John Carpenter, master of horror, to meet fans at Wizard Con

ASSOCIATED PRESS Carpenter, with most-used actor Kurt Russell in a sequel flop.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Carpenter, with most-used actor Kurt Russell in a sequel flop.
Posted: June 12, 2014

FAMED filmmaker John Carpenter is proud of his career and accomplishments, but sees no need to make things more complicated than they are.

One of the myths that has taken on the aura of fact surrounding his classic "Halloween," which made both Jamie Lee Curtis and him stars, was that Carpenter was trying to draw an allegory to the dangers of casual sex.

"No," Carpenter said recently by phone. "That's not why I made it. I made it for the same reason it resonates with people."

Which is?

"It's scary," he said.

Carpenter says that a lot of what is now taken as fact with "Halloween," still one of the most successful independent films, simply isn't true. For instance, many assume that "Halloween" was a smash hit from the moment it was released.

" 'Halloween' was originally released on a regional basis and the reviews were awful," he said. "They just tore me and the film apart.

"Then, city to city, word of mouth on the film started to grow [and] eventually, it started picking up steam and made a lot of money - but the film and I definitely didn't experience immediate success."

As for making it big in the horror genre, Carpenter said, "I studied all kinds of movies in film school, and then I lucked into 'Halloween,' which essentially got my career going. I got a lot of movies that resembled 'Halloween' after that, and that was fine. But I actually got to branch out more than you might think."

At the height of his horror popularity, Carpenter worked on a wide variety of films, such as "Dark Star," "Big Trouble in Little China," "Starman" and "They Live." They all were critical and commercial failures at the time, but are now regarded as cult classics.

So, does it bother Carpenter that he's identified mostly with horror films?

"Never! Never!" he exclaimed. "Are you kidding?"

As for why Carpenter's films took so long to become favorites, he has no idea.

"Someone else may know why they eventually connected later," he said. "But I don't really know. I'm obviously happy that they have."

The actor with whom Carpenter worked most was Kurt Russell, who starred in Carpenter films as diverse as "Elvis," "The Thing," "Escape from New York" and "Big Trouble in Little China."

"Kurt and I did 'Elvis' together," Carpenter said. "I was really impressed by his professionalism, and it was the start of a career working together.

"I don't know what to say about each of the others," Carpenter continued. "Those films all feel different. 'Big Trouble in Little China' was a comedy, 'The Thing' was really serious and 'Escape from New York' was more whimsical."

The 1990s saw Carpenter produce some notable misfires, including "Village of the Damned" and "Escape from L.A.," which he says proved that success or failure in the film industry is "a crapshoot."

After staying mostly under the radar since 2001's "Ghosts of Mars," Carpenter slid back into the director's chair for Showtime's "Masters of Horror" with the episode "Cigarette Burns."

"I liked the story," he said. "There was a lot of time devoted to real horror. It was great. I really had a good time doing that. I got to work with Norman Reedus, too, who is now a big star."

Carpenter enjoyed the experience so much, he also contributed another "Masters of Horror" episode, "Pro-Life," which is about a young girl who is raped and impregnated by a demon and wants to have an abortion, but her redneck brothers and father are against it.

Again, the desire to direct the episode came down to a simple fact.

"I liked the story," he said.

For info and tickets to Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con (June 19-22 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St.), go to Look for the Daily News' special Wizard Con supplement next Wednesday.


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