Halloween (1978) – Analysis

Halloween is the godfather to all modern slasher flicks, specifically the ones in which a group of teenagers fall victim to a weapon-wielding psychopath who hacks and slashes his way through them. The teenagers who have sex die, and the one’s who don’t live. That’s the formula, and John Carpenter concocted it all with the release of Halloween. Though many have attempted to recreate the magic, only a select few have reached the heights that Halloween has through both visuals and sensibility. The movie begins with one of the most spellbinding scores I can think of in cinema, and it pierces you right to the bone. The stabs of synth and piano are hinting at so much, and in combination with the first shots of Michael Myers, our antagonist, the tone of the movie is set right from the beginning. Although the movie may lead you to believe that the film is going to be through Michael’s eyes, since that is how it is depicted at first with a single take from the six-year-olds point of view, the movie that will take place is vehemently opposite. Showcasing a technique that has become a staple of the horror genre, Carpenter structures shots from behind objects, only to reveal what is unseen beyond that object by moving the camera. This is first seen when we see Michael’s home, the first of many reveals.

            Although the movie begins with Michael’s escapades of murdering his family, coincidentally on the night of Halloween, the focus of the story shifts to Laurie Strode, and instead of falling into the ditch where most other slashers reside, Halloween makes a name for itself by focusing on the psychology of our protagonist, Laurie. Laurie lives in the same location as Michael Myers’ family’s murders, some 15 years later after the fact. On Halloween, she has to babysit whilst her friends are trying to scheme and come up with ways to meet with their boyfriends. This is opposite of our protagonist, as she seems to be withholding those impulses, though it is known she does have a crush on one of her classmates. Jamie Lee Curtis, or Laurie, seems to have skipped the entire phase of teenage rebellion, and gone straight to the maternal and more logical qualities that we see with maturity, or perhaps with anxiety. With that in mind, it makes the actual murders and sexual punishments of Michael’s much less significant when comparing them to the overarching themes that are Laurie’s anxious nightmares, embodied by Michael’s doings. It is important to note that we do get more background on Michael, specifically from his doctor or psychiatrist, but the devices used to convey these messages are unnatural and forced, and the film may as well lose them all together. I believe it is a much more interesting story to visualize Michael as the personification of what Laurie fears most, and that’s the anxiety and struggles that come with being a stereotypical teenager.

            This works well with how Michael is perceived in the movie, thanks to Carpenter and cinematographer Dean Cundey. Michael is merely a conjectural or imaginary presence in a very real world. Once Michael begins stalking Laurie, some scenes point to this theory, such as him standing outside in the middle of the day wearing his infamous mask and boiler suit. It gives the impression that maybe only Laurie can see him, or if not, does not care whether or not others can see him at all. Its also important to note his resilience to pain and his magical ability to disappear almost as soon as he appeared. With credence to the aforementioned theories, I think it’s important to discuss the ending of the film, which can seem almost embarrassing. Several times we see Michael attempt to stab or slice Laurie and miss completely; Laurie also throws her knife away before making sure Michael is dead and even turns her back on him several times. I think it’s unrealistic to think that Carpenter has suddenly lost his affection for the “blocking shots” used in the beginning of the film for the third act. Perhaps this is intentional, allowing us to see everything going on because what we are seeing may in fact be taking place internally. After all, the film does end with Michael disappearing yet again, allowing us to fight our demons, win sometimes, but inevitably, have to face them again sometime down the road.

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