All the ‘Psycho’ & Hitchcock References in the Halloween Franchise

Movies


The Big Picture

  • Halloween
    pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s
    Psycho
    through casting and character names, honoring the horror classic.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of
    Psycho
    star Janet Leigh, was cast in
    Halloween
    as a nod to her mother’s iconic role.
  • The
    Halloween
    franchise, particularly in
    H20
    , features Easter eggs and connections to Psycho, cementing its legacy in horror.


When Alfred Hitchcock directed Psycho in 1960, he was responsible, along with Michael Powell‘s Peeping Tom the same year, for creating the slasher film as we know it today. Though one of the most influential horror films ever made, Psycho didn’t exactly create a wave of copycats right after. 18 years later, however, John Carpenter made a little slasher movie as well, called Halloween. The success of Michael Myers stalking babysitters in the shadows of a suburban night caused a craze of clones. Suddenly, slashers were everywhere. Many directors became inspired by the director and aimed to replicate him, but for John Carpenter, it was Alfred Hitchcock he admired. Halloween, and many of its sequels, are, in many ways, a love letter to Hitchcock and Psycho, from the casting of Jamie Lee Curtis to the names of its characters.


Halloween (1978)

Fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night 1963, Michael Myers escapes from a mental hospital and returns to the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois to kill again.

Release Date
October 27, 1978

Runtime
91 minutes


‘Halloween’s Jamie Lee Curtis Is the Daughter of ‘Psycho’s Janet Leigh

In 1960, Janet Leigh was one of the more well-known actresses in Hollywood, with roles in successes like Little Womenand Orson WellesTouch of Evil, the latter of which came out just two years before her most famous part as Marion Crane in Psycho. Her casting was perfect, with Hitchcock portraying her as the lead right from the beginning. Every bit of action revolves around her, setting her up to be one of horror’s first final girls — until, of course, that second act curveball, and arguably the most shocking twist in film history, when Marion is murdered in the shower.


Though Marion Crane didn’t make it to the end of Psycho, it will forever be Janet Leigh’s most famous role. When John Carpenter began casting Halloween almost two decades later, he looked at a young actress named Jamie Lee Curtis. Though she’d never been in a feature film before (at 19, Curtis had only done TV work), she stood out not only through her acting ability but for being the daughter of Leigh and actor Tony Curtis. Halloween producer and co-writer, Debra Hill, even admitted that this is part of the reason why she cast Curtis. As Hill once told Cinefantastique Magazine, “I knew casting Jamie Lee would be great publicity for the film because her mother was in Psycho.” Even Halloween‘s executive producer, Irwin Yablans, admits that Curtis was hired for that reason. In the documentary, Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest, Yablans said, “Who, incidentally, would have been the best choice anyway. She turned out to be a fine actress.” It’s pure nepotism of course, but with Curtis now having a career even bigger than her parents, winning an Oscar, and being horror’s ultimate scream queen, it’s clear that Hill made the right choice.


‘Halloween’s Dr. Samuel Loomis Is Named After a Character in ‘Psycho’

One of the other leads in Psycho is a character named Sam Loomis (John Gavin). Loomis is Marion Crane’s boyfriend and the catalyst for the film’s events. When Marion finds out how much debt Sam is in, she decides to rob her employer, thinking that if Sam’s debts are settled, they can then get married. When she flees, she decides to stop at the Bates Motel. Sam Loomis reappears when questioned by Lila Crane (Vera Miles) about the disappearance of her sister. The two end up at the Bates Motel, with the climax of Psycho giving us another shocking twist, as Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is revealed to be the killer, posing as his own mother. It’s Sam Loomis who grabs Norman and stops him before he can kill Vera. Sam was supposed to appear in Psycho 2 in 1983, but he was absent because Gavin was just a little busy being President Ronald Reagan‘s U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.


Related

‘Psycho’ Was Pulled From Television Because of a Real-Life Murder

The TV premiere of Hitchcock’s seminal horror film was delayed due to a young woman’s murder.

Jamie Lee Curtis might be the star of the Halloween franchise, appearing in seven of the 13 films, but there is a character just as, if not more, important than her, and we’re not talking about Michael Myers. Michael’s doctor is played by Donald Pleasence, a character who is the lead in five of the first six Halloween movies, as a man driven to the brink of madness in his quest not to catch, but kill, his patient. That doctor’s name is Sam Loomis, which is not a coincidence. John Carpenter and Debra Hill were both big fans of Hitchcock. In Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest, Hill said, “Halloween was really influenced by the films of Alfred Hitchcock and the kind of films John and I loved when we grew up.” There’s even a strange fan theory that the Sam Loomis from Psycho and Halloween are the same person, with the boyfriend from Hitchcock’s movie fleeing to Illinois and deciding to become a psychiatrist after his run-in with Norman Bates.


‘Halloween H20’ Honored ‘Psycho’ With a Fun Easter Egg

Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween H20
Image Via Dimension Films

It’s not just Dr. Loomis who gets his name from a Hitchcock film. The boy Laurie Strode is babysitting, Tommy Doyle (Brian Andrews), has the same name as a character from Hitchcock’s Rear Window named Tom Doyle. Still, Halloween pays tribute to Alfred Hitchcock in more ways than just actors and character names, but also in the film itself. In the same documentary, Carpenter spoke of how Psycho was the first modern horror film, taking horror away from the gothic feel of vampires and werewolves, and toward everyday problems. “That’s the sign post everyone followed,” he said. You can see Carpenter’s love of Hitchcock in Halloween‘s opening shot. The gliding camera, which doesn’t cut for several minutes, takes us inside the eyes of young Michael Myers, similar to the opening sequence of Touch of Evil, where for four minutes the camera zooms in and out, almost like a person’s gaze, following the characters without a single cut. The way the Shape comes out of the darkness is also similar to the way the killer emerges from the shadows through the shower curtain in Psycho. Then there are the scores, both of which are terrifying for being so simple, like a rapid heartbeat getting faster out of fear.


The Halloween franchise best honored its Hitchcock roots in 1998’s Halloween H20. Jamie Lee Curtis had left Halloween (and horror in general) behind after 1981’s Halloween II, as her fame took her to more mainstream fare. In 1998, she returned, hoping to play Laurie one last time, finally putting an end to Michael Myers. While her plan didn’t work out the way she wanted, it’s one of the best sequels, and has a sweet moment amidst the horror, as Curtis’ mother, Janet Leigh, was cast in a small part. Laurie has faked her death and now lives in California as a teacher named Keri Tate. At the school she works at, Leigh plays her secretary, Norma Watson, with Norma being the name of Norman’s mother in Psycho. Mother and daughter share a few moments together in Halloween H20, including their final scene, with Norma giving Keri some advice, (“We’ve all had bad things happen to us,” she says) before she gets in her car — the very same car she drove in Psycho. The movie then winks at the connection, perhaps a little too knowingly, by giving us a quick snippet of the Psycho score.


In the Halloween H20 special feature, Unmasking the Horror, Jamie Lee Curtis revealed that nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) is named after Marion Crane. She called it an homage to Psycho, and in the same feature, Leigh said of her part in the Halloween franchise, “They thought of involving me as continuing that thought of an homage.” Halloween might be an homage to Psycho and the works of Alfred Hitchcock, but Laurie Strode isn’t Marion Crane, and Michael Myers isn’t Norman Bates. They are their own brilliant works, and half a century later, they all still influence the horror we love today.

Halloween is available to stream on Shudder.

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