John Carpenter has an impressive catalogue of films; I have indulged myself in them over the past week and have decided to share with you the ones that gave me the most joy. We all know that he did Halloween and that is in my opinion his best work, but I have done so much research and academic writing on that film that I would rather do a whole blog post on it and also on The Thing, so watch this space. As always, comments are more than appreciated, even if you want to tell me my post sucks, I’m a fledgling writer and crave opinions.
They Live (1988)
Rowdy Roddy Piper and aliens, I was enthralled as soon as this film started playing, and it lived up to my expectations. For those that don’t know, They Live, follows Nada (Roddy Piper) a down and out construction worker, drifting from place to place. He manages to find some casual work and is told about a place to stay by another worker, Frank (Keith David). The church opposite has suspicious goings on and eventually, Nada gets caught in the middle.
After a police raid on the church, Nada searches for answers but only finds boxes full of sunglasses, but when he puts the glasses on they reveal a different world to the one we all know, a world that has been taken over by aliens who use authority, politics and the media to control humans.
The basic plot summary put me off slightly because I thought it would be a typical lack of communication film, a film where nobody acts in accordance to how the audience expects them to and is constantly struggling to convince people of the truth. With that in mind I sat and started watching every plot development and action sequence in wonder.
If I had glasses that showed me that aliens have taken over the earth and live amongst humans, the first thing I would do is get some serious firepower and try to recruit others to join me in my crusade. Rowdy Roddy Piper lives up to his name by wailing on some alien police officers and chavving their guns, perfect. He then insults every alien person he can see and starts blowing their faces off – even better!
The fight sequences are so good in this film because they combine classic wrestling moves with your run of the mill martial arts, and the thing about Roddy Piper is, he’s so hench you can believe that he will kick ass. I don’t usually enjoy sci-fi as a genre and I sometimes find it boring and tedious but this film brought a huge smile to my face, the ending puts me in mind of American Werewolf in London: abrupt yet effective.
I think that’s what also makes this film so excellent, it isn’t too heavy with mythology or complicated explanations; the ending is exactly what I wanted because it isn’t too ambiguous or predictable. I hadn’t seen this film until yesterday, and I would recommend it to someone who isn’t in the mood for a hard going plot line and just wants a bit of mindless escapism, if you’re hungover this film would be perfect while you glug water and eat last night’s kebab: kick the booty call out and have some well deserved ‘me’ time.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
This is one of my favourite films and I really enjoy making people watch it for the first time, if they don’t laugh I know who I will get along with and who I won’t share a Kurt Russell affinity with. Big Trouble in Little China presents us with Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) driver of ‘The Pork Chop Express’ truck. While he is visiting his old friend Wang (Dennis Dun) they find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time in Chinatown, placing them in the middle of a mystical battle between good and evil.
I’m actually watching this film as I’m writing because I get so desperately lost for words when I write about a film I love, there’s so many reasons why this film works perfectly but I think the most obvious reason is Jack Burton. Jack is an all American truck driver who is taken on this crazy martial arts journey through Chinese folklore and black magic while having absolutely no idea what it all really means, he just wants to get his truck back.
Throughout all the fight scenes Jack manages to make himself redundant or renders himself useless while everyone else is flying through the air and swinging nunchucks. He is a true anti-hero that is being blindly lead through a world where magic is real and evil quite literally stares him in the face, with no explanations from anyone around him, and he isn’t fazed.
When he is propositioned by Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall) after trying to get in her knickers, he turns her down so he can carry on driving The Pork Chop Express around America and broadcasting advice programmes through his truck radio. The perfect mix of fantasy, action, western, comedy and martial arts while Kurt Russell runs around in a vest (which I am buying when I get paid) some dirty jeans and giant boots, why wouldn’t you enjoy this John Carpenter classic?
The more you watch Big Trouble in Little China the more you notice, and the more you laugh. I want to be Jack Burton and so will you once the credits roll. When you contrast Big Trouble to Carpenters other works (Halloween or Assault on Precinct 13) it becomes obvious that although he has some major flops in his Filmography, John Carpenter is able to tackle any genre handed to him, in a Stanley Kubrick fashion. Also, a guy explodes – he just fucking explodes! Parts of his body zoom past the camera. If you like the booty call, invite them back over later once you’ve sobered up and see if they have the right mentality to enjoy this film. If they don’t, just get some Chinese black magic on their ass.