“The report of my death was an exaggeration.” – Mark Twain, 5/31/1897
On Tuesday, January 16th the Master of Horror John Carpenter turned 70. Rotten Tomatoes was quick to wish the acclaimed director, writer, and composer a Happy Birthday, with one minor mistake… they thought he was DEAD! They penned an article at 7:30 AM titled: “John Carpenter would have been 70 years old today!” In classical Twain-like manner, Carpenter responded on Twitter, “To Rotten Tomatoes, despite how it appears, I’m actually not dead.” Carpenter directed his first feature film in 1974 at only 26, the low-budget sci-fi comedy Dark Star. Four year later, he reinvented the genre with the most successful independent film of all time, Halloween. That record stood for 21 years until 1999’s The Blair Witch Project.
Despite creating some of the most genre defining and influential films of the last 40 years, Carpenter’s name rarely gets mentioned alongside other visionary genre directors like Ridley Scott. In fact, in 1982 both men released science fiction based films. Scott’s Blade Runner is considered an all time classic of science fiction. But there’s no doubt Carpenter’s The Thing is the more thrilling film with arguably the greatest practical effects put to screen at the time. Often overlooked, Carpenter put out horror and genre classic after cult-classic in the ’80s. With a ridiculous eight films in the decade, I challenge anyone to argue Carpenter was not king of ’80s cinema. Just look at this lineup: The Fog (1980), Escape From New York (1981), The Thing (’82), Christine (’83), Starman (’84), Big Trouble in Little China (’86), Prince of Darkness (’87), and They Live (’88).
While he’s only made two features in the past twenty years, Carpenter has remained busy. He actively composes, released an album of his classic film themes (Anthology) and just finished a nationwide concert tour, which I saw live in NYC back in November. He has also branched into comics. He and his wife, Sandy King Carpenter, started Storm King Comics, and have released several titles including anthologies Asylum and Three Tales For a HalloweeNight, as well as Tales of Science Fiction, which is a monthly series.
Carpenter, despite a lack of recognition, is one of the greatest directors of any genre there is, and the true Master of Horror… and he’s still alive!
Happy Birthday Mr. Carpenter!
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