Let’s be clear: Halloween is my favorite horror movie of all time. It is the seminal horror film of its era. It put the Slasher genre on the map, seemingly forever. But, with that said, the director of Halloween, John Carpenter, is a master of the filmmaking craft who has created other incredible works of cinema. Carpenter’s signature is distinct and for fans of Stranger Things, half of that show would not exist without John Carpenter.
Carpenter is the writer, director, composer, and possibly caterer on most all his movies. The wild success of Halloween gave Carpenter the clout to keep doing movies his way. Carpenter went on to direct many more films, including these fun horror flicks to binge watch for Halloween …
The Fog – 1980
You likely remember the 2005 remake with Tom Welling and Maggie Grace, and if you do, I’m sorry. Carpenter made the R-RATED original which reunites Carpenter with “scream queen” Jamie Lee Curtis. The Fog is a chilling folktale of long-overdue revenge. What Carpenter carefully hides in Halloween he puts on full display here. The supernatural force is real and the people of this small town are at its mercy.
The Thing – 1982
Arguably Carpenter’s second most famous film behind Halloween, The Thing is a sequel of sorts (but not really) to the 1951 science fiction classic The Thing From Another World. Starring Kurt Russel, Carpenter weaves a story of paranoia in a supremely isolated location with creepy care. Unlike many movies of today, The Thing features only a handful of whiz-bang effects, but they resonate and disturb, unlike most modern CG gore.
Christine – 1983
Christine by Carpenter is not mentioned much in horror circles, but pop culture loves the tale of the killer car. Family Guy, Futurama, and beyond have tossed a wink at Carpenter’s movie. Shot using 20 different cars, none of which were actually the 1958 Plymouth Fury the car is supposed to be, Christine is top-notch b-movie fun.
Prince of Darkness – 1987
For those who already know this film you might think I’m crazy. Prince of Darkness, in many, MANY ways is not a good movie. But it’s a study in surrealism, a departure from Carpenter’s usual horror style, and the concept of science mixed with classic good versus evil tropes is refreshing. Plus, if you’re doing a Carpenter marathon this Halloween it’s good to have a laugh to break up the terror.
In The Mouth Of Madness – 1995
John Carpenter is as divisive a director as they come who by the mid-90s found his cinematic style fading. In the Mouth of Madness is a love letter to H.P. Lovecraft and for that alone the surreal horror images are brilliant. The film’s concept of a writer’s wild mind-affecting reality itself is interesting. However, everything else about the movie, including any sense of a cohesive plot or the awful soundtrack by Carpenter himself, is mediocre at best. Still, fans of horror or Lovecraft will enjoy the imagery and effects.
HONORABLE MENTION: They Live – 1988
According to sites like IMDB, They Live is a horror movie. I think it’s a science fiction movie. Instead of debating it, I instead added it as an honorable mention. They Live is an unlikely movie about an unlikely hero in a plot that seems eerily prophetic. Uber-capitalist aliens secretly run the world and use subliminal messaging to get us, stupid humans, to obey … consume … reproduce. John Nada, played by the late, great Rowdy “Roddy” Piper, is a man with nothing. He roams the world looking for work until he finds a purpose … to uncover what the aliens are doing.