|Halloween History: John Carpenter a young director with only two film behind him- expanded college projects Dark Star (1974) and thriller Assault On Precinct 13 (1976) intended Halloween to be a ruthless machine movie, a thrill ride designed simply to leave the audience shaking with fear.He succeeded.It became the single most successful independent production at that time and changed the face of horror movie.If Universal's 1931 Frankenstein is "the most inportant horror movie ever made" then Halloween runs it a close second.After Carpenter's film no co-ed taking a shower was safe from the legion of masked psychotics who haunted high schools, college dorms, summer camps and slumber parties.The formula was so outrageouly successful that by 1981 over 60 per cent of American releases were of the stalk 'n' slash genre.Without Michael Myers there would be no Jason Voorhess (Friday the 13th) or Freddy Kruger (A Nightmare On Elm Street).The Ripples continue to roll across horror's dark millpond with ironic horrors like Scream and Urban Legend themselves being spoofed in Scary Movie, While I Know What You Did Last Summer simply returns to the tried and tested formula.But no movie since Carpenter's has delivered the requisite shocks with such exuberant elegance.Haloween's main influences are probably Psycho and Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (both 1960), the tale of a voyeuristic killer who forces his victims to watch their own deaths.That element of voyeurism is present in Carpenter's lurking camera and extensive use of point-of- view shots, both from the killer and his or
her victim's perspectives.It's a techniquw that dazzles from the start of the movie.The celebrated opening sequence, in which we peer though the windows of a white clapboard house at a couple of canoodling teens, before trackingthem upstairs, remains one of the greatest deplyments of steadicam (or, strictly speaking, panaglide, Panavision's now defunct version of the system) in cinema.In fact, its a type of shot peculiarly suited to building tension and therefore to horror, as Stanley Kubrick would demonstrate two years later in The Shining.What appears here to be a fluid sequence actually has at least one cut: one when the child puts on the clown's mask on the another that Carpenter calaims is in there but refuses to reveal where.It also audaciously compresses time- were are lead to believe that the canoodling couple have bumped uglies.Certainly the boy is pulling his shirt back on as he cames downstairs and the bedsheets show signs of some energetic romping.In fact they've been up there for less then two minutes.Either it's the least satisfying shag on film history or Carpenter is already putting hes cards on the table.All extraneous matter is stripped away leaving a drag racer of a fright machine.The heart of Halloween is its simplicity Its establishes therules of teen horror- so eloquently mocked in Scream- and obeys them slavishly.Teens fall victim to The Shape only after they have committed some anti- authoritarian crime, usually have sex, but occasionally boozing or smoking dope.It was Carpenter's counter-intuitive discovery that adolescents, at whom the film is squarely aimed were, by the late 70s, a deeply conservative audience who liked nothing more than to see their own kind viciously punished for supposed social transgreesion.Hardly the free spirits of the Easy Rider decade.Much of Carpenter's success would become chiche in the following years: the lurking camera, slaughtered teens and a killer who refuses to lie down and die (indeed, like the arms bursting out of the ground at the end of Carrie, the shot of the "dead" shape rising behind laurie (Curtis) would become the stuff of spoof- but only because it was so effective in the first place).But regardless of the limp comedies the followed, Halloween remains about as distilled, raw an experience in terror as is ever likely to be commited to celluloid.
|JOHN CARPENTER'S HALLOWEEN ©1978 Compass International Pictures
Trancas International Films.
|Starring Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J Soles
Director John Carpenter
Writor John Carpenter and Debra Hill
Length 92 Minutes.
Company Compass International Pictures
Executive Producer Moustapha Akkad, Irwin Yablans
Producer John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Kool Lusby
Music Composer John Carpenter
First Release Date Friday October 25th 1978 - United States
Video Distributor Anchor Bay Entertainment Inc. (1997- 2007)