Home means a lot of things to a lot of different people. It can be comfort, family, or nostalgia. But for Laurie Strode in the new Halloween, home is something else entirely, something closer to Hell than anything else. Home is where the spectre of the original night he came home continues to live. Home is Haddonfield, Illinois, the infamous stomping grounds of Michael Myers.
David Gordon Green’s 2018 Halloween is naturally indebted to Carpenter’s original from forty years ago, serving as the closest thing to a direct sequel since Halloween II, picking and choosing what to keep and what to ditch in terms of canon and continuity. But the one thing around which the film revolves isn’t Michael, but Laurie. This is her story, just as Haddonfield is her home, and the journey through her past traumas is where the film is at its strongest.
Two journalists are working on a piece about the “Babysitter Murders” committed by Michael. This takes them to the sanatorium where Michael is being kept. But a journey into Haddonfield’s past is meaningless without an attempt to reach out to the woman who survived an encounter with Michael. But Laurie is a long way from home, and a long way from the person that she was back in 1978. She’s spent decades of her life planning for Michael to come back, driven by some combination of trauma and obsession, desperate to end him herself. After Michael escapes the bus taking him to a maximum security prison, he does the one thing he knows to do: he comes home. Laurie says that she prayed for it every night, so that she could kill him.
The direction and visual style of Gordon Green’s Halloween works on multiple levels in terms of the way that it relates to the 1978 original film. On one level, it allows the new film to pay homage to where it came from; some of the shots and music cues play as knowing nods to other films in the franchise, to the looming spectre of Michael appearing in a similar way here and in Carpenter’s film, to the use of the Season of the Witch pumpkin masks as Halloween costumes. But it operates in a deeper way than just to give knowing nods and winks to long-time fans of the series. Through a series of call-backs and reprises, this Halloween manages to show us how much has changed in four decades, and just how much has stayed the same.
In the 1978 Halloween, Michael stands, silent and imposing, outside of a high school, glimpsed by Laurie as she sits at her desk. In the 2018 film, it is Laurie who keeps a haunted vigil, noticed by her granddaughter, a student at the same school at Laurie attended forty years earlier. Family runs through the core of the new Halloween, it is something that Laurie sacrificed, or was forced to give up, in response to the events of the 1978 Halloween. There’s also a role-reversal of the final moments of the original film that plays out towards the climax of the new one; violence and trauma become cyclical through the visual language of the film, one that is acutely aware of its past, and the way that impacts the potential for any kind of future.
Although the final conflict of the 2018 Halloween doesn’t take place at Haddonfield, the weight and trauma of that place follows both Laurie and Michael to their fateful showdown. Many characters in the new Halloween comment on the ways in which Laurie and Michael might symbiotically be keeping each other alive, how the nature of predator and prey means that one needs the other in a twisted way. But this film isn’t a tale of mutually assured destruction, of sinning teens brought low by a vengeful monster. It’s the story of Laurie Strode; of who she became and how she got to be living in a self-styled fortress in the forest. Michael is a monster in the eyes of everyone, but this is most clear when he’s being looked at by Michael; the repercussions of his rampage cost her everything. In Halloween, the legacy of the final girl isn’t as simple as just surviving; it’s needing to live with everything that’s happened, with knowing that The Boogeyman knows who you are, and might be hiding around the corner to finish what he started. The weight of trauma anchors Laurie to her past, and throughout Halloween she dances a familiar dance with Michael, one informed by their past together, and everything she’s done to try and break free of it.