Interview with John Carpenter

[Click here for Italian Version]

Dear Mr Carpenter, what do you think about today’s horror movies? Do you think that original ideas are over and people only count on remakes? (Your Halloween has been recently remade too)

There are a some original ideas here and there. A few years ago LET THE RIGHT ONE IN was an excellent movie with a new spin on the vampire tale. Most horror movies are like most movies in general: many bad, mostly fair, a few good.

 In your first masterpiece Assault on Precinct 13 Los Angeles is represented as a city in the grip of criminal enterprises, where authority has lost its power and you can only rely on the bravery and morality of a small group of fair men. How is it in America nowadays? Are things better or worse than they were in the ‘70s?

Generally America is better, safer than in the 70’s. The murder rate is lower for the country. We are a polarized country but for the most part peaceful.

The title of my graduation thesis is: “Savage season: – Analogies between John Carpenter’s and Clint Eastwood’s cinema”. In it I point out the main features and points in common between them such as the music written by the director himself, the frequent references to western mythology, political reflections on the decline of the American dream, the classical but innovative style. Do you identify your works with my definitions? And besides, how would you explain your common ideas on many topics despite your almost opposite political values?

I’m flattered by your thesis, honored to be compared to Clint Eastwood. We have different approaches to cinematic storytelling. Plus our political differences. I love Eastwood as an actor.


Kurt Russel is also politically opposite to you, but you realized sublime movies together. Did you manage to work together without arguing?

 Kurt and I bonded together on craft, our love of moviemaking. We don’t talk about politics too much…

In one chapter of my graduation thesis I analyzed The Thing from a western point of view: the Antarctic is some sort of a new frontier the man wants to civilize, tame and dominate. Do you think this can be a correct interpretation?

I suppose. THE THING is more about isolation and paranoia. 

Big Trouble in Little China is one of the movies I hold most dear. I watch it almost once a year! It has many western features and is very ironic. It is probably your funniest movie. Unlike the critics and the fans who did not appreciate it, I think it absolutely fits your work and style. How did you conceive it?

BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA was a love letter to Chinese kung fu cinema. I tried to give it an innocence and goofiness that I found in 70’s kung fu movies.

Kurt Russell and John Carpenter on set of Big Trouble in Little China

Kurt Russell and John Carpenter on the set of Big Trouble in Little China

In the Mouth of Madness is one of my favorite movies. My favorite scene is the one in which John Trent looks at the abyss and his expression turns into a terrified look. What is brilliant about that is , in my opinion, the choice not to show what he is looking at: the terror we feel is only caused by Sam Neill’s scared face, that is to say by his reaction to terror and not by terror itself. I think this is the most successful representation of the open-endedness of evil.  How did you conceive this sublime movie? Does it have anything to do with your interest in quantum physics? Your Prince of darkness also thrills the spectators in the same way.

IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS was written by Michael DeLuca as an homage to H.P.Lovecraft and Nigel Kneale. What holds the whole thing together is Sam Neill’s performance.

As you often stated, all of your movies are just westerns disguised as something else. Regarding this, one of my favorite movies is Vampires which is one of the best movies on vampires and also a good example of western horror, which only differs from the epic western movies for the age they are set in. Even if it does not follow the canonical rules of the genre, I consider it as your most  western movie. Do you agree?


Last year we interviewed Howard Berger from KNB FX. He told us you are the film director he prefers to work with. How is the mood on your sets? Berger told us it is like being part of a big family.

I try to have an enjoyable, peaceful set. Not always possible, mind you. But preferable.

Have you ever seen some episodes of Fringe? The fifth season, which is the last one, draws inspiration from your They Live


What do you think about The Waliking Dead, the only hugely successful TV series that is declaredly horror?

My favorite part of THE WALKING DEAD is Norman Reedus.

Norman Reeuds on The Walking Dead

Norman Reeuds from The Walking Dead

Are you stating up any new project at the moment?

I have several projects I’m working on but nothing firm at the moment.

Thank you so much.

Thank you for your kind words.


Riccardo Poma, nehovistecose


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Liberi Pensieri Cinematografici
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Una risposta a Interview with John Carpenter

  1. Pingback: Ep. 11 – John Carpenter’s – Vol. 2 | Toca o Terror


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