Tag Archives: The Thing

John Carpenter: The night HE played Halloween

Guest blogger Alex Norman hitched a ride on The Pork Chop Express to the Troxy in London on Halloween night, which was not dark and stormy and had no rain coming down in sheets thick as lead. He did however get to see the horror master, John Carpenter, play live. Like old Jack Burton he stood in the crowd and looked Carpenter square in the eye and says, “Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.”

Check out his review…

When horror icon John Carpenter announced a European tour in support of his two Lost Themes albums, original music created with his son and godson, it was a dream come true to finally see one of my idols in person performing his iconic synth music.

30617424621_10dd694cfb_kThings got even better when it was announced he was doing a meet and greet before the event. I didn’t even question the £135 cost; it was more a case of where’s my credit card! Opportunities like this – meeting JC on Halloween in London – won’t come along too often.

With the Art Deco Troxy filling up, anticipation was building and it was bizarre surveying the mosh pit which consisted of Michael Myers, ghosts, They Live zombies, Gracie Law, Jack Burton, even the axe wielding crazy dude from In the Mouth of Madness (“do you read Sutter Cane?”). You get the picture – Carpenter even announced the winner of the best costume.

MacReady – “Why don’t we just wait here for a little while, see what happens?” The Thing

When the lights finally went out, the crowd roared in anticipation and out came the ‘bats’ – Carpenter was pointing out faces in the crowd, doing the sign of the horns, reverently chewing gum and even doing grandad shimmies.

30705801585_1fc90fec21_kThen it began… Carpenter’s boney finger pressed down on the keys to signal the opening of the main theme to Escape From New York. Yes! Here we go.  There’s was a real lack of Snake Plissskens in attendance tonight which was a shame.

With the backing of his full band of men half his age, Carpenter’s music is injected with some rock power and his music explodes out of the amps. His iconic music still sounds as good as it ever has but it’s more ferocious, louder and, just, in your face.

As the exultant crowd scream their appreciation of the opener, Carpenter yells: “Hello London!”. Judging by the look on his face, his choice to go down this rock rabbit hole odyssey as he approaches his 69th birthday, you can’t help but think he is ticking off a dream he never really believed would happen. Next up is the driving and moody Assault on Precinct 13 theme.

30073808054_96eec03315_kA couple of tracks from Lost Themes follow, Vortex and Mystery, before the mood shifts… in between songs, Carpenter acts as a story teller, bordering on melodramatic, as he introduces The Fog.  It felt almost as if you could be in Antonio Bay as the stage is layered with thick fog and clips from the film are played on a giant projection at the back of the stage.  All of his film scores are accompanied by clips from the films and it really does enhance the performance.  After all, Carpenter is stationed behind a keyboard chewing gum and kicking ass musically, so it provides something else to enhance the performance.

30073834074_76764e4817_kNext, as Carpenter and the band donned sunglasses, the crowd knew what was coming and the projection screen was filled with bold statements such as ‘obey’ and ‘money is your god’. Enter the main theme from They Live. As images of the late ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper and Keith David are beamed up on the screen, the crowd whoops and hollers.

Carpenter then introduces the next song in honor of one of the greatest film composer of all time, Ennio Morricone. The studio drafted Morricone in to score The Thing and reports of tension surfaced.  John even telling the great composer to play ‘less’ notes.  But Carpenter is a much more relaxed man these days and the past is blood under the bridge.  The Thing’s main theme literally shudders the rib cage as the thunderous bass pounds out of the giant speaker stacks.

Next up is Distant Dream from Lost Themes II – a driving, rocking track that sounds like a lost track from Big Trouble in Little China, and lo (pan) and behold, the next track is from that very movie – seeing Lo Pan emit his blue mouth beam on the big screen and various action packed clips from the film as the band are rocking out is very cool indeed.

30405769400_c19171fc03_kNext up are a couple more tracks from Lost Themes – Wraith and Night. The former is a slow burner that sounds enriched and far more sonically powerful than the album cut. It’s at this point that Carpenter confesses tonight’s show has been uncharacteristically upbeat and that it was time to dour things down. This is where Night comes in – a dark slice of bass synth that broods along relentlessly.  This sets the mood and tone of the venue perfectly as Carpenter wishes everyone ‘Happy Halloween’ before keying the iconic opening notes to Halloween to the delight of everyone.

The main set is wrapped up with the hard rock main theme from In the Mouth of Madness which starts off sounding like Metallica’s Enter Sandman before it transforms into a balls-out rocker Carpenter-style, leaving those bad Metallica’s thoughts far behind.

Tonight’s encore kicks off with Darkness Begins from the Prince of Darkness score, followed by Virtual Survivor from Lost Themes II, one of the best tracks of the night that trudges along to a big finish.  Purgatory slows things down and provides the most emotive point before the second half of the track kicks in with marching rhythmic intensity.

Before the final song of the evening, our ringmaster and storyteller for the evening offers us some final words of caution: ‘travel home safely tonight, because Christine is out there somewhere’. Carpenter of course is talking about the sentient and violent Plymouth Fury that wins the heart of Keith Gordon before destroying everything that threatens their romance. There’s clearly a lot of love for this film and score.

30588852102_b870ba77c3_kWith the final beat of the drum and as Carpenter’s last note fades out, he thanks the crowd, the band take a bow and leave to rapturous applause. Sure, it was a short gig clocking in at just 80 minutes but what a great 80 minutes they were. Whether this will ever happen again in London, who knows, but tonight, the Master of Horror channeled the youth and vitality so desired by Lo Pan and lived the rock star dream and added a whole new chapter and level of cool for his fans to cherish forever.

30071736283_2e300b71e7_kAs Sheriff Leigh Brackett says in Halloween: “It’s Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare.” Everyone who attended the Troxy certainly had one good evening. After all you can’t kill the boogie man!

 

Pictures: Stephen Watts

Advertisements

Event Horizon #30DaysOfFright

event2It is the year 2047, the rescue ship Lewis and Clark is sent to intercept the Event Horizon, a spaceship that mysteriously vanished some seven years earlier but has reappeared. Where has it been, where is the crew and who what is the sinister presence on board? Now the rescue crew, including the creator of the Event Horizon, must rescue themselves before it is too late.

Poor Paul (WS – as he is now known) Anderson has had something of a rough ride on the science-fiction slipstream, with numerous Resident Evils, Death Race and Alien Vs Predator – the latter which I rather liked in a Big Daddy Vs Giant Haystacks kind of way – all drawing buckets of scorn.

For me though his finest hour (or hour and thirty five minutes) has always been the 1997 movie, Event Horizon, and seeing as it part-inspired the uber-atmospheric PS3 smash, Dead Space, I’m not the only one.

event1Essentially the movie is Hellraiser meets The Shining in space…but then the Jaws in space tag never did Alien, which it has a nod to production design and creepiness wise, any harm. And for me that is what makes the movie so much fun, that it is essentially a haunted house movie in space, which is certainly more fun and original than The House on Haunted Hill remake or GhostShip (essentially the same tale as Event but…gasp…set at sea) and certainly better than Jason X which was also set among the stars.

Featuring a stellar (or should that be interstellar) cast comprising of Sam Neill (quite literally exorcising some demons he had left over from In The Mouth of Madness) and Laurence Fishburne, Joely Richardson, a pre-Harry Potter Jason Isaacs and the always dependable Sean Pertwee.

event7Sam Neill, as the designer of the Event Horizon, Dr Weir, is quality as ever, exuding authority and charm at first, with a disturbing back story that haunts him and us for much of the film. At first he is essentially like Ripley in Aliens, has knowledge but not acceptance of the crew. But if he’s good at being good, he’s great at being evil and devilish, see the third part on The Omen trilogy, The Final Conflict, and the aforementioned In the Mouth of Madness for further proof.

Fishburne as Captain Miller, in charge of the Lewis and Clark, is a great no nonsense turn and proves quite the foil to Neill and he really convinces in his leading role.

event4The film is as beautiful as it is deadly and is filled with intrigue, jumps and gore aplenty Event Horizon raises itself above the usual fair due to some wonderful set design and visual imagery – including the mother of all zoom outs from a space station – and a fantastic gate room that is a meld of Stargate meets Hellraiser box via Contact.

Zero gravity has never been so eerie with all manner of objects floating around the titular ship…which is a star of the show in its self, with its great design inside and out, taking its design cue from Notre Dame Cathedral.

event9With elements of The Shining, Alien, The Black Hole, Hellraiser, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Flatliners this isn’t just a mishmash of what we have seen before simply set in space, it is far more intelligent than that. As a psychological space horror Event Horizon has plenty of the crimson stuff and gore, but it is that slowly building sense of dread and pulsating paranoia that gets us as much as the crew.

Adding to the general feeling of unease throughout is the score that is simply something else. Being essentially a science-fiction/horror movie the music is something else, a fantastic fusion of the work of the late Michael Kamen (who worked with Queen on Highlander and scored both the Lethal Weapon series and Die Hards) and the techno sound of Orbital, creating something that is raw and visceral and perfect for the mood of the movie. If you loved Tron Legacy’s score then this is the horror equivalent.

event6Having experienced it on the big screen when it was first released it’s a real surprise that it was something of a misfire at the box office as it really grabs you from the off and engages throughout, delivering both in the science –fiction and horror stakes in buckets (of blood).

I found it a disturbingly thrilling cinematic experience that lingers long after it has been seen, if you haven’t explored the Event Horizon then you are in for one hell of a nerve-jangling ride.

This lean and mean film more than deserves its place with such sci-fi horror classics as Alien and The Thing and certainly packs a mightier punch and more jumps than both Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, the latter released the same year.

event10It’s not so much in space no one can hear you scream and more if no one is on board the Event Horizon then when you scream will anyone hear it? The answer to that one is an emphatic yes. Go see it!

Top Ten Film and TV Reveals

10. The Phantom of the Opera… as seen in Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Even some 90 years later the image of the Phantom as he is first revealed in the classic Lon Chaney silent version is an indelible image that still possesses the power to repulse and shock, so one can only imagine the impact it had in its day.

 

9. Norman Bates… as seen in Psycho (1960)
Oh mother! Another classic that still retains all of its power to this day, even if you know the true identity of the murderer, it is still an impressive reveal, and is one of double proportions if you count Mrs Bates in the rocking chair and that swinging light bulb!

 

8. Doctor Who… as seen in Doctor Who (1963 – Present)
No matter the Doctor, no matter the transformation, the regeneration of one Doctor to the next has always made for must see television. For me the most memorable has to be Tom Baker falling off a giant satellite dish and turning into Peter Davison via some bizarre figure dressed in white (dunno either) to the most emotional, that of David Tennant into Matt Smith. Tennant pretty much was the Doctor so we really felt his emotional exit and the humility he brought to his final moments, moments that had been deftly built over the course of a year of specials and three final episodes. This really was the end of an era as it also spelt the end of show head writer, Russell T Davies, who clearly left no emotional stone unturned.

 

7. An ape on horseback… as seen in Planet of the Apes (1968)
We are as gobsmacked as Chuck Heston and his fellow astronauts when the hunting horns bellow to the crescendo of horse hooves and the sight of apes on horseback with ruddy rifles. It’s the first reveal that Heston and co are on a whole darned planet of them. As shocking and memorable as the final Statue of Liberty shot is, for me, it is this first stark reveal that truly sets the tone for all that follows.

 

6. James Bond… as seen in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Connery had gone, James Bond was dead…but long live James Bond as another actor filled his shoes, namely George Lazenby. I can hardly comprehend on what the mammoth search for Bond must have been like or the anticipation of a new actor filling the role that Sean Connery had made his own. Cleverly, we are teased by the filmmakers who show us glimpses of Bond here and there in his rear view mirror behind the wheel of his beloved Aston Martin DB5 as he drives onto a beach to rescue a damsel in distress from some thugs. Once the villains are dispatched and the woman runs off and drives away in her car. Bond stands up and wryly talking directly to camera, the only time this ever happens, says to the audience as much as to himself: “This never happened to the other fellow!” A text book physical reveal that has rarely, if ever been bettered.

 

5. A Body Snatcher… as seen in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
It’s the final reel of the film and we are just relieved to see that Donald Sutherland, despite his Hair Bear Bunch barnet, is safe and not been nobbled by the pod people, but wait. He stops as Veronica Cartwright approaches, points, eyes roll and mouth opens distinctly inhuman like to let out one of the most chilling sounds and images ever to greet cinema going audiences. ‘They’ had finally caught up with him. The screen freezes and that image of Donald stays with you for ages after you first see it.

 

4. A Chest Burster… as seen in Alien (1979)
We know that John Hurt seriously hurts when he is flung around the Nostromo and that all is not well with his belly, in what is surely one of cinema’s greatest ever entrances as the aptly named chest burster, doing exactly what it says on the tin, and promptly shrieking as it exits Hurt’s body and splattering the white exterior crimson red. Primal stuff.

 

3. The Thing… as seen in The Thing (1982)
In the end the reveal is a massive relief of sorts, as you feel the anguish and paranoia of all the scientists and researchers sat on the chairs strapped to each other. We know the reveal is coming, but like those men on the chairs, we do not know when it is coming or from whom and we certainly aren’t prepared for what follows.

 

2. Doug Quaid… as seen in Total Recall (1990)
One of Arnie’s true classics I am of course talking about Arnie’s disguise as an overweight middle aged woman – thankfully not him in drag in the risible Junior – to get him through security before ‘she’ ends up with a facial tick of sorts only for her head to fall off and Arnie to step out from her as she opens up, with her head exploding as a bomb, as you do, with the immortal line “get ready for a surprise!” prior to detonation.

 

1. Keyzer Soze… as seen in The Usual Suspects (1995)
Who’d have thunk that weedy little Kevin Spacey was the murderous criminal mastermind behind it all. As ‘Verbal Kint’ states: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he never existed.” It’s a bravura performance that doesn’t need prosthetics or a fake accent to pull it off. Spacey dragging his foot one moment, then walking normally the next and then miraculously regaining the use of his withered hand is misdirection of the highest order and never fails to delight. It is unsurprising that Spacey won a best-supporting actor Oscar for his mesmerizingly understated performance.