John Carpenter's Assault On Precinct 13 had a big impact on independent film producer Irwin Yablans and financier Moustapha Akkad. The pair had an idea for a horror film about a killer who stalked babysitters and thought Carpenter could bring the right vibe to the project...
Upon hearing Yablans and Akkad's pitch, Carpenter and his then-girlfriend Debra Hill began crafting a story based on their premise -- called The Babysitter Murders. Yablan suggested setting the film on Halloween night (with that as a title), and Akkad stumped up an incredibly low $250,000 for the film's production. Carpenter agreed to waive most of his fee, receiving $10,000 for directing, writing and composing the score -- although he did insist on taking 10% of the film's eventual profits.
Yablans and Akkad essentially handed full control over to Carpenter and Hill, who set about writing the full script. Their final story would concern a child who commits murder and is sent to a psychiatric hospital, only to escape as an adult and return to his neighbourhood to kill local teenagers, whilst being pursed by his psychiatrist...
Hill concentrated on the female dialogue, while Carpenter enjoyed the length monologues from psychiatrist Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance). They also put a lot of in-jokes into the script for their own amusement: heroine Laurie Strode was the name of Carpenter's ex-girlfriend and villain Michael Myers was the name of an English producer who had entered Assault On Precinct 13 into many European festivals.
Due to Halloween's low budget, costumes and props were harvested from inexpensive shops. Most famously, the film's boogieman (Michael Myers) would wear a William Shatner face-mask spray-painted white.
Unknown actress Jamie Lee Curtis won the role of Laurie Strode, with Donald Pleasance the only famous actor in the film (he received $20,000 for his time). Actor Nick Castle, who played Michael Myers, permanently obscured by the iconic mask, was just Carpenter's friend from university.
Carpenter shot the film in just 21 days in South Pasadena and Sierra Madre, California, in the spring of 1978 -- meaning artificial leaves had to be used and the crew had difficult finding pumpkins at that time of year.
Halloween was released on 25 October 1978, just in time for Halloween night, and was initially dismissed by critics and mass audiences. After one positive review, word-of-mouth began to spread and an interest grew. The film grossed $48 million in the US. It took a while, but Halloween eventually became a landmark film for the horror genre, ushering in the contemporary slasher film that dominated the 80s with cash-ins like Black Christmas and Friday The 13th.
A sequel, Halloween II, was written by Carpenter and Hill, but directed by Rick Rosenthal, and released in 1981. It wasn't as successful as the original (a $25 million gross), but Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, produced by Carpenter, was released in 1982 (it made $14 million). The series seemed to vanish for years, until a resurgence of interest led to Halloween IV: The Return Of Michael Myers in 1995, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (which saw the return of Jamie Lee Curtis) in 1998 and Halloween: Resurrection in 2002.
Just this year, Rob Zombie directed a remake of Carpenter's original. It has received mixed reviews, but has made over $64 million worldwide so far -- making it the most successful Halloween movie yet, adjusting for inflation.
1. Dr Sam Loomis' name is taken from the character Sam Loomis in Psycho.
2. Nick Castle, who played Michael Myers, went on to direct The Last Starfighter, The Boy Who Could Fly, Dennis The Menace and Major Payne!
3. In the movie, kids watch the opening of The Thing From Another World -- a 1951 sci-fi horror that Carpenter himself would remake as The Thing in 1982.
4. Half the budget was spent on Panavision cameras.
5. The script only mentions Michael Myers' name twice. He is mostly referred to as The Shape.
6. John Carpenter was initially intimidated by Donald Pleasance, but the two became great friends and Pleasance starred in other Carpenter films (most famously as the US President in Escape From New York.)
7. Out of all the young cast, only Jamie Lee Curtis was actually a teenager.
The Halloween Movies
Official John Carpenter