John Carpenter Remakes His Greatest Hits on ‘Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998’
John Carpenter has long been known as a directorial mastermind. From his 1978 horror-classic “Halloween” to the dozens that followed – including “The Thing,” “Escape From New York” and “They Live.” What many casual observers of Carpenter’s films may not know, however, is that most of those creepy, fantastically moving scores were created by Carpenter himself. Though most of this music is from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, Carpenter has in recent years been focused solely on his sonic craft. His debut came in 2015 with “Lost Themes,” followed by a second version the following year, now he’s back with the all-encompassing “Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998.”
Having performed at venues and music festivals across the country lately, Carpenter is skillfully revisiting his archives of film scores on stage, alongside his new album. With the help of his son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies – son of The Kinks’ guitarist Dave Davies – Carpenter has revamped and remastered his retro themes for the modern era. The most notable song, the one that most listeners of the album will skip to first, is “Halloween.” The dark, twinkling piano riff that we all love and fear is still as haunting as it was almost 40-years ago when Michael Myers terrorized his hometown. This was one of the highest grossing independent films of all-time, helping to immortalize the theme alongside it. The collaborative version on the “Anthology” maintains its high threshold of creepiness but with a bit more enthusiasm and clarify.
1982’s “The Thing” was the first film in Carpenter’s self-declared “Apocalypse Trilogy” where his characters found themselves on the edge of nothingness, forever. The theme moves slow, as if impending doom is near. Synths, of course, lay the ground work while a kick drum controls pace. In ’87 came “Prince of Darkness,” the next apocalypse installment. Here, the score progresses ever-so-slightly using jagged synths and distorted electric guitar. “In the Mouth of Madness” was the first single released for the new “Anthology” album. As one of the most song-like cuts, this one using prog-rock as its foundation, replete with heavy guitar and swift drum changes.
Throughout the album you’ll find nostalgic gems like the blues-heavy “They Live,” which will take you right back to John Nada’s futuristic world of skull-faced humanoid aliens. The Kurt Russell-lead “Escape from New York” theme could be a b-side to any number of 80’s electro bands. The score for “Assault of Precinct 13”, one of Carpenter’s best films, mixes both heavy and light synth lines with those that sound nearly orchestral.
As fans look back on the cult-director’s storied filmography through music, it’s only right that they begin to crave more visual accompaniment. As luck would have it, Carpenter obliged with a new music video for “Christine” where he revisits 1983 film featuring a sentient 50’s-era Plymouth Fury. Many have said Carpenter’s directorial skills have fallen off the edge, mainly based on his most recent films, 2001’s “Ghosts of Mars” and 2010’s “The Ward.” This music video unfortunately shows to prove this critique. While the aesthetics are appealing, something Carpenter has never had a problem with, the movement is odd and unrealistic ending in a slightly creepy way – and not the cool kind of creepy. For those unwilling to accept the downfall of Carpenter’s film career, stay tuned. The original “Halloween” director is slated to executive produce the 2018 remake of “Halloween III: Season of the Witch.”
As “Christine” closes out this eccentric walk down memory lane, it only feels right to look back on the ever-popular career of this cult master with reverence. Though he may not be the same director as he once was, it’s clear enough that his new focus is filled with just as much fervor and passion as his films. And with cult-horror sentiment on the rise, thanks to shows like “Stranger Things,” it’s clear where we should send our thank you cards.
“Anthology: Movies Themes 1974-1998” is available Oct. 20 on Apple Music.