Actor and horror fan Cassandra Moselle makes her debut on 10YA, addressing the misogyny and troubling lack of mental health awareness in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II.
When I was little, we’d go to Blockbuster (aging myself here) and I’d always rent a horror movie. I started with the older black-and-white ones; Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein, but eventually I started watching modern horror; A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, the Chucky movies. As I grew up, I realized I was an anomaly in this and that most kids weren’t allowed to watch these sorts of things.
Horror movies just didn’t scare me. I mean, when I was little, there was 100% a boogeyman in the basement that lived between the furnace and the stairs, but he couldn’t grab you if you ran up or down the stairs fast enough. There were rules, you know. At some point, the boogeyman moved out and I stopped running up and down the basement stairs, but I can’t quite remember when that was. I think I was already a grown up at nine, so it’s plausible that’s when he moved out.
So when I saw Halloween II pop up on the 10 Years Ago blog I said this would be my first contribution. I’ve seen all the Halloween movies and I have preferences. Mainly, I don’t care for the Rob Zombie-directed ones. I didn’t like it when I watched it the first time and I definitely didn’t like it the second time.
Where do I begin? I’d sum up Halloween ll by saying it’s the horror movie people point to when they say they don’t horror movies. If this is you, contact me because I promise there’s a wide range of different types of horror movies.
Undertones of blatant misogyny ruin the movie, still. The first instance is a conversation between the coroners during the opening where one of them discusses the “hotness” of the corpse and proceeds into necrophilia. Then we have the unlikeable Dr. Samuel Loomis’ relationship with his literary agent: “If I want your opinion I’ll beat it out of you.”
This misogyny is rolled up and packaged as this gritty, dirty, real underbelly of society that creates more of a grindhouse horror feel than a slasher film. Other than to showcase gratuitous nudity, I don’t understand how the strip club or taking-the-trash-out scenes propel the story other than to add to the body count. But it does firmly entwine the gritty grindhouse feel into the movie.
Something that stood out to me more this time is the mental health of the main character. They’ve obviously been through trauma and yet their mental health isn’t addressed. There’s no mention of follow-up therapy, a consistent support group, or anything to help Laurie Strode cope. Viewers are in some ways voyeurs into Laurie’s mental deterioration. Once again starting with her nightmare, through her nightmares, her hallucinations, until finally she repeatedly stabs her brother, Michael Myers, puts on his mask and comes out where the police are waiting for her.
Are we supposed to see her deterioration as transforming into the next Michael Myers? Is this the family legacy coming to an end? Are we supposed to feel like this has brought Laurie closure? Are we supposed to suddenly forget that she just held her best friend as she died because her brother killed her and that her other best friend was killed while trying to call for help? Closure is the last thing I felt for Laurie at the end of the movie.
Because of the recent shift in addressing mental health awareness, this has impacted how I see the end of the movie. From what we know of Laurie, I don’t think she’s going to transition to a normal life after this. I think that’s what I’m supposed to feel, but if I do that I have to ignore the facts of the movie. Her healing process isn’t suddenly over because the man who terrorized her is dead. And if we’re being honest, he’s always come back from the dead, so I don’t buy that Laurie thinks that he’s well and truly gone anyway. Instead, I see someone who has once again been traumatized and nearly killed by the same man. Coupled with the fact that, this time, her healing process will include processing her two best friends were murdered.
No, I don’t believe Laurie finds her closure. I see her life as a continual series of nightmares with the people around her doing their best, but their best doesn’t include some real professional help.
The other theme that stuck out to me this time is the relationship with the characters. The movie doesn’t seem to concern itself with the people the movie is about or their relationships to each other to any meaningful extent. The interactions at best feel trite. Aside from Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis, there really isn’t much of a character arc for any of them. For me, a good horror movie shows a normal person in an extreme situation and their extraordinary actions to survive which are supported by their relationships. I didn’t see any of this. I understood that I was supposed to understand that Laurie is loved by her father and friends, but because these characters aren’t fully realized, it’s hard to sympathize with them.
Perhaps if the narrative centered around Laurie, and her now, instead of being plagued by nightmares of the past, this might have been accomplished. But that isn’t the narrative the movie focuses on.
Instead I’m left here wondering if a slasher film can be positively reviewed through a feminist lens. Before undertaking this project I’d never looked up the definition of a slasher film, but if the premise of the genre is to kill, very violently with knives, young women, I’m suddenly conflicted in a way I’ve never explored before.
Instead of falling down an existential rabbit hole that may or may not have an end, I’ll stop on the topic of story. Ultimately, it will always come down to story. What is the story? How is the story told? What are they trying to accomplish with the story? For me, rewatching Halloween II, I didn’t feel invested in the story and was disconnected by the misogynistic themes that plagued the movie. The movie wasn’t good 10 years ago and it hasn’t gotten any better.