Halloween maker. The horror movie master who at 75 chooses to live like a rock star

Standing on stage, with his band, his music, his mustaches and his almost outlandish movements, he feels that only now, on some edge of old age, is he fulfilling his dream. Indeed, John Carpenter, perhaps the greatest horror film director (he made wonderful and chilling films like Halloween, The fog, The thing, Christine) today he turns 75, he has not filmed anything since 2010 but in return he triumphs as a rockstar… The guy, undaunted by the passing of the years, formed his own band and confesses: “Since I was a boy I knew that my world would be the cinema but now I have another career in music. Deep down, every kid wants to be a rock star.”

John Carpenter today (Credit: IG @johncarpenterofficial)

The music thing is not a late whim. Carpenter, in fact, composed the soundtrack for almost all of his films, which is why he is vindicated not only as a great director but also as an extraordinary composer of soundtracks, which have always been groundbreaking and have strongly influenced the successors to him.

Born on January 16, 1948, in Carthage, New York, his mother was a bookseller and his father, a violinist and music professor at Western Kentucky University who did everything possible for his son to follow in his footsteps. John, in fact, began his musical studies at his father’s school and at a very young age he formed a band with his girlfriend at the time and with Tommy Lee Wallace, also a future director, screenwriter, film producer and his great collaborator for a long time. . That first band was called Tomorrow’s Childrenwhich was followed by another, The Kaleidoscope, which gained some fame in Kentucky as the best band to play at prom parties. The cinema began to stomp in the life of Carpenter and Wallace, so they made versions of songs from The Doors either The Monkees while they projected Super-8 movies over the drums.

An image that turned 44: John Carpenter during the filming of his masterpiece, Halloween (Credit: IG @johncarpenterofficial)
An image that turned 44: John Carpenter during the filming of his masterpiece, Halloween (Credit: IG @johncarpenterofficial)

Then he formed another band, The Coupe de Villes, along with Wallace and another future writer-director: Nick Castle. In college, Carpenter composed musical themes for many of his classmates’ short films while he was developing the other great passion of his life: cinema. He was fascinated by John Ford and Howard Hawks westerns and he was dying for low-budget horror movies. A precocious director, at the age of 14 he had already shot four horror shorts in 8mm: Revenge of the Colossal Beast, Terror from Space, Gorgo vs. Godzilla Y Sorcerers from Outer Space. At 17 he created his own production company, Emeraldand published his own film magazine: Fantastic Film Illustrated.

He was just 22 years old when he co-wrote and composed the music for The resurrection of Bronco Billya short tribute to the western that won an Oscar in 1970. It was around that time that he began studying film at the University of Southern California but dropped out when filming began for Dark Star (1974), a film that he co-wrote with Dan O’Bannon (future screenwriter for alien, by Ridley Scott) and in which he also composed the soundtrack and collaborated in the elaboration of the special effects. His cinematographic career became more and more solid and in 1976 he set foot in the history of cinema with his first great film: Assault on Precinct 13.

Halloween, by John Carpenter, from 1978, made salsher cinema fashionable, that subgenre of terror with a murderer with a butcher knife who kills young people and adolescents (Credit: IG @johncarpenterofficial)
Halloween, by John Carpenter, from 1978, made salsher cinema fashionable, that subgenre of terror with a murderer with a butcher knife who kills young people and adolescents (Credit: IG @johncarpenterofficial)

“I can’t bear to see any of my old films again,” he declared to the British newspaper some time ago. The Independent-. I had to compose the soundtrack of Assault on Precinct 13 in just 24 hours.” She actually shot it for less than $100,000, just like many of her best films, usually made with very few resources. In several of them Carpenter used pseudonyms so that the credits were not all the same, because he himself was a director, screenwriter, composer and editor. “I was the fastest, cheapest composer I could get,” he jokes. In that multiple facet of director, composer and more, he joins the club of other greats such as Charles Chaplin, Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen.

Assault on Precinct 13 was well received by the public and critics, but the film that definitively consecrated it was Halloween (1978), with Jamie Lee Curtis, one of the highest-grossing titles in the history of the seventh art, full of tributes to Alfred Hitchcock and which made slasher cinema fashionable, that subgenre of terror with a murderer with a butcher knife who kills young people and adolescents… The chilling music of Halloween is a trademark of Carpenter, imitated endlessly by all subsequent horror movies, and the saga of the story reaches our days although in the sequels he only had to do with the soundtracks.

John Carpenter, at 75, lives the life of a rock star (Credit: IG @johncarpenterofficial)
John Carpenter, at 75, lives the life of a rock star (Credit: IG @johncarpenterofficial)

Following this hit, Carpenter directed two made-for-television movies: Someone’s watching me (1978) and the biopic Elvis (1979). He then returned to the cinema with other great terrifying titles: The fog (1980), blockbuster with a ghost story, 1997: Rescue in New York (1981), a post-apocalyptic story with Kurt Russell, his fetish actor, and The thing (1982) again with Russell and which has been interpreted, under Carpenter’s protest, in a prophetic key anticipating AIDS. The thing It did not do so well in collection but it continued Christine (1983), a new blockbuster based on a Stephen King story about a devilish car. starman (1984) was highly praised and relatively successful, but it marked the beginning of Carpenter’s debacle at the box office, with titles that didn’t pan out as well. Coup in Little China (1986) and his new low-budget movies like Prince of Darkness (1987) and They are alive (1988), in which he is once again a director, screenwriter and composer.

Starting in the 1990s, Carpenter made several films, although he never recovered the success of his golden age. Of these times are, among others, in the mouth of fear (1994), 2013: Rescue in LA (1996) and vampires (1998). The last movie she filmed is Locked (2010), which takes place inside a psychiatric hospital and which bears some similarity to Halloween.

A John Carpenter Halloween poster (Credit: IG @johncarpenterofficial)
A John Carpenter Halloween poster (Credit: IG @johncarpenterofficial)

The same guy who created the scariest tune ever in Halloween, who panicked the audience with a synthesizer and a piano in The fogand who consumed one cigarette after another on film sets, is now happy to be reborn on stage as a rock star, chewing gum and stroking his mustaches, and composing electronic music with his band, formed by his son Cody Carpenter in keyboards and his godson Daniel Davies on guitar: “I loved The Doors, the Beatles, The Supremes Y The Four Tops. In this music there is definitely funk. It gives me so much joy that I have to get another career as a musician at this age. There is a feeling of enjoyment in our playing. There is no way to understand what he feels. He is liberating,” he declared to The Independent.

In recent years the trio has already released three volumes of the album Lost Themes, collections of themes for imaginary soundtracks, compositions as sophisticated and disturbing as Carpenter’s cinema was. The albums have been very well received and have even led them to go on tour, something hitherto unthinkable for the director, a former lone wolf. They also released a compilation of his most significant soundtracks. The horror maestro says playing with the band energizes him: “We made this record with huge smiles on our faces… This is some of the best music I’ve ever made.”

John Carpenter with his son Cody and his godson Daniel, with whom he has released three albums (Credit: IG @johncarpenterofficial)
John Carpenter with his son Cody and his godson Daniel, with whom he has released three albums (Credit: IG @johncarpenterofficial)

Carpenter recorded the albums in his home studio with Cody and Daniel, and they took advantage of every minute of rest to play video games, another of the director’s passions along with comic books and NBA games. He himself has recounted (over the years he also became less dry in interviews) that he found the recording very amusing, without bullfights or pressures or actors asking him what they should do, and only following what his imagination dictated.

Carpenter has also declared that in the right circumstances he would return to directing films, as long as there is sufficient financing and it is a project that he falls in love with. For now, he composed the music for the latest installment of the film saga of Halloween (Halloween Ends) directed by David Gordon Green, and the trio have just announced the release of the album with the soundtrack, which was recorded in Carpenter’s studio. The main themes come from the Halloween original -with an atmosphere of blood-curdling tension- although they were refined and new melodies were created for the new characters.

It seems that the renewed love affair with music, in Carpenter’s case, is here to stay. For now, no more horror images: “For an old man like me,” she confesses, “being able to interact with young people standing near the stage is the best feeling on Earth.”

Claudia Dublin

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Halloween maker. The horror movie master who at 75 chooses to live like a rock star