I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Carpenter

tn_carpenterslashersearch'11Here’s a weird one. Martin (Pierre Lenoir) comes home one day to find his wife Alice (Lynne Adams – “Yakuza with rocket launcher” in JOHNNY MNEMONIC) cutting his suits into little squares. After Alice has a stint in a mental hospital the couple comes to live in a new house, still undergoing some refurbishment.

One night Alice wakes up and hears power tools being used in the basement. She investigates and finds a dude (Wings “Ramrod” Hauser) still working on the house. He explains that he has a strong work ethic and won’t stop until the job’s not finished.

Over time Alice develops a friendship with this weird carpenter. With his corny inspirational slogans he’s probly full of shit, but he’s definitely more supportive than her husband, who turns out to be a sleazeball professor sleeping with one of his students. Because Alice is the only one that ever seems to see The Carpenter, and since it’s weird for him to be working in the middle of the night, and also since she has had some mental health problems in the recent past, you assume he’s probly a hallucination. But then the guys working on the house keep noticing the progress that he’s making and get pissed because they think their boss is bringing in “scabs” (a hypocritical thing to worry about when you’re a non-union guy working shittily for cheap).

mp_carpenterAnd of course as people do bad things to Alice the Carpenter intervenes and uses his circular saw, drills, staple and nail guns on them. Because he’s The Carpenter. Although there are some goofy arm severings the emphasis of the movie is not really on these killings. It almost seems like they just put them in there and rushed through them because it was the ’80s and they knew people would expect that kind of stuff. Everything is surreal and ambiguous. After mutilating one guy he pins him against the wall to politely make room for the lady to pass by unobstructed by bloody dying mutilated victims. Nobody finds the bodies or seems to be looking for the missing people, although sometimes it is noticed that they’re gone.

In one of the more bizzare scenes a sheriff (Ron Lea) shows up at the house on a motorcycle. I believe this actor is trying to mega-act a little bit, but arguably without the skills to do it safely. He makes a huge show, revving his engine, chewing his gum, doing a funny two-handed knock on the door. He comes in and talks to her, never taking off his sunglasses, saying he’s just there to welcome her to the neighborhood. You assume he really knows something is up and will be back. Then you never see him again. He does provide some exposition though about a former owner of the house. We can now assume The Carpenter is some kind of ghost. Or the house makes its inhabitants go crazy. Or crazy people bring out the evil in the house. Or something.

By the end I believe we’re dealing with a movie where the protagonist is considering leaving her husband for a murderous ghost. I mean, that’s gotta hurt. But he’s a shitty husband, you can’t say he doesn’t deserve it at all.

mp_carpenterBThere’s definitely some class tension here. One of the dumbasses working on the house has the hots for Alice because she’s “classy,” and he gets pissed off when she isn’t charmed by him showing up drunk at her house at night. This is a pretty insulting depiction of the working man as a beer-swilling, sexually aggressive moron who doesn’t even seem to understand the risk of hitting on the wife of the guy you work for. You know man, she would have good reasons to turn you down other than being stuck up.

Although the subject matter’s real different it kept reminding me of THE STEPFATHER, maybe because it’s so based in one suburban house location and in combining old fashioned American family values with evil and murder. But THE STEPFATHER is more clear in what it’s trying to say and more direct in being suspenseful and scary. The appeal of THE CARPENTER is more in unpredictability, because what the fuck is it up to? It’s usually hard to tell.

The director, David Wellington, later became a pretty prolific TV director, working on shows including The Kids in the Hall and the American version of Queer As Folk. The writer, Doug Taylor, later wrote IN THE NAME OF THE KING: A DUNGEON SIEGE TALE, THEY WAIT and SPLICE. He probly always regretted that the girl didn’t fuck the ghost, that’s why he was sure to have an Academy Award winning actor fuck his monster daughter in SPLICE.vhs

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, October 24th, 2011 at 12:13 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

25 Responses to “The Carpenter”

  1. They really should make more horror movies named after famous directors. I’d watch a movie called The Friedkin.

  2. Yeah, THE HITCHER should have called THE HITCHCOCK. They totally missed an opportunity.

  3. I love how on the box cover Hauser looks like a deranged handyman, and on the movie poster, he’s wearing a fancy suit like some kinda mafioso hitman.

  4. nabroleon dynamite

    October 24th, 2011 at 6:27 am

    @Knox Harrington.

    You’re definitely on to something!!

    I’d kick down the cinema doors to see “The Gordon” or “The Henenlotter”

    “The Romero” would probably be a lame romantic comedy though…

  5. THE HOOPER: Set in the late sixties as society is undergoing massive changes, a hula hoop salesman goes insane when the kids are more interested in recreational drugs than his product. Multiple bloody hoopings ensue, culminating in the hooper twirling a razor-edged hula hoop in the middle of the crowd at Woodstock while Hendrix plays the Star Spangled Banner.

    I’ve actually seen THE CARPENTER, and I like it. Wings Hauser, as always, is a great psycho. I especially appreciate how the wife just takes the whole thing in stride. She’s just like, “Two possibilities: I’m insane or that’s a ghost. Either way I don’t feel like dealing with it. I’m taking another Valium and going back to bed.” I think more of us would react this way if faced with the same circumstances than we would like to admit.

  6. Is it just me or do you get the feeling that the name “Wings” was engineered to make all other names sound just a bit nerdy in comparison?

  7. Some filmmakers just have scary names. I mean, can you imagine facing a boogeyman called The Fincher? I’d piss myself.

  8. Jareth: I think Powers Boothe would dispute that point.

    Knox: “He made me put that thing on. And then he made me finch her. And I did. I finched her!”

  9. Powers Boothe is less a name than it is a force of nature.

    Also, your bra bomb better work, Majestlinger.

  10. I’m lost Did I forget an inside joke? Did I black out and post something regrettable?

  11. Coming in 2012: Powers Boothe, Michael Ironside, and Clancy Brown are the only men who can stop THE MILIUS.

  12. Marlow, that’s ridiculous. Nothing can stop The Milius.

    Except maybe The Hill.

  13. Run! It’s THE HENENLOTTER!

  14. Coming this Halloween: THE FULCI. It’ll fuck your shit up good.

  15. That’s a cool idea. Since they’ve got these ghost killer movies, why not have like a wax museum where all the big horror directors’ ghosts come to life and kill people. Tons of opportunities for classic references, and then you’d have as good an explanation as any as to why these ghosts are out to kill after death. It wouldn’t have to be out of revenge or sadism or what have you, it’s because they liked killing people in movies, but now they don’t have that outlet and they have to kill moviegoers…though I don’t know yet why a bunch of directors’ ghosts who all became ghosts at different times would all gather in one place and wreak havoc. Maybe a superfan calls them forth in a seance? Maybe he’s the kid who works at the wax museum/theater/seance place?
    It is nice that in the above review, we learn about a killer who uses power tools to kill people because it’s just a slight jump from his vocation, or what used to be his vocation. I like that in horror movies, like the miner killing people with his pickaxe in MY BLOODY VALENTINE. In our movie directors’ as killers movie, that would mean Hitch would need to strangle someone with a ROPE he then hides, and stuff like that. Maybe the movie could end, instead of with the evil ghost directors being defeated by the Last Girl, by her getting them to argue about how to kill her to fall in line with their various cinematic styles, and then they kick each other’s asses back to hell.

  16. They left him for dead…but he was only 99 and 44/100ths dead. This Halloween, an endless resumé is the least you’ll have to fear from…THE FRANKENHEIMER.

  17. The Herzog

    It creeps you out subtly, but then the profound voice overs comfort you.

    The Del Toro

    You should be scared, but you’re too busy being impressed at the craftsmanship of the animatronic viscera.

    The Spielberg

    The frights are excellent, but why are we cutting to a moment of effusive humanism.

  18. The Wilder

    Laugh. ‘Till it hurts.

  19. The Woo

    You might be slightly scared if you are under 5 years old.

    woooo!

    woooooo!

  20. All you buddy comedy fans, don’t forget to check out FERRARA & KITANO MEET THE C.H.U.D.S.

  21. We’ve done pretty much everybody but somehow we left one out. Nobody wants to touch THE CRONENBERG.

    Actually, that should probably be on the poster. “This summer, nobody wants to touch…THE CRONENBERG.”

  22. You could pair it with:

    “Get lost inside…The Welles!”

  23. Or a political thriller called THE MEGATON.

  24. “Pray that these girls don’t fall victim to…THE POLANSKI”

  25. Michael Mayket

    July 7th, 2012 at 9:37 am

    I think you guys missed THE CRAVEN… which really could just be an alternate title for THE HILLS HAVE EYES.

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