Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. In this special column, Dr. Loomis talks with writer Justin Beahm about his new book HALLOWEEN: THE COMPLETE AUTHORIZED HISTORY. I’ll be back tomorrow with a very special SDCC-centric AICN HORROR column, but until then, enjoy the interview!
Dr. Loomis here. We’ve seen some great behind-the-scenes books examining classic genre films and film franchises over the past few years: CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF FRIDAY THE 13TH and JAWS: MEMORIES FROM MARTHA’S VINYARD are two standouts that come to mind. Now there’s another one on the way: HALLOWEEN: THE COMPLETE AUTHORIZED HISTORY.
Author Justin Beahm is hard at work on the book now, prepping it for an October 2013 release (just in time for the 35th anniversary of John Carpenter’s classic original). Beahm has the inside track on the HALLOWEEN franchise these days – in addition to this new book, he’s heavily involved in the just-announced Blu-ray editions of HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS and HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS, coming home on August 28 from Anchor Bay. Beahm was good enough to take time to answer a few questions about the book, which is Shape-ing up to be a comprehensive examination of the entire series.
DR. LOOMIS (DL): Tell us a little bit about how this book came to be. Was it something you came up with, or did the publisher come to you with the idea?
JUSTIN BEAHM (JB): Several years ago I started working on a piece for Fangoria on the HALLOWEEN 4-6 story arc, and as I started interviewing people, I realized there was a much bigger story that could be told. I pulled the article and started thinking about a book. Last year, while working with HALLOWEEN series producer Malek Akkad on several other projects, I threw the idea at him, handing over a detailed proposal of what I had in mind, and he loved it. From there, I shopped it around to publishers for a few months, ending up in serious talks with a handful of very enthusiastic prospects. We will be announcing our choice very soon.
DL: Tell us a little bit about what the book will contain - will it cover all of the movies, including the Rob Zombie films? What can we expect as far as photos, script excerpts, promotional material, and the like?
JB: The book will cover all ten existing films, as well as some info on the 11th, which is currently in development. Each film will get equal attention, and that includes Rob’s. This will be heavily illustrated, with a bounty of rare and unseen photos, lots of props and memorabilia, and a thorough examination of all the masks. The bulk of the book will consist of the words of the people involved with each production, but things like the music, and the bits left on the cutting room floor, for example, will all be covered.
DL: What is John Carpenter's involvement with the book?
JB: I interviewed John extensively on the whole series, which is rare. He is happy something like this is finally being put together, and is contributing in more ways than one.
DL: It must be difficult to tell the definitive story of the HALLOWEEN series without having Moustapha Akkad and Debra Hill here to contribute. How will their involvement in the series be covered?
JB: I have access to lots of archival material, and there is plenty there from both Moustapha and Debra, some of which has never been seen or heard before now. The same goes for the late Donald Pleasence. They will all be part of the discussion on their respective films, just like everyone else.
DL: I know you are early in the production of the book, but what kind of surprises have you uncovered so far?
JB: I don’t want to spoil anything, but, for one, I will say that I am addressing as many mysteries as possible. The truth behind the introduction of the notorious “Man In Black” in HALLOWEEN 5, for example. There have been many rumors over the years about how he came to be, and the book will have the full story, which isn’t what people have heard. That is the wonderful thing about writing on this series…90% of the attention over time has focused on John’s 1978 original, leaving nine other films mostly unexplored.
DL: Not all of the films in the series are as revered as the first two. Parts four and five have their fans, but I rarely hear anyone have anything nice to say about HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION. Will all of the films be given equal treatment, or will you be concentrating more on the "fan favorites"?
JB: One of the amazing things about this series is how loyal and engaged the fanbase is. It really is like STAR TREK or DARK SHADOWS, how people have spent the last 35 years pouring over every detail of each of these pictures. Of course everyone has their favorites, but with all due respect to what may be perceived as the good vs. bad entries, I am doing my best to give all ten equal space. There are people who think HALLOWEEN III or RESURRECTION are the best entries, and they will have just as much to enjoy here as people who are showing up for the original and HALLOWEEN II (’81).
DL: Rob Zombie's two HALLOWEEN films are among the most polarizing in the series - is Zombie going to be involved or interviewed for the book?
JB: Rob and I have already had several extensive interview sessions. He has been wonderful, and even the naysayers will (hopefully) get a new perspective on his approach to the material once they read what he has to say.
DL: What's your take on Zombie's two films and how they fit into the overall series?
JB: I am asked about his films more than any of the others, so if taken out of context, it may look like I am always on a soapbox about this. Let me start by pointing out that the HALLOWEEN series is unique in how it can be looked at in chunks. You have the 1978 original and HALLOWEEN II (’81) that take place on the same night. You have HALLOWEEN III on its own. You have parts 4,5 and 6 that, for the most part, stand together. Then there is the pairing of H20 and RESURRECTION (that can technically be tied in to the original and HALLOWEEN II). Then Rob’s two entries. The bottom line is this: despite some common elements, it can never be said that every new HALLOWEEN film carries on the whole story laid out by the preceding entry, and there has obviously been no effort to make them all tie in together. The result is a series of films where each entry takes liberties with the mythos, some more than others.
Fans have come to accept a number of things over time: Michael and Loomis surviving being burned alive in HALLOWEEN II (’81) to return in HALLOWEEN 4; Jamie and Michael having a telepathic link in HALLOWEEN 5; the cult in HALLOWEEN 6; on to H20 basically ignoring the events of parts 4-6. It is my belief that time will be as kind to Rob’s films.
I have heard the complaints, and I look at it this way: Rob is an artist, and every artist works with their own palette, approaching each project the only way they know how. Rob has a very distinct style, visually and with how he constructs and conveys a story, and he brought that approach with him to the HALLOWEEN world. You can’t expect him to create like Carpenter, Rosenthal, or Little, because like each of them, he only has his style to deliver. He has been cultivating that approach for decades with his music videos, which were really, in my opinion, basically horror shorts as opposed to the standard MTV formula, and audiences then saw him further evolve with HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS. In his first HALLOWEEN, you can see his struggle with original elements vs. new material, and I think that is why you end up with something that is almost like two different films sewn into one. I enjoyed it. It was nice to see something new being done with the characters, the cast was fantastic, and it put HALLOWEEN back into the general discussion.
With HALLOWEEN II, you really see Rob on his home turf, working from a more instinctive place, and the results, in my opinion, are stronger than what he ended up with the first time out. I appreciate many of the elements he explored here, and there are some moments of genuine beauty, too, like Michael in the rain at the beginning, and the black and white “lords of Halloween” sequence with the Myers skeleton on the wall, the snow, and Sheri in the funeral dress. At the very least, even the most hardened critic should be able to admit the first 30 minutes (the hospital sequence) is strong stuff. I am glad the theatrical version of this film is going out of print, because the director’s cut is the only way to experience it.
I am comfortable with where Rob’s films fit into the HALLOWEEN universe. They present a darker take on the story, and give audiences a much more violent and monstrous Michael. Of course they have their flaws, but they commit no crimes against the preceding eight movies (I don’t think any film hurts the integrity of another), and most certainly aren’t replacing the 1978 original and 1981’s HALLOWEEN II on anyone’s shelves. If anything, I would say these films are likely leading a younger generation to explore what came before, which is doing us all a favor by creating more fans, ensuring the series endures. Opening at #1 and #3, respectively, at the box office doesn’t hurt the chances of there being more HALLOWEEN’s down the road, either.
DL: Which is your personal favorite of the series, and why?
JB: I hold Carpenter’s original very hear and dear to my heart. The first one I saw was actually HALLOWEEN II (’81), but where that impressed me, the original, which I saw next, knocked my socks off. The pacing, atmosphere, music, and the horrifying reality that there is nothing supernatural or unrealistic to allow a separation between the audience and the film, all works with such mastery. There is no security when the madman seems to have no motive, and the cast is populated with average kids in an average suburban neighborhood. Plus, I grew up in the Midwest, and Haddonfield is just like my hometown, making it all the more effective.
DL: Will you be talking to all of the actors who've portrayed Michael over the years?
JB: Yes, it is my plan to have them all involved, and several are already in the can.
DL: Why do you think Michael Myers is such an enduring character?
JB: Because, at least in the original, Michael/The Shape is just a human being. He isn’t ripping anyone in two or flying around in space. Even at his most outrageous (his thumb through a forehead comes to mind), I think an earnest attempt is made in each film to keep him pretty grounded in reality. As we all know, reality is often more horrifying than fantasy.
DL: Stay up to date on HALLOWEEN: THE COMPLETE AUTHORIZED HISTORY at the book’s official website or the HALLOWEEN Movies website. You can also find out more about Justin Beahm’s work at his website.
“Dr. Loomis” is Blu Gilliand, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the fright-filled pages of DARK SCRIBE, DARK DISCOVERIES, SHROUD MAGAZINE and Horror World, among others. He also runs his own blog, October Country, devoted to horror and crime fiction. Feel free to stalk him on Twitter (@BluGilliand) at your own risk.