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john carpenter

Posted on June 20, 2017

Green Room and John Carpenter’s The Thing

Dawn

There’s an interesting point of connection between John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room (2015), a film about a punk band, The Ain’t Rights who, while playing a neo-Nazi club somewhere near Portland, Oregon, witness a murder and find themselves in serious trouble.

Saulnier has gone on record as loving Carpenter’s work, especially The Thing, which inspired him as a child and which he counts as his favorite Carpenter film.[i]

Not surprisingly, then, when he’s interviewed about influences on Green Room, Saulnier mentions The Thing, but he typically only mentions the earlier film’s influence on his creation of tension within small spaces: “it  really is just people talking in a room, he says.”[ii]

There’s another connection, though, that seems minor but that has some suggestive implications.

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Posted on December 28, 2015

Formless Horrors: John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980)

Dawn

John Carpenter’s first three horror films—Halloween (1978), The Fog (1980), and The Thing (1982)—are not only exceptional films, but, taken together, they constitute a kind of trilogy in their similar exploitation of the horror of formlessness.

Halloween may be the film least self-evidently about formlessness (its monster is “human,” after all), but I would suggest that Michael Myers actually stands in defiance of all categories. He is called the “bogeyman” more than once, including at the climax of the film, when a traumatized Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) stammers out to Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence)—“It was the bogeyman.” Kendall Phillips has pointed out that the bogeyman occupies a position “at the boundaries of notions of cultural normalcy”—and that he “embodies the chaos that exists on the other side of these cultural boundaries.”[i] True to form (or, rather, true to formlessness), Michael-as-bogeyman is often portrayed at boundaries—at intersections, on the other side of a road, in doorways, at windows.

1. Michael drives by Loomis

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Posted on March 23, 2015

Empowerment of the Traditional in John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978)

Elizabeth

Released in 1978, John Carpenter’s Halloween not only gave Jamie Lee Curtis her definitive Scream Queen role but it also gave audiences one of the best known horror film villains of all time in Michael Meyers. On its face, the story is a simple one. On Halloween night, six-year-old Michael murders his sister and is placed in a psychiatric hospital. On the fifteenth anniversary of his incarceration, he breaks out intent on exacting revenge.

One of the reasons I keep coming back to this film is because of how effectively it uses cultural norms to elevate the horror.

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