Genre Gut-Punches: THE DEATH OF LAURIE STRODE!
Very few character deaths piss me off as much as that of Laurie Strode. HALLOWEEN‘s heroine was put through enough trauma to screw someone up for life, just within the first two films, before being killed off in off-screen events between HALLOWEEN 2 and 4, brought back with some serious retcon work inHALLOWEEN: H20, just to be killed again (this time for real) in the travesty that was HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION. I figured it would be a cathartic experience (cheaper than seeing a shrink) to jump into the story of Laurie, and how far her character came, just to be thrown to the side by what was quite possible the worst sequel of all time.
When we first met Laurie in John Carpenter’s ’78 masterpiece, HALLOWEEN, She was a shy girl, pondering fate and pining away for Ben Tramer. Not as outgoing as Annie or Lynda, Laurie was the wallflower of the group, making way for a pretty awesome character arc involving her journey to becoming an empowered woman, ready to face what’s in front of her. What I’ve always loved about the Laurie character in the first HALLOWEEN film, is how identifiable she is. She’s an everyday type of character, not larger than life, not the caricatures that so many horror films shove at audiences these days. Though I’m not a female, I’ve never identified with another fictional character as much as Strode. Who hasn’t felt like they don’t have a voice at times?, that they weren’t good enough or courageous enough to ask out someone that they were into? The appeal of HALLOWEEN, to me, doesn’t only lie on Michael Myers, contrary to parts 4-RESURRECTION. When producers began to think that Michael was the only thing about the films that needed to be featured in them, the franchise began to really suffer. It was the combination of characters like Laurie (as well as Annie and Lynda), mixed with the danger of these relatable people being in harm’s way, that made the film so terrifying. Sure, there were a few characters in later sequels that the producers TRIED to make as relatable and likable as Laurie (HALLOWEEN 4 & 5‘s Jamie Lloyd), but not only did they fail (I have never met a mute child that is psychically linked to their murderous uncle), but they even turned their backs on those characters by beginning to let the audience know that they didn’t give a shit about said people (Jamie’s death in HALLOWEEN 6 is downright pathetic).
Laurie grows as a character throughout the first film, and though she’s scared as hell even up until the end credits, she does what needs to be done, and does her absolute best to stop Myers, whether it be by stabbing him with a knitting needle, jabbing his eye with a hanger, stabbing him with his knife, she does what we all would do if faced with that situation: FIGHT FOR HER LIFE. That’s what sets her apart from every throwaway character featured in later sequels, she’s as close to real life as it gets. When she’s taken to the Haddonfield Memorial hospital at the beginning of HALLOWEEN 2, she’s a confused wreck. not understanding what the hell had just happened. While HALLOWEEN 2 is a fun movie, it’s also the beginning of the “family” angle that is so prevalent in future sequels. What made the first film so scary (and great) was that is was basically about a masked killer stalking normal teenagers with no reason whatsoever. That made Laurie that much more relatable, the fact that what she was going through, could happen to ANYONE. As soon as the sister twist came in, it became easy for future sequels to discard characters and come up with new people to follow. In 2, the franchise begins the “all Myers, all the time” approach, giving the character of Laurie almost nothing to work with until the end, and when that happens, it’s mostly her in a corner until she shoots Michael in the eyes. As simple as it is, there’s at least a bookend to the character in HALLOWEEN 2, with her going away in the ambulance, safe, after her night from hell.
After the Silver Shamrock antics of HALLOWEEN 3: SEASON OF THE WITCH, audiences finally heard again from Strode in HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MEYERS, but only in a short, very brief explanation that Laurie DIED IN A CAR CRASH in between HALLOWEEN 2 and 4. All of the events that audiences went through with Laurie in HALLOWEEN and HALLOWEEN 2, basically reduced to her dying in a car crash, off screen…yeah. When fans slowly grew tired of the angles that were given to them in the following couple of sequels (don’t get me started on the Thorn bullshit in HALLOWEEN 6), producers thought that one more movie was in order (like any horror fan would believe that the series would be over), and brought Laurie back in H20. Explaining the car wreck fiasco was simple, Laurie faked her own death, out of fear that Michael would come back for her again, which he obviously does. The Laurie Strode in H20 is a very different one than the first two films, with good reason. She’s damaged by the previous encounter with Myers, and having changed her name, cut her hair, Laurie teaches a private school, where her teenage son also goes. For a good amount of H20, Laurie spends her time anticipating Myers, seeing him everywhere in her head, and being as uptight as someone who went through a horrible ordeal would be. When Myers REALLY does come after her, she doesn’t approach the situation like she did in the first two films, instead she makes sure her son and his girlfriend escape, and she goes after Myers almost as fervently as he does to her. By the end of the film, Laurie is so determined to make sure Michael’s dead, that she doesn’t let the supposed dead body of his (she stabbed the hell out of him) be taken away, without stealing the coroner’s van, throwing him through the window, and while crashing the van, pinning him to a tree with it. Holding an axe, Laurie approaches Michael, and when he reaches his hand out for hers, she only gives it a second’s thought, before chopping that sucker’s head off, finally ending the terror that she had dealt with for twenty years. While the film itself isn’t spectacular, it’s a decent ending for the Laurie character, right? Wrong, according to the producers. What was next for the character, is a fate even worse than a fake car crash, a fate that could only be described in two words that when put together made up what is, in my opinion, the worst WTF moment of the 2000’s: HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION
The last time we see Laurie Strode in the series (before the remakes), HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION finds Laurie in a psychiatric hospital, following the events of H20. Not believing that Michael is dead (flashbacks show that it WASN’T Myers that Laurie decapitated), Laurie waits for him, and when Myers arrives, Laurie lures him to the hospital roof, where a trap is set. Laurie presses a button, and Myers gets lifted upside down, dropping his knife. When Laurie picks the knife up, instead of stabbing the hell out of Myers again (How many times can this guy be stabbed?!), she decided to take his mask off, to make sure it’s really him this time. Faster than you can say “goodbye to everything we experienced with the character in the first film”, the rope breaks, Michael takes her over the side of the hospital, and stabs her, letting her fall to her death, and completely disrespecting the journey of the first two films. It’s a moment that still makes me scratch my head when I think about it, and a sure-fire confirmation that the character was thrown to the side by the producers. While I can still thoroughly enjoy the first HALLOWEEN (it’s my favorite film of all time), and appreciate 2-4, it’s hard to not think of the absolute worst idea in history, and to me, the worst gut punch in years: The Death of Laurie Strode.