Ben & Laurie 4EVER: A Dive into Halloween’s Doomed Love Affair
By Jerry Smith
When we talk about John Carpenter’s Halloween and the franchise it kicked off, it’s difficult not to bring up the iconic mask, the absolutely perfect score, or any of the many magical elements that helped make the 1978 classic a film that will forever be heralded as one of, if not the, best horror film of all time. Think pieces about what the film means, what The Shape really is, and what makes the original film so impactful are posted online and in print multiple times a year and for good reason: Carpenter’s film helped create how we see modern slasher films today…and there’s an endless treasure trove of things to latch onto.
Some might say the reach for finding such things can be a bit too much, especially in the case of this piece, and readers, I make no bones with saying that this is a small, meaningless set of thoughts and ideas that most likely live in my brain and nowhere else. But alas, now you get to read them because let me tell you, we’re about to head into weird territory. I’m going to talk about what this writer considers the biggest tragedy of the entire Halloween franchise. No, not Jamie or Laurie being killed off unceremoniously in later sequels, and no, not the ever-changing mask dilemmas. What am I talking about, you ask? I’m jumping into the doomed love affair between Laurie Strode and her star-crossed-someday-beau, the late Ben Tramer.
Time and time again, Laurie Strode has been linked to essays and articles about how the horror genre uses virginal, innocent characters as “final girl” tropes, a link that doesn’t quite hit its mark with our favorite protagonist survivor. Strode’s innocence doesn’t come from an intention to stay that way. Laurie is only the rare exception to her mischievous horny friends because, unlike Annie and Lynda, Laurie hasn’t found her voice in a way that could put herself out there on the same level as her best friends. When Annie brings up the idea of Laurie going to the upcoming dance with a boy, Strode immediately shows us that she is interested in the same things Annie and Lynda are in the form of her crush, Ben Tramer. There’s a way Laurie looks when she mentions Tramer. It’s that hopeful dreaming we find ourselves visiting often as teenagers, the possibility that this person we like would maybe like us too. The moment Laurie casually and almost accidentally lets it out that she’s interested in Ben, Annie proceeds to give Strode a good amount of elbow to the chest, so to speak. The young woman with a crush becomes somewhat of an easy punchline to her more confident outspoken friend. Laurie is the wallflower that doesn’t want to be that shy and smart student and wishes she could have her friends’ courage. In this case, innocence isn’t just from being a virgin, but it’s also born from not knowing how to say that you have valid feelings too.
Later in Halloween, Annie informs Laurie that she has reached out to Tramer and that he also wants to go to the dance with Laurie, which then sets off a hefty dose of panic that rivals the anxiety Laurie finds herself facing when The Shape arrives to forever change her entire existence. That panic, the “oh no, now it’s real,” sets in and Laurie almost begs Annie to call Tramer back and cancel. However, Annie then informs our soon-to-be survivor girl that Ben is now at a Halloween party with his buds.
This is where the tragic story of Laurie and Ben gets a bit deeper and ultimately heart-wrenching. While Annie, Lynda, Bob (and almost Laurie) are murdered by The Shape, and we as viewers are watching the horrific story play out in front of us, at the same time, not knowing what terror is unfolding, Ben is partying and on cloud nine with his buds, thinking he and his crush Laurie has something of a future with a youthful naïveté and “we can do this” mentality. While Laurie was getting slashed on the arm and falling down the stairs, trying to survive the night, Tramer was most likely drinking an ungodly amount of beer to celebrate. It was that feeling we all have felt at some point in our lives: the need to celebrate the fact that maybe just once, things will work out the way we want them to. Though we never get the opportunity to see anything of Tramer until later that night in Halloween II (1981), his excitement and deep pining returned with equal fervor from Laurie is something this writer has found himself thinking of time and time again.
When Tramer leaves the party drunk and begins walking home, most likely high on a feeling while prepping and planning for the dance with Laurie, assuming it will be one of the best nights ever, he stumbles through the sidewalks of Haddonfield. He’s drunk but elated. At that moment, a very frantic Dr. Loomis mistakes the young man for The Shape and chases the boy into the street, gun in hand. Almost immediately, Tramer is hit by a police cruiser and pinned against a van, his body set ablaze instantly. Tramer was most likely thinking of Laurie right up until his untimely and gruesome death. The hope and wide-open future for Strode to potentially be happy with the individual she had intense feelings for was now gone, all in a heartbeat, all unbeknownst to Laurie, as she headed to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital for her injuries sustained at the end of the first film.
That robbery of happiness for Laurie is part of what makes Michael Myers such a catastrophic force; his havoc not only affects those directly in his path, but it also affects people who they care about and people who care about them.
The Laurie Strode/Ben Tramer storyline was never given a full fleshing out, but there’s a lot there, something that the upcoming Halloween Ends in 2022 could very well rectify. We don’t know what happened to the Strode-Tramer relationship after the events of the first film now that Halloween II and its sequels have been wiped from the continuity of the new films, but with Officer Frank Hawkins’ referencing Laurie’s feelings for Tramer in Halloween Kills (2021), there is potential to finally bring these two characters together for something special. Whether it’s one last heartbreak for Laurie before wrapping things up or maybe an opportunity for her to save the man from The Shape, we won’t know until Halloween Ends.
The Halloween franchise gives us little, allows us to take the small nuggets and run with them, and by golly, I have spent so many years of my life doing just that. That said, the tragedy of Laurie Strode and Ben Tramer has always and will always be one of the best small nuggets that could very well be a goldmine of plot potential such as the heartbreak of losing those closest to Laurie aiding in her quest for closure. What a fantastic series. 🩸
Jerry Smith is a film journalist and composer, hailing from the Central Valley of California. For over a decade now, he has annoyed readers of many sites and magazines with an overabundance of Halloween 4 love and personal essays. Follow him on Twitter @JerryisjustOK and visit his website Rainydaysforghosts.bandcamp.com
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