Ghosts Of Mars (2001) Review

rsz_gom1GHOSTS OF MARS (Dir- John Carpenter, USA, 2001)

Starring- Natasha Hentsridge, Ice Cube, Jason Statham, Pam Grier, Clea DuVall, Richard Cetrone

Out now on Bluray/DVD Dual Format from Indicator

Probably the last time John Carpenter made a feature with a pretty significant budget and with studio backing GHOSTS OF MARS was not well received on release, particularly by Carpenter fans and didn’t play well at the box office and burning out the horror auteur in the process and it would be 5 years later, with his superb entry into the first season of MASTERS OF HORROR with CIGARETTE BURNS, that he would get behind the camera and another 9 until he went back to a full feature with the entertaining if uneven THE WARD. Since then Carpenter has gone to music releasing two albums and even performing live (the privilege I got to see last October) and a return to cinema is unlikely even though he recently sent out a post on social media putting his backing behind a brand new version of HALLOWEEN to be written by Danny McBride and David Gordon Green with Green also in the directors chair, even hinting he might do the music. But how about his later films or the last one he did before taking a long break? Powerhouse releasing have also put out versions of CHRISTINE and also VAMPIRES and have now gone onto to do GHOSTS OF MARS, a film that personally I’ve only seen parts of and since on its release I heard a lot of negative reaction and therefore kind of avoided a full watch of it. It’s like the later Argento films some I have avoided and some I’ve seen and there’s that semblance of a once great master now treading the boards and disappointing fans who expect another return to form (though I do like MOTHER OF TEARS though for its camp madness). So how about GHOSTS OF MARS on a full watch then and how does it hold up, should it be re-discovered and given a better chance?

rsz_gom2It’s the year 2176 and Mars has been colonized by pesky humans with 84% of it terraformed, as a helpful intro narrator tells us (sly hints at the opening of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK). A train arrives at a station unmanned and on auto pilot and the only passenger on board is a Mars Police Officer, Lieutenant Melanie Ballard (Henstridge) who is handcuffed to a bunk bed. She is then interrogated by a committee who want her to recall why her mission to pick up a dangerous prisoner, Desolation Williams (Ice Cube) failed and in flashback Ballard recounts the events which are the focus of the film. Belonging to a team led by Commander Braddock (Grier), along with a consistently flirty/sleazy Sgt Jericho (Statham) and a rookie Kincaid (DuVall) their mission was to arrive at a mining outpost to pick up Williams and transport him back for trial. Yet on arrival the town is deserted and the corpses they find hanging upside down, minus a head, in a bar is not a good sign. Only soon they realise that the townsfolk have turned into crazed savages brought about from disembodied spirits that where unleashed after a underground doorway was broken in another mining colony. The spirits the aforementioned Ghosts Of Mars are not too keen on the humans invading their planet and invoke a savage primal urge which result in a destruction of human civility. Naturally the cops and the thugs led by Williams and some other (expendable) townsfolk in the jail band together to take on the possessed savages and try and reach the train to get the hell out of dodge.

rsz_gom5After seeing the film in full I will admit that I enjoyed GHOSTS OF MARS and in all honesty its an entertaining slice of cheesy B-movie fun. But looking into it you can see both its flaws and its quality’s and most of all you can see a director reviving moments of his previous classic films and also tipping a hat to a genre he loves, the western which he already paid tribute to in his classic ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 which is a partial retread/re-imaging etc of RIO BRAVO. There’s even scenes that remind you of Carpenter’s clever use of widescreen frame in essentially highlighting foreground information to the audience that the character’s haven’t noticed, such as a scene of a doorknob being slowly turned unbeknownst to those in the background and we know from its movements that what will be on the other side of the door wont be nice. Essentially GHOSTS takes bits from PRECINCT 13 and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and updates it with a futuristic setting on another planet, accompanied by the directors slight use of synth which is mostly overdubbed with a pounding heavy metal soundtrack courtesy of Anthrax.

rsz_gom3It all plods along at a decent rate and whilst it does essentially break out into lots of turned-savaged humans being gunned down in mass numbers which tend to drag and stifle the action sequences Carpenter knows how to pace the film, to keep it basic. The dialogue and acting is ropey at best and character wise like the story is basic to a minimum with only Ballard being given a slight addiction to a narcotic which essentially becomes a saving grace for her not to be possessed by the Martian spirit and as the main bad guy, Ice Cube is just essentially Ice Cube and equips himself well in the bad ass role, plus has one of the best character names in the film, Desolation Williams, which is what people who are stuck for naming new born children should call their newborn or if they have a pet cat or dog to name them that instead! Whilst its nowhere near the quality of THE THING or ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK or THEY LIVE or other carpenter classics (please insert name of John Carpenter classic here), GHOSTS is a wholly entertaining ride and whilst it wont hold a candle up to his previous works the film none-the-less deserves maybe a bit more revaluation in that whilst it has flaws throughout it still contains slight nods to Carpenter’s previous work and retains the B-movie style and grit of his early low budget flicks.

rsz_gom4As a thought maybe Carpenter knew that it was time to call it a day on making big budget films, that the demands of producers and studios would become too much for this film and even future projects so why not finish now on a entertaining slice of big budget B-movie inspired flick, cause at least now he has made some fantastic music and so in the end calling it a day could be seen as being beneficial for both himself and his fans.


Original stereo audio
Alternative 5.1 surround sound track
Audio commentary by director John Carpenter and actor Natasha Henstridge
Scoring ‘Ghosts of Mars’ (2001, 6 mins): behind the scenes at the recording sessions with John Carpenter and bands Anthrax and Buckethead as they record the score for Ghosts of Mars
Special Effects Deconstruction (2001, 7 mins)
Video Diary: Red Desert Nights – Making ‘Ghosts of Mars’ (2001, 17 mins)
Original theatrical trailer
New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Nick Pinkerton
Limited Dual Format Edition of 5,000 copies
UK Blu-ray premiere

Vampires (1998) Blu-Ray Review

rsz_john_carpenters_vampiresJOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRES (1998) (BLU RAY)

Director: John Carpenter
Cast: James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, Tim Guinee
Running time: 108 minutes
Released by Powerhouse Films (Indicator Label) on Limited Dual Format Edition (7000 copies). Region Free. Out now.

Powerhouse’s Indicator label is a relatively new addition to the horror genre market but it has already impressed collectors with its clean presentations and wealth of extras. Following their excellent release of Carpenter’s Christine adaptation last year they are now adding two more of his back catalogue titles, Ghost of Mars and Vampires.

The Film: Based on John Steakley’s 1990 novel Vampire$, the film marked Carpenter’s 19th feature. It follows a similar premise to the novel as Jack Crow (James Woods) leads his team of vampire hunters including Anthony Montoya (Daniel Baldwin) across New Mexico flushing out vampire nests and tracking down Masters. However, after clearing out one particular nest his team is ambushed during celebrations by a centuries’ old Master called Valek (Eric Draven lookalike, Thomas Ian Griffith) and Crow’s team is brutally murdered. Along with a freshly bitten hooker Katrina (Sheryl Lee), his only surviving team member Montoya and a young priest, Father Adam Guiteau (Tim Guinee), Crow hunts Valek across the desert plains as he tries to stop an ancient ritual being fulfilled.

I had not seen John Carpenter’s Vampires since its release at the cinema back in the late Nineties. I remember being less than impressed at the time and unfortunately almost two decades later nothing has changed my opinion. The film is a horror/western hybrid and it is just bad. It outstays its welcome at almost two hours and sadly it doesn’t even work as a ‘tits, guns and fangs’ B-movie because the production values are just too damn good.

rsz_john_carpenters_vampires_1The acting is abysmal as James Woods doesn’t just ham it up, he literally chews up scenery in every shot he is in (check out the moment where he first meets the Catholic priests). The fight scenes look amateurish, for example Valek kicks a chair at someone but uses such little force it only just reaches its intended victim and as for Don Jakoby’s script, well where to start. I am certainly no prude but by today’s standards it is an embarrassment, littered with casual misogyny and homophobia. Woods character utters the majority of it and whilst there is a certain irony that the villain Valek does indeed look European (“Eurotrash”) and dresses in effeminate (“fag”) clothing, I am not sure the film is meta enough to have made that connection.

The only positives I can say about Vampires is that Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger’s make-up effects are excellent and in most cases are clearly too good for such a weak film. For example, the scene where Valek takes revenge on Crow’s team at a motel is a particular highlight. Vampires also marked Carpenter’s 15th original score and whilst it continues his interest working with synths, this time he has skewed his sound into a Western aesthetic as he pays homage to the classics of Ford, Hawks and Peckinpah.

The Disc: The main feature is presented uncut and picture quality throughout is very good, there are a few scenes where the image appears a little soft but for the most part detail is impressive. The film is dowsed in filters during the daytime scenes which gives the picture a red hue as though dusk is never far away. Night scenes are suitably dark but detail is never lost and as night fades into morning, those filters come into play again without detail ever suffering.

Sound options include 5.1 Surround Sound track and Stereo Audio. I watched the feature in 5.1 Surround and there were no notable issues. Carpenter’s score sounded crisp and prevalent, whilst dialogue was audible throughout even during some of the heavy firearm sequences. I also checked and English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing are available on the disc.

There is no specific Chapters menu on the disc, however the feature has been separated into 13 chapters once the film is playing.

rsz_john_carpenters_vampires_2Special Features:

Audio commentary with director John Carpenter: A very dry commentary from Carpenter which mainly involves him describing what is happening on screen, rather than sharing interesting anecdotes. A missed opportunity, especially as there are several long periods of silence.

The Guardian Interview with John Carpenter – Part One, 1962-1983 (38 mins) the director discusses his career with Nigel Floyd at the National Film Theatre, London (filmed on 29th July 1994). Without a doubt the best aspect of the entire disc. Carpenter discusses his childhood memories and early attempts at filmmaking gradually leading to a formal education at film school. He describes how he got into screenplay writing and the critical reception of Assault on Precinct 13 in Europe finally leading to recognition State side. The origin of Michael Myers, his attitude to director’s cuts, The Fog, Escape From New York and a very interesting story about a preview screening of The Thing are also covered. In my opinion, this extra is more enjoyable than the main feature. Part 2 covering his more recent films is included on Powerhouse’s Ghosts of Mars release.

Behind the scenes (1999, 6 mins), Cast & Crew Interviews (1999, 9 mins), B-roll footage (1999, 9 mins). These three vintage additions can be played together as a ‘making of’ documentary or as separate interviews plus footage. Interviews with Carpenter, Woods, Baldwin, Lee, the SFX crew including Greg Nicotero are included but as they are essentially several mini-featurettes there is a lot of repetition in each section. However, each section adds a little extra information as you go through them chronologically.

Isolated score – Viewers can experience John Carpenter’s original soundtrack music as the film plays out with all other sound effects muted. It is a nice addition for fans but for the rest of us, it depends how eager you are to sit through the film again. It may have worked better as a literal isolated score track with a dynamic image gallery.

rsz_john_carpenters_vampires_3Original theatrical trailer – It does exactly what it says on the tin. Remastered in HD.

It is worth noting that during all the extras and particularly the vintage featurettes, there is very little mention that Vampires is actually based on Steakley’s novel and is not Carpenter’s own work. Instead, there is a strong emphasis on this being John Carpenter’s Vampires, presumably in a bid to sell it to his devoted fans. It would have been nice to have an extra about the man behind the original source material.

Also, whilst not included with the screener copy the sell-through edition includes an exclusive 20-page booklet with a new essay by Kim Newman, and a 2015 interview with John Carpenter about Vampires.

In conclusion: Powerhouse’s Indicator label continues to impress and as a back catalogue title with a limited audience, this is an impressive release. However Vampires is one of Carpenter’s weaker entries and despite the excellent Guardian interview, I can only recommend this release to die-hard fans.

Rated: 3/10

Village of The Damned (1995) Blu-Ray Review

votdVillage Of The Damned (1995)

Directed by John Carpenter

Starring Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Mark Hamill.

UK DVD & Blu-Ray release 27th April 2015 from Fabulous Films.

A reworking of the 1960 film of the same name, and taking its material from The Midwich Cuckoos novel, this film finds us in a small out of the way town of Midwich, California. A town with stereotypical white picket fences, tucked away at the coast, far away from the lunging beast of the local cities.

One day a strange force permeates through the town leaving everyone unconscious for long stretches of time. Everyone awakes at roughly the same time, unaware what has happened, but ten women have found themselves with child. Nine months later, nine are born perfectly (too perfectly?) but one is still born. The nine children grown up quickly, becoming highly intelligent before their time and soon turn their sights on the very beating heart of the community. Its up to a  doctor (Reeve) a widowed teacher, and the local doctor (Alley) to get to the heart of the mystery.

votd2Being a huge fan of Carpenter since his first foray into horror with the classic Halloween, I’ve slowly thawed to the masters output of the last 20 years, thinking his best period was between Halloween and 1988’s They Live. Watching this film for the first time, had me thinking about Carpenters work and the change in style and his direction through each film.

Looking at Damned with a critical eye I would put out the theory that Carpenter and his style was over taken by more to the point and exciting directors of the 90’s like Tarantino and Rodriguez. Damned has a look to it that is reminiscent of soap operas. The shots are so soft and over blown, its hard to take them with any sense of threat. Having not read the source material but in this films short running time, we get no discussion from the adults about the children, in why they are all blond, walk in two by two and why they all wear grey.

votd1Having been a massive fan of Superman, it was good to see Christopher Reeve headline a film again, and it was actually on this film set that he bought the fateful horse ‘Buck’ that would throw him at an equestrian event and change his life forever. He has the good looks, masculinity and charisma to hold the screen and is a well cast actor in this film, its sad in hindsight, knowing that he wouldn’t headline any further major releases, he is sadly missed.

In conclusion, I was disappointed in the look and feel of Village of The Damned, even with the touch of a former master of horror. The film could have been 20 minutes longer giving the story more time to investigate the horrors going on in the small time.


Remake Rumble: Round 6 Halloween (1978) vs Halloween (2007)

Remake Rumble: Round 6
Halloween.1978.posterHalloween (1978)Halloween.2007.poster.000
Halloween (2007)

Not all remakes are created equal, but sometimes the battle lines between the original film and the so-called “re-imagining” aren’t as clear as they may first appear. In this new, regular feature Joey Keogh pitches a chosen horror film against its remade counterpart, to answer that oft-debated question – is there ever any justification for “rebooting” a horror movie? And, dare we even suggest, can a remake ever surpass the original?

In honour of the spookiest night of the year, the Remake Rumble pits John Carpenter’s seminal slasher against Rob Zombie’s divisive 2007 remake, neither of which requires much introduction.

When Rob Zombie first announced he would be remaking one of the most famous, and universally well-liked horror movies of all time, fans were understandably up in arms – how dare he think he can do better than the master of horror himself? What was the director of gorefest House of 1000 Corpses going to do with our beloved Michael Myers? However, it was nothing compared to the backlash he received following the flick’s release, which bordered on murderous. The main issue people seem to have with his take is that it either tries too hard to surpass the original or that it attempts to remake it almost frame for frame. The real issue with Zombie’s Halloween (2007) is that it does both.


Halloween 1978

Halloween (1978) is an institution. For many of us, it was an introduction to the world of genre films, a benchmark by which we judge every horror movie imaginable. And it helps that it’s still really bloody scary. Nowadays, when Carpenter’s masterpiece screens at late-night showings or on re-releases around that time of year, the film is often met with barely-concealed giggles from an audience who grew up being terrified of it but can now spot the holes – how does Myers seem to be able to teleport everywhere? Why is he hiding in the washing? How come nobody seems to be able to outrun him?

A horror nut himself, one suspects Zombie was one of those kids who grew up not just fearing Michael Myers, but idolising him. When it came time to tell his story, Zombie endeavoured to create a history for the guy that would do his infamous, Halloween night killing spree justice. To his credit, the idea of Michael coming from a horrible, white trash household with a stripper for a mother is interesting, if not terribly inventive. The kid we meet in 1978, after he’s just stabbed his sister, is not the kid we meet in 2007, but thankfully Daeg Faerch (who was replaced in the sequel with a much less scary child) is a fine actor, and when he pulls down the clown mask before his first kill, echoing his 1978 counterpart’s being taken off post-stab, it’s a truly dread-inducing moment.

Likewise, Michael’s incarceration in an institution for the criminally insane, which takes up an entire act of Zombie’s film, gives us another potentially fascinating glimpse into his psyche, even if his wall of masks hints more that he’s secretly a member of Slipknot than a brooding, psychotic killer. Watched over by the well-meaning Dr. Loomis (skilfully played by the legendary Malcolm Mc Dowell), we see Michael’s slow drudge into complete and utter apathy, the moment he stops talking for good signalling that there is no longer anything decent there.


Halloween 2007

For the first two acts, Zombie’s film is very nearly a masterpiece all on its own. Certain parts are overdone, and if you’ve caught the Director’s Cut then you’ve seen the ludicrous, redneck rape sequence, but for the most part it all fits together nicely in its own rough, white trash kind of way. The moment when “Mikey” kills his only sympathiser, played by Danny Trejo, has divided audiences but Zombie left it in to show how cold and evil Myers truly is. Whether it fits or not is a matter of opinion, but suffices to say Zombie made his point.

Where the film begins to lose its way is when Myers makes his way back to Haddonfield in search of his sister, Laurie (played by Scout Taylor Compton, who goes full emo in the sequel) and her slutty friends, one of whom is played by the somehow still teenage looking Danielle Harris. Although the final act isn’t as close to the original as certain detractors would have you believe, it does follow much the same formula as the original film with just one, key difference – it isn’t nearly as frightening.

There are some set-pieces that work, in particular when Laurie is crawling through the gaps in the walls of the old Myers house to escape her brother, or when he strands her in an empty swimming pool, full of autumn leaves, and slowly advances on her. But these moments aren’t quite stand-out enough to make up for the fact that Zombie hasn’t done anything else with the “Halloween” part of the Halloween mythos. It’s a damn shame too because the film ends with a memorable, blood-curdling scream, while the famous line “Was that the bogeyman?” signals one of the best jump scares in the entire flick.


Halloween 1978

Carpenter’s Halloween isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty damn close. Still terrifying to this day and with one of the creepiest scores in film history, it’s the perfect example of how to establish brooding, nail-biting tension without feeling the need to rely on cheap scares, or to ramp up the gore. It’s nonsensical in parts – how does Myers manage to move so quickly from place to place, without being spotted? – but the premise is still solid – as noted in Scream 4, there’s something really frightening about a guy with a knife who just…snaps.

Nobody could claim Zombie’s remake is perfect, but what’s most disappointing about it is that it very nearly could’ve been. The first two acts are solid, they’re not to everyone’s tastes but they are expertly crafted for a modern audience who demand gore, swearing and violence before they’ll pay any attention. Regardless of whether you agree that Michael Myers’ upbringing makes any sense, it’s still undeniably cool to see him as a snotty little kid, wearing his mask and torturing his pet rat (and later his sister). This is Michael Myers for a new generation, he doesn’t just stalk and slash, he revels in the murders and his first victim (sadly, one of the Spy Kids who has grown up to be a right dick in spite of his espionage adventures) is killed brutally and, somewhat shockingly, in broad daylight.


Halloween 2007

Although Zombie wanted Michael to be a cold, sadistic killer, when he meets Laurie, removes his mask and thrusts a photo of the two of them towards her, it hints that maybe there is a heart underneath somewhere. This thread is picked up again in the sequel, to varying effect, but as it stands, it’s an interesting moment on its own even if it doesn’t really fit. Much of the hatred aimed at Zombie’s remake is either at the portrayal of Michael, as played by hulking ex-wrestler Tyler Mane, or that of Laurie, but both characters are consistently modern versions of their 1978 selves. Carpenter himself allegedly refuses to watch the film, as he doesn’t want to be put in the position of criticising his friend’s vision, but he supposedly advised Zombie to make the story his own. For the most part, he did.

Although it’s easy to hate Rob Zombie for remaking a horror classic, kudos should be given to him for trying to make Halloween his own. He did not surpass the original, but the first two acts of his rough, redneck, modern take on the Myers legacy hint that he could have. As it stands, there’s only really one Halloween, but the remake makes a respectable stab (sorry) at doing justice to its incredible legacy.

Winner: Halloween (original)

Halloween.WinnerWinner: Halloween (original)

31 Days of Horror: #14 – Tweet-Along Special! Halloween III: Season of the Witch

31 Days of Horror: #14 – Tweet-Along Special! Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Your daily bitesized guide to the films you should be watching this Halloween season…

Tweet along with UK Horror Scene live tonight! 9PM BST #UKHSHal3

hallo3Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Written & Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace

Starring Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin & Dan O’Herlihy

Get over the lack of Michael Myers and see Halloween III as the fascinatingly bizarre piece of genius that is really is. The plot of a novelty mask company’s evil plot to tailor a mass child genocide is as daft as it is terrifying. With humanity’s last hope resting in Tom Atkins and his marvellous moustache, SOTW is a great Halloween watch, not just for taking place on the night itself but for its breezily bonkers set-up.

Whilst there are elements that haven’t aged well, such as some laughably wooden acting, there are still two stand out scenes who’s power to shock have not aged a day. The death of a child onscreen will always be impactful and HIII packs a particularly gruesome punch in that regard, as well as its shocking ending.

With a gorgeous synth-heavy soundtrack provided by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth, despite the exaggerated plot, the overall terrifying feel of how plausible and human the horror is has been perfectly carried on from the first two films. A cult hit that’s gradually picking up more love, seek out this misunderstood treasure this Halloween.
Be warned: Once heard, the Silver Shamrock jingle is in your head for life.

Join UK Horror Scene’s live Halloween III: Season of the Witch tweet-along tonight!



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The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #11 – The Thing (1982) by Dean Sills

The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #11:
The Ecstasy of THE THING (1982)

ThingPosterUKHS’ very own Parkinson, Sir. Dean of Sills, takes to the podium today, letting loose with a love-strewn appraisal of the Carpenter classic. It’s a Thing of beauty. See what we did there?

The horror film I love the most is John Carpenter’s The Thing. It’s far in front of the others, just like Lewis Hamilton in his F1 Mercedes. It’s Carpenter’s dark masterpiece; a real classic. So why do I love it so much? And what does it mean to me as a movie lover?

The Thing is unique in so many ways, from Kurt Russell’s outstanding performance as MacReady, a wisecracking helicopter pilot who is part of a twelve man research team stationed at a remote Antarctic research station; to the sheer, palpable sense of paranoia that grips the camp as they try to work out just who hasn’t been inhabited by the intergalactic shapeshifter. Entering the station in the form of a dog, we, the audience, know from the start it’s not of this world – Carpenter shows us as much during the opening credits – but MacReady and the rest of the team don’t have a clue!

The thing that gets me most excited about, er, The Thing is the way that we are totally unaware of who is still human and who is now alien. Once we get to see the alien for the first time it’s a half-formed monstrosity that scares the crap out of us, but at the same time are eyes are glued to the screen wanting to see much more and know how far the Thing will go to survive. The special effects may have dated a little from the first time I saw this but it’s still outstanding to watch; the creature-effects artists Rob Bottin and Stan Winston have created are really cool and gut-wrenchingly horrifying. And they’re still better than most current CGI effects.

The film is a remake of Howard Hawks’ 1951 science fiction classic The Thing from Another World which remains faithful to the short story upon which both are based, John Campbell’s Who Goes There?.

thing2I love the characters and each actor is superb in their roles. It’s a great cast, with the likes of Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Donald Moffat,David Clennon, Richard Masur and T.K. Carter. The atmosphere and setting is fantastic. My two favourite scenes from the movie are when Cooper attempts to revive Norris with a defibrillator. Norris is now The Thing and his chest opens up and becomes a pair of jaws ripping Cooper’s arms off. MacReady blasts the Thing with his flamethrower but the head of Norris detaches itself from his body and turns into a strange looking spider, which is oddly hilarious especially when the spider tries to escape and David Clennon as Palmer (with a bewildered look on his face) delivers the best line in the film, “You gotta be fuckin’ kidding.” The dialogue throughout the film is bloody awesome.

The other scene that gives me a real buzz is the blood testing scene with MacReady taking blood samples from all the surviving researchers in separate Petrie dishes and burning each one with a hot wire just to see who is still human and who is not! Another cracking line in the film comes from Gary (Donald Moffat) in this scene, he is tied up and tested last due to MacReady thinking he is the Thing but Gary turns out to still be human, shouting out while still tied up on his own, “I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time, I’d rather not spend the rest of this winter tied to this fucking couch!”

The Thing means so much to me as a movie lover because I am a huge Elvis Presley and Clint Eastwood fan. I know, wait a minute, you are all probably thinking what the hell does The Thing have to do with those two? Well, the film connects these two legends in so many ways, basically thanks to Elvis and Clint it’s the reason I first discovered this awesome film. Kurt Russell was the kid whom Elvis pays to kick him in the shins in It Happened at the World’s Fair. Kurt would later go on to play Elvis in Elvis. This 1979 tv movie which was directed by John Carpenter. In The Thing, Kurt Russell’s character is a loner, displaying the mannerisms of Eastwood.

thingselfieI once read that on the set of Escape From New York, the presence of Lee Van Cleef inspired Kurt Russell to talk in a raspy voice just like Clint Eastwood in the Man With No Name trilogy. The soundtrack for the Man With No Name trilogy was done by Ennio Morricone who also did the haunting score for The Thing. So thanks to Elvis and Clint I became a fan of Kurt Russell and John Carpenter.

When I first watched The Thing with my Dad I remember it freaking me out a little, with it’s jaw-dropping frightening special effects. I was even looking at our pet dog, Sheba, a little different wondering if she was one of those things! Viewing the film today, it’s clear to see this is a well acted, horror, sci-fi action flick that has stood the test of time and become one of the best horror movies ever created that gets a big thumbs up from me!


Read all the previous Ecstasy & Agony pieces by clicking them:

#1 Dead & Buried (1981) by Duane Hicks 

#2 The Happening (2008) by James Pemberton 

#3 Sleepstalker (1995) by Matty Budrewicz

#4 A Serbian Film (2010) by Oli Ryder

#5 A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Dead (1985) by Dave Wain

#6 Cabin In The Woods (2012) by Joey Keogh

#7 Battle Royale (2000) by Mark Pidgeon 

#8 Avia Vampire Hunter (2005) by Andy Deen

#9 La Jetee (1962) by Stuart Anderson

#10 The Shining (1980) by Stuart Smith

An Interview with producer and script supervisor Sandy King Carpenter

Interview with Sandy King Carpenter for UK Horror Scene

S1UKHS: Hi Sandy! First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! You seem to be a creative type who enjoys having a huge number of fingers in incredibly varying pies, does it ever get confusing or difficult hopping from one medium to another? Would you class yourself as a total workaholic?

SKC: HA HA HA!! Oh my God, I don’t think so. I prefer to think I just have a very active and interesting life. There are many ways to tell a story and they all offer interesting challenges and opportunities to reach new audiences. I find that there is a more organic flow than one might think from one medium to the other when the various avenues present themselves. My path into film making came from animation, which had come from my being an artist first, so there is more of a common thread between these worlds (say the comic books and the movies) than it might first appear.

UKHS: Of all your many projects that you have worked on, do you have a particular favourite that you find yourself looking back on with the most pride?

SKC: That’s like asking a parent to choose between their children. Most of the great memories come from the experience of working with great technicians and artists who become your family and friends. I love making movies. I love making comic books. I love learning new things and in our business, the technology is constantly evolving. There is no point at which you sit back and say, “Now I know it all.” I get excited when I’m driving down the freeway and I see film trucks headed down the highway at magic hour. I want to follow them like the circus. I want to see what they’re doing and how. So I might answer your question this way: that the film I am doing at the moment is my favorite and the most exciting. It’s new love–fresh and unknown.
BUT…I love “Big Trouble in Little China” to sit back with a big bowl of popcorn and laugh my ass off with.
“Vampires” to remember waiting for the sunrises in New Mexico to fly Valek across the sky.
“Rumble Fish” for working 104 hours a week in 115 degree heat and making an American art film.
“Starman” for finding true love.

UKHS: Having expanded your talents to the world of comic books, are you pleased with how they are now hugely embedded on mainstream conscious like never before or do you find yourself pining for the days when the world of comic book fans and makers felt more shall we say ‘exclusive and secretive’?

SKC: I’ve never been a fan of exclusive clubs. Whenever I find something I think is cool I like to share it, so I love that comics and graphic novels are finally getting their due. Finally mainstream is recognizing the great artists and writers who have been telling stories there, and much like current television, I think the comic world is expanding and the writing is getting even more diversified and better. Maybe I’m crazy, but it feels like a second Golden Age of comics to me.

S7UKHS: We seemingly can’t move these days for huge blockbuster pictures based on comic books, with their often incredibly varying quality, do you feel that there’s a slight case of over-kill in the market?

SKC: Not all comics make good movies and not all movies make good comics. It’s not one size fits all. I’m just pleased at the number who have gotten it right.

UKHS: Something that certainly can’t be ignored is the very male-dominated focus of both the films and fan-base in general. Having worked on the fantastic ‘Heroes’ anthology with Womanthology, do you feel as if you’ve made a significant step to stem the tide or is there more that still needs to be done to have female characters be on level footing with their male counterparts?

SKC: Actually, I did the second anthology, “Space”, which was the series that grew out of “Heroes”. Rene Deliz was the driving force behind Womanthology and I thought she did a brilliant job of showing publishers and retailers and readers that there was all this female talent in the comic industry ready to tell stories that all ages of females (and males) would buy. She proved we were economically viable and supportable. Little girls could be found in the corner of comic shops across the country reading that giant volume of Womanthology comics. Twice.

In general, the best way to push female character forward is to make them as interesting and as deeply flawed a their male counterparts. Make them WHOLE personalities. Gail Simone has always written amazing female characters and pushed Red Sonja right up to the forefront when she took it over.
EVERYBODY was reading it. That’s what it takes. You can’t whine and make it happen.

UKHS: As someone who’s dealt with their fair share of projects of the horror genre persuasion, what do you personally find is the best way to scare people?

SKC: Suspense and dread. It isn’t about the gore and the jumps so much as it is the underlying truths of personal fear.

UKHS: How do you personally see the state of the horror genre as it is today in comparison to what it was?

SKC: I think it’s gotten lazy. But I have faith we’ll cycle back into something more interesting. I’m glad the slasher/torture porn seems to have worn itself out.
I’m happy the Scandinavians seem to have infiltrated a bit and given us a bit of darkness.

S5UKHS: Are we any closer to getting the highly anticipated ‘Darkchylde’ film adaptation off the ground?

SKC: I sure hope so. We are currently finalizing the look book for the agents to take out and have just finished shooting some motion capture segments for the pre-viz for sales presentations. WETA has designed some great monsters for us and we have our visual FX team together and sets being designed.

UKHS: Much of John Carpenter’s iconic film scores have recently been lovingly pressed onto vinyl and snapped up incredibly quickly by die-hard fans. Does it surprise you at all that his music is still considered to be so influential and adored and do you find it a shame that these days there appears to be a distinct lack of effort put into a film’s soundtrack?

SKC: I’m not surprised at all by how popular his soundtracks are. He’s a great composer and some of his themes are truly iconic. While some soundtracks seem either over-amped or cliched, I am in awe of Hans Zimmer and Brian Tyler’s work. John Williams is still hammering them out and I thought Steven Price’s score for “Gravity” was really good. T-Bone Burnett does the unexpected.

UKHS: Increasingly today, a great deal of effort is being put into creating truly terrifying horror video-game experiences that often pack a great story with them. Are you at all concerned that with the direct interaction afforded by the game experience that audiences may end up turning their back on horror films altogether?

SKC: No. They are two different forms of entertainment. A good horror movie is like a good ghost story told around a campfire. Great Stephen King books read at night with a storm outside are another way to get scared. A massive roller coaster that turns upside down works, too. There’s room for it all.

S3UKHS: With the world increasingly focusing of the injustices of the “1%” and the terrifying manipulative powers of corporations, do you almost feel eerily prophetic when you look back on the satire of ‘They Live’? It certainly feels as relevant watching it today as it must have been at the time, if not more so

SKC: At the time we considered it political satire and still do. It was what we saw happening around us. Nothing has changed.

UKHS: On a personal note, ‘Big Trouble In Little China’ is one of my all time favourite films and I still find it outrageous that it wasn’t the success it deserved to be at the time. When assisting with the script, did you feel that it was going to potentially be too ‘out-there’ for mainstream audiences or that it was so unique and exciting a project that it didn’t really matter?

SKC: No. It’s a great movie. Funny, timeless and discovered by new generations every incarnation of home video, DVD and Netflix that comes along. It’s a movie that succeeded in spite of a studio that made every effort to bury it. We believed in it. We still believe in it and Jack Burton and the Pork Chop Express roll on.

S4UKHS: The hugely-anticipated comic book series based on the film is coming out this summer, what, if anything can you tell us about it and is it the closest we’ll get to ever seeing Jack Burton again?

SKC: Eric Powell, the creator of “The Goon”, is writing the new comic. He and John have been working together to set the tone for it and I think fans of both the movie and Eric’s comics will have fun with the new book. BOOM! publishes good quality comic books, and from what I’ve seen of the upcoming art and covers and pieces of the stories, I think “Big Trouble” fans will have fun with them. As for the future of Jack Burton? I wish Fox would ask us to fire up the Pork Chop Express again. I think Jack and Wang could really shake the pillars of heaven one more time.

UKHS: And finally, if you had to select one film of your husband’s extensive back catalogue to watch on the couch on a lazy Sunday, which one would it be and why?

SKC: Only one? Damn. Give me two Sundays.
On a lazy summer Sunday it would be “Big Trouble in Little China” for the sheer fun of it. I have great memories of everyone involved in it and I love a comedy that I can lose myself in and laugh out loud.
On a dark and rainy winter Sunday–preferably with thunder and lightening–it would be “The Thing”. I have to say that this is my all time favourite movie of John’s. I think it is flawless film making. I’ve seen it dozens of times and the suspense still kills me. Jeb, the dog from the Norwegian camp, walking down the hallways looking in doors is terrifying. Testing for the blood…I still jump every time it screams. The notion underneath it all that you aren’t what you seem. Perfect.

UKHS: Sandy King Carpenter, it’s been an enormous honour, from all of us at UKHorrorScene, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to us!

SKC: Thank you for asking.




Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) Soundtrack Review

assault13Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) Soundtrack Review

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) horror maestro John Carpenter’s tale of an retired and near abandoned precinct’s final hours and its desperate final battle against an increasingly deadly street gang seeking revenge and retribution for their fallen brethren is a tense film made even more memorable by its near perfect casting and solid acting.


As with all Carpenter’s body of works it is accompanied by a tremendous score; laying the groundwork for his excellent Halloween (1978) score which is one of the most atmospheric and well used scores in film. Assault’s simple rhythmic use of repetition encapsulates the growing tension inside the police station forcing the viewer to be for lack of a better term assaulted both visually and aurally as the story unfolds.


The main theme is atypical of the synth work used through his catalogue but here it is almost used as a character, urging the viewer to sense the coming threat as a metronome slowly sticks with a simple pulsing drum developing before morphing into a richer accompaniment becoming lodged into your brain ready to be manipulated as the film unfolds, a thing that Carpenter does throughout.


assault131Track Division 13 is another variation of the theme but this song personally embodies the cop movie sound, it feels perfect when its played on screen with the action and routine of a police officers duty. This wouldn’t feel out of place in any 70s buddy cop film.


As this is one of the early Carpenter scores mainly due to budget constraints it fundamentally lays down much of the groundwork that he would later use on all his films alongside Alan Howarth making this and excellent entry level soundtrack for any Carpenter aficionado to devour to appreciate the thought and effort that is put into making a score.


The music in this film is as much a character as any of the actors and the prompts given in subtle uses add an incredible depth to some of the harder to stomach scenes, the ice cream van shooting is a perfect example of this childish jingle is played from the van as the main themes pulsing drums are underlaid setting up something sinister before stopping abruptly allowing relief from the tension only to rise again sharper and more threatening aurally as the threat on screen also develops.


The use of negative sound is as much a part of the soundtrack as the actual score and again shows great talent and passion that Carpenter has in creating these minimal yet masterful electronic scores.


dwassaultThe UK based recording label Death Waltz Records have released the full score on “vanilla Twist” (a beautifully ironic joke and one of the films most heart wrenching scenes) white and red splatter 180G Vinyl, accompanied by excellent artwork from Jay Shaw and extensive liner notes from Austin Stoker, Clint Mansell, fangoria’s Chris Alexander and John Carpenter himself making this an essential release to own.


Near perfection and the meat, bones and soul of every one of carpenter’s subsequent scores are embodied here in its rawest fashion waiting for them to mature and develop over his illustrious career.

An Interview with Adrienne Barbeau by Stuart Anderson

An Interview with Adrienne Barbeau by Stuart Anderson


Adrienne Barbeau is a much loved favourite of horror fans worldwide having appeared in unquestionable classics of the genre such as as Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing  and George A. Romero’s Creepshow (both in 1982) . Perhaps her most celebrated appearances took place in John Carpenter’s original The Fog in 1980 and his classic Escape from New York in 1981. In addition, who could ever forget classics such as the Roger Corman Burial of the Rats for cable television or the wonderfully titled Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death?…… not me, thats for sure!


Apart from gracing the the plethora of horror productions Adrienne has had a rich and varied career as a singer, talk show host and in the last few years, she has gained a name for herself as an author. The release of her memoir, There Are Worse Things I Could Do in 2006 which chronicles her amazing life with accounts of being a go-go dancer working for the mob; her breakthrough stage role of Rizzo in “Grease”; her romantic relationships ; marrying the genius of horror filmaking, John Carpenter; giving birth to twins at the age of 51; and talking about her extensive and varied body of horror work.


After that she turned to fiction with Vampyres of Hollywood, a thriller about an A-list Hollywood scream queen who just happens to be a 450 year old vampire. The sequelLove Bites has also now been released which again follows the exploits of scream queen, Ovsanna Moore.
Adrienne succumbed to my pestering and kindly agreed to answer a few questions on her life and career.


(SA) When did you first start acting & what/who inspired you to do so?
(AB) I started taking ballet when I was 3, and then voice lessons when I was 10.
I don’t remember being inspired by anyone, but I did have a mother who was very encouraging. By the time I was in Jr. High school, I was doing school plays and musicals with a community theatre group and really enjoying myself.


(SA) What was your first big break?

Adrienne centre front as ‘Rizzo’ in the stage production of Grease.

(AB) My first great job was playing Tevye’s second daughter Hodel in *Fiddler on the Roof * on Broadway. I consider that a big break because I was finally supporting myself as an actor!

I stayed in the show almost two and a half years. But it was *Grease *that led to *Maude*which led to everything else, so I suppose you could say that was the jumping off point.

(SA) You have a huge fan-base of horror fans throughout the world. Do you feel as if your work in horror has eclipsed your extensive body of workoutside that genre?
(AB) I don’t think so. Depends on your age, really. Most of my *Maude * fans don’t even know about the genre films, and then the horror fans probably don’t know about the stage work. Probably don’t care, either! That’s okay with me; as long as there’s something I’ve done that they enjoyed, I’m a happy camper.


(SA) One consistent theme in your characters is that of a strong, resilient woman. The role of Stevie Wayne in The Fog is a case in point. Is that thesort of woman you feel more comfortable playing?

(AB) It’s definitely the sort of role that comes easy to me. And that I’m drawnto. Not too comfortable playing victims.

That smokey sexy voiced DJ in The Fog

(SA) Is that the type of strong female character you feel has been lacking in horror movies?

(AB) Oh boy, I’m not the person to answer this question. I can count the number of horror movies I’ve seen on one hand. I love doing them; don’t like watching them.



(SA) Apart from your fine performance & the sexy radio DJ voice …. What is It about The Fog do you think that now more than ever resonates with fans?

(AB) Maybe the atmosphere? The lack of CGI? The telling of a really good ghost story with characters you care about set in a great location?


(SA) Was it difficult working with your then husband John Carpenter on that movie and indeed also on Escape from New York?

(AB) Not at all. I love working with John, as, I think you’ll find, does every other actor who’s had the opportunity. You can read more about ourspecific experiences together in my memoir *There Are Worse Things I Could Do. *I get to tell some fun stories about “The Master of Horror” there.


(SA) In Escape from New York, you appeared with one of my favourite actors, Donald Pleasence. What was he like to work with?
(AB) I loved Donald. He was hysterically funny. There were times when he had me laughing so hard I had to ask John to hold the roll because I couldn’t get it together to say my lines.


(SA) In fact, your list of directors in horror reads like a who’s who of iconic directors of the Genre. What was it like working with Wes Craven (Swamp Thing) and George.A Romero (Creepshow)?

(AB) Again, both fantastic men to work for. Brilliant, supportive, kind, knowing what they want on screen and how to get it in the best possible way.

In ‘Swamp Thing’
A grizzly end for the scream queen in ‘Creepshow’
(SA) These days you’re fast gaining a new audience with your Writing career – how did that change of career direction happen?

(AB) I started taking a writing class to fill the void left in my life by the passing of a very close friend. Quickly learned if you’re going to take a writing class, you have to write. So I started telling stories from my career — filming with rats all over me in a studio in Moscow when the government declared Martial Law and civil war was threatened; dating Burt Reynolds long

before the filming of *Cannonball Run; *making *Swamp Thing *in the swamps with the gators and snakes;  as one of the first go-go girls in NYC in a mobbed up cocktail lounge — things like that, and that eventually became a best selling book, which then led to the Vampyres of Hollywood books.

(SA) In Vampyres of Hollywood, we are introduced to Ovsanna Moore, who is known as the ‘Scream Queen’ of Hollywood. Anyone we may know per chance? 🙂

(AB) Well, you know what they say…”write what you know”. 🙂


(SA) I found Vampyres of Hollywood a wholly enjoyable read …Satire,elements of film noir & Characters full of depth and dimension. Have you had anyone in the film business accuse you of basing any of the characters on them?

(AB) As you know, most of the recognizable characters are dead. At least, inreal life. So they’re not complaining. When I wrote Tom Atkins in as a character, I made sure I read it all to Tommy first to get his blessing. As for the villains, I doubt that anyone would want to be acknowledged as having anything in common with them, save their professions as agents and paparazzi.


(SA) For those who haven’t read ‘Love Bites’, your recent follow up to Vampyres of Hollywood, what can you tell us about that story?

(AB) I like *Love Bites *even more than *Vampyres of Hollywood. *It has more of my sense of humor, I think, and more sensuality or sexuality or whatever you call it, with the love triangle between Ovsanna and her female assistant and the detective, Peter King. And I get a kick out of the scene with vampyre Orson Welles morphing in and out of a rat’s body. I haven’t got a clue where that came from in my head, but it makes me laugh.

(SA) What does the future hold for Adrienne Barbeau – author? More Ovsanna Moore hopefully?
(AB) Well, *Love Bites *was just released digitally as an e-book on Amazon, soI’m pleased about that. And I’m supposed to be writing a one-woman show based on *There Are Worse Things I Could Do,*but  I my sons’ soccer games seem to be taking precedence so it might be a few more months before that sees the light of day. In the meantime, I’m recording a name yet to be revealed video game and waiting for the next good script to come along while I look forward to visiting my son, Cody (Carpenter, for all your horror readers) in Japan.
This interview was taken from Stuarts Blog –  check it out !!

Halloween 2 (1981) Review

halloween21Halloween II (1981)

Director – Rick Rosenthal

Starring – Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Charles Cyphers, Jeffrey Cramer.

In keeping with the season, those creepy people over at Channel 5 screened Halloween II on Thursday night, giving everyone a chance to revisit this forgotten entry in the original Halloween series. John Carpenter’s first movie is rightly hailed as a classic, not only of the genre, but also cinema in general (and is still the only horror movie, other than the Exorcist, which the Radio Times has deemed worthy of 5 stars). Halloween 3 has a cult following for its kooky, “off-message” storyline and head-invading advertising jingle, parts 4 and 5 are renowned for launching the career of Danielle Harris , The Curse of Michael Myers is remembered for being vaguely ridiculous, Halloween H2O saw the return of Jamie Lee Curtis to great fanfare and the one after that had some rapper in it (which should never be forgotten, in case it happens again). But Halloween II seems to be rarely mentioned these days.

After the impact of Halloween (which is possibly still overstated to this day, because so few people had managed to see Black Christmas at the time), it’s fair to say that Halloween II was labelled something of a disappointment and we’ve all heard the stories of how Carpenter (already involved in a writing capacity) had to step in and shoot some additional gore sequences in order to save director Rick Rosenthal’s insipid movie. However, just as recent “Dead” sequels aren’t classic Romero but ARE superior in the wider pantheon of zombie movies, so it is with Halloween II; weak when compared with its predecessor, it still holds its own in comparison with many of its slasher brethren.

halloween22Taking over at the point when Halloween ends, with Michael Myers still on the loose despite the best efforts of Dr. Loomis, the film benefits from the continued writing presence of John Carpenter by retaining the original’s odd atmosphere of homeliness combined with danger. The illusion of passing off a town in California as one in Illinois during Autumn is again performed flawlessly, with the leafy avenues providing a suitably Halloween-y backdrop to the action.

In the aftermath of the original murders, Laurie is taken to Haddonfield Hospital, whilst Loomis roams the streets, fruitlessly searching for Myers, who, in turn, searches for Laurie. All very similar to the first movie, but as it’s the same night and same characters that makes sense, conveniently. As Sheriff Brackett has the death of his daughter, Annie, to deal with (murdered in her car by Myers), Loomis is now accompanied by Deputy Gary Hunt. It is here that the film’s major incongruity arises. Loomis has all the same expositional exchanges with Hunt as he has previously had with Brackett, but his attitude now is of flippant, impatient, aggressive tough guy; a sharp contrast to the scared old man from just a couple of hours earlier.

The film has its interesting points; naming an unfortunate victim of mistaken identity as Ben Tramer (Laurie’s unseen admirer from the first movie) is a good continuity tool and the way that Myers discovers that Laurie is in the hospital is also cleverly done.

HIIpicOnce Myers is aware of Laurie’s location, the majority of the action takes place in the hospital, which is a typical horror movie hospital (i.e. deserted except for a couple of randy nurses and paramedics, waiting to be killed). The “final” denouement takes place here, but you’ll have to watch the movie to find out what happens.

One unforgivable downside that the movie does have is that it introduces Myers’ rubbish motivation of wanting to kill his whole family (Laurie being revealed as his long lost sister).

For those of you who are interested, Dick Warlock, who plays Myers here, was the shortest to don the Captain Kirk mask, apparently needing boosters to increase his height on set (hey, it could be a quiz question, you never know).

Verdict  7/10