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Category Archives: Carpenter

Hah, John Carpenter still makes movies? And movies that stick to the idea that as long as you put a pulsing soundtrack on top of everything, they will end up being creepy? Don’t get me wrong, the Carpenter films I love I do love more than many films from most other directors, but maybe Carpenter is a creature of the 80s, and should never have left them. With the almost-all-girl setting in the mental hospital, the general motif is such a common and overused one (think the terrible Sucker Punch, the mediocre Section what’s the number, or the ok Shutter Island) that it would be very hard to make something out of it under the best of circumstances. The circumstances here are less than ideal: it seems apart from the setting, Carpenter has very few ideas on what to do with his characters. The plot is so generic that trying to think of the resolution is terribly hard… was it a real ghost that was haunting the girls, or was it some locked-up and forgotten prisoner? There is plenty of lobotomy, in any case, and performed in a nice and gory fashion, but without dramatic consequences really. A bit of a sad story for Mr Carpenter, I am afraid there is little hope left that he will return to the form he once had. Sad as it is, the 80s are over… Oh, I just remember the final plot twist, and I have to say, it is more copy of than reference to one of the other films mentioned above.

Hands down one of the great horror movie classics. One of the greatest films by one of the greatest horror directors, The Thing takes the already interesting 1951 Howard Hawks films and turns it into the most claustrophobic and dense scenario: a bunch of people  locked up in an Antarctica research station, an outside predator intruding, distrust flaming up, killings begin. The opening shot where a helicopter chases a sled dog through the snow desert are stunning, Carpenter’s typical soundtrack beat insinuating doom. The dog roaming through the station reminds me of the tricycle scenes in The Shining. Kurt Russell is the coolest man on the planet, and when he drowns his chess computer in J&B and calls her a cheating bitch it is just what she deserves. The re-animation scene that scared the hell out of me when I watched it for the first time as a kid so long ago, and it superbly effective every time (the head! the spider legs!!). Scene after scene, this has become a classic, with the testing of the blood for infection maybe the masterpiece even within Carpenter’s oeuvre in terms of suspense. What can I say…? Oh some things I can say:

1)      Watching this again was inspired by Filmspotting’s Top 5 monster movie list, some great picks there:

2)      I know they are apparently remaking this, and it already being a remake, I guess complaints are futile. Still: teenage researcher? Who has the grit today to make this film the way it needs to be? Good luck with it…  and trailer


A black cloud moves over a small town, and when it leaves, all people are unconscious – and many (all?) women are pregnant. The children stemming from this “event” have strange psychic abilities (and silver hair), and it becomes clear that they are not willing to let those normal human beings set limits to their own development. One of the fathers sets out to teach them some lessons in various respects.

Easily the worst film in my Carpenter marathon so far – remarkable (as so many of his films) mostly by the fact that the cast again shows promiment names, if probably most not in their prime. Kirsty Alley, Luke Skywalker and Superman – that’s not bad for a hopeless C-Movie. The telekinetic stare of the kids, the emtpy faces and – honestly – very blunt acting wears you out some ten minutes after the silver-haired generation actors first appear. They just have insufficient skills to be scary, it’s like a Superman movie (that must be Christopher Reeve’s inspiration making me think of this) where he only uses his heat glance. A tad boring, don’t you think? Reeve is actually quite good, but the rest of the cast is rubbish, or at least misguided through a script that has nothing to offer but frequently staring children. Did I write about Carpenter’s humour last time? While subversive in “Ghosts on Mars”, goofbally in “They Live!”, it is nothing but absent here.

Workman Nada comes to town, and the town does not agree with him. He gets a poor job in construction, and needs to live in a camp on a deserted patch in the middle of town. There is a church, and the church is apprently the centre of some resistance against a government and media conspiracy. When fleeing from a raid, Nada stumbles across a set of sunglasses that allow him to actually distinguish the invaders from the humans. He joins the resistance and kicks some alien butt, together with co-worker Frank and Holly, a tv station employee.

Continuation of the John Carpenter marathon – I liked that one when it came out at the time, and watching it again, I see why. Carpenter is extremely aware of the humour he can use in his films, which I believe is tricky in horror / supernatural / alien invasion movies. Carpenter knows something about it, so even in a silly nonsense invasion movie like They Live, there are scenes of hilarious comedy, in particular the effort of the lead buddies to beat the shit out of each other to get to an agreement on whether or not Frank follows Nada on his quest.
The film is incredibly blunt in its message of all our consumption desires and emptiness being part of a giant plot of Earth leaders with Alien leaders… ok, we get it, we shouldn’t, we should rather, er… get in barfights occassionally or kidnap cute girls. Will do, Sir! The lead actor was clearly designed to replace Kurt Russell as Carpenter’s muse, even though that apparently did not work out. But fun watching, a Russell clone with muscles. And you know what is the difference between me and you? These sunglases make me look cool! (ah no, different film).

A ghost train arrives at the Mars main train station, arriving from the mining outskirts with only one passenger: Lieutenant Ballard, cuffed to a bench on the train, tells her story of how their mission to transfer a high-security prisoner went awry, as the station where they were to pick him up was a battlefield, with all the settler turning into hordes of ravaging zombie-like creatures. It turns out they were possessed or infected by some native Mars inhabitant travelling as sand with the wind, seeking to make go away any intruder to the planet.

The John Carpenter nostalgia marathon continues, and now I venture into unknown territory: I had never before seen the film, and so much more I could now enjoy it, because it has all these guys in it that I surely could not appreciate at the time of its release: Natasha “Species” Henstridge, Jason “I don’t take my shirt of for anybody” Statham, Pam “Jacky Brown” Gier, Clea “Matt’s partner in Heroes” DuVall, and the completely untalented and hilarious Ice Cube as “Desolation” Williams. Zombie-Thingies that all look like cross-breed of Alice Cooper and “It”, decapitations with sharpened discs, heads on sticks, ill-choreographed battle scenes that looked more like attempts at “West Side Horror Story” than Mad Max. And a lot of red dust and futuristic trains and really hard-assed female interrogators (Social System: Matriarchal” says the insert at the beginning). And Jason Statham doing his Jason Statham voice thing, which is enough for an evening of nice SciFi-Horror-Funtertainment.

Arnie Cunningham appears to be a prototypical high-school loser (albeit a rather raunchy and cool one). While discussing with his best buddy and football team hero Dennis the strategy for achieving a slight chance of getting Arnie laid over the Summer, they come across a shipwreck (so to say) of a car: a 1958 Plymouth Fury white top, nicknamed by its (sorry “her”) former owners as “Christine”. After enormous efforts and some miraculous self-healing, Christine becomes a breathtaking beauty again – and the shine rubs off, as Arnie gets cooler, more handsome, and actually can lay his hands on the new school beauty Leigh. But all this is creepy, and when Dennis investigates the story behind Christine’s past, and when all the school bullies who had their hands in the smashing and crashing of Christine end up dying in unpleasant fashions, Dennis and Leigh decide it is time to stand up against the evil machine who is more of a jealous bitch than anything else.

* this film is responsible for my Stephen King addiction. In 1983, I was reading a German movie magazine called “Cinema”, and it had a cover story about this movie. It also had an ad for the tie-in novel by a US author of the name Stephen King. I bought the book, and have read every single one that has come out ever since. Old habits die hard, I am sure this one will outlive me.
* “Watch out for me. I am Pure Evil. I am Christina” was a bumper sticker I purchased at the Stephen King Fanzine mail order service back when you had to do international money transfer services that took 6 weeks to arrive and then wait another 8 weeks for the package. Brilliant times! Had I only kept those that I did not use on my first car, the BMW 323d, in pale green, with this flat nose and evil glancing beams…
* “Bad to The Bone”, the opening and closing riffs of the movie, will always be associated for me with production line of vintage cars. I have heard the song about 300 times since 1983, and I always see cars in my mind.
* On one of my jobs at the box office of some cinemas, I painted a sign “In God we Trust. Everyone Else Pay Cash.” Guess what inspired me to do that?
* When watching one of my new favourite tv shows “Dexter” I kept stumbling across Keith Gordon / Arnie Cunningham, and checking out the IMDB it was confirmed – he kind of stopped acting and is doing a lot of directing these days. Great stuff.
* Harry Dean Stanton to me is a two-film actor. Christine and Paris, Texas. Full stop. Through this oeuvre, he earned immortality.
* I was disappointed to learn that the actor playing Buddy Repperton did not do much acting afterwards. He is brilliant when he stole Arnie’s lunch bag and kept displaying his masculinity under his super-tight blue jeans…

The John Carpenter nostalgia show continues, but I am afraid it cannot get better than this. Carpenter at his prime, and exactly at at time when horror-rock’n’roll B movies appealed to me the most. Bad to the bone!

In the night before the little town’s 100th birthday, the town priest discovers a diary of his grandfather from which it becomes clear that the town was only built after misleading a ship of settlers, crashing it into the shore and stealing the gold hidden in its trunk. The town father are murderers, and 100 years after the deed, the ship comes back, wrapped in the fog fatal for its detiny, and the crew seeks to take revenge on the killers’ families. In a triangle between the local radio station, located in the signal tower, the town’s boirthday party venue and and father Malone’s church, people start running from the fog, hoping to escape from Blake’s men’s revenge.

Another piece of history: this was officially the first film I ever sneaked in being underaged for the film rating. It was a “16” and I wasn’t, and so the images of Blake’s pointed knife stabbing the eyes of the poor fellow on the boat the first time we encouter the Elizabeth Drake, keeps haunting me. Or made me a misogenyst outlaw. Or something else I cannot spell.
Hal Holbrook and Adrienne Barbeau (see The Fog, nice body) and Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh (aren’t they cousins or some’in?) and John Capenter and and and. John Carpenter’s original score is more prominent here than ever, and I remember owning a record with all of his soundtracks which make a nice lullabye. Each time I watch the film I have to crefully re-construct the story, because the first time around I was just lost on the complexity of gold gained, gold lost, lepre colonies, six must die, but didn’t, and how the hell could they build the town with the stolen gold if Granny Father malone made a golden cross out of it and hid it in the church walls? Never mind. The scene where the Nanny gets captured by the zombies and the one where Adrienne Barbeau scrambles up the lighthouse and we get a nice and completely arbitray shot at the maggots crawling over one of Blake’s men… perfectly entertaining even today.

America is at war with Russia, India, China, whomever. The president is on his way to a peace summit where he will (for reasons beyond script control…) play a pre-recorded message on nuclear technology which will save the world from apocalypse. But his plane is taken down by American terrorists and crashes into Manhattan. Problem is: Manhattan is a high-security prison, whoever gets in will not get out again. An anarchic world has evolved, ruled by the Duke, plagued by The Crazies, entertained by cheesy Broadway musicals that only cab drivers enjoy. Snake Plissken, former war hero but now scheduled for spending the rest of his life in the manhattan prison for treason or theft, is offered the job to go in, get the president, get him out before the summit, and get a pardon if he manages. Death if he fails. He goes in, and with the help of Cabby and The Brain and the brain’s girlfriend with the nice boobs (of “The Fog” fame, too), his mission to stir up some Manhattan dirt starts.

Yes, I admit it (no point in denying as I wrote it in the comment to Doomsday): Escape from New York is one of my all-time favourite films and probably the one that I have seen most often. That Video 2000 tape has really done its due. I have, however, never before seen it in the none-dubbed original version. The film’s atmosphere of completely bleak desolation is unsurpassable. Kurt Russel’s Snake Plissken (“Call me Snake!”) is the coolest motherfucker that ever set a foot on cinema screens (“it is the president’s plane.” – “Whose president?”). The cast is perfect, with a slimy Donald Pleasance as president, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau, Lee van Cleef, Isaac Hayes! Music, set design (the fight in the arena!), sound design (the flight in the plane when getting in… swoooosssshhh). Of course it is not half as intelligent as I remembered, not half as dramatic, not half as well edited, but hey, it’s from 1981! I do not dare to think about what kind of utterly forgettable piece of mainstream nonense the remake to be released next year will bring about. There should be a list of films for which remakes should be outlowed by threat of castration: I am compiling the enumeration for the Annex to that law, but “Escape from New York” should be there together with “Lawrence of Arabia”!

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