by Arturo Sanchez
In 1978, the world was introduced to Laurie Strode in John Carpenter‘s classic horror film “Halloween,” and since then, her greatness has made her into one of horror’s most influential and beloved characters. A role that not only turned Jamie Lee Curtis into a scream queen, but also into a full-blown star. The character continues to be a full force 42 years later as the “Halloween” series is in its midst of its revival.
Strode is the young babysitter with a heart of gold that ultimately turns survivor, as she fights off a masked-serial killer that brutally murders her friends on Halloween night. As she is terrorized in the darkness by the pale-face of evil, the audience consequently sees her journey transform herself into the “final girl.”
For context of how important her character helped shape the “final girl” trope, one must understand what it is. The “final girl,” which was originally coined by author Clara Clover in “Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film” (1992) is for the most part, the young heroine who makes it till the end of a horror film for a final confrontation with the villain, who’s picked off all her friends one by one. The final girl has subtly evolved over the years with standout examples like Nancy Thompson in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and Sidney Prescott in “Scream,” but Laurie Strode still remains the blueprint. This is not only due to her character, but the empathy and devotion that Curtis brings into developing the strong performance throughout the series.
It’s no question the reason why she is loved by many, including myself, and that’s attributed to her journey from quintessential teenager to survivor and heroine in such a short span of time. The character appears in five of the films in the Michael Myers saga, but the most important evolution is from the first film in 1978 to the recent “Halloween” (2018) directed by David Gordon Green, which retconned the entire series and acted as a direct sequel to the original film.
Growing up seeing the original “Halloween” multiple times, I always felt the terror Laurie Strode felt and the frightfulness of the unknown. John Carpenter created a film with an atmosphere and made us wonder about those who loom in the shadows and bushes. And that’s what it felt as you watched Strode’s journey. The audience watches her interact with her friends, babysit, and ultimately fight for her life. She is also resourceful and studious, while her friends are thinking about sexual activity that causes their demise in the long run. The characterization of the “final girl” is also fulfilled as the smart, curious 17 year-old filled with innocence is ruined when she not only finds her friends’ dead bodies in the film’s climax, but must also come face-to-face with the monster behind it all. And yes although in the final moments of the film she is saved by Dr. Loomis played by Donald Pleasence, Myers’ psychiatrist, by shooting him off a balcony, the damage is done. Strode’s mental well-being is tarnished as the monster escapes in the night and poor Laurie screams in the darkness.
The reason we root for the final girl is that after the pain and suffering they’ve gone through, after all the death and destruction, we want to see them win. We want to see them defeat the bad guy. Jamie Lee Curtis does this in all the series films usually fighting Myers head on, but “Halloween” (2018) is where Laurie Strode shines in a completely new way. This final girl is ready, yet affected by the generational trauma through the years.
We see Laurie Strode completely affected by the monstrous Halloween night that changed her life in those 40 years that have passed. She is waiting for Michael Myers to escape after his capture. With her house booby trapped, waiting for his return, she simply does not live a normal life. Her relationship with her daughter and granddaughter is barren, due to this generational trauma of not being able to let go. This final girl is ready, prepared, but ultimately scarred with a wound that will never heal. Laurie Strode, who ultimately has to fight Micheal yet again to defend her family has done a 180.
2018’s Laurie Strode builds upon the same girl that we see at the end of Halloween 1978. She outlived the villain once, but that only affected her in the long run. She’s alone, she’s still scared, but she’s grown worried about the world. She no longer feels safe in her hometown of Haddonfield after that night. This film shows Laurie Strode as a light of protection for her own family that dissociates her. It also displays that although 40 years have passed, the strong character is still well written in her elder age. Laurie Strode may be broken on the inside, but she is not weak or frail. This is completely Jamie Lee Curtis understanding how the traumatic event affected Strode in the time that’s passed.
When it comes to final girls, Laurie Strode is what one should think of. She is strong, but damaged. She is reserved, but transformative. Most final girls don’t get happy ever after, but they get to live when everyone dies (and that’s a reward in its own right). This character is beloved because Jamie Lee Curtis has put her dedication and heart into the series all these years. Laurie Strode has lived in our hearts since the moment we saw her stab Michael Myers in the eye with a clothing hanger, and will continue to live on as we see her character in 2020’s sequel to “Halloween” (2018), “Halloween Kills.”