This year marks the fortieth anniversary of John Carpenter’s Halloween, one of the most significant Horror films of the 1970s, and a seminal film of the Slasher genre. No Horror film of the decade had a more dramatic or long-lasting impact on the genre than did Halloween, and no such film was so poorly served by the franchise it launched. Over the last forty years, and across seven sequels, a remake, and a sequel to the remake, John Carpenter’s original concept, brilliant, dark, and innovative, has been expanded, discarded, ignored, and insulted. Now, Carpenter has returned to his greatest creation (as executive producer), and this October will sweep the last forty years of the franchise under the rug, as Michael Myers comes home for what may be the final time in Halloween (2018).
After viewing Carpenter’s debut film, Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), producers Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad approached the director concerning a low-budget project they had in mind. They wanted a cheap horror film, about a psycho killer stalking a baby sitter. Akkad would put up the budget, about $300,000, and Carpenter would write (along with Debra Hill), direct, and compose the musical score. Though the producers had concerns about Carpenter’s inexperience, his willingness to forego a salary in exchange for a share in the film’s profits demonstrated his confidence in and commitment to the project. He wound up collecting $10,000 up front, as well as a 10% share of the profits.
The budget was very tight, even for such an unambitious project as Yablans and Akkad wanted, forcing the production to economize wherever possible. Michael Myers’ iconic mask was simply a William Shatner mask, purchased for $1.98, and spray-painted white with a bluish tint. Jamie Lee Curtis’ wardrobe was purchased off the rack for less than $100; most of the other cast members simply wore their own clothes. Half of the film’s budget went for the Panavision cameras and lenses needed to film in the 2.35:1 anamorphic ratio that Carpenter demanded; an expensive choice, but it gives the film a more polished, higher quality look.
That, “unambitious project” became, for many years thereafter, the most profitable independent film of all time, with a domestic box-office of $47 million. It is also recognized by many as one of the greatest Horror films ever produced. Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance as Laurie Strode, Carpenter’s conception of Michael as a soulless, emotionless, evil … shape, and the masterful way that Donald Pleasence is able to convince the viewer that that’s exactly what Michael is, all come together to make the original Halloween the masterpiece of Horror that it is.
This October 19th, a new Halloween film will be in theaters, written by Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride), and David Gordon Green, who will also direct. Carpenter, who is the executive producer, has stated that this movie will start with a clean slate, eliminating everything that has occurred after the end of the original film. This will eliminate much that was wrong from the continuity, especially the three films of the “Jamie” storyline—the fourth, fifth and sixth films, featuring a supposed daughter of Laurie, Jamie Lloyd (played by Danielle Harris in the fourth and fifth films, J. C. Brandy in the sixth), as well as Laurie’s death at the hands of Michael at the beginning of Halloween: Resurrection.
However, that would also erase what may be the most important part of the Halloween mythology from that continuity, the knowledge that Michael Myers and Laurie Strode are brother and sister, revealed in Halloween II, the events of which now never occurred. How removing one of the bedrock tenets of the franchise will affect the film cannot, at present, be known. In truth, what is known about the movie at this point is far outweighed by what is not known. And the biggest unknown is will this movie be good enough to make the fans of the franchise accept the changes?
Historically speaking, we have been a forgiving lot. We came back to the series after we were abandoned by Halloween III: Season of the Witch. We stayed through the 1990s, no matter how ridiculous the plots became. Not even the atrocities Rob Zombie perpetrated upon the franchise could tarnish the perfection of Carpenter’s original vision of Michael. It’s probably a safe bet that we’ll not only accept the changes, but seeing as how they stem from John Carpenter himself, we will embrace them.
And if this is, indeed, the last time Michael Myers comes home, I can only hope that it’s the best movie since the first.
Creature Feature © D. Dyszel 2018
Dick Dyszel - Voice Actor