In 1978, a low-budget indie film change the world of the horror movies forever. John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and its tale of a relentless masked killer – the boogeyman – who descends on the town of Haddonfield, Ill. on Halloween, spawned a slew of inferior copy cat films while injecting the burgeoning slasher film genre with now-cliche horror tropes (virgins were never again safe on film) and inspiring future filmmakers for decades. It also catapulted a teen Jamie Lee Curtis into Scream Queen stardom.
The landmark film will have a special national screening at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29 with showings locally at the Regal Elmwood and Transit Center. It will feature an introduction by Carpenter who will discuss the film’s legacy and influences.
The movie was produced by Moustapha Al Akkad, whose name became synonymous with the “Halloween” franchise through his work on the first eight films, up to 2002’s “Halloween Resurrection.”
His son, Malek Akkad, had a first-hand look at the phenomenon, working with his father on three films and picking up the mantle after his death with Rob Zombie’s well-received modern takes of “Halloween” (2007) and “Halloween II” (2009). Another film currently is in the works.
Akkad took time to answer questions via email about the “Halloween” legacy, why he considers Michael Myers the Darth Vader of horror films and the process of reimagining a horror classic.
Question: Why do you think John Carpenter’s “Halloween” resonated with audiences right from the beginning and has since become a modern horror classic?
Answer: The film actually took a little while to catch on. The initial release was really fueled by word of mouth, and that’s a testament to the great movie John Carpenter made. I think some it has to do with when it was released. The late ‘70s were a rough time for the country, and audiences were increasingly looking to movies as a kind of escapism. It was the dawn of the blockbuster. And in this environment, even though “Halloween” was a much smaller film, I think it resonated with filmgoers for similar reasons.
Q: How do you think the film changed the horror genre?
A: I think it took it more mainstream. It is a film that hardly shows even a drop of blood, yet it’s utterly terrifying. But I think it opened the genre to a much wider audience then ever before. It took the horror genre out of the fringe and into the mainstream. It was a perfect film to take a date to, or enjoy with a group of friends. And that is something that seems to have had lasting power in the horror genre.
Q: Why does Michael Myers work so well as a villain?
A: You could ask a hundred different people this question, and you would probably get a hundred different answers, and, I think that’s part of the appeal. Because we never see his face, or hear his voice, he acts as a sort of blank canvas, upon which each audience member is able to project his or her own worst fear. And, he just looks cool, as much as he does terrifying. He is the Darth Vader of horror films.
Q: You seem to have carried on the “Halloween” legacy from you dad. Was that important to you?
A: My father really kept the franchise going, and it was something that gave him great joy. He asked me to be a part of number six, at a time when I could see he wanted to slow down a bit. And I have been working on them ever since. He was the only one to have worked on all of the first eight films – more than anyone else. I have now worked on six, second only to him. So yes, it has become a huge part of my life, and I get comfort in knowing how he would be happy to see it continuing. When he was tragically taken from us after part eight, I did feel a responsibility to keep it going. So, along with the studio, I consciously made the decision that we should begin anew, ending his era with him. That was the impetus for the remake. The fans affectionately dubbed him, the Godfather of Halloween, and regardless of how many are ever made, that is a title he will always hold.
Q: As a producer, how did you approach the making of the modern “Halloween” films?
A: Remaking such a classic film is always a very tricky proposition. Every fan has his or her own expectation of what a remake should be. It is almost seen as sacrilege to reimagine the film. But historically we have seen that the palette that John Carpenter created has lent itself to be reinterpreted and reimagined by many filmmakers. Ultimately every film is such a collaborative process – what I love most about filmmaking – and getting all the diverse visions and creative ideas to gel into a great film is a challenge. When it works, it feels effortless, but it is always a struggle.
Q: Any news on a new “Halloween” film?
A: We are in just the beginning phases of working on the new film. The studio prematurely released a lot of news earlier this year, but things weren’t ready. It has been six years since the last film was released. It will be seven by 2016, and I really want this film to be a standout in the franchise. We are now working to assemble a key, core group that can create something that the fans are going to really enjoy.
“John Carpenter’s Halloween” screens at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Regal Elmwood and Transit theaters. Tickets are $15 at the box office or via fathomevents.com.