'A Tribute to John Carpenter': The Slasher Sensation who shaped a genre

With Tyneside Cinema hosting showings of John Carpenter's movies across this Spooky Season, one of our writers looks back on his impact on the horror genre

Megan Grimston
22nd October 2023
Image Source: IMDb
Cheap and genre changing! Carpenter's low budget established a horrifying handbook for Slasher Directors everywhere.

Carpenter has redefined horror as a whole with the debut of prosthetic effects like no other in The Thing (1982). However, where the legend of John Carpenter really shines is in his most notable work, the 13 film series Halloween which has shaped the modern slasher since the late 1970s.

The legend of Halloween is positively going to outlive itself; it has a supernatural magic to it, hand-crafted by Carpenter himself, that is culminated in the Halloween empire's lead, Michael Myers. The concept of a supernatural, unkillable antagonist is one revolutionised by Carpenter in the Slasher genre. It's aspects such as this that highlight the hellishly creative mind of Carpenter that would go on to inspire the superhuman aspects of Freddy Kreuger, destined to terrorise thousands just as Michael Myers has done since the 1970s.

THE NIGHT HE CAME! The night Carpenter's genius hit the realm of film scores. Never seen before, the Slasher genre was hit with music that left us with the hair on the back of our neck frozen in fear, opposed to its usual freedom to dance to iconic theme tunes. The synthe heavy 'Main Title Theme Song' for Halloween (created by John Carpenter himself) seeps suspense into the universe, reflecting the fear that nowhere is safe. To this day, the Halloween theme song remains a staple of the Slasher genre, and the horror genre more broadly inspiring similar synthe pieces in works like Stranger Things. If the all-consuming fearful theme song wasn't enough under Carpenter's already stacked belt, he can be single handily credited for creating the entire original soundtrack in the 1970s.

Imagine.. You're a six year old on Halloween Night, you're wearing the costume you spent weeks saving up for, you walk to your front door; open it and see a scene from your nightmares. The fear you're likely to feel in a scenario like this is the fear that Carpenter captures with excellence in the four minute long 'Steadicam' opening scene, except, the six year old is Michael Myers taking the steps to kill his sister Judith. Carpenter's use of Steadicam in Slasher films should be considered fear-striking, allowing audiences to live out lives first hand beyond comprehension, fears only the mind can dream of.

The legend of John Carpenter will likely outlive all of us here today but as generations to come begin their marathon of Halloween cult classics, they will be reminded of Carpenter's influence in every aspect of the Slasher genre.

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