Halloween and Psycho analysis

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Halloween and Psycho analysis

  1. 1. Halloween, 1978Director John CarpenterStudio Independent(Falcon InternationalPictures)Budget $320, 000Gross $47, 000, 000Written by John Carpenter andDebra HillCastDonald Pleasence Dr. Sam LoomisJamie Lee Curtis(daughter of Janet Leigh) Laurie StrodeNancy Kyes Annie BrackettP.J. Soles Lynd van der KokCharles Cyphers Sheriff Leigh BrackettKyle Richards Lindsey WallaceBrian Andrews Tommy DoyleNancy Stephens Marion ChambersPlot summary:15 years ago, 6 year old Michael Myers brutally killed his older sister. Thesilent child was incarcerated in the Smiths Grove mental hospital under thecare of psychiatrist Sam Loomis. The town of Haddonfield had slowly begunto forget the tragic crime, until Loomis returned to the town to warn of Myersescape from Smiths Grove. With Michael set on killing a group of high schoolstudents, Loomis seeks the help of the hesitant town sheriff to stop him beforeits too late.Critics have suggested that Halloween and its slasher film successors mayencourage sadism and misogyny. Others have suggested the film is a socialcritique of the immorality of young people in 1970s America, pointing out thatmany of Myers victims are sexually promiscuous substance abusers, whilethe lone heroine is depicted as chaste and innocent (although she is seensmoking marijuana, and her two best friends are sexually active and aresubstance abusers). While Carpenter dismisses such analyses, the perceivedparallel between the characters moral strengths and their likelihood ofsurviving to the films conclusion has nevertheless become a standard slashermovie convention.The first scene of the young Michaels voyeurism is followed by the murder ofJudith Myers seen through the eyeholes of Michaels clown costume mask.According to one commentator, Carpenters "frequent use of the un-mountedfirst-person camera to represent the killers point of view ... invited [viewers] toadopt the murderers assaultive gaze and to hear his heavy breathing andplodding footsteps as he stalked his prey."• Watch the opening scene of Halloween. What similarities can youdraw between this sequence and Psycho? Consider bothcinematography and representation.
  2. 2. • Both of these disturbed individuals deal with obvious mental conditionswhich propel them to kill• Both of the killers are frozen in time. They can’t see past a particularlytraumatizing event in their lives. Norman haunted by the “betrayal” ofhis mother, and Michael haunted by memories of murdering his ownsister following a jealous fit in which he observed her giving her love toanother man (presumably a boyfriend.• As Michael must wear a physical or tangible mask to exemplify thisemotional standstill, Norman wears a mask of another sort; he wearsthe mask of manners and normalcy to hide his maladjustment. Theselead character similarities are just the surface of Carpenter’s homageto Hitchcock, and Psycho.In terms of formal references to Hitchcockian technique in Halloween thereare many.• To build suspense Carpenter relies on the constantly changing POVshot. The characters point of view is suddenly intercut with that ofan objective shot, allowing for multiple views on situations.• The most startling scenes in Halloween follow this pattern. Forexample when the protagonist lead (Jamie Lee Curtis) is walkingdown the street and suddenly bumps into Sheriff Brackett, we seeboth her POV and objective in the same scene. Carpenter cutsback and forth until finally quickly cutting from her point of view to atight master shot where the two collide.• This alternating viewpoint builds suspense and allows for thedirector to resolve the scene with a shocking effect if desired. Theextensive use of the POV shot in this film owes much to Hitchcock.• The amount of gore in Halloween is extremely subdued. Violence isminimal--yet it is referred to as a “gorefest” or “slasher” film. Inactuality, it is through the mental connection between image andreality that Halloween becomes graphic.• Carpenter utilizes the aforementioned Hitchcockian camera methodto such a degree of success that it builds an uneasy atmosphere.When an act of violence does occur, Carpenter prefers to show onlyspecific images such as the knife thrusting through the air in orderto allow his audience to fill in the rest of the scene. It is through thismix of atmospheric tension and selected imagery that the viewerforms their vivid memories of what has just occured on screen. ThisHitchcockian ploy ultimately coerces the audience to turn a ratherbloodless film into one of murder and mayhem--but the actualviolent images are in their own minds and not directly on screen.Carpenter’s Hitchcock fascination doesn’t end there. Look at the casting.• Jamie Lee Curtis (the female lead) is the daughter of Janet Leigh, starof Psycho.• On the topic of names, look at the male protagonist lead played byDonald Pleasance. Pleasance plays psychologist Sam Loomis, whichis the name of Janet Leigh’s boyfriend in the film Psycho.
  3. 3. As we can see, Carpenter’s appreciation for Hitchcock and Psycho in generalhas greatly influenced Halloween.Scenes for comparison:• Opening sequence of Halloween with shower sequence• Psycho parlour sequence with visit to Myers house with Loomis andsheriff• House of horror sequence in Psycho with Laurie finding dead friends inHalloweenUse spec to formulate questions ( on first document)Narrative structure:Apply these to both textsTheorist Syd Field suggests that successful narratives require a ‘three act’structure. These break down as follows:Act 1: Set-up where the action takes place; introduce characters; suggestwhat might happen in broad termsAct 2: Key confrontation involving the main character facing a series ofobstacles that he/she will need to overcome to restore orderAct 3: All plots and sub-plots are resolvedTheorists interested in narrative suggest that all stories are structurally thesame. Tzvetan Todorov suggests that all narrative structures have thefollowing:1. Equilibrium is established (balance in the narrative ‘world’)2. Disruption occurs3. Equilibrium is re-establishedIn filmic terms, this translates to:1. We are introduced to the world of the hero/heroine2. The normality of this world is disrupted3. The hero/heroine sets out to restore orderIn other words, film narratives can often be boiled down to good versus evil, ororder versus chaos. Some films take this approach more literally than othersbut most follow this structure to a greater or lesser extent.Scene comparison 1: ‘Shower scene’ (Psycho) and ‘Opening scene’
  4. 4. (Halloween)1. Compare representations of the monster. How does cinematography(lighting, framing, shot types) contribute towards the narrative?Consider how good/evil, order/chaos juxtapositions are created.PsychoHalloween2. Now compare how the ‘victims’ of Marion Crane (Psycho) and JudithMyers (Halloween) are represented. Again, discuss the role ofcinematography in the sequences.PsychoHalloween3. Compare how violence is treated in the two films. What are thesimilarities and differences? Consider cinematography, editing andsound in the sequences.CinematographyEditingSoundScene comparison 2: Norman’s Parlour (Psycho) and Dr. Loomis’ visit to
  5. 5. the Myer’s House (Halloween)1. Using examples of dialogue, explain how parallels can be drawnbetween the two ‘monsters’ of Norman Bates and Michael Myers.Consider the implications of what is said in these two scenes. Whatmight an audience response be to the two scenes?PsychoHalloween2. What stylistic comparisons can you identify in the cinematography?Scene comparison 3: Lila’s discovery in the Bate’s family home (Psycho)
  6. 6. and Laurie’s Discovery of her friends murder (Halloween)1. What similarities can you indentify in the two scenes? Make referenceto cinematography specifically. What is our attention drawn to? How isthis achieved?2. What do these scenes contribute to representation of women (i.e.Laurie strode and Marion’s sister)? How is this achieved?3. What do we learn about the monster? What elements are reinforced?
  7. 7. and Laurie’s Discovery of her friends murder (Halloween)1. What similarities can you indentify in the two scenes? Make referenceto cinematography specifically. What is our attention drawn to? How isthis achieved?2. What do these scenes contribute to representation of women (i.e.Laurie strode and Marion’s sister)? How is this achieved?3. What do we learn about the monster? What elements are reinforced?

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