Laurie Strode and the power of fear
Guest Blog Post by Julia Lynch
It might not be October anymore, but I don’t think there’s ever an inappropriate time to discuss Michael Myers, Laurie Strode, and friends. Yes, of course there are HALLOWEEN movies without Laurie, and even some with Laurie that we’re all pretending never even happened. But throughout the years, she’s always been a mainstay of the horror genre. Is it because of her voracity? Her bellbottoms? Her ability to rock a bad wig and make it feel real? I’d argue, that what makes Laurie so great is that she shows a humanistic (not cinematic) portrayal of fear. Basically, she’s scared of Michael Meyers, and that’s relatable.
It started at the drive in
I was watching the Joe Bob Briggs Halloween special on Shudder, and he made a great point. What makes Laurie so unusually resilient is the fact that throughout HALLOWEEN 1978 she’s frightened. She isn’t emotionally bullet proof. She doesn’t develop some superhuman sense of bravery or strength. She’s a teenaged girl facing some batshit insane and absolutely terrifying circumstances.
How would you act if a masked psychopath was stalking you around your neighbourhood? How would most people? I don’t even like it if someone walks too closely behind me on a busy street. Women are often hypervigilant of perceived violence or violent men, and Laurie’s street smarts and intelligent fear (or, “Mikey sense” which is a term I just coined and promise never to use again) is what initially alerts her to the danger she’s in and ends up keeping her alive.
Not like other final girls
We all have a lot to learn from Laurie. Because, let’s face it, we’re not all absolute beasts like Ripley (ALIEN), or fake-out psychos like SAW’s Amanda. In fact, the closest character I can think of who really nails the Laurie-ness of the final girl trope is Sidney Prescott from the SCREAM franchise—because she spends most of the movie screaming (if not literally screaming, she does cry and cower pretty often).
Of course, all of these women deliver something different, and intentionally. If they were all the same cookie-cutter kinds of heroines, horror movies would be pretty boring. But sometimes it’s nice to see yourself, as you actually are, represented in film instead of watching a character you aspire to be. Do I want to be like Ripley? Hell yes. I try to channel her at every moment of every single day. Am I like Ripley? Hell no. I would have been annihilated within the first 5 minutes of ALIEN. I would have been found by the Xenomorph weeping in a closet clutching a wire hanger. And so, probably, would you have been.
But Laurie’s fear didn’t make her stupid. Like I said earlier, it did the exact opposite. She used her fear, her intuition, in the first HALLOWEEN film to save those kids and defeat the monster. Then, in HALLOWEEN II, she does it again. Not, in my opinion, as well as the first but that’s hardly her fault.
Between 1978 and 2018—if we’re considering those two films as the only true cannon, which, for the sake of this article, let’s—Laurie grew up. Sure, she’s an alcoholic and has completely alienated her daughter, but living in abject terror for 40 years will do that to a person. And of course, because of that fear (which, really, has manifested as some pretty deep-rooted trauma, but that’s not what we’re here to discuss) she’s well equipped to save her family from Michael Meyers, and built a pretty dope arsenal along the way.
HALLOWEEN 2018 is the film in which Laurie becomes the kind of final girl we’re used to cheering for at film festivals. She became the kind of shotgun-cocking badass who shoots before she runs. The way she processes her fear has changed because her fear has changed her. This change makes sense dramatically, and although it’s been embellished and exaggerated for the big screen, in makes sense for real people, too.
I don’t think I have to say it but I will—people process things differently. Maybe there’s a Laurie Strode out there who became a child psychologist, or social worker, or cop, or artist, or security expert. Who knows. But looking at this Laurie, we get an interesting look at the kind of modern final girl who wipes the blood off her lip, cocks her gun, and dives headfirst into kicking the absolute shit out of the bad guy who’s after her… But with added layers that make her human—the estranged daughter, the alcoholism.
This is Laurie after all, and seeing her as a person who has faults and regrets, a lifetime of them, reaffirms the fact she’s like us. And because she’s able to gain power from her fear, when she comes face to face with the man who scares her most, she’s ready.
Fear can be good. And somehow, that gives me hope.
Julia Lynch is a writer from Toronto who’s been working in the ad industry for 7 years. She’s written for Grim and reviews indie horror movies for HorrorScreams VideoVault. When she was a kid, her best friend told her Chucky was real and to this day she believes that’s true. Find her on Twitter @julialynched