My good friend Brendan Olphert, author of the Cola Wars Blog and longtime John Carpenter afficianado directed me to two masterpieces made by the grey haired prince of darkness. Carpenter (like Sidney Lumet) is a director who has been wildly prolific despite a popularity which runs hot and cold at times. Many of his great films (I’m thinking The Thing) were overlooked and only achieved masterpiece status with the passing of many years.
The first film, In the Mouth of Madness, is as good a psychological horror as you’ll ever see. Featuring New Zealand’s very own Sam Neill as well as a frightening turn by David Lynch regular Jurgen Prochnow as the enigmatic writer Sutter Kane, In the Mouth of Madness manages to continue a genuinely terrifying plot with some superb sequences that scared the heck out of me. The scenes of Neill and Linda Carmen driving to the town of Hobbs End are particularly stirring as they play on the simple fear of witnessing the impossible.
The one that really got me however is Carpenter’s Masters of Horror episode Cigarette Burns. The story of cinema manager Kirby Sweetman and his obsessive pursuit of a print of La Fin Absolue du Monde (The Absolute end of the World) a lost film which reduces audiences to murderous rage and supposedly depicts the real mutilation of an angel. It’s a brilliant hook, especially for cinephiles. As Sweetman tracks down people who know about the film he encounters a critic who has spent his entire career attempting to write a review which can describe the film adequately. He also discovers those aquatinted with the director Hans Bakovic, a filmmaker who believed film could be used as a weapon. Cigarette Burns is a clever story and an easy one to watch, especially due to it’s short running time. The more Carpenter I see the more his excellence appears to me. If you can find Cigarette Burns or In the Mouth of Madness check them out, I’d reccommend watching them as a double feature as it’s quite clear that they contain similar ideas and can even be considered as companion pieces.
If you want to know more about Carpenter I suggest asking the expert Brendan Olphert, he’s pointed me to some stunning pictures and I’m sure he’s more than happy to do the same for you.