John Carpenter knows what it feels like to have his remake bashed by the original film’s director

09.26.16 3 years ago

It was actually pretty surprising to hear John Carpenter bash not only Rob Zombie's 2007 Halloween remake but also the rocker-turned-director himself in a recently-resurfaced Q&A held at the New York Film Academy, mainly because the director of such genre classics as The Fog, Escape from New York and Big Trouble in Little China hasn't historically been keen on weighing in on remakes of his films. In fact, he has self-admittedly been a “shut up and take the money” kind of guy in that regard, with the following exchange from a 2007 Moviemaker interview being pretty typical of his general attitude:

MM: If you could pick which of your films was going to be remade, which one would you choose?

JC: The one where they pay me the most money.

Despite Carpenter's relative restraint on the issue of John Carpenter Remakes (it's worth mentioning that the director has received a producer credit on a number of these updates, which likely keeps him from being too honest), his attack on Halloween 2007 seems to have sprung from a personal beef with Zombie, who allegedly declared that Carpenter was “cold” when he approached him about the remake — a claim Carpenter refutes during the Q&A as a “lie.” (I will note here as an aside that Carpenter is a famously surly interview, so it's not unthinkable that Zombie would read his response that way.)

In fairness, the beef in question may no longer even be relevant given that the Q&A appears to have taken place a number of years ago, but unfortunately for both men, Carpenter's quote has been reported so breathlessly over the last 24 hours (including by HitFix) that it might as well have been said yesterday. Welcome to the Digital Age, where your bitterest moments live on in perpetuity.

What's interesting to note here is that while Carpenter has bashed so-called remake culture in modern-day Hollywood in a number of interviews, the film that's generally agreed to be his best is itself a remake. I'm talking, of course, about The Thing, the sci-fi/horror classic that updated Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks' 1951 black-and-white classic The Thing from Another World with modern gross-out effects and a bleak, nihilistic tone. And just as Carpenter would bash Zombie's remake of his film 30 years later, Nyby — who received sole directorial credit on The Thing from Another World even though Hawks directed most of it — was himself critical of Carpenter's vision, reportedly saying after watching the 1982 film: “If you want blood, go to the slaughterhouse. All in all, it's a terrific commercial for J&B Scotch.”

While I can't trace the original source of that quote, it's a pretty sick burn, not to mention one that clearly stuck with Carpenter up to and probably beyond 2008, when he referenced it in an interview with Time Out:

“I take every failure hard. The one I took the hardest was The Thing. My career would have been different if that had been a big hit…The movie was hated. Even by science-fiction fans. They thought that I had betrayed some kind of trust, and the piling on was insane. Even the original movie”s director, Christian Nyby, was dissing me.”

However you feel about Zombie's Halloween (I'm not a fan, though I think the sequel is an improvement), on reflection it's kinda hard not to feel a little bad for the guy. He's been nothing but complimentary of Carpenter in interviews, and the fact that the elder director would pull out one allegedly-false quote and use that as an excuse to bash him and his movie seems a little cruel. That said, we all occasionally say insensitive things in the heat of the moment, and I wonder what Carpenter would say about it if pressed today — and if he feels at all regretful for making Zombie feel even a twinge of what he once felt at the hands of Nyby.

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