HE CAME HOME pt. 8 – Exclusive Interview With ANTHONY MASI, former webmaster of halloweenmovies.com and co-writer/producer of 25 Years of Terror
What was your first memory of Halloween and what kind of effect did that have on your life? Prior to this experience, what kind of films were you a fan of?
“I have been a horror fan since I was 12 years old. I saw the original Halloween on TV in the early 80’s when I was in elementary school and it scared me so much that for months I would envision Michael Myers following me as I walked to/from school. I was immediately obsessed with the horror genre and begged my mother to take me and my twin brother to every horror movie that came out, and she did. Halloween II, Alone in the Dark, Visiting Hours, A Nightmare On Elm Street… I have such great memories of watching those movies with my mom and my brother, screaming all the way through them.”
How would you compare this franchise to the other principal slasher films (such as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street)? What is it about the character of Michael Myers that has appealed to so many for so long?
“I have been studying these films for years from working on the documentaries I’ve done, and here’s how I see it: Halloween ushered in what is collectively considered mainstream modern horror; Friday the 13th is a Halloween clone that defined the genre, exacting the “recipe” to these films and by making the killer the hero instead of the villain; and A Nightmare On Elm Street, yet another clone, took the killer hero to new heights by giving him a voice, at the same time combining the character with an artful cinematic execution not seen before. These killers – Michael, Jason and Freddy – have become the modern-day Dracula, Werewolf and Mummy. They are iconic, and that’s why they live on.”
With various filmmakers taking the series in different directions, which of the movies do you think worked well and which were failures. What aspects do you feel need to be present to make a decent Halloween film?
“Halloweens 1, 2, 4 and H20 were the only films in my opinion that were “successes”… I of course love all of the films, but those movies worked well because they were all “firsts”. Part 1 was obviously lightning in the bottle; Part 2 was the “first” true horror sequel; Part 4 re-introduced Myers which was a “first” in the industry (until 1988, no other horror franchise brought back a dead killer, especially after skipping a sequel that didn’t involve him!); and H20 was the first time a horror series visited a character from 20 years prior. Halloween kept re-inventing the horror wheel, and that, to me, is what makes the series to fascinating. As for the aspects that need to be present to make a decent Halloween film, you need Michael, and a writer and director who know what makes Michael tick. And you probably need Dean Cundey!”
Is there one specific moment from any of the Halloween films that has made a lasting impression?
“The hot tub killing Halloween II was something that unnerved me for a long time. I saw that movie when I was 13 years old, and I don’t think I was ready for such a vulgar and gory killing. The skin peeling off of Nurse Karen’s face, the way Michael seemed to enjoy the killing, his harsh discarding of the dead body on the floor like a wet towel… It just got under my skin. To this day it still creeps me out.”
Why do you feel the mask is so menacing and has become such a staple of popular culture, much like Jason’s hockey mask or Leatherface’s chainsaw?
“Michael’s mask IS Michael. Carpenter made a point of telling the audience this when Laurie rips it off of his face at the end of Halloween, and Michael stops attacking her to put it back on. Talk about menacing. You wonder why he’s so attached to this piece of rubber that covers his face. And of course the expressionless look to it adds to the scare factor. If he were wearing the Emmet Kelly clown mask that they also considered, I don’t think it would have had the same staying-power. Michael’s “look” is proprietary to HIM and he has now become a brand. The clown mask would have been a mistake I think.”
Which character do you feel you most relate to with these films and was there any specific girl that you had a crush on when you were younger?
“I had a huge crush on P.J. Soles! She is a good friend of mine today so it’s strange to say that I had a crush on her. As for who I relate to, I definitely related to Dr. Loomis. He was the main draw to Halloween for me. His character was so engrossing and when he died I felt that the series died for me. He was obsessed with Michael, and his performance was nothing short of brilliant every time he was on screen. Anyone that can say the line, “I thought that he would burn in hell, but in my heart I knew that hell would not have him,” and genuinely elevate his character with sincerity and believability, has an eternal bow from me! He was a talented actor and brought more to these films that I think people realize.”
The fifth and sixth movie were critically mauled upon release due to their uneven plots and generic characters, whilst the third was dismissed for diverting away from the standard formula. What are your own opinions on these films and how do you feel about Rob Zombie’s remake of the original?
“Part 3 was an obvious mistake, but it taught the producers something and it’s the reason why there are so many sequels. So in the end that movie proved to be a good thing. Plus, after repeated viewings, I have come to really enjoy it. Tom Atkins is a stitch in that film. Part 5 is one of my favorites in the series because of the performances by Donald Pleasence and Danielle Harris, and Part 6 has two good kills in it that I like (when Kara is looking through the window and Michael stabs the girl; and When Kim Darby’s character dies). But that movie was a mess! Michael has sex with his niece? Give me a break. I can see why John Carpenter wants nothing to do with the series anymore!”
You first expressed your passion for the series by creating a website, halloweenmovies.com . How did this come about and how long did it take for it to be recognised as the official home of Michael Myers?
“I did not create HalloweenMovies.com, Brian Martin and Bruce Dierbeck did. That was back in 1997 I believe, and when they decided to pass the torch in 2002, they contacted me and I happily took over. A few months ago I just stepped down after 7 years due to not having time to run the site anymore, and there is now a new webmaster, Brian Raymann.”
Having met various cast and crew from the films, which in particular would you say were the most memorable experiences?
“P.J. Soles is an amazing person in so many ways. She has a genuine appreciation for the fans who line up to meet her, and she is always so giving and caring, and gives each person all the time they want with her. I also enjoyed meeting Nancy Loomis because her artwork intrigues me. Check out her website at nancykyes.com. I have had some negative experiences as well. Debra Hill, for example, yelled at me on the phone and hung up on me when I tried inviting her to the Halloween Returns To Haddonfield convention. At first I took it personally, but I later learned that she didn’t get along with Moustapha Akkad. But for a while there I was like, “What did I do?” That was the only conversation I ever had with her, and it wasn’t pretty!”
Having already established your support on the internet, you then co-wrote and produced the retrospective 25 Years of Terror. How did you make the transition from website to documentaries and would much of a challenge was it to bring all the old cast and crew back together to talk about films that were twenty or thirty years old?
“If you had told me that many of the key people involved in the Halloween franchise didn’t get along, I would never have put the Halloween Returns To Haddonfield convention together in 2003. I thought it was one big happy family, and all of the Halloween actors and producers got along… NOT. Thankfully I didn’t know what I was getting into because “Halloween: 25 Years of Terror” would never have come to fruition. I am a producer today because of that event. I was never really a webmaster by trade (I had a day job at a pharmaceutical company), I just ran this Halloween site and made enough connections to put on a Halloween-themed convention. After it was videotaped it made sense to cut a documentary together, and I suddenly found that I was a born producer. So that’s how that happened, and I’m producing more documentaries and movies today. They say things happen for a reason, and my Halloween obsession when I was 12 years old morphed into a career many years later. Funny how things make sense when you take a look back!”
How would you compare this documentary to His Name Was Jason, which you produced in honour of the Friday the 13th franchise?
“Halloween: 25 Years of Terror was my foray into producing, with a lot of mistakes and learning experiences, and so it was a very innocent and memorable time for me. There is a huge amount of love in that project, and it came from everyone who worked on it. It was a “first” so-to-speak… Yes, it’s a documentary, but when this 90-minute bonus feature took center stage on a stand-alone DVD release, a new sub-genre of DVD – the epic retrospective DVD – was born. At a time when Hollywood is re-making every movie under the sun, it’s the perfect time to look back on the films that came before, and so H25 opened the door to more of the same, which is why “His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th” now exists. Comparing the two is asking me which of my two cats I like better. I love both projects, and there were things we did in HNWJ that we didn’t, or couldn’t, do with H25. We had tremendous production value in HNWJ, and I like that we didn’t tell the story of Friday the 13th on a movie-by-movie basis, as we did in H25. I am very proud of both documentaries because they tell the stories of the franchises, and dig deep to explore some things that perhaps the casual viewer wouldn’t consider, but die-hard fans would want to address. I am gearing up to do two more retrospectives, so keep your eyes out for them! My website is www.masimedia.net.”
Over the years, how has your website adapted and progressed, particularly with regards to the high profile remake which must have renewed fans interest?
“When I ran HM.com, I tried to keep the site’s overall look intimate and classy. To me, Halloween was never gaudy or over-the-top, so I designed the site with an understated sentiment in mind. I used to run a fansite called The Myers Museum, which Brian and Bruce saw and is the reason why they asked me to take over HM.com, and since it was a site that I owned I had tremendous freedom to do whatever I wanted in terms of content. I ran contests, gave away prizes (that I spent my own money on), integrated fan fiction, sold collectibles (which other people created), updated news on the series, had my own message board, etc., and it was a fanboy’s wet dream. When the Akkads hired me to run the official site, I was surprised, and somewhat dismayed, that I didn’t have the freedom to do with that site what I could do with my old one. I had to run everything through the “powers that be” for approval, and many times my ideas were rejected, so the site never became what I wanted it to be. I enjoyed running the site, but I missed my old one after a few years! During the 2007 re-make for example, I wasn’t able to post any on-set photos. I visited the set twice, met all the actors and crew, and took all kinds of pics, but I couldn’t post a thing on the site. I’m a creative soul that never likes to do things half-assed, so being limited in this way was very frustrating! But I look back on the HM.com years with a smile because in a way I couldn’t believe I was even part of it in the first place.”
Have you kept in touch with the makers of H2 during the making of the movie and have you been granted access to images and information that other sites are not aware of?
“No. I’m off and doing my own projects now, although I do keep in touch with Malek from time-to-time. I am also working with Danielle Harris on a new project, and I see all of actors at horror conventions all the time (at this weekend’s Fango show, for example).”
What do you think the future has in store for the franchise and have you ever considered pitching an idea for a sequel yourself (much like your friend Daniel Farrands did with The Curse of Michael Myers)?
“I wrote a Halloween script in 2000 called “Halloween: Obsession”, but I never got anywhere with it. I am more of a producer than a writer, so I’m sticking to hearing pitches instead of writing them! As for the future of Halloween, you can bet your arms and legs that the series will live on for countless sequels. Money is the only sure thing in Hollywood, and Myers has become a cash cow!”