John Carpenter (Mania.com)

By:Jarrod Sarafin
Date: Sunday, March 11, 2007

This week, I’m going to talk about something near and dear to my own inner child. It’s going to be about someone in our Hollywood scene who has been a personal favorite of mine since I was a kid and it’s someone who made an impact in a genre I fell in love with.  

The horror genre is what I’m talking about here, Maniacs. 

John Carpenter is that man. 

As I’m sure most of you know, Carpenter hasn’t exactly been staying busy the past few years but his works that have impacted so many have been in the movie news. Point of reference is of course the words “remake” and “Carpenter” being hand in hand as of late. We know one Carpenter classic that is being re-imagined right now and that’s of course his “Halloween” original. Rob Zombie (the same man behind House of 1000 Corpses & The Devil’s Rejects) is helming this new origin story on the masked Myers villain. That in itself has created some controversy from a lot of internet camps and more specifically horror fans themselves. The camps are divided if this development is a good or a bad for a number of factors.  

I believe part of that division of the latest remake is of course the beliefs on Zombie’s style vs. Carpenter’s style. Another aspect of it is the whole “I can’t stand remakes” crowd. Yet another reason for it is because perhaps it is time to re-make the origin story. After all, I don’t think any of us want to see another sequel with some rapper involved. Some think it should die peacefully and be left alone, others think this is a good idea. Either way, it’s happening and the new “Myers” will be out in a theater near you come this fall. 

It’s also been a long development hell style rumor of Carpenter’s “The Thing” being remade & re-imagined for a new generation of moviegoers. As many of you know, Carpenter’s film is a remake of a Christian Nyby’s The Thing From Another World (1951). Carpenter also had his original Assault on Precinct 13(1976) recently remade as well. We also had a recent retake of Carpenter’s The Fog (1980).Basically, it’s adding up here that his films were noteworthy enough to even be remade. That they have enough of cult phenomena inside the industry to be even considered worth being recreated for new generations of audiences.  

The reason this is happening could be explained in one simple sentence, Maniacs. John Carpenter is a directing legend in Hollywood. That would describe him and his impact accurate enough in the most simplistic description available. His works may not have all been what you would call box office gold but his impact on the horror genre and the cult Hollywood community is there for everyone to see. 

Carpenter began his career in what many people describe as the B-Movie scene. Think of those films on the old spoof show Mystery Science Theater 3000. His first four films all fit into this category… 

 

Busy year in 1969, John! 

Myers

The 70s were where John began to hit his stride while being behind Dark Star (1974), Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) & the much loved Halloween (1978). Once Myers fell off a dark balcony after Dr. Loomis unloaded his revolver, Carpenter elevated to much higher realms of audience satisfaction. As my maniac blog states clear enough, this guy owned the 80’s. John made instant fan favorites & classics with his stories on Jack Burton (Big Trouble in Little China!), R.J MacReady (The Thing), Snake Plissken (Escape from New York) & Nada (They Live!). The man knows how to weave a story together with great characters, there can be no doubt on that one. 

It’s also his style behind the camera which contributes to being so loved by genre fans everywhere. While you’re reading this, you can look at the last few years of horror films. What’s it you notice about horror films today vs. horror films of yesteryear? Gore. Over indulgences of blood, guts, and brains spewed across the camera and the audience. This didn’t happen from people like Carpenter though. No, he made a name off making the serial killer movie but there was no over abundance of gore in his films. His style was in the implication itself, not in showing it. He let the audiences decide with their imaginations how terrifying characters like Myers was. He allowed the audiences to decide themselves on who was “The Thing”. He gave audiences the choice to answer questions instead of having them forced by his own direction. His style in directing was at times simplistic and yet much more appealing from an audience’s standpoint. The man knew how to work the magic inside his directorial mindset. 

As I said, some of his films didn’t always have a wonderful successful run in their perspective box office runs but they were still considered “classics” from audiences’ years after the fact. This is in fact the irony when talking about John Carpenter as a Hollywood success story. In point of facts, nearly all of John’s films can be considered box office failures even with small budgets. His films have never done what one would consider good for a person so universally loved by so many.  

Think of his films as a fine wine. Let them stew & sit for a bit, then try them out.

What’s John Carpenter doing lately? 

As of late, he’s been out of the scene taking 4 years off after the panned Ghost of Mars (2001). He’s done two episodes recently in the Showtime horror series “Masters of Horror”. Those two shows were “Cigarette Burns” & “Pro-Life”. It seems he’s going back to his horror roots for the next film set to be in theaters everywhere comes 2008. The upcoming film is aptly and simply called Psychopath (2008). 

This horror fan can’t wait for that! 
 

                                           Time to look at Carpenter’s credit numbers:

 
 

As I said, irony. The legend has created such a loyal following and impacted so many directors…Yet, you look at his dismal box office numbers and it’s hard to believe that very impact. It’s one of only a few examples of box office trends going against director success.  

That’s going to do it this week’s edition of Star Spotlight. See you next week, Maniacs!