The Evolution of John Carpenter | NowThis Nerd

John Carpenter helped create an entire genre with his slasher classic ‘Halloween,’ and his subsequent work has become a cornerstone of cult cinema But how did a kid from Kentucky grow into the elder statesman of modern horror? Did he transition to a music career? And what makes his films so undeniably awesome? This is the Starting with his Carpenter grew up obsessed with and as a kid, he began shooting his own on 8mm film

He enrolled at Western Kentucky University, where he encountered the inspiration for his most terrifying creations On a class trip to a mental institution, Carpenter came across a 12-year-old boy who was a patient there The aspiring director never forgot the child’s unsettling stare and empty eyes, and used him as the basis for Michael Myers in his breakout hit ‘Halloween’ Death has come to your little town, sherriff You can either ignore it or help me to stop it

Carpenter transferred to The School of Cinematic Arts at USC, but he soon dropped out to make his mark on Carpenter’s directorial debut was ‘Dark Star,’ an extremely low-budget, sci-fi film co-written by Dan O’Bannon, who would later incorporate elements into his script for ‘Alien’ With a budget of only $60,000, Carpenter had to compose the score himself out of necessity, and the and the lo-fi, synthesizer sound has since become a staple of his work He followed up ‘Dark Star’ with the exploitation classic ‘Assault on Precinct 13,’ a gritty, action thriller about a gang holding a police station under siege Carpenter’s raw filmmaking style was tailor-made for the ultraviolent modern-day Western inspired by ‘Rio Bravo,’ and it’s success overseas gave him rep for making big bucks on a low budget When producer Moustapha Akkad saw ‘Precinct 13,’ he realized that Carpenter could bring his vision of a babysitter-stalking slasher to life and hired him to make Carpenter and his then-girlfriend Debra Hill wrote the script for ‘Halloween’ in ten days, under the original title of ‘The Babysitter Murders

’ Their shooting schedule was just as tight, with only 4 weeks and $200,000 available to sculpt a masterpiece of modern horror To stretch the budget as far as possible, Carpenter mostly hired a cast of unknowns, including a 19-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, And use spray paint and scissors to transform a $2 Captain Kirk mask into one of horror’s most iconic characters What'd he look like? The boogeyman In the hands of a lesser director, ‘Halloween’ could have been nothing more than a schlocky b-movie, but Carpenter’s voyeuristic POV shots, haunting score, and innovative use of jump scares, elevated the movie into something truly special When it released in 1978, the extremely cheap film made over $70 million, kicking off the slasher movie phenomenon and established Carpenter as one of Hollywood’s most dependable—and profitable—directors

Unfortunately, his box office success would screech to a halt in the ‘80s, where his work was Carpenter followed up ‘Halloween’ with ‘The Fog,’ another atmospheric horror film starring Jamie Lee Curtis, and actress Adrienne Barbeau, who the director married after working with her on a TV movie 2 years earlier Speaking of TV, that’s also where he met one of his most iconic collaborators and closest friends, Kurt Russell Carpenter directed him in a 1979 biopic of Elvis Presley, and went on to cast him as the unkillable Snake Plissken in the action epic ‘Escape from New York,’ Heard you were dead as well as RJ

MacReady in ‘The Thing’ Today, the 1982 film is heralded as a high-water mark for sci-fi cinema, and it’s practical effects set a standard that CGI can’t touch, but on its initial release, ‘The Thing’ was considered a massive disappointment Critics hated it, and, in the summer of ’82, movie audiences were more interested in a cute and cuddly alien like ‘ET’ as opposed to Carpenter’s intense body horror

Carpenter was crushed by ‘The Thing’s’ failure,’ and followed it up with two films that he hoped would have wider appeal: the so-so Stephen King adaptation ‘Christine,’ and the surprisingly sentimental ‘Starman,’ which was his first and so-far only film to earn an Academy Award nomination He made one last attempt at the mainstream with the 1986 action-comedy ‘Big Trouble in Little China,’ Sorry Sorry, I'm just thrilled to be alive Yeah, sure Let's go

but when it bombed at the box-office, Carpenter finally gave up on his dreams of big studio success and focused back on the small-scale cult cinema that made his career in the first place before eventually transitioning from While he’d never set the box office on fire again, Carpenter continued to innovate and entertain through the late ’80s, from dabbing in surrealism with ‘Prince of Darkness,’ to directing the late, great Roddy Piper in the dystopian delight called ‘They Live’ I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass And I'm all out of bubblegum The wiseass wrestler was one of his favorite collaborators, but as he entered the ’90s, the quality of Carpenter’s films took a steep decline ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ was a strong finish to his ‘Apocalypse Trilogy’ that started with ‘The Thing,’ but his next few follow-ups failed to impress

Even reuniting with Kurt Russell for ‘Escape From LA’ couldn’t turn the tide, and after 2001’s ‘Ghosts of Mars,’ Carpenter announced his retirement from moviemaking Since then, he’s contributed to a few anthology series, directed the feature film ‘The Ward’ in 2010, and even dabbled in his other passion: video games But lately, Carpenter’s main focus has been his music

As modern audiences rediscovered his work, his synthesizer scores have gained an all-new appreciation, and in 2015, Carpenter debuted his first album of original compositions called ‘Lost Themes’ At the tender age of 67, the director went on tour as a performing musician for the very first time, but despite loving life on the road, Carpenter isn’t completely done with his movies He’s deeply involved in the upcoming ‘Halloween’ remake, serving as an executive producer, creative consultant, and composer The fact that the new film is ignoring all of the sequels except for Carpenter’s original classic is a testament to how much respect the filmmaker has earned over the years A lot of his movies were simply ahead of their time, but they survived thanks to a passionate cult fanbase, and the singular vision of the master who made them

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