An original new work of horror comes out. The work relies on atmosphere and suggestion rather than gore. Years later, a producer brings back that work for a new iteration. He hires a foreign director and a cast. During the writing and pre-production process, there is a fundamental disagreement in storytelling. Eventually, the end product gets released to a negative reception.
This is what happened to Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) and The Haunting (1999). In both cases, the films came out to terrible critical reception. However, both began with inspiration from films that critics and audiences now considered classics. This article will focus on the new interpretations of classic stories and what the filmmakers changed from the original film.
‘Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers’
A year after terrorizing his niece Jamie (Danielle Harris) and her family, Michael Myers (played by Don Shanks in the fifth film) returns to kill again. Over the course of a day, Jamie will have to survive the murderous Myers.
The first Halloween film premiered in 1978. It followed Michael Myers (Played by Nick Castle in the first film), an escaped mental patient returning to his hometown to terrorize babysitters. This leads him to the virtuous Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who will fight back against him. With the help of Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance), the psychiatrist of the series.
The film works as a simple explainable concept. It almost feels like a silent film based on its simple storytelling and visuals. The Director John Carpenter and collaborator Debra Hill loved westerns, horror movies, and Alfred Hitchcock. The opening tracking shot is inspired by a similar tracking shot in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958). They also cast Jamie Lee Curtis partially because she was the daughter of Janet Leigh, Hitchcock’s leading lady in Psycho (1960).
Hill and Carpenter built the film around scares (“what if your boyfriend came into the room wearing a sheet, but it wasn’t your boyfriend”). A former babysitter herself, Hill came up with a lot of the babysitter stuff, while Carpenter came up with much of the Myers and Dr. Loomis material.
Perhaps the most controversial thing about Halloween is Michael Myers himself. Carpenter saw him as a faceless killer that the audience could project their feelings onto. Carpenter and Debra Hill praised Nick Castle’s performance, even saying the Stuntman in the second film could not capture Castle’s movements. Castle downplayed his contribution as it mainly required him to exist without performing too much.
Similarly, the mask itself was not completely beloved at first. According to production designer Tommy Lee Wallace in the documentary ‘Halloween’ Unmasked 2000, everybody who saw the mask had a chill run up their spine. However, producer Irwin Yablans thought the mask would not work. He admitted later that he was wrong.
The original series began with producer Irwin Yablans, a co-founder of Compass International Pictures. After returning from a disappointing acquisition deal in Europe, Yablans came to the conclusion that he had to create his own horror film to distribute. According to his talent bio on the Halloween DVD, Yablans was inspired by Inner Sanctum, a radio show he listened to as a kid. Yablans loved the idea of a movie built around peoples’ demons from their own minds. From there, Yablans came up with a concept of babysitters being terrorized by a killer on Halloween night.
John Carpenter received surprise acclaim at the London Film Festival for Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). Having produced Assault, Yablans contacted him about making Halloween. Carpenter decided to name the killer of the film after Michael Myers, an English distributor whom Carpenter credits as starting his career in the movie business.
The original film became the highest grossing independent film of all time. In the ‘Halloween’ Unmasked 2000 Featurette, Compass International Pictures co-founder Joseph Wolf said that most films open and go down, while Halloween opened and kept climbing.
Carpenter and Yablans pitched the idea to Syrian-American financier Moustapha Akkad as a group of babysitters being terrorized by a killer. Akkad became drawn to the project because “every kid in America knows what a babysitter is.”
Akkad plays more of a presence in the story of Halloween 5 than anybody involved in the original film. Yablans left the series after Halloween III: The Season of the Witch (1982), leaving Akkad as one of the primary financial and creative forces behind the series. Akkad sold the name rights to Halloween, but not to Michael Myers. Over the course of the series, Akkad would become protective of the Myers character.
Although he had not worked in horror movies before, Akkad’s primary output would become the Halloween series. Akkad’s name appeared on every one of the Halloween movies before his death. After that, his sons would become producers on the franchise.
Origins of Project
When John Carpenter directed Halloween, he felt assured in his vision partially because very little competition existed for the film. After Halloween became the most successful independent film of all time, everybody wanted to copy it. Yablans had multiple people come to him asking about how to copy the formula. By the time Halloween 5 came out, it became a competitor of two new horror franchises: Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. Friday the 13th focused on a killer of many camp counselors, while Nightmare on Elm Street focused on killing in dreams.
French director Dominique Othenin-Girard got recommended to Akkad by Debra Hill. Othenin-Girard began the project by going home to read the script Akkad wanted to make. He also watched all the Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Halloween films to get a sense of the market the film would exist in. In total, Othenin-Girard probably compared the movie to about 14 or 15 other movies.
Othenin-Girard came to the conclusion that the script he was given for Halloween 5 did not fit into the style of the Halloween franchise. In the commentary, Othenin-Girard describes the series as long Hitchcock type suspense and short kills. Othenin-Girard felt that the script he received mixed in a large body count and dream killing. With that, he decided to throw out the story in favor of his own story.
At his meeting with Akkad and his collaborators, Othenin-Girard threw the script in the trash in front of him. He then proceeded to have a discussion with writer friend Robert Harders about his storyline. This strategy paid off and Othenin-Girard got the job. Harders could not accept the salary offered, so Othenin-Girard brought on Michael Jacobs to help him write.
Halloween 5 experienced a very messy and rushed production to profit off the success of the 4th film. Characters, costumes, and scenes went through constant revisions and changes throughout the production. Many of the filmmakers also kicked the can down the road to fixing the story problems in the hypothetical part 6. Despite all of this, both Othenin-Girard and actor Don Shanks said they had a pretty easy time filming the movie.
Style of the Film
Director Dominique Othenin-Girard has a specific style for the film. He chooses bright pastel colors for all the early daytime scenes. Over the course of the film, he drains the color of the film to what he refers to as “black and gold.” Othenin-Girard also films many scenes with light coming in through the outside rather than the interior.
Changes to Source Material
The original Halloween is a fairly simple movie to make that was shot on real locations. The 5th is much more complicated and requires that the audience has seen at least one other film (if not more) to understand. It also makes a number of drastic changes to the material. Since this is a messy and complicated production, this article will only explore the changes to the character of Michael Myers.
In this iteration of the series, Laurie is Michael’s sister. Having died in a car accident after the second film, Laurie’s daughter Jamie became the target of Michael in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988). That film left off on a cliffhanger where Jamie becomes possessed by Michael after touching his hand and stabs her foster mother. This would lead into the beginning of Halloween 5 with Jamie carrying on from Michael Myers.
In Othenin-Girard’s storyline, protagonist Jamie Lloyd would become mute due to her trauma and have a psychic connection to murderous Myers.
The original film ended with Myers falling into a mass grave. This new film reveals that the mass grave leads to a river that empties out next to a house.
In the original version of an early scene, a young man referred to as Dr. Death (Theron Read) saved Michael and brought him back with demonic forces and witches. Dr. Death would tattoo Michael with a mystic rune. After this, Myers would pick Dr. Death up and break his back, effectively killing him.
Akkad felt that an old man would make the audience more sympathetic and had second unit director Ramsey Thomas reshoot the scene with partially different lighting.
Part of the idea probably came from the screenwriter Othenin-Girard pitched with, Robert Harders. In an interview with Dread Central, Harders describes an idea of portraying Michael Myers as a Frankenstein type figure and the townspeople being the real monsters. Harders also says that the final supernatural storyline has more to do with Othenin-Girard’s interests than his.
In a weird way, the finished film resembles The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). In both films, a monster escapes death by falling through a hole that leads to water. Along the way, he meets a figure that will help him out (Halloween 5 cuts this scene out). In the Making of Halloween 5 documentary, Akkad’s son Malek Akkad said that he believes that this original opening was a reference to Frankenstein and the blind man from Bride. It also focuses on the character’s ability to potentially be human more than the previous films.
Michael Myers to The Production
Every filmmaker who comes onto the Halloween franchise has a different Michael Myers based on what scares them. Othenin-Girard’s Michael Myers is a character that the director sees as human, but scary.
A lot of the new interpretation role came from the personality of Don Shanks too. Shanks had seen every film up until Halloween 4. The filmmakers told him not to see it because they planned to go in a new direction. In his commentary, Shanks says that he tried to bring a little nuance and acting to the role. Having grown up on a farm, Shanks also designed many of the ways Michael would kill teenagers with farm equipment, such as a pitchfork and a mowing scythe.
Othenin-Girard’s direction also helped create a certain version of the character. In his commentary, Shanks said that he got the role after Othenin-Girard told him to “walk like wood through water.” After Shanks did it, Othenin-Girard cast him. Shanks also said that Othenin-Girard told him to equate killing Rachel to a sexual experience.
In this film, Myers shows his face to Jamie. This scene became prominent in the advertising. According to Shanks, Othenin-Girard told him that Myers did this when he realized how similar he and Jamie are. Shanks describes a sort of father and daughter connection. This spell is broken once Jamie reaches out to touch his face.
Throughout the production, the mask became a big point of contention. The masks from Halloween 4 had been ruined and did not fit new actor Don Shanks, so new masks had to be made. According to Shanks, the new mask is a combination of his face and makeup artist Greg Nicotero. Since the production wanted it to look more like a mask, they also put makeup sponges in the neck.
Othenin-Girard and Nicotero originally designed the mark to make Myers more human. He did this to differentiate the character from Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th. Two days into production, he realized that the mask made him seem too human and had to be changed again to harden the nose.
Similarly, Don Shanks had trouble throughout production with the mask. He was told not to wear it off set after he scared some of the locals. The mask also had nylons in the eye holes that made it harder to see because Akkad did not want to see the eyes. When water flowed into the mask during a stunt, Shanks could not just flush it out.
The Myers House
The original film took place in real locations with real houses in Pasadena, California. The original locations were chosen because they seemed generic enough that the audience would not think that rich people in the houses. With real houses, the production was limited by what they could do in the location. Due to this fact, the original takes place largely outside where the audience cannot see the limitations of the budget.
Filming for Halloween 5 took place outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. Almost every house in Halloween 5 is a large house that allows the filmmakers a lot of space to move around in. For the climax of this film, the cast returns to Michael Myers’ childhood home.
Othenin-Girard decided to change Michael Myers’ house from a two story Suburban home to a three story mansion. His reasoning came from the fact that there was a 15 minute climax. The original house did not have enough space for the set pieces he wanted to employ in the climax, such as a scene where Jamie goes down a laundry shoot. The original Halloween took place a lot outdoors and did not necessarily have the ability to do this because of space.
The production found a house undergoing renovations and decided to use it. Even with the large house the production built out and repurposed for a set, they still had to build sets for certain things. The interior of the laundry chute is a set. They also built a fake staircase and bannister that Loomis could crash into.
This was also to be Donald Pleasance’s last Halloween film. Pleasance had served as Dr. Loomis since the beginning. However, Pleasance decided to return for Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), nullifying this storyline.
The climax has him fight Michael instead of one of the teenage characters. The ending would be that Michael and Loomis would fight each other and die lying there. Moustapha Akkad thought that this was too thin and added on an ending scene where a man in black broke Myers out of prison.
Akkad specifically asked Othenin-Girard to come up with a new storyline that he could carry over into more films. Othenin-Girard came up with a man in black with a mysterious rune tattoo. Michael would also have this rune tattooed onto him in the opening by Dr. Death. According to Line producer Rick Nathanson, the filmmakers believed that it would fix a lot of problems in the film. It ended up fixing some and creating others.
Don Shanks also played this role part of the time and said that Othenin-Girard pitched this role as an alter ego to Myers. However, author Justin Lehm describes hearing at least 3 different stories from crew members involved with the project.
Halloween 5 proved to be the least financially successful of the Halloween films. In the 25th anniversary documentary, Akkad and Paul Freeman said that part of this came from the fact that they released it the year after and it should have come out two years after. Because of this, they had to compete with their home video release.
Sadly, Moustapha Akkad and his daughter died in a 2005 bombing in Jordan. His sons have produced the subsequent Halloween movies.
Many of the people involved in Halloween 5 have moved onto other projects and interests. Actress Danielle Harris has had a long career in horror movies. Harris even appeared in Rob Zombie’s 2009 remake of Halloween and its sequel. In those films, Harris played the role Nancy Keyes played in the original. Makeup designer Greg Nicotero has worked in the industry for decades. In that time, he has worked on many projects, including the 1999 remake of The Haunting.
After her mother dies, troubled Eleanor Vance (Lili Taylor) goes to a haunted house. Little does she know, her host Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson) has brought his guests to the house as part of an experiment.
The Haunting began as the Shirley Jackson novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959). Jackson’s novel focuses on a group of strangers invited to a house.
Robert Wise’s 1963 film The Haunting follows the novel relatively closely. Screenwriter Nelson Gidding liked the book, but came to the conclusion that it told the story about a woman having a nervous breakdown rather than a story about ghosts. Gidding asked Jackson if this was her intention. She informed him that it was not, but that it was a good idea. Gidding also took out all the parts that did not take place in the house (the characters go on a picnic in the book) because they dissipated the tension. According to Gidding, Jackson liked all the changes.
Wise had begun his career as an editor at RKO Radio Pictures. As a director, he began his career directing films for horror producer Val Lewton, who emphasized atmosphere and not seeing things over the monster horror at Universal Pictures. This style of horror carries over to The Haunting, which never shows a real ghost. In the audio commentary for the film, Wise calls the film “a return to his roots.”
According to Wise, they filmed in England because they agreed to give Wise a budget of 1.1 million dollars. Wise and actor Richard Johnson said that the film received a mixed reception at the time, but built a following over time.
The 1960s versus the 1990s
Horror from the 1950s through 1960s had a much different style than Horror from the late 1990s through early 2000s. In the 1963 film and the films of Horror filmmaker William Castle, the horror came from atmosphere and scares rather than blood and gore. Schlocky horror films with ghosts and demons did exist, but did not have as explicit of effects or as grand of spectacle.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, certain studios decided to make big budget horror films with big stars and big producers. Such big budget horror films came from big name producers and directors such as Steven Spielberg (The Haunting), Robert Zemeckis (What Lies Beneath (2000)), and Lawrence Kasdan (Dreamcatcher (2003)). Aside from Kasdan, these filmmakers grew up with many of the horror movies they decided to work on. Zemeckis and producer Joel Silver also started Dark Castle Entertainment to remake the films of William Castle.
In both the original version of The Haunting and William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill (1959), there is a question of whether or not the ghosts exist. In 1999, both films had remakes released. Both remakes made the decision of making the ghosts objectively real and out to destroy people. In the featurette for Dark Castle’s remake of House on Haunted Hill, director William Malone said that he suggested putting in ghosts because he went to see the movie as a kid and was disappointed that there were no ghosts because the studio had advertised it as a ghost movie. The ambiguity of the originals got jettisoned because the filmmakers thought that modern audiences would not tolerate such a film.
Origins of The Project
The remake of The Haunting came from a collaboration with Stephen King and Steven Spielberg. In King’s recollection, Spielberg called King and told him that he wanted to make “the scariest ghost story ever made.” Both men had seen Robert Wise’s original film.
Both men agreed on taking inspiration from the Winchester mansion (itself becoming the inspiration for the horror movie Winchester in 2018). What King and Spielberg seemed to disagree over was a point of character. According to King, Spielberg saw the characters as heroic Indiana Jones types, while King saw them as scared. This led to King leaving the project.
Spielberg’s project became a Dreamworks production. He would bring on Screenwriter David Self. Self said that Spielberg wanted to bring a supernatural presence to the story. After playing with his daughter and a sheet, Spielberg came up with the idea of a ghost child with a sheet over its face. Spielberg called up Self and told him to include this.
King’s unused screenplay became the ABC miniseries Rose Red (2002), which was met with mixed reviews upon release.
The production brought on Jan De Bont, a Dutch cinematographer who got his directorial debut making Speed (1994). De Bont would bring on an Oscar winning crew to helm the film. According to De Bont, he was attracted to making an adult psychological horror film that was not a slasher film.
Not everything went swimmingly. Original cinematographer Caleb Deshanel left the film one week into production over creative differences. Roland Emmerich’s cinematographer Karl Walter Liebenlaub replaced him. This prompted reshoots later in the filming process.
Spielberg’s name appears nowhere in the credits. The making of featurette and Production notes focus on producers Susan Arnold and Donna Arkoff Roth. Both had famous fathers in the horror genre. Arnold’s father Jack Arnold directed The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954). Roth’s father was famed horror producer Samuel Arkoff, who produced The Amityville Horror (1979) and Dressed to Kill (1980). The elder Arkoff also appears in the making of featurette.
Style of Film
This film has an 80 million dollar budget (now 130 million). Its famous cast includes Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, and Liam Neeson. Each plays the sort of the role they were known for at the time. The film opens and ends with long helicopter shots leading to and way from the house.
Unlike many horror films, the film does not have a cold open. Instead it jumps from a helicopter shot of the house to the titles leading into the first scene introducing the heroine, Eleanor.
Changes to Source Material
In 1993, Spielberg’s Jurassic Park came out. That film depicted what the consequences would happen if scientists played God and brought back the dinosaurs. The Haunting depicts what would happen if a scientist put a bunch of test subjects into a house with ghosts.
Besides being shot in a color, this one also does not feature the heavy voiceover narration that brings the audience into the heads of the characters and provides exposition. Instead, the exposition comes from the background characters. These characters provide a much blunter approach than the original film.
In this film, ghosts are real and present. The audience sees them through both CGI models and practical effects. The original film had many simple practical effects, while this film has a mixture of both digital and practical effects.
In the original film, multiple tragedies have happened in the house. The original film has a long detailed prologue detailing each of these tragedies. In the remake, the story’s main villain is Hugh Crain, a wealthy businessman who killed children and his wife. Crain appears in the film as paintings, statues, and as a CGI ghost at the end.
In the book and original movie, the house is portrayed as having a menacing face. The remake’s house has multiple faces made with practical effects and CGI.
Each film has two main female characters and two main male characters. The film pretty much changes all the characters to be more archetypal. The film also adds and omits certain characters. For example, the film gives Dr. Marrow multiple research assistants. The film also spends more time at the university with him. Like Jurassic Park, Marrow’s superior (Michael Cavanaugh) tells him that he cannot conduct this research ethically, no matter how honorable his intentions are.
The female characters in the original tend to have heirs of suspicion surrounding them. The ending happens because of the Protagonist’s self destructive nature. In this version, the ending happens because the female characters act in a noble manner. The protagonist moves away from the ambiguous protagonist of the original and more into the realm of a heroine.
Eleanor “Nell” Vance
This film begins by introducing the audience to Eleanor (or Nell), rather than introducing the plot. Lili Taylor plays the mousy, but tough minded heroine. Both films provide Eleanor with the same backstory (Eleanor has spent years taking care of her oppressive invalid mother). A major change to her character comes in suspicious behavior. In the original, there is a question of whether or not Eleanor killed her mother. This does not come up here.
The film also changes how the character begins and ends the story. Both films begin with Eleanor talking to her sister after their mother’s death. In the original, she begs for the car so she can go to the mansion. She has to literally trick somebody into giving her the car. The remake has the sister (Virginia Madsen) give her the old car. The story then has her receive a literal call to adventure. The film later reveals that the call came from the house itself and not Dr. Marrow.
The film also significantly changes the character to make her noble. In the first film, she dies driving her car into a tree to escape the ghosts inside. In the remake, Eleanor is the granddaughter of Hugh Crain. She decides to stay for the ghosts of dead children and calls the place “home.” Throughout the later half of the story, the character makes declarations about family and saving the children. Eleanor sacrifices herself to the ghost of Hugh Crain to free the souls of the many children that he killed. The car scene does happen, but as a set piece three fourths of the way into the film rather than the climax.
Having just starred in The Mask of Zorro (1998),Catherine Zeta-Jones serves as a somewhat sexualized role here. She plays Theo, an explicitly bisexual character. The film also has a POV shot of Eleanor seeing Theo’s cleavage.
In the original, this storyline plays out implicitly. Wise even cut a scene with the character that more explicitly suggests her sexuality. The character also challenged the character of Eleanor on her past and many problems.
In this version, the male characters act with more honorable intentions than in the original. A lot of their scenes explain the morality of the story and what the audience should find scary rather than having this left ambiguous.
Dr. David Marrow
Liam Neeson steps in to serve as Dr. David Marrow, the scientist who oversteps his bounds. The movie spends more time with him than the original did, but also gives him a simpler characterization. He wants to help people, but does not understand how dangerous his actions really are. The new film ends with the caretaker (Bruce Dern and Marian Seldes) making a contemptuous moral point about Marrow utilizing this dangerous house for such an experiment.
In the original film, Richard Johnson played Dr. Markaway, a Gung Ho doctor whose hubris was his downfall. The character of Dr. Markaway also had a wife that does not appear at all in this version of the story. Eleanor also had an implied attraction to the character, so the wife character built conflict in the story.
Owen Wilson plays the comic relief character of Luke Sanderson. He works as a research student working for Marrow rather than being the homeowner’s nephew. In this version, Luke acts as the skeptic of the whole situation, whereas he wanted to buy the house and turn it into a nightclub in the original.
The new film also dresses him in a childish manner with backpacks and pajamas with designs on them. One sequence has him playing with a baseball and mitt as he walks down the hallway of the mansion.
Luke also gets killed in the movie, which does not happen in the original. The original film ends with Luke (Russ Tamblyn) saying the house should be burned to the ground after spending the entire film talking about buying the house.
Both versions of The Haunting were shot on sets for the interiors and real locations for the exteriors, but the new house is much larger in scale. The house has many statues and rooms that the original filmmakers would not have thought of. For example, the new film has a secret passageway that has water on the floor and many books for the characters to walk across.
Jan De Bont said that the house had to be oppressive in its scale. For this task, he hired Eugenio Zanetti. Zanetti had won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction in 1995 for his work on Restoration.
Along with the new house, the production chooses a specific color palette for it. The color palette switches from baroque colors (oranges, browns, reds) to colder colors (blues, purples) when the lights turn off.
The original’s style worked partially because Wise and Davis Boulton shot the film in black and white. Since the original was black and white, color did not play a large role in the production.
The film made money (180 million on an 80 million dollar budget), but was not well received by many critics and audiences. Currently the film sits at 16% on Rotten Tomatoes (28% audience score). On Metacritic, it sits at a 42/100 critic’s score and a 8.5/10 audience score. On IMDB, it sits at 5.0/10 based on the user scores.
For all that happened, most everything has seemed to work out. Horror filmmaker Mike Flanagan adapted The Haunting of Hill House into an acclaimed TV show in 2018.
There do not seem to be a lot of hard feelings between the King and Spielberg. King has continued to write and publish. Spielberg recently got to remake West Side Story (1961), which Robert Wise originally co-directed. Similarly, Spielberg’s daughter Destry Spielberg and King’s son Owen King have decided to make a short film together. Deadline reported the story. The announcement led to a larger discussion about nepotism in Hollywood.
Both of these works turned out the way they did because of strongly held beliefs about what the project should be. While neither succeeded critically, they represent a group of filmmakers trying to honor (or at least continue) a film or series in their own specific way. In both cases, the time period and market the new film existed in made their film drastically different from its predecessor.