Let's discuss the films of John Carpenter

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Scott Weinberg, Sep 9, 2001.

  1. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    I've been re-watching several JC flicks over the past week, and I'm amazed at the nose dive his career has taken in recent years.
    His earliest movies (Dark Star, Assault on Precinct 13 and the classic Halloween) were cheap yet damn solid entertainment.
    After he became known as a money-maker, Carpenter began directing some fantastic genre pics that are more beloved today than when they were first released.
    The Fog - I hear there's going to be a Special Edition DVD next year, and you have no idea how much I'd love to see that. Underrated by even the staunchest Carpenter fans, I think this is one of the coolest ghost stories I've ever seen.
    Escape from New York - Snake Plissken. 'Nuff said.
    The Thing - Along with Alien and a few others, this one is a true masterpiece of horror. Ask anyone.
    Christine - JC does the near-impossible by making a movie that's better than its source material! Never one of King's best novels, Christine makes a fantastic film. If you see this one again soon, take note of the how fantastic this movie looks.
    Starman - JC shifts gears and doesn't miss a beat. This is a sweet and engrossing sci-fi love story. It also features two absolutely phenomenal acting performances by Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen.
    Big Trouble in Little China - Cult classic extraordinaire. Pure addicting eye candy with a wonderful sense of humor. Kurt Russell is priceless.
    So for his first nine features, Carpenter's still batting a thousand in my book. But then came
    Prince of Darkness - Despite some creepy and gory goodies, the movie as a whole is a big mess. Rarely have I wanted to like a film as much as this one. After seeing it three times, the only part that sticks with me is that ongoing and rather disturbing "devil dream". That alone earns a slight recommendation, but the screenplay really sinks any chance JC might have had.
    They Live! - JC overturns the ship after the POD debacle and delivers a smart, satirical and joyously violent sci-fi flick. Every self-respecting movie freak in the world is well aware of the legendary fist fight that breaks out halfway through, and the insanely cool consumerism satire is entertaining enough to forgive a tragically abrupt and unsatisfying finale.
    Memoirs of an Invisible Man - OK, I happen to like this one more than most people, but I'm mostly an idiot. JC takes a stab at a sci-fi comedy and the result is at best a mixed bag. The effects are cool, Chevy's pretty funny and Sam Neill plays a cool villain. On the flipside, the pacing is entirely off, the film is poorly edited and Daryl Hannah is a piece of wood throughout.
    Village of the Damned - Here begins the nadir. I believe JC had to do this one to close up a contract or something, but I've seen scarier movies on the Lifetime Channel. Plus if you cast Kirstie Alley as your star, you're just begging for trouble.
    In the Mouth of Madness - Once again, JC follows an awful movie with a damn solid one. Dark, literate and just plain creepy, this one offers an intelligent plot, some solid jolts and (once again) a great turn by Sam Neill. If you like your horror kinda Twilight Zone-ish, definitely get this one.
    Escape from L.A. - Oh, the agony. Again, this is a JC flick that I really tried to like, even going as far as watching three full times. But aside from a few cute shotgun blasts, this is one woeful movie.
    Vampires - You'd have to assume that the combination of John Carpenter and James Woods would be more kick-ass than this! While the movie threatens to rev up more than a few times, the stilted and unnecessary subplots drag the movie to a dead halt. Some really fine vampire sequences end up buried in a mostly tired and uninteresting movie.
    Ghosts of Mars - So I've seen all JC's movies at least 5 times each...yet I haven't seen this one yet. [​IMG] To say there's bad buzz on this one is a massive understatement. Even the hardcore JC faithful are trashing it to high heaven. I will decide for myself one night this week.
    So there are my opinions, and I'm sure that several of you are also die-hard Carpenter fans as well. Let me know where you agree or disagree with my assessments, and ponder if this once-brilliant director can ever reclaim his title and deliver another excellent movie.
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    [Edited last by Scott Weinberg on September 09, 2001 at 01:39 AM]
     
  2. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    What you said.
    I must seriously admit that JC has had a very spotty 90's and his 00's are terrible. I count BTiLC, The Thing, and ItMoM as my absolute favorites, though I repect Christine, Escape, and Halloween a great deal.
    But Village, EfLA, and Ghosts of Mars are absolute throw aways that will garner him few fans. It's such a shame, becuase he seemed to have such a mastery of material and could switch generes so effectively that I thought he would be golden. I'm almost to the point of dreading any future releases, because the writing is as much a culprit in his recent bad movies as anything.
    I have to say that I am overjoyed at the recent BTiLC DVD, because it represents one of his crowning achievements. We just need a few more of his films to get 5 star level treatment before he loses all of his cachet in Hollywood.
    I thought the limited budget of GoM was going to be just the right environment to rekindle his spirit, but I was wrong. I can't think of the right way for him to get back on track.
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  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Scott this link is to another Carpenter thread which discussed his films as well as whether he is an A or B film director. I believe you participated in that thread.
    Crawdaddy
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  4. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Continuing the discussion of his films 1 by 1, rather than just his rating as a director overall...
    Agreed on the early stuff. My preferences -
    The Thing - Genius
    Halloween - also genius
    The Fog - a great vibe
    Escape from NY - Cheese was never so good...or cool
    Big Trouble - great action/comedy, I wish we got more films like this campy romp
    Now here is where I differ a bit because next for me would be Prince of Darkness, which I think is tremendous horror and which scares the hell out of me. I love the science meets horror aspect as it ties it more into reality. It's almost sci-fi as much as horror.
    Then I would place In the Mouth of Madness. Sloppier in script than Christine and Starman, it also has more interesting parts than those films. The added payoff outweighs the weaker spots.
    They Live, Christine and Starman would all be close in my book, although the are 3 very different films. All good examples of Carpenter style.
    I also didn't hate Village of the Damned. I found it interesting, although not great. It would fall just above the awful stuff.
    But then I agree with the WTF!!! If he had at least proceeded the last couple of films with something like The Thing or Halloween, but instead we can see a slight decline as the car rolls near the edge, then a freaking drop off as it slips over the side of the cliff.
    Are the reasons personal, meaning a change in his life? Did he start working with a different group of people, a different writer or something? How did he so non-clearly see Escape LA with his own template of Escape NY to follow. It's like he couldn't identify what it was about Escape that made it so good and copied all the worst aspects, instead of the best. It's one thing when a person tried to grab someone else's work and grabs all the wrong parts, but your own...go figure.
    I'm baffled and frustrated as much as the next JC fan. However, couldn't this be said of Hitchcock's career too? That might not be fair because I don't hate any of his later films, but they were slipping from his peak quite a ways. Of course Family Plot is barely his film and it shows (although I somehow still enjoy it).
     
  5. Wes Ray

    Wes Ray Supporting Actor

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    Mr. Crawford...so there can be up to 10 different threads discussing Episode One or Willy Wonka but not more than one John Carpenter thread? Right.
    Anyway...
    Dark Star - I recently watched this film again, and thought it was pretty damn fun. It's not serious science fiction. It's a comedy guys. Give this one a try!
    Assault on Precinct 13 - One of the greatest action movies ever. This one gets better every time I see it. The musical score rocks.
    Halloween - One of the scarriest movies ever made. Enough said.
    The Fog - I recently watched this one again as well. It's a highly underrated ghost story with a great cast of numerous John Carpenter regulars. It even has Napoleon Wilson from Assault on Precinct 13.
    Escape from New York - Not as much action as Escape From L.A., but it definitely is more memorable. I've liked this one ever since I saw it on TBS late one night several years ago.
    The Thing - The is in my top ten favorite movies of all time. A masterpiece, plain and simple. If you're too snooty to look past the "blood and gore" as most critics are, you don't deserve to watch movies. They don't get much better than this.
    Christine - I read the book before I saw the movie, but I must admit, the movie DID improve on the book. One of the most faithful adaptations of a Stephen King book, but at the same time surpasses it by cutting out a few things that made the book way too long.
    Starman - A sweet movie that anybody sick of today's teeny bopper chick flicks should really check out. Very good movie.
    Big Trouble in Little China - I used to dislike this film because I really didn't "get it" but now I look on it and laugh, because it is indeed intentionally funny. I used to think it was stupid because I took it too seriously. It's not a serious movie by a long shot, thank God. I love this one.
    Prince of Darkness - I like this one quite a bit. It's not his best complete movie, but it has enough entertaining bits to make it worthwhile, I believe. The zombie/gore effects were well-done and there was a good amount of tension in the film. The ending could've been improved though.
    They Live - This is another one I didn't understand when I was younger. The fight scene between Piper and Keith David alone is worth watching the film for. The alien makeup could've been a little better done (their mouthes hardly move when they speak) but overall a very cool John Carpenter film. Plus, the ending...the ending's just great. [​IMG]
    Memoirs of an Invisible Man - I like this one too. It could've done without a couple of lame lines ("I want my molecules back!") but otherwise I thought this was an enjoyable film. Chevy Chase doesn't get the credit he deserves, and in this film, he plays it (for the most part) straight. A moderately enjoyable film, whose reputation is worse than the film itself.
    In the Mouth of Madness - Another film in my all-time top ten. This film, combined with Village of the Damned a couple of months later, caused me to really start looking at John Carpenter's work more and more. I'd liked Halloween and Escape From New York prior to watching this one, but In the Mouth of Madness simply blew me away when I first saw it. This started my John Caprenter fandom that continues till this day.
    Village of the Damned - Before I became a major John Carpenter fan, I have loved this film. It has one of John Carpenter's best scores (the "March of the Children" rocks), a very interesting cast (come on, it's got Superman, Crocodile Dundee's girlfriend, AND Luke Skywalker in it), and frankly, it's premise is so interesting, it's hard not to like a movie like this. It's just as entertaining as the original film (the original is cool, but hardly a sci-fi classic in my opinion). Give this one a chance.
    Escape from L.A. - I didn't care for this one a whole lot when I first saw it. I was a big fan of New York, but this one just seemed silly (with bad special effects to boot). A couple of years ago, I watched it again after hearing about all of Carpenter's problems with Paramount (they only gave him a very limited time to complete the film, effects and all), and I must say, it grew a little more on me. I can now watch it whenever I see it on TV, as opposed to before when I couldn't stand it. It's a guilty pleasure that's not for everyone, but it certainly grew on me after a long while.
    Vampires - Yeah, Vampires could've been better, but come on guys...James Woods delivers a classic John Carpenter character here! The gore was impressive for a modern horror movie, although this movie isn't scary. Valek is ten times a better villain than that wimpy Deacon Frost was in Blade. It's no genre classic, but a damn fine John Carpenter film.
    Ghosts of Mars - I've gotta admit, I didn't care a whole lot about this one the first time I saw it. It has a hell of an opening theme and other great pieces of Carpenter music throughout, but it just wasn't that exciting. Natasha Henstridge truly carried the film and did a superb job (she upstaged Ice Cube and became the "cool John Carpenter character" of the film, IMO.) It got better the second time I saw it, but it'll probably not be until DVD that I really start to dig this film. It's enjoyable, but not his best.
    Anybody else have any thoughts?
     
  6. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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  7. Justin_S

    Justin_S Producer

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    Carpenter is my favorite director, and he hardly ever disappoints me.
    DARK STAR- A decent sci-fi comedy. Nothing more.
    ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13- I actually view this film as sort of a horror film. It is a classic with creepy villains and a great and very memorable music score. The action and atmosphere is top notch!
    HALLOWEEN- A great slasher, but not the greatest. It is definitely a classic all the way!
    THE FOG- A brilliant ghost film. Creepy as hell and ultimately atmospheric. The acting is superb and the storyline is very engrossing. Lots of great and creepy music too.
    ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK- Cool action flick with an awesome premise. Snake is a badass character and the Duke is a cool villain. Carpenter did absolute wonders with the small budget that he had.
    THE THING- An ULTIMATE classic! This film is tied with PRINCE OF DARKNESS for my absolute favorite Carpenter film. I liked all of the characters and the isolated Antarctica setting is wonderfully bleak. Rob Bottin's special effects are absolutely spectacular, and are some of the best I've ever seen. The film is full of total paranoia. Brilliant film all the way!
    CHRISTINE- Pretty good film has several creepy moments. Christine is quite menacing and the change of her owner is great. Thrilling little film.
    STARMAN- One of the few disappointing Carpenter films, but then again I have never been into love stories.
    BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA- Quite funny fantasy/comedy. Russell gives another great performance. The fight sequences are great and very well done. Great monster and magic effects too.
    PRINCE OF DARKNESS- An absolute masterpiece! As I said earlier, this film is tied with THE THING for my favorite Carpenter film. They don't get much better than this! This film is very scary and the actors do stunning jobs. The film is also very intelligent and handles the material well. Superb music score and several classic scenes. An all time favorite that is VERY underrated!
    THEY LIVE- Badass film with a cool plot! The aliens are freaky bastards and have some cool technology. The subliminal messages are great, and the acting is good. I was surprised how good Roddy Piper was in this film. The fight scene between him and Keith David is totally wonderful! This is a superb film to say the very least!
    MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN- This film was okay, but nothing special. Definitely one of Carpenter's lesser efforts.
    IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS- Another Carpenter classic! Sam Neill and Jurgen Prochnow are excellent in this film. This is an absolutely brilliant film in the Lovecraft vein. It is a hellish journey into horror and madness that must be seen to be believed! One of Carpenter's very best!
    VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED- A good film, but not great. I enjoyed it, but it didn't work for me like most of John's other films do. It was entertaining and well done though.
    ESCAPE FROM LA- A pretty cool sequel to the original. I enjoyed it for what it is. Cool action and characters and a very fun plot. Very enjoyable!
    VAMPIRES- James Woods is absolutely excellent in this film! He is so great! This film is a cool vampire story and is one of Carpenter's goriest film. Very nasty and politically incorrect, this film provides a great time.
    GHOSTS OF MARS- I really loved this flick! I don't see why so many people hate it so much. It has that great Carpenter feel to it and the Mars setpieces are awesome. Some very cool death scenes and great music score only add to this film. The Martians looked cool and the actors all did a fine job. Very cool action scenes as well. Definitely not a bad film in my opinion!
     
  8. Wes Ray

    Wes Ray Supporting Actor

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    Justin: What do you think is the greatest slasher movie? I love Halloween, but if any are better, I'd have to say that it's Black Christmas.
     
  9. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    I forgot to mention Invisible Man, which I actually like quite a bit. It doesn't feel as much like a Carpenter film, but I enjoy the darker aspects of being invisible that it pursues.
    I believe the depression and near insanity that it puts Chase into and it's nice to see that followed. Rather than follow some teenage voyer aspect (hollow man) it takes a hard look at maintaining a personal identity under those conditions, which is a much more humanist theme to explore.
    I always thought it had interesting visuals as well.
    Hey, I've giving LA and Vampires a 2nd, 3rd, etc chance. With me, it just ain't happening. Sorry guys, can't get on board with those.
     
  10. Dome Vongvises

    Dome Vongvises Lead Actor

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    John Carpenter's movies are some of the most entertaining fare out there, but he's also pretty hit and miss (eg. his Escape from series I find highly over-rated).
    Assault on Precinct 13
    - This is his third best movie. Sure it's a remake of a lot of older movies and westerns, but its execution is excellent.
    Halloween
    - His best movie. Period. It's still scary today. A sesne of spookiness and a great score help add to make this one of the best horror movies ever made.
    The Thing
    - Highly under-rated sci-fi horror movie. Great Special FX work along with a story of high tension and paranoia add to this arctic (or Antarctic?) chiller.
    The Fog
    - Saw this on the Sci-Fi channel back in high school. Saw it recently, and it was still pretty good.
    The Escape series
    - I find this to be the most over-rated movies of his, mostly the characters. I don't find Snake to be all that cool. For so much great backstory (most notorious outlaw, Congressional Medal of Honor winner, etc.), Snake fails to distinguish himself from the action hero (or anti-hero in this case) competition.
    Vampires
    - Again, John Carpenter shows his love of horror and the western by combining the two genres together into one package. It's still pretty good.
    Big Trouble in Little China
    - Jack Burton is cooler than Snake. This movie was way ahead of its time as far as American fight choreography is concerned.
    In The Mouth of Madness
    - This is one of those movies that aren't going to impress a lot of people on its first viewing (I liked it on first viewing though). It's got dull moments, but its creepiness and air of eccentricity work real well.
    Christine
    - It was okay, but it couldn've been better.
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    [Edited last by Dome Vongvises on September 09, 2001 at 11:48 PM]
     
  11. Justin_S

    Justin_S Producer

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    Wes, you guessed my answer. I definitely think that Black Christmas is the greatest slasher of all time. It is also one of my top 5 favorite movies of all time. It is a spectacular and scary film to say the least!
     
  12. Gavin K

    Gavin K Stunt Coordinator

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    Prince of Darkness - a few chills, a little gore, and a literate movie about metaphysics. Not the typical Carpenter film at the time, but still genius, and miles ahead of the later Nightmare and Friday 13 movies released in the late eighties.
    They Live - Instant classic.
    Memoirs of an Invisible Man - Great, and clever, use of effects. And funny to boot. Not his best work, but not bad by any stretch.
    Village of the Damned - The opening POV shots were creepy, the "line" of unconsciousness was cool. The birthing sequence was gory, creepy and cool. The middle dragged a little, but the ending more than compensated for it. That psychic battle of wits was tense and amazing.
    In the Mouth of Madness - lots of great individual sequences, (love the old lady at the hotel), but overall a confusing, ambiguous mess.
    Escape From LA - pure "retro" fun. Plissken is great, Buscemi and Pam Grier are hilarious, the ending rocks. What more could you ask for.
    Vampires - That first nest scene was creepy and tense, and brilliant - until the door opened and only ONE vampire came out. But then the hotel massacre, the gorgeous cinematography, and the James Woods overacting reeled me back in.
    Haven't seen GOM yet.
    Overall, Body Bags is about the only disappointment for me.
    P.S. As good as Halloween was, I'd have to put it number two behind Black Christmas, that movie scares the s**t out of me.
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  13. Brian_J

    Brian_J Second Unit

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    Halloween has to be at the top simply because of the effect it has had. It transformed horror movies. Few movies can make such a claim that they changed their genre!
    I recently re-watched The Thing and was amazed. I could not help but wonder why this film did not make a 100 million $$. My only conclusion is the same as some offered on the DVD: ET comes out the same time. Bad timing. This is now one of my most treasured DVD's.
    I also agree that the fall off is so fast after, that you have to wonder what happened?
    Brian
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  14. Chauncey_G

    Chauncey_G Second Unit

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    Plenty of run-downs of J.C.'s films above, so there's no real reason to do another one...
    However, I would like to say a little something about Escape From New York and Escape From L.A.. First things first, I love J.C. movies. I even like the bad ones.
    Escape From New York is one of my favorites, but to try to be objective, it's really not a GOOD movie. The dialog is OK, the acting is OK, the action is OK. However, it has this ambiguous cool factor running through the whole thing that turns it from an OK movie to a great one. I don't know what it is, but there's just something COOL about this film.
    Escape From L.A. does not have this...until the end. As soon as Snake flies the chopper off L.A. island through to when he shuts down the world, IMO, J.C. got it back. I loved the ending to that film. I own the DVD, don't watch the actual film all that much, but the ending does get some repeat viewings.
    OK, that's it. Have a good one, folks.
     
  15. Gavin K

    Gavin K Stunt Coordinator

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    "STARMAN- One of the few disappointing Carpenter films, but then again I have never been into love stories."
    The only thing disappointing about this to me was the score. It sounded like a very bad imitation of a Carpenter score to me. Extremely cheesy.
    And as for Christine, Carpenter was one of the only people to ever nail King's "rednecky" characters: The junkyard owner, the old man who sells the car, the detective, the bullies. Even Arnie as a nerd has a personality and vulnerability, rather than just being the typical geek that everybody picks on. They are caricatures based in reality. Most other filmmakers tend to make King's characters either two stereotypically stupid, or not stupid enough. And add the great use of rock music, the cool car effects, a great original score, some cool death scenes, and a great acting/transformation from Keith Gordon - definitely an underrated gem.
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  16. Dome Vongvises

    Dome Vongvises Lead Actor

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    How could I forget Prince of Darkness!?
    I liked it a lot, but I think that the more I think about it, the more substantiated all the criticisms are levelled at Carpenter. He keeps remaking the same western "making a last stand" type of movies. I haven't seen Ghosts of Mars, but I'm assuming it's much of the same.
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