This has been the slowest news week (entertainment-wise) in recent memory, so a story about John Carpenter making a horror movie with Amber Heard seems like something earth-shattering, even if it totally isn’t. The director will guide the Pineapple Express actress in The Ward, a scary flick about a young girl who gets trapped in an old mental institution and gets chased by a nefarious ghost. (Seriously? Didn’t that movie just come out last week?) Regardless of our intense dislike for the pitch, reading about The Ward got us thinking about John Carpenter….and here’s what we came up with: this man should retire.
There are fanboys and Fangoria subscribers who most certainly just threw up all over their keyboards while reading that last sentence, but let us explain. We’ve never seen a more obvious case of time passing someone by than its happened with John Carpenter. We can all agree he was a fantastic genre filmmaker, and nothing can take that away from him. The run of success Mr. Carpenter had starting with Assault on Precinct 13 in 1976 (still our favorite of his films) through the late 80s is unparalleled: Halloween, The Fog, Escape from New York, The Thing, Starman, Big Trouble in Little China. Few directors can stake a claim to such a consistent level of quality on their résumés. Of course it helps that he had Kurt Russell starring in half of those films, but who cares! Mr. Carpenter was a true purveyor of schlocky horror fun, better at his chosen genre than contemporaries like Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper. And no matter how much Robert Rodriguez gnashes his teeth, his work will never hold a candle to a John Carpenter film. They truly don’t make movies like that anymore.
And that’s the problem. The cheap-looking aesthetic that Mr. Carpenter is famous for is no longer relevant in modern cinema–the Paper Mache sets and cheesy special effects would seem out of place in a YouTube video at this point. It’s part of the reason why his last film, 2001’s Ghosts of Mars, was so terrible. The film just looked bad. On the other hand, if he adapted to the current landscape of filmmaking, Mr. Carpenter would lose all of the trademarks that make him “John Carpenter.” He’s stuck in an unfortunate Catch-22 that doesn’t have an easy answer. So yes, we’re calling for Mr. Carpenter to retire, even though at the very young age of 61 he probably has many more years of viable movie making potential in him. Please John, don’t embarrass yourself further. Let’s try to keep that legacy intact.