Posts Tagged ‘John Carpenter’

Been there, done that: John Carpenter’s ‘Escape from L.A.’ is a lackluster sequel

December 15, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 15, 2015

John Carpenter is one of the all-time great directors of horror movies. His 1978 feature, Halloween, practically invented the slasher flick out of whole cloth. A number of the director’s pictures involve the only type of horror that I like watching — the kind that comes with a science-fiction twist. John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) is one of the best examples of the subgenre, rivaled perhaps only by Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), which explores the same sort of body horror as Carpenter’s picture.

(Not coincidentally, Carpenter co-wrote his first feature, the 1974 student film Dark Star, with Dan O’Bannon, who was one of Alien’s co-writers.)

Other than Halloween and The Thing, Carpenter is probably best known for Escape from New York, his 1981 science fiction/action movie in which Manhattan has been converted to a prison island to which convicts are permanently banished. The movie boasts a terrific premise and was a perfect reflection of a time when many Americans viewed cities — and New York City in particular — as dangerous dens of decay and iniquity.

The feature also benefited tremendously from a glowering Kurt Russell, who starred as Snake Plissken, the taciturn ex-Special Forces war hero-turned-prisoner who’s ordered to retrieve the president, and the vital information that he carries, before the explosive charges that have been implanted in his body detonate. (The government trusts Plissken only as far as it can bully him.)

Read the rest of this entry »

In a remote research base in Antarctica, ‘John Carpenter’s The Thing’ walks among us…

December 10, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 10, 2013

It is early winter in Antarctica. A dozen men are stationed at an American research base so remote that they have no means of communicating with the outside world, even by radio.

Three strangers approach unannounced. There are two men, both Norwegian. One accidentally blows himself up with a hand grenade. The other man is shot and killed after he fires his rifle at an American. And the third visitor is…not what it seems to be.

The Americans know immediately that something strange is afoot, but a visit to the Norwegians’ wrecked and abandoned base does nothing to illuminate the mystery. Soon, however, it becomes apparent that the Norwegians encountered some kind of alien life form.

This creature — this thing — can assimilate and perfectly mimic the appearances of its victims. It now seems to have infiltrated the American outpost. And it would like nothing more than to introduce itself to the animals and plants that populate the Earth’s more hospitable realms… 

This is the premise of John Carpenter’s The Thing, a 1982 science fiction/horror classic that subjects its characters and audience to a taut mixture of suspense and visceral shocks. The movie was written by Bill Lancaster based on a classic short story by John W. Campbell Jr. and directed by John Carpenter.

The man at the center of the story is helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady, a pragmatic but thoughtful man of action who skates along the barrier between sanity and paranoia. MacReady is played by a bearded, intense Kurt Russell; as the story progresses, and the prospect of oblivion moves ever closer, his determination to survive — and to destroy the alien — shines through with increasing ferocity.

Read the rest of this entry »

Carpenter’s ho-hum ‘Ghosts of Mars’ is a pale imitation of the master’s best work

May 29, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 29/May 31, 2013

John Carpenter is a film legend, the director of such science fiction and horror hits as HalloweenThe Thing, Escape from New York and They Live! Unfortunately, Carpenter’s outstanding resume only serves to make Ghosts of Mars, his ho-hum 2001 outing, all the more disappointing.

The story, scripted by Carpenter and Larry Sulkis, is not unpromising. The tale begins in the year 2176 on Mars, which is in the process of being terraformed and colonized by a matriarchal society. Martian police Cmdr. Helena Braddock and a team of two veteran and two rookie officers are dispatched to an outpost to pick up one James “Desolation” Williams, a notorious criminal wanted for murder.

The task seems simple enough, even though Williams is considered highly dangerous. But when the team’s cargo train arrives at the town, they find it has become a charnel house. Several beheaded corpses are hanging from the rafters of the recreation facility. A few inarticulate individuals are hanging around, but they’re incapable of explaining what has happened.

It soon becomes apparent that the eponymous ghosts of Mars have taken possession of a number of humans and begun killing the rest. After Braddock is slain, it falls to her chief deputy, Lt. Melanie Ballard, to organize the surviving members of her team, Williams’ gang and a few others against a coming onslaught of zombified townspeople.

Read the rest of this entry »

Taut-muscled Russell helps John Carpenter break the mold in ‘Escape from New York’

December 10, 2012

In the not-so-distant future (1988), crime in the United States quadruples. The nation builds a 50-foot-high wall around Manhattan Island, mines the bridges and tunnels, and declares the borough the country’s only maximum security prison. There are no guards, and only one rule: Once you go in, you don’t come out.

In the distant future (1997), one day before a crucial wartime summit in Hartford, Conn., a hijacker crashes Air Force One into the prison. The president’s protective pod is located, but when U.S. Police Force troops land nearby, they find it empty.

A bizarre man with a hyena’s laugh walks up to Bob Hauk, the U.S. police commissioner. “You touch me, he dies,” the oddball says. “If you’re not in the air in 30 seconds, he dies. You come back in, he dies.” He reveals a severed finger bearing the president’s signet ring.

Hauk asks what the captors want. The oddball just counts down the seconds. Hauk orders his men back to the helicopters and pulls out.

The secretary of state urges Hauk to storm the island. Hauk refuses, certain that the president will be killed.

Fortunately, he has a plan. As fate would have it, one Snake Plissken, an ex-Special Forces war hero turned bank robber, is about to be imprisoned on Manhattan Island. Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: