This should come to as no surprise to anybody who’s been following Horror Week. as if we can allow this week and month to end without talking about John Carpenter’s seminal horror film, Halloween.
In 1960, Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock released Psycho, and the world would forever be changed. Now Hitchcock has done a lot to change the world, but today we will specifically talk about how with Psycho he helped birth the slasher genre. There is no Ghostface without Krueger, and there isn’t Krueger without Myers. And by no means can there be Myers without Norman Bates.
Just like everything else that is written, the opening needs to set the mood, the themes, tone and has to show us what world we about to cohabit with these new (hopefully fully realized) characters. And the opening of Halloween does that in remarkable ways.
The opening tracking shot clocks in at just a bit above four minutes. First off, we are placed into somebody’s shoes, a voyeur. A peeping tom who peers into this house and sees a woman about to sneak off into her room with her boyfriend. As they go upstairs, this voyeur (who as are literally in their mind), we start feeling like this character. He enters the house through the back door which leads him to the kitchen, and as he’s there he grabs a knife, but for a brief moment, you can see his arm and the costume he is wearing. The movie takes place on Halloween itself, it only makes sense that creeps and voyeurs would dress up and take advantage of the costumes. He slowly makes his way to the bedroom where he finds a mask that seems to match the costume he is wearing. He walks toward the bedroom to find the same woman sitting in a chair, topless. He walks towards her and takes a look at the bed before looking at her again. The woman turns back and says his name as he begins to stab her, this clearly showing that she knows the attacker. He walks out of the house to find a car pulling in, and two adults come over and pull the mask off and we get our surprising reveal, it was all a little boy.
I say reveal as if we were actually in 1978 watching the film for the first time (or watching it for the first time now if you were unaware of the synopsis of the film). This opening incredibly shows us that we are in a movie in which we slowly watch this voyeur peek from afar before getting close and bloody. We find a way to sympathize with Michael’s strange obsession with his family. While on top of that, we also see that Michael goes completely unphased that he just murdered his older sister.
Somewhere between then, and the 15-year time jump, Michael no longer is Michael Myers but he becomes The Shape, he becomes the living embodiment of evil. Completely unstoppable and very deadly.
Halloween belongs to the list of genre films that happen to both be a great addition to it’s genre but also a great film overall. The movie works just as well now as it ever has, and it continues to influence other great films like Adam Wingard’s The Guest, or even It Follows. Carpenter’s fingerprints can be felt on numerous films, sadly excluding the Rob Zombie remake.
Halloween is what happens when a man who grew up wanting to become a filmmaker got the opportunity to make something that was just meant to scare the living shit out of everyone and he succeeded.