Halloween: Jamie Lee Curtis smashes US box office in female revenge fantasy for the #MeToo era
Andi Matichak, Jamie Lee Curtis and Judy Greer play three generations of the Strode family in Halloween. (Supplied: Universal Pictures)
Whether you’re a horror junkie and fan of the original, or just an innocent bystander, you’ve got to be fascinated that the latest film in the Halloween franchise has set the box office alight this week, raking in $US75 million in its first weekend (the most for any film in that franchise).
Jamie Lee Curtis at the Australian premiere of Halloween, in Sydney. (Supplied: Universal Pictures)
Why should you care? Because this makes Halloween (2018) the biggest horror movie opening of all time with a female lead (Jamie Lee Curtis, reprising the role of Laurie Strode) — and the biggest opening ever of a movie with a female lead over 55.
And this for a film that is essentially a female revenge fantasy, about three generations of women who band together and go into bloody battle — in which the lead wears librarian specs and sensible shoes.
Curtis, in Australia this week for the premiere of Halloween, said that although she had ruled out playing Laurie again, she decided to take the role just 10 pages into reading the script (written by director David Gordon Green with comic actor Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley).
“What I liked is that it was telling the truth about trauma,” says Curtis.
Forty years after Michael Myers terrorised her town, survivor Laurie Strode has developed an arsenal in case he returns. (Supplied: Universal Pictures)
The new Halloween is set 40 years after Mike Myers slashed his way into the small Midwestern town of Haddonfield.
In the intervening decades, survivor Laurie Strode has never forgotten, and never forgiven. Even though Myers is ostensibly locked safely away, she has transformed her house into a fortress, stuffed it full of booby traps and assembled an arsenal of weapons — for the day she knows will come: his return.
When Halloween opens, Laurie and her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) are estranged – but they ultimately join forces to fight Myers. (Supplied: Universal Pictures)
“The truth of the matter is, you know, we make horror movies where all this stuff happens — and we never ask: What happened to those people?”
Curtis says she thought the “grim reality” with which the script depicted the effects on Laurie — including several failed marriages, the alienation from her daughter Karen (played by Judy Greer) and the town generally — was important.
“She lost her child, she lost her friends and family, she was living in isolation.
“And that is what happens to people [affected by trauma] who are untreated by mental health services, psychiatry, good drugs, loving and supportive families.”
Playing a survivor in the wake of #MeToo
Curtis was 18 years old when she made her film debut in the original Halloween.
“I was a young actor with very little experience, and here was a movie where she [the character Laurie Strode] was in the whole movie; she was an intelligent, interesting, repressed young woman, and then she had this horrific experience happen to her — it was a great part, if you will.”
Returning to the role, in the wake of #MeToo, was “physically, emotionally and mentally tough”, she told ABC, “because of the trauma”.
“All these brave, brave women had come forward with their stories of being aggressed by the time we shot the movie.”
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“I felt this tremendous responsibility to tell this story with integrity and with honesty. In order to do that, I had to revisit and live with trauma for a couple of months. It was hard.
“This movie took me a couple of months to get over — more than any other movie I’ve made.”
‘Gender is not the issue for me’
As a franchise, Halloween has been written and directed overwhelmingly by men (just one woman has a screenplay credit across the eleven films: Debra Hill, for the first and second films, which she also produced).
The latest film is written and directed by men.
Asked whether she thinks gender affects what ends up being on screen, Curtis is circumspect.
“I would be hard-pressed to say that the gender of a person determines their creative voice. I think that would limit the possibility of creativity.
“I think creativity lives in the individual mind of a person.
“Gender is not the issue for me.”
Citing a passage from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, she says she’s far more invested in the fight between individual creativity and expression and the individual, institutional, political or ideological forces attempting to subdue it.
“That individual creative mind … is the most valuable thing in human existence.
“And anybody who tries to quiet that — be it the Saudi Arabian prince, or any of the other political oppressions that have occurred … we have to, as a community, protect it [from them].”