About The Production (Cont'd)
Two Different Prisons:
Design of the Horror
Production designer Richard A. Wright has worked alongside Green in that
capacity since the director's inaugural film. From comedies and thrillers to
dramas and satire, the filmmakers have long created fantastic worlds for their
characters, and continue to operate with longtime friends and colleagues to do
It was key to the director to put these characters in an everyday world that
we all recognize, one that is not extraordinary. "Stylistically, we used John
Carpenter's film as our creative foundation," offers Green. "We're a sequel to
that and no one else. In honor of that, and to spell out the simplicity that
allowed us to go to these heightened places of terror, we wanted to establish a
relatable sense of drama in these characters." It's 40 years later, and that
means "everything is a little more aged, a little textured. Something that was a
bit more of a sterile suburb now has a saltier, seedier side."
Alongside Green and Wright, assistant director ATILLA SALIH YUCER,
cinematographer Michael Simmonds and location supervisor/associate producer S.
SCOTT CLACKUM began scouting for locations almost one year prior to principal
photography. "We got to be there in the early stages of the script, discovering
it as we went along," says Wright.
The 28-day shoot occurred in and around Charleston, South Carolina. While it
was important for the designer to focus on the original film and take much of
this production's lore from that, he didn't feel the need to be slavish to
Carpenter's original creation. "In terms of the design, we started with what
Laurie's house, her daughter's house and even her granddaughter's room look
like," explains Wright. "We thought about what the character's gone through, the
fact that she's never gotten over this experience. It has driven her to some
sort of madness."
When it came to Laurie's nemesis, Wright takes us back to the start: "We find
Michael Myers in the same place he was in at the beginning of the original film:
a state hospital. This Smith's Grove State Hospital was a bit of a discovery. We
happened upon this amazing checkerboard courtyard he's standing in the middle
It was this scene that proved the most terrifying to producer Blum. He
remembers the first time he watched it: "Michael Myers has an aura about him
that very much scares the other inmates. When we first meet him, even in that
context, he's extraordinarily threatening...even though he hasn't spoken in
decades. He only grows more threatening through the course of the movie."
The bars and checkered patterns defined a number of the locations as the
production went along; in turn, Wright began repeating those patterns in other
sets. "You even see it in Laurie's house: she's caged in, just the way Michael
Myers is," sums the designer. "He's locked behind bars in the state prison and
when he comes upon Laurie, she's locked herself in a prison as well."
As the crew scouted locations and built sets, the design throughline was
simply to show us at our most ordinary, shocked into an alternate reality when
violence happens. "The goal is to present people in real situations," says
Wright. "One of the things that makes the original film so horrifying is that
this guy in a mask is killing kids who were just trying to have a good time.
They're just doing things that normal high-school kids do."
When Wright was designing Laurie's farmhouse and shooting range, he leaned
heavily on the film's star for input. As she's lived with this character for
many years, Curtis had valuable recommendations regarding what Laurie's home
would look like today. "Anytime an actor has input about their character, it
brings new ideas to the table. She was a big force on set, in a very positive
way. We had a few wallpapers hanging up in the location, trying to decide which
one we liked," Wright recalls. "When Jamie saw them, she said, 'I always
imagined Laurie would have floral wallpaper.'"
"It's Not Going to Bite You..."
Special Effects & Makeup
One of the more popular people on set was Academy Award-winning
special-effects makeup designer Christopher Nelson, whose work in films such as
Suicide Squad and the Kill Bill series to TV shows including American Horror
Story and The Walking Dead have earned him praise from fellow artists and actors
alike. In keeping with Green's direction that the scariest fears are the ones
just out of camera's reach, Nelson kept up the delicate dance of showing our
worst fears...without succumbing to an easy out of a gore-fest.
Like many of his cohorts, the SFX designer remains a huge fan of the original
film. "There are things John did in that movie that were so groundbreaking and
artistic, but still palpable and digestible for an audience" Nelson reflects. "I
saw it when I was 10 years old, and it introduced me to a whole new genre of
film. I attached myself to it and liked how scary and thrilling it was...as well
as the fact that it happens right down the street."
It wasn't just the opportunity to work on Halloween that enticed the Oscar
winner to the project. It was the chance to collaborate with a director who gets
Halloween that brought him aboard. "At the time John made the film, he wasn't
known as a horror-genre director," says Nelson. "He was a filmmaker out of USC
who loved Peckinpah and studied a lot of different genres. David's very similar;
he just loves film, and that why he jumps genres."
From the moment that Nelson met with the producers, his knowledge and love of
all-things Halloween were evident. "I did a break-down and told them my ideas
for the design of the mask and other effects in the film...along with the concept
that David had in his mind of how it's going to look," the designer recalls. "We
just all clicked, and they realized how passionate I would be for the project."
When in doubt, Nelson drew inspiration from the creative decisions made by
Tommy Wallace, Carpenter's production designer on the first film. "Tommy kept
the mask very simple, but it was the way it fit on Nick Castle and the way he
moved in it that affected the way he looked," explains Nelson. "You could never,
ever re-create that face, that nothingness and that tragedy-the feeling you have
when you look at that mask for the first time."
Although it's become a bit of urban legend, Nelson breaks down how the
original mask came to be. "John sent Tommy out to get some Halloween masks. He
got this Captain Kirk/William Shatner mask that was made by Don Post Studios,
and John said, 'Well, change it...' They thought it looked eerie and creepy. Tommy
ripped the sideburns and eyebrows off, cut the eyeholes bigger and spray-painted
it white. He also sprayed the blonde hair brown. It ended up being this strange
mannequin-like face-soulless, almost a great-white-shark face-that so well."
As a super-fan himself, Green approached design of the 2018 mask with the
utmost respect. "The mask is a very sensitive subject in Halloween lore. For
some reason people have decided to put their spin on it, and I'm not sure when
or why that became something of interpretation. Christopher is an amazing
Oscar-winning effects makeup artist, and said, 'let's make the mask.' Granted,
it's 40 years later and it's going to have cracks and deteriorated, but we both
wanted to keep that beautiful melancholy character that is the mask. We decided
not to put our spin on it, but simply re-create it."
Once Courtney was cast and Nelson and the new Shape had a chance to meet his
SFX designer, Nelson was intrigued by the performer. "Jim has such a perfect
stature, as well as a great face and head. As we approached the mask, I
obviously wanted to base it off the original mask and give it that form,
expression of tragedy and blankness of soul." Once Courtney was in full dress,
the designer was blown away. "Jim moves like a great white shark. He just swims
through the water, eats and he moves on; there's no rhyme or reason. Jim's
performance has impressed me beyond belief. He just nails it."
Nelson and Green wanted Courtney in the mask to look different in every shot
in which he was photographed. They wanted the mask to be shapeshifting
constantly but still maintain a form of tragedy and fear. Considering that it's
been four decades since Michael Myers last donned it, the team had to take into
consideration how the latex would change shape after so long in evidence
storage. For Nelson, it was back to the homework. "I studied 40-year-old latex
masks and how they decomposed. The latex gets brittle and it wrinkles; it warps
and sags. I took all that into account but still tried to maintain that
expression and form of the original."
The rest of the crew got a kick out of warily watching Michael Myers on set.
"Getting to see Jim Courtney and Nick Castle put on the mask of The Shape was a
lot of fun," states production designer Wright. "Apparently when you put on that
mask, you go to another place. They didn't even talk when they were in it, which
is interesting to watch them get directed and just nod and shake their head
calmly." He pauses, warily. "I've never put on the mask, but apparently it does
something to you."
When it came to the bodies strung all over Charleston as Haddonfield, Nelson
also knew what was required of him. "David and I had a lot of discussions about
them as specific postcards. If you look at a lot of John Carpenter films, there
are images you never forget," reflects Nelson. "There are still images with the
victims after their death. They burn into our brain like terrifying postcards.
When you walk out of the theater, you still remember them."
The process for the filmmakers was to start with the image Green needed to be
seared into audiences' minds, and create that design to be shot on camera. "It's
all about the lighting. Is there a glint in their eyes?" asks Nelson. "Is there
a death-shriek expression on their face? To do this, we life-casted the actors
whose characters are killed with specific expressions-re-sculpting them to give
that dramatic effect. They were slightly over-accentuated and slightly stylized
to give a terrifying inhumanity."
At least one of his cast-members was so impressed with Nelson's work that she
had zero interest in getting any closer than she had to get. Matichak recalls
the day she visited the designer's workshop and ran into a corpse: "The way it
was sitting, its body and hands were propped up in a chair. Then its head was
bent back in this way, so when you walked into the trailer, the first thing you
see is a head looking at you upside-down. It was so horrific and real that I
couldn't go near it. Chris said, 'Andi, it's okay. It's not going to bite you.'
I told him, 'I think it will. It 100 percent will."
Green and DP Simmonds:
Shooting the Film
Halloween's cinematographer, Michael Simmonds, has a history with both
Blumhouse Productions and director Green. He's worked with Rough House Pictures
on their HBO series Vice Principals, but partnered with Blum since 2010.
"Michael and I go back to the Paranormal Activity movies together," says Blum.
"He's one of the best DPs we've ever worked with. We've offered him almost every
movie we made for years after Paranormal Activity 2."
Green reflects that being able to find somebody of that expertise in the
horror genre-who also has the energy and enthusiasm he brings to this particular
franchise-was amazing. "Every setup was a conversation. We had a great game plan
going into it, but as the sunlight would change or an actor would have an idea,
there became this organic process. When you have collaborators that aren't so
precious and particular that they melt down whenever you change things-but are
open to these opportunities and re-inventions-that's when the happy accidents
happen." He pauses. "That's when the real jazz of filmmaking can kick in."
When structuring the shoot for Halloween, Green and Simmonds were not simply
inspired by the look of movies from that era, but the manner in which they were
shot. "David doesn't tend to get very cut-y with his films," says production
designer Wright. "He likes to linger on a wide shot or even a close up longer
than a lot of films do, and that comes from his love of '70s films."
His passion for lingering shots is yet another thing Green has in common with
his horror mentor, and inspiration from the 1978 version is what he took in
lensing 2018's film. Recalls Carpenter: "We were playing with brand-new toys on
Halloween: widescreen Panavision, as well as something called the Pana-glide,
which is a Steadicam rig for Panavision cameras. I've always been a fan of dolly
shots, but they have limits to them. I noticed a Steadicam shot in a movie years
earlier; it was a single take, and the freedom to move was unbelievable. So,
they had a Panavision equivalent, which is the big Panavision lenses mounted on
the operator as a gyroscopic camera. It had a unique drift and was
Throughout production, it was important for Green to host regular gatherings
of the cast. Whether it was just for a coffee, a snack or a full meal, the
troupe would talk through a scene at his home. "Sometimes we'd read them
formally and make adjustments, and sometimes we would discuss the essence of
what we were trying to achieve in a scene," the director notes. "Typically,
after a couple takes on the days of production we would reassess. We'd see how
things felt in the environment, in the wardrobe, in the moment and then make
radical adjustments. That allowed us to throw each other curveballs and say,
'I've been doing it like this, and this is what we've talked about. What if we
try something out of the box and let it loose?' I find those moments of
vulnerability and uncertainty really valuable."
Curtis joins her fellow cast in appreciating the decisions Green made to get
them out of their own head and shake things up on set with these curveballs. She
explains a particularly poignant day: "There is a sequence where Laurie comes to
Karen's house with the police. Karen finally understands that the threat is
real, that Michael Myers has escaped, and her daughter is in jeopardy and they
have to leave the house. The writing is as it should be, very specific, but
here's an example where the combination of David, Michael and Atilla felt it
David said, 'It's too linear,' and these scenes are never linear. Trauma is
not linear; trauma is fragmented. He had us speak gibberish to each other-just
using one word and then not saying anything else. It was fascinating. He then
had us say the same word over and over again to get to that chaos of a moment
that on the page is very linear. In reality, it wouldn't be, because people
don't speak that way."
In turn, Simmonds adjusted and then got into it with a camera. Curtis found
it fascinating to watch because that's how inventive and different Green
continues to be. "It's a creative medium, and movies can become very static and
very linear," she notes. "When he's getting into a scene, he's like a conductor
through the monitor. I thought, 'Wow. He's invested. He is magical in that
A Family Affair:
Music of the Film
Not only did John Carpenter serve as creative consultant for the production,
he brought his infamous skills as composer to the new Halloween. Alongside
collaborators Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies-with whom Carpenter has released
three solo albums-the trio would not simply pay homage to work the composer
began more than four decades ago, they would inventively update the sounds to
serve Green's vision.
Producer Blum explains that what has kept Carpenter's original theme so
timeless and haunting is that it remains so unexpected. "You don't associate
that kind of keyboard music with a horror movie-as much as you wouldn't
associate strings in a horror movie, which Hitchcock did in Psycho," he says.
His fellow producer appreciates the throw-back to another era, and the deep
feelings of dread and terror the principal theme evokes. Block says: "The
late-'70s synthesizer is an instrument that is not used so much anymore. That
Moog synthesizer was a dominant instrument at the time. Alongside a lot of other
technological music, it has been a bit forgotten. When it comes back, it's a
classic aspect that really is effective."
Carpenter explains that his inspiration for the theme stretches back to his
own childhood: "Back in 1963, my father taught me to play bongos. He taught me
5/4 time: ba, ba, ba, ba, bop, bop. Throughout the years, I've had that tempo in
my head. So, I just played it on piano and rocked some octaves, and there it is.
It's really simple, but it's jangly and gets in your head. I thought it would be
perfect for the movie."
Green agrees with his producers when discussing the jarring simplicity. "The
original theme that John created sits so comfortably with the film," he says.
"It's almost a juvenile series of notes. You don't need the symphony to tell you
how to feel. It's like Jaws; you have that simple back and forth, repetitive
nature of a score. You don't need as much noise, accents and accessories when
you have something that is so stripped-down and raw. At its musical essence, it
scares the pants off of you."
The director discusses what Carpenter brings to the new film as its composer:
"It's one thing to do something derivative of that iconic Halloween theme or
find a big orchestral composer and have him or her take it in their own
direction and use creative license. But to have John's signature as a
collaborator on the creation of the narrative-plus the casting and the sculpting
of the production-the icing on the cake is this score. He's been playing music
live forever, but he's recently toured with his son, Cody, and Daniel Davies.
The three of them combined to create a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of a
Carpenter score for us."
Carpenter welcomed the chance to "get into the director's head" and bring
life to their shared conversations about bowed guitars, skittering electronic
percussions and creepy piano-driven pieces. He explains his process for the
music of 2018's Halloween: "The first step that my son, godson and I did with
the score is called MIDI. We got the MIDI to the original score so we could work
with essentially the notes and the feel. We applied all brand-new synth sounds
to update it and make it sound different than the original does. Then we started
at the Universal logo and began putting music in." He pauses. "Music is an
improvisational situation for me. A couple of things we worked on and actually
planned out, but what you see on the screen is mostly improvised."
For the artist, the chance to have his bandmates score their first film
alongside him was a joyous one. "Daniel, Cody and I have made three albums
together, so we come up with new ideas and ways of doing things; that was the
excitement for me," wraps Carpenter. "I got to work with my family, which is a
big joy in my life at my age. Then I got to play with the original themes of
Halloween, but remake them in a new way and that was a lot of fun."
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