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BLOODY BAGFUL OF MOSTLY UNNECESSARY JOHN CARPENTER FILMS

Kurt Russell surfing L.A. vs a shifty Steve Buscemi Year: 1996
ESCAPE FROM L.A: "I was a Muslim in South Dakota," a beautiful Los Angeles prisoner tells Snake Plissken. And that's why she's considered a criminal in the new United States, which makes the famously infamous, horrendously awful ESCAPE FROM L.A. not altogether dated: released in 1996 while taking place in a "futuristic" 2013, Hollywood would proudly write a line like this today.
 
The set-up has our ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK anti-hero Plissken, played by Kurt Russell returning as Carpenter's very own Sergio Leone era Clint Eastwood, now delivered in chains to the former City of Angels, which has become an island to itself after an immense earthquake predicted by a Commander-in-Chief so Right Wing he's more of an underline villain... Even compared to prison ruler Cuervo Jones, a Playboy Che Guevara type about to... take over the world, somehow, with the help of the President's daughter, caught awestruck under his revolutionary spell and, once again, Snake has a certain amount of digitally run-down time to find a particular gadget that, whether in the hands of the equally evil Far Left or Far Right leader, wouldn't be a good thing.

ESCAPE FROM LA Score: *1/2
Stacy Keach is the narrow-eyed Lee Van Cleef, and wields an expository cool edge over Cliff Robertson's eventually weak-kneed, zealot stooge. And Carpenter brings Plissken through the same basic roaming journey template only with horrible results this time around...

First blasting off in a mini submarine underwater to reach the island; overall, while the embarrassing special effects and forced political undertones hinder what the original's beautifully basic Spaghetti Western Science Fiction romp had going for it, there is actually enough banal action to keep the viewer, well, kind of entertained.

In place of Ernest Borgnine's resilient guide Cabbie is Steve Buscemi, fitting within the retro styling during the crest of the Tarantino craze. One scene in particular, using some of that revitalized PULP FICTION guitar vibrato groove, Snake and hippie-dude Peter Fonda (doing a rambling druggie impersonation of his EASY RIDER co-star Dennis Hopper) actually surf a tsunami, which, faker looking than a Frankie and Annette picture, is unbelievable to witness, trumping even a scene involving Bruce Campbell as a mutant plastic surgeon. 

Kurt Russell and Peter Fonda in Escape from LA
In the form of Harry Dean Stanton's Brain is another ex-partner of Snake: Pam Grier plays a former man (with a horrendously dubbed voice), resulting in a high-flying finale with more bullets than logic. But the worst sequence mirrors in desperation what could be the best part of the original: when Snake fought the muscular gladiator in the pivotal cage match surrounded by cheering hordes...

Well this time around, Snake has to... get this... shoot hoops in an outdoor basketball court to save his skin... Making him not only an iconic criminal but both a champion NBA star and surfer in what has to be John Carpenter's worst venture; one that he never recovered from. Hell, compared to this, the maligned GHOST OF MARS and VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED is THE THING, or... ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK.

MADNESS Score: **1/2
title: IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS
year: 1995
cast: Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, David Warner, Peter Jason
director: John Carpenter

Decent mindtrip/horror about a insurance investigator, Sam Neill, thrust in a maniacal maze involving a famous writer's books turning the readers into lunatics, including himself. Seeming at first like a gimmick from the author's promotional department, including stuffy editor Julie Carmen who joins Neill to a small town the author writes about (like Stephen King's Castle Rock) where so many strange things happen it's hard to keep up with the "madness", you'll never get bored trying to figure what's real, a nightmare, or both at the same time. John Carpenter's direction keeps the viewer interested, although the barrage of special effects can get tiresome.

GHOSTS OF MARS Score: **
title: GHOSTS OF MARS
year: 2001
cast: Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Pam Grier, Peter Jason
director: John Carpenter

The first twenty minutes, as a group of soldiers ride a train into a desolate town on Mars to decipher who's decapitating people, is fairly decent, but then the action begins and there's simply too much of it. Meanwhile, the bad guys are vampires resembling rejects from CATS, and most of the good guys, especially Jason Stratham, become annoying and cliched. And although Ice Cube, as a badass prisoner... the red herring until the real menace is discovered... is horribly out of place, delivering his lines with no energy or realism, star Natasha Henstridge keeps the viewer interested, that is, if they choose to keep watching: which can be a chore.

THE WARD Score: **
title: THE WARD
year: 2010
cast: Amber Heard, Jared Harris

Anyone hoping for the old John Carpenter… Or rather, the young John Carpenter’s old films… will be disappointed in this mind-trip thriller that only passes as a horror whenever the antagonist… the zombie of a former patient inside a psychiatric ward… shows up and kills.

Amber Heard, The Ward
The plot is simple if nonexistent: A beautiful young girl is admitted into a sanitarium, and she’s not sure why. All we know is she burned down a house – and with some exposition-clues provided by chief doctor Jared Harris, we’re led to believe there’s something else to learn: keeping the viewer somewhat intrigued...

The inhabitants are five beautiful girls, which seems pure Carpenter since HALLOWEEN served up young beauties as victims: but these chicks aren’t interesting enough to care about: even if they all act crazy.

There are some good frights i.e. sudden unexpected jolts, but any director can pull that off. The only reminiscence of the master’s style is the first-person glide-cam; giving the feel the girls are being watched and stalked. But that persistent aura of dreaded doom, which makes any horror movie worthwhile, just isn’t there – unless the killer’s around to remind us to be scared while a thunderstorm persists outside. And the conclusion/twist is somewhat creative, but that’s for you to decide.

Daryl Hannah at her peak circa 1992 Score: ***
title: MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN
cast: Chevy Chase, Daryl Hannah, Sam Neill

MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN was an obvious attempt for John Carpenter to prove he could pull of a directing job for something he wasn't born to do, and the results are hit and miss, although you'll be surprised at how entertaining it all is, and in an old fashion kind of way...

Given that, Chevy Chase turns in a decent dramatic performance: that is, except for his contrived Noirish narration (the titular memoirs) or when he gets too angry at government killer Sam Neill, who wields the right amount of villainy to make the audience realize how scared Chase, a shallow playboy when he was visible, should be: And that's even after meeting too-good-to-be-true Daryl Hannah, who's never looked so good. Based on a Universal science fiction/horror classic, which Carpenter had tremendous luck with in remaking Universal's THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, the once Master of Horror creates a decent, time-filling action picture that flows despite its dated special effects... even for back then. 

Year: 1995 Score: *** Full Review: Click Here
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED: John Carpenter attempted a horribly hokey science-fiction tale, and in that, succeeded. The cast includes actors known for franchise films including Christopher "Superman" Reeves, Mark "Star Wars" Hamill, Kirstie "Look Who's Talking" Alley, Michael "Eddie and the Cruisers" Pare, and Linda "Croc Dundee" Kozlowski as residents of a town hit by a blackout that mysteriously impregnates the women, nine months later giving birth on the same night to alien children who, a few years later, become albino megaminds.

Despite the good cast, most of the acting is subpar, especially Mark Hamill who, as a preacher, delivers lines as if he too were possessed. The children, on the other hand, perform decently enough, but are held back by cheesy FX as their eyes radiate, taking away any real threat they might've had otherwise.
Peter Fonda really should have walked out on this one; but it's the fun-baddest scene, and RIP
Kurt Russell and Peter Fonda in Escape from LA
Holy building, Batman, it's John Carpenter's swiss cheese effects of MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN
Uncommon Valor hottie Constance Forslund in VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED
Linda Koslowski in VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED with the director's credit
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