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

Posts Tagged ‘John Carpenter’

The Thing (1982)

Monday, October 31st, 2016

tn_thething“I don’t know what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off whatever it is.”

In snow, no one can hear you scream. ‘Cause it’s cold. They stayed inside.

John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982) – not to be confused with Christian Nyby’s THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) or Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s THE THING (2011) – is straight up one of the best horror films achieved by mankind so far. It’s relatable but extraordinary, simple but original, blunt but ambiguous. It has quite possibly the most brilliant creature effects ever devised, or at least the only monster arguably weird enough to top ALIEN in the “well, shit, I never even thought of seeing anything like that!” department.

The Thing crash landed on earth some 100,000 years ago, and has only recently been unfrozen to raise a ruckus. A pessimist would say (as Wilford Brimley’s Blair does in the movie) that this is the type of shenanigans that could end the human race in a couple of years. An optimist would say hey, let’s just be thankful the flying saucer didn’t land properly in the first place, we got an extra 100,000 years out of that. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Vampires

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

tn_vampiresVAMPIRES is a cocky asshole of a horror-western strutting into John Carpenter’s filmography late, not giving a shit, rubbing everybody the wrong way. I’ve always dug it, though, and I think these days it’s more widely appreciated than it used to be.

The premise, taken from the novel Vampire$ by John Steakley, is that a team of vampire hunters funded by the Vatican travels the southwest tracking nests of vampires and exterminating them with professional grade equipment. James Woods (THE GETAWAY) plays the leader of the team, Jack Crow, maybe the only time he gets to be the leather-jacket-wearing asskicker. The Kurt Russell. The guy who struts around and shoots crossbows and punches people and never once wears a suit.

We see how their job works as the team raids a boarded up old house somewhere in the sunny desert, busting in like a SWAT team, sweeping it room by room to find the bloodsuckers, using a spear and pulley system to drag them out into the sunlight where they flare up and explode (all practical fire effects, from the looks of it). Montoya (Daniel Baldwin, KING OF THE ANTS, PAPARAZZI) mans the Jeep and winch, using a hunting knife to pull the charred skulls out of their kills and line them up on the hood as trophies. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

John Carpenter, Seattle

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

UPDATE: King Newbs kindly transcribed this for me. Scroll to the end if you need a readable version.
20160616_010220-1 (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Assault On Precinct 13

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

tn_assaultonprecinct13“Hey, this is regular vanilla. I wanted vanilla twist.”

PROGRAMMING NOTE: I sincerely thought CREED was coming out last Friday and wanted the ROCKY reviews to run right into my review of that. But now I ran out of ROCKYs and I don’t want to leave you guys with nothing new to read on the day before Thanksgiving. So here’s one that has a minor connection to the ROCKY series that will come up later. This movie is based on westerns, and the characters who represent the cowboys and the Indians don’t even come close to eating sweet potatoes together, but I still think this is a good one for Thanksgiving. This year (as in many years) we’ve lost some really extraordinary people who inspired and entertained me over the years. That really reminds me not to take for granted the directors and movies I love, for example John Carpenter and ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. Thank you, people who make great movies, and thank you all for being here with me to share in their celebration.

Of all the John Carpenter movies that are like westerns, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 is the most like a western. You’ve got a lieutenant (Austin Stoker, BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, MACH 2) who’s like a sheriff, holed up in an about-to-be-shut-down police station that’s like a jailhouse. You’ve got a prisoner transfer and a siege where the lieutenant and a notorious killer (Darwin Joston, THE FOG, ERASERHEAD) have to work together, and they sort of become friends. The hostile territory is a ghetto, Anderson, California, and the Indians are a WARRIORS-like multi-ethnic gang. They even do a bloodletting ritual before the siege.

But the scary thing about these gangsters is they don’t talk, and they keep coming. We mostly see them in the distance, at night, scurrying behind trees for cover. Then we see their hands reaching through the windows, or their bullets hitting windows, walls, cops. It’s such a good approach because there are so many ways these types of characters could’ve been silly. If the guy who looks like Che were talking to the cops he would probly use dated slang, have some corny line delivery, make us laugh. It would be fun to watch, but he’d be less menacing. As a silent force he’s much more effective. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

The Fog

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

tn_fogFive minutes before midnight and the 100th anniversary of the founding of his coastal California town of Antonio Bay, John Houseman tells a ghost story to a group of kids gathered around a campfire. He claims the town was founded on gold stolen from a deliberately sunken pirate ship (like in the cool samurai movie GOYOKIN, or the Tom Laughlin western THE MASTER GUNFIGHTER), and the original owners will be coming back tonight for what’s theirs. This would be corny as a wraparound story, but it’s perfect as a prologue and a warning. We enjoy the art of oral storytelling and a brief pause before the movie marches into an atmospheric title sequence set to a great synth score that could only mean this is a John Carpenter film.

This is more of an ensemble than many Carpenter movies. I’d say the lead is Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), local DJ who broadcasts out of a lighthouse she owns. She ties the other characters together because they hear her voice and music wherever they go. She plays mostly old timey jazz, which makes for a good soundtrack and also can sound eerie when echoing tinnily in an empty room.

Then you have Nick Castle (Tom Atkins), a local driving home late at night who picks up a young hitchhiker named Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis). Think about this. Curtis as Laurie Strode, with her presumed virginity, was patient zero for the claim in SCREAM and other places that only a virgin can survive a horror movie. In this one her character gets picked up by an older stranger and is in bed with him within the hour. This is never implied to be a bad thing and they both survive and are heroic. Isn’t that what they call “sex positive”? And does a “sex positive” cancel out a “sex = death”? (I’m not good at math.) (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Halloween II

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

tn_halloweeniiHALLOWEEN II is… not HALLOWEEN. But I guess that’s why they added the “II” on it. I should’ve caught that.

Continuing immediately from the end of John Carpenter’s genre-defining much-imitated timeless unkillable masterpiece classic, and using most of the same crew (including cinematographer Dean Cundey), it’s able to imitate the style enough to recapture the feel sometimes. Other times it just emphasizes how outstanding and impossible to duplicate Carpenter’s touch was.

To be fair, this was written and produced by Carpenter and Debra Hill, scored by Carpenter, who also chose the director, Rick Rosenthal (who later ended the series in disgrace with HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION) on the basis of a short he directed. Then, when it was filmed and Carpenter didn’t think it was scary enough he went and shot gorier death scenes. So he has a hand in it, for good or bad.

This is one of the rare sequels that just continues exactly from the ending of the last one. So it starts by replaying the ending of the original, where Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) shows up to rescue Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) by shooting Michael “The Shape” Myers (in the new footage played by stunt coordinator Dick Warlock, the only major cast change), who then disappears. I always wonder if the end of HALLOWEEN, a series of shots of empty locations, was meant to imply that Michael could be anywhere, or that he IS everywhere. But part II goes with the first choice. He snuck off.

The sequel proper begins with an excellent steadicam P.O.V. sequence. Carpenter has his scene from the point-of-view of young clown-costumed Michael spying on and then murdering his sister on Halloween night. Rosenthal has adult Michael walking around dark Haddonfield unseen by unsuspecting suburbanites. We hear his breath, the dogs barking and nearby cars driving by as he walks through an alley and looks into people’s homes. Some of the innocents he comes across are doomed, most will not know how close they came, or that they walked right past him without noticing his presence. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars (10th anniversary re-review)

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
tn_ghostsofmars
chapter 12

logo_summer2001One thing about JOHN CARPENTER’S GHOSTS OF MARS: it’s definitely John Carpenter’s GHOSTS OF MARS.

It has plenty of elements that could be perfect for one of his movies. It’s kind of a siege movie like ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, although the simplicity of that type of setup is mired in flashbacks and narration. It’s got a western motif – even though it’s in the future and on Mars there’s a train, and colonists possessed by angry Martian spirits take the place of the Natives defending their land. It’s got a ready-made anti-hero – Ice Cube as the bad-but-not-guilty-of-the-specific-crime-he’s-accused-of prisoner-in-transfer Desolation Williams. It has a pretty good soundtrack where Carpenter melds his style with a bunch of rock n roll dudes with electric guitars and drums, playing Martian tribal rock. It has Ice Cube, Jason Statham, Joanna Cassidy and Pam Grier in the cast! This shit should be great. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Important Book Alert #2: THEY LIVE (DEEP FOCUS #1) by Jonathan Lethem

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

tn_theyliveOne day several years ago I was waiting for a bus near a book store, and in the window there was a book about the philosophy of THE MATRIX. There’s more than one book like that, and I can’t remember which one it was that I saw that day, but it got me thinking: there should be a book like that, except it’s entirely about THEY LIVE.

There’s a long-running series of books called 33 1/3, little pocket-sized book length essays about classic albums. I have one for Stevie Wonder’s Songs In the Key of Life, for example. And I’ve long thought there should be a series like that for movies, and I should write the one about THEY LIVE.

Well, too late, buddy. Soft Skull Press is starting a series just like that, although if I understand correctly they’re all gonna be written by novelists. #2 is on DEATH WISH, #4 is gonna be LETHAL WEAPON. THE STING, HEATHERS and THE BAD NEWS BEARS IN BREAKING TRAINING are also coming up, but it all starts with THEY LIVE by Jonathan Lethem, author of the novels Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude. His approach is very different from what I would’ve done/could still do some day, but it’s an interesting, quick read and makes plenty of points that I hadn’t thought of before, making it a good first book about this particular subject. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

John Carpenter’s badass contract

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

tn_johncarpenterApparently the ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK remake is still happening. You guys know how I feel about that. In the unlikely event that somebody good was doing it this could actually be a good story to retell. The problems are

1. who the fuck you gonna get to play Snake Plissken? I mean, come on

2. that means no ESCAPE FROM EARTH, and fuck that. Kurt Russell is even cooler at this age than he was then, I want to see him play Snake again.

And of course the odds are against them choosing somebody great to direct, so I was happy when I thought this had fallen apart.

Anyway, this new article from the Vulture blog reveals some new information about the script and, most importantly that John Carpenter included a few important clauses when handing over the remake rights:

New Line had to sign a contract with John Carpenter stipulating, among other things, that Plissken “must be called ‘Snake'”; “must wear an eye patch”; and that he would — and we’re not making this up — “always be a ‘bad-ass.'”

I guess that means that keeping Snake Plissken Snake Plissken is more important to him than ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 and some of the other ones. Or maybe he learned from those remakes. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Big Trouble in Little China

Monday, April 7th, 2008

Here’s a John Carpenter movie I somehow never reviewed before. Kurt Russell plays Jack Burton, a loudmouthed truck driver who stops in Chinatown to gamble with an old buddy, and ends up stuck in the middle of a gang war, an ancient prophecy, magic powers, monsters, etc.

The opening scene of the movie is classic. It fades in on Egg Shen, the driver of a tour bus in Chinatown, being interviewed by a lawyer about “what happened.” We know that something big and crazy happened, that a whole block erupted into “green flames,” and that people want to know where “Jack Burton and his truck” are. Shen admits that he believes in Chinese black magic and when the lawyer asks why he should believe in it Shen holds up his hands and shoots bolts of green lightning between them. “See?” he says. “That was nothing. But that’s how it always begins. Very small.” Then it cuts to a shot of a truck as the opening credits begin, and you realize “okay, a truck. This must be that Jack Burton they were so concerned about.” Classic! (read the rest of this shit…)

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.