John Carpenter is, let’s say, to the point in interviews. What’s great about interviewing Carpenter is that, no matter how gruff a response might be, he still has this grin on his face in a way there’s really no way to take it personally. This is just the way John Carpenter answers questions. And, frankly, it’s pretty entertaining to be on the other end of the whole thing.
Carpenter is back in his role as the music composer for the latest entry into the Michael Myers saga, Halloween Kills, and as a sort of advisor role, which Carpenter explains what that exactly means. Though even beyond Halloween Kills, it feels like Carpenter’s movies are having a moment right now. At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was watching The Thing. And it just feels, maybe anecdotally, that a lot of people just kept going and have been devouring his whole filmography. And Carpenter seems to have the attitude of, well, that’s all fine and dandy, but where was everybody back then? (He has a point, though deep down I get the impression he likes it that people like his movies.)
Halloween Kills picks up right where David Gordon Green’s 2018’s Halloween leaves off, just like the original Halloween II does. And just like Halloween II, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) spends a lot of time in the hospital. (But unlike Halloween II, she is given much much more to do.) And Carpenter’s score is very present in this movie, as we hear him do different takes on the Halloween theme we already know so well. Speaking of Halloween II, I try to make a case that it, technically it could still, maybe, be considered canon? (The 2018 Halloween is, officially, a sequel to only Carpenter’s first movie.) And, well, Carpenter gets to the point about what he thinks about that idea very quickly. But, first, we start off by talking about William Friedkin’s under-seen 1977 classic, Sorcerer.
I’ve seen you mention how much you like the movie Sorcerer in interviews. I recently watched that movie. You are 100 percent correct about that movie.
Isn’t that a great film?
Do you feel a kinship with that movie? Because it came out right after Star Wars came out, so no one saw Sorcerer, and I know you’ve had some experiences like that with The Thing and E.T. But everyone now loves The Thing. People still don’t know Sorcerer.
There’s an initial disappointment with Sorcerer because the title suggested an Exorcist type movie.
Or like something supernatural.
That’s correct. And it wasn’t. It was The Wages of Fear. But I don’t know why people don’t respond to it. It’s a dark film.
It sure is.
But it’s brilliant.
With both the 2018 Halloween and this one, I was always keep reading David Gordon Green saying something along the lines of, “We didn’t do anything without John Carpenter’s approval.” What does that actually mean? How often do they actually come to you and ask what you think of something?
Initially, we talk about the screenplay, and the ideas behind it. And I pretty much stay out of the way because David’s such a fine director, and wouldn’t have to worry about me. My main contribution is the music. That’s when I really go to work.
Yeah the score is very good.
I feel like you were mixing some stuff up with stuff that we’re familiar with, but different takes on it…
When do you decide to do that? I’m assuming you have the movie in front of you and you’re just reacting to what you’re seeing?
Pretty much that’s it. We started with a basic situation of a score that exists in 1978, the one I did way back when. So, we take various parts of that and we amplify it and bring it into the modern era, modern sounds, and that’s 40 percent of what you hear. Then the rest is we improvise right on the spot in terms of what’s necessary for the movie – whether it’s for the characters, for the story, atmosphere – whatever is needed, we’re there. We’re there to fill it in. And David, we have a big spotting session with him where he says, “I want something here and I want something like this,” and that’s what we go off of.
There are a few references in this movie to Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Whose idea was that?
I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t know.
The masks from Halloween III: Season of the Witch are in Halloween Kills.
Do you not like that movie? I can’t tell.
I love that movie. Yeah, I love that movie.
I think it’s gained traction over the last few years. People love that movie now. I know at the time people didn’t know what to make of it.
It was pretty rough back in the day because it was a big flop. The audience said, “Where’s Michael Myers?”
I’m a big fan of Dr. Dan Challis.
Anyway, I like that movie a lot. I think that movie’s terrific.
I didn’t consider myself a huge horror fan, but now, during the pandemic, I think a lot of things reset. People who don’t consider themselves horror fans are watching movies from that era and really loving them. Are you noticing this? I know you noticed that everyone was watching The Thing at first, but just overall, do you think there’s been a reset of what people want from horror? Because there’s a fun aspect that I think has missing over the last few years.
That’s interesting. I hadn’t really paid much attention to that, but it’s much more fun than the torture movies.
The only one of those that was any good, the only one of those that were fun was the Saw movies, which were fun. But, no… horror there’s an edge. You don’t want to step over that edge. That’s not something that you should do.
A friend of mine was telling me about your last concert here in New York. Are you thinking about touring again soon?
We have thought about it, but there’s a pandemic we have to get over first. And I’m an old man now. I can’t go back out there in the world unless everybody’s healthy and happy.
You’ve only directed one sequel, but there are almost an infinite number of remakes and sequels made from your movies. I’m curious why you yourself have not directed many sequels, other than Escape from LA?
I just never had the interest to do it. I was involved in the Halloween II sequel as a writer, and I was involved in the Escape sequel, but other than that no big interest. That’s all I can say.
Speaking of Halloween II, does that still exist in the canon? Because in the 2018 Halloween they do make reference to Michael and Laurie being brother and sister and it’s explained away as something someone made up. I feel like I could still work Halloween II into this timeline if I want to. Is it up to me?
[Laughs] That’s right. It’s up to you! I think that was a desperate story idea that I shoved in there because I didn’t have anything else to do, but I think, wisely, they avoid that. Wisely.
But we could pretend that what happens in that movie still happens because in 2018 they discount that one part of it?
It’s all good. That’s right. Everybody’s happy now.
Was it weird for you when Mike Myers started becoming famous?
Well … Oh, I see what you mean. No. No, I didn’t find it weird.
You need to get him in one of these movies.
You’ve got to understand Michael Myers was named after a real person.
Yes, I knew that.
So, nothing surprised me after that.
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.