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Favorite/least favorite John Carpenter directed movie


Tabonga
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(Inspired by ArchAngel's and moi's responses in the They Live thread.)

As stated in the other thread, my all time favorite of his is the revision of "The Thing" (which is actually much closer to the 1934 novella "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell Jr. than the earlier fifties version was).

My least favorite is Ghosts of Mars,  Scriptwise it just wasn't very focused or coherent.  Given the fairly strong cast it could have been so much more.  My favorite choice aside, Carpenter's strongest suit is generally with films with some camp appeal - no real opportunity for that here given the rather narrow confines of the script.

 

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I have not seen everything but what older horror flicks I have seen I enjoyed in one form or another especially Halloween '78, but Big Trouble in Little China would be my top favorite movie I can watch again and again and never get tired of it still to this day 

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54 minutes ago, BeaglePuss said:

As far as least favorite film, it’s The Fog by a country mile. I never understood the appeal of that film. I thought it was awful. 

Yeah, I guess a bunch of his "relatively" later stuff I don't even think of as John Carpenter, and would almost certainly end up being my least liked.

 

The Thing stands out as being one of those imaginatively graphic horror movies of the 80's that actually had TV-play so that kids saw it and had stuff like the chest-opening-arm-biting scene burned into their minds forever.  Most of the "harder" horror movie classics of that era didn't have TV-edits that I know of.

 

But Big Trouble is just awesome on so many levels, from the sound track to the visual style to the various tropes it exploited and enhanced that later became staples of 90's video games like Mortal Kombat.

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Member · Posted

My fav director and a good number of my all time fav films are by Carpenter.  I've often said the Russel Carpenter trilogy of Thing/Escape/Big Trouble is my fav film of all time.

Top Tier:
Big Trouble in Little China
The Thing
Escape From NY
Halloween

High Tier:
Christine
They Live
Assault on Precinct 13
Elvis
In the Mouth of Madness

Middle Tier:
Prince of Darkness
Body Bags
The Fog
Star Man
Someone's Watching Me
Cigarette Burns
Escape From LA

Low Tier:
Village of the Damned
The Ward
Vampire$

Bottom Tier:
Ghosts of Mars
Dark Star
Memoirs of an Invisible Man
Pro Life

Rule of thumb is his 70s/80s stuff is mostly bangers, while his 90s and onward output is pretty bad (save for In the Mouth of Madness)

Edited by fox
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Big Trouble in Little China easily my favorite. Other favorites are The Thing, They Live, The Fog, and Halloween. Least favorite, only seen it once, but Ghosts of Mars sucked. Never really got into the Escape movies, but they aren't bad. Have seen others but can't remember then well enough since it has been so many years and they were probably just okay. Oh, and for some reason never liked Christine, just doesn't do it for me.

Edited by MeganJoanne
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3 hours ago, arch_8ngel said:

Favorite would be a coin toss between The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China.

I will have to look over his full filmography to think up a least favorite, as it isn't something I keep in mind for his movies.

For me when someone I know can be outstanding the flops stick out more than with a more run of the mill director.  I was bitterly disappointed with Ghosts of Mars when I left the theater,

I was also disappointed with The Fog - it a had  a few high points though - it started out strong but never regained any momentum:

 

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Member · Posted

A classically trained director who made the movies he wanted to make.  Working with Hollywood at times and others on his own, keeping an independent spirit alive.

Also he scores most of his own flicks, and has put out a ton of memorable themes, often imitated by every wanna-be 80s throwback tv show/movie.  Nowadays he mostly just does music and is also an avid gamer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQgAJe_0XGw
 

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6 minutes ago, Tabonga said:

I was also disappointed with The Fog - it a had  a few high points though - it started out strong but never regained any momentum

A ghost story about a town with a dark past is a pretty good setup for a ghostly supernatural slasher film. It features a ton of Carpenter regulars here, Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, and they are fun to hang out with here. Also nice to see a fisherman, drifter, radio dj, and a couple other non-stock characters come together in a horror film.

The images of fog rolling in and the phantoms are pretty vivid. The film also has a nice anti-establishment undertone with the mystery of the town, and the priest dealing with sin and redemption.

Not everything comes together though. The film feels rather plodding, the mystery is revealed pretty early on and we have to wait for the rest of the cast to play catch up to what we already know. There are a lot of characters, but most add very little to plot. Normally less important characters get the ax or hook in this case, but the body count is rather low. Not sure if they were going for less is more or if the budget or censors didn’t allow it, but the kills are rather tame, most seem to feature someone getting pulled into the fog or just getting killed off screen, it is rather disappointing.

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Editorials Team · Posted

Top Tier
The Thing
Big Trouble in Little China
 
High Tier
Escape from New York
Halloween
In the Mouth of Madness
Prince of Darkness
They Live
 
Middle Tier
Pro Life
Cigarette Burns
The Fog
Escape from LA
Vampires
Body Bags
Assault on Precinct 13
Starman
Christine
 
Low Tier
The Ward
Dark Star
Ghosts of New York
Memoirs of an Invisible Man
Village of the Damned
 
Bottom Tier
Stuff he was only tangentially related to (Vampires sequel for instance)
 
Never Seen
Elvis
Someone's Watching Me
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17 minutes ago, MeganJoanne said:

Big Trouble in Little China easily my favorite. Other favorites are The Thing, They Live, The Fog, and Halloween. Least favorite, only seen it once, but Ghosts of Mars sucked. Never really got into the Escape movies, but they aren't bad. Have seen others but can't remember then well enough since it has been so many years and they were probably just okay. Oh, and for some reason never liked Christine, just doesn't do it for me.

I really liked Escape from New York - it moved along fast enough that you didn't stop to think about the inherent silliness - and it had a seasoned  cast that was able to play with their roles (but not go overboard) to add to the campiness.   Escape From LA was a lot weaker - they were really unable to recapture the magic that held the first one together.

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36 minutes ago, MeganJoanne said:

 Never really got into the Escape movies, but they aren't bad.

One of my favorite movie theater memories was my dad taking me and my best friend to see Escape from LA when we were 13.

My dad was ridiculously pumped for it, because he loved Escape from New York (which we then rented and watched that same weekend).

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I believe, IIRC from the director's commentary, the reason The Thing is so well made as a film is because production was delayed a year and he kept doing pre-production during that time. I mean, in terms of who's been taken and when, there are I think two great shots of the hallway that I originally thought were just jumpcuts. Later I would come to realize that those clips are there to show the jackets on the hooks. Great storytelling.

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Member · Posted

I love They Live and Halloween with my favorite being They Live by a wide margin. I find the rest of his output to be spotty and disappointing but he has interesting ideas. I mean, Prince of Darkness is no great movie but it gets points for weirdness.

 

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26 minutes ago, mbd39 said:

I love They Live and Halloween with my favorite being They Live by a wide margin. I find the rest of his output to be spotty and disappointing but he has interesting ideas. I mean, Prince of Darkness is no great movie but it gets points for weirdness.

 

You'll have to explain how The Thing, or BIg Trouble could be perceived as "disappointing" 😛

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Member · Posted
10 minutes ago, arch_8ngel said:

You'll have to explain how The Thing, or BIg Trouble could be perceived as "disappointing" 😛

Admittedly those are two of his best, but I still can't get into them as much as Halloween and They Live.

I also enjoy the idea of Big Trouble more than actually watching it. It's so fast paced that I have trouble even keeping track of whatever plot there is.

 

 

 

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Man, I hate seeing all the hate that Ghosts of Mars is getting. I swear, it seems like no one likes that movie but me. Hahahaha

But yeah, I am a huge John Carpenter fan. Picking a favorite of his movies would be impossible for me, but if you held a gun to my head, I'd have to say....

Halloween, no wait, They Live, no wait, The Thing, no wait, The Fog, no wait, Escape from New York, no wait...

*BANG* 

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6 hours ago, JamesRobot said:

 

Least favorites that I've seen is probably Dark Star.  Not sure what I was expecting but that was not it.

Dark Star was really a student film that gradually expanded to a full length feature over a 4 year period.   I think the final budget was around 50k .  (I have a high tolerance for low budget films (one of my favorite directors is Roger Corman) since you can't expect them to always look as good as a bigger budgeted one). If you view (as it were) Dark Star in that light (again as it were) and treat it as an off kilter comedy it is doable/

Edited by Tabonga
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