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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

CINESCAPE PRESENTS: QUEENS OF SCREAM - Jamie Lee Curtis

 CINESCAPE PRESENTS: 

QUEENS OF SCREAM


Jamie Lee Curtis

Laurie walked away from her house, her arms folded around her school books, her purse swinging wildly against her side. She was on a mission. She had to drop off the keys to the old Myers house, a few streets down from where she lived. Her father would be showing the place to a couple later on and he wanted to get there early to set everything up. Since the house was on her way to school, Laurie offered to make life a bit easier on her dad.

Her thoughts were interrupted when Tommy came rushing across the street, calling out her name. Laurie stopped and waited for the young boy to catch up to her. Immediately he began talking about what he wanted to do, later on, when Laurie would be babysitting him. Watch a horror movie, do some trick or treating, stay up late. All the things a boy wanted to do on a Friday night, when his parents weren't home. Before she knew it, Laurie was standing in front of the old Myers house. A two story blight, in a neighborhood full of well maintained houses with manicured lawns.


Everyone avoided going near the house. It had a reputation and it certainly looked like it lived up to that reputation. A chain link fence surrounded it, the grass was dead and the weeds had taken over, poking through the fence links, like prisoners trying to escape lock up. Tommy was unnerved and fidgeted. Laurie walked up to the gate and opened it. Looking back at Tommy as he told her she shouldn't be here.

Laurie held up a key, opened the gate and moved towards the front door. Bending down, she placed the key under the mat, turned and smiled at Tommy. It was the type of smile that let everyone know that you weren't afraid of nothing and regardless of the past, it was still just a run-down house, it wasn't going to hurt anyone. Laurie skipped down the steps, closed the gate and headed towards school.



Through the front window, the shape stood in darkness. The electricity had long been shut off and the house, inside, was in ruins. No one had been there since that fateful night 15 years ago. The wall paper had separated and yellowed and rolled in on itself. The ceiling drooped from the water damage from the rain, the roof was falling in in places. But that didn't matter. The shape was home. He watched as Laurie placed something under the welcome mat, then slowly moved back into the shadows. Something was familiar about her.

Tommy had split off from Laurie, running across the street. The shape had walked out to the sidewalk, standing beside a large hedge, watching as Laurie walked towards the school. She felt the slightest shiver run down her spine, as if someone had walked over her grave. She chalked it up to the weather, summer was over, winter was just beginning and it was Halloween.

And with that we were introduced to Jamie Lee Curtis. Halloween was her film debut. Playing Laurie Strode, the sister of Michael Myers. In the film, Curtis' character Laurie, is a timid mousy shy girl. Adopted at an early age, she doesn't remember her previous "family", or at least doesn't remember the families legacy. No one in town, with the exception of her parents, knows about Laurie's family, the Myers, or the fact that her brother Michael is in an institution. Great writers and directors know how to pull you into a story and John Carpenter and Debra Hill managed to do that with Halloween. Without actors committed to their roles, it doesn't matter how great the writing or direction is. It will still show to the audience as wooden or fake. This is what makes Jamie Lee Curtis' debut so magnificent. Her role in the original Halloween makes her look like she was a 20 year veteran. Going from a timid and shy teen, to a heroin in the space of a couple of hours isn't easy to pull off, but Curtis is able to do so with conviction.

In The Fog, she played to type. Her character, Elizabeth Stolley is a "movie star", well, actually she is
a "horror movie star". It was also the second time she got to work with John Carpenter, in a role that was pretty much made for her. The story of The Fog is that the founders of a coastal California town, deliberately plundered and sank a ship "Elizabeth Dane" when they found out it was full of gold. Not knowing that that gold was going to be used to setup a leper colony nearby. The "fog" is the ghosts of the seaman from the ship and they have risen from the dead to take their revenge on the town during it's 100th anniversary and get their gold back. It was another notch in Jamie Lee Curtis acting belt and it showed her versatility.

Her next two films, Prom Night and Terror Train were basically Jamie Lee Curtis playing Laurie Strode. Typecasting at it's best. Same exact character, same kind of plot and same out come, where Curtis is able to survive all the shenanigans that happened during the film. In Prom Night, a group of students are targeted by a serial killer, who wants revenge, for an accidental death that happened to a 6 year old child, that had happened 12 years previous. In Terror Train, a group of college students is target by a serial killer for a prank that had gone wrong.

When the slasher film became popular, thanks mostly in part to Halloween and in part by Friday the 13th, there were a lot. No, that's not quite right. There were a metric ton of bad copies of Halloween. Every studio had to have their share of "holiday themed murderers". Valentines Day, Easter, Fourth of July. I'm surprised that someone hasn't done "Siblings Day", and they all wanted one thing. They wanted their version of Jamie Lee Curtis. Blonde, beautiful and could actually act. That's what separates Curtis from he rest of the pack. Her natural ability in front of the camera.


After those roles, Curtis stretched her acting muscles a bit by doing some voice over work, uncredited, for John Carpenter, as the computer/narrator, before turning her sites on to Road Games, where she plays a hitchhiker, who teams up with a trucker to hunt down a serial killer. It didn't do much at the box office, although it did get some good reviews, it has since become a hard to find cult classic.

That same year, Curtis starred in the sequel to Halloween. Taking place right after the events of the first movie. Laurie is brought to a hospital because of her injuries and Michael Myers finds out where she is and goes after her. Leaving a trail of destruction and carnage in his path.

It was in Halloween II, the we find out that Laurie is Michael's sister. With the movie having retconned the original story. However, John Carpenter and Debra Hill, who wrote the first movie, also wrote this one. So, it may have been in the plans all along and the idea of Laurie being Michael's sister, could have been cut from the original story, early on in the writing process. Again, Jamie Lee Curtis, who seemingly was in every horror movie, had to stretch her acting muscles again. The majority of the film was Laurie, stuck in a hospital, being chased by Michael.

With her first six films being horror movies, it is no wonder that Jamie Lee Curtis really is one of the Queens of Scream. Even if she had stopped making films after Halloween II, her work with John Carpenter alone, is career worthy. She was able to take her experience with these films and carve out a legacy. Even after moving on from the horror genre and doing films like Trading Places, True Lies, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and My Girl, she returned to the genre that started her career, when she starred in Halloween: H20 and Halloween Resurrection. It's just unfortunate that these sequels still don't stand up to the original, in any way, shape, or form. But, we still got Jamie Lee Curtis.

Halloween (1978)
R | 1h 31min | Horror, Thriller | 25 October 1978 (USA)

Fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night 1963, Michael Myers escapes from a mental hospital and returns to the small town of Haddonfield to kill again.
Director: John Carpenter
Writers: John Carpenter (screenplay), Debra Hill (screenplay)
Stars: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Moran |


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