Today: February 24, 2024

Director John Carpenter

Remakes are usually approached with caution, but in 1982 director John Carpenter remade ‘The Thing From Another World’ and did the near impossible: created a remake that surpassed the original. Carpenter’s film is closer to the book ‘Who Goes There?’ by John W. Campbell Jr (under the name Don A. Stuart) which the original film was based on.

Remakes are usually approached with caution, but in 1982 director John Carpenter remade ‘The Thing From Another World’ and did the near impossible: created a remake that surpassed the original. Carpenter’s film is closer to the book ‘Who Goes There?’ by John W. Campbell Jr (under the name Don A. Stuart) which the original film was based on.

The prequel, directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr, is unleashed on DVD/Blu-ray this week, but this isn’t the first time John Carpenter’s work has been updated – remember Halloween and Assault on Precinct 13? The Thing remains Carpenter’s most accomplished work over an impressive career. Filmjuice looks at the top ten movies of this legendary B-Movie director.

10. Dark Star (1974): This, his feature film debut, is a low budget sci-fi comedy, which was a real rarity for the horror director. It was marketed as a much more serious film than it actually is, now at almost 40 years old Dark Star has become a seminal cult classic. The story is about four astronauts in deep space, whose mission is to destroy unstable planets in star systems which are to be colonised.

9. Christine (1983): Here Carpenter returned to his horror roots with a movie based on a book by Stephen King about a killer car with a mind of its own. A simple premise, but a highly effective horror movie. Here Carpenter shows real skill at working with other people’s material, which was sadly missing from his 1995 remake of Village of the Dammed.

8. Assault on Precinct 13 (1976): Inmates and Police officers band together in an abandoned police station as a violent street gang lays siege to the station. It’s a real testament to what can be achieved on a low budget with limited time to make it. It was remade in 2005 by Jean-François Richet and starred Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne.

7. The Fog (1980): Reteaming with his ‘scream queen’ Jamie Lee Curtis and her real life mother Janet Leigh, Carpenter moved away from slasher films for this project. The story focuses around a mysterious fog that consumes a small fishing town. Hiding inside the fog are murderous spirits seeking revenge against those that wronged them. Smallville’s Tom Welling starred in the 2005 remake, which was produced by Debra Hill and John Carpenter.

6. They Live (1988): Carpenter went back to basics for his tale of alien invasion. Former wrestler Roddy Piper is the drifter who finds a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see the world as it really is: infested with aliens. The world’s fate rests in the hands of a bunch of misfits (doesn’t it always?), a brutal but funny movie that for many fans marked the end of Carpenter’s golden era.

5. Big Trouble In Little China (1986): This is one of many Kurt Russell/John Carpenter collaborations, Russell plays Jack Burton a long haul truck driver who gets caught in the middle of a supernatural battle in Chinatown. Big Trouble In Little China has achieved cult status now but was largely ignored on its release, which was a great pity.

4. Starman (1984): Jeff Bridges is the Starman, a peaceful alien whose observational vessel is shot down by the US government, causing him to meet Jenny (Karen Allen), a devastated widow. Starman is able to take the form of her deceased husband, and reluctantly Jenny agrees to help him get to the rendezvous point so he can go home. Jeff Bridges was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance, which marked the only time any of Carpenter’s films received a nomination.

3. Halloween (1978): His low budget slasher movie helped define the horror genre of a generation. Need we say more? Halloween also marked the first feature collaboration with his long-term producer Debra Hill who sadly passed away in 2005. The premise of Halloween went to live on for many subsequent generations with Rob Zombie directing the 2007 remake and its sequel.

2. Escape From New York (1981): Carpenter regular Kurt Russell first worked with him on the TV movie Elvis; this marked the first of their four big screen partnerships. Escape From New York is set in 1997, where Manhattan has become a walled off prison and the President’s plane has crash-landed on it. The government then send in former war-hero-turned-criminal, Snake Plissken (Russell) into the wastelands to save the President.

There has been plenty of talk of a remake over the years and Gerard Butler was once lined-up to don the famous eye patch, but the film has yet to transpire.

1. The Thing (1982): Celebrating its 30th anniversary next year, John Carpenter’s The Thing remains as relevant today as it was when it was released. The story – if you don’t already know – centres around Scientists in the Antarctic who are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people that it kills. Blu Ray fans can finally enjoy this classic with a wonderful remastered edition. The action in the prequel takes place immediately prior to the events of that film. But it will remain to be seen if Carpenter fans hold it with any esteem – they can be a tough audience to please!

His films of late might not be up there with his classics, but John Carpenter’s contribution to the horror genre can’t be ignored. He has in addition to writing and directing many of his films, composed the music for nearly all of them – which is no mean feat. He is a true legend of the horror and sci-fi genre and there’s no doubt his movies will continue to be rediscovered for years to come.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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