The mask Michael Myers wears in Halloween has become one of the most iconic in all of horror, but it was very close to being a clown mask instead.
Would John Carpenter’s 1978 classic have been as effective if Michael wore a clown mask instead?
That’s hard to say. All of the other pieces of the film are fantastic. The story and casting are phenomenal. Carpenter’s directing and musical score are freakin’ fantastic. Michael’s mask design wouldn’t change any of the aforementioned factors. But there’s still no denying that his trademark white mask is a big contributing factor to how terrifying “the shape” really is.
As any big Halloween fan knows, the original mask design comes from a Star Trek Captain Kirk mask. The filmmakers simply altered the hair and eyeholes before painting the whole thing white. But if that costume shop didn’t happen to have that emotionless William Shatner mask, we would have seen a very different Michael Myers.
Production designer Tommy Lee Wallace was given instructions by Carpenter to find a “plain” mask to use for the film’s villain. He came back with four options. The first two, Richard Nixon and Mr. Spock masks, were much too recognizable to be used and weren’t seriously considered.
But the third mask, a Don Post Studios’ Emmett Kelly mask— the classic “sad clown” look— got Wallace’s attention. It made perfect sense, considering Michael wears a clown costume when he kills his sister as a child. The mask got to the point where they film tested it, and although it was frightening, it wasn’t what Carpenter was looking for. He had given Wallace specific instructions to find the “plainest” mask he could.
The Dark Knight (Photo: Warner Bros.)
The Joker would popularize a version of Michael’s rejected mask decades later.
Basing his decision on Carpenter’s orders, Wallace chose to use the Captain Kirk mask. Of all four options, it had the most plain look of them all. The face was completely emotionless, and painting it white is all it takes to make it totally plain. Just as Carpenter was wanting.
Michael Myers would have still been creepy as hell in the Emmett Kelly mask. But Halloween just would not have been the same. Carpenter’s vision of a plain, white face turned out to be yet another great example of his horror brilliance.