Interview – Catching Up with John Carpenter

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Interview - Catching Up with John CarpenterHe’s one of the film world’s most undisputed masters of horror with a catalog of work that delivers classic after classic. That’s why whenever we get a chance to talk with legendary director John Carpenter, we’re on it like a dog on a bone.

Recently John took a few minutes to chat about his career, his opinion of the genre today, and what he’s been up to in his spare time…

Of all my movies, I’ve always had a special fondness for The Thing. Dark and fierce, it was perhaps too much of a downer for audiences at the time. Appreciation for it has grown over the years, which makes me very happy.

Everyone has their favorite John Carpenter movie, but ask around and the usual consensus is the Kurt Russell-starring remake of The Thing From Another World, which just hit its 30th anniversary. Quite recently the remake emerged with Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr.’s take on the now classic story, sparking polarizing views across audiences. Asked of his feelings on the remake, Carpenter is very much to the point: “I’m happiest when one of my movies get remade that requires the remaker to pay me cash money…

Many wise audiences nowadays tend to look at the ongoing remake fever to be the result of a financially tentative film industry, but does he agree? “First of all, there’s no such thing as a cheap buck. Filmmaking is backbreaking work. Directors, casts, and crews earn every cent of their salaries, regardless of the movie they’re making. Secondly, homage is a tricky thing. Best to find something new in the material.

It doesn’t take long for me to start to reveal the awkward, hideous fan-boy beneath the journalistic veneer, prodding Carpenter for any whispers of a Big Trouble in Little China remake: “No whispers of remakes of Big Trouble in Little China. Only gurgles.

Known to be an avid gamer, I ask what he’s playing at the moment: “I’m replaying old games, waiting around for Borderlands 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Revolution.” And the films out there now that have impressed him the most? “I liked The Ides of March, Moneyball, the Sherlock Holmes movie. No comment on the bad ones…

Sure, I can admit — fan-boy an’ all — that it seems Carpenter has really lost his way as of late, losing the old magic found way back in Memoirs of an Invisible Man — fuck, I totally forgot that even existed! Others may be more inclined to point an accusative finger or two at the commercial failures that were Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from LA, both of which in my opinion fucking rocked balls. If you really want to start playing the blame game, you may want to lean toward the ill-fated Ghosts of Mars. That’s right — I even enjoyed Vampires, albeit largely on account of the near psychotic, electric performance of one Mr. James Woods.

So, 2011 saw the return of Carpenter to the big screen with what was largely seen as a disappointing effort, The Ward. In an attempt to get to the bottom of the steady decline in his critical reception, I ask him about studio interference, to which he replies, “Studio interference is always the same, year after year.”

To the future then… What does he think of the state of horror cinema today? Where does he see horror taking its next step? “Common wisdom has it that horror is bloodier, more violent, more savage than older movies. But much of the thematic material in modern horror seems thin, generic. And post-modern irony destroys impact.”

As always, many thanks to John for taking the time out to have a word with us.

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Aaron Williams

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  • MonsterMash

    Always excited when DC brings in a JC interview. I enjoyed The Ward. I don’t get all the hate. It’s a quality mind-fuck. Sort of in the same spirit of The Shining. Maybe not quite as good, but Carpenter has always delivered. Much horror love to the man who scared the shit out of me as a kid with The Thing.

  • Terminal

    I love how Carpenter has allowed these hacks to remake his films in to piss poor versions of his masterpieces while he collects paychecks and still tries to bring us quality entertainment. He hasn’t had a flawless career, but he’s created some truly brilliant genre pictures I hold in high regard. He’s a master.

    • LSD Zombie

      I doubt we’ll ever see a Prince of Darkness remake. That movie is just way too fuckin’ weird for major studios.

  • JB Demented

    Long live the master of horror. Hes had more hits than misses. Its really hard to say which movie of His is My favorite. If I had to pick Id say Halloween or The Thing. The Thing was the one movie of His that really scared the shit out of Me. And Halloween is just awesome and untouchable. I know the sequals were way bloodier but Nick Castle played the best Michael Myers out of all the men who wore the mask. I have yet to see The Ward. Most people seem to hate it, but I like to decide for Myself. And even if it is bad, Carpenter Has already made so many great films over the years. He will always have My respect.

  • Vanvance1

    The Ward was bad. Ghosts of Mars was bad. Escape from LA was sort of bad.
    Memoirs of an Invisible Man was almost okay.

    Everything else ranged from good to the best ever made.

    I hope he finds his muse again and gives us another classic.