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Jamie Lee Curtis Scream Queen
Born on November 22, 1958, she is the daughter of actors Janet Leigh (played Marion Crane in the original ‘Psycho’ (1960), in the infamous shower scene) and Tony Curtis.
Due to her early performances in many horror films, Jamie has been labelled the ultimate ‘scream queen’; the cast even refer to her under this title, in the brilliant horror film ‘Scream’ (1996). She has however had a huge career, spanning all genres. She still is, however, a ‘scream queen’ and has quite an amazing amount of horror movies under her acting belt. The great thing about Jamie Lee is that she is one of only several huge Hollywood actresses' who appreciate the genre.
Her first film and horror performance was in John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’(78), playing Laurie Strode, the protagonist. The story surrounds serial killer, Michael Myers, who seems to have it in for Laurie and her friends, and just about anyone that gets in his way. This was the first film to be labelled ‘slasher’, as Myers mounts up the body count before coming after Laurie. This is a classic, and the start of a great franchise and cinema style, the film isn't at all dated and still has the ability to terrify the viewer; not through blood and gore, but through suspense and a mounting knowledge that Myers is waiting in the shadows with his white mask and kitchen knife.
A fantastic film, with lovely cinematography and a brilliant score. Jamie’s acting is superb, as the innocent victim who survives; and it is no wonder this kick started her career. (Avoid 'Rob Zombies Halloween' like the plague, he simply taints the name of a masterpiece.)
Jamie followed this film, with a horror again directed and written by Carpenter, ‘The Fog’ (1980). The film is like a classic urban legend. It tells the story of a glowing fog, which carries within it, the ghosts of pirates who want their stolen treasure back, and will kill anyone in their way to retrieving it. Jamie doesn’t play a huge role in this film, but her role is strong and so is the film. A great performance comes from Adrienne Barbeau; as the local radio host, warning people to ‘stay away from the fog’. This was also remade, terribly, also avoid at all costs and rent the original.
In 1980 Jamie also starred in ‘Prom Night’. This is your usual slasher movie, with not much going for it, other than watching it for a bit of fun with friends. Jamie does her best with a poor script, which is very predictable and quite predictable by todays standards, though it is quite creepy and is far better than the dreadful re-make, which didn't even offer gruesome and scary murder scenes. Jamie was nominated for a Genie Award, for best performance in this film. (This, also, has been re-made. ‘Oh God, why won’t Hollywood leave these films alone? And pick up something original?’)
Jamie appeared in another slasher flick, ‘Terror Train’ in 1980 (it certainly was her Scream Queen year), about a fraternity throwing a graduation costume party on a train. Too bad for them, three years earlier a frat prank had gone wrong, leaving someone in a mental institute (with good reason if you watch the movie), now they’re being killed off one by one, the killer taking the mask of the victim and going onto the next. Is someone looking for revenge?
This movie, like ‘Prom Night’ is fun and good for Halloween night. The film has some original scenes, and also some genuine ‘jump out of your seat’ moments. Like in all of the films Jamie did in 1980's, she appears as the ‘good girl’ protagonist, who feels very guilty about the trick she unknowingly played on the poor frat boy with the other teens. This is a really fun movie, and the killer was very innovative for its time, the setting being on a train is also a lot of fun. If you can find a copy, check it out, it's a little unknown, but a Jamie-Lee horror cult classic.
She also did a little seen film named 'Road Games' which she is actually in for about a total of fifteen minutes at best, and they just used her name so people would go see it. It's actually quite dull though.
Jamie Lee went back to the ‘Halloween’ franchise three times. ‘Halloween 2’, a sequel that continues straight after the events of the original, although it was filmed in 1981. This is an average slasher, with Jamie again being stalked by Michael, this time in a hospital. The story does develop though, when we find out that Laurie is Michael’s sister. This is another one with a very creepy setting - a hospital. Michael does away with his victims in ghastly ways, and the score and film are both tense and scary. Avoid Rob Zombie's re-make, it's worse than his re-make of 'Halloween' (and who thought that was possible?)
Then in 1998, Jamie went back again in ‘Halloween H20’, the film taking place twenty years after the original two. This was the first film not to feature Donald Pleasence (sadly, he had died by this time) as Michael’s Doctor, although there is a voice over of him at the beginning of the film, from the original films script. The last to feature him.
This is an excellent film, with Jamie reprising her role as Laurie Strode and taking power into her own hands to stop her brother for good, and stop living in fear. Laurie is living in hiding, after faking her death, and now lives as Head Mistress of a boarding school, with her son (Josh Hartnett) and boyfriend, under the fake name of Keri Tate. This is the best of all the sequels, showing Jamie’s character at first as defeated by her past, but then strong when confronted with her brother finding her, and trying to kill her son, who is the same age as she was when she was first stalked by Michael. A contrast could be made here with Ripley from ‘Alien’, where the woman protaganist is shown as strong and determined to seek out and kill the ‘monster’ that is haunting her.
Unaccredited script work by writer Kevin Williamson ('Scream', 'I Still know what you did last Summer) and thought up by Curtis herself, the film is full of in jokes for horror fans, and it’s fun to spot all the references and cameos’. The film is also scary, with some truly horrific and tense death scenes. Jamie is fantastic in the role, and I feel the franchise could have finished here on a high note.
Unfortunately, 2002 saw the release of ‘Halloween Resurrection’. Why Jamie agreed to cameo in this film is beyond me, and as a horror fan, I wish she hadn’t. She is in it however, and her acting, as usual, is great. She is the only reason for watching this film really. Sean Hood, who wrote this, deserves a medal for finding a way to bring Michael back, yet again (although anyone with half a brain cell will find a thousand holes in the plot, and the resurrection of Myers.)
Not an awful film, just another sequel with not much to offer; and if I ever wanted Myers to kill a character, it has to be Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes), who is the most annoying character in horror film history. Sara Moyer plays her part well as the lead character who is taking part in a live reality show in the Myers house on Halloween night - and guess who show's up? With Jamie’s character out of the loop in the first fifteen minutes, it falls flat quickly, with Busta Rhymes dragging it down all the quicker.
Jamie Lee Curtis is a great actress, and a great role model in general and for women. Her career has been, and is amazing, and if not for her I don’t think ‘Halloween’ would have been half the success it was. A fantastic ‘Scream Queen' who has shown strength, conviction and brilliance in her horror performances' - long may she reign!
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