One of the reasons it is generally so hard for me to talk about women in horror, I think, is that the industry doesn’t as much. There are lots of women who have contributed to the history of horror whose work just doesn’t get mentioned as much. These are, of course, the women behind the scenes, but the work behind the scenes is important, too, and a lot of these women collaborated with men whose work is celebrated. Like, for example, co-writing the script to Halloween. And producing a bunch of John Carpenter’s movies as well. Apparently, it even took a while for the New York Times to get around to printing her obituary.
In fact, Hill herself found it frustrating to work in Hollywood. Early in her career, she was called “sweetheart” and “darling” on the set—by men theoretically working for her, too. Over the years, that became “ma’am,” but she still expressed irritation that the industry didn’t have openings for female directors. I honestly don’t know if that was a thing she wanted to do; I don’t know all that much about her and my usual sources don’t say she did. Certainly she had only two directing credits, both for TV episodes. However, it seems likely that she wanted to work with more women and that she didn’t have the option.
She did work with some really major talents over the years, of course. Carpenter, obviously. In addition to the first three Halloween movies, she also produced and co-wrote The Fog, Escape From New York, and Escape From L.A. But she was a producer on The Dead Zone and Clue, The Fisher King and World Trade Center. And the remake of The Fog. She also did producing for TV, including a contract with Disney that means she produced Disneyland’s 35th Anniversary Special.
She also seems to have been a great mentor of other talents. James Cameron worked for her once, in the visual effects department. Jeffrey Chernov spent time as her second assistant director. I would imagine most producers who work on lower-budget fare end up with that kind of list, where people they work with ended up going on to bigger and better things on their own. But, and I think this is important, it’s more likely to happen if the person they’re working for is good themselves. Yes, Corman, but if you work with as many people as he did and give as many nobodies a chance as he did, you’d have a decent rate of famous people who used to work for you, too. Hill’s success in that department is despite a much smaller list of credits.
As always, when I talk about giving credit to Hill, it’s not at Carpenter’s expense. That’s not how collaboration in art works. But since his career and success pretty much starts with Halloween, it really is worth putting her into the story. It seems that Hill wrote the teenage girls’ dialogue, having had more experience than Carpenter with being a teenage girl. It is also fairly impressive that she was allowed to produce, honestly, as she’d never done it before and Carpenter had never directed before. The result was a film so skilled that even I who do not particularly care for horror really liked it.