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Friday, October 23, 2020

Todd Farmer Carves into ‘Halloween 3D’ and His Unique Concept for a Found Footage ‘Halloween’ [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.

Our third trip to Haddonfield for this Spooky Season brings us to Halloween 3D, the unproduced sequel to Rob Zombie’s Halloween II. Joining us for this chat is screenwriter Todd Farmer (My Bloody Valentine 3D, Drive Angry 3D), returning to Phantom Limbs after previously delving into his unmade My Bloody Valentine 3D: Part 2. Mr. Farmer details this project’s origins, his approach in following up the Zombie films, and the bold found footage Halloween sequel that was all-too-briefly considered in the wake of Halloween 3D’s demise.

“We’d written and gone out with Drive Angry, and the Weinsteins wanted [it],” Mr. Farmer explains, detailing how he and writing partner Patrick Lussier became attached to the third entry in Dimension Films’ Halloween reboot franchise, taking over the reins from exiting filmmaker Rob Zombie. “We’d already struck a deal with Millennium Films at that point, and so there was some back and forth, and as a result of them not being able to do Drive Angry, they [offered us Halloween].” Mr. Farmer notes that, a year prior, he and Patrick Lussier had pitched Weinstein on remakes for Halloween and Scanners, which never came to pass. Yet Weinstein must have remembered their Halloween take, as he’d offered them the opportunity to tackle the franchise while Zombie was still in production on his own sequel.

“I think he was about a week in, and Bob called Patrick and said ‘We want you guys to do Halloween 3D.’ Now, at that point, we’d already cut a deal to do Drive Angry starting in January. By the time we got to that point, we had to be in production [on Halloween 3D] soon enough so that we could be out of production by Christmas. In order to do that right, we had ten days to write the script. We already had it beat out, because we’d pitched Bob a year before, so we had this very detailed outline. They pulled the trigger, we met with Malek [Akkad, current Executive Producer of the Halloween franchise and son of previous franchise EP Moustapha Akkad]. Had some nice sushi, hit it off with him. I’d never met Malek. Having been the boss’ kid myself – my dad ran a construction company – there’s this idea that the boss’ kid is kinda spoiled. But you didn’t get that from Malek. He was hands on. He was very much a champion for us at every level, every stage of this thing. If we had a problem, we could go to Malek, and he’d take care of it. My loyalty to Malek will always be as a result of that.

“But the way it worked out, I immediately started writing. I was living in Pacific Grove at the time, and I had an office in Monterey, California. I lived in that office for those days. I wrote from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed. I slept on the couch there, then I would get up and write again.”

Mr. Farmer goes on to point out that, while he was working by himself during this period, the resulting screenplay was still very much a collaboration with his writing partner. “This wasn’t ‘a script by Todd Farmer’. The outline for it, if I remember correctly, was Patrick sitting down and writing out this very detailed outline. All I did was take that outline and put it into screenplay format.” Was the outline and eventual screenplay related to their initial remake pitch? “The pitch was a standalone, but the concept within the whole ‘insane asylum’ concept and Michael wooing his sister into a world of debauchery – all of that was from the original pitch. The thing that we changed was the opening act. We took that concept, and started it with the Rob Zombie movie.

“During that time that I was writing, Patrick had pulled in [special makeup effects designer] Gary Tunnicliffe. Gary had done Patrick’s blood effects on Dracula 2000. I think that’s when they met, and he’d done My Bloody Valentine and would do Drive Angry for us following that. Gary had found the old James T. Kirk mold, which had apparently disappeared for awhile. People were recreating it to the best of their ability, but that particular mold was gone, and Gary had found it. So we were gonna go back to the old James T. Kirk mask.”

The Shape in John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ (1978)

So what exactly was the approach for this new 3D sequel? Would it have followed on from Rob Zombie’s rather polarizing vision of Michael Myers? “I enjoyed Rob’s Halloween. I would have done it differently, in that I don’t think I would have ever revealed the Man Behind the Curtain that was Michael Myers. That was the scary part to me, not knowing who he was. But I certainly appreciate and love the fact that it’s out there, because I like the idea that we have different versions of different movies. So the idea all along was to take it back to the Shape. To take it back to the world of John Carpenter’s Halloween, without taking anything away from Rob Zombie’s Halloween.

“Our opening was very much Rob Zombie’s [Halloween II]. The first act was sort of a reimagining of his third act, and how things would have worked differently, and then spin that into a whole new franchise. I think we opened on the murder of Loomis. They’re in the shack, the place is surrounded by cops. We see Laurie killing Michael, stabbing him. Then we pull back to reveal Michael standing over her, watching, and she’s actually killing Loomis. When she realizes it, she’s horror-stricken. She’s in shock.

“Michael walks over, takes the mask off, and puts it over her head. She staggers to her feet and stumbles out of the shed, and it’s now surrounded by cops. She falls to her knees, stunned. When she pulls the mask off, the world sort of goes into 3D. So the first ten minutes of the movie, it was in 2D. Then when she takes off the mask off, and we see through her point of view, the whole world goes into 3D.”

From there, Laurie is taken into the grief-stricken Sheriff Brackett’s custody. Michael reappears and attacks, knocking Brackett unconscious and offering his sister his hand. She reluctantly takes it, vanishing with her brother into the night. “Laurie is probably dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Mr. Farmer explains.

It’s here that we’re introduced to our hero, final girl Amy, as she and her friends head out into the cemetery for some Halloween-inspired shenanigans. Unfortunately for them, they run afoul of Laurie and Michael, who are here to dig up the remains of their deceased mother. “Some nice kills there. Michael comes up, and Laurie gets caught up with this group of teens who are just celebrating Halloween night.” Michael makes quick work of Amy’s friends, with Laurie trapping Amy inside of her mother’s tomb alongside Amy’s dead boyfriend.

The opening act ends with a harrowing confrontation at Macready Dam, where Laurie is struck by an oncoming ambulance. A battle rages which sees Michael cutting down numerous victims before catching fire in a burning ambulance. “Michael, who was [going to be reprised by Tyler Mane], this giant of a man, is in an ambulance. It’s on fire, he’s on fire, as it goes over the side of a dam. As it drops away, you see that the mask is melting to Michael’s face.”

With the immediate threat gone, Brackett approaches Laurie’s seemingly lifeless body, not noticing a fallen trooper’s discarded gun within her reach. “So during all of this run and jump, the Brad Dourif character is there, and she winds up shooting and killing him. We presented it as though she’s more stressed than anything else. It’s not that she’s suddenly become this serial killer, or this psychopath. She just has this moment, this gut reaction, where she’s stunned and she shoots him.”

Cut to one year later. Both Laurie and Amy are patients in the rehabilitation wing of Burton Psychiatric Facility, with the latter being treated by Dr. Josey Blair, herself a victim of Myers during the previous Halloween rampage. Phantom Limbs readers will remember that when Mr. Farmer discussed his unmade sequel My Bloody Valentine 3D: Part 2, he noted that he’d borrowed the Josey character from this ultimately unproduced screenplay to plug into this film’s script. So…could there have been a possible Farmerverse where Tyler Mane’s Michael Myers and Valentine’s Miner might have crossed paths? He laughs. “I would love that! I’m still annoyed that the Miner isn’t bigger. I think if we’d gotten that sequel, he would be.”

Mr. Farmer goes on to describe the second act setup: “When we find Laurie next, she’s in an asylum. She’s locked up, dealing with the fact that she’s killed [Brackett], but at the same time she’s gone insane. Through the whole thing, long story short, you’re wondering – is Laurie crazy? Has she lost it? Has she gone insane? Some of the girls like her, some of the girls are afraid of her. She certainly has a reputation.”

In addition to Amy and the even more disturbed Laurie, we’re introduced to a number of other teenaged patients in this wing: Margo, Rabbit, Kat, and Gina. “There are all of these girls in the asylum with [Laurie]. It’s like the Angelina Jolie movie Girl, Interrupted. You have a bunch of different characters, with all of their quirks and challenges. Some you like, some you don’t.”

Heading up this wing is Doctor Kibner, to have been played by Farmer/Lussier mainstay and Halloween III: Season of the Witch vet Tom Atkins. “We were going to cast Tom Atkins as the psychiatrist who works there. We had one moment where he comes into the common room where the inmates are. There’s a TV on, and it’s playing the Silver Shamrock theme. Atkins runs up and flicks it off. ‘Turn that shit off!’”

Rounding out this cast of characters would have been Cooper Goodman, a trooper who had been injured by Myers in the Macready Dam battle, and…Mr. Farmer himself! “I was gonna play the main orderly, this big guy [named Frank, just like the characters he played in My Bloody Valentine 3D and Drive Angry]. If anybody gets out of hand, I come in and talk gently to them to calm them down. Like Dalton from Road House, coming in and talking to them nicely. In this script, I wouldn’t have to take my pants off. So that’d have been great!”

Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie Strode in ‘Halloween II’ (2009)

With his sister locked up and Halloween approaching yet again, it isn’t long before Michael makes a return appearance. “At the beginning of the second act, you’re in one of those fly-by-night Halloween stores. They’re preparing for Halloween, they’re opening boxes of last year’s inventory, and they have this one remaining white James T. Kirk mask. This kid’s like ‘What do I do with this thing? There’s only one left.’ ‘Ah, put it on the shelf. Somebody’ll buy it.’ So as he’s putting it on the shelf, Michael stalks up behind him, kills him, and takes the mask. You get just a glimpse of Michael’s face with this Tyler Mane mask that’s burned and scarred over his face, as he puts this new mask over the top of it. From that point forward, he’s the Shape, so you only get glimpses of him and that sort of thing.

“Meanwhile, Halloween is approaching, and outside the asylum, you see the Shape slowly making his way there. The people who cross his path end up dying. So we had an homage here, an homage there to the original [Carpenter] movie.”

The second act is home to a number of setpieces which marry Carpenter’s suspenseful approach with 80s slasher era-style creativity and Zombie’s brutality. One such sequence finds shady Burton orderly Desmond stalked at his apartment and toyed with, before he and his girlfriend meet grisly yet imaginative ends.

Meanwhile, Cooper Goodman has been tracking Myers’ whereabouts while conjuring up a plan to snare and destroy the killer, all while quietly dating Josey and keeping tabs on Amy. “We were going to bring in Edi Gathegi from My Bloody Valentine to play [Cooper]. [He and Josey] were secretly having an affair. They were sort of the adult heroes, because we weren’t sure if Laurie was going to be a hero or not.”

It all culminates in a bloody final act, with numerous characters in the facility being felled by the Shape. Gina, Margo, Kat and Rabbit put up a fight, but all wind up viciously killed by the Shape. “You get to a place where, by the third act, you have this big setpiece where you have a Halloween celebration. We gave [Atkins, as Kibner] a great death scene. He had a huge aquarium in his office. Michael comes in and slams his head through the aquarium, then moves his head back and forth and slowly slices his head off with the hole in the glass. So you’d have Atkins’ head floating up in 3D.”

As with his previous appearances as a Frank, Mr. Farmer wrote himself a memorable death scene for Halloween 3D. “We had this great moment where Michael chops my head off, then takes my head and throws it at the cops down the hall, so you have my ugly noggin’ traveling around and around in 3D.”

Michael and Laurie, ‘Halloween’ (2007)

Michael and Laurie are eventually reunited, with Laurie ultimately choosing her brother over the pleading Goodman. “Michael breaks her out of the asylum. Everybody winds up outside. There’s a lovely little moment where Laurie’s been wounded. She’s following her brother, and they’re sort of a team at this point. Instead than killing her, he has this ‘mother tiger coaxing her baby to kill’ [approach with her].

“She’s wounded, she’s probably dying. Michael’s holding her, and she takes the knife and presses it over her heart, and she says ‘Michael, I can’t do this. I’m not like you.’ She takes his hand and puts it over the knife, and then pushes it into her chest. So either he kills her, or she kills herself.”

Goodman’s trap fails, seeing the officer perish in a horrific, fiery death. When the dust from the final confrontation settles, only a few survivors are left standing: Amy, Josey, and…the Shape. “He walks away. The cops show up, there are other dead people all over the place, and Josey turns to see Michael standing in the distance. Then an ambulance rushes past, and as it pulls away – he’s gone. So this is the movie where Michael didn’t get killed. He survives.”

With its open ending, one wonders if this film would’ve acted as the closing chapter of the trilogy which started with Rob Zombie’s remake, or if it would have opened the door for a longer-running series of films with this new Shape. “We envisioned a much longer running franchise, [that we would] come back with that cast of characters and continue the story. But I don’t think we ever talked about [where it would’ve gone beyond this third part].

“I had the script done in less than eight days. I sent the script over to Patrick. He made a quick pass through it, and then we sent it to the Weinsteins, which I believe was on a Saturday. Patrick [had been] out there. He’d talked to Gary, he’d talked to casting. They were putting the movie together while I was writing it. Then on Monday, Patrick spoke to the Weinsteins and found out that they had planned on pulling the plug. There are different reasons for that. I think at the end of the day, there simply just wasn’t the money.

“There was a certain loyalty between Bob and Patrick. And I don’t think there’s any loyalty to anyone when it comes to the Weinsteins. But Bob told him, ‘If we go into production, if we move forward on this, we don’t have the time or the money to have any mistakes, for anything to go wrong. From experience, something will go wrong, and you guys will wind up losing Drive Angry because you’ll be stuck with us. He said, ‘Go make Drive Angry, come back to us after you’re wrapped, and then we’ll do Halloween.’ So that’s where it was left.”

Ultimately, why didn’t the project go forward? Once Drive Angry had wrapped production, the Farmer/Lussier duo did go back to Bob Weinstein to pursue Halloween 3D again, but as Mr. Farmer details: “When we did reach out to them after the movie … there was reluctance to do the Zombie follow-up at that point. Their response was ‘Yeeaah, Halloweenlet’s do Hellraiser!’ So we moved onto Hellraiser. When we talked to Malek again, there was talk of doing another Halloween, but it was two or three years down the road. By that point, it was too late to do a follow-up to Rob’s movie.”

Mr. Farmer reveals here that while a sequel to Zombie’s films was no longer in consideration, Weinstein was looking to employ a surprising approach to the next installment of the Halloween franchise. “The interesting thing with the Weinsteins, and I always think this is a mistake, is that they’d chase what’s hot. There was a time that, because Paranormal Activity and all those movies had come out, Bob wanted to do the found footage version of Michael. Which…we were never really that excited about that concept. I can’t remember exactly what we even talked about. I know we bounced around some ideas, but we never went very far with it. It seems like there were a bunch of … like a reality show setup for it, like GoPros set up all around the house, and then suddenly he shows up.

“Then I pitched this idea. I don’t even think Patrick liked it. I don’t think anybody liked it. I pitched the idea like, ‘Okay, let’s do this. Let’s tell everybody that we’re gonna make Halloween 3. We’re bringing Tyler in, we’re bringing Scout in. Meanwhile, we’re shooting everything as though we’re shooting behind-the-scenes stuff. We’ve got multiple people shooting everything, but they’re doing it in the whole reality TV sort of way. You’ve got the moving cameras, the jerky cameras, so it’s basically Big Brother or that sort of thing. It’s a behind-the-scenes of the movie being made. We’re taking scenes [from the Halloween 3D script] and we’re actually shooting those scenes, it looks like we’re shooting that movie, when in fact the actual movie is the documentary that’s being made.”

Michael Myers in Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween’ (2007)

So where would the horror in this found footage horror movie/Halloween sequel have come in? “At some point, one of the crew members dies. People are shocked, they’re all upset. Tyler Mane as Tyler Mane, Scout as Scout, Patrick is Patrick. I’m there, we’re all very upset, and we’re trying to keep this quiet. ‘Don’t even be filming this, because there’s no way we’re going to release this. Let’s just keep this quiet.’ So we basically create a found footage horror movie of the behind the scenes of the making of Halloween 3D.”

So would a version of the Shape have been the threat in some form? “The route that I pitched was more reality based. It’s a fictional movie, but we’re doing this documentary in the background, and somebody is murdered on our crew. Then you come to find out, as we’re filming this movie, somebody is actually doing the killing. I think what I’d pitched was – it was a fan, somebody in the mask, but it was a fan who wanted to be in the movies and wanted to be cast. Somebody who was tied to the movie that didn’t get the part came in and started killing.

“All of this went through a whole marketing thing with them. I remember saying what we would then do is, we tell everybody that we’re shooting the movie, and then mysteriously – the production shuts down. The news would break that the production is shut down, and nobody knows why. People would be pissed, like ‘What happened?!’, and no one is saying anything. Everybody would have to do NDAs and all this, so none of this could leak out.

“Three months later, suddenly here’s the documentary of ‘What really happened!’ You’ve got interviews with Tyler, and Tyler’s like ‘I can’t talk about it! I don’t know how they got this footage, but I have an NDA and I can’t talk about any of this!’

So basically, we steal what Blair Witch did. They brilliantly made everyone think that this was real found footage from these kids who went out into the woods. There was hardly any marketing money spent. I think it was all just internet, and that’s what I was suggesting we do with this. So we tell everyone we’re making Halloween 3D, and we shoot a little bit of it, enough that we can release a teaser trailer so it looks like we’re legitimately shooting Halloween 3D, but the real movie is the behind-the-scenes stuff. What no one would realize is that it’s a fictional story of deaths.

“I could justify it with New Nightmare. Even though that was Freddy, this was sort of that idea, to pursue the idea of seeing the horror that happens behind the scenes. You get to see Tyler acting like himself, you get to Scout being herself. I think that in itself would be fun.”

Alas, neither this nor Halloween 3D came to pass. Wrapping up our talk, Mr. Farmer offers his final thoughts on this sequel that sadly never came to be. “Normally when you’re writing a script, you’re not in that chaotic zone. I’ve never had to work in a situation where, if we don’t have a script in ten days, there simply is no movie. That was nuts. Fortunately, we had an extremely detailed outline of all of the stuff that happens in the asylum, and what happens after. Still, to this day, I’ve never experienced anything like that. But that was always the way the Weinsteins operated. They would go from zero to a hundred just like that.”

Very special thanks to Todd Farmer for his time and insights.


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