Scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis is proud of everything she has achieved in the 40 years since she first played Laurie Strode, the babysitter hunted by silent masked killer Michael Myers (Nick Castle) in John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween.
“Every day I wake up gives me pride,” the star, 59, told The New Daily, on the phone from Sydney the day after the film’s black carpet premiere.
“Every day I look at my children and my husband gives me pride. Every day I get to live a creative life gives me pride.
“Every day I wake up sober from a 20-year addiction to opiates and alcohol gives me pride.”
Married to actor Christopher Guest (This is Spinal Tap) since 1984, Curtis’s triumph in her own personal horror story – she told People magazine this week her addictions were at one stage so bad that she stole prescription pills from her sister – mirrors the success she’s found again with screen horror.
The David Gordon Green-directed Halloween, which has earned nearly $128 million on a $14 million budget in the US since its October 19 opening, wipes out all the so-so sequels and picks up with Michael escaping from a psychiatric institution after four decades.
For Curtis (who celebrated the movie’s great box office with the Twitter hashtag #WomenGetThingsDone), the key to the movie is how Laurie has coped in the intervening years.
“It explores trauma in a very real, visceral way, and it doesn’t trivialise it, it gives it the gravitas that it deserves,” she said.
“I thought it was important to show what trauma really looks like. It hurts to live with that level of PTSD untreated and unsupported. I was proud to be able to show that.”
Bringing a great deal of her own fighting spirit to the role, Curtis handled most of her fight sequences, even cracking a rib in the process.
“We do that so that you can tell it honestly. It has to look brutal. Violence is brutal. If you don’t show the brutality, then you are glorifying it.”
Revealing that the current political climate in the US is what scares her most in life, Curtis says Halloween excels by allowing three generations of Strode women to face the monster together, with Michael also targeting Laurie’s estranged daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak).
“This movie was written before the whole #MeToo movement and then, as we were making it, of course it was everywhere,” Curtis said.
“The integrity and courage all of these, predominantly, women have shown in their ability to face their fear, and face their aggressors, gave the movie an incredible dose of verisimilitude and poignancy.”
And as she pointed out on Twitter, the movie had the “Biggest horror- movie opening with a female lead. Biggest movie opening with a female lead over 55. Second-biggest October movie opening ever. Biggest Halloween opening ever.”
Jason Blum, the super-producer behind hit horror franchises Paranormal Activity and The Purge, Oscar-nominated Get Out and the Amy Adams’ series Sharp Objects, led the franchise’s re-animation.
Visiting Sydney earlier this month, the 49-year-old head of Blumhouse Productions shared his dark secrets with The New Daily.
“The key to the system is that success has not lured us into big budgets,” he said.
“In genre, more expensive movies lead to lesser movies. The key tenet is keeping the budgets low, which allows filmmakers to take creative risks.”
Perhaps the biggest risk of all was deleting the sequels. The idea came from Green and his co-writer Danny McBride. Initially on the fence, Blum embraced the plan with a little nudge from Carpenter himself.
Acknowledging another of his philosophies – bring back the folks who made it work in the first place – he encouraged Carpenter out of semi-retirement as both executive producer and composer.
“In Hollywood, with most horror movies, when they’re a hit, the studio fires everyone who made the first one, hires all new people for the sequel, and they wonder why it sucks,” Blum said.
“So the first key to making a good Halloween movie is get John Carpenter back.”
Tight budgets work, spooking us with what’s behind the closet door, lurking in the garden or just one window over. Both trick and treat, Halloween is thrilling, equal parts terrifying and empowering.
“It forces the director to make stories where the audience has to use their imagination, and what you can imagine is always scarier than what you can actually see,” Blum said.
“It’s a real affirmation that we have a way of making horror movies that works.”