Mention the term Slasher Film and many examples may come to mind, ‘Friday The 13th’ or ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ are both good shouts from the 80’s boom, ‘Scream’ for the generation-X crowd and maybe ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’. All of them however pale in significance to the daddy of Slasher movies, Halloween. Set in fictional Haddonfield, Illinois, it concerns the local legend of a young boy called Michael Myers who inexplicably one Halloween night murdered his older sister and was subsequently committed to a mental institution. Then on Halloween night 15 years later, Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield.
John Carpenter introduced us to Michael Myers, credited as simply ‘The Shape’, for the first time in 1978. Produced for a meagre $300,000 with Carpenter directing and also scoring it’s infamous synth soundtrack, he also co-wrote the film with his producer Debra Hill. An interesting piece of trivia attached to the films budget being so low, they could not afford to mould unique Myers masks for the production, instead a rubber William Shatner mask painted white was used and has now passed in to cinematic infamy. Influenced by Hitchcock’s classic thriller ‘Psycho’, it also shares a connection with that film in that the infamous shower victim Janet Leigh’s daughter, Jamie Leigh-Curtis stars in the films ‘Scream Queen’ role, the term given to a female protagonist who is beset by the killer in the Slasher Film genre, Halloween arguably being the first film to be classified as a ‘Slasher film’, a film with a relentless, seemingly indestructible killer stalking a predominantly teen quarry.
The film launched a slew of imitators in the 80’s of varying degrees of quality, none really holding a candle to what Carpenter achieved with the original Halloween, the closest maybe being Wes Craven’s original ‘Nightmare On Elm Street’ which gave an interesting new twist on the main concept. The film went on to make $47 million domestically prompting the studio to demand a sequel, many followed and all of them were pretty awful by comparison, also two atrocious remakes by Rob Zombie were made in the 00’s.
Halloween was lightening in a bottle, it was the right film in the right place at the right time with the right attitude, that couldn’t be forcibly replicated. A testament to its undoubted pedigree, the film was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry in 2006.
The horror movie genre would be a very different landscape today if it wasn’t for the influence of Halloween setting up the now universally recognised genre tropes of the slasher movie. That could be perceived as a good thing and a bad thing considering the quality of some of the imitators that followed in its footsteps, one thing is undoubtedly for sure, no one wields a carving knife & stalks promiscuous and dumb teen fodder quite like Michael Myers.