Horror is having a moment. Movies like “It” and “Get Out” aren’t just making money; they’re smart exercises in studio filmmaking that are elevating the horror genre on the whole. They also arguably owe a debt to director John Carpenter, whose films, such as “Halloween,” “The Thing” and “Escape From New York,” helped set the standard for intelligent, low budget thrills.
But the horror master has taken a backseat to filmmaking in recent years, opting instead to pursue his other love for music. And now as he adjusts to a new life as something of a rock star, he’s not looking back.
“Making movies is horrifying. Horrifyingly stressful,” Carpenter told TheWrap in a phone interview. “You’ve got all these people, and you have to pay them! They’re on the clock, you have to finish, and you’re always on deadline. Movies are a complex form of art and storytelling. Music is purer. Out it comes.”
Carpenter has usually composed now-iconic music for his films, and the impact of his work, like the instantly recognizable piano of the “Halloween” score, can be felt as recently as the music from Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” (Which Carpenter says he has never heard.) But in 2015, Carpenter released “Lost Themes,” an album of chilly, atmospheric original music not written for any of his films (even if it sounds like they could have been).
He followed that up with “Lost Themes II” in 2016, touring in support of both albums. However, with his latest album, “Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998,” Carpenter and his band have re-recorded all his old movie scores. These familiar themes, including a cover of Ennio Morricone’s sparse music for “The Thing,” now have a fuller rock sound than when Carpenter was independently recording on synthesizers.
“I cannot tell you the difference in sound between the stuff I used in the old days and the modern synths, and they are incredible,” Carpenter said. “It really modernizes the songs, and at the same time, you can go back and revisit them. So it’s a win-win as far as I am concerned.”
Listening to Carpenter’s “Anthology” isn’t quite a greatest hits, but a culmination of everything he’s done in his career made new.
“Some I had to work on to bring them up to modern day standards, like anything else. Or like me. I haven’t aged well. You have to bring me up to date,” Carpenter said. “But horror movies, themes, music, everything evolves with the times and evolves with the culture. It will always be getting better and better I think.”
When Carpenter was first making movies, horror belonged to the exploitation genre. He explained how you could make a low budget movie and make a lot of money in the process. But even though the industry has changed since then, Carpenter said people are still watching horror for the same reasons.
“‘Get Out’ struck a nerve with people. And ‘It,’ people just want to see that clown! The original ‘It’ was kind of like a spider in a cave, but they changed it for the remake, but hey, that’s good. Everything’s good,” Carpenter said. “They’re meant to be enjoyable. Most people like them, and that’s all that counts.”
Carpenter has given his blessing to a new reboot of “Halloween” being developed by David Gordon Green and Danny McBride. He was mum on the details, but said the new film isn’t exactly a remake, but a movie that pretends as if the many “Halloween” sequels never happened.
As for whether he’ll get back to directing, Carpenter is having a lot more fun touring.
“I’m not a rock star (laughing),” Carpenter said. “I’m really enjoying myself. I’ll get back to directing or not. I don’t know. I don’t care! I’ve had a hell of a career. I don’t need to do anything else, but if something comes along, I’ll do it!”
What would he like to work on then, we asked?
“Watching NBA basketball, that’s what I love,” Carpenter said.
“Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998” is being issued by Sacred Bones Records on October 20. See his upcoming tour dates below:
10/29/17 – Las Vegas, NV @ The Joint at Hard Rock Casino
10/31/17 – Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Palladium
11/2/17 – Anaheim, CA @ City National Grove
11/4/17 – San Francisco, CA @ The Warfield
11/5/17 – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst
11/7/17 – Maplewood, MN @ Myth Live
11/9/17 – Chicago, IL @ Aragon Ballroom
11/10/17 – Detroit, MI @ El Club
11/12/17 – Toronto, ON @ The Danforth Music Hall
11/13/17 – Montreal, QC @ Metropolis
11/15/17 – Boston, MA @ Royale
11/16/17 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5
11/18/17 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Trocadero
11/19/17 – Syracuse, NY @ The Palace Theatre