'Halloween' Set Visit


Halloween Jamie Lee Curtis


This October, a new Halloween arrives in theaters, but it’s not a reboot. This time, they’re going back to the beginning with a direct sequel to the 1978 original that started it all. Bridging generations of fans, the movie also appropriately bridges generations of characters on screen and crew members off. It’s a legacy sequel for sure.


Since the start of production, Halloween has been shrouded in secrecy, but Fandango visited the set of the movie as it was shooting on location in Charleston, South Carolina, in February. Here’s everything we learned:


 


How does the new Halloween connect to the original?


Set on Halloween 2018, the new movie takes place exactly 40 years after the original. Michael Myers has been locked away in a facility since his murder streak in 1978. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who survived the Myers attacks, remains in Haddonfield and has been preparing for the day when the killer might escape and come after her again.


There will be references to Dr. Loomis and other characters from the original, but at the same time the new Halloween is described as a “retelling” of the events of that earlier movie. If it’s unclear how that works, that’s okay. Actress Judy Greer, who plays Laurie’s estranged daughter, Karen, admitted to being confused by this at first too, but everything will make sense when we see it.


Curtis, who met us on set in costume despite not shooting that day, clarified:


“It is not a reboot. It is a retelling. It’s a very interesting take on the movie because it references Halloween 1 in every way it can, stylistically, characterologically, visually, emotionally. It follows very similar themes but it’s its own movie, so it’s a very clever mash-up — to use a young people’s word — of the first movie. When you see what they’ve come up with you’ll be, ‘Wow,’ because it’s a very modern and yet very true movie.”


Co-writer and director David Gordon Green also addressed how the new movie is positioned:


“For us, it was a clean slate type of opportunity, where if there was a little inspiration or mirror image of something, it’s very subtle in the movie because we want to start fresh for a new generation but with great appreciation for the previous.”

 


Halloween


So the other sequels didn’t happen?


For the new movie, only the 1978 original is canon. While there might be some Easter eggs nodding to other sequels and reboots over the years, one important detail of the franchise has been wiped away: Michael Myers and Laurie Strode are not brother and sister. Co-writer Danny McBride (who does not appear in the movie) explained the reason for this:


“I was pushing for that removal right off the bat. I just felt like that was an area where he wasn’t quite as scary anymore. It seemed too personalized. I wasn’t as afraid of Michael Myers because I’m not his f**king brother, so he’s not coming after me.”


 


How faithful is this sequel to the spirit of the original?


None of the previous, now-obsolete sequels nor Rob Zombie’s reboot of the franchise were quite like the first movie in terms of its story, style or tone. The new Halloween aims to be more in tune with everything fans love about the original, while also doing its own thing. That comes through by the movie focusing on Laurie’s teenage granddaughter, Allyson, who is played by Andi Matichak.


McBride said of the narrative parallels that inform a similar tone:


“That first Halloween, no one has been in that situation with Michael Myers before, so there’s this innocence that you’re waiting to see stabbed the whole entire time. Once everyone is aware of who Michael Myers is, that is kind of gone from those stories. I think by having these multiple generations, you’re able to cast a teenager who can sort of give us that. She’s never seen anything like this before, never seen violence like this. She has been able to have a normal life, have friends and not be constantly afraid. So I think it was a way to keep what was cool from the first Halloween – that sort of innocence in the story.”


At the same time, McBride also maintained that their Halloween is a fresh take on the story:


“I feel like it’s almost like Batman or something. You see these different artists take on these iconic characters. It’s kind of cool to see what different filmmakers will do with a property that is so well known. I would rather have that approach to Michael Myers than everyone just continuing some storyline and trying to regurgitate these things. It’s more interesting to have someone like David or Rob Zombie, these filmmakers that just come and put their own stamp on it, for better or worse. That’s a more interesting way for a franchise to stay alive than to just continue to beat the same drum over and over again.”


 


What makes the new Halloween different for our time?


A lot has happened in the last 40 years, both in the real world and in the fictional setting of Halloween. While the new movie can’t fully address the evolution of the place and characters over all that time, it does need to recognize and play within the context of the decades gone by. Green answered to the challenge and how his movie fits into 2018 versus 1978:


“A character in the movie talks about that. The world has changed a lot since Michael Myers was around. The world has seen a lot of horrific sh*t, and there’s a lot of bad things that happen now on a daily basis, so is a man in mask with a knife still scary? I think that’s what this movie answers: yes, he still is.”


But are the people of Haddonfield still scared of that Boogeyman who terrorized their town 40 years ago? Greer spoke to that relationship:


“We’ve been desensitized, because so much time has passed in our story. This person or ‘shape’ or whatever you decide to call him has been locked up for so long that we feel pretty safe and pretty good about ourselves. We took care of that problem a long time ago, so we are very desensitized to this one horrific night. As far as how it speaks to the greater desensitization that’s happening [in the world], my hope is that this movie kicks so much ass that it will scare the sh*t out of everyone, even the most hardened souls.”


It’s been a long time since the Myers murders, and much of the younger generation doesn’t understand it. But it will always be a sensitive matter to Laurie’s family. Matichak said:


“I’m sure there are Michael Myers masks that kids wear on Halloween, probably not in Haddonfield but in towns over. I feel like we’ve been the butt of a lot of conversations. I know a lot of friends at school come up to me and are like, ‘Yeah, your grandma was murdered — no, she survived, but all her friends were killed, right?’ That actually happened, and it’s horrible that you’re going to approach me like that, but I think that everyone’s just desensitized. But it’s definitely not lost on our family, and it definitely dictates the way we live our lives.”


 


Halloween


How bloody is this movie?


On the day we visited the set, Green was filming a scene where Myers repeatedly stabs at (and kills, probably?) a certain character (no spoilers!). The bit looked like it will be plenty scary in the movie, and there was a certain amount of blood and dirt involved. This sequel is definitely going for R-rated scares and gore, but not so much of the latter that it departs the spirit of the original. Green explained:


“As we’re filming, we’re keeping in mind, first and foremost, tension and anxiety, which I think are the greatest elements this film can offer. Even the scene we’re working on today, we’ll do the takes where it’s less blood, [then] more blood just to see as we unfold in the editing process. For me, [this is] my first horror film, and it means a lot to me, just in terms of my enthusiasm for the genre, from a splatter/slasher film to a psychological thriller. I love all those elements, so I’m learning every day, exploring every day and I’ll know a lot more in a couple of months when I start to put the footage together to see the degree of gore, but we certainly in very capable artistic hands.”


Malek Akkad, son of original Halloween producer/financier Moustapha Akkad and longtime Halloween franchise producer himself, added that he’s leaning on the movie not being too gratuitously gory:


“My personal taste is definitely for the former, and it’s what you don’t see and it’s the moments leading up to the kill that are more terrifying for me than after the kill. It’s interesting because we had some of these sort of battles with Rob Zombie’s [reboot], especially the second one which became a very violent and bloody film. It’s a taste thing, I guess, and that’s more of Rob’s style and that certainly found an audience and people who like that. Personally I like the more bloodless style. I will say, I don’t think anybody who’s into that, the gore and special effects, they’re certainly not going to be disappointed in this one. David is taking it to a higher level.”


 


Will there be any humor?


Given that Danny McBride is one of the screenwriters, and he and Green’s past collaborations have been more in the comedy genre, fans are concerned or at least curious if this will be a funnier Halloween than we’re used to. McBride confirmed that the movie won’t have much humor at all while acknowledging how similar horror is to comedy, from a certain approach:


“I think with comedy you have to be very aware of where the audience is, so you can decide what’s going to work next for them and what’s not going to work for them. I think when it came to pacing scares or even just the suspense or tension of a sequence, I think it’s very much engineered the same way – of, like, having to have your finger on the pulse of exactly where you’re expecting the audience to be so you can play with their expectations of where they think it is going to go next, or where it’s not going to go next.”


 


Halloween


Will there be any hidden references to the other sequels?


While the new movie ignores all the other sequels and reboots and only directly relates to the first Halloween, Green and Akkad both confessed that fans of the other installments will notice nods and homages to the history of the franchise. Green said:


“Anyone who’s a fan of any of these films will find nice little Easter Eggs acknowledging our salute to the filmmakers that have preceded us in the stories and mythologies as they’ve unfolded.”


Green also acknowledged specifically that the new movie begins with a nod to the original movie’s opening scene. But there are at least two things you won’t see in this Halloween. Green told us of one Easter egg they’re avoiding:


“One day I stopped by the set before I actually started shooting, and I hear David saying, ‘We have to move the cameras because I can see a palm tree.’ So in that way it won’t be like the original.”


The other is an appearance from William Shatner, whose face is famously the same as Myers’ by way of a Halloween mask. Akkad admitted that he has tried to get Shatner to make a cameo and will continue to make an effort:


“In certain ways, we’ve tried to reach out to him and do maybe appearances and stuff. Lord knows he’s busy enough with the Star Trek stuff, but you never know.”


 


What do we know about Michael Myers 40 years later?


All that’s really known about Michael Myers is that he’s been in an institution for the last 40 years. Green believes that’s all we should know, for mystery fuels fear. He said:


“I think he’s been doing as little as possible, and I’d like to know as little as possible about him, his history and his abilities. I think there was a reason he was called ‘The Shape,’ because in some ways he’s more of an essence than he is a traditional character. Finding that line between natural and supernatural worlds. In some ways, it’s like Jaws; there’s not a lot of personality in the shark. Technically, he’s very elusive in the way that he’s shot, and we’re trying to keep that as our framework and not get too much into who he is, why he is, what he’s been doing.”


Nick Castle, who returns to the masked role of Myers for the first time since 1978 (“a couple shots here and there”), shared more info on the character’s seemingly supernatural strength. He told us of the portrayal:


“In that he can take a lot of punishment, they keep it pretty real. I have seen some of the sequels where they suggested other worldly reasons for his power but this one does not have that.”


Castle, who shares the part with stunt performer James Jude Courtney, revealed that after all these decades, Laurie “is on his list” when he becomes free. On his way out of the institution, Myers somehow — we weren’t told how — gets his old mask back, but this time he puts on a new jumpsuit. Castle explained: “They do a nice job of making all these coincidences make sense.


Courtney, who admitted to learning how to (pretend to) kill from a roommate who was a mafia hitman, offered more on Myers’ psyche at the time he breaks out of the institution:


“When we were in the mental institution and before I broke out, all I focused on since ever has been building and festering, so the energy was just expanding and expanding and I just held that space from what Nick created, and just let it grow and grow because he’s become more powerful. He’s defying death, he’s defying any type of restrictive condition. From my perspective, what Nick created has just gotten stronger and more powerful.”


The very fascinating Courtney continued to discuss how he’s continuing the legacy of Castle’s Myers portrayal with his certain set of skills and knowledge:


“I’ve been complimented many times here on set on how efficiently I kill and all I did was take what [my roommate] taught me. As far as the movement goes, and this is why Malek and David brought me in, is because it’s just the way you move, and that had started with Nick. A very good actor friend of mine called me and said, ‘So what’s your motivation to kill?’ and I’m like, ‘There’s not a motivation. I’m in a place, this is a place, it’s a place that exists, my job was to find that place – it started with him, and it’s a living, breathing place so when I go into that place everything is natural. I just do what the place or space dictates, which was created by Nick and John and Debra and has lived and breathed all these years.”


 


Halloween


What do we know about Laurie Strode 40 years later?


While Myers apparently still has Laurie on his mind, Laurie definitely has Myers on hers. Obsessively. Comparisons to Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day were made, both for the similar scenario and the potential physical power. But Curtis said she fought against coming back as a typical “badass” powerful female:


“Laurie Strode is a survivor. She survived by her wits, even though she made stupid errors, like throwing the knife away twice… But Laurie wasn’t a badass. Laurie was a nerd. Laurie read sweet romances, and it was interesting because she fought back. I also don’t want her to be a badass. I want her to be prepared. I want her to still be who she is but prepared because she’s not Linda Hamilton. I don’t have those arms. She was strong because she was smart. Education gives you strength. It’s not muscles, it’s brains. Brainpower is the strongest message, so I’ve tried not to become some badass bitch because I don’t think that’s correct. She’s pedantic, she’s mono-focused, she’s annoying as hell and in her living she has become proficient with weapons. It’s tricky because we’ve turned strong women into superhero women and that isn’t what makes a woman strong. We’re not talking about physical strength, we’re talking about intelligence and wile and all the beautiful things that make a smart woman so dynamic, so I’m hoping to fight against becoming too much badass and keep the integrity of her intelligence that I have brought into this piece. I fought for that.”


“We’ll see how badass she gets,” contradicted Green later. Curtis did at least talk of ballistic training with a bolt action rifle. But she said that was right for the reality of her character now:


“She is prepared to deal with Michael Myers to the degree that she can. You know, we have to be in realism. She is not going to pick up a semi-automatic weapon. We have to go with the lore, and the lore is: A.) that you can’t kill him; and B.) that you take advantage of the skill sets that you have. I’m not going to bring a tactical nuke in when I know he is somewhere in a field, you know what I mean? We have to go with the reality of ‘we’re in Haddonfield, Illinois – what can she do?’ What she can do is prepare herself everyday of her life for the absolute eventual reconnection with him. She is convinced. She tries to convince everybody, and the reason that her daughter was taken from her is because she was so mono-focused on this.”


Will Laurie be prepared enough? Curtis reminded that you don’t want someone too strong in a horror movie while hinting that her character may not wind up surviving another Halloween:


“True vulnerability is what you want in a horror film. What you want your lead character to have is some sort of sense that you want to help her, that you as an audience believe in her and want to protect her a little bit. That’s what true vulnerability does, and again that’s why the badass thing — badass is a shield. It’s like Wonder Woman, it’s like anything with a shield. And the thing that was beautiful about — and what I tried to achieve in H20 even — the depth of someone’s pain, of a trauma, rather than just the result of it being some shield. In this movie we are returning a bit to that. So we will, I hope, have a beautiful conclusion to Laurie Strode’s story.”


 


How is Laurie treated by others in Haddonfield?


In 1978, Laurie Strode was a survivor or something devastating. Forty years later, she’s a crazy person who hasn’t moved on from that tragedy, as far as the locals see her. Curtis spoke to her character’s treatment by society:


“Society has not been kind to her. There was an article [in the New York Times] two days ago about the effects of trauma on a child – whatever the trauma, be it abuse, physical or emotional violence, whatever it is. The effect changes your brain chemistry, so for me what’s crucial is that level of trauma had an effect on this woman who is now fifty-eight years old and that trauma for her is this persevering sense of eventuality that he will come back, and that every day of her life has been in preparation for that meeting. She lives alone. She has tried to live in society, but society has not been welcoming. There were not a lot of mental health professionals helping this young woman. She banged her way into her life, she slammed into people, institutions, law enforcement, and they hate her because she calls the police every day and says, ‘Do you have somebody patrolling Smith’s Grove? I was out there, I actually sat in my car all day outside of Smith’s Grove and I didn’t see one cop car. Why is that? Why aren’t you treating him with the respect that you should treat him?’ That’s the level of persevering she has done.”


 


Why didn’t Laurie just leave Haddonfield?


One way to make sure Myers never comes back for you is to run far away. But Laurie never left, even as the killer was so close by in the institution. Why not? Curtis explained:


“Leave? I don’t think she’s left. I don’t think she has left Haddonfield in 40 years. This is a woman who knows exactly where he is and she knows, even though they all are convinced that he’s somebody who they can maybe manage, work with drugs, rehabilitate, all the rest of it. She is the only one who knows exactly who he is, and that’s who we find.”


 


Halloween


What does Laurie do when she sees the return of Myers?


One of the big questions for Laurie’s character now is, does she want revenge on Myers when she sees him, or is she more interested in keeping her family safe? Will she be on the offense or defense? Curtis spoke to the difficult choices she makes:


“I protect my family, and in protecting them you take him down. But you can imagine the harping about protection. When it comes to our children, we are all safety oriented, and Laurie Strode, she is the OG safety person, so therefore it’s a really tough question. You will see in the movie, she does both: she will go after him, but at the same time she will protect her family.”


 


What is Laurie’s relationship like with her daughter?


Laurie’s daughter, Karen, was taken away from her at a young age. But the younger Strode grew up “totally messed up” but turned out okay, got married and had a daughter of her own and is now a therapist who works with, according to Greer, “really small, really messed up children.”


Greer told us some of the off-script backstory on growing up the daughter of Laurie Strode:


“She was really tough on me. She didn’t want me to leave the house, go to school, have friends, she just has never been able to let go of that horrifying night and brought it into all of her relationships. And because I’m pretty much the only relationship that she really has, it just all got focused on me towards the end, as people started to drop out of her life and she retreated from society. It was a really rough childhood for me, and eventually at a young age I was removed from the house so I could have a better and more normal life. Again, this is stuff that we’ve mostly come up with in our own backstory, just to motivate our decisions, that’s the fun part.”


Greer believes her character became a therapist because of who her mother is:


“Probably because my mom is so crazy. I think therapists become therapists because they have really tough backgrounds. They come from hard places and they’re probably going to therapy and they’re like, I should just do this. I mean, I love therapists but there’s always a little something back there.”


Curtis added more on the parentage of Karen:


“Laurie, I believe, doesn’t even know who the father of her daughter is. We believe the man who raised her — my ex-husband adopted Karen when she was a year and a half or two, and that ended very quickly. Nobody could have a satisfying emotional relationship with a woman who is looking over her shoulder every moment they’re together.”


Not all of the backstory was completely fleshed out, however. Curtis added:


“We don’t know exactly what age she was when she was taken from Laurie, but she was taken, and so Laurie didn’t have a hand in raising her as much and I think it was contentious, and visitation and all the things that, the horrible restrictions that get put on families when people are pulled apart.”


Greer also spoke of the current status of her relationship with her mother:


“My relationship with my mom is very estranged. We would be estranged completely if she didn’t constantly try to reach out, and by reaching out, I mean check up on us to make sure that we’re always safe. She feels like a real watchdog over me and my daughter, so I try then to protect my daughter from this crazy woman who raised me and try to do things differently myself. My relationship with my mom in the movie is, it kind of breaks my [Greer’s] heart a little bit, seeing that, but it makes for good movie storytelling.”


 


What does Karen think of Michael Myers?


Certainly growing up the daughter of Laurie Strode, Karen heard more about Michael Myers than anyone. But she can’t possibly know what he and that experience was really like for her mother. Greer said of Karen’s view of Myers:


“I think he’s like the boogeyman. My character is a therapist so she’s technically educated in what a sociopath is, and I think for her, coming from that background and that education she’s like ‘well, he’s this or that disorder.’ In this facility, he’s not getting out, he’s being treated. I think my mom’s idea of Michael Myers and the actual Michael Myers in my mind, my mom’s Michael Myers is kind of fake, like a boogeyman – and then the real one, as a therapist, I think he’s like a patient.”


 


What is Laurie’s relationship like with her granddaughter?


While Laurie and Karen have a strained relationship, Laurie and Allyson are much closer. Curtis described the bond she now has with her granddaughter:


“Laurie loved kids, Laurie was fantastic with children, probably better with children than adults. You know, when trauma happens, you freeze. We can look at it through history; when something really bad happens, you calcify emotionally. Laurie Strode is seventeen years old, the Laurie we’re going to meet is fifty-nine, but is in a weird way [still] seventeen. So I think she actually responded much better with a granddaughter than her own daughter. I think with her own daughter she was dysfunctional in her raising of her because of this obsession of safety, but because her granddaughter wasn’t raised by her, she can connect to the granddaughter. What did Laurie give her daughter when she found out she was going to have a child? A car seat. Laurie is going to buy the safety item. That is who Laurie is going to be as a grandma.”


Matichak described the relationship with her grandmother, and how she’s stuck in the middle of Laurie and Karen sometimes, from her perspective:


“I’m kind of caught in between since I’ve been a kid. Like any kid, you do want a relationship with everyone in your family, and if Laurie’s making an effort, which she has been since I’ve been born, yeah, I’ve always wanted to have some sort of peace, if you will, so I think it’s made me more of an older soul as a child, to have to kind of mediate. Allyson is kind of a spawn of Laurie at seventeen, as well. I think she sees a lot of herself in me and that’s part of the reason why she and I are trying to have a relationship.”


Greer chimed in on the relationship between Laurie and Allyson:


“Seeing her at this age, she’s her own woman. She can reach out to her grandma whenever she wants. If we were finding her at eleven or twelve, that’s something but now she has access to phones and say ‘screw you, Mom, I want to talk to my grandma, I want to have her at this event, I want to have a relationship with her.’”


Curtis added more about why Laurie tries to have such a great relationship with Allyson:


“I think she can relate to her probably more than anybody else in her life, because she is also distant from her. I can appreciate her for her intelligence, she’s very smart, she is much like Laurie. I won’t give it away, but she’s a smarty pants. That makes Laurie very, very proud, because she’s just like Laurie was, whereas I think Karen was a little more of a rebel.”


 


Do we get to see Laurie and her family in their normal daily life?


The actresses could discuss the backstory and the usual experiences and relationships of their characters, but most of that won’t be seen in the movie, which is set at a very specific time and gets into very specific circumstances very quickly. Green explained:


“Because our movie takes place the day before Halloween, we’re really only seeing this heightened moment of the year for us. Sh*t gets crazy, it gets real, but I think for the rest of the year we make do, like a normal Midwestern family.”


 


Halloween


What was John Carpenter’s involvement?


The new Halloween also marks the first time original writer/director/composer John Carpenter is involved in a significant capacity in more than 35 years. Not only did he give the new generation a blessing, he also is scoring the sequel and consulted on the production. In fact, he was due on set just after we left. But Green spoke of Carpenter’s input to that point:


“His advice was brilliant: ‘make it relentless’. He had notes, which is something I was extremely nervous about. We worked very hard on the script. We were all very excited. It’s one thing for three movie nerds to geek out over the opportunity of maneuvering within this property, another to basically go kiss the ring of the godfather and see how that goes. I was sweating bullets the first time I sat down with him.”


Akkad explained Carpenter’s inspiration for the genesis of the new movie:


“For whatever reason, in the past I had wanted to get John involved, and I won’t go into those details why it couldn’t happen, but as soon as we did part ways with the Weinstein Company, the first call I made was to John. I just said, ‘You know, there’s no way we’re going to do one without you.” It was a no brainer, from Miramax to Blumhouse, we just said we’ve got to have John. So I’m super excited to have his involvement and him sort of overseeing and giving his blessing and working with David and Danny and Jeff with the script.”


 


What is the true meaning of this Halloween being a legacy movie?


The idea of the new Halloween being a legacy sequel transcends the characters and narrative and even the returning players involved. One man’s legacy in particular, Moustapha Akka, who was killed in a terrorist bombing 13 years ago, is being honored here. Malek Akkad told us:


“I can honestly say no one would be happier than my father to see what we’re doing with it. He was the biggest champion of the franchise there was. He kept it alive through many periods where it could have easily gone another way. He would be the happiest person to see what we’re doing.”


Curtis also discussed the importance of honoring the elder Akkad with this movie and what it meant to her arriving on set and seeing the younger Akkad carrying on the franchise here:


“The real emotional moment for me was seeing Malek Akkad. It brings tears to your eyes that he was carrying on the tradition of his father. That got me. I remember him as a little kid, and then the horrible story of what happened to his dad and that did it.


She continued to explain how the father-to-son legacy is more important than anything else that comes of the movie:


We all, at the end of the day, want to have some honor, about what we do, what we say, how we present ourselves, and he is the keeper of that flame, and he was working really hard to protect his father’s legacy and the way that Moustapha Akkad did business. And you know, it’s a modern world, a different world 40 years later, a whole different business, and I just communicated to him that no matter what, that’s the thing he has to hold onto because that’s the only thing that matters. Money, all the fun we might have together making this movie, none of it matters. The only thing that matters is his keeping the integrity of his father’s vision – and that he has done, but he had to fight for it.”


 


Halloween arrives in theaters on October 19, 2018.


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