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Friday, October 16, 2020

Scott Spiegel Cuts Into the Quentin Tarantino-Produced Alternate Version of ‘Halloween 6’ [Phantom Limbs]

phantom limb /ˈfan(t)əm’lim/ n. an often painful sensation of the presence of a limb that has been amputated.

Welcome to Phantom Limbs, a recurring feature which will take a look at intended yet unproduced horror sequels and remakes – extensions to genre films we love, appendages to horror franchises that we adore – that were sadly lopped off before making it beyond the planning stages. Here, we will be chatting with the creators of these unmade extremities to gain their unique insight into these follow-ups that never were, with the discussions standing as hopefully illuminating but undoubtedly painful reminders of what might have been.

We’re taking yet another trip to Haddonfield for this installment, this time to sort through the history of the unproduced Halloween 6 which preceded the Curse of Michael Myers that we’re all familiar with. Though tales have varied wildly over the years as to just what exactly was going on with this project (“Quentin Tarantino is writing! It’s a road movie! Michael is homeless?!”), this Phantom Limbs will do its best to provide a coherent look at the chaotic process behind this sequel-that-never-was. Pulling from previously published articles, an unrealized screenplay, and a brand new interview with key creative Scott Spiegel (Intruder), this write-up will hopefully provide the most comprehensive overview yet of this tantalizing yet sadly unmade piece of Halloween history.

Following on from the box office disappointment that was Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, series Executive Producer Moustapha Akkad looked to reinvigorate the film franchise whose success he’d ushered along since John Carpenter’s initial entry. To do so, Akkad commissioned a new screenplay for a sixth film that was meant to bring the series back to the sensibilities of that original 1978 film. As reported by Marc Shapiro in a sidebar article in Fangoria #147 all the way back in 1995, Akkad considered up and coming writer Quentin Tarantino for the task of penning Halloween 6 after reading his spec screenplays True Romance and Natural Born Killers. Says Mr. Tarantino in the article: “They wanted me to write Halloween 6 back when they were first going to make it … It totally would have dealt with that whole open-end thing that Halloween 5 had. But it just never happened” (1995, pp. 42-43)

In an interview with Michael Roffman for Consequence of Sound (2019), Mr. Tarantino described his involvement and potential approach to the story as such: “Yeah, yeah, well, way before I’d ever done anything … it would have been if I had done it – I never got hired – but it would have been my job to figure out who the guy in the boots is … I was like, ‘Leave that scene where [the Man in Black] shows up, alright, and freeze Michael Myers.’ And so the only thing that I had in my mind — I still hadn’t figured out who that dude was – was like the first 20 minutes would have been the Lee Van Cleef dude and Michael Myers on the highway, on the road, and they stop at coffee shops and shit and wherever Michael Myers stops, he kills everybody. So, they’re like leaving a trail of bodies on Route 66.’” Sadly, this version of Halloween 6 never came to pass.

Enter writer Phil Rosenberg, who was then tasked with following up Halloween 5’s cliffhanger ending and setting the franchise straight after the previous entry’s critical and commercial failures. Titled Halloween 666: The Origin and dated “6 April 1994”, Mr. Rosenberg’s draft concerns one Dana Childress (“22, blonde, fresh-faced, beautiful”), a young woman tormented by bloody nightmares featuring Michael Myers. An NBC news reporter from Chicago, Dana is given her first major special assignment in the script’s opening act: travel to the haunted little town of Haddonfield to cover its first Halloween celebration since the Myers murders a half decade prior. Accompanied by older colleague and potential love interest Robert Clifton (“early 40s, handsome and affable”), Dana sets off for Haddonfield with her news station crew.

Paul Rudd as Tommy Doyle in ‘Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers’ (1995)

We’re then introduced to hacker and virtual reality enthusiast “Trembling” Tommy Doyle (“29, tall, lean, wild-haired”), all grown up and far from his days as Laurie Strode’s young charge in the original Halloween. From the numerous newspaper clippings, books and photos on display in his apartment (“a virtual SHRINE to Michael Myers lore and legend”), it’s apparent that Tommy is utterly obsessed with the Myers case, even using his VR apparatus to immerse himself in realistic scenes of Celtic sacrifices. Early on, Tommy visits a now-retired Sam Loomis in a mental ward, where the former doctor is now wasting away after having survived two heart attacks. Tommy visits him for guidance, fearing the upcoming celebration and what it may mean for the town. Loomis attempts to warn away Tommy from his obsession: “I’m tired, son. Devoting my life to the darkness has placed a shroud on my soul. A shadow. You’re on your way there as well. You’re a young man. Go out and buy some blue jeans. Meet a girl. Dance on the beach. Put all this behind you…” Surprisingly, the moment finds Loomis handing over his responsibilities to Tommy, with this one scene acting as Loomis’ only appearance in the screenplay.

Even more surprising is our reintroduction to Michael Myers, appearing in the early pages of this screenplay as a homeless man sleeping in an alleyway next to a dumpster. When a group of Halloween revelers dressed up as Clockwork Orange Droogs attempt to viciously beat who they believe to be an ordinary derelict, Myers dispatches them in short order and in horrific fashion, all to be filmed in a POV shot as an obvious nod to the original Halloween’s opening sequence. From there, Michael appears in a homeless shelter in search of a bed, before a TV promo for Dana’s upcoming story of Halloween’s return to Haddonfield catches his attention. “He storms out of the shelter.”

From there, the three major subplots continue: Dana and her crew pursue their story throughout Haddonfield, Tommy crusades against the the town’s upcoming Halloween celebration, and Michael moves like a phantom throughout the town that he’s continually terrorized over the years, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Added to this mix is a fairly astonishing moment where Tommy’s housemates steal the headstone of Michael’s sister Judith for use as a decoration for their Halloween party, which opens a fissure to another world in the cemetery. Light spirals forth from the hole as “the sounds of the dead” can be heard from the other side.

Michael eventually finds his way to a small shop, murders the owner in a very Friday the 13th-style kill, plunging a barbecue fork through the back of his head and out of his mouth, with the poor man’s dentures caught between the tines. It’s here that he’s reunited with the Shatner mask that he’s become synonymous with, in a sequence which nodded to a couple of other horror icons in passing: “He picks up a FREDDY KRUEGER MASK… Casts it aside. Picks up a JASON MASK… Casts it aside. At last, he pulls down one of the signature ‘Michael Masks’. He tears off the price tag and puts it on… He turns to us… The fit is still good after all these years… Michael ambles out of the store… Party time…”

These various storylines converge in the finale, which finds Clifton killed by Michael and the mysterious Man in Black from the previous film revealed to be one “Father Carpenter”, described in the screenplay as “the priest from Halloween 4” – was Rosenberg thinking of Reverend Jackson P. Sayer? Dana, revealed by this point to be Michael’s long-lost third sister, meets up with Tommy, who uses his VR rig and a Samhain program (“This is sort of like a high-tech Ouija board”) to show her how the curse of the Myers family first began: Michael’s ancestor murdered a Druidic minister to escape his fate as a sacrifice, only to be hexed by a High Priest for his crime (“I will curse this man’s bloodline. His family will feel the wrath of the Gods of Harvest. And it will be at the hand of one of their own that they shall fall…”).

The screenplay climaxes with Dana leading Michael to the cemetery, tricking him into the hungry netherworld portal. A battle ensues, with Dana managing to force Michael fully into the portal just before it closes, taking Michael to whatever Hell awaits him on the other side. Dana and Tommy reunite, while Father Carpenter cackles wildly at an indication that Michael may not be gone for very long…

Rumor has it that Akkad was so displeased with the screenplay, he threw it across the room once he’d finished reading it. Nevertheless, the franchise forged ahead in the wake of its distribution rights being sold off to Miramax for its genre label Dimension Films. A plan to find the eventual film’s director was then put into motion. As told to Shapiro in the previously mentioned Fangoria sidebar, Mr. Tarantino recalled his further connection to the project: “When Miramax got Halloween 6 … they asked me and my partner, Lawrence Bender, who we thought would be a good director for it. So we just immediately both said Scotty, because the first film that Lawrence, who produced Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, ever produced was Intruder. It was Scotty’s and his first movie, and I met Lawrence through him, so we both just said ‘He’s perfect.’ And then Bob Weinstein met him, and we talked, and he screened Intruder – the uncut version, the only one to watch” (Shapiro, 1995, pp. 42-43).

In talking with Bloody Disgusting, Mr. Spiegel described the circumstances surrounding his involvement with Halloween 6: “It happened so fast, as almost to be a blur. Just so much coming at me and Quentin. [It was] through producer Richard Gladstein, a big Miramax producer. He and I met on another film called The Nutty Nutt [which Gladstein was, at one time, going to produce]. I might’ve been working with Quentin on another project, I can’t really remember. But somehow, between Richard Gladstein and Quentin Tarantino, I was set up to meet with Bob Weinstein about possibly writing and directing this Halloween 6.

[Quentin and I] did talk about some ideas at one point. Perhaps he was going to produce it, and I was going to direct it. But that was in our own little world. That’s what we were focusing on. Meanwhile – Miramax, Dimension, and Moustapha Akkad … I don’t know how many writers they might have had working on it at that time, other than just approaching me.

“Next thing I know, I was given Phil Rosenberg’s beat sheets. Both of Phil Rosenberg’s drafts had Michael Myers as a homeless dude. There was virtual reality, and Michael as a homeless guy. I might’ve taken some ideas from them that everybody liked, including the producers, and then incorporated it into my take. I made notations and whatnot, then met with Quentin about [his possibly producing the film]. We talked about the homeless bit [from Rosenberg’s story].”

The Man in Black in ‘Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers’ (1995)

Was Mr. Spiegel given any specific story mandates from Dimension or Mr. Akkad? “No, not really! All they wanted from me was ‘What’s your take? Here’s the existing material that we have, and what we like about it and don’t like about it, now what’s your take?’ And so, with all the treatments and beat sheets, I just cobbled together what I thought would be really friggin’ cool.”

Mr. Spiegel was eventually given Phil Rosenberg’s full draft to review. “I [later] commented on it and opened my big mouth over at Fangoria, and unfortunately dissed Phil Rosenberg’s work. I shouldn’t have done that. I could’ve been a lot more diplomatic. I was unduly harsh. Wisdom was still out of reach at that point in my life! I tried never to do that again!” Indeed, Mr. Rosenberg wrote a scathing letter which appeared in the “Postal Zone” section of Fangoria #151 in response to Mr. Spiegel’s published comments.

Having not fully connected to the material, Mr. Spiegel notes that he was set to deliver his own take on the Rosenberg draft. “I had notes for those specific drafts, then I did my take on what this could be.” But was Mr. Tarantino actually collaborating on a new take with Mr. Spiegel at this time? “Oh, not really. Other than just talking and hanging out, we’d bat around some ideas, and stuff like that. Before I knew it, Quentin was off and doing his own thing, and gave it his blessing. Maybe he would come on as a producer after all the dust settled. He was still kind of in play that way. But it wasn’t like ‘It’s Tarantino and Scott Spiegel!’ But Quentin was a huge catalyst and a player at one point, before what happened happened.”

He goes on to describe what their ultimate collaboration on the project might have been: “I don’t know about a ‘Quentin Tarantino Presents’, but I think he was just coming on as a producer. Nothing was etched in stone, but I do remember kicking around some ideas. Now in terms of writer, I don’t know about that. That could’ve been discussed, too. You never know. He might’ve written a story for it, and he might’ve taken credit for it, or might not. I don’t think he had time to get involved too much in the writing at that point. The main thing that I remember him saying was that he was going to produce it. I know Bob Weinstein wanted that, and I certainly did, of course. I don’t know how serious all of that was. But before he could even make a decision, I was off [the project]. But he was definitely interested, and he was on as a producer at one brief point.”

Mr. Spiegel reveals that there was even the possibility of bringing on writer John Esposito, who’d previously penned the 1990 Stephen King adaptation Graveyard Shift. “It took several months. With this particular Halloween, it was more like ‘What script are we going to do? Is Scott going to rewrite and take this draft and marry it with this synopsis, and then make it his own?’ I’m sure movies are made that way all the time. There was also a time where maybe I wasn’t going to be the writer. I was just going to be the director.” He continues, describing the nature of making this particular sequel. “It was kind of an unwieldy thing. It was chaotic. It seemed like everybody was trying to figure out ‘What is this movie? What are we making here?’ I think that’s the most notorious Halloween movie, for just weird stuff happening.

“Then Moustapha Akkad got involved. I had already pitched my synopsis to Bob Weinstein and Dimension. That last thing I had to do was meet with Moustapha Akkad and get approved by him. We met with [him] and his associates. It was a very cool meeting, very cordial. But I think he wanted his guy, and I was Bob Weinstein’s guy, at least at that time, so … The meeting went well, and I was approved. I got the go-ahead, at least for forty-eight hours. I know, because I took everybody out to Musso & Frank and celebrated prematurely. Foolish me! It was a good dinner, anyway. Then a couple of days went by and I wasn’t approved. I think maybe [Mr. Akkad] felt that I wasn’t the right director for it. It was like ‘Oh, no, we want to go in this direction.’ But you have to understand, I was just another cog. I was Guy #72 they were looking at. Of course, I looked a little more attractive for having the Tarantino connection. Let’s just say that didn’t hurt things. I’m sure that helped, obviously. It looked pretty good there. But it was a blur and a half, man. It was so surreal. Just as it was getting started and looked pretty good, it was over before you knew it. It was just one of those weird Hollywood things. It’s part of the game, y’know? Just lessons to learn in Hollywood!”

Once Mr. Spiegel was off the project, the slate was was wiped clean, with the various screenplays and treatments developed up until that point being discarded in favor of writer Daniel Farrands’ screenplay, which was the one ultimately put into production. But what was Mr. Spiegel’s pitch going to be? How would it have differed from the Rosenberg’s script? “It was more streamlined [than the Rosenberg draft]. We had Michael in prison at one point. I wanted to really take a big advantage of the POV of Michael’s without the mask on, and just play with that. That long POV. It was a bunch of assorted ideas, and it was more streamlined. These other drafts that Phil did were all very Lovecraftian, with tentacles coming out of the grave, and this portal-world, all tied in to virtual reality. I was going in a more old school direction.”

Mr. Spiegel then dives into his treatment and notes, describing the material he has from the project as “a beat sheet in the making, just miscellaneous notes and ideas. A bunch of A to B to C and assorted notes. It didn’t really have anything to do with that earlier draft, per se, other than having Michael and Loomis, perhaps. There’s no virtual reality or any of that stuff. It’s more of a streamlined, ‘Michael’s hanging around, escapes again…’”

Viewers will remember that Halloween 5 ended with Michael Myers being broken out of jail by the mysterious Man in Black. In the Producer’s Cut of the eventual Halloween 6, we see Michael being wrestled into a van by several guards as little Jamie Lloyd is abducted by the Man in Black. Would Mr. Spiegel’s take have picked up from the previous film’s cliffhanger? “Even at the beginning of Act One, he’s being transported. He crashes the car and gets the hell out, but is apprehended and thrown into prison.”

Mr. Spiegel reads directly from his treatment: “‘Police wagon. Myers breaks free from the chains, grabs a guy by the neck. Lifts him up, shoves his head through the top of the vehicle. Crunch! The guard dangles helplessly. Myers grabs the other guard, slams him into another guard, pushes them through the back door. The other guard, with his head through the roof, sees a sign…’ C’mon! We’re not really going to do that gag, are we? [laughs] Well, that guards loses his head in the most gruesome of ways. And then vehicle crashes and explodes.”

Michael is apprehended at this point in the story. “There’s a prison montage. ‘Michael Myers is stripped of his personal belongings, including his mask. From this point on, we see everything from Myer’s POV only. Myers is then fingerprinted, hosed down, and thrown into a cell.’ Then there’s a courtroom scene. The trial of Michael Myers. Loomis argues his case [that] Myers is beyond psychiatric help. ’The beast must die!’

Donald Pleasence as Sam Loomis in ‘Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers’ (1995)

We’re introduced to Dana (“the last living blood relative of Michael Myers”) in this version as well, as she’s having a nightmare. “‘She’s dreaming of dead Myers relatives in the cemetery. It’s her turn to join them. Her destiny. She falls into an open grave. Michael appears above her, shovel in hand, and begins burying her alive.’ Well how do you like that?!

“‘Credits. Carving jack-o’-lantern. Blood oozes from orifices. One year later, Halloween Eve. We are introduced to the new Haddonfield. The Michael Myers case has proven very lucrative. The town is like a macabre Graceland, and Halloween is Elvis’ birthday. Media people have set up camp.’ It’s the 30th anniversary of the initial murders, and we set up a guy named Miles Anthony from ‘Inside Source’. It starts to take on the form of a Scream movie, because [you know] all these bastards are gonna get it.

“And then it’s ‘INT. PRISON. Michael being strapped to the chair.’ They’re gonna fry his ass, and then the power goes out in the prison. Obviously, there’s a prison break. I’m not gonna tell you what happens next! I might use it in another movie. But there’s a lot of action in this darkened prison at night. He kills everybody, escapes, and he’s going back to Haddonfield to join in the 30th Anniversary of the murders.

“So they’re gonna have a big blowout. A 30th Anniversary Halloween party. Loomis is in our version. [He] becomes an active player, hanging around, tracking Myers down, still doing his thing.”

Mr. Spiegel again reads directly from his notes: “‘Michael’s on his way to Haddonfield. Picked up by people on their way to a big party in a pickup truck. One of the kids tries to jokingly pull off Myers’ mask, and Myers wipes them all out.’” He goes on to describe a variation on this scene, larger in scope, that finds Michael instead boarding a train to get back to Haddonfield. “‘He is a ghostly passenger, seated by himself. At the first stop, a slew of Michael Myers get onboard, drinking and carousing.’ All partiers headed to the anniversary party in Haddonfield. ‘A female Michael Myers – Michelle Myers! – sits on his lap. Finally, they all begin removing their masks. All except…’

“‘Next stop, Michael exits the train. This other passenger steps aboard and immediately screams. Michael has wiped out the slew of imposters.’”

It’s here that Mr. Spiegel admits that the material he’s reading from is growing increasingly sparse. “From this point, the notes get skimpier and skimpier. ‘Myers stalks unsuspecting Dana.’ Big setpiece [including Loomis and a Sheriff], where everyone ‘realizes the tricks are up, and people are dying.’ Myers is on the rampage. Everyone in town panics.’”

It’s at this point that our heroes kill someone in a Shape mask, thinking it was Michael. “So this is how Act III starts off. Haddonfield is deserted. It’s midnight. Loomis has an autopsy done to make sure they really got Myers, [but] Myers is alive. We get into some cemetery shenanigans. There’s a cemetery climax. Some missing coffins, some missing headstones.

“‘Loomis, Sheriff, boyfriend. Showdown at the cemetery. Loomis uses weapons in his wheelchair to thwart the Shape. Loomis’ last stand. The Shape escapes. His bloody mask on the spike of the cemetery fence is all that remains. Dana and Loomis are the last people standing.’

“‘Epilogue. The surviving Sheriff talks with Dana after the climax. He tells her he has some troubling news…’” As it turns out, the autopsy that was done when they weren’t certain that they had killed the real Shape ultimately revealed that the body was that of…Michael Myers. “‘Dana looks ill. Then who was wearing that mask and doing the rest of the killing? At that same moment, in the window in the background, we see a figure wearing the Michael Myers mask. He stares silently at Dana. Cut to black.’”

“So that’s kind of a hodgepodge of ideas! Kind of a work-in-progress at the time, coming up with my own take, then giving notes on the current take, and seeing where all the chips may fall.”

So it appears as though neither Jamie Lloyd nor the Man in Black would have featured much in this version, if at all. “I think perhaps, eventually. We were just trying to deal with the setpieces [at this stage of the writing].”

Mr. Spiegel wraps up our talks by reflecting back on his association with the Halloween franchise, however brief it was. “Just for that to happen, and for me to wind up as a footnote in the lore … I’m just glad I’m part of the trivia aspect to a Halloween flick. It’s one of the coolest horror franchises ever. You can’t destroy it. Like Michael Myers, it just keeps coming back to life. It’s a phenomenon. So I’m just really glad to be a little footnote [in its history].

Very special thanks to Scott Spiegel for his time and insights.

Works Cited:

Hoffman, Michael. (2019, December). Filmmaker of the Year Quentin Tarantino on Finding the Right Story, What Streaming is Missing, and His 10th Film. Retrieved October 15, 2020 from Consequence of Sound website:

Rosenberg, Phil. Halloween 666: The Origin. 1994. Feature film screenplay.

Shapiro, Marc. (1995). The Lost Halloween. Fangoria 147, 42-43.


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