Over the course of the Halloween series’ 40-year history, we have had two films that have attempted to address the events of Halloween night, 1978 as trauma. These films are interested in acknowledging the effect of the experience on Laurie Strode and in seeing how that trauma has impacted her in their respective modern days. Halloween H20 and 2018’s Halloween both take different approaches to Laurie’s fate, but with the shared desire to see how she has tried to cope with these life-changing events.
In H20, Laurie is leading a quiet life under the new name of Kerri Tate. She is the headmistress of a private boarding school in Northern California, where she lives with her seventeen-year-old son, John (Josh Hartnett). Though the events of Haddonfield happened 20 years prior, they still remain at the forefront of Laurie’s mind. She struggles daily with PTSD, nightmares and anxiety. She is on multiple prescription drugs to try to manage her stress and self-medicates further with alcohol. She has tried just about every therapy option there is, but to no avail. Her inability to move past the events of Halloween have driven a wedge between her and John. He is as much a caretaker as he is her son, and when the story opens, the audience can see the toll that her struggles have taken on their relationship.
Laurie lives in terror each Halloween that her brother Michael will find her. Although she saw Michael burn at the end of the second film, she knows in the back of her mind that he is still out there, and that one day, he will return. This year, 20 years after the initial events, he does.
In the 2018 Halloween, we see a Laurie that has handled the decades following the trauma very differently. Though absolutely scarred by her ordeal, Laurie used the time that followed to prepare. Laurie has spent her life hoping and praying that Michael would escape from Smith’s Grove so that she would have the opportunity to end what was started 40 years ago.
The result is a woman whose primary focus is being able to protect herself and her family from the inevitable. She learned about weapons, survival tactics, and defense. She turned her home into a fortress. She placed the highest priority on survival – even higher than the well-being of her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer). Though she believed she was doing the right thing in teaching Karen to take care of herself, Laurie’s obsession with protecting her family from the Boogeyman made her a less than ideal mother, and her parental rights were eventually terminated. She lost everything that she had – her daughter, two marriages and every relationship in her life – because of her obsession with Michael.
We have two Lauries, both traumatized, but one obsessed with trying to outrun Michael and one obsessed with trying to run toward him. Laurie as Keri Tate fled across the country, changed her name, and tried everything she could to erase the memory of Michael from her mind. Laurie in 2018 has stayed in Haddonfield, and while she barricades herself in her bunker-like home, she has prepared for Michael’s inevitable return. Though she fears him more than anything, the idea of finally taking him down has become all-consuming, and she has built her entire world around it.
Ultimately, the vanquishing of a monster (in H20, Laurie’s brother, and in 2018, the return of The Shape) is the act that is able to help both versions of the character address and cope with their trauma. In H20, when Laurie locks the campus gate, she turns the tables by becoming the hunter, rather that the prey. She stops running from Michael and invites him to meet her on her own turf. In the 2018 film, Laurie is able to take on the thing that she has been fearing for 40 years with the help of her daughter and granddaughter. The relationships that have been broken over her lifetime are reforged and together, three generations of Strode women fight back against Laurie’s monster.
Both of these films offer thoughtful perspectives on the path that Laurie’s life might have taken as the result of the events of the original Halloween. As these two versions of adult Laurie are forced to confront their pasts, we see the different ways in which trauma can manifest, haunt, and ultimately be defeated.