halloween (2018), the reboot of the iconic franchise, is one that I will never get tired of. This film is the perfect blend of classic and modern horror and, like its predecessor, will forever be iconic. Here are just a few reasons why:
The best example of Halloween’s merger between classical horror and modern horror is most clearly seen with the literal cut in footage of the original movie’s opening scene. There’s other subtle moments of connection – the obsessed therapist, the scene of Laurie being attacked through a door, horny babysitters, and the melodramatic overtones. There’s subtle differences too, though: Laurie’s tumble over the porch instead of Michael, the unmasking of Michael when we first see him, and a larger exploration of feminine heroics. Yet we also see a complete modernization: an emphasis on sexual violence, acceptance of modern-day gender norms (crossdressing costumes, a dancing hunter, and independent womanhood), technology, and a more thorough understanding of evil.
The film opens with two podcast journalists working towards an exposé on Michael Myers, a perfect way to immediately modernize the characters and world. Podcasts, particularly those in the true crime genre, have skyrocketed in the past few years. Their aggressive, sensationalized attempt to portray Myers quietly highlights the controversy of the true crime drama at large. The storyline makes a critique of modern society’s fascination with real horror for some true meta-narration.
Allyson and Laurie’s relationship throughout the film highlights the complexity of strained inter-generational family relationships. Allyson very clearly wants her grandmother to be a part of her life but Laurie’s trauma perpetually prohibits them from growing any real roots. Allyson forms a bond with her grandma in plotting against her parents in typical high school frustration, while also bonding with her mother in her anguish against her grandmother’s unresolved trauma. For people with complicated inter-generational connections, this tension is all too real. You have to reconcile your own relationships with the traumatic relationships your parents formed.
The portrayal of Laurie’s trauma deserves its own book. From breaking into her daughter’s house, to silently crying on the side of the road while her granddaughter hugs her, trauma is its own deeply developed character. The community manifests its trauma in the way a random woman gets a call from a friend (Sally) seemingly warning her to lock up her house. She, keenly aware of the danger an escaped Michael poses, closes her blinds as her neck is slit from behind. Generationally, Karen manipulates her fear of the basement to trick Michael into getting shot, blood spattering against a hidden Laurie. And, as Allyson runs through a dark forest, tripping over her grandmother’s target practice, we see the way that generational trauma lingers in families and haunts communities in the long run. Typically, we only get to see horror victims in their moments of vulnerability. When we do get to see the trauma-afflicted remnants of the horror-stricken, such as we do in Doctor Sleep, The Conjuring, and It Chapter 2, it is deeply and immediately satisfying. We get to see not only the chilling portions of horror, but also connect emotionally to the drama of a difficult existence.
By far the best aspect of Halloween is the expansion of feminine strength. While the first movie predominately focuses on Laurie’s strength, remarkable for the time, Halloween expands her domination of Michael to nearly every female character, even the ill-fated ones. Vicky, despite asking her boyfriend Dave to check out the strange noise her and Julian hear, is the only one brave enough to actually investigate. Ray has the iconic line “This is my own home and I can take care of my own family” in response to Laurie telling him how to better defend the house. In a twist of irony, Ray is killed after venturing outside Laurie’s fortress. Even our dear old Hawkins doesn’t make it. The easy expenditure of men and the bad-assery of women, makes Halloween strikingly cozy for fans of Ready or Not, Knives Out, Midsommar, and countless other female-driven horror films.
Compared to modern marvels like Ari Aster, Halloween seems a little flat. The actual horror is classic: one legendary slasher taking people out. For modern audiences accustomed to more esoteric technology-assisted horror, it’s a testament to David Gordon Green that the atmosphere of the film still feels so scary. Unlike even modern bad-guy-conquers-all thrillers like Hush (well worth your time), there’s little in the way of unique characterizations. It’s classic horror, in every sense of the word, delivered in a way that feels fresh to modern audiences.
This isn’t to say that the horror is necessarily expected in Halloween. Our definitions of horror are challenged throughout the film. The iconic character isn’t the only thing we’re taught to fear. Michael’s mask is donned later by his psychiatrist. This moment, horrifying in its brutal murder of the beloved police officer, signifies that there is innate evil in everything and the pursuit of understanding, of humanizing evil, is as dangerous as being murdered. Sometimes the thing we trust most is the thing we should most deeply fear. Sometimes what feels safe is damning in its lure. But the best moment, and the most unexpected, for us as much as the characters, is Karen’s line at the end of the movie. “It’s not a cage, it’s a trap.”
Like the three generations of Strode women we the audience come to understand that facing our fears head on is the best way to cope through the chaos.
And, well, there’s Jamie Lee Curtis. All I’m saying is, it’s the perfect movie.
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