|A Horror Classic Hits A Milestone:
Halloween on Its 40th Anniversary
By William Henry Pratt
1978 was the year the face of the horror genre was to change
forever. It was the year that kick started what would become known
as the Slasher Film and it all started with one little indie movie that
no one on the set thought anything good would come out of. That
little movie was simply called “Halloween” and after 40 years of
sequels, remakes and imitators, the film’s impact is as strong today
in 2018 as it was upon its release in 1978. The movie not only gave
the horror film world a new movie but also one of the most iconic
villains in genre history. The very name of Michael Myers brings
chills to movie-goers and even now with the release of an all new
2018 installment into the franchise, we remember how and where
this franchise all began.
Irwin Yablans was an independent film producer when he attended the Milan Film Festival in 1976
and watched the movie Assault on Precinct 13. The movie by a then unknown film director by the name of
John Carpenter was only his second film after the indie produced Dark Star. Still Irwin Yablans saw
something in the young talent and asked if he would work with him on an indie produced horror movie.
Yablans’ idea was of a group of babysitters being hunted by a deranged killer. Carpenter liked the idea
and joined with Yablans on his next project.
Thinking that the babysitter killings should take place on one night. Maybe that night being a holiday
sparked the idea from the film’s working title of “The Babysitter Murders” to something that would ironically
have more staying power of that of “Halloween” when the film went into production on in the spring of 1978.
Shot in only twenty days with a working budget of only $300,000.00, Carpenter and his girlfriend Debra Hill
worked on the screenplay telling the story of a boy, who after murdering his own sister, is locked away in a
mental hospital. Upon his escape now as an adult, he stalks and killers teens on Halloween night.
The killer himself in the screenplay and on set is only referred to as
simply The Shape being that he is a sort of Boogie Man, lifeless and void
of any emotion. He hunts his prey silently, welding most often a large kit-
chen knife that he stabs his victims to death with. His face covered by that
of a Halloween mask hiding not only his identity but any emotion behind the
rubber and the evil within his eyes. With no reason or direction, this mask-
ed man just kills for nothing more than the sake of just killing making his
actions even more terrifying.
Because of the low budget of just $300,000.00, a low number at the
time the film, could only star unknown talent. Among that talent was a
young woman named Jamie Lee Curtis and although she herself was
the offspring of Hollywood legends Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, Hallo-
ween was to be her very first debut film. Her own mother no stranger to
the pointed end of a knife for it was Janet Leigh who faced mad man
Norman Bates in the shower in the super horror classic Psycho. Jamie
who would go on to have a long career in Hollywood, would return in four
more times to face the killer Michael Myers in Halloween 2, Halloween
H20: 20 Years Later, Halloween Resurrection and for her final battle with
Myers in the new Halloween 40th year Anniversary movie.
Among the cast of unknowns was one actor who Hollywood did
know well and was a high point in the casting of the little indie flick.
Donald Pleasence was one of Hollywood’s well known players since his
film debut in 1954 with The Beachcomber. Best known by genre fans
as Doctor Sam Loomis in Halloween, but the truth was that Donald
Pleasence was a true veteran of films with eighty five movies under his
belt before facing the masked Michael Myers. Since the film’s budget
was so small, the filmmakers could only pay the actor for a week’s worth of work in the twenty day shoot.
However, Pleasence enjoyed the role so much that he would return for Halloween 2 in 1981 and again for
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers 1988, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers and
Halloween 6: the Curse of Michael Myers 1995 before his death in 1995.
The character of Dr. Loomis has faced off with the killer as many times
as the killer’s intended victim Laurie Strode played by Jamie Lee Curtis.
The Shape as he was called on set, was played by not one but three differ-
ent actors who wore the mask, The first was Nick Castle who played the
silent killer most of the time but Tony Moran played Myers in the shot where
Laurie yanks off the mask from Myer’s face revealing his true face if only for
a moment before replacing the mask back upon his face. The filmmakers
thought that Tony had a better look to play Myers unmasked and so he was
brought in for the brief shot of Myers showing his face, something that was
never again done in any of the following films.
As it has become well known over the years that the iconic pale face
killer’s masked was that of Star Trek’s own Captain Kirk’s William Shatner.
When the production designer, Tommy Lee Wallace, was asked to find a
mask for the film’s killer, he set to find something new and never seen be-
fore. After some looking, he saw the Kirk mask and thought with a little
alterations it could be the mask that Carpenter and Hill were looking for.
After buying it for only $1.98, he took it back to the set and painted it a pale
white and cut open the eye holes a little more. The effect was simple but
outstandingly frightful as it gave the films killer a fixed dead-pan express-
ion. With no facial expression, no one as well as the film viewer’s knew
what the manic was thinking.
To keep the film’s cost down, John Carpenter himself not only directed the movie but also wrote the
screenplay with Debra Hill as well as composed all the film’s music. The famous score that has now
become so well known for its ring as part of the Halloween franchise as much as the masked killer himself.
The moment you here that piano melody, you know it’s the theme tune to Halloween.
Released on October 25th 1978, the movie Halloween would go on to make at the box office seventy
million. Not bad for a movie that started out with the payroll of only $300,000.00 and a great deal of that
went to the film’s only real star power Donald Pleasence. The film was not only a huge hit right from the
start, but would build into an enormous horror movie franchise spanning the next forty years. In its wake,
endless horror movie rip-offs followed over the years giving rise to the slasher movies of the 1980’s. Over
the span of forty years, other masked killers followed in Myers footsteps and even with some being
remembered such as Jason Voohees and Freddy while others vanished like The Prowler and the gas-
masked killer of My Bloody Valentine.
Although it is true that the mask manic known only as Leatherface of the 1974 horror classic The
Texas Chain Saw Massacre did pre-date Michael Myers and his film Halloween by four years, it was not
until Halloween that Hollywood decided to start making low…..some really low budget horror movies to
cash in on the success of Halloween’s new found fame with their own masked teen assassin. It then
seemed that any holiday was now up for grabs like Valentine’s Day, Fathers Day, Birth Days and yes even
Christmas were all subject to having a killer stalk their holidays. In 1980, one of the first of them cashed in
big time with Friday the 13th and was a hit right off the bat. Although its famous killer didn’t do the murders
in the first film (it is mother Voohees), but when Jason did make his entrance, it was hell of an impact. And
when he first put on his now notorious hockey mask, all other Slasher films just had to have a masked
murderer in their picture.
It was a formula that started with Halloween and continues on right until today. Masked killer on the
loose + horny teens = dead teens until killer is stopped at the end of movie only to return in the next fifteen
sequels. Films like the Fun House, I Know What you Did Last Summer, A Nightmare on Elm Street and so
on all tip their horror hats to Halloween even if their on screen manic wore a mask or not.
So now here we are some forty years later and those of us who lived in and remember 1978 know
and saw how that one little film changed the face of horror and how everything that came after owes its
storylines, ideas and treatment to Halloween. It was the year the world was introduced to Michael Myers…..
and although he may have come home forty years ago on Halloween night…..we still fear this Boogieman