• John Carpenter, in a classic Halloween-themed shoot from 1998. (Getty)Source: Getty
With the original Halloween now streaming on SBS on Demand, and David Gordon Green’s 2018 sequel of the same title in cinemas from October 25, we caught up with legendary horror director John Carpenter to talk about his most famous creation.
By
Travis Johnson

9 Oct 2018 - 5:58 PM  UPDATED 13 Oct 2020 - 1:06 PM

Coming four decades after remorseless killer Michael Myers first stalked the pumpkin-strewn streets of Haddonfield, Illinois in 1978’s Halloween, the 2018 iteration is set to terrify a whole new generation of movie-goers. Directed by David Gordon Green, who co-write the script with comedian Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, the new Halloween sees a now aged Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) fighting to protect her family from Myers after the silent psychopath escapes from a mental institution just in time for the 40th anniversary of his original killing spree.

This is the most you’ve been involved in a Halloween movie since co-writing and producing 1981’s Halloween II with Debra Hill. How did it come about?

Jason [producer Jason Blum of Blumhouse] came to me and said “I want to do a sequel” and he challenged me – he said, “Rather than sitting on the sidelines and criticising the sequel, why don’t you get in here and help?” and I said “You know what? That’s a good idea.” And so I decided to help. I became executive producer with Jamie Lee [Curtis] and we went onward from there.

What has the depth of your involvement? What was your working relationship?

They came and pitched an idea which I thought was brilliant. My job is to help in the script stage and the cutting stage, and that’s what I did – and the music, obviously – but just to suggest things. 'This is good, that’s not' – that kind of thing. Nothing big.

How did you approach doing the music for the new Halloween? What was it like reinterpreting your work from 40 years ago?

I work with my son Cody and my godson Daniel [Davies, the son of The Kinks’ Dave Davies]. We had all the original Halloween music in the computer. Then I sat down with David Gordon Green, the director, and we had a spotting session. I got a feeling on the music and a feeling on the scenes – what is he looking for? How does he want this transition to work? We just started there and we started doing the music. We’d go back and he’d come over and listen to what we’d done and give us notes on it, and it worked out just great.

So many of your films have been remade or sequelised over the past decade or so, from Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007) to Jean-François Richet’s Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) to planned new versions of Big Trouble in Little China and Escape From New York. How do you feel about that?

Well, I have two reactions. One is, if it’s my original idea then they have to pay me, and I like that. The other one is if the studio owns it then they don’t have to pay me, so I don’t like that so much.

Which of your films are you asked about most often?

It changes all the time. It changes. I get asked about The Thing a lot, or Big Trouble a lot, or They Live a lot. It just changes, which is great – that makes me happy.

Is there a forgotten gem in your back catalogue you think deserves more attention?

[Laughs] Uh no, no. You can ignore my career totally and live your life fully.

IMAGE: Michael Myers in Halloween (2018) courtesy of Universal Pictures

This is the 10th film to feature your iconic serial killer Michael Myers [Myers did not feature in Halloween III: Season of the Witch]. Why do you think we keep coming back to him? What’s the attraction?

Well, you can project anything you want to onto him. He’s kind of the original killing machine, and he’s kind of unkillable. I don’t know – he’s the perfect character for a teenage date at the movies. You go to the movies with your girlfriend and I guarantee if you see this new movie, she’ll be cuddling with you like crazy!

What was your reaction to the new movie?

I think it’s great. It’s a great idea, it’s a unique idea. And Jamie Lee is just fantastic in it. It’s just an amazing performance – I’m really happy.

How did you find working with Jamie Lee Curtis again?

Sure, I spent a little time with her. Mainly we just gossip about the world and talk. Jamie’s awesome – she’s been awesome since she was a kid. She was 19 years old when I directed her the first time. I still think of her as a child a lot. She’s great and I just cannot tell you what she does in this role – she’s amazing.

You’ve mainly been focusing on your music and touring with your band of late, but are there any screen projects bubbling on the back burner?

Well there’s a couple things I’m working on. I’m working on a little television and there’s a feature here and there, but you know, I’m not gonna do anything that I don’t love and that isn’t financed perfectly. It’s one of those things – you get to this point in your career where you can direct but you still need to come up with money. I don’t want to do that! I’m too old to do that! I’m way too old! I need to have a good time.

 

Watch 'The Thing'

Wednesday 21 October, 8:30pm on SBS VICELAND (No catch-up at SBS On Demand)

MA15+
USA, 1982
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
Language: English
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, T. K. Carter, Keith David, Keith David, Richard Dysart

 

Watch the John Carpenter episode of The Vice Guide To Film