Professional Practice Task 3: Conduct Individual Investigative Project

Halloween, 1978, John Carpenter, Dean Cundry


 Secondary Sources from Internet

Anom. (2014). Halloween. Available: Last accessed 31st May 2014.


Box Office

Budget: $300,000 (estimated)

Gross: $47,000,000 (USA)


$300,000 (estimated)



$47,000,000 (USA)

$60,000,000 (Worldwide) ( 1978)

AUD 900,000 (Australia) ( 1979)

$782,277 (Germany)

HKD 450,139 (Hong Kong) ( 1979)

SEK 2,298,579 (Sweden)



750,000 (Germany)

118,606 (Sweden)



$18,500,000 (USA)


Filming Dates

April 1978


Copyright Holder

Falcon International Productions






In 1978, a low-budget film about a masked killer stalking a young babysitter in a quiet Illinois suburb took the film industry by storm.

Filmed for just over $300,000 (about $1m today), John Carpenter’s Halloween has since made more than $47m.

Cinema audiences were terrified and delighted in equal amount and Michael Myers, with his battered white facemask became a pop culture icon, preceding the likes of Jason Voorhees, the hockey-masked brute from the Friday the 13th films and Freddie Krueger of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.

“I can believe it,” says the now 65-year-old semi-retired director, about the span of time since he created one of the ultimate movie monsters.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

The best compliment I got was standing outside a theatre and hearing the audience scream, that was just delightful.”

John Carpenter

“I’m old now, 35 years ago I was a young kid then just trying to make a movie but some part of me still feels like that young kid.”

Prior to Halloween, Carpenter had already known some success with the exploitation film Assault on Precinct 13 which, although a flop in the US, had enjoyed some resurgence in Europe after being screened at the London Film Festival in 1977.’ –


Slasher genre

Although the idea of a stalking killer was not a new one, having been seen in films like Michael Powell’s voyeuristic Peeping Tom; Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13 and even Tobe Hooper’s creation Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween’s Myers was a different beast.

“We had this idea of Michael Myers being not quite a human but almost a supernatural force,” says Carpenter. “Evil as a force of nature in the personification of this man.

“So we put him in a mask so he wouldn’t have human features.”

The two-dollar rubber mask was a likeness of Star Trek actor William Shatner, sprayed a bluish-white – and it terrified people.


‘None of this is new, there have always been ghost stories.”

“The best compliment I got was standing outside a theatre and hearing the audience scream, that was just delightful.”

Halloween ushered in the era of the slasher movies of the 1980s. Though they were not the first, it – along with Friday 13th – brought the previously niche horror genre hurtling into the mainstream.

Carpenter, however, plays down his reputation as the father of the genre: “I think the main reason that Halloween inspired other movies was very shrewd producers looking and saying, ‘This idiot made this for $300,000, we can do it and make money’.

“It’s all about making money in Hollywood. It wasn’t about art.”

The slasher genre now looks relatively timid when compared with the explosion in what became known as the “torture porn” of the 2000s. Super-violent films such as Hostel and the Saw franchise undoubtedly built on the brutal nature of films like Halloween and Friday the 13th.

Since then, filmmakers have returned to the basics with ghost films like The Conjuring and The Woman In Black, which have proved to be a massive draw at the box office.


A remake of Escape from New York has long been planned

But Carpenter – who has dabbled in ghostly tales such as The Fog and Christine – again insists: “Horror films have been around since the beginning of cinema and each one leads to another so they continue to morph and change depending on society.

“None of this is new, there have always been ghost stories. There are just new ways of telling stories.”


Kev Geoghegan. (2013). John Carpenter reflects on Halloween 35 years on. Available: Last accessed 29th May 2014.



This is using secondary qualitative research but because it is the first hand opinion of the cinematographer himself I will have more of an insight into the techniques and style Dean Cundey.


Widely considered one of the best cinematographers of all time, Dean Cundey has been behind the camera on classics such as Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, Escape From New York, Back to The Future, Big Trouble in Little China, Jurassic Park and Apollo 13, just to name a few. However, he may still be best known for his work on the 1978 horror classic Halloween, which celebrates its 35th Anniversary this year with a brand new Blu-ray release. Although it had been used sparingly in films such Rocky and Marathon Man, Dean Cundley helped spawn a whole new era of cinematography with his use of the “fluid prowling camera,” which later became known as the Steadicam. I recently had the chance to speak with this legendary director of photography over the phone about his experiences on director John Carpenter‘s horror classic. Here’s what he had to say.


Dean Cundey: Well, it had been used very little, up to that point. Three or four films had used it, but only in limited ways. Any time there is new technology like that, people look for a way to use it, but they don’t always think of the most ingenious things. They looked at the Steadicam as a way to replace a dolly or a handheld camera. One of the things that John and I really tried to do was find a way to turn the camera into a character. What we used it for, was actually pretty unique, for the time. Now, of course, it’s become such a ubiquitous thing that almost every feature carries a Steadicam and Steadicam operator. At the time, it was such a special thing that you had to designate two or three days for its use.


Dean Cundey: I had gone to Cinema Products, who had the original Steadicam, to try it out, and then Panavision built their own version. I went to Panavision along with a couple of my crew guys, and we tried it out. I put it on and walked around, through cars and stuff. There’s actually a piece of film on the Internet, that test film that we shot. We pretty quickly figured out that it had some great potential. We used the Panavision version of it, and it came and went, I remember, according to when we needed it, because it was an extra budgetary consideration, but it was a device that we really thought could have potential, beyond replacing the dolly. It’s something you always hope to do, which is use the camera in some way to draw the audience into the story, and attach to them emotionally. We thought that this would be a new way to do that.

Brian Gallagher. (2013). EXCLUSIVE: Dean Cundey Talks ‘Halloween’ 35th Anniversary Blu-ray. Available: Last accessed 29th May 2014.



Secondary research- Interviews

Secondary Research: Interviews from Documentary- Visions of light: Cinematography

Secondary research from book: Cinematography



I watched ‘Visions of light: Art of Cinematography’ in hopes of getting a fuller understanding on the subject of Cinematography. The documentary included commentary and opinions from many top cinematographers, filmmakers, D.O.P’s etc. and spoke about the problems and successes cinematographers had with well-known films  and how it affected the aesthetics of the picture, but they did not talk about the technical components that created the shots, which was what i was looking for. An interesting watch but I did not find this information useful and did not consider it when analysis and writing my investigation.

Interview Notes



Beginning structure research/Notes/ Book sources



Here I looked at both cinematography and film art to compare and contrast the style and techniques within both, to find similarities and differences to find a generic conclusion of techniques to look for during my analysis.

This is my use off cross-referencing.


I found that both books were good reliable sources to find information on cinematography. They are both well-established books that are highly recommended for filmmakers so I can trust the information is valid. However I found that ‘Cinematography’ had a lot more information than ‘Film Art’, probably because Film Art covers many subjects within film whereas Cinematography’s main and only focus is the use and application of Cinematography. Reading these books gave me a wider knowledge on the subject and helped improve my terminology so I can be more accurate with my analysis.


Primary research- The analysis notes.

This is the main part of my subject investigation where I will do an analysis of the film ‘Halloween’. It is primary research because it is an analysis from my perspective, formed on the knowledge I have required through research. I broke it down into scenes and analysed 4 main aspects of cinematography in each scene, which showed in my final report.



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