by Stephanie Allard
“But let’s face it, I direct Horror movies”. These were the words that Horror revolutionary John Carpenter uttered before the final segment of his show The Live Retrospective last night at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall. The perfect way to end an evening of nostalgic listening for fans of old school classic Horror, thriller, and everything John Carpenter. As well as his film soundtracks, the renowned director of films such as Halloween (1978) and The Thing (1982) served up compositions unheard of by those who have never delved out of his music in movies. A mixture of old & new synth creations had Usher Hall theatre consumed by a wave of subtle (and at times not so subtle) head bangs.
John Carpenter is considered a master of Horror for his large contribution to the genre, spanning from the early 60’s to today. However, it’s often forgotten that Carpenter was not a one-genre man, & directed films that, while still were at times gory, were action thrillers. The director was famous not only for his films, but the music within them, which he composed himself. As Carpenter and his band took the audience back in time through the sounds of his most loved films, a screen behind them showed the best (and often most gory) scenes from the movies. As Carpenter concentrated on the heavy, fast-paced synth and rock, we watched Kurt Russell kick ass in the action classics Big Trouble in Little China (1986) and Escape from New York (1981). Things then got darker as he took us into the gentler, yet heart-pounding soundtracks of the genre he loves the most. From Halloween to The Fog, we listened to the music & watched the films that have made Carpenter a legend within Horror. In between the soundtracks the director showcased his stand-alone compositions, which came from the album Lost Themes. At times eerie, and at times pure heavy rock, these numbers are full of Carpenter’s classic synth sound that had people clearly wanting to jump out their chairs.
It’s a little disappointing that Carpenter performed in a seated theatre rather than a venue which allowed heavy head banging and perhaps a gentle push and shove. As Carpenter & his band played, there was a clear desperation on the audiences’ faces to just get up, mosh & make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity. However, despite a slightly poor choice in venue, Carpenter’s performance was like no other. At the age of 68, he fiercely tapped his keyboard while holding one arm in the air as the audience screamed. He even gave, if one can believe, a Fatherly dance move here & there. Which the crown could only respond with “On yersel John!”. Each of his most memorable tracks were wittily introduced and had the audience’s excitement explode as they realised what song & film was up next. The encore finalised the performance with a warning to drive home carefully as “Christine’s out there”. A perfect way to end a show that brought back an intense love for the Horror of the 70’s & 80’s. Where Carpenter was King of the screen & the speakers. As well as this, it showcased the director’s distinctive stand-alone tracks that show off his talent for creating mesmerising music using synthesizers.
The only negative that was taken from this unique performance, is the feeling that there are almost no Horror directors of today that have anywhere near the same level of passion for Horror film as Carpenter. Last night confirms that there is not, nor will there ever be, anyone like John Carpenter. And before it’s even suggested, no, Rob Zombie is not to be compared.