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Spotlight – John Carpenter

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I thought I’d beef up my 2020 month of Halloween horror with a few spotlights on some of the better known horror directors, and for me I can’t think of horror cinema without mentioning John Carpenter. While I admire that he’s one of the ultimate masters of the macabre, he went above and beyond to bring his personal vision of horror to the screen, taking on any role he could, camera man, extra, you name it, he went there to get it all done and on a shoestring budget until he made a name for himself. I am unable to justify all of his movies and I have struggled with some of his more modern efforts, if not the movie then at least some of the casting.. , but I do stand by the fact he’s one of the best and will always be known as a king of horror.

08 – They Live (1988)

More of a sci fi action flick I felt guilty for attempting to leave this off the list. Following a drifter, Nada (Roddy Piper) who finds a pair of glasses that allows him to see foul faced aliens and their draconian propaganda, Eventually teaming up with Frank (Keith David) their love/hate bond helps them fight each other and the alien invasion with their unique brand of bubblegum free ass kicking. It’s a vibrant action flick with so much character it’s never been matched. Continue reading Spotlight – John Carpenter

The Fog (1980)


Day 3 of 31

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The Fog  (Horror, 1980) (18) D: John Carpenter W: John Carpenter and Debra Hill  C: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie, Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, John Houseman, Janet Leigh, Hal Holbrook. 1h 19m. USA.

Synopsis : Legend says that Antonio Bay was built in 1880 with blood money obtained from shipwrecked lepers but no one believes it. On the eve of the town’s centennial many plan to attend the celebrations, including the murdered lepers.



A chilling film about a small town with a dark past that on it’s 100th birthday finds itself at the mercy of a group of not so jolly zombie pirates who cloak themselves in an unseemingly dangerous fog. Surprisingly this film isn’t based on the book by James Herbert with the same name, instead it’s a story written by Carpenter and Hill, collating a lot of folklore and urban legend style stories of old American towns, corruption and inert fears of the weather.

With a few similarities to Halloween (1978) the residents of Antonio Bay are being plagued by a series of strange supernatural events that are drawn to the church within the town.

Considering the film is basically about a haunting it does have equal amounts of action and tense slower creeping scenes. It starts out in a miraculous way. An old man is telling a campfire tale to some school children around a fire, a story about ghosts and old ships wrecked on the shore, it really sets the scene for the movie, although the film is a tad scarier than the old man’s story!! Cutting from there we’re introduced to Stevie Wayne (Andrienne Barbeau) a radio DJ who works alone and lives with her young son. She’s considered quite a hotty and is often chatted up by Dan O’Bannon (Charles Cyphers) who gives her the weather information. Nick Castle (Tom Atkins), an avid fisherman is another inhabitant of the island and picks up Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis) when she is hitchhiking, as their romance blossoms during the most tragic era of Antonio Bay. Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh)is setting up the celebrations of the town’s 100th birthday with her amazingly enthusiastic assistant Sandy (Nancy Kyes/Loomis) and to top it off we have the drunken paranoid priest Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) who uncovers a secret diary and starts to decipher the real history of the town. The film flows through keeping the scares and chills regularly between but as more information is uncovered about the past then as a viewer your perspective is changed.

Taking different aspects of many an old tale, the Fog filters through being a ghost story, as well as being a thrilling mystery as well.  It’s also interesting how pieces of information is uncovered by separate groups of people and how they come together to try and solve the big picture, everyone is connected to the past here. There is a huge recurring theme within the movie about families and family ties,  and part of the conundrum is in relation to the founding fathers and this is revisited time and time again when it comes to the relationships among the characters.

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Now I’m going to talk about two really intriguing moments in the movie that I absolutely adore but they are totally random and no one else care about them. So get the violins out and bare with me. There are a few scenes of mystery that I really adore, I don’t want to take away all the thunder from the amazing creepy scenes on the boat and in the hospital when corpses become very animated. But there is a simple yet great scene when Andy (Stevie’s Son) finds a gold coin on the beach but when it tries to pick it up, it’s suddenly a piece of driftwood, I personally can’t see the cut scene, how did they do it? Also I can’t not write about this film and mention the scene where Blake voice take over the radio (funnily enough this is a follow on scene from the coin morphing driftwood scene) he says “Something that one lives with like an albatross around the neck, No, more like a milestone. A plumbing stone, by God! Damn them all! Now I don’t know if it’s just Charles Nicklin’s voice or the sentiment but it’s just so powerful.

The quirkiest part of this movie isn’t the visuals or the effects it has to be the names! Carpenter used so many names of people he knew as characters and chucked in a few comedy names too including Dr Phibes, and finally.. John himself and Deborah Hill appear in the film unaccredited of course.

From the Wiki.. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fog

  • Dan O’Bannon is a screenwriter who worked with Carpenter on Dark Star (1974).
  • Nick Castle is the actor who played Michael Myers in Halloween (1978).
  • Tommy Wallace has worked with Carpenter as an editor, art designer, and sound designer on several of his films in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • Richard Kobritz, the producer of Carpenter’s 1978 TV film Someone’s Watching Me! inspired the name of the character Mrs. Kobritz.

Other references that are interwoven into the film include the name of the John Houseman character “Mr. Machen” (a reference to British horror fantasist Arthur Machen); a radio report that mentions Arkham Reef; and the town’s coroner Dr. Phibes was named after the titular character of the horror films starring Vincent Price from the early 1970s.

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One of the titanic factors in relation to the spooky effects has to be great rolling fog scenes and creatures hidden in the mist. Don’t get your hopes up they aren’t like Silent Hill in anyway but they are a different style of hopalong horror pirate kinda way. although there are no parrots, you can’t have a pirate film with no parrots.. I might have to write to John about this! I jest. Going back to my point, there are some effect scenes where the fog is blowing into the town and while some of it looks a little tacky today it could be a lot worse.

For me it’s impractical to pinpoint the bad guys in this film. I want to point the finger in a few directions but not at the people who are currently being persecuted, this makes Blake and the other pirates total assholes, but they still descend upon the town wreaking havoc and  I’m not sure what justice they were expecting?

Poor Jamie Lee got the worse role in the movie, she appears as if from nowhere and her character is suddenly thrust into a world of spooky weird shit.  She does consider herself to be unlucky and she was so right. She has strange flying objects hitting cars that she’s a passenger in, dead people falling on and around her, then ends up being chased by zombies, it’s as if she wasn’t punished enough in Halloween (1978). Kurt Russell was offered the chance to appear in the movie but declined, it would have been a great early Carpenter Holy Trilogy of Russell movies but the the life of me I can’t picture him in this style of film, the ghosts would have left when he flamed the shut outta them, blowing up the entire town and pissing off the mayor and priest.

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Carpenter was coasting along on a few massive success stories with his previous movies and I think he aimed really high with this film, despite it being cut and slashed before being released it’s still an excellent film but I wonder what he really had in store for us. I would imagine the team involved in this had a lot of fun playing around in whatever weather effects.

If you like a bit of spooky and it’s a clear night then this will be a good choice, but it’s not as hard hitting as other Carpenter movies of the time,  it doesn’t have the dynamics of Precinct 13 (1976) or the thing. It’s way more “traditional”  it’s story and approach.

The ghostly aspects of this film work well, the phantoms are both brutal and cunning and pretty creepy with their red eyes and hooked hands, but a little bit of me wanted to see more kills and violence but that’s the kinda girl I am. I adore the mystery solving, it’s not too Miss Marple and even a simpleton like myself is able to follow along. There isn’t much wrong with the film and I thoroughly enjoy it, apart from the double ending, one is okay the other is quite what the fuck!?

V: While it will be considered dates and has been remade with an inferior 2005 film. I have constantly enjoyed The Fog time and time again. It was one of the earliest Carpenter films that I remember seeing similar faces in and I adore directors who work with people time and time again. The Fog still gives me chills and I enjoy so many of the well scripted and beautiful scenes, not always the most scariest but also some warming interactions.It’s just brilliant!




Rating –  9/10

L: Radio DJ’s in films, Weather movies, Pirate films, Selected Ghost flicks
R: Silent Hill (2006), Prince of Darkness (1987), The Fog (2005), Village of the Damned (1960)

The Thing (1982)



Day 2 of 31wpid-https%3a%2f%2f41.media_.tumblr.com%2f3e95f0115ff90b7ce6b23b7f14b8d462%2ftumblr_mrhjqjo8im1sa9dy9o1_1280.png

The Thing  (Horror, Science Fiction,  1982) (18) D: John Carpenter W: Bill Lancaster (Screenplay) John W Campbell Jr (book) P:  C: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, TK Carter, David Clennon, Thomas G Waites. 1h 49m. USA.

Synopsis : In remote Antarctica, a group of American research scientists are disturbed at their base camp by a helicopter shooting at a sled dog. When they take in the dog, it brutally attacks both human beings and canines in the camp and they discover that the beast can assume the shape of its victims. A resourceful helicopter pilot (Kurt Russell) and the camp doctor (Richard Dysart) lead the camp crew in a desperate, gory battle against the vicious creature before it picks them all off, one by one.

TAGLINE : What you fear most… is among you/ When man is the warmest place to hide.


A masterpiece of horror that transforms an 1938 novel from the original lumbering monster, icy psychological creepshow into a full frontal explosion of guts, gore, sinew and other substances, that managed to help a whole new genre of horror breakthrough in the early 80’s. Long gone were the blustery castles of hammer horror classics, horror was taking a turn and it was heading straight into a chest cavity rather than going for the heart.

Back in 1938 John W Campbell Jr, penned an astounding science fiction story under the name of Don A. Stuart and stunned a small audience with his unusual tale Who Goes There!?. Since then it’s been adapted many times as The Thing from Another World (1951) and a lose but great link to Hammer Horror escapade, Horror Express (1972) and while they play heavily on the psychological horrors, the Thing (1982)  was the primary tearaway in the direction of putrid science.

The film plays on all of the traditional aspects of the original story that I will explain but it also really pushes the boundaries of modern special effects. They are bountiful but intelligently places and very experimental for the time. Carpenter  transforms the original monster from a Frankenstein (1931) style lumbering monster into what the original book depicted, a shape shifting alien running amok in an military arctic base whose every cell is a living creature.

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The basic plot is.. a group of scientist in a remote arctic station are under attack from an unknown being from another planet who can transform into any one of them. the film quite literally starts of at running pace, the classic opening of the dog running through the snow and it’s arrival at the base that kicks off the bloodshed. Thing remain intense as the team become aware of their alien foe, tempers and suspicions run high and there is a ton of accusations and conflict mixed with technicolour gore. Suddenly your friends might no be your friends, but instead they might be the monster.

While the original is a superb movie, the effects are of course limited to the skills of the time. After the intro scene of the dog running through the snow and some clashes of character between the scientist, and McCready vs the Chess Machine (gotta note the machine is voiced by Andrienne Barbeau). The film takes a dramatic change when the dogs face explodes and an arm with an eye tried to pull itself through the ceiling. It shocked audiences back in the 80’s and despite watching the movie over 100 times it still gets a reaction out of me. This only kicks off a spectacle of tentacles, giant teeth, mangled body parts, that might not seem all that unusual today but this is coming to a generation who had hammer house of horror ghouls and caped vampires to contend with,  suddenly they are are getting alien juices in their faces, it was truly terrifying.

There are many interesting quirks, for the horror fans it has to be the effects. When chest cavities start to open up as a tooth filled mouth and heads grow legs and run away, the film is a psychotronic tapestry of gory fun. But what can’t be ignored is the chilling ending and constant guessing on who the alien is. In a similar way to Blade Runner (1982) fans are often looking out for those little clues to suggest who had contracted the virus and when.

Considering this film is set in one of the least habitable areas on the planet, there wasn’t a lot to be done with sweeping landscapes, what could be done was covered in the opening scenes when the dog is being chased down and on an excursion trip to the frozen Norwegian (Swedes) base. The base itself is amazing,the final stages of an epic struggle are frozen in time and in ice as if a picture was taken and left for the American team. While it’s graphically damning and curious, we can clearly see the base has been partially burnt out and team members have slit throats while holding razors, we don’t really understand why until it all starts kicking off.


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Careful attention is payed to the screenplay in this sci fi mystery. it has curious little scenes interjected at high octane moments that hint at whereabouts of the Thing, but you do have to piece things together especially at the end. One of the wonders of the thing is that while clues are given as to who the thing may be, it’s still often a shock when it decides to reveal itself, not only as to who isn’t who they appear to be but also the fucking insane creature developments that sprout out when the alien is cornered. As with all of John Carpenter’s films this one boasts one of his deep pounding electronic soundtracks, it masterfully orchestrates  this bleak isolated films heartbeat. It also raises the fears and tensions that this confined base is experiencing. When the shit starts kicking off, you’ll notice something strange scuttling in the corner of the room, this is often the monster making a break for it. It’s strange to look back on it but for most of the film the creature is right in front of us.. but you just never know.

Kurt Russell returns as a slightly more chilled Snake Plissken, equally heroic and majorly pissed the fuck off. He’s great for this type of role,and successfully manages to give enough for a team effort to fight the thing while keeping his wits about him for some self preservation. MccReady really is my hero, possibly more so than Snake.Along side him there are several very strong characters, including the Keith David as Childs, possibly the only other character as pissed off as McCready and the ultimate ancient aliens stoner Palmer played by the multi talented David Clennon.

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I honestly think that Carpenter was having a Palmer inspired smoke while coming up with the wild ideas on how this creature could split up and explode out of dogs heads and all the crazy shit going on with the thing. It really hammers home the idea that the “thing”has visited countless planets and life forms and has all of their memories and survival tactics at hand in its biological arsenal, as with a similar creature in Horror Express (1972) It’s hard to understand how such a creature could die or be disposed of. I also find it quite funny that these amazing specimens managed to crash land or get left behind.

While it cannot be ignored that the basic plot for this movie centres around a group of scientist battling against a creature that can break itself down to a molecule and infect others and take over bodies and duplicate itself, it’s worth mentioning that it’s also a massive struggle for survival of both creatures. it’s more prevalent in Horror Express as the creature communicates and details its plans, but ultimately it just wants to survive and return home. The scientist are more concerned with science things and assumes that it wants to take over the planet.

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You’ll need a fairly strong stomach to get through this film, for me it’s a great one to watch with friends, often falling into long deep conversations starting with “if i were the thing how would you know?” you’ll be amazed at how much the people around you really take in about you, and this is what makes the film extra special, the thing had to mimic each person so perfectly that their closest friends couldn’t ever tell. How fucked up is that!!??


Truly one of the greatest 80’s horror movies and will certainly remain a cult classic for some time. Fair enough it’s a remake of a film based on a great book. But it made bold jump from psychological sci fi horror to a intense gore filled psychological sci fi horror action nightmare! I will never fall out of love with this movie and it’s characters it’s simply amazing and I can’t praise it enough. I would recommend watching the original movie and reading or listening to the story Who Goes There,I hope you find them all as rewarding and inspirational as I do. As for the prequel I’m not sold but I will rewatch it and review it at some point. It honestly scared the bejsus out of me as a child and some aspects of it still scare me today, it might not totally frighten audiences today but it is still a great action movie and shouldn’t be missed.


R: 10/10

R: Blutgletscher – Blood Glacier (2013), Horror Express (1972), The Thing (2011), Alien (1979)

PD : Post Discussion

Halloween (1978)



Day 1 of 31


Halloween (1978)  (Horror, thriller,  1978) (18) D: John Carpenter W: John Carpenter (screenplay), Debra Hill (screenplay)  C: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Moran. 1h 31m. USA.

Synopsis : The year is 1963, the night: Halloween. Police are called to 43 Lampkin Ln. only to discover that 15 year old Judith Myers has been stabbed to death, by her 6 year-old brother, Michael. After being institutionalized for 15 years, Myers breaks out on the night before Halloween. No one knows, nor wants to find out, what will happen on October 31st 1978 besides Myers’ psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis. He knows Michael is coming back to Haddonfield, but by the time the town realizes it, it’ll be too late for many people.

TAGLINE : HE came home for HALLOWEEN.

A mighty birth of a monster movie, Halloween has captured the hearts of many horror fans over the years because it simply is great horror movie on so many levels. It’s not just simply a mindless slasher hulk but it’s also a shocking thriller too.

Inspired by various news clippings detailing gruesome murders and horrific real stalker and slasher events, Carpenter managed to cobble the pieces together in a Bryan Singer fashion; when outlining the cult classic Usual Suspects (1995).

Halloween is traditionally supposed to be a scary time of year but it’s been watered down into something that children can now enjoy, it’s also that time of year when every stranger has a mask. The beauty of this movie is that it simultaneously gives Halloween a new face and instantly hides it be beneath a white latex William Shatner mask. Continue reading Halloween (1978)