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Sell-Out or Not: John Carpenter

Feb. 11, 2013by: Jake Dee

Ready to decide who's a SELLOUT OR NOT? This column, not unlike the concept of JoBlo's Movie Jail, will unofficially indict either an actor, director, producer, writer - basically anyone who at one time or another held serious clout in the genre world - only to ultimately kowtow to the powers that be and give in to commerce over artistic integrity. We'll present the case before you, weigh the pros and cons of the career decisions made, and leave it up to YOU, THE READER, to decide if the person under the hot interrogation lamp is indeed a Sellout Or Not. It's entirely your call!

THE POTENTIAL CULPRIT: JOHN CARPENTER

SELL-OUT FLICKS: HALLOWEEN remake, HALLOWEEN II remake, THE FOG remake, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 remake, THE THING remake.

Having directed only one feature in the last 12 years, a by the numbers ghost story THE WARD in 2010, the onetime master of horror has sat back and watched his coin multiply without really having to lift a finger. His most well known genre works have been remade by Hollywood studios, including a redo of THE FOG in 2005 which Carpenter actually produced. Long gone are the days of original, off-the-wall material like BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, THEY LIVE, etc. And that got us to thinking, has JC simply lost interest in making movies? Does he care about tarnishing the legacy of his original films? Does the money thrown at him for such remakes simply take precedent over artistic preservation? Has he become the ultimate sellout in the last decade or so?

THE GOOD STUFF: HALLOWEEN, THE FOG, THE THING, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, THEY LIVE, PRINCE OF DARKNESS.

By the same token, one could argue that Carpenter is simply matching cynicism with cynicism...fighting fire with fire. Perhaps JC caught on earlier than most that the Hollywood system has drastically changed over the last dozen years or so. Independent film is no longer what it once was, and the chasm between summer blockbusters and indie art-house flicks has gotten wider and wider. If JC was conscious early on that studios are now corporations, devoid of a true passion for film, than perhaps he's simply smarter than the rest by sitting back and getting paid to let other filmmakers toil in such a bottom-line driven market model, and therefore not have to go through the rigmarole himself. From that viewpoint, it hardly seems like JC is sellout as much as he is a savvy businessman.  If that's the case, it may be a sad truth that we'll never get such entertaining originality as seen in JC's halcyon days (listed above). Because, let's face it, even before he hit the sideline to watch his movies be refashioned, he was making substandard fare (by his own standards) with VAMPIRES and GHOSTS OF MARS.

SO WHAT DO YA THINK? SELL-OUT OR NOT?!?

Given the facts before you, where do you stand on the career of John Carpenter in the last decade or so? Has he sold-out completely, cynically substituting commerce for art? Or has he wisely sensed a shifting business model that doesn't really foster creativity in the first place, and capitalized on that realization? Better yet, do you think Carpenter has any good directorial work left in him? Do you think he even cares? Does one have to care in order to be a Sellout?

Extra Tidbit: Who else needs to be called out as a potential sellout?

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+1
10:47PM on 02/12/2013

Ridiculous!

JC is one of CINEMAS greatest storytellers, that's a damn fact. Most directors will never make 1 film that defines them, let alone stands as influential to future films, JC has made at least 4. The man is a legend and his legacy is cemented across multiple genres of film. JC is my all time favorite director and Big Trouble in Little China is my favorite film. His last 3-4 films haven't been worthy, he just needs to find something that he's passionate about. He said he's burned out from
JC is one of CINEMAS greatest storytellers, that's a damn fact. Most directors will never make 1 film that defines them, let alone stands as influential to future films, JC has made at least 4. The man is a legend and his legacy is cemented across multiple genres of film. JC is my all time favorite director and Big Trouble in Little China is my favorite film. His last 3-4 films haven't been worthy, he just needs to find something that he's passionate about. He said he's burned out from scoring, producing, writing, and directing, but I'm confident there is one more great film in his heart. Come on John make that Western you've always wanted already!!
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1:26PM on 02/12/2013
I definitely don't think he's a sellout, but I'm seriously starting to question if he has anymore decent movies left in him.

As for alot of his movies getting cash in remakes, don't the production companies own all the rights and have the final say? Hell, if I was John Carpenter I would be flattered that they wanted to remake my film. We'll always have the originals.
I definitely don't think he's a sellout, but I'm seriously starting to question if he has anymore decent movies left in him.

As for alot of his movies getting cash in remakes, don't the production companies own all the rights and have the final say? Hell, if I was John Carpenter I would be flattered that they wanted to remake my film. We'll always have the originals.
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+1
11:35AM on 02/12/2013
I don't think he's a sell out, I think he just lost his touch and decided to sit back while other had a go. Maybe he knew they'd be crap so put his feet up with a bottle of his favourite and watched them crash and burn, making his originals all the more classic.

You should consider Matthew McConaughey for next time...
I don't think he's a sell out, I think he just lost his touch and decided to sit back while other had a go. Maybe he knew they'd be crap so put his feet up with a bottle of his favourite and watched them crash and burn, making his originals all the more classic.

You should consider Matthew McConaughey for next time...
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2:16AM on 02/12/2013

Cigarette Burns was 2005

yes that's an episode of Masters of Horror, but this single episode by John Carpenter proves that even in '05... he's still got it.... in spades.
and yes he may be sitting around collecting a check from the studios and corporations that remake his flicks... but hell, HE remade his own flick when he made Escape from LA
on a side note.... I LOVED VAMPIRES... JAMES WOODS ROCKS!!!!!
yes that's an episode of Masters of Horror, but this single episode by John Carpenter proves that even in '05... he's still got it.... in spades.
and yes he may be sitting around collecting a check from the studios and corporations that remake his flicks... but hell, HE remade his own flick when he made Escape from LA
on a side note.... I LOVED VAMPIRES... JAMES WOODS ROCKS!!!!!
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+1
11:38PM on 02/11/2013

Ridiculous!

JC is one of CINEMAS greatest storytellers, that's a damn fact. Most directors will never make 1 film that defines them, let alone stands as influential to future films, JC has made at least 4. The man is a legend and his legacy is cemented across multiple genres of film. JC is my all time favorite director and Big Trouble in Little China is my favorite film. His last 3-4 films haven't been worthy, he just needs to find something that he's passionate about. He said he's burned out from
JC is one of CINEMAS greatest storytellers, that's a damn fact. Most directors will never make 1 film that defines them, let alone stands as influential to future films, JC has made at least 4. The man is a legend and his legacy is cemented across multiple genres of film. JC is my all time favorite director and Big Trouble in Little China is my favorite film. His last 3-4 films haven't been worthy, he just needs to find something that he's passionate about. He said he's burned out from scoring, producing, writing, and directing, but I'm confident there is one more great film in his heart. Come on John make that Western you've always wanted already!!
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+9
10:17PM on 02/11/2013

He Gets a Lifetime Pass

He directed The Thing, The Fog, and Halloween. That makes him untouchable in my book.
He directed The Thing, The Fog, and Halloween. That makes him untouchable in my book.
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9:18PM on 02/11/2013

Need to get facts correct

Before you have a so called trial you need the real facts. Carpenter had nothing to do with the Halloween remake nor the sequel to that remake. Having said that of course he is not a sell out. This guy could have been racking in millions from useless sequels of Halloween and probably many other of his creations but he decided against it. Unlike other directors whom I won't mention(Wes Craven).
Before you have a so called trial you need the real facts. Carpenter had nothing to do with the Halloween remake nor the sequel to that remake. Having said that of course he is not a sell out. This guy could have been racking in millions from useless sequels of Halloween and probably many other of his creations but he decided against it. Unlike other directors whom I won't mention(Wes Craven).
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8:09PM on 02/11/2013

Sell Out - Dude hasn't made a good movie in over 10 years...

The guy is making bank off remakes. He doesn't care about his movies anymore so he is a sell out. The past 4-5 movies with his name attached have been pure shit.
The guy is making bank off remakes. He doesn't care about his movies anymore so he is a sell out. The past 4-5 movies with his name attached have been pure shit.
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2:29AM on 02/12/2013
not true, VAMPIRES is actually a decent vampire flick... but surrounding that is Ghost of Mars (an utter cheeseball flick that ...admittedly sucked) and Escape from LA... which was John Carpenter remaking Escape from New york,,,,
not true, VAMPIRES is actually a decent vampire flick... but surrounding that is Ghost of Mars (an utter cheeseball flick that ...admittedly sucked) and Escape from LA... which was John Carpenter remaking Escape from New york,,,,
7:49PM on 02/11/2013

Nah... He's Not A Sellout

All the remakes mentioned where he is a producer, I believe, are in title only and not someone whom is actually trying to remake his own films with new talent. I am probably wrong but I will continue to believe he got those credits because he produced and/or wrote the originals. Also, he is a more mature person and making films is hard work. In addition, I remember how hard a time he had to get Escape from LA made. He is not a name in Hollywood that gets a blank check for whatever project he
All the remakes mentioned where he is a producer, I believe, are in title only and not someone whom is actually trying to remake his own films with new talent. I am probably wrong but I will continue to believe he got those credits because he produced and/or wrote the originals. Also, he is a more mature person and making films is hard work. In addition, I remember how hard a time he had to get Escape from LA made. He is not a name in Hollywood that gets a blank check for whatever project he wants to make. Those days are long gone for Mr. Carpenter. Unfortunately. That being said, the remake of The Assault On Precinct 13 was damn good. The other ones listed were crap.
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7:35PM on 02/11/2013

Nah

Ironically, I just started watching The Thing last night. The fact that it got eviscerated when it first came out is a tough pill to swallow, given some of the dreck they pass off as "psychological horror" these days.

Anyway, no, he's not a sellout, he's just become wise to (and uninterested in) the Hollywood system of opening weekends being the most important factor in studio-financed filmmaking these days. Halloweenshape already hit the nail on the head, but having worked his ass off
Ironically, I just started watching The Thing last night. The fact that it got eviscerated when it first came out is a tough pill to swallow, given some of the dreck they pass off as "psychological horror" these days.

Anyway, no, he's not a sellout, he's just become wise to (and uninterested in) the Hollywood system of opening weekends being the most important factor in studio-financed filmmaking these days. Halloweenshape already hit the nail on the head, but having worked his ass off doing so many films that tanked on opening weekend, only to find a huge audience years later, I don't blame Carpenter for taking it easy lately and allowing his work to speak for itself, now that folks have come around to really appreciating what he's done. And I'm sure he's well aware of the fact that the remakes of his films won't have the longevity of his originals.

Having said that, I want to see "Escape from Earth" before he retires for good.
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7:15PM on 02/11/2013
How much control does a director really have over his movies being remade anyway? The rights are owned by the studios. They're the ones who call the major shots. If I were John and people were profiting off of remakes of MY movies, I'd want a cut of the profit too. Producing is also a way to stay close to the projects and ensure they don't suck.

(Also, a recommendation for the next SELL-OUT OR NOT column: Tarsem Singh.)
How much control does a director really have over his movies being remade anyway? The rights are owned by the studios. They're the ones who call the major shots. If I were John and people were profiting off of remakes of MY movies, I'd want a cut of the profit too. Producing is also a way to stay close to the projects and ensure they don't suck.

(Also, a recommendation for the next SELL-OUT OR NOT column: Tarsem Singh.)
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6:52PM on 02/11/2013

Carpenter a sell out? Are you fucking kidding me?

He is the single greatest underrated & under appreciated filmmaker out there.

Carpenter doesn't make films anymore because he can't. He was able to get financing for one movie in the past decade, and it bombed critically and commercially. No one with the money is willing to hand it over to him anymore. Like I said, under appreciated.
He is the single greatest underrated & under appreciated filmmaker out there.

Carpenter doesn't make films anymore because he can't. He was able to get financing for one movie in the past decade, and it bombed critically and commercially. No one with the money is willing to hand it over to him anymore. Like I said, under appreciated.
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2:56PM on 02/11/2013
I don't think he's a sellout, to be honest I actually the remake of Precinct 13 was superior to the original, the Thing was technically a prequel and not a remake, it was pretty decent, liked The Halloween remake and it's sequel. The Fog was pretty terrible, but I can't really blame Carpenter for putting his name on it, he probably figures if someone is remaking his films, he might as well get paid for it, which makes sense from a business standpoint, I agree that he is getting tired, as The
I don't think he's a sellout, to be honest I actually the remake of Precinct 13 was superior to the original, the Thing was technically a prequel and not a remake, it was pretty decent, liked The Halloween remake and it's sequel. The Fog was pretty terrible, but I can't really blame Carpenter for putting his name on it, he probably figures if someone is remaking his films, he might as well get paid for it, which makes sense from a business standpoint, I agree that he is getting tired, as The Ward was a dissapointment and had none o the energy his earlier efforts had(even Ghost Of Mars was better).

For me the biggest sellout is James Cameron, what possessed him to a shitfest like Titanic, I will never know, Avatar was also immensely overrated, if it weren't for the 3-D, nobody would've been all that impressed by it.
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+10
11:52AM on 02/11/2013
Sellout flicks? Are you kidding me? There was a point where the guy was putting out a movie nearly every year, along with writing and composing most of them. So what if he doesn't turn down a paycheck for a remake? He's getting older and tired, frankly if I was in his seat, I would allow some douche bags and Rob Zombie to remake my movies! He did not sell out and has not sold out, yet.
Sellout flicks? Are you kidding me? There was a point where the guy was putting out a movie nearly every year, along with writing and composing most of them. So what if he doesn't turn down a paycheck for a remake? He's getting older and tired, frankly if I was in his seat, I would allow some douche bags and Rob Zombie to remake my movies! He did not sell out and has not sold out, yet.
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11:25AM on 02/11/2013

Carpenter

John Carpenter put thirty years of hard work into his career, during which time he never received the credit or praise he was due, aside from HALLOWEEN. His masterpiece, THE THING was a critical and commercial failure that earned him the label, "The Pornographer of Violence," and made him somewhat of an industry pariah. None of the films he was making were received well at the time of their release. If you worked as hard as he did for as long as he did, producing the kind of quality work that
John Carpenter put thirty years of hard work into his career, during which time he never received the credit or praise he was due, aside from HALLOWEEN. His masterpiece, THE THING was a critical and commercial failure that earned him the label, "The Pornographer of Violence," and made him somewhat of an industry pariah. None of the films he was making were received well at the time of their release. If you worked as hard as he did for as long as he did, producing the kind of quality work that he did and received nothing but ridicule, you would want to pack it in in your old age as well.

Plus, Carpenter is knowledgeable enough about film history to know that remakes and sequels do nothing to dwindle the legacy of great films. If it did, we wouldn't still be talking about his original films. We wouldn't still be talking about RIO BRAVO, BREATHLESS, and hundreds of other great films that have been remade. Who the hell remembers THE FOG remake anyway other than people like us who are still complaining about it? If we would stop bitching about them, these horrible remakes would fall forever into obscurity. Carpenter deserves some of the financial compensation these soon forgotten remakes will provide in order to make up for the box office failures their predecessors were when originally released.

This is a pointless column, especially given that the writing possess no true insight into the man's career.
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+13
11:00AM on 02/11/2013
I hate the term sellout. It's just what people use when they don't like the direction an artist is going. It's up to the artist to do what they want.
I hate the term sellout. It's just what people use when they don't like the direction an artist is going. It's up to the artist to do what they want.
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+7
9:28AM on 02/11/2013

Def not a sellout

Laying low and producing flicks or collecting coins on remakes might be the sign of selling out if you're the likes of Sam Raimi. But with John Carpenter..... nah, have we forgot that the man is old as s**t. Give him a break. Making movies is a strenuous activity, especially genre flicks. Mans pushing 80.
Laying low and producing flicks or collecting coins on remakes might be the sign of selling out if you're the likes of Sam Raimi. But with John Carpenter..... nah, have we forgot that the man is old as s**t. Give him a break. Making movies is a strenuous activity, especially genre flicks. Mans pushing 80.
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10:10AM on 02/11/2013
Pushing 80? He turned 65 last month. That's hardly pushing 80. Still your point is valid
Pushing 80? He turned 65 last month. That's hardly pushing 80. Still your point is valid
6:22PM on 02/12/2013
Yeah, I didnt know his age, was exaggerating a bit. None the less.
Yeah, I didnt know his age, was exaggerating a bit. None the less.
9:17AM on 02/11/2013
Carpenter is the complete opposite of a sell-out. He had the chance to sell out in the 1980s and he didn't take it. The true sell-outs are the people who made those movies on the "sellout flicks" list, not Carpenter himself.
Carpenter is the complete opposite of a sell-out. He had the chance to sell out in the 1980s and he didn't take it. The true sell-outs are the people who made those movies on the "sellout flicks" list, not Carpenter himself.
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8:32AM on 02/11/2013
Carpenter can be both an artist and a businessperson. Most directors and actors are in Hollywood. Most sucessful artists are in any arena. He is not a sell-out of sell-outs if he is a sell-out at all. Furthermore, our "court" of opinion should consider his two Masters of Horror episodes: Cigarette Burns and Pro-Life. Each represents experimentation and risk-taking. And, our court of judges should consider that Zombie's Halloween divided the horror loving community; Carpenter gave the Myers
Carpenter can be both an artist and a businessperson. Most directors and actors are in Hollywood. Most sucessful artists are in any arena. He is not a sell-out of sell-outs if he is a sell-out at all. Furthermore, our "court" of opinion should consider his two Masters of Horror episodes: Cigarette Burns and Pro-Life. Each represents experimentation and risk-taking. And, our court of judges should consider that Zombie's Halloween divided the horror loving community; Carpenter gave the Myers story to someone who did something possibly good with it, unlike that shitty The Fog remake. Carpenter is still a good guy in my book.
ET: I cannot think of names immediately. However, this column could examine three types of horror film-makers. Film-makers who allow watered-down remakes of their impressive works. Film-makers who used to do thrilling R-rated material but who do PG-13 broad appeal now. Film-makers who are simply pandering hacks composing movies that are overly safe or that are cookie cutter-produced works following a popular and profitable trend (e.g. found-footage throw-aways, historical figures who are now monster-hunters, etc.).
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+11
8:03AM on 02/11/2013
Carpenter had always admitted that he sells the remake rights to his films for money and he makes no qualms about it. He has also said that filmmaking is a young man's game And he doesn't have much interest in it anymore, so it's not so much that he's resting on his laurels these days as it is that he is enjoying semi-retirement with his family. That said, he always did things by his rules (most of his films were indies) and he's a man who vehemently hates authority, so no, not really a sell
Carpenter had always admitted that he sells the remake rights to his films for money and he makes no qualms about it. He has also said that filmmaking is a young man's game And he doesn't have much interest in it anymore, so it's not so much that he's resting on his laurels these days as it is that he is enjoying semi-retirement with his family. That said, he always did things by his rules (most of his films were indies) and he's a man who vehemently hates authority, so no, not really a sell out in my opinion.
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7:51AM on 02/11/2013
John Carpenter is without a doubt my favorite director of all time. He is also a huge sellout. When listening to him in interviews or commentaries he comes off as a little jaded to me that so many of his movies weren't huge hits when they came out instead most became cult hits when they came out on video or years later so he didn't make the money off of them that he feels they should of. I think his allowing all of his movies to be remade is his way of getting the money he feels he deserves
John Carpenter is without a doubt my favorite director of all time. He is also a huge sellout. When listening to him in interviews or commentaries he comes off as a little jaded to me that so many of his movies weren't huge hits when they came out instead most became cult hits when they came out on video or years later so he didn't make the money off of them that he feels they should of. I think his allowing all of his movies to be remade is his way of getting the money he feels he deserves from those movies. So sell-out? I don't know, maybe.. That said I can't say I wouldn't do the same if someone drove a truck full of money to my house and said you can have this and you don't have to do anything for it but say yes and sign a piece of paper.
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7:50AM on 02/11/2013
Hmm, it's hard to say but I don't think he's a sell-out. It sounds like he just doesn't have any good inspiration. I hope Carpenter can do something as exciting as Assault on Precinct 13 and The Thing.
Hmm, it's hard to say but I don't think he's a sell-out. It sounds like he just doesn't have any good inspiration. I hope Carpenter can do something as exciting as Assault on Precinct 13 and The Thing.
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-26
6:47AM on 02/11/2013
Of course sell-out.
Of course sell-out.
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