Today is John Carpenter’s birthday, he is 66. He was educated at Western Kentucky university. He began making short films in 1962. He won an academy award for Best Live-Action Short Subject in 1970, for The Resurrection of Broncho Billy (1970). Carpenter formed a band in the mid-1970 called The Coupe de Villes.

Working with Dan O’Bannon, Carpenter started his first full-length movie while at USC. Dark Star, a sci-fi comedy, started out as a short film about astronauts on a mission to blow up unstable planets, but the pair later expanded it to feature length. Carpenter handled many responsibilities on the film, serving as its director, producer, writer, and composer. Made a shoestring budget, Dark Star was released in 1974 and eventually became a cult classic.

Paying to tribute to the westerns of Howard Hawks, especially his masterpiece Rio Bravo, Carpenter next worked on Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). The low-budget film is an urban retelling of a traditional western standoff, with a Los Angeles police station coming under siege by gang members. Carpenter earned kudos for this gritty thriller with the London Times calling him “a first-rate story-teller.”

With his next effort , Halloween (1978), Carpenter made his name nearly synonymous with the horror genre. Again wearing many hats, he served as the director, co-writer, and composer on what became one of the highest-earning independent films of all time. Costing only $300,000 to make, Halloween terrified movie audiences with the story of Michael Myers, a killer who escapes from a mental institution to returns to his hometown to wreck havoc. Donald Pleasence played Myers’s doctor from the institution and Jamie Lee Curtis  appeared as a teenage babysitter trying to avoid Myers’s murderous wrath.

Carpenter drew comparisons to famed director Alfred Hitchcock  for his ability to take the audience on a visual thrill ride. Critics also complimented him for his advanced technical skills. This suspenseful and violent film paved the way for a wave of other slasher movies, such as Friday the 13th. Halloween itself became a film franchise, but without Carpenter onboard. He only penned the screenplay for Halloween II (1981).

With his initial success, Carpenter found himself working on studio films and with larger budgets. Again turning to horror and suspense, Carpenter wrote and directed The Fog (1980). The residents of a small coastal town had to battle against the zombielike beings, the former inhabitants of an old leper colony.

His then-wife, actress Adrienne Barbeau, co-starred with Jamie Lee Curtis in the film. Turning to a gritty, futuristic action drama, Carpenter worked on Escape from New York (1981) starring Kurt Russell. Both films opened to disappointing reviews and mixed box office results.

Taking on one of the literary masters of horror and suspense,Carpenter directed the big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s Christine. He took a break from his usual fare for the science fiction romance Starman (1984) starring Jeff Bridges. Bridges played an alien who takes over a dead man’s body and becomes involved with the man’s widow (Karen Allen). The film proved to be a critical and commercial success with Bridges earning an Academy Award nomination for his work.

Returning to independent film, Carpenter has continued to work with varying degrees of success, but none matching the heights he reached with Halloween. Horror thriller Prince of Darkness (1987) and sci-fi action flick They Live (1988) failed to attract much of an audience. Carpenter tried comedy, directing 1992’s Memoirs of an Invisible Man with Chevy Chase, which also proved to be a disappointment.

After the 2001 sci-fi thriller Ghosts of Mars, Carpenter took a break from directing. He worked on a few television episodes, but he did not return to the big screen until 2010 with The Ward. In the thriller starring Amber Heard and Mamie Gummer, young female patients at a mental institution suffer at the hands of an evil ghostly figure.

He has become one of the great directors of horror and has a number of classics to his name:
JC

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Halloween

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The Thing

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Assault on Precinct 13

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Big Trouble inLittle China

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