'This Movie Was Hell': 4 Times The 'Halloween' Series Almost Killed Itself
With the saga of Michael Myers set to conclude (for like the third, or fourth time) in the new film Halloween Ends, a lot of folks may feel like revisiting some of the previous entries in the beloved/abjectly confusing franchise. But as fun as they may be to watch, actually making the Halloween series was often about as fun as an autumn stroll near the Haddonfield sanitarium, for reasons such as …
John Carpenter Came Up With Halloween II’s Twist Out Of Drunken Desperation
The original Halloween was a decidedly low-budget affair; so much so that Jamie Lee Curtis had to buy her own wardrobe at JCPenney, and the production had to literally keep sweeping up and recycling “dozens of bags of fake leaves” in order to make Pasadena in the springtime look like Illinois in October. Once the movie was a big hit, a sequel became an inevitability, which director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill were less enthusiastic about …
Carpenter and Hill’s original idea took place years after the first movie and involved Michael Myers stalking Laurie Strode “in a high-rise apartment building.” This idea was later reworked to pick up where we left off: on the very same night as the original movie – they couldn’t even give Michael Myers a day or two of rest? There are still plenty of butcher knives and horny teenagers on Guy Fawkes Day, you know.
Halloween II also featured a major (controversial) twist; Michael Myers/The Shape is Laurie’s long-lost brother. This radical plot point was conceived of by Carpenter when he was tasked with adding several minutes to the original film after the TV rights were purchased by NBC, who deemed it to be “too short.” So Carpenter came up with the twist after desperately drinking a six-pack of beer for inspiration – a moment that, oddly enough, was brought to life in a Budweiser commercial.
Which is an odd brag for the brewer to make, considering that Carpenter later called the twist a “terrible, stupid idea” and the film itself “an abomination.” Although, to be fair, in terms of things people regret after pounding back one too many beers, this is probably on the lighter side of things.
Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers Was A Friggin’ Trainwreck
Halloween III: Season of the Witch famously attempted to turn the Halloween franchise into a spooky anthology series, scrapping Michael and Laurie for a story about killer Druidic robots. When it underperformed at the box office, the producers decided to bring back Michael Myers (who may or may not be a Druidic robot himself).
Carpenter and Hill helped develop a script for Halloween 4 by writer Dennis Etchison, all about how the town of Haddonfield has now banned Halloween (the holiday, not the movie) and won’t even let the local drive-in play horror movies. The Shape returns, not because Michael is a magically-immortal dude, but as a sort of a phantom – which also meant that he had crazy new powers, like the ability to grow into a 12-foot ghoul.
The script was rejected for being “too cerebral,” and as a result, Carpenter and Hill sold their interest in the franchise to producer Moustapha Akkad and “moved on.” But this was just the beginning of Halloween 4’s problems; once they started filming the new script, in which Michael Myers was a “flesh and blood” man (written in “under eleven days”), things really got rough.
For starters, since the Michael Myers mask had been given away after filming Halloween II to a guy named Dick Warlock, they needed a new batch of masks. Make-up technician Ken Horn contacted the original mask’s manufacturers, who obtained the classic William Shatner mold, and commissioned the production of new masks for the shoot. Unfortunately, when they arrived, the masks were “pink with white hair.” Rather than have Michael Myers embrace this new glam rock aesthetic, Horn had to repaint the mask after some “scrambling” – which is why the mask has such a “bumpy texture” in the movie.
But, oddly, the pink mask is still in one scene in the movie, which director Dwight H. Little later speculated it was because “someone ran to the prop truck at four in the morning and brought the wrong mask.”
The mask still didn’t look quite right, and at one point, Horn was fired by a producer, who wanted to alter the mask on set, after he pointed out that cutting and gluing the mask during filming would cause the actor to “faint and fall and kill himself.” And speaking of injuries, during the rooftop chase scene –
– actress Ellie Cornell sliced her stomach on a staple that was “protruding out from the roof” causing the medic to go “bonkers.” And speaking of things that are bonkers …
Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers Was Torpedoed By The Weinsteins
By the time of the sixth entry, the rights to the series about a soulless monster with no compassion for others ended up, fittingly enough, with Harvey and Bob Weinstein, after a purchase by Miramax. At one point, the Weinsteins even tried to get Quentin Tarantino to helm the project, which he “declined.” If you thought that choice seems wacky, at one point, it was also suggested that the film’s radio DJ character could be played by Howard Stern – when he turned it down, the screenwriter suggested casting Mike Myers … get it?
The first version of the script involved Michael Myers living as a drifter staying in men's shelters – and also, oddly enough, virtual reality (because this was 1995, after all). That was scrapped in favor of a story exploring how The Shape’s evil is all due to the machinations of an ancient Druid cult.
Behind the scenes, things were a mess. Reportedly, the script was constantly being overhauled by the director and the producers – but they all had “vastly different ideas of what the film should be,” which is why “character arcs went unfinished,” and several important questions were left “unanswered.”
According to an anonymous source, producer Paul Freeman further gummed up the works, sending the crew home “when crucial scenes needed to be shot,” and sometimes directing the second-unit shoots himself, which had the vibe of a “child experimenting with his first Super-8 movie camera.” After a poor test screening, the Weinstens had substantial elements of the film reshot over just four days with a new crew, making the movie arguably even more “bizarre” and nonsensical.” Producer Moustapha Akkad even considered suing the Weinsteins, but opted not to in order to “avoid negatively affecting the film’s release.” But hey, at least Paul Rudd’s in it.
Halloween H20 Ended Up With A Cartoon Mask Through Sheer Incompetence
After The Curse of Michael Myers, Dimension Films readied plans to make the next Halloween film a cheaper, straight-to-video release (presumably starring Larry the Cable Guy as Michael Myers). But then Jamie Lee Curtis approached John Carpenter and Debra Hill about returning to the series for the film’s 20th anniversary. According to rumor, Carpenter asked the studio for a $10 million fee, to make up for “unpaid profit participation” in the franchise, which the studio “balked at.”
Even without Carpenter and Hill, Halloween H20 (which sounds like the name of a spooky day spa) still got made. But weirdly, what should have been one of the easier elements to nail was again totally bungled. Apparently the Michel Myers mask was purposely designed to not look like it did in the other films due to rights issues, with filmmakers asking for “close approximation that won’t get us into any legal problems.”
But after someone reportedly stood up during a screening of dailies and exclaimed “That’s not Michael Myers’ mask!” the producers started “freaking out” and asked for a new mask halfway through the filming. This was done behind the back of the director who then commissioned the creation of a third mask. But because not every scene could be reshot with the new mask(s) for some shots they just CGI’d the new mask on top of the existing footage –
– kind of making it look like a Halloween movie set inside the Who Framed Roger Rabbit-verse.
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