It usually takes a sizable crew to make a movie. The director will usually do their job, the musicians in charge of the soundtrack will do theirs, and so on and so forth down the line. John Carpenter is a visionary that liked to do his own soundtracks though and it made the films just a little more special considering that his personal touch was to be found in a lot of his features. You don’t see that as often anymore and in truth you didn’t see it a lot back then either. Carpenter is definitely one of the rare few that wanted to be a part of nearly every part of his films.
Here’s just a few that he directed and did the score for. Feel free to be impressed.
5. The Fog
The remake of this film wasn’t really much to talk about, but in its own time this movie was just outright creepy and absolutely horrifying. You get a sense of the foreboding nature of the picture in the soundtrack despite the light entrance. It swiftly moves into the heavy, almost cloying feel of something that is looming just on the horizon, or just around the corner, waiting to pounce and drag you into some unknowable fate that could possibly be worse than death.
4. Assault on Precinct 13
The feel of this piece is just dangerous, as it’s meant to be. The nature of the film is that nothing is going to go as planned and that it will not end well. Carpenter manages to put just the right amount of movement in the track that it can convey the utter lack of hope that is felt during the film and the danger that arises from nearly every corner.
3. Escape from New York
Futuristic, dystopian scenes such as this are easy to laugh at now that twenty years has come and gone and we have yet to see New York become a prison state as it sits in this film. Carpenter did have a wild idea for a movie though, and the score makes it seem just a little more believable as it doesn’t go crazy or underplay the film at all. Instead it sits in the background and only gets a little quicker when it’s absolutely needed. It’s kind of a brooder, like Snake.
It’s about what you would expect for a movie such as this. The music isn’t too fast but it sounds as though something is right on your tail and you need to get moving or else. It might sound odd but this is the kind of music that a Stephen King story seems to need, something dangerous and edgy that just doesn’t let up. Carpenter grasped the nuances of this story better than most directors and made Christine into something that most Stephen King adaptations never really become, a good film.
You want to know what’s amusing about this track? It’s so exceedingly simple and yet it’s so uniquely terrifying all at the same time. Carpenter might have pulled the music right from a nightmare considering how it tingles along the nerves and sends the mind racing in several different paranoid directions at once.
There are a lot of great directors out there. But it takes a truly genius mind to direct and come up with the right musical score. Hats off to John Carpenter.