Was John Carpenter inspired by a true story when he developed Halloween and its sadistic serial killer, Michael Myers? Halloween debuted in 1978 and has since spawned a franchise consisting of sequels, remakes, and reboots. Last year, Blumhouse Productions released Halloween, a reboot that served as a direct sequel to the original, and there are two more sequels on the way.
Halloween was credited as the film that jump-started the slasher craze that continued through the '80s and '90s. Much of that was due to the influence of Michael Myers, the ruthless madman at the center of the story, who returns to his hometown of Haddonfield fifteen years after murdering his family on Halloween night. On the anniversary of the killings, Michael wanders around town scoping out victims and targeting teenage babysitters, among them Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). He wears a dark jumpsuit and a white, expressionless mask that has since become iconic. Michael's stealth movements and tendency to stalk his victims gave him the nickname of "The Shape."
When the idea behind Halloween was still being developed, the story was originally titled "The Babysitter Murders." Carpenter agreed that the central story should be more specific, so the team decided to focus on Halloween night. Carpenter co-wrote the script with Debra Hill and the screenplay is rumored to have only taken ten days to complete. Many of the details in the movie, such as the setting or the names, were based on Carpenter and Hill's connections in real life. The character of Michael Myers was also based on an existing person that Carpenter encountered while in college.
While attending Western Kentucky University, Carpenter visited a local mental institution with one of his classes. The director later shared his experience in a Halloween documentary, A Cut Above the Rest, which came out in 2003. Carpenter described seeing some of the most serious and mentally ill patients, including a young boy, no older than 13, with a "schizophrenic stare." The documentary (via YouTube) explained that this boys' black soulless eyes and pale emotionless face inspired Dr. Loomis' quote in the movie when he describes Michael as having "the blackest eyes... the devil's eyes." The visit had an immense effect on Carpenter, and this boy inspired Michael's demeanor.
Besides Michael's mind is rooted in evil, Carpenter wanted to add in the element of a haunted house. He believed that every town had that one old decrepit house that everyone stayed away from. Whether it be from folklore or embellished rumors, Carpenter wanted something similar featured in Halloween. The Myers house served as the location in the movie that the townspeople avoided, especially in October. To the town, it was the house where a young boy once murdered his family, but it also held many other dark secrets.
Carpenter also took influence from Celtic traditions when it came to the holiday of Halloween. He and Hill were intrigued by the festival of Samhain and the notion that darks souls are let out on Halloween and they wreak havoc on the living. There was a belief that evil couldn't be stopped or killed. The lore perfectly described Michael Myers' actions and his almost superhuman characteristics. If it wasn't for Carpenter's college trip in the '60s, who knows what Halloween and Michael Myers' legacy would have been.