08 December 2004

Carpenter (closing thoughts)

And, that's all she wrote! Carpenter's one of my all-time favorite directors; he's got a sensibility in his movies that no one else has and -- to me -- it's addictive as hell. I zoomed through these 20 films a lot quicker than I expected. Every day, I looked forward to two more Carpenter meals to scarf down. I'm sad to be finished.

Since last year, I've been keeping a ratings log of every movie I watch. Carpenter didn't do too badly. I gave high ratings to 13 of his films. Of the 7 I didn't like so much, 3 were TV movies and 1 was a college film. Essentially, there were only 3 feature films I didn't care for. Not a bad record at all. Even more telling: out of 198 movies on my list so far, I've only rated 4 movies a perfect 10. Carpenter has 2 of those.

What is my hope for the future of John Carpenter movies? Personally, I'd love another movie with the flavor of Prince of Darkness. What I'd really like to see, however, is a straight-up Western. He's always wanted to do one of those and I'd like to see what kind of a Western he'd come up with. It'd be interesting, to be sure.

(comment in the main post)

Carpenter (1997-2001)

1997 - Vampires - Jack Crow is probably one of the most unlikable movie heroes ever... and I wouldn't have it any other way. A Western-flavored vampire movie with a healthy-heaping of ass-kicking and a new twist on the vampire myth I hadn't seen before. I hope this is the kind of movie that is quintessential of the modern Carpenter era (which I peg as starting with Memoirs after his 4-year break). The ending -- in which Jack promises to kill Tony and his girl, but gives them a head start -- is far removed from his earlier apocalyptic endings and more inline with the hopeful finishes to his modern movies.

2001 - Ghosts of Mars - Shockingly bad. I can barely believe this a Carpenter movie. It has the same basic set-up as Assault on Precinct 13, but does almost everything wrong in comparison to its predecessor. There ain't enough space to go over everything that didn't work, and it ain't something I'm keen to go about listing, anyway. I felt depressed enough as the credits rolled for this, knowing this was the public's latest taste of Carpenter's work.

(comment in the main post)

06 December 2004

Carpenter (1995-1996)

1995 - Village of the Damned - I think these types of stories worked better in the Cold War era and are best left there. Other than the doctor's speech to the children about emotion -- which made me wince – I don't think this is a bad horror movie. But, it's not a good one, either. Perhaps Carpenter and Universal were hoping to capture that Thing remake magic, but it wasn't even close.

1996 - Escape From L.A. - A near-clone of the first film. Compared to NY, LA is put together better, has more exciting action sequences, and an even scarier dystopia. On the other hand, the humor is forced, a basketball contest is laughable compared to a death match, and the characters are less memorable. Also, very strangely, this film has one of Carpenter's most optimistic endings ever. Overall, I'm surprised to find I like this one better than I remembered, though I'd rank it about equal to the first film in the end.

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05 December 2004

Carpenter (1993-1994)

1993 - Body Bags - Horror vets like Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, Roger Corman and David Naughton, 60s model Twiggy, Luke Skywalker, and Sheena Easton are all mixed up in one of those all-too-rare Creepshow-style horror anthology movies. Nice job on the casting!

"The Morgue" - Carpenter hosts these wraparound segments himself. He's such a goofball in this part of the movie, you can't help but crack a grin. The character strikes me as strange, however. I don't think of Carpenter as a blood-and-guts moviemaker and his Coroner here plays against that impression.

"The Gas Station" - "Do I still have it in me?" is the question Carpenter must have asked himself -- 15 years after Halloween -- before filming this segment. He even rips himself off at one point using the "killer gets up in the blurred background as the heroine rests in the foreground" trick. Carpenter does play with some new (for him) camera tricks and I dig the cold, blue lighting of the gas station. A decent morsel of slasherness.

"Hair" - The weakest of the three stories. At the end, when Stacy Keach looks directly at the camera -- twice -- I couldn't tell if that was his way of acting like his brain had been eating by hair-aliens, or if it was an intentional wink-wink to the audience, acknowledging that this segment was meant to be taken lightly. If the latter, Carpenter didn't do a very good job of making the previous stuff in this segment wink-wink funny.

"Eye" (Directed by Tobe Hooper) - Ostensively, this has the strongest story of the three, yet it drags. Probably this is because, only two years prior, the definitive "serial killer body part transplant takes over a person" movie came out in the form of Body Parts. The idea ain't exactly original, so we're mostly left waiting for the good stuff to start happening. The good stuff, unfortunately, doesn't really pay off too much at the end.

1994 - In the Mouth of Madness - After a six-year absence, we finally get another true Carpenter-style movie. Probably the best Lovecraft film ever made not based on a real story. I can't really say anything objective about this one, as I have double-found memories of it from youth. For one, this was the first Carpenter movie I was able to see in the theater. And, way back when, I entered and won a "John Carpenter Trivia Contest" on AOL. The prize: a poster for this movie signed by the man himself. It hangs on my home theater wall with pride to this day.

(comment in the main post)

04 December 2004

Carpenter (1988-1992)

1988 - They Live - Republicans are alien ghouls from outer space. I love it. The movie probably works better in this era than it did when Reagan was President. Not that there aren't flaws in the film: some of the political satire is ham-handed and portions of the plot make no sense (why do the Ghouls promote the shanty town bum to one of the elites?). Personally, I can forgive the problems because I enjoy the premise, actors and visuals so much. Carpenter was very wise to allow Piper to improvise on set: classic lines and fights emerged from that.

1992 - Memoirs of an Invisible Man - Not one of Carpenter's auteur moments, for sure; this is Hollywood's movie, from the casting to the score. It's a perfectly acceptable invisible man flick, with all the invisible fun things you'd want to see. Chevy Chase's annoying personality is kept to a minimum. Enjoyable, but nothing to ponder over very much the next day.

(comment in the main post)

02 December 2004

Carpenter (1986-1987)

1986 - Big Trouble in Little China - This is 100% pure fun. One of the reasons this is so: the pacing. Bam-bam-bam-bam! You can count on something always going on in every scene. Hell, even the exposition is fun. When Margo rambles on about Lo Pan's evil in Gracie's apartment, a combination of funny line delivery and some Burton-isms make the scene hilarious. Watching the awkward deleted / un-shortened scenes on the second DVD only reinforces the fact that this film is edited excellently.

1987 - Prince of Darkness - Satan's son is a swirling volume of green pre-biotic fluid. Awesome. The script and ensemble cast are, unfortunately, not as tight as, for example, The Thing. Still, I love the premise. After this most recent viewing, I finally get the implication of the ending. Right after the screen goes black, we would've seen Brian's fingers bounce off the mirror. He'd then spend the next 12 years channeling his physicist knowledge into figuring out a way to open the gateway to the Anti-Universe so he could rescue his gal. In the year one-nine-nine-nine, he'd open it and she'd come out... but not quite as herself and probably not alone.

(comment in the main post)

21 November 2004

Carpenter (1983-1984)

1983 - Christine - It was definitely a good idea to kick the novel's ghost-former-owner out of the script and just make the car itself the evil entity. Christine is a bit like a steel and glass Jaws; she's a force of nature. This fits in with Carpenter's favorite theme of "evil is an unstoppable part of the Universe." There's more drama in this horror movie than there is horror. It was an interesting change of pace, but I don't know if I liked it. Leigh and Arnie's relationship had some Battered Woman's Syndrome in it.

1984 - Starman - The anti-Thing. I like road trip movies quite a bit, but this one was polluted with a very tired alien plot. When the Starman comments on our species, you can be sure that whatever comes out of his mouth will be clich├ęs seen one thousands times before in the previous 50 years of sci-fi movies, stories and comics. Pretty much a poor adult's version of E.T. Jenny and the Starman's relationship had some Stockholm Syndrome in it.

(comment in the main post)

16 November 2004

Carpenter (1981-1982)

1981 - Escape from New York - An excellent premise populated with awesome characters played by very cool actors saying memorable lines… but, I feel like this movie never really fires on all cylinders. I'm surprised at my reaction; nostalgia had me remembering otherwise. Representative of the flaw I see in the construction of the movie would be the scene at the end when the characters escape over the 69th Street Bridge. This should have been a homerun for Carpenter: Snake racing against the bombs in his neck, the landmines in the bridge, and the Duke pursing. Yet, there's little tension in this sequence. It feels like the Duke is 10 miles behind, that the landmines are only there to pick off Snake's baggage, and the countdown on Snake's wrist will run as slow as the movie requires.

1982 - The Thing - Fighting with Alien for best sci-fi-horror film ever made. This one may have the edge due to a chewier subtext. Alien treads on the familiar territories of corporate greed and tension between classes, whereas The Thing explores multiple themes of isolation as well as people's mistrust of other people. Also, Rob Bottin's masterpieces in the film are exhibit A in the argument for the abolishment of all CGI creature/gore FX.

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09 November 2004

Carpenter (1979)

1979 - Elvis - A long sequence of vignettes from Elvis' life stuck in a frame made out of his first '68 comeback performance. Pretty much just 2.5 hours of Elvis from 1945 to 1968 without much of a plot structure backing it up. Kurt Russell makes a good Elvis, but the sound-a-like singer was a disappointment. Carpenter, I'm sad to say, cannot shoot a concert very well. I'm glad he took 14 years off from TV movies after this.

1979 - The Fog - Moody. John Houseman's introductory ghost story, fog horns in the distance, Adrienne Barbeau's sultry voice, Carpenter's brooding score, the fog creeping slowly through town -- all give this film a nice, spooky feel. Jamie Lee is back and wisely plays a character the polar opposite of the virginal Laurie Strode. Carpenter's Evil returns in the form of vengeful ghosts, which makes them less fundamental than the gang in Assault or the boogeyman in Halloween; they're only after folks in a certain town whose ancestors killed them. Nothing for the rest of us to worry about!

(comment in the main post)

01 November 2004

Carpenter (1978)

1978 - Someone's Watching Me! - In a way, a bit of a test run for Halloween. This time, pure evil takes the form of a mostly faceless, electronically-savvy voyeur. Not a particularly enjoyable movie to watch, though I did like - for the most part - Lauren Hutton's moxie-filled character.

1978 - Halloween - Perhaps the perfect horror film. I watch this once a year on its namesake holiday. This time, I noticed the excellent pacing in the movie. This is not a fast-paced movie, yet it is unrelenting. Every few minutes, leading up to Laurie's discovery of Michael, there's a "horror beat" in the film. A credit to John Carpenter's multi-talent, this beat is not always Laurie catching a glimpse of the Shape spying on her; sometimes it's just a revving up of Carpenter's excellent score as Laurie walks down the street. Overall, this builds an impending sense of doom in the first half of the film, which has become a Carpenter movie-making trait ever since.

(comment in the main post)

31 October 2004

SWH: 2004 (week 6)

My Choice

Shorts & Trailers
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
  • Tales from the Crapper
  • Virgin Witch
  • The Simpsons: "Time and Punishmen"
  • A Personal Greeting from Mr. Dom DeLuise
  • Candy is Delicious Eat Some Every Day
  • Erotic Nights of the Living Dead
  • King Kong
  • Mickey Mouse: "Lonesome Ghosts"
  • Hookers Revenge / The Photographer's Model
  • Igor and the Maniacs
  • Biozombie
  • Assault on Precinct 13
  • Frankenstein (1910)

Carpenter (1974-1976)

Earlier this year, I completed my Carpenter DVD collection. Now, I'm gonna watch all of his films in chronological order. I only allow myself to watch Halloween on the night of Oct 31st, so I'm just starting my project tonight with his first two films. I'll be posting mini-reviews as I go. Should be good for a couple months of fun.

1974 - Dark Star - I feel like this is more Dan O'Bannon than John Carpenter. Certainly, the director's cut (AKA the 68-minute "Special Edition") is a much better movie than the tedious theatrical cut (with 16 minutes of added scenes), but neither version really worked for me. The humor didn't tickle my funny bone at all. However, the frozen Commander Powell was very cool and quite disturbing.

1976 - Assault on Precinct 13 - Excellent action movie. I love the faceless, silent gang. They were essentially a Michael Myers split into dozens of bodies, or like a swarm of animals, or just a force of nature; distilled film-evil. I loved the silenced gun battle. I loved the characters, from the cheeky Napoleon to the cool-as-ice Leigh. A thoroughly entertaining film.

(comment in the main post)

23 October 2004

SWH: 2004 (week 5)

Slasher Part Twos

  • Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
  • Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (1985)

Shorts & Trailers
  • A Personal Greeting from Mr. Dom DeLuise
  • Surf Nazis Must Die
  • The Simpsons: "The Shinning"
  • Freaks
  • Monsters Crash the Pajama Party
  • Blood Spattered Bride / I Dismember Mama
  • The Devil's Rain
  • Doctor Mordrid
  • Merrie Melodies: "Scaredy Cat"

16 October 2004

SWH: 2004 (week 4)


  • The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
  • Deliverance (1972)
  • Redneck Zombies (1987)

Shorts & Trailers
  • Dagon
  • Blood Feast
  • The Simpsons: "Homer3"
  • Jacktown
  • Carnival of Blood / Curse of the Headless Horseman
  • Buttcrack
  • Frankenpimp
  • I Am Weasel: "I Am Vampire"
  • Class of Nuke 'Em High

09 October 2004

SWH: 2004 (week 3)


  • Evil Dead II (1987)
  • Dead-Alive (1992)

Shorts & Trailers
  • The Simpsons: "Clown Without Pity"
  • Alien
  • The Wicker Man
  • Sealab 2021: "Predator"
  • Nightbreed
  • The Simpsons: "The Thing and I"
  • Shrunken Heads

02 October 2004

SWH: 2004 (week 2)

Serial Killers

  • Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
  • American Psycho (2000)
  • M (1931)

Shorts & Trailers
  • The Simpsons: "Attack of the 50 ft Eyesores"
  • God Told Me To
  • Basket Case
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: "The Demon in the Mattress"
  • Scream Blacula Scream
  • The Simpsons: "The Bart Zone"
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except

25 September 2004

SWH: 2004 (week 1)

Stephen King

  • Cat's Eye (1984)
  • Maximum Overdrive (1986)
  • The Running Man (1987)

Shorts & Trailers
  • The Simpsons: "Dial 'Z' for Zombie"
  • X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes
  • Beetlejuice
  • Johnny Bravo: "Bravo Dooby-Doo"
  • Zombie Martians from Deep Outer Space
  • The Simpsons: "Hungry are the Damned"
  • Dracula vs. Frankenstein

Six Weeks of Halloween: 2004

Six Weeks of Halloween
Six Weekends of Movies:
  1. September 24th
  2. October 1st
  3. October 8th
  4. October 15th
  5. October 22nd
  6. October 31st

The Plan

Halloween, being just one twenty-four-hour period falling on October thirty-first, is just too damned short. I've decided to celebrate Halloween for six weeks.

On a Friday, Saturday or, possibly, Sunday of each of the weekends listed above, I'm going to watch 3 or 4 horror movies. I will also eat candy and drink beer.

Anyone who comes to partake in the festivities can vote on what to watch, choosing from one of the categories below (more categories to come, maybe).

The actual day of Halloween is the exception. On that day, I will more than likely be watching movies the entire day, choosing whatever I feel like watching.

In addition, I will be continuing my 6-year-long tradition of watching John Carpenter's Halloween on the day of Halloween. This will be a part of my John Carpenter Chronocinethon, so prior to October 31st I will need to watch Dark Star, Assault on Precinct 13 and Someone's Watching Me! This is why there are no Carpenter flicks on the list below.

The 3 movies with images are my first choices to watch, but any of them can be swapped for an alternate. Italics means I don't own the movie yet, but it's on the way.


  • Psycho (1960)
  • Carnival of Souls (1960)
  • Dementia 13 (1963)
  • The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1960)
  • Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
  • Bloodlust! (1961)
  • Eegah (1962)
  • Blood Feast (1963)
  • The Crawling Hand (1963)
  • The Terror (1963)
  • X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes (1963)
  • The Creeping Terror (1964)
  • Two Thousand Maniacs (1964)
  • Color Me Blood Red (1965)
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968)


High Melanin Anti-Heroes

In Space


Stephen King

Michael Moriarty





Serial Killer

Slasher Part Twos


Troma Unwatched

  • Vampire Hunter D (1985)
  • The Lost Boys (1987)
  • Interview with the Vampire (1994)
  • Nosferatu (1922)
  • Dracula (1931)
  • Dracula (Spanish) (1931)
  • Vampyros Lesbos (1970)
  • Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971)
  • Blacula (1972)
  • Rabid (1976)
  • Salem's Lot (1979)
  • Near Dark (1987)
  • Daughter of Darkness (1990)
  • Sleepwalkers (1992)
  • From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
  • Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood (1996)
  • Blade (1998)
  • From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999)
  • From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter (2000)
  • Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
  • Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2001)
  • Blade II (2002)