By Luis Castilla
John Carpenter’s 1978 thriller “Halloween” is the quintessential slasher film and introduced audiences to the classic masked killer that has been immortalized as a staple of the horror genre.
A mask can hide the emotions and intentions of a person, but it can also reveal their true self. Not much is known about a person through their face alone.
The mask a person chooses to wear, however, says more about the kind of person they are on the inside.
Michael Myers, the masked killer of “Halloween” played by Nick Castle, is described in-film as having “a blank, pale emotionless face and the blackest eyes, the Devil’s eyes” when he was just six years old after murdering his older sister.
His mask is pale and emotionless with black eyes, just like his face, because there is nothing he needs to hide.
Myers has no humanity. He is an instrument for evil and knows only violence and murder.
“Halloween” popularized the trope of the masked killer, which inspired other successful franchises like “Scream,” “Friday the 13th” and countless others.
Myers possesses many attributes of a serial killer as he patiently stalks his victims from a distance before killing them.
The way Myers kills his victims shows his creativity and meticulous planning, like when he arranges his victims’ bodies for Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, to find.
Later slasher films would also make use of creative kills, making them a mainstay in the genre.
The cinematography in Carpenter’s “Halloween” also contributed to the rise of slasher films in later years.
Carpenter uses wide shots where characters are on one side of the screen, leaving a lot of negative space on the opposite side of the shot, creating an imbalance in the frame.
This negative space gives Myers just enough room to hide in the shadows, making it feel as though he is hiding around every corner.
When Myers does appear in frame, he is never in focus, adding animosity to his dark presence. Myers only appears on screen for brief moments accompanied by sinister musical cues, eliciting an impending sense of doom in the audience.
“Halloween” also spawned the iconic “Halloween Theme,” the eerie tune that plays anytime Myers is nearby.
The theme incites fear in the viewer because of its rare 5/4 time signature and minor tuning.
Odd time signatures throw off listeners and minor keys convey negative emotions more fluidly. These two factors come together to create the unnatural melody.
The legacy of “Halloween” is echoed in all following slasher films. Carpenter gave Myers an identity. He was a killer though and though, remorseless and unforgiving.