In 1978, Halloween, one of the most representative of slasher movies, directed by John Carpenter, was released to the public. Following its predecessors like Psycho (1960) and Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), the film adopted a method in presenting a man murderer as a stalker and psycho with extreme violence to the women that he intends to hurt, which often is the theme of a typical slasher movie.
The movie first starts with a 7-year-old boy, Michael cruelly stabbing her elder sister, who is combing her hair naked, to death in a few seconds. He is then sent to a sanitarium. It is the Halloween night in a small town in Illinois in 1963. There are scuffling sounds of small insects in the background while the angle of the camera moves from outside to inside of the house. With a color tone mostly made up of blue and black, even in the first few minutes, we can already sense the darkness of people’s, or say, a psycho’s act, that are to be disclosed with the storyline. 15 years later, right before Halloween, a mysterious man with a white mask appears in the same town. It is Michael, who escapes from the sanitarium. Michael, in the next day, stalks three high school students: Laurie, Annie and Lynda. Annie was first killed right before meeting her boyfriend, while Lynda was also brutally murdered after having sex. Surprisingly, Laurie, who finds their bodies, eventually manages to escape and save by Michael’s psychiatrist Loomis after a hard battle with the immortal Michael who vanishes into the dark. What I find worth mentioning is that all of the three women depicted in Halloween (1978) are sexually active in a way that they do not conform with the more traditional views of premarital sex in a long historical period before the 1970s.
This element of the film, in fact, can be considered as a result of a broader social factor: The Sexual Revolution in the 60-70s. “[D]uring the 1970s the literature on premarital sex expanded considerably and showed marked improvement in both conceptual clarity and methodological rigor. ” (Clayton and Bokemeier 759) With that in mind, we can then move on to examine the critical logic behind Halloween (1978). In many other TV shows and film, people are murdered by all kinds of methods. In slasher movies like Halloween (1978), however, women are usually stabbed with knife or strangled with cords and die slowly with body being penetrated, while men are killed fast without blood. The intention of this plot design has been expressed in the anonymous online article “Can Slasher Film Be Feminist? ” (pars. 11): “[I]n pornography this may often be sexual; in the slasher genre it is a blend of the sexual, the masochistic and the terrifying in a world where fear of sexual or violent attack is a potential threat for most women. ” Indeed, this strong presence on the screen of potential threat for women correlates with the anxiety and insecurity of men with deep-rooted patriarchy underlying the current social structure. The first woman that Michael kills is his sister, after she has sex with her boyfriend and doesn’t have time for her brother. The next three girls are all babysitters, which is a proxy of motherhood.
Annie is about to meet her boyfriend before she gets murdered while Lynda is strangled after having sex. Laurie, however, is not shown directly as sexually active. But we can still recall from the first 15 minutes of the story that when Laurie’s friends find out they are being stalked, they are not surprised or worried. Instead, they start teasing Laurie for being attractive enough to have a stalker and that she “scares him away. ” This specific scene reminds us of the consistent characteristics of these women victims —sexually liberated. This leads to another question: why choose them as victims? An explanation for this is that with the sexual liberation and the rise feminist movement throughout the 1960-70s, men in such a Western patriarchal society expressed their pressure from women that are not as subordinate as they may in the past in a collective form within the cultural industry especially in entertainment such as films, which is one of the most easily disseminated form of art. There has long been criticism of the slasher films as anti-feminism. “[…] anti-feminism reached great heights exposing its gender-biased views on unsuspecting audiences; the impact of this still resonates within society today. ” (Gray, pars. 4) Even with the gender revolution, double-standard still persist as a result from people’s personal realm as well as the continued devaluation of female activities. (England, 151-152)
”When we attach this characteristic of the social environment to the individuals that form the society, as we can conclude from the graph above, ‘female-typed’ jobs typically have a much lower pay than ‘male-typed’ jobs. This direct economic factor is usually behind the anxiety of men in the 70s or even now that the pay gap between man and women is beginning to get smaller, even though quite slowly. It is safe to say that the same graph drawn 50 years later is going to change, too. As most people see it, money is often in a way related to sex. Thus, in Halloween (1978), the anti-feminism implied behind the scenes is not just about the sexual activeness that are possessed by the women but also a hidden sign of the fear of women being more powerful in the professional fields as the three women are all hard-working students who also take the work responsibility of taking care of people. “[I]n a male-dominated culture, where power, money, law, and social institutions are controlled by past, present, and future patriarchs, women as the other assumes particular significance.
The dominant images of women in our culture are entirely male created and male controlled. ” (Wood, 74) What I find interesting from the analysis of Halloween (1978) is that men’s consistent insecurity of the other sex’s progress of accessing domination in the current society actually contribute to the crucial element of slasher movies and so many other forms of arts and representation of culture that are created by men. But still, we are not supposed to be killed by a psycho after having sex with our boyfriends, right?