'FIELD OF SCREAMS'
Total Film|August 2021
Michael Myers is back for blood in Halloween Kills, but this time Haddonfield is taking the fight to The Shape. Ahead of the savage middle chapter in the new fright night trilogy, Total Film speaks to the film’s director David Gordon Green and star Jamie Lee Curtis about tapping into real-life fears and sticking the knife in the big screen’s ultimate boogeyman.
JORDAN FARLEY

Call a film Halloween Kills and you’d better deliver. Over 43 years, four separate timelines and 10 blood-soaked rampages, masked maniac Michael Myers has slaughtered over 120 unsuspecting residents of Haddonfield, Illinois on the spookiest night of the year, utilising everything from a trusty chef’s knife to an especially pointy tripod in his single-minded pursuit of Laurie Strode. Myers, then, is no slouch when it comes to butchering the innocent, but his body count is set to skyrocket when Kills hits screens later this year.

“It’s intense and brutal. Just brutal,” says Jamie Lee Curtis of the follow-up to Halloween (2018), itself a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s original, trailblazing slasher. “There’s an incredible amount of killing in this movie,” adds Danny McBride, the film’s co-writer. “It’s so bloody. It’s wild. David [Gordon Green] just went for it. This is such a vicious sequel. It’s relentless.”

MICHAEL’S 10 MOST HAUNTING KILLS...

DEATH BECOMES HIM

10 OSCAR HALLOWEEN, 2018

Oscar walks Allyson home to ensure her safety. But what about his? Michael plunges his trusty knife before impaling his prey’s head on a spiky gate.

9 JOHN STRODE HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS, 1995

Laura’s abusive uncle is stabbed by Michael, and then has his head thrust into a fuse box for good measure. Electrifying.

8 LAURIE STRODE HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION, 2002

Terrible film, good death, as Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is stabbed repeatedly and hung from a rooftop. Curtis would resurrect Laurie in Halloween (2018).

7 ANNIE HALLOWEEN, 1978

The first of (adult) Michael’s kills in Carpenter’s original comes 55 minutes in, as Annie, sitting in her car, is strangled from behind, then knifed.

6 PARAMEDIC HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS, 1988

Myers, presumed dead, sits up in an ambulance and sticks his thumb deep into a paramedic’s forehead. As you do.

5 JIMMY HOWELL HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER, 1998

4 DANIELS HALLOWEEN II, 2009

Can’t match Carpenter’s suspense? Then go for intensity. Rob Zombie has a nurse played by Octavia Spencer (!) stabbed again and again and again. In close-up.

3 OFFICER FRANCIS HALLOWEEN, 2018

Killed off-screen, but made memorable because Michael hollows out the policeman’s decapitated skull like a jack-olantern, and pops a candle inside.

2 KAREN HALLOWEEN II, 1981

This nurse at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital is relaxing in the hydrotherapy pool when Michael turns up the heat to boil her like a lobster.

1 BOB AND LYNDA HALLOWEEN, 1978

Michael impales Bob against a wall then borrows his glasses and a white sheet to approach Lynda as a bespectacled ghost. The trickster strangles her. JG

Teenager Jimmy is stabbed with an ice skate. Inventive, but mostly places high on the list because he’s played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Green completed work on Halloween Kills in July 2020, right around the time the decision was made to push the film back by 12 months to avoid a “compromised theatrical experience”. He hasn’t watched it since; both to resist any temptation to tweak things here and there and “cause trouble for everyone”, and also so he has a second opportunity to watch it fresh, with an audience. “That’s why you make horror movies,” says Green who, along with McBride, is currently in production on the second season of HBO series The Righteous Gemstones. “You make them for the crowds. You make it for those reactions. You make it for that community which is just so loving. It’s exhilarating as a filmmaker to be a part of that connection.”

No moment proved more exhilarating for Team Halloween than the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2018, not least because success was far from a sure thing. By that point it had been nine years since Michael Myers last terrorised Haddonfield in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II – a film that has its advocates, but is generally considered a gruelling low point for the series. In the years that followed, long-serving producer Malek Akkad, the son of legendary Halloween producer Moustapha Akkad, had plenty of opportunities to bring The Shape back to screens; there was only one problem.

“They were crazy, crazy, bad, bad ideas,” Akkad remarks. “Some of the pitches that I’ve heard, oh my God! I waited it out for seven years. I wasn’t going to make a piece of junk like they wanted me to.” Once Akkad “got out from the previous studio” in 2016 and teamed up with Universal, the stars quickly aligned. Within months John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jason Blum and David Gordon Green had all signed on to make a new Halloween that would serve as an authentic sequel to Carpenter’s ’78 slasher. The signs were certainly promising but no one, least of all the film’s creative team, knew if audiences would embrace their vision.

“When we screened for the very first time at TIFF I was so fucking nervous,” McBride recalls. “I didn’t eat for like a week before that. The franchise means so much to me, and I know how much it means to fans. We really just didn’t want to disappoint people.” As the film played, and each crushed skull, snapped neck and knowing nod to Halloweens past was greeted with gleeful approval by the vocal TIFF audience, nerves turned to excitement. “Going up on that stage after it was done, and seeing how much fun everyone had had – it was overwhelming,” says McBride. “I turned to David and was like, ‘I don’t really see how anything in our careers will be more fulfilling than what we’ve just experienced.’”

It was a moment that marked the latest milestone in a 25-year journey for McBride and Green. The pair first met in college and bonded over a shared love of cinema after realising they owned many of the same VHS tapes, Halloween included. Standing on stage in Toronto brought everything full circle. “It was a fulfilment of our childhood dreams, in a lot of ways,” Green says plainly. “[Halloween] is a VHS cassette that I still have in my office as a reminder. It’s one of the films that inspired me. It’s right next to my copy of The Neverending Story – whatever that’s worth! But it’s so fun that, in that moment we could look over at each other, and close our eyes for a second, and be really thankful.”

The reception out of Toronto, and subsequent box office haul of $255m worldwide – far and away a franchise-best – practically guaranteed a sequel (or two). But Green and McBride had been dreaming bigger from the beginning. “When David and I first met, the conversation was that he and Danny had conceived of a trilogy,” Curtis recalls. “They understood that there was much more of this story to tell than just [Halloween] 2018.” Both agreed that their first Halloween needed to feel conclusive in and of itself, and that committing to sequels which may never get made if the first film didn’t resonate would be hubristic at best, foolhardy at worst (as Universal learnt to their cost a year earlier with the ignominious collapse of the Dark Universe), but conversations often turned to the future, and how to avoid the pitfalls of the slasher sequel.

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