Other than “Back to the Future,” were there other movies, either horror, comedy, or ’80s, that you leaned on as inspiration?
I think for the ’80s element, all those John Hughes teen movies were definitely [influences], like “Weird Science,” “Breakfast Club,” “Pretty in Pink.” “Heathers” was one, too. This sort of girl group in our movie in the ’80s. And then “Scream” is obviously a big touchpoint as well, just blending that genre, walking that tightrope that we were talking about. And it’s funny, in this movie too, we wanted to embrace the fact that Kiernan from 2023 would have all of these references, and we’d be trying to, when she goes back to ’87, “Back to the Future” has been released, that came out in ’85.
So she’s trying to talk to people about, have you seen “Back to the Future? That’s why I know this kill is going to happen.” And some people are like, “What are you talking about?” But also she has a scene with her friend and she’s like, “It’s in ‘Scream.'” She references “Scream,” and they have no idea what she’s talking about. So I think embracing those kinds of inspirations, I think, were definitely helpful for us. And then going back to the original stalker, slasher, the original “Halloween” was also a very helpful reference for us, too.
I’m a late ’90s, early ’00s kid, and I’ve reached the point where I’m trying to interact with colleagues and talk to people who were born in a year that makes me feel practically ancient. What were your conversations with the younger actors like?
Kiernan was 22 when we were shooting this. She and all these actors are so young. So I think it’s the idea of some of the stuff that they’re saying in the ’80s that would never fly today, and just being like, there was no such thing as un-PC back then. That’s how it was. And I think some of the references, people were questioning just the idea of how certain things work. Walkman references, and one of the actors I think thought we were talking about Discmans. We’re like, “No, no, that’s the evolution of the Walkman. The Walkman was precursor to Discman.” So really, and then it was just Googling a bunch of stuff and just showing this is how it was back then.
For me, the biggest laughs in the movie come from just how appalled Kiernan Shipka’s character is at how blunt the teachers are, and how nobody cares.
Nobody cares. There is no gentle gloves that they’re using there.
The killer’s mask, was that written in the script or was that something that you decided on as a director?
That was something that I decided in working with Tony Gardner at Alterian, who’s done a bunch of mask designs for different movies and really wanting it to feel of the time of the ’80s, but that also felt relevant in the present day because in the lore of this movie. It’s like these kills have happened 35 years ago, but this town is defined by it. So people dress up as the serial killer and stuff. So having that math bridge two timelines was really important. And then having it feel fresh and different, especially in a slasher movie, there’s so much relying on the mask of the killer, and what he looks like, and the idea of the mask being of a handsome man. That was something that, it was interesting, that guy being terrifying.
The idea of the mask being just this ultimate male symbol, this cocky-looking parody of a handsome white dude who’s just stalking his way through this cast of people who aren’t all white dudes.
It feels very intentional.
Yeah, it definitely is. And there’s a bunch of different levels to it. Just the first visual one of just this handsome white guy sort of thinking he can do what he wants, and sort of just take what he wants, and act however he wants. And I think that was an interesting thing to play with, especially back then.