[Interview] Mike Kerz Hosts Ultimate ‘Halloween’ Flashback Weekend

An unbelievable gathering of Halloween movie franchise veterans is coming to Michael Myers’ homestate of Illinois in August for the annual Flashback Weekend Horror Convention in Chicago, featuring the first six actors to portray The Shape and a totally epic lineup of former Haddonfield residents to die for.

This is the event of the year for Halloween fans, and with the new film Halloween Returns officially now in production, excitement surrounding the franchise is at an all time high this summer. We recently caught up with Flashback Weekend mastermind Mike Kerz to discuss his love of Halloween, why it remains an unmatched classic, and why now is the time to bring together this killer gathering. Read on for our interview with Mike Kerz!
Why is now the time to do this Halloween gathering?
“Now is the time for Halloween because we’re celebrating the art of film. Our interest in horror films is that horror films are really just some of the best films ever made. The reason for this is that very often many of them are independent films. They’re not made under a studio system or a corporate entity. It’s really artists who are passionate about their craft. They make these independent films, and very often they make horror films, because they have a bit of a shelf life and they can be sold easier.
“So you have these amazing artists and filmmakers, and they start out doing horror films, and they do them with freedom of vision, and as a result, some of the best films made are horror films. Halloween is definitely an example of that.
“Just look at the talent involved, from John Carpenter and Debra Hill, and of course the production team of Mr. Akkad, who financed the film but was also a very accomplished filmmaker himself. He recognized the talent of the team that was being assembled and he provided them the tools needed to do the job without interference. That’s very much to his (Akkad’s) credit.

“Dean Cundey doing the amazing work that he did, one thing that stands out from John Carpenter and Dean Cundey is that these are pure filmmaker artists in their knowledge of film. The look that was achieved on Halloween, with a $300,000 budget, not one frame of it looks like a low budget movie. Every frame of it looks polished and self-assured, and just brilliant filmmaking. The look, the sound, you can always tell a low budget cheap show from the lighting and the sound, but with Halloween the look is brilliance, and that sets it apart as much as anything else. So that’s one reason that we are honoring Halloween this year.
“Tommy Lee Wallace, who was instrumental to the production design, will be on hand as well. Not only all the work he did on the production, he also created the iconic Michael Myers mask. In addition to the talent in front of the camera, we’re celebrating the artists who are behind the camera. So we’re very pleased to have Dean Cundey and Tommy Lee Wallace at the convention, in addition to so many great actors from the films, such as Nancy Loomis and Charles Cyphers from Part 1.
“We have the largest gathering of Michael Myers actors ever to appear in Illinois, the home state of Michael Myers.
“We have Nick Castle. What he did in his performance of Michael Myers is just brilliant, so we’re really thrilled to have him. Of course it’s been mentioned that he took the job so he could be on a film set and watch John Carpenter work. Nick Castle went on to be a brilliant director himself.
“We also have the largest reunion of Halloween III: Season of the Witch, with Tom Atkins and Stacey Nelkin, the director Tommy Lee Wallace, the co-composer Alan Howarth, Dick Warlock the assassin, and the cinematographer Dean Cundey.
“From Halloween 4 we have Danielle Harris and George Wilbur, and from Halloween 5 we have a little reunion of Don Shanks, Tamara Glynn, and Matt Walker (and Harris).
“It’s a really nice gathering of the talent of the first five Halloween films.” (Click HERE for the updated guest list!)

In addition to guests on hand to meet and greet fans, Flashback Weekend will also feature some exciting Halloween events, and Kerz gave a taste of some of what is already scheduled. 

“We have many special events planned. On Friday night Alan Howarth will be performing live in concert. To see him in concert is a truly amazing audio and visual experience. He’ll be performing many of the tunes that he co-composed with John Carpenter as well as many of the tunes that he composed himself throughout his career.

“The weekend will lead up to the Saturday night showing of Halloween, which we’re proud to be presenting outside on a huge inflatable screen, because for us the drive-in experience is magical. For it to be under the stars on a larger than life screen, we’re happy to be presenting it in an outside showing, because many of the fans may not have seen Halloween like this.”

While the Halloween guests and events may be the main draw for many attendees, it is certainly far from all that will be happening at Flashback Weekend this year.

“We have an American Horror Story reunion with John Carroll Lynch who plays Twisty the Clown, and that’s another tie in too, because Twisty as a new iconic slasher and of course we all know that Michael Myers started his slasher career off in a clown mask. We’ve got Naomi Grossman (Pepper on American Horror Story) as well.

“We’re really proud to have one of the best actor-director teams with Stuart Gordon and Jeffrey Combs. Of course the work they did in Re-Animator is just amazing, they will be hosting a screening of that film on Friday night, and a special Q&A session before the film as well. And we have many other events that we’ve not announced yet.”

Kerz went to recount his memories of the first time he ever watched John Carpenter’s Halloween and the impact it had.

Halloween is just one of those films that you remember the first time you saw it. I’m going to date myself a little bit, but I was a senior in high school when Halloween was first released. In Chicago it was released in November of ‘78. A bunch of us saw it on opening weekend at the Little Creek Theater, which had a beautiful curved screen. Seeing the amazing anamorphic widescreen of Halloween on a huge curved screen was amazing. It was a Sunday night and it was sold out, with over a thousand people on a Sunday night, which in the theater business is like unheard of.
“The next day in school everyone was talking about Halloween. I was in the library and I remember hearing someone saying ‘And then she stabbed him and he fell down, and then she turned away, and then he got back up again’. This was in the library, but everyone was so excited about the movie they were all talking about it. It was just such an experience.
“We’re just really thrilled to be able to present Halloween on a big screen with so many of the key people involved with the making of the film.”

The convention founder and Midway Drive-In Theatre owner also talked about the undying appeal of The Boogeyman.

“I have to say one other thing about the brilliance of Halloween among the slashers in cinema. John Carpenter did something brilliant in his creation of the character of Michael Myers, by not just making Myers a slasher with a knife, but the addition of the supernatural element, by making Michael Myers literally The Boogeyman of evil. That is so important to the film. I think that’s one of the reasons that Halloween endures as a classic, in addition to the talent of the actors and the crew and everyone involved.
It’s the concept of the Boogeyman, the essence of evil, because I remember very well the slasher craze, and with those that stood out, there was always an element of the supernatural to it.

“In between Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street, there were so many slasher films where it was just some whacko with a knife, and in those films there’s a kind of ugliness in a way. These human slashers didn’t play by the rules. During that time I was in my late teens and early 20s and just got bored of these films that had no imagination. There’s really nothing to them.

“The films that did standout were like when Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse opened and there’s an actual ‘creature’ in it, that was cool. Or the Linda Blair film Hell Night where you’re like ‘Oh wow, actual monsters. Great!’ And then with Nightmare on Elm Street, again with Freddy Krueger, where he was wronged but there was a supernatural force that brought him back and he was a supernatural presence. In addition to everything else, I think that’s what elevated that film as well.

“So Halloween I believe was the first slasher film to add that supernatural element to it. Of course purists still say that Black Christmas was the first slasher film, but Halloween adding the Boogeyman aspect really helped to make the film the classic that it is.”

Kerz also spoke highly about the passionate community of Halloween fans, many of which are regular readers of this site and will soon descend on Flashback Weekend for this awesome gathering.

“One thing about Halloween throughout the years, it’s really developed such a community of people. Horror fans love film because they love cinema. They’re not so much into the blood and the gore. What they appreciate is the filmmaking and the challenge of the filmmakers, and they are really lovers of film. That’s why the horror genre has such a shelf life.

“Other films from 1978 have come and went, never heard from again. But horror films last because they are made so well by such talented artists. Horror films are sometimes misunderstood by people, but lovers of horror love the film and the craftsmanship and the artists, and that’s why we started doing Flashback in 2002 and we’re now Chicago’s largest running horror convention.”

Flashback Weekend 2015 is happening August 7-9 at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare in Rosemont, IL. You can get your tickets online HERE.

Click here for the full guest list and keep watching HalloweenDailyNews.com as we continue to cover this landmark event, and if you are attending Flashback Weekend, be sure to let us know in the comments!

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[Interview] Mike Kerz Hosts Ultimate ‘Halloween’ Flashback Weekend