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'It is a film about trauma': How Halloween became a horror movie for the #MeToo era

'It is a film about trauma': How Halloween became a horror movie for the #MeToo era

What happens to the characters in a horror film once the terror has ended? It’s a meta question, of course, since in one very real sense nothing happens at all. Generally, though, filmgoers leave the cinema assuming a happy ending for those who made it out alive. Now a new sequel to a classic of the genre not only disputes that idea, but offers a timely reminder surviving such an ordeal is never the end of the story.

Halloween, the 2018 sequel, takes place 40 years after Michael Myers’s infamous killing spree in John Carpenter’s 1978 original. There have been a string of sequels and remakes since, but David Gordon Green’s sharp, incisive new installment â€" with a screenplay co-written by Jeff Fradley and D anny McBride â€" has discarded them all. This time around, we’ve been saved from the revelation Michael is Laurie’s brother, thankfully.

Instead, Halloween revisits Laurie â€" played once again by Jamie Lee Curtis â€" in the present day. What we discover is she has been living under Michael’s murderous shadow ever since. Her two marriages have fallen to pieces and she lost custody of her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), who has since distanced herself and her own daughter (Andi Matichak) from her mother.

For Laurie, the only priority has been to ready herself against what she sees as Michael’s inevitable return. She has, essentially, become imprisoned in her own home, the place transformed into a fortress outfitted with every variety of weapon, hiding place and booby trap imaginable. Michael’s campaign of violence did not end on 31 October 1978, but has raged on within Laurie, as the sole survivor of his spree.

“The film was written before the #MeToo movement,” Curtis tells me. “It was written in January of 2016, and the movement really began in August 2017.” And, yet, she points out, the movie chimes perfectly with the movement’s determination to highlight the deep, lasting effects trauma has on survivors of abuse and violence.

“Women and men, all over the world, are starting to stand up and say: ‘This happened to me, but it does not have to be the definition of me.’ We made a horror movie that’s super scary but at its core is the subject of trauma. But in the world, we are having a conversation that has been silenced for a very long time.”

The history of horror has always been the history of a nation’s fears. It has offered us a map of our changing anxieties, of how they have morphed and shifted over the decades. For 2018’s Halloween to represent trauma in such a way is to acknowledge how our relationship with fear and violence has changed, and that the nature of 1978’s bogeyman doesn’t remain the same today.

‘Halloween’ â€" Trailer 2

When producer Irwin Yablans first sought out Carpenter to write and direct a horror film for his new production company, he envisioned “a picture that had the same impact as The Exorcist“. That 1973 forerunner mined growing public anxiety over occultism, spurred on by the Manson murders of 1969. Halloween, however, instead captured a national obsession with the serial killer, which reached its peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The image of Michael as an unstoppable force, to an almost supernatural degree, cuts deep into the almost self-mythologising characteristics of the serial killers of the seventies; it was a decade stalked by the likes of the Zodiac Killer and the Alphabet Killer, both of whom were never caug ht. Such serial murderers were known by the strange patterns in their behaviour, or by taunting letters they sent to the media. The serial killer was, in a way, a kind of cultural bogeyman for the period: the faceless, incomprehensible force of evil.

Even more terrifying was the concept of how close to home such evil could be. Halloween is set in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois, but it could be anywhere; the name comes from Haddonfield, New Jersey, where co-screenwriter Debra Hill grew up, while most of the street names come from Carpenter’s hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky. Michael is shown as a direct threat to suburbia â€" the apple pie and white picket fence landscapes so beloved of the nuclear American family.

Many of the most notorious, and highly publicised, serial killers of the seventies came to embody a similar threat: Ted Bundy was a clean-cut, charming man with a job in the Republican party; John Wayne Gacy would dress as a clown to perform at neighbourhood children’s parties. In fact, Michael nearly wore a clown mask, before his now-iconic look was settled on â€" a Captain Kirk mask spray-painted a bluish-white. It’s the better choice: a blank, almost featureless visage that reminds us of the unidentified killers among us.

The film may have been largely dismissed by critics at first â€" The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael said it was “stripped of everything but dumb scariness” â€" but Halloween clearly struck a chord with audiences. Des pite being shot on a miserly budget of $320,000, the film went on to make $40 million â€" equating to around $200 million today.

Yet in 2018, the serial killer no longer carries the same threat. While statistics for serial murders peaked in the 1980s, they have been in steady decline ever since. The serial killer has now become a more historicised phenomenon, the subject of an endless stream of podcasts and Netflix documentaries that eagerly pore over the details in an attempt to understand what happened or why it happened â€" neatly acknowledged in 2018’s Halloween, which features two British journalists hoping to mine information on Michael’s past for a podcast.

Michael†™s threat has been neutralised to some degree, which perhaps explains why Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake invested so much energy into trying to explain his backstory, in an attempt to better understand him. And so, the nature of Michael’s evil has also been shifted in the 2018 version; he is a danger both immediate and, in light of our changing understanding of trauma, long-lasting.

Curtis as Laurie 40 years ago (Rex Features)

In particular, 2018’s Halloween seeks to reflect how research has shown trauma can be transmitted across generations, in genetic inheritance s well as behaviour. As Curtis explains: “Trauma is the residual effect of violence. We know that. We know that through history, we’ve studied history. Because it’s generational. It gets passed on if it’s not worked out. And so this is a movie about generational trauma.” In the film, Karen finds herself unable to forgive her mother for a childhood spent in constant fear, while Allyson struggles to detach herself from the inherited stress of Laurie’s experiences.

The 2018 Halloween, in a sense, marks the ultimate evolution of the “final girl”, a trope the 1978 film established, though its legacy remains conflicted. Curtis wasn’t Carpenter’s initial choice for the role, but he was convinced after learning she was the daughter of Psycho‘s Janet Leigh â€" Curtis as Laurie, therefore, could be sold as a daughter inheriting her mother’s “scream queen” title. As it was her feature film debut, Curtis was reportedly only paid $8,000 for the part, although it launc hed her career.

However, despite Hill’s insistence Laurie was envisioned only as “a strong character who was very willful and feared nothing”, the fact it was Laurie â€" the virgin â€" who survived, has become central to a debate over whether the film contributes to a narrative in which a woman being sexually active is deemed worthy of punishment.

leftCreated with Sketch. rightCreated with Sketch. ShapeCreated with Sketch.The best film s of 2018 (so far)

1/17 The Guardians

From its slow-burning beginning, The Guardians develops into an epic melodrama. It’s a wartime story in which, for a change, the men are relegated to supporting roles. It follows in a tradition of French rural family sagas like Jean De Florette or Manon Des Sources. The landscapes and the changing seasons play as much of a part in the story as the main characters.

2/17 Dark River

Dark River offers little such consolation. It has some lyrical and delicate moments but the mood is generally overwhelmingly bleak and lugubrious. Incest and abuse don’t leave much space for any comic interludes. This is a powerful film with a grinding intensit y about it. Light relief it isn’t but Dark River still has quite an impact. Alamy

3/17 Zama

Late on in Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel’s startling, highly original new feature, Zama, a character who has just had both his arms cut off, is advised to “shove your stumps in the sand … if you don’t bleed out, you’ll survive.” It’s a grisly, darkly humorous moment in a film that continually surprises us with both its brutality and its lyricism. The Match Factory

4/17 The Breadwinner

The most dispiriting aspect of this otherwi se enrapturing Oscar-nominated animated feature is that its storyline still seems so current. The film depicts an Afghan society in which women don’t have a face. It is set during the Taliban rule, which lasted from the mid-1990s until late 2001, but this doesn’t feel like a period piece. Seventeen years after the Taliban were ousted from power in Afghanistan following the US invasion, the plight of women in the country appears hardly to have improved. GKIDS

5/17 BlacKkKlansman

Spike Lee’s work sometimes risks sensory overload. He fires off so many different ideas and storytelling styles that audiences can become bamboozled by his scattergun approach. BlacKkKlansman is one of his very best films because the digressions are as entertaining as ever but donâ €™t get in the way of the main story. AP

6/17 Early Man

Much of the pleasure in Aardman films has always lain in their gently ironic, Alan Bennett-like humour. They take very exotic characters and subject matter but then deal with them in a matter-of-fact fashion. They make a virtue out of their own relative modesty. Early Man isn’t the flashiest animated feature that you’ll see this year but it is certainly the most likeable.

7/17 Isle of Dogs

Like all of Wes Anderson’s work, Isle Of Dogs is very stylised, very offbeat and characterised by its extremely dry and often ironi c humour. This Japanese-set stop-motion fable is also gorgeous to look at â€" packed full of intricate visual detail. It deals with some weighty themes (ethnic cleansing, fascism and corruption) but does so in an idiosyncratic fashion.

8/17 Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

Writer-director Martin McDonagh has a host of award-winning plays behind him but his movies haven’t always lived up to his stage work. This one certainly does. It shares some of the dark and nihilistic humour found in McDonagh’s previous film, Seven Psychopaths.

9/17 A Quiet Place

In an era of wearisome poltergeist movies, haunted house stories and torture porn, A Quiet Place is a refreshingly pared-down and very original affair. Director John Krasinski relies on editing, sound effects and off-screen action to crank up the tension. We do see the creatures from time to time, sometimes even in extreme closeup. They are very grotesque, bigger versions of the polyp-like succubus which exploded out of John Hurt’s stomach in Alien. However, the most terrifying moments here come when the humans are waiting for them to appear, desperately hoping that they won’t. Paramount Pictures

10/17 Lady Bird

Lady Bird is one of the best American coming-of-age films since Barry Levinson’s Diner. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, it offers an utterly winning mix of humour, poignancy and sharp-eyed social observation. Gerwig approaches her subject matter with the same tenderness and affectionate irony with which the adolescent Lady Bird regards Sacramento. Gerwig also shows Lady Bird’s heroism as the young heroine strives against the odds to become the very best version of herself she can be. A24

11/17 Phantom Thread

If Phantom Thread is indeed Daniel Day-Lewis’s final film as an actor, he is going out on a wondrously bizarre note. This must be the oddest film in his career, one in which he gives a typically commanding but very idiosyncratic performance. Almost everything here is jarring â€" but generally in a very positive way.

12/17 First Reformed

It is not so long ago that Paul Schrader seemed to be giving up on cinema. The American writer-director (whose credits include Taxi Driver, American Gigolo and Affliction) had taken to making movies like the sour Hollywood satire The Canyons with Lindsay Lohan and the cartoonishly violent Dog Eat Dog, shot cheaply, aimed at a VOD audience. The former had a montage of closed-down movie theatres. In interviews, Schrader struck a gloomy note about the future of the industry. This is why First Reformed is so refreshing. This is not just Schrader’s best film in a very long while. It is also a re-affirmation of the director’s belief in the medium. Rex

13/17 The Happy Prince

Oscar Wilde goes to ruin in Rupert Everett’s debut feature as director. Everett also wrote and stars in the film, giving a grandstanding performance as the Irish writer at the end of his life, after his release from prison, where he has been doing hard labour for “gross indecency”. This is a moving and surprising biopic that squeezes out every last drop of pathos from its subject matter. BBC Films

14/17 Black Panther

Black Panther is not only one of the most entertaining recent superhero films but has an intelligence and a political dimension that such inchoate offerings as Suicide Squad and Justice League completely lacked. It is an action movie which touches on Pan-Africanism and which owes as much to Malcolm X as it does to Batman or Captain America. Marvel Studios / Disney

15/17 Sicilian Ghost Story

Sicilian Ghost Story is a genre-bending affair that combines elements of teen romance, gothic psycho-drama and political thriller. It is loosely based on a true story of a boy called Giuseppe Di Matteo whose father, an ex-member of the Sicilian Mafia, turned “grass” against his erstwhile associates. The Mafia responded by kidnapping Giuseppe and keeping him in captivity for nearly 800 days. Altitude

16/17 First Man

First Man is all about understated heroism. It’s affecting precisely because Armstron g (played with quiet intensity by Ryan Gosling) doesn’t feel the continual need to boast about his mission. The film is a tearjerker but a very subtle one. AP

17/17 Dogman

Dogman is one of the best Italian films of recent times, a modern day neo realist fable that bears comparison with the great work of Fellini, Rossellini, De Sica et al. Its main character, the dog groomer Marcello (Marcello Fonte), is a wonderful creation: loveable, vulnerable, seedy and comic all at the same time. Curzon Artificial Eye

1/17 The Guardians

From i ts slow-burning beginning, The Guardians develops into an epic melodrama. It’s a wartime story in which, for a change, the men are relegated to supporting roles. It follows in a tradition of French rural family sagas like Jean De Florette or Manon Des Sources. The landscapes and the changing seasons play as much of a part in the story as the main characters.

2/17 Dark River

Dark River offers little such consolation. It has some lyrical and delicate moments but the mood is generally overwhelmingly bleak and lugubrious. Incest and abuse don’t leave much space for any comic interludes. This is a powerful film with a grinding intensity about it. Light relief it isn’t but Dark River still has quite an impact. Alamy

3/17 Zama

Late on in Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel’s startling, highly original new feature, Zama, a character who has just had both his arms cut off, is advised to “shove your stumps in the sand … if you don’t bleed out, you’ll survive.” It’s a grisly, darkly humorous moment in a film that continually surprises us with both its brutality and its lyricism. The Match Factory

4/17 The Breadwinner

The most dispiriting aspect of this otherwise enrapturing Oscar-nominated animated feature is that its storyline still seems so current. The film depicts an Afghan society in which women don’t have a face. It is set during the Taliban rule, which lasted from the mid-1990s until late 2001, but this doesn’t feel like a period piece. Seventeen years after the Taliban were ousted from power in Afghanistan following the US invasion, the plight of women in the country appears hardly to have improved. GKIDS

5/17 BlacKkKlansman

Spike Lee’s work sometimes risks sensory overload. He fires off so many different ideas and storytelling styles that audiences can become bamboozled by his scattergun approach. BlacKkKlansman is one of his very best films because the digressions are as entertaining as ever but don’t get in the way of the main story. AP

6/17 Early Man

Much of the pleasure in Aardman films has always lain in their gently ironic, Alan Bennett-like humour. They take very exotic characters and subject matter but then deal with them in a matter-of-fact fashion. They make a virtue out of their own relative modesty. Early Man isn’t the flashiest animated feature that you’ll see this year but it is certainly the most likeable.

7/17 Isle of Dogs

Like all of Wes Anderson’s work, Isle Of Dogs is very stylised, very offbeat and characterised by its extremely dry and often ironic humour. This Japanese-set stop-motion fable is also gorgeous to look at â€" packed full of intricate visual detail. It deals with some weig hty themes (ethnic cleansing, fascism and corruption) but does so in an idiosyncratic fashion.

8/17 Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

Writer-director Martin McDonagh has a host of award-winning plays behind him but his movies haven’t always lived up to his stage work. This one certainly does. It shares some of the dark and nihilistic humour found in McDonagh’s previous film, Seven Psychopaths.

9/17 A Quiet Place

In an era of wearisome poltergeist movies, haunted house stories and torture porn, A Quiet Place is a refreshingly pared-down and very original affair. Director John Krasinski relies on ed iting, sound effects and off-screen action to crank up the tension. We do see the creatures from time to time, sometimes even in extreme closeup. They are very grotesque, bigger versions of the polyp-like succubus which exploded out of John Hurt’s stomach in Alien. However, the most terrifying moments here come when the humans are waiting for them to appear, desperately hoping that they won’t. Paramount Pictures

10/17 Lady Bird

Lady Bird is one of the best American coming-of-age films since Barry Levinson’s Diner. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, it offers an utterly winning mix of humour, poignancy and sharp-eyed social observation. Gerwig approaches her subject matter with the same tenderness and affectionate irony with which the adolescent La dy Bird regards Sacramento. Gerwig also shows Lady Bird’s heroism as the young heroine strives against the odds to become the very best version of herself she can be. A24

11/17 Phantom Thread

If Phantom Thread is indeed Daniel Day-Lewis’s final film as an actor, he is going out on a wondrously bizarre note. This must be the oddest film in his career, one in which he gives a typically commanding but very idiosyncratic performance. Almost everything here is jarring â€" but generally in a very positive way.

12/17 First Reformed

It is not so long ago that Paul Schrader s eemed to be giving up on cinema. The American writer-director (whose credits include Taxi Driver, American Gigolo and Affliction) had taken to making movies like the sour Hollywood satire The Canyons with Lindsay Lohan and the cartoonishly violent Dog Eat Dog, shot cheaply, aimed at a VOD audience. The former had a montage of closed-down movie theatres. In interviews, Schrader struck a gloomy note about the future of the industry. This is why First Reformed is so refreshing. This is not just Schrader’s best film in a very long while. It is also a re-affirmation of the director’s belief in the medium. Rex

13/17 The Happy Prince

Oscar Wilde goes to ruin in Rupert Everett’s debut feature as director. Everett also wrote and stars in the film, giving a gra ndstanding performance as the Irish writer at the end of his life, after his release from prison, where he has been doing hard labour for “gross indecency”. This is a moving and surprising biopic that squeezes out every last drop of pathos from its subject matter. BBC Films

14/17 Black Panther

Black Panther is not only one of the most entertaining recent superhero films but has an intelligence and a political dimension that such inchoate offerings as Suicide Squad and Justice League completely lacked. It is an action movie which touches on Pan-Africanism and which owes as much to Malcolm X as it does to Batman or Captain America. Marvel Studios / Disney

15/17 Sicilian Ghost Story

Sicilian Ghost Story is a genre-bending affair that combines elements of teen romance, gothic psycho-drama and political thriller. It is loosely based on a true story of a boy called Giuseppe Di Matteo whose father, an ex-member of the Sicilian Mafia, turned “grass” against his erstwhile associates. The Mafia responded by kidnapping Giuseppe and keeping him in captivity for nearly 800 days. Altitude

16/17 First Man

First Man is all about understated heroism. It’s affecting precisely because Armstrong (played with quiet intensity by Ryan Gosling) doesn’t feel the continual need to boast about his mission. The film is a tearjerker but a very subtle one. AP

17/17 Dogman

Dogman is one of the best Italian films of recent times, a modern day neo realist fable that bears comparison with the great work of Fellini, Rossellini, De Sica et al. Its main character, the dog groomer Marcello (Marcello Fonte), is a wonderful creation: loveable, vulnerable, seedy and comic all at the same time. Curzon Artificial Eye

However you may feel about the “final girl”, 2018’s Halloween not only deconstructs the idea, but questions the very validity of the term, when there’s little finality to be found for Laurie. Trau ma does not allow for that kind of victory. And that is a terror we must recognise.

For Curtis, her return to Laurie has finally allowed an important question to be asked: “What happens to these people the next day?” In her eyes, Laurie went back to school on 1 November 1978, the day after Michael’s rampage, “with a bandage on her arm”, but as a different person. The Laurie that was popular, who did well in school, who had a crush on a boy, and had her whole life ahead of her, was now the Laurie people pointed at and whispered about in the hallways.

“That’s what trauma does,” Curtis says. “It takes away your innocence, your life force, and it leaves you with a stain, and a badge, and a mark of trauma. And you have to hav e help. And we know that. And this is a movie about a woman who didn’t get that kind of help.”

Halloween is on release in UK cinemas

Source: Google News Movie

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