Like many people growing up in the 1980s, a trip to the corner shop for a video on a Saturday night was an integral part of my weekend. Of course it wasn’t me usually doing the renting, which meant a fair old smattering of sci-fi and horror – such was the preference of my Dad. Naturally, I’ve inherited his love for the weird and wonderful, which was why back in 2018 found myself at a concert by the horror master himself, John Carpenter.
For those not in the know, as well as directing his films, Carpenter composed and performed the score for the vast majority of them himself. As far as critical acclaim goes, his crowning achievement is of course Halloween, and, it was this timeless chiller that brought him fame. But as the 80s turned into the 90s, the fickle beast that is Hollywood turned its bristly back on Carpenter, which is why I’m especially glad to see him making such a success with his music, and indeed the most recent Halloween movie.
There’s also been a buzz surrounding the 40th anniversary celebrations of his cult sci-fi masterpiece The Thing, none other than my favourite movie of all time. In 2018, backed by a band of skilled musicians, including his son Cody, Carpenter took to the stage to the strains of Escape from New York. That movie’s central character is of course Snake Pliskin, played so memorably played by Kurt Russell – a regular go-to lead man for Carpenter, and also the lead in The Thing. It’s a great performance, complementing perfectly the atmosphere of paranoia and creeping menace that permeates the film.
It is of course famously grisly as well, thanks to the still eye-popping work of special effects maestro Rob Bottin. I think the first time I heard about The Thing was not through my aforementioned father, but his eldest cousin. I spent many a childhood holiday seeing family, and it was on one of these holidays that he told me about The Thing. “They’re all stuck at this outpost in the ice…nobody knows who the monster is…” “It’s too scary for you to watch now…maybe when you’re older.” Those words stuck with me, and unsurprisingly, it turned out to be a favourite of my Dad’s too. At the time, our only copy was a version copied off the TV onto a VHS tape. Imagine the reaction when my Dad discovered that I’d accidentally recorded over it with American Football. Years later, I bought him an original copy for his birthday as a replacement, and the incident became a running joke.
He’s sadly no longer with us, but I know if he was sitting with me when I recently watched my special Blu Ray edition, just like we used to do on Saturday nights long ago, he would’ve said: “I used to have this taped off the TV.”