Trick or Samha-End?

Despite your current thoughts or personal beliefs, there is no shortage of reasons to celebrate each day. 

No,  this isn’t some article aiming to encourage you to get out there and live your life before it’s over.  Learned a long time ago to leave the dead to bury themselves.  And not let them ruin a day.  

Because despite what anyone may say there’s a party going on right here.  Well, okay not right here, but somewhere, someone has a reason to celebrate today.  All over the world people are waking up a year older; hopefully wiser. 

If celebrating just any individual isn’t enough reason to rile you up, think about all the famous folks who were born today.  

Still not enough, well today has some historical significance too.  The same day-at-a-glance calendar that will give a list of notable birthdays also has a list of holidays; some centered on a specific country while others are global.          

Even the deceased get their due once a year.  Actually there are a couple of different celebrations; some based on the observer’s culture or religion.

The most famous worldwide festival of the departed is Halloween.  Also known as All Saint’s Eve, Allhalloween or All Hallow’s Eve this celebration and remembrance of the dead occurs every year on October 31st.  While countries and cultures observe this holiday differently there are some constants.  The lighting of a candle, whether inside a church or inside a pumpkin, is one.  Donning a simple mask or a costume, from silly to sexy, for tricks and/or treats is another.  

And depending on your country, and choice in films, there may be another consistency that comes to mind when discussing Halloween; fear from horror movies.  More specifically, a movie, a franchise that began over 40 years ago.  A tradition whose creation was not cultural; it was John Carpenter.  And Michael Myers. 

The audience of the AMC Empire Theater in Kansas City, MO were the first to witness The Shape back on October 25, 1978.  Save for a few exceptions, most films in this franchise would see their release coinciding with the season of the witch –  and whatever else goes bump in the night.  Since that day there have been an additional 11 entries; keeping audiences awaiting the series, and The Shape’s return to the screen.  If nothing else the first film establishes that Michael, and therefore the terror of Halloween night, never dies; it never ends. 

Until Now?

On October 14th, 2022, a film is set to premiere which makes a major claim.  See, this Friday audiences will get to experience Halloween Ends in theaters and the Peacock streaming service. While the title may seem to reference that this is the final film of the recent Halloween trilogy, there is the sense this is also a statement of finality.

No More Before Christmas

Rarely is the ending of something celebrated.  Usually that type of send off is reserved for something that is deemed cancerous in nature – so Michael and Halloween would qualify.     

Still there is something about the statement Halloween Ends which creates a bit of dissonance; a disruption in what we have come to know and expect.  While this concept typically doesn’t come to mind when discussing horror films, the franchise Halloween is anything but typical.  Because Halloween has become more than just a a seasonal festival it’s a sack of psychological tricks and treats.

It is easy to overlook, but psychology is a key component of horror films. The very purpose of the genre is to create effects in the audience similar to those which occur in the brain during fight-or-flight situations.  And how is this done, by putting the characters in the movie into fight-or-flight situations.  

How does this pertain to Halloween specifically?  Let’s take a time dance into this horror show. 

The legend of Halloween begins in the Myers house on October 31, 1963.  Six year old Michael Myers is arrested for stabbing his sister Judith with a kitchen knife.  For the next fifteen years, Michael would be observed and studied at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium by Dr. Samuel Loomis, played by actor Donald Pleasance.  During a routine court visit,  Michael escapes custody.  His actions on that day, beginning with seemingly stalking Laurie Strode, actress Jamie Lee Curtis – who plays the role in the recent trilogy as well, would culminate in a Halloween night the citizens of Haddonfield, Illinois would never forget.  Halloween Kills (2021) shows that most of them use the day to remember those Michael killed, while Laurie awaits the return of the “monster”. 

Laurie would get her worry, but it varies depending on how, who or when you ask.

Though the survivors celebrating at Mick’s Bar in Halloween Kills recall the events of the original, this is only partially accurate.  Unfortunately first and foremost Halloween is a movie and a franchise – with several directors taking a stab at it. 

The events depicted in the 11 films aren’t a single story, or from a single universe. One timeline would have Michael follow Laurie to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital after his initial attack. The Shape would go on to kill several others, including Laurie, with no ending in sight. The Rob Zombie Halloween (2007) was a separate timeline saw more time spent on Michael’s mental state and his attempted rehabilitation while under the observation of Dr. Loomis, played by Michael McDowell.

However, as the recent trilogy highlights Laurie has been living with the specter of The Shape since 1978. While Michael got the offer, if not the benefits, of mental health counseling, Laurie did not. For 40 years since the original she has awaited Michael’s return.

Rorschach test or real world, what shape do you think Laurie sees?

Time to Put the BoogeyMan to Bed

For the casual moviegoers and those who are not fans of horror films, Michael Myers and Halloween may seem like just another scary movie. Because you’ve only thought of Michael as one of a bunch of Hollywood horror icons. The killer always comes back, no matter what, and the plots are weak, the film is full of scenes that are suggestively exploitative and unnecessarily excessive.

But, whether you view other horror franchisees as colleagues or competition, the conversation about Michael isn’t a simple apple to pumpkin comparison. Michael is something significantly different; only the carnage is the same.

Even with a mask that is a bit of an homeage, it’s worth stating several people committed murder disguised as Ghost Face  – combinig to make people Scream in Woodsboro.  However, with the exception of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Michael is the one creating terror. 

Michael lacks the finances and maybe even justification of Jigsaw from the Saw franchise.  Rob Zombie’s Loomis was no closer to figuring out why Michael killed his sister in the 70s than audiences are today. 

Both the Leprechaun and Hellraiser, even Canndman only come around once tempted; through thievery and slips of the tongue.  This makes their terror easily avoidable – or your fault. 

Chucky has spirit jumped a few times with each leap offering a new ‘Good Guy’ doll body free from damage.  Plus some of his kills were with the assistance of Tiffany.  

Meanwhile, if both DC and Marvel can have their trinity, then horror movies can as well. Based on sheer recognition and reputation this would make Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees the two candidates most fitting to join Michael. But even these two don’t compare to what Michael Myers and Halloween have accomplished.

For starters, Michael wins the kill count competition.  They all have at least one retcon so it’s best to just keep the total from all their films.  Besides, while Michael is absent in Halloween III, Freddy and Jason each allow an ‘imposter’ to act on their behalf. 

Freddy shares Michael’s “objective” obsession – with a specific target and others being collateral damage – with Jason killing without any compulsion.  Still at least Voorhees knows that silent is deadly, unlike Freddy.   But where Michael is a cut above them is in his origin.  And that he hasn’t stopped; at least not yet.   

No one has the answers to the many mysteries of Michael Myers.  Why did the iniital murder occur?  What drives Michael’s killing – is it Laurie Strode, his childhood home or Silver Shamrock?  If Frank Hawkins is right, when Michael put on the mask and looked out the window on Halloween night he saw something; something began.

Unlike Michael, both Fredddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees owe their ‘immortality’ to some supernatural assistance.  The unstoppable juggernaut Jason was revived by some form of necromancy performed by his mother, Amanda Voorhees.  Krueger gains his access to dreamland from demonic assistance, as seen in Freddy’s Dead (1991).  That flim and Jason Goes to Hell (1993) signify an initial end of these two killers.   

So is an ending to Halloween even possible because of the man behind the Shatner mask?  Unlike any of the other legends of terror, Michael’s killings, and the killer himself, have known no end.  Only hibernations.  

And that may be the major reason Halloween, the film, and Halloween, the holiday,  are almost inseparable.  Michael’s killing spree takes place for a limited time only – like the Purge.  All of Michael’s documented kills have occurred during the waning days of October to early November.  

Is it even possible to have Halloween without Michael Myers?  It could be stated  the cinematically cultural association that exists now is too strong.  Just the sight of the mask, the glowing pumpkin face or even the sound of Carpenter’s ‘Halloween Theme‘ will no doubt make you think of Halloween; cinematic and seasonal.  While romcoms have recently attempted to duplicate the phenomenon, none have achieved the same success and marketing monopoly as this franchise.

Let’s consider that Halloween is “classical” in more ways than one.  Pavlov’s original experiment centered on understanding and creating a connection between an action and a response.   This “created” reaction becomes stronger over time and with consistent association.    

Michael Myers’ behavior is similar to Pavlov’s dog; with Halloween night signaling the start of his seasonal killing spree. 

This makes the Halloween night killings in Haddonfield a mix between Groundhog Day and I.T..  Michael, unlike most horror movie killers,  offers a terrifying but at least very predictable pattern. 

If Halloween Ends synopsis is any indication, Laurie intends to finally exploit this conditioned response.  But with a babysitter murder occurring, and no connnection to Michael, will killing him end Halloween?

On October 14th, 2022, Halloween Ends will arrive on screens and to stream.  For what may be the last time, Michael Myers comes home.  

Halloween is falling early this autumn.

Happy Birthday to me.

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