john carpenter collection
Director: john carpenter
the fog (1980) escape from new york (1981) prince of darkness (1987) they live (1988)
REVIEWER: lyall carter
If you were to ask the casual movie goer about John Carpenter they would normally associate him, and rightly so, with slasher horror because of Halloween.
But, I would argue, although there is a sense of the horrific in his films he is a director that has proved his craft across many genres.
In The Fog Carpenter aptly explores the ghost horror genre in a tale set in Antonio Bay, California, where six sailors were killed when shipwrecked 100 years ago. Legend has it that they will rise to avenge their deaths when a strange glowing fog appears. The town is commemorating the centenary of the shipwreck and Father Malone discovers that the ship was wrecked by six founder fathers of the town. The vengeance of their victims will be the death of six people.
Its Hitchcockian in that Carpenter takes a fairly normal occurrence, fog, and adds something sinister to it.
Carpenter completely changes tact with Escape From New York heading into a dystopian sci fi. In the future, crime is out of control and New York City's Manhattan is a maximum security prison. Grabbing a bargaining chip right out of the air, convicts bring down the President's plane in bad old Gotham. Gruff Snake Plissken, a one-eyed lone warrior new to prison life, is coerced into bringing the President, and his cargo, out of this land of undesirables.
The tale is bizare, wild, filled with fantastically retro special effects but this movie belongs to Kurt Russell's eye patch wearing Snake Plissken. And with that a cult movie and hero was born.
Carpenter returns to a more horror filled flick with Prince of Darkness. A sinister secret has been kept in the basement of an abandoned Los Angeles church for many years. With the death of a priest belonging to a mysterious sect, another priest opens the door to the basement and discovers a vat containing a green liquid.
The priest contacts a group of physics graduate students to investigate it. Unfortunately, they discover that the liquid contains the essence of Satan himself, and they also discover that he will release HIS father - an all-powerful Anti-God! The liquid later comes to life itself, turning some of the students into zombies as the Devil comes forward to release his father. Will these students be able to stop him?
Carpenter doesn't just deliver a fright fest but does it here in a completely innovative and fresh way giving us a blood bath of a horror.
Changing direction again Carpenter brings us They Live. Nada, a down-on-his-luck construction worker, discovers a pair of special sunglasses. Wearing them, he is able to see the world as it really is: people being bombarded by media and government with messages like "Stay Asleep", "No Imagination", "Submit to Authority". Even scarier is that he is able to see that some usually normal-looking people are in fact ugly aliens in charge of the massive campaign to keep humans subdued.
More than just a sci -fi horror, Carpenter plays with ideas of the working class, great capitalistic excess, and the power of media and the government.
One of the best film makers these four classic flicks from John Carpenter show the master at work.