I owe Erin a big ol’ candy bucket full of apologies. From once forgetting to mention what movie was the topic of her Halloween Horrors entry, to even misspelling her name….. I dropped the ball and kicked that damn thing halfway down the block. I do apologize yet again. To Erin, not the ball.
Erin writes for her site, The Backseat Driver Reviews, as well as That’s Not Current. For her Halloween Horrors debut, she chose the Kevin Smith directed “Halloween” segment from the 2016 anthology, Holidays.
Make It Hollow: The Feminism of Halloween (Hollow Ian) in Holidays
By Erin Miskell
*** Warning: the following article contains spoilers to the 2016 film Holidays. ***
You have to hand it to Kevin Smith: of everyone in the 2016 horror anthology series Holidays, he’s the one that went for the straight-up rape-revenge story. It’s got the usual hallmarks of a Smith film: disinterested teens, a male villain we can’t stand, and a fair level of snarky (if not clunky) dialogue. However, that’s only if you’re looking at the surface. Much like Tusk – another love-it-or-hate-it Smith film – it’s got more than meets the eye in terms of social indictment. It’s a study in what can go wrong when a misogynist pushes women a little too far.
While over-the-top, Smith certainly takes the chance to give us a villain that we can’t help but hate, and that hatred is firmly rooted in how he treats women. Ian (Harley Morenstein) looks pretty douchey when we first see him: phone nearly glued to his ear, braided pig tails, a comb stuck in his hair, and a shirt that advertises him as “Pussy Haver.” It’s when we listen to Ian that it becomes apparent how slimy he is: over the phone, he’s luring a girl out to California to work for his web cam business, promising her a free plane ticket, lodging and financial independence. Part of this sales pitch involves his rationale to calm the any of the unseen girl’s misgivings: “You already do the same shit for your boyfriends. Now, you can get paid while you do it. Large. Last week, one of the girls made eight grand.” It’s nothing but positives and no big deal; by his logic, it’s something the girl is already doing on her own, so it’s normal.
However, his attitude changes once he gets home and addresses his three young employees as “skank,” “slut” and “whore.” It doesn’t matter that one of the girls was called a whore during her latest camming session – what matters to him is the constant stream of revenue. He’s a confirmed pimp at this point, and he sinks even lower by feeding his charges with bargain-bin candy, explaining to them, “Hershey’s, is what my grandmother used to say, is for ladies…. Discount stuff is for whores.” We’ve suddenly gone from the camming-is-normal-behavior to marking the girls that participate in that activity as socially worthless and not even meriting a decent diet. To top it all off, he selects Serena (Olivia Rousch) as his physical entertainment for the evening. It’s pretty apparent between the menacing stance, shouting and word choice that he’s going to violate this girl.
So when Holly (Harley Quinn Smith) knocks him out, we’re relieved, in part because we’re acutely aware that Ian’s punishment is going to be swift, brutal and, most importantly, creative. Smith doesn’t disappoint: Ian is locked in a camming room with a car battery-powered vibrator superglued into his butt. Ian’s expecting some sort of visual humiliation from the girls, who are texting him from outside of the locked room. He’s left with one of two choices: fashion a vagina with a butcher knife, or have the vibrator cranked up to the highest setting. He offers to pay them, but it’s of no use because the girls want to make a point: they’re no longer dominated by him. Ian eventually acquiesces to their demands – thereby earning the nickname of the segment, “Hollow Ian” – after which the highest setting is used and he dies off-screen.
Stepping back, it appears that the revenge taken reads out of a dad’s manual, but in reality, it’s in the spirit of taking back Halloween in the modern age. I know quite a few fathers that would love to emasculate the man that used their daughter as a sexual play thing; find me one guy that wouldn’t want to punish a guy like Ian. However, the real power in this comes from the women themselves. The group is willing to accept their treatment so long as they get the night off to celebrate Halloween; it’s when they’re degraded continually that Holly jumps up and declares, “You made a big mistake. Want to know why? You put three women in a room together. Do you know what three women in a room together used to be called? A coven. Witches. And the power of witches is always strongest in threes.” Individually, it’s easier to tear each of them down because they’re in a vulnerable position; once they combine their efforts, they’re able to stage a full-on coup. It’s doesn’t strike me as accidental that this happens on Halloween, a holiday that has quickly become synonymous with costumes best described as “sexy” and often veering into criticism of being “slutty.” After all, it’s not enough to be a nurse, teacher or witch – female costumes have to be of the sexy variety, complete with low-cut tops and thigh-high slits. To paraphrase a line from Clerks 2, these ladies are taking the holiday back. It’s not a day where they’re going to be shamed and abused; it’s now a day that marks their liberation with a ghoulish flare. And that’s downright clever, as it combines Halloween tropes with a splash of Smith-style feminism.
Is the “Halloween” segment going to single-handedly stop slut-shaming and predatory behavior? Nope. It does, however, give one pause in terms of its central themes. Be kind, be respectful, and above all else, don’t doubt what a group of women can accomplish when they put their heads together.