If the original 1978 Halloween was the only movie on his resume, John Carpenter would be a genre legend for that alone. But no, this is also the man who made Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, The Thing, Escape from New York, Prince of Darkness, They Live, and many more — a run of classic movies that few directors working in horror and sci-fi have matched since.
Right now, however, we’re talking about the new Halloween, which discards the torturous mythology of seven previous sequels and acts as a direct follow-up to the original film, focusing on Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) as she deals with the still traumatic effects of her encounter with Michael Myers some 40 years later. Michael himself has been pared back to his essence as The Shape, an embodiment of unstoppable evil whose motivations are frightening because they’re utterly unknowable.
Directed and co-written (with Danny McBride) by David Gordon Green (Stronger), this Halloween benefits largely from a simple decision on the part of Green and producer Jason Blum: get Carpenter himself involved again, as an executive producer, composer and all around spiritual advisor. The results — of Green and McBride’s grasp of the material, of Blum’s steady guidance and of Carpenter’s seal of approval — is perhaps the best Halloween since we first met Michael and Laurie all those years ago.
We had the chance to chat with Carpenter by phone in advance of the movie’s opening, and the director (who last directed a movie himself in 2009 with The Ward) spoke about getting involved with the new Halloween, why Michael Myers is such an enduring monster, and whether those recent reports about projects like a Prince of Darkness TV show are true.
Den of Geek: When this first was presented to you, did you think that this would be more credible than some of the other sequels that have come along?
John Carpenter: Well, not at the beginning. It was pretty much all the same, until Jason Blum got together with me and talked with me, and he convinced me. He said, “They’re gonna make this movie, with or without us. So, why don’t we get together and get on board and help make it good?” Nobody ever put it that way to me, so I went, “Oh, okay. I can do that. That’s not hard at all.”
What does it take to make it good? What do you think was missing before?
Well, it’s not a question of here’s the magic ingredient. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a question of the director, who is extremely talented, and he comes up with the screenplay, and we react to it. So, you know, “why don’t you try X, Y, and Z, and then maybe it gets better.” So, it’s just a question of that. It’s like working on any movie. You can make it better, if you work on it. So, that’s what we came to.
Did the role you have on this, as executive producer, allow you to protect your baby and protect the Halloween legacy?
I’ve kind of given that up, man, years ago, protecting my baby. That’s all gone. So, no, I didn’t try to protect anything. I just tried to help. By that I mean, tried to make the movie as good as it can be, for what it is.
Do you remember what your first conversation with David Gordon Green was like?
Well, he and Danny McBride came over to my office. We hung out, and talked about the story. He pitched me a story and I liked it. I thought, “That’s really unique.” Drop the first sequels, and let’s pick up as if it’s after the first movie’s taken place, years later, and the result of what’s happened. I thought, “God, that’s great.” So, that’s what happened.
Did Green talk about how he planned to shoot it?
Just story. That’s all I cared about, because it’s his movie. So, what I’m gonna do is support his vision. That’s just my personal approach to making movies. It’s the director’s vision, not mine. It’s not my place to make it my vision. It’s a place to support his.
Was there any moment, where maybe you and Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle (who played Michael in the first film and partially in this one) were together on set at the same time, that was like a family reunion?
Sure. We all met up in Charleston, and it was fun, with a brand new crew, and a brand new location, the brand new director, everything. But it was Jamie, and there was Nick, and there we were all laughing. I love Jamie Lee.
This movie is one level about PTSD and mainly one woman’s reaction to the after-effects of this horrific event in her life. Does that make it clear how flexible the Michael Myers concept is? That he can be completely relevant to issues that are happening right now, in the world?
Absolutely. That’s kind of the beauty of this thing. It’s an all-purpose killer. And he can be in any story. And the only other creature on the earth that is that flexible, as you say, is Godzilla. Godzilla was a defender, an attacker. He was a champion of the environment. He was an all-purpose monster, and so is Michael Myers.
Speaking of Godzilla, I read that there was a possibility of you doing a Godzilla movie once, back before they did the Roland Emmerich one in ’98. Was that something that was on your radar at one time?
No, I wish, but no.
If you ever had the chance to do a Godzilla movie, do you have any ideas of how you would do it?
Well, first of all, I’d do it in Japan, and I’d use their effects. I don’t know. I haven’t even thought about it. I’m just such a fan of Godzilla, you know, so. You’re hearing a fan talk.
How much of an avid movie-goer are you these days? Do you get out a lot to the movies?
I don’t get out a lot, but I watch a lot of movies. I don’t leave my house. They come to me.
Would you be up for a similar sequel to any of your other films, the way this Halloween is being done? With the right filmmaker in place, the right script in place, would you be up for doing something along these lines?
I don’t know. Let’s see the next proposal. I can’t do a blanket kind of, “Oh, okay. Yes, I’ll do that.” I don’t know, but I’m up for almost anything that involves money. That’s a nice thing. It’s always nice.
If you took something like They Live, for example, given how much worse the world and the political landscape have become in the past 25-30 years, how would you refashion that today?
Well, I’m not gonna tell you about that, because it might be closer to reality than you think.
There was a remake in development.
There was a feature film. It was a feature film called Resistance, written by, oh, the guy who did the Apes movies. Matt Reeves. But then he moved on, and so the sequel is, well, we’ll see. We’ll just have to see.
Well, along those same lines, you made a little bit of news last week when you mentioned something about a Prince of Darkness TV project.
I might have done that, huh? You heard it from me. It’s not a lie, but it’s not ready to go yet, so rather than discuss it, I think I won’t.
Did you always feel that was a concept that could be expanded somewhere down the line?
No, I never thought any movie that I made would be something that I’d want to work on again. Never. I just come from a different era of film making, and we just didn’t do that. That’s all.
If the new Halloween is a big hit and they get into a sequel, would you want to stay involved in that, at the same level that you were involved in this one?
I don’t know. Maybe. I just don’t know what to say about the future, because it isn’t there yet. The opportunities come, opportunities go. I may do this. I may do that. I don’t have any ideas yet, so that’s what it’s all about.
Which of your films do you think came the closest to how you envisioned it?
None of them. No, they’re all riddled with…real life comes and intrudes, so there isn’t anything you can do about it.
I know you said you enjoy staying home now, and you haven’t really had the desire to direct again, but if the right project came along, would you get behind the camera?
Yeah. Sure I would. I would. There are some ideas floating around. But see, I’m working on those. I’m not gonna tell you about them, but yeah, there’s a bunch. There’s a science fiction novel or two I’d love to do. We’ll see.
Halloween is in theaters now. You can read our thoughts on the ending right here.
Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and associate editor of Den of Geek. Other current and past outlets include Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, RollingStone.com and many more. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @donkaye
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