Happy birthday John Carpenter!

John Carpenter in 2010
John Carpenter in 2010

John Howard Carpenter (photo ©Nathan Hartley Maas) was born on January 16, 1948 in Carthage, New York, USA.

Ever since he was a child, John Carpenter started getting passionate about cinema and was a kid when he started shooting horror shorts movies with an 8 mm camera. At the same time he took a passion for music from his father, a university music professor. He attended Western Kentucky University and later the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California but dropped out of college before graduating to shoot his first movie.

In 1974 John Carpenter made his debut of at cinema with “Dark Star”, of which he wrote the screenplay with his friend Dan O’Bannon and the soundtrack. A project started at university and then became an independent production, initially it wasn’t successful but after a few years got better results and ended up becoming a cult movie.

John Carpenter tried the thriller genre with “Assault on Precinct 13”, released in 1976, of which he was the director, screenwriter and soundtrack composer. It had a limited initial success in the US but was screened at the London Film Festival making a very positive impression that extended to the rest of Europe. In this case too, over the years it became a cult movie.

The commercial success arrived for John Carpenter in 1978 with “Halloween”, of which he was a director, screenwriter together with Debra Hill and soundtrack composer. A low budget movie, it was so successful that it was considered the father of the horror / slasher genre.

After that success John Carpenter directed a couple of films for television, works that allowed him to meet Adrienne Barbeau, who became his wife in 1979, and Kurt Russell, with whom he worked again in some of his most important movies. Adrienne Barbeau also starred in the movie “The Fog”, of which Carpenter was the director, screenwriter together with Debra Hill and soundtrack composer. The movie was another great success.

In 1981 “Escape from New York” was released, of which John Carpenter was director, screenwriter along with Nick Castle and soundtrack composer along with Alan Howarth. The budget was higher than his previous movies but certainly not huge so in certain scenes special effects with the computer were created. In this case the success was both oc critics and public.

John Carpenter returned to horror stories, albeit with a science fiction basis, with the movie “The Thing”, released in 1982. In this case it was a new adaptation for the cinema of John W. Campbell’s story “Who Goes There?” and for once Carpenter was only a director. In this case, initially the movie wasn’t successful and only after years it started getting considered a cult movie better than the first adaptation of the story.

John Carpenter directed and composed the soundtrack along with Alan Howarth of the “Christine”, which came out in 1983, an adaptation of the novel by Stephen King. The results of critics and audience were decent but far from exceptional. Carpenter returned to science fiction directing the movie “Starman”, released in 1984, which was a success.

A completely different movie was “Big Trouble in Little China”, released in 1986, of which John Carpenter was a director and composed some of the music. It was a commercial failure that marked the beginning of problems for Carpenter, who started thinking about returning to independent productions. Like other of his movies, with the passing of time ot became a cult.

John Carpenter returned to the horror genre with “Prince of Darkness”, released in 1987, of which he was also screenwriter and soundtrack composer along with Alan Howarth. This movie was also a commercial failure that later became a cult.

John Carpenter tried with a science fiction that was used to develop social and political themes with “They Live”, released in 1988, of which he was also screenwriter and soundtrack composer together with Alan Howarth. The themes of the movie, with the strong criticism of our society in which the sheep act as they are “suggested”, brought good results of criticism and at least a fair commercial success.

The movie “Memoirs of an Invisible Man”, released in 1992, of which John Carpenter was a director, was a failure with critics and audience. The decline continued with “In the Mouth of Madness”, released in 1994 with Carpenter as director and soundtrack composer, and “John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned”, released in 1995 with Carpenter as director and soundtrack composer together with Dave Davies.

John Carpenter tended to revamp his career with “Escape from L.A.”, released in 1996, of which he was director, co-writer and soundtrack composer along with Shirley Walker, but even this sequel to “Escape from New York” brought him little success.

In the following years John Carpenter tried again with horror movies, even mixing them with other genres, with “Vampires”, released in 1998, of which he was also soundtrack composer, which had a fair success, and “Ghosts” of Mars”, released in 2001, of which he was also screenwriter together with Larry Sulkis and soundtrack composer, which had little success.

At that point, John Carpenter took a break and in 2005 and 2006 directed two episodes of the anthology series “Masters of Horror”. His return to cinema took place in 2010, with the movie “The Ward”, of which he was only the director, but without being able to return to success.

In recent years John Carpenter devoted himself above all to music but in 2016 his role was announced as executive producer of a new Halloween franchise movie. Despite the commercial difficulties of many of his movies, some of them will remain in the history of cinema as a memory of a unique director.


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