Cleverly taking the very title of the holiday that the film celebrates, John Carpenter’s Halloween has naturally become synonymous with the spookiest holiday of the year. Introducing one of cinema’s first-ever slasher killers in Michael Myers, John Carpenter brought a sense of unease to every small town U.S suburb, suggesting something fantastically abnormal could be lurking in the shadows. Setting the standard for modern horror cinema, Carpenter’s Halloween is underscored by his own, timeless creeping score.
With a blank, white rubber mask, Michael Myers (a name as fearful in the genre as Freddy or Jason) wreaks havoc on a small Illinois town following his escape from a mental hospital in Carpenter’s 1978 classic. Causing a cultural storm upon the film’s release, one of the film’s lasting features was its creepy, incessant staccato score, continuing without a pause to reflect the ceaseless energy of antagonist Michael Myers. Composed and created by John Carpenter himself, the director was inspired by both ‘Tubular Bells’, the theme to William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, as well as the work of Italian prog-rock band Goblin.
Creating one of the most influential films and soundtracks of the horror genre, Halloween remains one of the important films of the genre. Alongside Black Christmas from Bob Clark, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre by William Friedkin and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Halloween would help define the limits of the incoming slasher craze.
Whilst Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was released 18 years before Halloween, the film remained a great source of inspiration for John Carpenter, with many creative and casting choices coming as a result of the classic horror. The most obvious ode that Carpenter made to Hitchcock was in the character names of the lead cast with Donald Pleasance’s character Dr. Loomis named after Psycho’s Sam Loomis, as well as Young Tommy Doyle being inspired by Lt. Thomas J. Doyle of Rear Window.
With that being said, the most obvious nod to Hitchcock’s Psycho, in particular, is in the casting of Jamie Lee Curtis as the final girl heroine Laurie Strode in Halloween. Playing one of the most memorable horror heroes of all time, Jamie Lee Curtis is a stand out performer in Carpenter’s horror classic, though keen fans will notice that the actor’s mother is none other than Janet Leigh known for her iconic performance in Psycho.
Alfred Hitchcock wasn’t John Carpenter’s only influence either, paying homage to Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil in the opening tracking shot as Michael Myers stalks a young couple from outside their home before breaking in and going about his murderous deeds. In addition, the film’s sheriff, Leigh Brackett, shares the same name as the famous screenwriter who has written such films as Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Rio Bravo and The Big Sleep.
A purveyor of terror, John Carpenter is a filmmaker intensely interested in the art of scaring the audience, though, even as the director himself states, “Horror is a reaction; it’s not a genre”.