For horror movie fans, there's arguably no better film to help you get into the spirit of the spooky season than John Carpenter and Debra Hill's Halloween, not only because of its title honoring All Hallow's Eve, but also because it set the standard of what the slasher subgenre would become. Horror fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks, not only because Halloween Kills will be hitting theaters and Peacock on October 15th, but also because the original 1978 film, as well as Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, will be hitting select theaters across the country.
Few people know the power of Michael Myers as well as Senior Vice President of Trancas International Films Ryan Freimann, who served as a producer on 2018's Halloween as well as the upcoming Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends.
In honor of the upcoming sequel, in addition to celebrating the return of seminal installments in the series to the big screen, ComicBook.com caught up with Freimann to talk about his love for the series, the importance of the franchise, and what the future might hold for the series. You can head to the CineLife Entertainment website to find screenings near you.
ComicBook.com: I read that you first saw the original Halloween at a sleepover as a kid, could you talk about the personal impact the film left on you and the lasting effects of Michael Myers?
Ryan Freimann: I mean, obviously, I was scared. I think the Boogeyman being anywhere got to me. I remember going to camp later that summer, and it was in Big Bear, California. On the lake, there's this observatory up there, and one of the counselors told me, or told a group of us, that it was an insane asylum, and they just had a breakout. And I, being a gullible child, believed that to be true.
That night, we had a movie party, and it was freezing. I refused to go back to our cabin to get a jacket, because I was worried about what ... I would come across this escaped lunatic out there, so that planted the seed. It's all the timing, it's the mood, the feelings. So that, to me, is what creates a great horror film. Obviously, the kills are fun and all the practical effects and I love all of that, those aspects of it. But it's when you truly are able to infect someone's mind and make them look over their shoulder or question a noise, then you're doing your job right.
As you mention that, my first memories of Halloween are hearing my sister getting scared by it and the scene where Michael Myers came out of the backseat of the car traumatized her, which speaks to the power of how these movies can infect your mind and live in your brain forever.
Just those little things. I just remember, I think back, when I was a kid, there's one movie channel. It's HBO, and you set the dial to it on the slide box. They didn't have the plethora of movies that they have today, so you would see these ones repeated again and again. So some of them were cheesy, sci-fi horror ones, like Strange Invaders and all those things, where you're like, "Oh, my gosh." It's this little town ... Just little things as a young developing brain goes, it gets to you.
How does that feel for you now that you've been involved with the 2018 Halloween and the upcoming sequels, knowing that films you worked on are having that impact on a new generation, that they're going to watch your Halloween movies at sleepovers and be frightened for the rest of their lives?
I'm going to be the one blamed by the parents. No, I think that it's obviously an important thing to remember, and I actually never really thought of it that way, so thank you for putting that additional burden on my shoulders. But I think that, in all things that we do, it's trying to do this iconic IP justice and find ways in which to explore new characters or old characters and new scenes and settings, but do it in a way that will stick with them and it's meaningful. We're obviously not creating some philosophical drama, but it's like, what is going to be that impactful moment that somebody will laugh about, cry about, be fearful about with their friends for years to come?
With three films from the original series coming back to theaters, do you remember the first time you saw Halloween on the big screen?
I hadn't seen the original one on the big screen until I actually started working for Trancas, because we just ... I think that re-releases are some more of a modern [trend]. I think the first real re-release I ever saw was with the Star Wars special editions. I was in college. That was the first time I think I'd ever gone back to a theater to see a movie I'd already seen before. And so I go through college and life and all that stuff, and I wasn't really going [to re-releases], I would see a few. I think there was The Godfather one time, and there's other little ones here and there.
But Halloween, the original was not until I started working for Trancas. It is so cool to see those Dean Cundey colors up on the big screen, and if you can catch a really good 35mm print of it, it's even more nostalgia-inducing. It's a fun time.
There's nothing really like seeing a horror film on the big screen with an audience. With Halloween Kills, fans will get the chance to see it in a theater if they feel safe, but they'll also be able to check it out on Peacock.
I think that it was, obviously, a difficult choice, because I think this movie's meant to be seen on the big screen and especially IMAX. If you can go, go do that, just with the sound and the picture. But after holding the movie for a year, we were very truthful that this movie was meant to be seen on the big screen. Holding it for a year, we realized, "Hey, there's still is a large population who's not comfortable going back to theaters." So we aren't going to force people to have to make that choice.
An opportunity presented itself to have the best of both worlds. I think that, even though I would like everybody see it on the big screen, I wouldn't want to delay it a couple of weeks, because then the spoilers come out. So it really does present a good opportunity for everybody to get what's important to them.
Everyone, when they rank the franchise, the original movie is number one, then every ranking after that is totally different. What's your favorite sequel in the series?
I have to answer that a couple different ways, because I do love Halloween 4 a lot, only because it was the first reinvigoration of the franchise. Moustapha Akkad takes ... The franchise is on life support after Halloween III, and you have this aptly titled movie, "The Return of Michael Myers." Now you have, save for the mask, a good story, a lot of fun here and there, Jamie Lloyd and all that stuff.
Then I'm obviously biased, because I love having worked on 2018. The thing that was cool about that is not necessarily the film, which is great, but that Malek Akkad and myself spent a lot of time getting those rights back from Bob and Harvey Weinstein and we were able to do that about eight months before the Weinstein fallout. So had we not been able to accomplish that, who knows if any of these movies we make could be tied up in some bankruptcy court in upstate New York or wherever they're doing that right now.
There's that, and it was a reinvigoration, because it'd been nine years since the last Rob Zombie Halloween and it was the 40th anniversary of the original film. It really hit all the high notes.
Since you mention your love for Halloween 4 and the introduction of Jamie Lloyd, Danielle Harris has talked about her initial disappointment at not getting to be involved in this new series when it was first being developed. Can you talk a bit about whether conversations about having her show up in a future film have emerged, or speaking more broadly, how you find the balance of telling a new story while also including fan-favorite Easter eggs and cameos?
I think it's a fine line we walk, and Danielle's great. She's been in what, four of the films? So it's like, she's been in [a lot of] Halloween films. It's up to [director] David Gordon Green, his creative team, when they were going through the casting process and the story process. It wasn't wanting to just shoehorn in all of these Easter eggs and nods. That's certainly there, but we get hammered anyway we go; too many Easter eggs and too many nods that are fan service, or not enough. So either way we cut it, you're bound to not have someone pleased at you. I would love to find some way to bring back that character, the Jamie Lloyd character, in some way. It just didn't fit within the framework of the storyline.
And for what it's worth, I know Danielle mentioned earlier this year having finally watched the 2018 film and understanding why her Jamie Lloyd wouldn't have fit in with the direction these sequels were taking, so she can see why her take on the character might not have been the best fit.
It just didn't work, yeah. There were some vocal moments, but I'm glad you are saying that she's come around a little bit.
Speaking of fan feedback, one of the more controversial elements fans debated about the 2018 Halloween was Dr. Sartain and you even recently mentioned how you didn't totally agree with that character and his part of the story. You needed him for the story, because he ultimately freed Michael Myers and put the narrative in motion, so were there other discussions about how Michael might have been freed without Sartain?
I think to clarify ... Filmmaking is a highly collaborative process at all different levels. When that storyline first came up, my personal opinion was it could have been done better and different. I didn't think it was going to be very well received. Malek Akkad, I'm speaking for him a little bit, but he wasn't on board with it, either. But sometimes you defer to other people's [judgment], like, "Nope, it's going to work." And so you have to pick and choose your battles. That was one, we moved on.
Are there other ways? Yeah, I probably had two or three other ways that I could pitch. Maybe we'll use those for another storyline somewhere, because Michael's got to escape one way or another on Halloween night or Halloween Eve. I think that, yes, there were other ways in which that could have been accomplished. It just didn't happen.
I appreciate you clarifying that up a bit.
I don't think it's horrifying. I wasn't a fan of it, and I know there are other people that feel it's even worse than I do, or feel it was fine.
I think the nature of the internet means that, as soon a producer says they didn't like something about a film or there were discussions about a plot point, fans wonder what other versions of the film might have existed.
Yeah, I think there are [alternate ideas] in every script. There's so many drafts of a script and what works on the page might not work when you're trying to actually execute it on set and vice versa. So it's one of those things that you have to ... There are things, though, that you will feel like, "Okay, this is something where I will put my foot down, or I will speak up." And so, to clarify, the Sartain piece ... I would suggest alternate routes, yeah.
John Carpenter came back to the series as a producer, largely because he had faith in you and David and co-writer Danny McBride, he knew he could trust what you would do with it. Since he was involved, though, were there any specific things that Carpenter personally contributed to these new films? Even something like, "Michael would put his mask on this way instead of this way,"?
I would leave that for the conversation between, if you ever have, with David or John or something along those lines. John's definitely involved. It's not just like we're slapping his name on it. He reads the script, he's involved with the music side of things. So he's seeing the film as it's being edited and getting ideas for where the music is going to go. He's definitely offering his notes. Sometimes they're subtle, sometimes they're major.
I think Jason Blum has covered this and Malek as well. We weren't going to go forward with this unless we had John and Jamie [Lee Curtis] on board. We'd find another route, we'd find a different storyline, or whatever it is, but to go the way we did, jump to other films and come this way. But everybody, from day one, was really excited by the seeds that we had planted, what we wanted to do.
Before COVID, Halloween Ends would have been shot last year and would be hitting theaters this year. With the delays and the longer wait ahead of production, has the trajectory of the film gone through many changes over the past year? Did this extended wait result in the script being finely tuned?
It's pretty much on track with where it was. David and Danny went off and just wrapped Righteous Gemstones Season 2 yesterday. They've spent the last 6-7 months doing that. David's got his ... He's such a creative force, that now he's doing The Exorcist and he's got a Hellraiser TV series. The floodgates of horror are open to him, so I think he also has his convictions and I think that he knows the general direction he's sailing the ship.
So, are we going to avoid little things here and there? Yes. Has it given us time to reflect on things? Yes. And, in some ways, it might be good, and hopefully not ... Because I know sometimes when I sit with things for too long, you can juggle them to death, instead of just going with your gut. But to answer your question succinctly, it's more or less the same thing we've had going along.
We're just a few weeks out from the release of Halloween Kills and I don't want to spoil anything for fans or for myself, but what do you think will surprise audiences most about the new film?
Halloween Kills is relentless from start to stop. Even in the moments where it slows down for character development or story, it still pulls you in in certain ways. I think you'll find that it's, to me, one of the most attention-drawing films in the franchise, where it's one that I've seen several times now already in the course of my work on it, but I haven't gotten tired of watching it yet. So that's something. I know I'm very close to it, but I think and I hope that fans will be drawn in. There might be slow parts in other ones, but we explore characters, places, settings, storylines, that we'll give a little bit to everyone.
I asked about your favorite sequel in the series, and mine is actually Halloween III. I know that not having Michael Myers in it and calling it "Halloween" was ultimately its downfall, and I know the next Halloween after Halloween Ends likely won't be for another five years, and I love the Easter eggs in your films to Halloween III, but could you ever see the franchise exploring that route again? Could we ever get a Halloween film that's maybe an anthology in the spirit of the franchise but without Michael Myers?
I like it. I think it's grown a tremendous amount of appreciation over the years.
I think there are other ways and other mediums in which to explore this franchise. I wouldn't necessarily say ... I mean, there's always interest in exploring Season of the Witch again. Is it something we'd race to do? I don't know. Our focus has been COVID delays, figuring out how to do Halloween Ends and shoot it, COVID protocols on that, all of those things, coming out of that. That's been our focus ... But I think it would be something, where we explore other outside areas of the Halloween universe.
I think after this many films, too, we have to look other places, just to get a little more creative, right?
Working with John Carpenter is obviously a dream come true for any horror fan, but outside of him and Halloween, are there other filmmakers or series that you'd be as passionate to work on reviving in the future?
I have to be candid and say that John Carpenter was truly ... I mean, I must have burned out my VHS copy of Big Trouble in Little China in college. Honestly, it's one of my favorites. I try to think of Halloween costume ideas, and I just ordered the Jack Burton tank top, just on the off chance that maybe that's one idea there. From They Live to The Thing to Big Trouble in Little China, Escape from New York .... To now have that opportunity that, to me, now would be something I work on, that would be another dream. I mean, that's the cool stuff. As far as horror, I have had a big fill with Halloween. Between him and Paul Thomas Anderson, I don't know, maybe those are my two go-tos.
Halloween Kills hits theaters and Peacock on October 15th. You can head to the CineLife Entertainment website to find screenings of Halloween, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers near you.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.