Last Friday, we had an online screening of the John Carpenter film Assault On Precinct 13 as part of Scream Factory’s Summer Of Fear celebration. In addition to showing the movie, we included brand new interview footage with the legendary horror director himself. Carpenter discussed Assault On Precinct 13and several of his other well-known films such as Halloween, Prince Of Darkness,They Live and The Fog. In case you missed the screening, here are a few things we learned from the interview.
The original title for Assault On Precinct 13 was The Siege.
The distributor opted to change the title, but when Carpenter brought up that the film actually takes place in Precinct 9, they said, “It doesn’t matter.”
He wouldn’t shoot the infamous ice cream scene if he made the movie today.
Now that Carpenter is a father, the scene just wouldn’t sit well with him if he had to do it over again. “Back then I was young and stupid, and I wanted to have a big kick-off for this siege.”
To create the effect used in the notorious movie moment, the ice cream cone itself was equipped with a hose to shoot blood.
Despite production challenges, Carpenter is proud of The Fog in retrospect.
“It’s great. It shows you that the movie did have some power to it, and it appeals to audiences.” He points out, however, how the film disappointed some people. “They were expecting Alfred Hitchcock,” he says. “They got John Carpenter.”
He never intended to make a sequel to Halloween.
“This is a dead end, there’s no story here,” he recalls saying of the influential slasher film’s conclusion. “We’ve told all the characters’ stories, it’s ended. Boy was I wrong.” This viewpoint proved challenging to Carpenter during the writing process. “I wrote Halloween II with a six pack of beer every night because there was nothing left, there was nothing there,” he admits. Carpenter found inspiration for the story from scenes he had added to the first Halloween film in order to make it long enough to run on TV.
Despite its departure from the Michael Myers saga, he is a fan of Halloween III: Season Of The Witch.
While the idea of making a different scary story every year for Halloween was abandoned after the third film, Carpenter has good things to say about how it turned out. “I think it’s really unique and strange and twisted,” he says. “I like it a lot.”
He doesn’t watch slasher films anymore.
“I didn’t watch them after a while, once they just became killing teenagers.”
Prince Of Darkness was influenced by Italian filmmaker Dario Argento.
“I was an enormous fan of his and became a close friend later,” Carpenter explains. “I watched Inferno, and it’s really dreamlike, it’s really beautiful. There are some incredible scenes in it, just jaw-dropping scenes. There was a freedom he had with what he did. Sometimes it didn’t make logical sense but it made dream sense, nightmare sense. And I sort of took that with me to Prince of Darkness.”
The famous bubblegum line from They Live was one of many proposed by star Roddy Piper.
Wrestling star Piper gave Carpenter a sheet of paper full of one-liners he had written for interviews and the wrestling ring; the bubblegum line was one of them. “He was perfect for the role,” says Carpenter.
Carpenter thinks his movies have made the strongest impression on people who saw them when they were young.
He compares them to films from the ’50s that still have an effect on him. “I still get thrilled at watching Attack Of The Crab Monsters,” he explains. The staying power of his films is no accident, either: “A lot of these movies were designed to last.”
His favorite score to work on was Big Trouble In Little China.
While he has many favorites, Carpenter had the most fun working on this film, partly because technology had taken such a big step forward since his last score. “I hadn’t composed music in a little while, and it was a perfect marriage of the movie and what we had to work with,” he remembers.
If he had an unlimited budget, what video game would Carpenter adapt into a film?