The new Halloween, a direct sequel to the 1978 film, touches and expands on many of the themes of the original. This time, though, the action is less about masked killer Michael Myers and more about the trifecta of Strode women living in Haddonfield: Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the iconic final girl who survived Myers’ massacre forty years earlier; Laurie’s estranged daughter Karen (Judy Greer), who is as afraid of Laurie as Laurie is of Michael; and Karen’s teen daughter, Allyson (newcomer Andi Matichak).
Caution: Major spoilers about Halloween start here.
Allyson is a character trope horror fans will recognize: She’s a smart, kind, and pretty high schooler with a good head on her shoulders. Obviously, this means all of her more morally compromised friends are about to be murdered. Allyson wants a relationship with her estranged grandmother, Laurie, but Karen does everything she can to keep them apart. Why? Because Laurie never moved on from that tragic Halloween night. She essentially raised Karen in a kill-or-be-killed bootcamp so intense the state took her away at the age of twelve. Now, Laurie lives in a fortress-style compound, shooting at mannequins all day and self-medicating with alcohol. Karen says Laurie projected her own paranoia onto her. Laurie says she was willing to sacrifice being loved by Karen to prepare her for the horrors of the world. I say, inherited trauma much?
Halloween is the story of Allyson’s induction into the long lineage of women who face the cruelty of the world and make it out the other side tougher and wiser.
This is tricky for Allyson; her parents raised her to believe in a world full of love and light, so she doesn’t have a great bullshit detector. She’s constantly disappointed because she trusts the wrong people. Halloween is the story of her induction into the long lineage of women who face the cruelty of the world and make it out the other side tougher and wiser. Karen wants her daughter to believe that Laurie is a monster, because Laurie was a monster to her. But once October 31st comes around, Allison learns who the real bad guys are.
First, a betrayal: Allyson’s boyfriend kisses another girl at the high school dance, then gets defensive about it. Next, a threat: A male friend offers to walk her home from the dance, then tries to kiss her even after she protests. He apologizes, but still whines that he only did it because the hot girls at the dance made him horny and he’s too drunk to know what he’s doing. Sound familiar? As if that wasn’t warning enough to teach Allyson that something is rotten in Haddonfield, that guy is soon killed by Michael. When she stumbles upon the body, Michael sees her see the corpse. The message is clear, and one that women have to learn over and over again: If you get just a little too drunk, if you wander just a little too far, if you are anything less than completely cautious at night, it can all go bad so quickly. Stay sharp.
After this, Allyson is “rescued” by Michael’s doctor—the “new Loomis”—and a cop who’s been working the case. That too ends in chaos, and Allyson is yet again left alone with no protection.
Eventually, the action culminates with a final confrontation between the three women and Michael at Laurie’s compound. The centerpiece of Laurie’s house is a basement bunker, where some revelations are made. Karen finally understands why Laurie raised her the way she did, Allyson understands why Karen hated Laurie, and they all love each other. Oh, and they’re ready to kick some ass.
While Allyson and Karen hide in the bunker, Laurie goes hunting for Michael; they tussle, and Laurie falls out the window. She’s seen lying on the ground, but when Michael looks again she’s disappeared. The moment is a recreation of a famous scene from the original, with Laurie in Michael’s place. The message: She may have become a bit monstrous herself because of Michael, but she also gained a bit of his power.
Michael finds the hidden entrance to the bunker and tries forcing it open. Beneath him, Karen tells Allyson to get back, then takes up the mantle she never wanted: a rifle. She aims it up the steps as Michael breaks through, but he won’t show his face. Karen starts to shake. “Mom! I can’t do it! I’m scared! I’m not strong enough,” she yells. At this, Michael steps into the light. Karen smiles. “Gotcha.” Bang.
The lesson: Daughters can inherit strength and power along with trauma. Michael Myers’ assumption of female fragility is his undoing.
Laurie appears out of the shadows, and the three women trap Michael in the bunker. They light the house on fire and glow like a modern-day Hecate. Woe to all men who cross them. Michael and the compound—the walls Laurie built out of her fear, pain, anger, and desperation—burn to the ground.
This movie takes place on Halloween, but I’d consider watching it on Mother’s Day.
I don’t want to push the metaphor too far and tell you that the house is “the patriarchy” or that the Strode ladies took back the night. Michael is not the personification of gendered violence; he is an indiscriminate killing machine. He was born bad. There is, as Laurie says, a boogieman, and he’s going to get you. Unless…you get your mom to help.
Everyone Allyson trusted disappointed her, betrayed her, or couldn’t save themselves, let alone save her. Except for Karen. All the dads and cops and neighbors and friends in the world couldn’t do what her mother did. The one person who could keep Allyson alive was Karen, and the one person who kept Karen alive was Laurie. That’s it. This is the thesis of Halloween: Not my daughter, you dick.
This movie takes place on Halloween, but I’d consider watching it on Mother’s Day. It’s a tribute to the many ironies of the mother-daughter relationship. Moms are so annoying! They give you all their issues; they’re often critical, smothering, guilt-tripping, and basically screw you up no matter what. But if you’ve got a good one, she won’t let anyone else mess with you at all. There are no answers when it comes to the why or the how of Michael, of evil, of pain. There’s only an answer to the question of what are we going to do about it. And that answer is: fight. And call your mom.
Elizabeth Logan has written for Reductress, McSweeney’s, and The Huffington Post. Follow her on Twitter @lizzzzzielogan.