The early 80s was the prime time for horror. In books, authors such as Stephen King and Clive Barker were constantly producing bestsellers. In the movies, Wes Craven dominated theaters as well as my favorite horror director, John Carpenter. Carpenter is most famously known for starting the "slasher" film craze with his horror masterpiece, Halloween. His career as a director has not been the most successful, but he did create a lot of enjoyable movies.
For instance, The Thing, which is a gripping movie about isolation, insanity, and paranoia, didn't do well at the box office, mostly because people were so enamored with E.T. that they didn't want to see a movie about an alien that devoured all life and cellularly assimilated its food to change shape. Also, the special effects, though fantastically done, were too gory for critics to accept. Regardless, the movie picked up a strong cult following and helped re-launch Kurt Russell's acting career.
Unlike Craven, Carpenter did not limit himself to horror films during his career. He did everything from the romantic drama, Starman (which was critically acclaimed), to action films such as Escape from New York and Big Trouble in Little China, both of which, again, starred Kurt Russell. Most of Carpenter's non-horror movies still contained a sci-fi/fantasy flavor.
In the late 80s and 90s, Carpenter's movies were not as well received as they once were. He could never get the critics or the box office to see the appeal of his movies anymore. Carpenter dropped off the scene for a while, but people have started to remake some of his films, such as The Fog and Rob Zombie's interpretation of Halloween. He also did an episode for Showtime's Masters of Horror series called Cigarette Burns. There's whispers that he's planning on working on new projects and bringing sequels of his old films, but not much has come out of that yet.
Despite being snubbed by critics for most of his career, I thoroughly enjoy Carpenter's movies. They have a certain feel to them. Partially, it's the music, most of which was done by Carpenter, himself. What I love most about his films is this kind of schlocky quality to some of them. Most of his movies were made with a lower budget, but he knows how to milk as much out of that budget. A lot of his films were somewhat ridiculous, such as Big Trouble in Little China, but that's what makes them so great. I love the silly one liners that "Rowdy" Roddy Piper spews out in They Live. Prince of Darkness had such a silly, but fascinating premise, where Satan is the son of a dark being from the farthest reaches of space. Most of Carpenter's movies look like they were shitloads of fun to make, and that comes through.
My favorite of Carpenter's movies has to be In the Mouth of Madness, which is Carpenter's tribute to all things Lovecraftian. I thought the movie had an awesome premise when I first saw it as a teenager and it still holds as my personal favorite.
Some people would think I'm crazy for enjoying some of these movies. I watched They Live with some of my friends, and they couldn't stop talking about how ridiculous it was and how it didn't make sense. They just don't know what I know. They don't see it.
John Carpenter is awesome.
Take it or leave it.