Graveyard Shift
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Behind The Making Of Each Mask In The 'Halloween' Franchise

Updated October 17, 2021 11.2k views11 items

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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.