From beginning to end, John Carpenter’s primitive Halloween (1978) introduced a vast amount of novel horror elements to the big screen. Not only did Carpenter’s monumental film ignite a later repetitive series of remakes, but it established the groundwork for the subgenre we know as the slasher film. The resultant sub-genre is corroborated through subsequent films of comparable structure and cinematographic elements such as Friday the 13th (1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Being revered for its stalking characteristics, the pith of Halloween’s progressive escalation revolves around Michael Myers (Tony Moran) slow, sociopathic approach to his prospective victims. Carpenter underscores Myers’ approach through multiple point-of-view shots, leitmotifs and long shots of Michael silently watching the protagonist, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), from afar. Through these rudimentary but meticulous film implements, Carpenter delivers a grasping, trendsetting film operating on a highly restricted budget of just $325,000.
One outstanding convention of Halloween is the film’s ability to cross boundaries as displayed in the first scene where the viewer is placed into the perspective of the killer, young Michael, using Carpenter’s famous I-camera. As we enter the first scene, the viewer is subjected to a long take through a point-of-view shot using a handheld camera. Consequently, we are immersed in young Michael’s perspective as he slowly creeps around the outside and inside of his home where he witnesses sexual relations between his sister and her presumed boyfriend. Carpenter personalizes the historic cinematography of the scene even further as Michael puts on a mask altering our perspective to the mask’s two eyeholes in opposition to the full field of view. The gradual transition proves to be a guileful method ultimately straying from traditional horror by aligning the viewer with our soon revealed killer. By the end of the scene, Carpenter has both introduced an unorthodox element of horror while displaying an example of intertextuality by echoing Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) through the scene’s implicit knife killing.
Michael Dougherty’s 2007 cult classic Trick ‘r Treat is a well-realized anthology that works at face value as both a fun and sinister horror film, but also serves as an absolute celebration of Halloween. Over the course of 82-minutes and four interweaved tales, Trick ‘r Treat revels in the centuries-old pagan holiday, intermingling traditions both new and old to substantial effect.
A character seen throughout the stories ties the film together. This character is Sam, short forSamhain (pronounced Sah-win), the name for the Gaelic holiday precursor to what we know of as Halloween today. Sam masks his face within a burlap sack, appearing to be a child due to his size and stature. This is appropriate for a supposed figure that symbolizes Halloween within the film, since the holiday is often recognized as one for children anyways — it’s children who “trick or treat,” after all.
Trick ‘r Treat is most successful when twisting many childhood fears associated with Halloween, a trick Dougherty employs throughout. Horror films are a Halloween tradition, but very few truly capture the spirit of the holiday like Trick ‘r Treat does.
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.
So, did you take the last week to watch the six horror films I suggested in my previous post? Whatever the case may be, I have an eclectic list of seven more quality horror films that you can find streaming on Netflix to help you celebrate the Halloween season.
First up is a 1985 film that is depressingly the last great film that zombie king George A. Romero would write and direct, and it’s also just a criminally underrated zombie movie. I’m of course talking about the third in the “Dead” series — Day of the Dead. Romero had his work cut out for him following up Night of the Living Dead, but somehow he was able to craft an even better zombie flick with the 1978 original Dawn of the Dead (personally, my favorite horror film ever made). Romero came back to zombies in 1985 and successfully ended the original “Dead” trilogy on a high note.
Day of the Dead takes place deep into the zombie apocalypse, perhaps years after the initial outbreak. The story follows a group of soldiers and scientists who have been posted at an underground facility to survive and perhaps find a reasoning behind the incident and a solution. Day of the Dead focuses more on the human versus human aspect of this situation, as was previously seen in the first two “Dead” films. But this one is unique in that it highlights and introduces the notion that the zombies could perhaps “learn,” making for some cool and unique scenes. Horror effects master Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th) came back to do the zombie effects for Day of the Dead (along with The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero, who worked under Savini), and I almost feel like this movie is worth a watch just to see the incredible effects work displayed here. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead or zombie movies in general, then this is a must watch.
It’s mid-October. The chilly breeze rolls through your window. The leaves swirl and rustle on the ground outside. You sit inside your cozy house as the sun sets. It’s time for a spooky movie to celebrate the Halloween season. Here’s part one of my top 13 horror movies available to stream on Netflix that you should be watching this Halloween.
Starting off this list is a handful of amazing indie horror films that have all come out in the past two years: The Babadook, Starry Eyes, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Guest, Housebound, and Creep.
I wouldn’t fault anyone for arguing that The Babadook is the best horror movie to come out since the turn of the decade. It’s just that good. Essie Davis stars — and does a fantastic job — in this Australian film that focuses on her character Amelia and her young son Samuel. Amelia is a recent widow who is struggling to cope with losing the love of her life. Before bed one night, she finds a storybook in her son’s collection she wasn’t aware of before called Mister Babadook. She reads it to Samuel, but the book turns out to be quite nightmarish and not at all suited for a six-year-old boy like Samuel. Samuel soon begins to have nightmares and claims he sees the creature from the storybook in his room, and it’s not long before Amelia actually believes him. This film is a wholly original, truly mind-bending psychological trip and it really is one of the best horror films released in the past five years.
Starry Eyes is a very recent addition to my list, as I watched it for the first time just this past week. The film follows Sarah (Alex Essoe), who is just one of the many young girls trying to make it in Hollywood. She tries out for a part in a horror film called The Silver Scream, which is produced by a once big power in Hollywood. The audition doesn’t really go too well, at least she doesn’t think so. But she keeps getting callbacks, and while she is excited, the callback auditions keep getting stranger. However, she’s willing to do whatever it takes to be a star. Starry Eyes is fairly slow to start, but ramps up in the last 20 minutes, turning into one of the most sickening horror movies I’ve seen in a long time. It’s both a fantastic send-up of the ridiculous lengths some will go to become Hollywood stars, and at times a striking homage to 80s slasher flicks. Starry Eyes is one you won’t soon forget.