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HALLOWEEN: A Look Back at THE SHAPE

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Darkness, with a small shape in the center of the screen. As main titles continue over, camera slowly moves in on ‘The Shape.’ We get closer and closer until we see that the shape is a Halloween mask. It is a large, full-head latex rubber mask, not a monster or ghoul, but the pale, neutral features of a man weirdly distorted by the rubber. Finally camera finally moves in on the eye of the mask. It is blank, empty, a dark, staring socket.

Originally titled ‘The Babysitter Murders’ John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic, Halloween, isn’t the only name change within the film. In-fact the names behind the original film give fans insight into the psychology behind the creation. Michael Myers was originally referred to by John Carpenter in screenplays, credit rolls and even call sheets as ‘The Shape.’

But is there more behind ‘The Shape’ than a name in the script? Halloween is a result of a perfect storm. An unknown director, independently funded, the perfect catchy title and a killer original script, sealed with the perfect iconic soundtrack. But the man behind horror’s most iconic psychopath was never meant to come to fruition. Sure we recognize Michael’s childhood trauma, but upon his return his identity is meant to fade away into the shadows. Resulting in a psychopathic shape looming in the darkness. This is the idea behind ‘The Shape.’

His identity concealed by a mask deeming him emotionless and faceless. And in John Carpenter’s own words “a force of nature, as opposed to a human being.” Removing his identity creates chaos in the audience’s mind. Not being unable to read his emotions, Michael is now a faceless killer on the hunt, and removing his humanity turns him into what humans fear the most, the unknown.

“It was the Boogeyman.”

“As a matter of fact it was.”

‘The Shape’ is now the essence of fear: A shape, a shadow, a boogeyman. It is often referred to as the embodiment
of pure evil. His inhuman abilities mixed with his anonymity results in brutal fear and of course fans everywhere double checking they locked the door at night.

“You can’t kill the boogeyman.”

This boogeyman shook up the horror scene by recreating the villain. Instead of fangs and theatrics, ‘The Shape’
used what people were already afraid of and brought the setting into their homes. But where did the idea for
‘The Shape’ come from? Allegedly John Carpenter had strong influences from Hitchcock, particularly Psycho. After all Samuel Loomis was named after John Gavin’s character from the 1960 Hitchcock classic. Furthermore, legendary American film critic and journalist, Roger Ebert, stated in his review “Halloween is an absolutely merciless
thriller, a movie so violent and scary that, yes, I would compare it to Psycho.” And interestingly enough there seems to be direct evidence of Psycho’s influence, whether it was intended or not.

When searching for ‘The Shape’s’ mask Carpenter and his team were after three things a plain identity, with no emotions or features. It was important for the film that audience remained uneasy. And Carpenters approach to this was to
remove anything that drew attention. Because nothing says psychopath like a blank stare and a sharp knife.

It’s common knowledge that in the original film the villain was played by a handful of people while wearing the mask. Including producer, Debra Hill, who wore the mask for an external pick up shot. This proved as a great solution to a low budget film with time restraints, but further concluded that at the heart of ‘The Shape’ was an idea, not a person. The cast could candidly embody a character who was emotionless.

John Carpenter’s Halloween took many risks with this new villain concept. And they paid off, ‘The Shape’ became one
of the first of many masked villains to terrorize the innocent in suburbia. The mystery around the villain made
him an instant legend. And so it goes the original Halloween film will forever hold the unique spark that engulfed the iconic franchise, ‘The Shape.’

In fact Carpenter never intended on the lore of Michael Myers to evolve from ‘The Shape.’ But after the popularity of Myers exploded and Halloween III tanked, the franchise had to be saved by abandoning ‘The Shape’ and moving towards an extensive back story. Whether they were successful in this is or not is up to your own opinion.

So what’s in a name? Where did ‘The Shapes’ name actually come from? His name is inspired by real life film distributor
Michael Myers, who helped push Carpenter’s independent action thriller, ‘Assault on Precinct 13’. Carpenter was eternally grateful to Myers and chose to show his gratitude by making his name one of the most iconic fictional killers in film.

John Carpenter’s Halloween turned from independent-low budget-slasher into a world wide phenomenon. Grossing an estimated $47 million-dollars, making it one of the most successful independent films of all time. But as fans we can’t help but wonder, what would would of happened to the franchise if Michael had remained the mysterious ‘Shape’.

Do you think he would of remained more powerful with less of a backstory or do you prefer your villains unmasked?

This is Spooky Astronauts for Dread Central, signing off.

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