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The JOHN CARPENTER Appreciation Thread

post #1 of 94
Thread Starter 

Because why the hell do we not have one?

 

Partly inspired by the Carpenter conversation we had a few weeks back in the Dead Celebrity Thread.  Partly by this pretty great retrospective on the man's career. I thought it was time we had a dedicated thread to talk about the man himself and the multitude of genre classics he has made. How he's influenced modern filmmakers or just how pretty awesome his scores and music are (Lost Themes II is on the way!).  

 

Some choice parts from that linked article:

 

Quote:
 

Far more than a gimmick, Halloween’s long opening take is an example of Carpenter’s interest in using the camera to establish the geography of a setting. Cinematographer Dean Cundey was key to this, and it could be argued that much of Carpenter’s work simply wouldn't have been the same without him. The ingenious use of lighting, framing and long tracking shots gave Halloween a sophistication that was sorely lacking in most cheap horror films both before and afterwards.

 

It’s worth noting that Halloween was commissioned as the kind of drive-in movie that would make a few dollars and swiftly disappear; Carpenter and co-writer Debra Hill wound up putting far more artistry and thought into the movie than its premise necessarily deserved - including that opening sequence, inspired by Orson Welles’ groundbreaking Touch Of Evil. What could have been a forgettable babysitters-in-peril flick became something with an almost supernatural power.

 

Quote:
 

"The paranoia among the characters was so strong," Tarantino said of John Carpenter's The Thing, "trapped in that enclosure for so long, that it just bounced off all the walls until it had nowhere to go but out into the audience. That is what I was trying to achieve with The Hateful Eight."

 

Few American directors were adept at generating an air of paranoia as Carpenter. Indeed, what modern filmmakers seem to gravitate towards is Carpenter’s uncanny ability to create suspense through simple shots and chiming music. The two paired together create a brew that is unmistakeably Carpenter’s own. Carpenter has long maintained, quite modestly, that he wrote his own music for his early movies simply because it was economical. But the lean, simple rhythms of his unforgettable electronic scores.

 

Quote:
 Along with the paranoia, claustrophobia and existential panic running through John Carpenter's movies, there's also a welcome thread of wry humour. In some instances, humour provides a release valve of tension after something horrifying's happened (see Palmer's line, "You gotta be fuckin' kidding" as a head sprouts eyes and legs in The Thing).

In films like Escape From New York and They Live, Carpenter brings all his cynicism to bear on such subjects as political corruption, Reaganomics and 80s greed. It’s worth noting that most of Carpenter’s films are toldfrom the perspective of very ordinary, often working class members of the society - and like the little kid in The Emperor’s New Clothes, these characters are often the only ones who can see reality for what it is, often leading to the funniest or exciting moments in Carpenter’s movies.

Laurie Strode, for example, is the sensible teenager who babysits while all her friends are off getting stoned or jumping into bed with their boyfriends. Strode’s the only one who’s clear-sighted enough to note that something’s gravely wrong, which is at least partly why she’s one of the only characters to survive until the end credits.

They Live’s hulking drifter Nada (the late Rowdy Roddy Piper) can literally see what others can’t thanks to a special pair of shades: these reveal that the rich and powerful (what we might now term the one percent) are all bug-eyed aliens, disguised and walking among us in Armani suits and expensive dresses. It’s a slyly satirical idea from Carpenter, resulting in one of his very best and funniest films.

They Live could also be seen as a companion piece to Escape From New York, which introduces perhaps the most cynical action hero in 80s cinema - the ex-soldier and former convict forced to rescue a corrupt and weasly US President (Donald Pleasence) from New York, now a giant maximum security prison. The movie was initially written in the wake of the Watergate Scandal in the mid-1970s, and it’s easy to see more of a trace of Nixon in Pleasence’s cold-hearted President (just look at his indifferent reaction when Snake asks him about all the people who died in the process of rescuing him).

It’s through characters like Laurie, Nada, Snake and The Thing’s MacReady that Carpenter casts his wry eye over the world. They’re his ground-level entry point into his worlds of violence and chaos. At first glance, Carpenter’s outright comedy Big Trouble In Little China might not appear to fit this mould, But bear in mind that the star of that movie - Kurt Russell’s hard-drinking trucker Jack Burton - isn’t really the hero at all; in most instances, he’s the least capable character in the entire film. The running joke in Big Trouble In Little China, therefore, is that Burton thinks he’s the hero of the piece, but fails to realise that it’s actually his pal Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) who’s the really smart, capable one...
 

 

Quote:
 

The irony of John Carpenter’s status as a director of cult classics is that several of his best films were initially dismissed either critically or commercially at the time of release. Film critic Vincent Canby famously condemned The Thing as “instant junk” in 1982, and audiences, charmed by the warm glow of E.T.’s benign alien presence, didn’t exactly flock to see Carpenter’s protean horror. Big Trouble In Little China, released the same year as the hit Eddie Murphy comedy The Golden Child, which had a similar theme, simply couldn’t compete at the box office.

 

Yet Carpenter’s films have endured, even as the movies that won awards or soared to the top of the box office in the 80s have gradually faded from memory. That Carpenter worked primarily as a genre director often meant his movies were sniffily dismissed by mainstream critics when he was at the height of his creative powers.

 

Quote:
 Simply put, without the unique sights and sounds of John Carpenter’s movies, our modern filmmaking landscape wouldn’t be the same. 
post #2 of 94
Thread Starter 

The first time I really took notice of Carpenter was watching Escape From New York suuuuuuuper late at night on TV one time.  I remember feeling like I had just discovered something amazing.  What was this movie and where the hell did it come from?!  I don't know what it is, but ever since then Carpenter's films just speak to me on a primal level.  Him and John McTiernan are probably the two directors who most shaped my cinematic tastes growing up.  Way more than Lucas or Spielberg did.

 

And you know what?  I'll even defend stuff like Vampires or Escape From LA on a good day.  LA's gonzo nature might rub wrong against the hyper realism of NY but I always liked how it applied his same satirical bent to the artificiality of Tinsel Town.  And Vampires is really just a fun and bloody romp with a great James Woods performance.  They don't make genre flicks like it anymore.  

post #3 of 94

I liked Vampires the first time i saw it. But i am not sure if anyone can defend The Ward.

post #4 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by felix View Post
 

I liked Vampires the first time i saw it. But i am not sure if anyone can defend The Ward.

 

Nope. Like Ghosts of Mars, I'm pretty sure he directed that one on auto-pilot. 

post #5 of 94

Vampires pissed me off.  That came out in the height of me preaching the gospel of Carpenter to everyone, always debating with my friends his work against their chosen directors.  Found out he was directing Vampires based on the novel by John Steakly.  Right away went out and bought the novel and tore through it. I was so excited because that book was bad-ass.  Loved it.  Then the movie finally came out.  I sat there and watched while they completely threw away the entire story from the book and replaced it with garbage.  It was one of those Phantom Menace times, where I spent the next I don't know how long lying to myself that it was a good movie, knowing deep down it was a turd.  Man, if they would have just stuck to the story in the book, it could have been so much better. 

post #6 of 94

Woods is so damned good in VAMPIRES, though.  He almost convinces you that you're watching a classic.  He did much the same with THE SPECIALIST.

post #7 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Judas Booth View Post
 

Woods is so damned good in VAMPIRES, though.  He almost convinces you that you're watching a classic.  He did much the same with THE SPECIALIST.

I'm not going to argue that.  Woods was great.  But then you have Baldwin and Lee bringing whatever Woods elevated right back down.

 

I was about to go on a tear about Ghosts of Mars and how sad it made me, but then I realized I'm in the appreciation thread.  So having said that.......

 

Prince of Darkness.  Most out there, ambitious, ballsy Carpenter movie made.

 

Edit: Immediately disagree with myself.  I think that title would go to BTILC.  Okay then, second most....!

post #8 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dalyn View Post

 

Prince of Darkness.  Most out there, ambitious, ballsy Carpenter movie made.

 

I remember seeing that one in the theater.  That one played my theater to perfection, hitting all of the right buttons.  Definitely one of my better theatrical experiences.

post #9 of 94

I only watched it once, but I kind of liked Ghosts of Mars.  Considering Carpenter was the only reason I watched it, I was pleasantly surprised.

 

Vampires was pretty good too.  Not quite a classic, but definitely entertaining.  Woods killed it. 

 

The Ward is the only movie that he has made that is flat out terrible.  It's like Fight Club times 5, but awful.

 

Also, Starman.  Haven't seen it for a long time.  I remember the cinematography being great, but I also remember Jeff Bridges's performance kind of annoying me.  Need to give it another look.

post #10 of 94

STARMAN is great.  Definitely give that one another watch.

post #11 of 94

You ever read Stephen King and kind of cringe how he writes young people?  Like the sayings he has them say?  And you realize that Stephen King is kind of clueless about kids and how they really speak?  He's like an old man giving his interpretation of how the kids must speak these days.  That's how I felt watching Ghosts of Mars.  It was like watching an old man make a movie thinking "You know what kids these days think is scary?  Marilyn Manson!".  Ugh.  That was when I had that sad feeling that Carpenter has just lost it.

 

But yeah, go revisit Starman right away!

post #12 of 94
http://bloody-disgusting.com/news/3380152/god-damn-john-carpenter-gets-groovy-with-distant-dream/
He made classics and is one of my favorite Directors I also enjoy his music it felt like a character
The Thing
Starman
Prince Of Darkness
Big Trouble In Little China
Assault On Precinct 13
The Fog
Vampires
Prince of Darkness
In The Mouth Of Madness
They Live
Christine
Elvis
Someone Is Watching Me
Halloween
Escape From New York


Edited by dilla7 - 2/17/16 at 10:22am
post #13 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dalyn View Post
 

You ever read Stephen King and kind of cringe how he writes young people?  Like the sayings he has them say?  And you realize that Stephen King is kind of clueless about kids and how they really speak?  He's like an old man giving his interpretation of how the kids must speak these days.  That's how I felt watching Ghosts of Mars.  It was like watching an old man make a movie thinking "You know what kids these days think is scary?  Marilyn Manson!".  Ugh.  That was when I had that sad feeling that Carpenter has just lost it.

 

But yeah, go revisit Starman right away!


I can see that. The whole Marilyn Manson thing was one of the reasons I stayed away from the movie for so long.  From what I remember, the way he turned it into more of a dream than some character who simply acts like Manson kind of sold me on it being something more than the fact that he had just run out of ideas.  Granted I haven't seen it in at least a decade, so I can't remember much of it to be honest.

 

Speaking of King, and some of his cringe worth writing, I have read quite a few King books and the one thing that always jumps out at me is how he always manages to find a way to have a character either masturbate or talk about masturbating.  I don't know why this sticks out to me, but I think almost every single book of his, that I have read, mentions it at some point and I'm always like "Why?".  Occasionally, it actually fits the character, but sometimes it simply does not seem to belong. 

 

Anyways, sorry to derail, I will definitely check out Starman again in the near future.  Bridges has definitely grown on me a lot as an actor since I last saw it.

post #14 of 94

STARMAN is an absolutely wonderful film.  I wish we had gotten a couple more movies from Carpenter in that vein; it's such a humane and heartfelt piece of work.  It's Top 5 Carpenter for me.

post #15 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dalyn View Post
 

You ever read Stephen King and kind of cringe how he writes young people?  Like the sayings he has them say?  And you realize that Stephen King is kind of clueless about kids and how they really speak?  He's like an old man giving his interpretation of how the kids must speak these days.  That's how I felt watching Ghosts of Mars.  It was like watching an old man make a movie thinking "You know what kids these days think is scary?  Marilyn Manson!".  Ugh.  That was when I had that sad feeling that Carpenter has just lost it.

 

But yeah, go revisit Starman right away!

 

I think King is better (all around) in the early novels, though even their, his kids tend to be "dream kids" (the teenager in Salem's Lot is certainly a wish fulfillment character). 

 

Since you brought up Carpenter and King together, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention Carpenter's film of King's novel Christine. 

 

I know both of them kind of slagged the movie, with Carpenter saying he should have made it a haunted car like in the novel, but I disagree. I think the movie really works. It captures the angst of High School, and how a teenager, in acting out and "finding himself" can become a threat (see esp the scene where Arnie grabs his Dad's throat.

 

Or when he's in Christine talking with Dennis, and Arnie starts ranting about "getting them".

 

"Who's 'them' Arnie?"

 

"All of them"

 

You also can't talk about Carpenter without talking about his unique signatures, from his music to the fonts he loved to use to his unusual camera moves. 

 

He really is an Autuer in a way that even guys like Spielberg aren't. 

post #16 of 94

No one ever talks about Someone's Watching Me
Edited by dilla7 - 2/19/16 at 8:43am
post #17 of 94

He's just released Distant Dream from Lost Themes II. It's a banger.

 

Really looking forward to this. Lost Themes was fantastic, and I'm loving this career revival as a musician. Fuck, I'm just glad to see one of my favourite filmmakers producing material again, and seeming more energized than he's been in any film he's made in the last 20 years.

post #18 of 94

And now he's touring.  Tickets for here in Austin go on sale in a couple of hours.  Oh man....

post #19 of 94
Waaahh?
post #20 of 94

Tickets on sale in 45 minutes now.  I'm still on the fence.  Argh!

post #21 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fraid uh noman View Post

Waaahh?

If you come down for it, I have an extra room if you need a place to crash.

post #22 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dalyn View Post

If you come down for it, I have an extra room if you need a place to crash.
Aww dude that's awesome! I'm considering attending (if the ol' funds allow). Thank you for your generosity and hospitality whether I'm able to attend or not..
post #23 of 94

No problem. You did me a solid with Prison, and I have an extra room, so it's all good.  Also just picked up my ticket.  Those meet and greet VIP tickets are too rich for my blood, but got a decent mezzanine seat, so I'm good.

post #24 of 94
Thread Starter 

Check it out!

 

post #25 of 94

I recently realized that the night of the John Carpenter show I bought that ticket to, I'll be out of  town that week for a family thing.

 

 

Crap.

post #26 of 94

That is a great bassline on that Carpenter track.

post #27 of 94

If necessary, I will be the token Ghosts of Mars defender for this thread.

post #28 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hammerhead View Post
 

If necessary, I will be the token Ghosts of Mars defender for this thread.

 

I'll allow it. Village of the Damned not so much.

 

God, what a flat, forgettable nothing that film is. 

post #29 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike J View Post

I'll allow it. Village of the Damned not so much.

God, what a flat, forgettable nothing that film is. 
Notable only for Christopher Reeve's bittersweet appearance in it. It was released like a month before his accident IIRC..
post #30 of 94

Village of the Damned is pretty good.  Great? No, but it has some nice moments and has more of an old school feel to it.  The kid actors in it are surprisingly good as well.  Also kind of liked that a lot of the movie, from what I remember, takes place during the day which is a nice change of pace for a horror movie.

post #31 of 94

Agreed, and the score for Damned is as good as any of his Lost Themes stuff. One of his most underrated pieces IMHO.

post #32 of 94

For what it's worth (which is probably not much!), I'll take VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED any day over GHOSTS OF MARS, which I think is Carpenter's worst effort by quite some distance.  There are things in VILLAGE I can enjoy; there's nothing in GHOSTS I can enjoy.

post #33 of 94

The Ward, imho, is worse than Ghost of Mars by a mile.  It was utterly painful to watch, like it was made by a completely different director.

 

On a side note, I remember Body Bags being pretty entertaining.  If anything, it never fails to make me think of this whenever I turn on American Greed:

 

post #34 of 94

See, here's what I like about Ghosts of Mars. It's the closest he's ever gotten to literally re-making Rio Bravo. Also, I love that the heroes beat the villains by getting stoned.

post #35 of 94

I just can't get over how cheap GHOSTS OF MARS looks.  Visually, it's just ugly as hell.  THE WARD and VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED are not good movies, but they don't make me disgusted while watching in the way GHOSTS does.

post #36 of 94
I love, love ,love JC's Lost Themes stuff. I wish there were some awesome movies in the works to put the music to.
I wonder if he would consider doing a soundtrack to something?
post #37 of 94

The Ward was just so fucking lazy. He's been on autopilot for awhile but after I finished that one, I just thought "Why even bother?"

 

I saw Ghosts of Mars opening night in 2001. Supposedly Carpenter and Ice Cube hated it. At the time, I didn't. There were aspects of it, particularly the ending, that felt like vintage Carpenter. Looking back now, it's not very good. The last time he really felt on point to me was In The Mouth of Madness. God, that was twenty years ago. 

post #38 of 94
I wish he'd cap his career with something other than The Ward..
post #39 of 94

When I heard he was doing The Ward, I was relieved it was a theatrical film. Capping his career off with two mediocre episodes of Masters of Horror felt wrong to me. 

 

Then after The Ward came out, I was less relieved. 

post #40 of 94

THE WARD's two biggest sins are that it is utterly pedestrian in terms of execution, and that its story indulges one of the most overused horror tropes in service of a "twist" that anybody who's a fan of the genre will see coming a mile away... because it's been done many, many times.

post #41 of 94
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Venture View Post

I love, love ,love JC's Lost Themes stuff. I wish there were some awesome movies in the works to put the music to.
I wonder if he would consider doing a soundtrack to something?

 

I have this dream of Alex Garland doing an adaptation of Neuromancer with Carpenter doing the score...

post #42 of 94

Has anybody given LOST THEMES II a listen yet?  I'm going to pick it up this week, but I'm wondering what the consensus is.

 

 

post #43 of 94

Not yet. I'll probably give it a spin tonight. 

 

In other news, I re-watched Village of the Damned last night. 

 

Still not a fan. 

 

The Good:

 

-Christopher Reeve

 

-The moments between Linda Kozlowski and her son are effective. It's just too bad there's so few of them. 

 

-I love Mark Hamill's delivery of the "The children..." I wanted more of that character. 

 

 

The Bad:

 

-It's so freaking dull. Save for the aforementioned aspects the lifeless structure for the film goes as follows: The children come across somebody, their eyes glow, the person commits suicide. Minor scene to break that up. Then the children come across somebody, their eyes glow, the person commits suicide, etc.

 

Lather, rinse, repeat. 

 

It's interesting with Carpenter. The movies he admitted to have no real connection with are Christine, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Village of the Damned, and Ghosts of Mars. Out of all those, only Christine managed to come out okay and be well-received. It probably helped that it was made during his strongest period as a director. 

 

I'm genuinely happy the dude is finding joy and success with these albums (and now touring). I cross my fingers this energizes him to do last one last great film. 

post #44 of 94

Also saw this on Facebook:

 

http://www.gamingwithswag.com/blog/2016/4/15/big-trouble-in-little-china-is-now-a-nes-game

 

It's a hack of Bad Dudes but probably still fun if you're into this sort of thing. 

post #45 of 94
Thread Starter 

Still my favourite track of his:

 

post #46 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Codename View Post
 

Still my favourite track of his:

 

 

Love this track.

 

And I want one more film from him. Just one!

 

I would like it to star Michael Shannon* and Ryan Gosling. I think they'd be a perfect fit for a Carpenter film. 

 

*-I'm probably just saying this because Midnight Special was damn near a remake of Starman but I still think Shannon would be awesome.

post #47 of 94

Kind of crazy to think that, in a way, Carpenter is partially responsible for the pit of despair that is The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills...but at least there is always this to balance things out....(the little girl is Kim Richards from Real Housewives)

 

post #48 of 94
Thread Starter 

While not directing (yet...hopefully) John is going to be heavily involved in the newest Halloween film.

 

Quote:
 

John Carpenter, the multiple award-winning and legendary filmmaker and creator of the original Halloween films, will return to the franchise as executive producer on a new production of the iconic horror movie, it was jointly announced today by MIRAMAX® and Trancas International Films — MIRAMAX® and Blumhouse Productions will co-finance development and production, with Malek Akkad serving as producer under his Trancas banner and Jason Blum producing for Blumhouse. MIRAMAX®, which holds worldwide distribution rights, will determine its theatrical distribution partner at a future date.

 

The HALLOWEEN film franchise that was started in part by Carpenter and Moustapha Akkad in 1978 has spawned ten films generating a total of nearly $400 million in worldwide box office.

John Carpenter said: “38 years after the original Halloween I’m going to help to try to make the 10th sequel the scariest of them all.”

 

Malek Akkad said: “Trancas International is thrilled to be teaming up with Miramax on Halloween, one of the most enduring horror franchises in film. We are also very excited to be working with Jason Blum and the whole team at Blumhouse. Together, along with the return of legendary filmmaker John Carpenter, we are eager to make a film that will be a milestone in the franchise’s legacy and that will excite the fans, young and old.”

 

Zanne Devine, MIRAMAX’s EVP Film & Television, said: “Malek Akkad’s legacy with the Halloween franchise accompanied by Blumhouse’s unprecedented talent in the horror genre lays the foundation of a formidable team to create the next chapter of this iconic fan favorite. Having John Carpenter godfather the reboot of the iconic franchise he helped create brings it full circle. We couldn’t be in better company bringing Halloween back to the big screen.”

 

Jason Blum said: “Halloween is one of those milestone films that inspired everyone at our company to get into the world of scary movies. The great Malek Akkad and John Carpenter have a special place in the hearts of all genre fans, and we are so excited that Miramax brought us together. We cannot wait to find and collaborate with the right filmmaker to give Halloween fans the movie they deserve.”

 

David Thwaites will oversee the reboot for MIRAMAX® with Carpenter and the companies planning to immediately go out to filmmakers and fast-track the project.

 

The Academy Award®-winning John Carpenter has written, directed, composed, and/or edited over 20 films over the course of his career. An international household name, he is probably best known for his iconic features Halloween, The Thing, The Fog, and Big Trouble in Little China, to name a few. As a musician, Carpenter kicked off his world tour in Los Angeles this month, featuring songs from his Lost Themes and Lost Themes II albums – which he recorded with his son, Cody Carpenter. The 30+-city tour ends in Paris late November. He is repped by APA and Stankevich Law.

 

Hey, it can't be worse than the Rob Zombie ones.

post #49 of 94

Ugh, no.  Just let that franchise die already.  A new Carpenter soundtrack isn't going to all of a sudden make Michael Meyers scary again.

post #50 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dalyn View Post

Ugh, no.  Just let that franchise die already.  A new Carpenter soundtrack isn't going to all of a sudden make Michael Meyers scary again.
Yeah.
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