In the marketing for the new Halloween, there’s been a focus on the film being centered around a showdown 40 years in the making between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, but really, that’s not what Halloween (2018) is about at all. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a criticism of the film (or even the marketing), but I just feel like after several viewings of David Gordon Green’s take on this franchise, what H40 is really about is one woman so desperate for closure, and a monster of a man who probably hasn’t given her much of a second thought during his four decades spent in captivity, and how all of this has affected the lives of those trapped in the middle. And truthfully, I can’t think of anything more authentic and relatable than that, which is probably just why the new Halloween has hit me as hard as it has.
***SPOILER WARNING: The following goes into specific scenes and plot developments in Halloween (2018), so if you haven’t seen the film yet, you might want to read this article after you get a chance to see H40 for yourself.***
The emotional core to Halloween (2018) is how the events of October 31st, 1978 have affected the life of Laurie Strode, as we catch up with Jamie Lee Curtis’ final girl four decades after she was brutally attacked, and through this new story, we are shown how that trauma has continued to haunt her, and has also driven a wedge between Laurie and everyone that she loves, including her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). We learn early on in H40 that at age 12, Karen was even taken away from Laurie by the state of Illinois, another surely devastating event in Laurie’s already embattled life, and the ramifications of that event are still holding influence over the relationship between our beloved heroine and her daughter. Over the last few days, I’ve seen a lot of chatter online about the lack of relationship between Laurie and Karen in this Halloween, but for me, that disconnect rings very true.
Karen, growing up, was thrust into this dark world where she spent her time living in isolation, training with firearms and preparing for the return of the “boogeyman” at the insistence of her obsessive mother, and that kind of burden for any kid to bear is a lot to ask. It’s not impossible that it would cause Greer’s character to shut down emotionally when it comes to her mom, where she still loves her but she cannot feel responsible to carry that trauma for Laurie any longer, because as we see in the dinner scene where Curtis breaks down, Karen has had enough. And while it may not be pretty, or even something we particularly “enjoy” as a viewer because of our feelings about this character that most of us have loved for decades now, our attachments shouldn’t invalidate Karen’s responses (or lack thereof) to Laurie’s behaviors in the movie.
As audience members, we get the benefit of being able to sympathize with Laurie, because we’ve been invested in this journey with her character ever since the original Halloween, so we feel these moments as she feels them. But within the spaces of Karen’s experiences, this is just something that her mother has been fixated on ever since she can remember, and because she now has a life of her own and her own family, Karen has to continue to disassociate herself from Laurie’s behavior as an act of self-preservation, because it’s loomed over her life for far too long (as her character alludes to in the parking lot after they leave the restaurant post-Laurie’s breakdown). Karen even decides to put on a Christmas sweater on Halloween night as her way of pushing the ugliness of what this night means as far away from her as possible, and it’s another subtle touch of just how much Karen is trying to disassociate herself from any memories of what this holiday has become in her life (it’s also a super fun nod to something Vicky (played by Virginia Gardner), says early on in H40 as well).
And I get that while some people might find that reaction from Karen, Laurie’s daughter of all people, cold and dismissive, here’s the thing: in the context of her role in this narrative, Karen at this juncture is mostly a reactionary character (until the finale when we get the brilliant “Gotcha!” moment). Halloween (2018) isn’t really about her story, it’s about how these horrors that Laurie once experienced at the hands of Michael Myers were so life-altering and insidious, that they found a way to even trickle down to Allyson, who at this point just wants her grandmother to move on and for her mother to stop trying to shut Laurie out from their lives. It’s an interesting approach, one we don’t see too often in genre films, and while some might lament the lack of a relationship between Curtis and Greer’s characters (and I’m not saying those feelings are invalid in any way), the realism of how these two women react to each other after emotionally drifting apart over time feels wholly authentic within the context of this story. And, truth be told, as someone who loves her mother very much, but has little to no emotional connection with her, that strained relationship between Karen and Laurie was something that I related to deeply in Halloween (2018).
Plus, we do get to see them finally come together in the film’s final moments, all three battle-worn women hunkered down in the back of the pickup truck, with Karen resting her head on Laurie’s shoulder, which I believe is the first time we see any kind of physical interaction between the two characters, making that moment so incredibly powerful in a myriad of ways (Matichak still grasping the knife in her hand being another).
Now, let’s get back to Laurie and Michael. The big crux of what has made Halloween (2018) such an exciting concept to many fans ever since it was announced that Jamie Lee Curtis would be reprising her role in the franchise, is that 40 years after the events of the OG Halloween, we were being promised the confrontation that we have all been waiting for: Michael Myers versus Laurie Strode. And sure, I know H20 exists, but there are aspects to that film that fell flat in the end, plus, then all of that was undone by the events of Resurrection to boot. With H40, it was Green and company’s chance to course correct some issues from previous sequels where we saw these two driving forces in the franchise face off, and everything that happens once Michael arrives at Laurie’s compound is just one of the many things that Halloween (2018) executes so beautifully.
But even though the climax is so damn satisfying and feels meaningful for fans, in reality, it’s all a bit accidental, and I think that’s the quiet brilliance about the ideas of trauma being explored in this Halloween, because although fate certainly intervenes in this, when Michael and Laurie find themselves face to face again, it’s not in the obvious way we were expecting, which is pretty damn great.
With their script, the screenwriting trio of Green, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley explore the lasting effects of trauma on this character of Laurie Strode, putting the focus of Halloween (2018) more on this woman than on the return of Michael Myers (even though he has some savage moments of brutality that are quite shocking and a bit nerve-rattling). We saw shades of it in Halloween H20, but this script examines the lifetime of anguish Laurie has had to deal with throughout the entirety of her adult life in a far more thoughtful manner. Also, because we’re now ignoring the events of the original Halloween II, the only reason Michael chose to go after Laurie and her friends that night back in 1978 is because of her dropping off the keys at the Myers House for her dad, removing any other possible connection between them. It was just chance that she showed up on the doorstep of Michael’s childhood home that day, and it was her fate to have to contend with pure evil that night as well.
While Laurie probably imagined that Michael has spent his years in captivity just dreaming to finally take her out, or at the very least he’s thought of her in passing, I get the sense that that isn’t really the case at all in Halloween (2018). Once he escapes, Michael has two primary objectives: get his mask and start killing people. That’s really it. The only people interested in seeing Laurie and Michael reunited in H40 (beyond Laurie, of course) are the ill-fated podcasters (played by Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees), who even go so far as to suggest that she go see him before he leaves Smith’s Grove, and Doctor Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), who does his damnedest to ensure that our hero and villain cross paths yet again (but more on that later). But for Michael? It’s just all about satiating his need to kill. He’s just pure evil on two legs, and evil doesn’t get caught up in nostalgia. Evil just wants to be evil, regardless.
So, when he’s back roaming the streets of Haddonfield, Michael’s not looking for Laurie specifically, he’s looking for victims to unleash his rage on. He goes from house to house, wreaking havoc, looking to satiate his bloodthirst, and that’s it. In fact, there’s a sequence after Michael kills Vicky, where Laurie sees him still lurking in the house through a window and shoots up at him, then starts chasing him down once he leaves the property, getting off one good shot at him, and the way it all plays out, I don’t even think it has registered with Michael just exactly who is shooting at him. He just keeps moving. He doesn’t stop to acknowledge or even react to her presence really, and that’s what is absolutely chilling about this whole scenario. Because in that moment, Laurie is looking for a resolution to the events of Halloween (1978), and Michael just wants to keep murdering people.
And in all honesty, that reflects a real-life experience for a lot of people. For so many of us who have experienced any kind of physical or emotional crisis that’s been committed by someone else, closure is an essential part of the healing process. Or at least it has been for me (I’m not going to try and project my own experiences on anyone else, because that’s unfair and it paints some broad strokes over issues that are deeply personal and can be deeply unique as well), and while it’s something many of us hope for, we don’t always get it. True closure is often elusive, and no one knows that better after four decades than Laurie Strode.
There’s a scene in Halloween (2018) when Curtis is sitting in her character’s truck, downing tiny vodka bottles with a gun in her lap, helplessly looking on as Myers is being loaded onto a transport bus, and 40 years of frustration and anger is just ready to burst out of her. It’s a haunting moment that is undoubtedly the emotional crux of H40, and really is the one instance in this film where we see Curtis’ character lose her composure (the effects of this sequence do spill over into the dinner scene that follows). I’ve now watched Halloween (2018) three different times, and each time, I still get slightly choked up because of what that moment truly represents to Laurie, and to so many of us who just want to be able to finally put the past to rest, and find some kind of emotional restitution. In fact, it meant so much to me, I even asked Curtis about it during the recent press day.
So, if Michael has no real interest in finishing off Laurie after 40 years, how does Green get these characters to come together in a finale that satisfies on a storytelling level, but also gives audiences what they undoubtedly came to see? Enter Doctor Sartain. I knew the first time I watched the new Halloween that his character was easily going to be the most polarizing aspect of this new sequel, and I was definitely right on the money there based on numerous conversations I have seen over the last few days on social media. Truth be told, the first time I watched it, I was slightly thrown off by the different motivations from the “New Loomis” (admittedly, he’s more of a Dr. Wynn in my eyes), but upon my second viewing, I realized this character’s arc in Halloween (2018) is a really bold move in a slasher movie that for the most part delivers many of the expected story beats we get from horror films that fall into this category.
Without the interferences of Sartain, though, and his desperate desire to see true evil in action, Michael Myers would have never been freed in the first place, nor would Michael have ended up at Laurie’s house out in the middle of the sticks (because really, if there’s nothing specific about his intended victims, why would he even hunt down Laurie in the first place?). To some, it’s a silly and offbeat move in a movie that plays it straight otherwise, but for me, I loved the hell out of how weird things get in that reveal (especially with Sartain wearing Michael’s mask at one point—such BLASPHEMY, and it is such a creepy and awesome visual), and the sequence with Allyson locked in the backseat with Myers is the true definition of a nail-biter. It’s so damn good. And while I won’t ever discount the opinion of anyone who doesn’t enjoy the direction the character of Sartain takes in the third act of H40, I’d urge you to maybe give it a try again to see if it works better for you the second time around, as it absolutely did for me, just because I could see all these tiny moments infused early on in Halloween (2018) that are essentially building to this big turn of events.
But, I just think it’s so interesting that in this movie, built around the premise of seeing these two iconic forces—Michael Myers and Laurie Strode—square off one last time, from the perspective of Haddonfield’s most notorious resident, Halloween (2018) isn’t really about tracking down the “girl that got away.” Michael’s freedom means more bloodshed and nothing more, which is such a unique take on what we expect from slasher movies, I can’t help but respect the hell out of some of the deeper themes at play in this newest sequel. And I also think it’s intriguing that in terms of the latest ads, there’s a moment when we see the podcaster, Aaron, barking Laurie’s name at Michael when he’s still being held at Smith’s Grove. Not only is that not the way the scene plays out in the actual movie (Laurie’s name is never mentioned around Michael until the third act), it’s not really what H40 is about when you dig below the surface.
Sure, we eventually see Laurie and the two other generations of Strode women take down this destructive presence that has overshadowed their family for far too long, but it never would have happened had it not been for a cruel, albeit coincidental, twist of fate (and a doctor who goes just a little too far with his own scientific curiosities).
Stay tuned to Daily Dead in the coming days for more interviews with the cast and crew of the new Halloween, and in case you missed it, check here to catch up on all of our previous Halloween (2018) coverage!