The new Halloween is in theaters now and getting pretty solid reviews — even John Carpenter is cool with it and he hasn’t always been thrilled by the other sequels. It’s the eleventh movie in the Halloween franchise, but this year’s installment fully ignores everything to come before it, instead picking up forty years after the events of the original with a far better-prepared Laurie Strode and a final confrontation with Michael Myers.
Halloween 2018 made us want to take another look at the 1978 classic and dig up some facts surrounding its production, story, and legacy. Any Halloween fan knows the story of the Captain Kirk mask and knows South Pasadena stood in for Haddonfield, Illinois but maybe you didn’t know what happened to the Myers’s house after filming ended or why it only took 20 days to shoot.
In honor of the release of the 11th Halloween, here are 11 facts you probably didn’t know about the first one. Read up, then go watch a showdown four decades in the making.
1. Halloween 1978 was shot super fast…
Filming began in the spring of 1978 (which meant they had to paint gourds to look like pumpkins and blow around artificial fall leaves) and the finished film came out that same October. The film’s financiers told director John Carpenter he could have final cut, but only if he stuck to an insane 20 day filming schedule — which he did. Even Dawn of the Dead, which came out the same year took about 3 months to film.
2. …and it was shot super cheap.
Carpenter and co. secured about $300,000 to make the film — a minuscule budget even 40 years ago. According to the H:25 DVD commentary, such tight money constraints made for some interesting filmmaking techniques.
- They had to move the lights around during takes. The movie opens with a long tracking shot following young Michael Myers through his house. Carpenter wanted to make the shot as long and continuous as possible, but didn’t have enough lighting equipment to light the whole house. Instead, the crew leapfrogged the lights through the house, taking them from a room they’d just filmed and setting them up in the another room before the camera got there.
- They used the director’s own TV. When the kids Laurie is babysitting watch The Thing on TV, that’s John Carpenter’s TV playing his personal copy of The Thing (a movie he’d go on to remake in 1982).
- Nobody got paid very much. Jamie Lee Curtis, in her first feature role, made $8k. Carpenter got $10k and a cut of the profits. Donald Pleasence, who played Michael’s psychiatrist, was the big name in the production, earning $20k for his role.
- It earned about 200 times what it cost. Halloween brought in around $70 million worldwide — and inspired a slew of budget slasher imitators looking for, and not quite finding, the same magic formula.
3. Michael Myers was inspired by a robot…and personifies fate.
In the commentary again, Carpenter says he picked up the idea of a bad guy who wouldn’t die from the original Westworld movie, in which Yul Brynner’s gunslinger robot keeps coming back to life, even after he’s burned.
And remember the classroom scene when Laurie Strode first sees the shape through the window? The teacher gives a literary bit of foreshadowing, saying:
“…fate caught up with several lives here. No matter what course of action Collins took, he was destined to his own fate.” Sort of like, no matter wherever Laurie runs, Myers is already there.
4. One line of dialogue in particular inspired the 2018 movie.
David Gordon Green, director of the new Halloween, told the LA Times there was one moment in the original where Laurie Strode’s character becomes decidedly badass, and that served as the mantra when creating her character in the new film.
“She has a line in the original film when she’s talking to young Tommy Doyle at the climax of the movie,” Green said of Laurie, who in the new film has been waiting decades to face off again with Myers. “She says, ‘Do as I say.’ And she says this line with a command that she hasn’t had for the entire film. Do as I say.”
5. The Myer’s house had a history… and a future.
The house used for Michael Myers’ abandoned and derelict childhood home actually was abandoned. To make it look like the house where 6 year old Michael kills his sister and launches his whole embodiment-of-evil routine, the crew — and cast — spent an entire day painting, fixing, and dragging in furniture to make the house look more lived-in/less haunted.
A few years after Halloween came out, the house was still abandoned and scheduled for demolition. A South Pasadena city councilman bought the house for a dollar and arranged to have it moved up the street. It’s now an office building — and tourist attraction — that’s been designated a historic landmark.
6. The co-writer deserved a hand model credit.
Working with kids on movie sets is tough. Especially when you’d like one of those kids to wield a butcher knife and simulate murder with it. Instead of messing with all that therapy-necessitating mojo, producer and co-writer Debra Hill dressed herself up in a clown outfit and stood in for young Michael. That’s her hand you see grabbing the knife from the Myers’ family kitchen drawer — and subsequently slashing up Michael’s sister.
7. Jamie Lee Curtis made up the song she sings.
When Laurie Strode walks to school on day one, she sings to herself. “I wish I had you all alone… just the two of us.” But the song wasn’t some late 70s pop ditty. Jamie Lee Curtis remembers Carpenter telling her to improvise something. She had no idea what to sing, but made up this eerie, unsettling song that pretty much foreshadows the coming confrontation — when she’s most definitely all alone with a freaky masked dude and a knife.
8. That iconic creepy score was born from bongos.
One of the most memorable, scariest, and menacing-est scores to ever get stuck in your head is the theme from Halloween. It’s nearly a character in itself and John Carpenter wrote the whole score in a couple days after he screened a music-less version of the film for an exec and was told it wasn’t very scary.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Carpenter told the story of getting a set of bongos for Christmas. His father taught him a simple 5/4 time “… so I just took that and used some octaves on the piano and came up with [the score].” Crazy simple. Relentlessly scary.
9. There’s a Trent Reznor version of the Halloween theme.
It’s only fitting that the dude who brought us The Downward Spiral would want a, er, stab at something so haunting and menacing. With Atticus Ross the two released their version of the theme which you can listen to here.
10. Halloween fans are for real.
One group of diehards made a faithful, meticulous, shot-for-shot remake of 5 scenes from the original movie. It’s pretty impressive. And there’s a guy in North Carolina who so loved the film that he built an exact replica of the Myers’ house — and lives in it.
11. John Carpenter was cool with actors making suggestions.
Just before she makes her final phone call, teenager Lynda tries to lure her boyfriend back into bed with a boobie peek while asking, “See anything you like?” Not only was that figure in the doorway not her boyfriend, that seduction technique was not in the script. On set, Carpenter asked Soles to improvise something sexy and that moment is what she came up with.
Dr. Loomis’ final reaction was also a bit of actor-direction. [Spoiler alert: Discussion of final scene] In the H:25 commentary, Carpenter tells the story of filming the final scene when Loomis shoots Myers and watches him fly out the second story window. When he looks out to the ground below, Michael’s body isn’t there. Donald Pleasence said he could play it surprised, as in the script, or like he’d somehow known the body would be gone. Carpenter told him to do it both ways and ended up choosing the actor’s suggestion.