Carpenter's Halloween: The Changing of a Genre

Horror is a genre that has spawned some of the most influential movies in popular culture as well as some of the worst. Decades have past and we’ve seen some of the most memorable icons, Nosferatu, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Blob and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. All possessing a different kind of charm and purpose to the horror genre, but often seen as almost to outlandish to strike any real fear into an audience. For decades there was something missing, something movie-going audience craved even if they hadn’t consciously realized it, but that would all change in the fall of 1978.

John Carpenter’s, Halloween, was released on October 25, 1978 with a budget of a reported $325,000. With only one real Hollywood movie under his belt, Carpenter made due with the tiny budget, to make on of the most influential independent films in popular culture today.

Halloween brought a sense of realism in a genre that required its audience to suspend their belief to a point of unreality. This movie’s concept brought a whole new meaning to the word “terror” teaching the audience to look in the their backseats, double check their locks and never go downstairs alone.

Halloween was a “seasonal film” that was largely dismissed by many critics during its opening run in theaters. The films lack of budget gave Carpenter’s Halloween little promotional traction relying on word-of-mouth from audiences. As word got out the film formed a cult like following bringing audiences out to theaters to see Michael Myers wreak havoc on Haddonfield.

When John Carpenter agreed to helm this low budget horror film, little did he know he would be creating resurgence to a sub-genre when bringing horror films onto the silver screen. Halloween catapulted the “slasher” sub-genre of horror into what is classified as its Golden Age.  The 1978 cult classic with a small budget inspired other iconic horror slashers such as Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th) and Freddy Kruger (A Nightmare on Elm Street). Howling at the moon and sucking blood had officially been replaced with butcher knives, machetes and claw protruding gloves.

Halloween spawned eight sequels, remakes and inspired countless imitators, but each one failed to capture what John Carpenter achieved with that 1978 independent film. Carpenter took us on a suspenseful thrill ride for ninety-one minutes as audiences watched Michael Myers stalk his teenage prey and his eventual face off with Laurie Strode, the now famous scream queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis.

The magic that was created by John Carpenter and his crew when making this film is something that could never imitated or captured by another director. While other gave an attempt, no one has been able to solve the equation of what made Halloween great. As audiences gather around their television sets to watch Michael Myers lay waste to Haddonfield’s teenage population, we may not be able to quiet put our finger on why Halloween has achieved such a cult like status either. One thing is for certain; no one will ever look at a William Shatner mask the same again.