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5 Fascinating Facts About The Original ‘Halloween’ Movie

Is it any surprise that a film titled Halloween was destined to become a horror classic? Although the movie made director John Carpenter and starlet Jamie Lee Curtis into household names, its origins were humble. Halloween began as a passion project, and the production was challenged by limited funding, cheap props, underpaid actors, and a JCPenny wardrobe that Curtis had to purchase herself.

The triumph of the film stemmed from Carpenter’s ability to create suspense. Though it wasn’t his first film, the brilliant and fresh screenplay ended up establishing Carpenter as Hollywood’s go-to horror director.  However, during production, success felt like a pipe dream. Read on to see why it’s a miracle the film ever got made at all…

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Bryanwake

Less Is More 

Whereas most movies cost millions to produce, Halloween’s budget barely exceeded $300,000. The actor playing the infamous masked killer, Michael Myers, received a measly $25 a day, while Jamie Lee Curtis ended up earning only $8,000 for her first onscreen performance.

Incidentally, the Myers house portrayed in the film actually saved the production crew money because it was already abandoned. Its dilapidated look contributed to the film’s eerie mood. All the crew needed to do was give it a quick paint job and add a few pieces of furniture for the first scene of the film.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Egon Eagle

The Masked Man

Four different actors played Michael Myers, with Nick Castle primary among them. Depending on the scene, a stuntman was sometimes required in order to have the killer smash through a window or fall in a highly convincing fashion. This rag-tag team of actors (including an unlucky assistant) helped keep production moving along at a speedy–and affordable–pace.

Photo: Needpix.com

Running A Tight Ship

To help manage budgetary concerns, every aspect of production was rushed. Carpenter wrote the entire screenplay in two weeks, under its original title, The Babysitter Murders. Inspired by a bongo drumming lesson he took as a young teenager, he also scored the film in only three days.

Filming itself took a total of 20 days. Most of the scenes were shot out of sequence, at the wrong time of year, and in an entirely different state than where the story took place. Filming took place during California’s spring season, which was in stark contrast to the film’s supposed setting–an October in Illinois. To disguise some of the more obvious discrepancies, the production crew ended up hauling in dozens of bags of leaves that were painted in fall colors.

Photo: Flickr/Patrick Feller

Beyond The Release

The premiere was held on October 25, 1978 in Kansas City, Missouri. Unable to coordinate a national rollout, Carpenter could only negotiate a release through local sub-distributors. But in spite of its meager budget, Halloween ended up grossing $47 million at the domestic box office and $70 million worldwide. It placed 10th among the highest-grossing films of 1978, sharing the spotlight with fellow blockbusters Grease and Jaws 2.

Further production followed the film’s release, when it needed to be expanded for television to fill a two-hour time slot. As it happened, Carpenter and his team were already working on the sequel. This lucky coincidence gave them an opportunity to film additional scenes which flushed out the original movie.

Photo: Wikipedia

An Enduring Pop Culture Legend

Although it’s been decades since the film’s initial release, Halloween is still applauded for how disruptive it was to the horror industry. Not only did it catapult Jamie Lee Curtis to stardom, it also confirmed John Carpenter as a master of terror.

More Halloween sequels would be made over the years, to critical acclaim and mass appeal. It seems viewers can’t get enough of Michael Myers, whose killing sprees continue to haunt the minds of fans–and babysitters.