Friday Favorites: John Carpenter

Since I just started reading Troy Howarth’s latest book, Assault on the System: The Nonconformist Cinema of John Carpenter, I thought it might be an interesting (though probably an easy one to call) question to see what your favorite John Carpenter film is. Now, as I said, I know there is going to be a lot of answers for the obvious choice, which would be Halloween (1978), which is fine because you can’t be wrong in what is your personal favorite. I’m sure The Thing (1982) is going to be up there as well. But I am curious to see if there will be any other titles named, such as The Fog (1980) or maybe even In the Mouth of Madness (1995).

Now here’s the catch. If you can, state WHY whatever title you’ve picked IS your favorite. I’m not looking for an essay here but something a little more than “it scared me”. Was it the suspense and pacing while you watched Michael Myers creep around the house? Or was it the unprecedented special effects when Norris head stretches off his body, grows legs and walks away. Or watching Christine rebuild herself after Artie ask her to “show me”. Maybe it was the time and place where you saw the film that made the impact? Again, not looking for essays but just a quick thought as to why your favorite means so much to you. Hopefully it won’t be too difficult, but brings up some fun discussions.

13 thoughts on “Friday Favorites: John Carpenter

  1. The Thing is #1 for me!
    I love pretty much everything about it! The grim and oppressive atmosphere that’s dripping with a sense of impending doom from the moment that we first see the desolate frozen arctic landscape. I love the story/concept of the “thing” and the cast is perfect! The score is way up there among my all time favorites. Of course, it’s all topped off by Bottin’s special effects masterwork which STILL holds up magnificently nearly 40 years later! One of the very few films that is truly worthy of the countless superlatives that have been used to describe it!

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  2. The Thing would top my list. I remember sitting in the theater and just being shocked and amazed at what I had just watched, never seen anything like it and realistically we still haven’t. One of my favorite movie theater experiences, also it was double feature with Creepshow to top it off. Everything about the movie is top notch, acting, setting, music, effects and so on. Still holds up well after all these years. Christine has slowly moved up the ladder as my second favorite.

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    • Since both you and Ryan mentioned The Thing, I’m just going to reply once. It is also my favorite of his work, with The Fog in the # 2 spot. I’m a sucker for a good old fashion ghost story.

      But getting back to The Thing, I had no idea what I was in for my first viewing (which was at a drive-in, with the first feature being Enter the Ninja! Strange, but no where near the double feature of it and Creepshow!). I don’t feel the movie has ever lost its impact over the years. It is still as powerful as ever, from the story itself, the characters, and the effects. One note, when films like Zombie came to DVD and Blu-ray, the effects looked a lot cheesier because of the clarity and hi-def resolution. But for The Thing, they still look freaking amazing as ever.

      I will somewhat agree with you, Don, about Christine. The last time I watched it, earlier this year, I believe, it still is a damn strong movie. Don’t think it would make it in the top 3 just yet…but time will tell.

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      • The Fog would be second on my list as well. Love that movie and, again, another fantastic score that ranks high on my favorites list!
        When it comes to Christine, I’ve always really liked that one as well. Escape From NY would round out my top 3, but Christine would likely be either in or just outside of my top 5.

        I think we may have found another topic for whenever we can finally get together at Wasteland again. Top 10 Carpenter films. I’m sure that we’ve already discussed this, but I’d be down for a revisit! Lol!

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      • I really want to like the Fog but it just doesn’t work for me. As for the Thing, you mention seeing Zombie on DVD/Bluray and the effects suffering from it and I agree. The Thing did not and it looks more amazing than ever now. Curious did you go to see the Thing or Enter the Ninja?

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      • Honestly, I was heavily into martial arts at the time, so I was going to see Enter the Ninja, but the fact that The Thing was the double feature, that was a bonus. I would have gone to see that one anyway. This particular drive-in was the only theater in Aurora that was screening The Thing. Never played in a inside theater here, or at least none that I remembered.

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  3. For me it’s THEY LIVE, Carpenter’s clever and entertaining take on the the power of greed. “Imagine if the Reagan Revolution is run by aliens from outer space,” is how the filmmaker concisely described it. Not only does Roddy Piper show up to “chew bubblegum and kick ass” (and he’s all out of bubblegum), but Carpenter puts his political heart out on his sleeve to deliver a sci-fi parable on self-enslavement of the Almighty Dollar. (It was the ’80s, after all.) Brilliant, I say.

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    • Oh no…one of “those guys”….;).

      I’m sorry to say, Bryan, but I’m one of the few that has never liked this movie from my very first viewing. I really need to go revisit it to find if my opinion has changed. I do love the concept and the idea of what Carpenter was trying to do. That part is brilliant. I just don’t feel it was executed well.

      Really need to re-watch…ugh.

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      • I will say that I had similar thoughts to when I saw Prince of Darkness in the theater. Loved the music but really did not like the film itself. But going back to it a few years ago when it got a Blu-ray release, I totally turn 180 on this one. Yes, there are a few issues I still have, but I think it is a brilliant story and just love that sense of dread that fills every frame. Plus, being since educated on Nigel Kneale and the Quatermass films since that first viewing, I could really appreciate PoD a lot more.

        So who knows…maybe I’ll turn on They Live…

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  4. The Thing takes the top spot for me. I believe it is far above his other films, and the one I have watched many times over the years, largely due to the tense direction and bad-ass effects by Rob Bottin and Stan Winston. I would agree with Jon on “The Fog” as my second favorite John Carpenter film.

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  5. Of course the thing is #1 for me. It really changed horror movies at the time.

    After that he has had several great movies but I would say #2 is a tie. First is the Fog- which is one of the coolest ideas for ghosts ever. Not just a haunting but ghosts that are bound to/ or control the ocean mists where their ship was purposely sunk. Great concept!

    Next is Escape from NY. Kind of silly I suppose but I love the feel of the movie; the gritty dark feel and the idea of criminal so out of control that we just dump them all on an island and let them all kill each other. (Kind of like a modern day Australia). It may just be because I saw this first on cable when I was a kid but I just have a fond feeling for it.
    Honestly most of his movies I have seen are great.

    I even loved his comedic role as an actor in Body Bags

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    • Glad to see even more love for The Fog. I agree, Chris, it is just a great ghost story. I love those stories that follow a curse or a kind of rule the ghosts have to follow, or have a particular mission of sorts they must finish.

      While I wouldn’t put Escape in my top 5, it is a great movie. I love the fact that they made this “future” not the epic futuristic that we all think the future would be, but pretty nihilistic. Love the audio commentary that Carpenter and Russell did on this one too. Damn funny and entertaining.

      Now on Escape from L.A., you’ll never hear me praise that one. Oof. Just terrible, in my opinion.

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