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Dan Jolin -> JOHN CARPENTER (7/2/2006 5:25:52 PM)

He’s an enduring sci-fi/horror-fan fave, responsible for classics of the genres like The Thing and Halloween, yet he’s arguably not made a decent movie in years. Fair comment? Let us know what you think. And whether you like him or not, there’s undeniable themes to his work: his love of anti-heroes, his use of mindless, emotionless bad guys, his mateyness with Kurt Russell, his indebtedness to Howard Hawks… Discuss them all, and more, here - and, as ever, we’ll print and respond to the most interesting comments here.


Dark Star
Assault On Precinct 13
Escape From New York
The Thing

And then get posting!

Mikey C -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (7/2/2006 5:37:55 PM)

I think the fact that pretty much every slasher film made in the 80s is a big dirty rip-off of Halloween says a fair amount about his mastery of the horror genre. And it only cost about £17. Probably.

Escape from New York is great because Isaac Hayes has chandeliers on his car.

Interestingly, he looks more and more like a waxwork scarecrow every say. Lay off the fags, John!

directorscut -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (7/2/2006 5:45:22 PM)


his indebtedness to Howard Hawks

A far better choice for this feature tbh.

Nexus -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (7/2/2006 6:02:13 PM)

I find Carpenter to be quite hit and miss. Hated Dark Star, loved Assault and Halloween, hated The Fog, loved Escape From NY, hated Prince of Darkness, ect.

Mr E -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (7/2/2006 6:19:28 PM)

I really don't understand how he has gone so down hill. When you look at something like The Thing and witness the masterclass in tension and suspense and then experience a more recent effort such as Ghosts Of Mars you will really notice how bad he's gotten. Ghosts Of Mars is quite simply awful, bad dialogue, noisy metal guitar music as opposed to the incredibly simple and effective synth tunes he used to use, unconvincing set and costumes, an appalling narrative flashback style that gives the story no momentum whatsoever and Jason Statham.

rich -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (7/2/2006 6:56:13 PM)

Yeah like many masters of the 80s, he's lost his way. But you can forgive him for what he does wrong these days, for how much he did right in The Thing. It's the best of so many things, remakes, horror, pre computer effects. I find it mind boggling how perfect the damn thing is.
What he did best was nihilistic exitement and ludicrous adventure. Surely Big Trouble in Little China should be on that list!

NadaPlissken -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (7/2/2006 7:34:11 PM)

At least he still makes films how he wants, and never sucked up to commercialism (hello Wes Craven) expect maybe with Village of the Damned (his worst). 

I enjoyed Ghosts of Mars and I'm not scared to admit it.  I enjoy it much more than some of his early work, mainly "Christine".  He still made one of his best films, "In The Mouth of Madness", in the 1990s, and his episode of Masters of Horror was decent, suggesting he hasn't "lost his way" quite as much as people think.  "Vampires" was okay, but should have been better, but considering the budget has chainsawed into tiny pieces I'm suprised it turned out as enjoyable as it did.  "Escape from L.A" I love, although for different reasons than EFNY.

His 90s work may be debateable, but he did (IMO) have probably the best run of quality films from any director, from Dark Star through to They Live, I think all his output at that time was excellent or very good.  Some of it (BTILC, The Thing, They Live) has taken time to gain mainstream or even cult appriciation, and I think opinions of EFLA and Ghosts of Mars may improve over time, in the cult crowd at least.

He's my "favourite" director, and very rarely lets me down.  I will watch anything with his name in front of it, and if that makes me a fanboy, I apologise.

stuartbannerman -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (7/2/2006 7:46:11 PM)

I cant speak highly enough of John Carpenter and am over the moon that hes been picked as this months DVD Club Director.

He's come under critisism for not being as good as he once was. But even though i disagree. The fact that he was once great is such an achievement.

To me the thing i love about John Carpenter is that he makes the films he wants to make and isnt swayed by critic reviews or box office tallies
Its a bit like "I dont care if you like my films, i make them for my fans, and not for the critics"

For a film maker to have such classic films as 'Halloween','Escape From New York' ' The Thing' on his resume...........brilliant. !!!!!!

UTB -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (7/2/2006 8:13:06 PM)

The Thing is quite simply one of the greatest horror films ever made. One of the things (geddit?) that makes the film for me is that the threat of the characters and their paranoia towards each other is as great as the threat from the alien being.

And lets not forget the effects, which certainly define the word 'special'. Well done Mr Botin.

stuartbannerman -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (7/2/2006 9:08:28 PM)

There are very few directors whos name above a poster can create a sense of "ohhh i wanna see that one NOW" John Carpenter is one of those men

Ant_1971 -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (7/2/2006 10:46:52 PM)

Being a *BIG* fan of all things JC, i tip my hat at this months director selection. There's no doubt his latter work has been slated (and rightfully so - that surfing scene in Escape From LA anyone?!?).....but these awful things aside, he should always be remembered for the halcyon days of the 70's/ early 80's, and a truly, truly amazing CV of work.

For the big three Kurt Russell movies (The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York) he has a place next to Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell on the golf courses of the next world.

Not only did he supply three of the most iconic characters of the 1980's - R.J. MacReady, Snake Plisskin and the mighty, mighty Jack Burton - he also made three distinctly different films that showed the range and versatility of his filmmaking style and the depth of his storytelling. Filled with great characterisations (none more so than the cast of The Thing), quality dialogue ("We really shook the pillars of heaven, didn't we Wang") and some of the most iconic scenes of 80's cinema (the blood test scene, "you've gotta be fucking kidding", along with Plisskin destroying the tape) he's also responsible for the finest ending and last line to any movie ever created - "Why don't we just sit around and see what happens?" (cue Ennio Morricone's masterful score).

And that's not even going into the comic genius that is Dark Star (without which there would probably be no Red Dwarf) or Halloween,  that in-itself created a whole new genre of film.

For all the turgid rubbish that Carpenter's produced more recently, he can be forgiven in the knowledge that his output during the seventies and eighties (right up to They Live - a fantastically fun film) created three sci-fi cult(?) classics, the original slasher and a character in Jack Burton to rival anything that Bruce Campbell's Ash can do. The man was - and still is - a genius.


Mojo -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (7/2/2006 10:47:00 PM)

With Ridley Scott's Alien, The Thing is one of the few perfect films ever made. Carpenter knew what made a good horror movie, and wrote a film just so happened to come together to create a truly terrifying experience for the audience. Sure, the gore effects are absolutely groundbreaking (and stand up to everything that is being done today), but it is the isolation of the characters that makes this film work. R.J MaCready (played to perfection by Kurt Russell) and co. are trapped within their facility, thus leading to the fantastically handled scenes of paranoia and descent into madness. His recent cinematic output perhaps suggests that Carpenter is an autuer stuck in the 80s, whilst the rest of the cinemagoing world no longer want his cheesy B-movies. I can't get enough of them.

NadaPlissken -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (7/2/2006 11:18:26 PM)



His recent cinematic output perhaps suggests that Carpenter is an autuer stuck in the 80s, whilst the rest of the cinemagoing world no longer want his cheesy B-movies. I can't get enough of them.

That's absolutely right; he keeps making his box office failures for no other reason than to please himself and his small devoted following.  Is there any other director that does that? 
B Movies are a beautiful thing, and Carpenter is one of the few people around who knows how to make them.  He gives his films a finish no other director could.  Ghosts of Mars is built around a rapper playing the lead, rambling flashbacks, a noisy soundtrack, unnecessary gore, a tacky screenplay, sub par special effects, an unconvincing model train and Peter Jason sporting a fledgling mullet, but Carpenter's style of always putting entertainment before anything else makes the whole thing work perfectly.  Who wants a B movie that doesn't look cheap? 

As for his other recent work, why not put a bad greenscreen surfing scene into a film which ends with Kurt Russell and a transsexual Pam Grier performing a machine gun hanglider assault on Disneyland to kill a Che Guevara impersonator?  EFLA is a magnificently over the top shambles, which is endlessly entertaining due to Carpenter’s “what can I throw in next?” attitude to writing and directing.  It’s like a pulp comic book that the author hasn’t finished drawing, but was just thrown together anyway.  Still, EFLA is supposed to be an incoherent mess and as an incoherent mess it is much better than the big budget flashy-CGI sporting action films Hollywood churns out.  This is because Carpenter loves making his films, a quality that shines through the weakest of his efforts and is a rarity amongst modern directors; un-pretentious ones anyway. 

Long live the Carp.

Mozza -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (7/2/2006 11:54:37 PM)

John Carpenter, or: How to fall from Grace.

The cinemagoing youth of today often ask (i've overheard it) "Who's John Carpenter?" as they see another advert for another one of the movies that he has backed.  However, he is an icon of 80s cheese cinema.  No, scratch that-an icon of cinema, full stop.

Without him, there'd be no slasher genre, no masterworks of horror (The Thing), action (Escape From New York) and its safe to say that without him, Kurt Russell wouldn't be the man he is today.  The man, simply put, is a legend-one that has lost his market.  The desire for his style of moviemaking has gone-instead, rather than opting for seige movies or well-built suspense, the moviegoing public ask for quick payoffs in terms of action and gore, instead of using their imagination.

Companero -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (8/2/2006 11:44:44 AM)

I’ve always had a soft spot for Carpenter – his earlier work was effortless in its style and entertainment value but like many of the great directors of the 70s he seems to have lost his way, in recent years.
Like Brian De Palma and Francis Ford Coppola, Carpenter spent much of the 90s trying to hit big with a blockbuster and his later films seem castrated when compared to his best period (1976-1982). It’s obvious from looking at Memoirs Of An Invisible Man and his Village Of The Damned remake that he deliberately dumbed-down his formula for mass consumption – both films have a “made by committee” sensibility, as opposed to Halloween and Assault On Precinct 13, which bear his auteur fingerprints all over them.

The 70s saw the emergence of movie brats such as Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg, et al – directors that were the first generation to have studied film before making the transition to filmmakers and Carpenter fits this profile but unlike his brethren, he’s happier to site the influence of Dario Argento and Mario Bava on Halloween than the likes of Truffaut, Bergman and Fellini that had motivated his contemporaries. Assault On Precinct 13 is his homage to Howard Hawkes and the film is practically a remake of Rio Bravo. Through his love for genre films and his homages to them, Carpenter’s career is the blue print for that of Quentin Tarantino’s – both are completely unashamed about their love for the sort of films that their peers would have sneered at.
Taking a look at his work, Halloween is probably his most perfect film and without a doubt, his most influential. Taking the premise of a masked madman stalking and murdering his victims that had been the staple of the Italian giallo (murder mysteries – the term is derived from the term given to the pulpy novels of Agatha Christie and the like which had been published in Italy with garish yellow covers – Giallo is Italian for yellow) made popular by Mario Bava during the 60s and continued throughout the 70s by the likes of Argento, Umberto Lenzi and Sergio Martino. Halloween’s killer, Michael Myers shares more than a passing resemblance to the faceless assailant from Bava’s Blood & Black Lace – black garments, clinical-white, featureless mask.
Halloween is a great example where all the elements come together to create an incredible whole – the casting of a then-unknown Jamie Lee Curtis, the pioneering use of steadicam (the Panaglide), the terrific opening POV (point-of-view) sequence that cuts to an incredible craneshot of the killer unmasked as a child. The use of POV to put the audience in the shoes of the killer was a strike of genius on Carpenter’s part and became the ‘bullet-time’ of its day, with every sub-par stalk n slash rip-off using it to the point of saturation.
If there were one thing that’s questionable about Halloween, it would be the film’s success. For a film that was rumoured to have cost just $300,000, it grossed back in excess of $80,000,000 and made it the most successful film (in terms of budget to gross ratio) of all time – later to be nixed by The Blair Witch Project in 1999. Because of the film’s popularity and due to the fact that it was made so cheaply, there was a whole rash of imitations – from Friday The 13th through to the lacklustre likes of My Bloody Valentine and Graduation Day – each of the rip offs centred on a well-known time of year and upped the ante in terms of onscreen violence but these thing would become the films’ undoing. With titles and scenarios to Halloween, these films were inevitable compared to Carpenter’s flick and IMO, all fail on almost every level. Carpenter was clever enough to keep the blood and guts to a bare minimum, choosing to build the suspense instead and leaving everything else to the audience’s imagination.
Halloween would remain unmade if it hadn’t been for Carpenter’s sophomore film, Assault On Precinct 13. Yet another of his low budget quickies, the film was met with little in the way of critical or commercial fanfare when it was released in the US. However, upon it’s release in the UK, the film garnered great reviews and an aggressive marketing campaign by its distributor. The film’s cult status was quickly assured and Carpenter was able to get the financing for Halloween. As a thank you to the British distributor that had released Assault On Precinct 13, Carpenter would name one of the integral characters in Halloween after him – Michael Myers…
Assault On Precinct 13 is a great, taut thriller. From the outset, Carpenter tells his audience that anything can happen and when we witness a pretty little girl being shot at point blank range, we believe him. Like Halloween, Assault On Precinct 13 sets its precedent very early on – there’s no cosy Hollywood-imposed safety nets – these are films that break taboos and what better way than to use children to emphasise the point.
Due to the fact that he was working with ridiculously small budgets and as a trained musician, Carpenter wrote and performed the scores to his early films. The use of simplistic synthesized chords was never done to greater effect than when applied to Assault On Precinct 13 and Halloween – his best scores, IMO and yet another of Carpenter’s highly influential flourishes.
Escape From New York is less successful than Assault On Precinct 13 and Halloween but is still a thoroughly enjoyable film. It was Carpenter’s first reasonable budget and you can see every penny onscreen. The concept is great – in a future where lawlessness has reached an all-time high, the island of Manhattan has become a maximum-security prison and Kurt Russell’s Snake Plisken is one of cinema’s greatest anti-heroes, it’s a shame that the film was soiled by a woefully misguided sequel.
 The Thing is a wonderfully pessimistic film. Taking the claustrophobic and stagey feel of Assault On Precinct 13, Carpenter manages to heighten a sense of paranoia. The film marked Carpenter’s first foray into making films for a studio and was his most expensive film at that point but its dark, nihilistic ambience did not sit well among cinema-goers and critics and became one of its year’s biggest flops. Having weathered somewhat of a critical re-evaluation, the film has become well respected over the years and along with Prince Of Darkness and In The Mouth Of Madness, shows a darker, far less playful side to the director’s work.

Mozza -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (8/2/2006 1:18:23 PM)

I'd like to take a moment to point out underrated Carpenter gem Prince of Darkness.  In an apparent re-imaginging of Night Of The Living Dead, it follows a group of scientists and a priest trapped in a church as people are turned into zombies outside, with the apparent goal of returning Satan to the earth.  Starring carpenter stalwart Donald Pleasance, as well as Dennis Dun (Wang from Big Trouble in Little China) and the guy who played Egg Chen, this carries both slow burning suspense and jumpy scares to a deeply disturbing finale.

Should be seen by all Carpenter fans.

Companero -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (8/2/2006 3:04:37 PM)



I think the fact that pretty much every slasher film made in the 80s is a big dirty rip-off of Halloween says a fair amount about his mastery of the horror genre.

Ah, but Carpenter was re-working the Italian giallo (see my post below) and although he introduced the concept to the US, it had been kicking around Italy since the mid 60s. The funny thing is, If it wasn't for Psycho, it's arguable if the giallo would have ever come to fruition. Psycho wasn't a slasher film but the Italian films that it inspired most certainly were.

MuckyMuckMan -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (8/2/2006 3:39:34 PM)

John Carpenter has certainly gone off the boil in the past decade, but he shouldn't be remembered for the dross he is currently churning out. If it wasn't for Carpenter the 70's but more so the 80's would have been a different kettle of fish in the movie world.
He produced instant classics such as  Halloween (there would have been no slasher movies if this film hadn't been made), Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York but his divine moment of pure cinematic pleasure came in the form of The Thing (My 2nd Favourite film of all time).

Based on the 1951 film The Thing From Another World, it re-invented the premise with a paranoia which has never been experienced since. Carpenter stalwart Kurt Russell turns in a brilliant performance as usual under the direction of Carpenter (They just seem to get each other!) as MacReady along with a great emsemble cast. Along with the haunting Ennio Morrocone soundtrack (unusually Carpenter stood back from the composing reins for this one) and Rick Bottin's timeless special effects/make-up this film will continue to pull in new fans for the un-foreseeable future.

I just hope, one day Carpenter will direct something of equal brilliance.

Companero -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (8/2/2006 3:52:13 PM)


ORIGINAL: MuckyMuckMan

I just hope, one day Carpenter will direct something of equal brilliance.

Carpenter recently directed an episode for the Masters Of Horror series (13 hour-long films directed by Carpenter, Takashi Miike, Lucky McKee, Mick Garris, John Landis, William Malone, Tobe Hooper, Stuart Gordon, Dario Argento, John McNaughton, Joe Dante, Larry Cohen and Don Coscarelli - it's on Bravo every Friday at 11pm, if anyone's interested). Carpenter's episode is entitled 'Cigarette Burns' and it's supposed to be excellent...

doctorolorinbats1975 -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (8/2/2006 6:16:24 PM)

He's just grown old, that's all regarding his fall from grace. Some horrormeisters get too scared of their own creations. But regardless, Halloween is a perfect chiller, and I loved his direction of Kurt Russell in Escape From New York and The Thing. He's pretty dandy as a composer of course.

Sixtyten -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (8/2/2006 6:55:00 PM)

I'll always have a soft spot for Escape from New York, trashy as it is, due to it's inspiration for the whole Metal Gear series of games and it's hero Snake. The only shame is they didn't get Kurt Russell to do the voice for him!

NadaPlissken -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (8/2/2006 6:58:33 PM)

Cig Burns follows similar lines as In The Mouth of Madness, or The Ninth Gate if you've seen it.  It doesn't take Carpo's vision to any new heights, but it's arguably has a wider appeal than Ghosts of Mars et al, and should be enough to maybe convince Carpenter's naysayers he can still churn out something of mass appeal, and quality. 

I hope "Psychopath" goes the same way, and gives him enough momentum to make "The 13th Apostle", which is a pet project of his supposedly.

stuartbannerman -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (8/2/2006 7:34:07 PM)

Lets not forget that along with John Carpenter the director, theres also John Carpenter the writer and John Carpenter the musician.
Who doesnt love the sound of the Halloween Theme or the synth themes of such films as Big Trouble, Escape from NY, or The Fog.

Mojo -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (9/2/2006 8:17:11 AM)



The desire for his style of moviemaking has gone-instead, rather than opting for seige movies or well-built suspense, the moviegoing public ask for quick payoffs in terms of action and gore, instead of using their imagination.

Yes, but then he goes against his own style with The Thing, which is so explicit with its gore leaving very little, visually, to the audience's imagination. Yet this is not a bad thing as Carpenter argues that, if you're going to show the gore, do it right and it will pay off beautifully. Is beautiful the right word to use?

Companero -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (9/2/2006 9:57:47 AM)



Carpenter argues that, if you're going to show the gore, do it right and it will pay off beautifully. Is beautiful the right word to use?

I think there's a twisted artistic beauty to the creature effects in The Thing - if the work of Tracey Emin can be considered art, so can a a head sprouting spider-like legs [:D]

stuartbannerman -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (9/2/2006 7:33:16 PM)

The Thing should have been an amazing box office hit and it was only the sugarly sweet taste of E.T at the box office that killed off the desire to see a violent, people attacking-alien.
But thank the movie god for VHS & DVD because The Thing has lived on many years after E.T went home.

svgbdgr -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (9/2/2006 9:36:48 PM)

But he does look like Unlucky Alf from The Fast Show right? Anyone? Anyone? Just me then!

RebelScum -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (10/2/2006 10:11:10 AM)

Scorcese has De Niro. Burton has Depp. John Carpenter has Kurt Russell, need I say more?

manincrowd -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (10/2/2006 2:52:37 PM)

John Carpenter's a class filmmaker.  Here's my favourites that I'd recommend;

The Thing
Escape From new York
Big Trouble In Little China
The Fog
In The Mouth Of Madness
Assault On Precinct 13
They Live

NadaPlissken -> RE: JOHN CARPENTER (10/2/2006 6:25:03 PM)



Scorcese has De Niro. Burton has Depp. John Carpenter has Kurt Russell, need I say more?

Yes, you need to mention his frequent collaberations with the undisputed cult legend that is Peter Jason, (Body Bags, Escape from L.A, Ghosts of Mars, Village of the Damned, They Live, Prince of Darkness, In The Mouth of Madness.)  But yeah, Kurt and Carpenter get my vote over De Niro and Scorsese any day....

Carpenter's choice of actors is always superb.  EFNY and EFLA both have amazing (although very 'cult') casts.

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