By Ariel Messman-Rucker
You couldn’t exist in the ’80s without knowing her name–Jamie Lee Curtis. She took over movie theaters in 1978 with John Carpenter’s classic boogeyman tale Halloween and spent the next few years staring in a slew of memorable slasher flicks. The last girl in nearly every movie she stared in, Curtis embodies the ’80s Scream Queen and made a distinct contribution to the genre.
Born a horror movie legacy, Curtis is the daughter of Janet Leigh (Day 6) who was made famous by her role in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Though Curtis is obviously not the first Scream Queen, she resurrected the title and gave it a tougher edge. No longer the helpless, screaming beauty who has to be rescued by a man (think Fay Wray in King Kong), Curtis played strong female protagonists who kicked ass and survived to tell the tale.
In her break out role as Laurie Strode in Halloween, Curtis used her intellect and strength to survive Michael Meyer’s reign of terror. Yes, she ran and hid every chance she got, but when she had to she fought back using anything she could get her hands on – knives, knitting needles, even a wire hanger (ouch). Curtis’ tough, girl next door portrayal of Strobe marked a refreshing change from the very un-feminist depiction of women in older genre films.
Curtis continued to wipe the floor with Michael in three subsequent Halloween installments and in Halloween H2O Laurie Strode finally listened to my plea to cut off Michael’s head (yes, I take full credit because I had been shouting “just chop off his head already!” at the TV during each of the previous films). Too bad we discover in the next movie [Spoiler Alert] that it was actually an innocent paramedic she killed not the un-killable maniac.
It was Halloween that catapulted her to horror movie stardom, but Curtis went on to star in Prom Night, Terror Train and John Carpenter’s The Fog all in 1980, cementing her Scream Queen status. Neither Prom Night nor Terror Train was critically acclaimed, but they have become cult classics and are well worth the watch both for Curtis’ performances and the bad ‘80s hair. Aquanet, polyester prom dresses and a killer on a train–what’s not to like?
Although today’s youth may remember her more for her stint as spokeswoman for Activia yogurt and costar in the Lindsay Lohan vehicle Freaky Friday than as Laurie Strode, she will always be an ass kicking addition to the genre in my mind.