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.

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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!

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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.

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