Halloween: 35 Things You Didn't Know About The Original Slasher Classic
John Carpenter’s Halloween hit theaters on October 25, 1978, and changed horror. The film became not only synonymous with horror movie watching in October, but helped create an entire sub-genre. Admittedly, Halloween wasn't the first ever slasher movie--Mario Bava's Bay of Blood (1971) and Bob Clark's Black Christmas (1974) had already laid out some of the genre's conventions. But these were cult movies; Halloween was a mainstream box office sensation. It became the most successful independent movie of all time, and kickstarted the slasher wave that would dominate American horror over the next several years.
Halloween has remained one of horror's most durable franchises, with 12 sequels, reboots, and remakes released over the subsequent 40 years (and at least two more are still to come). But while the films got bigger, bloodier, and more polished, few of the sequels can match the original for tension and slow-creeping dread. Watched in 2020, it's remarkable how restrained the film is--there's barely any blood, and the pace is far slower than many of the films that followed. But Carpenter's masterful direction, iconic performances from Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence, that spine-chilling score, and the creation of one of cinema's greatest villains make it an all-time classic.
With spooky season now upon us, there's no better time to go back and revisit this horror masterpiece. Halloween has been issued on a variety of formats over the years--from the early VHS and laserdiscs to DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K--with a variety of behind-the-scenes material included. We've been back through some of this bonus content, including the classic 1994 laserdisc commentary featuring Carpenter, Curtis, and co-writer/producer Debra Hill, and chosen some of best, most surprising, and fascinating references, Easter Eggs, and things you didn't know about the original Halloween.
1. Carpenter planned a different opening
Carpenter originally wrote a different opening sequence, in which the camera moves down a street, with leaves blowing, until it stops at a mask lying in the gutter. But he decided it wasn't as stylish as simply tracking slowly into a glowing pumpkin.
2. The initial title wasn't Halloween
When Carpenter and Hill started writing the movie, the title was going to be The Babysitter Murders. It was producer Irwin Yablans who suggested setting the movie on the night of October 31 and using the title Halloween.
3. The movie was panned at first
Carpenter stated that Halloween was initially panned by every critic, saying it was "stupid" and "not scary." It took a rave review in The Village Voice a year later, comparing it to Hitchcock's Psycho, to lead other critics to "re-review" it and give it a much more positive appraisal.
4. This shot was influenced by a classic movie
The long shot into the Myers house was filmed--like many others in the movie--using a Panaglide, a type of steadicam. It was inspired by the long opening shot from Orson Welles's classic 1958 thriller A Touch of Evil.
5. The crew had to run around inside the house
As the camera tracks around the Myers house, the crew were quickly moving around inside, moving the lighting set-up so everything would be properly lit for the various moments the camera stops to look in the windows.
6. The house was redecorated by the crew the day this scene was filmed
The opening scene was one of the last scenes shot for the film. The way the house looked in real life was how it appears in the rest of the movie--abandoned and decrepit. To get the house ready for this opening flashback scene, the crew spent the day furnishing, carpeting, and wallpapering it, to make it look like a nice family home. Carpenter said they only decorated the parts of the house that would appear on camera.
7. That's the producer's hand
Debra Hill "played" Michael's hand, which we see come into frame to grab the knife and mask.
8. The stabbing scene is a bit strange for a reason
Carpenter admitted it makes no sense that Michael would look at his own hand while stabbing his sister, but it was the only way he could think to film this murder scene in one shot.
9. The car wasn't really moving
The scene of Loomis and Nurse Chambers driving at night was shot in a stationary car in a darkened garage. Carpenter said the sound is a "little dodgy" because of the sound of the fake rain hitting the car hood in the "tin studio."
10. Christopher Lee was offered the role of Loomis
Lee was Carpenter and Hill's first choice to play Loomis, but he turned it down. Hill said that years later Lee approached her at an industry event and told her that he was sorry he passed on the part because, as Hill said on the commentary, it "created Doland Pleasence a whole new career."
11. Michael had help breaking the window
If you look closely, you can see that there is a wrench hidden in Michael's hand, so he is able to smash the car window.
12. The film wasn't shot in Illinois
Although the movie is set in Illinois, it was shot in South Pasadena, California. Hannonfield was the name of Hill's hometown in New Jersey.
13. Jamie Lee Curtis wasn't Carpenter's first choice to play Laurie
Carpenter wanted to cast Anne Lockhart, who was the daughter of Lassie star June Lockhart, as Laurie. However, when Hill discovered that Curtis was the daughter of Psycho star Janet Leigh, she realised it would be great publicity for the movie.
14. Carpenter thinks Nick Castle played the best Michael
Carpenter's friend Nick Castle played the Shape in this movie, a role he wouldn't return to for 40 years. The director said that the actors and stuntmen who have played Michael in the subsequent movies don’t have the "grace of movement" that Castle did.
15. Donald Pleasence made some changes to his character
In the original script, Loomis was calling his wife in this scene, rather than the Haddonfield police. However, Pleasence told Carpenter that he didn't want his character to have a "family or a past," so the dialogue was changed. Carpenter admitted that he was "so in awe" of the veteran actor that he was "afraid to contradict him."
16. This pick-up truck served two purposes
The red pick-up truck that we see abandoned next to one of Michael's victims was also the craft services truck for the cast and crew throughout the shoot. The owner of the truck, Barry Bernardi, was Hill's friend and went on to become a successful Hollywood producer.
17. The iconic score had some famous influences
Carpenter says the movie's iconic score was inspired by Goblin's soundtrack for Dario Argento's Suspiria and Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, which was used in The Exorcist.
18. The movie doesn't work without music
When Carpenter first screened a rough cut of the movie for an executive from the film distributor, it was without the score. She told him it wasn't scary and didn't work, but later admitted that she was wrong and that the music made a huge difference.
19. Cigarette smoke suddenly appears in this shot
You can see cigarette smoke float in front of the camera. Carpenter admitted it was his and that he was "smoking too near the camera."
20. The Sheriff name was a tribute to a famous screenwriter
Annie's dad, Sheriff Leigh Brackett, was named after the famous screenwriter of the same name. Brackett's credits include The Empire Strikes Back, The Big Sleep, and Rio Bravo (which was a big influence on Carpenter's previous movie, Assault on Precinct 13).
21. There are suddenly puddles on the street
It rained the night before this scene of Laurie crossing the road was shot, so there are puddles visible on the road and pavement, even though they're dry in all the other daytime scenes.
22. Brown leaves were added to make the movie seem more autumnal
The crew blew brown leaves in front of the camera at various points, to give the impression that the movie is set in October in Illinois. In reality, the movie was shot in California in May, as shown by the very full, green trees on every street.
23. The band on the radio had some notable members
The music you can hear on the radio in Annie's car is performed by The Coup De Villes, a rock'n'roll band made up of Carpenter, Castle, and editor/production designer Tommy Lee Wallace.
24. This was one of the last scenes shot, and it wasn't directed by Carpenter
The twilight scene of Laurie and Annie driving was directed by Hill and shot on the final day of production, while Carpenter was filming the opening scene, because they needed an extra scene to show day turning into night.
25. This spooky speech had real-life inspiration
Loomis's haunting speech about seeing Michael as a child in a psychiatric hospital was based on an experience that Carpenter had. As a student, his class visited a hospital and he says he "saw a boy who fit the description" of what Loomis says he saw in Michael.
26. The pace is deliberately slow
Carpenter described the pace in the section before Annie's murder as deliberately "slow and agonizing," to put the audience on edge as to when Michael makes his first kill in Haddonfield.
27. Every POV shot of this house was filmed at the same time
There are multiple shots of Lindsey Wallace's house, as seen from Tommy Doyle's living room window, throughout the movie. They were all filmed one after another, as Carpenter had planned what needed to happen in each one.
28. Dennis Quaid might have played Bob
Carpenter wanted to cast Quaid as Bob, as he was living with PJ Soles, who plays Lynda. But he wasn't available, so John Michael Graham was cast instead.
29. PJ Soles trips over a track
As she is leaving the living room, Lynda trips slightly. It looks like she is slightly drunk, but in fact Soles had tripped over the camera dolly track.
30. Michael's head tilt was decided on-set
It was Nick Castle's idea for Michael to tilt his head while looking up at Bob, pinned to the wall with his knife.
31. Carpenter and Hill have a name for Laurie's lengthy walk across the road
Carpenter and Hill jokingly termed Laurie's incredibly slow and tense walk to the Wallace house, where Michael is waiting, the "longest walk in Hollywood," with Carpenter squeezing every drop of fear from the audience.
32. Curtis had unusual script annotations
Because the movie was shot out of sequence, Curtis had a numbered "terror level" next to each of her scenes, to indicate how scared she needed to be.
33. They threw a camera off the banister
The POV shot of Laurie falling onto the stairs was achieved by literally dropping the camera on a bungee cord.
34. A sci-fi classic inspired the ending
Yul Byrnner's killer android in the 1973 movie Westworld was Carpenter's inspiration for the unstoppable force that Michael becomes at the end of Halloween.
35. The Shape was played by a different actor in this famous scene
While Nick Castle played Michael for the majority of the movie, Tommy Lee Wallace stood in as him for the iconic scene where he attacks Laurie in the closet, as well other shots where Michael breaks through doors and windows. "I was the set guy, so I knew the best exact place to hit it to have maximum success on Take One," he explained. "We were on a very tight budget, remember, so time was precious, and so were breakaway doors and windows and closet inserts." (Wallace would later go to direct Halloween 3: Season of the Witch).
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