Behind The Making Of Each Mask In The 'Halloween' Franchise
From the beginning, the Michael Myers mask was regarded as the key visual element necessary to create an effectively scary monster. In the script for the original 1978 film, writer and director John Carpenter provides a description of the Halloween movie mask that influenced generations of filmmakers: "We get closer and closer until we see that the shape is a Halloween mask. It is a large, full-head platex rubber mask, not a monster or ghoul, but the pale, neutral features of a man weirdly distorted by the rubber. Finally CAMERA MOVES IN CLOSE on the eye of the mask. It is blank, empty, a dark, staring socket."
Since then, there have been 10 additions to the Halloween franchise, including sequels, prequels, stand-alones, and remakes. The Michael Myers mask has evolved with each film, guided by the methodologies of horror movie mask makers, the desires of filmmakers, and financial considerations. The history of all the Halloween movie masks, in order, reveals insight into both the stylistic progressions of the knife-yielding fiend and transformations within the horror genre as a whole.
John Carpenter told production designer Tommy Lee Wallace to find a simple, plain mask for the Shape - the name given to the adult Michael Myers - and Wallace narrowed his choices down to four. One was an Emmett Kelly sad clown mask and another was a William Shatner/Captain Kirk mask designed by Don Post Studios. While the clown mask worked to remind viewers of the film's opening sequence - where six-year-old Michael, dressed as a clown, slaughters his sister on Halloween night in 1963 - Wallace ultimately decided upon the Shatner mask after removing the eyebrows and sideburns, cutting larger holes into the eyes, messing up the hair, and painting the face white.
In an interview, Wallace explained what it felt like to see the Shatner mask worn on set for the first time:
When the guy came out and modeled The Shape mask, it just took our breath away it was so scary looking. To this day, I can't quite explain why. It's just really primal. But we knew at that point that we had a horror movie, because man you could just set up the camera and [film] that guy standing there and you've got a scary scene already.
The effect was amplified by catching glimpses of actor Nick Castle's hair or eyes underneath the expressionless mask.
- Photo: Universal Pictures
The Shape wore the original Shatner mask in the sequel to Halloween, directed by Rick Rosenthal. Considering that three years had transpired since the making of the original film, the rubber mask had aged considerably. The process was expedited by producer Debra Hill's smoking habit - Hill kept the prop under her bed in the interim between the films. The hair on the mask, which showed signs of deterioration, was replaced, leaving more of the forehead exposed.
Dick Warlock played the Shape in Halloween II, and since he was shorter yet bigger than Nick Castle, the mask proved to be a snug fit for him, making Michael appear quite different.
The first Michael Myers imitator also appears in this film. Haddonfield's Ben Tramer dresses up like the slasher for Halloween, except his mask has one redefining feature: The hair is bleached blond. Despite this, Laurie and Dr. Loomis mistake him for Michael, and he is driven off the road and hit by a police car.
- Photo: Universal Pictures
Halloween III: Season of the Witch is the only film in the franchise that doesn't include Michael Myers as the main character. John Carpenter and Debra Hill envisioned turning the franchise into an anthology series revolving around Halloween, and greenlit the production of Season of the Witch as a result.
Equipped with a witchcraft theme and directed by original production designer Tommy Lee Wallace, the movie seemingly contained all the elements to make it a hit. Unfortunately, it tanked instead. Fans who expected to see Michael Myers were not happy with a movie about a crazed novelty shop owner who plans to arouse ancient Celtic spirits by selling and advertising special Halloween masks to children. Michael Myers does appear in a commercial for the first Halloween movie in Season of the Witch, which treats the first two films as fiction.
The anthology concept didn't succeed, so Michael Myers returned in the flesh five years later.
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
Conveniently, Dr. Loomis and Michael Myers aren't really gone at the end of Halloween II. Both return to Haddonfield in this fourth feature. Jamie, Michael's niece and the object of his obsession in this film, is dressed like a clown. Her costume and mask hark back to her uncle's Halloween costume in 1963, bringing the film's imagery full circle.
The film crew, guided by director Dwight H. Little, had to start from scratch with Michael's mask. It turns out that actor Dick Warlock took the original mask with him after filming ended for Halloween II. Many designs were tested. The mask eventually chosen was a departure from the look that defined the villain. More rounded and white, this mask also had smaller eyeholes, thicker eyebrows, and an odd expression.
Due to time constraints with filming and editing, the finished product contains scenes with two other masks. One is blonde (a la Ben Tramer), and the other looks more like the original. The end result was a bit of a jumbled mess, and The Return of Michael Myers suffered because of the inconsistency.
- Photo: Galaxy Releasing
A continuation of Halloween IV's action, The Revenge of Michael Myers follows the Shape in pursuit of his niece Jamie. Michael lurks in the shadows for much of this film, and critics argue about whether this is a stylistic choice meant to pay homage to the ambiance of the original, or an intentional way to shroud the franchise's worst mask in darkness.
In an attempt to humanize the character, and after actor Don Shanks tried on the mask from Halloween IV, director Dominique Othenin-Girard decided to develop a new mask. As the director shared with an interviewer:
During the casting for Michael, I tried the mask created for H4 on Don Shanks, a great actor and stunt man and I remained perplexed in front of his performance. How could I make this character feel human and alive when he has no right to speak and when we can not see his face expression? As latex is a perishable material, we had to create a new series of masks for him and with the KNB SFX team we went for a human interpretation of evil.
Fans took issue with Michael's wide-necked latex veil, which appears to fit Shanks poorly, and efforts to remind audiences of the person beneath the mask via refined features and sharper eyeholes make the Shape look irate. The film also includes a sequence where Michael wears the Halloween mask belonging to one of his prey: an exaggerated face mask named the Brute.
Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)Photo: Dimension Films
The sixth installment contains the infamous "curse of Thorns," where it turns out that Michael Myers's urge to slay originates with a weird Celtic curse. While it's considered a low point in the franchise's many plotlines, the mask in the movie is a vast improvement from the previous two films.
The mask in The Curse of Michael Myers contains many of the original mask's features: more hollowed-out contours and bigger eyeholes. Screenwriter Daniel Farrands explained his philosophy in regards to Michael, one in line with John Carpenter's original vision: "That’s what’s so cool about the mask is that you can paint anything onto that you want. He's this blank canvas of evil."
Even if the hair on Michael's mask is a little messier, his look in Halloween VI still impressed fans.