came first – that was my tribute to the 25th anniversary of the original. I felt that The Shape needed to be dangerous and also, unlikeable, so that was my starting point.The book got strong reviews, and after many years of pushing, we finally got more books out there, but alas, due to problems over at the publishers, that train was derailed.. again!
WHH: You have also written for other horror comic titles. Is this an altogether different challenge to writing for the screen?
SH: It definitely is, and Halloween is actually a really good case study for the differences between the two mediums.
In the film, The Shape’s character is very much defined by sound and vision – Carpenter’s work on the film is nothing less than genius, fully employing the medium to best effect, and uniquely cinematic. The fluid way The Shape leaps out, the way he walks, the music that drenches the film in atmosphere – these are all essential components of Halloween’s reality.
Now, in the comics, all that is gone. Instead, you have silent, static images. Chase scenes don’t work in the same way, so you have to completely rethink the expressive language.
I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had great visual collaborators – Peter Fielding, Tim Seeley and Jeff Zornow amongst others – because so much of the process relies on them bringing it to life.
WHH: Writing for comics or for the screen - Which do you prefer and why?
SH: I like both, in all honesty, for their differences and unique attributes. You can tell very different stories in each medium, especially if you’re employing all of the specifics of the medium. With comics you can direct from the page more, responsible as you are for working out the specifics of each individual panel.
I should add that I’m yet to see any of my screenplay material filmed yet, but purely in terms of writing, I enjoy them both the same, and hopefully will be able to work in both mediums. I wouldn’t want to drop one for the other.
WHH: Are there any projects that you are working on now that you would like to share?
SH: I took quite a while out after the Halloween and Hellraiser shenanigans to re-assess exactly what I wanted to write and get passionate again. Since then, I’ve been accumulating a fair bit of material, and I’m putting together a plan to start getting it out in the world. That said, I’m doing it very-fucking-slowly. Expect that to change!
I’ve always been doing a lot of co-writing with Paul Davis. We started sharing ideas at Frightfest a few years ago, and that’s going really well.
I don’t want to go into specifics because very few things ever make it the whole way to fruition. Some of the stuff I write is really strange and will probably never see the light of day as a consequence, but I write for myself first and foremost.
I’ll hopefully be putting out some new material either at the end of this year or the beginning of next, but I’d rather keep my big mouth shut and talk about things when they actually leap from the dark places and into the real world!
Exclusive Interview: Stef Hutchinson
Stef Hutchinson is a man of many talents. To date, he has been successful in the roles of writer, producer and director. Fans of the original franchise will be familiar with Stef's work in writing, producing and directing Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, the video documentary on John Carpenter's genre classic.
In addition to this, Stef is also responsible for writing a series of well-received horror comic titles - including a series of Halloween comics, a comic sequel to the Bava/Argento Demons films, and others including Day of the Dead and Battle Royale.
We speak exclusively with Stef on his passion for horror films and comics.
By Andreas Charalambous - 3rd June 2014
WeHeartHorror: You are obviously a big fan of the horror genre. Tell us of your early experiences of the genre, and how you fell in love with horror films.
Stef Hutchinson: I was drawn to horror as early as I can remember. I suffer from nightmares – very vivid ones, all the time – and a lot of people tend to say “Well, that’s because of all those things you watch!” They couldn’t be more wrong. It’s the nightmares that came first, and when I first encountered the horror genre, it simply felt right.
I was an avid comic reader, even if I didn’t fully understand the stories. From around the age of three or so, the dear old lady at the newsagent used to put aside any comic books that had ‘monsters’ on the covers. Scooby Doo was a very important show for me - and I’d argue that The Creeper and Mr. Hyde are still quite terrifying now. I had the dinosaur phase that I think most boys go through, and then, through television shows like Sapphire & Steel and Doctor Who, (and a particularly terrifying episode of Black Beauty, of all things), wanted to see more things that could scare me.
I remember lots of silent movies and monster movies being shown on BBC 2, so there I met the Universal Monsters, the creations of Ray Harryhausen and even such wonders as the Fouke Monster via The Legend of Boggy Creek. From there, I went on to Hammer Horror television show and movies, and finally the modern American horror movies. In particular, the work of John Carpenter, who was the first ‘name’ I knew to associate with horror films.
WHH: What is your favourite horror film - or type of horror film - and why?
SH: Halloween is my all-time favourite horror film. Unlike a lot of other films I loved when I was younger, Halloween has, in many ways, grown up with me, so my fondness isn’t just based on nostalgia.
In terms of favourite type, I don’t really have one, although I can say that I’m not really a fan of the modern trend for excessive human-on-human violence. It’s often lazy writing – anyone can think of something cruel to do to another person. There’s been a trend in recent years to use shock as a replacement for the trickier arts of tension and fear, rather than using it as an extra tool.
WHH: You are best known for writing, producing and directing Halloween: 25 Years of Terror. As one of my all-time favourite horror films, I’d love to know how you came by the opportunity to do this project.
SH: It was essentially an opportunity we made ourselves. I’d been talking with the organisers of the Halloween Returns To Haddonfield Convention, and was asked about filming the event as a keepsake. I suggested instead to use it as a launching pad for a documentary on the series as a whole – in theory it would be easier to do because there would be lots of relevant guests at the convention. So a group of friends and I filmed whatever we could. As well as the convention footage, we conducted interviews with everyone in the area, shot location footage etc. and did it without any money. The money spent went to our travel and hotel expenses.
Later in the year, I pitched the project to Malek Akkad in London. A couple of weeks later I received an email about making it official, and the ball was rolling.
WHH: It was a brave move to tackle a film that is such a genre favourite for many. Did you feel any pressure to ensure that 25 Years of Terror did Halloween justice? How did you deal with any pressure?
SH: No, because as a fan myself, I deeply cared about what we were doing. However, the pressures making it came from working with the wrong person - a person whose interest was primarily self-promotion. It became a tug of war when it didn’t need to be. The rest of us just wanted the project to be the best it could be, but it was a struggle.
I’m not the biggest fan of the final documentary. I like what’s there, mostly, but there’s not enough of it. It was cut down and neutered at the last minute, and as a result, I don’t think it does do the series justice.
WHH: There are a number of great documentaries based on mainstream horror films – The Fear of God, Never Sleep Again, Crystal Lake Memories, More Brains, and your buddy Paul Davis’ Beware the Moon – to name but a few. This seems to be an evergrowing market for horror fans to gain new insights on their favourite films. Do you have any favourite horror film-based documentaries, and did any influence you in making 25 Years of Terror?
SH: The Fear of God is an obvious touchstone, but I was influenced by the British television documentary styles in general – the matter of fact delivery, rather than the sensationalism and drama often present in their US equivalents. That said, I don’t think any of these influences show up in the finished piece!
WHH: If you could make another documentary on another film, which one would it be? Would you consider making another one?
SH: I was working on a documentary on the Hellraiser series, but the approach was completely different. We approached Clive Barker about designing a new Cenobite for us, which he wonderfully did, and the plan was to essentially explore the big ideas behind the mythology, rather than going film-by-film. We’d do this by intertwining a narrative, showing a Cenobite’s process of becoming.
Obviously, this was a world apart from 25 Years of Terror. I wanted to do this when I had the idea for the new Cenobite and the thematic / narrative exploration. However, I had problems with the same person who I clashed with on 25 Years of Terror, so I pulled out of the project. That was a difficult decision, but it serves me right for being foolish enough to think that someone can change!
I don’t see myself ever doing another documentary. I mean, when we did 25 Years of Terror, the concept of a whole-series documentary felt fresh and new. Now every dude and his dog is doing them and every series has been covered.
WHH: As a fan of the original Halloween, what did you think of the growing number of sequels, and Rob Zombie's 'reimaginings'?
SH: Halloween never needed a sequel. The ending to the original is perfect.
That aside - and ignoring my own hypocrisy having written comics and stories in that universe - I think most of the sequels have some merit. Halloween III is excellent, and Halloween II starts off promisingly enough. I’ve always had trouble being on-board with the ‘Laurie is his sister’ concept, and all of the bloodline storylines that followed. To add all of the back-story that the middle sequels did seems – to me at least – like a grotesque misunderstanding and simplification of the wonderful ambiguity that the original presented.
As for the remake – let’s NEVER use the dishonest term of ‘reimagining’ – it, sadly, wasn’t for me for a thousand reasons. However, out of respect for the people involved, and the work that went into it, I won’t elaborate on those, beyond one issue that connects with my criticisms of the sequel.
I think, with the advent of DVD special features, and in particular, discussion forums, that we arrived in a dangerous place for the horror genre. We now talk and dissect to the point where the corpse is stripped of all mystery and interest. There’s a section in every fan base that wants to know more – the whys and wherefores. These back-stories take away so much more than they give, and everything is so obvious. The original Halloween described The Shape as ‘pure evil’ – what else do you need?
I should add here that I did quite like Zombie’s Halloween sequel. I understand that many have issues with it – I do too, particularly in the mother and son dynamic which was done before and better in both Psycho and Friday The 13th – but those aside, it felt fresh, bold and visually exciting. It wasn’t a rehash and I feel it was treated badly as a reaction to the remake.
What I do hope, bizarrely enough, is that they remake the film again. And again in several years’ time. I’d rather this than a new perpetual franchise. I think it would be interesting to see different takes on The Shape in the same way we’ve seen so many of Dracula.