The Birth of the Slasher Film: Forty Years of “Halloween”
On October 25, 1978, in Kansas City, Missouri, director John Carpenter premiered his third feature film, “Halloween”, with a plot involving a psychotic, knife-wielding killer stalking a group of libidinous teens in a sleepy Illinois town on Halloween night. The movie starred Hollywood scion Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, in her film debut, with a role that would soon become known as that of “the final girl”, that is, the lone survivor of the killer’s rage. A new terminology was required, for “Halloween” broke unhallowed ground in the horror genre, essentially inventing the slasher film (though Curtis’ mother gave a quick preview in her shower scene from “Psycho”).
After viewing Carpenter’s previous offering, “Assault on Precinct 13”, at the Milan Film Festival in 1976, indy film producer Irwin Yablans and financial backer Moustapha Akkad approached the 28-year-old with a proposal: they wanted a movie about a psycho-killer stalking babysitters. Carpenter and then girlfriend and partner Debra Hill accepted, and the renowned film “The Babysitter Murders” was born!
Well, not so much. That was Carpenter and Hill’s working title; it was Yablans who suggested the tie-in to America’s scariest holiday, and the project became retitled as “Halloween”. It’s hard to imagine the movie receiving such popular appeal under its original moniker; it wanted that creepy cachet, and Carpenter gave it just the right gloss with that bizarre yet simple theme music, which became hardwired into a generation of horror aficionados.
Produced on a shoestring budget of $300,000 (the killer’s mask, arguably the most vital prop in the film, was a last-minute alteration of a rubber William Shatner face, and the cast vividly recalls picking up the fall leaves after each summer shoot, bagging them and keeping them to redistribute on the sets next day), the film sold 30 million tickets in 1978, grossing $47 million domestically, with another $23 million in overseas markets, becoming one of the most profitable independent films ever made.
“Halloween” hell-spawned a host of imitators and its own lengthy franchise, with nine additional entries in the series. Like its continually resurrected killer, you can’t keep a good ghoul down, and “Halloween” returns this October, on its fortieth anniversary, with Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her original role. Carpenter went on to direct such popular films as “Escape from New York”, “Starman”, “Christine” and “Big Trouble in Little China”; Curtis spent a few years as the reigning “scream queen” before moving into more serious work (“Trading Places”, “A Fish Called Wanda”, “True Lies”, among others), and became a well-respected Hollywood icon.
Certainly such a momentous event in film history has its mirror in the skies, and in this regard, “Halloween” is no exception.
When “Halloween” premiered on 25 October 1978 in Kansas City, the Sun had just entered Scorpio, the Sign most associated with the horror genre. Accompanying Sol at 1 Scorpio are asteroids James (closest to Jamie, the film’s star) and Deborah (for Debra Hill, its co-writer and producer), both at 0 Scorpio, and Photographica at 3 Scorpio, which signifies all manner of images, including movies. The Sun is just entering orb of conjunction to TNO Ixion, named for the first murderer in Greek myth, at 11 Scorpio. This highlights both women personally for the period, as well as films generally, especially those with murder as the theme.
The Sun is also at the fulcrum of a T-Square involving Jupiter at 7 Leo opposed Johnny, one of three PNAs for director Carpenter, at 6 Aquarius. This is Carpenter’s Big Chance, his opportunity for fame (Jupiter), facilitated by the exposure from the Sun and his female back-up in the form of “Halloween”’s ingénue star and co-writer/producer (James, Deborah). Johnny is itself conjoined asteroid Hill at 12 Aquarius, linking the team that made the film a reality; though this degree is out of orb of the T-Square proper, Jupiter also opposes Hill, giving Debra Hill her shot at fame as well.
Another Grand Cross composed of pivotal players dominates the chart, formed of an exact opposition from asteroid Carpenter at 0 Aries to Curtis at 0 Libra, in square to asteroid Hack (for Michael Meyers’ preferred method of slaughter) at 1 Capricorn, conjunct Osiris, ancient Egyptian god of the dead, at 28 Sagittarius, and opposing asteroid Michel, one of three Michael variants, at 28 Gemini. Asteroid Lee, Curtis’ middle name, is drawn in from 25 Virgo, where it conjoins asteroid Curtis. So we’re seeing here death (Osiris) and the means to attain it (Hack), along with the perpetrator of the deed (Michel), in balance with two of the film’s principals (Carpenter and Lee/Curtis).
Incredibly, all three Michael variants are in trine to the Sun, and at station, embedding the name “Michael” in the collective consciousness of the time. Michelle and Michela at 10 and 11 Pisces turn direct on October 10th and 27th respectively, while Michel turns retrograde on, when else? Halloween itself, October 31st! The Piscean points are also drawn into a T-Square, opposing Saturn, ancient lord of death, at 10 Virgo, asteroid Laurel (one referent for Curtis’ character, Laurie Strode) exactly conjoined Johney (Carpenter’s third PNA) at 11 Virgo, Nemesis (the implacable enemy or foe, thus also celestial shorthand for Michael Meyers in this instance) at 12 Virgo, and Kansas, for Kansas City, where the premiere was held, at 14 Virgo, with all points bound up in squares to Neptune, ruling films, at 16 Sagittarius.
Asteroid Meyer, for Meyers, also makes a bold showing; at 26 Aquarius, it is accompanied by House (all the murders occur in private homes) at 24 Aquarius and Damocles, the doom hanging unseen overhead, at 21 Aquarius, while being the fulcrum in a T-Square created by the opposition from Mars (ruling violent death, attacks and knives) at 24 Scorpio, Venus (ruling women; most of the victims are female) at 21 Scorpio, and asteroid Laura, another referent for Laurie, at 27 Scorpio, all opposing asteroid Bandersnatch at 21 Taurus. Bandersnatch may be a new one for you – it’s named for a monster created by Lewis Carroll in his poem “Jabberwocky”, noted for being unstoppable and impossible to catch, just like Michael Meyers.
Even the fictitious town where the movie is set, Haddonfield, Illinois, takes its bow, in the form of asteroid Hadfield, which at 23 Libra conjoins Pluto, modern ruler of death, at 17 Libra. (This is reminiscent of one of Donald Pleasance’s more memorable lines, who played Michael’s psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis: “Death has come to your little town, Sheriff.”)
The only major cast member never to get his due was Nick Castle, who played Michael himself. Perennially masked, we never see Nick; the one split-second shot of Michael’s exposed face was filmed with another actor, chosen for his innocent appearance. But Castle gets his revenge astrologically; PNAs representing him have their bloody fingerprints all over the chart. There is no Castle asteroid, but all three of the closest matches are deep in the thick of things: asteroid Castillo (Spanish for “castle”) at 7 Virgo is part of the Saturn/Laurel/Johney/Nemesis/Kansas mix, while Castelli (Italian for the plural “castles”) at 24 Virgo is conjoined co-star PNAs Lee and Curtis, opposes director PNA Carpenter, and is squared to Michel, for Michael, his cinematic alter-ego. Asteroid Castello (Italian for “castle”, singular) at 26 Sagittarius conjoins Osiris and Hack, and is also bound up with Michel, by opposition. Asteroid Nicky, for Nick, is an exact match for Ixion, the murderer, at 11 Scorpio, and broadly conjunct the Sun. This PNA enmeshment shows Nick Castle as an integral factor in the production, albeit he never achieved the fame his coworkers did.
We’re fortunate to have full birth data for the principals, Carpenter and Curtis. Director John Carpenter was born 9:50 PM EST on 16 January 1948, in Carthage, NY (Rodden rating AA). His 25 Capricorn Sun is conjoined by asteroid Johnny at 1 Aquarius, a common placement for one’s own PNAs, and opposes asteroids Meyer and Hack, at 24 and 19 Cancer respectively, demoting the importance of his slasher character to his biography. His leading lady’s presence is powerfully felt as well, with both Lee and Curtis, at 20 and 21 Cap, conjoined the Sun.
Asteroids Carpenter and Hill are conjunct, at 8 and 9 Taurus, bringing together the executive production staff for “Halloween” (and other films the pair made together, including “Halloween II”); both points had made stations a month before, just a day and a degree apart, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. This shows the immediacy and intimacy of their connection, both professional and personal, with Carpenter’s exact Saturn/Aphrodite pairing at 21 Leo inclining him to romantic liaisons (Aphrodite) with co-workers (Saturn), as was the case with Hill.
Carpenter’s asteroid Johney at 23 Sagittarius conjoins his 22 Sagittarius IC, another typical PNA placement, and is also conjunct Osiris at 25 Sagittarius, uniting Carpenter personally with themes of death. Johney opposes Uranus exactly on the MC at 22 Gemini, showing a creative, unique focus in career matters (MC), and a quirky, maverick bent to Carpenter himself. Transit Michel at station had just crested the natal MC from 28 Gemini, another clue to his murderous character’s importance for Carpenter’s career, in the timeframe of the film’s release, while Neptune pairs with Ixion at 12 and 14 Libra, suggesting from birth that homicidal (Ixion) films (Neptune) are the way to go for Carpenter. A combination of Karma and Jupiter at 16 and 18 Sagittarius shows that fame was predestined; with Karma currently exactly conjoined transit Neptune, films were the vehicle for that fame.
A natal cluster of Michela, Laura, Nemesis and Atropos (named for the mythic Greek Fate who severs the thread of life at death) at 22, 24, 26 and 27 Scorpio brings together his anti-hero and heroine, their rivalry, and the theme of mortality, and is activated by the Mars/Venus/Laura of the premiere. So Carpenter was undergoing a “Laura Return”, which is a reenergizing of its natal potential, when his character of Laurie Strode vaulted him to stardom. The square to Saturn at 21 Leo shows these points as pivotal in his career.
For Curtis, born 8:37 AM PST on 22 November 1958 in Los Angeles (Rodden rating AA), the story is much the same. Where Carpenter had a natal pairing of Hill and Carpenter, the close director/producer/co-writer relationship in “Halloween” is shown by a conjunction of asteroids Johnny and Deborah at 26 Leo and 1 Virgo in Curtis’ chart, with the fated quality of Karma nearby at 2 Virgo, and Pluto’s transformational energies at 4 Virgo. Surely the role was a break-out one for Curtis, something which changed her life forever. Her 25 Sagittarius Ascendant, Saturn at 24 Sag and Mercury at 21 conjoin Carpenter’s 22 Sag IC and 23 Sag Johney, binding them still further: in part, it was her onscreen image (Ascendant) which proved foundational (IC) for Carpenter (Johney), affecting both their careers (Saturn).
Curtis’ asteroid Curtis at 0 Capricorn conjoins her Saturn, appropriate for the surname bequeathed by her father (Saturn), and is exactly T-squared the Carpenter/Curtis polarity for the premiere. Curtis’ asteroid Carpenter at 13 Cancer is stationary and exactly squared her 13 Libra MC, showing John Carpenter’s pivotal importance (station) in her career (MC). Asteroid Hack at 29 Cancer is also at station, having turned retrograde just three days before her birth, and is exactly trine her 29 Scorpio Sun, which makes an exact synastric Grand Trine with the addition of its trine to Carpenter’s natal Moon at 29 Pisces.
Two stelliums bring together related parts of the story. Neptune, Hill, Michela and Jupiter at 5, 8, 9 and 15 Scorpio speaks of a film (Neptune) made with Debra Hill (Hill), involving a Michael character (Michela), which brings fame and renown (Jupiter). The other combines Meyer at 29 Aquarius (also exactly squared her Sun) with asteroids Queen’s, Nemesis, Michelle and Bandersnatch at 2, 3, 8 and 12 Pisces, uniting scream queen (Queen’s) Jamie Lee with her unstoppable, monstrous (Bandersnatch) foe (Nemesis), Michael Meyers (Michelle, Meyer). This zone was transited by Meyer, Michelle and Michela at the premiere. As with Carpenter’s Laura, PNAs representing key elements of the project (Michelle and Meyer) were returning to their birth degrees, reinforcing their latent potential and impact in Curtis’ biography. Natal Mars at 21 Taurus is an exact match for the film’s Bandersnatch, opposing its Mars/Laura. Natal Laura at 16 Sagittarius was exactly conjunct transit Neptune, birthing her first screen presence (and is exactly on Carpenter’s Karma, showing a fated link between them).
When the 2018 “Halloween” reboot opens on October 19th, 2018, Curtis and Carpenter will once again be reunited, with her in the original role and him as producer and composer of the latest installment of the franchise. Nick Castle reprises his serial killer character as well. All subsequent films have been excised from the “Halloween” mythological canon, and this new version is billed as a direct sequel to the original.
Jamie Lee Curtis is again bound up with her on-screen archenemy, with asteroid Curtis at 20 Sagittarius conjunct Castello (Castle) at 15, Ixion (murderer) at 25 and Michel (Michael) at 27 Sag. Michael Meyers’ knife skills and his quarry are reiterated with asteroid Castelli at 8 Aquarius conjoined Mars at 14, squared asteroid Laura at 7 Scorpio. Likewise, John Carpenter again faces off with his forty-year-old creation, in the form of asteroid Carpenter at 0 Sagittarius squared Meyer (Meyers) at 1 Pisces.
Will this “Halloween” become as embedded in horror-lovers’ psyches as the original? There is some indication that it might: Nemesis and Laurel (Laurie) conjoin, at 18 and 26 Gemini, and both are stationary, with Nemesis turning retrograde the day before the premiere, and Laurel following suit two days after. As with the stationing “Michael” variants at the opening of the first film, this emphasizes Laurie/Laurel and Michael/Nemesis in the collective conscience, helping to pull focus for the film. With its 26 Libra Sun in resonance with the first movie’s Sun at 1 Scorpio, there could be enough similarities to bring those original fans into the fold, and if the atmospherics are reproduced, no doubt new fans will arise.
Whatever befalls, I doubt this will be the last we’ll see of Michael Meyers; you just can’t keep a good monster down.