John Carpenter: “We’ve been living in a real-life horror movie for the past four years”

Cinema's prince of darkness on music, politics and why he's happy being the "Halloween guy"

There’s legendary filmmakers and then there’s John Carpenter. Responsible for birthing the modern slasher movie thanks to his 1978 classic Halloween, he’s the horror savant whose been bringing monsters and madmen to people’s doorsteps for over four decades, responsible for such cinematic staples as The Thing, Christine, They Live, The Fog and Escape From New York.

Not only a writer and director, John is also an accomplished composer whose chilling Halloween theme might just be the scariest piece of music ever recorded. His latest album, the sinister and suspense-filled ‘Lost Themes III: Alive After Death’, is his first non-soundtrack music in nearly five years and sees him once again team up with son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies (also son of The Kinks‘ Dave Davies).

We got John on the phone from his California home to talk about his new album, living through Donald Trump‘s presidency and what fans can expect from the upcoming Halloween sequels.

Hi John, it’s been almost five years since you last released any non-soundtrack music. Why put out an album now?

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“We just had enough music accumulated. We’d been playing a lot and had finished enough music to release an album. So we consulted the label and they wanted to release one. And now here we are.”

Can you explain the idea behind the title, ‘Lost Themes III: Alive After Death’?

“It’s a great title. My godson [Daniel Davies] came up with it as a name for one of the songs and I thought it would be good to use it for the album title. As far as what it means, it’s our hope that our art lasts after our death.”

John Carpenter
(L-R) Cody Carpenter, John Carpenter, Daniel Davies. CREDIT: Press

Many of the tracks could slot into a horror movie. Are there any plans to do that?

“No, they’re more for listeners to create the movie. What I mean by that is you and your significant other sit alone in the dark listening to the album and start fantasising and come up with a movie. I don’t want to make the movie anymore. I wanna make the music. You make the movie.”

You’ve always been very vocal about US politics. How are you feeling now the election’s over?

“Relieved! I wasn’t sure what this goofball might do. And he tried. That phone call [Donald Trump] had with the folks in Georgia was unbelievable.”

The one where he demanded that Georgia’s secretary of state find him votes to overturn the election?

“Yeah. I can’t believe it. It was like he was channelling a mafia guy, a mobster. ‘All I need is 11,000 votes!’ Oh my God.”

Trump’s term was as scary as one of your movies…

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“Yeah. Those of us who don’t believe in what he believes in, we’ve been living in a real-life horror movie for the past four years. But now he’s gone. The horror has been lifted for now. It may come back, you know how monsters are, they do come back sometimes. But for now it’s a nice day.”

Halloween
John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis on the set of ‘Halloween’ in 1978. CREDIT: Alamy

Now that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are in office do you see the US turning a corner?

“Well, I’m hoping so, but I don’t know. It’s certainly already better, I think. It’s already better because they just seem like reasonable human beings and their belief system is not what Trump’s was. Let’s put it that way.”

Has Trump’s time in office inspired any ideas for a film?

“Well, I’m thinking about it. I’ve got to let all of this percolate a little bit. But these folks who rioted [in the Capitol], they are really mad. And what are they mad at? The changes they’re seeing in their country and all these real or imagined slights that are happening to them? And it’s all stoked by these politicians. I’ll have to think about it. I don’t know, could aliens be behind it all? I don’t know. We’ll see.”

Do you ever worry that because you’re the ‘Halloween guy’ it might sometimes overshadow some of your other work?

“No, I love it, and I’m still loving it. Are you kidding me? Being the ‘Halloween guy’ gave me a career in movies. And even now I’m working on the new Halloween movies that are being released by David Gordon Green. I’m as happy as a pig in shit. Halloween gave me everything. It’s great. I get to be John Carpenter.”

Speaking of the new movie, how far along is Halloween Kills?

“It’s done. We’re just waiting on the world to be a little bit more sane and a little safer before we release it.”

What can you tell us about it?

“Holy Toledo! It’s the ultimate slasher movie. It’s Halloween on steroids. It’s great.”

Is it gory?

“Does the sun rise? Yeah, it’s gory alright.”

Where does it stand in comparison to the rest of the movies in the franchise?

“Well, the producer and owner of the Halloween franchise, Malek Akkad, says it’s the second-best one right after the first. So that’s from him. I think it’s a balls-out slasher movie. We haven’t had one of those in a long time.”

Another sequel, Halloween Ends, is also on the release slate. What stage is that at?

“We’ve all read the script and we love it. So now we’ve just gotta wait until things are a little safer to make it.”

Can you share anything about the script?

“Unfortunately not. They will come and kill me if I try to tell you anything.”

What’s your opinion on big studios like Warner Bros. releasing all of their big budget movies on streaming platforms due to COVID shutting down cinemas?

“These guys are making decisions that they consider in their best interests. This is what they see the future is going to be like and so to get these things out they think this is the best way to do it.”

Can you see the Halloween movies ending up being released in the same way?

“Sure. Halloween may be shared that way because theatres are dead. It’s just the reality right now. And it’s a tragedy, but it’s true. We just have to face it. The studio did contact David and I, and they had us put off the new one by a year in the hope that things got better. So we’re still hoping it will get better.”

John Carpenter - The Thing
(L-R) Keith David, John Carpenter and Kurt Russell on the set of ‘The Thing’. CREDIT: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

You’ve been in the industry for a very long time and you’ve worked with a lot of incredible people. Is there anyone left that you would like to work with?

“There’s a whole lot that I haven’t worked with. Jennifer Lawrence, she’s a brilliant actress. Amy Adams – brilliant actress. I would love to work with them, but chances of that are kind of slim. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. I’d also really like to work with Kurt Russell again. That would be fun. We had such a good time working together.”

Halloween spawned a number of sequels and Escape From New York got a sequel. Have there been any discussions about doing sequels to any of your other films?

“Sure. There’s been talk of a sequel to The Fog. There’s been talk of sequels for a bunch of my movies. They just haven’t happened yet because of various reasons. But yeah, we’ve talked about them and I’m open to them.”

John Carpenter’s ‘Lost Themes III: Alive After Death’ is out now via Sacred Bones Records

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