Horror fans rejoiced today at the news that John Carpenter will return to the Halloween franchise as the executive producer of the next installment.
Rob Zombie's recent stab at a reboot divided audiences, leaving the future of the franchise uncertain, but now that the creator of Halloween is back, there's a strong chance that the series can recapture at least some of its former glory, showing the new kids how it's done.
Carpenter himself shared this mission statement, explaining that:
Thirty-eight years after the original Halloween, I’m going to help to try to make the 10th sequel the scariest of them all.
That all sounds very promising, but the question remains: Why did Carpenter leave the franchise he created in the first place? To find the answer, we must venture back 38 years, to the release of the very first film in the series.
One Is Enough
The original Halloween (1978) was a surprise smash, grossing $70 million on a budget of $300,000, so the studio was quick to commission a direct sequel that continued the story of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. The problem was that Carpenter didn't want anything to do with Halloween II (1981), refusing to direct the picture.
In an interview with Deadline, Carpenter said:
"I didn’t think there was any more story, and I didn’t want to do it again. All of my ideas were for the first Halloween – there shouldn’t have been any more! ...Michael Myers was an absence of character. And yet all the sequels are trying to explain that. That’s silliness – it just misses the whole point of the first movie, to me."
However, Carpenter was unable to stop the studio from making sequels to his now iconic film, so he instead chose to write Halloween II and handed over directing duties to first time filmmaker Rick Rosenthal. The plan was to kill The Shape once and for all, ensuring an end to Michael Myers's reign of terror — but we all know how that turned out.
Bye Bye Myers
With the story of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers seemingly wrapped up for good at the end of Halloween II, Carpenter and his writing partner Debra Hill decided to take an entirely new approach for the franchise's next installment, one that would ensure that the series could live on indefinitely without fear of becoming boring or repetitive.
Instead of producing carbon copies of the same slasher film, Carpenter planned to turn Halloween into an anthology series, linking each film together solely by the date on which each of the stories were set.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch arrived first in 1982, featuring a script co-written by Carpenter and director Tommy Lee Wallace, who had worked on the first two entries of the franchise.
Eschewing the story of Michael Myers completely, Halloween III instead featured an evil corporation who used a combination of science and witchcraft to sacrifice children on Halloween night, summoning the power of the Old Gods for their own evil purposes.
It also included this commercial, which could be the most hilarious yet irritating part of the entire franchise to date.
You will continue singing that ditty until the day you die, guaranteed.
In hindsight, Halloween III is now regarded as a cult classic by many, despite the presence of that commercial, but the film performed poorly at the time of its release, prompting the studio to blame Carpenter's anthology approach and the film's distinct lack of masked serial killers.
Money is everything in Hollywood, so after a brief respite, the Halloween franchise was resurrected once again, much like Myers himself. To rescue the series, producer Moustapha Akkad decided to bring back the basic slasher storyline of the original to appease audiences who left screenings of Halloween III confused by Myers's absence.
Cannon Films approached Carpenter, asking him to write and direct Halloween 4. The franchises creator immediately set to work on a script alongside Dennis Etchison, who had written the novelizations of Halloween II and Halloween III under the pen name Jack Martin.
Carpenter's original treatment of Halloween 4 took a more cerebral approach, concerning the town of Haddonfield and the psychological effect that Myers's rampage of terror had on its citizens. Naturally, the studio hated Carpenter's commendable efforts to keep the franchise fresh and ultimately decided to feature Myers as a physical being in a more conventional slasher style.
The Night He Left Home
At that point, Carpenter and Hill signed all of their rights away to Akkad, ultimately making Halloween III: Season of the Witch the last film of the franchise to involve the creator of the series — until now, of course.
Unsurprisingly, Halloween 4 opened to negative reviews, but that didn't stop Akkad and his team from pumping out six more films without Carpenter's involvement.
At one point, Carpenter did briefly return to the franchise in order to direct Halloween H20, as Jamie Lee Curtis wanted to reunite the original cast and crew for her return as Laurie Strode. However, Akkad refused to pay the $10 million that Carpenter requested, believing he was owed money from the revenue of the first film. After much fighting, Carpenter finally walked away from the series that made his name.
Carpenter's motivations for now returning to the Halloween franchise aren't clear, but new input from the creator of the franchise can only be a good thing for fans disappointed by Rob Zombie's failed attempt to revitalize the series.