Sunday, 23 November 2008
Halloween (1978)-John Carpenter
Halloween, directed and written by John Carpenter was the first slasher film in the history of the horror genre inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho(1960).
My analysis of the title, and opening sequence of the film leads me to understand Carpenters techniques in gripping the audience and causing unease and apprehension upon them.
The title sequence of Halloween is quite simple but is full of techniques John Carpenter has used to reinstate the title and genre of the film. The black background is typical of a horror film as the connotations of black and dark colours suggests isolation, death, mourning and sadness, all of which are reccurring themes in the horror genre. The only mise-en-scene used in this scene is a pumpkin which supports the title of the film: Halloween, a night based around fear. The font used in this scene flickers from golden yellow to red which has negative connotations such as blood, danger and death. This editing is also reminiscent of the pumpkins candlelight. The soundtrack music (also composed by Carpenter) is made of atmospheric layers of sound such as staccato piano which creates tension and anticipation when blended with the chords as they rise in pitch and volume as the audience get nearer to the opening of the film. This music also compliments the camera movement which is a slow zoom towards the pumpkin from an extreme long shot into an extreme close up.
After this the screen is pitch black and the only audio is one of children chanting eerily. It could be argued that this is diegetic sound or incidental audio of trick-or-treaters however the presence of these characters isnt confirmed in the following scene so this audio was probably just placed here to set the scene of halloween.
The establishing shot of the opening scene shows a dimly lit house on a regular suburban American street. The house is a white colour, its connotations purity and innocence. It is a shadowy house and is the only lit part of the street. The handheld camera zooms in on the house and as the camera peers in the windows of the house we realise this shot is in subjective point of view. As the camera peers in on a couple embracing, the audience could gather that whoever is looking in on the couple may have a sexual motive for being there. This is confirmed when the camera moves to the front of the house, and the upstairs bedroom light switches off accompanied by a high pitched non-diegetic audio sound, almost like a signal to the pursuer to move inside the house. The camera moves around the shadowy house and inside the house, and we see a hand pull a knife out of a drawer, showing that this is indeed a dangerous potential murderer. The camera then moves through the dining room, which has long candles in a dark room; a location typical of a horror film. The ambient sound continues as we are given more typical mise-en-scene; rocking chair by window.
Then we see the boy who was upstairs with his girlfriend come down and exit the house, thus leaving murderer and young girl alone. As the camera moves up the stairs we hear the diegetic sound of a clock chiming. We see a hand grab a clown mask, and the camera frame is seen through two eye-holes.
We see the teenage girl, sitting at her vanity table, brushing her hair, humming a tune only semi clothed. This is accompanied by another high pitched alarm. The camera focuses on the bed, in which the bed sheets are untidy and all over the place. The camera turns to face the girl and she screams a name, revealing the identity of the murder, "Michael". The ambient audio begins as Michael takes his first few stabs at his victim, supported by her screams.
The film doesnt show all the gore of weapon meeting flesh like modern films tend to, but focuses on the knife moving back and forth reminding us of 'psycho'. Then Michael looks down on her naked, dead body.
Then the camera retreats out of the house and we can hear heavy breathing. He walks outside and we see two adults get out of a car and question his identity. All of a sudden, the camera switches from subjective point of view to a high angle crane shot, zooming out. showing that the murderer is in fact, the younger brother of the victim around 8 to 10 years old. This shows that we have been manipulated by the director to believe that the murderer was an adult. The techniques used to create this image are; high angle shots to believe the subjct is tall, and a long adult looking arm.