While the original Halloween wasn’t an instant success, word of mouth soon saw the tiny budget slasher become one of the highest grossing independent movies of all time. It turned Michael Myers into an instant horror icon and its success inspired the slasher movie boon of the 1980’s that brought us everything from Friday The 13th to Silent Night, Deadly Night. The movie also made writer/director John Carpenter a name to watch, and he would follow up its success with a run of genre classics, including Escape From New York, The Thing and Big Trouble In Little China.
Halloween ends with Michael being shot six times by psychiatrist Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence), only for his body to vanish. The success of the movie and its copycats led to Universal seeking a sequel, though Carpenter wanted nothing to do with it. He felt the story had been told, but upon learning it would happen regardless, he decided to write and produce instead. Carpenter and producer Debra Hill briefly entertained a sequel idea where Michael stalks luckless victim Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in a high-rise apartment building – a concept Carpenter previously explored in TV movie Someone’s Watching Me! – before settling on a story picking up from the original’s ending.
Carpenter has spoken more than once of his difficulty penning Halloween II’s script and struggling to find a worthwhile story. He claims to have downed a six-pack of beer every night to seek inspiration and that Laurie being revealed as Michael’s sister was an attempt to inject something surprising into the plot. Most of the key cast and crew returned for the sequel but Carpenter handed directorial reins over to newcomer Rick Rosenthal. Carpenter left the helmer mostly alone during production, with his only direction being to make it scary.
Unfortunately, Carpenter wasn’t a fan of Rosenthal’s first cut, dubbing it about as scary as an episode of Quincy. After a re-edit failed to improve matters Carpenter took over, recutting Halloween II to make it move faster and shooting some new murders and connective tissue. These scenes were also shot alongside the infamous TV edit of Halloween, where Carpenter had to go back and shoot some superfluous scenes to pad out the TV airing of the original because it was too short.
Which brings us to this Cinema Showcase interview with Carpenter from 1984. The filmmaker is on the show to promote Starman and covers topics with host Jim Whaley like the failure of The Thing, his favorite directors and why he thinks Halloween resonated the way it did. It’s an engaging chat, so be sure to check out the whole thing.
He also covers his thoughts on Halloween II and III, including his reasons for making them:
“There are two sides to when you work in the movie business. One is as an artist. You think of yourself as a creative person, and the other side is the business person. I let my producer’s side come out when they offered me the sequels to Halloween. They offered a nice sum of money. I also had a lot of hope for giving new directors a chance to make films as I had been given a chance with low-budget films. The directors who did 2 and 3 – Rick Rosenthal and Tommy Wallace – what they were given was a budget and in some cases a script. ‘Ok, here are the rules of the game, make your movie, nobody’s going to bother you.’ (Shrugs) It doesn’t always work.”
Carpenter then gets his opinion on both sequels, revealing a strong preference for one over the other:
“I thought Halloween III was excellent. I really like that film because it’s different. It has a real nice feel to it. I think he’s a talented director. On the other hand, I think Halloween II is an abomination and a horrible movie. I was really disappointed in it. The director has gone on and done some other films and I think his career is launched now. But I don’t think he had a feel for the material. I think that’s the problem, he didn’t have a feeling for what was going on.”
Carpenter made sure Halloween II ended with the deaths of both Michael and Dr Loomis so no more sequels could follow, but once Universal requested one, he and Debra Hill developed Halloween III: Season Of The Witch. They wanted to switch the franchise to an annual anthology that told new horror tales set during the season, but since audiences associated Halloween with Michael Myers by that point, the third movie angered fans expecting more of the same, receiving lukewarm reviews and business as a result.
Carpenter walked away from the series following Halloween III and he’s been pretty blunt on his assessment of later entries, feeling they essentially xerox the formula of the original without adding anything fresh. In general, Carpenter has eschewed sequels – having only directed Escape From L.A – but he’s twice mulled a return for a new Halloween. Jamie Lee Curtis wanted to reunite with him for Halloween: H20, but he left the project when his demand for a big fee was rejected. He was also up for a Halloween/Hellraiser dubbed Helloween in the early 2000’s, where he would have directed from a Clive Barker screenplay, but apparently franchise producers the Akkads weren’t keen on the concept so it didn’t move ahead.
Halloween II is generally considered one of the best sequels since it retains the feel of the original and has some great setpieces, even if it lacks the same tension and shocks. Carpenter also feels a problem with the later sequels is they try to explain Michael when he’s really about the absence of character, and any attempt at explanation is just silly. That may explain why he’s finally returning to the series as executive producer and composer on Blumhouse’s Halloween sequel.
The new sequel ignores everything past the 1978 original, including the Laurie/Michael sibling twist. Blumhouse and director David Gordon Green even sought Carpenter’s blessing before taking on the movie, and he served as a creative consultant throughout. The fact it wipes out Halloween II in the process is probably a bonus side effect in Carpenter’s eyes, but he’s also declared Halloween 2018 the best since the original – which is something of a happy ending since he finally has a Halloween II he’s proud to have his name on.
After failing to kill stubborn survivor Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) and taking a bullet or six from former psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), Michael Myers (Dick Warlock) has followed Laurie to the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, where she’s been admitted for Myers’ attempt on her life. The institution proves to be particularly suited to serial killers, however, as Myers cuts, stabs and slashes his way through hospital staff to reach his favorite victim.