This week, Rob Zombie will unleash his second stab at the story of Michael Myers with Halloween 2.
Love him or hate him, you can't deny he's put his own stamp onto John Carpenter's iconic slasher classic...
1. In the beginning, there was the Shape…
It began with an assault – no, not Michael Myers on a variety of lusty teenagers, but Assault On Precinct 13, which convinced producer Irwin Yablans and financier Moustapha Akkad that a young filmmaker named John Carpenter was the right man to bring a story about babysitters being slaughtered by a psycho to life.
Carpenter and producer Debra Hill came up with a story about Michael Myers, a killer from a young age who is committed to an asylum, but escapes years later and, clad in a hauntingly blank mask, hunts down teens, including Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). And the movie's timeframe dictated a title - Halloween.
A horror icon was born, with several elements – Michael’s mask, recycled from a William Shatner Halloween item, Carpenter’s creepy electro theme – becoming stapes of the genre.
And Hollywood, ever eager to find a money-spinning idea, soon began to pump out sequels, spreading the story ever thinner over the years.
Despite the flood of follow-ups, no one had attempted a reboot. But in 2006, all that would change…
Next: Rob Zombie’s take
2. Enter Rob Zombie
Despite the many sequels that either attempted to cash in on the Halloween name, run other ideas, horror anthology-style under it (Halloween III, anyone?) or just show endless variations of an aging Laurie battling Michael, it never quite reclaimed the cult fan appeal of the original.
But following a five-year break, 4 June 2006 found Dimension films announcing that Rob Zombie – White Zombie rocker and the director of House Of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects – would take the project on as a blend of a remake and a prequel.
“What I am doing is starting totally from scratch,” he told The Gauntlet at the time.
“This the new Halloween. Call it a remake, an update, a reimaging or whatever, but one thing that for sure is this is a whole new start... a new beginning with no connection to the other series.
“That is exactly why the project appeals to me. I can take it and run with it. I talked to John Carpenter about this the other day and he said, ‘Go for it, Rob. Make it your own’. And that's exactly what I intend to do."
The film, called for a short time Halloween 9 (despite Zombie’s insistence it would be starting from the beginning again), would delve into Michael Myers’ tough childhood to explore how a twisted boy became the silent killer.
Zombie’s concept would focus much more on Michael’s dysfunctional family, including his mother (played by Sheri Moon Zombie), his sister and their respective boyfriends.
Tackling a story that had only been hinted about in Carpenter’s film, Zombie showed Michael’s murderous tendencies grow and the build-up to the brutal night.
Other changes would include a beefier role for psychologist Dr Loomis (with Malcolm McDowell replacing original star Donald Pleasance), the man who treats Michael and plays a pivotal role in trying to stop him once he starts his killing spree.
But while Zombie reached out for Carpenter’s blessing and tried to convince everyone he was a respectful fan with new idea, he had his work cut out for him…
Next up: Shooting the first remake
3. Zombie kicks off
Zombie cast Scout-Taylor Compton as Laurie Strode, who would be Michael’s sister this time around. And former Tyler Mane, who had worked with the director before, got the job of “playing” the elder Michael as he stomps around murderlising his various victims.
Shooting on the new film kicked off in January 2007, with production taking place in the same neighbourhood used by Carpenter’s original.
While fans worried that Zombie would make more changes – including the look of the mask – they were relieved when the director reported that he’d seen the first test for the trademark headgear.
"It looks perfect,” he said at the time. “Exactly like the original. Not since 1978 has The Shape looked so good."
One thing that did change was the mask’s origin. In Carpenter’s original, Michael simply grabs a random item from a hardware store, but Zombie would portray it as Michael’s handiwork while locked up in the Smith’s Grove mental facility.
But while the shoot proceeded well, not everything would be smooth for the new film…
Next up: An early, unscheduled release…
4. The workprint scandal
With the film headed towards a US release at the end of August 2007, trouble hit when a “workprint” version was leaked online and quickly made its way around the web. "I mean, it’s just the way things are," Zombie said at the time. "It’s a world of thievery."
He didn’t seem all that worried, however – despite claiming to not have seen the leaked version, he would advise New York Magazine’s Vulture Blog that he was “pretty sure” it was an older version of the movie.
And so it proved – Dark Horizons got a look at the print and, after comparing it to the finished version, remarked that it was a version created before test screenings were held in June 2007, and that several elements – including Michael attacking a fellow, female inmate at Smith’s Grove – had been changed or removed.
Still, there was the worry that the box office might be hit, just as concerns were raised when Eli Roth blamed the failure of Hostel: Part II on a leak.
But Zombie didn’t have much to worry about. Handed the widest release for any Halloween film in the franchise, his new take proved to be a success, even if it was critically ravaged.
With a $30 million opening weekend in the States and a successful run on DVD, a sequel was all but guaranteed…
Next up: Figuring out a follow-up
5. A Zombie-free future?
Despite the seeming success of his first attempt at Michal Myers, it looked for a while like Rob Zombie wouldn’t be returning to the franchise he helped to relaunch.
Citing the fact that “I was so burned out,” after working on the first movie, Zombie elected to initially pass on the sequel, preferring instead to focus on his music and other film projects, including OTT animated adventure Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The Weinstein Company and Dimension Films sent producer Malek Akkad to the 30 Years Of Horror Convention to reveal that a direct sequel to the movie would indeed be produced and that directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (who had made French horror inside and had been in development on a Hellraiser remake) would step in.
But it didn’t last long. After various unsuccessful drafts by different writers and the directing team’s departure, December 2008 saw a rumour reported by Shock ‘Till You Drop that Zombie would indeed return, a rumour that became reality shortly afterwards.
Seems as though Zombie had taken some time out to consider his position and, after working on other material for a while, had decided to return to Halloween, with Tyler Mane (who was already on board anyway), Taylor Compton-Scout and Malcolm McDowell all back.
It would mean another punishing schedule for the helmer, as he’d have to have everything ready for August 2009…
Next Up: Gearing back up
6. Shooting the sequel
Ditching previous locations, Zombie has chosen to film the sequel in Atlanta Georgia, mostly because the first film’s shooting locales were covered in snow when he needed them.
The director also promises that it'll feature more of the seasonal flavour that Carpenter brought to the original and some felt was lacking in his film.
"This film is really, really rich in that atmosphere. The whole movie basically takes place on the three days leading up to Halloween, and most of it is on the day of. This time, I wanted it to drip with Halloween atmosphere.
"That’s why I was so happy to shoot in Georgia, because we could get those barren trees and gray skies, that fall look. I think that is essential. Last time, shooting in California, it was difficult to achieve that."
Don't expect that he's gone soft, though: "What I like about the sequel, is that Laurie and her friends are older. Compared to the last film, this one is really dark, gritty and nasty. It is a twisted psycho-drama.
"The MPAA will be bad news. I don’t know how it will play out. But it’s always like that. And this movie also focuses a lot on Sheriff Brackett.
"I’m really excited about that. Brad Douriff has a huge role in this film and he’s spectacular. He becomes very much like Laurie’s surrogate father. He feels responsible."
Next up: Ch-ch-ch-changes
7. Psychosis for all!
The Halloween sequel has been touched with almost as much controversy – usually around Zombie’s plans – as his original version.
Take for example, the fact that he seems the Myers family history of mental instability spreading beyond Michael…
“I wanted to try to approach the sequel, as much as possible, realistically, dealing with the after-effects of the first movie,” Zombie told Fangoria.
“So Laurie is pretty damaged, as are all the characters—Dr. Loomis, Sheriff Brackett. And as Laurie is Michael’s sister, I’m playing like he’s clearly insane and so is she, but her insanity doesn’t manifest itself in the same way.
“In the first movie, Michael Myers was clearly insane by age 10, so I figured, ‘Well, maybe hers comes at age 19.’ So that’s pretty much what it is: She’s slipping into insanity throughout the whole movie.”
But that wasn’t the biggest change to be rumoured…
Next up: Mask issues?
8. Less Mask time?
Most controversially, Makeup artist Wayne Toth announced that the new film would “throw Myers fans for a loop” by having their favourite slasher walk around mask-free (or with a torn visage revealing more of his face) for more than 70% of the film.
Shots of Tyler Mane walking around looking more like a mountain man survivalist than Michael Myers seemed to confirm it, but Zombie has tried set the record straight.
“It is total bullshit. See, I think Wayne Toth said 70% mask-less when people were down on the set. Wayne wasn’t bullshitting you, but that was taken out of context, and to an extreme online.
“We’ve filmed so much stuff and at this point nobody but me knows what we’re going to use or not use. There are more shots of Michael Myers running around in his mask in this movie than in any of the other movies. I don’t think anybody has to worry. Yeah. Michael Myers never looked so good.”
Next up: First footage
9. Footage airs
This past April, the first footage from H2 – or as it should now be known Halloween 2 (see the next entry) – arrived on the bubbly as ever US TV show Entertainment Tonight.
Take a gander for your first proper look at Michael’s new mask, and at what he’ll be wearing for flashbacks…
Next up: Step behind the scenes
10. What’s in a name?
Fast-forward then, to now, as Zombie has finished shooting the movie and is deep into editing for that August release date.
In the latest behind—scenes featurette, the film is referred to as Halloween 2. Looks like the brand will be keeping its name…
As to whether audiences will embrace the follow-up as they seemed to Zombie’s first take? We’ll have to wait and see.