The Best John Carpenter Movies
John Carpenter movies are different from anything else. They’re well made, have eerie foreboding music, and have terrific plots. Growing up, his were the best movies—whether it was for the reasons I listed, or because of his melding of horror, science fiction, and action.
His horror movies were mostly dark and serious, while those that were not purely horror-driven had a bit of comedy to them (or more when it came to Big Trouble in Little China).
What’s more, John Carpenter always seemed to have a knack in finding great actors for his movies and getting the most out of them. Donald Pleasence, Keith David, Victor Wong, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sam Neill, Christopher Reeve, etc., and of course, Kurt Russell. You can’t talk John Carpenter without Kurt Russell, one of the best action heroes of the 1980s.
The following is a top ten list of my favorites. Each movie listed has a synopsis of the story so beware spoilers!
- Vampires (1998)
Jack Crow is the leader of a group of vampire hunters working for the Vatican. His latest mission has him and his team clearing out a nest of vampires from a decrepit New Mexico farmhouse during the day. Things go as planned with no casualties among the team. Only one thing bothers Jack afterward. There was no master vampire among the vampires who were killed. It is a point that bothers Jack into the night as his team celebrates at an isolated motel with booze and prostitutes.
Just as Jack begins to relax is when the master shows up. Incredibly powerful and indestructible, the vampire kills everyone present except Jack, another hunter named Anthony Montoya and one of the prostitutes named Katrina, who was bitten. Somehow the vampire knows Jack’s name.
The three manage to escape and end up a downtown hotel. Montoya is charged with watching over Katrina while Jack goes to the one he usually reports to, Cardinal Alba. As master vampires have a psychic connection to those they turn, the plan is for Jack and Montoya to use Katrina to track down the master and kill him. It is the only reason why Katrina is kept alive.
With his meeting with Cardinal Alba, Jack finds out the master who attacked him and his team was Jan Valek, the first and most powerful vampire. Valek was an ex-priest from the early 1300’s who led a rebellion against the Catholic Church. Defeated, he was tried and supposedly burned at the stake. Jack is ordered to return to Monterey, the main base of operations, so he can assemble a new team. Father Adam Guiteau is assigned to him to make sure he carries out his orders given to him.
Jack has no intention of returning to Monterey. His plan is to still use Katrina to find Valek. Jack and Father Adam return to the hotel where unbeknownst to them, Katrina had bitten Montoya when he saved her from jumping off a third story ledge. Montoya hides this from them while Katrina says nothing.
When Father Adam finds out about Jack’s true plans he threatens to call Cardinal Alba on him. Jack roughs him up to prevent this. He also cuts Father Adam with a knife and threatens to do more if Father Adam doesn’t tell him everything he knows about Valek. Father Adam relents and tells him everything he knows. Valek wasn’t burned at the stake but had a rarely used type of exorcism performed on him. Something went wrong during the ritual, turning Valek into an undead creature with a thirst for blood.
Valek is searching for the Black Cross of Berziers, which is a three-foot metal banded cross that was used in his exorcism. The black Cross has been moved from location to location over the centuries to keep it from Valek. With it, Valek can finish performing the exorcism that was used on him so he can once again walk in sunlight, thereby eliminating his one weakness. Valek has tracked the cross to a secluded New Mexico monastery where he is able to easily retrieve it with the help of some other vampire masters.
Katrina sees all this through her telepathic connection with Valek and relays what she sees to Jack and the others. Jack uses Katrina to track Valek and his minions to a small town that has seemingly been abandoned. Katrina tells Jack that Valek and the turned townsfolk are holed up in an old condemned jail that is more like a fortress.
Jack, Montoya and Father Adam begin to lure and drag the vampires into the sunlight where they instantly combust. The work is slow and dangerous though and by the time the sun sets the three have barely put a dent in the vampires’ numbers. Valek and the other vampires emerge en masse. Montoya and Katrina take off in a jeep while Father Adam takes shelter in a general store before he is noticed. Jack is left to face off against Valek alone and is quickly knocked unconscious after a brief struggle.
Jack awakes some time later bound up to the front of his truck. He is shocked to see Cardinal Alba standing with Valek. Cardinal Alba has made a deal with Valek. In exchange for finishing the exorcist ritual started more than six hundred years earlier, Valek will grant Cardinal Alba immortality by making him a vampire. Cardinal Alba is old and does not want to die.
From the shadows walks Katrina, now a full vampire. She attacked and bit Montoya just outside of town, feeding on his blood. It seems Jack has no allies left. Tied to a wooden cross, he is to be burnt at dawn as part of the ritual.
As Cardinal Alba begins the ritual, he is fatally shot in the back by Father Alba. Outraged, Valek demands that Father Adam finish the ritual. If he does not, Valek will kill Jack. As Father Adam starts to waver, Montoya drives back into town, weakened but still alive. Montoya shoots a crossbow arrow at the cross Jack is tied to. The arrow is attached to the jeep’s winch cable. The cross gets yanked free and dragged down the road with Jack still on it.
The vampires are forced to retreat back to the jail as it is now dawn. Set free, Jack goes after Valek. He takes the Black Cross and uses the pole it is attached to as a spear. He corners Valek in an old garage where he impales him. Valek refuses to die however and knocks Jack aside. As Valek tries to unimpale himself, Jack throws himself into a wooden support post, knocking it free. The roof collapses, exposing Valek to the sun and a fiery death.
Out of friendship, Jack gives Montoya and Katrina a two-day head start before he will go after them to kill them. As the two drive off in a box truck, Jack and Father Adam head back to the jail to finish what they had started.
- In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
A man is brought to an asylum, fighting all the way as he is put into a padded cell. Later on, he is interviewed by a psychiatrist. The patient, John Trent, has decorated himself and his cell with crosses using a black crayon given to him earlier. He asks the doctor if the chaos currently happening out in the world is getting worse. Right now, John feels the safest place he can be is in his cell. The story backtracks to how he ended up here.
John Trent is a freelance insurance investigator whose job is to sniff out fraud. Having just finished a successful case, he’s having lunch with the one who hired him, who wants John to take on another case for the insurance company. As they are talking an axe wielding maniac with strange eyes shatters the restaurant’s window glass and is about to kill John when a couple of policemen shoot the attacker dead.
John ends up taking the next job for the insurance company. A world famous horror novelist named Sutter Cane has gone missing for the last two months and his publishing company wants him found. If he is dead the publishing company wants the insurance claim on him paid. John is suspicious of this, thinking it all a publicity stunt. He says as much to Jackson Harglow, the director of Arcane Publishing, and Linda Styles, Sutter Cane’s editor.
John goes about trying to figure out how he’ll find Sutter. He buys a bunch of his paperback novels and begins to read them, wanting to understand who Sutter is. As he is reading, he notices something strange about the cover. John rips the cover pages off of all the books and begins cutting along the lines found in the cover artwork. He ends up with a bunch of puzzle pieces that he puts together to form the map of New Hampshire. This is where John figures Sutter to be.
John, together with Linda, drive off for New Hampshire looking for Hobb’s End, the town that is figured so prominently in Sutter’s last horror novel. They can’t find the town, no matter how much they drive. It’s not on any maps and no one has heard of the place.
As John sleeps, Linda drives through the countryside during the dead of night. She finds that she somehow keeps driving past the same guy on a bicycle over and over again. Then things really get strange as the road she is driving on disappears. Linda looks out the side window only to see dark clouds beneath her. The next thing she knows she is driving over a covered wooden bridge during the middle of the day. Driving past the end of the bridge, Linda jambs on the breaks, waking John. John looks around to see a welcome sign that reads Hobb’s End. The two have reached their destination.
John and Linda end up at a hotel which is more like a bed and breakfast. Linda comments on how the quaint, New England town is just as it is described in Sutter’s book, including the large, out of place gothic church that can be seen from their room’s window. They go to investigate the church.
As they step out of their car and head for the church, which is surrounded by open lawns, Linda relays to John what Sutter wrote about Hobb’s End and the church. The area used to be home to evil creatures before man. Having gone away to another dimension, they now want to return. They have corrupted the church into something unholy. Continuing to walk across a lawn, John and Linda watch as cars and trucks suddenly drive up to the front of the church. Armed with guns, a mob climbs the steps, demanding the return of a child. The heavy wooden doors briefly open to reveal a young boy before closing. When the doors open again it is Sutter Cane standing there with a sinister smile instead. From around the corner of the church a pack of Dobermans descend on the mob. Everyone retreats including John and Linda who head back to the hotel.
Convinced this is all staged as a publicity stunt to sell more books, John packs and leaves, telling Linda to take a bus back to the city. He forgets the car keys though which Linda takes instead. While John gets distracted by the old woman at the front desk, Linda sneaks past. Getting into the car, she drives off, leaving John behind.
Linda drives back to the church to confront Sutter. Sutter welcomes her into a cavern like room where he has set up his writing desk and typewriter. He tells her that the monsters in his stories are real and that they are the real authors of his books, telling him what to write. He forces Linda to read his manuscript. Reading it causes Linda to go mad.
Meanwhile, John walks into a local bar where he is warned by the only person in there to leave town while he still can. John still thinks what is happening is all a hoax. He heads back to the hotel and waits for Linda. When she returns she collapses into his arms, telling him she is losing herself.
John wants to leave. He is horrified that Linda is turning into something unnatural. He bolts from the hotel room. On his way out of the hotel he sees that the old woman has turned into an actual monster. He drives into the middle of town to find the street blocked by angry, mutating townsfolk carrying torches and weapons. Linda is also somehow there in her normal form. After a brief fight he knocks her out and dumps her in the car. Turning the car around, he drives the other way into the countryside.
Linda attacks him but he is able to fend her off. Getting out of the stopped car, John watches as Linda follows. She impossibly contorts her limbs and head around as she crab walks around him. John leaves her there in the middle of the road as he takes off once more.
The road fades from view and John is transported back to the center of town where the angry townsfolk wait for him. John turns the car around and heads the other way. The same thing keeps happening though. The third time, instead of turning around, he plows through the townsfolk only to end up in a crash.
He wakes up in the church’s confessional with Sutter on the other side of the divide. Sutter tells him that his legion of followers believe in his books so much that they will bring the monsters in them into reality.
Now back in the cavernous writing room, Sutter also tells John that he’s not real. John is just a character in his story. He wants John to bring his final manuscript back to the real world so it can be published. Sutter then becomes two dimensional and rips himself apart like paper, opening up a portal to the other side as Linda bears witness.
John, with manuscript in hand, gets chased down a mirrored tunnel by giant, deformed monsters. He trips to the polished floor and closes his eyes, waiting for the end. When he finally opens his eyes, he finds himself back in the New Hampshire countryside during the middle of the day. He leaves the manuscript in the middle of the road as he wanders off.
John spends the night at a motel trying to recover. The next day the manuscript is waiting for him at the front desk. He burns it in the motel room’s sink before leaving, taking a bus back to New York.
John ends up back at Arcane Publishing and tells Harglow the whole story of what happened. Harglow seems amused by this. He tells John that he doesn’t know who Linda Styles is, that he sent John off to retrieve the manuscript alone, which John did, months ago. The book has already been published with the movie coming out soon.
Weeks later, as people line up outside a bookstore waiting to buy Sutter’s book, a crazed John kills one of Sutter’s more believing followers with an axe.
The story returns to John talking with the psychiatrist at the asylum. After a bit more conversation the psychiatrist leaves John to be alone in his cell. Some time later, as it is storming outside, the asylum gets overrun by Sutter’s monsters. John’s cell door gets pulled free from its frame by something powerful.
The next day, John steps out of his cell to see the asylum looking like a warzone. There is no one around as he walks past the admissions desk and out the front door. Out front there is an abandoned ambulance he walks by. There is a news broadcast playing over a radio. Madness and anarchy have taken over the whole country with some people mutating into monsters.
John continues his walk into the city wearing his hospital clothes. There are very few people on the streets as he stops in front of a movie theatre. He looks at a movie poster for ‘In the Mouth of Madness’, staring John Trent, Linda Styles and Jackson Harglow.
With a bag of popcorn, John takes a seat in the empty movie theatre and proceeds to watch the events of his life from the time he settled his last case up to now play out on the big screen. He laughs manically at this. His mania turns to despair however when he finally accepts that he is just a made up character of someone else’s imagination.
- They Live (1988)
America is hurting economically with the divide between rich and poor having never been greater. Average citizens find themselves living in tent cities because of a lack of opportunity. One man, Nada, is lucky enough to find employment as a construction worker in Los Angeles. During the day he does his job while at night he passes his time away in one of the nearby shanty towns, which is more of a community of people who look out for one another.
Nada begins to notice strange goings-on at the local church which has also gotten the attention of the authorities. He snoops around inside and discovers that the ones coming and going from the church are part of a resistance movement. Wanting nothing to do with this, he leaves. Soon after the church is raided and the shanty town is leveled with bulldozers.
The next day Nada returns to the cleared out church. He retrieves a sealed cardboard box from a hidden room and takes it to an alleyway where there is no one around. Nada opens the box only to find it full of black sunglasses. Perplexed, he eventually puts a pair on only to have his eyes opened to a whole new world. A darker world that has been hidden from humanity. All print and forms of advertising are nothing more than subliminal messages promoting passivity and compliance. The sunglasses also reveal alien beings embedded within the human population. These aliens, whose true appearance are that of skinless humanoids with disco ball like eyes, control society by being the puppet masters of capitalism.
Nada violently opposes this, and along with his friend Frank, end up joining others who know the truth. Some of these people are the ones Nada saw at the church. They are the ones who made the sunglasses. This resistance group is determined to show the world the truth by ripping away this illusion everyone is under.
The resistance is once again discovered and they are annihilated this time. Nada and Frank manage to escape using a teleportation device disguised as a regular wristwatch. They end up at the television station that is housing a satellite dish responsible for altering everyone’s perception of the world. The two heroes die, but not before destroying the satellite dish, enabling mankind to now see clearly the alien oppressors living among them.
- Village of the Damned (1995)
In a small, picturesque California coastal town, all is good for Dr. Alan Chaffee and his wife Barbara, as well as the rest of the citizens of Midwich. Tragedy though strikes on the day of the school fair. Some sinister alien force overwhelms every living thing within the town and surrounding countryside. All are left suddenly unconscious. During this time government officials are called. They, along with the police, are stumped as to what the phenomena could be as they stand just beyond the affected area’s defined borders. After six hours, everyone starts to wake up. There is no explanation as to what happened.
As the weeks and months go by, it has become apparent that the ten women who are currently pregnant had been impregnated during the time of the blackout incident. One of these women is Barbara. At a town meeting, Dr. Susan Verner, the lead government agent investigating the incident, helps convince the women to carry their babies to term by offering financial incentives. The women also have strange dreams encouraging them to have their babies. The day comes when all ten women give birth at the same time in a makeshift hospital set up in a barn. The babies are born healthy except for one which comes out stillborn.
Years later and the babies are now children. Pale skinned and white haired, there is no doubt they share the same lineage. They are cold, arrogant, intelligent and think as one. The whole town is afraid of them as fatal accidents befall anyone who displeases them, including Barbara. Even Dr. Verner, who continues to study them, is wary and careful when interacting with them.
Weary and angry at all the deaths, the townsfolk eventually take a stand, forming a mob to kill the unnatural children. The townsfolk are not the only ones who want them dead as the American government realize they are too much of a threat to humanity. The children use their mind control powers to fend off the townsfolk. Later, when the military and police are sent in to kill them, they again use their powers to make the attacking forces kill one another.
Afterwards, Dr. Chaffee slowly drives through a paved killing field to where the children are waiting for him. He has been tasked to facilitate their escape from the area. Instead of aiding them though he is there to do what the others couldn’t, and sacrifices himself in the process as the timed bomb he has hidden in his carrying case goes off.
Only one of the children is spared, pulled away to safety by his mother as Dr. Chaffee distracted the others. Of the nine, he was the only one who ever showed human emotion and empathy. That very night, he and his mother leave Midwich to start a new life.
- Christine (1983)
A 1958 Plymouth Fury is born with a soul on a Detroit assembly line. It is a dark, evil, jealous soul. It claims its first life before even rolling off the line. For the next twenty years it will twist its owner into something dark like itself until one day the owner kills himself in the car.
Arnie Cunningham, a high school student, isn’t the most popular kid at Rockbridge High. Slight of build with oversized glasses, others try to bully him including his overbearing parents who try to control him. One day one of the other students named Buddy takes things a little too far in automotive class, pulling a switch blade on Arnie and his friend Dennis, a more popular student who looks out for Arnie. This results in Buddy getting expelled from school.
Later that day Dennis drives Arnie home from school like he usually does. As Dennis is driving Arnie spots an old, rundown car for sale in someone’s yard. Arnie forces Dennis to stop and turn around. The two walk over to get a closer look. Dennis thinks the car is a piece of junk but Arnie is determined to have it and ends up buying the 1958 Plymouth Fury named Christine for two hundred and fifty dollars.
Arnie takes the barely running car to a do-it-yourself garage, which is more of a warehouse, where he can begin fixing it up. He spends all his free time trying to bring the car back to its former glory. As the weeks go by Arnie begins to change. He becomes more confident, more sure of himself. He loses the glasses and changes his look to be more cool.
Dennis really takes notice of this during the middle of a football game. He sees Arnie getting out of his fully restored car with the most sought after girl in high school. As he is running down the sideline on a passing play, he becomes more shocked as the two begin to kiss. The distraction costs him dearly as he really isn’t focused on protecting himself properly as he goes up for the catch. Dennis gets tackled hard in the end zone and lands badly. He ends up in the hospital for a few weeks with various injuries, one of which almost paralyzed him. Dennis’s football playing days are over.
Arnie’s relationship with his girlfriend Leigh starts out well. They seem to like one another. Leigh though doesn’t like the amount of attention Arnie gives to his car. She is jealous of it. Apparently the car feels the same way. During a rainy night at a drive-in theatre, Christine locks Arnie out while locking Leigh in as Leigh is choking on some food. Leigh desperately manages to unlock the door and is pulled to safety by a stranger and given the Heimlich maneuver.
After being brought home Leigh refuses to go near the car again. Later that night Arnie drops the car off at the garage where he keeps it and heads home. While the garage doors are open Buddy and his three friends sneak in and wait for Arnie to leave. Buddy is out for revenge for his expulsion from school. Armed with hammers, crowbars and knives, the four proceed to destroy Christine.
The next day when Arnie stops by with Leigh and sees what has been done, he becomes unhinged, frightening Leigh away. Later that night, angry but undeterred, Arnie sets about restoring Christine once again. Christine, seeing Arnie’s devotion, supernaturally begins to reverse the damage done to itself in front of Arnie’s eyes. Arnie takes what he is seeing in stride, thrilled at what his car can do.
Not long after, one of Buddy’s friends who helped in the attack is killed by a vengeful Christine. He is chased down and pinned against a wall before being cut in half. The car once again restores itself to pristine condition so that there is no evidence to connect it to the crime. Soon after Christine kills Buddy and his two remaining friends, setting off a gas station explosion in the process. The car, burnt to the point of being unrecognizable, drives itself back to the garage.
The garage owner watches as the car parks itself. Thinking someone is inside, he opens the driver’s door with a shotgun at the ready, only to find no one there. Perplexed, he takes a seat behind the wheel to think. The car radio turns on and the door slams shut. The front seat ratchets forward, crushing the garage owner to death against the steering wheel.
Arnie is the prime suspect in the killings but once again there is no evidence to tie him to the crimes, and once again Christine looks brand new. Arnie’s personality gets darker as Christine continues to exert influence over him. Leigh breaks up with him, sending him further over the edge.
Concerned about Arnie, Dennis and Leigh hatch a plan to destroy the car. They lure Arnie back to the now emptied and closed garage where they can crush the car with a bulldozer. As Dennis starts up the bulldozer, Arnie and Christine are already there, ready to pounce. Leigh runs for her life as Christine tries to run her down. Christine crashes into the office area where Leigh is hiding. Arnie gets thrown through the windshield and is mortally wounded by a shard of glass. Leigh runs to the other end of the building with Christine slowly sputtering after. Dennis is able to maneuver in behind and pins Christine with the bulldozer blade before driving over it with the bulldozer itself. The weight crushes the sentient life from Christine. The ordeal is over.
Dennis and Leigh stand in a junkyard and watch as the Plymouth Fury gets compacted into a cube by a car crusher. The block of crushed metal gets dropped in front of them. There is momentary fear as the two start to hear music playing. It is only a worker though carrying a portable radio. As the movie camera pans in on the cube, one can see what seems to be a slight movement in a couple of strips of protruding metal.
- Escape from New York (1981)
In an alternate version of our world, crime had gotten so bad in the United States that the government decided to turn Manhattan Island into the country’s only federal maximum security prison. Surrounded by fifty foot walls constantly patrolled by a well armed police force, it is a place impossible to escape from. Those who get sent there get sent there for life.
One night a message comes into security control from an unidentified plane flying towards Manhattan airspace. It is Air Force One. It has been hijacked by a terrorist while carrying the president on board. The plane flies into Manhattan and crashes, killing everyone except the president who managed to eject to safety in an escape pod.
The federal police fly in on helicopters to rescue the president but it is too late. The local inhabitants have already taken him. The police are forced to retreat, otherwise the president will be killed.
The president needs to be rescued within the next twenty-four hours so that he can deliver a very important summit speech to the Chinese and Soviets that will hopefully help diffuse global tensions. He is carrying with him a cassette tape that describes how to harness the power of nuclear fusion which he intends to share with the world.
That night as Air Force One was being hijacked, a prisoner was brought to Liberty Island Security Control to be processed before being sent on to the island prison. His name is Snake Plissken, a war hero who became a criminal with some notoriety. Bob Hauk, commissioner of the United States Police Force, wants to use Snake to rescue the president. If successful, Snake will be granted a full pardon for his crimes.
Snake reluctantly agrees to the deal. He is armed with weapons, a radio transceiver and a tracking device to locate the president. As he is being prepped he is injected with two microscopic explosives into either side of his neck. The micro explosives are coated with a dissolving outer layer. Once the outer layer is gone, the heat reactive explosives will go off, causing Snake’s carotid arteries to rupture. The explosives can be neutralized with x-rays. Snake has twenty-two hours before the protective outer layer dissolves.
Snake sneaks into Manhattan flying a glider that he lands on the roof of one of the World Trade Center’s twin towers. From there, he makes his way down into the city which has become a dystopian nightmare. Snake uses the tracking device to lead him to the source signal. Instead of finding the president though he comes across a hobo wearing a clunky, electronic wrist band. Thinking the president is dead, Snake wants to extracted from the prison city. Hauk refuses so Snake is forced to continue his search.
After escaping being hunted by a horde of raiders, Snake befriends a taxi driver named Cabbie who takes him to someone nicknamed ‘Brain’ who can get him an audience with ‘The Duke’, who is the main gang leader of Manhattan. The Duke is the one holding the president hostage. He wants to use the president as a bargaining chip to get himself and his gang off the island.
Brain turns out to be an old crime associate of Snake who left Snake high and dry during a job. After some tense back and forth Brain, whose real name is Harold Hellman, agrees to help Snake in exchange for Snake taking him and his girlfriend Maggie off of Manhattan after rescuing the president.
They end up at an old rail yard where the president is being held in one of the rail cars. Snake sneaks in to rescue the president but things go sideways and Snake is captured. Harold and Maggie plead innocent to The Duke, saying Snake was holding them at gunpoint. The Duke reluctantly believes them.
Snake ends up having to fight in a boxing ring which functions more like a gladiator pit. As he is fighting to the death against a much larger opponent, Harold and Maggie bluff their way into the room where the president is being held and kill the guards. They rescue the president and make their way for the World Trade Center. Someone sees them escaping and rushes to notify The Duke who has just watched Snake kill his opponent. Everyone clears out of the hall to go after the president, leaving Snake to be forgotten about.
Snake makes his way back to the Twin Tower roof to find Harold, Maggie and the president engaged in a battle with some gang members. The gang members are able to tip the glider off the roof, leaving Snake and the others stranded. All four make their way back down to the lobby where they have to escape from The Duke and his soldiers.
They manage to make it outside where they come across Cabbie. They all pile into his armored taxi and make their way for the 69th Street Bridge with Snake driving. Harold has a map of where all the mines are located on the bridge. Not only does Snake have the president now, as luck would have it, he also has the tape too. Thinking it a music cassette, Cabbie traded his hat with one of the guards for it.
Snake reaches the bridge going at high speed. Harold navigates, telling Snake when to turn left or right to avoid the mines. Snake momentarily gets distracted, causing the taxi to hit a mine. The taxi gets blown in half. Cabbie ends up dead in the explosion. The others continue on foot.
Harold makes a wrong turn and he too ends up dead. Maggie refuses to leave his side. Taking Snake’s gun, she turns and waits for The Duke who is coming up fast. Maggie shoots at his vehicle, causing it to crash. Maggie dies in the impact.
Snake and the president reach the wall at the end of the bridge. As the president is getting pulled up to safety from a cable winch, The Duke arrives and starts to shoot at the wall with an automatic weapon. Snake is forced to duck for cover as the two police guards at the top of the wall get shot. Snake manages to get in close to The Duke and they end up in a fistfight. Snake knocks The Duke senseless before heading to the wall to be winched up.
Half way up the winch stops, leaving Snake hanging there. The Duke manages to retrieve his weapon. Just as he is about to shoot Snake, he himself is shot dead by the president. The winch starts back up and Snake is pulled to safety.
Now off the wall, Snake runs over to the technician to get the micro explosives neutralized. This is done only after Snake hands over the cassette tape. Snake is saved with less than a minute to spare.
As the president is getting cleaned up and shaved for his televised speech, Snake wanders over to him. Snake asks him how he feels about all those people who gave their lives to help save him. Half distracted, the president gives him a somewhat of an insincere answer. Snake leaves him so he can finish getting ready for his speech.
Now presentable, the president stands before a camera in a lighted up area before the prison wall. He begins his speech, telling the world he is about to give them a gift with what is on the cassette tape. He hits play on the cassette player. Instead of a lecture on how to harness nuclear fusion, Cabbie’s bandstand music plays.
Some distance away, Snake unspools and destroys the real tape as he walks off into the night.
- Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Egg Shen, a tour bus driver, sits in a defence lawyer’s office. Egg has been accused of causing property damage to part of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Asked about Jack Burton, Egg gets defensive, telling the lawyer to keep Jack’s name out of all this. Egg and others owe Jack a debt of thanks for what he has done for them. The story cuts back to what led Egg to be in a lawyer’s office in the first place.
Jack Burton drives his big rig truck that he calls ‘The Pork Chop Express’ into an outdoor farmer’s market in San Francisco’s Chinatown one rainy night. Having delivered his freight, he sticks around, gambling with the locals until morning. Winning big, Jack is about to leave when his friend Wang Chi challenges him to a double or nothing bet. Jack accepts and ends up winning the bet and wants Wang to pay up. Wang doesn’t have the money on him and tells Jack he needs to go back to his restaurant to get it. Not entirely trusting of him, Jack tells Wang to get in his truck and they’ll drive back together to Wang’s restaurant. Wang wants Jack to drive to the airport first so he can pick up his fiancé Miao coming in from China. Wang hands Jack a picture of her. Miao has noticeable green eyes which are rare among Asians. Jack reluctantly agrees to drive Wang to the airport.
As Jack and Wang wait for Miao at the airport terminal, an Asian street gang called the Lords of Death try to kidnap one of the young women coming in off the flight. Jack prevents this, but in the process, the Lords of Death end up taking Wang’s fiancé instead. Jack and Wang drive back to Chinatown and head for the Lords of Death hangout hidden deep in some back alleyway.
Driving the big truck carefully through the narrow alleys, Jack and Wang end up getting caught in the middle of a gang war between the Chang Sing and Wing Kong. The Chang Sing are a noble society of martial artists while the Wing Kong are not. It is a fight to the death as they use guns, staffs and knives on one another. Three supernatural warriors called ‘The Three Storms’ enter the fray, turning the tide against the Chang Sing. Jack and Wang try to drive to safety but are stopped by another magical person dressed as an ancient Chinese noble. Jack and Wang are forced to leave the truck then are forced to flee for their lives from the Lords of Death.
Jack and Wang make it back to Wang’s restaurant where they find out that Miao has been sold to a local brothel. They hatch a plan to retrieve her with the help of Gracie Law, a local lawyer with a bit of a troublemaking reputation and her journalist friend Margo. Jack enters the brothel, pretending to be a customer. As he lamely attempts to enquire about getting a prostitute with green eyes, The Three Storms explode in through the roof and snatch Miao from a secret room before flying off.
The Three Storms are soldiers for Lo Pan, the one that Jack and Wang encountered while trying to drive away from the gang war. Lo Pan is an ancient warrior and sorcerer who was defeated by China’s first sovereign emperor more than two thousand years ago. The Emperor cursed Lo Pan with incorporeality. Only for brief times is Lo Pan granted physicality, and only in the body of an old, infirmed man who needs an electric wheelchair to get around. To break the curse, Lo Pan needs to marry and then sacrifice a woman with green eyes to appease his god.
Jack and Wang once again set out to get Miao back. This time they head for the Wing Kong Trading Company, which is one of Lo Pan’s major businesses. The two walk into the building and bluff their way past the security guards, pretending they are repairmen. They head down into a dusty basement lined with shelves of pottery. They find a hidden elevator with only down arrows. Hitting one of the buttons, the elevator descends before stopping and flooding with water.
Jack and Wang are able to escape the elevator and swim their way into a flooded chamber with a lot of dead bodies. They swim to the top where there is air. Looking down on them is one of the Three Storms. The two are interrogated before being brought before Lo Pan in his enfeebled physical form. Lo Pan tells them how he will break his curse then take over the world. While Wang takes Lo Pan seriously, Jack does not, cracking jokes at Lo Pan’s expense. After seeing on a monitor that Gracie, Margo and another of Wang’s friends named Eddie show up at the security desk, Lo Pan gets angry and ends the audience with Jack and Wang.
Still tied to wheelchairs, the two are brought to a prison cell with more dead bodies hanging from the walls. As Jack breaks free of his chair and unties Wang, Gracie, Margo and Eddie are gassed into unconsciousness while on a ‘tour’ of the building. Gracie and Margo are brought to an area holding female prisoners while Eddie is carried by one of Three Storms named Thunder to where Jack and Wang are being held. As Eddie is brought in, Jack attacks Thunder which doesn’t go exactly to plan. Still, Jack and Wang are able to escape with Eddie, leaving Thunder locked in the cell.
The three are able to find and rescue Gracie and Margo as well as the other female prisoners, but not Miao who is being held somewhere else. After escaping a confrontation with Thunder and his Wing Kong henchmen, they make their way back up to the basement area where they get in a fight with more Wing Kong. Jack kills a few while Wang is able to take out the rest in hand to hand combat.
Everyone runs past the security desk and heads for Egg Shen’s tour bus parked out front. Gracie though gets captured by a yeti like creature and isn’t able to make it out. The bus drives off while being shot up by building security, leaving Gracie and Miao behind.
Lo Pan is thrilled at meeting Gracie because she has green eyes too. Lo Pan decides that he will marry both Miao and Gracie. He will sacrifice Gracie to his god and keep Miao as his wife.
After dropping the rescued females off safely at Wang’s restaurant, Jack, Wang and Egg head off to one of the buildings Egg owns. Although humble in appearance, Egg is a rich man. He is also a powerful sorcerer whose life mission is to kill Lo Pan. Accompanying the three back to Egg’s place are members of Chang Sing.
After Egg gathers supplies at the old converted firehouse he works out of, everyone sets out to rescue Miao and Gracie. Instead of going through the front doors of Wing Kong Trading Company this time, Jack and the others will take secret passageways running under Chinatown. They enter the passageways from the firehouse above.
These cavernous passageways are something out of a dark fairy tale and are full of danger. After losing one Chang Sing member to a monster, the rest are able to make it into one of Wing Kong’s sub-basements. Now in the building, everyone sets out to break up Lo Pan’s wedding. They come across empty area after empty area as everyone is at Lo Pan’s wedding, including the yeti creature. After some searching of Lo Pan’s main office area, they find another secret elevator. Taking a magical, power boosting elixir given to them by Egg, everyone piles into the elevator and heads down to the wedding.
The wedding ceremony is already beginning in a large hall. Under a spell, Miao and Gracie stand there silently as the ceremony is performed. Jack and the others arrive and all chaos breaks loose as a brawl breaks out. The Chang Sing and Jack square off against the Wing Kong while Wang fights against Rain, one of the Three Storms. Meanwhile, Egg faces off against Lo Pan in a magical duel which ends in a draw. Lo Pan is able to escape through a back entranceway with Thunder and Miao. After killing Rain, Wang pursues them. Jack and Gracie head back to the elevator and take it back up Lo Pan’s office.
Lo Pan realizes that he has become flesh once more and has broken the curse. He doesn’t have long to celebrate though as Wang and Jack show up. As Thunder gets distracted fighting Wang, Lo Pan and Jack face off against one another. Jack hurls his knife at Lo Pan but misses. Lo Pan picks it up throws it back at Jack. With his quick reflexes, Jack is able to catch the knife and throws it back at Lo Pan. Jack doesn’t miss this time as the knife buries itself almost to the hilt in the middle of Lo Pan’s forehead. Lo Pan falls down dead.
After chasing Wang around Thunder sees his master dead and literally blows himself up. Lightning, the last of the Three Storms shows up and starts to destroy the sub-level they are on with his ability to hurl lightning from himself. Jack, Wang, Gracie and Miao are able to pull themselves up to the next level through a hole in the ceiling.
Up on the next level, there is another narrow hallway above that Egg is in. Egg can see them through an opening. He shoots an arrow attached to a rope and pulley system into the floor below. Using the pulley system, he is able to pull Miao, Gracie and Jack up into the tunnel. As Wang is waiting his turn Lightning levitates up through the hole in the level below. Egg pushes a heavy Buddha statue down onto Lightning, hitting him squarely and presumingly killing him as Lightning falls back down through the hole. Wang jumps for the rope and is pulled to safety.
From there, everyone is able to make it back to ground level. They enter a garage area where Jack sees his stolen truck. Egg neutralizes the pursuing security guards with more magic. Everyone piles into the truck. Jack starts up the truck and crashes through the garage door to end up back on the street. The truck turns down a side street as the fire department and police arrive.
Back at Wang’s restaurant everybody is celebrating. After a while Egg decides to leave. Now that Lo Pan is dead, Egg decides he’ll take a vacation. Jack is the next to leave, after getting his money from Wang and saying his goodbyes, he heads out the front door.
As he is wont to do while driving his rig out on the open roads, Jack spews life advice over his CB radio. It’s nighttime and it’s raining. As Jack continues his monologue, the movie camera pans back to the outside rear the truck where the yeti creature pops up out of his stowaway hiding place.
- Halloween (1978)
A six-year-old boy brutally kills his teenage sister on Halloween night and spends the next fifteen years locked up in a mental institution. On the eve of that fifteenth anniversary of killing his sister, Michael Myers escapes the institution he is housed in. His psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis, is positive he is headed back to his childhood home in Haddonfield, Illinois. Dr. Loomis had spent the last seven years making sure Michael remaining institutionalized, believing there was no humanity left in him.
Others are skeptical that Michael would head back to Haddonfield, a town more than a hundred miles away from the mental institution. He had never even driven a car before his escape. So it is up to Dr. Loomis to convince the Haddonfield sheriff of Michael’s presence.
It is Halloween day and Laurie Strode, a seventeen-year-old high school student, is having a typical day hanging out with her friend. Book smart and shy, her big plan for the night is to babysit. As her day goes on it becomes less typical as she has a few strange encounters with a tall man dressed in garage work overalls and wearing a human like Halloween mask. No direct confrontation occurs however and by nightfall he is forgotten about.
As Laurie’s evening progresses peacefully, watching over her two young charges, carving pumpkins and watching scary movies with them, things are not going so well for her friends. They are being hunted by Michael Myers. One by one they are being killed in a house across the street.
Thinking things might be amiss, Laurie heads over to the house. What greets her in an upstairs bedroom is a macabre display of death. Attacked by Michael, she barely escapes the house alive. Laurie manages to make it back to the house she is babysitting at and locks the door. She tries to call for help but the phone is dead.
Michael is in the house, having entered through an open window. He tries to attack her again but is thwarted when Laurie jambs a long sewing needle into his neck. Thinking him dead, Laurie heads upstairs to tell the children everything is okay. Everything is not okay though as Michael is standing nearby at the top of the stairs. The two children go one way and Laurie the other. Michael corners Laurie in a closet, trying to slash at her through a broken door. Laurie stabs him in the eye with the end of a coat hanger, causing him to drop his knife. Laurie takes the knife and stabs up into Michael, causing him to collapse in a heap.
Thinking him dead once more, Laurie sends the children out into the street to get help. Dr. Loomis, who had been patrolling the area on foot looking for Michael, comes across the screaming children and enters the house. His timing could not be better as once again Michael is attacking Laurie. Dr. Loomis unloads his six shooter into Michael.
Michael falls out an open second story window into the yard. After a brief conversation with Laurie, Dr. Loomis looks out the window to see that Michael Myers is nowhere to be found.
- Prince of Darkness (1987)
The day that an old Catholic priest is supposed to get an audience with a cardinal, he dies in his sleep. He leaves behind a skeleton key and a journal. What is written in the journal causes great concern for the priest who reads it. He journeys to the Los Angeles church that the deceased priest was caretaker of for over thirty years. The church has been closed to the public for decades. In the basement there is housed a terrible thing: an ancient glass cylinder with a luminescent green liquid swirling within. The swirling liquid is the essence of Satan himself, finally awakening after eons of sleep. Satan’s purpose is to bring back his banished father from another realm.
All this is known from an ancient Christian text that is being deciphered by a graduate student. She is part of a group of graduate students, mostly working towards advanced degrees in the sciences, who have been brought in by Professor Howard Birack, a well known quantum physicist. Professor Birack has organized this at the request of the priest who read the deceased priest’s journal. The students are tasked to find out all they can about the cylinder and its liquid content.
Most are unbelieving of what they are being told while a few are disquieted. That changes though the more they study the object and the more they look ate the advanced mathematical formulas being deciphered out of the text and onto a computer screen. Also, those who have been able to find some sleep during this time have been having the same dream; that of the front of the church with a dark figure emerging from the front doors. It is believed that these dreams are caused by a broadcast signal that has been sent back through time as a warning of what is to come if Satan is not stopped.
Satan is already exerting his influence on the physical world. The surrounding homeless population is already under his spell, killing anyone who tries to leave the church property. Satan is also able to take control of the radiologist named Susan through forced injection of its liquid essence. Susan goes on to infect others.
Susan, along with one of those she has turned, bring the cylinder into a room where Kelly, one of the graduate students, is sleeping. Kelly is to become Satan’s vessel. The whole of the cylinder’s liquid content is poured into her.
Now having physical form, Satan is able to complete his mission of freeing his father from the dark side. He can accomplish this by pulling him through any large mirror, which act like gateways. Those still free of his control battle his minions as he enters the furnace room which has a full length mirror on one of the walls. As Satan magically reaches through the mirror and begins to pull his father through, Catherine, one of those still free of his influence sacrifices herself by tackling Satan’s vessel Kelly through the mirror portal to the other side. The priest, pinned helplessly as all this is going on, reaches for a fireman’s axe and hurls it at the mirror, shattering it, thereby closing the gateway. Satan, along with Catherine, are now trapped on the other side.
Satan’s hold on the surrounding environment and homeless population dissipates. Those who were infected with his essence are now lifeless husks. One of the survivors leaves to get help.
The movie ends with Brian Marsh, one of the graduate students who survived the ordeal, having the same kind of broadcast dream as before. This time though, instead of a dark figure exiting the front doors of the church, it is Catherine. Brian wakes from his nightmare. Getting up, he walks over to the bedroom mirror and tentatively reaches his hand toward it.
- The Thing (1982)
Isolated at an Antarctic science station run by Americans, the inhabitants’ daily boring routines are suddenly broken by a couple of Norwegians from another outpost who come flying into camp in a helicopter. Armed with explosives and rifles, the two are hell-bent on killing a sled dog they are chasing through the white landscape. The one accidentally blows himself up while the other is shot dead in self-defence. The Americans try to radio for outside help but they can’t reach anyone.
Wanting answers as to what caused this madness, a couple of the Americans helicopter journey to the Norwegian outpost only to find it burnt out with everyone dead. The two come back with unseen film footage and a burnt, mutated corpse they found out in the snow. Inside the station, everyone gathers around the mutation, trying to figure out what they are looking at. A few of them do an autopsy, discovering that despite its outward appearance, it has normal, human organs.
While this is going on, one of the station members gets irritated by the Siberian Husky that was saved earlier being constantly underfoot. The dog has had free reign of the station all day. The one in charge of the dogs takes the Husky to the dog pen where other Huskies are resting. As soon as the dog handler leaves the other dogs start growling and barking at the new arrival. The Husky is not a dog but an alien, mutating creature that breaks its outer dog shell apart, revealing an insect like body with whipping appendages. Its starts attacking the dogs. The dog handler returns, wondering at the commotion, and sees the horror in the pen. The rest of the station also hears the commotion and come running to investigate. The creature continues to mutate, growing long clawed arms which it tries to use to escape through the roof. Before it can do so it is burned to death with a flamethrower.
Another autopsy is done on the new creature. The biologist, Blair, theorizes the creature can perfectly mimic appearance and personality of those it takes over when it absorbs or digests them. He becomes suspicious of the dog handler who was alone with the creature in its Husky form during parts of the day.
Everyone watches the black and white film footage brought back from the Norwegian outpost. They watch as the Norwegian researchers blow a gigantic alien spacecraft free of the ice. Wanting to see if the footage is real, a few of them go out to the site indicated on the retrieved maps. The spacecraft is real. Looking at the depth of the ice that the spacecraft was buried in, one of them guesses the spacecraft is at least a hundred thousand years old. Not far away from the crash site is where the Norwegians found the body of the alien pilot.
Back at the base, everyone tries to guess what it all means. Did the alien freeze itself in the ice, waiting for the day when it would be found so it could bring itself back to life? Blair does more research, using computer modeling to try and determine how fast the creature’s alien cells are able to assimilate a host’s cells. The computer program tells him that there is a 75% chance that one of the team members have already been infected with the invading organism. The computer program also tells him that if the invading organism got into civilized areas, the world population would be infected in just over three years.
The burned remains of the two creatures are not totally dead. One reanimates itself and is able to take over one of the station members named Bennings. Before Bennings can be completely assimilated he is discovered and corned out in the snow where he is burned to death. The remains of the other creatures are also brought out where they are thoroughly burned before being buried.
Blair loses it mentally and sabotages the base, wrecking the helicopters’ electronics and destroying the station’s radio communication equipment. Finally overpowered, he is locked in a storage shed outside the main compound. The shed is secured so that Blair can’t escape.
The rest of the station members begin to turn on one another as they try to figure out if any one of their number is an alien in disguise, just waiting for an opportunity to infect others. One of station members get caught alone outside at night and gets burned to death, either by his own hand or by the alien creature. Paranoia runs high as three of the station members are tied up.
Another, the helicopter pilot MacReady, is left outside during a storm because another found a torn up article of clothing of his. MacReady breaks back into the station though and manages to grab a bundle of dynamite before the others try to kill him. Some of them still try to tackle him but he fends them off. One of them, Norris, has a heart attack and is brought into another room so that he could be revived. The station doctor uses a defibrillator on his chest which snaps open then closed like a bear trap, cutting the doctor’s arms off at the elbow. The mutated Norris is quickly put to the torch. MacReady is forced to kill the dog handler Clark soon afterward in self defence.
MacReady devises a test to see who is human and who is not. Taking blood samples from everyone, he proceeds to heat up a copper wire before putting the wire into to each person’s blood sample, including his own, theorizing alien blood would react violently to being burned. One by one the remaining members go from being not trusted to being trusted.
When MacReady tests Palmer’s blood, the blood reacts like an animal and jumps from the Petri dish. Palmer quickly mutates into something that is able to escape its binding ropes. The thing that was Palmer attacks another member named Windows while MacReady tries to get his failing flame thrower to work. He eventually does but not before Windows is killed. Windows also has to be torched.
With only four people left, three of them head out to the shed to give Blair the blood test. Blair is not there though, having escaped into a tunnel that was underneath the shed’s floorboards. The tunnel leads into a cave where they find a small, half built spacecraft that they blow up. The station’s power cuts out as the infected Blair has taken out the generator. MacReady, Nauls and Garry decide to burn down the base so that the infected Blair has no place to hide. After Molotov cocktailing several station areas they head down into the basement generator room.
Garry and Nauls get picked off one by one as they are setting dynamite charges deep in the frozen basement area, leaving just MacReady. Blair, having mutated into a grotesque sized alien, bursts through the floorboards to attack MacReady. MacReady is able to throw himself to safety. He hurls a lit stick of dynamite at the alien before fleeing up the steps.
The large explosion takes out what is left of the compound. As MacReady takes rest in a blown out section of the station that is open to the elements, the fourth member Childs, who was left behind as the other three went to test Blair, sits across from him in the ruins. He had witnessed Blair out in the open earlier and went after him, only to get lost in the snow. The two just sit there in the shadows, tired. In the background, only a few fires continue to burn.
About the Author
Jason West is someone who decided one day he would write a novel. It took him a while but he eventually got there. He even paid to get it edited. His favorite authors/directors in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror realms include Stephen King, R.A. Salvatore, Dan Abnett, John French, John Carpenter and Steven Spielberg. His book, Beginnings: Origin of a Vampire, can be found on Amazon. He can also be found on Goodreads.
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