Hitting shelves this week from Scream Factory is a boxed set of three Halloween films: 1995's Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, 1998's Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (yes, that's the onscreen title, and yes, it's silly AF) and 2002's Halloween: Resurrection. On the surface, it's a bit of an odd "triple" set, as it is comprised of the end of two different timelines in the franchise without any of the films that set those narratives up, but if you approach it from one perspective, it's actually kind of perfect: it's the "this is why the new films exist" trilogy.
Before this gets unwieldy, I'm going to assume most of you dear readers fall into one of two camps: you either know the silly history of the past 25 years of this franchise, or you don't care. For everyone else, I'm just gonna sum it up thusly: every time the people making these movies screw up, they bring Jamie Lee Curtis back to wipe out a bunch of entries and hopefully get it right this time. That's what led to H20 in 1998 (which had to erase Halloween 4-6 to work), and that's how we got the simply titled Halloween (hereby "H40") in 2018, which went a step further and erased EVERY sequel, picking up as if the only movie that ever happened was the 1978 original.
This naturally caused some confusion both times it happened. While some fans have drawn up charts to explain how H20 was merely "ignoring" instead of "erasing" the so-called "Thorn trilogy" of 4-6, it really didn't matter much: the movie would work more or less the same either way. And - more importantly, to the point of this article - Jamie Lee Curtis wasn't in any of those. She probably hasn't even seen them, and even if she has, the fatal car crash (which occurred before the events of H4) that supposedly killed Laurie was vague and off-screen, making it easy for H20's writers to just say she faked her death and changed her name (to "Keri Tate"), and for Curtis herself to just pick up where she last left her character. Nothing she ever said or did in the role had to be modified or forgotten.
However, for H40, they had no such easy way out: we all saw Laurie die, quite stupidly, in Halloween Resurrection. To bring her back for a traditional sequel would require yet another "she survived after all!" explanation, which seems a bit too silly an idea for Curtis to bother. So they proposed yet another timeline erasure, one that would not only undo her death, but also Halloween II's events - the Michael and Laurie sibling connection included. Few have ever liked that twist anyway, but the family connections drove the plots of every movie since - H40 would once again restore Michael Myers to the anonymous boogeyman, aka The Shape. And to him, Laurie is just another potential victim, no more important than any other he encounters.
Yes, it's all a bit confusing, but if you put all of that "canon" stuff aside you can simply enjoy how Curtis has managed to carve two paths for the same character she originated over forty years ago, a truly unique note on her resumé. While her return for H20 was straightforward enough to her (if not die-hard fans), this time around the actress had to erase three films' worth *of her own performances* in the role. I assume when any actor returns to a character, they are drawing from whatever they've internalized about them, as well as their onscreen actions, to make their newest performance come to life, but she couldn't do that here. I honestly cannot think of another major performer who has had to ignore all of that and practically start from scratch, "returning" to a character who has now only had one brief experience to draw from. It was one of the biggest hurdles for fans when watching the 2018 film: remembering that THIS version of Laurie was still traumatized from a single encounter forty years ago, not the one who had faced him several times. But it's important to remember Curtis herself probably had to deal with similar mental conflicts just to convincingly play the part, and yet made it work swimmingly.
Luckily for her and for us fans, there are not a lot of similarities between the Laurie Strode of the new films and the one who became known as "Keri Tate" in H20, so it's easy to tell the difference. When that 1998 film catches up to her, she's faked her death, given herself a new name, and moved halfway across the country in order to make sure her brother can't find her again, more or less the life of someone in witness protection. And she's fairly well adjusted, all things considered; apart from nightmares and some possible addictions (we spy a medicine cabinet full of prescriptions and she sneaks a full glass of wine when her boyfriend isn't looking), she's living a normal life as a single mom, holding a good job, respected by her students, etc. She's a little overprotective of her son, perhaps, but not dangerously so - she even lets him go on a trip while she entertains a date (Adam Arkin) on Halloween, a night that should trouble her more than any other.
In fact, if she had truly cut Myers' head off at the end as she/we thought, you get the impression she'd be totally fine after, with her boogeyman brother dead and her son presumably safe for good. Alas, when we catch up with her in Resurrection, she's in an institute because, as it turns out, she didn't kill Myers but an innocent man who he had swapped clothes with (...). Understandably shattered, she now spends her days alone in her room, waiting for her brother to come for her once again. Alas, when she finally gets her chance, her fear gets the best of her; she has him dead to rights but, worrying that she has the wrong guy again, reaches for his mask and gets herself killed, a not very dignified sendoff for this veteran survivor.
That insipid denouement almost certainly had to have been part of what encouraged her to try again when she signed on for H40. But one assumes she worked with David Gordon Green and the other writers to ensure she wouldn't be repeating herself, so this time, Laurie has different ways of dealing with her trauma. In fact, she's a complete mess; her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) is hinted to be the result of a drunken one-night stand, she's seen as the town crazy, and has a shooting range on her secure compound to keep herself ready for when Michael returns.
Of course, the thing here is that she's not related to him anymore, but she remains convinced he is coming for her, specifically. He's not, but because she keeps going after him, their paths cross, and across these three newer films, she realizes that her paranoid actions may have gotten more people killed, including her daughter and son-in-law (plus some firefighters, ouch). "Keri Tate" feared he'd come back and thus lived a cautious but otherwise normal life elsewhere, but "this" Laurie has stayed in Haddonfield and seemingly spent every waking minute of the past forty years preparing for their reunion. In H20, she's afraid to let her son even go into town on his own because she can't protect him - this version actually lost custody of her young daughter* because she was training her how to handle shotguns when she should still have been playing with dolls.
Even Curtis' appearance suggests two wildly different characters. Keri Tate wears stylish clothes and sports a trendy short haircut, while H40's Laurie gives no shits about how she looks, still wearing the same bland garb she had as a teen and letting her gray hair fall to a little longer than it already was. And that's part of why she also just *feels* more like a grown version of the teenaged Laurie we knew, a little dorky (the only time in the movie she smiles is when she recalls being in the Honors Society) and fairly quiet, whereas Keri Tate almost seemed like a variation on Jamie Lee herself: sarcastic and brash (but endearingly so), perhaps hoping to cut Michael down with a few icy barbs instead of a shotgun.
As for their ultimate fates, I obviously can't get into that here since Ends isn't even out yet. But I can say that her final scenes in the new film are more satisfying and fitting to the character than the material she was given in 2002. However you feel about this new trilogy as a whole, I think we can all agree that they've done more right by the Laurie Strode character. Resurrection is not a good film by any means, but in retrospect, anyone who enjoys Green's trilogy (as I do) can thank it, for if H20 was the last entry as it was supposed to be, there'd probably be no reason for her to come back and try again - H20 ends pretty perfectly! But Resurrection mucked it up, so looking back, you can understand how she might want to give her character a better final moment on screen than getting herself stabbed and falling off a building.
With Scream Factory's set (which has some new extras and, of course, the improved transfers in 4K UHD, including the producer's cut of Curse) hitting a week or so before the finale of her new story, it's a good a time as any to revisit the alternate path taken by Laurie Strode, the one that had to live with the knowledge that the boogeyman was her own flesh and blood. Bonus: if you mix it with revisits of H40 and Kills, you can ignore all the timeline kookiness and just admire the committed performances (yes, even in Resurrection) of a veteran A-lister who we were lucky enough to have come back once, let alone twice. And then when Ends comes out on the 14th, you can decide which one is a more satisfying conclusion to the saga of the girl who dropped off a key and triggered an obsession with not only a serial killer, but a devoted fanbase who is always more excited when she's part of the story.
*I am endlessly delighted that across the three timelines, one thing that has remained consistent about Laurie "I forgot my chemistry book!" Strode is that she clearly had a child before she finished college, if she even went at all. John and Jamie were both born in 1981, and Karen from the new films was presumably born even earlier since she herself already has a 17-year-old of her own, yet has a therapist job that would require some advanced schooling.