I have long been fascinated with the idea of what happens after a slasher movie ends. Not all slasher movies, of course. With some of them, I like to sit quietly and wonder what decisions in my life have led me to suffer through what I have just seen.
But the good ones leave me wondering what comes next. What comes after the horror?
Very few films seem to deal with this. Sure, there are sequels, but those don’t necessarily show the aftermath of the horror. In some cases (like 1981’s Halloween 2), they pick up exactly where the first movie left off. But the killer is still on the loose. Lori is in the hospital, but she has no time to process what has just happened to her, as she is currently in the process of trying to survive once again.
In a lot of other cases, we don’t see the characters from the first film at all. Our killer is off to terrorize another group of diverse, sexy co-eds. We’re never told what happened to the survivors of the previous film, likely because we’re not tuning into a sequel to see those characters. We’re there to see the killer.
In others (Friday the 13th Part II, Nightmare on Elm Street 4), we see our survivors from the previous film, only to watch them die this time around. Sadly, even a Final Girl can’t survive forever.
And finally, in others (Nightmare on Elm Street 5), we see the survivor, but it doesn’t look like anything has changed. The horror of the previous film seems to have been forgotten. “All of my friends were killed. Whatever. I totally got a boyfriend out of it.”
I find myself thinking about horror movies in real-life terms. If the events of this movie actually happened, what would the repercussions be? Would the dead be so easily forgotten? Or would their loss – as well as the terror they had to endure – leave a lasting scar?
I’m a firm believer it would be the latter.
Of all the slashers I have watched, I haven’t seen a series that captures this quite as well as Rob Zombie’s Halloween. I know they are not widely loved (personally, I liked them pretty well, but I can’t say that I love them. I find them interesting. More than anything, they just make me feel kind of dirty), but Zombie certainly tackles the psychological ramifications of surviving a slasher film in Halloween II better than any film I’ve ever seen.
When we first meet Laurie Strode in Halloween, she seems to be a normal high school girl. By the time the movie has ended, one of her best friends is dead (Laurie came across her dead body in the Myers house), and another was attacked and sliced up.
Both of their boyfriends were killed.
Laurie’s parents were murdered.
The end of the movie finds Laurie trying to escape from the Myers house as Michael is relentlessly pursuing her and stabbing at her.
That ends with Laurie sitting on Michael’s chest and shooting him – point blank – in the head.
Personally, I have never shot a human being in the head at point-blank range, but I imagine it’s not all sunshine and roses (Maniac tells me that it’s particularly gruesome, and I tend to trust Savini most of the time). And none of the other stuff Laurie endured that night sounds like a whole lot of fun, either.
Halloween II picks up a year later. Gone is the happy-go-lucky Laurie Strode from the previous film. She is an emotional wreck, trying to deal with these past events through therapy, drinking and pill-popping. Needless to say, it’s not working. She has pushed away everyone who cares about her.
About halfway through the movie, she finds out that she is Michael Myers’ sister. Already in an emotional state, this pushes her further to the edge of her sanity. By the time the movie ends with Laurie in a mental institution, we’re not the least bit surprised.
Seeing it all written out over a couple paragraphs, the journey from “normal girl” to “psych ward” seems pretty sudden. But, when watching these films, I don’t know where else it could’ve ended.
We see a little bit of this in the original Halloween series as well, but not quite as extreme, and not quite as brutal. Laurie survives the two initial attacks, and we don’t see her again until H20 (20 years after those events). We’re not sure the exact path she took, but she has changed her name (to Keri Tate), moved to California, and is the dean of a private school. She has not told anyone about who she was or where she came from. Even 20 years later, she is still haunted by the events, to the point where she thinks she sees Michael stalking her on a regular basis. (Then again, she’s dating Theo Tonin, so we can’t expect her to be very well-adjusted.)
After surviving yet another Myers attack in that film (and chopping off the head of an innocent paramedic), we find Laurie in a mental institution at the beginning of Halloween: Resurrection (a film I hesitate to even mention, because the mere thought of acknowledging its existence makes me gag a little, Starbuck or no Starbuck).
And that is where I believe most slashers would leave the survivors. Even the strongest, most well-adjusted person would be irrevocably scarred. The deaths of those who didn’t survive would not be soon forgotten. The survivors would not recover for a long time, if ever.
I thought it would be really interesting to follow up a slasher with a drama, but that would end up being box office suicide.
It is because of this odd obsession that I came up with this series, which is really more of a thought exercise than anything. I decided to name this series “What Comes Next?”, and my first post was on Mama. I’d like to thank Horror-Writers.net for picking this series up and running it on their website. If I stay true to schedule, I’ll be releasing a new article every Wednesday.
Thanks for joining me. If you have any thoughts on these (or if you have any movies you’d like to see me cover), leave comments. I’d like for these to be conversation starters.