Legendary Director John Carpenter and Wife/Partner Sandy King to Continue an Enduring Horror Legacy

Horror films fascinate some people, while they repel others. A classic slasher series such as “Halloween” prompts extreme passions either way. Creating a supernatural menace that’s both relentless and hair-raising but seems that somehow he can be defeated takes a talented and clever creator who can strike fear in the heart and possibilities in the mind.

That is something that a young John Carpenter managed to do and his original film inspired a whole sub-genre — the slasher film — when he created 1987’s “Halloween” with nefarious murderer Michael Myers, neighbor to Laurie Stroud (Jamie Lee Curtis) who fought him off and survived his killing spree.

John Carpenter

After Carpenter made the original movie, he declared he never wanted to make a sequel. Nonetheless, a series of successful films got produced, expanding the franchise but not enhancing it. 

Sandy King wife of John Carpenter and collaborator

He went on to make lots of classics such as “The Fog” (1980), “Escape from New York” (1981), and “Starman” (1984), “The Thing” (1982), “Christine” (1983), “Big Trouble in Little China” (1986), “Prince of Darkness” (1987), and “They Live” (1988). 

He also pursued the art of composing music making many of the soundtracks for his films including the signature sound of “Halloween’s” theme.

Along the way, he split from his first wife, actress Adrienne Barbeau, and married producer Sandy King in 1990. King produced Carpenter’s later films —  “In the Mouth of Madness,” “Village of the Damned,” “Vampires,” and “Ghosts of Mars” and earlier had been the script supervisor for his films “Starman,” “Big Trouble in Little China,” “Prince of Darkness,” and “They Live” — on was she also associate producer. Then she co-created the comic book series “Asylum,” with Carpenter and a full-scale publishing company, Storm King emerged. In 2018, a direct sequel to the original film was released starring Curtis again, now a senior who was still battling the menace of Myers.

Somehow horror master Jason Blum and veteran director David Gordon Green pitched Carpenter to make this sequel to the original film — after a string of films not connected to the storyline that the 78-year-old director had originally created. The Halloween series captured the relationship between the Myers family (who was in the first film) and Laurie, who had developed a particularly strong connection, which was established in the first film and carried through to the latest.

At this year’s NY Comic Con, the Carpenters’ Storm King Comics was much in evidence with a large booth touting their new releases and back catalog. This Q&A was a result of meeting Sandy there where we arranged that she and John would answer questions by email. They did and here are the results.

Q: How much did you contribute to the storyline of Halloween (2018) and the just-released “Halloween Kills” (October 15th) to sustain it as a sequel. 

JC: First of all, I wasn’t making the sequel. I’ve never directed a sequel to Halloween [and wouldn’t]. Secondly, David Gordon Green and [writer] Danny McBride came up with the stories. I participated in the development of both films. No blessing involved. I scored the movies with my son Cody and godson Daniel.

Q: Jamie Lee Curtis was a teenager when you cast her in the first film, what elements stood out for you to cast her in the lead role? 

JC: Jamie was [and is] a talented actress. She was beautiful and charismatic.  When she read for me, she was perfect for the part. I thought she had an inner strength, a will to survive. I used it in the movie.

Q: What inspired you to create the bogeyman of Michael Myers? Even though he gets shot dozens of times, he lives and the audience is left with a never-ending fear of him. 

JC: Michael Myers was a force of evil. He was less a human being than an element. It was this lack of characterization that made him scary.

Q: The score you’ve done for this and the other Halloween films is very haunting, how did it come about?

JC: [I did it out of] necessity. There was no trial and error involved in making the music for “Halloween.” I knew I was going to use this theme I had developed over the years. It was based on my father teaching me 5/4 time. 

Q: What are the ingredients for a great horror film? 
JC: [That] there are no rules. Horror is the oldest of genres. It was there at the beginning of cinema. Each new generation reinvents horror for its own. We are all afraid. That’s why horror is such a universal genre.

Q: Next year, “Halloween Ends” will be released, how will you be involved with this, and what  do you have something to say about the final film? 

JC: I will be executive producer and composer on “Halloween Ends.” I’ll give my opinion, and watch basketball on TV. I want the audience to have a great time when they watch “Halloween Ends.” 

Q: Why did you put your name above the title in the original film — was it your way of taking possession of the film?

JC: A conscious choice. I’m taking possession of my movies. Final cut is essential for directors. I urge every young director to fight for their vision.

Q: Horror films have such a powerful impact. Why do you think this one has such a fan base and has resonated with audiences for such a long time?  What aspiring young filmmakers do you think are following in your footsteps?

JC: Because it’s scary. But as to others… There exists an army of young directors dying to tell new stories and strut their stuff. Each director has his own path into the movie business. It’s a tough gig but a road well worth traveling.

Q: What made you two decide to develop your own publishing company?

SK: It was a more natural evolution than it might seem on the surface. People had been trying to put John’s name on comics for years—usually to use his brand to sell substandard “horror” comics without putting much effort into the books. Finally we had a story that lent itself to comics/graphic novel format that truly was a John Carpenter presentation and it just made sense to do it ourselves. 

We spent two years researching the art and the business of comics before launching our first book, Asylum, and had a lot of fun doing it. That led to the yearly anthology, Tales For a HalloweeNight, then we branched into our other imprints —  Tales of Science Fiction, Night Terrors, and now our newest line, Storm Kids, for ages 4 to 18. 

Q: Will you develop films based on the comics being created, which ones and why?

SK: Possibly. A few of them. Not all comics make good films and not all films make good comics. Our focus with Storm King Comics is to make great comics. That being said, one of the collections is currently being made into a TV series in collaboration with a major studio and network. We’re not at liberty to say which one until they announce it. Another one is likely going to be an animated feature.

Q: Sandy and John — how do you two strike the balance between writing your own ideas and editing others?

JC/SK: On the comics front, each year we each write one of the stories in the HalloweeNight anthologies. On other books we occasionally create the concepts and characters and plot lines and turn them over to writers we like to bring to life.  We don’t have time to do everything that is in our heads between movies, tv, podcasts and comics. 

Q: How do you two envision the publishing company developing?

SK: About the only thing I can picture us doing that we haven’t is expanding our distribution internationally and with more foreign translations. Right now, we’re in the process of printing our first Spanish translation of our Eisner-nominated children’s book, Stanley’s Ghost. A lot more young families are choosing to raise their children in a bilingual environment and it’s a cute beginner book for them.

Q: You two seem to work together so well — what is the secret to your success together?

SK: Patience and laughter. Also, we’re not competitive with each other. We’re supportive. Always have been.

Q: Is there a difference in the process of creating for film and comics?

SK: It’s all about team-building and supporting the writers and artists in both endeavors. I think that’s what we bring to comic publishing that might be different from other companies. At the time lines are shorter and the risks are less per book, but the risks are all ours. We blow it, it’s on us.

Q: What was your primary role in developing this film?

SK: For “Halloween Kills,” [I did] nothing but cheerleading and being proud of my family. But for “The Manor,” I developed it with the writer/director Axelle Carolyn and Executive Produced it.

Q: What is it you like about making films and don’t like about the process?

SK: I love problem solving the process that takes a script into the reality of shooting a movie. The nuts and bolts of implementing the director’s vision. It’s a giant puzzle to be solved every day at every stage through delivery.  

I don’t like the complications of adding 10 additional production layers, lawyers and fail safes to water down the creative process. It becomes a burden.