Halloween was dubbed as the first ‘Stalk and Slash’ Film and was released in 1978 and is very typical of the horror genre. But to first show how Halloween is a typical horror film I must first look at the typical conventions of the horror genre.
One of the main conventions is darkness. People feel a lot more threatened when in darkness because their vision is very limited and they are put into the idea that they are no longer safe. It also generates a feel of loneliness. Halloween does this very well and puts all the scary and major scenes in nigh time.
A typical scene used in horror films with Halloween included is when the lights do not work when they are switched on. This again leads to the idea of darkness being scary and lonely.
Another convention is to have a ‘mad man’ killer type person who is very distant all the way through the film. The audience will know who it is but they do not know why the killer is like they are. It adds to the unknown atmosphere which again make the audience feel threatened and very uneasy thus adding to the whole scary factor of horror films. Halloween fits this bill very nicely in the way that the killer Michael Myers is much unknown all through the film.
The killer is usually a man who has a mental problem and has been locked up for it. The victim is usually female as they are looked apon as more vulnerable as men and a lot more intelligent. So they will foil the killer’s plans in a more intelligent way making the film a lot more interesting. This is demonstrated in Halloween.
Actual dates and places are used in many horror films. This is to add to the realism of the whole film. It makes the audience feel that what they are seeing on the screen could possibly be real. Some films will also use a date from the past (e.g. Halloween in 1945) then will use that same date but in the year that we are currently in. The idea of something happening in the past then happening on that same day so many years ago scares the audience and makes them believe the whole concept even more and that is what these films need because the idea by itself will be extremely unbelievable and that will not frighten the audience.
Halloween uses these dates and goes back in time to show when Michael Myers was a kid and killed his sister then 25 years later he escapes from his lock up and kills again.
Another main convention is the ‘Idiot’ plot. This is when then characters in the film do very stupid things, but without these stupid things, the whole film would finish in 10 minutes. For example in Halloween, Laurie stabs Michael in the shoulder and he falls behind the sofa. Laurie just sits there and does nothing. This adds to the intensity of the whole situation. The audience are thinking to themselves that they would have killed him there and then or run off but get frustrated that she does not do anything.
There is a typical type of character set up in horror films. There is generally a clever good person who always does what they are told. But they have friends who are the complete opposite and this brings in the coded warning that horror films generally give out. It is always the ones who have pre marital sex, smoke and drink underage that get killed first or only get killed while they are committing these sins. It is meant to send out a message to kids but does not tend to work too much. Halloween does exactly this with both Laurie’s friends getting killed while having sex, smoking and drinking, it is meant to look like a punishment.
Another popular convention that is used is the point of view of the killer. This way the audience sees everything that is happening except they do not see the identity of the killer. This happens at the start of Halloween as we first encounter little Michael Myers as he kills his sister. We have no idea who he is as he walks around the house, picks up the knife and kills her.
The house in the suburbs of a city is another typical convention. It is usually based in a pleasant looking area with relatively big houses. This is generally known as one of the safest places to live as it is away from the city and there is very little crime happening. Horror films use this and play on the audiences mind. They take a safe environment and place an unsafe element into it. This makes the audience very uneasy about the whole situation because what they thought was safe is now unsafe.
The housing in the area is generally old looking houses that have stairs up to the first floor and a balcony. They will also have big gardens and be very spread out so that no two houses in the area are that close to each other.
The idea of having a first floor is so that the killer can chase their prey up stairs and then they have them trapped as there is only one way down which is the stairs.
The balcony is there so that there can be a dramatic situation where someone will fall from it and land on the grass below, usually being the killer. Halloween does all these very well and demonstrates the feel of a safe area with an unsafe element.
Another convention is to leave an unfinished story, so that there can be a sequel. But the main reason there is an opening is to leave the audience guessing. Halloween is a great example of this. When Michael is shot over the balcony, they go to look at his dead body and it has gone meaning he is still alive. This makes the audience question where he is.
Then to add to the atmosphere of ‘where is he’ there is then usually a scan of the area, showing scenes which were seen earlier in the film as if the audience was looking for him, this raises questions and leads very well into a sequel. It also builds up the killer’s character more showing that he cannot be killed or is stronger than human. This in turn will make the audience feel even more unsafe.
Towards the end of films a typical scene that is used in most horror films is the discovery of the bodies. The person who has not yet been killed discovers all the dead bodies of the people they know, this then leads to the chase. Halloween is a very good example of this.
Overall Halloween is very typical of the Horror genre. It demonstrates many of the typical conventions of horror films and in some cases created some of these conventions.