Tuesday, October 22, 2013

All Hallows' Eve Countdown: The Girl Who Survives

Image Source: Djano23 at deviantART via In the Mouth of Dorkness.

In Halloween II (1981), Donald Pleasence's psychiatrist character mumbles about the meaning of Hallowe'en. He says it really refers to the pagan Gaelic festival of Samhain, the start of the darker half of the year. This seasonal shift provides an elemental connection to the other world, to memory, death, and ancestors. The spiritual dimension is also an elaborate folkloric metaphor for access to the darker parts of ourselves. The screenplay combines Christian symbolism with these ideas:
Samhain, it means the loft of the dead. The end of summer. The festival of Satan. ... In order to please the gods, the druid priests held fire rituals. Prisoners of war, criminals, the insane, animals were burned alive. By observing the way they died the druids believed they could see elements of the future. 2000 years we've come no closer. Samhain is not spirits, it's not goblins, ghosts or witches. It's the unconscious mind. We're all afraid of the darkness inside ourselves.
Dr. Loomis says repeatedly that Michael Myers is not human; he is "pure evil." Michael is a violent supernatural force, an instinct to kill that never stops, which is why he can be shot repeatedly and not die. Of the first 1978 Halloween film, director John Carpenter said, "The movie's about the 'revenge of the repressed' and Jamie Lee has a connection with the killer because she's repressed too."

Horror films are morality plays. The horror stems from some transgression or violation through indulgence of the unspeakable. The story is about a collapse due to that degradation and the effort to correct the problem, to return to safety and security, to survive.

A collection of African horror stories on Wattpad offer typical examples. Swish, Swish! is a warning against laziness, vanity, selfishness, shortcuts around hard work, and hurting others to get ahead. Another, The Witch's Mist, is a grisly injunction against black magic and vampirism (here the literally cannibalistic form, not the soul-sucking variety). Cannibalism, the ultimate horror, is never far away, as the current lifestyle and tribal subculture of human-blood-drinking vampires show.
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