62. John Carpenter
HALLOWEEN, THE THING, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK
One of the most important figures in modern horror and science fiction, John Carpenter made some of the most influential and copied films in the last 30 years. Beginning in 1974 with a student film, Dark Star, which eventually became too enormous and became a theatrically-released feature, Carpenter parlayed his dark sense of humor and eye for realistically scary situations into a career in genre-defining cinema. Between 1976 and 1988, Carpenter made ten features which, while different in theme, all share the singular style and temperament. Carpenter’s favorite director is Howard Hawks and has emulated his hero in his solid, unshowy camera techniques. Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) is an ostensible remake of Hawks’ Rio Bravo, with the grittiness of a near-future gangland transposed onto the story of a Sheriff defending his jail. A skilled musician as well, Carpenter also did the scores for most of his films, composing the iconic melody for his proto-slasher movie, Halloween (1978), a film which he himself has declared would not be in the least bit scary if not for the music. Aside from Halloween, Carpenter’s best known films are his collaborations with actor Kurt Russell. In total, they made five films together beginning with the television biopic Elvis in 1979 and the feature films Escape from New York (1981), The Thing (1982), a remake of another Hawks film, Big Trouble in Little China (1986), and the ill-conceived Escape from L.A. in 1996. The characters Russell played in the films are among the most famous in his own career. Carpenter also had a fascination with the supernatural and made a number of movies involving ghosts and demons, such as The Fog (1980), Christine (1983), and Prince of Darkness (1987), a sadly much underrated film. In the 1990s moving forward, Carpenter’s filmic output became less heavy, and frankly less remarkable with clunkers like Memoires of an Invisible Man (1992), Village of the Damned (1995), Ghosts of Mars (2001), and the aforementioned Escape from L.A. He did, however, manage two interesting films, In the Mouth of Madness (1993), and Vampires (1998), his only foray into the fanged creatures. While his later work leaves much to be desired, his importance to horror, science fiction, and film in general cannot be overstated.
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