Thank you, Jamie Lee Curtis.
She isn’t just my first final girl because, let’s face it, she was THE first final girl to hit a mainstream horror audience. With due kudos to final girls such as Marilyn Burns‘ Sally Hardesty in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Olivia Hussey’s Jess in Black Christmas, it was in 1978 that young starlet Jamie Lee Curtis first graced the screens as a 17-year-old babysitter who did not succumb to her attacker and continued to fight until the very end. This babysitter was named Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s masterpiece, Halloween.
“My trick-or-treating was done and I should have been going to bed but that music hit.”
It would be a long time after that before I saw Halloween but saw it I did at a very young six- years-old on one Halloween night when my Mom and Dad were watching. My trick-or-treating was done and I should have been going to bed but that music hit, and I peeked around the corner into the living room from the bottom of the stairs to see the glowing pumpkin. I got to stay and watch because my parents were pretty cool but they didn’t know that this experience would terrify my impressionable mind for many years. Michael Myers, the white-masked, knife-wielding, shape that pursued this teenage girl and her friends became an indelible presence in my life every Halloween season. Yet, I could not help but try to catch another glimpse of the movie each year after.
This strong, courageous, and very real persona of a young woman intrigued me. She was sliced open, smashed her hand through glass, stalked, and nearly strangled, but in that, I took that she was a fighter and would not back down. She would protect children like me. Laurie Strode was the female character that we all needed to be our childhood hero when danger came. Seeing Laurie, I knew that, no matter what, if Laurie was around then she would be there to protect me and any other kids in danger because that’s what Laurie did. Dr. Loomis (the late-great Donald Pleasance) knew Michael Myers and was there to hunt him, but he wasn’t there until later on to help save Laurie, and her future franchise daughter Jamie Lloyd played by Danielle Harris.
Jamie Lee Curtis was my first hero
As a boy, often friends would love the boy heroes. Give them Harrison Ford, Sam Neil, Michael Keaton, Christopher Reeve, and so on, but Jamie Lee Curtis was my first hero. It was her abilities and presence that brought Laurie to life and made her the icon that she has become today. Whatever movie it may have been, to my young mind, if Jamie Lee Curtis was in it, then she would fight the good fight to see that any dangers stayed away; Blue Steel and True Lies being two later examples that I would get to watch her in.
One Fall day in 1994, I decided to get brave as my Grandparents were babysitting me and I knew in our VHS cabinet, there lied Halloween II, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. I was ten years old now and if there was more to this story than I ever knew, I had to see it. Braving my trauma, I asked my grandparents if they could watch it with me and they did – a full out marathon. Instantly, I was captivated by Halloween II (to the extent it would become my favorite in the series) and there was Laurie, fighting for her life in a hospital where all others fell victim to Michael Myers. Despite being sedated, this girl still had enough wits to never stop running and keep on fighting no matter what. Imagine how devastated I was to learn that Laurie “died” come Halloween 4. I knew enough in my head that Jamie Lee Curtis had become a Hollywood A-lister and that is likely why she wasn’t in the later ones. I could go on about my childhood love of Danielle Harris (huge crush – she was near my age!), let’s keep the focus on Laurie and get moving onto 1998.
There was something about Laurie, and Jamie Lee Curtis has touched upon this in several interviews and audio commentary, where she has a weapon, uses it, then quickly dispenses of it. While it’s head-shaking at its finest, it is also true to who Laurie was. She was not a violent person and Michael Myers’ knife reflected death and destruction. The coat hanger was a necessity. The gun Dr. Loomis gives her was a weapon that she used only last minute was desperation. Laurie was a victim who used what was available to her but did not relish in it. That was Laurie then and her courageous disposition would strengthen once she came back to us.
In late January 1998, I was totally Scream-obsessed and by then embraced my fear of Michael Myers and horror movies and turned it into a growing love of the genre. Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy Thompson from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series would become another prominent figure in my mind as a strong woman, a fighter, and continuing my love of female characters (along with Laura Dern’s Ellie in Jurassic Park, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in Aliens, Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor in Terminator and Michelle Pheiffer’s Catwoman – well Catwoman in general remains my ultimate superhero/villain – in Batman Returns) who inspired me to appreciate that girls and women were not victims and could fight, and be just as strong as any male counterpart. Not every pre-teen guy would root for the female characters first in movies and television because how they could possible relate to Sylvester Stallone or Bruce Willis? Well they did – especially in the horror genre! Inside a magazine, I read: Halloween 7 – The Return of Laurie Strode. WHAT!!!??? I immediately told my Mom (the original family horror fan) and couldn’t believe it. Laurie was in the witness protection program. Laurie moved away from Illinois. Laurie was ALIVE…and she was coming back to face Michael Myers 20 years later. It was as if my childhood hero returned and now, she was coming back to face the monster that haunted my dreams for so many years. Didn’t matter what age I was, the showdown was happening.
Laurie Strode was all of us — she meant business
In August 1998, I got to go with my parents to the theatre to see Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. I was not disappointed. Jamie Lee Curtis portrayed her best Laurie to date, realizing her struggles, her weaknesses, but stepping up when the time was right. Laurie’s message was clear: don’t run from what you fear, challenge and embrace it. In the moment, spoiler alert, where she sends off her son and his girlfriend then locks herself in the school grounds to face off with Michael Myers, axe in hand, well that was the ultimate moment for me. Laurie was all of us in that moment and she meant business. Michael was no longer one to fear. I was scared for Laurie because she may get killed, for real this time, but she wasn’t going to die easily. Laurie had come full circle, and realized that to face her fear, she had to play by his rules and use his weapons to level the playing field. That final swing of the axe satisfied me to the point where I let out a deep exhale of relief that this monster was destroyed and Laurie saved the day. Jamie Lee Curtis saved the day!
Halloween: Resurrection brought Laurie back again, and by that time, I was more than aware of the behind-the-scenes agreements and Jamie Lee Curtis’s commitment to seeing Laurie through to the end. That summer of 2002 at the theatre during opening weekend, I still remember my friend Bill whispering beside me to Laurie on the screen “Don’t do it, just kill him” as she questioned his identity while hanging over the roof of the mental institution. Laurie kisses her brother goodbye after he jammed a knife in her back and let herself fall to the grounds below. It was a poetic and tragic final send-off for our beloved Laurie Strode.
In 2012 at Horrorhound Weekend, Jamie Lee Curtis didn’t say “No” to the idea of returning for a Halloween 9 given the right circumstances. October 19th, 2018 – Laurie Strode, our hero, our final girl, returns and Jamie Lee Curtis is once again the icon that we know and love. While it is a direct continuation of the 1978 original (erasing the mythology of the series), it gives a clean slate and allows Laurie to become an even stronger, idealistic, vision of a woman who was traumatized 40 years ago and says figuratively, but certainly appropriately in this day of age, “TIME’S UP!”
Everyone has embraced the Halloween franchise differently, even Halloweenmovies.com recently did a trend #MyFirstTimeWithMichaelMyers asking fans to recount their memories. We have to realize, and many horror fans do, that their first time with Michael is equally met with our first time with Laurie. The yin to his yang. You cannot have Michael Myers – as proven by the sequels (which I still love too by the way) – without Laurie Strode. Therefore, as we get this ultimate Halloween film, the one to bring forth this 40 year confrontation to the highest degree, let us all appreciate what Laurie Strode represents not just to girls, but to boys too, and that she is the hero we can look up to. For that, I say: Thank you Jamie Lee Curtis.