John Carpenter revisited

Starman is excellent.

(He wasn’t really Pinback though, he just stole Pinback’s uniform)


I loved the TV series. I had no idea the movie that spawned it was a John Carpenter one.

That’s because it’s not satire. The Last Action Hero is satire.

This is a straight up action movie, albeit one with a very clever twist. Jack Burton - the white guy - is the sidekick/ethnic comedic relief.

It completely befuddled the studio.

The great director-centric podcast Blank Check is going to be starting a series on John Carpenter soon (it might still be a month away from starting, based off what they said last episode). They typically do a three-hour episode on every film, in order, so it’s very thorough. Might be a nice accompaniment to your revisit.

(Oddly enough, they were going through the Star Trek films on their bonus feed for subscribers around the time someone started those threads here on Qt3…)

Oh, nice, I’ve skipped most of the recent episodes as they were generally on films I’m not so interested in, so this is news to me. I’ll probably listen to all of the Carpenter episodes.

I’d say In The Mouth of Madness is easily one of the best Lovecraft pastiches out there. If you’re looking for something that just picks up all the HPL genre tropes, this is it.

The Thing is excellent. Escape from New York and Big Trouble are fun, and well-made. Then there are a few with neat ideas, but middling execution - They Live, Prince of Darkness, Precinct 13. Starman was a very competent B-tier Hollywood movie (really doesn’t feel like a Carpenter movie) , but nothing special beyond that. Everything else is just trash. I’d say ‘uneven’ is the best way to describe his career.

If you haven’t seen it though, I do recommend checking out Christine. It’s interesting to see Carpenter take on King’s source material. And still in the solidly 80s “good stuff” era.

I will also add that I enjoyed “Cigarette Burns”, which was an episode of Masters of Horror that he did. It’s thematically similar to In the Mouth of Madness, if you enjoyed that. I assume it’s available to be streamed somewhere or other.

I had no idea until this very moment that “Memoirs of an Invisible Man” was a John Carpenter movie. A RomCom with Chevy Chase and Darryl Hannah.

That’s… weird.

Oh, man, if you had asked me, I would have said Keith Gordon directed Christine! I guess I forgot he only starred in it. I might need to see this again, since 1982 was Carpenter is his absolute prime.


I don’t think Christine holds up that well. It really only has two outstanding scenes. The bit with Arnie telling the car to show him like an orchestral conductor, and when Arnie loses it on his father and manhandles him. Actually now that I’ve written it out, maybe the only good stuff in Christine came from Keith Gordon’s acting choices?

Everyone loves the car self-repair scene or the car on fire chasing the head bully down, but they never stuck in my head like Arnie’s insane switch from pathetic to jerkoff punk.

Oh man, Christine has some pieces that are burned into my brain. Like when the car pushes itself into an alley far too narrow for it to fit because it wants to kill some punk that badly. and then when Christine shows up on fire like a demon from hell - yeah I’ll admit it, that movie gave me nightmares once upon a time.

In the book this change takes a while. Of course the change was sped up for the movie.


I do know that The Ward is awful. I think I wrote about it in one of the other horror movie threads. It’s a real waste of time. Even Carpenter acknowledges that he shouldn’t have done it.

If you get the chance to listen to the commentaries for the movies that Kurt Russell and John Carpenter did together, I do recommend doing it. They’re a lot of fun to listen to, and for Big Trouble for instance they talk about playing Jack Burton as a guy who thinks he’s John Wayne but is just totally clueless.

Some people here seem to brush off Dark Star. If you watch it with a clear eye, it speaks to all of his later films. The seminal Carpenter film, if you will.

Prince of Darkness is excellent. It’s part 2 of Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy (as he calls) it, where the movie sets out the start of the end of the world. In The Thing it was civilisation being taken over by the organism (and the end of the movie does nothing to persuade the audience this will not happen), in Prince of Darkness it is Satan taking over humanity, and the video clip of the future shows that no matter what action is taken, disaster is inevitable (an idea that was literally the only good thing in the entire Terminator 3 movie), and the third one is In the Mouth of Madness which I will admit to my shame I still have not seen because it’s impossible for me to find.

The main thing about PoD is its oppressive energy, it scared me witless when I first watched it decades ago although I suspect a lot of that was expecting it to go full The Thing… which it never did. Carpenter achieved a lot on a very low budget here though. The body under the sheet with someone trapped in a closet watching strange, gruesome things going on under the sheet? That was straight out of The Thing and just as terrifying. But the relentless nihilism of the whole thing once it got going was great. Admittedly the performances were pretty sub-par (a lot of TV actors were used to save on the budget), the effects were cobbled together, and there’s a real danger of it not holding together that pervades the entire thing, but I still think it stands up as one of his better, more watcheable efforts.

I admit to loving much of Carpenter’s output. Ok, The Fog was weak, I can’t remember much about Memoirs other than a sense of “meh”, and the only one I’ve seen after that was Ghosts of Mars which had a kick-ass soundtrack but the movie was truly shite. The rest though, they’re classics and I’d recommend everyone see them at least once, even though some have aged better than others.