Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Come Back, John Carpenter, Your Legacy Is in Danger

John Carpenter needs to get back to work as soon as possible; his legacy is on the line. “What legacy?” you ask? The legacy of Snake Plissken, Michael Myers, and The Thing. He’s made plenty of other movies, some good (Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, In the Mouth of Madness), some not so good (I’m looking at you Vampires and Ghosts of Mars). But Carpenter will be remembered for Escape from New York (maybe not Escape from L.A., though I found it entertaining for what it is), Halloween, and The Thing. Or will those films be remembered for their remakes?

That’s right, the remake virus has hit John Carpenter a few times already and now it’s back going for the kill. We already have the Halloween remake from Rob Zombie (which was mediocre, in my opinion), now we have H2 in which Zombie “completes his vision.” Are you kidding me? Who has a vision that involves remaking a classic and making a sequel to that remake?

Rob Zombie is actually the bright point compared to the other remakes out there. The remake of The Fog remake is awful and not worth discussing further. The Assault on Precinct 13 remake with Ethan Hawke was crap. It didn’t come close to capturing the mood of the original and they left out that insanely vicious ice cream scene from Carpenter’s version as well. Click here to check it out (it’s long, but that’s part of that mood I was talking about). Warning: the video contains disturbingly violent death scene at the end.

If you watch the video, you’ll notice a trademark of Carpenter’s films: the music. What should be a completely dated and even cheesy soundtrack somehow transcends time and remains cool. Carpenter’s music has always been enjoyable to me. And remember, this is the guy who made that now-famous Halloween theme.

This is all bad enough, but some bad news broke a few months ago: the remake of Escape from New York. This one should not be touched. This is the film that introduced the world to the ultimate badass: Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell). The casting is going to kill this movie instantly. You cannot replace Kurt Russell; he made Snake Plissken. This was a defining role for Russell as it showed him as the star that he should be. He was meant to play these tough guy roles and Snake was the apex of it. He’s slowed down lately, but Tarantino did let him have some fun in Death Proof, though I will never forgive Tarantino for how he ended that film. Death Proof aside, Russell’s legacy is in trouble not only with this remake, but with the remake his and Carpenter’s best collaboration.

The Thing (about a shapeshifting alien attack in Antarctica) is getting the remake/reboot treatment. You might point out that John Carpenter’s The Thing is a remake itself. This is slightly true. It is really based on a short story (Who Goes There?). Carpenter’s film is a closer adaptation than the original film, so I think it’s safe to say it’s his own. Also, Carpenter’s remake wasn’t an attempt to make money based on the original film’s audience and that is exactly how this new version will be marketed. Carpenter's version was a modern classic about paranoia. It also features some of the most disturbing creature effects I have ever seen and this movie is from 1982. Oh, and Kurt Russell is awesome in it. (I could go on and on, but I think I'll just review this one completely in the future.)

I have read that the story for the remake is actually supposed to be a prequel involving the Norwegians that find the alien first (though I’m not sure if that’s the story or not, it’s just what is on IMDb). So the story is different, so what? They are still calling it The Thing and its sole purpose is to lull fans of the original into this new version. I just wish these guys would have the guts to change the title if they’re going to make it a prequel, just to see if they can be successful on their own merits.

As you can tell, I’m not a fan of all this John Carpenter action. That’s because the man himself has been on theatrical hiatus since Ghosts of Mars. He’s had a couple Masters of Horror episodes, but those were kind of under the radar. He needs to get some movies out there. John Carpenter needs to prove that there is no reason to remake his films because he can still make entertaining movies. There are a few things coming up listed on his IMDb page, but nothing is in production yet, so it will still be at least a year before anything new comes out. I know Carpenter’s getting up there in years, but he needs to get in gear so he stays relevant. I know he can’t stop this remakes, but he can at least get out there so that whenever someone tells the younger generation that John Carpenter’s original Escape from New York is better, they aren’t answered with “Who is John Carpenter?”

Also, IMDb listed They Live! as an upcoming remake as well, but you have to have IMDb Pro to see anything about it. So I don’t know how serious that one is. But I still wanted to put up this link to this amazingly long and funny fight sequence from the film, which is about a regular guy (Roddy Piper) who finds a pair of special sunglasses that allows him to see that there are aliens disguised as humans throughout the world. Is it goofy? Absolutely, but you’ll have a good time watching it. The video for this contains strong language and is also quite violent, but more comedic than disturbing.

For Sunday: Terminator: Salvation


  1. I wish Carpenter would do another film too!Carpeneter was good, but I believe that he has just lost it or doesn't care. In my opinion he hasn't had anything good since the eighties. I don't think a person's legacy is in trouble when they have such a solid collection of works that started it such as Carpenter does. True movie fans will always know what's up and remember the great movies, all the idiots ( and there are thousands of them out there ) will watch the remake of escape from New York and love it because it had Shia Labeouf or Jamie Fox in it.
    P.S. Happy birthday Eric!
    - Tad Jorele -

  2. is there not going to be a crappy classic review this week?

  3. For me, the problem is that Carpenter's style, which was already retro when he was making his classic films in the 70s and early 80s, started to look antique by the late 80s. Carpenter is technician enough to know how to put a movie together efficiently, and thats half the problem, his films have become passionless identikit job of works. I doubt if anyone will ever queue up to remake Memoirs of an Invisible Man or Ghosts of Mars the way they are falling over themselves to remake his earlier films. I hope he comes back, but I hope he's found himself a passion project while he's been in the wilderness.

  4. I honestly don't think Carpenter cares.

    Love him or hate him, the film that he's best remembered for are classics and are films that will be remembered.

    20 years from now, the remakes of Halloween, Assault.., and The Fog will be long forgotten, and future generations of movie-goers will still be going back to the timeless originals.

    THAT'S why Carpenter probably doesn't care about modern filmmakers sifting through his ouevre. All they're doing is giving millions of dollars worth of free publicity to Carpenter's originals, even if the remakes themselves do them a harsh injustice.

    Side note: Am the ONLY guy who absolutely LOVED Vampires? It's one of my favorite Carpenter films!

  5. All this talk about remaking his movies, it's good not to hear about Big Trouble In Little China.

  6. There's still time for a third Escape film with Kurt Russel playing the Snake!!!

    Failing that Carpenter & Russel should do something together one last time.

  7. i'm suprised big trouble in little china wasn't mentioned -- kurt at his best in an action-packed funny odd-ball of a movie -- i mean,who can resist kurt russel doing a john wayne imitation as a truck-driver battling demons and engaging in kung-fu battles? -- noone with any taste as far as i'm concerned -- but yeah,you're right,these endless remakes are distressing,they're almost always bad...and why would you need to remake the thing or halloween(rob zombie's an idiot -- his vision?don't make me laugh)

  8. Where's his most funny and one of his best movies, Dark Star?

  9. Don't forget Dark Star, his first full length feature.

  10. I agree with your sentiment re John Carpenter. He should return. After all, he is a young 61 years old. He must have a dozen or more movies still in him.

    However, one has to wonder why he retired so early. Was it frustration with trends in the industry? According to imdb, he was quoted saying: "In France, I'm an auteur; in Germany, a filmmaker; in Britain; a genre film director; and, in the USA, a bum." Sounds like there is an issue there.

    At any rate, I'm a big fan of his and would love to see him return. My choices would be:

    # 1 - a sequel to Big Trouble in Little China

    # 2 - a return of Snake Plissken

  11. ...and

    # 3 - an original piece, featuring Kurt Russell

  12. I have to admit, I am a life long Carpenter fan, but it has taken me YEARS to forgive him for Ghosts of Mars!
    Yes, the remakes aren't nearly as edgy.
    No, no more Plissken! Not as remakes or sequels.
    Carpenter is a wonderful story teller. Let him tell a new one to scare us to death!

  13. I think Vampires is absolutely brilliant. A lovely mix of horror and Western, incredibly atmospheric, hilariously funny and at times quite touching.

    As for They Live, I think it's a masterpiece and anything but goofy. The *characters* are goofy, and the film is often extremely satirical, but it's quite serious in what it has to say.

    And yes, I wish he would do more films. The remakes are dreadful and pointless.

  14. I'm just hoping Carpenter hasn't lost it. Ever see the Masters of Horror episode, Pro-Life? It was one of the most poorly written and acted pieces of film and I wasted an hour of my life on that thing.

    What about Prince of Darkness? Original and weird, but I enjoyed it.

  15. Here's another Carpenter quote: "Monsters in movies are us, always us, one way or the other. They're us with hats on. The zombies in George Romero's movies are us. They're hungry. Monsters are us, the dangerous parts of us. The part that wants to destroy. The part of us with the reptile brain. The part of us that's vicious and cruel. We express these in our stories as these monsters out there."

    Now that could be the start of a new script.

  16. How quickly they've all forgotten about 'Memoirs of an Invisible Man', 'Elvis', 'Village of the Damned', 'Starman', and 'DARK STAR'. (I was going to mention 'Big Trouble in Little China' but someonebody beat me to the punch)

    Now, to get this started, Carpenter has had his share of bad films... ok ok ok 'Body Bags', 'Village of the Damned', and 'Memoirs of an Invisible Man' are really the only ones I can think of.

    As far as remakes go, let's not forget that 'Village of the Damned' and 'Memoirs of an Invisible Man' are two of Carpenter's other remakes, with the latter being more of a reimagining.

    (...ok ok ok ok ok ok ok really we CAN forget 'Memoirs...'. How can anyone NOT forget 'Memoirs...'.)

    As for Music? Couldn't help but notice the absence of STYX fans, most of whom would tell you that Carpenter's famous 'Halloween' theme was a ripoff of the keyboard riff from the STYX song 'Castle Walls' which predates 'Halloween' by a little over a year.

    Now that I'm getting into ripoffs, how about the striking similarities between 'Escape From New York' and Roger Zelazny's novel 'Damnation Alley' (in particular the Plissken/Hauk conversation towards the begining of the film which very closely matches the look, the feel, the tone, and at some points, the almost word for word dialect of a very similar scene towards the begining of the novel between the main character, 'Hell Tanner', and the Secretary of Traffic for the nation of California, Mr. Denton).

    My point being ripoffs and remakes are not a bad thing (look at Vincent Price's 'House Of Wax', John Sturges 'The Magnificent Seven' {american ripoff of Akira Kurosawa's classic 'Seven Samurai'}, or Sergio Leone's 'A Fistful of Dollars' {italian ripoff of another Kurosawa classic 'Yojimbo'}) and while Carpenter IS a fantastic film maker he is also not a film making saint.

    Don't get me wrong. Carpenter's remake of 'The Thing' is a classic, as is the original, and I can sit and watch them both back to back for a week straight and never get bored. And even though it's closer to the original story than the original film, in essence, it's still a remake.

    And 'Escape From New York' ...two words... "LOVED IT!!!" (although I will admit I like the book 'Damnation Ally' better).

    'Halloween', 'Big Trouble...', 'Starman', 'Darkstar' and ESPECIAllY 'They Live' (<---my alltime Carpenter fav)... it's the same thing, "Loved them!"

    My bottom line is that, YES, Mr. Carpenter needs to get his butt back behind the lens as even his alleged ripoffs, remakes, and bad films (short of 'Memoirs...' and possibly 'Christine') are classics and will always remain so, even if people forget who Carpenter is.
    As far as remakes go, let them continue remaking them. Either you'll like them or you won't. In the case of the latter my suggestion to everyone would be the same as if you were all watching something you didn't like on T.V.
    ..."If you don't like it, Change The Channel".


    BTW... my understanding is, even though it's not listed on IMDB, that Carpenter does has his hand in on the possible prequel and/or sequel to 'The Thing'. (what I've read about a sequel is that he would like to bring back Russel and David and use frostbite as an excuse to explain why the two of them looking so aged)

  17. ...and as a last minute addition for those who don't know. 'Big Trouble In Little China' was originally being written as a sequel to 'Buckaroo Bonzai'.


  18. They Live is good but it is remakeable if they get the right director. Any of his other films they should leave alone!

  19. Someone please, please give me a decent reason why Carpenter's (or anyone's) films shouldn't be remade.

    Does a remake make the original worse? Not in the slightest. Does anyone here think anything less of Carpenter's The Fog because the remake was terrible? Of course not. In fact, we probably think HIGHER of the original in comparison.

    I just don't get the obsessive hatred for remakes. Some aren't bad at all, especially when you compare them with a lot of the original stuff that comes out of Hollywood.

  20. You take remakes way too seriously. None of those movies have damaged the rep of the originals (if Halloween: Ressurection couldn't shit on Halloween's status as a classic then the Gone with the Wind-esque by comparison Rob Zombie version sure as hell didn't), in fact most of them have just confirmed how much better the original is. Take it easy, John Carpenter's legacy is fine, maybe he'll make another classic, but he probably won't. Just enjoy what we have, they'll be there 'till the day you die and some of them, regardless of how many sequels and remakes there are, will be just as well regarded.

  21. Why has no one mentioned In The Mouth Of Madness? Great friggin movie!

  22. I keep hearing that Carpenter is set to make a return to the big screen, and that he was about to do a movie with Nicholas Cage. I definetly want to see him doing a new movie soon as well. "Ghosts of Mars" may not have been great, but I still enjoyed it for what it was. His 2 episodes for "Masters of Horror" were among the best in the series, and they were proof that he has not lost his edge.

    Remakes of "The Thing" and "Escape From New York?" Bad idea. Horrible idea!

  23. Is Christine rubbish.? I don't agree. As an impressionable pre-teen, the movie was awesome.! The car reconstruction scene is ace, and alongside the usually ace Carpenter score, we get good old rock n roll.
    Also, Prince of Darkness still puts shivers down my spine. The 'future video' of the front of the church is disturbing as hell.! And (I could be wrong with this) but when Alice Cooper kills someone with the old bicycle, does he do the Michael Myers head turn thingy...

    Come back Carpenter..!

  24. John Carpenter's picture with Nicolas Cage---about a prison riot---is supposed to come out in September.

  25. Forget f'n remakes. I want a sequel to Big Trouble In Little China.

  26. I think Carpenter should do a remake of "Phantasm" The whole haunted mortuary genre would be back with a bang!!

  27. "...and as a last minute addition for those who don't know. 'Big Trouble In Little China' was originally being written as a sequel to 'Buckaroo Bonzai'."

    This is a persistent rumor, but it's completely untrue. "Big Trouble" was originally written as a western. Earl Mac Rauch updated the script to present day and added a lot of his style of humor to the proceedings. But it has nothing to do with "Buckaroo Banzai."

  28. Big Trouble in Little China.

    Best action romp, ever.

  29. Agree with everything you say BUT you're forgetting Assault and Ghosts were remakes themselves of Rio Bravo. Carpenter likely doesn't care, while the rest of us do, if his films are remade 'cause he sorta did the same thing himself. However, his remakes altered it enough so it wasn't a cash grab which reboots of his projects would more than likely be.

  30. You are NUTS if you think Zombie's remake was "mediocre". Carpenter was a part of the remake. Your opinion is already worthless just because of that comment. Get over yourself and get a real job instead of trying to tear down legitamate movies.

  31. TheLurkingBat:
    The Halloween theme sounds NOTHING like that section of "Castle Walls".....AT ALL.

  32. Have to agree with your article. The classic movies of John Carpenter need to stay original. When I first saw "The Thing" on HBO many years ago in the mid 80s, the whole Head turning into a Spider scene still haunts me to this day and I am in my mid 30s.
    Escape from NY is a great film, and it would be a shame if it is remade. The problem with Hollywood now is that Hollywood is running out of ideas. Too many bad remakes get the green light now because it isn't so much of original ideas anymore, it's how many seats we can fill on a Friday or Saturday night; sadly. Movies anymore have such a thin plot, it's really kind of sad.

    Good article and fews on John Carpenter...while I have only seen a few of his movies, he is certainly a master of the craft.

  33. I wish he would make another Escape From Cleveland or Pittsburgh.With Kirt Russell as the Snake.The Escape movies were good.And I realy liked the first The Fog,But the 2nd one was good too.I think all his movies are good.I hope he comes out with some new movies.I dont like remakes.Hollywood needs to realy think of makeing some new movies.Theres too many remakes.

  34. I think classics can't be touched by most remakes. Between Carpenter's choice of music and amazing sensation of isolation in "The Thing" for example his films are just untouchable. I definitely feel remakes are worthwhile though for so many reasons. Why not let someone redue a film and have their own perspective and vision seen. I think it's great when that happens, but I will admit that as far as the classics go, the buck stops there.

  35. First things first. My apologies for not writing "Rumor has it that..." before "...Big Trouble In Little China' was originally being written as a sequel to 'Buckaroo Banzai". The know fact is that Gary Goldman and David Weinstein wrote the original script, as a western and afterwards it was "streamlined and extensively rewritten by W.D. Richter." (the last quote is from the August '86 edition of Starlog Magazine and the name of the article was "John Carpenter - Kung Fu Hollywood Style")

    ...as far as the rumor goes (or the one that was passed to me, I should say)...
    ...it was, at one time, believed (and still is believed in some Hollywood circles) that before writing the original script for 'Big Trouble...' Goldman and Weinstein were handed a written basic storyline of what would have been "Buckaroo Banzai Against The World Crime League" (exactly how they came into possession of this and for what reasons it was given to them are unknown to me) and allegedly some elements made their way from that storyline into the first draft of the western that would eventually be transformed into the 'Big Trouble..." that we all know and love now.
    Again... It's still just a rumor and if I remember correctly it was running around about the same time or shortly after the rumor that Eddie Murphy was going to be in Star Trek 4. Guess we know how THAT rumor ended.

    To the Anonymous who said "The Halloween theme sounds NOTHING like that section of "Castle Walls".....AT ALL."
    ...I guess that makes us both "Non diehard STYX fans". I can say that while I do hear a similarity between the two musical works and I do think it's conceivable that the possibility does exist that Mr. Carpenter may have at one time heard 'Castle Walls' and unintentionally wrote a similar piece for Halloween, there are NO facts that support this claim nor do I believe that these claims are true only that the possibility does exists. I will say again, though, that I DO hear the similarity between the works and apparently the diehard STYX fans hear it even more.

    As to my comment on 'Christine', personally I did not like the film (although I will say, YES!, the reconstruction scene as well as a number of other effects shots, the soundtrack and sound effects {mostly the way they went about doing the radio dialog} were excellent.). There was just something the film as a whole that just didn't tweak me the right way (although going to see it with a bunch of {then} diehard {"we know more than you do about..." type} Stephen King fans who panned the film before the opening credits were finished probably didn't help). Guess I'll have to go back and rewatch it. Maybe my opinion will change. Who knows?

    As for my bottom line. It still stands.
    Remakes are not always a bad thing (I will admit that studios would make themselves allot more money by putting out a well though out remake rather than a quickie "lets cash in on this while we have the chance' remake) and as to any worries about remakes compromising someone's earlier work look at it this way...
    ...think of all the horrible movies whose source material came from fantastic novels and/or short stories (Impostor starring Gary Sinise comes to mind)
    ...think about all the fantastic or only decent movies whose source material came from mediocre and/or horrible novels and/or short stories (Forrest Gump - so-so book {in my own opinion} or The Warriors - so-so book)
    ...think about Star Wars (ok ok ok ok ok that's a 50/50 split but I would think that everyone gets the picture)
    ...and then think about all the movies, good or bad, that had very little or nothing at all to do with their source material.
    It's all a revolving door and it all boils down to this...
    ... "If you like it, Great! If you don't, change the channel".


  36. Just want to second Master Gorgon.

    PS - In case you haven't visited this site:


  37. Wouldn't you just love to see what Carpenter would do with 3D? I think that the biggest enemy of a film-maker is complacency, and that anything that keeps them out of the comfort zone is to be embraced. Carpenter is a great film maker who's got talent in spades, but who has degenerated into laziness - something we've seen with any number of terrific directors who burn brightly early in their careers then trade on the tricks and crafts they learned making their early winners. I'd love to see Carpenter utilise his talent again, but not (as some of the other posters seem to want) in some hackery or cannibalisation of his old work, but something totally original and satisfying.

  38. John Carpenter is authorizing all of these remakes and he's already admitted to it several times! He gets paid a fortune for doing nothing and that's why people are still remaking his old films. I think a lot of the problem lies with the fact that when "Ghosts Of Mars" failed to recoup it's budget costs, he had problems getting films financed and discovered that remaking his back catalog was the thing to do. They'll remake everything he's written, wait and see. Look "Halloween", "The Fog", "Assault On Precinct 13", "They Live", the list goes on. See how much he approves of the remakes becuase of teh cash that they bring him here - http://www.moviemaker.com/directing/article/john_carpenters_business_of_insanity/