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John Carpenter Night

5th May 04

They Live. The Fog. Add pizza, wine, and a liberal helping of some damn fine company, and you have a Zombie Club to get over-enthusiastic about (again!). This was a long time coming. Zombie Club's first John Carpenter session marked a new level for quality of ZC material, although They Live does indeed sink to somewhat trashy levels, the pure ingenuity of the concept is exceptional.

The Fog is just a piece of honest-to-God ghost storytelling, done with the assured hand of a highly gifted film maker in his prime. "Five minutes to midnight...just enough time for one more story...just to keep us warm." Oh...go on then, JC..

They Live The Fog 


They Live (1987)

Plot
Man sees aliens through his sunglasses.

Zomblee
They Live just gets better and better. Even though you notice little faults here and there, you also notice other elements that were not apparent (or had not been pointed out to you!) before. John Nada ("Rowdy" Roddy Piper) discovers that aliens are all around us, making us sell out our very humanity to them so that we have individual wealth and prosperity. We can only see them with Hoffman lenses, (aka Ray Bans) manufactured by the human resistance. No doubt these lenses were named by Carpenter as a nod to one Albert Hoffman, who also changed the way we see things by developing LSD in the 1930's. Nice one JC. You wouldn't get that in Demons 2.

In a nutshell, They Live starts out as a brilliant and highly clever story revolving around Nada's discovery / understanding of the alien presence on Earth. He is well supported by Keith David, who happens to be a favourite actor of mine ever since I first watched The Thing. He is also to be seen in There's Something About Mary, Dead Presidents and Pitch Black, and ALWAYS delivers the goods (especially when it comes to a certain fistfight in They Live!). The second half of the film keeps momentum to a satisfactory level, but the cool ideas run out along the way and the film slides into more of a generic sci-fi gung-ho action adventure. But, like pretty much ALL of Carpenter's film, it has a great ending as a result of Nada switching off the alien's human guise transmission, revealing them all to be the ugly fuckers they are...

Rawshark
There are some films you just can't help liking, and this is one of them. It's the far-out wackiness of the concept (based on a story by Ray Nelson called '8 O'clock in the Morning') that really lifts this film, especially at the beginning with Roddy Piper's first view through his sunglasses (all the billboards reveal words like 'OBEY' 'REPRODUCE'), and his first encounter with an 'alien' ("you, you're fucking ugly").

There's plenty to enjoy (spot the Ghostbusters PK-Meters!) as we follow what surely must be the clumsiest action hero ever (Watch as he stumbles through windows! Bumps into walls!) on his quest to save the human race. Oh, and the infamous fight scene is definitely worth the wait, with the first punch being thrown at 53:32 and the fight finally ending on 58:42.

Yes, it's a satire of sorts, but its essentially a roller coaster action /sci-fi flick that reminds you to never take anything at face-value. All together now... "I'm here to chew bubblegum and kick ass..."

Jim
"...And I'm all out of bubblegum."

You know what? I fucking love this movie. Not only was it the first ever 18 rated flick that I snuck in to see at the cinema (at the tender age of 14), but it has possibly the coolest bare-knuckle fist fight I've ever seen in a major motion picture. Of course, it's probably helped along by "Rowdy" Roddy's wrestling background, especially when he manages to conveniently manipulate the proceedings so he can pull of some famous wrestling moves.

Piledriver, yeah! Whoa, clothesline!! And so on...

What tops it all though, is the following sequence in the hotel, when both Piper and Keith David are bruised to fuck but are still arguing. It's amazing.

And despite what our mate Matt's constant protests (a rare guest at zombie club), Keith David is not the black guy from E.R.

They Live

Director
John Carpenter

Cast
Roddy Piper
Keith David
Meg Foster
George 'Buck' Flower
Peter Jason
Raymond St. Jacques

Rating
Zomblee
Rawshark
Jim

Runtime
93 mins

Available From

Amazon UK
Amazon US
CD WOW

Click on the icons above to purchase this title and support Eat My Brains!


The Fog (1980)

Plot
Fog descends on fishing village.

Zomblee
'Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?' is the opening prologue for this mini masterpiece, and are the words of Edgar Allen Poe. Easily one of Carpenter's best 5 films (alongside Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing, Escape from New York, and Halloween - ok, so that's open to argument!), The Fog was initially a disaster after its first cut.

When the ghost story was assembled in the editing room, JC and his mates knew it just wasn't working, which necessitated going back for extensive reshoots in order to give the film more rhythm, pacing, and violence (although it is not a gory film by any standards). JC and his crew worked their asses off to get this film right, and you know what? It shows.

Carpenter composed the soundtrack for this gem. Its haunting keyboard motifs echo those of Halloween, but lack such driving insistence. This score is more understated and atmospheric. The location of Point Reyes, Inverness, CA, is stunningly beautiful and the film is worth seeing on DVD just for that alone. The quality of the DVD presentation is second to none, and if you ever need convincing that Carpenter can make as beautiful looking a film as anyone else you'd care to mention, this is what you need to see. Shadows, shapes, fog, the sea, the fog horns, the sound of the wind, JC's music, and Adrienne Barbeau. He married her you know, lucky swine...

Rawshark
Ah! The Fog! It had been a while since I had seen this, and I was surprised at how much I had forgotten. It’s hard to know what to add to this, seeing as it’s one of Zomblee’s favourite films an’all, but I’m going to have to concur with the Zomblee master and praise it to high heaven.

From the opening scene (including a cameo appearance by the big JC himself), the tone is set for a genuinely creepy ghost story. This is no pump-action shotgun of a film, instead it’s a masterful achievement of simplistic style. The photography by Dean Cundey is simply breathtaking, all glorious sea views by day, ominous light and shadows by night (indeed, I can’t remember a time where all ZC members managed to stay quiet for such long periods!)

Adrienne Barbeau’s radio (semi-narrative) broadcast is a great way to build the tension, Jamie Lee Curtis is as good as ever (and it’s a kick to see her acting alongside Janet Leigh) and all the storylines tie together perfectly in last ten minutes, leaving any keen fan of crafted cinema satisfied.

Top one JC, I’m ranking this one as my third favourite of your films, just edging in front of Halloween.

Jim
Despite it's looks, and despite all the history behind The Fog, I'm not quite so into it as my zombie buddies here. The fog effects are pretty good in a green smoke 80s way, and the pacing is tidy I'll admit, but there's something about this film that stops me giving it the full monty.

It's chilling, foreboding, all that kind of stuff, and the film does have a few scenes of note - namely the father character rising out of the shadows in the church and the water drenched corpse that provides loads of fun on both the boat and in hospital. The stunning Adrienne Barbeau is, err, stunning, and the conclusion is pretty scary, so what's wrong with it?

Ah, I've got it. The problem I have is with Tom Atkins pulling a Jamie Lee Curtis character that's 25 years his younger (if you can buy that Jamie Lee would play a slutty hitcher in the first place). Either that, or the distraction of watching the thing with Portuguese subtitles put me off! (We had technical difficulties and couldn't turn the pesky things off!)

Still, this is a remarkable effort, and looks better than ever. It's only a shame Matt missed his opportunity to confuse the stars with contemporary soap actors in favour of leaving at the start to go on a hot date with a Polish chick.

Tch, he needs to address his priorities.

The Fog

Director
John Carpenter

Cast
Adrienne Barbeau
Jamie Lee Curtis
Janet Leigh
John Houseman
Tom Atkins
James Canning
Charles Cyphers
John Carpenter

Rating
Zomblee
Rawshark
Jim

Runtime
89 mins

Available From

Amazon UK
Amazon US
CD WOW

Click on the icons above to purchase this title and support Eat My Brains!


Conclusion
This was the first Zombie Club to welcome two new Zombies, also Shaun of the Dead undead veterans. Matt left halfway through (for a hot date, or “maybe not so hot”, as the man himself put it!) but Stu stayed till the bitter end.

On arrival, Stu exclaimed: “I love John Carpenter!” Basically, he was going to enjoy the evening’s viewing no-matter what, as indeed we all did with varying degrees of enthusiasm. As I was ‘Chairman’ of this particular evening’s entertainment, I got to choose the films, hence that particular JC theme which no doubt came as no surprise to my beloved colleagues Jim and Mike (AKA Rawshark). Quality always shines, and JC’s shone that night. Mind you, it wouldn’t be difficult, considering the programme for some previous ZC nights (ouch!). How are we going to write about the first Zombie Club?! Zombie Flesh Eaters II is a distant (and slightly drunken) memory now…


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