The Daily Grindhouse: Halloween (dir. by John Carpenter)

What better way to bring back a new daily grindhouse than the film which started the teen slasher genre. I speak of John Carpenter’s Halloween.

The film was truly a child of 1970’s independent filmmaking. With a budget of just $320,000 (even adjusting for inflation it’s still quite low) Carpenter made what’s considered one of horror’s defining films. Carpenter’s film was a smash hit when it was released in 1978. It played mostly in drive-in’s, grindhouse cinema houses before finally appearing in more mainstream venues. By then the film had become one of those must-see titles that many films both independent and mainstream try for but fail to do.

Some have commented that since Halloween was such a success in the box-office then it shouldn’t be considered grindhouse. I look at such thinking as quite narrow. Grindhouse was never synonymous with bad filmmaking. If one said the term meant cheap filmmaking then I would agree. Carpenter’s film has all the trappings of what makes a great grindhouse. It’s violent (though it really has less blood than what audience really remember) and uses sex as a storytelling tool (again the sex is quite chaste compared to later teen slashers).

While some film historians credit Hitchcock’s Psycho as the granddaddy of the slasher genre it wasn’t primogenitor of the teen slasher subgenre which has become an industry onto itself since Carpenter’s breakthrough hit. A hit that set many of the basic rules of teen slasher horror for decades to come. We get the nigh-unstoppable killer who seems more like a force of nature than human. The notion that teenage girls who have premarital sex will die horribly because of it while the chaste and virginal girl survives and inevitably stops the killer (until the subsequent sequel that is).

Halloween is grindhouse through and through. The fact that Carpenter’s obvious talent and skill as a director, editor, film composer and cinematographer shouldn’t DQ this film from being called grindhouse.

32 responses to “The Daily Grindhouse: Halloween (dir. by John Carpenter)

  1. Oh, this movie is totally grindhouse, right down to the way that Carpenter’s P.O.V. shots where the camera became Michael were obviously influenced by the way the Italian gialli would traditionally force the audience to take the killer’s point of view. One thing that people forget about the old exploitation and grindhouse films is that the traditionally made a lot of money.


    • When compared to how much they cost to film most grindhouse films made money. Its the one reason why producers kept churning them out. I think one reason why grindhouse films nowadays are very rare is the fact that the film stock that filmmakers in the golden age of grindhouse used pretty rare and thus not cheap now. young and amateur filmmakers think after seeing QT and RR’s “Grindhouse” think they can do the same using a handheld DV cam really have no clue.

      It goes back to my point of grindhouse may mean cheap, dirty and done fast, but it doesn’t mean it has to be bad.


  2. Man I love Halloween I can watch it throughout the year very good article. In 2008 i got to go to South Pasadena for the 30 Years of Terror and that was great seeing all the shooting locations and of course the Myers House was the best thing out of the whole weekend so keep up the good work.


    • I think at his core Carpenter remains a child of the grindhouse and exploitation era of the 60’s and 70’s when they truly flourished. Nowadays people think to equate grindhouse with cheap horror knock-offs like the uncounted amateurish zombie flicks you can find on Netflix.

      But grindhouse and exploitation is more a state of mind the filmmakers tap into that doesn’t involve pandering to the mainstream audience or even to those who love grindhouse and exploitation films. They make films the only way they know how and that’s raw, unfiltered and brutally honest. Most usually don’t turn out well, but one could never accuse grindhouse and exploitation filmmakers of selling out.

      I think that’s why the last few Carpenter films haven’t done so well. He ended up re-doing the same things over and over because fans screamed for it. This was evident with Escape from LA and Ghosts of Mars. That latter plays like a bad scifi version of Assault on Precinct 13.

      This is why I’m glad he’s gone back to doing things the way he wants to with the two episodes he did for Masters of Horror and with his upcoming return to feature-length filmmaking with The Ward.


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