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Sell-Out or Not: John Carpenter

02.11.2013by: 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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