Few films are as influential as John Carpenter’s Halloween. The origins of the slasher genre go back further to Psycho, but Halloween popularized the genre and set the tropes. Suburban teenagers are picked off one-by-one by a knife-wielding slasher until one ‘Final Girl’ remains.
Without Halloween, there probably wouldn’t have been A Nightmare On Elm Street or Friday The 13th. Still, even a famous film as Halloween can have shocking secrets behind its creation.
10 The Production Budget Was A Mere $325,000
The 2010s were the height of Hollywood escalation—ever bigger budgets chasing after diminishing box office returns. However, in 1978, Halloween blurred the lines between independent film and blockbuster. Though shot for a mere $325,000, it earned a total of $70 million worldwide.
The sheer gulf between budget and profit made Halloween one of the most profitable independent films ever made, so it’s not surprising Hollywood has been trying to recapture its lightning in a bottle ever since.
9 Peter Cushing & Christopher Lee Were Both Offered The Role Of Dr. Loomis
Donald Pleasance made an illustrious career as a character actor, but the role most associated with him is Dr. Samuel Loomis, Michael Myers’ psychiatrist. He played the role five times until his passing in 1995, shortly before the release of Halloween 6. Funnily enough, he wasn’t the first choice for the role.
Peter Cushing was the first choice, who the previous year had starred as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars—this career boost put Cushing out of the film’s budget. Christopher Lee, Cushing’s close friend and old Hammer horror co-star, also turned down the part. Lee later expressed regret for this decision. It worked out for the best though—it’s hard to picture two screen presences as dignified as Cushing and Lee offering the same befuddlement that Pleasance brings to Loomis.
8 Michael Myers’ Mask Was Made From A Captain Kirk Mask
Devoid of color, feature, or emotion, Michael Myers’ mask is the perfect visage for an avatar of evil as unknowable as the Shape. That said, the origins of the mask are right in line with the low budget of Halloween. The design of the mask was the work of production designer Tommy Lee Wallace, a frequent Carpenter collaborator who later directed Halloween III.
Wallace purchased a Captain Kirk mask from a costume shop on the Hollywood Boulevard; from there, he widened the eye-holes, replaced the hair on the mask, and spray-painted the latex mold of the mask white. The ghoulish result hid the mask’s origin.
7 The Film Was First Titled “The Babysitter Murders”
Halloween perfectly captures the spooky, festive atmosphere of the eponymous Holiday. It’s this flavoring that makes the film stand out from many later slasher films, including several of its own sequels. However, John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s earliest drafts did not have this element, with the story bearing the blunter title of “The Babysitter Murders.”
Producer Irwin Yablans suggested setting the film on Halloween night, and Carpenter, feeling this idea brought a unique flavor to the “haunted house” feel he wanted for the film, agreed. The rest is history.
6 Debra Hill Was From Haddonfield
Though Carpenter is—as the film’s director—the artist most commonly associated with Halloween, the film’s success can’t be taken as his sole accomplishment. One of the other most important behind-the-scenes voices was Debra Hill, the film’s producer, co-writer, and Carpenter’s then-partner.
One of Hill’s greatest marks on the film is Haddonfield itself, named for her birthplace of Haddonfield, New Jersey. That Halloween‘s Haddonfield is in Illinois instead only helps the “Anytown, USA” feel of the film’s setting.
5 The Film Was Set In Illinois But Shot In California
Haddonfield being an invention of the script wasn’t the only thing preventing the crew from shooting on-location. Despite being set in Illinois, the film was primarily shot in the suburbs of Pasadena, California. With the meager budget and the production being based out of Hollywood, the crew couldn’t exactly afford to find an authentic Midwest location.
It mattered little, but it meant the crew had to go the extra effort of hiding palm trees and collecting fallen autumn leaves for use onscreen.
4 John Carpenter Composed The Score In Three Days
Though most renowned as a director, John Carpenter is a capable composer as well—most of his films are self-scored, and Halloween was no exception. After a test screening of the film cut with no music, an executive told Carpenter the film wasn’t scary. In three days, Carpenter wrote a piano score for the film—the short time frame meant he couldn’t even compose to the film’s images.
It paid off; the music adds incalculable effect to the film’s atmosphere and plays well even divorced from the images. One of the most iconic parts of the film is the open, slow zoom-in on a jack-o-lantern while the “Halloween Theme” plays.
3 The Film Was Inspired By Black Christmas
Four years before Halloween released, there was Black Christmas, another film set on a holiday about a faceless killer picking off young women. While working on a project with Black Christmas director Bob Clark, Carpenter asked him if he had any intention of doing a sequel—Clark responded in the negative. When Carpenter asked further what a sequel would look like, Clark said the killer would escape a mental institution on Halloween night and go about killing again. Clark had this to say in a 2005 interview:
“The truth is John didn’t copy Black Christmas. He wrote a script, directed the script, did the casting. Halloween is his horror movie… He liked Black Christmas and may have been influenced by it, but in no way did John Carpenter copy the idea.”
2 Debra Hill Wrote Most Of The Dialogue For Laurie & Friends
Another reason Halloween succeeds where many of its imitators fail is that the film makes the viewer care about the doomed teenagers. Laurie Strode is the horror genre’s best-acted Final Girl, and her interactions with her friends before the killing begins have a likable authenticity.
Much of the dialogue between Laurie and her friends, Annie and Linda, was written by Debra Hill, who’d worked as a babysitter herself and had firsthand experience as a teenage girl Carpenter obviously lacked.
1 Michael Myers Was Inspired By Carpenter’s Visit To A psychiatric ward
Psychiatry wasn’t advanced in the 1970s as it is now, nor were serial killers as much of a national past-time. Thus, Halloween dispels any complex motive for Michael Myers, characterizing him instead as an unknowable, unsolvable force of evil. While in college, Carpenter had visited a psychiatric ward and shared eye-to-eye contact with a patient there, a young boy with an unnerving stare.
It’s clear this moment was the genesis for the blank face the young Michael has after killing his sister, and Loomis’ description of the boy having “the Devil’s eyes.”
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