LOS ANGELES — Michael Myers, the masked silent Shape that emerged from the shadows of Haddonfield, Ill., to stalk generations of moviegoers, will return to theaters Thursday for a re-release of John Carpenter’s landmark 1978 horror film “Halloween,” just in time for the Oct. 31 holiday.
Trancas International Films, in partnership with Compass International Pictures and Screenvision, will open “Halloween” in roughly 560 theaters in the U.S. and more in the U.K. this week, marking the film’s widest release since its original run.
With the 35th anniversary of “Halloween” arriving next year, it seemed the right time to resurrect Carpenter’s classic in a proper theatrical setting, according to Justin Beahm, Trancas’ vice president of licensing and new media.
“A majority of the people who are (fans of the franchise), most of them have never seen any of these movies in the theater,” Beahm said. “This is a nice way to reintroduce fans — reintroduce the world, in a way — to Michael Myers as the Shape.”
Although Myers has anchored nine films so far — with a new installment in the series being eyed for release next year — it’s fair to say that none has had the gut-punch impact of Carpenter’s original, which opens in 1963 with young Michael, clad in a brightly colored clown costume, stabbing his older sister on Halloween night.
Fifteen years later, Michael — referred to in the movie’s credits only as the Shape — escapes from the mental hospital where he has spent the intervening time and heads back to his neighborhood, where he terrorizes the resourceful Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis in her debut feature role).
“Halloween” became a box-office hit, spawning a raft of imitators, even if reviews were mixed at first. Writing for the Los Angeles Times, critic Kevin Thomas described the film as a “well-made exercise in unredeemed morbidity” and found it “depressing” that Carpenter, a University of Southern California film school alumnus, had devoted his talents to such a “grisly” enterprise.
“Halloween,” of course, has grown in reputation and esteem over the decades — it’s generally seen as the culmination of a 10-year period stretching back to the release of George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” in 1968 that saw a crop of fearless provocateur filmmakers, including Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper, channel the widespread social unrest of the time into taboo-breaking horror cinema.
Though he’s generally considered a horror director in the broader cultural consciousness, despite a resume peppered with science fiction, action-adventure and satiric titles, Carpenter told the Los Angeles Times in 2010 that he didn’t set out to work exclusively in the genre.
“I never got in this business, in cinema, to make horror movies,” Carpenter said. “They arrived on my doorstep and I got typecast. Which was fine, I enjoy it, but I got into this business to make Westerns. And the kind of Westerns I used to see, they died. So that didn’t work out.”
Still, the filmmaker has come to embrace his past — he just accepted a lifetime achievement award from the horror film festival Screamfest L.A. and is set to appear for a Q&A at a rare 35 mm screening of “Halloween” on Saturday at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles as part of the inaugural Debra Hill Film Festival, named for his co-writer and producer on the film who died in 2005.
To highlight the “cultural impact” of the “Halloween” films and the character of Michael Myers, Beahm directed a new 10-minute documentary “You Can’t Kill the Boogeyman,” which will screen in theaters with the “Halloween” re-release (information about showtimes and tickets can be found at Halloweenonscreen.com).
Beahm attributes the enduring appeal of “Halloween” and the unfeeling villain at its dark heart partly to the fact that Michael Myers has been treated in a more straightforward fashion than, say, such slasher movie stalwarts as Freddy Krueger in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies and Jason Voorhees in the “Friday the 13th” films.
“There was a commercial for Burger King ... where Freddy was going through the drive-through,” Beahm said. “Michael has been kept free from all of that.”
Beyond that, though, he says that the “Halloween” movies have given form to the shapeless evils lurking in sunny suburbia, and for that, they’ve found an everlasting onscreen life.
“In so many films, you have to venture into the darkness or into the mysterious whatever to find the creature,” Beahm said. Michael exists in the shadows in our own homes. He’s in the closet. That never goes away, that’s always going to be relevant to people and there’s a real timelessness to it.”