Undoubtedly one of the most influential filmmakers of the ’70s and ’80s, B-movie master John Carpenter delighted a whole generation of teenagers by elevating low budget horror, sci-fi and action into an artform – and serving up kickass synth soundtracks to boot.
He’s only directed a single movie in the past ten years – but now his legacy is manifesting itself in a steady stream of genuinely interesting and exciting modern-day movies that bear his unmistakable influence.
Here are five recent films that owe a debt to the man who brought us groundbreaking slashers and crazy schlock-fests.
It Follows (2014)
David Robert Mitchell’s acclaimed and unnerving horror hinges on an ingenious premise: a sexually-transmitted curse that causes a murderous, supernatural being – that can take the form of any person – to relentlessly stalk the victim at walking pace.
The movie affectionately re-purposes iconic moments from Halloween (an evil figure glimpsed from a classroom window; two girls walking side-by-side down a suburban tree-lined street), while also paying homage through the sublime electronic score by Disasterpiece and near total absence of protection from parental figures. These touches help embolden an already highly compelling and atmospheric film.
The Guest (2014)
Having previously impressed with darkly comic slasher flick You’re Next, which is also well worth seeing, Adam Wingard then brought us this phenomenal ‘deadly man in a small town’ thriller, which sees Dan Stevens banishing Downton Abbey typecasting as a handsome, brooding stranger who moves in with an ordinary family – before all hell breaks loose.
Also starring It Follows’ Maika Monroe, it carries equally strong references to Halloween – while the killer soundtrack oozes the kind of beats and bleeps that made Carpenter’s sonic offerings so very timeless.
Cold In July (2014)
Directly inspired by the visuals and sounds of Carpenter’s ’80s action movies, and their idea of a rugged, blue collar thriller with an everyman at its centre, this tale of an ordinary guy who finds himself stalked by a vengeful thug and then at the centre of a murky crime conspiracy, is truly gripping.
Director Jim Mickle – who also dabbled in satirical post-apocalyptic vampires with Stake Land and subversive suburban horror in We Are What We Are – has even been dubbed ‘the new John Carpenter’ by some critics. On this evidence, you completely understand why.
If Quentin Tarantino casting Carpenter regular Kurt Russell as a murderous racing driver in Death Proof wasn’t enough, then Robert Rodriguez’s obvious ode to Carpenter via Planet Terror’s distinctive soundtrack and ordinary folk tackling a supernatural menace with whatever comes to hand should certainly strike a chord.
Both films owe a clear debt to the man’s knack for finding fun, absurd humour in twisted scenarios. And for plunging square-jawed, straight-faced hunks into the most preposterous of circumstances.
The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
With its lawless nightime city of marauding psycho gangs, criminals fighting criminals, and a sort of dystopian gladitorial arena where the vulnerable are preyed upon to the cheering of evil, bloodthirsty crowds, this entertainingly crazy follow-up to the dull first Purge takes heavy influence from Escape From New York.
All the better it is for that too – even if there’s no eye-patched Snake Plissken around to deliver withering, whispered one-liners.