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John Carpenter

By Jarrod Sarafin     March 11, 2007

John Carpenter
© N/A

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… 

  • Revenge of the Colossal Beasts (1962)
  • Terror from Space (1963)
  • Gorgon, the Space Monster (1969)
  • Gorgo versus Godzilla (1969)
  • Warrior and the Demon (1969)
  • Sorceror from Outer Space (1969)

Busy year in 1969, John! 


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:

    Movie Opening $ Screens Domestic $ Worldwide $ Released on
    Halloween NA NA 47.0 mil 47.0 mil 10/25/78
    The Fog NA NA 21.3 mil 21.3 mil 02/01/80
    Escape from New York NA NA 25.2 mil 25.2 mil 07/10/81
    The Thing 3.1 mil 840 13.7 mil 13.7 mil 06/25/82
    Christine 3.4 mil 1,045 21.0 mil 21.0 mil 12/09/83
    Starman 2.8 mil 1,261 28.7 mil 28.7 mil 12/14/84
    Big Trouble in Little China 2.7 mil 1,053 11.1 mil 11.1 mil 07/04/86
    Prince of Darkness 4.6 mil 1,239 14.1 mil 14.1 mil 10/23/87
    They Live! 4.8 mil 1,463 13.0 mil 13.0 mil 11/04/88
    Memoirs of a Invisible Man 4.6 mil 1,753 14.3 mil 14.3 mil 02/28/92
    In the Mouth of Madness 3.4 mil 1,510 8.9 mil 8.9 mil 02/03/95
    Village of the Damned 3.2 mil 1,890 9.4 mil 9.4 mil 04/28/95
    Escape from LA 8.9 mil 2,312 25.4 mil 25.4 mil 08/09/96
    Vampires 9.1 mil 1,793 20.3 mil 20.3 mil 10/30/98
    Ghosts of Mars 3.8 mil 2,048 8.7 mil 14.0 mil 08/24/01
    Psychopath N/A N/A N/A N/A 2008

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!


Showing items 1 - 8 of 8
Knightsong 3/11/2007 4:14:32 PM
John Carpenter is by far one of the biggest influences on modern cinema. The film Halloween gave birth to the boogieman slasher genre. The cult loved Big Trouble in Little China was, in my opinion, a wide inspiration for movies and even games. The character of Rayden in Mortal Kombat had to have been lifted directly out of this movie. I have to say I've enjoyed most of his films and he is a sadly overlooked Hollywood asset.
sharpe95th 3/11/2007 4:21:19 PM
Two movies that DESERVE sequels: They Live!: Hiow much more topical can you get than in today's political environment? And aside from political commentary, advances in CGI would give it more UMPH than a Rowdy Roddy Piper body slam. Big Trouble in Little China: With the success of Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle an over the top martial arts flick with Carpenter's timing (and Kurt Russell back again) would make this ANOTHER cult sensation. And I say let John Cho of Harold and Kumar get some action/comedy roles alongside Kurt and an older Kim Cattrall would be something to see.
irascible 3/12/2007 1:56:43 PM
I agree Jarrod. Carpenter is one of the greats. He's has some duds lately (Vampires and GOM were horrid) but he's done a lot of great ones considering and on some I think he's been screwed by budget restrictions ("In the mouth of madness" got it's budget pullled so he had to make due with that ending as opposed to the original "fantastic" ending - although it kinda works). THE THING should be left ALONE. I curse anybody who tries to remake that one. I hope it fails... but I am biased, what can I say. No more forced sequels please... Leave Big Trouble and They Live as is - they can only ruin them....
kaybar 3/12/2007 3:42:21 PM
agreed sharpe on the BTiLC sequel
DarkLord 3/13/2007 1:50:29 AM
Nice to see some Carpenter love for once. There are way too many Carpenter-bashers out there.
bjjdenver 3/14/2007 11:40:02 AM
Man, I love JC, even some of his bad movies! For instance, Vampires, this movie just hit a nerve with me. It reminded me of being a kid out playing with friends and making up a team to hunt vampires. I just really wish he had done a better job with E from LA, it could have been great, but was just complete cheese. BTiLC is one of my altime favorites and that is a great idea sharp!! Halloween-freakin best movie ever The Fog-Classic BTiLC-excellent The Thing-another classic EFNY-1981 and still great In the Mouth-what an underrated movie Christine-excellent adaptation a few other faves-Vampires, Prince of Darkness, They Live, Village of the Damned His films just have a great feel to them, even though some may not be the best , they are usually alot of fun!
AlpineWoods 3/16/2007 9:39:22 AM
While I liked The Thing and Vampires, I like Carpenter's non-horror movies a little more. Like Escape from New York, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, and They Live. But I did like his Masters of Horror episode Pro Life.
jnager 3/13/2012 8:40:58 PM

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