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Wednesday, 19 January 2011

WS - Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978) Deconstruction

Click here to go to the IMDB page for "Halloween" 

There are two parts to the Opening scene of Halloween; the opening credits, and the opening action scene.

The camera is slowly zooming in on a pumpkin. Inside the pumpkin are flickering candles signifying hell/horror. The Sans-Serif font writing flickers between red and yellow, which also signifies hell/horror/fire (Sans-Serif font is an unusual choice here as it usually signifies light-hearted comedy). The music is eerie and suspenseful (this music also appears throughout the film) and it changes the audiences heart rate making them feel tense. The titles last 2minutes and 5seconds. Following the title scene, the screen turns black with two words written on: Haddonfield, Illinois. This anchors the location for the start of the film. It immediately moves away from polysemy and provides exposition straight away. The white writing on the black background shows binary opposition and could be representing good/evil. Reading further into the location, it seems deliberate that Illinois has been chosen; it isn't a huge city such as New York, it represents a quieter and more subdued location. The shot after the setting anchorage, is anchorage for the date (Halloween Night, 1963). The same applies in terms of the style, but the date informs the audience of exactly when the film is set; what day, month, year and decade.
Once the action actually starts, we have a POV (Point-of-view) shot from an unknown person (although we find out later in the opening that it is the killer). The shot is quite unique and carries on for the duration of the film opening, except for a short camera shot at the end. The shot is done using a steady cam, which gets the feel that it is someone's viewpoint, without been so over the top that the camera is jolting everywhere. The shot also uses tracking. The shot uses a very strong blue filter, which is often associated with horror films. The blue tinted camera signifies supernatural, night time and colness. The mise-en-scene is very important in the opening scene. At the beginning of the shot we see the house is detached, suggesting isolation and help isn't near. There are also trees over hanging in front of the camera creating shadows. Inside the house there are typical items, such as tables, draws and chairs. However small details make a big difference because they provide verisimilitude, for example the large grandfather clock and the knife. There is also an interesting part of the shot when POV shot is like looking through a mask, giving the audience a really close up view of the killing and it makes it more suspenseful as it is like the viewer is carrying out the killing. The sound in the opening (created by the director John Carpenter himself!) uses a lot of long drawn out notes which generally make the audience hold their breath, creating even more tension. 
The opening ends with a high angle shot looking down on Michael Myers (the killer) holding the knife, his parents and their house.

Here is the opening scene to Halloween. Please note that in this video the opening credits are missing. The credits, in the film, come before the opening scene.

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