Δευτέρα, 10 Σεπτεμβρίου 2012

Halloween Movie (1978)

Halloween - Micheal Mayers Legacy!





Halloween movie (1978) is one of the most successful horror films in history of US Cinema. It was directed, produced and co - written by John Carpenter. The soundtrack of Halloween was also composed by John Carpenter. The screenplay of Halloween was written by Debra Hill and John Carpenter.


Halloween is the fundamental film for the creation of a whole sub genre of horror films, the slasher sub - genre. Actually, it launched the wave of the following slasher horror movie and calender horror films like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Terror Train etc. The box - office success of Halloween movie was the main reason for the production of related movies with Halloween’s plot structure which turn to be the plot structure for a whole sub genre. A group of ordinary teenagers are trapped into an extraordinary situation and they are under the attack of an unstoppable, unexplained and deadly force.   
                            

Halloween’s business model is one of the most successful in history of Hollywood and Halloween is one of the most profitable independent films. Halloween film is also the main reason for seven sequel films and also two remake by Rob Zombie one in 2007 and another one in 2009.


The plot structure of Halloween


The story begins in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois in the night of Halloween in 1963.  A boy is looking through a window his teenager sister kissing with her boyfriend in the family’s house living room. The two teenagers are heading upstairs. The boy stays outside of the family house and when he sees the light from his sister room go off, he takes a knife from kitchen and he waits. The boyfriend of his sister leaves from the house, then the boy enters into his sister room and he stabs his sister until she was dead. The boy wearing a Halloween mask walks downstairs and out of the house, he keeps the knife on his hands. A car parks infront of the family house, they are the parents of the boy. The father removes the mask from the boys face and in front of the audience a revelation the face of the boy. Michael Mayers!!!


Michael Mayers is institutionalized and the responsible doctor for the boy is Dr. Loomis. Unfortunately the young boy fells into the shadows of Catatonia.


The plot of Halloween starts on October 1978 when the physiastrist Dr. Sam Loomis visits the mental institution to arrange the short - term transfer of Michael Mayers for a court hearing. Michael Mayers finds an opportunity and escapes, he  steal Dr. Loomis car and he is driving as hell into the dark of the night. Dr. Loomis is after him in an effort to stop more killings, the physiatrist believes that Michael Mayers is driving into his hometown Haddonfield.

Next morning in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Myers appears. The high school student  Laurie sees Michael, firstly in her school and then on the streets. Hers friends have another opinion and they dismiss hers concerns and fears. At the same time Dr. Loomis visits the local cemetery, he looks for the grave of Michael Mayers sister, but there is no gravestone. The gravestone of Judith Mayers in missing. Dr. Loomis is sure that Michael Mayer is back in his hometown. Dr. Loomis informs the local Sherif who is also Annie’s father (one of the best friends of Laurie the main character), and they start looking for Michael Mayers.

It’s Halloween night, Laurie babysits Tommy and hers best friend Annie babysits Lindsley in a house across the street from Tommy house. Michael Mayers is around and stalks Annie, he kills the dog of the house to be easy for him to break into Annie’s house. Annie receives a call from her boyfriend to pick him up, Annie takes Linsdley to Tommy’s house and Laurie is no responsible not only for Tommy but also for Lindlsley. Annie is killed by Muchael Mayers.  At the same time from Tommy’s house, Tommy sees Michael Mayers carrying the dead body of Annie. Tommy tries to explain to Laurie but she dismiss boys concerns.  Later Annie’s friend Lynda is speaking to the phone with Laurie, when Michael Mayers kills her boyfriend and struggles Lynda with the telephone cord. Laurie starts to concern about the strange noise on the telephone while Lynda.

After the noise on the telephone and the unanswered calls Laurie enters the house of Lynda’s. Laurie sees the dead bodies of her friends, Mayer has placed the stolen graveyard behind Annie’s dead body. Mayer attacks her and she falls down at the staircase. Laurie runs out of the house, and she is in front of Tommy’s house, she screams for help, Tommy opens the door slowly as Mayer’s walks toward the house. Laurie enters the house and advice children to hide.

Unfortunately for her Mayers is already in the house and attacks her. Laurie with stables a knitting needle in Mayers neck and hits the vilain (Michael Mayers).

Laurie runs upstairs to a bedroom and locks herself, Michael breaks the door and attacks Laurie. Laurie uses Micheal’s knife and he hits Mayer with the knife on his chest. Micheal is down. Tommy and Lindsley are outside of the house, Dr. Loomis see them running away and suspects that probably Michael Myaers is in the house.
Micheal gets up and he is ready to re attack again, Dr. Loomis enters into the house and shots to Micheal Mayers in the chest. Michael injured from the shots, falls from the second - story window onto a lawn.

But when they look for Michael the supposed dead body is missing. While Halloween is ending we hear the breathing of Micheal’s mask.        

The idea for the Halloween movie production


John Carpenter's film Assault on Precinct 13 was the main reason for the interest of the producer Irwin Yablans to hire John Carpenter to direct a horror film about a psychotic killer who used to be also a stalker. Irwin Yablans had secured financial resources from an independent financier Mr Moustapha Akkad who wanted to break into the the US Film business, Yablans motive was to create a horror film with a high impact on film industry as “The Exorcist” had in 1973.

At the period when Yablans was working with John Carpenter about the film, John Carpenter’s girlfriend Debra Hill had an idea and was writing a story initially titled “The Babysitter Murders”, the producer Yablans liked the concept but he had a better idea to set the plot structure on Hlaloween night and naming the movie - Halloween.

Actually Irwin Yablans with this strategy created the concept of “calendar horror films” (Halloween - Friday the 13th - My Bloody Valentine - Black Christmass etc).

Initially, John Carpenter created a budget about $ 320.000 (his succesfull previous - first film had a budget of $ 100.000).  Akkad and Yablans worried about the short four - weeks production schedule and the limited financial resources. But, John Carpenter’s enthusiasm, his passion about the project his ability to describe the future film verbally and in a suspenseful way frame be frame and his willingness to not receive any fees, was an evidence that he was confident about the Halloween project.

John Carpenter's payment was $ 10.000 for directing, writing the screenplay and composing film’s score and he was going to receive 10% of film’s profit.

It’s interesting to mention the very clever usage of limited financial resources from John Carpenter and especially in relation with wardrobe and props - actually the Halloween production team use items already on hand and very cheap to buy.

Tommy Lee Wallace was chosen by John Carpenter. The best value for money approach of Tommy Lee Wallace was the reason for the even more result oriented use of the limited financial resources. Tommy Lee Wallace was responsible for the production design, art direction, co - editing and location scouting. As result Michael Mayer’s mask was created by a Captain Kirk mask bought for $ 1,98 only. Many of actors wore their own clothes and Curtis’ wardobe was purchased at J.C. Penney for around a hundred dollars.
Halloween was filmed in spring of 1978 and the duration of filming was only 21 days in South Pasadena,California and at Sierra Madre, California. The Myers house was in reality an abandoned church’s house. The final scene was filmed in two houses on Orange Grove Avenue in Hollywood. The production of Halloween was helped by local families who dressed their children in Halloween costumes for the Halloween night scene.  

Writing the Halloween movie

The producer of Halloween movie Irwin Yablans and the financier of the project Akkad offer absolute creative control to writers Debra Hill and John Carpenter. But then he made suggestions. Actually the movie Halloween has in every 10 minutes a scene that creates fear to audience. Actually, the Halloween screenplay is based also on the specific time period of Halloween celebration at the last day of October.
Debra Hill used to work as babysitter and as a result her previous experience as a babysitter proved very helpful in writing the  majority of dialogues between female characters and babysitting scenes. The home town of Michael Mayers - Haddonfield in the state of Illinois actually was inspired by Debra Hill’s home town Haddonfield - New Jersey. The fictional names of characters in the screenplay of Halloween inspired by real people and by after fictional names in well known films. Michael Mayers was a British producer who was very interested about John Carpenter’s film Assault on Precinct 13. The name of the main character - final girl “Laurie Strode” was the name of John Carpenter's ex girlfriend. Also, there is a relationship also with fictional names from Alfred Hitchcock previous films, the name of Halloween’s psychiatrist Dr. Loomis,  previously appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's film Psycho, also the character name of the boy Tommy Doyle in Halloween is named after the character name Tommy J. Doyle of Alfred Hitchcock's film Rear Window.


Cast of Halloween movie 


The low budget approach for the production of Hallowen and the limited resources and the restricted time schedule minimize the opportunities of filmmakers to cast stars. John Carpenter tried at least to secure the participation of a star for the role of psychiatric Dr. Loomis. Initially the role was offered to Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Finally, Donald Pleasence agreed and played the part of Dr. Loomis. Donald Pleasence was already known to audience because of his performance in the James Bond film “You Only Live Twice” (Lewis Gilbert, 1967) by playing the role of villain Ernst Stavros Blofeld.


John Carpenter wanted in Halloween movie to present the aura of happy lucky teenage girl in the 70s and he tried to cast for the role of the main character Anne Lockhart but she refused, the Jamie Lee Curtis agreed and the daughter of Psycho’s actress Janet Leigh started her career as scream queen. Nancy Keys played the part of Annie, main character’s best friend and daughter of the local Sheriff. Nancy Kyes had worked in the past with John Carpenter in the movie Assault on Presinct 13. The role of Lynda Van Der Kirk was played by P.J. Soles, already known to audience from the movie “Carrie” (Brian de Palma, 1976) and the TV Series “The boy in the plastic bubble” (Radal Kleiser, 1976).

Main article in horror2112 about cast of Halloween movie   

The Halloween soundtrack


One of Halloween assets was the unforgettable score. Actually, soundtrack encourage the moody atmosphere of the film. Halloween movie’s soundtrack was composed by John Carpenter and the score is a piano melody played in a 10/8 or complex 5/4 meter. Later, critics admired Halloween soundtrack and according to them the score is one of the key points for Hallloween success as a horror film. Simple in composition but successfull and unforgettable.

Also during the film the audience can hear songs they were composed by John Carpenter and a Los Angeles band called “The Coupe De Villes”. Also, the song of rock band Blue Quester Cult “Don’t fear the Reaper”’ is heard in the Halloween Film.

Directing Halloween

Halloween is a milestone movie not only for horror cinema but also for the Hollywood business model. One of the critical factors of Halloween success were John Carpenter’s camera work and actors’ direction. Especially, composition and foregrounds in framing were amazing.

The mood in Halloween is created from the opening titles, the audience watches a jack - o - lantern against a black background. Camera is moving slowly toeard the jack - o - lantern as the soundtrack main theme is playing the words appear on the screne. Finally camera is fully closes, in the eye of jack - o lantern. The mood of the horror film is established already from the opening title. Mood, genre, period of time, calender reference from the first seconds. In my opinion one of the best ever openings for a horror movie.

The producer of Halloween wanted from John Carpenter a film with Alfred Hitchock approach - “that the audience shouldn’s see anything . It should be what they thought they that frightens them”.

John Carpenter follow producer’s advice and demand by filming many scenes from the villain’s (Michael Mayers) point of view in an effort to increase the participation of audience in film’s plot structure. Also he used widely steadicam to increase the voyeuristic look in same specific scenes.

The first person camera to present the villain’s point of view, his heavy breathing and the plodding footsteps while he is walking created evidence of Mayers’ presence. Actually, John Carpenter created suspense in Hlaloween by not using cheap gore or false blood.
He worked with actors many hours to build the desired effect of terror, fear and suspensce. He created a technique a meter to advice cast the level of fera in each scene. He used to call it “fear meter”. Each scene had a different level of fear and a different grade in fear meter.

Halloween movie Awards


Halloween is a significant horror movie and has attracted the interest not only of cinema fans but also the interest of critics, film organizations and magazines.
Firstly, in 1979 Halloween was nominated to for Saturn Award for Best Horror Film by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films.
In 2001, the American Film Institute ranked Halloween on the 68th position in the list “100 Years … 100 Thrills”.
In 2004, Halloween ranked on the 14th position on Bravo’s list “The 100 Scariest Movie Moments”, at the same year the Chicago Film Critics Association recognize Halloween film as the 3rd scariest film ever made.
The Library of Congress choose Halloween film for preservation in the United States National Film Registry with the characterization “is culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Then AOL (2007) during the event “31 days Horror countdown” recognizes Halloween as the greatest horror movie. The Empire magazine (2008) select Halloween as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Times. Total Film magazine selected Halloween film as one of “The 100 Greatest Movies of all times”.


Halloween film and “The American Film Institute”




American Film Institute ranked Halloween on the 68th position in the list of “AFI’s 100 years, … , 100 Thrills # 68”. Halloween’s villain Michael Mayers was nominated for the list “AFI’s 100 years , …., 100 Heroes and Villains”. Also, Halloween was nominated by American Film Institute for the list “AFI’s 100 Years , …., 100 Movies”.        

To be continued





Elias Stoikos                                                   

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