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Much like with slasher contemporary Friday the 13th, the Halloween franchise has had something of a difficult history since its inception almost forty years ago. Directed and co-written by rising filmmaker John Carpenter under the production title The Babysitter Murders, Halloween was released in October 1978 to both considerable critical praise and unexpected box office success. Following the positive reaction to his urban thriller Assault on Precinct 13, Carpenter and partner Debra Hill developed the story of a disturbed young man who escapes from a mental institution fifteen years after stabbing his sister to death and returns to his hometown to continue his murder spree.
The simple formula of Halloween would ultimately become the template for the slasher boom of the early 1980s and following the impact of Friday the 13th two years later a sequel to Carpenter’s thriller soon became inevitable. Much like with other horror franchises, while the focus of Halloween had been the group of teenagers targeted by the deranged killer, the series antagonist Michael Myers would soon become the focal point and even an attempt to move the saga away from the stalk and slash genre with 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch failed to keep Myers from returning back to the big screen.
But by the dawn of the 1990s horror had become unfashionable and the industry had instead turned its attention to psychological thrillers following the impact of Fatal Attraction, yet producer Moustapha Akkad’s obsession with Michael Myers resulted in him closely overseeing the evolution of the franchise, through numerous disappointing sequels before finally receiving a makeover with 1998’s Halloween H20, which took inspiration from Scream‘s post-modern humour and saw the long-awaited return of series heroine Jamie Lee Curtis.
Despite finally proving popular once again with horror fans, Halloween finally stalled following the next instalment and with Akkad tragically killed in 2005 following a suicide bombing in Jordan and a mere two years later Carpenter’s original classic was remade by musician-turned-filmmaker Rob Zombie. Although reluctant to direct a sequel, Zombie’s Halloween 2 would be universally hated by fans, while a third picture to be developed in 3D by director-writer team Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer failed to escape from development hell.
Much like with Friday the 13th, it has been eight years since Michael Myers last terrorised horror fans, the longest audiences have had to wait for a sequel, but now a new picture has been green-lit. While the sequels have often been directed by filmmakers with a background in horror, the team that will be responsible for the latest reboot are primarily known for comedy. Carpenter announced that David Gordon Green, best known for Pineapple Express and The Sitter, has signed on as director and co-writer. Earlier in his career, before finding success within the comedy genre, Green had helmed the psychological thriller Undertow and has previously cited the controversial survival horror Deliverance as one of his favourite films.
Green is currently developing the screenplay alongside actor Danny McBride, whom he has regularly worked with since George Washington in 2000. McBride first found success in 2008 with both Pineapple Express and Ben Stiller’s war comedy Tropic Thunder, while subsequent roles have included Despicable Me, 30 Minutes or Less and the upcoming horror flick Alien: Covenant. The latest entry in the Halloween series will be produced by Jason Blum, whose company Blumhouse Productions has enjoyed recent success with Paranormal Activity and The Purge.
‘David and Danny will write the script together and David will direct. I will continue in my executive producer role to consult and offer my advice and feedback as needed,’ revealed Carpenter. ‘David and Danny both came to my office recently with Jason Blum and shared their vision for the new movie and…WOW. They get it. I think you’re gonna dig it. They blew me away. I might even do the music. Maybe. It could be kind of cool.’ Following his semi-retirement from filmmaking, Carpenter has continued to write and perform music, while also touring the United States and Europe to perform music from many of his classic movies, such as The Fog and Escape from New York.
While Rolling Stone claimed that the new Halloween movie would be another remake, but McBride explained to Cinema Blend that this would not be the case. ‘You know, it’s not a remake. It’s actually, it’s gonna continue the story of Michael Myers in a really grounded way. And for our mythology, we’re focusing mainly in the first two movies and what that sets up and then where the story can go from there.’ 1981’s Halloween II had been set on the same night as Carpenter’s original and had revealed that Curtis’ character, Laurie Strode, was in fact the younger sister of Michael Myers. Both Myers and his nemesis, Dr. Sam Loomis, had supposedly died at the end of the second movie but following the poor performance of Season of the Witch, both had been resurrected for 1988’s The Return of Michael Myers.The series became rather convoluted with the next two sequels, in which an ill-advised Curse of Thorn subplot resulted in a somewhat disjointed and confusing mess, yet McBride insists that their intention is to return to the straightforward horror of Carpenter’s original masterpiece. ‘Green and I are definitely going to (do) a straight-up horror,’ he claims. ‘Halloween has always been one of my favourite movies of all time. There’s a simplicity and an efficiency to that first one that I think allows the movies just to be scary as hell. And so Green and I, our approach is to get back to that.’
This would not be the first time that a Halloween movie has refused to acknowledge many of the sequels that had preceded it, as Halloween H20 had ignored Laurie’s alleged death referenced in The Return of Michael Myers and had instead followed her story twenty years after her escape from Michael, now struggling with alcohol addiction and the continued fear that her brother may one day return. It is unclear as yet whether the new Halloween movie will take place thirty-something years after the events of 1981’s Halloween II or if it will create its new timeline. David Gordon Green will be released theatrically on 19 October 2018, almost forty years to the day since John Carpenter’s Halloween made its debut.