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.