My Top Five John Carpenter Films Part 2

3.The Fog:  What a wonderfully old fashioned and creepy ghost story.  Carpenter makes full use of the setting, a coastal California town.   Fog is pretty creepy on it’s own, and this film understands that.  Opening with John Houseman as an old sailor telling ghost stories around a campfire really sets up the mood of the entire film.  The small town of Antonio Bay is celebrating their Centennial.  They are remembering their heroic forefathers who saved the town from the brink of extinction.

But the truth is, the founding fathers were not such great guys.  See, a leper colony asked for their help.  They wanted to set up a small town nearby for lepers to live in peace.  And they offered to pay handsomely for some land.  Instead of outright refusing, they double crossed the captain of the leper ship, the Elizabeth Dane, and sank it-but not before stealing the riches within.

So one hundred years later, as a dense fog rolls in, it brings with it the Elizabeth Dane and her undead crew.  It falls on to Nick Castle (Tom Atkins), hitchiker Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis), Radio host Stevie Wayne(Adrienne Barbeau) and the local Priest (Hal Holbrook) to srvive and figure out how to save the town.  While these are angry ghosts, you cannot help but have a sense of injustice for them, making them understandable monsters seeking to right a wrong.

The effects are practical, and therefore create a realisim that digital fog lacks-the fog is “heavy” and “oppressive”.  The remake, failed in part because the fog felt fake and lifeless.  It carried no weight and was wispy-making it less than ominous.

2.Halloween– The daddy of the slasher.  Truth is, I am not a huge fan of the slasher movie.  I prefer the monster move.  This one rates so high above the three monster movies because Halloween is just about perfectly crafted.  Michael Myers, first off, it a pretty perfect faceless boogeyman.  He is the kind of character you could see being a small town urban legend.  “Look out for the Myer’s place-they say Michael Still lives there…”  And what makes Michael especially creepy?  He comes from a family that seems so normal…yet somehow, he saw fit as a child to kill his older sister.  He’s a force… a weapon of nature.

Jamie Lee Curtis, on the other hand, is the baby sitter.  She bright, decent hearted and when you were a kid and she was your babysitter?   You might even have had a crush on her.

The film takes it’s time between it’s low keyed violence.  Michael is in no hurry to kill and will wait until the right time.  The long shots of the neighborhood lets this feel like any small midwestern town. Carpenter makes the most of Myer’s unspecific shape.  Not muscular, but not puny, he can be deceptive in his strengths.  There are excellent moments of dread, where Michael appears slightly off frame, or from a shadow.  Many have imitated, most have failed.

Finally, there is the classic haunted music of Halloween.  Carpenter’s score for the film is wonderfully effective in it’s rather sparse instrumentation and harsh tones.

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