The Other Columbus: 'Halloween' in the #MeToo era

Scott Woods

A proper sequel to the 1978 horror classic “Halloween” has been released and, as horror movies go, “Halloween” (2018) shows up to work just enough so it won't get fired. The new film marks Jamie Lee Curtis' fifth appearance in the series. In it, Curtis' Laurie Strode has spent the last 40 years since escaping the murderous Michael Myers battling trauma, steeling herself against every kindness of the world and generally dealing with the PTSD that comes from fending off a serial killer. Curtis is great, but the rest of the movie is pretty stock; thus endeth my review of it as an entertainment.

Horror has presented women as strong protagonists enough times that you need two hands to count. “Aliens,”“The Silence of the Lambs,” “The Descent”and “You're Next”are standouts that also happen to be good movies. Yet any suggestion that such powerful figures represent a sea change in the representation of women in the field ignores the sheer amount of misogyny inherent in horror films. Not unlike society.

“Halloween” is made more compelling almost by accident, as all of Laurie's angles are amplified by the #MeToo movement. And once you make that connection, it's hard not to take it all the way. The #MeToo movement is in an uphill fight because sexism is rooted in American self-definition. #MeToo has a fresh avatar in the modern Laurie Strode: The movement knows its enemy, knows its enemy is unrelenting and isn't content to quiver about it anymore.

The current political era owes its existence to fear: fear of loss, of change, of powerlessness. The fact that Donald Trump is our president is an indicator of just how deeply fear has ensnared pretty much every American on all sides. In “Halloween” (take your pick), a man with fake hair harasses a woman who makes her displeasure at his advances extremely clear. “Halloween” isn't smart enough to stand as political theater on its own — even in its genre it is more “Daily Show” than CNN — but it is not much of a leap to see our struggle as a civilization in the hungering gaze of its villain set against the resolve of its heroine. In 2018, Laurie is done simply surviving. It is a powerful message to discover in the corners of a slasher film (though I can't safely recommend you watch it to receive it).

Art is struggling to keep up with the impact of the times. Things are simply breaking down too hard and too fast to capture them well. The silver lining is that if you haven't seen “Halloween”yet, you can save your money: You're living it. Happy Halloween.