Here’s some good news. In the 1980’s, as disco lay long dead in the streets of Manhattan, one of the premier club acts of the European scene was…John Carpenter.
John Carpenter? The guy who made Halloween? Who made The Thing? Who made They Live, one of the strangest movies of all time, and then decided to never make a good movie again?
Yeah! That guy!
I’d always known that Carpenter’s droning, synthy, Suicide-esque scores were one of the best parts of his movies. Even an average Carpenter movie, and there have been plenty of those, is enlivened by the sheer funktacularness of his music.
So I should hardly have been surprised to find that in 1982, Italian disco magnate Mario Boncaldo—who also gave us the Ewok Celebration 12″—worked his magic on some of the best tracks from the Escape From New York soundtrack. It’s, uh, much better than the Ewok song. In fact, I’ve been listening to the Ewok song while writing this, and it might be the worst thing I’ve ever heard. It might be melting my brain. Ah, yes, at 4:10 there’s an Ewok rap, so consider my brain melted and accept my apologies if the rest of this post is more gibberishy than usual.
(Mr. Mario’s website, by the way, is a terrifying delight. His slogan is “the House Music before the House Music.” I want that on a t-shirt now, please.)
The next year, he did the same thing with Assault on Precinct 13. The Halloween soundtracks, we can assume, were too good on their own to fool with. The songs are driving, repetitive, spooky, brutal—everything we love about John Carpenter music, but three times as long.
That wonderful repetition got me thinking about one of my favorite traits of John Carpenter movies: indifference in the face of danger. It’s a normal thing in horror pictures for the audience to realize the danger well before the characters do, but Carpenter takes it to extremes.
Halloween starts off with a known psychotic escaping from a mental institution in a stolen car, but no one besides Donald Pleasance is really bothered. The guards at the institution, perhaps embarrassed by their rather colossal fuck-up, dismiss his fears by pointing out that Michael Myers can’t drive a car—as though he wasn’t seen driving a car the night before. When Pleasance tracks Michael back to his childhood home, he and the rather dimwitted local sheriff find a dog mangled in the upstairs bedroom.
“Oh well,” says the sheriff. “A skunk could have killed it.”
Carpenter takes this willful blindness even farther in Prince of Darkness, a movie so slowly paced that the opening credits last ten minutes. A story about a bunch of science-types doing vague sciencey-type tests on a glowing green vial that apparently contains Satan, it’s either a badly plotted horror movie or the finest satire of academia ever wrought. Halfway into the movie, a bunch of zombiefied hobos have surrounded the church, and several members of the research team have been either killed or possessed. One of them gets impaled on a bicycle wielded by, for some reason, Alice Cooper. It’s awesome.
As the body count rises, the scientists inside piddle along, spending about ten minutes of screentime planning a meeting to talk about the continuing disappearances. Well over an hour into the film, they have no idea that the swirling green Satan-tube might be responsible for some of the strange stuff that’s going on. Even once all hell literally breaks loose, they remain incredulous.
Basically, it’s an awesome movie.
The townsfolk in Halloween, the regular citizens in They Live, every single fucking character in Prince Of Darkness—they wander around stupefied, unaware of the impending danger, for way, way, way longer than a normal human would. It’s like they’ve been hypnotized, lulled into a dream-state by, I don’t know, seven and a half minutes of kickass driving synth music. We should all be so lucky.