What is it about Michael Myers that makes him such an iconic horror villain? For some, it’s the silence. For others, it’s the malevolence that seeps out of every pore of his body. For others still, it is his nightmarish presence. But for some, it’s as simple as his visage, that blank, neutral face of terror that seems to glow an unearthly blue in the dark.
For Blumhouse’s Halloween, they knew that Michael’s mask had to reflect change over the years in a way that felt true and realistic. Enter Chris Nelson, the Academy Award-winning mastermind behind such films as Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill series, Sin City, Land of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead, Batman Returns, and much more.
We had the chance to sit with Nelson on the set of Halloween to learn more about what it takes to build a Michael Myers mask as well as the gore and violence that will inevitably splash across the screen.
“I looked at a lot of forty year old masks and the various stages they were in. I actually had a couple of old Don Post masks that were I think from thirty nine years ago, from when I was a kid and a few of my friends had them. So we looked at those masks, see how they aged, see what kind of decomposition they had, the folds and wrinkles, depending on how they were kept, took in mind in the context of this story how this mask was stored over all these years and talking to David and just kind of combined all of that,” he told us.
But why does the mask look like it’s in such good condition after so many years? “A lot of the wear and tear on a mask probably wouldn’t show up unless it was really decomposed and we really didn’t go that way because in our minds it was kept in a bag, in a box, in an evidence room for quite a long time so being covered and away from UV light it was a little more protected than a mask that was just laying out would be, so we took that into account,” Nelson explained.
A subtle detail about Myers’ mask in Carpenter’s original is how it almost seemed to morph and change throughout the film, giving the illusion that his face underneath had become the disguise he adopted. Recognizing that, Nelson explains how he was able to manipulate the mask to do the same thing.
“I’ve allowed extra room in the back of the mask for some play because, again, in the original I studied it and that mask changed and warped, sometimes he had his chin in the next, sometimes it wasn’t, sometimes it warped this way, sometimes it shifted, sometimes you could see under his eyes. I wanted it to move, I wanted it to look different in every shot because the original did that and I wanted to bring that back.”
As Dr. Loomis ominously stated, “He had the blackest eyes…the Devil’s eyes.” Such an important detail was thought of carefully by Nelson as well as writer/director David Gordon Green and they’re going to be faithful to that.
“We want it all practical and very moody and, again, be natural. I think [using CGI] would take away from the character that Michael Myers is. Once you see something like that, where the eyes are blacked out or you add a digital element, I think it just naturally takes you out and you don’t want to do that.”
The love horror fans have for practical FX cannot be denied and Nelson and his team are well aware of that. Nelson talks about what it takes to create convincing kills for victims where the actor cannot conform to the necessary positions.
“There are certain things that happen to some of the characters [that] an actor can’t contort or achieve. So we’ve created some amazing super life-like dummies for a couple of the victims that are a little accentuated and stylized because, again, we wanted all the effects and make-up effects to be postcards, something you’ll remember, something that when you watch the movie you’ll remember that victim.”
That being said, Nelson and his team are aware that in order to be faithful to the original, they have to make some creative decisions that might surprise some horror fans, especially when it comes to slasher tropes.
“The original didn’t have a lot of blood in it. People think it does, they imagine it’s so bloody, but it’s not at all. We’re trying to do an even balance of both of that, easing back on the blood but giving you the impression that there’s more of it, but we have been using it.”
Nelson’s passion for this particular film comes from a lifelong love of the series, so much so that he has become a collector, in his own way, of all things Halloween.
“I’m one of the biggest Halloween fans in the entire universe, I’ve been watching it for forty years, I saw it when it first came out. I was obsessed with it! I had all the novelizations of it and was obsessed with The Shape so, of course, given this task I was very aware that it needed to be something that would make the fans happy. I tried really, really hard to give them something good. It will never be the original mask, it’s just not going to happen for a lot of reasons I encountered when I started doing it but let’s get as close as we can, let’s give a version that after 40 years people will be happy with and have expression and character that when you see it, you’ll feel something and know something and hopefully bring that character back.”
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