John Carpenter

Why the Slasher Movie Was the Quintessential ’80s Horror Subgenre

Horror films channel the fears and fervor of modernity, acting as reflectors turned against their viewers. They’re the most epochal form of escapism of the last century. Take, for example, James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein, which uses monsters and madmen to depict the internal torment of repressed sexual orientation at a time when homophobia was the norm, or Psycho and Peeping Tom, which explore the identity suppression and psycho-sexual struggle of the McCarthy era (to which The Wicker Man would provide a gleefully perverse epilogue in 1973). John Carpenter’s Halloween presents suburban banality and parental tyranny — no pot, no premarital sex, be home by nine — personified as a living urban legend in Michael Meyers. David Cronenberg’s skin-tighteningly creepy Shivers, and later his remake of The Fly, capture the fear of disease and bodily disintegration. The fear of communism permeates Invasion of the Body Snatchers (both of them), while Carpenter, always happy to usurp the conservative norm, portrays the fear and paranoia of communism, rather than communism itself, sinisterly in The Thing. … Read More

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50 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Halloween’

Thirty-five years ago today, a low-budget horror thriller opened quietly in Kansas City, Missouri. It would end up changing the genre forever. The simple tale of an unstoppable killer stalking and killing young people on All Hollow’s Eve, Halloween earned a staggering return on its small investment and prompted a slew of sequels and “slasher movie” imitators. But the original film was one of skilled craftsmanship, genuine wit, and low-budget ingenuity; here are a few fun facts about its… Read More

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The 25 Most Suspenseful Movies Ever Made

It’s mid-October, and with Halloween around the corner, ‘tis the season for scary movies. (We’ve got a few suggestions, as you may have noticed.) But wait, you might be saying. (It’s possible.) I like to be scared at movies, but I don’t like all the blood and guts that seem unavoidable in modern horror. What about me? Well, it would seem that you don’t like gore of horror, but you like the tension and suspense. Never fear; we’ve collected the 25 most suspenseful movies of all time, guaranteed to creep you out without grossing you… Read More

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30 Criminally Underrated Movie Sequels

Next week brings the Blu-ray debut of Psycho IIand Psycho III, two 1980s horror films that had the gall, the downright temerity, to follow up Hitchcock’s groundbreaking horror classic. But here’s the thing about these movies: they’re not half bad. There’s no denying that the vast majority of sequels are both unnecessary and terrible, less continuations of stories or honest entertainments than filmed deals. But it’s also unfair to paint all follow-ups with that broad brush; there are a fair number of sequels that are far better than their reputations would have you… Read More

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10 of Hollywood’s Most Surprising and Heartening Success Stories

Examining the weekly box office reports can be a depressing business, watching every week as terrible movies top the charts and great ones disappear into the wind. But this summer, as we’ve discussed, things have been a little different. Turkeys like The Lone Ranger and R.I.P.D. have taken deserved belly flops; low-budget efforts like The Purge and The Conjuring were surprise hits. And the news got better this weekend: Woody Allen’s wonderful Blue Jasmine expanded to 50 screens and landed in the top 15 with a robust $40K per-screen average — second only to The Spectacular Now, which earned a healthy $50K on each of its four screens. In this money-driven business, it’s always a relief when the bad movies tank, and the good movies make money. Here’s ten more examples of small movies that earned both the acclaim and the box office they deserved: … Read More

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‘The Birds’ Turns 50: 7 Horror Filmmakers on Its Influence

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic The Birds turns 50 years old today, and we’re celebrating in the expected ways: watching the movie, looking up a lot, making sure all of our windows are shut tight. But Hitchcock’s film wasn’t just an effective scarefest; its innovative use of sound, matter-of-fact drama, and unrelenting claustrophobia have inspired horror filmmakers since its release. In celebration of the film’s anniversary, we gathered quotes from seven makers of scary movies, who had a thing or two to say about how the film influenced them, and why it’s one of the all-time great horror flicks. … Read More

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Celebrate Quentin Tarantino’s 50th Birthday With 16 of His Favorite Films

Quentin Tarantino, America’s favorite over-caffeinated movie geek, turns the big 5-0 today — a bit of a shock, considering that he seems forever frozen as the animated, motor-mouthed kid we first met back in 1992, via his shockingly assured debut film Reservoir Dogs. Your film editor had the opportunity to spend a fair amount of time considering Mr. Tarantino’s influences and filmography while writing the forthcoming 20th anniversary volume Pulp Fiction: The Complete Story of Quentin Tarantino’s Masterpiece (out October 15th — but already available for pre-order!). Part of the fun of trying to figure out what makes a movie encyclopedia like Tarantino tick — particularly one who wears his influences so proudly — is in diving into his favorite films and tracing the path his own work took from them. So if you’d care to celebrate QT’s 50 years by watching some of his most beloved pictures, join us after the jump for an adapted excerpt from the book, with a few recommendations from his favorite flicks. … Read More

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12 Horror Sequels That Don’t Suck

If you’re like us, you’ve probably spent a good (possibly unhealthy!) chunk of your October watching lots and lots of horror movies. But if you watch too many, you’ll start to notice a pattern. Horror movies seem to be the genre most prone to sequelizing and rebootinating — there are five Wrong Turns and six Leprechauns, for Chrissakes — and the results are seldom worth a damn. The logic is easy to understand; with horror, the genre itself (rather than big-name stars or mind-blowing special effects) is the marketable element, so once the connection has been made, it’s easy to go back for seconds. And horror movies are constructed accordingly, with doors left open for sequels and series. Most are just awful. But some aren’t; occasionally, the ingenuity and inventiveness of a good chiller will return in its follow-up. So, as you’re putting together your Halloween DVD stacks, allow us to help you separate the pop from the pap; our dozen horror sequels that (contrary to expectation) are not terrible are after the jump. … Read More

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