Halloween (1978) – A Herald for John Carpenter’s Innovations

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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.  

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