How 'Halloween' Tapped John Carpenter to Help Return the Franchise to Its Essence

The man who created Michael Myers is back for the new 'Halloween,' but not how you'd expect.


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This Friday's Halloween is a family affair. As a sequel that ignores every movie after the 1978 original, bad or mid-at-best in between, the franchise regains both its self-respect and the OG Scream Queen herself Jamie Lee Curtis back in the role that birthed her, squaring off against the original actor who played Michael Myers even. But they're not the only ones coming home. John Carpenter, the auteur who co-wrote and directed the original and composed its equally iconic score, is back in the fold as well. This is momentous for many reasons. The original was the only Halloween film he directed; Halloween III: Season of the Witch was the last film in the series he was involved in with. He's been vocal about his displeasure with the sequels, especially the Rob Zombie-helmed reboot.

Carpenter swears he didn't get behind the camera for the new film—he left that all up to co-writer/director David Gordon Green. But he did "advise" (though he won't get specific) and formally contributed in the arena that he's been thriving in recently: music. Carpenter has released three albums since 2015, to say nothing of the countless amazing scores he has to stand with his deep repertoire of classic films. While Green handled Laurie Strode's return on-screen, Carpenter scored the confrontation, delivering a soundtrack that offers new spins on what was already a bone-chilling theme. Complex hopped on the phone with the legendary auteur to discuss returning to Haddonfield to score The Shape's encore.

You haven't really been involved in this franchise since Season of the Witch. What made you want to come back?
I was convinced to do it. Jason Blum talked to me and he said he was going to do it with or without us. So he said, "why don't you stop criticizing from the sidelines and come and help."

Had you seen any of the sequels? What were your thoughts regarding why they missed the mark?
I've seen a few of them. I don't know man, I can't say I've seen enough to respond, maybe they're better than I think. I just feel bad about them.

What was it about David Gordon Green and Danny McBride's idea that sold you on coming back?
I just thought it was great. The sequel was going to be to the first movie.

I love the idea of a new sequel that just cuts through all the noise and goes back to the original that made everyone fall in love in the first place.  Soundtrack wise, what vibe were you going for? Did you want to offer updates on the original score or create something new?
Both. My son and my godson were with me so the three of us, we got the original scenes together then we sat down and had spotting sessions with David and he would explain where he wanted his music and what kind of feel he wanted, or what he wanted the audience to feel. He's very music literate so once we got out notes down and our marching orders we just started to work.

The updated theme sounds amazing. What did you tinker with to give it a more contemporary feel?
Well, the theme is really simple, we had the original theme and we just started adding some of the new technology that's available to a composer or performer and the modern sounds were unbelievable.

What I like about it is it's still scary but it feels more action-packed. What do you think it is about the original that strikes such a creepy cord with audiences even all these years later?
I think it's the simplicity and the repetitive feel of it. It's oddly distinctive.

Do you see any incidental similarities with the way that you composed the score and the original?
Well, it was very different back in the day, when I did the score, I couldn't score to the picture. I had three days to do the score so I did five or six pieces, I just did them and cut them in at various places where I thought they would work. So it was a whole different process. I just covered everything I could in this limited time I had. But nowadays we can score right to picture it’s just a whole different feel, you have the freedom to do so much more. So that's the comparison, also they were able to utilize and modernize some of the old scenes, which seemed to work out okay. I'm very proud of it.

The old soundtrack is quiet and creeping and the new soundtrack sounds very beefed up and energized.
Well, that's it, but a lot of that is just because they have more opportunity to kick ass today because of the sounds. And the system they work nowadays has unlimited sounds which means you can do what you just said and make it energetic and bigger and kick ass.

You spoke in the past about wanting to return Michael Myers to his essence.
That's what David did. It's terrific he really did a good job—he's back. He is back.

How did that watching that achievement feel?
Having The Shape return to his original essence, with the original actor, I might point out! We go back to basics and it makes music slightly easier because all we have to do is kick some butt on the soundtrack and we're there.

How did it feel to watch and see that original essence captured?
I watched it without any music—there was temp music on it—so it was another man's movie. It's not my movie so I can't claim it at all. It was just an interesting experience watching it, the choices he made. It felt like meeting a stranger...but I really liked the stranger.

Did you offer advice on any of the production outside of the score in any aspects?
Well, I made some suggestions, but just a couple.

Did working on this give you the itch to get back into the director's chair?
I will get back into the director's chair if the situation is right. If I have enough money to make the film and if I like the project. Really the big issue is if I have enough time, I can't rush like the old days, I need time.

What's your opinion of the state of the horror genre overall?
Well, there's a bunch of good movies but horror has pretty much always been the same. There's a bunch of bad movies, very few fair movies. A handful of good movies and then one or two classics. It's always the same, and horror gets reinvented every generation by new guys or new girls who come along and say 'I want to do this' or 'put a new fear into this'. So horror is doing great.

What of the past few years were one of the classics you saw that made you think this is it?
I saw a movie several years ago, called Let the Right One In—the Swedish version. And I thought "somebody has reinvented the vampire myth, it's unbelievable, finally." It was just a whole other feel, it was evocative. There's a lot of really stylish stuff today, but that one was a classic.

Have you seen any in 2018 that you're into?
No, I've been working! I have a score to do so I haven't really been to the movies. I'm really invested in watching NBA Basketball.

Who's your team?
Golden State Warriors are my team and we're the champions.

Lebron's coming, though!
Lebron is here dude, he is here. It will be fun to watch him though.

What is your favorite score you've done?
Favorite, I don't know if I have one, there are little moments in each that I like. I'm generally proud of the stuff I've done. I really like the score to Big Trouble in Little China.

What do you have up next after all of the Halloween promo wraps?
We're going to go out and tour again. And we'll see what happens. I'm working on more of the same John Carpenter crap, if you like it then you like it, if you don't you don't. 

Would you ever do a limited series or maybe something with a streaming service?
I'm not quite sure what that is. What is a limited series, explain what's different about it.

So you know, Netflix and HBO attract people in a limited aspect where there's no commitment to it outside of one season so you get an A-list talent usually, one season and sometimes one director.
I see what you're getting at. Sure I'd do that, it's all the same.

A lot of people are going to them more for creative freedom.
Yeah and there's still good stories being told on TV.

If another filmmaker approached you to reboot another one of your classic works, would you be interested?
Sure, I'd be interested in doing somebody else's movie that has nothing to do with me. I love to score movies but nobody ever asks me. I'd love to do that, maybe I'll do that in the future maybe somebody will look kindly on me.

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