Cheesy B-Movie Goodness of John Carpenter's The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, Prince of Darkness

In this installment of Cheesy-B-Goodness we take a look at a few films (The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China and Prince of Darkness) by the legendary John Carpenter. Carpenter had his hits and misses as far as the box office was concerned, but many of his films went on to become Cult Classics and garnered him acknowledgements as an influential filmmaker.

John Howard Carpenter (born January 16, 1948) is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, editor and composer. Although Carpenter has worked in numerous film genres, he is most commonly associated with horror and science fiction films from the 1970s and 1980s. Thanks Wikipedia

Let's begin this journey...

carpenter-the-thingThe Thing (1982)
Cast: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David

An American scientific expedition to the frozen wastes of the Antarctic is interrupted by a group of seemingly mad Norwegians pursuing and shooting a dog. The helicopter pursuing the dog explodes, eventually leaving no explanation for the chase. During the night, the dog mutates and attacks other dogs in the cage and members of the team that investigate. The team soon realizes that an alien life-form with the ability to take over other bodies is on the loose and they don't know who may already have been taken over.

The Thing is adapted from the short story "Who Goes There?" and was a remake of The Thing From Another World (1951), which was a decent flick for its time, but begged for a redo, and Carpenter took the concept and hit the ground running. There is even a prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing, amazingly enough called The Thing (2011) with Mary Elizabeth Winstead joining the Norwegian scientific team in Antarctica that first discovered an extraterrestrial ship buried in the ice.

Russell and Carpenter teamed up for a few other films as well, (Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China, Escape From L.A.), proof that good "Things" (no pun intended) should stick together. The Thing is easily one of the best sci-fi/horror movies ever made, it shares top-spot with  Ridley Scott's Alien (1979), and that is saying something out of this world.

carpenter-big-trouble-chinaBig Trouble in Little China (1986)
Cast: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong

When trucker Jack Burton agreed to take his friend Wang Chi to pick up his fiancee at the airport, he never expected to get involved in a supernatural battle between good and evil. Wang's fiancee has emerald green eyes, which makes her a perfect target for an immortal sorcerer named Lo Pan and his three invincible cronies. Lo Pan must marry a girl with green eyes so he can regain his physical form. Now, Jack must save Wang's fiancee from Lo Pan and his henchmen, and win back his stolen truck. But how can he defeat an enemy who has no body?

"It's all in the reflexes" says Kurt Russell, and really it's all on his shoulders, his acting and take on the character Jack Burton makes the entire film work. It's one of the wildest, fun and most entertaining rides of any John Carpenter film. It has outlandish characters with special powers, martial arts action and a damsel in distress (Kim Cattrall), what more is needed? Oh yeah, comedy, it has that too.

If you're still unsure then listen to Jack's words of wisdom: "When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: Have ya paid your dues, Jack? Yessir, the check is in the mail."

A Big Trouble in Little China remake is on the way, according to The Wrap reporting that San Andreas star Dwayne Johnson will headline as Jack Burton, the role iconically played by Kurt Russell in the 1986 original.

carpenter-prince-darknessPrince of Darkness (1987)
Cast: Donald Pleasence, Jameson Parker, Victor Wong, Alice Cooper

A group of graduate students and scientists uncover an ancient canister in an abandoned church, but when they open it, they inadvertently unleash a strange liquid and an evil force on all of humanity. As the liquid turns their co-workers into zombies, the remaining members realize they have released the most unspeakable horror of them all. Terror mounts as the team must fight to save the world from a devilish fury that has been contained for over seven million years.

Prince of Darkness is often overlooked and viewed by fans of Carpenter, as one of his lesser efforts, which when compared to other films like (Halloween, The Thing, etc.) it's easy to see why. But it does reach for and attain the cheesy-B-goodness crown. It is the only Carpenter film that deals with the terrifying battle between mankind and the ultimate evil. It borders on a religous theme and could push away some viewers or offend others, but it is just a movie, nothing more. It is not a scary film, not really, but like most of his horror-type of films it goes heavy on the creepiness, and Alice Cooper looks creepy as a minion of evil. It is definately not for children and it does slap in some gore along the way, but most Carpenter's films are not for children anyway.

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Bob Suggs

I currently live in Pensacola, FL with my wife and a little cat monster named "Rocky".

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