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August 23, 2012
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John Carpenter to hit Fan Expo
By Steve Tilley, QMI Agency


John Carpenter. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ghosts are scary. Vampires are scary. Rampant consumerism and governments that spy on their citizens are scary.

Know what else is scary? Getting stabbed in the eyeball. Just ask John Carpenter.

As a director, Carpenter is best known for films which have at least one foot firmly planted in the realm of horror. He essentially invented the slasher flick with 1978's Halloween and blew minds with pre-CGI monster effects in 1982's The Thing.

He's equally well-known for other genre fare, such as Escape From New York, Big Trouble in Little China and the prescient satire They Live. Plus the gritty Assault on Precinct 13 (the 1976 original) and 1984's sci-fi love story, Starman.

Yet one the scariest things he's had to do lately is undergo surgery to repair a detached retina. Surgery which is performed while the patient is conscious.

"Oh yeah. They f--- around with your eye, dude! It's not all lasers and magicians, they cut around in your eye!" the supremely affable Carpenter says on the phone from his Los Angeles home, where he's still on the mend from the operation.

It immediately calls to mind the lobotomy scene from Carpenter's latest film, 2010's The Ward, in which a murderous undead creature forces a lobotomy needle into the eye of young female psychiatric patient. In the real world, fortunately, there are drugs.

"You're so stoned you don't care," Carpenter says. "Nothing is bad, everything feels good."

Film fans in Toronto - or those willing to do some travelling - will have a chance to look Carpenter in the recently repaired eye at Fan Expo Canada, running Aug. 23 to 26. Surprisingly, the 64-year-old Carpenter is only a recent convert to fan conventions.

"I just started going just to see what it was like, because I had no idea. I realized how much fun it is to talk to the fans," he says. "I wish this stuff had been around when I was a kid, I would have loved to have gone and met some of my heroes."

The questions Carpenter gets asked at conventions run a broad and unpredictable gamut. Some want to know what he's working on - he's got a couple film projects in the pipeline, plus his new comic book series John Carpenter's Asylum - while others are interested in what movies are scaring him right now.

"I haven't seen a good (horror film) in a long time. I haven't seen one that's broken new ground," Carpenter says. One exception was 2008's Let the Right One In, the Swedish film about a vampire girl that was later remade for American audiences as Let Me In. "It's a pretty interesting take on the vampire myth."

While Carpenter is back from a hiatus from filmmaking - The Ward was his first film in nearly a decade, following 2001's poorly received Ghosts of Mars - his influence has never gone away. His Assault on Precinct 13 and The Fog were both remade in 2005, Rob Zombie has done a pair of Halloween remakes, last year saw a reverential (if not particularly memorable) prequel to Carpenter's The Thing and there's still talk of an Escape From New York remake.

One film that's unlikely to get the do-ever treatment is 1988's They Live, starring wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper as an everyman who discovers society has been infiltrated by insidious creatures broadcasting subliminal commands via mass media.

"They Live was a documentary, my friend," Carpenter says with a laugh. "And it's still happening. The '80s never went away."

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