In the heart of Los Angeles, behind a picturesque white picket fence, lies the sanctuary of the legendary John Carpenter. The iconic director is known for evoking terror from the most mundane settings. Imagine, for instance, a masked villain terrorizing a quiet suburb. At the age of 75, Carpenter’s mischievous wit remains sharp. Greeting visitors to his office is a life-size cardboard cut-out of Justin Bieber from his “Believe” era, strategically placed to spook an unsuspecting friend playfully.
Carpenter’s office is adorned with memorabilia from his classic films, Big Trouble in Little China to Vampires. However, his recent endeavors, graphic novels published through Storm King Comics, and his music albums dominate his workspace. As he gears up for New York Comic-Con, the air is thick with anticipation for his latest album, Anthology II (Movie Themes 1976–1988).
The journey Carpenter began with 1974’s Dark Star has earned him a seat in the pantheon of genre greats. Although he occasionally steps into the composer or executive producer role, as seen with the recent Halloween reboots, he seldom rewatches his movies. To him, they’re chapters closed. Yet, amidst the critical acclaim lurk shadows of commercial failures and career lows. Carpenter feels the weight of those setbacks deeply.
Music, video games, and women’s basketball now occupy his interests more than the retrospection of his film career. As he chats animatedly about the WNBA and its stars like A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum, it’s evident that Carpenter’s passion extends beyond the cinematic world.
After 13 years since directing his last feature, The Ward, a new venture beckoned Carpenter. The advent of streaming saw him helm Peacock’s horror anthology, John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams. In this series, Carpenter digs into his horror roots to narrate a woman’s harrowing experience with a phone stalker.
Forty-five years after the release of Halloween, Carpenter remains grounded. While the world celebrates the film’s legacy, it’s simply work to him. But he acknowledges the fortune of having lived his childhood dream. He recalls the profound impact of his films on fans, noting the unusual devotion of some who even get Halloween tattoos. His journey had its low moments, too, like the initial failure of The Thing and missing out on directing Firestarter.
His recent involvement in scoring the Firestarter reboot and David Gordon Green’s Halloween series showcases Carpenter’s enduring touch. When asked about watching movies, Carpenter chuckles, admitting he prefers viewing them from the comfort of his home. His humorous take on Barbie, starring Margot Robbie, reveals his ability to find fun in unexpected places.
Suburban Screams, Carpenter’s latest series, is rooted in reality, with each episode exploring true horror stories. Creating tension and suspense around a woman’s account of being stalked was a challenge he relished. Carpenter’s method? Finding the perfect actress, Julie Stevens, to bring the harrowing tale to life.
Intriguing narratives fueled the transition from a decade-long hiatus to directing again. And while Carpenter remains open to running features, he believes music is the purest form of art. It transcends words and boundaries, connecting souls across time and space.
Reflecting on his career, Carpenter acknowledges the immense stress it brought. Chain-smoking and deteriorating health forced him to step back. As he ponders life’s ephemeral nature, he remains grateful for his journey.
In the end, for this master of horror, it’s the affirmation of life that remains the ultimate message of the genre.