John Carpenter changed the face of horror cinema in 1978 with his independent slasher film Halloween. The psychopath stalking a group of teens became a popular trope during the ’80s, influencing countless horror movies for decades, including iconic films like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Carpenter earned his nickname, the “Horror Master,” with other genre greats like The Thing, which relies on the paranoia that develops amongst its characters instead of cheap jump scares, and They Live, imagining a terrifying future thanks to our obsession with consumer culture.
Today, on Carpenter’s birthday, we’re looking back at his greatest quotes about fear and horror. “Don’t make a horror film — make a love story! Make something that’s far away from you,” the filmmaker once told a fellow horror lover. In Carpenter’s world, fear is never far away, always lurking in the darkness.
“Evil hiding among us is an ancient theme.”
“What scares me is what scares you. We’re all afraid of the same things. That’s why horror is such a powerful genre. All you have to do is ask yourself what frightens you and you’ll know what frightens me.”
“There are two different stories in horror: internal and external. In external horror films, the evil comes from the outside, the other tribe, this thing in the darkness that we don’t understand. Internal is the human heart.”
“We’re a violent country. We always have been. We embrace our individuality and our violence.”
“Monsters in movies are us, always us, one way or the other. They’re us with hats on. The zombies in George Romero’s movies are us. They’re hungry. Monsters are us, the dangerous parts of us. The part that wants to destroy. The part of us with the reptile brain. The part of us that’s vicious and cruel. We express these in our stories as these monsters out there.”