Sermon: Love & Death

I first met my wife in an online Pagan discussion forum during the autumn of 2008. It was only about a year later that we met in person, fell in love, and decided to spend the rest of our lives together. We lived as an unmarried couple for three years, and then we got married on November 2, 2012. We chose this date specifically because it is the third day of Samhain (or All Souls’ Day, if you’re Roman Catholic), and we figured this might increase our deceased grandparents’ chances of attending the ceremony and reception. Since the wedding, we have accumulated plenty more happy Samhain memories for our little family as well. But one of the most monumental things to have happened was the passing of my mother-in-law, who joined the ancestors just before Halloween 2015.

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CNN: Trump’s Potential Rules Won’t Erase LGBTQ Americans

OK—if you didn’t think the Trump Administration was evil already, they’re making it much harder for you to deny it now. There is absolutely no reason for what Trump is doing here, aside from just hating transgender people and wanting to forcibly erase them from society altogether. You know, I happen to know a few LGBTQ people who actually voted for Trump, believe it or not…and I would just like them to know that they are complicit in what’s happening here. If Trump succeeds in rolling back all the progress we made for LGBTQ rights under President Obama, he will not have accomplished such tyranny alone.

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David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018) is a Treat, Not a Trick

On Saturday evening, the Missus and I went to go see David Gordon Green’s new Halloween movie (2018). We were not disappointed in the slightest. I had much the same emotional reaction from seeing this flick that many Star Wars fans got from seeing Episode VII: The Force Awakens back in 2015. It was like seeing an old-fashioned Halloween movie again. Watching Jamie Lee Curtis beat the living shit out of Michael Myers is just about my favorite thing to see.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about the film—I’ll wait a few months before I give this movie a proper review and really dissect it for everyone. But I did notice that a certain film critic at CNN named Brian Lowry has accused the film of being little more than your average slasher fare. He also accuses it of sabotaging its own message of female empowerment by having so many “women who wind up on the chopping block.” First, I’d like to point out that Lowry’s tone betrays his prejudice against slasher movies in general. While it is true that slasher movies of the early 1980s were particularly questionable in the ways they portrayed their female characters, this is most certainly not true of the original Halloween from 1978 (or even most of its sequels and spin-offs). We might also point out that slasher movies have generally become much more woman-friendly since the 1990s (as in Wes Craven’s Scream from 1996 and Jim Gillespie’s I Know What You Did Last Summer from 1997). So I think Mr. Lowry’s insistence on judging this new Halloween movie based on “common knowledge” of slasher films is ill advised.

But perhaps my biggest beef with Lowry here is that he doesn’t appear to have watched the same film I watched at all. He describes it as a “fairly by-the-numbers slasher movie” in which the gruesome deaths are “mostly involving [teenagers],” and then he makes a joke about not getting attached to anyone who isn’t old enough to drink legally. (In many early 1980s slasher films, the characters are usually teenagers who go to an isolated spot so they can drink, smoke, and have sex without any parental interference; as they are picked off by the killer, it often seems to film critics as though the characters are being “punished” for violating White Anglo-Saxon Protestant values.) Lowry’s comments are ironic given that most of the victims in Green’s Halloween (2018) are not teenagers, but adults. Roughly half of them are male, and the men suffer the most grueling deaths by far. (No spoilers, but it does not pay to be a cop in Haddonfield, Illinois.)

More importantly, Lowry seems to have missed the entire character arc of Laurie Strode, her daughter Karen, and her granddaughter Allyson. Again, I’m not going to discuss any spoilers, but this movie grapples with issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma, and grief. It shows us that the things that happen in these movies can have real consequences that continue to effect people for decades after they’ve already happened. It even explores the idea of a female survivor’s story not being believed, not only by men, but by other women as well. My wife put it best when we were leaving the theater: This is not just a “by-the-numbers slasher movie,” but a Halloween movie for the #MeToo era, which is very lovely thing to see.

Apart from saying that I think this is literally the best Halloween film to have been produced since 1988, I can’t recommend this movie highly enough. If you dig horror movies, do yourself a favor and go see this flick. And if you’re worried at all about this film being misogynist or anti-woman, let me put your fears to rest. If we had a daughter, my wife and I would take her to see this movie because we both think Laurie Strode is a fantastic role model for young women everywhere.

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My Dr. Loomis Costume, Samhain 2007

I don’t typically wear costumes for Halloween these days, but there was a time when I did. Below is a picture of what is probably the very last costume I ever wore. A little backstory: this was the year when Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake was released, and I was sorely pissed. And the thing that pissed me off the most was how Zombie handled the Dr. Loomis character, who was played by Donald Pleasence in the 1978 original. Loomis was played by Malcolm McDowell in the remake, and McDowell is a brilliant actor, but even Sir Lawrence Olivier would have buckled under Zombie’s inept direction. I will never, never, NEVER accept Dr. Loomis as a self-serving media whore who just wants to make money off of Michael Myers with all his lurid “true crime” books. The REAL Dr. Loomis is an elderly badass who is always the first to risk his life and his career to rescue people. Well, I was so personally offended by Rob Zombie’s version of the character that I decided to be Dr. Loomis for Halloween that year, so that the memory of Donald Pleasence could be given some proper respect.

Forget Trump—This is the REAL Donald.

(If it seems strange that I care so much about this particular issue, I’d just like to point out that if someone made a new Star Trek movie in which Captain Kirk were some kind of serial killer, we’d never hear the end of it.)

Well it turns out that in the neighborhood I was living in at the time, there was a family with a 7-year old son, whom the parents decided to dress as Michael Myers as a way of honoring the original movie. So when they took their boy ’round the neighborhood for trick-or-treating that evening, they were surprised to find none other than Dr. Loomis waiting for them at the end of the street. And instead of shooting young Michael six times point blank in the chest, I just gave him two generous handfuls of candy. Then we posed for this awesome photograph:

I just want to point out that I am SUCH a fanatic when it comes to these dang movies, I actually shaved my head for this costume. Turned out pretty good, too, even if I do say so myself!

Looking Forward to David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018)

In just two more days, a fine-looking sequel to the greatest film ever made will finally be released in theaters. I’m referring to David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018), which is a direct sequel to the 1978 original film by John Carpenter. For those who know little about the Halloween franchise, the entire series is basically like a gigantic “Choose Your Own Adventure” story, with various alternate timelines that fans can pick and choose from according to their own tastes. Let me list them out for you:

  • Timeline 1: Halloween (1978), Halloween II (1981), Halloween 4 (1988), Halloween 5 (1989), Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

  • Timeline 2: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

  • Timeline 3: Halloween (1978), Halloween II (1981), Halloween H20 (1998), Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

  • Timeline 4: Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007), Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009)

This new film will mark the beginning of a brand new timeline, one that includes only the original Halloween from 1978 and the new Halloween from 2018. Perhaps the most exciting thing about this new movie is that it will erase a problem that has haunted the series since Halloween II was first released in 1981. In that first sequel, it was established that Michael Myers and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis’ character) are actually brother and sister. This totally changed the entire dynamic between these two characters from the first film, in which they are essentially strangers that just happen to cross each other’s paths. Ever since Halloween II, the movies in this series have had Myers stalking after his own family members for reasons that would only grow more and more bizarre over time (as in The Curse of Michael Myers, where it’s revealed that Michael’s family members are intended to be “sacrifices” for a cult of weirdo mad scientists—and no, I’m not making that up). But in David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018), the events of Halloween II will have never occurred, and the entire family angle is being erased. Now Michael Myers and Laurie Strode are back to being the totally unrelated characters they were always meant to be, and Michael is back to choosing his victims completely randomly (which has always been a scarier idea for me personally).

I’m also pretty psyched that in this film, Laurie Strode will be the new Dr. Loomis. One thing that has always set the Halloween movies apart from other franchises like Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th is that they have recurring heroes as well as a recurring villain. Dr. Loomis was always my favorite character in the original series; I love how he is the Professor Van Helsing to Michael’s Dracula, always selflessly risking his life and his reputation to save the good people of Haddonfield. The series really lost something when Donald Pleasence passed away in 1995, as there hasn’t been a Halloween film with a proper “Loomis” ever since. (I’m not counting those god-awful Rob Zombie movies, because Malcolm McDowell’s version of Loomis is anything but a hero.) Anyway, Laurie Strode is just about the only other character in the entire franchise who can possibly fill Doc Loomis’ shoes, and I’m pretty damn excited to see an elderly Jamie Lee Curtis kicking ass and taking names.

(I’d also like to point out that this new Halloween has been approved and is being produced by none other than John Carpenter himself, who is also composing the soundtrack. This will be Carpenter’s first direct involvement with the series he created since 1982’s Halloween III, which is a pretty huge deal for hardcore Carpenter fans.)

Well you can all be sure that I will share my thoughts on this new film once I’ve seen it four or five times (probably in the same weekend) and had a chance to digest it. Here’s hoping it turns out to be the greatest movie since the original Halloween from 1978.

Sermon: Halloween—When the Barriers Are Down

On Halloween night, 1963, 6-year-old Michael Myers sneaks into his own house, grabs a knife, and stabs his older sister to death. Then he’s put into a minimum security mental hospital, where he’s treated by Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence). Loomis tries to help the little boy—who’s now a diagnosed catatonic—for eight years; then he spends another seven trying to put the kid in maximum security. He tells his colleagues that Michael’s the most dangerous patient he’s ever observed, but they laugh him off. “He’s just a catatonic,” they say, shaking their heads. But Loomis knows something they don’t know, something he can’t really explain. Modern psychiatry just doesn’t have the language to describe what Michael really is, and when Loomis tries, he sounds totally crackers. But he’s proven right 15 years later, when a full-grown Michael suddenly gets a hair up his ass and makes a jailbreak on Halloween Eve.

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