What is a genre-auteur film ? The example of Halloween a horror-auteur movie (1978, John Carpenter). Comparison with Peeping Tom (1960, Michael Powell)

Curator's Note

The cliché still exists in many minds: An auteur film cannot be a genre film. Yet, John Carpenter, who only made genre films, is often considered as an auteur. In Les Cahiers du cinéma's auteur theory, genre films are all the same, based on the repetition of generic codes, whereas auteur films display a unique vision of the world. By vision of the world, I mean the political commentary of the film on its era. The particularity of a genre-auteur film is that it displays its auteur's original vision of the world through generic codes. Its second specificity is that, despite the use of the same codes, its vision of the world is different from another genre film or genre-auteur film.

When Laurie drops the key under the Myers' entrance carpet, she is seen from inside the house through the broken window. The spectator can hear the heavy breathing of Michael. Linking this effect to the opening sequence where Judith's killing is shown through Michael's eyes (called POV shot), we think that the camera viewpoint is the same as the one of Michael, and that he is going to attack. Yet, his face and shoulder appear in the camera's field, showing that this was not the case. Carpenter transforms the effect of the POV killings into a fake POV1.

The killing through the murderer's POV is an effect borrowed from Peeping Tom, another horror-auteur film. Despite that, the two films exhibit a very different vision of the world. In Powell's movie, the POV scenes show the murderer killing his victims while filming their faces just before they die. The film is an interrogation about the pleasure taken while watching a horror movie in modern society. Why are we repelled, but yet fascinated to see the murders through the killer's eyes? By using this code and then transforming it, Carpenter makes us doubt the location of Michael. Plus, we don't know when or where he is going to attack. And Michael kills for no reason. All that turns Halloween into a metaphor of the randomness of horrific events.


Lagier, Luc, and Jean-Baptiste Thoret. Mythes et Masques : Les fantômes de John Carpenter. Paris, France: Dreamland ed, 1998.

1 Indeed, the camera's viewpoint is not Michael as expected, but nobody. We are dealing with the equivalent of, what we call in literature, an omniscient point of view. Technically, Jean-Baptiste Thoret and Luc Lagier call it 'zero ocularization'. I took this analysis about the point of view from the French book Mythes et Masques : Les fantômes de John Carpenter. No English translation available. See bibliography for full reference.

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