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We won’t know until October 19 if David Gordon Green’s Halloween lives up to the so-called hype, but one thing we can be damn sure of right here and now is that Oscar winning effects artist Christopher Nelson absolutely nailed the new Michael Myers mask, which looks to be the franchise’s best mask since John Carpenter’s original film.
A mix between the iconic ’78 mask and Rob Zombie’s remake mask, the new mask that Nelson created for the 40-years-later sequel to Carpenter’s classic was painstakingly designed to look not like a brand new mask, but rather like the original Shatner mask… 40 years later. Nelson’s mask, which captures four decades of wear and tear on the classic, is nothing if not eerie, more subtle than Zombie’s mask but imbued with the same decay and weathering. It’s as if the mask has literally aged, like human skin, along with Myers himself these past 40 years.
During our visit to the Halloween set this past February, we were shown Nelson’s Myers mask long before it was revealed wide on the official teaser poster, and it was immediately clear to me that something special was unfolding before my eyes. Throughout the Halloween franchise, I’ve very often had major issues with the various Myers masks, which almost never looked right in any of the post-Halloween 2 sequels. But we won’t be having that issue in Gordon Green’s film, as Nelson rose to the challenge and knocked his mask out of the park.
“I looked at a lot of forty year old masks and the various stages they were in,” Nelson told us, detailing the process.
“I actually had a couple of old Don Post masks that were I think from thirty nine years ago, from when I was a kid. So we looked at those masks, saw how they aged, saw what kind of decomposition they had, the folds and wrinkles. Took in mind in the context of this story how this mask was stored over all these years and talking to David and just kind of combined all of that. In our minds it was kept in a bag, in a box, in an evidence room for quite a long time so being covered and away from UV light it was a little more protected than a mask that was just laying out would be. So we took that into account.”
He continued, “In looking at all the reference photos for those masks… oddly enough when you take [the latex], stretch it out and look at it, it organically wrinkled here, sagged here… the latex warped and gravity kind of took over, just like a human face would. We really liked that and tried to incorporate that into it without it looking like old age makeup. We didn’t want that to read through, but we definitely wanted it to look forty years old. But the key concept was form; it had to have that original form. Without the original form of the Michael Myers mask, the way the dirt smudged on the nose and lips, the eyes kind of warped down… that kind of tragic, lifeless kitty cat face. Without that you don’t have Michael Myers. So those were all aspects, and the aging, that we tried to give it, and accentuate it a little bit with those wrinkles.“
Nelson, who described creating the new Myers mask as “one of the most difficult things” he’s done in his 30-year career, is a mega-fan of the Halloween franchise, which accounts for the almost obsessive level of detail he made sure he worked into the mask. What you’ll see on screen this October is a mask that’s painstakingly true to the original.
“I wanted it to move. I wanted it to look different in every shot because the original did that and I wanted to bring that back,” Nelson explained. “Throughout this shooting process, it looks different in every shot, and that’s what I love about it. That was a little touch that I wanted, because the reason that it works so well in the original is that it shifted and moved and looked different; it was a shape shifting sort of boogeyman, and I wanted that same thing. There’s a lot of thought to it.”
So true is Nelson’s new mask to the one seen in Carpenter’s original movie that it even has visible damage from the events of the 1978 film – as does Myers himself. Remember when Laurie stabbed Michael in the eye with a clothes hanger towards the end of Halloween? Well, 40 years later, Michael’s left eye is dead; it’s now an eerie, milky white.
“I looked at when [Laurie] pulls the mask off in the original and you see something there… now mind you it’s pretty obscure in that one, it’s hard to get a really good look at [the eye damage], but it left an impression on you,” Nelson told us. “It has a shape and a vibe and a sadness to it and I wanted that, we wanted that, David wanted it there. I think [the prosthetic] was only scheduled to shoot for a couple of days and we’ve been putting it on almost every day because it’s just working. You can kind of see it behind the mask a little bit. It adds a little to the depth of that without revealing anything or making him too human.”
Digging a bit into the actual mask’s incredible amount of continuity detail, Nelson explained, “[There are] little things on [the mask] that I put on, like the tiniest bit of dried blood around his eye from when he got his eye poked. I have the hole in the side from the poke and the tiniest bit of discoloration as if blood had been there at some point. I have lots of little details all over that mask that [represent] the mileage from the first movie.”
When you sit down in your local theater to watch Halloween this coming October, Nelson feels confident that you’re going to like what you see. And we damn sure do as well.
“I tried really, really hard to give [the fans] something good. It will never be the original mask, it’s just not going to happen. But let’s get as close as we can. Let’s give a version that after forty years people will be happy with; that when you see it, you’ll feel something and know something and hopefully bring that character back. So that was the idea.”