Old Man Michael Myers: How Halloween Handles its 60-Year-Old Killer
When the first Halloween movie begins, Michael Myers is six. After he kills his sister and is put in an institution for 15 years the film flashes forward to 1978, when the 21-year-old Myers escapes and goes on another killing spree. A series of sequels followed after this, but the new Halloween movie acknowledges just those two events, as well as a forty year gap. So when 2018’s Halloween begins, not only is Michael Myers back and ready to kill again, he’s also just five years away from being able to collect a Social Security check.
The age of The Shape will no doubt be something on the minds of the hardcore fans, but if there’s something that first film taught us it’s that evil has no real age. Six or sixty, Myers can cause chaos and kill. So what exactly has Michael been doing with the forty years between Halloween (1978) and Halloween (2018)? For director David Gordon Green, that’s not important. What is important is maintaining the mystery of the character like John Carpenter did forty years ago.
“I think he’s been doing as little as possible and I’d like to know as little as possible about him, his history and his abilities,” Green tells us on the set of the film. “I think there was a reason he was called The Shape because in some ways he’s more of an essence than he is a traditional character, we’re finding that line between natural and supernatural worlds and this mysterious and as un-verbalized as we can create a character.”
Green goes on to compare the first movie and its masked killer to Spielberg’s Jaws and its titular shark, noting that the beast may not have a lot of personality, but his ability to be elusive to his victims is a factor that we the audience pick up on just by watching.
“We’re trying to keep that as our framework and not get too much into who he is, why he is, what he’s been doing but along the way I do think it’s really fun to imagine the reality of some of the scenarios we visually realize.”
The age of Myers was a hot topic in the development of the movie as well, but it quickly became something that the filmmakers wanted to hold onto and embrace.
“I think absolutely it’s a terrifying prospect,” producer Malek Akkad says of the now-geriatric killer. “I mean, you can look at someone like a Mickey Rourke, not that he’s terrifying; someone who’s fit and at that age and there’s something very creepy about that. I think it’s exciting because it gives us more options and things that we can do later… and hopefully this won’t be the last one.”
The elusiveness of Myers may be the sticking point of the filmmakers, but they’re also maintaining aspects of the character that were fixtures of his behavior in the original movie (and making sure not to try and explain them), such as his arrangement of dead bodies to create an extra fright.
“For me I also like that there’s creative energy that we don’t need on screen,” Green says. “That Michael has little projects and then you’re happy that the films don’t actually show him putting the tombstone on the bed, he’s got his arts and crafts projects.”
Two men step into the role of Michael Myers for the film: Nick Castle, who originated the role in the 1978 film, and stuntman/actor James Jude Courtney. The pair are sharing duties in the film with Castle “blessing the set” and putting on the mask for a few shots while Courtney wears the jumpsuit for the bulk of the picture. While interviewing the two of them together, Courtney made a startling revelation about his preparation for the movie.
“I learned how to kill from a Mafia hitman,” he deadpans. “He went to see the movie I did, it wasn’t a big movie or anything and when we walked out he was like ‘Jimmy, it was a really nice movie but that’s not how you kill people.’”
Courtney adds, “I’ve been complimented many times here on set on how efficiently I kill and all I did was take what he taught me.”
The age of Michael Myers has a dual meaning that is played into in the film as well. From the casual observer his age might be a hindrance, something that makes him less of a threat. Not only is the masked killer an old-fashioned kind of horror movie ideal, the character under the mask is literally an old man. In a world that has gotten even more violent in the past 40 years, is there even room for something like that in the modern world?
“A character in the movie even talks about that,” Green says. “Like the world has changed a lot since Michael Myers was around. The world has seen a lot of horrific shit and there’s a lot of bad things that happen now on a daily basis so is a man in mask with a knife still scary? And I think that’s what this movie answers: yes, he still is.”
The Shape returns this October.