Beneath Our Own Masks

With mercy and humanity absent from his vocabulary, Michael Myers is an all-out killing machine with one goal: to reconnect with his long lost sister. Set in the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois, Halloween reveals to us the mind of a psychotic serial killer moulded by a perfect combination of bad genetics, a broken family, and an unkind society.

The first half of the film, showing the young Michael, effectively builds the tensions surrounding his life growing up. His tendency to kill animals, which according to Dr. Loomis is a precursor to much horrible things, aggravated by his family’s poor and broken situation, makes us somehow understand what makes up Michael’s psychological situation that turns him to be the monster that he is. However, it is hard to understand why Michael never grew to be normal again even with attempted rehabilitation, leading us to a possible hypothesis that he is really genetically programmed to be a monster with no mercy in sight.

What strikes me the most is Michael’s very weakness: not having his self-created mask on his face. Masks, except for Halloween masks, are usually worn to hide the imperfections of the one wearing it and also to conceal the true identity of someone. For Michael, he says that wearing a mask makes it possible for him to hide his ugliness. However, I see this as something much more symbolic in a sense that we are all actually wearing our own “masks” to conform to what society represses in us, looking better and much more civilized in the process. What is behind our masks is another story, for it possibly shows how we all have our own secrets, our own “ugliness”, in which we do not want to show to others and to our society. We all have our own secrets, true, and sometimes we also have desires and thoughts that are very ugly and uncivilized, things we cannot show and therefore hide behind our masks. These make me remember that man, according to Thomas Hobbes in his book Leviathan, is innately evil and chaotic, contrary to what Aquinas claims that he is inherently good. The movie, in its show of too much blood and violence to satisfy the audience, also probably reinforces this idea especially when imagining the unrepressed man freed in society.

Towards the end, we also eventually see the hero as Michael’s sister, Laurie, who is completely opposite of what monster Michael has become. Because of her very young age, she probably did not experience the same oppression and hardships that Michael faced, adding to the fact that she was adopted by a relatively affluent family. As Carol Clover in her article says, we see Laurie as the “final girl”, the one who we identify with and root for to kill and castrate the monster from his masculinity. Because of this, the hero now becomes Laurie, a girl, instead of the conventional male figure being the “knight in shining armor”, breaking our preconceived notions especially on gender stereotypes and male supremacy in society. For the constantly criticized slasher film because of its poor quality, this is one strong redeeming point: the female salvages the community from crumbling and breaks the monster apart, becoming our unexpected hero.

Halloween is really just your typical contemporary slasher film with a killer wreaking havoc in a community. However, I liked how the movie depicts the early life of Michael, showing us where he grew up in and the relationship dynamics he went through. Nevertheless, inasmuch as we think of slasher films as purely for entertainment, it still gives us a lot of insights and truths, as seen above, that challenges our state of normality. In the end, even before judging Michael and his killer tendencies, we have to first look within ourselves and ask, “What am I hiding beneath my own mask?” Who knows, the next Michael maybe beside you.

(In fact, Michael Myers is more than just a work of fiction, he actually is very real and exists in our world. It is interesting to note about this 15 year old kid in the US who recently killed his whole family and intended to even kill more people in his church. Sounds familiar? link ->


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