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Halloween at 40: Laurie Strode Superstar

Halloween turns 40 on October 27th. While we’re currently in the middle of a Michael Myers revival thanks to the success of the recent David Gordon Green revamp, it’s important to look back. When you start of a young writer covering various fictions, this is one of the horror movies that professors and editors make you study first. Hell, I can recall the same handful of horror movies that keep getting brought up for analysis. Dracula, Frankenstein, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween and possibly Aliens. Aliens always depends on whether or not the mentor leans hard on Sci-Fi/horror.

But, what’s the point? Did indie movies that relied on POV opening sequences really change the game that much? Don’t even get me started on the Final Girl mythos. We’ve had decades of people trying to turn Laurie Strode into a feminist icon. Meanwhile, most conveniently ignore that Loomis is the one to save her twice by shooting Michael Myers at a key sequence.

John Carpenter entered the peak of his directing abilities with the successful launch of this film. Honestly, it’s not that Dark Star or Assault on Precinct 13 were movies that couldn’t have broken into the mainstream. However, they weren’t perfect blends of style and ability. What Halloween set off for Carpenter was his directing brand. Key-driven soundtracks that illustrate haunting tales of stark figures that move against conventional authority. Plus, he kept Donald Pleasance working in some of his best roles.

Laurie Strode shouldn’t be a horror star/survivor. Notice that I didn’t say Jamie Lee Curtis. While Pleasance is the added British acting authority and Carpenter is the master of the two-split shot…Curtis is Laurie Strode. If we’re going by proper casting, then it seems as though P.J. Soles should have been the film’s key figure. Linda might have been loose, but Soles was still the bigger name having just co-starred in Carrie.

But, this was the new push of having the good girl be the star and morally redeem the actions on-screen. Producer Debra Hill played a key role in developing the then-titled Babysitter Murders into what we see today. That female touch removed the trappings of what you would see in an AIP or New World production. There was no nudity to titillate, it happened because the girls wanted some action. The ladies weren’t mindless party goers, they kept things intimate or spent Halloween working.

If anything, some could turn around and say this was an early indicator of the Conservative Wave that was creeping into American film. The age of the Blockbuster just blew up the summer before Halloween was released. Studios pushed for far more mainstream appeal, while the arthouse directors of old were flopping with dis-interesting melodrama after melodrama. Maybe it was time to give America what it wanted. Young hot kids dying and the good kids using authority figures to punish the evil doers.

Laurie Strode in that case becomes the face of every goody-goody and Teacher’s Pet. It’s not that she’s a bad person, but she’s an accessory to justice. The 2018 version tries to show how survivor’s guilt triggers PTSD over the incident. But, everyone has moved on. Strode’s kids don’t really care, the authorities have bigger fish to fry and even Michael Myers seems to have forgotten about Laurie. So, what does that mean?

Halloween and its 2018th revamp are ultimately a testament to an incidental character’s desire to be the center of attention. Teenage Laurie can’t get a boyfriend, she babysits the worst kids and she remains unable to stand up for herself. Yeah, she stabs Myers in the eye with a coat hanger. But, that doesn’t do anything but serves as this weird visual touchstone for female empowerment roughly 5 years after Roe V. Wade was passed.

More than anything, this makes me love Halloween more. If we take Halloween I, II and 2018 as testaments to Laurie Strode’s inability to cope with her inconsequentiality to the macroverse, then it becomes a work of art. Laurie Strode as the ego-driven monster that can’t help but be upstaged by everyone in her life says a stunning amount about the fragile egos of youth. 40 years later, that same stalled development has Laurie turned into an alcoholic that forces herself onto her granddaughter’s similar achievements.

It’s no mistake that Judy Greer’s Karen is shown having married a man much older than her. After all, if your parents is too busy obsessing over their youthful glory days, then they never get to grow up. Karen needed a father figure, while Laurie needed another teenage chum to bring back Linda and Annie for a sense of normalcy.

Next time: We’ll be discussing the History of Twilight as the teen-lit vampire saga turns 10!

Halloween would go on to have 11 sequels, 4 time resets and only 3 strong entries.


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