John Carpenter - The Master of Horror and then some

Last Updated 16 January 2018, 07:15 IST

John Carpenter, the renowned American horror director, turns 70 today.

Carpenter, mainly associated with science fiction and horror of the '70s and '80s Hollywood, is also called the Master of Horror. However, he is not only known for his film direction; but is well-known as a talented composer with some of his works becoming part of pop culture over the years.

Let's look back at some of Carpenter's most renowned works:

Assault on Precinct 13

A criminal gang in Los Angeles swears to bring down Precinct 13 and every cop in it.

A critical and commercial failure, Assault on Precinct 13 went on to become a cult classic of the action genre. The film was remade in 2005.


The first major critical and commercial success by John Carpenter, which also introduced the infamous Michael Myers to the slasher genre and was the debutante work of Jamie Lee Curtis. Released in 1978, the film continues to live in the hearts and possibly nightmares of many to this day.

The Fog

Not to be confused by The Mist by any means, The Fog was another of Carpenter's classics which became a commercial success and even garnered a fair measure of critical success over time.

When a piece of a wall from a local church in the quiet town of Antonio Bay falls, the town becomes the target of a vengeful ghost hell-bent on exacting a century-old revenge.

This film was also remade in 2005.

Escape from New York

No story or article on John Carpenter would be complete without four of his works and this is one of them: Escape from New York.

Starring the enigmatic Kurt Russel, who recently showed off his acting chops in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to a much younger audience, the film is centered around the Air Force One being hijacked and crashed into New York City, with Kurt Russel's character, an ex-soldier, given one day's time to save the President.

The film earned more than enough money and praise to warrant a sequel, Escape from L.A., which did not fare so well.

The Thing

The second film of the 'Anything John Carpenter is incomplete without this' list, The Thing is quite possibly the director's eternal classic: It shan't ever fade from human memory.

A Lovecraftian parasitic eldritch abomination slowly begins taking over an Antarctic research camp, pushing the ever-thinning herd of survivors into deeper paranoia.


It must have been a cold day in Hollywood when Carpenter decided to make something that was neither action nor horror, but romance. This is also the third in the 'Anything John Carpenter is incomplete without this' list.

The plot is as follows: An alien arrives on Earth, intrigued about humans after receiving the golden tape aboard the Voyager 2... and is promptly shot down by the US Army. What follows is a heart-warming story of the alien and a woman who it originally goads into helping.

Jeff Bridges was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of the titular Starman, which won immense critical praise and was a commercial success.

Big Trouble in Little China

It's interesting how Carpenter chooses to collaborate with certain actors multiple times, though it's not an uncommon thing in Hollywood. Big Trouble in Little China saw once again a Kurt-John collaboration in the form of a martial arts comedy, certainly another weird turn for the Master of Horror to take.

The film failed miserably and was generally disliked by critics on release, which disillusioned Carpenter enough for him to return to the indie sphere, though it has since gained a steady audience and a high critical score.

They Live

The fourth in the 'Anything John Carpenter is incomplete without this' list, They Live was Carpenter's return to horror after Starman and Big Trouble in Little China. The film follows a drifter who learns that the people who hold power, otherwise known as the 1% or 0.1% in the real world, are actually aliens who use subliminal messages to keep the status quo going as it is.

(Published 16 January 2018, 07:15 IST)

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