The sequel to one of the most influential horror movie of all time, Halloween II continues the story of the night HE came home. Directing from a screenplay by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, Rick Rosenthal skillfully replicated the deliberate yet intoxicating pacing and overall mood of the original film whilst adding potent surplus of gore. Unfairly overshadowed by the film’s legacy, Carpenter’s score finely whittles away the nerves with its tense synthesised savageness. As one of Death Waltz Recording Co’s early releases, the label made sure it got off on the right note by commissioning Jump Cut artist Brandon Schaefer for the cover art. Dark, hollow and heartless – Schaefer’s adaptation of ‘the Shape’ is a fresh and hypnotizing take on a horror icon.
“Death Waltz reached out as the label was starting to form to put something together” notes Schaefer in regards to how he was hunted down for the artwork. “It was early days, so it’s been awhile since then. I don’t remember there being any constraints. As far as gigs go, the only real hurdle was finding a way in that [the artwork] wasn’t predictable.”
As the movie that birthed the slasher genre, Halloween has been a staple for any horror enthusiasts across generations but seemingly failed to resonate with Schaefer. “There’s a lot of stuff out there that I should have seen at some point in my life, but the only Halloween movie I’d seen up until then was the one where Busta Rhymes dropkicks Michael Myers [2002’s Halloween: Resurrection] through a door – or at least that’s how I remember it.” While not being familiar with the content could have been a detriment to the project, Schaefer’s detached point of view is a strength as it focuses purely on the cold aesthetics of the character and not bogged down with any emotional or nostalgic connections that a fan of the franchise would be haunted with.
In terms of inspiration for the artwork, Schaefer pulled influence from another horror icon – Freddy Krueger, explaining “there’s this VHS cover I remembered seeing when I was very young for A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. It was a pretty straightforward photo of Freddy hunched over a demonic looking bassinet with a gloved finger held to his lips, warning you to be quiet. But to me, that image really gives you a visual shortcut into what you can expect from the film. It’s quick and dirty communication that’s slightly silly, which is what spurred on the nurse Myers direction.”
Much like the Myer’s character himself, Schaefer’s take on ‘the Shape’ revels in a dark simplicity. Catatonic with a tendency to stay in the shadows, Schaefer is expressively engaging in eking out the details that make the character distinctive and appealing. With the spark of vitality which the eyes bring to a portrait being deliberately absent, there is a soulless, inhuman and almost stencil art quality to the piece. The colors highlight the Michael Myers aesthetic perfectly with cold, empty and emotionless blacks and pale whites juxtaposed with the bright lively tears of blood trickling down his mask (representing the most iconic scene from the film in which the heroine Laurie Strode shoots out Myers eyes, only to have him continually stalk her – in a literal blind rage).
In regards to if the creative process of the Halloween II cover art differed in respect to his other portfolio of creative work ,Schaefer explains “there are different factors you have to take into consideration when you’re designing a piece of album art for a property with a solid history and an iconic place within the culture, versus a poster for an independent film released in 2015. The process is largely the same – trying to find a way of speaking to people in some meaningful way – but one has a built in audience, whereas the other needs to be made from the ground up.”
Looking back on the final product released by Death Waltz in 2012, Schaefer notes “the package came together really well overall. Personally, I’d approach the actual design of the cover differently today than I did then. It’s hard not to look at it now and see that it would’ve been better had it been approached from a different angle.”
If you have kept a close ear on the scores of some of horror’s most recent masterpieces (It Follows or the remake of Maniac for example) you would know the strong influence Carpenter’s keyboard sonics still has within the genre he helped shape. Matching the minimalist and timeless approach of the music, Brandon Schaefer’s work for Halloween II is a fearsome and faultless cover art – perfect for a soundtrack containing more killer cuts than Myers himself.
Peace to Brandon Schaefer for helping out with this piece. Stalk down your own copy of Halloween II and other horror releases from Death Waltz. Check out Schaefer’s other works on his Twitter and official pages.