‘Halloween’ (2018) is an Effective and Gory Examination of the Lasting Effects of Trauma

On Halloween in 1978, Michael Myers came home. Now, 40 years later, he’s back again with a vengeance. One of the most iconic figures in horror history, Michael Myers is evil incarnate, a potentially supernatural figure who wants nothing more than to kill. However, there is a massive shift in the most recent addition to the Halloween franchise. Instead of focusing on this figure of evil incarnate, the film offers are poignant portrayal of trauma and its effects on both the survivor and their family. While showing plenty of disgusting kills, the focus falls away for Myers and onto the women of the Strode family.

Halloween takes place 40 years after the events of the 1978 Halloween. Director-writer David Gordon Green has erased all previous sequels in the Halloween canon, eliminating claims that Myers is Laurie’s brother and that he is some kind of supernatural figure. Don’t worry, the film makes plenty of crowd-pleasing allusions to the previous films. 40 years after the horrors enacted by Myers, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is living in fear and isolation, with an estranged relationship with her daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak). Laurie’s preparations for Myers’ inevitable escape are not in vain; he breaks out, and he’s ready to terrorize Haddonfield yet again. You can expect a series of ridiculous and gory deaths, but also surprisingly touching and emotional moments between grandmother, mother, and daughter. Plus, John Carpenter returns to score the film, which is an added bonus.

More than a spectacle of Myers’ violence, Halloween is a look at what happens to the Final Girl 40 years after such intense emotional, physical, and mental trauma. Laurie Strode is a hermit, with a family who refuses to speak with her. Her door is covered in locks, she has a hidden weapons den, and the house is riddled with traps. She is trying to protect herself. But of course, she is seen as crazy and irrational, as illustrated in an attempted interview by a pair of investigative journalists making a true crime podcast (if that’s not a sign of our current cultural moment, I’m not sure what is). In their quest for understanding about Myers, they speak with Strode and dig into her past, exposing her multiple divorces, her estranged relationship with her daughter; they make Laurie relive her traumas and the effects they have had on her entire life. It is a commentary on how women are forced to relive their own horrific pasts to reveal some kind of truth.

But it is not just Laurie’s trauma that matters in this film. It is also about her daughter’s trauma and how she has been affected by Laurie’s own fears and anxieties. She even wears a Christmas sweater on Halloween in an attempt to completely reject the hallowed holiday. This film was not about Myers for me, but about how these women try to survive day to day despite these years of traumatic experiences, either by the hands of a serial killer or one’s own mother. Myers becomes merely a vessel for trying to confront one’s own demons and conquer them. This may be a place where the film falls apart for fans of the franchise; it isn’t really about Myers anymore, but about motherhood. However, I found it exceptionally refreshing, especially in a genre that so often focuses on the continued trauma of women purely for entertainment’s sake.

However, while focusing on the women of the fil, this iteration of Halloween still tries to humanize Michael Myers. First, the film begins with showing Michael without a mask. While we are not shown his full face, the camera shows flashes of it, which in turn shows Myers’ own humanity. Yes, he is a human, but in the original film, that was completely hidden by a mask. There was no way to truly see him as anything but a monster. There is also a short scene where Michael kills a woman, then walks over to a crying baby. He looks at the baby, then simply leaves, which is a fascinating choice. When they could have simply had Myers kill the woman and leave, he is shown displaying some kind of mercy on a baby, as if he has a semblance of a moral compass. I don’t need a film to try and have me sympathize with a deranged killer, especially when it also consistently shows the trauma he has enacted on three generations of women. While Green does amazing work portraying grief and trauma in women, but he almost negates that in trying to get the audience to somehow also sympathize with the killer.

Green co-wrote this film with comedian Danny McBride, so it should come as no surprise that there are quite a few comedic moments in the film. While I fully support comedic relief in horror, these comedic moments felt ill-placed and jarring. Yes, Julian is hilarious but his comedic quips as he watches his babysitter being murdered doesn’t match the film’s tone at all — it felt more like a moment from Scary Movie.

It’s no wonder that this film has caused such a division in the horror community. The film changes the figure of Michael Myers into something strange and unfamiliar. If you’re coming to this film for Myers, you may find yourself disappointed. However, come to Halloween for phenomenal performances by Curtis, Greer, and Matichak. This is truly a film for women to shine and prove they can do something men can’t: survive.

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