Magazine article Screen International

'Halloween' (1978) - Screen's 40 at 40

Magazine article Screen International

'Halloween' (1978) - Screen's 40 at 40

Article excerpt

Director: John Carpenter (US)

As a narrative, it couldn't be simpler: a masked killer stalks the promiscuous teenage residents of a suburban street on Halloween.

In 1978, director John Carpenter turned this slight idea into a terrifying film that grossed $47m (on a modest budget of $325,000), introduced now-familiar tropes such as the final girl and the motiveless monster, and became the blueprint for modern horror films.

Given Halloween's organic feel, it's perhaps surprising it was the result of a calculated business decision by indie producers Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad.

Determined to make a frightener with as much impact as The Exorcist (1973), Yablans and Akkad had in mind a film about a psychotic babysitter stalker, and approached Carpenter after being impressed with his 1976 feature Assault On Precinct 13.

As Yablans later told Fangoria magazine, two things convinced them Carpenter was right for the project: "Carpenter told me the story verbally and in a suspenseful way, almost frame for frame. Second, he didn't want to take any fees, and that showed me he had confidence in the project."

Shrewdly, the director did retain the rights to a share of the profits.

Carpenter co-wrote the film with partner Debra Hill - who suggested the title Halloween - populating the screenplay with several homages to Alfred Hitchcock, whose subtle approach to scares he so admired.

Most obviously, young Tommy Doyle is named after Rear Window's Detective Lieutenant Thomas J Doyle, while psychiatrist Dr Loomis's namesake is Sam Loomis, the boyfriend of Psycho victim Marion Crane. …

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