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Finally, a Movie That Respects Judy Greer

‘Halloween’ is a microcosm of the oft-relegated character actress—with a happy ending

Spoiler alert

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Halloween. Not just that: I will go out of my way to spoil the single best scene and line from the entire movie. This is not a joke! You will seriously damage your potential enjoyment of the movie! Beware, etc.

For the first 90-odd minutes of the new Halloween, Judy Greer is a bore.

It brings me no pleasure to say this, but I think she’d understand, given that her being a bore is pretty much the point. Greer plays Karen Strode, the daughter of erstwhile babysitter and Michael Myers target Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). The premise of the movie is that in the 40 years since Myers first attacked Laurie, killing a selection of Haddonfield’s pluckiest and most virile teens along the way, she has prepared relentlessly for his inevitable return. This demented serial-killer prep included teaching Karen to shoot, box, and hunker down in a fortified basement in Laurie’s secluded (sure!) cabin.

When we pick up with the Strodes, the relationship between Laurie and Karen has frayed. We learn that Laurie lost custody of Karen when she was 12; the state, it turns out, did not think that blowing the heads off mannequins in the woods made for a sound parenting foundation. Karen is now raising her own teenage daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), and insists that she has abandoned her long-ago survivalist lessons and chosen to believe that people are fundamentally good. She makes small talk with her daughter’s doofy boyfriend! She has a flawless blowout! She married a man named Ray!

For most of Halloween’s run, these qualities—niceness, competence, and cheer, all of which Greer has long excelled at projecting—make her, generously, maybe the 10th most important character in the movie, perhaps even behind the doofy boyfriend.

But then Michael Myers does, of course, return. There are murders, there’s a handful (literally, a hand that is full) of teeth scattered like spent sunflower seeds, there’s the freaking mask. You know the drill. A variety of other people try unsuccessfully to solve the Michael Myers problem: One gutsy stoner’s attempt to save his lady friend isn’t even shown; we skip straight to him being pinned to a wall with a kitchen knife like a piece of al dente spaghetti. Ray—poor Ray—is garotted.

And so we get down to it being only poor Judy Greer who can save the day. She’s standing in the fortified basement that haunted her childhood, her daughter helpless behind her and Jamie Lee Curtis presumed dead. She is weeping. She is shakily pointing a big-ass gun at the entrance to the basement. She is wearing a crocheted cardigan and her blowout is still flawless. She gasps, through tears, “I can’t do it! I’m sorry, I can’t do it!”

Then two things happen very quickly. One: Michael Myers looms into the basement entrance, having heard all this and concluded that now is the time to de-spine yet another damsel in distress. Two: The face of said damsel suddenly tightens into a joyous little smirk and she says, flatly, “Gotcha,” and, with the very steadiest of hands, pops Michaels Myers in the damn head. Judy Greer saves—after a little assistance from her daughter and the still-kicking Curtis, fine—the day. “It’s not a cage, baby,” she tells her dumbstruck daughter of the basement she purported to despise for all these years. “It’s a trap.” If she mourns Ray, we don’t see it.

All of which is to say that Judy Greer, she of the cardigans and polite conversation and cheery housewifery, is hands down the biggest badass in a movie that also features someone reaching through the back of a car seat and disemboweling the person at the wheel. We, the viewing public, have fallen into precisely the same trap as Michael Myers: For too long, we’ve dismissed her as nothing more than a bubbly sidekick, when in reality a savant of the strange and delightful has been toiling in our midst.

Consider the number of times Greer has played the best friend: in 13 Going on 30 (bestie to Jennifer Garner) and 27 Dresses (to Katherine Heigl) and Love Happens (to Jennifer Aniston). She’s played the object of obsession for many a hapless baldee: in Adaptation, in Wilson. Her characters are often oddball libertines, as sure a sign as any that casting director after casting director has seen the deep and glorious depths of weird below Greer’s surface-level cheer: She’s a sex addict and inadvertent murderer in Addicted to Fresno, the kink connoisseur Cheryl in Archer (“I used to be shocked when I would want to have choke sex all the time, but now I’m used to it,” Greer said once of the role), and—of course—frequent boob-bearer Kitty Sanchez in Arrested Development, the role that made her, if not a household name, at least a household voice. At present, she’s gracing the small screen in Showtime’s wonderful Kidding, in which her character—an otherwise staid housewife, natch—mourns the death of a family member by, among other things, having that person’s name tattooed onto her breast and dabbling in a foot fetish.

The sidecar injustice of these roles has not gone unnoticed: Greer titled her 2014 memoir I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star. Please examine Exhibit B, the incredible shade from, of all places, the Jurassic Park wiki, which introduces her thusly: “Judy Greer, born Judith Therese Evans, is an American actress, and author, best known for portraying a string of supporting characters.” That franchise, by the way, features Greer in 2015’s Jurassic World as yet another doting and seemingly very competent mother—this time to two boys, whom she ships off to visit her good-for-nothing sister, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, who promptly loses them in the cursed dinosaur jungle and then swashbuckles around and makes out with Chris Pratt, while poor Greer presumably waits at home in a panic, watching CNN and checking her phone. She gets about as much screen time in that movie as Jeff Goldblum, who isn’t even in the movie.

Picture Greer flipping listlessly through page after page of Halloween’s script, wondering if her agent had even been listening to her, sighing and asking no one in particular (or maybe her dog, Mary Richards), ”Again?” And then reaching this, on page one-hundred-and-whatever, and that same joyous smirk rippling across her face. Gotcha!

This moment was cause for whoops and applause in my theater. Finally, our girl Judy Greer was the hero.