Watching the original Halloween in 2018, it can be hard to appreciate exactly what was so scary about it in 1978. We’ve seen so many derivations of it (from Friday the 13th to A Nightmare on Elm Street) and we’ve seen it referenced, analyzed, parodied, and homaged so many times (in Scream and everything else) that going back to the source is bound to be a little anti-climactic. It certainly was for me, a guy who had not yet been born in 1978.
Michael Myers didn’t kill the most people. John Carpenter’s Halloween wasn’t the goriest, the trashiest, or the kitschiest. Yet it essentially spawned an entire genre: the slasher film. And here we are in 2018, still making Halloween movies. Or at least, David Gordon Green and Danny McBride have made a Halloween movie. It’s an unlikely combination of content and creator, but an intriguing one.
“As long as I can remember, I can remember being scared of Michael Myers,” says McBride, who co-wrote the film with Green and Jeff Fradley. “That character just had staying power.”
If Green—who’s directed everything from goofy comedies like Pineapple Express and Your Highness to acclaimed indie dramas like All the Real Girls and Joe—and prolific comedy actor McBride seem like an inspired choice to remake a horror movie classic, we have horror movie super-producer Jason Blum to thank.
“Jason had reached out to David to ask if he’d be interested in it, and then David came to me,” McBride says. “David and I have known each other since film school, and our other buddy, Jeff Fradley, he’s a horror aficionado and, just like us, a big lover of Halloween. So we sort of used it as an excuse for all three of us to get together and work on a script.”
That film school, of course, would be North Carolina School of the Arts, the school that produced McBride, Green, director Jody Hill, and the rest of the so-called “North Carolina Mafia”—frequent collaborators on everything from Eastbound and Down to Vice Principals. A big part of the North Carolina Mafia’s charm is that their work still, at some level, feels like filmmakers trying to entertain their friends. That comes through even in a broad, relatively big-budget project like this new Halloween.
“There is something kind of fun about [when] your focus group are your buddies whose tastes you know, and just trying to figure out ways to entertain them,” says McBride. “Honestly, I just love making movies. I love making TV shows, but it’s hard fucking work. I look at so many people that I grew up watching, and then you see them sort of disappear after seven, eight, nine, 10 years. I think that working with your friends, at least, keeps you wanting to work more.”
Being fans of the franchise, the trio set out to pay respect to what they liked about Carpenter’s original, not to overhaul it. Their Halloween isn’t a comedy or a parody. It’s not 21 Jump Street. Probably their biggest retcon was to excise the plot point that Michael Myers and Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode were siblings, which was added in Halloween II.
“I remember reading an interview with John Carpenter where he talked about that he didn’t like that storyline,” McBride says. “I remember thinking, ‘Man, he has something there.’ Looking back on it, that seems to be what ends up hijacking the franchise, and it wasn’t even a part of the first one.”
It’s a smart choice. Looking back, the one aspect of Halloween that stands out the most is that Michael Myers isn’t there to be “solved.” He’s a motiveless killer. It’s an idea that still plays in 2018, and McBride & Co. justify their involvement by preserving it.
“Michael Myers just haunted my nightmares,” says McBride. “There’s just something spooky that Carpenter captured that I think kind of works on anybody if you’re young, old, whatever.”