Halloween Night, 1963 – Halloween (1978)

Halloween is my favourite horror movie and one of my ten favourite movies of all time. It’s a film I saw at a very young age and one I’m always returning to, wether it be shoving the DVD on for the unpteenth time or just sitting back and revisiting scenes in my head. Needless to say it’s one of those films that has scarred me for life and shaped a lot of my tastes. I imagine if I get to make a movie one day there will be a lot of Halloween to be found in it. So anyway…

While a great deal of Halloween‘s effectiveness comes from John Carpenter’s eerie wide compositions and chilling score, a lot of people forget just how fluid and bold Carpenter’s camerawork was for it’s time. It’s bravura is none more evident than in the movie’s classic opening scene, an extended POV shot that puts us in the shoes of an unknown presence as we stalk and ultimately murder a young girl in her house. The real sucker punch arrives when we realise just who’s shoes we’ve been standing in all along…

Taking his cues from visionary filmmakers such as Orson Welles, Carpenter’s opening shot throws down a cinematic ganutlet that sets the tone for the rest of the movie. I love the roughness of the whole sequence, Halloween was shot on an ultra-low B-movie budget and it shows in the tiny imperfections – the way the focus goes off slightly every now and again, the shudders and jerks as the cameraman clearly steps over wires or avoids hidden crew members. Even the tiny continuity errors that crop up during the hidden cuts add to it’s jittery and demented point-of-view. There’s a wonderful moment during the actual murder as the camera looks from the girl being stabbed and screaming to the hand thrusting the knife through the air. When you picture this situation from the outside – a killer looking bewildered at his own hand mid-stab as if it has a mind of it’s own – it makes it all that little bit more disturbing. It also doubles up as a great little cue to inner-workings of Michael Myers’ mind that will come into play later in the picture. Intentional? Probably not, but it sure is effective.

As a self-contained sequence, it has everything. A mysterious opening in the shape of the eerie halloween chant heard over a black screen, the second-act stalk and finally the bloodbath and rug-pull at the end. It’s as if the whole film’s structure has been dictated to us in the first five minutes. As part of a whole though, it’s undoubtedly one of the strongest and most perfectly executed opening sequences in cinema history and one that still to this day hasn’t been topped, at least not in the horror genre.

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