The phenomenal success of Jamie Lee Curtis starrer Halloween at the box office has put the actor in a league of her own. Not only has Halloween acquired the biggest horror movie opening with a female lead ever, it now holds a record of having the biggest movie opening with a female lead over 55 years of age.

Earning $77.5 million on its launch, Halloween now ranks as the second-highest debut for an October release. Curtis (59) who started her acting career forty years ago in the first film of this popular slasher franchise (by the same name) is again essaying the role of Laurie Strode. The character made her a household name after Halloween released in 1978. It also earned her the nickname “scream queen” due to which she went on to star in numerous horror movies. She is again seen facing her nemesis and iconic madman Michael Myers, after forty long years.

What sets Curtis’ Laurie Strode apart, is that she is not your regular screaming pretty girl in a horror film. She is smart, intelligent and gutsy, and in the new film, she is more than ready to face Myers again.

Halloween turns the trope of screaming cheerleader lead on its head

To understand why the success of Halloween (2018) is so significant, first you must understand the very genre of slasher horror films. A subgenre of horror films, these movies are centred around violent psychopath antagonists, whose weapon of choice is a blade of some kind. The villains use a saw or a chainsaw, a cleaver or any bladed tool which will fill the frame with blood and gore. Hence the term slasher.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • Jamie Lee Curtis starrer Halloween has acquired the biggest horror movie opening with a female lead ever.
  • The film now holds a record of having the biggest movie opening with a female lead over 55.
  • Slasher films are usually notorious for objectifying women and using them as a prop to induce panic and lust in equal measures among viewers.
  • The female leads in slasher films are all mostly young girls, depicted as pretty, naïve, delicate and helpless.
  • They either die a gory death at the hands of demented villains or are rescued in the nick of time by their knight in shining armour.

What follows is fake blood oozing and spraying from every possible crevice. Decapitations, disembowelment and amputations are served with a mad man’s laughter in the background. The victims limit their survival skills to running, panting and eventually screaming their lungs out. Some of the popular films of the genre are The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend. Almost all of these movies have spawned numerous reboots and sequels. Even Halloween (2018) is the eleventh film of the Halloween series.

It is not all gore in these slasher movies. These works are notorious for objectifying women and using them as props to induce panic and lust in equal measures among the viewers.

Barring a few exceptions, these films limit the depiction of women to nudity and sex. They are in the film to either be rescued or butchered. Female actors in such films are always shown to make irrational and foolish decisions which endanger their lives. They either die a gory death at the hands of demented villains or are rescued in the nick of time by their knight in shining armour.

Naturally, these female leads are all mostly young girls, depicted as pretty, naïve, delicate and helpless. But now Curtis has stepped back into the nerdy boots of Laurie Strode and spun this trope of helpless young naive slasher female leads on its head. This film has given Curtis a chance to squash her own legacy and shred the tag of “scream queen”. No one deserves all the success and accolades coming her way with this film more than she does.

Hopefully, Halloween’s success will further carve the emerging new age character sketch of strong female leads. The female protagonists across genres today are not just strong, they are clever and daring too. They no longer scream at the sight of menace, waiting for a strong man to save them. Instead, they take mad men and supervillains head on. They fight their own fight, through all the blood and gore which comes their way. And if slasher films are changing their ways, then it is a massive cue to how the depiction of women in Hollywood films is changing.

Picture Credit: Twitter/Halloweenmovie

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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