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HALLOWEEN

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 so.

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 of."

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 unbelievable."

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 needed work.

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 moment."

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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