Trauma is not neat and pretty to deal with; it is not easily diagnosed, it does not vanish on its own, and its lingering effects can touch those around us. In the latest sequel to the long and winding Halloween series, trauma plays an important role in the narrative arc of famed final girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). You might remember her from the original 1978 John Carpenter film, which saw her screaming, running, discovering her friends brutally murdered, then fending off a serial killer to protect the kids she was babysitting.
The 2018 sequel picks up several decades later, and while it largely conforms to the retro thrills of the "serial killer on the loose" subgenre, it makes something interesting out of Laurie's earlier experience. In this film, trauma and survivor's guilt are not swept under the rug, as often happens in sequels. Instead, Laurie's experience shapes her behavior and her relationship with both her loved ones and the wider world.
Horror movies have lightly toyed with a character's trauma for dramatic effect before. In Neil Marshall's The Descent, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) tries to cope with the loss of her family in an accident by reuniting with friends and taking a girl's trip. Things go terribly wrong on the group's cave-diving adventure, and the memory of her daughter as well as her survivor's guilt haunt her as she fights off cannibalistic monsters. Wes Craven's Scream features Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) struggling to cope with her mother's murder. When a similar killer starts attacking her classmates, it brings her worst fears back to her doorstep.
But in this present-day Halloween, directed by David Gordon Green, trauma is no mere plot device; it's the film's explicit subject. Laurie has become a virtual hermit, closing herself off from a world that saw her more like a freak show than a survivor. She's quick to shut out journalists looking to make a sensational story out of her experience. In this timeline, which skips all of the other sequels, Laurie arms herself in case serial killer Michael Myers returns. She teaches her daughter how to survive, how to shoot, and when to seek shelter in the family panic room. She's trying to inoculate her daughter from fully inheriting her trauma, as when young women are taught to walk to their cars with their keys between their fingers. This Halloween sets out to explore the emotional cost of seeing a monster in every shadow.