October 31 I always think of John Carpenter. Halloween changed horror movies and he went on to shift things a few more times. Even his bad work is stuffed with good ideas, and his "mainstream" efforts are spiky and challenging. But most of all when you look back on his body of work you see an artist with a voice. A John Carpenter movie is as distinctive as a Scorsese or a Kubrick: the same every time but different.
Halloween is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this month, and the score was just re-released, and they had that "other" film come out earlier this year. What are your thoughts on the apparent success of the franchise? Did you ever expect it to have such a following all these years?Den of Geek talked to him about the prescience of his movies:
You can't beat it! I get a check every time they make one of those movies. I get paid a lump sum of money every time they make a sequel. Debra Hill and the partners and I made an agreement to go ahead and have a mechanism for making sequels, since that's apparently what people wanted. They would use my music, since that's part of the film - and I would stay out of it. It's good for them - they go off and make the movie they want and they don't have me bitching at them.
Escape From LA was a prescient film – it kind of makes more sense now than when it came out...One of my favourite John Carpenter movies is Prince of Darkness. Halloween had the gag about the killer ducking across the screen behind the victim; Prince of Darkness had the "found footage" of something indistinct and very scary, decades before Paranormal Activity. AICN's Quint also likes the movie:
...and the same dynamic seems to apply to They Live. What's your reaction to getting it right, but no-one believing you at the time?
It's the story of my life! [laughs] A lot of my career has been like that. I've made a couple of films that later on, upon reflection, you say 'My God'...I just wrote those things on instinct, so it's not anything I planned out. It's just my view of the world.
It's the same on The Thing, which, three years after release, would have been a trenchant social commentary...
But that's what happens in the movie business – you have to know what's going on when you make a film. I've always been a little bit out of touch with the immediate sense of the audience, I really have. So that's my fault.
Quint: Tone is a huge thing with me for your films. One of my favorite movies of yours, and I feel it's really underrated, is PRINCE OF DARKNESS.
John Carpenter: Thank you. You know I've heard that a couple of times recently. I agree with you.
Quint: I've talked to a lot of people and I'm like "Listen, you can look at HALLOWEEN or THE THING or ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and those are all amazing films," but there's a tone that you hit I think in PRINCE OF DARKNESS that gets under my skin more than anything else in your filmography. It's hard for me to actually put a finger on it. It's like watching a Paul Schrader movie. There's something that instantly just in the mix of the visuals, the sound design and the story that kind of gets on to your skin as a film viewer.
John Carpenter: Well, thank you. You know as I recall at the time there was a television interviewer who said PRINCE OF DARKNESS was the worst movie of 1986. Worst movie. Worst.
Quint: Well, they were wrong.
John Carpenter: Well, not necessarily. (laughs) It wasn't at the time so much fun to be the target of that, but I don't care. It was a badge of honor for me.