You’ll find John Carpenter on Twitter as @TheHorrorMaster. It’s a grand, self-appointed title, but one that’s well deserved: with 1978’s Halloween, the director created the genre-defining slasher film, and with its keening theme, arguably the sound of horror too.
So it’s apt that the 68-year-old timed the UK leg of his first ever music tour to conclude over the Halloween period, with two dates at London’s Troxy – a venue you suspect meets with the Master’s approval thanks to it looking like a haunted art deco theatre in a dead-end part of town – on October 31, November 1.
Carpenter released his first non-soundtrack album, ‘Lost Themes’, in 2015, with a sequel following this year. It’s this that’s spurred the 68-year-old to take to the road with a black-clad band including his son, Cody Carpenter, on synths and godson, Daniel Davies, on guitar. Together, they’re a rock group with proper chops – power chords boom, beats pound, and at the front of stage, Carpenter switches between picking out his prosaic but spine-piercing synth melodies and swaying side to side, looking like an aged Deadhead in the throes of summer-of-love bliss.
The set flits between tracks from the ‘Lost Themes’ albums and the themes from some of his best-loved films, including Escape From New York, Big Trouble In Little China, The Thing, and The Fog. It’s the film themes, accompanied by supercuts of the films projected on the screen behind him, that resonate most with the devoted crowd; there’s something strangely life affirming about stand in a room of people whooping while someone gets their arm bitten off by a distended, toothed stomach.
The crowd – a mix of lovers of electronic music, lovers of Carpenter’s films and lovers of both – sing along with melodies and cheer with delight when, during the theme from They Live, Carpenter pops on a pair of shades, just like the ones that help protagonist John Nada see the world for what it really is in the film.
The show concludes with a cut from Christine, a film about a haunted car that, in its way, sums up what makes Carpenter special – he’s one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation, but has always been happy to embrace the absurd. At 80 minutes, the performance leaves us wanting more, but that’s another Carpenter hallmark – he knows the power of an edit – Halloween itself ran to just 91 minutes.
“Horror films will never die,” Carpenter tells the crowd at one point – and there’s no disagreement from anyone here.