Film & Television · Health

Laurie Strode’s Revenge — The New #MeToo Version of ‘Halloween’

Last week, Dr. Cecilia Ford wrote about “the fun side of fear.” Summarizing why horror films are so popular, she asserted, “We like these movies precisely because we want to enter a world in which our fears are activated and a sense of danger is vividly and effectively created.”

Not me.

As a teenager, I loved going to the movies (as I still do). Romance, comedy, action/adventure, period costume dramas . . . pretty much anything except horror. I declined to see The Exorcist (1973); refused to go to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974); stayed far away from The Omen and Carrie (1976). And you couldn’t pay me enough to see Halloween (1978).

Fast-forward a few years to the summer after my sophomore year at college. I had a fabulous on-campus job, managing the various conferences that used our facilities in June, July, and August. We ran the dorms as hotels, catered receptions, planned Boston-area field trips, booked music for the college’s pub, and planned a movie night each week. That year, we decided to have a costume party and show the aforementioned movie Halloween. (Suffice it to say that I was outnumbered on that decision.)

As per usual, our staff took the projector and the reels (this was before everything was digital) and had a private showing prior to the scheduled one. One of my job perks was free housing; I had a “coop apartment” in one of the dorms all to myself. It was my turn to host the preview showing, so I bought wine and beer and popcorn, and set up the projector in my living room, using a plain white wall as a screen.

My colleagues insisted on turning off all the lights, and for the next 90 minutes I was thoroughly terrified. The first Halloween (there have been many since) builds the suspense for almost an hour before the murders begin in earnest. There’s remarkably little blood, but the image of Michael Myers in his coveralls and weathered Captain Kirk mask — waiting in the dark, hiding in a closet, reflected in a window — combined with director/screenwriter John Carpenter’s infamous tinkling (and tingling) score stayed with me after the lights came back up and my coworkers left. My apartment had three bedrooms, each with two closets, as well as two bathrooms. I quickly looked behind every door (11 if my math is right), then shut them and decided it would be safer to sleep in the living room.

I was settling down on the couch when I heard something at the window. I thought I was imagining things; my suite was on the third floor. Then I heard it again. Pulling back the blinds, I was face-to-face with a bloody knife. Before I had a chance to scream, I noticed the very obvious string from which the would-be murder weapon was dangling, as well as barely suppressed peals of laughter. Two of my colleagues had rigged it from the apartment above mine. I eventually forgave them.

For the next few years, I successfully avoided Michael Myers. Then I visited family in New York and stayed at my brother’s studio apartment on Riverside Drive. He was either working overnight or staying with a girlfriend. The point is . . . I was alone.

But not quite.

My brother, a photographer and videographer, who attended NYU Film, is as enamored of horror movies as I am repelled by them. He’s an accomplished makeup artist and collects costumes and props. Long story short, the bed I was supposed to be sleeping in faced a credenza with a collector’s edition of Michael Myers’s mask proudly displayed on it. With the lights off, I could see its distinctive shape. With them on, I could make out his compassionless features.

I didn’t get much sleep.

So, as you can imagine, decades later, seeing the new Halloween wasn’t high on my list. Until that same brother started sending me articles and video interviews focusing on star Jamie Lee Curtis and how the Halloween story has been updated and given a decidedly feminist twist.

The 1978 film marked Curtis’s first role. Though not a fan of the genre herself, she is quick to say that she owes every other success to Halloween. As Laurie Strode, she bravely fights Myers and ends up the only surviving member of her group of teen friends. “Was that the boogeyman?” she asks the psychiatrist who shoots him. His answer? “As a matter of fact, it was.”

Having watched the monster terrorize the innocent teen years ago, I felt almost a responsibility to see her turn the tables on him. But before heading to the cineplex, I needed to revisit the original film. I’m older; I’m wiser. I’m watching it on a TV. Surely it wouldn’t affect me the same way.

Surely, it did.

Start the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.