Posts Tagged ‘John Carpenter’

Halloween III: Season of the Witch was Tommy Lee Wallace‘s directing debut. I saw it for the first time not long after it left the theaters, and like many other fans I was thoroughly disappointed. When I discovered that John Carpenter’s real plan was an anthology with each years release being a different movie by a different director, I thought “they should have used a different name.” I quickly learned that Martin Harris agreed with me (100). Apparently the name, as well as the deceptive marketing campaign were all the studio’s idea (101-102). I am glad that I got a chance to revisit the movie from a unbiased perspective.

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H3 shapeOne thing I noticed this time was the amount of homage that was paid to other movies. Of course, there are the many references to the original two Halloween movies; H3 masksthe quiet mannerisms of the automatons, the dark looming “shapes” watching, the predominance of masks, the original film playing on televisions, Dr. Daniel Challis‘s ex-wife is played by Nancy Kyes (the same actress who played Annie Brackett in the first Halloween), and as Harris points out Cochran represents the “embodiment of evil” (104) just as Michael Myers did.

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H3 under MikeThere is also the great connection of Dick Warlock. He played Myers in Halloween II and plays one of the killer robots in Halloween III. I found this great image that shows an amalgamation of both rolls.H3 duel image

H3 girl robotThe attacking disembodied arm from the Ellie robot plays tribute to Oliver Stone‘s The Hand (1981), Freddie Francis‘s Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), or perhaps Herbert L. Strock‘s  The Crawling Hand (1963). The name of the town and the Ellie robot were both references to Invasion of the Body Snatchers (101).

The deserted motel in Santa Mira, the black lingerie and the old lady in the rocking chair who turns out not to be real all bring to mind Alfred Hitchcock‘s PsychoH3 lingereH3 hotelH3 knitting robot

The twirling circle of light reminded me of Steven Spielberg‘s  Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

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I love Wallace’s use of various shades of orange and black (the universal colors of Halloween) throughout the movie; the sun setting behind the trick-or-treaters, the glowing flames behind the factory, and even the pumpkin colored goo that emerged from the dead robots. A subtle but beautiful tribute to the holiday that created the franchise.H3 factory burns

H3 silloette      H3 goo Bravo! Wallace. Bravo!

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So, you already know that I am a big John Carpenter fan, and that Halloween was the first of his films that I ever saw. That viewing, 36 years ago, left a lasting impression on me. I remember leaving the theatre with my friends, and how we all laughed nervously because one of them had a babysitting job that night. The show was just plain creepy and the monster still creeps me out to this day. I went to a haunted house a few yearshalloweenblu12-1 ago and they had a Michael Myers wandering around outside. Even though I knew the boy who was wearing the costume, I wouldn’t let him get near me. The plain jumpsuit, masked face and silent mannerisms were too well copied.

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H. P. Lovecraft is reported as saying,Halloween-23halloween distance “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (Zinoman 62). Carpenter captures the fear of the unknown with his faceless, emotionless, blank creature. He could be anyone under there. And even more, he could be anywhere.halloween out the door

halloweenmichael1978According to Zinoman, “the toughest challenge of every monster movie is making the appearance of the creature live up to expectations” (113). This is what he refers to as “The Monster Problem.” Dan O’Bannon, one of the writers of the Alien series of movies as well as The Return of the Living Dead and Total Recall, among others, agreed with Carpenter that the scariest parts are in the waiting. By creating an empty, blank creature Carpenter solved this “Monster Problem” (Zinoman 183). Even though we halloween Loomis_saves_Lauriesee the monster lurking in the background, we only actually see his face twice, once when he is a little boy and once for a brief moment right before he is shot by Dr. Loomis. For the majority of the movie he is little more than a ghost, a product of a wild imagination, a boogey man. And as little Tommy Doyle says, “You can’t kill the boogey man,” but watch out because he can kill you.

 

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Ghostsom2I love John Carpenter. Well, I love his work. I’ve never actually met the man. I saw Halloween in the theater as a young teenager and I was hooked (yeah I know I’m giving away my age). There is just something about the edgy music and visual effects that get my skin tingling, and those combined with a great storyline keeps his movies jumping around my head for days and sometimes years later. For a long time, Escape from New York was my favorite of his movies followed by The Thing.Of course it could have had something to do with the fact that I have had a crush on Kurt Russell ever since his The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes days (once again showing my age), but a few years ago Ghosts of Mars trumped Russell to be come my new favorite Carpenter movie, although I knew it was my favorite, I couldn’t quite say why.253348-ghosts

Brigid Cherry says “the point of analysis here is to ask what the film has to say about the world it reflects” (210). While reading about “Horror and the Cultural Moment” (167) and the samples that Cherry provides, I had to ask myself, what does this film say about the new century that we are creating? Cherry talks about the “changing roles of women” and how “the heroine becomes increasingly self-sufficient and the male characters more ineffectual” (174), but Ghosts of Mars does not end with a final girl fighting off the monster on her own.

UF9KaG5LbGU4UUkx_o_at-the-last-moment-ghosts-of-mars-compromises-its-The changing roles of women can be seen in the political structure of the human colony on mars, a matriarchal government where even the police force is run by women. However, the final survivors have even more to say about the structure of relationships in the twenty-first century. One man and one woman working together, watching each other’s back, represent the more collaborative nature of relationships, or perhaps society’s acceptance of masculine and feminine unity within the self. One black person and one white person represent changing race relationships and perhaps the acceptance of inter-racial couples.

ghmar_stl_1_h_8x10The monsters in the show are aliens, but they are the original inhabitants of the planet. This could represent the terroristic threat from countries that have been affected by imperialistic practices of the Western nations of power. The monsters are also invisible until they invade and take over the body they enter, transforming it through mutilation. This could represent the fear of threat from the inside such as sleeper cells, home-grown terrorist, and radical political movements.

Of course, none of these things explain why I find the movie so appealing that I can watch it over and over again, but they do say a lot about the “cultural moment” of the movie.