Last year, Halloween, the franchise that cemented slashers as the standard in American horror for decades, celebrated its 40th anniversary. Audiences also got a new Halloween, which ignored most previous entries in the series and saw Jamie Lee Curtis revisit the character who made her a household name. But Curtis isn't the only Laurie Strode in the echelons of Halloween horror.
In 2007, Rob Zombie introduced us to a Michael Myers that talks, but also to a very different sort of Laurie Strode, as played by Scout Taylor-Compton. At 17, Halloween was Taylor-Compton's first high-profile horror role, but the seeds of that performance have been around for a while.
"I've been playing killers since I was 10," Taylor-Compton told SYFY WIRE. "I've been playing the edgy killer role as long as I can remember. This has been my problem for years with agents. They're like, 'Why can't you play the girl that's normal? Why can't you be the cheerleader?' I'm like, 'I don't know. I just can't. I don't have fun doing good girls. Those roles bore me.'"
The first horror movie Taylor-Compton ever saw? The Exorcist. She estimates she was about 9 or 10 years old, as that's when she started acting. "That was kinda like homework for me," she says. "It's like, 'Okay, you have to act like this and this.'"
It would sell any actor short to boil their performances down to the circumstances of their upbringing (although Taylor-Compton was raised in a mortuary) or their earliest performances, so let's talk about Rob Zombie's take on Halloween and Taylor-Compton's thoughts on playing Laurie Strode.
"I was 17 years old, so at 17 I feel like, being that young, I had an outlook on acting that was so young and fearless," Taylor-Compton says. "I think that that's kind of how I felt. I just felt fearless. Being in a production with such amazing people and getting to work opposite of such iconic people ... honestly, at 17, I wasn't very familiar with that."
Looking back on her performance as Laurie Strode now, would Taylor-Compton have played the role differently now?
"Yeah, oh, 100 percent," Taylor-Compton confirms. "When I did see the new Halloween and it was with the original cast, my first thought was 'Oh, I hope that Jamie kills Michael Myers or Michael Myers kills her.' I wanted some epic things to happen. And I think that that's exactly what I would do if I was given the chance to do the role again. I really do think that with time, you change. And you need to be able to see that structure of change in characters and not just stay stagnant."
Interestingly, there very nearly was a third Rob Zombie Halloween movie — just without Rob Zombie.
"Rob was done after the second one," Taylor-Compton reveals. "There was a lot of stuff that was going on, and I mean, I was too young to really understand what was going on. But I do know that we were contacted. Myself and Tyler [Mane, who played Michael Myers] were contacted by Dimension to do a third. They had sent a copy of the script. They didn't have a director, but they had a tentative tape date, and that was it.
"And Rob wasn't gonna be part of it," she continues. "And they pretty much cut funds in half. It was the strangest phone call I've ever gotten in my entire life. When I heard that Rob wasn't gonna be a part of it, I called Tyler and I talked to him. And he said that he had gotten the same offer. We were so hesitant on doing it. And we saw the media, all the different directors that they had attached to it and all this stuff. I was indifferent with what I wanted to do; it seemed so unorganized and so up in the air. But then I was like, 'Well, if I don't do [the movie], they're gonna get someone else to train what I've worked so hard on.' But I'm kinda glad that it didn't happen, because the way that the offer came in, it was not from loving hands."
Fortunately, Taylor-Compton has worked in horror films other than just Halloween. These include Feral, 247 Degrees Fahrenheit, Flight 7500, and Ghost House, all more small-budget horror films. The biggest leap that came out of an independent production, however, wasn't a horror movie at all, but the Joan Jett biopic The Runaways, in which she wound up playing the iconic Lita Ford, even though she hadn't originally been cast in the role.
Taylor-Compton says she enjoys doing both independent features and larger films, though she does enjoy the freedom smaller productions allow her as an actor.
"Sometimes when I am working with an independent director, I'm able to change some of the dialogue," she says. "Sometimes I'm like, 'Oh, this doesn't really fit how I would see it. Let's try again.' There's a lot more play in that aspect."
There are more horror movies than ever coming out right now, especially independent films. One critique Taylor-Compton has of this current glut of horror movies is over the lack of new icons. "I feel like we have never had a new franchise, a new Michael Myers, a new Freddy, a new Jason, because there's so many movies now," she says.
But one place where there's always fertile franchise horror ground is in Taylor-Compton's other love: Disney. People might not define Disney in horror terms, but Taylor-Compton doesn't see it that way. "I feel like if you twist it just a little bit to the left, kids could be watching horror movies," she explains. "I've taken some kids to these Disney and Pixar movies and I'm crying. They're just so emotionally draining. I'm like, 'Just add some blood and some guns and it's a horror movie.'"
Taylor-Compton's favorite Disney movie, The Little Mermaid, involves stolen voices and intense transformations, so there's room for horror in there. With that in mind, we had to ask — could Ariel survive a horror movie? "She's really smart. She's super smart. I feel like she could," Taylor-Compton insists. "She has like Laurie Strode vibe. I feel like she could do it. Plus, too, have you seen Sirens? Mermaids are a little crazy. I feel like we didn't see that side of Ariel."