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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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