As many of you already know, author Dennis Etchison wrote the official movie novelizations of Halloween II and Halloween III under the pseudonym of “Jack Martin”, but I was surprised to learn that Etchison also wrote the original script for Halloween 4, asked to do so by John Carpenter himself. While this first vision of Halloween 4 never actually came to be, Etchison recently revealed some key details and differences of what could have been.
Read on for more on this fascinating “What if?”, and Happy #MichaelMyersMonday!
Blumhouse (which is producing the next Halloween film) recently published a new interview with Dennis Etchison, in which the author covers a lot of ground, from his first meeting with Carpenter and producer/partner Debra Hill, to his works beyond the Halloween franchise. Most exciting is the new scene descriptions, including even some direct passages from Etchison’s original script, that are revealed in the interview.
As Etchison tells the story (via Blumhouse): “One day out of the blue, I got a call from somebody at John’s office who said, ‘John Carpenter would like to meet with you.’ Well, that was good news because I was a great fan of his. And I said sure and I went in the next day and met him and Debra Hill. Debra took me into another room and sat me down said they needed a novelization for The Fog. Somebody else had written one but she didn’t like it and they weren’t going to use it. She said, ‘He [the other writer] had a reporter having sex with ghosts on the beach! It’s terrible. We don’t have much time, and we need someone to do it, and someone recommended you.’
“I’m very visual when I write, and I didn’t want to visualize it in a way that was different from the film. At some point in the next few days, Tommy Wallace, I think, showed me a couple of reels of it (The Fog), the opening, so I could get the flavor and the look of it. And then I got a copy of the script and I studied that. The deal with Bantam Books was that they needed it in exactly six weeks, and I said, ‘Okay, I can do that.’ …So I signed and started and I finished it six weeks to the day.
“It (The Fog) went through eight printings. It did well. John asked me if I’d like to novelize Halloween II and then Halloween III, and so I did those. At some point, after Halloween III, on Christmas Eve, I got a call from John, and he said, ‘Debra and I would like you to write the script for Halloween IV.’ And I said, ‘That’s wonderful!’ A few minutes later, Debra called and said the same exact thing. And I was just ecstatic. I started meeting with John and we talked about what would be in it. We agreed that it should start ten years after Halloween, and the story would concern the two little kids Laurie Strode was babysitting, who were now teenagers, grown up and still living across the street from each other …Lindsay Wallace and Tommy Doyle.
“The idea is that the town, after all those terrible murders ten years earlier, has banned Halloween. They don’t recognize Halloween as a holiday; they don’t allow Halloween masks and costumes or Halloween candy. And you know Hunt, the deputy from the first two films? Hunt is now the sheriff. And ten years of repression and suppression have boiled to the surface and there are some hints that He’s back!
“So I foresaw on the poster the words, ‘The night he came home…again!’ And I had this set piece in mind where Michael Myers comes bursting up out of a big lot full of pumpkins. Erupting out of this orange mound. That would be a nice shot to use on the poster.
“And at one point there was a speech — they have a town meeting and everyone is up in arms about whether they should have Halloween or not. And the guy who runs the local drive-in, the Lost River, which is the name of a real drive-in… John grew up in Bowling Green, Kentucky and he said there was a real Lost River Drive-In, and Haddonfield was also based on a town (in New Jersey) where Debra had grown up. So there is this town meeting where everyone is arguing, and the guy who runs the drive-in says, ‘You can’t ban a night of Halloween movies! I’m trying to make a living here! Kids wanna see horror movies!’ ‘Well, maybe they shouldn’t,’ some people are saying. ‘Maybe it’s better if they don’t see them.’ So the whole idea was repression versus acknowledging the bad things in the world.
“A few weeks later, I stopped by Debra Hill’s office to pick up a copy of the final retyping of the script. She had a tall stack of them in front of her and said, ‘We’re sending these out to the investors.’ And then, sometime later, I got a call from her, saying, ‘I just wanted to tell you, John and I have sold our interest in the Halloween franchise and unfortunately your script was not part of the deal.’ Who knows why. Apparently the partners hired something like ten other writers to work on it after me, and I lost a Writer’s Guild arbitration over the credits, even though I was the first writer on the project. So my name’s not on the picture.”
Etchison goes on to explain that his Halloween IV (like the version that ultimately did get made) would have picked up on that night in Haddonfield again, ten years to the day after Halloween II ends, simply ignoring the existence of Halloween III.
Then the author provides an actual reading from the script itself, providing us fans a rare look at this original vision of a film we’ve all watched so many times.
Open on a black screen. Superimpose in dark red letters:
End main titles.
FADE IN TO:
EXT. NIGHT – MYERS HOUSE – SUBJECTIVE POV (PANAGLIDE)
ANGLE FROM BEHIND BUSHES. Standing. Moving forward. Crossing the overgrown lawn toward the abandoned Myers house. Around the porch…to the back door…and entering the house.
INT. NIGHT – MYERS HOUSE – SUBJECTIVE POV (PANAGLIDE)
Moving through the dusty kitchen, the dining room, toward a dark, shadowed stairway. Climbing the stairs, through cobwebs, to a bedroom. Panning right to a dusty box springs. Panning left over peeling wallpaper…an old chest of drawers…to a vanity table and a cracked mirror on the wall.
Moving to the vanity table. Sitting down. Now we see dim reflections of parts of the room behind, as two pale hands from below frame appear in one jagged piece of the mirror and bring up a white featureless mask. The screen goes black for a second as the mask is pulled on. Now, through the eyeholes, we see a figure in the mirror. Tilting his head as he considers his reflection. The costume is complete. It is THE SHAPE.
FADE IN TO:
SUPERIMPOSE: Haddonfield, Illinois – October 31, 1988″
Etchison then drops the bomb that director Joe Dante (Gremlins, The ‘Burbs) was initially going the helm what would have been “Halloween IV“.
When asked about what kind of possible “body count” his film would have had, Etchison dives into another stunning scene description.
“They’re decorating for the school Halloween dance, but they can’t call it that. They can’t have anything that suggests the supernatural. Lindsay, now — no it’s not Lindsay, it’s another girl, D’Arcy — she’s gonna go out on a triple date with three guys and two other girls and they’re going to the Lost River Drive-In, which is having a triple-feature shown on three screens simultaneously. It’s an outdoor multiplex with the three screens angled away from each other. And every kid in two counties is going to go there tonight. So she’s promised she’ll have a surprise for them. What she’s gonna do is bring pumpkins for each of them with their faces carved on the pumpkins…
Beyond the city limits where Halloween is in full observance. A pumpkin stand in a lonely corner at the edge of town, just outside the Haddonfield line. On the other side of the street a sign: “Welcome to Haddonfield.” On this side: “Welcome to Harding.”
AS D’ARCY WALKS UP.
She touches a few of the pumpkins uncertainly, as if she knows what she’s doing. A WIZENED OLD PROPRIETOR watches her.
Use ’em, don’t bruise ’em. Some of
’em is mighty ripe.
Ten cents a pound. Cash and carry.
That one there looks to be about thirteen
D’Arcy digs into her jeans and counts her money.
‘Course you could get yourself a little baby
one. But they’re not much fun, are they?
Then you must be from Haddonfield.
Don’t know how to have any fun over there.
CLOSER ANGLE — D’ARCY:
as she smooths her hand over the surface of pumpkins. All are elongated and misshapen. She makes a face back at each one. They aren’t quite right.
Richie, Keith, and Lonnie. Uh-uh.
Suddenly a knife swoops down and stabs the pumpkin in front of her.
This one’ll carve up real nice!
The Proprietor is standing next to her. He buries the blade to the hilt and starts sawing out eyeholes to demonstrate.
How much if I buy three?
Depends. You could make me a deal.
See anything you like?
He sticks his own face in front of her and grins. She looks away, repulsed. He turns back to the pumpkin, cutting a nose and grinning mouth.
I…don’t think so. Thanks, anyway.
She starts to leave, but he is in front of her with his knife blade dripping juice and seeds.
You don’t like ’em? He’s my favorite.
I call him Freddy.
Uh, you wouldn’t know another…Forget it.
Where you going? I got everything you
want right here. Take a look.
He goes to the side of the stand and gestures at the lot behind.
ANGLE TO INCLUDE THE LOT:
Behind the stand is a vacant lot with hundreds more pumpkins, trucked in for the holiday like a Christmas tree lot that is full once a year and empty the rest of the time. Mounds of pumpkins, all sizes and shapes. All very ripe and deep orange under the setting sun. D’arcy walks forward into pumpkinland, dazzled.
Wow. You mind if I …?
Go ahead. Feel ’em! Rub up against ’em!
Take your time!
She walks away as the Proprietor pulls a half-pint out of his hip pocket and unscrews the top. Empty.
I’ll be back. Two minutes!
Behind him, the Proprietor crosses the street to a liquor store.
FOLLOWING D’ARCY INTO THE LOT:
She steps into the lot, still dazed. More pumpkins than she has ever seen before. Walking as if on eggs, she finds a nice round one, bends over to pull it out — and the whole stack collapses around her! She gets up awkwardly and steps on a ripe one. Her foot sinks into rotten pulp. She shakes it off and steps down on another one.
She hides the broken pumpkins, then carries the one she chose to the edge of the lot. She goes back, selects a second, then a third. Standing there satisfied, her back to the lot.
LOW-ANGLE — MOVING (PANAGLIDE):
Fast track at ground level, following a single pumpkin as it breaks loose from the stacks and rolls faster and faster toward D’Arcy. She hears it coming, starts to look down…
ANGLE ON D’ARCY:
Too late! It hits the backs of her legs like a bowling ball and knocks her off her feet. She sprawls backwards… SPLAT! Smashing pumpkins. She tries to get up, slips on wet pulp. Now more pumpkins rain down on her in a chain reaction. She is half-buried.
D’ARCY’S POINT OF VIEW:
A DARK FIGURE towering over her.
ANGLE ON D’ARCY:
She fights her way out from under as the DARK FIGURE falls on her! She SCREAMS — but it is only a SCARECROW in a black coat. Part of the display. She pushes it away and gets up, her hands and arms dripping with chunky slime. Cracked pumpkins all around. Standing amid a battlefield of broken shells, she looks to the street. Still no sign of the Proprietor. The three pumpkins sit apart in front. She’s got to get them out of here before he gets back and sees the damage.
Now he’s coming out of the store. No time. She’ll have to get away fast. She starts to cross the lot laterally, staying out of sight behind the stand. A pumpkin rolls down and taps her ankle. She sidesteps it. Then another, another…
No time to look back. Keep moving.
Now an avalanche behind her as the largest mound erupts and THE SHAPE bursts forth from beneath! They topple her from behind like a tenpin and then the pumpkins rain down, burying her completely. Sounds of her SCREAMING for help as her hand digs out…as the blade of a large butcher knife rises in the air, flashing a reflection of the red sunset. The knife arcs down again and again. Orange pieces go flying as the pumpkins nearby are spattered with blood.
As D’Arcy’s screams stop.”
Did you get chills reading that, like I did? If that’s not enough, Etchison even gives us glimpse into his big finale.
“It ends up with an enormous climax. Tommy and Lindsay go on the run into the countryside, away from Haddonfield. Lindsay hasn’t been able to remember anything that happened in 1978. She has no memory of it; it’s blacked out of her mind. And her mother wants it that way.
“Tommy, on the other hand — they both saw shrinks for a while when they were kids, and Tommy is beginning to get some flashes of it and begins to understand what’s happening. Whenever he tries to call Lindsay from across the street the mother never accepts the calls. ‘Don’t call here again, Tommy Doyle!’ Because it will remind Lindsay of what happened. But they’re bonded together because of what they went through, and they’re grown up now and they kind of like each other. But she’s not allowed to see him.
“Anyway, it ends up with this tremendous bloody scene at the packed drive-in at midnight. It’s really incredible. And the Shape is there and he’s stalking and killing people right and left. Tommy and Lindsay get away. They wake up in a farmhouse outside of town, in the country somewhere, and she has had a dream that starts to bring it all together for her…In short, it’s not just a slasher movie. The story has a philosophy behind it.”
A horror movie that is about more than just the body count? A Halloween film with actual social commentary in it? No Jamie Lloyd? I love Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers as it exists today, but this unused script by Dennis Etchison would most definitely have been a beast of an entirely different kind, and his descriptions of what could have been offer an amazing look at an alternate universe of possibilities for where the franchise may have gone.
Be sure to read the full interview over at Blumhouse.com.
What are you thoughts on these killer new revelations? Do you think you would have liked to have seen Etchison’s script make it to theaters? We look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments!
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