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Halloween (David Gordon Green, 2018)

“I’ve been praying for the day he’s released.” 

These  words are said by Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) after stumbling  across the latest crime scene committed by Michael Myers. In the newest  incarnation of Halloween the film gestures toward a narrative  about trauma and the aftermath of violence, but does so with a  distinctly simplistic, offensive and male idea of survival. The above  phrase stuck out to me while watching the movie like a sore thumb and a  Rosetta stone of sorts on this movie’s understanding of traumatic  events. To put it in the most basic way: I was offended at the notion  that this is what post-traumatic stress disorder looks like in women.  The last thing a trauma victim would want is the release of their  monster into the world to do damage to more people, but this doesn’t  seem to bother Laurie. Probably because those in charge have no idea  what trauma actually feels like.

I was in a  Costco about a year ago with my in-laws stocking up on groceries for  the winter season. It was a regular day, and despite the store giving me  anxiety due to the sheer amount of people aisle to aisle and the  occasional unwanted brushing up against other customers I was mentally  holding it together. Going down the freezer aisles, however, was a  disaster, because I saw someone who looked eerily similar to my father,  and I couldn’t breathe. I hyperventilated and shut down. I stood there,  disassociating, until he turned around and I realized it wasn’t actually  my father, but I still had to be taken into the food court to calm  down. I have no concept of whether or not I made a scene or was noticed,  but it felt like a black hole was pouring out of me and pulling me  inward. I was disappearing. I didn’t realize how badly I had shaken  myself up until my fiance gave me the finer details of what happened  later that evening. He was there to calm me down, but I don’t know what  would have transpired if he had not been there. With post-traumatic  stress disorder we do our best to move forward in day to day life. We  try to make a life out of something damaged and we do our best not to  dwell on things that may trigger or send us spiraling into the abyss of  our own memories. This is not typically how post-traumatic stress  disorder is characterized in motion pictures. In movies, it’s an avenue  for revenge, but the last thing we’d ever want to do is to be put into a  position where we could be hurt again. What we want is sanctuary and  peace of mind. Not bloodshed. 

What Halloween suggests  is that the only way to get closure is to kill your abuser and ensnare  your entire life around the past waiting for the perfect moment to take  back what was lost. I would respect Halloween’s understanding of  trauma if it were at all intellectually rigorous or honest in its  intentions toward recognizing images of bodies, power and gender like in  the Female Prisoner Scorpion series,  but it is merely a short-cut for the same boring “strong-female lead”  characterizations we’ve been seeing for the better part of twenty years  now in place of women who feel like actual human beings. Laurie stalks  Michael’s place of hospitalization to keep an eye on him, she stockpiles  fire-arms and lives in constant panic that he’s going to come back. I’m  not going to assert that everyone who experiences PTSD is the same, but  to insist that this, of all things, is a stunning portrait of female  trauma is absurd to me. The real strength that lies with us is the  understanding that we can still live our lives. Laurie Strode doesn’t.  She’s a plot-device waiting to spout a one-liner before blowing her  victimizer’s head off. She’s little more than a frat boy’s idea of a  badass grandmother. Jamie Lee Curtis does her best playing this  character who is obviously fractured and scarred by her past, but you  can only do so much with a script that cares more about the jokes that  are inserted to de-escalate tension than it does the victim’s  themselves, including Strode. 

Even if one were to look  beyond the absolutely abysmal rendering of trauma and pinpoint only  director, David Gordon Green’s chops as a filmmaker you’d come across  with the same tired result of Carpenter copy-cats that have run this  series into the ground sequel after sequel. Rob Zombie being the lone exception.  Green renders all of his slasher showdowns and kills with  over-calculated consideration for the shot above the actual violence or  the humanity of the characters. He can snake his camera through a maze  of trick or treaters in a long tracking shot, but he can’t give anyone  any depth or linger on shots long enough for us to feel the full impact  of the violence. It’s the same tired slasher bullshit. The only person  who comes away from this movie unscathed is John Carpenter who created a  soundtrack to accompany the film, updating his score from the 1978  picture with some consideration for modern sensibilities while still  leaning on his classic synthesizer horror. He’s still the master. His  music is the only thing that gives this movie life, lifting the  otherwise rote filmmaking out of the gutter from time to time. I’d say  John Carpenter deserves better, but I’m sure he’s very happy cashing  checks on movies that only further cement his legacy as someone no one  can equal in a genre of filmmaking he helped create.

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