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Halloween: H40: Celebrating 40 Years of The Night He Came Home

Nico Nice

Its almost hard to believe that 40 years have passed since "The Night He Came Home", yet here we are in 2018 celebrating the milestone anniversary of the immortal classic. What is it about this film that has had such an endearing legacy and continues to find a new audience to this very day? The films and subsequent sequels have such a rabid fan base that rivals its killer counterparts in Nightmare On Elm Street, Saw, Scream and Friday the 13th. It all began when a young director and his producing partner were tasked with bringing this unique vision of terror to the big screen.
After a screening of "Assault On Precinct 13" at the Milan Film Festival, producer Irwin Yablans contacted John Carpenter to write and direct a film about a group of babysitters being stalked and murdered by a psychopathic madman. "I was thinking what would make sense in the horror genre, and what I wanted to do was make a picture that had the same impact as The Exorcist" Yablans told Fangoria.  Originally titled "The Babysitter Murders", Carpenter and then girlfriend/producing partner Debra Hill went to work on the script.
Yablans had the idea to set the film on Halloween night and to change the title to "Halloween". Moustapha Akkad, who was known for more dramatic feature films, financed the film but was leary of Carpenter's inexperience as a filmmaker when the young director promised he can deliver a film with a  $300,000 budget and a four week week shooting schedule. "Two things made me decide [to finance the film]. One, Carpenter told me the story verbally and in a suspenseful way, almost frame for frame. Second, he told me he didn't want to take any fees, and that showed he had confidence in the project" Akkad has said in numerous interviews.
The low budget would cause the crew numerous issues in terms of wardrobe and props, among other restrictions they would face during pre-production.

Carpenter and Hill completed the script in 10 days with Hill writing most of the female dialogue and Carpenter handling Dr. Loomis' views on Michael Myers. "Yablans wanted the script written like a radio show, with 'boos' every 10 minutes..." Hill has said in the past. "...the idea was that you couldn't kill evil, and that was how we came about the story. We went back to the old idea of Samhain, that Halloween was the night where all the souls are let out to wreak havoc on the living, and then came up with the story about the most evil kid who ever lived. And when John came up with this fable of a town with a dark secret of someone who once lived there, and now that evil has come back, that's what made Halloween work." 
Casting would also prove difficult as the film's budget would limit the number of known actors and actresses that would agree to be in the film. While up and coming thespians would be used to fill out the majority roles, Carpenter and Hill knew they needed an established actor to portray the iconic Dr. Samuel Loomis.

Peter Cushing was the first choice to bring The Shape's psychiatrist to life in the film. Cushing was already well known to horror fans for the Hammer Horror Films and he had just starred as Grand Moff Tarkin in the insanely popular Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope). Unfortunately his agent rejected the role of the good doctor deeming the salary too paltry. Veteran actor (and fellow Hammer Horror alum) Christopher Lee was approached about the role of Loomis and turned it down as well (he would go on to say that it was the biggest regret of his career).
Yablans had suggested veteran actor Donald Pleasence for the role, as American audiences had some familiarity with him as the villain Blofeld in the 007 outing "You Only Live Twice". Due to the low budget they could only afford to pay him $20,000 and only have his services for a week, though he has stated that he agreed to star because his daughter Lucy, a guitarist, had enjoyed "Assault on Precinct 13" for Carpenter's score. With one pivotal character cast, the rest soon fell like dominoes and magic was slowly happening.
Nancy Loomis (now Kyes) who starred in Carpenter's "Assault On Precinct 13" was cast as Annie Brackett, one of Laurie's best friends.
The role of Lynda Van Der Klok was written specifically for actress PJ Soles after Carpenter saw her in Brian DePalma's adaptation of Stephen King's "Carrie". Interesting bit of trivia, Soles was married to Dennis Quaid (yes that Dennis Quaid) and lobbied to have him play the role of Bob. He did want to portray the character, however due to a scheduling conflict was unable to do the movie.
Jamie Lee Curtis would get the coveted lead role of Laurie Strode. Now its hard to imagine anyone else playing the character but surprisingly, Curtis was not the first choice.
Carpenter has admitted since  "I had no idea who she was. She was 19 and in a TV show (Petticoat Junction) at the time, but I didn't watch TV." He originally wanted to cast Anne Lockhart, the daughter of June Lockhart from Lassie, as Laurie Strode. However, Lockhart had commitments to several other film and television projects. When Hill discovered that Jamie Lee was the daughter of Psycho actress Janet Leigh, "I knew casting Jamie Lee would be great publicity for the film because her mother was in Psycho."
The rest as they say is history. Charles Cyphers and Nancy Stephens were cast as Sherriff Brackett (and Annie's father) and
Marion Chambers (Dr. Loomis' colleague) respectively.
But what about Michael Myers? Who would be the man behind the mask?
Well no less than 5 people had a hand (literally for one of them) in bringing The Shape to life.
Young Michael was played by child actor Will Sandin but during the pivotal POV shot, it was Producer and Co-writer Debra Hill that was the hands of young Myers during that fateful Halloween night when he murders his sister.
Tommy Lee Wallace (who was also the film's production designer) was in full Myers gear for the closet scene and actor Tony Moran was chosen to be the face of Michael when the mask comes off during the film's climax.
Nick Castle, who was a friend of Carpenter's during their film school days, asked to help on the set. Little did he (or anyone) know he'd become one of the most iconic movie villains of all time. 
Wallace created the legendary mask worn by Michael Myers throughout the film from a Captain Kirk mask purchased for $1.98. Carpenter remembers how Wallace "widened the eye holes and spray-painted the flesh a bluish white. In the script it said Michael's mask had 'the pale features of a human face' and it truly was spooky looking. I can only imagine the result if they hadn't painted the mask white. Children would be checking their closet for William Shatner after Tommy got through with it." Hill adds that the "idea was to make him almost humorless, faceless—this sort of pale visage that could resemble a human or not."

The film was shot in 20 days in South Pasadena, California in the spring of 1978. Eagle eye viewers can spot palm trees in the background of some scenes. 
The crew had difficulty finding pumpkins in the spring, and artificial fall leaves had to be reused for multiple scenes. When a scene was completed, the leaves were collected in garbage bags and used for the next scene. Local families dressed their children in Halloween costumes for trick-or-treat scenes. 

With production wrapped and the film in the can, Carpenter shopped the film to the different studios. They all passed on it. One female executive at Fox even said the film was not scary, as the cut did not have the music. Years later that same executive admitted it was a mistake being so dismissive of the film, once the score was added. Through self distribution from Compass International Pictures (later Trancas International Films which still hold the rights to Halloween) released at a theater in Kansas City, Missouri on October 25th,1978.
Shortly after it opened in Chicago and New York. On October 27th it opened in Los Angeles, then Pittsburgh on November 22nd. Audiences were lining up to see this little slasher film about an escaped mental patient that stalks and kills babysitters on Halloween night. Word of mouth traveled quickly and Halloween become a true sleeper hit. Audiences were scared out of their wits by Carpenter's film and going to see it 3-4-5 times during its theatrical run.
The beauty of the film is in its simplicity. Its almost a sleight of hand illusion with Carpenter as the magician. The film leads you to believe that you saw something when you didn't see anything at all. In fact there is nary a vulgar word spoken and little to no gore...and it works! The film's score and equally iconic theme help to heighten the tension of the movie, as they fill you with dread and make for a truly terrifying viewing experience.
After the success of Halloween, most of the people involved with the film have gone to become truly successful in their own right, with Curtis and Carpenter being the obvious ones to become megastars after the movie's release. It grossed $70 million against a budget of $300,000. It was the most successful independent movie of all time until The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity would break that record many years later.
Naturally a sequel was in order and it was followed by many more sequels and a remake by Rob Zombie in 2007. 
The film's legacy is still going strong to this day, as it gave birth to the slasher craze (yes, it wasn't the first slasher film or the first to feature a mute killer wearing a mask and brandishing a sharp object) where many of our favorite genre films were released in its wake.
In October, AMC heavily features Halloween and its sequels during their annual Fear Fest television event. The film is also responsible for launching careers of people who watched it and decided to become filmmakers after their first or hundredth viewing.
Fans have tattoos, t-shirts, Funko Pops, action figures, posters, and anything else you can think of that feature Michael Myers or scenes from the film.
Halloween is also the only horror film series to have its own convention every 5 years. In fact, Pasadena will again play host for Halloween:40 Years Of Terror this October.
That's not all, oh not even close, as Universal, Blumhouse, and Trancas are bringing us the latest installment of the Halloween series.
This will be a direct sequel to the original film as it will ignore everything after the first movie. Director David Gordon Green and Danny McBride (yes Kenny F'n Powers) have written a script that has even excited John Carpenter (who is producing and providing the score for the new film) and Jamie Lee Curtis who is returning to the role that made her a household name. The film picks up 40 years after the events of the original, where Laurie Strode comes face-to-face with Michael Myers for one final confrontation.
40 Years Later and The Shape is ready to terrify a new generation of fans. None of this is possible if it weren't for a young group of filmmakers and actors who busted their backs to deliver one of the greatest horror films of all time. Here's to 40 more years of Terror.

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