[Interview] Dwight Little Talks ‘Halloween 4’, ‘Natty Knocks’, and More

More than four decades after directing his breakthrough feature film, the 1988 sequel Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Dwight Little returned to the Halloween-set subgenre of horror with 2023’s Natty Knocks, and we recently talked to the prolific filmmaker about both movies and many other iconic projects he brought to the screen in between, as well as his new memoir, Still Rolling: Inside the Hollywood Dream Factory.

In our video conversation last week, Little talked candidly in detail about many of the creative decisions that made Halloween 4 one of the most beloved sequels within the franchise, including the atmospheric fan-favorite opening credits sequence.

“We didn’t do that push in on the jack o’ lantern, and I got a lot of flack for that,” Little remembers. “They said, ‘Well that’s the signature of the film.’ First of all, credit to Moustapha (Akkad, franchise producer) for allowing me to step out of the formula a little bit. I don’t know why he did, but bless his heart that he did.

“I was actually in quandary, because I thought, ‘Well what is Halloween, really?’ I knew it from my own childhood. I knew the candy, and the tricks and the pranks. I knew that part of Halloween. But I didn’t really know.

“So I did research about the holiday. Then you go back and you find those Scottish roots in the agrarian farm country, and then all the way back to the Old Country where it was right at the end of the harvest season, darkness was coming, people were scared to death of those long winter nights, they don’t know if they have enough food to get them through the winter. There’s just this tremendous sense of foreboding. 

“I kept looking at these photos from the 1890s in New England – fields and scarecrows and fallen tractors, and I said, ‘Oh my God, this is Halloween’. So I stole all these public domain ideas, and I went out in the fields outside of Salt Lake City, and it was spring in Salt Lake but it was very gloom, oddly, so spring in Utah kind of looked like fall in New England with those gray skies.

“I took the production team out there and we built the shed and the tractor, and the scarecrow. Everybody’s done a scarecrow, but this one, I saw in a book maybe from the 1900s, and he had gloves on his hands. I said, ‘I’ve never seen that’. So I’m going to put gloves on him. All these funny little details, I just put in the title sequence, and now it’s memorable to people.

“I didn’t want to just do the pumpkin, although I do think it’s great, by the way. I just thought well if we’re going to reintroduce Michael, maybe there is another way that would be interesting. Sometimes as a young filmmaker it’s hard to ask for things, because people want the formula. Of course they’re selling Halloween, and you know it’s like if you’re going to do a Bond movie, you’re going to have a Bond title sequence, right? That’s a given. But I was able to explain to Moustapha that it was that, it was just that slightly different.”

Little also explained the logic behind Michael’s mask in H4 not being the original mask from the first two movies.

“I think I can explain it in a helpful way,” he tells HDN of the mask. “Alan (McElroy, writer) and I wanted to make very sure that everything that happened felt organic. In other words, when he breaks out of the ambulance, he kills the two attendants in there with that famous thumb scene. So now he’s gone, he’s missing. So what do we have to do? We have to go to the gas station, we have to get the coveralls, so we have to kill that guy.  

“Then I have to take down the power in Haddonfield, so we had to blow up the phone lines. Then eventually we had to take out the actual electrical power, so we had to throw Bucky into the transforming station. But all these things had a reason. They weren’t just kills for no reason. And then of course we have to get Michael’s mask back. 

“So we thought, okay it’s been 10 years, by now he’s become like a local Bogeyman, and the drug store is going to have Michael masks. He’s the scariest thing in town. It’s Halloween time, people have these masks. And there’s of course a scene where he shows up, terrifies the little girl… So the mask was a commercial mask that kids would wear on Halloween Night. So that’s why it’s not a designed movie mask.

“I think the masks in some of these later films, they are astonishing. They are creepy. I mean it is a real horror mask and beautifully designed, but that’s not what we were doing, because he wasn’t a designed Michael. He was an escaped convict that was slowly putting himself back together, and because of that, the mask itself is maybe not as slick as a Hollywood designer would do a movie mask. So people think, ‘Well the mask isn’t right’. But it’s not the mask. It’s a dime store mask. Maybe we overthought that, but that’s why.”

Little goes on to further address a quick shot on Halloween 4 that features Michael wearing a mask that has blond hair.

“That’s literally a mistake,” he said, “because it was three in the morning and something happened with the mask. It was torn or it fell off and was broken in some way, and if we didn’t shoot that shot we would lose the whole night. So they said, ‘Go back to the prop truck and get the other (mask)‘. You know there’s a mask people wear to line up the shots, and we threw that mask on to get the shot. I thought it would maybe be a little more out of focus, but it’s the hair that’s wrong. So people see that. We could’ve gone back and reshot it, but we just didn’t have the time or the resources to do it. So if I could have a shot back, I’d have that one back and I would do it with the right mask.”

We also discussed working with the late Brandon Lee on Rapid Fire, his Phantom of the Opera remake with Robert Englund, discovering Danielle Harris and later reuniting with her for Natty Knocks, and much more about the making of Halloween 4, including directing Donald Pleasance’s final scene scream, as well as Dwight’s own personal memories of celebrating Halloween itself and additional career highlights.

You can watch our full exclusive interview with Dwight Little below, and you can order your copy of Dwight’s book here.

[Related: Watch our interview with Danielle Harris on Halloween 4 here.]

[Related: Watch our interview with Erik Preston on Halloween 4 here.]

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Matt Artz

Founded Halloween Daily News in 2012 and the Halloween International Film Festival in 2016. Professional writer/journalist/photographer since 2000.