John Carpenter

Director | John Carpenter, Part 1: The Wonder Years

Between 1974 to 1981, John Carpenter directed five independent feature films–Dark Star, Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, The Fog, and Escape from New York. Three of those first five films–Dark…

Director | John Carpenter, Part 2: The Studio Quartet

With the summer 1982 release of The Thing, John Carpenter finally fully arrived in Hollywood; he’d made a studio picture. And he didn’t come alone. He brought cinematographer Dean Cundey,…

Director | John Carpenter, Part 3: The Alive Duet

Following Big Trouble in Little China’s disappointing box office returns, director John Carpenter returned to low budget filmmaking. For Alive Films–and distributed through Universal, back in the Carpenter business following…

Director | John Carpenter, Part 4: The Mundane Years

In the four phases of John Carpenter’s career, the final one–starting in 1992 and going on eighteen years–contains almost forty percent of his theatrical output. This final period is almost…


Halloween (1978, John Carpenter)

Halloween is a technical masterpiece. It’s absolutely spectacular to watch. Carpenter’s composition is fantastic, but Dean Cundey’s cinematography and the editing–from Tommy Lee Wallace and Charles Bornstein–creates this uneasy, surreal…

Vampires (1998, John Carpenter)

Vampires is a mess. I mean, there’s some good stuff in it, but it feels like the least interesting parts of the characters’ stories. There’s a little bit of sequel…

Dark Star (1974, John Carpenter)

Dark Star is probably John Carpenter’s second finest film (after The Thing). It’s the John Carpenter film I’ve always been saying he should make–a funny one. I have seen Dark…

Escape from L.A. (1996, John Carpenter)

Escape from L.A. is an action movie without any real action until the final set piece. And that final set piece is excellent–lots of hang gliders and practical effects. But…

The Ward (2010, John Carpenter)

The Ward takes place in an Oregon mental institution in the late 1960s and doesn’t have a single good Cuckoo’s Nest reference. I’m not sure one would have helped—writes Michael…

They Live (1988, John Carpenter)

Maybe a third of They Live is amazing. The film has three distinct parts. The first, where Roddy Piper arrives in L.A.–Piper never gets a name and L.A. never gets…

Ghosts of Mars (2001, John Carpenter)

Ghost of Mars has a lot of earnestness going for it. Director Carpenter needs quite a bit his cast and he supports them even when they’re clearly not able to…

Masters of Horror (2005) s02e05 – Pro-Life

I’m not sure John Carpenter’s The Thing was a pinnacle of realistic practical special effects—I think it must’ve been one, but I’m not sure; I am confident, however, he and…

Christine (1983, John Carpenter)

John Carpenter does some amazing work on Christine. He’s got help from his cinematographer, Donald M. Morgan, but the first forty-five or fifty minutes of the film are simply masterful….

The Thing (1982, John Carpenter)

I always say John Carpenter needs to direct something else, something non-genre. A romantic comedy perhaps or a family drama. I guess it never occurred to me, but with The…

Captain Voyeur (1969, John Carpenter)

Captain Voyeur starts better than it finishes, which is too bad since it gets better as it goes along. Writer and director Carpenter opens the short with a long tracking…

Halloween (1978, John Carpenter), the television version

The television version of Halloween has an interesting story–the original film ran so short, when the network wanted to run it on TV, there wasn’t enough film after they cut…

Escape from New York (1981, John Carpenter)

Man and boy, I’ve probably seen Escape from New York ten times. This viewing might be the first where I noticed the film’s quietness. Carpenter uses the relative silence to…

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976, John Carpenter)

The titular assault in Assault on Precinct 13 doesn’t start until just over halfway through (and not at Precinct 13, but whatever). Until that point, Carpenter methodically lays out the…

The Fog (1980, John Carpenter)

It’s not just Janet Leigh being in the film or all the trouble–visibly–starting when Jamie Lee Curtis arrives in town, it’s everything about The Fog–it’s an aware Hitchcock homage. The…

Village of the Damned (1995, John Carpenter)

Village of the Damned has three major problems. In no particular order… I’ll start with the stunt casting. Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Mark Hamill and Michael Paré are all–to varying…

Prince of Darkness (1987, John Carpenter)

I’d forgotten Prince of Darkness‘s more fanciful notions–Jesus the space alien, still sent to Earth to save us from the Devil, but this time, the Devil’s kind of a space…

Starman (1984, John Carpenter)

Starman’s first forty or so minutes speed by–director Carpenter gets as much information across as quickly as he can to discourage the viewer from paying too much attention. There aren’t…

In the Mouth of Madness (1994, John Carpenter)

In the Mouth of Madness is a rarity. It’s a film with some terrible, terrible parts, yet it needs to be longer. There needs to be more terribleness for it…

Masters of Horror (2005) s01e08 – Cigarette Burns

Did anyone read the script for Cigarette Burns before they started shooting? Udo Kier’s got a line about Norman Reedus following him, then Kier follows Reedus. Not to mention Reedus’s…

Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992, John Carpenter)

Memoirs of an Invisible Man is pointless. Most of its problems stem from the film’s lack of focus–in some ways, given Chevy Chase is a stockbroker and leads a life…

Big Trouble in Little China (1986, John Carpenter)

Although Big Trouble in Little China takes place in modern day San Francisco and has a whole bunch of awesome special effects, it’s really just John Carpenter doing another Western….