For a long, long time, the Producer’s Cut of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers was considered the Holy Grail for franchise fans. It was something we all wanted, something we all wished would someday see a legitimate release instead of being sold at conventions on a bootleg DVD or VHS. Yet pretty much everyone, if asked, would admit that they believed—even knew—that said release would never come. Cut to 2015, The Producer’s Cut finally sees an official release on Blu-ray, no less. Fully restored with a complete original score by Alan Howarth, it was the thing nobody ever expected to get in a better and more completely package than most of us even dreamed. It didn’t do much to persuade public opinion of the movie, however, as it leaned into the cult mythology that turned most fans off of Curse of Michael Myers to begin with. Even I wasn’t totally sure what to make of it. I don’t love every choice that’s made, but the mythos it buckles down on is much more clearly laid out in the Producer’s Cut and I enjoy that clarity. In general, I’ve never not enjoyed the sequel though I did often consider it toward the lower end of my personal franchise rankings.
But since the release as the box set, as I’ve watched the Producer’s Cut a couple more times, I’ve come to love—not even like—it so much more. I still think the best version is somewhere between the two. If there was a way to combine the first two acts of the Producer’s Cut with the third act of the theatrical cut, that would be the best of both worlds, but there’s a lot of necessary information in the Producer’s Cut that got left out of the Theatrical Cut, that has nothing to do with the cult stuff. The P-Cut is full of great character moments, especially between Loomis and Wynn. But it also spends a lot more time on the Strodes as a family and that’s what I think is really important. There’s a moment that really stuck with me on the latest rewatch that only puts an exclamation point on what was already one of the most endearing, uncomfortable parts of the film.
It’s our introduction to our heroine, Kara Strode. For all intents and purposes, Kara’s the Laurie of The Curse of Michael Myers. She is, in fact, Laurie’s adopted cousin even though the Strodes never really mention her. But there are differences. First and foremost, Kara might reflect Laurie in being meek and bookish, but she is hardly virginal as she is raising a five year-old son, Danny. From this scene, more or less identical in both versions, we gather that Kara has recently reconnected with her family after not speaking to them for several years. No version of the feature explicitly explains what happened to her before her return home to live with her parents and attend Haddonfield University. Her father does not want her back and in the Producer’s Cut, after he hits Kara, she even basically tells her mother to wake up and leave him, which does a great job of setting up her mom doing just that later on.
John Strode is clearly a classic “man of the house” style patriarch. Abusive, condescending and just about downright monstrous, believing the entire family to exist in his orbit. He’s the kind of conservative dad that a lot of people unfortunately grew up with. There’s a moment in the Producer’s Cut just after that confrontation, as he’s watching Kara and Danny leave the house, that looks like an attempt to shine some semblance of empathy on him. It’s a quiet moment, and it’s really well executed because we think we’re about to see some semblance of guilt or regret for the way he just acted and instead it cements exactly the kind of person he is. In this scene, Kara’s mom, Debra, says that no matter what’s happened, he should love Kara because “She’s still your daughter.”
And without even turning to look at her he says, “She’s not my daughter anymore.” That language in particular is what got me thinking. That’s not the kind of language that typically gets spoken about someone who fell on hard times, or into a drug habit, or ran out of money or whatever these other alternatives could have been for what happened to Kara in her five-year absence. Yet, unfortunately, it’s the kind of language that young people in America hear from their parents all the time, usually in retaliation of finding out something about their children that changes their perception of who their child is, rather than anything that said child has actually done. More than anything, it’s a very particular phrase that LGBT teens and young adults have heard when coming out to their homophobic parents. Like the “Have you tried not being a slayer?” line in Buffy, it’s a phrase that immediately evokes coming out stories and the struggles of LGBT people with religious, disapproving and/or simply bigoted parents.
I’d definitely heard the line before when watching the movie, but it was almost like I’d never really heard it. This time, it immediately got me thinking. Just the phrase alone is enough to potentially read Kara as gay, but the more I actually thought about it, the more it makes sense to read Kara Strode as a lesbian heroine, to the point that I was almost stunned I hadn’t done so before.
First and foremost, there’s never really any mention of Danny’s father in either version of the movie, definitely nothing to suggest he was any kind of significant relationship in her life. Kara would have had Danny when she was sixteen, a time when many teenagers are not out to their parents, friends or often even to themselves. It’s not shocking by any means that she would have had sex with or had a thing with a guy at that time—nor, for that matter, would it be that shocking if she’d been out for years already.
If Kara was sixteen, pregnant and lesbian it would be just as uncomfortable for her to deal with a would-be-father that wanted to stick around as one who simply abandoned her with the responsibility. If she had to have the conversation with Danny’s father about why she did not want to raise the baby with him and then had to explain that to her parents, that could have been an obviously uncomfortable, painful coming out to at least one parent that was clearly going to be disapproving to begin with. This is all speculation, of course, but in reading Kara as lesbian there really seems to be a clear line to be drawn between her pregnancy and/or Danny’s birth and her coming out to her parents.
The evidence really extends far beyond her relationship with her father, too. Aside from Danny’s dad, there’s no mention of any other previous boyfriends. From that, one could potentially read Kara as asexual, but there’s no real evidence of that either. Kara might roll her eyes and get embarrassed at her brother’s suggestion that she needs to get laid, but there’s no indication that she’s repulsed or uninterested in sex in general.
Like many franchise slashers at the time, Curse of Michael Myers also pairs up its heroine with a male hero. The Friday the 13thsequels had definitely fallen into this pattern by this point in time. Starting with Jason Lives, every subsequent Friday through New Blood, Manhattan and even the then-relatively recent Jason Goes to Hell had featured a boyfriend for the heroine who also survived each film.
The Halloween franchise had also fallen into this trend, albeit to a lesser extent. Halloween 4 introduced a new babysitter archetype in young Jamie’s foster sister Rachel, who found herself entwined in a bit of a love triangle. When Rachel was unceremoniously killed off early in Halloween 5, the attention shifted toward her friend, Tina. Even little nine-year old Jamie had a young boy crushing on her that Rachel and Tina seemed weirdly eager to set her up with. By this point it was pretty commonplace for the heroine in a Halloween sequel to have a boyfriend, but Curse of Michael Myers really does the opposite.
The movie does have a handsome male hero in the original Halloween’s Tommy Doyle, now an adult played by Paul Rudd. At the start, Kara is generally just creeped out by him, which is understandable as she first takes notice of him while he’s looking through a telescope into her bedroom as she’s undressing. She then comes home to find this guy who was spying on her half-naked in her son’s bedroom and is, again, naturally confrontational. There’s good reason to not set up a romantic relationship based on this introduction, but Tommy does explain himself fairly quickly and the two do have an easy time talking and relating to one another after that. There is a friendship that sparks between the two characters and it is never for a single second anything but platonic.
There’s no spark, and the nice moment where she takes the baby from him to quiet it down is not romantic at all, if anything it’s a reminder that Tommy’s very inept at taking care of a baby and is in general a very clueless man. Their friendship works so well because she’s so self-sufficient and capable and he is barely an adult. Much like The Odd Couple, they’re not a couple. Nor should they be and I think the filmmakers clearly recognized that and made no attempt to force anything between them, even with the extensive reshoots. No forced kiss, not so much as a single longing look, and that’s really telling. It’s smart, too. Kara and Tommy as a couple would be a mess. Their friendship is much more refreshing, it allows the chemistry between them to be breezy and effortless and it’s a nice change of pace from what so many other franchise slashers were doing at the time.
Many final girls in slasher films follow some semblance of the classical hero’s journey in that they are ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances, forced to rise to the occasion and save not only themselves but those who rely on them for protection, just as Laurie saves Tommy and Lindsay as well as herself in the original Halloween. The hero’s journey naturally dates back to classical myth, many of which were textually queer, from Achilles to Heracles, Apollo and so on and so forth. So it’s not surprising that, as famously noted by Carl Jung, the hero’s journey is most often at the end of the day about self-discovery. Kara notably stands out with that in mind. In her very first scene, comforting Danny after he has a “nightmare” that is actually a vision of the Man in Black, she notes that she’s there to protect her son against whatever forces—real or imaginary—might come for him. In the more formal introduction at the breakfast table, she does appear quiet and bookish, but confidently stands up to her father the minute he insults both her and her son. Kara inverts what we at least typically see in the heroine tropes of these movies because she has already discovered herself.
While Kara does not have explicit attraction to any other women in the film, she does have a strong and supportive relationship with just about every woman she comes across. Her relationship with her mother is great, looking out for her best interest and convincing her to leave her abusive husband, she’s very close with her best friend, Beth—who is also her brother’s girlfriend—and there is an intimate, physical closeness between them, especially when Beth touches Kara’s face to see that her father has hit her again. Even if this isn’t meant to be anything romantic, that closeness and openness with one another is key. Kara is even the one to really pay any attention to Mrs. Blankenship, talking to the old woman and getting the story that Danny hears the same voices that Michael heard that fateful night in 1963. Kara may not have any clear attraction to another woman, but she still does an important thing by listening and being generally supportive to just about every woman around her.
Even if there was never any intention to make Kara Strode a lesbian, or bisexual, pansexual, asexual or anything other than straight, there’s so much there that having come around to realizing it, it’s impossible not to read her as queer. She is, at the very least, a deeply queer coded character especially when it comes to those scenes at home and her relationship with her father. I’m not necessarily trying to affect anyone else’s read on the character. Instead, I’m simply saying that I see it and I’m amazed that I didn’t see it sooner. It should go without saying that this is my own interpretation. Kara is a strong character and even if her sexuality can be read as subtext, I think there’s plenty there to simply read it as text.
I think, on the surface, there’s enough to suggest that this is who she is and this is likely how she identifies herself. But at the same time, I understand that a movie leaving enough clues—intentional or not—for the audience to draw conclusions is not nearly the same as actually announcing that concretely within the narrative. As it stands, I cannot believe it took me this long to read Kara Strode as a lesbian. It completely makes sense and adds a little more perspective on an already compelling character to the point that I can’t imagine not interpreting the character this way, and hopefully there’s enough within the film—perhaps even more than I’m seeing—for others to interpret the same. Even if people don’t love the direction that Curse of Michael Myers goes in overall, even if they don’t love the Cult of Thorn and have no place in their heart for magic runes, Kara Strode is a kick-ass, lesbian single mother who goes toe-to-toe with Michael Myers and lives and we should at least agree on the fact that she deserves more respect than she gets.