“You want to avoid a shot looking like a fruit salad. There needs to be a dominant source, then a secondary source. One light has to win.”

Halloween Ends cinematographer Michael Simmonds – who shot all three entires in the latest Halloween trilogy – on how the prolific director David Gordon Green entertains himself on set, the struggle to keep the pumpkins in the opening credits from looking like Madballs, and why you don’t want your color contrast to end up as a fruit salad. Check out my full interview over at Filmmaker Magazine.

Here’s a few excerpts, starting with Simmonds on Halloween Ends’ homages to John Carpenter’s 1978 original….

Filmmaker: There are a number of shots in the film that recreate images from John Carpenter’s original. For example, in the death scene of Nurse Deb, she’s pinned to the wall while the killer quizzically stands back and cocks his head, similar to Bob’s death in the 1978 film. But what I like about those callbacks is that they’re not merely fan service Easter eggs. You’re visually commenting on the transference of evil from Michael Myers.

SimmondsHalloween has a hardcore fan base. Those people want callbacks, they want the legacy of Halloween to be honored through the framing and the cinematography. We’re often echoing moments and shots from the other films. We watched those scenes for inspiration, but I’m not on set with like a storyboard trying to match them exactly.

Filmmaker: Right, but I like said, what I thought was smart about those callbacks is that they’re not simply for nostalgia’s sake. It’s not like the Star Wars universe where you’re like, “Oh, hey, it’s that random creature from the cantina!” There’s a specific relationship between Michael Myers and the character of Corey in this film, and you’re creating this link between them through those callbacks. 

Simmonds: Yes, 100%. I think the moment where we did that best was in the 2018 film, at the end of the movie where Michael throws Laurie out a window and she falls. Then Michael looks down and Laurie’s gone, and that’s a complete reversal or inversion of the 1978 ending. When you’re making a franchise trilogy, there’s a limit to how much we can explore the story of Laurie and how much we can explore the identity of Michael. You can’t get too close to it. The audience thinks they want to know, but they really don’t. We have to create new characters and new stories, but it still has to be a Halloween movie. We try to honor the style and framing of the earlier pictures to tell our story.

And here’s Simmonds on how DP Christopher Doyle inspired his love of bold colors, which is on full display in Halloween Ends.

Simmonds: You have to understand that I’m 45. I graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 2000. At the time, you could not talk about cinematography without talking about Chris Doyle and his work with Wong Kar-wai. Using contrasting colors like Chris Doyle was something I was always trying to do. For example, there’s a scene [at Lindsey’s bar] where this dude is playing pool [in blue and pink neon light] and behind him in the background there’s a guy in the kitchen [bathed in green light]. That’s a real David Gordon Green thing. David will be like, “I want this shot to be about that prep cook in the background.” I don’t know if those things are even noticeable to the audience, but David’s very whimsical with things like that. He’s very much like, “I need to have my fun, too.” I’ve done scenes with David where he’s like, “I want to see if I can tell this story with only the camera moving left to right on a dolly and not panning.” And I’ll say, “That’s impossible.” And he’s like, “Let’s try it anyway.”

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