31 Facts About Halloween

Today is Halloween, which means you can expect trick-or-treaters knocking at your door but also the obligatory screening of John Carpenter’s Halloween.

The 1978 horror classic set the template for modern horror and also became one of the most profitable films of all time.

In honour of its enduring legacy, here are 31 facts about the film:

  1. The film had its origins at the screening of Assault on Precinct 13 at the 1977 London Film Festival, where John Carpenter met financier Moustapha Akkad, who eventually funded the film with his partner, Irwin Yablans.
  2. Assault on Precinct 13 was acquired for distribution in the UK by a man named Michael Myers, the same name of the villain in Halloween.
  3. Originally titled ‘The Babysitter Murders’, it was Yablans who suggested the title and setting of Halloween night.
  4. Akkad was initially concerned about the relative inexperience of Carpenter but he was convinced after the director told him the story verbally (‘almost frame for frame’) and his refusal to take a large fee upfront which showed his confidence in the project.
  5. Carpenter received $10,000 for directing, writing and composing the music and retained rights to 10 percent of the film’s profits.
  6. The film was shot over 21 days in 1978 on a budget of $320,000.
  7. Ironically, it was filmed in April which meant that one of the most famous films set in Autumn was actually shot in Spring.
  8. The out of season weather meant the crew had difficulty finding pumpkins and artificial autumn leaves had to be used for certain scenes.
  9. Although set in Illinois, it was actually shot in Pasadena, California.
  10. The town of Haddonfield, Illinois is fictional but Haddonfield, New Jersey is the home town of co-screenwriter Debra Hill.
  11. Many of the the street names in the film were taken from Carpenter’s hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
  12. Donald Pleasance agreed to play Dr. Loomis after Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing turned it down (he met with John Carpenter because his daughter was a fan of Assault on Precinct 13).
  13. It was Jamie Lee Curtis debut feature film and she was paid $8,000 for her role.
  14. Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho was an inspiration: Dr. Loomis’ name was a reference to Sam Loomis (John Gavin), the boyfriend of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who in turn is the real-life mother of Jamie Lee Curtis.
  15. The extended P.O.V. shot in the opening scene of the film is heavily influenced by the famous opening of Touch of Evil (1958).
  16. The hands of the young Michael Myers in the opening scene are those of co-writer and producer Debra Hill.
  17. The older version of Michael Myers is actually called ‘The Shape’ in the credits and was played by Nick Castle, an old college friend of Carpenter’s from the University of Southern California. (Actor Tony Moran stood in for Castle in selected scenes).
  18. Nick Castle would go on to direct films himself, including The Last Starfighter (1984) and The Boy Who Could Fly (1986).
  19. The name Michael Myers is never actually mentioned in the film and the only time anyone refers to him is the opening sequence (“Michael!”).
  20. The mask for Michael Myers was actually a Captain Kirk mask bought for just $1.98.
  21. Because the film was shot out-of-sequence Carpenter would explain to Jamie Lee Curtis what her character’s level of fear should be in certain scenes.
  22. John Carpenter composed the film’s distinctive score himself in just 3 days.
  23. For a slasher film, there is an unusual lack of blood in the film. The only time we see any is when Judith Myers is killed at the beginning and Laurie’s arm is cut near the end.
  24. Dean Cundey’s use of blue back light in the climactic scenes was inspired by watching Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974).
  25. The film premièred on October 25th, 1978 in Kansas City, then a platform release in Chicago and New York before word of mouth meant a gradual release around the States.
  26. The film initially grossed $47 million at the US box office and $8 million internationally, which is the equivalent to around $176 million today.
  27. Americans couldn’t actually buy the chilling score when the film came out and it was originally only released in Japan.
  28. When the film made its television debut on NBC in the early 1980s, the network wanted some extra scenes to fill the allotted time slot and Carpenter went back and shot additional sequences during the production of Halloween II (they can be seen on some DVD versions of the film).
  29. In 2006, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” .
  30. Financier Moustapha Akkad continued to work act as executive producer on the Halloween franchise, until his death in the 2005 Amman bombings.
  31. The film was followed by seven sequels and a 2007 remake of the same name.

Halloween screens tonight on BBC Four at 11.35pm

> Buy the original film on Blu-ray or get the DVD box set
> Official site of the Halloween franchise
> IMDb entry
> Watch Halloween on BBC iPlayer (UK viewers only)

LFF 2010: 127 Hours

Director Danny Boyle returns from the success of Slumdog Millionaire with a vibrant depiction of man versus nature.

The story here is of Aaron Ralston (played by James Franco), the outdoor enthusiast who in 2003 was stranded under a boulder after falling into a remote canyon in Utah.

Beginning with an extended opening section, Boyle uses a variety of techniques (including split screen, weird angles, quick edits) to express Ralston’s energetic lifestyle as he ventures into a situation that would become ominously static.

He meets two women (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn) before parting with them and climbing across an isolated canyon where he becomes trapped for the next 127 hours (look out for a killer title card).

Although it was a widely publicised news story at the time, there is a dilemma when discussing the events of this film.

Some will go in knowing what happened, whilst others will not.

For the benefit of the latter, I’ll refrain from revealing the full details but it is worth noting that the film is not a gory exploration of Ralston’s distress and audiences might be surprised at the overall tone of the film, which is far from gloomy.

An unusual project, in that so much of it revolves around a central location, Boyle contrasts the vital specifics of Ralston’s confinement in the canyon with his interior thoughts as it becomes an increasingly desperate experience.

The details of the situation are expertly realised as a penknife, water bottle, climbing rope and digital camera all assume a vital importance with a large chunk of the film feeling like an existential prison drama.

This gives it a slightly unusual vibe, as the audience is effectively trapped with Ralston in a claustrophobic way.

Using two cinematographers (Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chedia) working in tandem, the ordeal is powerfully realised using a bag of visual tricks to delve deep into his physical and emotional trauma.

Before we get to the canyon, the sun filled landscapes of Utah are shot and edited with a vibrancy and panache recalling some of Boyle’s earlier work, notably Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire.

There are also some poetic details that enrich the atmosphere: the distant planes above cutting through the blue sky, insects nonchalantly roaming free and the colour of the rocks themselves which look startling in the sunlight.

Once he actually becomes trapped, a variety of different shots and perspectives help give the situation different visual flavours: the interior of his water bottle, the bone inside his arm and video diary footage on his personal camera, become important in breaking up the gruelling monotony of his predicament.

His interior thoughts are brought to life with memories, flashbacks and hallucinations: a break-up with a girlfriend (Clemence Poesy); visions of his family and childhood; a strange chat-show monologue with himself and a flash flood.

There are times when it feels the filmmakers are over-compensating for the limitations they chose, and more doses of stillness would have been welcome, but overall the visual and audio design helps us get inside Ralston’s physical and emotional situation with clarity and empathy.

But the most brilliant decision of all was the casting of James Franco. His surface charms and hidden depths as an actor provide a perfect fit for the role, as he impressively navigates the emotional ride of his character.

With an unusual amount of screen time he hits all the notes required: exuberant daring as he cycles across Utah; determined ingenuity as he tries to escape the canyon; and the desperate, haunted pain as he stares into the face of death.

A.R. Rahman’s score is a bit looser than his work on Slumdog Millionaire, but it makes for an emotional backdrop to the events on screen and Boyle’s use of songs (notably Free Blood’s ‘Never Hear Surf Music Again’) is effective in cutting together with the images on screen.

Although 127 Hours feels longer than its 93 minute running time (well, it wouldn’t it?), this is actually a sign that Boyle’s gamble in dramatising this material has actually worked.

It is an unusual project in all sorts of ways, eschewing narrative conventions and revelling in its creative rough edges, as it focuses relentlessly on one man’s physical and mental struggle.

There is something in Ralston’s struggle that is both primal and fascinating. Inevitably we ask what we ourselves would have done in the same situation.

But this film version is not just a technical exercise in outdoor survival. It is a reminder of the basic need to survive in the darkest of circumstances.

By the end 127 Hours becomes a transcendent film about the power of life in the face of death.

127 Hours closed the LFF last night and goes on US release on Friday 5th November and in the UK on Friday 7th January.

> 127 Hours at the LFF
> Official website
> Reviews from Telluride and TIFF via MUBi

UK Cinema Releases: Friday 29th October 2010


Saw (3D) (Lionsgate UK): The seventh part of the Saw franchise arrives for its now customary Halloween slot. The story for this instalment involves the battle over Jigsaw‘s ‘brutal legacy’, a group of survivors, and a self-help guru. All in 3D.

Directed by Kevin Greutert, it stars Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor and even has a returning part for Cary Elwes, who featured in the original film (how long ago that seems). The big questions for this Saw film will be: are audiences burnt out on their yearly dose of torture porn? Will 3D have a positive or negative impact on the box office? I suspect it will do well and that the franchise will be rebooted in some bizarre way because this film series is a cash machine for Lionsgate. [Vue West End & Nationwide / 18]

Burke & Hare (Entertainment): A black comedy about the 19th century grave robbers (played by Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis) who sold bodies to an Edinburgh medical school.

Directed by John Landis, it co-stars Tom Wilkinson, Ronnie Corbett and Tim Curry. Although the period detail is well realised, everyone involved is let down by a poor script, which makes for some awkwardly unfunny sequences, and some dodgy accents which become distracting. The pull of Pegg (a genuine star in the UK) might attract audiences but negative critical buzz and word-of-mouth is likely to hamper the film’s prospects. [Nationwide / 15]

The Kids Are All Right (Universal): A comedy-drama about the complications that ensue when a Los Angeles lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) discover their two teenage kids (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) have got in touch with their biological father (Mark Ruffalo) it causes various complications.

The third film from writer-director Lisa Cholodenko is a delight: funny, moving and featuring some stellar acting from all concerned. Bening, Moore and Ruffalo are all outstanding whilst Wasikowska and Hutcherson are equally affecting in less showy roles.

Since debuting at Sundance back in January, it has basked in richly deserved critical acclaim for painting a warm and deeply human portrait of family relationships. Word of mouth will be very strong amongst upscale audiences and the likelihood of Oscar nominations will help spread the buzz when the film eventually hits the home market. [Cineworld Haymarket, Curzon Soho, Odeon Covent Gdn. & Nationwide / 15]

* Read my LFF review of The Kids Are Alright here *


Involuntary (Trinity Filmed Entertainment): A Swedish ensemble drama exploring various characters including a man who likes to play salacious pranks; a school teacher and two girls who like pose for photos. Directed by Ruben Östlund , it stars Villmar Björkman, Linnea Cart-Lamy, Leif Edlund and Sara Eriksson [Key Cities / 15]

The Hunter (Artificial Eye): An Iranian drama about a factory worker (Rafi Pitts) who ends up on the run in a nearby forest after something goes wrong. Directed by Pitts, it also stars Ali Nicksaulat, Hassan Ghalenoi, Malek Jahan Khazai and Mitra Hajjar. [Curzon Renoir, Ritzy & Key Cities / 15]

It Happened One Night (Park Circus): Reissue of the Frank Capra film about a pampered socialite (Claudette Colbert) who falls in love with a roguish reporter (Clark Gable). [BFI Southbank & Key Cities]

Forbidden (Park Circus): Another Capra reissue, this is the 1932 melodrama starring Barbara Stanwyck as a librarian who falls for a married man (Adolphe Menjou), with serious consequences. [BFI Southbank & Key Cities]

Out Of The Ashes (Independent Cinema Office): Documentary about the Afghan cricket team and their rise from refugees to the World Cup. Directed by Tim Albone and Lucy Martens. [ICA Cinema & Nationwide]

Spiderhole (Soda Pictures): A British horror film about four students who end up having problems in a seemingly deserted house in London. [Empire Leicester Square & Key Cities]

This Prison Where I Live (Dogwoof): A documentary about the imprisoned Burmese comedian Zarganar, who was imprisoned in 2008 for 35 years after complaining about the government’s response to cyclone Nargis. [Ritzy Picturehouse]

> Find out what films are showing in your area with Google Movies
> UK DVD and Blu-ray Releases for Monday 25th October 2010

Charlie Chaplin Viral Video

A video showing something unusual in Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 film ‘The Circus‘ has gone viral on the web.

Earlier today I noticed that ‘Charlie Chaplin’ was trending on Twitter – not exactly the first online destination I would associate with the great silent comedian.

It turns out all the fuss was about a YouTube video which has amassed over 1.5 million views.

Posted by George Clarke from Belfast, it shows a woman in the Chaplin film holding something to her head.

On his YouTube page he says:

“My only theory – as well as many others – is simple… a time traveller on a mobile phone”

Amazingly his theory that this could be evidence of time travel (!) has been picked up by the likes of BBC News, who have the story under the ludicrous headline ‘Has Belfast film-maker found time travel evidence?’

I know that Deloreans were built in Northern Ireland but is he really suggesting that this woman actually went back in time?

And why are people quoting him like there might be a shred of truth to this?

The AP offer a more sensible explanation:

It’s likely the actor is holding a hearing aid, but that hasn’t stopped the video from amassing more than two million views on YouTube.

I’m sure the fact that some Charlie Chaplin DVDs are released in a couple of weeks is a total and utter coincidence (notice he mentions the name of the DVD label).

> Charlie Chaplin at Wikipedia
> The Circus at the IMDb