Imagine being a horror fan and telling yourself, You know what? I want to make a Halloween movie. And I want my movie to obliterate the decades’ worth of sequels that came after the revered original, and I want to make it with Jamie Lee Curtis in the starring role, and I want to get John Carpenter’s blessing. Now imagine that person is Danny McBride, the man who brought you Vice Principals and Eastbound & Down, and it all starts to feel a little more believable.
Somehow, that plan actually worked. With his longtime friend and frequent collaborator David Gordon Green, McBride wrote a continuation of one of the greatest horror stories ever told onscreen, and got Carpenter, Curtis, and Hollywood’s busiest little shop of horrors, Blumhouse, to make it with them. In the 2018 version of Halloween, Michael Myers never made a break for it. Instead, he was captured by the Haddonfield police and taken into custody, landing in a psychiatric care facility that would house him for the rest of his life — or at least until now. Forty years after he terrorized teenage Laurie Strode, the Shape is breaking free to finish what he started decades ago. But this time, Laurie isn’t just ready for him. She’s been waiting, training, and even hoping her bogeyman would return so she could personally rid the world of Michael Myers once and for all.
McBride is positively gleeful talking about his new movie, and he recently chatted with Vulture about the sequence he’s always wanted to see in a Halloween, letting his inner fan run wild, and what would have happened had Curtis turned them down.
As I was leaving a screening for the movie a guy next to me shouted “Halloweeeeen!” and then he said he wanted to go jerk off into a jack-’o-lantern. So I think he liked it!
[Laughs.] That’s the reaction we were looking for!
I asked David if he had to compartmentalize his inner fan to approach the movie more objectively, and he said neither of you did that at all. So conversely, where did you indulge yourself most as someone who loves the genre and the franchise?
I agree with David. I don’t think we ever turned our fan side off. It felt like it was the greatest tool that we could have, because we knew exactly what it was that we liked about it and what made us want to keep watching it. The fact that we’re filmmakers, we understood how we could translate that. For me, I like having that long sequence work. Michael walking from house to house, murdering people! I felt like I’ve always wanted to see this in a Halloween movie and I never have, just him going door to door and wrecking shop!
It seems like you really got to let yourselves go crazy the way you wrote Laurie’s house, too.
It was awesome. Every time I see that secret entrance open up it just like makes me giddy. I love shit like that in movies, and even just her going through the house and stalking Michael. Michael Simmonds, who shot it, I think he made the movie look so beautiful. Those scenes just lit by just the flashlight, I love stuff like that. Even the way David covered it reminds me of the climax of Silence of the Lambs. You can kind of feel everybody in the theater watching her walk around this house and not see anything, and it’s just like, When’s it gonna happen? Where’s he at? Where’s he coming out? It’s just fun [laughs].
I’ve read, too, that you continued rewrites all the way through production.
We never stopped writing. Even when we were shooting, we were constantly changing things and evolving things. Usually that process stops as soon as you’re done filming, and it was cool to be able to watch it all and then say, “You know what? I would make that character not do that here,” and be able to adjust things. Another way that Blumhouse operates, which I thought was interesting, was that they put aside money specifically for reshoots. Not even looking at it from the standpoint of, “Well, if you fuck this up, you can reshoot it,” but more to put aside money and see what the audience is responding to, and then be able to give them more of what they want. It was awesome. We haven’t really had that before on anything we’ve worked on.
Since you were working with the woman who originally created the lead role, was there any specific feedback you got from Jamie Lee that informed how you wrote Laurie?
No one knows the character better than Jamie does, and she just has an incredible energy. Her understanding and even the idea of her acceptance of us — you know, letting two jackasses like us come up to the table and say, “Hey, this is what we think this character that you created would do next.” She was always just so kind and embracing of what we were trying to do. When we were auditioning for the gig we knew that we had to get through Carpenter first. That process was so intimidating and awesome, and the fact that he responded to what we did was mind-blowing. Then the next one was like, “We’ve got to get through Jamie. We have to show her why it would make sense for her to step back into this again.”
So we set the goal of let’s make this worth her time. Let’s not just bring her back to pass the baton on. Let’s make this story about her. That’s what’s going to make this movie fun for fans, make it interesting, and give us the most layers. So we just never accepted a version of this movie that she wasn’t going to be in. We just put all of our efforts into crafting Laurie in a way we hoped would appeal to her. Then if Jamie said no it would turn to Lawrence Strode, and David would try to get me in the film, and we wouldn’t be having this interview right now, because it would have never got made. [Laughs.]
Horror is built on well-worn tropes, and that’s not a bad thing. Playing with the tropes is what makes for a lot of the fun in good horror movies, and I wanted to know what elements of the genre you guys wanted to either adhere to or to break.
We were coming from this angle of, let’s just show the effect of these horror movies. You know, so many times you see these people in their moments of sheer panic, running for the hills. What happens after that’s done? How could we craft a character who represents that and shows what happens to them after this sort of trauma, how it shapes them, and how it changes the way they view the world around them. The idea was to make a slasher movie, but to not make our main characters just be basically pawns and puppets to be tossed around and scared.
The crux of this Halloween is really the three generations of Strode women dealing with this trauma together. The term Final Girl is a flawed but enduring one, and I wanted to know how you guys modernized your heroines.
We were operating on a lot of different levels just trying to put depth into them. That’s the beauty of David, and that’s what I like about what he brings to drama or comedy. He’s an actor’s director and he is able to like to find that depth, to root things in reality and make these characters pop off the screen. So for us, having three Strode women, it was almost a way to kind of analyze all three versions of Laurie. With Allyson you have the innocent version of Laurie, who she was similar to when we met her in Halloween. Through her daughter, played by Judy, I feel like that’s if Laurie never would have felt that trauma. Then Laurie now has met Michael Myers, and this is what she’s become. In a way it was sort of to unify all of those, and to keep all of those different versions of Laurie together, and ultimately what helps Laurie get through the trauma is her family. It’s the other women she’s involved with. It’s kind of hard to put it all into words.
It’s even what we try to do with our comedies — create characters that people will invest in or care about, because ultimately that just makes the journey better. And in a horror movie it makes the stakes way better, because you’re seeing someone that you identify with or you admire or you like or there’s something about them that makes you root for them. It’s just finding an angle on these characters that’s going to make the audience identify with them and want them to get through the night alive.
This interview has been edited and condensed.