Why Going Back to Basics is a Good Call for John Carpenter & Other Horror Veterans Alike

Released on the 21st January The Ward sees veteranhorror maestro John Carpenter return to what he does best after an almost decade long hiatus (and even longer horror hiatus). This decidedly old-fashioned 'stalk 'n slash' shocker stars All the Boys Love Mandy Lane actress Amber Heard as an institutionalised young woman who is spooked by a ghostly entity in her ward. Judging from the lukewarm advertising campaign The Ward may not be the micro-budgeted instant classic horror fans recall from Carpenter€™s Halloween, The Thing and Escape from New York heyday, but the film should still be embraced as something of a celebration for anyone who has become bored of the slew of low-brow torture-porn, reality cemented, relentless remake infatuated films that have devoured the genre of late. Sure there have been high-points, with Paranormal Activity - a deservedly persuasive creeper and the nicely executed Eli Roth produced The Last Exorcism, along with Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza's descent follow up to their Spanish hit Rec but one suspects sequels and rip-offs will soon destroy the freshness of such cinematic pleasures. This is why we must rejoice in the return of the Kentucky Hitchcockian master who will hopefully give the new horror kids on the block a reality check at the very least - especially considering how Carpenter's back-catalogue of classics have already been disrespectfully mangled by ghastly remakes recently. Although it may be fair to say Carpenter's career never fully recovered following The Thing's (1982) commercial failure almost 30 years ago there were moments to be had in the more contemporary likes of Prince of Darkness, They Live and In the Mouth of Madness that proved he never truly lost his touch. But this is more than a cinematic celebration of the return of one previously repressed horror master. This is a realisation of a cinematic revival for the return of an entire group of 1970s/1980s horror veteran filmmakers. Sam Raimi, the creator of the original Video Nasty Evil Dead suffered a career slump post the success of Evil Dead 2; with both Darkman and Army of Darkness noticeably lacking the wacky humour or finely tuned creepy cartoony horror indulgence of the director's early work. It wasn't until a lukewarm western (The Quick and the Dead), a dramatic crime thriller (A Simple Plan), a ghostly crime tale (The Gift) plus a couple of impressive bouts with Spidey that the director returned triumphantly to his horror ancestry with the almighty frightener Drag Me To Hell in 2009. Then there's the recent emergence of 64 year old Gremlins' director Joe Dante after a twenty year long (yes twenty years!) kafuffle. This is an auteur who gave us the original and shamelessly fun Jaws rip-off Piranha (far better than either James Cameron's turgid sequel debut or the recent shameful remake), the suspenseful smarts of lycanthrope terror The Howling (proclaimed recently by filmmaker Christopher Smith as having the €œgreatest first half hour of any film in the genre€), a gruesomely good segment of the so-so Twilight Zone movie and then went on to the aforementioned classic green-eyed monster caper, along with directing twin sci-fi cult favourites The Explorers and Innerspace. After that it was TV movie hell - apart from 1998's Small Soldiers which was hardly a bogus cinematic return. Last year he presented us with his best shot in decades - The Hole; a scary kiddie adventure for a whole new generation of cinemagoers. And we mustn't forget John Landis' superb contribution to the genre: An American Werewolf in London, his literally ill-fated but equally creepy compendium piece to Twlight Zone: The Movie and of course the infamous classic zombie and wolf man infused Michael Jackson Thriller video. His recent black comedy Burke and Hare had charming Hammer horror overtones and it was great to see him incorporate horror legends Christopher Lee and Tim Curry into proceedings. Plus there€™s good old anti-establishment zombie master George A. Romeo €“ who is regarded as single-handedly creating the popular sub genre with his original trilogy of 'Living Dead' films. He came back with a vengeance five years ago with Land of the Dead and after a further two instalments it appears his relentless blood thirsty fiends show no sign of reposing anytime soon. So are we witnessing a return of the repressed horror veteran? And if so why didn't it happen earlier? Is it that contemporary horror is in such dire circumstances that it is subconsciously screaming out for help from previous masters of the genre or is it a simple case of history repeating itself? Is there any scope for other former horror masters like Dario Argento and Tobe Hooper, not to mention Wes Craven (Scream 4 is on its way), getting in on the game? Hell wouldn't it be great if David Cronenberg went back to his psychological horror roots? Let me know your thoughts and whether there are any other repressed genre masters you would like to see rise from the grave soon.
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Oliver Pfeiffer is a freelance writer who trained at the British Film Institute. He joined OWF in 2007 and now contributes as a Features Writer. Since becoming Obsessed with Film he has interviewed such diverse talents as actors Keanu Reeves, Tobin Bell, Dave Prowse and Naomie Harris, new Hammer Studios Head Simon Oakes and Hollywood filmmakers James Mangold, Scott Derrickson and Uk director Justin Chadwick. Previously he contributed to and has had other articles published in Empire, Hecklerspray, Se7en Magazine, Pop Matters, The Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle and more recently SciFiNow Magazine and The Guardian. He loves anything directed by Cronenberg, Lynch, Weir, Haneke, Herzog, Kubrick and Hitchcock and always has time for Hammer horror films, Ealing comedies and those twisted Giallo movies. His blog is: