The title “Master of Horror” is thrown around quite a bit. Often it’s warranted but sometimes not so much. In the case of filmmaker John Carpenter, however, you cannot heap enough accolades upon him.
Although he is one of the forerunners of the modern slasher sub-genre of horror, Carpenter’s credits go far beyond that. He is not only a true master of horror, but an incredibly diverse and talented filmmaker.
In honor of Scream Factory’s November 19th Collector’s Edition Blu-ray/DVD combo pack release of Assault on Precinct 13, we thought we’d sort through his impressive body of work and give you our Top 10 John Carpenter Films.
From celebrating Halloween in Haddonfield to escaping from New York and experiencing big trouble in China, Carpenter’s films are as diverse as they are entertaining. With honorable mentions to his first movie, Dark Star; the enchanting Starman; and anthology film Body Bags (which got its own Scream Factory Collector’s Edition Blu-ray/DVD release earlier this month on the 12th), let’s take a look at some of his finest moments.
Not necessarily one of the more iconic John Carpenter films but an enjoyable effort nonetheless. Adapted from the John Steakley novel Vampire$, this movie stars James Woods as Jack Crow, a professional vampire hunter. When Crow runs into uber-vamp Jan Valek, all Hell breaks loose. Vampires is more of a Western film disguised as a horror movie, but it performs wonderfully to appease both genres. Also starring Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee and Thomas Ian Griffith as Valek, Vampires is a cool good versus evil story loaded with killer practical effects.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Carpenter would frequently use the same actor repeatedly, and Big Trouble in Little China was the fourth collaboration between the director and star Kurt Russell. This martial arts/comedy film finds Jack Burton (Russell) fighting for his life trying to help his friend in the underworld of Chinatown. Big Trouble in Little China was rushed into production in order to hit theaters before Eddie Murphy’s The Golden Child, which was a similar film. China beat Child by five months but would only gross about $11 million to Child’s nearly $80 million. It was also released just 16 days before the box office juggernaut Aliens, which didn’t help matters either. Fortunately, Big Trouble in Little China would go on to become a cult favorite with big success on home video.
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
Marking his first work with long-time collaborator Debra Hill, Carpenter considers Assault on Precinct 13 his first real film as he was shooting on a schedule. Carpenter not only wrote and directed the film, but he scored and even edited it. High on violence and action, Assault on Precinct 13 tells the story of the defense of a police station against a gang of ruthless toughs and ne’er-do-wells. Like Big Trouble in Little China, it was another Carpenter film to struggle originally at the box office, only to grow a cult following later on. Many consider it to be one of the greatest siege films of the 1970’s and beyond.