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John Carpenter’s 1978 horror film Halloween is considered the precursor to an entire industry of preposterous “slasher” films, in which a psychotic killer methodically works his way through a group of usually young and physically attractive teenagers or adults. While certainly a low-budget production, there is no evidence that Carpenter or anyone else involved in the film’s production intended it as a parody. In fact, one of the film’s financers has suggested just the opposite, that Halloween was intended as a horror movie. That financer and producer, Iwin Yablans, was quoted in one article as describing his concept for the film as follows:
“Yablans immediately called Carpenter and explained his concept for a horror movie that would capture the “theater of the mind” qualities of the radio serials he had grown up listening to. ‘I want this movie to be a movie where the audience thinks they see things, feels that they’ve seen things, but they really don’t,’ he recalled telling Carpenter. ‘I don’t want any blood. I don’t want any gore. All of the scares, all of the horror, has to come from the anticipation’.”
That Halloween would launch an industry of low-budget horror “slasher” films, including the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the Thirteenth series could be considered an unfortunate ramification stemming from Yablans’ vision, but the suggestion of parodies began to seep into these films as they gained in popularity and sequel followed sequel until Keenan Ivory Wayans directed Scary Movie, an actual, intentional parody of all those other films that became yet another series of sequels itself. Wayan’s Scary Movie was an over-the-top satire of all that preceded it, including the notion of the nubile young teenager as victim and use of ridiculous masks to conceal the psychotic killer’s identity, ala Michael Myers’ hockey mask from Halloween. Wayans had earlier parodied the series of low-budget detective movies featuring virile African American men, beginning with Shaft, in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, and was a well-established writer and director of comedic parodies.
There had been cheaply-made horror films well before the appearance of Carpenter’s first Halloween movie, including George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Romero’s film being particularly well-known for introducing and popularizing ‘zombies as villians.’ And, of course, Roger Corman’s series of films adapted – sometimes very loosely adapted – from the stories and poems of Edgar Allan Poe, including The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Masque of the Red Death, began to veer off towards parody with his adaptation of Poe’s The Raven.
To return to the subject of Halloween, however, Carpenter’s introductory film in that genre can be credited with setting the stage for the Wayans’ parodies that followed, and for ushering in the concept of attractive, young, sexually-promiscuous teenagers as victims or horrific crimes.
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