When John Carpenter’s Halloween debuted back in 1978, it wasn’t readily apparent just how influential his indie horror film would eventually become.
The tale of a group of babysitters menaced by an escaped mental patient named Michael Myers wasn’t the first slasher film, but it is arguably the most important one. Inspired by classics like Hitchcock’s Psycho and Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, Carpenter took elements of those two features and twisted them into something uniquely his own.
What really makes Halloween stand out is Myers. With this character, Carpenter essentially paved the way for Jason, Freddy and countless other supernatural slasher villains. Even more impressive is that he did it in such a fashion that audiences never felt cheated.
Carpenter’s remake of The Thing is a masterful exercise in claustrophobic horror with a level of paranoia that equals Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Kurt Russell and an all-male ensemble cast are trapped in an Antarctic research station with a malevolent alien presence that can become anyone or anything it comes into contact with. Tensions rise as each man begins to suspect the others of being the monster – all leading to one of the greatest horror film endings in the history of the genre.
If you’re a newcomer to Carpenter’s work – or just want to check out some of his greatest hits, start with the films above and then check out the following:
Prince of Darkness : Donald Pleasance plays a priest that must help a team of scientists prevent the coming of the Antichrist.
The Fog: Two generations of Scream Queens — Jamie Lee Curtis and her mother, Janet Leigh — star in this ghost story about a cursed seaside town.
Christine: A Stephen King story about a killer, jealous car? Only Carpenter could have pulled this one off.
Vampires: A rare Western horror film with James Woods starring as a vampire hunter.