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Opinion | What the ‘Halloween’ Movies Mean

I don’t only watch horror movies; this year, I have made a conscious effort to watch as many movies from the big horror franchises as I can. I started with the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series (which I loved), I moved to the “Friday the 13th” series (which is fine), and I’m currently working my way through the “Halloween” series, whose primary antagonist is Michael Myers.

The “Halloween” movies, if you’ve never seen them, are pretty straightforward. In the first, directed by John Carpenter and produced by Debra Hill, Michael Myers is introduced as a young boy who has, inexplicably, killed his older sister. Fast forward to 1978, and the adult Myers has escaped from a sanitarium to terrorize his hometown and, specifically, a group of teenagers (including a young Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode) who live in Myers’s former neighborhood. Myers kills several teens before turning his attention to Strode, stalking her and the children she’s babysitting through their home, before he’s vanquished (although not killed) by his doctor, Sam Loomis, played by the always-wonderful Donald Pleasence.

Subsequent installments take the plot in different directions, but the films that involve Myers (the third movie is unrelated to the character or his mythology) share the same basic structure. There is a young woman (or young girl), a stable family, and an idyllic suburban neighborhood of white, middle-class people. The schools are safe, the police are decent and life is good for most people.

Myers, in this world, isn’t just a killer; he is an intrusion. His very presence destabilizes the existing social order. Each of his rampages makes clear that the manicured reality of suburbia provides no actual shelter or protection from the disorder of the world at large. Myers is practically unstoppable. He tears through the police with ease. In each of the Myers films, there is, somewhere, an avatar of traditional white American masculinity, usually a sheriff or another member of law enforcement. And each time, they are impotent in the face of Myers’s rage. In the fourth installment, a posse of local men gather with guns and trucks to try to confront and stop Myers. They are torn to pieces by a force that does not acknowledge their authority as “good guys with guns.”

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