John Carpenter (USA, 1948) dropped out of
the University of Southern California to enter the film business.
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Il suo primo film,
Dark Star (1974), e` un raro esempio di fantascienza comica.
Quattro astronauti in servizio di pattuglia alle prese con la monotonia
del viaggio. Il piu` estroverso tenta invano di sollevare il morale
con i suoi lazzi. Si e` portato dietro una mascotte, un alieno a forma di
palla che squittisce. Quando va a dargli da mangiare, gli scappa, e
dopo un rocambolesco inseguimento l'astronauta si trova in un grosso
pasticcio, appeso a un ascensore con decine di metri di vuoto sotto di se`.
Appena tiratosi fuori dai guai, punisce l'alieno con una pistola sonnifera,
che pero` lo sgonfia, cioe` l'uccide. Una bomba suscettibile e testarda
non obbedisce a un comando e soltanto un discorso da uomo a uomo la convince
a recedere dall'aidea di esplodere e a rientrare nell'arsenale dell'astronave.
Ma alla fine la bomba esplode e i due superstiti naufragano nello spazio.
Uno viene catturato da un grappolo di astroidi, l'altro surf-eggia verso
il pianeta piu` vicino.
Assault On Precint 13 (1976) e` un poliziesco di violenza esasperata
e raccapricciante, ma anche realista. E` anche uno studio psicologico sulla
paura (il nemico non si vede quasi mai).
Periferia squallida di Los Angeles. Quattro giovani invasati uccidono a sangue
freddo un gelataio e una bambina. Il padre della bambina li insegue, li
raggiunge, uccide l'assassino. Gli altri delinquenti lo inseguono. Lui si
rifugia in un posto di polizia in corso di smantellamento, affidato a un
comandante nero, un posto in cui sono ospitati tre condannati a morte in
e i loro accompagnatori. E` notte. I delinquenti crescono di numero e
sono sempre piu` invasati. Accerchiano il posto di polizia, staccano luci
e telefoni, sparano con i silenziatori a chi tenta di uscire.
Quando i delinquenti attaccano, fanno una strage. Fra i sopravissuti ci
sono due detenuti (un bianco e un nero), due ragazze e il comandante nero.
Il padre della bambina e` sotto shock e non si muove piu`. I superstiti
sono completamente isolati, impossibilitati a chiedere aiuto, soli contro
Gli invisibili nemici prima spano all'impazzata sfracellando tutti gli
oggetti, poi attaccano in massa, e finalmente si fanno vedere,
ma sono sempre figure amorfe.
Il comandante fa liberare anche i due detenuti e tutti insieme riescono
a respingere l'orda, uccidendone decine e perdendo soltanto la piu`
fragile delle ragazze, ma nessuno arriva in loro soccorso.
Gli assedianti fanno sparire i cadaveri cosicche` tutto sembri normale.
Il detenuto nero tenta invano di andare a chiedere aiuto.
I tre si preparano all'ultimo assalto barricandosi e preparando una bomba
alla nitroglicerina. Mentre l'orda salta in aria, arrivano finalmente
i rinforzi (perche' un poliziotto ha trovato cadaveri sugli alberi).
La desolata solitudine della megalopoli e` co-protagonista del dramma
di questi individui abbandonati a se stessi, che devono difendersi da un
nemico immane e invisibile. Gli assalitori sono fanatici del voodoo che
compiono i loro riti senza rispetto per la vita umana, che non temono
la morte e anelano soltanto alla vendetta. Nella metropoli che dovrebbe
rappresentare l'apice della civilta` umana,
regna in realta` un abisso morale, i valori morali sono praticamente nulli.
L'unica speranza e` nella solidarieta` che si crea fra gli assediati, un
po' come nel Stage Coach di Ford.
Halloween (1978) e` un classico del genere horror.
Nel 1963 il giorno di Halloween qualcuno penetra in una casa e uccide
una ragazza (la scena e` ripresa attraverso i due buchi della sua maschera).
All'uscita due persone trovano un bambino in maschera con un coltellaccio
da macellaio e lo riconoscono: Michael.
Le autorita` decidono di rinchiuderlo in un'istituzione psichiatrica. Non lo
ritengono pericoloso, in quanto e` caduto in uno stato catatonico. Ma uno
degli specialisti e` convinto che Michael stia fingendo e sia in realta`
25 anni dopo in una notte di temporale lo stesso specialista e un'infermiera
sono incaricati di trasferirlo a un altro ospedale. Lo specialista si
allontana un attimo e tanto basta perche' il ragazzo aggredisca l'infermiera
e fugga sulla loro auto. Nella cella ha lasciato una scritta rossa: SISTER.
Intanto Jamie Lee Curtis e` a scuola.
Lo psicopatico (di cui non viene mai mostrato il volto) e` andato a una
scuola elementare e segue un bambino.
Lo specialista sta seguendo le tracce dello psicopatico e avverte lo sceriffo
del paese di Michael.
Lauree torna a casa con due compagne di scuola. Si sente pedinata. Anche la
sua amica ha la stessa impressione.
Lo specialista e` al cimitero, dove scopre che la bara della sorellina
di Michael e` stata dissotterrata.
Lo sceriffo sta investigando il furto di due coltellacci e una maschera
da un negozio.
Lo specialista porta lo sceriffo nella casa in cui avvenne il delitto.
Lo sceriffo pensa che lo specialista esageri, ma lo psicopatico comincia
a uccidere. Un'amica viene strangolata mentre sta parlando al telefono
con Lauree. Lauree si precipita e trova i cadaveri. Fa appena in tempo a
fuggire, inseguita dallo psicopatico. Si barrica in casa con due bambini.
Lo psicopatico irrompe, e sta per prevalere quando lo specialista arriva
pistola alla mano.
The Fog (1980) is a horror movie that often looks amateurish, with behaviors that stretch credulity. Nonetheless, it proves
Carpenter's skills in creating suspense through a fragmented form of montage
that shifts rapidly from character to character.
An old man is telling children a ghost story about a clipper ship.
A coastal town is preparing to celebrate its centennial.
Right before midnight, the priest is shocked that a hole opens in a wall and a booklet is revealed to be hidden there. He picks it up and finds out that it his grandfather's diary, also a priest, written at the time when the town was founded. The priest starts reading it.
Stevie is a dj who is still broadcasting from the lighthouse for those who are not asleep.
A young man is sweeping the floor of a grocery store when suddenly the place
starts shaking like in an earthquake.
A woman is woken up when all the cars in the parking lot start blaring their horns, and then she sees that her TV set turns on by itself and a chair moves by itself.
Nick, who is driving home in the night, stops to pick up a young hitchhiker, Elizabeth. They start chatting but soon the windshield explodes as it struck by an object.
Meanwhile, the dj is broadcasting in a sweet and sensual tone that everything is ok in the town.
The weatherman, Dan, phones her and, after flirting with her, he informs her that a fog bank is moving towards the town.
Three fishermen on a fishing boat are listening to her and getting drunk when they spot the fog coming towards them. Minutes later, as the fog enters the cabin, they are slaughtered by ghosts.
Nick and Elizabeth have left the car and are now sleeping together (no explanation how they reached his house, and they don't seem too scared by what happened to the car, and finally Nick asks her for her name).
Someone knocks at the door and we see that it is one of the ghosts.
But the clock strikes midnight and the ghost disappears.
The following morning a child, Andy, who happens to be dj Stevie's son,
while roaming the beach discovers a gold coin that the waves soon turn into a
a piece of driftwood with the name "Dane" still carved on it.
Soon the town realizes that the fishermen are missing and
Nick joins the search and rescue mission, with Elizabeth tagging along.
The town's centennial celebrations are chaired by
Kathy, the wife of one of the fishermen, who recounts how her dog started barking in the middle of the night. Kathy's assistant is the one who was woken up by the cars.
Nick and Elizabeth find the fishermen's boat but nobody seems to be on board.
Kathy and her assistant visit the priest at the church. The priest reads his
grandfather's diary to Kathy. The diary reveals the dark truth about the founding of the town.
Nick and Elizabeth search the boat and finally find one of the dead fishermen.
The priest finishes reading the diary to Kathy: the town was founded by six
murderers who had stolen the gold of a man called Blake after killing the
entire crew of his ship, the "Dane". The priest, disgusted by the revelation, refuses to join the centennial celebrations.
Stevie takes the driftwood to the lighthouse. The wood starts leaking water and she hears a man's voice swearing revenge against six men. Then the wood bursts into flames but then it magically returns to be what it was, a simple piece of wood with the word "Dane" inscribed in it.
Stevie has also realized that the fog bank of the previous night was moving in a direction opposite the direction of the wind, a fact physically impossible.
Alarmed, Stevie calls Andy and orders him not to leave the house. She then begins her broadcast like every day.
Nick and Elizabeth deliver the dead body to the coroner. Nick and the coroner
leave Elizabeth alone with the corpse and the corpse rises and tries to kill
Kathy's husband is still missing but she decides to go ahead with the celebrations.
Night comes again. Dan calls Stevie again to inform her that the fog bank is coming back.
Stevie senses danger and tries to warn Dan about the glowing fog that she can see approaching and that is enveloping Dan's weather station.
Dan hears a knock at the door, opens the door and is killed, and Stevie hears it all on the phone.
Stevie now tries to warn the town through her radio show, but the fog takes down the telephone and electrical wires.
The whole town loses electricity.
Kathy is giving her speech to the crowd assembled for the celebration.
Stevie stares in horror as the glowing fog advances towards her house.
She manages to start her generator, resumes her broadcast but this time she begs the town to save her son.
The fog attacks her home, where her little Andy is being watched by a neighbor.
The neighbor opens the door and is killed, while Andy locks himself in his room.
Nick, having heard Stevie's desperate call for help, arrives at the house just in time to save Andy from the ghosts. They escape in Nick's car while the ghosts are surrounding it.
Stevie now warns the whole town to stay away from the glowing fog.
She directs the townfolks to head for the church. Someone only Nick, Elizabeth and Kathy obey. They join the priest.
Unfortunately, that's precisely where the fog is headed.
They find a gold cross hidden in the wall.
Meanwhile, the fog also begins to encroach on the lighthouse and Stevie has to run up the roof.
Blake's ghosts attack the church. The priest now knows that the ghosts want to kill six men, and they have already killed five. And of course they want their gold.
The priest delivers the cross to Blake's ghost and he seems to walk away satisfied, but then comes back to behead the priest with his sword.
Finally the fog recedes and Stevie is safe.
Escape from New York (1981) e` un fantapolitico tanto
apocalittico quanto Precint 13, ma un po' ridicolo nell'acting
e nel plot.
In un futuro non precisato, il presidente degli USA sta volando verso
l'Unione Sovietica, dove si deve svolgere un summit, ma l'aereo viene
dirottato dai terroristi e precipita su Manhattan, che e` stata
trasformata in un gigantesco carcere isolato dal resto del mondo.
Bisogna liberare il presidente in 24 ore e la sceltqa cade su Snake,
un detenuto che fu eroe, che e` l'unico a poterci riuscire.
Gli promettono la liberta` se riesce, la morte se entro 23 ore
non ce la fa. Snake si infila nell'inferno di Manhattan, un dedalo
di macerie popolato da orde di teppisti feroci. Snake, trasformatosi in
James Bond dei bassifondi, si fa largo fra i
caseggiati diroccati e nelle strade allagate da detriti. Un taxista,
Cabbie, l'ultimo degli indipendenti, lo aiuta a mettersi in contatto
con una coppia di criminali: il maschio e` in realta` un suo ex complice, che lo
tradi`, e la femmina e` la sua ex ragazza.
Snake chiede di incontrare il capo supremo della delinquenza. I due
lo accompagnano a un treno, dove il presidente e` tenuto prigioniero.
Snake riesce a liberarlo, ma i teppisti gli saltano addosso a decine.
Si ritrova di fronte al capo, un nero che si fa chiamare Duke e sta
facendo il tiro a segno sul terrorizzato presidente.
Mentre Snake viene costretto a battersi contro un feroce gladiatore,
in un'arena gremita di squilibrati (una scena che ricorda Mad Max),
l'amico e la ragazza liberano il presidente e si avviano verso l'auto di
Snake scopre che il nastro che il presidente custodisce gelosamente
contiene il segreto di una nuova arma e lo sostituisce con una musicassetta.
Inseguiti da Duke fra le immondizie, i rottami, le carcasse, del ponte
di Brooklyn, sono quasi in salvo, ma Cabbie salta in aria e il gangster
viene ucciso. La ragazza si ferma a vendicarlo: non ci riesce,
e muore a sua volta. Duke viene infine crivellato con un mitra dal
Snake e il presidente riescono a scavalcare il muro di cinta, appena due
secondi prima che la bomba trapiantata nel cranio di Snake esploda.
Violento e barbaro, ambientato fra le macerie come Precint 13,
e nell'assenza di valori morali. Anche questa volta la tragedia e`
dominata dallo spirito di vendetta (benche', per la verita`, nel film
non sembra morire nessuno).
The Thing (1982) is an old-fashioned sci-fi movie, a remake of Howard Hawks' The Thing From Another World (1951).
Christine (1983) is a diligent adaptation of the Stephen King novel.
Cars being manufactured in a big plant. A worker gets injured while working
ona car. Later another worker is found dead in the same car.
Twenty years later, a nerdy boy named Arnie goes to school with a popular
handsome Dennis, who defends him from the school's juvenile delinquents
persecute him. The guys are all excited by a new pretty girl.
Arnie, instead, gets excited when he sees an old abandoned car, the wreck
of "that" car.
Arnie is so fascinated by it that he buys it right away from an old man, whose
brother just died in it.
The car, "Christine", changes Arnie's life. From meek and shy, Arnie becomes
very determined and rebellious.
Arnie devotes his life to repairing Christine.
Dennis is suspicious and asks the old man about the car, and learns that
other people have died in or around the car.
Dennis gets seriously hurt during a football game when he sees Arnie kissing
the new, mysterious girl that Dennis tried in vain to get a date with.
Arnie's transformation is unbelievable, it seems to mirror the progress of
the car, that soon looks like brand new again.
During a date with his girl, she vents her jealousy for the car that absorbs
all of his time. Minutes later, something is strangling her while the radio
goes on by itself and Arnie can't help her because the doors won't open.
She almost dies and blames the car for it. Arnie does talk to the car like
she's a human being, and the car seem to respond to his attentions.
That night the juvenile delinquents demolish Christine.
Arnie is paralyzed by pain and fury: insults his girlfriend and scorns
his parents. Arnie behaves like he is possessed.
Arnie, alone with Christine, has the revelation that the car is alive: she
That night Christine (with or without Arnie?) chases one of the bullies
and crashes him against a wall.
A police detective is spying on him, curious that he could rebuilt the car
Another bully is burned alive when Christine runs into a garage and crashes
into his car, thereby setting off a huge fire. Then Christine, enveloped in
flames, chases the boss of the bullies on the highway and runs
him over, leaving the corpse to burn in the night.
The owner of the garage where Arnie parks Christine sees Christine come in
smoking, but there is nobody behind the wheel. He makes the mistake of sitting
in the car. The radio goes on, the door locks and something kills him. The
radio is switched off.
The girl tells Dennis her suspicions on Christine, then sees Arnie pick up
Dennis for a late-night drive. Arnie drives like a possessed madman and
Dennis decides it is about time to do something.
Helped by the girl, who is getting friendlier and friendlier, Dennis sets
a trap for Christine in the garage.
Christine attacks the girl and crashes into the office.
Arnie crawls out of the car and dies in front of his girl.
Using the girl as bait and a caterpillar as a weapon, Dennis crashes Christine.
But the car repairs itself and restarts. Dennis runs over it again, over and
over again, until only a pile of junk is left of it.
Carpenter turned to comedy for Starman (1984) and
Big Trouble in Little China (1986).
Prince of Darkness (1987) was another sci-fi film.
They Live (1988), derived from
Ray Nelson's story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" (1963),
has one of his most original
plots, despite a couple of ridiculous "action" scenes and wildly
below-standard psychological analysis (basically, the characters
are just generic types).
A drifter arrives in town looking for a job.
He finds a low-paid job as a construction worker but has no money and no place
A black coworker, Frank, takes him to a shantytown that is run like a commune.
At night, as people are watching television outside their huts, the broadcast
is interrupted repeatedly by a man who rants against some kind of dictatorship.
The watchers are annoyed because they think that it is just a poorly produced
program but at least one man walks away mumbling against some enemies.
It happens again during the day.
The drifter stumbles into the conspirators meeting in a church nearby
and hears them discuss plans of insurrection.
A blind priest, who is one of the leaders, catches him eavesdropping but lets him go.
At night the police raids the church and the members of the cult try in vain
The police demolish the shantytown.
The drifter, who is calmly walking around while panicked crowds are running
away, sees he police beat up the blind priest and the leader of the conspiracy.
The drifter finds shelter in a house while outside chaos spreads.
The following morning crowds wonder around the flattened camp,
trying to rescue whatever objects they can.
The tvset is intact, though.
The drifter inspects the church and finds a box full of sunglasses.
He wears one and realizes that the sunglasses allows him to see subliminal
signs that somehow show up as harmless adverts if viewed without the glasses.
Ordinary people don't realize that each sign in the street is a command
to obey the rules of the state. Ditto for books and magazines: the sunglasses
reveal that real texts are commands written in capital letters.
When the drifter watches people through the sunglasses, he realizes that some
individuals are skeleton-like monsters, and typically these are the more
He walks around marveling at the real world, a world plastered with black
and white signs and roamed by weird monsters. Then he makes the mistake of
telling a lady that she is one of those monsters. She talks in her watch
and all the other monsters in the store start doing the same, broadcasting
the news that they found someone who "can see".
Suddenly he is confronted by two cops. He has no choice but to kill them using
one of their guns. More police officers are summoned. The drifter enters
a bank and starts shooting the monsters. He is on the run now.
He shoots a drone that is following him. He spares the life of a cop who is a
real human. In a parking garage he kidnaps a woman and forces her to drive him
to her condo. She coldly obeys him but at the first chance she throws him
out of the window. He survives the fall, but she has called the police.
He is on the run again and he has lost the sunglasses. He walks back to the
alley where he threw away the box of sunglasses and jumps into the garbage
truck that is driving away. Equipped with a whole box of magical sunglasses,
he forces his black coworker
to try them out (after a long and tedious
fist-fighting scene). They take a room in a hotel.
Now that he believes, the black coworker is determined to find out who
builds the sunglasses. It is not clear how, but
a member of the underground finds out where they live, and invites them
to a secret meeting where they meet old friends from the shantytown.
The drifter and Frank learn that the
Earth is just one of the worlds colonized by that alien race.
They are just using humans. These aliens are also capable of vanishing.
The drifter is surprised to see that the woman who tried to kill him, Holly,
is a member of the underground. Just when she is explaining to him how she
joined the group, an explosion destroys the building and cops advance in
military formation shooting everybody.
When Frank touches one of the magical watches, a hole opens in the ground.
The drifter and Frank dive into it and find a subterranean tunnel.
They reach a hall where the monsters are holding a rally.
A man in suite and tie, who used to be a homeless bum,
recognizes them and thinks they converted to the cause of the monsters, and
gives them a tour of the futuristic building. They see the machine that
the aliens use to vanish and travel in space. They see the communication
control that broadcast messages to the whole planet. The renegade is proud
of serving this higher civilization. The renegade makes the mistake of taking
them to the studio where tv programs are broadcasted. Frank and the drifter
draw the guns and attack the studio, while the renegade pushes a button on
his watch and vanishes. Frank and the drifter carry out a massacre of
aliens in the offices of the tv station, targeting only aliens.
They find Holly, who works there, and take her with them to the roof.
But Holly is a traitor who has called the cops on them.
Holly kills Frank and the drifter kills Holly. The drifter then blows up
the transmitter of the tv station that controls the minds of humans.
He is killed by a police helicopter but he has freed the human race, who can
now "see": humans everywhere can suddenly see the monsters around them even
without using the sunglasses,
including a naked sexy blonde who stops when she realizes that her naked
sexual partner is a disgusting alien.
Carpenter personally composed the music for Dark Star, Assault On Precint 13 and Halloween.
The electronic soundtracks for Halloween II, III, Escape From New York, They Live, Prince Of Darkness (1987) were composed by Carpenter with help from Alan Howarth.
Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992),
In the Mouth of Madness (1995),
and Escape from L.A. (1996)
were mediocre, and
Village of the Damned (1995) was a remake
of Wolf Rilla's 1960 film which was based on
John Wyndham's novel "The Midwich Cuckoos".
Vampires (1998) is a very minor vampire film that doesn't even leverage
Carpenter's usually stunning visual tricks.
Jack leads a team that looks like marines but actually use stakes to kill
vampires. It's the old fashioned way but enhanced with high-tech tools and
transportation. These vampire slayers have found a nest in a small town
and think they have cleansed it, but the vampires take revenge: while the
team is resting in a motel and some are being entertained by prostitutes in
the bar, the master vampire, Valek, attacks and destroys all of them except
Jack and his second-in-command Tony. The two escape taking with them
the prostitute Katrina, who has been bitten. Jack burns the motel, while
Tony drives away with Katrina.
Jack visits a cardinal, who turns out to be his boss.
Jack reports that he met with the most formidable vampire ever.
The cardinal tells him that the entire European team of vampire slayers
has been destroyed by the same vampire: Valek.
The cardinal gives him a new escort: father Montoya, who is in
of archives and knows everything of vampires. Valek was the very first
vampire, and he was a priest: this makes him particularly dangerous.
The cardinal orders Jack to recruit new team of slayers and resume the chase,
but Jack refuses to obey, renounces the Vatican's money and, before he
walks out, says that he would rather like to find out how Valek learned his
name. The cardinal orders Montoya to stay close to him.
Katrina wakes up in a motel room, completely naked and tied to the bed.
Tony tells her that she has been bitten by Valek and that now she is part
of Valek, and the link will grow stronger, and that's why he has tied her up.
She can be saved only if they destroy her master before she turns into
a full-fledged vampire.
Jack and father Montoya drive together. Jack does not like the freshman
and Vatican valet, whereas Montoya seems to be truly in awe of the veteran.
We learn that Jack was raised by the Church to be a master slayer.
At the motel the prostitute, who is beginning to have hallucinations and sees
what Valek is doing (killing and killing),
tries to free herself and bites Tony in the arm and Tony has to disinfect
his arm with fire. Jack and the priest arrive at the motel.
Tony does not tell Jack that he has been bitten.
Jack and Tony use the girl to see what Valek is doing: he has forced a
priest to show him a map and then killed him. The girl helps them pinpoint
where he is.
New vampires emerge from the earth and follow their master.
The pack of vampires kills and kills and kills.
Jack is tough (he had to kill his own father when his own father turned
into a vampire) and does not hesitate to torture father Montoya to find out what
is truly happening: Montoya tells him that Valek is after a black cross
that would make him truly invincible, able to strike in the sunlight too.
The girl can see the relic: a black cross. Valek found it in a mission,
after slaughtering all the friars.
The girl leads Jack and Tony to the mission. Jack treats the girl like an
animal and Tony defends her. They almost fight over her.
Jack is only using her, but Tony really wants to save her.
Following the girl's directions and the priest's tips about Valek's
strategy, Jack, Tony, the priest and the girl reach the ghost town where
he is hiding. They pull out their bows (a high-tech version of the stakes)
and set out through the eerie buildings of the abandoned town.
The trio, outnumbered by vampires who come out from everywhere,
manages to kill several of them.
Montoya has now gained Jack's trust.
The sun is setting. The vampire slayers decide to call it a day.
Bu the sinister Valek appears in person, and he challenges Jack.
Dozens of vampires begin walking towards the vampire slayers.
Katrina herself is being overwhelmed by Valek's power and and bites Tony.
Jack is captured and (surprise) the cardinal is standing next to Valek.
Valek makes a point of showing Jack the beautiful Katrina with a bloody
mouth, a sure sign that Tony has now become one of them.
The vampires prepare a giant cross and a pyre. The cardinal recites a
reverse exorcism. They are ready to burn Jack at the stake.
But father Montoya is still free and has a gun.
He shoots and kills the cardinal.
Tony has burned his wound and is coming to the rescue. He literally arpoons
the cross that Jack is tied to. The sun is rising. The priest, Tony and Jack
can now shoot at the vampires who are running scared from the light.
When Jack finally kills Valek (who literally explodes), Katrina returns normal.
The priest, who is now on a rampage, would like
to kill Tony too, because he has been bitten, but Jack grants him a
vacation with Katrina. As Tony leaves, Jack promises he will hunt him down
and then kill him. Tony and Katrina take off for their vacation, while Jack
takes Montoya as his new partner.
Ghost Of Mars (2001) and
John Carpenter's The Ward (2010)
were very minor films.