Writer-director David Gordon Green returns to the Halloween franchise with Halloween Kills, the second instalment in his planned trilogy of films. After Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) leave Michael Myers caged in the basement of Laurie’s burning house, Michael survives and manages to free himself. With Laurie gravely injured, the people of Haddonfield take it upon themselves to band together and hunt the monster terrorising their town.
Ahead of its release, STARBURST spoke with David Gordon Green about returning to the franchise, collaborating with John Carpenter, upping the story’s stakes and the action, and Halloween Kills’ contemporary relevance.
This is now your second venture into the horror genre, following on from Halloween. What did you learn then, that you applied directing Halloween Kills?
David Gordon Green: I learned that what works about Halloween is its simplicity. And if we learned anything from the 2018 version, it’s that bringing together Michael and Laurie in that kind of confrontation between good and evil is what makes it so compelling. And then I ignored all of that and we turned that simplicity into a complex ensemble of chaos, and took the theme of fear as it relates to that intimate connection between Laurie and Michael, and we spun it out to permeate the entire community of Haddonfield!
Speaking on that broadening scope though, Halloween Kills is admittedly less intimate than its predecessor. How do you balance keeping the soul of the original, which is a very domestic piece of violence, with the need to expand the story and keep things from feeling repetitive?
David Gordon Green: What you’re asking is actually an impossible task. The only think that I could say is that you have to do – or at least, what myself and my co-writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems do – is write from a place of love and appreciation, where we are honouring John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s characters and using them as a springboard to expand that world’s mythology.
And I'm just really lucky to have John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis along for the ride. They're not just consultants on the film – Jamie, she’s my very close friend and collaborator in this character, and John is a wonderful collaborator for the score as well as being the godfather of the screenplay, making sure that we don’t fuck it up too much. That’s a really amazing way to be able to work.
I sent John the latest draft of Halloween Ends two nights ago, and hopefully soon I’ll have some notes from him. And I’m always excited about that: sometimes it’s a curveball, other times it’s an inspiration. And I’m looking forward to the continuation of those relationships. To some degree, they’re why I wanted to make movies in the first place, and to get in the ring with your heroes is understandably amazing.
If you’re still finalising Halloween Kills now, you must have been relieved when plans were scrapped to film both films back-to-back.
David Gordon Green: I mean, I’ll still be finalising the story when I’m sound mixing. I’m a very open person, always evolving the story, always out to better what’s there. I’m very glad I didn’t do two movies at once because that would be exhausting – and these movies are exhilarating.
Part of the continuity established between Halloween and Halloween Kills is the intergenerational tensions between Laurie, Karen, and Allyson. Why was it important to keep that thread throughout?
David Gordon Green: Well, it’s one of the classic narrative momentums to find characters that we love, that have different objectives and different psychologies, and therefore have different approaches. They disagree, they butt heads, there’s conflict, and then it’s about how do we resolve that and come together, how do we join forces and overcome evil?
Would it be fair to say that Halloween Kills also sets up Allyson to take up that fight, almost as though she is taking on her grandmother’s mantle?
David Gordon Green: Yeah. And I think, if there’s one thing that Laurie has taught her daughter and granddaughter, it’s how to be a survivor. There is a strength of character there between those three generations of women and I love to study that, I love to challenge that and expand on that. And putting Laurie and Karen and Allyson to the next task is always a thrill to write and even when we're writing it, we don't know where it's gonna go and we don't know who’s gonna live or die.
By its very nature, this is a heavy film. But an interesting bit of levity comes from the dynamic between the characters of Big John and Little John [Scott MacArthur and Michael McDonald, respectively]. What was their role in bringing some tonal balance to Halloween Kills?
David Gordon Green: So, there’s nothing comedically written about Big John and Little John. But these are characters that come and go relatively quickly, without a whole lot of time to develop – I wrote both those roles for these specific actors. Michael and Scott are friends of mine and I just thought their chemistry would be interesting. I knew their beautiful humanity and that we could find a very unexpected journey to take these two characters on. Those were the days on set where I would be glowing with smiles, just because their sensitivity and sense of humour on set is really wonderful. And you know, there’s not any jokes or anything other than some wiseass conversations that they have. They like to sit around, smoke weed, watch Minnie and Moskowitz, and I think there’s just a pleasure we get from seeing characters be this affectionate.
I guess part of the comedy comes from the slightly absurd, mundane nature of their conversations being set against the escalating violence happening around them.
David Gordon Green: Yeah, they walk on set and everything immediately feels light, and lifted up. They’re great.
Speaking of those characters, they reside in what was the Myers house. What was the importance of revisiting that location?
David Gordon Green: There was nothing important. It was just selfish geek pleasure. But then at the same time, it serves as an engine for Michael – I do feel like in our 2018 storyline, it’s important to have something that drives him from A to B. And for us to be able to understand how important his home is to him, that it’s serving as a beacon… to see the house’s significance as it was to him in 1978, has value. But selfishly, I just wanted to walk into that house and hang out.
As a director, you can just do whatever.
David Gordon Green: I try! I try, until people yell at me. And then I don’t.
You’ve said before that Halloween Kills is about how fear spreads virally. Could you expand on that a little?
David Gordon Green: I mean that it's one thing to look into the face of someone who tried to do you harm and that brings you anxiety, and you're afraid of; it's another thing to wake up the next day and tell someone what happened, and then them have anxiety for you. And then it's another thing for that person to go and tell the community about what happened to you, and to tell them that we should all be afraid and on guard.
And the way that it’s communicated will be either represented or misrepresented. It can be very helpful and effective – and I hope good word of mouth spreads virally about Halloween Kills, that everyone and their mother goes and enjoys the show with some popcorn. But sometimes, the drawback to that is that people can say things that aren’t necessarily true, and then an evolution of the telephone game starts to happen. Misunderstanding happens and conflict is created.
It seems a very prescient theme to be exploring.
David Gordon Green: Exactly. It is strange that we made the movie two years ago, and yet it seems more relevant now than when we were filming it.
That’s the sign of good social horror, I think.
David Gordon Green: I like that!
And because this is a lot bigger and conflict involves the whole town, and you also explore this mob mentality, were you at all worried about losing that very intimate brand of horror which you get from a one-on-one, prey versus predator dynamic? How did you ensure it didn’t become an out-and-out action flick?
David Gordon Green: It’s a good point. Then, I think to some degree it did become out-and-out action [laughs]. Again, there’s several things I had in mind when I envisioned this movie: I said I didn’t want it to be gory, and I said I didn’t want it to be funny, and I said I didn’t want it to be an action movie. Yet in a lot of ways, it is all three of those things. So I tried to engineer a sense of tension, but there’s not many quiet scenes in this movie.
There are a few cat-and-mouse stalking situations, like Michael chasing Lindsey [Kyle Richards] through the woods or Big John and Little John looking for someone in their house. But there are very few moments of two people in a room talking, and there’s very little in terms of the traditional, domestic slasher movie clichés. It’s a bigger, more aggressive movie with more momentum, and I think at a point, the action genre does step into the slasher movie. I think that’s okay – I don’t know, I haven’t really studied what an audience brings to this movie yet. I’ve seen it with a crowd twice now, and I’ve really enjoyed watching two very different audiences go through that. But I feel like as I get to know the movie and as it’s unleashed and released, we’ll get to learn more about our movie and its effectiveness or lack of effectiveness, and it’ll be something to think about for the next one.
In fairness, the mob becomes another source of terror that almost rivals the fear Michael Myers elicits when on screen. How did you make those two sources of violence and horror feel different from one another, so as to avoid a pile-on of indistinct scary scenes?
David Gordon Green: It is a parallel action to some degree of those two approaches to terror, and it is a big of a pile-on… I don’t know. To me, the mob mentality is horrific and equally, it’s tragic. There’s a line that Sheriff Barker [Omar Dorsey] has where he says, “now he’s turning us into monsters.” And I believe that’s one of the great dangers of our culture today – when we find a collective with a common mindset, very often it’s a wonderful, supportive, celebratory congregation.
Yet other times, when people feed off of each other and that tribal mentality does start to permeate, and particularly when something happens that supercharges a crowd, it can be really dangerous and really scary. And even sitting on production, standing in the hallway at that hospital, being stampeded by people that were there – in theory between “action” and “cut”, we were just going to be documenting the flow of bodies in this abstract sea of people. But when you say “cut”, they would be so electrified that it took a long time before it went quiet again. With every take, it would take minutes to get that adrenaline under control and come back down.
Just as a last question, I recall your co-writer Danny McBride saying ahead of Halloween’s release that the two of you didn’t want to turn Michael Myers into some supernatural being that couldn’t be killed. Yet in this one it does feel like you lean into suggestions of an otherworldly evil in this villain. Did you feel you had to compromise on that as part of heightening the scale of the film, or does it also work to highlight how shared fear feeds into an abstraction of evil?
David Gordon Green: The answer is both of those things. I do feel like Michael is a human form that can be killed. I do feel like he is extremely resilient and doesn't feel pain, perhaps, like you and I would feel pain. But I also feel like he, as the shark in Jaws has, transcended. It’s like keeping millions of people out of ocean waters… I think Michael Myers has transcended from mortal man and into this cosmic status, to scare the fuck out of people around the world every night.
Halloween Kills releases in cinemas October 15th.