I cannot let this Halloween end without recommending Jamie Lee Curtis: Scream Queen, David Grove’s biography of one of horror cinema’s most iconic stars.
As you can probably guess from the title, the focus of this book is on the start of Jamie Lee Curtis’s career, when she was almost exclusively appearing in slasher films. Beginning with her starring role in Halloween and going all the way through films like Terror Train, Prom Night, Road Games, The Fog, and Halloween 2, the book shows both how Curtis dealt with suddenly being a horror icon and how she eventually left the horror genre behind in an effort to show that she was capable of doing more than just screaming and running. Eventually, as the book details, she reached a point where she could return to horror with Halloween H20 but, for a while, her horror work was truly a double-edged sword. It made her famous but it also kept her from being considered for the type of roles that she truly hoped to play.
That said, this book takes refreshingly positive look at her early film career, providing both serious analysis of and fascinating behind-the-scenes details about all of Curtis’s horror films. Yes, even Prom Night.
In fact, the two chapters devoted to Prom Night were probably my favorite part of the book. Though Curtis herself was not interviewed, several members of the cast and crew were and their recollections of their work on this not-very-good but oddly watchable film provide an interesting portrait of life during a low-budget movie shoot. Of course, everyone focuses on how in awe they were of Jamie but, at the same time, they are also open about their own personal feelings and recollections about the shooting of this movie. Their hopes and dreams, many of them destined to be unfulfilled, come through just as vividly as their memories of watching Jamie Lee Curtis film the famous disco scene. The passages dealing with Casey Stevens, who played Jamie’s Prom Night boyfriend and subsequently died of AIDS, are especially moving. In the end, Jamie Lee Curits; Scream Queen is not just a biography of Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s a tribute to both movies and the people who make them.
If you’re a lover of the horror genre or a student of film history, this is one of those book that you simply must have. It’s got just about everything that you could possibly want.