Horror Icon John Carpenter on the New ‘Halloween’ and What Really Scares Him

     October 16, 2018

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You know what’s better than getting to talk to one of the biggest genre icons? Getting to talk to that individual about the very successful continuation of the franchise he started. The original Halloween is one of the best horror movies of all time, a movie that spawned nine additional films, none of which managed to capture the same terror and magic of John Carpenter‘s original – until now.

The 1978 film is still the untouchable crown jewel of the series, but with this new Halloween movie, director David Gordon Green crafts a story that honors the original film, takes both Michael Myers and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) a major step forward, and offers Halloween newcomers an accessible entry point to the franchise. With the movie making its way into theaters on October 19th, I got the opportunity to hop on the phone with Carpenter himself to discuss passing the baton to Green and Danny McBride, his take on why they were better off not recreating the original film’s ending, what really scares him, and so much more.

Catch all of that in the interview below and click here for my review of the film.

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Image via Universal

What was your first reaction when someone approached you about yet another Halloween movie? Are you eager to hear them out or is it more like, “Oh, not this again?”

JOHN CARPENTER: Well, the Weinsteins lost the rights so immediately I thought, ‘Well, maybe this could be good.’ They went to Miramax, and Jason Blum came aboard. And Jason Blum talked to me and he convinced me to work on the Halloween movie. And he said, ‘They’re gonna make it with or without us, so why don’t we work together on the movie and make it better? Make it good?’ So I thought, ‘Okay, I can do that.’

How often are you approached for remakes, reboots and sequels? Are these questions and offers coming in non-stop?

CARPENTER: No. Doesn’t quite work that way, but they come occasionally and I take advantage of the ones I want to.

How about when you first heard about this whole “retcon” idea for this new Halloween movie? Was there anything that was tough for you to let go of in terms of the mythology?

CARPENTER: No, god, I thought that was great. What a great idea! That’s why I kind of signed aboard with David Gordon Green and Danny McBride. I thought, ‘God, these guys are great. They have an idea that’s great!’ What’s your word? Retcon? What’s the word?

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Image via Universal Pictures

Yeah, “retcon.” Adding something to a story retrospectively or in this case, erasing some of what the other films established.

CARPENTER: This is a young Hollywood word? I’ve never heard this word before.

I’d say it’s a pretty flashy word nowadays, especially when we’re in a time with this industry when you’re constantly going back to the well and trying to continue all of these beloved franchises.

CARPENTER: I see. Well, thank you for telling me that! I’m learning something every single day … I thought it was great! It was great! But I never thought – we didn’t try it. I would’ve never thought of it. But you see, I’m not a retcon kind of guy. I’m an old-timer here.

But there’s a reason everyone’s trying to retcon, continue, reboot so much of what you’ve made!

CARPENTER: I can’t understand why things that are new have such a hard time. I just don’t get it. Can you explain that to me?

I wish I could. I’m constantly cheering for new, original ideas but then I see a movie like this new Halloween movie and I start thinking about how it would be such a shame to close the door on a franchise or an idea that still has lots of potential.

CARPENTER: Okay, I agree with you, especially since they have to pay me every time they make one of these. I like it.

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Image via Compass International Pictures

Curious, what’s your favorite Halloween movie of the franchise?

CARPENTER: Oh, please. Please. I don’t know. I like David Gordon Green’s a lot. I think it’s really terrific. I’m really proud of the score that we did. But my original is something I’m fond of, too. I don’t know.

Can you tell me about some of the new additions to this mythology that David Gordon Green and Danny McBride added? There are so many steps forward for both Michael and Laurie. Were there any specific new plot points in particular that made you think, ‘Wow, that was a really great idea?’

CARPENTER: Well, the big idea of all, the one that just killed, is Jamie Lee coming back as a survivor of violence years later, and as somebody who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, somebody who’s fucked up, pardon the language. That was I thought awesome, just awesome.

I loved that part of it and the idea of extending her experience and her history to three generations.

CARPENTER: There you go. It’s a girl movie! Wow!

This movie is also filled with unforgettable set pieces, and I certainly have a long list of favorites. If you had to pick one scene in this movie that was your favorite, which would it be?

CARPENTER: Oh god, that’s tough. Oh man. Well, I don’t know. I’m thinking of it in terms of music, where I like the music that we did. I don’t know! I can’t pick! What do you think is good? What do you think is the best?

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Image via Universal

I think everyone’s great in this, but I have to give my favorite scene to Julian and Vicky. The two of them are hilarious, and then the way that scare scene is executed I thought was just brilliantly done.

CARPENTER: Very good. I like it!

I was also eager to get your take on this idea of recreating the ending of the original Halloween. I was reading they were thinking about opening this new movie with that, but then the idea got scrapped. What was your take on it, and what’d you tell David Gordon Green about it?

CARPENTER: Well, originally they were going to have Donald Pleasence‘s character get killed. And I thought, ‘That’s a mistake. The audience won’t like that. That’s a revision I don’t think we should do.’ So that was my one big contribution.

I can understand that. What about digitally recreating moments from your original movie? Was there any concern about doing that?

CARPENTER: Well, I don’t care about that. That’s his problem, not mine. But I thought the fans are gonna get pissed off at that. I don’t think you have to even deal with the ending of my movie; just start the movie where they did. I think that he did great.

What do you think is the biggest difference between what scares people now and what scared them when the first Halloween movie came out?

CARPENTER: Oh, well everybody in life is scared of the same things, so in movies the requirement is that the audience should find a character that they can project themselves onto and then things happen to that character, they care. So that’s how you scare people, and then just not doing what’s been done. That’s all. Coming up with something new, which I think David really did well.

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Image via Universal Pictures / Blumhouse

What scares you? Of all the different kinds of horror movies we get nowadays, is there any specific theme or idea that really gets under your skin?

CARPENTER: Real life scares me, not movie life … I think about being a kid in Syria and what Assad did by dropping chemical weapons. It terrifies me that a human being is capable of that. That’s frightening.

I can certainly understand that. As we start to wrap up, I wanted to ask a little about your filmography in general as such a huge fan. Which one of your films was the hardest to get made, get the green light?

CARPENTER: Oh, wow. I hadn’t thought of that. The hardest? Let me think. Let me think really quickly. I can’t really think of one that was that hard. I mean, maybe in the future I’ll make one that I’ve been working on for a while, but they all came pretty easily.

Do you have ideas sitting in your back pocket that you want to jump back behind the lens for?

CARPENTER: Sure! I have a couple. But it would have to all be right. It would have to be a good situation and have enough money and not work too hard because I’m an old guy now. I don’t want to work that hard anymore.

Making movies is hard but it’s also hard to watch your stuff without getting the impression that much of this comes very easily to you, even though I know behind the scenes, a lot of blood, sweat, tears and energy goes into it.

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Image via Universal Pictures

CARPENTER: Well, yeah. I had to stop because it was just too intense. It was just too much anxiety. It was anxiety promoting. The tension was too much. I couldn’t do it anymore! Ah! But now I have sort of a half-ass music career. I like this a lot better. This is a lot more fun.

Having spoken about all this “retcon” stuff, of all your movies, which one do you think is the most remake-able and which one should no one ever touch again?

CARPENTER: Well, I think that you can remake anything, so there’s nothing that’s untouchable, but I think that the most important remakes of my work are the ones where you have to pay me, otherwise I don’t care.

I’m nearing the end of my audiobook of Christine, so I am dying for more Christine.

CARPENTER: You want more Christine? Well, you may get it! You’ll see! I think they’re thinking about doing something with it.

My last question for you; when you have some downtime and you want to put something on TV, whether it’s a show or a movie, what are you watching?

CARPENTER: Well, I’m watching basketball, NBA basketball, and I’m watching the news. I know that’s disappointing but it’s true.

Not at all! What basketball team is your team?

CARPENTER: Who else but the Golden State Warriors?

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