Classic Cinema Filmmakers

Book Review: The Films of John Carpenter

The Films of John Carpenter

Publisher: McFarland

Release Date: March 2, 2005

John Kenneth Muir’s The Films of John Carpenter is divided into six units:

A History and Overview of John Carpenter’s Career

This unit is 50 pages of information that discusses the situations surrounding the production of each John Carpenter film. One might say that it is a brief look at the creation of every important film in his filmography. This provides context for the chapters in the second unit. One might prefer that the information in this section be a bit more comprehensive, but this book prefers to focus on a theoretical analysis (and review) of each of the director’s films.

The Films of John Carpenter

The meat of this text is contained in this second section, which reviews each film that had been directed by John Carpenter through 1998. (It is important to note that Ghosts of Mars (2001) and The Ward (2010) are not discussed in this book). The discussion of each film begins with various quotations from critics from reviews of each film. There is then a list of credits. Muir then includes an extremely detailed synopsis of the film being discussed, and follows this with an in depth theoretical commentary (or review) of each film. His essays are extremely fun to read, and never become too dry for the average reader. One can tell that Muir has a sincere admiration for John Carpenter, and this comes across even when his reviews lean towards the negative.

Films Written and Produced by John Carpenter

Five films that are either written by, produced, or based on an original script or treatment by John Carpenter are discussed here. Some of these films have an extremely limited Carpenter influence, so this unit might be less interesting to some than the previous sections. Muir covers each of these five films in the exact same manner that he covers those that were actually directed by John Carpenter.

John Carpenter on Television

This segment focuses on John Carpenter’s telefilms. However, Elvis is merely mentioned in the introductory section, and isn’t given a review. [Someone’s Watching Me! (1978) and Body Bags (1993) are covered here.] These reviews are in the exact same format as the other films, but are less comprehensive.

Epilogue: We Are Transmitting From the Year 1999…

This short epilogue looks forward to what the future may hold for John Carpenter. Muir mentions that Ghosts of Mars has been announced.

Overall, Muir’s work probably falls short of being absolutely essential. However, few books worth reading about Carpenter’s work has been written. This text helps fill a void, and die-hard fans should be thrilled to read the book if they haven’t discovered this text already.

Review by: Devon Powell

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