The School Bus Massacre – Sacrifice and ‘Othering’
A group of children go from door to door trick ‘r treating but also collect jack-o’-lanterns. Alpha-girl Macy (Britt McKillip) tells the other kids of the ‘school bus massacre’. Thirty years prior, a school bus was carrying children with disabilities, who had been rejected by their parents for being “different, troubled, disturbed.” The bus driver had been paid by the parents to get rid of the children. He drove to a rock quarry. As the driver checks the children are all secured to the bus by chains, a child gets into the driver’s seat and drives into the quarry killing all the children on the bus. Eliminating those who don’t fit is a way to deal with ‘anomalies’ – what goes against the order of a society – as Mary Douglas explained in relation to the killing of twins at birth in some West African tribes for being unnatural and therefore a social anomaly (Douglas 1966: 40).
The murder of the children, however, is (in Douglas’ terms) pollution and, especially in this case, something morally wrong has happened. It thus requires a ritual to cleanse the act. The children perform the ritual by bringing the lanterns to “pay respects to the dead.” However, Macy leads the pack down by the river with a lift leaving behind Rhonda (Samm Todd), of whom the other children made fun for being different. The children play a cruel prank against Rhonda pretending they are being attacked and killed. The dead souls of the school bus massacre reject the lantern ritual and kill the children. The only survivor is Rhonda, the ‘other’, the one who is strange and different, just like the children on the bus. She is also the one knowledgeable about the history of Halloween, human sacrifices included. (I told you: you don’t mess with tradition!)
The significance of tradition and sacrifice is also evident in the episode of Mr Kreeg (Brian Cox). Mr Kreeg, the driver of the school bus hates Halloween, after all it brings back bad memories. He scares children away. For this affront, he is attacked by Sam (Quinn Lord), a monster with a pumpkin head, who appears to embody the ‘spirit’ of Halloween. The two engage in a ferocious struggle and Kreeg tries to kill Sam with a shotgun. During the fight, Sam stabs Kreeg with a pumpkin lollypop, made sharp for having been broken off. The sharp lollypop gets stuck in a piece of chocolate. Sam eats the chocolate and leaves. He has got his ritual sacrifice, in the form of the chocolate, and tradition is therefore respected.
The Rite of Passage
Three sisters are getting dressed up for a party. They youngest, Laurie (Anna Paquin), dresses up as Red Riding Hood. Her sisters tease her about being “a virgin at 22”. She wants her “first time to be special”, at which the sisters cringe. The sisters separate and Laurie is left alone to walk across the woods, just like Red Riding Hood. She is followed by the ‘wolf’, a man in a black cape, who earlier had killed a woman with his vampire fangs. ‘Faithful’ to Van Gennep’s (1960) schema of rite of passage, the ritual involves the separation of the initiand, Laurie, from the community, her sisters, which is followed by the transition stage with Laurie walking alone in the woods and confronting the ‘wolf-vampire’. It concludes with the reintegration stage with Laurie no longer a ‘virgin’, but a fully developed vampire, who kills the wolf with fake fangs. Vampire Laurie joins her sisters in the ritual communion meal, as Victor Turner might call it, devouring hapless men who were hoping for another kind of ritual.