ACW1995: Village of the Damned

John Carpenter. Village of the Damned. 1995.

Well, this isn’t a good movie, but it’s still got a kind of charm going. I’m not quite sure what that charm is, though.

Carpenter isn’t an overtly distinctive director, but it’s obvious that he’s got… something…

Even if it’s not really on display here much.

This post is part of the A Carpenter Winter series.

ACW1994: In the Mouth of Madness

I might be slightly mad here, me.

John Carpenter. In the Mouth of Madness. 1994.

I have no idea whether this was a studio film or not. It has a mid-level budget (more than twice of any of Carpenter’s indie films), but it’s wild and wacky.

It’s not really all that scary, but it keeps tension up throughout the movie.

And it’s so meta. I love meta, so.

This post is part of the A Carpenter Winter series.

ACW1993: Body Bags

John Carpenter. Body Bags. 1993.

After the horrible (but high-budgeted) Memories of an Invisible Man, Carpenter retreated to TV (Showtime) and made this fun anthology horror show. He directed two of the bits himself (and acted as the “Crypt Keeper” like host for the show) and left the third for Tobe Hooper.

This is the first non-2.35:1 Carpenter film I’ve seen since forever. He’s really hung up of that very wide screen wide format, but this one is only 16:9. I guess you have to make concessions for TV. But it still looks great and luxe, like Carpenter’s films always do, no matter what the budget is.

It’s scary! And it looks like the filmmakers had a hoot while making it.

I love the look of the Gas Station segment: It has a very “filmed at night” look instead of the usual “day for night” thing you often see.

I think this may be one of Carpenter’s best flims. It’s just so breezy, fun, snappy and unforced.

(The bluray I bought didn’t arrive in time for this screening, so I pirated it from teh torrenzt.)

Tobe Hooper’s bit is the weakest one by far. It’s more dramaey than hootey, and it kinda drags.

I threw the die based on the Carpenter parts only.

This post is part of the A Carpenter Winter series.

ACW1992: Memories of an Invisible Man

Oops. I seem to have the German bluray… But there’s an English soundtrack on there, too, so never mind.

This looks like an incredibly 80s film.

Yup. Even though it’s from 1992.

Oh, well.

He’s more 90s.

John Carpenter. Memories of an Invisible Man. 1992.

Oh, dead. Carpenter’s back making a studio film after two low-budget independet ones. And this one has the highest budget of his career, so we get stars like Chevy Chase and Darryl Hannah, and more crane shots than you can count.

And, as is the norm with Carpenter’s studio films, it was a massive flop at the box office. (And, as usual, didn’t fare well with the critics, either.)

It suffers from severe audience genre expectation confusion. It’s Chevy Chase, so is it going to be a screwy comedy? It’s Darryl Hannah, so is it going to be a romantic comedy? It’s John Carpenter, so is it going to be sci-fi horror? The title says “Invisible Man”, so is it a remake of the cheesy oldie horror flick?

But if you try to watch it without any of these prejudices, it’s… still kinda boring. It seems so restrained and tasteful (everything you don’t want in a John Carpenter film).

Unfortunately, there’s no “making of” extras on this bluray… Hm… Perhaps Wikipedia knows how this movie happened.

Ah. “[T]he film was initially developed for director Ivan Reitman; however, this version never came to fruition, due to disagreements between Reitman and Chevy Chase”. That makes more sense.

“The project was largely a vanity project shepherded by Chase through the studio (the film is billed as “A Cornelius Production” – Cornelius is Chevy Chase’s real first name). He wanted to make a film about the loneliness of invisibility, intending the film to be a bridge into less comedic roles.”

Oh, dear. I guess that explains everything.

So much chroma keying. So much boredom. The special effects are sometimes kinda interesting, I guess, but it’s just hard to care.

This post is part of the A Carpenter Winter series.

ACW1988: They Live

John Carpenter. They Live. 1988.

It was a dystopia back when Carpenter made it, but it seems like a pretty romantic and optimistic future now.

Anyway, there’s so much to like about this film. The unfathomably stupid protagonist and the wildly corny “pithy sayings” he comes up with; the drag-out professional wrestling match in that alley; OBEY; and the kick-ass heroine.

It’s like the greatest film ever.

This post is part of the A Carpenter Winter series.

ACW1987: Prince of Darkness

John Carpenter. Prince of Darkness. 1987.

After the unpleasant experience with releasing Big Trouble in Little China (the studio wanted Indiana Jones, which that film definitely wasn’t, so they made him recut the film a couple of times before spiking the release), Carpenter swore off studios. (Or perhaps it was the other way around, because Big Trouble flopped seriously.)

So we’re back to indie film-making on a pretty small budget. (A tenth of the previous film.) Carpenter re-uses some of the actors from Big Trouble, though, and Donald Pleasance from his earlier low-budget films.

It’s pretty scary; perhaps Carpenter’s spookiest horror film so far. But it could have done with a bit of editing. Not a lot, but some of the scenes are just a smidge too long.

This post is part of the A Carpenter Winter series.

ACW1986: Big Trouble in Little China

John Carpenter. Big Trouble in Little China. 1986.

I really thought I had seen this before, but absolutely nothing looks familiar.

I do remember this film getting really bad reviews at the time, and I can see why. It’s a zany comedy/action film; a very popular genre in the 80s. But Carpenter seems to have too much fun with the concept, so I guess it was just too much for people? If the action isn’t taken seriously enough, people (and I mean 14 year old boys) might feel condescended to?

It’s very silly, and I like that, but it’s also very loud, which I don’t particularly enjoy this evening. Everybody’s shouting all the time.

But after taking an acetaminophen things got a lot funnier. Kurt Russell is perfect as the buffoonish action hero.

Is this the first Carpenter film to use greenscreen extensively?

This post is part of the A Carpenter Winter series.