It All Happens In The Dark

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Monthly Archives: September 2014

The First Death of Laurie Strode

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Laurie Strode is the only final girl. I love Amy Steel, I love Heather Langenkamp, I love Marilyn Burns, hell, I’ve even come to love Danielle Harris. But there is no contest. It’s always Laurie. It always will be.

In Halloween: Resurrection Laurie Strode is killed by Michael Myers. Her (grumble, grumble) psychotic, serial killer brother. This never should have happened. How did we get here, so far from the clear and narrow? But it was a death mandated by actress Jamie Lee Curtis herself, after realizing that the powers that be (grumble, grumble) would not allow Michael Myers to be killed off, that the perfectly fitting ending of Halloween: H20 was just a ruse. HA! HA! The joke is on you, audience! Trick or treat!

Yet Laurie’s first death was not in Resurrection. Laurie died the moment the original ended and the 1981 sequel began. Halloween II is her wake.

Halloween II is effectively a greedy, jealous older brother (Michael Myers, natch) shoving his sister out of the spotlight. For the majority of the film Laurie is relegated to a hospital bed, drugged and weary. Maybe it’s realistic. But it’s not the same girl from three years and two hours ago. The tragedy has changed her, aged her, yes. But she’s been neutered by the writers, turned into a cipher. Her intelligence is robbed from her, and almost all the warmth and vulnerability that Jamie Lee Curtis brought to the role is sabotaged by the script. Jamie Lee gives it her best, and anyone that knows me, knows I love her almost as much as I love the character of Laurie Strode. It’s not her fault. They’ve turned Laurie into a soulless slasher film heroine. I don’t buy the situation. Laurie would never be crawling across the parking lot and wait until everyone had entered the hospital to shriek out for help. Laurie would never be flirting with the cute EMT guy and smiling when he brings her a soda, moon-eyed and dreamy, after just having discovered a house full of her dead friends. Annie is seen only briefly and Lynda doesn’t even get a mention. Forget about mourning. There’s no time for that at Haddonfield Memorial. Even a kid with a razor blade embedded in his mouth barely gets a bat of the eyes from a nurse on duty.

This is not fate.

The best scenes in Halloween II are from Michael’s point of view, roving around the dark back streets of Haddonfield. These are the bits that John Carpenter shot after viewing Rick (who also incidentally directed Halloween: Resurrection) Rosenthal’s original cut and deeming it, “About as scary as Quincy.”

I’ve read interviews and articles that stated there was tension on the set, conflicts, that Jamie Lee herself has said she wished she had more to do and wasn’t happy with the way they handled Laurie in this film. It’s easy to make excuses (but not for that wig).

I do have a soft spot for Halloween II. I do. Yet this film did as much to wreck the prestige of Carpenter’s original as Rob Zombie’s abysmal remake. I love the Halloween film series too, for all of its glaring flaws. But those other sequels are something I’ve LEARNED to love. None of them do justice to the original. None of them capture the way the original does that terrible, wonderful turning over between night and day, the chasm of the dead opening up its yawning maul, and vomiting evil into unsuspecting suburbia for one special holiday, as oblivious teenagers gossip, and watch horror movies, and make love and never realize they are seconds away from entering the fray of the dead themselves. The world depicted in Halloween doesn’t exist anymore. Even the palm trees in the background aren’t enough to break the illusion. This is small town America. These characters live and breathe. Laurie Strode deserves better.

John Carpenter has copped to writing the Halloween II screenplay with the aid of Budweiser, and for money. (“Six pack of beer a night, sitting in front of the typewriter saying, “What in the hell can I put down?” I had no idea. We’re remaking the same film, only not as good.”)

There wasn’t supposed to be a sequel. It was meant to be about that one night, about how evil is a force of nature – it enters our lives, it decimates some, it causes destruction, and it disappears as quickly as it appeared. The end. Although, whatever the reasons for the sequel, who can deny that anyone who loved the first movie didn’t want more of the night he came home?

Halloween: H20 did a lot to fix the problems. Laurie got her identity back. She became not whole, but human, a person again, nuanced, believably dealing with the wreckage and trauma of that terrible night, that in her mind has never ended. Then there’s the Dawson’s Creek bullshit. Laurie in Halloween II exists in a vacuum. She’s not only removed from the action for the majority of the movie, she’s removed from any believable sense of how someone who has gone through what she has would behave. Forget Resurrection. It was a bad dream that Laurie woke up screaming from and then, realizing she was safe in her own bed, breathed a sigh of relief and smiled, knowing it was all over, seeing no pale death’s head mask looming up out of the shadows, no longer frightened.

“If there’s any point to be made in the film, it is that you can survive the night.” – John Carpenter