Opening scene analysis – Halloween 1978

So, for my first piece of analytical work, my group decided that we would analyse the opening scene to Halloween, and try to identify the genre conventions that were shown. We then had to present this to the rest of our media class. We chose to deliver our presentation orally, without the use of a powerpoint presentation, and I will be including the notes that we used to present with on this post.

Here is the clip that we used for our analysis.

How genre is conveyed

  • Throughout the opening titles, the colours black and orange are used. These are stereotypically eerie colours and are closely related to the event of halloween. Creepy music is also played throughout the titles, and these are used to build suspense. This kind of music is a convention of horror films, as very few horror films work without the inclusion of creepy music.
  • The Jack-O-Lantern that is present throughout the opening titles is stereotypical of halloween as an event, and this links the film to the event.The creepy facial expression that this has lets us know that scary things are going to happen in the film; it creates a sense of foreboding in the audience.
  • Very low lighting is used in the opening, meaning that we don’t get to see much. This builds suspense as we can’t see what is going on, which makes us think that something bad will happen. This is a convention of horror as we are meant to be left questioning as to what will happen. It leaves teh audience free to imagine what might be happening in the places they can’t see.
  • The people that are being watched without their knowledge are an example of a typical device used in horror films. This is used to attract the audiences attention and make them feel on edge.
  • The clown costume that the child is wearing is very typical of horror films, as the fear of clowns is something very common and is generally used with evil beings in horror films.

Shots/Editing

  • Suspense is built during the titles by the use of a black background. It gives nothing away, putting the audience on edge. The Jack-O-Lantern has connotations of evil and ghostly things, and when this zooms to fill the whole shot, we know that the film is a horror.
  • The use of a point-of-view shot is very effective in the opening of this film. We are seeing the opening through the eyes of the criminal, and this builds suspense because it is quite unusual; usually we are shown through the eyes of the victim. The mask that the killer pust on further into the opening further builds tension and makes an effective opening because we cannot really see what is going on; it creates a sense of enigma.
  • The main type of shot used in this opening is a long shot. These are typically used in horror, as it means that the audience has more than one thing to focus on, and knows that the killer can appear from any angle, thus making them in edge. These type of shots mean that we do not emotionally connect to the characters. The only close-up used in this opening is on the knife that the killer picks up, and this is to show that the knife is significant.
  • When the child is revealed as the killer, there is more lighting, and this suggests exposure, and creates a sense of enlightenment in the audience.

How the characters convey genre

  • At the very beginning, the ‘victim’ characters are too involved in each other to realise that they are being watched. This is fairly typical in horror films, as is the idea that a couple in an intimate situation would be more vulnerable to attack from a killer character.
  • The victim is very typical of the horror genre; the young defenceless female. She is made to look even more vulnerable because she is naked.
  • The killer character in this film is actually quite unusual; we would not expect a child to be commiting these kind of horrible acts, they are meant to be innocent. This is an example of how the opening of halloween challenges conventions of typical horror films.

Institutional Information

  • In the opening company who were involved in the making of the film, Compass International Pictures, is named. This is not a high profile company, but in their time they did make horror films.
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