John Carpenter pulls no punches. He is a director of horror, science-fiction, and cult hit movies. He is the master of it. There are no Academy Awards on his shelf, yet he boasts a string of extremely popular films that have made him one of the most successful directors of his generation. From classics like “Escape from New York” to “Starman,” Carpenter has been entertaining and frightening us for decades. Here is my list of Top 5 John Carpenter Movies.
5. They Live – Carpenter rarely does blatant social commentary but his low budget, alien-among-us opus, They Live oozes with it. Consumerism, apathy, alienation and some political satire. Yes, the film is cheesy at times and the make up is a joke. I think it actually adds to the appeal of the film. Carpenter is in complete control here and it shows. A great, long fight scene by the 2 main leads, Roddy Piper and Keith David, is incredible to watch. Possibly the longest fight scene ever filmed. A great sci-fi outing that never disappoints. Obey. Sleep. Consume.
4. The Fog – I really love this film. Carpenter’s follow up to Halloween cements his place among the upper tier of horror filmmakers. The Fog is first and foremost a dreamy, ghost story that is chock full of mood and menace. A scary campfire tale come to life. Dean Cundey’s photography is top notch as always and Carpenter’s score is intense and ethereal. Carpenter juggles multiple characters and tells a ghastly story about wronged pirates come back to to life to exact revenge. Great film. Just steer clear of the remake.
3. Big Trouble in Little China – Oh that Kurt Russell. He flexes his comedic muscles here as a heroic but bumbling truck driver who unwittingly stumbles upon an age-old Chinese feud. Full of great choreographed fight scenes (way before Crouching Tiger), this tribute to Kung-Fu films is amazing to watch because of Carpenter and Russell’s tongue-in-cheek enthusiasm. It has wizards, ghosts and creatures aplenty. Just plain fun. I have yet to meet someone who did not like this film.
2. Halloween – This film is a masterpiece. Halloween is an example of how to make a horror film right. Much has been said about this influential film that was shot for only $350,000. Cundey’s camera work, Carpenter’s music, and the great lead characters make his film vastly superior to it’s cheap knock-off peers. Yes, it is a slasher film but it is done with the utmost care, precision and love for the then young genre. We care for the characters and Carpenter carefully establishes that Micheal Myers is a force to be reckoned with. Insanely perfect all around, Halloween is a must see.
1. The Thing – Carpenter’s Citizen Kane. The Thing sports an all male cast finely tuned and lead by Carpenter’s frontman, the always capable Kurt Russell. This is a sci- fi whodunnit with paranoid flair. Everything here is masterfully done. The ensemble is flawless. Cundey’s camerawork is miraculous to watch. Carpenter’s direction is tight and precise. But it’s the suspense that Carpenter establishes and the make up FX by Rob Bottin that really shine here. The film plays out like some morbid, alien take of an Agatha Christie novel where we are witness to the characters beginning to fear and distrust each other. The blu-ray includes a fantastic commentary by Russell and Carpenter that is a fan favorite to this day. The Thing is a must own. It is my favorite Carpenter film. Enjoy.