Among film buffs, October is known as the designated month to relax at night while watching some bona fide horror movies. On this article, I will dive down on the filmography of one of my favorite directors: John Carpenter.
In the 1970s, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas blew up as directors. One could say they were some of the most influential directors of their generation. However, there is another director who started his career in the 1970s as well and who is arguably as influential as them.
John Carpenter is different from the before mentioned directors, because despite not having the fame or the multi-million dollar company like they had, he had a vision, a different style of film-making, especially during the movies he directed between the 70s and the 80s. Today, Carpenter is one of the most influential directors and every young or veteran director pays tribute to him in the movies that they make.
But what makes John Carpenter’s style so captivating?
Unique framing and camera work
The opening shot of “Halloween” established the tone of Carpenter’s game-changing slasher film. He established geography with his long shots, immersing the viewer in the surroundings where the movie will take place. Although limited by the budget, Carpenter gave “Halloween” a sophistication by ingeniously utilizing the lighting, framing and the tracking long shots. The way he frames each scene, adds suspense and a pending sense of doom, which no cheap jumps scare could ever achieve.
Paranoia and synth
Besides being a skilled director, John Carpenter is actually a skilled musician as well. He scored the majority of his own movies, which in my opinion, adds a special flare to each movie. As soon as the movie starts, the synth rich soundtrack kicks in, and you can feel the anxiety creeping in.
In the movie “The Thing” you can feel the paranoia among the characters taking over. It’s trapped in that enclosed space, bouncing off between characters, until it bounces on the viewer. Ironically, Carpenter composed his own music because it was cheaper for production, but somehow, he made the movies even more special, making some scenes unforgettable, a merit of his chiming and dreadful synth soundtrack.
From his very first debut, Carpenter captured perfectly the sense of paranoia, by focusing each story on a group of small people, confined in small places. He wanted to invoke a strong sense of claustrophobia, by trapping some characters in horrific scenarios. However this being a budget decision, it helped a lot in fleshing out the best qualities of every horror movie that he has directed.
The irony of John Carpenter, is that most of his movies which are considered as cult classics, where initially dismissed either critically or commercially at the time of release. Yet Carpenter’s films have endured, even as the movies that won awards or soared to the top of the box office in the ’80s have gradually faded from memory.
Simply put, without the unique sights and sounds of John Carpenter’s movies, our modern filmmaking landscape wouldn’t be the same.