Horror in Vancouver: Unmasking Michael Myers on the set of Halloween: Resurrection

Not everyone has managed to see both Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers in bloodthirsty action—and lived to tell the tale. But as the Vancouver correspondent for the world’s best known horror magazine, Fangoria, I did.

I encountered Vorhees while covering the shooting of Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan in 1988. Though it was a hoot to cover from a horror freak’s standpoint, the movie actually sucked.

And then 13 lucky years later, in 2001, I got to see Myers do some damage in Van on the set of Halloween: Resurrection. Sadly, that movie sucked too.

But, anyway, here’s my set-visit piece on Halloween: Resurrection, which hit newstands in the summer of 2002.

It’s a gorgeous, sunny June day in Vancouver, and the massive, nondescript building near 1st Avenue and Clark doesn’t draw much attention from the carefree kids gliding by on their bikes. If they only knew that legendary celluloid slasher Michael Myers was in the vicinity, they might pedal a little faster.

Halloween: Resurrection, the eighth entry in the Halloween film series, is being shot right here, with director Rick Rosenthal from Halloween II returning to guide the shocks. In this one—which opens in Vancouver on Friday (July 12)—a Web entrepreneur comes up with the idea of gathering six college students and having them enter Michael Myers’s house on Halloween night to uncover the secrets of the greatest serial killer in American history. It’s all being recorded and shown live, unedited, over the Net, but unbeknownst to the camera-carrying students, Myers is still very much alive, and has actually been living under the house for 20 years.

Needless to say, he’s not thrilled by the prospect of renewed publicity.

Inside the hulking structure, workers have spent six weeks assembling sets that will serve as the interior and underneath of the dreaded Myers residence. Next to one of them sits local stuntman Brad Loree, resplendent in the plain blue overalls that Myers prefers. He says that the biggest challenge of playing an unstoppable masked killer is living up to the model set by Nick Castle in the first Halloween.

“The way Michael Myers moves,” he points out, “was something that was very specific. Some of the guys that played him sort of humanized him by moving less like a robot and more like a person—they moved too fast sometimes—and for me, that made him less scary.”

When Myers gets his evil mitts on Halloween: Resurrection’s victims, it’s up to British makeup-FX artist Gary Tunnicliffe (Sleepy HollowDracula 2000) to detail the resulting mayhem. The easygoing FX ace leads me into one of the labyrinthine tunnels where Myers does much of his dirty work, directing me to stand next to a couple of huge, ripped-up, animatronic rats lying on a table. He steps away momentarily to fiddle with the nearby controls, and gets the realistic-looking creations to squirm around in all their gruesome glory.

Makeup FX artist Gary Tunnicliffe figures Michael Myers (Brad Loree) is a good guy to have on his side in case shit happens.

“This is where they discover Michael’s lair,” he points out rather gleefully, “and he’s been feeding on rats and stuff like that. Quite fun!”

One of the main targets of Myers’s bloody rage in the new film is Sara Moyer, played by Bianca Kajlich, whose credits include a recurring role on American TV’s Boston Public and a part in the hit cheerleader flick Bring It On. She claims that she has no misgivings about becoming the next scream queen of note.

Bianca Kajlich passed the scream test.

“Come on—it’s a great title!” she raves during a chat in her on-set trailer. “Especially if you have the scream to accompany it. You can’t do movies without at least doing a horror film—there’s nothing like it. I remember the first day that we had some actual stuff where I was running away from Michael Myers, and I was thinking, ‘God, this is so fun!’ It’s very cathartic. You get your adrenaline rush and get it out of your system.”

Judging by the screams emanating from the main building, there’s a bit of that adrenaline flowing right now. Rosenthal and crew are filming a scene in which Daisy McCrackin’s character, Donna Chang, is chased along a dark tunnel by the rat-chomping Myers. As Rosenthal surveys the action on a nearby monitor, the blond damsel confronts Myers, slowly trails her flashlight up to his masked face, then hightails it away.

Warning: video contains gory violence. What did you expect?

During a break in the action, Rosenthal talks about what it’s like to be the only director of a Halloween film to be called back to the series.

“When you get a second chance—which is rare in life, for anything—it’s always fun,” he relates. “You learn a lot the first time, and you want to do it right. We’ll make new mistakes, but that’s because we’re trying to break some new ground here. We’re trying to integrate film and digital video so that we’re constantly going back and forth between what the film camera sees and then what our character sees through their little digital camera.”

Two years after directing Halloween II—with a little unwelcome help from executive producer John Carpenter, who came in after filming to shoot his own gore inserts—Rosenthal hit the mark with the gritty Sean Penn prison flick Bad Boys. Apart from a 1994 sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, he hasn’t been involved with other horror movies.

“Horror films sort of go in cycles,” says the filmmaker, who counts Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now as his fave fright flick. “There were horror films before Halloween, but Halloween reinvented the genre, and spawned a lot of other franchise films—Friday the 13thA Nightmare on Elm Street. Then the horror genre disappeared again for a while, and it was reinvented, it seemed to me, by the spoof of the horror genre.

“It’s tricky waters to navigate through,” he adds, “because what we’re making is a serious film; it’s not a spoof, but it needs that sense of humour. I think the best horror films set you up with humour, then knock you down with horror.”

Director Rick Rosenthal with a couple of cast members, getting ready to knock somebody down.
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