31 Days of Horror: Weapons of Domesticity in ‘Halloween’
Laurie Strode, the heroine of John Carpenter’s Halloween, was one of horror’s first archetypal “final girls,” characters that may seem weak and vulnerable but turn out to be tougher than anyone, including the psychos who pursue them. In a miraculous feature debut, Jamie Lee Curtis plays Strode, a studious teenage babysitter who, along with her two best friends, is being stalked by a killer. To protect herself and her two young charges, Tommy and Lindsay, Laurie does what it takes to survive. Using her intelligence and instincts, she proves a formidable match for Michael Myers.
To signal that Laurie Strode is a different type of female heroine, Carpenter wisely has her utilize household items as weapons that are traditionally associated with domesticated women. At one point, she breaks a flowerpot on the side of the house to alert Tommy to their danger. When she realizes that Michael Myers has cut the phone lines and that help will not be coming, she grabs the nearest object, an old-fashioned knitting needle from a handy sewing kit, to protect herself.
Wielding the needle like a pro, she stabs Michael Myers in the neck, allowing herself time to find the Tommy and Lindsay. Like Laurie, Myers is relentless and just keeps coming. As Tommy puts it, “you can’t kill the boogie man.” Eventually, Laurie seeks refuge in that most feminine of small spaces—the clothes closet—while the children flee to safety. In her element, Laurie grabs a coat hanger and plunges it into Myers’ eye when he busts into her temporary sanctuary.
The coat hanger cows even Myers, and when he clutches his face, Laurie picks up his knife and stabs him. Because it is still only the late 70s (and Donald Pleasence is a badass), Dr. Sam Loomis is the one to “finish” Myers off by shooting him in the chest six times. Of course, who was to know at the time that a horror franchise had been spawned and that Laurie Strode would have plenty more opportunities to best Michael Myers in increasingly creative ways without male assistance in sequel after sequel.
However, it was those moments in the first Halloween when Laurie picked up her needle and coat hanger that changed the game in ways that horror fans of the time could not have imagined. Go on, girl!