Scene Sound Off: Halloween

Halloween is a classic film, a staple in horror cinema. What Halloween does so amazingly well is build an impending sense of tension and dread. The source being Michael Myers, a mysterious voyeuristic figure that spends the first half of the film eerily receding in the background with an unwavering stare. Michael Myers waits until nightfall to wreak havoc, but he bleeds into the suburban daylight, like an off-putting smudge on a perfect painting, as he wanders around town beforehand. It is in the following scene where we see Michael eerily preying on the little town of Haddonfield, particularly his most prized victim Laurie Strode. This scene brilliantly depicts the quiet terror of our villain, as Laurie feels the unsettling tension of being followed.

The scene begins with Laurie and her Annoying Friend #1, Annie, walking through the halls after school. Annie’s sarcastic line helps further establish Laurie’s bookworm and good-girl character- “Look at all the books you have. You need a shopping cart to get home.” Laurie’s friends don’t care much for doing homework. The camera follows them as they walk along the neighborhood road. The girls walk towards the camera as if it is pulling them towards it. The camera stops as Annoying Friend #2, Lynda, catches up to them.

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After they cross the street Laurie exclaims that she forgot her chemistry book. She turns around, her stare lingering at the road behind her, as if she’s had an uneasy feeling pf someone following her all along. Sure enough, a car pulls around the corner. The audience recognizes this as Michael’s car that he stole. The famous piano-tinkling theme starts playing. The driver is just an unrecognizable shadow. Laurie recognizes the car from seeing it linger outside of the school window earlier.The other girls think it’s a classmate, Laurie replies “I don’t think so.” But Annie and Lynda heckle him about his driving. The car makes a sudden stop. The girls wait, wondering if they’ve provoked him enough that he’s going to come out and confront them. But the car drives off, and the music score fades away as he turns the corner.

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Laurie, Lynda and Annie talk about how they’re going to babysit that night and their plans to meet up. As if to signal the impending doom of the nighttime, the haunting score plays again. The girls walk past the camera, and the camera turning and lingering still on their backs as they walk away and the neighborhood swallows them up. These shots from behind almost feel as if we are Myers himself, watching them walk off and planning for where we will appear next.

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Laurie soon spots Michael standing and staring at her from behind some hedges, ever so briefly. The mask is seen from far off, an odd white face that is hard to tell exactly what you’re looking at. In many shots in the beginning sequence where Michael is seen in daylight, we either see glimpse of him from far away, shrouded in shadow, or close-up but his head out of frame. Every time he appears in the daylight he is sticks out like a sore thumb, with the drab greys of his clothes and human-like white mask against the placid suburban background. From the odd or quick angles and faraway shots, Carpenter creates a fearsome aura around this furtive and chilling character. The infamous mask incredibly and effectively contributes to this.

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Laurie identifies the figure as the guy from the car. Though there was no way from the shot of car driving to see who was in it, Laurie knows that she is being followed. Though he is gone just as quickly as he was seen, and Annie tricks her into thinking it was a potential suitor, Laurie now acknowledges that her feelings of being watched must be more than suspicion.

This scene demonstrates how the out-of-place Michael Myers infects the beauty of the idyllic setting of Haddonfield on that cheery Halloween day, soon to become a fearsome Halloween night. The audience gets a beginning sense of this character’s terrifying power. As the camera sweeps throughout the neighborhood, our eyes scour for a sign of the mysterious follower, just as Laurie does. Watch the scene below!

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