SOMETIMES MOM IS RIGHT: HALLOWEEN REVIEW
For my Scorpio mother, on the occasion of the anniversary of her birth
I never watched slashers. There wasn’t a prohibition against horror movies in my house growing up, as witnessed by my early viewing of The Shining, but perhaps there was a prohibition against “trash.” And so, I am now in my mid-late thirties and haven’t seen one frame of any Friday the 13th movie, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween (except, weirdly, Halloween 3, which has no Michael Myers and is about killer kids’ masks and is widely regarded as worse than terrible). Of course I am aware of these movies--I can identify the killer by his franchise, and know, for instance, that the killer in the first Friday the 13th movie was Jason’s mom, Mrs. Voorhees. (Thanks, Scream!) I just didn’t have any slumber party viewings or older brothers to expose me to the peak products of the slasher era. I’m also familiar with the Final Girl, as laid out by Carol J. Clover, because I am an English major, always and forever.
So, imagine my surprise this weekend when I found myself in tears at the end of the new Halloween, directed by David Gordon Green and starring Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. (Spoilers throughout). This movie picks up where the first Halloween left off, wiping the eleven sequels off the map, making it a quasi-reboot. Michael Myers has spent the last forty years in a mental institution, and Laurie has given birth and sort of raised her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), been divorced twice (how is that relevant!), and has spent her days as a prepper of sorts. Of course, she’s not prepping for the end of the world, but for the return of one giant, mask wearing psychopath. Laurie has gone full Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, except with more alcoholism. (Like Sarah, Laurie’s child has also been taken from her by the state.) In response to her mother’s insanity, Karen has become a therapist committed to a life of love and light, as opposed to a life of darkness, shotguns, and constant vigilance. Karen’s teen daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), is drawn to her grandmother, and seeks to keep her in her life, much to Karen’s annoyance.
Of course, Michael Myers breaks out, murders the shit out of a whole bunch of people, and comes looking for Laurie and Allyson. Laurie insists that Karen and her dumbass husband come to her heavily fortified country home, but Allyson is at the Halloween dance, being cheated on and having her phone taken away by her piece of shit boyfriend. She heads off in the night with the boyfriend’s best friend, a little chunker with Danny McBride’s lines (McBride was a writer on the film). In the dark, under the guise of friendship and condolence, the little chunker tries to french Allyson, and she recoils and pushes him away. It is a disgusting scene, and one made more relevant by our conversations around consent (although, truly, hasn’t the fat best friend been hitting on his friend’s girl since time immemorial?) These are the lessons of a regular girlhood, as gross as it is. Men will cheat and lie to your face, blame booze, press themselves into you without consent. It’s not much of a loss, then, to see the little chunker filleted by Michael a few frames later.
Allyson seeks help, is used as bait in the twist, and ends up running through the woods for about forty minutes. Really, the killer is not interested in her, except as a victim, but she makes it to Laurie’s house and to her mother.
Laurie Strode is what Hillary Clinton probably should be: crazed and ready to do battle with her monster. During the movie, I kept thinking of Hillary. If only she’d come out of the New York woods like this: not in sweaters but in a badass jacket and tank top combo. If only she were the mother and grandmother not that we wanted, but that we needed.
And sometimes we need a mother and grandmother to teach us the fucked up shit of the world. It’s clear that Karen spent her childhood learning to shoot and to run and fight, and that Karen resents her lost childhood. But I understand why Laurie would want to make sure her daughter would be a Final Girl and not some gutted blonde along the way.
Most of us resent our mothers for our reasons, and many of us choose paths that are different from our mother’s paths either purposefully or subconsciously. And while few of us have mothers that have been stalked by a silent superkiller, a lot of us have mothers who’ve dealt with trauma and abuse. Generational trauma manifests in different ways: maybe in the warnings and the stories that we hear for the first time when we are twelve or fifteen or nineteen. The stories that make us cringe and cry and feel sick to our stomachs. Perhaps in a lack of understanding. “Life’s tough” or “Never marry” or “Do you really love him?” “Protect yourself.” “Don’t wear that, don’t go there.” “Make your bed everyday or people will think you are a lazy slut.” “Good girls don’t…”
That passing of trauma is often a sort of abuse itself, and we see that in Karen. She was removed from her mother’s care at twelve and spent the majority of her adult life embracing openness and rejecting paranoia. Her frustration with her mother pours off the screen. Why are you like this, she thinks. Why can’t you be normal? Within the film, Laurie has excellent reasons for her behavior, but most of us can empathize with Karen’s feelings.
In the movie, Laurie ends up doing battle with her monster, but she’s on her home turf. Karen sees that her mother was right all along (maybe they should have released this on Mother’s Day weekend). Karen’s husband is dispatched quickly, along with various policemen. Men are crushed by The Shape, overconfident in their jiu jitsu skills. Together, grandmother, mother, and daughter use their strength and their weaknesses to trick and trap the monster (and if I were a Jungian, I could write paragraphs about that womblike basement that becomes his tomb). Karen must do more than forgive her mother--she must accept her and apply what she strove to teach. (Again, this movie is the hot Mother’s Day present for 2019.)
There is a monster. He’s been here all along, but he’s become newly resurgent. He controls all aspects of our government. He screams and turns red and pounds his fist in rage. He grabs us, masturbates at us, and brags. He holds us down and laughs. He seeks to control us, to make us subservient and silent, to ultimately make us dead. At least Michael Myers, The Shape, has the courtesy to be quiet while he kills.
In the dark of the movie theater, I had tears in my eyes. Together is the only way! Multi-generational confrontation and defeat of the man! The Final Girl survives because she follows the rules, but grandmother, mother, and daughter survive because they work together. We must remember and empower those who come after us and be empowered by those who came before. Blast The Shape and push him down the fucking stairs and light him straight on fire. It’s Halloween, and that means it is Scorpio season, bitch.