John Carpenter interview
Horror legend John Carpenter (Halloween; The Thing; Escape from New York) was interviewed on the set of the remake of his 1980 film The Fog earlier this year. Directed by British filmmaker Rupert Wainwright (Stigmata), the new Fog has a brand new script, a new cast (including Selma Blair, Tom Welling and Maggie Grace from TV's Smallville and Lost, respectively), and Mr, Carpenter is credited as producer.
LOVEFiLM: Listening to your commentary on the DVD of The Fog, you talk about after Halloween you tried to make it an even more old fashioned suggestive horror movie - but that it didn't work, so you immediately reshot it (you use the word 'remade') to add in more scares and more gore. How does this 2005 re-remake fit in - have tastes changed, or will it be even gorier?
John Carpenter: Well, this movie is required to be PG-13 - that is our mandate from the studio. Because horror movies right now are frequented by young girls - which is a big change in the audience. Young girls like ghost stories, and they like to watch characters not unlike themselves. So PG-13 it is. Our film was rated 'R'. The first version I did, before I changed it, was very very mild. But it was also ineffective, and I thought I could make it better. In the movie business we have a special term for that: it's called 'Save-ass'.
So, I don't know. Hollywood is no longer making horror films that nail you to the wall; that are mean and really do it. That you take seriously. Some try. I think The Ring did it, and The Grudge did it. Remakes of the Japanese films seem to be playing it dead straight. Hollywood mostly tends to be more tongue in cheek and self-referential. I'm not directing this one so I can't tell you how it will be…
LF: How hands-on are you with this? You remade a couple of movies yourself, now your movies are being remade. Do you take the view this is Rupert Wainwright's version?
JC: Yes. This is not my movie any more. The story is similar, the general idea is similar. The Fog is not my favourite of my own films. It's very flattering that someone wants to remake it. There is a culture in America right now. Everything over 15 years old is old school. So let's throw a fresh coat of paint on it and bring it back. The thinking is a lot of the younger audience has heard of the movie but never seen it. So rather than take a chance with something original, let's pump some life into my movie and see if it stands up and salutes. Hollywood has always been really good at recycling.
LF: What do you think of the new wave of horror films?
JC: I watch every one of them. Some of them are good, some not so - just like always. Horror has always been around. Why are there so many now? Because they make money! Anything that makes money, they will do another. Just because I come from low budget films, I'm a big fan of this movie Saw. What a kick! That is so much fun. And it cost just $1.8 million. Is it a perfect movie? No. It doesn't matter, it's so inventive I really applaud them.
LF: Why do you think women are going to horror films now?
JC: I don't know, but apparently 56 percent are women, and young girls especially. This is a tragedy to me, because my entire career all my fans have been young boys. I now got to experience the young girl fans.
I guess maybe they're not so girly anymore. Horror films are really basic things. We are all as human beings afraid of the same things: death; loss of a loved one; disease; loneliness. We're born afraid: a little baby comes out screaming. So it strikes a chord in all of us.
LF: Why do people want to see these things they are afraid of?
JC: People pay to be strapped into rollercoaster rides too. It's like taking a drug. You're jacked up. The adrenaline surges. You scream, you yell - then you laugh. You laugh because you scream. And you jump in your boyfriend's arms. These are date movies.
LF: How involved are you in this version?
JC: I go to the bank with my cheque, and I cash it. I go home and turn on the TV and watch basketball.
JC: The same way. I thought very early on, after the first Halloween , there was really no more of a story to tell there. But that poor guy with the mask, they keep bringing him back.
LF: What is your favourite part of the process (apart from cashing the cheque)?
JC: My passion in life has been directing movies. That's what my love is. I've been doing this for about 30 years and made quite a few movies. I think the problem with being a director is, the minute you stop being passionate about your work you have to stop for a while.
For me the process has changed so much over the years it stopped being fun, so I had to step back for a while. There are no longer independents, really. Everything is owned by big corporations. It's a big corporate machine.
LF: What is your favourite of your own movies?
JC: The Thing. Which is a remake. And the original was great - the original scared me as a little kid. But in a very different way from the movie I made. That picture was made by Howard Hawks, who was my favourite director. I got into this business wanting to make westerns, but they stopped making them - so I figured I had to find something I could do in this profession that was more popular than westerns. And you might not think so, but there are a lot of similarities between westerns and horror movies. They're both about archetypal characters, good and evil. So I adapted.