John Carpenter

In the Mouth of Madness

Cargill and I once again stare into the illimitable carrion pit of underappreciated 90s horror, and what spills upward is our immutable shared affection for Madness. That is to say, John Carptenter’s In The Mouth of Madness. We discuss the film’s various narrative layers, its place among H.P. Lovecraft adaptations, and what fast food item’s very existence similarly tests the boundaries of human sanity. You should follow Brian (@Briguysalisbury), Cargill (@Massawyrm), and the show (@Junkfoodcinema). Download Episode #27 Directly

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top shelf assault on precinct 13

Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash, too. This week’s pairing looks at two new Collector’s Edition releases from Scream Factory. The label is an offshoot from Shout! Factory, and while their main focus is on horror titles they’re flexible enough to include variations of the genre, too. They’ve managed to prove themselves in short time through a dedication to HD remasters. First up is an urban western from John Carpenter that sees a simple act of revenge lead to a siege involving police, prisoners, civilians, and some unruly gang members, and we’re following that with an ’80s horror/comedy with zombies and a pair of ass-kicking valley girls.

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they-live-scenes

When John Carpenter‘s They Live opened in theaters 25 years ago this week, it had the honor of knocking Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers out of the #1 slot. That’s just too perfect, and also it’s also kind of weird to realize that They Live indeed opened at the top spot on the box office chart for the weekend of November 4, 1988. Maybe even weirder than the fact that a U2 concert film debuted just below it at #2. That was a different time for moviegoing, one where a great start like that meant little at the end of the day when your movie still winds up only the 75th highest-grossing of the year. Although the sci-fi film came and went with little widespread notoriety at the time, They Live did go on to become a cult classic of varying levels, the kind revered by movie geeks for being just enough “cheesy” mixed with just enough “awesome,” recognized by academics for being a very direct social commentary on the Reagan years (and the best horror movie satirizing consumerism since Dawn of the Dead a decade earlier) and continually ignored by the mainstream for looking like a cheap, dated B movie. But it’s also a film that has become even more relevant in recent years (and was therefore prescient, as we’ve covered before) due to how it involves a disappearing middle class while the rich and poor grow on opposite sides of the economy, in wealth and population […]

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thefog-commentary1

It’s Halloween, which means it’s the last day you can obsessively watch scary movies until tomorrow and the day after that. Obviously, one of the greatest Halloween films of all time is John Carpenter’s seminal slasher named after the holiday. As a follow-up, Carpenter eked together another small budget classic with co-writer and producer Debra Hill: 1980’s The Fog. While it was a horror film at its core, it was a decidedly different movie. Instead of being a simple stalker film, The Fog is a throwback feature to the older ghost story movies from the 40s and 50s that Carpenter watched as a kid. It may not hold up as well as Halloween, but The Fog is still a fun relic made during Carpenter’s heyday (which included 1981’s Escape from New York and 1982’s The Thing). Recorded shortly after Carpenter shot his 1995 stinker Village of the Damned, the commentary on the original DVD release features Carpenter and Hill reminiscing about the production that appears larger than it actually was.

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scarytruth-1

By now, you’ve likely seen the article atYahoo Movies about ten college-aged kids who were shown John Carpenter’s Halloween for the first time to see if the film was still scary 35 years after it was released. The results would make a true horror movie fan weep: this group found the film to be silly, ineffective, and cheesy. In short, not scary at all. There’s even a Vine of these students’ reaction to the whole experience, which may or may not cause fits of anger in true horror fans. More over, this group claimed films like the remake of The Omen (easily inferior to the unmentioned original) and The Cabin in the Woods (a brilliant movie, but never intended to be actually scary) to be more frightening than anything in Halloween. Let’s start by getting past a few completely unscientific elements of this piece. First, ten subjects is hardly a valid sample size for any study, so this is just an academic exercise. However, even more so, I question who the hell these people are that made it to their college years without seeing John Carpenter’s Halloween. I’m sure there are plenty of those folks knocking about, but honestly, would these people be qualified to evaluate horror movies? No self-respecting horror movie fan (or even someone who claims to passively enjoy scary movies) would make it into his or her twenties without at least seeing this film once, whether it’s on an old VHS tape or during one of AMC’s […]

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thethingtruth-1

One of the greatest genre movies ever made is John Carpenter’s 1982 classic The Thing. Though technically a remake of Howard Hawks’ 1951 The Thing From Another World, it is a much more faithful adaptation of John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella “Who Goes There?”. The story follows a group of men in an Antarctic outpost who stumble across a bizarre alien that has the ability to imitate other life forms. During the course of the film, the characters are plagued with paranoia and terror as they discover that those around them may be the Thing in disguise. Soon, it becomes apparent that they have to do whatever is possible to stop the Thing from getting to civilization. Armed with flame-throwers, shotguns, and a hot copper needle, the team at U.S. Outpost 31 try to keep the thing contained, lest it mean the end of the world. Because we are significantly paranoid, this got us thinking: What would have happened if the Thing really escaped?

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Escape from New York Commentary

It’s time to round out this trifecta. We’ve already covered John Carpenter and Kurt Russell talking about their collaborations on The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China, and today it’s Snake Plissken’s turn. As with the other collaborations – Elvis and Escape From L.A. don’t count, since Carpenter and Russell didn’t provide commentaries for them – Escape From New York is arguably their best, creating an iconic character in Plissken and ratcheting out a gritty but intense sci-fi actioner that continued Carpenter’s trajectory as A-number one in the hearts of movie geeks all over. Like the previous commentaries, this one is sure to be loaded with information from behind the scenes as well as what has to be one of the best examples of camaraderie between an actor and director in recent history. It’s the kind of collaboration that makes you want a third Snake Plissken movie even now, 16 years after the character surfed down a flooded Sunset Boulevard. Yeah, that was dumb, but we’ve gotten over it. Until that day comes when Plissken – The name is Snake – strapped the leg holsters back on, we’ll have to fall back on this action classic made fresh with a solid commentary running over it. So let’s get to it, shall we? All 31 things we learned listening to the commentary for Escape From New York.

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They Live

John Carpenter burst onto the genre scene in 1978 with Halloween, but the bulk of his great films came in the 1980s with classics like The Fog, Escape from New York, The Thing, Starman, Big Trouble in Little China and Prince of Darkness. His final film of the decade was a bit of an odd duck though and one that saw his trend of releasing a new movie every year or two come to a halt. They Live was released, not coincidentally, in the last year of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Sold as a sci-fi/action hybrid the film is a not-so thinly veiled critique of the growing class divide engendered by a Republican mandate that favored a corporate culture and rampant consumerism. The rich were getting richer, the poor were getting poorer and the middle class were doing very little to stop it all. Roddy Piper plays a drifter who arrives in Los Angeles desperate for work and relegated to live in a homeless encampment. He finds a pair of special sunglasses that reveal a world of subliminal messages and alien invaders masquerading as humans and discovers a stunning conspiracy behind America’s economic and social downturn. And, being Roddy Piper, he proceeds to clean house.

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31 Days of Horror - October 2011

They said it couldn’t be done. A fifth year of 31 Days of Horror? 31 more terror, gore and shower scene-filled movies worth highlighting? But Rejects always say die and never back away from a challenge, so we’ve rounded up the horror fans among us and put together another month’s worth of genre fun. Enjoy! Synopsis: A small northern California town celebrates its centennial, but when a thick, mysterious fog envelops the town the residents discover their history may not be one worth celebrating. Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis) is just passing through when the nightmare begins, but she’s quickly drawn into a fight for her life alongside the studly Nick Castle (Tom Atkins), suspiciously guilty priest (Hal Holbrook) and sexy-voiced DJ Stevie (Adrienne Barbeau). Something is in the fog, and it’s armed with sharp-edged weapons.

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John Carpenter

A true master of horror, it’s no surprise that John Carpenter‘s work has shown up in our series where horror filmmakers discuss their favorite scary movies (and, spoiler alert, he’ll show up again next week). His figure looms large inside and beyond the genre, gifting classics like Halloween, Escape From New York , The Thing, Assault on Precinct 13 and Big Trouble in Little China to the world. He’s a quiet-spoken man, which is perhaps not too rare in the world of horror. Although it’s fairly strange to think that this unassuming man made people terrified of being inside their own homes (and, you know, taking trips to Antarctica). So here’s a bit of free filmmaking (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a man who makes our nightmares.

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All throughout October, we’ll be hearing from horror filmmakers about their favorite scary movies. We’ve already heard from Joe Dante on The Exorcist, so we turn now to a newcomer on the horror scene. C. Robert Cargill (who some may know as Massawyrm from years of writing at Aint It Cool) is the co-writer of Sinister, which hits theaters tomorrow (10/12). In his film, Ethan Hawke plays a true crime novelist, so is it any wonder that Cargill has chosen to celebrate a horror flick with a writer at its giant, monstrous heart? You can go watch it right now online, or you can join us for a discussion of the last great John Carpenter film and best H.P. Lovecraft movie that isn’t based on anything Lovecraft wrote. Download Episode #152

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According to Digital Spy, October 25th will be the night he came home…again. John Carpenter‘s Halloween is the next classic to get the re-release treatment. The immortal horror flick will see big screens along with Justin Beahm‘s short documentary You Can’t Kill the Boogeyman: 35 Years of Halloween. Fortunately, it’s going to be in a ton of theaters, but you’ll have to check to see which one is closest to you. Or you can find one the next town over and plan to walk home afterward through some sort of badly-lit country road. It’ll be thrilling to see what kind of print they’ve mustered for a re-release this huge. I caught a beaten-up 35mm a few years ago (thanks to Scott Weinberg) that had plenty of orange tint to it, but theoretically this print will be of a far higher quality. Plus, Austin Hinderliter has crafted a new antique poster for the screening series:

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Zero Dark Thirty

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly column about movies that is comin’ at ya, like an adrenaline-crazed bike messenger doing 50 down Broadway… We begin this evening with a new image from Zero Dark Thirty featuring some rough and tumble types who are about to go in and take down that Bin Laden guy. This Kathryn Bigelow directed ditty is going to be one hell of a ride, if any of her previous works are any indication.

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All the cool kids who are too cool for Comic-Con and all about trying to be cool by saying how not cool Comic-Con has become try to be cool by going to the cool comic area and buying cool things. Cool, right? But seriously, I always like to put the “comic” in Comic-Con and take a walk around the all the different comic vendors, big and small, and find cool stuff to buy. This year is no different and I found a few things that piqued my interest and raped my wallet. Have a peek into my barely literate world!

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There are a handful of kick-ass specialty labels out there who make a habit of bringing beloved genre classics (and sometimes not-so-classic classics) back to life on Blu-ray and DVD with releases that show real TLC for the films and the fans. Arrow Video, Blue Underground and Synapse are a few of the best, but one that ranks just as high on the list is Shout! Factory. Their mainstay has been older TV shows, but they also offer the Roger Corman Cult Classics line as well as a brand new co-venture with South Korea’s CJ Entertainment. They’ve just announced a new line called Scream Factory that will focus on releasing Blu-rays/DVDs of horror films and thrillers from the 1980’s. The debut releases due this September include Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch, both loaded with extras. As exciting as these will be the best news (for me at least) can be found elsewhere in the list of upcoming titles. Seven additional titles are listed below, but there are three highlights. First up are two of my childhood favorites… The Island starring Michael Caine trying to save his son from modern-day pirates led by the always awesome David Warner, and Death Valley featuring Peter Billingsley being stalked by a serial killer during an RV trip with his family through the Mid-west. And then there’s a little John Carpenter film called They Live finally getting the attention it deserves with its first US Blu-ray… Check below for all the […]

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Drinking Games

The rumored-about, questioned and criticized prequel to John Carpenter’s classic 1982 horror flick The Thing has come and gone. Now, it’s coming again, this week to DVD and Blu-ray. The flick tells the story behind the Norwegian outpost in Antarctica, chronicling the first people to dig the Thing out of the ice. Fans of the Carpenter classic will complain about the overuse of CGI and the pointlessness of the new film, but they may also find some likeable moments if they look hard enough. If not, they can always play this game and knock back a few glasses of Ringnes beer or whatever else they drink in Norway.

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John Carpenter

It’s that time of year again, time for candy and masks and bats. I’m not sure why I singled bats outs, especially when we have them year-round here in Austin. But they fit right in during Halloween, the holiday that seems to be everyone’s favorite these days. So what better time than now to bring to you a Commentary Commentary on John Carpenter’s horror classic, Halloween? It doesn’t hurt that Halloween is my all-time favorite film, a film I’m sure I’ve seen more than 100 times, no exaggeration. Okay, maybe a little exaggeration, but I’d be shocked to learn the number of times I’ve sat through it is far South of that. So here, presented in all its black and orange – but really just black – wonder, is the list of things I learned from the Halloween commentary.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr gets ready to celebrate Halloween in style with some horror releases… and he’s not just thinking of Footloose. Unhappy with his life, he follows the bucket list path of Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, traveling to the bottom of the world where he finds himself in a small Antarctic town that has outlawed dancing. So Kevin takes it upon himself to help the people get their groove on only to discover they’ve been taken over an alien species that duplicate human form. Later, he takes a trip back to the heartland where he finds a feral woman chained in a cellar… pretty standard for some of the towns he’s been to. Finally, not being able to find a theater that is still playing Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), he checks it out On Demand and promptly throws up.

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Anyone who has seen a horror film knows the cue for when a scare is right around the corner – the music begins to draw out the tension before a percussive boom reveals whatever monster or villain (or in this case, shape shifting alien) has made a sudden appearance on screen. Because it is not just the image that is terrifying, it is the sound leading up to its reveal that contains the real fear. Ever watch a scary movie on mute? The scares on screen become almost comical without the music or sound. Even just listening to the music from a horror film (without the accompanying visuals) instinctively puts you on edge. (And yes – I listened to these scores with the lights ON, thank you) John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) took us to a remote research station in Antarctica where the sudden appearance of a seemingly stray snow dog and a low flying helicopter bring us into a world of extreme weather, extreme isolation and a lot of questions. This year, director Matthijs van Heijinigen Jr. is bringing The Thing back to theaters as a prequel to Carpenter’s film. Heijinigen’s film works to explain how things came to be at the start of Carpenter’s tale and the scares and score have been amplified along with it. Famed composer Ennio Morricone created the haunting, but minimal score for Carpenter’s film while composer Marco Beltrami has created a more “traditional” horror score for Heijinigen’s prequel.

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The Thing is a prequel, not a remake. The trailers indicated Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.‘s film was going to be nothing but a series of retreads, but it’s far from it. The commercial director managed to make a film he can actually call his own. Slightly old school and slightly modern, The Thing is a surprisingly fun horror film. Although, to start with some bad news, it does take time to warm up to this prequel. One of its main problems is reminiscent of Predators – you’re watching characters wandering around spouting “What’s going on?”, when you already know exactly what’s going on. The build-up to the goods doesn’t take a great deal of time, but most of the set-up elicits that unexciting feeling of being 20 minutes ahead of your characters, especially for those who’ve seen Carpenter’s remake. Once the chaos commences in the second act, that’s when the film begins to firmly take hold. There’s an all-hell-breaks-loose moment, where more than a couple of characters are killed off, and it’s the scene where the film begins to work. This bloody and standout scene comes after the expected “let’s see which one of us is still human!” experiment, another bit the filmmakers managed to put their own unique spin on. After that “oh, crap” moment, it’s all running and screaming from thereon out.

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.19.2014
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