A special This Day In Horror today…
I think it’s fair to call John Carpenter, who turns 64 today, the “Filmmaker’s Filmmaker”.
To call John Carpenter’s contribution to horror “significant” is an understatement of the worst kind. The man is responsible for some of the most beloved and enduring horror and sci-fi movies ever released and in the short time that AndyErupts has been running, Carpenter and his films, have been frequently cited as a major influence on the films of so many budding, and established, directors.
John Howard Carpenter was born on January 16th, 1948 and has been directing films since the age of 8, before moving to LA to attend university in 1968. It was while here that he struck up a friendship with Alien scribe and director of The Return of The Living Dead, Dan O’Bannon and Nick Castle, who would later co-write Escape From New York and would, later still, fill the boots of the character who would define Carpenter’s career perhaps more than any other…
In 1970, Carpenter and O’Bannon began working on the film that would later become the weird and wonderful sci-fi action comedy Dark Star, although the film would not be officially released until 1974.
1976 saw Carpenter write and direct the excellent Assault On Precinct 13 before being approached by producer Irwin Yablans who offered Carpenter the chance to write and direct a script based around a story of a killer who murders babysitters, originally slated to be titled The Babysitter Murders. Clever, eh?
So Carpenter headed off, with producer Debra Hill, and over the course of eight days, they pieced a script together. Of course, the Babysitter Murders title was binned, thankfully, and the film was renamed Halloween.
Halloween is, in my opinion, John Carpenter’s finest moment. It’s one of the films that got me hooked on horror movies and on slasher movies, in particular. It’s the film that introduced us all to “The Shape”, Michael Myers (with the aforementioned Nick Castle beneath the mask), one of the most iconic movie bad guys of all time, and launched the career of Jamie Lee Curtis.
Halloween is still one of the most successful films ever and rightly so. It broke the mould by being a truly suspenseful and thrilling film that absolutely deserves it’s place at the top of most critics and horror fans’ all time greatest films lists
Carpenter returned to horror in 1980 with The Fog, again co-written by Debra Hill, and starring Adrienne Barbeau, (his wife at the time), Jamie Lee Curtis and her mother, Psycho legend, Janet Leigh. The Fog was also a massive success, until it’s memory was blighted by a disastrous remake in 2005.
In 1982, Carpenter got SERIOUS and released his most technically accomplished film, The Thing.
Based on the story, Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr, The Thing is a remarkable exploration of paranoia and isolation, with a stellar cast which includes Kurt Russell, fresh from his previous work for Carpenter on Elvis: The Movie and Escape From New York, alongside Keith David, Wilford Brimley and Richard Mazur.
The Thing also features some of the most impressive practical effects courtesy of Rick Baker’s apprentice, Rob Bottin, who worked on the film for a year with little sleep, almost killing himself in his endeavour to bring us the remarkable creations in the film.
The following year saw the release of Christine, the big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name which tells the story of Arnie Cunningham, a loner who falls under the spell of a red 1958 Plymouth Fury. I love Christine. It reminds me of being a kid and it has an amazing soundtrack.
In the years that followed, Carpenter has given us such fare as religious flavoured horror/thriller Prince of Darkness, sci-fi action flick They Live, starring “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Keith David, the oft overlooked, In The Mouth of Madness, starring Sam Neill, and sci-fi horror, Village of the Damned, starring the late Christopher Reeve and Kirstie Alley.
In recent years, Carpenter’s offerings have been less than top quality with Ghosts of Mars and his latest flick, The Ward, being particularly poor but none of this can diminish the contribution of Carpenter to the genre.
John Carpenter is a director who does largely as he pleases and if he never made another movie, we would all be thankful for what he has already given to us.
Happy Birthday, Sir.
Oh and if you are of a mind to take part in a little competition, we are giving away a The Thing t-shirt, courtesy of LastExitToNowhere.com, and a copy of The Thing on DVD, HERE.