Interview: Robert Harders' Original Pitch for Halloween 5 - Dread Central
Connect with us

News

Interview: Robert Harders’ Original Pitch for Halloween 5

Published

on

Halloween 5

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers is one of the more divisive entries in the Halloween series. Certain elements, such as the mysterious Man in Black and the Thorn tattoo symbol, have remained controversial subjects to this day. While Jeff Burr (Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) was originally in talks to helm the project, his involvement ended once Debra Hill (co-creator of the original film) recommended French-Swiss filmmaker Dominique Othenin-Girard for the gig.

A meeting was set up by Halloween series producer Moustapha Akkad, which Othenin-Girard reflected on in an interview with HalloweenMovies.com back in 2006. “Once I got their attention, I asked Mr. Akkad if I could let in a friend of mine, a writer I worked with. Mr. Akkad was irritated by my boldness, but allowed me to go on. Robert Harders entered and I started to work with Robert in front of them, explaining the story I was going for. He had not read their script and had not seen Halloween 4. After 20 minutes, Mr. Akkad interrupted and said that to be a producer is to be able to take important decisions alone. He let us go. Two hours later, my agent, who thought I went too far, received a call from Mr. Akkad. The next day, I went in with Michael Jacobs.” 

Many different avenues could have been pursued after the success of Halloween 4‘s shock ending. Today, we look at one of the possibilities with this exclusive interview with writer Robert Harders (known for the Brian De Palma film Home Movies, as well as being a script doctor for acclaimed filmmaker Robert Altman). Here, Harders shares his perspective of the genre, his meeting with Othenin-Girard, and details how he envisioned the revenge of Michael Myers.

How did you meet Dominique Othenin-Girard?

Robert Harders: Dominique and I met through our mutual agent. Our meeting was set up because he was a director looking for a script and I was a writer with a script. I liked Dominique right away and we have remained friends. Dominique liked my script – a thriller called Burnt Hills – and, with each of us attached, it was set up in a development deal with Raffaella de Laurentiis’ production company, but was never produced. I wouldn’t want to speak for Dominique as to why he brought me to the Halloween 5 pitch meeting exactly. I think it’s fair to say we recognized that we worked well together and responded to each other’s ideas.

Were you a fan of the Halloween series or of the genre?

RH: I thought the original Halloween movie was impressive story telling and on a par with Night of the Living Dead and some of the films I remembered from growing up like Invaders from Mars and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. What I’m trying to say is that I liked good stories, regardless of the genre. The stories mentioned above are, in my opinion, actually quite sophisticated in that they operated on multiple levels – employing horror and suspense to entertain (the genre aspect) but entertaining in order to draw the audience into participating in a deeper, perhaps even unspoken, social, political, or moral conflict – and that it was this sophistication that made the films great. Once the franchise potential was realized for movies like Halloween then it became a matter of turning out sausage. In other words, a formulaic and gratuitous chase. Get the girl or group of teenagers isolated and bring on the monsters kind of stuff. Which was not at all anything I ever wanted to be involved with. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if it hadn’t been for my relationship with Dominique, I don’t think I would have even taken the meeting.

What did you think of Moustapha Akkad (or Ramsey Thomas, Akkad’s producer, who may or may not have been involved in the pitch meeting)? How did this initial meeting go for you and Dominique?

RH: If Moustapha Akkad was the man in the meeting, I remember him as being friendly. He listened to the whole pitch and I remember feeling that I had him for a moment or two during the pitch, but I’ll readily admit that what I thought might be a spark of interest could merely have been a businessman trying to understand what the hell I was talking about and how I had gotten in there in the first place. In other words, I had absolutely no illusions that the powers that be would jeopardize the franchise with so drastic a departure from what was expected by audiences around the world. There was a Ramsey connected with another project Dominique got me involved with but I don’t know if it was the same Ramsey you mention. To my horror, again, this second project was a horror story called The Dollhouse. We got a script written but it was never made. That one was a terrible experience because of the producers involved.

Do you recall why you were not involved with the film past the meeting? Did you ever discuss the project with Dominique while the film was in-production?

RH: Turns out they offered me the job of rewriting the original script anyway, but I turned it down, so my involvement with the project ended with that meeting. I was too excited about the ideas I had come up with and knew myself well enough to know I would hate doing what I felt they wanted. Fortunately, Michael Jacobs was available and he worked on the script. Michael’s a good writer and a nice guy. I remember Dominique telling me Michael saved the day because he came up with the house having a laundry chute, which I assume facilitated the chase. I never actually saw the film.

Dominique wasn’t impressed with writer Shem Bitterman’s original draft (which was ultimately discarded once he landed the job, although Bitterman still received a writing credit). Do you remember any aspects of this screenplay? What was your role during this meeting? What input did you have in the changes that Dominique was suggesting?

RH: So, I had a dilemma. I knew what kind of story they wanted, of course, and I knew that kind of story wouldn’t interest me. So, I put together a pitch that, as I remember it, started precisely where Halloween 4 had ended, which, as I am remembering it right now, had the Michael Myers character at the bottom of a collapsed mine shaft or some similar place and dead. And I imagined him there and remembered the classic scene in the original Frankenstein movie in which the creature is brought to life in Dr. Frankenstein’s lab surrounded by all that equipment. And so I proposed opening the story with a tremendous storm, thunder, fierce lighting, the shattered timbers, concrete, wires and rebar entangling and supporting the lifeless body of Michael Myers and channeling the storm’s life-giving electrical current from the heavens into the body of our creature. And bringing him back to life.

From there the Frankenstein story took over my imagination. You’ve probably seen Frankenstein the movie, but have you ever read the book? If not, you should. There’s a different kind of horror at work in the novel and I became very excited about trying to tell a story that evoked both Frankenstein the movie and Frankenstein the book. The details of the pitch are long forgotten, except for one key element, which was that the revived Michael Myers would no longer be the embodiment of pure evil. Instead, the harm caused by him – and I should say the significant harm that he would cause throughout the movie – was to be incidental. Unintentional. In response to attacks upon him. The result of his own need to survive in a world that was out to destroy him because it believed him to be the embodiment of evil he once was. In this scenario, Michael Myers was to have only one friend. The person who knows him better than anyone else, who knows to his horror the evil of Michael Myers past. I mean Loomis, the Donald Pleasence character. Think of the scene in Frankenstein when the creature meets the child by the pool of water. That’s the innocence I would have loved to try to have Loomis discover in Michael – can you image Loomis’ disbelief at even the possibility – thereby creating a terrible conflict for Loomis: how to save Michael Myers from the mob to see if he can get through to him, communicate to him. Loomis is a scientist, don’t forget. And that he is capable – and often the only one capable – of understanding of the depth of the evil that has existed in Michael – testifies, I believe, to the depth of Loomis’ own understanding of humanity. The movie then becomes about Loomis trying to save Michael Myers from the mob as he gets closer and closer to reaching Michael as a human being. The movie would have to end with Michael’s demise – something closer to the way it was handled in the novel, I thought.

The second draft of the screenplay (written by Dominique and Michael Jacobs) featured Myers escaping from the Halloween 4 mine shaft, and stumbling upon a shack on the outskirts of town, which housed an odd young man interested in the black arts. The shack was to be heavily decorated with all sorts of demonic artifacts, and during a rain storm the next Halloween Eve, the man was to perform a sort-of ritual/incantation that was to revive Myers. It works, of course, and Myers proceeds to kill his savior.

Although this scene was re-shot (excluding all references to the young man involved in the black arts; a more humble, older hermit in the man’s place), both scenes (the scripted/originally shot version & final version) do feel somewhat in the league of Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein. Was this an idea originally from Dominique’s mind that you expanded upon (justifying it with your Frankenstein connection)? Or was this solely your idea that Dominique took a liking to?

RH: I honestly don’t think I made any contribution at all to the way Michael Myers was revived for Halloween 5 or was any kind of catalyst for any of the ideas that ultimately made it into the script.

Your description of the young man and his demonic arts ritual strikes me as pure Dominique who had a penchant for the supernatural and had already explored supernatural themes in some of his earlier films (was it Night Angel?). I, on the other hand, really didn’t take to the supernatural as an explanation for anything. Instead, what I pitched took place within the mine shaft itself and relied on horror movie science a la Frankenstein, where the mine shaft becomes the laboratory, the entangling cables/wires become the equipment delivering the jolt of life (as in Frankenstein), but with no human being – no Dr. Frankenstein – present. In other words, my idea was that the monster is reanimated purely through the power of nature – nothing supernatural.

It is logical and most likely that Dominique had the supernatural opening already in mind and he may very well have told me about it before the meeting and that I tweaked it to suit my sensibilities for the pitch.

As an aside, I know you’ve mentioned your memory is a bit fuzzy on the subject, but do you recall what your thoughts were on what role Jamie Lloyd, Michael Myers’ niece, would serve in your idea for Halloween 5? She was the young girl featured in Halloween 4, who had a noteworthy scene at the end of that film that would’ve definitely affected how the story of Halloween 5 was set up.

RH: I don’t recall anything specific about the young girl.

See, my basic idea turned the whole horror movie concept on its head. Michael Myers was not the monster in my version. The monsters in the movie were to be the townspeople, the authorities, who, spurred by pure irrationality – fear, primarily, based on a lot of false assumptions – were out to destroy something they thought was evil, but, as Loomis grew to understand may not be evil at all (in my proposed incarnation. Traditionally, Michael Myers was certainly pure evil) and who may even have the potential for great good. That theme resonated for me. The trick for me, had I ever written the thing, would have been to include the young girl in the mounting danger Michael faced, as her sympathy and commitment to his safety grew since she, because of her innocence, would conceivably come to see in Michael the goodness that Loomis comes to see in him. That whatever happened in that mine shaft has brought to life a goodness in Michael’s nature that he had been denied previously, and that was equivalent in its potential power to the evil that had once existed but which has been killed off. Or perhaps it’s the girl who would have seen it first and helped convince Loomis. But none of this was ever taken seriously. I think they offered me the job because they liked my imagination even though the specifics I came up with were summarily rejected.

So, I don’t deserve any credit for anything in Halloween 5, and please believe I’m not shy about claiming credit whenever I feel I’m entitled to it. But Halloween 5 was just not such a case. All credit goes to Dominique and Michael Jacobs and probably Shem Bitterman and the production team, including the actors. They were the creative forces behind Halloween 5.

Halloween 5

Comments

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Comments

News

Doug Jones Would Love to Return as Billy Butcherson in Hocus Pocus 2

Published

on

“Wench! Trollop! You buck-toothed, mop-riding, firefly from hell!”

One of my favorite horror movies as a kid was Hocus Pocus, co-written by Mick Garris (The Stand, Sleepwalkers). The film has only grown more precious in my eyes as I’ve grown up due to its utter love of all things Halloween.

If you haven’t seen it (for some reason) think of it as a combination of Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem and Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat… but, you know, a kid’s Disney movie version.

However you choose to describe the awesomeness that is Hocus Pocus, you have to admit that the film is primed for a sequel. And recently we heard word that a TV sequel is on the way, but no one seems to be too happy about that.

Well, except Doug Jones.

For those who might not know, Doug Jones is – oh, whatever, all of you know who Doug Jones is – but you might not know that in addition to playing such iconic roles as The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, Abe Sapien in Hellboy, and the creature in The Shape of Water, Jones played Billy Butcherson in Hocus Pocus.

In a recent interview with Digital Spy, Jones spoke a bit about Hocus Pocus 2 and his desire to return to his much-loved role as Billy Butcherson.

“There was talk about doing a ’20 years later’ sequel that I would have been involved with,” he told the site. “I was actually approached and asked about that. I would love to reprise Billy Butcherson.”

Sweet! So does this mean the that a “20 years later” official sequel might still happen?

“It’s not off the table,” he said. “The news article that I read about this TV movie sounds like… I’m not sure if it’s a reboot or if it is that ’20 years later’ sequel. It was grey about what the storyline was. So I’m just going to keep my knees bent and be ready in case they call.”

Nice! To finish it all up, Jones then went on to say this about the original film:

“It only grows in popularity every year,” said Jones. “I did not see that coming, that 24 years later it would be more popular now than it’s ever been! That’s crazy for a movie to do!”

I agree! Hocus Pocus is one of those rare movies that almost everyone I know enjoys. Sure some people are a little hesitant to share their love of the film, but those of us who don’t care about such things as digging a cool kid’s horror movie, we share the love when and where ever we can. Case in point, if you have never seen Hocus Pocus, do so tonight! Trust me, you’ll thank us.

BUY IT ON BLU-RAY!

Synopsis:

After moving to Salem, Mass., teenager Max Dennison (Omri Katz) explores an abandoned house with his sister Dani (Thora Birch) and their new friend, Allison (Vinessa Shaw). After dismissing a story Allison tells as superstitious, Max accidentally frees a coven of evil witches (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy) who used to live in the house. Now, with the help of a magical cat, the kids must steal the witches’ book of spells to stop them from becoming immortal.

Comments

Continue Reading

News

Henry Rollins Will Be Back For More Cannibal Carnage in He Never Died 2

Published

on

If you’ve somehow missed it there is a killer horror-comedy out there (streaming on Netflix) starring Henry Rollins called He Never Died.

The film is a big recommend from all of us here at Dread Central and it is with this in mind we are excited by today’s news.

Yes, not only does it look like there will be a sequel, fittingly titled He Never Died 2, but THR reports that Henry Rollins will return.

While there is currently no word on additional casting, but we will let us know as soon as we hear more about the sequel.

Until then let us know what you think of the original film below!

He Never Died 2 will be written and directed by Jason Krawczyk and David Miller will produce along with Zach Hagen.

The film begins shooting in North Bay, Ontario this May.

Synopsis:

After saving his estranged daughter from his criminal past in the original movie, Jack is now a vagabond attempting to keep his supernatural compulsion in check. Along the way, he confronts depraved sadists similar to his own long life of destruction and must defy his inner demons and strike a balance of revenge and responsibility.

Comments

Continue Reading

Editorials

10 Terrifying Moments from Kids’ Movies That Haunted Our Childhoods

Published

on

When the trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story dropped a couple weeks ago, I watched it with a tinge of dread. See, Han Solo traumatized me as a child. I was 7-years-old when I saw The Empire Strikes Back in theaters, and the scene where Harrison Ford gets tortured at Cloud City gave me my first bona fide panic attack. It was dark, intense, and completely out of left field in an otherwise fantastic franchise where no one ever bleeds (or screams).

I might be the only one who had such an adverse reaction to Solo’s torture (which happens, primarily, off-screen), but those of us who came of age in the 1980s can probably relate to encountering terrifying moments in otherwise kid-friendly films. For the most part, these were the days before PG-13, meaning there was a ton of leeway for movies that fell in between the extremes of Cinderella and The Shining.

In retrospect, 1980s kids were subjected to a litany of scares that would be considered highly inappropriate by today’s standards—perhaps explaining our generations’ intense love of horror! Return with me now to those terrifying days of yesteryear with 10 terrifying moments from kids’ movies that haunted our childhoods!


The Tunnel of Terror in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

The only film on this list that wasn’t produced and released in the 1980s (and the only one I didn’t see in theaters) is nonetheless one every child of the era has seen: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory from 1971. I remember my parents telling me that I was in for a treat when they sat me down in front of the TV at the tender age of 6.

I was already unnerved by the tall man in the trench coat and the bizarre antics of Gene Wilder’s Wonka, but that boat-ride scene completely destroyed my childhood. It wasn’t even the chicken decapitation or the centipedes that rattled me; it was Wonka’s unhinged shrieking! To this day, the scene gives me the willies (pun intended!); Wilder truly channels the dangerous intensity of a lunatic.


Gmork attacks Atreyu in The NeverEnding Story (1984)

The NeverEnding Story was an exciting alternative in the Disney-dominated landscape of kids’ movies in the 1980s—exciting and dark! But a kid trapped in an attic, a horse drowning in a swamp, a nihilistic turtle, and a devastating void all paled in comparison to Atreyu’s confrontation with the insidious Gmork.

Those green eyes staring out from the cave froze my blood. The fact that it could speak made it infinitely more terrifying; this wasn’t some primal beast, this agent of The Great Nothing was a cunning and merciless villain. The matter-of-fact way it informed Atreyu that he would be his last “victim” was beyond bleak. When the monster attacked as thunder roared and lightning struck, I screamed.

Though many aspects of The NeverEnding Story show their age, this moment remains, objectively, as scary as any horror movie werewolf attack.


The Wheelers Descend in Return to Oz (1985)

When Dorothy (played by Judy Garland) first arrived in Oz back in 1939, she was greeted by a community of cheerful Munchkins. When Dorothy (reprised by Fairuza Balk) returned to Oz in 1985, her reception was much colder.

The eerie silence of a seemingly abandoned wasteland was broken by an assault by Wheelers: colorful, mechanically enhanced cousins of the Wicked Witch’s flying monkeys. As adults, we can laugh at the impracticality of villains who can’t even maneuver stairs, but we weren’t laughing as kids, I can promise you that!

While the hall of heads, an unintentionally terrifying Jack Pumpkinhead, and a truly demonic Gnome King are perhaps the scariest moments of Return to Oz, the sudden and unexpected arrival of the Wheelers was a truly devastating moment. It obliterated all our happy memories of Oz in an instant, transforming the land of enchantment into a labyrinth of evil.


Large Marge Tells her Tale in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Many of the films on this list are dark from start to finish, containing multiple terrifying moments. But part of what makes the tale of Large Marge so impactful is that it appears in an otherwise completely lighthearted film. Sure, man-child Pee-wee Herman has always been subversive in ways that only become apparent as we get older, but he never dabbled in ghost stories or jump scares.

Luckily, the scary face of Large Marge was as funny as it was shocking, so even though kids like me hit the ceiling, our fears quickly dissolved into fits of hysterical laughter. Today, I remember practically nothing about Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, but I’ll have fond memories of Large Marge until the day I die.


The Emperor Turns to Ash in The Dark Crystal (1982)

Over 35 years after it’s release, The Dark Crystal remains a unique and beautiful anomaly. Jim Henson’s G-rated Muppets were left in the workshop! This film was populated by fascinating and terrifying characters, conveying a tale that wasn’t dumbed down for its audience. These factors give the film profound resonance and contribute to its status as an enduring classic

Like the title warns, this film is dark. The Skeksis are demonic, Augrah is arresting, and the Garthim are pure nightmare fuel. The process of draining Pod People of the essence and the stabbing death of Kira are horrifying. But it was the death of the Skeksis Emperor that really hit me like a ton of bricks.

There was something metaphysically terrifying about this moment; not only is the idea of a creature crumbling into ash creepy as hell but the effect was gasp-inducing. As a child, it was something I’d never seen before, a concept I’d never imagined, and it floored me. Death had never been conveyed with such shocking profundity.


The Lab Rats are Injected in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

When I sat in the theater in 1982, I don’t think I realized that The Secret of NIMH wasn’t a Disney movie, but I realized soon enough Mickey and Minnie weren’t hangin’ with these rodents! The Great Owl was petrifying and the finale was as harrowing as anything my young psyche had yet experienced, but it was the flashback of experiments conducted on lab rats that stuck with me and haunted my childhood.

It wasn’t just the brilliant animation that powerfully conveyed the rats’ pain as syringes were plunged into their bellies, it was a brutal moment of education they don’t teach kids in school. It was my first introduction to the realities of animal experimentation, and the fact that grown-ups would perpetrate such atrocities felt like a betrayal


The Ending of Time Bandits (1981)

In retrospect, it was irresponsible for any of our parents to think that Time Bandits was a kids’ movie just because the main character was an 11-year-old boy. In 1981, the only other film Terry Gilliam had directed was Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Yes, Time Bandits is funny and exciting with motifs common to kid-friendly time-travel fiction, but the film is nearly hopelessly bleak from start to finish.

Kevin (played by Craig Warnock) is completely neglected by his parents and essentially kidnapped by a troop of interdimensional robbers. He’s made complicit in a series of crimes throughout many dangerous eras, forced to endure wars and even the sinking of the Titanic. Eventually, Kevin is dragged into a realm of ultimate darkness. Though triumphing over Evil personified, he’s abandoned by God before returning home—only to find his home engulfed in a blazing inferno.

Though rescued by firemen, Kevin’s parents didn’t even realize he was missing and are soon reduced to piles of ash by a stray bit of concentrated evil. The friendly firemen take little notice, leaving our young protagonist utterly alone.


Faces Melt in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

A lot of my peers will count the human sacrifice scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as one of the most terrifying moments of their childhood. Not me. After what I’d endured in Raiders of the Lost Ark, I was ready for anything.

Since it gets less attention than its predecessor (bonus fact: Temple of Doom is a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark), I think people forget just how scary Raiders really is. It’s worlds darker and grittier than Doom, which has a colorful, comic book pallet by comparison, not to mention a clear emphasis on comedy. The spiders, the snakes, the boobytraps: they all put monkey brains and extracted hearts to shame.

But the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark is more intense than most horror movies, past and present. The face-melting evoked Cold War Era fears of nuclear annihilation and the idea of a vengeful God was devastating.


The Death of Shoe in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

I wasn’t always the jaded gorehound I am today; I was young and sensitive once. And even though I was well into puberty by 1988 (or maybe because of it) I was especially traumatized by a moment in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The hard-boiled plot loaded with barely veiled sexual innuendo was, for the most part, completely buried beneath a cacophony of cameos from just about every cartoon character ever penned.

But it wasn’t the fever-nightmare of Roger’s mania or even the emergence of Judge Doom’s true form that devastated me; it was the execution of poor Shoe, a paradigm of animated innocence unceremoniously dropped into a barrel of “dip” (a toxic concoction made from turpentine, acetone, and benzene).

Most kids in their early teens couldn’t stop thinking about Jessica Rabbit; I was haunted by the death of Shoe.


Supercomputer Makes a Human Cyborg in Superman III (1983)

There’s an evil streak that runs throughout Superman III, the third film to feature Christopher Reeves as the titular Man of Steel. While Superman II had its dark spots (specifically the devastation caused by Zod and his companions) there’s an undercurrent in Richard Lester’s follow-up that’s absolutely wicked—containing a scene that contributed to the destruction of my childhood.

A makeshift batch of Kryptonite turns Superman into an immoral, selfish thug before he participates in a troubling fight to the death with himself. But as unsettling as the concept of an evil Superman may be, the scene where the supercomputer turns Vera into a cyborg was some next level shit for 10-year-old me.

I re-watched the scene in preparation for this article and was shocked at its similarities to the moment in Hellraiser II when Dr. Channard is transformed into a Cenobite—especially the wires! No wonder it scared the hell out of me!

Comments

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Go Ad Free!

Support Dread Central on Patreon!
Advertisement

Recent Comments

Advertisement

Join the Box of Dread Mailing List

* indicates required

Trending

Copyright © 2017 Dread Central Media LLC