Posted on February 12, 2016

Short Cut: The Walking Dead and Halloween

Dawn

This Short Cut comes from a convergence of the two big horror-related happenings in my life right now: the upcoming mid-season premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead on Sunday and Horror Homeroom’s series on the Final Girl for Women in Horror Month. With that broader confluence in mind, I want to explore a particular point of connection between Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (Steve Miner, 1998) and the season 3 episode of The Walking Dead, “Prey.”

In H20, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has been hiding from her murderous brother, Michael Myers, for twenty years, but on October 31, 1998, he finally finds her. In the frame below, she looks at him, in a moment of recognition and horror, through the window in a door.

1. Halloween H20 Michael and Laurie look at each2 1 04 44

This moment is echoed, I argue, in the season 3 episode, “Prey,” of The Walking Dead.

2. TWD 3, Prey, Andrea

At this point in the narrative arc of the series, Andrea (Laurie Holden) has (finally!) come to realize the full extent of the Governor’s (David Morrissey) evil and, specifically, his intent to kill all of her friends. She flees Woodbury, heading to the prison to warn Rick and the others, but the Governor pursues her into an abandoned factory full of walkers.

As the Governor relentlessly pursues Andrea, he takes on mechanical, unstoppable qualities that evoke none other than the iconic Michael Myers.

3. TWD, 3, Prey, Governor

Indeed, several shots of him seem designed to highlight the parallel: his face is imbued with an unusual pallor and he is shot from a distance and buried within the frame, just like Laurie’s early sightings of Michael in Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978).

4. Laurie sees Michael2

Like Laurie in both Halloween and H20, Andrea becomes positioned in “Prey” as a Final Girl figure, struggling to survive the assaults of an inhuman monster bent on destroying her. And she seems to have succeeded. She manages to trap the Governor in a room filled with walkers—and that’s when she looks out at him through the window in the moment that most clearly evokes Laurie’s look at Michael through the window in H20.

Andrea does not ultimately survive, however. At the end of “Prey,” when she is just about to reach the prison, the Governor comes back from apparent death and captures her, subsequently trapping her in a room where she succumbs to the same fate she intended for him—death by walker bite. Andrea, it seems, can’t overcome her connection to the “monster,” can’t overcome the ties of her romantic and sexual relationship with him, her seduction by him.

Far from rendering Andrea different from Laurie, though, Andrea’s death only cements their connection. Laurie survives H20 and, like Andrea, thinks she’s killed the monster. But she hasn’t—and he comes back to kill her in Halloween: Resurrection (Rick Rosenthal, 2002), just as the Governor comes back to kill Andrea. Laurie can’t survive her relationship with her brother—not least the fleeting moment of sympathy she seems to have for him as she reaches for his hand before killing him (she thinks) at the end of H20.

What this comparison suggests, then, is not only the way in which The Walking Dead astutely borrows from slasher conventions, positioning Andrea fleetingly as a possible Final Girl to the Governor-as-monster, but also that horror conventions don’t allow characters to survive connections with monsters. Sooner or later that connection dooms you, no matter how much you try to end it, to move beyond it.

Both Laurie and Andrea are framed by windows in the key shots I’m discussing here, frames that seem to separate and protect them from their respective monsters. But these frames in fact mark only their entrapment. Both Laurie and Andrea looked into the eyes of the monster for too long: their deaths are inevitable.

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