Three Student Perspectives on the Endurance of John Carpenter’s Halloween:
John Carpenter’s Halloween is one of the most enduring American horror films ever made because of the sense of obscurity, mystery, and abnormality we receive from the character of Michael Myers. When first introduced to Myers, we are not sure of his past or why he behaves in the way that he does. We do not understand why he kills his sister or what his motives are for killing others. As the audience, we try to answer those questions ourselves and comprehend what is happening. In my case, I would argue that Myers was feeling some kind of grudge toward his sister for not taking care of him properly and not providing him attention. His sister was attending to her boyfriend and not him, which angered him tremendously, making him want to kill her.
If we look at the situation in a Freudian way, we could even argue that Myers had some kind of physical attraction to his sister. But we never really know his true intentions, and it is that type of secrecy that really captivates an audience. The use of normal, small town, teenage characters also allows for viewers to identify with what is happening, making the story more impactful. At some points it even becomes believable. A deranged stranger that hunts for his victims on a night like Halloween sounds like something that could actually happen. All this, topped off with the iconic violent scenes that spawned the usage of slash and gore in horror film, makes this movie revolutionary.
John Carpenter’s 1978 classic slasher film Halloween was and continues to be one of the most iconic American horror films ever created. And rightly so. The decision to set the first 30 minutes of the film in broad daylight in a fine suburban neighborhood — instead of setting it in a cabin in the woods or a haunted mansion — is far from common in horror films. But it allows the audience to directly relate to the film. The mysterious Michael Myers character is what shapes this film. The one question that is not answered throughout the film is what Michael Myers’ motivations are. Dr. Loomis doesn’t know, even after spending 15 years with Michael Myers. Myer’s entire look and mannerisms come off as genuinely creepy and will surely send chills down your spine. His mask is one of an emotionless, dull, white figure and you don’t know whether he is smiling or if he’s mad when he’s killing his victims.
However, what really helped make this film a phenomenal hit is Carpenter’s masterfully crafted score. The score not only depicts the pace of the film but it creates a chilling and ominous atmosphere throughout it. Hearing the score play during the opening credits causes your hair to stand on end with minimal effort. What stands out in this film is that Halloween contains little gore and graphic violence, unlike many of its imitators. This shows that a horror movie does not need to contain a ton of gore to become successful. Halloween will forever be one of the best classic American horror films of all time.
“It was the boogeyman…” Jamie Lee Curtis’ last line in John Carpenter’s iconic slasher Halloween makes us truly question if evil is human, a question that lingers and has yet to be answered. The tropes, which seem cliché and benign to us now, are the reason Halloween persists as possibly the most significant slasher film of all time. These tropes — from unease and unrest caused by storms and thunder, to the superstitions of unleashed evil that come with Halloween night — are carried through almost all horror movies, slasher or not, establishing the sense of a lurking and familiar fear. Within the film, it is a major point that we almost never see Michael’s mask or face in close-up. He is always at a distance, lurking, giving us the primal feeling of being watched. This feeling of being watched is underscored by the fact that we never see Michael unmasked except as a child (and momentarily at the finale). We never see Michael as a human, only a masked monster.
We could never know our killer, never know if he is human or monster, if he is even Michael Myers, or simply a devil in a mask. It makes us question whether we want him to be human because it is familiar. Or, do we want him to be a monster, because then we don’t have to believe a human could be capable of such violence and baseless evil? What we are left with is an overwhelming fear of what is unknown, not only outside, but within ourselves, and a question on the true nature of evil. This idea of evil has been carried forth from Halloween into nearly every other horror movie to date because it is such an innate fear and can be toyed with again and again without getting old.
When the film ends, we are left with the question, “Was it a monster or was it human?” The answer is, “As a matter of fact, it was.”
Ahimme Cazarez is a junior majoring in Radio/Television Broadcasting and Film. She ultimately hopes to become a television and film producer. When not at school or working as a receptionist at a clinic, she enjoys catching up on her favorite TV shows and watching a bunch of movies. Some of her favorite TV shows include American Horror Story, Orange is the New Black, The Tonight Show, and a variety of Brazilian soap operas. She’s lost count of how many favorite movies she has, but among them are Goodfellas, the Iron Man trilogy, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Grease, Dirty Dancing, Forrest Gump, The Judge, Top Gun, and Rocky IV. The reason she enjoys watching so many movies and shows is because she loves studying the different styles of directors and looks for inspiration for future projects of her own. Besides films, she enjoys all types of music, mostly oldies and Latin. Two of her favorite books are The Great Gatsby and The Kite Runner.
Erik Medina is a senior Physics major. He likes to laugh, so he tends to watch many funny videos on YouTube when he doesn’t have anything better to do. He enjoys watching movies that leave you thinking, such as Inception and Interstellar. He doesn’t watch a lot of TV, but when he does, he tries to binge watch the entire series. A few television series he’s watched and enjoyed this past summer include Breaking Bad, Dexter, Arrow, and Modern Family. An interesting fact about him is that when he was younger, he auditioned to be in an Oscar Meyer Weiner commercial.
Carrera Powell prefers to be called “Rae.” She loves horror films mostly, but her favorite film is Kill Bill Vol. 1, because of the scene in which Beatrix opens the door to the snowy zen garden. She likes alternative and soft rock music. She recently read We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson and she’s now reading Carrie by Stephen King (also a great movie). She worked at a summer camp this past summer and she’s trying to get a job in Illinois for the school year. She’s a Wisconsin native, and the oldest of five kids. Currently, she is majoring in Creative and Professional Writing with a minor in Film.