Although it’s only been three years since filmmaker David Gordon Green entered the horror franchise world with 2018’s Halloween, an intended sequel to the original John Carpenter Halloween from 1978, it seems like it’s been longer since the sequel, Halloween Kills, was supposed to come out last year. (Thanks a lot, COVID)
Halloween Kills is very much bigger and more brutal than its predecessor as the killer Michael Myers has survived the attempt to kill him by Jamie Lee-Curtis’s Laurie Strode and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), and he continues his vicious killing spree. But the people of Haddonfield have had enough of the fear instilled into all of them by Myers, and they band together to find and kill him once and for all. These include some survivors of Myers’ 1978 killing spree, like Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), Lindsey (Kyle Richards), and others.
For Green, it’s the second part of a trilogy that will conclude with the yet-to-be-filmed Halloween Ends, but that won’t be the end of his foray into horror, because a similar sequel/remake/reboot of The Exorcist is next.
Although Below the Line didn’t have much time in our Zoom interview with Green, we did try to cover a lot of ground, including casting the older versions of characters from the first movie and how nerve-wracking it must be working with Carpenter both as producer and composer.
Below the Line: You and I have spoken quite a bit over the years, and I’ve always felt like you’ve never done the same movie twice, so I was surprised when you and Danny McBride decided not just to do one Halloween movie, but three. What made you and Danny want to commit to this as a trilogy?
David Gordon Green: There’s a number of levels that’s appealing. I’d say in a weird and seemingly obvious level, if you’ve followed my career and seen the films that I make, it’s rare that one is as successful and well-received as Halloween was. As a filmmaker that’s really struggled with trying to find that acceptance in an audience and find that appreciation for a subject matter that I can explore and go deeper with, this just really landed, and it became an opportunity for me to say, “I’ve walked into the space. I’ve realized this property, and I want to play more before I give it up.” Danny and I have a ton of ideas and are just eager fans that have the responsibility of curating Halloween right now, so who wouldn’t want to do it? It would actually be impossible to just have said goodnight to it after one. It’s stirred up so many ideas, so many opportunities for us, that I can’t say on an emotional level, it appeals to me as a Halloween fan, but then as a filmmaker, it gives me that excitement of going to the theater, surrounded by people that are not always in love with what I’m doing, but they’re excited to see it. And that’s very gratifying.
BTL: I’m not sure if people have mentioned this, but it seems far more brutal than the first movie, but we also see the people of Haddonfield actually standing up and trying to do something about Michael Myers, which I don’t think we’ve seen before.
Green: Right, and that was the whole concept of this chapter is to show the expanse as fear permeates the entire community of Haddonfield beyond just the Strode generation of women. That’s what the exploration was about: how do people collectively respond to the concept of Michael Myers? Obviously, he had his reign of terror in 1978, he’s back for more, and how do we respond as individuals and as a collective?
BTL: How did COVID affect the production? Did you actually finish shooting Halloween Kills before COVID hit, and then you just went into post and dealt with that as most people did?
Green: We shot it two years ago, and then we’d actually been in the test screening process when COVID hit, so we’d screened it for a few audiences. I was starting to get a flavor of what they were responding to. After COVID hit, the only thing it slowed down was I love to test screen movies and show various endings and length and when we want to be suspenseful, when we want to jump with a surprise, when we have the jump scare, when we go a little bit more grotesque. There wasn’t a lot of the sculpture of nuance that I would have liked. What it did do is I turned to my internal team a bit more, and we became very intimate with what we were trying to sculpt and finish the movie kind of secretly, and there was something kind of special about that, too. Until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t even seen the film in a year until the Venice Film Festival. It had sat on a shelf for a year. I didn’t mess with it, just worked on the script for the third one, and I have to say watching it in Venice, I was like, “I can’t believe we got away with this.”
BTL: I know you’ve created a mini-film industry in North Carolina, so I assume you did all of this one there? How has that infrastructure been going and dealing with COVID? Have you already started filming the third movie?
Green: We did. Halloween Kills was all in North Carolina. Correct. The last eight months I’ve been working on the HBO series, The Righteous Gemstones, so we’ve been in South Carolina on that film. We haven’t started production yet on Halloween 3, but we just wrapped last week. As far as COVID protocols, we’re doing our best to keep the industry alive and working with people that we know, love, and trust. It’s a funny juxtaposition from a half-hour HBO comedy that we do to the horror franchises. So we’re bouncing back and forth, and keeping a very consistent crew, and having a great time doing it.
BTL: I do want to ask about the people of Haddonfield and revisiting some of the characters from the first movie, and casting the actors to play them. How did you work with your casting director to find the right people, as well as casting new characters who you’re just starting to like before they encounter Michael Myers?
Green: It is a delicious casting process, but casting is always my favorite part, so when there’s a big role that we do a traditional casting call, and I use [Casting Directors] Terri [Taylor] and Sarah [Domeier-Lindo] in Los Angeles, and we find amazing talent — some discoveries and some established. And then, other times, I use my buddy John Williams, who comes into town and meets locals and integrates into the community. For a lot of these bit parts, we use the authenticity. Like every firefighter in the film is an actual firefighter for the most part. Cops, paramedics, surgeons — the characters that we see surrounding our more traditionally cast thespians — for the most part, are authentic to what their profession is so that I can use them as creative consultants at the same time that they’re performing in front of the camera.
BTL: I probably was most surprised by the casting of Anthony Michael Hall as Tommy Doyle, and I didn’t recognize him at all, and still don’t believe that was him in the movie.
Green: I’m a big fan of his movies. I love Out of Bounds, in particular, and Into the Sun. There’s some classic Anthony Michael Hall movies that I’ve always referenced and that aren’t necessarily the obvious ones that people reach to him for. What I was channeling here was a little bit of a different texture. We sat down and talked about this character, and I thought he was gonna bring everything that I wanted in Tommy and more.
BTL: I thought for a while that you were shooting all three of these movies back-to-back, which obviously couldn’t happen due to COVID, but are you able to keep your heads of department and crew from one movie to the next even with the breaks between?
Green: I’d say the crew from the first film and the second one are virtually identical. We certainly didn’t lose any department head, but it really is a community there and a fun group of people to work with that know how to balance real life and humanity with hard work and artistry.
BTL: I have to ask about working with John Carpenter. Besides the brutality, the other noticeable thing about this one was how his score sounds absolutely enormous.
Green: It was just an evolution and some of the themes that he’s created. The other thing I’ll geek out about for a second is the little stingers from the ’78 recreation sequences that I really loved, just a little glance and a little music stinger that we weren’t really utilizing in our 2018 score, feeling like that might be a little dated. We got the opportunity to intentionally go deep into the dated, and I was excited as a fan to get him to include some of those moments.
BTL: How is it working with him? I feel like working with John Carpenter on a Halloween movie — he knows it. He knows the music and how to make it work. Do you feel you can still challenge him with some of your ideas?
Green: You know what? It’s rare that I challenge him, but I think we do have an honest relationship where I might say that I’ve tried a piece of something he did that maybe we weren’t using in the movie, but then I’ve tried it here, and what if we explored something in that vein? And so, it is a little bit intimidating, I gotta say, but he’s been a very generous collaborator. Actually, today I was speaking with him, and he’s like, “When can I read the new draft of Halloween Ends?” I’ll be excited to get his notes, although I’m always petrified of handing him the script and looking forward to his feedback at the same time.
Halloween Kills will hit theaters nationwide on Friday, October 15, with previews on Thursday night. If it will also be available to Peacock Premium subscribers on Friday.
All photos courtesy Universal Pictures.