Sunday, 30 November 2014

TH Analysis of Opening Sequence - 'Halloween' (Carpenter, 1978)


The film 'Halloween' belongs to the gore-horror sub-genre. This is established right at the beginning when the scene is presented immediately where after a matter of minutes, a girl is brutally murdered. The title of the film connotes the likelihood of a horror film and this is met in the opening sequence too. The sequence treats the genre seriously, and it is almost a way of showing the audience what they can expect in the rest of the film. It all happens so soon after the start of the film that the audience is led to make assumptions into what will happen later, as they wish to find out what caused such an attack.

Film Language

The first camera shot is at mid-long shot and the movement of the camera pans around the house horizontally, in which a pumpkin carving is shown lit by candle; it is night time. This mise-en-scene therefore signals that the time of the year is halloween, it may lead to something scary occurring already. The movement of the camera is interesting though, as it is not steady entirely. We are then made aware of the fact this is a POV shot too when the camera enters a room and the lights turn on. Before this, the camera focuses through a window and pictures two young people kissing in a living room. After leaving the room, the character returns to the front of the house as the camera tilts up and observes the light in an upstairs room go off, whilst maintaining a slightly wobbly steadicam movement. The character we are situated with in the POV shot 'sneaks' around to the back door, denoting that whoever or whatever this individual is, they are not welcome here. After entering, the character picks up a large knife from a drawer in the kitchen; the audience now knows what is potentially about to happen. The figure shows the knife to the camera at a short distance, as if they are assessing it as a weapon of enough ferocity to kill. When the knife is picked up, the camera angle is pointed down to the drawer with a human hand, leading us to believe that they are a grown person. However, the mise-en-scene here involves the sleeve of the person, which is not conventional clothing for an adult necessarily, it would appear to be a costume perhaps; reflecting halloween. Next, the camera moves upstairs and places a mask over the lens to show the perspective of the person, a clever shot that not only shows us what the character sees, but it is a halloween mask also, and finally it could mean that this person wishes to hide they're identity. After a short distance, the camera focuses on the girl we saw downstairs, apparently oblivious to the presence of this other character. As we get closer to the girl we are still positioned above her; showing our dominance in the situation. Through her vulnerable, non-verbal dialogue, we are now convinced she is the subjected victim of the attack about to take place. She turns around and recognises the person but it is too late as she is murdered, as the camera shakes to represent the violent nature of the attack, as we also see the knife being thrusted back and forth. Once she is dead, the camera moves out of the room quicker than before and leaves through the front door. Two adults are outside, having just arrived in a car and removes the mask. At this point, a jump cut from the same camera shot that has been present throughout this whole scene reveals that this person was in fact a small boy, with knife in hand and dressed in a clown costume. The mid-close up of his face shows his mood which appears to be un-phased by what he has just done; connoting he may be possessed. The camera then zooms out and retreats to include the house and the adults and the boy.
During this whole sequence, the only cut was right at the end, showing the continuous action of the attack. Sound plays a more important role though, as the initial sound is just the diegetic conversation between the two characters in shot. Then, as the individual looks up to the window, as the light goes off a spooky piano screech plays at the same time and ambience is introduced here for the rest of the scene, developing tension. Another screech features when the girl is shown upstairs. During the attack, she screams but the ambience increases in volume and pace.


The main plot is outlined above and the structure is very continuous; it is only consisted of two shots. The main themes are tension being developed and a climax of a violent attack.

Representation and Ideology

Youth is represented in this sequence. The two teenagers are present, along with the small child. The main difference here, through ideological discourse, is the difference between gender. The victim is the teenage girl. She is represented as a vulnerable individual and she cannot put up a fight against the killer.

Media Audiences

The target audience of this film would have been a 15-29 age bracket. This should be the case because of the sub-genre essentially. The gore-horror genre is often targeted at this social group because of the thrills and scares they present. As the film was produced to be a horror film, the dominant audience readings are present as there is already blood and murder in the opening sequence. Personally, I believe that the acting would have been more developed if the film were shot today compared to 36 years ago. Yet, the plot is still a plot that I would expect to see in any modern day horror opening sequence.

Institutional context

A listers of this film include: Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis and Tony Moran. It was produced by Compass International Pictures, an independent American studio.


1 comment:

  1. Tom, a promising start, however this needs to be broken into sections, key words highlighted, visuals used. Represent and email me to confirm.