Archive for the ‘John Carpenter’ Category

the-blob-film-1988There is one film in my vault of horrors that I watch every Halloween, regardless of what my yearly theme may be. It’s a film I associate with the holiday, (despite having nothing to do with it) starting way back to when I was fresh out of diapers, and stumbled across it for the first time on cable. Now I’m sure many purists out there will scream blaspheme when they discover it’s a remake, but it’s one of the best, and a prime example of how they should be done. Taking what worked from the original, and building upon it while omitting the kitschy bits that kept it from achieving greatness.

The film in question is a mortifying one, responsible for my outright abhorrence of a certain Cosby marketed gelatinous treat that makes me gag just thinking about it. The crusty film that spreads across its surface if left to fester in the fridge for too long. The way it jiggles upon a spoon as it creeps toward your mouth, and how it slurps, and slithers down your throat like an edible slug. I’m of course talking about Jell-O, and its amorphous acidic older brother, The Blob.blob-4

Released in 1988, The Blob is director Chuck Russell, (known for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors) and writer Frank Darabont’s, (of Shawshank Redemption, The Mist, and spawning the now beloved Walking Dead series) loving remake of the Steve McQueen led 1958 classic.

The film follows the citizens of Arborville, California as they’re attacked by an organism that devours, and dissolves anything unfortunate enough to cross its path, while growing to astronomical proportions in the process.

blobThe major divergence from the original was making the creature a biological weapon, rather than an extraterrestrial organism, which provides a terrifying political subtext that’s much more effective than the outer space craze so rampant in films from the fifties, and sixties.

The gruesome special effects, provided by the legendary Tony Gardner, (Army of Darkness, Michael Jackson’s Thriller) are extraordinary for the time the film was released, and hold up exceptionally when compared to what we see today.
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The Blob, is hands down one of the top three best remakes of all time, the other two being Carpenter’s Thing, and Cronenberg’s The Fly. It’s gory, it’s scary, and it’s a hell of a good way to kill an hour and change.

A fun fact to end on, Tony Gardner has been investigated two times by authorities. The first, by the FBI, then again by the Arizona State Police, and Missing Persons Bureau for his work on .

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The Halloween series is full of more highs, and lows than Annie Wilkes on a cocaine bender, but one entry I feel gets more hate than it deserves is Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

Season of the Witch was conceived after Carpenter, who was approached to make a sequel to Halloween II, stated he’d only do it provided the film wasn’t a direct sequel, and didn’t contain Michael Myers, seeing the potential for the series to become an anthology taking place on Halloween. After the lacklustre response to the film however, the idea was scrapped.

The producers hired author Nigel Kneale to write at Carpenter’s behest, mainly due to his admiration for the Quatermass series. Kneale stated when writing the script that he didn’t want there to be horror for the sake of horror, and wanted to focus on psychological shocks rather than physical ones, but Dino De Laurentiis, the film’s distributor wasn’t fond of it, and requested he ramped up the graphic violence. Displeased with the changes, Kneale requested his name be removed from the film, and Tommy Lee Wallace, (now known mostly for his adaptation of Stephen King’s, It) was hired to revise the script.

The film follows Ellie Grimbridge, (Barry Bostwick from the Rocky Horror Picture Show’s better half) and Dr. Dan Challis, (Carpenter mainstay, and horror legend Tom Atkins) as they investigate the murder of Ellie’s father. The two soon discover that Silver Shamrock Novelties, ran by Conal Cochran, are responsible for his death, and uncover their heinous plot to sacrifice children in an attempt to resurrect the age of witchcraft.

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The problem many have with Season of the Witch, isn’t its insane, and borderline nonsensical plot involving microchips containing fragments of Stonehenge inside Halloween masks that summon swarms of snakes and bugs to kill their wearer, but rather the lack of relation to its namesake. Had the film been released on its own, without an attachment to the Halloween series, I feel a lot of the hatred it’s garnered over the years would be nonexistent.

The film is genuinely unsettling, relying on the taboo nature of its plot, and use of psychological warfare in place of gore to invoke fear in the viewer. The atmospheric score composed by John Carpenter, and Debra Hill works to further elevate said discomfort.

I love Season of the Witch, and have lauded it for years. Granted, there are some jarring issues with the plot, (more than likely caused from the script’s various revisions) that much I’m willing to admit, but on its own the film stands as a disturbing piece of horror cinema, and I’d place it above the Rob Zombie remakes without regret.

Thanks for reading my dearest darklings, and I apologize for the tardiness of my posts as of late. My two, and a half year streak of being sickness free was recently obliterated, and I’ve been resting up, conjuring more horror to share with you throughout the remaining days of the month.

Until next time skiddies, stay scared.

And remember…

Eleven more days til’ Halloween!

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John Carpenter, has been a name I’ve dropped consistently over the last two weeks, and for good reason. I love the man, and his entire body of work. Even when he’s slumming it, he still produces an enjoyable film. Carpenter is one of the most prolific faces in the horror community, having been responsible for the iconic Michael Myers as well as a handful of cult classics like They Live, Big Trouble in Little China, and the subject of today’s post, In the Mouth of Madness.

In the Mouth of Madness, released in 1995, is the third film in Carpenter’s Apocalypse trilogy, preceded by The Thing, and Prince of Darkness.

The story follows an insurance investigator named John Trent, (played by Sam Neill) tasked with investigating the disappearance of popular horror author Sutter Cane, and recovering his final manuscript. On his journey to uncover Cane’s whereabouts Trent soon realizes that his reality may not be what it seems.

In the Mouth of Madness is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, namely his novella, At the Mountains of Madness. Insanity is the driving theme of the story, a popular trope in much of Lovecraft’s work, and the majority of the film is played out in flashbacks, another common technique employed in his writing. The film is also peppered with references to the Old Ones from the  Cthulhu mythos, and many of Sutter Canes novels are variations of his stories.

The film did well enough to recoup its eight-million dollar budget at the box office, but it released to lacklustre reviews, and quickly faded into obscurity after being released on home video.

I was lucky enough to snag a copy on VHS in my teens after my local video store went out of business, (a tape that has since burned out from repeated viewings) but thankfully for those who may have missed it, the film was rereleased on blu ray by New Line Cinema back in 2013. If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely find a copy, and check it out.

In the Mouth of Madness is a divisive film that most either love or hate. Instead of the eerie synch-pop prevalent in most of Carpenter’s films, he opted to compose a more hard-rock inspired soundtrack that purists may find jarring, and the pacing stumbles a bit throughout. In spite of these issues, I fall into the former category, and rank it in my top ten Lovecraftian films

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Creature features are a tough sell these days as we’ve seen pretty much all there is to see in terms of monsters gobbling up humans like the earth is an all you can eat buffet. Wolf-men, vampires, creatures from the Black Lagoon, check, check, check. Radioactive dinosaurs, ants, ticks, check, check, check. Flesh-eating plants, intergalactic porcupines, Killer Klowns from Outer Space check, check, check. Sharknados, telekinetic tires, and Ron Jeremy’s penis… sadly another triple check, and so on in infinitum. Do you see a trend? It would appear that as the years progress filmmakers are attempting to make things that aren’t scary, well, scary, (not counting Ron Jeremy’s penis of course. That thing is terrifying). So it’s always a pleasant surprise when a creature feature comes along that brings something unique to the sinner table, without stumbling into the absolutely ludicrous.

Take 2008’s Splinter, for example. On paper it has a fairly simple plot. A couple on route to a romantic camping trip in the forests of Oklahoma, (words I never thought I’d put together) are car-jacked by an escaped convict, and his junkie girlfriend. After suffering a flat tire the four end up seeking shelter in an abandoned gas station, and soon find themselves attacked by a parasitic fungus that reanimates the flesh of the dead in creative, and disturbing ways.

Splinter works because of its simplicity. There’s no complex backstory explaining the origin of the fungus, no end of the world type scenario, there’s just a handful of people in a small environment doing the best they can to survive.

Co-Writer/ director Toby Wilkins, did an excellent job with the relatively small budget he had to work with by focussing more on the characters, and less on the creature itself. Also praise is due for one of the most brutal amputation scenes I’ve ever witnessed.

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The creature itself is splendidly grotesque. It’s essentially a zombie with notes of John Carpenter’s Thing, and a little Cabin Fever flesh-eating disease tossed in for fun, and the mix of practical, and CGI really bring it to life.

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Splinter is definitely worth a watch, and is ranked high on my list of favourite horror films from 2008.

That’s all for today my dearest darklings, and as always stay scared!

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This is it skiddies, the final day of our three day Thankskilling weekend extravaganza, and I saved the best for last. A cold scoop of frozen blood nestled atop a slice of scary-pie for you to sink your fangs into.

I mentioned Mick Garris yesterday in my Nightmares and Dreamscapes post in a less than pleasant manner in regards to his Stephen King adaptations, but that doesn’t mean I loathe all of his work. In fact, he’s responsible for many cult classics I adore, such as ‘batteries not included, Hocus Pocus, Critters 2: The Main Course, and the subject of today’s post the 2005 anthology horror series, Masters of Horror.

Conceived during an informal dinner hosted by Garris in 2002 for his director friends, John Carpenter,  Larry Cohen, Don Coscarelli, Joe Dante, Guillermo Del Toro, Stuart Gordon, Tobe Hooper, John Landis, and Bill Malone the name originated when Del Toro told a woman at a neighbouring table that the masters of horror wished her a happy birthday.

The dinner turned out to be such a satisfying experience for the directors that Garris began organizing them regularly featuring more esteemed members from the horror community including Fred Dekker, Dario Argento, Eli Roth, David Cronenberg, Tom Holland, Ti West, and many more.

These dinners laid the groundwork for the series, and many of the members in attendance went on the either write or direct their own episodes of the show.

Masters of Horror is rough stuff. There are no happy endings, there’s buckets of gore, and viscera on display, and no taboo is left untouched. There are even a few episodes that make me cringe, and I’m not one who cringes easily, (I’m looking at you Imprint).

Masters of Horror lasted for two seasons on Showtime, before being cancelled, but that didn’t stop Garris, who went on to make a quasi third season/ spiritual successor in NBC’s Fear Itself. Unfortunately due to network regulations, Fear Itself paled in comparison to its predecessor, lacking the punch that made the original run so successful, and was axed after just one season.

It’s difficult to pick favourites as the twenty-six episodes are all incredibly well made, but for the sake of this post I’ve chosen, Takashi Miike’s Imprint, Dario Argento’s Jenifer, John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns. Believe me, picking three was no easy task.

Imprint

 

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Imprint follows an American journalist, Christopher, (played by the inimitable, and ever creepy Billy Drago) searching for a lost girlfriend who he promised to rescue from prostitution. After landing on an island populated by whores, and their masters, Christopher meets a badly disfigured girl who shared a deep connection with his beloved, and offers him the dark truth of her whereabouts.

Like most of Miike’s body of work, Imprint is hardcore, so hardcore in fact that Showtime shelved the episode for fear of offending people with its disturbing, and extremely graphic content.

Jenifer

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Jenifer, based on a black and white graphic novel by Bruce Jones, and Berni Wrightson follows police officer Frank Spivey, who, after saving a horribly disfigured girl from a crazed man wielding a meat cleaver finds himself drawn to her. As his attraction for her grows Frank soon finds his mundane, yet happy existence torn to shreds.

Argento is fantastic at blending the erotic, and repulsive with captivating imagery, and Jenifer is no exception.

Cigarette Burns

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First off, I love John Carpenter, the man makes up one third of the unholy triumvirate of my favourite horror directors, (the other two being David Cronenberg, and Alfred Hitchcock) but for many years he evaded the Limelight. That is until Masters of Horror of course.

Cigarette Burns, is a return to form for Carpenter, who after the under-performing misstep, Ghosts of Mars had soured from making big budget films, and faded into relative obscurity for most of the 2000’s.

The story follows a pre Walking Dead Norman Reedus on his journey to find a copy of an infamous film that apparently turns its viewers into savage, blood thirsty madmen.

This episode has everything a diehard Carpenter fan could ask for, an eerie synth soundtrack, unsettling imagery, and tension thick enough to cut with a knife.

That’s all for the Thankskilling weekend. I do hope I’ve offered you enough organs, and entrails to satiate your appetites.

Until tomorrow my dearest darklings, stay scared!