Women in Horror Month (WiHM) is an international, grassroots initiative, which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre. Psycho Drive-in is joining in by sharing articles – some classic, some new – celebrating the greatest women in the genre!
[Editor’s Note: A version of this article was originally published on October 7, 2016]
Jamie Lee Curtis, the Scream Queen of horror, got one of her big breaks in 1978 when she landed the role of Laurie Strode in the original Halloween. As Laurie, the sister of the deranged killer, Michael Myers, Jamie Lee Curtis kicked ass in the heyday of feminist slashers. That same year, badass Final Girl, Jennifer (Camille Keaton) got hideous revenge on her attackers in I Spit on Your Grave (1978). I Spit on Your Grave was so brutal I decided to review the watered-down, still brutal 2010 remake. Laurie Strode’s character bends depending on the version of Halloween you’re watching. But I always like to think of Halloween: H20 as the final Halloween.
Jamie Lee’s acting, whether she’s playing the good girl or hacking killers to death with an ax, is always on point. It’s no surprise that Jamie Lee’s so talented since she is the daughter of two Hollywood stars, Tony Curtis (Some Like it Hot) and Janet Leigh (Psycho). From Prom Night (1980) to Halloween: H20 Twenty Years Later (1998), Jamie Lee has always been an amazing part of the horror genre. Currently, Jamie Lee is known for her role as a slutty, pot-smoking college dean in the show, Scream Queens. While Scream Queens isn’t my favorite, Jamie Lee’s character is a personal hero of mine.
While Scream Queens is a Pretty Little Liars knockoff and not exactly horror, Jamie Lee’s already established herself as the Scream Queen of retro horror. In the original Halloween, Jamie’s character Laurie must fight to stay alive while her friends get brutally murdered. The film takes place on Halloween, 15 years after serial killer, Michael Myers, stabbed his sister to death.
In Halloween (1978), Laurie assumes the role of Final Girl (the chick who survives to kill the killer), and we realize that Michael Myers is her brother. In the original film, Michael escapes a mental hospital and returns to Haddonfield, Illinois to kill his sister, Laurie. Instead of heeding the warning of the town cops and Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), Laurie’s friends have wild sex, drink, and get hacked to death.
Laurie remains virginal, chaste, and intelligent. There are many deaths in the Halloween films, but I watched Laurie survive all the way to Halloween H20 (1998), where she also played a college dean. That was one of her greatest roles. H20 has an amazing scene where Michael and Laurie, brother and sister, face off in a touching moment. Michael reaches his hand out for help, and Laurie smiles as she decapitates her own brother.
My all-time favorite nod to Jamie Lee comes from horror-geek Randy (Jamie Kennedy) from the original Scream(Wes Craven, 1996). After giving a high-school party an impassioned speech on the rules of horror movie survival, Randy is abandoned by everyone. Randy is left drunk and alone in his house, the sole watcher of the movie Halloween (1978). We see Randy’s near death unfold before us, as he breaks the rules by drinking and being separated from the group. Scream shows Jamie Lee Curtis onscreen, being stalked by her killer brother, Michael. The juxtaposition of the two Jamies, scared slasher fan, Randy, and the fictional Laurie Strode is brilliant.
Randy (Jamie Kennedy), a self-proclaimed virgin, has an obvious crush on Jamie Lee Curtis, saying of her, “Jamie Lee was always the virgin in horror movies. She never showed her tits, until she went legit… That’s how she always outsmarted the killer.” We watch as Ghostface the killer nears Randy, who pleads, “Jamie, behind you. Jamie, turn around.” Here we get brilliant double dramatic irony. Randy can’t save Laurie anymore than we can save Randy. Luckily, Final Girl, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is on the scene. Sidney helps Randy stay alive (until Scream 2 (1997) when he gets stabbed to death after calling the killer’s son a “homo-repressed mama’s boy”).
In the end, Jamie Lee Curtis will always be Laurie Strode to me. She’s the fearless, feminist killer that faces the killer head on, instead of running from her fears. I grew up knowing her as Laurie Strode, and then Randy’s big crush in high school. And now, as an adult, I know Jamie Lee as a weed-smoking, libertine dean, who fucks her students. And knowing that Jamie Lee is the Scream Queen, makes her role in Scream Queens even funnier. I’m not a huge fan of the Scream Queens (I know, I know, but there’s just not enough carnage for me). But as vapid as the show is, Jamie Lee Curtis is such a badass, high AF, college dean, it’s worth the watch.