Assault on the System: The Nonconformist Cinema of John Carpenter by Troy Howarth
Trade Paperback – WK Books – 2020 – 459 pages
His name is synonymous with horror thanks to the landmark hit HALLOWEEN (1978), but there’s a lot more to John Carpenter than just that. Like so many, Carpenter found a much-needed escape from reality at the movies-and his love of the medium inspired him to start up his own fanzines when he was just a kid. He initially aspired to make westerns, but fate had other ideas in mind. Sooner than resist being typecast as a horror filmmaker, Carpenter embraced the moniker of “master of horror,” all the while dipping in and out of the genre as he tried his hand at everything from sci-fi romps like THEY LIVE (1988) to gritty action thrillers like ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981) and romantic fantasies like STARMAN (1984). Carpenter’s love of old school Hollywood, embodied in his passion for the films of Howard Hawks, inspired him to create a persona which eschews arthouse pretentions in favor of classical storytelling and craftsmanship. Working with budgets low and high, he always saw to it that his films looked and sounded as slick and professional as possible-and his use of anamorphic Panavision in virtually all of his theatrical features gives even the smallest of his films a larger-than-life pictorial allure. Carpenter doesn’t specialize in real life: he specializes in movies-and all the artifice that entails. Then there’s the music-that distinctive minimalist approach to synthesizer scoring which gives his films an even more unmistakable personality. As the son of an accomplished musician and music historian, Carpenter brought his flair for music, as well as his sense of timing, to bear on a variety of subjects. One of the constant themes running through Carpenter’s work is a deep distrust of authority in its various forms. Early hopes of finding acceptance within the Hollywood system soon gave way to an understanding that he preferred being his own boss, working outside of the system in order to preserve the integrity of his vision.
ASSAULT ON THE SYSTEM: THE NONCONFORMIST CINEMA OF JOHN CARPENTER charts Carpenter’s trajectory from screenwriter-for-hire to director of low-budget oddities like DARK STAR (1974) to his meteoric rise and fall within the very system he came to distrust. All of Carpenter’s films are analyzed in detail, including his forays into made-for-TV fare, and his various sideline projects as a writer, a composer, and a producer are also examined. Brand new interviews with Carpenter, his wife Sandy King-Carpenter, and actor Keith Gordon also help to provide a glimpse into the man, his methods, and what makes him tick.In addition, there are hundreds of eye-catching images, including theatrical posters, stills, behind the scenes shots, and more.The end result is a comprehensive celebration of one of America’s great, yet oft-unsung auteurs, and a true independent spirit in his chosen medium. Guest essays by: Matty Budrewicz & Dave Wain, Lee Gambin, John Harrison, Randall D. Larson, Robert Russell LaVigne, Francesco Massaccesi, Paul Poet, and Nick Smith.