When one looks at his early career it becomes extraordinarily evident John Carpenter wanted very much to be the Howard Hawks of his generation. Even at his lowest, Carpenter made sure to aim squarely for Hitchcock Territory. For one brief, shinning moment (called 1978), it looked like he’d succeeded.
Too bad nothing fails like success. And if your directorial debut happens to become the most popular, iconic and financially successful independent movie in history (at the time) you might as well just give up and die. Otherwise you’ll have to spend your entire subsequent career dealing with uppity assholes who insist nothing will ever be as good as your first film. The rest is frustration, aesthetic decay and silence. Though I’m just kidding about that “silence” part since we haven’t even started talking about Carpenter’s sophomore slump, The Fog. Continue reading The Fog (1980)
And here we have a film never should’ve seen the light but, like that three-car pile-up on your way to work, resolutely sits right in the middle of the road refusing to be ignored. The same way most critics ignore John Carpenter’s made-for-TV movies.
Awkward segues aside, there’s two very good reasons to focus on the man’s studio pieces. For (1) they’re better, and for (2) they’re easier to find. Yet in their blindness, critics miss essential facets of Carpenter’s story, which is in many ways the story of genre cinema in the 1980s. That’s sad because it’s a great story in itself…often much more interesting than the films it created. A story littered with greed, betrayal, and compromised aesthetic principals that will probably go on to make a great bio-pic once everyone forgets who Orson Welles was…or, if they remember him at all, remember him only as “the voice of Unicron.” Continue reading Halloween II (1981)
It’s easy enough to review Halloween. Just prattle on about how scary and haunting adjectival it all is given that twenty years of increasingly-mechanical slasher films have done absolutely nothing to diminish Halloween‘s overall effectiveness. Nothing at all. Do you hear? Rather like I attempted to do in my original review of the film, which appeared somewhere very much like this space way back in the dark, dial-up days of 1999. Don’t look for it: I’ve not touched the thing since I originally put it up, and I’d just as soon it ceased to exist. Bloody Wayback Machine.
On the other hand, it’s difficult to review Halloween given its lofty position at the event horizon of the American Slasher Film, a cinematic object so dense its sucked down the entire horror genre into an ever-redshifted morass of misogyny, masochism, and mordant self-referencing. Halloween is the film most directly responsible for this ongoing Judgment Day, making it the cinematic equivalent of a supernova. Unknown, it flashed onto the American scene at the decrepit end of the 70s only to collapse in on itself, creating an omnivorous black void from which nothing good can escape. Continue reading Halloween (1978)