Interview – ‘Halloween Ends’ director David Gordon Green on keeping his trilogy unpredictable

This is Laurie Strode’s last stand. After 44 years, the most acclaimed, revered horror franchise in film history reaches its epic, terrifying conclusion as Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) faces off for the last time against the embodiment of evil, Michael Myers, in a final confrontation unlike any captured on-screen before. Only one of them will survive.

With Halloween Ends releasing in Australian cinemas on October 12, the team at Universal Pictures gave me the chance to chat with the film’s co-writer and director, David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) to talk about keeping the franchise unpredictable, his horror influences growing up and how he was the first member at the second Blockbuster Video that ever opened!

Nick: Mr. Green, it’s a pleasure to meet you and talk to you today!

David Gordon Green: Good to talk to you!

Nick: With Halloween Ends being your third horror film, what are the elements you focus on as a filmmaker to balance both putting your mark on this franchise and the horror genre in general, but also make it feel fresh and unpredictable enough to give audiences something new?

David Gordon Green: Well, for me as a filmmaker, it’s about honouring the original film that John Carpenter and Deborah Hill wrote. And then I want each of my films to be distinctive. I think for me personally, it’s just about growth as a filmmaker and exploring new terrain as a filmmaker. So, if the first film (2018s Halloween) reintroduced us to characters that we knew from John [Carpenter]’s film, the second film (Halloween Kills) is unleashing them and bringing some other ones from the old story back and turning it into kind of a upside down action movie. Then this third one is a love story. And so, I’m trying to explore genre elements and directorial techniques, performance, and characters in very different ways in each of these movies, so even the Laurie and the Allison that we meet in Halloween Ends are very evolved from the one from 2018.

Nick: Touching on exploring new terrain as a filmmaker – I must admit that two of your films, Pineapple Express and Your Highness, were formative films for me and my high school friends. I was thinking about what it would’ve been like directing the action scenes in those film and whether there was anything you learnt from those scenes and moments that you found helpful when constructing and filming the brutal kills in this movie?

David Gordon Green: Funnily enough, it does infuse a lot of these abilities and I think horror often gets a bad rap for it. I don’t know, I guess it does sometimes feel like it’s a second class in filmmaking, but I am able to bring craft and creativity that I’ve learned from all from the action that I’ve done in movies, to the comedy I’ve done in films, and the dramatic movies.

So, I could probably point to every scene and movie and say: “Yeah, in 2002 I was exploring this theme there”. Or if you saw the movie I did, Stronger, about the Boston Marathon bombing, you could see me exploring some themes of trauma there. And you know, I’m picking and pulling and I’m learning along the way and I’m applying it to the next one. Who knows where it all goes, but I feel like I’m 22 years into a career that’s just snowballing somewhere between beautiful and preposterous.

Nick: You brought up the theme of trauma – something that your Halloween films have explored over this trilogy. I find it interesting how horror as a genre has skewed it focus to the consequences of trauma over the last 10 years. When you’re writing or even directing scenes for Halloween Ends, what is it that you focus on that makes characters we love dealing with trauma so horrifying to watch on screen? And in what ways do you feel like that is scarier than jump scares or Michael Myers murdering people?

David Gordon Green: I think it’s because we bring a lot of our own lives and identify with these characters. And so, we bring traumatic events we’ve lived through. Every time you’ve lived through a frustration or something negative happens in your life, you always think: “What I should have done”? And in this case, you’re thinking what would Laurie Strode do, you know?

To find a character that’s relatable and takes us to emotional places that we can see, if not relate to immediately, we can see our neighbours or our family members or people around us or the headlines of the world. And these are things that I think draw us to the experience, hopefully the community experience. There’s so often in our lives, where we bury them or repress them or throw them away or deny them but here in a movie, we get to see someone in their character arc and their activity, and it helps bring a little bit of a cathartic closure to these traumas.

Nick: A little earlier we briefly touched on being unpredictable and for me, the opening scene was unpredictable and shocking in the best way possible! And as a film lover myself, I loved seeing that Corey and Jeremy are watching The Thing together on Halloween night. I was curious to know, what were the movies that a ‘way-too-young’ David Gordon Green was watching on Halloween night?

David Gordon Green: That’s funny, because I was watching Halloween [1978] and I was watching The Thing at an age where I was too young! Now, I have 11-year-old twin sons. And so, we went to see Nope a couple of weeks ago and we’ll talk about it after the movie. Then we’ll go home, and we’ll watch Gandhi, you know? So, I’m always trying to find that balanced diet of what I’m exposing them to and the conversations. I’m a lot less strict than my parents were of me.

I was always seeing [these movies] in the shadows of the night, where I could sneak on VHS a movie I wasn’t allowed to see. Where here, I feel like I’m excited to introduce them because my kids spend time on set and see how it all happens, anyway.

I remember a quick anecdote! I was just dying to see The Shining when I was 13 years old, and my father said: “No way, you’re not gonna watch The Shining”! But I’d read the book, I knew everything about it. So, we would watch 10 minutes of it, on a Saturday morning, over like 10 weeks. It would take me out of the immersive emotion of it, to just show me 10 minutes of it and then stop it. It was all like serialised version of The Shining, the first time I saw it. And then, by the time I saw it in its entirety, it blew my mind.

Nick: I wanted to touch a little bit more on films that influenced you! But I did find a quote and I wanted to confirm with you if it was true. It’s a quote in which you stated that you were the first member at the second Blockbuster Video ever! Is that true?

David Gordon Green: That’s true!

Nick: I worked at a Blockbuster for 5 years. It was my first job, and I still tell people it’s my favourite job I’ve ever had. Because of that job, I vividly remember the DVD cases, and got the chance to see films like Snow Angels, Joe, and Prince Avalanche – movies I probably wouldn’t have seen as a teenager if I didn’t work there! What were  the integral movies you watched as an emerging filmmaker, that you only saw because you could get them at Blockbuster?

David Gordon Green: Well, the beauty of the video store, for me, is that I would watch the same movie over and over. I remember when The Untouchables came out on video, and it was a movie that I loved, and I watched it a lot. I know every word of that movie. I know every shot to the movie. So as a filmmaker, I start to dissect that movie in a way that– If I’m just watching something for entertainment, or even on streaming, there’s always a million other things to watch. So, I’m not gonna watch the same thing over and over. But when you have ‘3 day rental’ from a Blockbuster, and you’ve got The Untouchables in your living room for three days, you’re gonna watch it once and then you’re going to call your friends over and you’re gonna watch it again. Then you’re gonna have your family come in after dinner and watch it a third time! I know so many movies so well from repeated viewings, and I think that’s why a lot of references you’ll see in Halloween Ends of course, it’s a very 80s movie, because those are the movies that I was devouring in a way where I’m not just entertained by them. I’m studying them and I’m studying shot composition and the way that music relates to a scene. I think in a lot of ways, a movie like Halloween Ends is from my repeated viewing of Christine.

Thank you so much to David Gordon Green for his time to chat, and to Universal Pictures for setting up the interview.

Halloween Ends is in Australian cinemas October 12.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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