“The Big 4-0” somewhere along the line, earned unfortunate historical connotations, splashed across every birthday item from gag gifts to greeting cards. Luckily, such antiquated ideology made its way out with the watusi, but traces of these outdated beliefs still remain. How deliciously ironic that one of the benchmark films for the “ladies-in-peril” genre, commemorates it’s 40th with one kick-ass cinematic celebration of female empowerment that would make any Spice Girl proud. The much-anticipated, brand spanking new Halloween sequel, which opens this weekend, revisits some familiar elements in a framework that’s surprisingly relevant from a current standpoint.
Let’s just say that when someone rises up after that iconic launch out of a second floor window, this time it ain’t the guy in the mask.
In her 2018 introductory scene, Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode cautions a doubting young man that he should believe in “the boogeyman.” And she should know. After spending a good chunk of her 1978 Halloween fighting off a faceless predator, she’s been readying herself for retribution since….. well, since Jimmy Carter was in the White House. Rather appropriately, the country now finds itself abuzz forty years later with the possibility of self-reliance for women, and Laurie could be the poster child for that. After erecting a compound that MacGyver couldn’t escape, she spends most of her time trying to convince her daughter and other skeptics of the legitimacy of her concerns. Her granddaughter on the other hand, appears to be more of a chip off Grandma’s block, displaying a balance of empathy and independence. (Her gender bending costume choice for the Halloween dance says it all.) Decidedly, the scantily clad shrieking babysitters are fewer and further between in Haddonfield this Halloween. And although many elements that made the slasher film a classic in 1978 are still present in 2018, they stand in a very different context. Which takes us back to that boogeyman everyone’s been talking about……
Laurie’s boogeyman is Michael Myers, a creepy guy in a generically faceless mask who just won’t quit. His continual resurrections after every weapon attack imaginable seem like an inhuman personification of her inescapable terror. But isn’t that really true for all of us? Our deepest fears and anxieties are rooted in the ambiguous and unknown…..whatever is lurking behind the closet door, waiting to jump out when we feel the most vulnerable or alone. I suppose there’s a reason why Gwen Stefani sings “I’m just a girl….they won’t let me drive late at night.” Michael Myers, Jason, and Freddie Krueger sure don’t help matters at all. Couple that with the victim who is met with doubt and accusations of paranoia, and then wonder why some remain voiceless, yet live each day afraid of what’s behind that dark closet door. If the Strode women indicate a trend towards empowerment, then perhaps less will let fear take their voice away, and more will say “me too.”
Yes, John Carpenter’s 1978 classic has gotten quite the onscreen birthday bash this year. Audiences get to vicariously experience Jamie Lee Curtis conquering their darkest fears, with the bang of a bright orange exclamation point. When the familiar glowing jack o’lantern flashes in syncopation to that familiar frenetic score, we won’t be covering our eyes. We’ll be eagerly thinking “let’s go!”