scream kween jamie lee curtis wants you terrified
Laurie Strode and Michael Myers return for ‘Halloween’, to strike even more fear in your poor little soul.
Jamie Lee Curtis is back with a new Halloween movie, confusingly with the same title as the original, released 40 years ago. It’s billed as the direct sequel to the 1978 release, wiping the slate clean of the various half-baked follow-ups that came out in the intervening years, and we can officially confirm that it is very, very scary.
The first Halloween, a low-budget babysitter slasher flick directed by John Carpenter, was not expected to become the instant success that it did, nor to become a cult horror film still being obsessed over 40 years later. It wasn’t just a box office hit, critics were into it too. The late Roger Ebert said at the time: “Halloween is a visceral experience -- we aren't seeing the movie, we're having it happen to us. It's frightening. Maybe you don't like movies that are really scary: Then don't see this one.”
"I hope they're scared shitless. I mean the goal is simply to scare them -- the movie is called Halloween, this isn't Medea."
Jamie Lee, the star of the film, was a then unknown 19-year-old actor with no formal training, though with a Hollywood horror pedigree -- she’s the daughter of Janet Leigh, star of Hitchcock’s Psycho. When we meet her in a hotel in London to talk about her new movie, Curtis is dressed all in red -- red suit, red top, red shoes. The legendary horror film actor, children’s book writer and passionate humanitarian looks great. And she might be one of the genuinely nicest stars in Hollywood, even during a press junket. She’s a renowned hugger, and sure enough I find myself wrapped in JLC’s arms at the end of our chat. But first, we talk about what Curtis hopes the film does to audiences. “I hope they're moved, I hope they laugh a little and I hope they're scared shitless. I mean the goal is simply to scare them -- the movie is called Halloween, this isn't Medea, we're not telling great works of literature. Though I'm hoping that they will feel empathy for Laurie, that the character is a fully rounded character.”
So Laurie Strode is back, which means crazed killing machine Michael Myers, aka the boogeyman, is back, because his thing is that he just won’t die, and has a knack for escaping ultra-secure confinement. The new film, directed by David Gordon Green, is something of an ode to OG Halloween fans, who mostly hated the franchise films that came after. Right from the opening credits, with the glowing jack-o'-lantern, the film nods to the first, and gets quickly terrifying. There are some important 2018 updates, of course. For one, Michael’s murdering is ramped up. As a friend of Laurie’s granddaughter, Alison, says early in the film, Myers only killed five people. And by today’s standards, well, that’s quite pedestrian for an incarnation of evil. Another is that some of the classic slasher film tropes get flipped -- like who is actually hunting who. And, of course, Laurie is 40 years older, she’s a grandma now. She’s spent the past decades obsessed with Michael Myers, waiting for his return, knowing it’s only a matter of time. Laurie is deeply disturbed by what he did to her, but she is more than prepped for Michael’s reappearance. “Trauma has really two paths, trauma will kill you, literally kill you, and it has killed many people,” Jamie says. “That's one path. And the other is survival. In our story her survival took precedence, her survival was then her perseverating that she knew this was going to happen again. And in that perseverating over and over again she ended up losing her family and her friends and her daughter.” The film, while it’s scaring you senseless, also explores the way that trauma is passed along in a family, here through three generations of women. Three ‘Final Girls’.
Curtis became known as one of the defining ‘final girls’, a horror trope of being the virginal last girl standing, left in a confrontation with a deranged killer. Entire books have been devoted to the topic, and academics have argued over the whether Laurie Strode’s character in the first Halloween was or wasn’t a positive female depiction. What does she think about being a final girl now? “You know, I never knew the term ‘final girl ‘until six years ago. I was sent a TV show script, I was unemployed. I had done commercials for yogurt that makes you poop. I'd raised my kids, I done a couple silly movies. And a friend of mine knew a guy who was going to do a TV show called The Final Girls.” Unfortunately that show never got made. But it brought to Curtis’s attention all of the conversations that had been going on for decades about Laurie and Halloween, that she’d managed to miss. “I understand that there is, I'm guessing, a generation, who really have analysed the whole idea of the final girl, and her place within feminist structure, female iconography, all the rest of it,” she says. “And all I can tell you is John [Carpenter] set out to make an exploitation movie, he needed to ground it with a character and he chose a virginal, awkward, geeky babysitter, and he's going to collide her with a character of a human being who is pure evil, who you can't kill. And that's the movie. And yet I appreciate, understand, sympathise, empathise, sister-link with all of it, but the truth is, none of it was actively in play when we made that movie.” So that’s that.
The new Halloween is everything you want a big, campy horror to be -- outrageous, terrifying and highly entertaining. Jamie Lee Curtis is brilliant as grandma Laurie, a disturbed yet powerful matriarch protecting her family. And she is sure that you will indeed be scared as shitless as she intends you to be. “I know it succeeds because a) I've been terrified myself watching it, and b) I've seen it now fully from start to finish with about four or five full houses of people, and I mean like thousands of people, and they go crazy scared, and it absolutely works on every single level and it's exciting.”
Halloween is in cinemas 19 October.