AFI Movie Club: HALLOWEEN – American Film Institute

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AFI Movie Club: HALLOWEEN

Watch Jamie Lee Curtis go “Behind the Scene” in today’s AFI exclusive video – Watch now

HALLOWEEN is a pioneering prototype of the enduring slasher genre – establishing many of the tropes and conventions that course through even the most contemporary installments, while also building a distinct iconography all its own. One of the most heart-pounding films ever, AFI included the film on its list of cinema’s greatest thrills. 

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HALLOWEEN – Reelgood

Watch Jamie Lee Curtis announce HALLOWEEN! And check out an exclusive “behind-the-scene” video with the scream queen herself.

 

Movie Trivia About Today’s Film

DID YOU KNOW?Executive producer Irwin Yablans conceived of the basic story for HALLOWEEN, which he originally titled THE BABYSTITTER MURDERS. When he changed the setting of the story to Halloween night, Yablans presented eventual director and co-writer John Carpenter with the final concept and title. Carpenter and Debra Hill – who would also act as the film’s producer – co-wrote the screenplay in 1977.

DID YOU KNOW? According to co-writers John Carpenter and Debra Hill, the writing collaboration was an even split – with Hill writing the babysitter characters and Carpenter writing Michael Myers and his psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis.

DID YOU KNOW? Although the performance credit for the film’s music is attributed to “The Bowling Green Philharmonic,” this is a name fabricated by director John Carpenter – who composed the score and performed with various musician friends. The only other musical credit is for “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult, which plays on a car radio.

DID YOU KNOW? In the film, character Tommy Doyle watches an excerpt from the 1951 sci-fi thriller, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, which was produced by Howard Hawks. Director John Carpenter has identified Hawks as one of his idols – and, in 1982, he remade the picture as THE THING.

DID YOU KNOW? Jamie Lee Curtis made her feature film debut in HALLOWEEN and was “introduced” in the opening credits. Director John Carpenter has since said that she was originally recommended by producer Debra Hill. Curtis was cast based on her reading and in part because she was the daughter of Janet Leigh – who had starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO.

DID YOU KNOW? According to executive producer Irwin Yablans, director John Carpenter originally reached out to Hammer horror icons Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing for the role of Dr. Loomis, but neither actor accepted the offer. Ultimately, Donald Pleasence agreed to play the part because his daughter suggested that he work with Carpenter after seeing the director’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13.

DID YOU KNOW? Portions of the film were shot in various Los Angeles area locations, including South Pasadena, CA – and because the film was shot in the spring, the crew had to paint paper leaves autumn colors to coincide with the seasonal narrative. The leaves were scattered before each scene and collected afterwards for reuse. Director John Carpenter and cinematographer Dean Cundey also had to frame shots to avoid palm trees in southern California, in order to maintain the look of a midwestern suburb.

DID YOU KNOW? To create the now-iconic ghostly white mask worn by HALLOWEEN’s Michael Myers, production designer/art director Tommy Lee Wallace modified a William Shatner/Captain Kirk mask – widening the eye holes, altering the hair, and painting it pale blue so as to reduce its identifiable features, in accordance with the description of the mask in the screenplay.

DID YOU KNOW? Carpenter borrowed the name of Michael Myers’ psychiatrist – Sam Loomis – from the character played by John Gavin in PSYCHO. Carpenter took the name of Michael Myers himself from a British producer who’d supported the director’s earlier work, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. Thanks to Myers’ help in getting the film into the London Film Festival – where it received attention from press and audiences alike – Carpenter credits the producer with getting his career off the ground.

DID YOU KNOW? In 2006, The National Film Preservation Board selected HALLOWEEN for preservation in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, deeming the film “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.

 

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-HALLOWEEN is an early credit in John Carpenter’s iconic filmography. What are the directorial hallmarks that you can identify – themes or aesthetics that would continue through his later work?

-Based on a story concept originally titled THE BABYSTITTER MURDERS, do you think HALLOWEEN would have worked as well – or would have become an enduring horror icon – even if it hadn’t been set on the holiday? Why or why not?

-What genre conventions do you see established in this early slasher work? Name some subsequent films that have borrowed from HALLOWEEN’s pioneering iconography. Why do you think those tropes are so effective and enduring?

-How does the score contribute to the movie’s sense of impending dread?

-Why do you think the slasher genre has become such a staple of cinema? How does the genre compare or contrast with horror films – and monster films – that have come before? What are the commonalties and differences between Michael Myers and classic movie monsters like Dracula, the Mummy and Frankenstein’s monster?

-How would you rate HALLOWEEN?

 

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