Halloween (1978)

Posted by Sam Hayes On Monday, December 14, 2009
When we sat down to watch this film, the opening sound-track reminded me of a great quote by Charlie Brooker: "Fuck the latest Alton Towers terror-coaster - just whack the Halloween soundtrack on your Ipod and listen to it while walking around your own house in the dead of night."

Halloween is a early genre-establishing horror film directed by John Carpenter. It stars Jamie Lee Curtis, who has since starred in 'True Lies' and 'A Fish called Wanda'. The plot is based around a child - 'Micheal' who murders his babysitter and then gets incarcerated for the rest of his life in a psychiatric ward. Micheal ends up escaping somehow (This wasn't really explained) and returning to his old family home to rejuvenate his body-count on the surrounding neighbours.

Although the film is over 30 years old, it still holds the original aim of being suspensful as well as being violent (Incredibly for it's time) The suspense is created mainly through the soundtrack- which is incredibly chilling and piercing, the music creeps up on the viewer whenever the killer comes into shot. The camera-work throughout the film also drives the suspense, the camera follows the killer in the early part of the plot while he stalks his victims, it does not show his face, just a tracking shot of his body. This makes the character very unfamilar to the audience making him more strange.

The pace is also very typical of the genre, with Halloween being the film which set the style. There are many scenes of the teenagers doing things that should be frowned upon by the audience, sex and drugs, making the killer's victims half-deserving of their grizzly death. The pace starts very slow and quickens throughout the film,each death brings the killer closer to the protagonist - Laurie, to the point where the end is the all-out fight between the two characters. The end also has a very genre-wide feature of the killer not dying even though he is repeatedly suspected dead. After being stabbed in the neck with a needle, swiped in the neck with a knife and shot 6 or 7 times resulting in him falling from a first-floor balcony; Micheal still lives, as he escapes at the end. This creates a great unknown suspensful theme, where the audience know he is still lurking somewhere, ready to attack again.

Overall, I really enjoyed this film. Even after watching a lot of the genre films made since (Scream, Freddy Vs Jason etc.) this still seemed fresh and was enjoyable. It had not aged enough to be comedic, like some of the older films we watched and the plot was believable (ish). Halloween was given some incredible reviews and on Rotten Tomatoes it has scored a massive average of 93%. I've included some reviews below.

Channel 4 Film
Innovative (check out the gliding camera moves for starters), inventive (it cost zilch, so the young crew used all their ingenuity), compelling and featuring watchable turns from Curtis, Pleasence and co, John Carpenter and Debra Hill's film is a genuine landmark in the horror-thriller genre.

Channel 4's reviewer recognises Halloween's contribution and place in the Genre of horror, although they describe the plot as a bit weak, saying : it wasn't 'much to write home about'  but 'superb 'Cinemascope photography framed to maximum horror effect' which made the film legendary.

Time Out
'A superb essay in Hitchcockian suspense, which puts all its sleazy Friday the 13th imitators to shame with its dazzling skills and mocking wit.'

The reviewer praises the lighting used throughout the film- 'shifting volumes of darkness and light reveal the presence of a sinister something' I noticed how well Carpenter used the light, showing the sillouette of the killer as well as him slowly creeping through the darkness in the corners of the screen. The reviwer acknowledges the link with the earlier 'Psycho', but claims, as expected, that 'Halloween' falls short of the muder-classic - 'Perhaps not quite so resonant as Psycho to which it pays due homage, but it breathes the same air.'

5 Responses to 'Halloween (1978)'

  1. Bluejetdude said...
    http://samhayes101.blogspot.com/2009/12/halloween-1978.html?showComment=1260823511351#c4501089759000036490'> 14 December 2009 at 20:45

    Hell Yeah,
    Everyone loves Charlie Brooker


  2. tutorphil said...
    http://samhayes101.blogspot.com/2009/12/halloween-1978.html?showComment=1260897745006#c8569927703102046707'> 15 December 2009 at 17:22

    Online Interim Review 15/12/09

    Evening Sam,

    We 'discussed' your farm house scene a few posts back and your comments suggest that you're already addressing some of the issues raised; I really want you to go for that 'rural gothic' feel that runs through all those movies we've chatted about; the remakes of Texas Chainsaw give their scenes a sort of queasy yellow tinge - too hot and sun-baked, but also an appropriation of an 8mm film stock aesthetic. Remember, you can stylise and art direct your Maya scene to an inch of its life, so don't be timid when it comes to manipulation; I think it will help also to fix a 'time' for your scene - 'when' is it happening in terms of eras? Also - at what time of day? The super-computer in my head shows me long 'end of the day' shadows. Be sure to grab some screen grabs from the various films etc and really use them to art-direct your scene.

    Regarding your essay, as I think we've agreed, Dr Who is a good choice - but you may want to open things out a little to other instances where the series has connected with the uncanny; in particular, I want you to hunt out some of the stuff that came out back in the seventies when Mary Whitehouse was on her censorship crusade and attacked Dr Who for being to violent and disturbing; the original episodes about The Autons - a race who could control plastic - accrued many complaints because of its depiction of marauding mannequins and faceless policemen...

    For more general info re. the written assignment please see following 2 posts...


  3. tutorphil said...
    http://samhayes101.blogspot.com/2009/12/halloween-1978.html?showComment=1260897784299#c1058943465873572050'> 15 December 2009 at 17:23

    Written assignment Unit 3 Part 1

    Consider carefully the following learning outcomes for your essay and structure your assignment accordingly. You must demonstrate:

    1) Knowledge and understanding of ‘the Uncanny’.

    You should begin your essay by defining ‘the uncanny’ in theoretical terms (i.e. according to Sigmund Freud, Jentsch, and anyone else with a helpful or clear definition). You will be expected to include a quoted source by which to demonstrate your understanding; the essay, ‘The Uncanny’ by Freud is rich in useful observations – so use it; you’ll want to consider the concept of the ‘unheimlich’ and the sorts of motifs/artefacts that create the uncanny experience.

    2) A developed ability to engage in research.

    At this stage of your course, you are expected to research your subject area in order to enrich your discussion and corroborate your analysis. No essay at this stage should be written ‘off the top of your head’ or without a clear research agenda. Research might include a variety of film reviews, artist statements, images, books, critiques and articles. Research requires that you READ and take notes! For instance, if you are looking at Invasion of the Body-Snatchers in relation to the uncanny, first cross-reference lots of reviews/articles about the film. Make a note of any recurrent terms or ideas and when you come across a term you don’t understand or are unfamiliar with – investigate it! Try google searching associated terms together– for instance ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers & uncanny’ – as you may find research material that relates very specifically to your discussion.

    There are no short-cuts to an intelligently written assignment – focused research = successful essays; without research and a body of evidence, your essay is simply ‘chat’ and of no academic significance. Be significant!

    3) The ability to synthesise a range of research applied to arguments.

    Put more simply, this means that once you’ve completed your research and gathered together your key ideas, you are then able to use them to ‘unpack’ your chosen subject; think of your research as a precision tool-kit especially selected by you to ‘dismantle’ your case-study or studies (i.e. the film, image, programme, artwork you’ve chosen to discuss)

    4) The ability to clearly and academically communicate ideas.

    This is all about your writing style and your ‘voice’ – too many of you are writing as if you’re talking, and it’s a habit you need to lose asap in this context. So you must avoid slang and clich├ęs; you’re not on the street or down the pub, you’re in a formal space with formal conventions.

    Avoid the first person; instead of writing ‘I think that Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers is about the fear of conformity’, consider instead ‘It is arguable that Invasion of the Body-Snatchers is about the fear of conformity’.


  4. tutorphil said...
    http://samhayes101.blogspot.com/2009/12/halloween-1978.html?showComment=1260897813601#c5319038131155932358'> 15 December 2009 at 17:23

    Written assignment Unit 3 Part 2

    Please don’t ‘narrate’ your own research – for instance ‘I looked on the internet and found this interesting article’ – No! No! No! Your reader doesn’t give a damn about ‘how’ you came by your research – just use it effectively and formally.

    Punctuation – please use it! Try proof-reading your paragraphs out loud – if you’re gasping for breath by the end of them, you’re in serious need of some full-stops, commas and semi-colons. If you’re uncertain how to use them properly please visit http://www.grammarbook.com/english_rules.asp - and that goes for apostrophes too!

    Capitalisation – all film titles, book titles, artist names etc – should be capitalized every time you include them; Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover etc… Likewise, when first referring to a film please include director and release date.

    Footnotes are NOT to be used to reference quotes within the body of the essay; use Harvard Method. Footnotes can be used to include additional information external to the main body, but useful for the reader’s broader understanding of the subject area.

    Italicize your quotations!

    Double-space your document!

    If you refer to something visual as part of your argument – you must include a supporting illustration as supporting evidence.

    Finally – PROOF-READ your assignments before submission; I am not an English teacher so don’t want to be forever correcting spelling mistakes, typos or ‘right’ words wrongly substituted by a spellchecker. Make time to polish your written work, as you would your creative project work.

    Good luck!


  5. tutorphil said...
    http://samhayes101.blogspot.com/2009/12/halloween-1978.html?showComment=1260897844544#c1585045351104180555'> 15 December 2009 at 17:24

    Also - if you haven't done so already, can you add the CG Arts central blog to your reading list - if you become an author, you can use it post problems and get answers from your classmates on all three years - just post your email as a comment, and Liam in the third year will set you up so you can post.

    Please join & follow http://ucarochester-cgartsandanimation.blogspot.com/


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I'm a student studying CG Arts and Animation at the University for the Creative Arts, I'm living in Kent.

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