Discussion in 'Entertaining Diversions' started by madkevin, Nov 7, 2012.
Hey guys, this is the Carpenter thread, go take it outside =)
I have no idea where in Canada you are, and saying, "Hey, let's travel to another country to see John Carpenter's first film" would probably earn any man a divorce, but I think the Chicago horror society has a 35mm copy of DARK STAR. So, if that's close, you can have your very own religious experience.
FWIW, I would have either voted for ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 or DARK STAR if I wasn't so absolutely enamored with THE THING. ASSAULT is such a perfect film - there's no way you could make a film today that just blatantly has a child get shot for no other reason than to showcase how much of a naive fool the white flight surrogate is - and it has that sense of lean, almost ramshackle film-making that would make John Woo famous a decade later. And you've all ready well and thoroughly covered why DARK STAR is the best $60,000 film ever made. (All ready explained why HALLOWEEN doesn't top THE THING in my book. ESCAPE could come close, but for my Kurt Russell man-love madness, I'll take THE THING. Seems arbitrary, isn't. See below for why not BIG TROUBLE.)
But I just can't jump past THE THING. I watch that film multiple times a year. It is on the shortlist of two-timer films that I will watch twice, regardless of print quality, whenever it shows up at a nearby cinema. I enjoy the film, sure, if it isn't obvious I would put it in my top ten (five) favorite films ever, no fucking fooling, and it's sharing space with output from Orson Welles and Luis Bunuel; I watch THE THING so often because it is the pinnacle of a man's career, the best he could ever achieve and he knew it. BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA is a great film, but it serves as a decompression from a decade of hard work, a master's swan song to that which he loves so much. He couldn't stay away, they never can, and as THEY LIVE proved, coming back home isn't always a disaster... but just as Sam Peckinpah made his "final" definitive statement on film with STRAW DOGS, so, too, did John Carpenter with THE THING.
But which one has Carpenter's best score?
Though his "bridge" sequence in ESCAPE is insane. Holy shit. That score's good, but that track is just absurd.
Escape From New York, hands down. Halloween's little piano motif is cool but a little too close to The Exorcist's use of "Tubular Bells". Escape From New York is sort of the template for all of his synth scores, but the main theme from Escape kicks my ass. It's like the movie itself - stripped down, and split right down the middle between total cheese and ultra-cool.
As an aside, he did the score for the hilariously fucked up Halloween III: Season Of The Witch - easily the second-best Halloween movie, and by far the best movie ever made where kids get their heads crushed by pumpkin masks - and it's a good one, too.
If not EfNY, then AoP13 for me. I can't even look at an ice cream truck and not hear that bass line.
Escape From New York, I would say.
I've posted this guy's stuff on the forum before. You guys will definitely approve.
Escape from New York's theme is outstanding.
I will always have a soft spot for the main theme to The Fog. Because one night it was on TV when I was a small boy, and the theme over end credits utterly freaked me out--I vaguely remember falling asleep when it started and waking up to end credits with it playing. The muted percussive mad tapping in it was a great mix for a hypnagogic state. In retrospect I think it was one of those good traumas.
(I will also join any Halloween 3 drunken appreciation party, because it was just so joyously goofy. Best evil supernatural plan ever. Siiilver shamrock!)
Halloween 3 gave me some serious nightmares when I saw that as a kid. I remember a snake slithering out from under a child's mask? Whoa.
The Thing would definately be in my top ten favorite movies ever list. It is one of sadly few movies that takes the imaginative possibilities of monster movies and then turns around and uses it to make something actually good. There's no areas of slow pacing you have to slog through, no atmosphere-breaking scenery chewing, the plot doesn't hinge on people passing the idiot ball around, and the effects are well done enough that they still manage to look more convincing and creepy than most modern movies.
As an aside, I've always been very sad that as time has gone on and the tools and craft of movie-making have improved horror movies have mostly eschewed doing anything interesting with monsters. Psycho killers always lose a measure of tension for me because if the characters would stop being idiots they could usually solve all their problems with a two by four. Monsters give you the horror of the unknown and not obviously stoppable antagonist, against which you can layer decent writing and themes like The Thing. I guess you could say The Thing represents the pinnacle of what horror movies could be to me.
I am glad that Big Trouble in Little China is rocking the vote, but it does make me sad that In the Mouth of Madness has 0 while Ghosts of fucking Mars has someone supporting it. Goddamn GoM was the worst Carpenter movie, and one of the worst theater-released movies I've ever seen period. I'm sorry but it took the so-bad-it's-good route, then overshot it and went all the way around to being just bad again. After having seen almost all the other movies on this list, seeing GoM seriously made me go "What the FUUUUCK happened to John Carpenter?"
Mouth of Madness is easily twice the movie Ghosts of Mars is. That's not saying much, but it's still a fact.
And I'm sad that no one is giving any love to The Fog. A solid, creepy film with 70's Adrienne Barbeau and Jamie Lee Curtis in it, who can ask for more?
Big Trouble In Little China is easily in my top 10 movies list, and maybe even in the top 5. I can still vividly remember seeing it in the theater, and realizing over and over again this is the coolest thing I have ever seen.
The Thing is a genuinely good movie, though, and one of the best horror movies ever. It's only because Big Trouble is in a whole different sphere to itself, that it gets first place.
I'd forgotten that They Live was by John Carpenter. That's all the ingredients of an amazing movie, but it just doesn't quite come together.
Everything else: meh. Halloween is straight-up boring. Escape From New York has the "You're the Duke of New York You're A Number One" scene and Lee Van Cleef trying his hardest, but it still just comes across as a cheap sci-fi retread of The Warriors. Starman and Christine are fine but pretty forgettable. Dark Star feels like having to spend a couple hours with a bunch of post-hippie sci-fi geeks who must have been completely insufferable to hang out with.
You also forgot The Ward, but after seeing it recently, I can't fault you for it.
Man, this is a tough one. No other director made as big an impression on my teens as did Carpenter. I still can't stop watching anything with Kurt Russel in it because Snake Plissken. I wasn't a Carpenter fan, it was more like religion. To me, it boils down to three movies: Assault on Precinct 13, Escape from New York and The Thing. Halloween, while awesome, is a the slasher flick. And they just don't do it for me. The Fog and Big Trouble had very little emotional impact on me. I think I might have enjoyed Starman just as much as I did those two. Assault and Escape - I'm well into double figures in watching those. The Thing I think I've seen five times.
Assault on Precinct 13: DAT SCORE! I remember the aussie band Hunters & Collectors used to play it before coming on stage. Dum-du-de-du-dum, Dum-du-de-du-dum. Another thing that's awesome is that the bad guys use silencers. There's one scene where they shoot up an office that I still recall perfectly. Someone called it his zombie flick, I see more of Zulu and Alamo-like movies in it. The pacing is perfect.
Escape from New York: My inner 14-year old tells me it's the greatest movie ever made, even better than Raiders of the Lost Ark! I recently saw Lockout which is a horrible, horrible remake of Escape which just doesn't get it. I still have my paperback of the novel lying around somewhere. I knew it, and the LP with the soundtrack, by heart. There's plenty of wonderful, iconic scenes in this one and Russel, van Cleef, Pleasance, Borgnine, Isaac Hayes and Harry Dean Stanton, coupled with the uh ... talent of Adrienne Barbeau ... Well, I'll admit that The Thing is Carpenters masterpiece. But Escape from New York is Escape from New York.
This thread pleases me
Love this thread. I'm on my Blergerpad in a train, so I'm not going to contribute a lot, I just want to say to certain people, that everytime you say with great authority "choice A or B is the only correct one" and then three posts later "I haven't actually watched C, D or E" I think lesser of you as a human being.
I've seen all except Ghosts of Mars and Vampires (which I shall rectify), own several of the soundtracks on vinyl and the Soundtrack compilation was the last physical cd I bought.
I think the love for Big Trouble - which, by the way, seems to have risen in favour over the past few years - comes from the people who saw it in the theatre when it was released. Which wasn't that many people, as it bombed pretty hard. The Velvet Underground & Nico of Carpenter's ouvre, if you will.
But I think the real amazement with Big Trouble came from seeing a type of cinema Western audiences were completely unfamiliar with. The Chinese action trappings of Big Trouble were nowhere near as ubiquitous then as they are now - I know that I didn't really get a chance to see much of the craziness of the Hong Kong film industry until the late eighties and early nineties, when those movies first started to become available on videotape in North America. So the whole Chinese fantasy element of it seemed completely fresh and, crucially, totally bonkers.
Then add to that the layer of another Carpenter Hawksian homage - this time to the fast-talking romantic comedy side of Hawks a la His Girl Friday instead of the competent-men-in-an-impossible-situation Hawks of The Thing - and then add on top of that a hilarious ironic level where Jack Burton isn't really even the hero of the movie, and it's like a recipe for a cult hit. Granted, that same recipe guaranteed nobody would let Carpenter make another studio movie ever again, but such is the price of being way ahead of your time.
After you called me out on this, I added it to my Netflix instant queue. I have seen it before, but it's been a while so I watched it again last night. I think it's a fine move. I don't hate it. I don't love it. Horror movies don't do a thing (ha!) for me, but I like this one better than most. It's a me issue. I just don't have any emotional response to horror movies. I don't know, dude. I just don't have the receptor for whatever makes them magical.
If you pile all of the movies from the OP in front of me, I will watch Big Trouble first. No question. If company comes over and all I have are those movies, I would put in Big Trouble. If I'm flipping through channels and happen upon Big Trouble, I can watch it from any point because every individual scene is entertaining. It has fun dialogue, and great characters. Turn it on and whatever is happening is fun to watch.
I like Starman. I like Assault on Precinct 13. Escape From New York gets my runner up vote because of Snake Plisskin, who is pretty up there on my list of favorite movie characters. (But he's no Jack Burton.)
I think his best film is The Thing, but my favourite is still Big Trouble. If I had to make an all-time Top 10 list of favourite films, those two and Escape from New York are in it.
Big Trouble is easily my favorite (video tape watchings are what made it a cult hit,
madkevin,) but The Fog has a spot in my heart also because it was filmed in my home area. "Point Antonio" is Point Reyes Station.
This thread made me (re)watch some Carpenter's films (which is a good thing) and what strikes me now is how empty a lot of the places/streets/cities looked back then. Not sure if he chose such locations on porpoise or if things simply were that way 20-30 years ago, but nowadays everything is much more crowded (which is a bad thing).
Mostly budget concerns, I'd wager. Less people on screen means less people you gotta pay. Plus, in the case of Escape From New York or Assault On Precinct 13, there's the idea that the streets are physically dangerous to be on. So any would-be pedestrian is holed up waiting for daylight to venture out.
The Warriors is like that, too. Apparently the only people out at night are gangs or undercover lady cops entrapping poor, misunderstood Warriors who simply want a quick spot of rape as they head back to Coney Island.
THE THING. I've seen it a dozen times.
A few years ago I got to see it in a theater and jesus, I loved it so much more. It also helped that I had partaken (it really helps me with the gore monster stuff, especially the dogs scene. I got so much more squeamish than I had been while sober). I love the physical effects of that movie soo much. And soundtrack. And atmosphere. And setting. You guys have better defenses of it though.
I recently rewatched it for Halloween. This time I had heavily partaken and it enhanced it so much. But I love it in any state of mind. There is just something about being stoned and watching horror and gore that brings it to another level for me (I confirmed this by watching V/H/S this way and it scared the bejesus out of me).
I also love BIG TROUBLE and THEY LIVE. I haven't made it through all his movies yet. Need to do that.
Interestingly, I'm the opposite - I find it almost impossible to watch any horror movie I haven't already seen when I'm stoned. Well, I shouldn't say any. It's not like Lon Chaney movies freak me out.* But any modern horror movie, no fucking way.
Granted, I'm super squeamish about modern horror to begin with. With some minor exceptions, like Ti West's House Of The Devil or Miike's Audition, I can't stomach much modern horror at all. The whole move to torture porn in the 2000s really turned me off, and the found-footage movies leave me cold. I'm patiently waiting for the horror pendulum to swing back in the direction of either Evil Dead II or the atmospheric horror of the 70s. (Which is probably why I loved Cabin In The Woods so much.)
* EXCEPT FREAKS. SERIOUSLY, FUCK THAT MOVIE.
Shake should watch MEN BEHIND THE SUN stoned.
Also, the whole "torture porn" thing/complaint kind of irks me. Yeah, it is more visceral than it was in the 70s, due to CGI and make-up advances, but let's not forget that CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST was only the most famous of the awesomely vile horror films of that era. Horror with little redeeming factor beyond shock and gore and cruelty is definitely not a new thing. (but you know that. Again, I suspect it is an issue with presentation.)
I recently saw I Saw The Devil which is more suspense/thriller/revenge than horror but it fucked me up pretty bad.
and i was stoned.
You're right, it's not a new thing. But until the 2000s, it also wasn't a mainstream thing. You had to do some work to see Cannibal Holocaust or one of Herschel Gordon Lewis' "classics". (And, for the record, I didn't dig those either.)
The other big horror movement of recent years, the French (or, really, European I guess) extreme horror movement, also is impossible for me to watch. Really, the closest I get is Michael Haneke.
I should note, too, that I'm not saying these films are bad. Hostel might be a horror classic for all I know. Certainly I've read passionate defenses of Martyrs that makes me think there's something intellectually interesting there. But I literally cannot stomach them. It's a me problem, not a them problem.
madkevin I meant more like not every piece of land was covered with buildings and parking spaces yet, you actually see empty plots between houses and such.
Ah, right. Fair enough.
Ranges of reactions are always interesting. Audition is one of the very rare movies I had to pause and seriously wonder if I was going to need to go vomit--but then again that moment for me wasn't the gorier bits that followed, but some rather simple effects involving long needles, paralyzed-strangled-choked sobs of pain that couldn't be screams due to the situation, and the forced Japanese language lesson in how to say "deeper" as a chant. Glargh. (To be clear, I respected how very well it achieved the effect. But still: glargh.)
On the other hand, I could stomach Martyrs just fine. It was rather unpleasant, but I found it more tediously unpleasant than interestingly unpleasant.
Audition is definitely my limit for horror. I was pretty fucking sure I was gonna turn it off, but it's just such a totally weird movie I felt compelled to finish. That first hour really lulls you into a rhythm that is demolished in a split second. And that fucking jump scare is the single scariest thing I've ever seen in a movie ever in my life ever. Jesus Christ. Seriously, fuck you, Miike.
I assumed The Thing was the canonical answer here because it's his best movie, and picked Escape from New York to answer the less obvious question.
And yes, Assault on Precinct 13 is the best of many wicked-ass Carpenter self-scores.
It's been on my radar for a couple of years, but clearly I need to (try to) watch Audition!
Other than that, I'm pretty much with
madkevin. I find Eli Roth et al have kind of ruined the modern genre for me. I love the surreal and bizarre horror.. modern torture porn horror (Hostel, Saw) does nothing to engage anything above my lizard brain, and it's a shame.
The only recently made horror movies I've really enjoyed were Midnight Meat Train (based on Clive Barker's work) and Absentia (a Kickstarter funded indie movie of all things).
Tangent: I've brought this up in the political forums, at Qt3 and probably here, but there's a pretty good 3-part documentary series by a provocateur documentarian / amateur intellectual historian named Adam Curtis called "The Trap," arguing that game theory and the concept of self-interest as the only "fair and scientific" way of understanding political needs has changed society since the fall of omnipotent, trusted institutions in the 1960s. Parts are brilliant, parts are weaker, but the whole is quite excellent.
The relevance here is that Curtis is great at using both BBC stock footage and scoring it with great music, including a shitload of Carpenter scores (and Brian Eno and other weirdly perfect ominous/pensive music.) Highly reccomend to political nerds, somewhat recommend to Carpenter-score-lovers-interested-in-politics-a-bit.
It's all up on youtube although I think the audio gets desynched a bit.
Yeah, that post from
madkevin was one of the most bizarre things I've read in recent memory. To me, saying "I'm usually too squeamish for horror movies, with minor exceptions like Audition" is like saying "I usually don't like sweet things, with minor exceptions like sucking dry entire five pound bags of sugar in one go." Granted, I've never seen any of the Saw movies and don't plan to, and the same goes for Hostel and the like. But those strike me more as so over-the-top that none of it would register, kind of like the movie trailers in Grindhouse. Audition is still the most horrible (intentionally horrible) movie I've ever seen.
Somebody has never seen Irreversible.
This is because you haven't watched Imprint.
While watching this movie (which was gifted to me by a "friend" for my birthday) with a group of friends, my roommate came home and saw us all sitting in front of the TV with the same dispirited look on our faces. The conversation went like this:
Roomie: Whatcha watching?
Roomie: How is it?
Me: It's the most vile movie I've ever watched.
Roomie: Does it have... (trying to think of something horrible that probably wouldn't be in a movie) child rape?
Everyone, sighing, in unison: Yes.
Roomie: ...Oh. (goes into room, shuts door)
It is awful. In addition to torture scenes, there's a scene with a river being choked by aborted fetuses. It's like a checklist was made of offensive things, and Miike just went down it in order. And then there's Billy Drago's acting...
Separate names with a comma.