LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Exclusive Interview with Anthony Masi, Horror Documentary and Website Producer
By James Whittington, Sunday 5th November 2006 Anthony Masi has been in charge of the official and highly respected Halloween website for sometime now. Earlier this year he joined forces with writer Stef Hutchinson to produce the superb documentary, Halloween: 25 Years of Terror. We tracked Anthony down to ask him how such a large project came together.
ZH: First of all when did you first see a Halloween movie and which one was it? What was your initial reaction to it?
AM: It was in 1980. I saw the premiere of Halloween on TV, and like thousands of other Halloween fans, was simply riveted. The movie stayed with me for weeks. I would walk to school and see Myers standing in the trees, or I would imagine him outside my window or in the basement, and certainly in my dreams. He was a character that scared me but not in a bad way, rather, in a way that intrigued and inspired me.
ZH: How did the Halloween website come about? Did you set it up and how did you become involved?
AM: In 1998, I started a fan website called The Myers Museum. I only started the site because I wanted to learn html website programming and develop skills in Photoshop. A website has to have content, so I chose to focus the site on my collection of Halloween movie posters and memorabilia I had collected. I would stay up for hours every night designing graphics, uploading photos and programming the site. I knew there was a Halloween fan base out there, but what I didn’t know was how big it really was. Fans were discovering my site daily and pretty soon it had a very large and devoted following. In 2002, when the webmasters of the official HalloweenMovies.com website left their post, they referred me for the job to take over because they had known of the Myers Museum’s success, and told me I was perfect for the job.
ZH: So how did the new DVD Halloween: 25 Years of Terror documentary come about?
AM: The idea came about after viewing video footage of a convention I co-chaired in Pasadena in 2003 called the “Halloween Returns to Haddonfield 25th Anniversary Convention”. The event brought numerous actors and filmmakers from the Halloween series together to discuss their Halloween adventures with over 3,000 fans from around the world. It took 15 months to organize and was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me because I got to interact with my favourite Halloween actors on an almost daily basis. Anyway, after the event was over, it was obvious that the 40+ hours footage the crew captured was a great focal point for a “History of Halloween” type of project. From there, the idea took off!
ZH: How did you meet the director Stefan Hutchinson?
AM: A few months after the convention was set in motion and we started selling tickets, Stefan emailed me to introduce himself and offer his videotaping services. Better yet, he had a group of friends that would help him, and even better, they didn’t mind working for free. It was a total no-brainer! Stef lives in England so I didn’t meet him until a few days before the convention when the crew arrived to start taping.
ZH: It’s a concise release covering all bases from the Halloween series (I hate the term “franchise”) including the critically panned Halloween 3, a film that’s long overdue for re-assessment. Do you think it would have been wrong not to feature this Michael Myers-less release?
AM: Yes, because Halloween III – even without Myers – is still a Halloween movie. It’s part of the legacy. What people might not realize is that each Halloween film has its own little hurricane surrounding it. Let’s face it, the Friday the 13th films were cranked out one after the other by the same studio in a cookie-cutter format. In the first eight years there were 7 Friday films. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking F13, I’m a huge fan of that series as well. But the point I’m making is that they didn’t share the production problems that the Halloween series face. Halloween was THE ground-breaking horror film that ushered in modern horror to eventual icon status. Halloween II pioneered horror movie sequels. Halloween III broke away from the mold and bombed. Halloween 4 was a return to the series, and John Carpenter and Debra Hill were now somehow “unattached” to the series. Halloween 5 bombed at the box office and almost killed the series. Halloween 6 was the first major studio production of a Halloween film that resulted in a complete disaster. Halloween 7’s storyline scrapped the previous 3 films’ convoluted storylines to bring back mass audiences and resurrect Jamie Lee’s character to great success. Halloween Resurrection failed to live up to H7’s new-found success and brought the series to a screeching halt story-wise. And now they’re re-making Halloween with Rob Zombie. The making of every single film in the series is completely fascinating, so to exclude any one of them in the H25 documentary would have been a horrible mistake.
ZH: How did PJ Soles become involved?
AM: P.J. became a wonderful friend of mine after she became involved in a horror movie I wrote called “Dead Calling”. Stef and I wanted someone from the Halloween films to narrate the documentary and when P.J.’s name came up, I just asked her to narrate and she said yes! Simple as that. P.J.’s boyfriend is a very talented musician and has a studio in his home. We recorded the narration there, and it didn’t feel like work at all. The afternoon was spent doing the voiceover and laughing during all the breaks. P.J. is very easy to work with, and is proud to be part of the Halloween legacy.
ZH: Was there anyone who refused or declined to feature in the documentary?
AM: Yes. John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Nick Castle and Jamie Lee Curtis. Don’t ask me why because I can’t figure it out either.
ZH: Does it uncover the truth behind the “Producer’s Cut” of Halloween 6?
AM: Absolutely, in great detail! We even show some alternate clips.
ZH: What’s your take on the “Thorn” mythos that was brought up in parts 5 and 6?
AM: I appreciated the concept of Thorn, but I share the sentiment of a comment made by John Carl Buechler (special effects artist on Halloweens 4 and 6) in the documentary, and that is, “Michael Myers should always remain an enigma. There should be speculation, but no firm answers.” Thorn completely explained the origin of Michael’s evil, and instead of drawing me in and entertaining me, it left me feeling more educated and indifferent. It’s like learning the secret to a magic trick… no matter how badly you want to know how the magician disappears, it’s so much more fun not knowing because the possibilities are endless.
ZH: Is there any piece of footage you couldn’t get clearance for to use in the documentary?
AM: Yes. I wanted to use footage from the Halloween H20 Planet Hollywood premiere in New York. Jamie Lee Curtis showed up (in a blood red dress), mingled with the fans, and even donated an axe and Michael Myers’ jumpsuit in an impromptu ceremony. The footage was just great, but we couldn’t use it. I also wanted to use footage from the first-ever Halloween reunion that was videotaped at the Egyptian Theatre in 2000. Couldn’t use that either. There was also a news clip about a Halloween-related stabbing (a fan claimed he was “influenced” by the Halloween films to stab an older woman) that, shall we say, “didn’t fit the budget”!
ZH: Was there any material that didn’t make it to the final cut possible making way for a “Redux” version?
AM: Our original documentary script was 160 pages. During editing, our editor called me to say that he was 80 pages into it and was already at 2 and half hours! So… we brought out the scalpel and obviously made some major cuts. The good news is that most of the cut footage shows up as bonus materials in the H25 DVD package.
ZH: One of its strongest points is that it a very honest release, was this something you had in mind from the beginning that it wouldn’t be just some “PR puff piece”?
AM: Absolutely. No one – not even Moustapha or Malek Akkad – wanted to do a puff piece. The goal from the get-go was to tell the true story behind each film. There were times when we’d be asked by the Executive Producer to “tone things down a bit”, or “cut that part out”, but for the most part the tone of the documentary is very much what Stef and I had originally set out to produce.
ZH: Was it your idea to include the comic in the release? Will it be included in the Region 2 version?
AM: Stef wrote the “One Good Scare” comic that was released at my convention. Although the comic was very well executed in both writing and art, it didn’t reach the masses because it never got distributed in stores. Stef still had comic ideas to share, so he suggested it to Anchor Bay and they went for it. No one knows yet if the comic will be in worldwide releases of the DVD, as the details of those releases are being worked out now.
ZH: What was Moustapha Akkad like? Did you have much contact with him through your work on the website?
AM: I can only describe Moustapha as a “bright light”. He was a man who had a very commanding, yet polite, demeanor. He was always very supportive of the convention and the H25 DVD project, and yes I saw him all the time when I visited Trancas for meetings and to work on the documentary. One day I was sitting at a desk making calls and arranging licensing, and in the next office I heard Moustapha on the phone on a business call, Malek was in his office on another call, the office manager was working across from me, and there I was working, too. And I thought to myself that I must have been in a dream, to actually be sitting here working alongside these Halloween producers I so envied. Moustapha and Malek have always been very welcoming, warm people. I absolutely cannot say enough positive things about both of them, and I’m truly blessed that they welcomed me into their world of Halloween. In regards to the hm.com website, yes, there were times Moustapha would call me with comments/suggestions. For example, when Miramax pioneered the idea to do a “Myers vs. Pinhead” movie, Moustapha called me and said, “Tony, can you add a poll on the website to ask the fans what they think?” I said yes and said it would be a good idea to poll the fans about it. To that, he responded, “I already know the fans don’t want this, the poll is to convince Miramax that they’re crazy! I don’t want to insult the fans with this ridiculous Pinhead stuff.”
ZH: Moustapha Akkad and his daughter, Rima Akkad Monla, were innocent victims of terrorism in Amman, Jordan, when three hotels were bombed in a senseless act of violence in November 2005. Do you think he still had much to give the industry?
AM: Yes. Moustapha had other non-Halloween projects in the works, and I believe one of them was quite epic. I’m not too familiar with the details of it, but from my perspective, he still seemed very passionate about film.
ZH: Was he protective about the Halloween “brand”?
AM: Oh yes! Lawsuits abounded but I probably shouldn’t mention them.
ZH: Do you tire of the Halloween movies?
AM: No. I know that must sound crazy, but I don’t.
ZH: What are your hopes for the new Halloween movie which is being written and directed by Rob Zombie?
AM: During Rob’s interview for the H25 documentary, I discovered he was an enormous Halloween fan. P.J. Soles, in fact, for his birthday gave Rob her personal copy of the Halloween script that had her own hand-written notes in it! He called P.J. to thank her and to say it was the best gift he’s ever received. I’m not a re-make fan but after talking with Rob and knowing that Halloween is as precious to him as any other die-hard fan, I have high hopes for his version of the classic movie.
ZH: What’s next for you?
AM: I wrote a horror movie that is currently in pre-production called “Dead Calling”. I am also working on three other documentaries (one is on Moustapha’s life), as well as a TV series based on a controversial comedian.
ZH: Anthony Masi, than you very much
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