Horror Opening Analysis – Halloween (1978)

Introduction

The horror movie opening I will be analysing in this essay will be Halloween, dating back to 1978. The film is stated to be inspired by Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’, and was one of the first iconic slasher films made, inspiring many more to follow and a popular following still to this day. The film sold 30 million tickets worldwide when it was released in cinema, and was instated into the National Film Registry of America in 2006, for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”. The film was directed by John Carpenter.

The target audience for Halloween is primarily a male audience, of the ages between 18-30. We know that the audience is mainly male because of the attention to sexual imagery and combined violence within the film. It’s a stereotype that this is a trope that will appeal to men, and so this was incorporated into the film. The killer is male, and the ‘final girl’ is saved by another male and so the film is made to be ‘relatable’ to men – if there were more female characters (or if the killer was female) it would be less relatable to that audience.

The film faced controversy due to the portrayal of women and society – with Myer’s victims being sexually promiscuous and substance abusers. It was suggested that this was a social critique of 1970’s American youth. In addition to this, critics suggested that the film was sadistic and misogynistic because it was made for viewers to be able to relate to the killer. Carpenter however dismissed these theories.

Genre

Halloween is an iconic and prime example of horror movie conventions, particularly in slashers. The trope in which all characters die except for one female survivor is known as the ‘final girl’ trope and Halloween brought this into mainstream horror. In addition to this, the opening is conventional of the genre. It starts with Michael Myer’s POV, walking into the house. We see him watching his older sister with her boyfriend, and go upstairs. We then see him creeping into the house, following them before stabbing his sister. Watching this from the killer’s perspective is a convention as it adds tension because we know exactly what is happening and can predict what will happen.

When his sister goes upstairs, the lover leaves for the night, leaving the girl defenceless. This is conventional horror – women in early and stereotypical films are often the victim of the killer, and by leaving her defenceless, we already know that she won’t survive.

Another way in which we know this is a generic slasher is that the killer has his own musical theme – as begins his journey to kill his sister an eerie tune begins to play – this is also a conventional signal that leaves the audience expecting a murder. It leaves the audience on the edge of their seat.

Representation

In Halloween, the representation is specific and significant, especially in regards to women. Halloween is a classic film that popularised the film trope of killing off the slim, blonde and pretty woman, and this character is usually the first to be killed – as with this film.

In the opening, the first shot we see of characters is from Michael’s point of view – we see him looking through a window and seeing his older sister kissing her lover. As the audience we know that she is going to die because we know of this trope. We then see the characters running upstairs to the bedroom, furthering our knowledge that she is going to die. When the lover leaves, she is left defenceless and we know Michael is going to kill her. He creeps up the stairs and kills her, leaving her on the floor. Throughout this whole scene, the sister is represented in a promiscuous manner – when she dies, we see her on the floor in none/little clothing.

The killing of the sister after being with a lover presents the idea of intimacy as a sin, which is a narrative that continues throughout the film. The film may have been constructed this way because it combines intimacy with horror, and it also suggests the idea of male dominance which may appeal to the target audience, particularly at the time of release when gender stereotypes were firmly in place.

Narrative

The narrative of the opening of Halloween is single strand narrative – up until we see the killer revealed at the end, the entire opening is from the perspective of the killer – Michael Myers. We see exactly what he is seeing from a first person point of view. This engages the audience because we can begin to understand his thought pattern and why he does what he does (considering that we are familiar with the female representation trope). We also see him picking up the knife from his perspective, making us anticipate what is about to happen. In addition to this, the killer picks up as clown mask and puts it on – the mask would only fit a child, so it alerts us that this killer is not an adult, which could be argued that this makes it creepier. This is the only thread that we see in the opening – it makes hang on to the story and it is creepier because we aren’t given a break from it – it is the only thing to focus on.

Conclusion

Whilst Halloween can be considered an objectifying and problematic film in terms of representation, the tropes that the film popularised are still being modelled after in today’s horror. Horror films are made to be uncomfortable, scary and/or suspenseful, and these tropes have worked out successfully for the horror industry with Halloween being a shining example that continues to enthuse horror fans across the world.

Advertisements

BBFC Report

Unit 6 (Part 2) Task1 – BBFC Statement

After much consideration, the BBFC have decided to support the ongoing production of violent films. We classify them carefully and any content that is graded too violent will be cut from the film.

Our decision was carefully considered and explored, with research and evidence all the way through. Through our own research and the Uses and Classification Theory, we have decided that audiences are responsible enough for themselves to make a choice whether or not to watch violent content. There are many justifiable reasons someone may decide to watch this content and it is not our decision to take that away. Whilst it is highly inappropriate for people below the age restriction to watch violent films, we cannot be responsible for the choices a young person may make to watch a violent film, and we cannot prohibit these films based on the potential that it could affect someone’s mental health. Whilst watching a film at the cinema, the option for the audience to leave the viewing area if the content is too distressing is always available. Likewise, when watching a film at home or watching it with acquaintances, the option to leave the room or switch the device off is always available. We expect our audiences to make a well informed decision before watching a violent film.

In the 1960’s, media theorists decided that audiences were ‘not a passive mass but were made up of individuals who actively consumed texts for different reasons and in different ways’. This means that when we watch violent films we are conscious that it is violent and still decide to consume it for a multitude of reasons that can be personal to each person. This is a theory that we support, and through research and case studies we have discovered this to be true. Some of the ways in which our audience may use violent films are:

  • Diversion
  • Emotional relationships
  • Personal identity

In terms of diversion, someone may watch a violent film because they use it as escapism from the issues they may face in their personal life. Instead of doing the same routine everyday or feeling aggravated because of a personal situation, viewers may turn to a violent film for distraction.

Viewers may also use violent films due to the fact that the dialogue and human side of the film may substitute for personal company, such as friends or family. Viewers will usually watch soap operas and other less violent content for this connection, however violent films can appeal in this way to certain people.

In addition to this, viewers may also watch violent films because they may identify with certain elements of the film, such as the ideologies or characters. For example, viewers may relate to the character The Narrator/Tyler Durden.

Research has revealed that for a large percentage of viewers, watching violent films provides catharsis. This means that when a viewer is feeling aggressive or antisocial, they may decide to watch a violent film to work through the negative emotions. They are provided with catharsis because they are watching a film that reflects how they feel on screen. By the time the film has finished these negative emotions have been expelled and so they won’t feel the need to go out and express these emotions physically.

For example, people may watch Fight Club when they feel violent because the violence they feel is being displayed on screen. The premise of Fight Club is an underground club in which men will meet to fight each other as much as they want without repercussions, to express their emotions in a feminised and consumerist society. The audience may relate to how The Narrator/Tyler feels and how he views society, so watching him fight and release the pent up emotions allows the viewer to do the same. By the end of the movie, the idea of a Fight Club has changed and we see the repercussions of it – therefore the violence is not promoted and the audience has disconnected from these feelings.

My personal experience regarding violent films is neutral. Personally violence in a film does not affect me as it is make believe and actors will use certain effects or methods of acting (such as fake punches, fake slaps, fake blood pouches) to portray violence, so there is no distress whilst viewing it. On the other hand, watching violence in a film that is a true story or based on real events (e.g. Saving Private Ryan) is distressing to watch because it’s based on actions that would have actually happened. However, despite being distressing, it helps to understand and empathise with the situation and so therefore we detest the idea of these things happening in real life.

In conclusion, I disagree that violent films should be banned. We choose the content we watch and it’s the viewers responsibility to stay sensitive to violence and make an informed decision before watching such content.

 

Magazine Cover Comparison

 

The first magazine I’ll be analysing and comparing is Bella. This magazine is aimed at women from the age of 25-44. They’re very likely to be mothers that want to take breaks away from their busy life to relax and enjoy gossip and a motivational boost. The other magazine is Car. This is a very masculine based magazine aimed at male car enthusiasts that are invested in the latest luxury models. The age range is versatile, as cars are a versatile interest, but the age range is likely to be around 25-40.

The cover of Bella is bold and sharp on the eye. The words and phrases used are informal and chatty, and each word is used to amplify dramatic effect – e.g, ‘My IVF Horror’, ‘shock rumours’ and ‘as she splits with boyfriend’. The images used in Bella appear to be stills from scenes that have already played out – two shocked faces adds dramatic effect and enhances the gossip like theme of the magazine. The fonts used on the magazine are varied – some are bold, some are italic, and they’re different colours. This is to make the words stand out from each other, making you pay attention to each sentence. The colours are very bright, using mainly pink, yellow, blue and white which stand out to the eye. In addition to this, these are typical ‘women’s’ colours, so it targets the correct audience. In terms of layout, text and images are in boxes that overlap each other, making the page seem more busy and jam packed with content.

Car magazine is sleek, mature and more cinematic than Bella. The words and phrases used are varied. There are statements, questions and single phrases used. The question asks can the Ferrari beat the McLaren F1 – therefore engaging the audience and making them feel involved. The statement ‘Voted The UK’s Best Vehicle Magazine’ adds impact and gives them credit. There are two images used, one of the Ferrari and one of another lower ranked car. The images catch the attention of the reader as there is only two images to focus on. The contrast between the two types of cars also suggests the versatility of the magazine. The colours of the magazine contrast each other – the blacks and greys allow for the red car to stand out, and it also represents the typical masculinity of the magazine. The fonts used are bold and simple – this is more likely to appeal to male readers than fancy, curved italic font would. The layout is also simple, with most content aligned in horizontal format, making it easier to read. There is only one feature presented in a canted angle, which would be to add creativity.

The two magazines have been constructed carefully to appeal to different audiences. The words and phrases used by Bella, which are more informal and chatty, and appeal to the typical female audience as they enjoy gossip and drama. In comparison, the words and phrases used in Car magazine are more formal and articulate as it appeals to the typical male, well informed audience. The images Bella use are of people, the majority women, and of their shocked reactions – this appeals to the audience as it enhances the drama that they are seeking. To contrast, Car magazine use fewer images and they are of the cars featured in the magazine – the image is more sleek and appeals to the audience because it is more refined. The colours Bella use appeal to their audience as they are bright, bold and feminine – targeting the female audience. In comparison, Car magazine uses black and grey as it’s subdued and masculine, and then chooses a red car as the focus point which stands out against duller colours. This appeals to the audience as it is bold in a different, more typically masculine way.

To summarise, the aspects of Bella appeal to their audience because they are bold, chatty and feminine which reflects the character of the reader. Similarly, Car magazine’s aspects are subdued, minimalist and sleek – which again appeal to the character of the readers.

Critical Approaches Report

Bella

History and Aims

Bella is a women’s lifestyle magazine, first founded in 1987. It published first in the United Kingdom by H Bauer Publishing. The first copy was published on the 5th October 1987. It is one of the best selling women’s magazines in the UK – loyal readers from when it was first published decades ago will still read it, and a new generation of readers also. This combined gives the magazine a large revenue. In the beginning of 2013, there were estimated over 200,000 issues circulating.

It aims to be a youthful in between bridge for young celebrity gossip magazines, such as Heat, and older women’s magazines, such as Woman’s Weekly. It aims to reflect the topics and stories going on out in the real world that their readers will be talking about. On the Bella pack, it reads, “The magazine has one aim in mind: to entertain the readers and give them a brief escape from their busy lives.” This means that the magazine aims to be indulgent – it wants to spread optimism and give the readers happiness. The magazine also aims to be affordable – costing just 89 pence. The magazine has a strongly specific target audience, meaning it is professional and focuses on providing an enriched magazine for its audience.

The magazine covers these topics:

  • Health and beauty
  • Dieting
  • Food
  • Travel
  • Gossip
  • Real life story columns
  • Fashion

Target Audience

The target audience for Bella magazine are young to middle aged women, around 25-44. They are primarily mothers, who will read the magazine to take a break from their busy day to day life of looking after the family and kids. They will be seeking a youthful but mature magazine to indulge in. Their socio-economic status would be around approximately B, C1 or C2 – skilled working class, lower middle class or middle class. They will be searching for luxury on a budget – how to make great meals for low costs, ways to keep fit at home, how to recycle old goods and stay glamorous, fashion and effective beauty on the high street, and the latest celebrity gossip. They women that are very busy but will always make time for themselves and friends, and will read Bella and tell their friends about it’s contents. For example, they may buy an anti ageing skin product featured in the magazine, buy it and tell their friends all about how effective it is. The magazine pack states that they are likely to enjoy coffee and wine, watching TV (shows they are likely to watch are Loose Women, This Morning, etc.), and texting. Overall, the target audience for Bella are women who are busy but confident in themselves, looking for a weekly boost of inspiration.

Target Audience Research Methods

In order to build the character of their target audience, H Bauer’s Bella magazine company will have to use several different methods in order to create the perfect audience profile. The first is questionnaires. Brands will come up with a survey filled with questions that are relevant and specific relating to the brand image Bella want to create. This will consist of both open and closed questions – open questions ask for an extensive answer and allow the audience to freely write in depth. Closed questions are simple yes/no or multiple choice questions. For instance, in order to gain the answers they need to come up with a strong brand image written on their media pack, they would be asking questions such as: how do you spend your free time? Are you interested in healthy family recipes? What is your budget for magazines, if you read any? etc.

In addition to questionnaires, H Bauer will conduct focus groups also. This is similar to a questionnaire in the sense that the both asks questions to a group of people in order to gain relevant answers. However, focus groups are real people who will be gathered in a group with a company representative and asked about their life – it will be similar questions to the questionnaire except they will be more detailed.

The Importance of Target Audience

It is important as a brand to have a clear defined target audience, before you begin producing you magazine. There are two main reasons for this – both concerning profit. One is that without a clear target audience, the number of customers that will buy your magazine is limited. When readers look for a magazine to buy, the likelihood is that they are looking for a specific genre and specific content. If for example, you’re a car magazine with diet tips on the front, the likelihood is that nobody/very few will buy it because it’s too mixed and doesn’t offer what the reader is looking for.

In addition to this, the same applies when it comes to advertising companies. Companies will buy spaces in magazine for advertising for large sums of money, so they have to know that if their advert goes in your magazine, that it will sell and that they will gain a high profit more than the sum they paid to advertise. Therefore, it is extremely important to have a sharply defined audience so that advertisers can trust that their product is going to sell. If you’re a lifestyle magazine but also have columns on golf and rock star interviews, it’s very difficult for advertisers to want to take a spot because they don’t know who they’re catering to or if the majority would be interested in the product. For example Bella magazine would contain advertisements such as H&M, Weight Watchers, Mothercare, etc. because these are the kind of brands that appeal to the audience. Without readers and advertisements, your magazine will struggle to gain profit.

Because of this H Bauer takes long measures to define their audience, conducting first hand research and building a strong image for their magazines. They are the one of the largest publishers in the UK, and are reliable and trustworthy because of their level of professional status. They will work hard to maintain this, spending large sums of money to make sure that all of their magazines are targeted properly in order to make maximum profit.