I remember the first time I saw Halloween. It was the late 90’s and I was in middle school sitting on the floor of one of my friend’s living rooms after her parents went to sleep. It was October and we were watching a horror movie marathon on TNT. I was glued to the screen. Nothing felt safe after I watched that movie. I was looking for Michael Myers everywhere, terrified of how slowly he walked, while always seeming to catch his prey.
A few years later I was in a hotel room with my dad after we had travelled somewhere. He was passed out which meant I got to control the remote. I found Halloween II playing on some channel and learned what felt like a horrible truth: Michael hadn’t died. Only five minutes after the events of the original, Michael Myers was up and walking, terrorizing Jamie Lee Curtis after she thought her nightmare was all over.
To celebrate my favorite scary movie this season, I’ve collected as many fun or interesting “trivia” facts as I could find about the series. It may not be new info for die-hard genre fans, but I’ve dug up some pretty fascinating tidbits on Michael, Carpenter, Curtis, and the whole family.
There are 11 Halloween films in total, but the “universe” these movies exist in isn’t very cohesive. Here’s an overview of how the movies fit together:
Original Halloween World (canon)
John Carpenter and Debra Hill wrote the first two Halloween films which are considered the universe’s “canon”. Both movies take place in the same Halloween night and star Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode.
Season of the Witch
John Carpenter and Debra Hill were producers on the third film in the franchise, Season of the Witch, but the plot is not related to the first two films and Michael Myers does not appear. This was an attempt to turn the franchise into an anthology, similar to American Horror Story, instead of a literal franchise that would feature endless retellings of the same story. Fans and critics did not like the idea, to put it mildly. The rest of the Halloween movies feature Michael Myers and follow similar storylines to the originals.
Halloween 4 returns to the Michal Myers storyline, but John Carpenter and Debra Hill no longer have any association with the franchise. This movie was released 10 years after the original and features Myers coming out of a ten year coma and then returning to Haddonfield. Halloween 5 and Halloween 6 follow similar storylines.
Pretending Halloween 3-6 didn’t happen
Halloween H20, the 7th Halloween film released 20 years after the original, is supposed to be a direct sequel to Halloween and Halloween II. John Carpenter and Debra Hill were not involved, but Jamie Lee Curtis reprised her role as Laurie Strode, who said to have died following the events of Halloween II (This is mentioned in non-canon Halloween 4) but had actually gone into hiding. John Carpenter was interested in directing this film, but the production couldn’t afford his $10 million fee (He was paid $10,000 to direct the original). He may have been an uncredited producer on this film.
Kevin Williamson wrote a scene into Halloween H20 that would have explained the continuity of the entire franchise, but it wasn’t shot.
Halloween Resurrection is the 8th film in the franchise and was released chronologically after H20 and builds on the story developed there. Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as Laurie Strode, and is supposedly killed by Michael Myers.
In 2007 Rob Zombie wrote and directed a remake of the original Halloween movie. It’s a reimagining of Carpenter and Hill’s script, giving Myers a lot more backstory and featuring a lot more action and gore. In 2009 Zombie directed a sequel to his remake, but the sequel is not a remake of Halloween II. The story instead picks up one year later.
A third (?) direct sequel to Halloween II
There will be a new Halloween film released on October 19, 2018. It will be the eleventh film in the series and star Jamie Lee Curtis and have John Carpenter working as an executive producer. Carpenter has said, “Thirty-eight years after the original Halloween, I’m going to help to try to make the 10th sequel the scariest of them all.” It’s not clear which movies in the Halloween series the new film will acknowledge the existence of, it’s rumored to be another direct sequel to Halloween II but all we know for sure is the writer Danny McBride has said, “You know, it’s not a remake. It’s actually, it’s gonna continue the story of Michael Myers in a really grounded way. And for our mythology, we’re focusing mainly in the first two movies and what that sets up and then where the story can go from there.”
The original title for Halloween was The Babysitter Murders and was famously produced on a budget of $300,000 (it made $55 million). Here are a few interesting notes about how the film was made on such a tight budget:
[*] The man who played Michael Myers (Nick Castle) was paid only $25 per day. Filming was 21 days total.
[*] There are no special effects in the movie. “Stabbing” sounds were made by knifing a watermelon.
[*] Christopher Lee was offered the original role of Dr. Sam Loomis but turned it down because of the film’s low pay, he considers this the biggest mistake of his career.
[*] Michael’s mask was created from a William Shatner mask production bought for $1.98.
[*] The film was shot in southern California in May. The leaves production found were the same leaves used in every scene. They had to be raked up and stored so that they could be used again. You can see palm trees in some of the shots if you look closely.
[*] The catering truck was also used as a prop. You can see it as the “Phelps Auto Service” in the background of some shots.
[*] Jamie Lee Curtis dressed herself, getting all of her character’s clothing at JC Penny for less than $100.
[*] Writer Debra Hill’s hands were used in the shots from the perspective of 6-year-old Michael because they couldn’t afford more time with a child actor.
John Carpenter composed the music for the first three films himself. At the time, Carpenter couldn’t read music but the simple anthem used throughout the Halloween series is one of its creepiest and most iconic attributes.
John Carpenter and Debra Hill were dating when they were writing the original two movies together. It took them only 10 days to write the first script.
Here’s how Hill described way the couple conceived of the story:
“The idea was that you couldn’t kill evil, and that was how we came about the story. We went back to the old idea of Samhain, that Halloween was the night where all the souls are let out to wreak havoc on the living, and then came up with the story about the most evil kid who ever lived. And when John came up with this fable of a town with a dark secret of someone who once lived there, and now that evil has come back, that’s what made HALLOWEEN work. We didn’t want it to be gory. We wanted it to be like a jack-in-the box.”
The iconic home used for the Myers house was owned by a church. It has since been moved and used as a chiropractic office.
In 2015 one couple built an exact replica of the house in North Carolina.
Michael Myers was named for a random business associate who helped Carpenter’s finance partners get their previous work, Assault on Precinct 13, into film festivals in Europe.
Sam Loomis was named for the character in Psycho.
Debra Hill was raised in “Haddonfield”, New Jersey.
Tommy Doyle was named for the character in Rear Window.
Sheriff Leigh Brackett is named after the sci-fi writer.
Ben Tramer (Halloween II) was John Carpenter’s classmate, he was later a writer on Saved By The Bell.
“Laurie Strode” was the name of one of Carpenter’s exes.
Jamie Lee Curtis was not production’s first pick to play Laurie Strode, but Carpenter discovered she was the daughter of Psycho actress Janet Leigh and realized casting Curtis would be good publicity. His first choice, Annie Lockhart, was also the daughter of a famous actress. Halloween was Jamie Lee Curtis’ first appearance on the big screen.
In Halloween H20 Janet Leigh had a cameo as Curtis’ secretary. Here she is standing in front of a 1957 Ford Custom 300 with the license plate NFB 418, the same car she drove in Psycho:
In the original script, Michael Myers is referred to as “the shape”. The idea is that he is not a person, but the embodiment of evil. Myers as an evil, supernatural boogeyman was partially inspired by a trip Carpenter took in college: “While on a class trip at a mental institution in Kentucky, Carpenter visited “the most serious, mentally ill patients”. Among those patients was a young boy around twelve to thirteen years-old. The boy gave this “schizophrenic stare”, “a real evil stare”, which Carpenter found “unsettling”, “creepy”, and “completely insane”.”
Nick Castle who originally played “the shape” (Michael Myers) went on to become a successful director. He directed Dennis the Mennis and Major Payne.
Kyle Richards, who played Lindsey Wallace in Halloween, is now a famous reality TV star. She is Paris Hilton’s aunt.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake broke a box office record for a movie opening on Labor Day weekend ($20.1 million). It still holds that record.
Jamie Lee Curtis has an uncredited cameo in Halloween III where you can hear here voice as a phone operator.
During filming for Halloween II John Carpenter filmed additional scenes for the first Halloween in order to increase the run time for the movie to play on television.
Bob Clark, the director of the horror film Black Christmas (1974), recalls a conversation with John Carpenter in which he (Clark) talked about making a film called Halloween:
“he asked me if I was ever gonna do a sequel and I said no. I was through with horror, I didn’t come into the business to do just horror. He said, “Well what would you do if you did do a sequel?” I said it would be the next year and the guy would have actually been caught, escape from a mental institution, go back to the house and they would start all over again. And I would call it ‘Halloween’.”
“The truth is John didn’t copy ‘Black Christmas’, he wrote a script, directed the script, did the casting. ‘Halloween’ is his movie and besides the script came to him already titled anyway. He liked ‘Black Christmas’ and may have been influenced by it, but in no way did John Carpenter copy the idea. Fifteen other people at that time had thought to do a movie called ‘Halloween’ but the script came to John with that title on it.”
The Halloween franchise is often used as examples of “the rules” or horror movies, like the fact that only virgins can live to the end of the movie. John Carpenter and Debra hill say they didn’t intend for this to be a morality lesson, saying:
“Carpenter and co-writer Debra Hill have stated many times over the years that they did not consciously set out to depict virginity as a way of defeating a rampaging killer. The reason why the horny teens all die is simply that they’re so preoccupied with getting laid that they don’t notice that there’s a killer at large. Laurie Strode, on the other hand, spends a lot of time on her own and is therefore more alert.”
One of Paul Rudd’s first lead roles was in the sixth Halloween movie The Curse of Michael Myers where he is credited as “Paul Stephen Rudd”.
Emma Stone auditioned for the role of Laurie Strode in Rob Zombie’s Halloween.
In Halloween Laurie Strode tells her babysitting charges to “go down the road to the Mackenzie’s” for help. This line is said again in Scream by Casey Becker’s dad to Casey’s mother as an homage.
In Halloween H20 this line is played upon further when Laurie Strode tells her son to “go down the street to the Beckers” in reference to the Scream characters.
The finale of Scream 3 is shot in the house that was used for the school in Halloween H20.
Tommy Lee Wallace was a production designer on Halloween who created Michael Myer’s famous mask and went on to write and direct Season of the Witch. Despite being 28, Wallace’s wife Nancy Loomis played high school student Annie Brackett in Halloween. She had previously worked with John Carpenter on Assault on Precinct 13.
John Carpenter’s insistence the the premise of Halloween feel “real” is what spooks so many viewers. Describing the way he wanted to make the film, Carpenter has said: “To make Michael Myers frightening, I had him walk like a man, not a monster.”
In both Carpenter’s Halloween and Rob Zombie’s Halloween the only actress who was actually a teenager played Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis and Scout Taylor-Compton).
The girls in Zombie’s version remade a famous photo of the girls in the original Halloween:
Much of the female dialogue in Halloween is attributed to Debra Hill’s writing, who wanted to capture the way real teenage girls spoke to each other (think, all the “totally”s). She wrote the character of Lynda specifically for PJ Soles, who she saw doing this in Carrie. PJ was married to Dennis Quaid, he almost appeared in the movie as her boyfriend but had a scheduling conflict.
Michelle Williams had never seen a Halloween movie before she was cast in H20.
If Rob Zombie wouldn’t have approached the studio about remaking Halloween they were going to produce a prequel called Halloween: The Missing Years that would have centered on Michael Myer’s time at the asylum.