The 80’s is known for great movies that launched directors and producers into their own sort of stardom; Spielberg, Zemeckis, Cameron… names we all remember and still know today. However, one is often forgotten: Carpenter – the king of cult classics. To me, John Carpenter is a pillar of 80’s low-budget movies and provider of such great memories. Many of his movies have found their way into my all time favorite list;
1981: Escape from New York
There are different types of apocalyptic worlds. Of course, we’re used to the post nuclear war and natural disaster genres. This one is a bit different: dystopian. Set in 1997, Manhattan is converted into a walled-up maximum security prison. Ex-soldier turned criminal Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is given 24 hours to find the President of the United States, who has been captured by prisoners after the crash of Air Force One. An early 80s darkish sci-fi action flick at its best!
1982: The Thing
The film’s title refers to its primary antagonist: a parasitic extraterrestrial life-form that assimilates other organisms and in turn imitates them. The Thing infiltrates an Antarctic research station, taking the appearance of the researchers that it absorbs, and paranoia develops within the group. Again, the main protagonist here is played by Kurt Russell. This is an awesome sci-fi horror flick. It’s not to be confused with the 2011 movie of the same name which is actually a prequel to the 1982 movie.
This one is a must for car guys, not because it features lots of driving action, but because it is about a car with a soul of its own. If you’re like me, you’ve surely felt some kind of intangible connection when stepping into your first car (or your dream car). You can feel its influence on you and yours on it… Calling this movie an horror flick is a bit of an overstatement, it is more of a suspense in my opinion, but since people get murdered in it I guess it can be that. For the record, I do like Rock ‘N Roll…
The film tells the story of truck driver Jack Burton (yup, played by Jack Russell), who helps his friend Wang Chi rescue his fiancee from bandits in San Francisco’s Chinatown. This isn’t your typical bullets and kung fu flick as it has… magic! Yup, fantasy action genre. A must see!
1988: They Live
Finishing up this list with one of my all time favorite movies PERIOD. The movie follows a unnamed drifter (no, not played by Russell (albeit it could have worked) but by wrestler Roddy Piper) who discovers that the ruling class are in fact aliens concealing their appearance and manipulating people to spend money, breed, and accept the status quo with subliminal messages in mass media.
I remember when I saw this at the cinema: the showing was part of a double feature. You guys remember these? Yup, you paid once and had a whole evening of entertainment (2 movies). At the intermission (the dead time between the two movies), you had to decide if you went to pee or get more snacks (and risk losing your seating position) or keep your seat warm for the main feature. The first movie of a double feature was always considered to be a lesser movie (hence B movie) and frankly it was optional for you to show up for it. Me? I only remember the first movie of that night: They Live. It was so good that it took my mind off the main feature… which movie was that again? I simply don’t remember. This is the magic of They Live. I simply ADORE the atmosphere of the first half of the movie. Then what you expect kicks in. Action and one-liners. Do you have a shotgun and a pack of bubblegum? Then you’re all set for this movie!
Thank you, Mr Carpenter for helping make the 80s what it was!