As we've reminded everyone countless times by now, the new film from writer/director David Gordon Green and writer Danny McBride will ignore all of the previous sequels (something returning star Jamie Lee Curtis was very happy about), instead focusing on the story of Laurie Strode (Curtis) and Michael Myers clashing again 40 years after that night in Haddonfield, Illinois with all of the build-up and emotional tension that comes with that four-decade delay.
For Curtis, that meant playing a version of Laurie who's not only still living with the trauma of that night in 1978 — during which Michael killed three of her friends and nearly killed her too — but still preparing for the inevitable day when Michael will return to finish the job. Speaking to Deadline at the Toronto International Film Festival over the weekend, Curtis described Laurie's trauma as a "generational illness" that also affects her daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak) as she essentially becomes a kind of doomsday prepper for Michael Myers, constantly lying in wait for an evil that her family thinks will never come. This post traumatic stress disorder is, in Curtis' vision of the character, compounded by a lack of psychiatric care in Laurie's life.
“Very clearly, Laurie Strode had no help. She had no mental health services, a group of psychologists didn’t descend on Haddonfield. I believe Laurie Strode went back to high school two days later with a bandage on her arm, and that’s about it. I don’t think people talked about it, and so for me the exploration of trauma was integral to, not only the writing, but for then, the performance,” Curtis said.
That integration of Laurie's trauma into Curtis' performance reached a cathartic and ultimately very beautiful conclusion on the final day of filming, when she was shooting a scene that required her to silently reflect on the years of pain and trauma and fear Michael had inflicted on her. The scene had no dialogue, and Curtis was sitting alone in a truck, but when she looked up at the crew around her, she realized she was quite clearly not alone.
"When I approached the truck to do my alone acting work in an empty truck, with 100 people surrounding her, the entire crew wore name tags that said 'We are Laurie Strode.' What they were saying to me, what they said in that moment, was that the trauma that happened to Laurie Strode, they were all part of it," she said. "That they were all carrying her, caring for her, and hoping to deliver her from evil. And that was incredibly emotional for me, just the gesture of that.
"It meant we were all in this together, in a way that Laurie Strode never had in her life. And that has made all the difference."
The original Halloween is a relatively simple, but very well made, story about a babysitter being stalked by an indiscriminate, unstoppable evil, and in its simplicity it manages to say a lot about the nature of survival and the loss of innocence. The new film is — based on everything Curtis, Green, and McBride have told us — both a continuation of those themes and a deeper meditation on long-term survival and trauma. That means that, with an actress like Curtis taking the lead, we are in for an emotional ride as well as a scary one.
Halloween is in theaters October 19.