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How does the opening sequence of halloween establish genre and build suspense for the audience?

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Halloween was shot in 21 days in the spring of 1978. It became a huge hit and was the highest-grossing independent film ever made at that time, with a budget of only $300,00. Halloween was directed by John Carpenter, who at that time was a little known director. This film shot John Carpenter to fame. It's about a psychologically disturbed boy, who kills his sister on Halloween night in 1963. He then gets taken to a mental hospital where he is studied by Doctor Loomis. In 1978 he escapes from the hospital and comes back to the town where he murdered his sister to commit more violent crimes. Coincidently this, again, happens on Halloween night. In the opening of a typical horror film, the audience expects to witness a dark, mysterious scene with disturbing music which usually involves a piano and an organ. These play in a series of high and low notes. In modern horror films, the instruments vary to give a more intense feel. The high striking notes are used to make the audience feel tense and often to make them jump. However, the low notes are a sign of danger and mystery. For example, when a villain comes into contact with the victim, high striking notes/music will be heard to scare the audience and add tension. ...read more.


It then focuses on bright orange pumpkin which is placed on the porch. The camera then creates a voyeuristic shot when it focuses on a couple inside the house. Once we see the camera quickly moving to the right, pad to the left, look up and down and then straight ahead, we are certain that this is a point of view shot. This gives an effect of urgency. The silence has not yet been broken. This adds much to the suspense. The camera, again, looks around the house before focusing onto the couple. This teenage couple show the predictable victims in a horror film. The audience may come up with assumptions that there is a stalker who is planning on killing the teenagers. Silence is soon broken when we hear the boyfriend ask, "We are alone aren't we?" The girlfriend then replies, "Michael's around someplace." At this moment, the audience realise that the village is not bewildered and that a boy named Michael is somewhere to be found. This adds mystery to the film. The couple then run up the stairs. The 'stalker' takes his chance to enter the house. He walks into the kitchen and turns on the light so that the room is brightly lit. Suspense and fear is heightened when a close up of a hand, whilst still maintaining a point of view shot, is seen reaching out to take a knife from the right hand side of the frame. ...read more.


The camera continues to zoom out into a high angle on the house. In conclusion, many features of this film reveal it to be of the horror genre. For example, the use of typical colours associated with horror, such as red, black, orange and yellow. Also, in Halloween, the director has used predictable teenage victims. However, Halloween was one of the first horror films to create such a dramatic twist of the villain being a young boy. Many directors have taken ideas from Halloween and adapted on them in their own films. This film successfully keeps the audience in suspense by concealing the identity of the stalker and also creating a twist to shock the audience. The lighting in this film plays a key part in establishing the genre. A few examples to show this are that only the house was lit whilst everything else in the frame was left in darkness. Another example is when Michael walks up to his sister's room where the only light is the one on the dressing table which illuminates her. Light is used to symbolise danger. Technology has much improved over the years so I would say modern horror films are a lot scarier compared to older horror films because they look more realistic. However, the narratives have probably been influenced and adapted from Halloween. For example, The Blair Witch Project's use of point of view shot shows this influence. In addition, Halloween is referenced by other more recent films. ...read more.

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