Vic’s Top 5: Movie Scores by John Carpenter

John Carpenter in the Studio cutting together “Escape from L.A.”

Hi gang! Here is another movie composer “Top 5” from yours truly. The great John Carpenter. I hope you see one or two of your favorites. Enjoy!

Vic’s Top 5: Favorite John Carpenter Movie Scores:

No. 5 – “Christine”

Ethereal and other-worldly Carpenter’s score for his Haunted car movie is very well done. It manages to both frighten and disorient us with electronic eerie-ness. Tracks like “Moochie’s Death“, “Obsessed with the Car” and “Football Run” stand out as strong tracks from the  ghostly canvas that Carpenter paints with his story, actors and images.

No. 4 – “Halloween – Season of the Witch”

(with Alan Howarth)

Creepily atmospheric and piercing,  this under rated and widely dismissed score has a huge cult following. That’s no surprise with great tracks like “Drive to Santa Mira” and “Chariot of the Pumpkins” creeping us out.  A strong effort by Carpenter and collaborator Alan Howarth. Always in rotation on my iPod.

No. 3 – “Escape from New York”

(with Alan Howarth)

EFNY is an insanely popular score among Carpenter fans (and even his detractors) and it accompanies an even more hugely popular film that stars Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken in this sci fi thriller from 1981. Very experimental and completely solid, the score is an electronic music fan’s wet dream. Crisp, fast and futuristic sounding,  the score satisfies with just about every track. And not one track sounds like the other.  “The President is Gone” and “The Duke Arrives” are strong standouts. Highly recommended.

No. 2 – “Halloween”

Well, this is a no brainer. No explanation really needed. Iconic. Daring. Scary. Powerful and ever so popular this is a score that every horror movie composer should strive to provide. It set the bar so high that still to this day it is widely recognizable and even used as a ringtone during the month of October all over the world.

No. 1 – “The Fog

(with Dan Wyman)

Hauntingly hypnotic and eerie, The Fog is my favorite score by John Carpenter. He creates mood, suspense and a sense of dread that lasts way after the film ends. The music is almost like a ticking time bomb. We get soft piano at the start and then it just gets more menacing by the minute. It contains some of my favorite music composed by him and I frequently re-visit it on my iPod.

The score somehow makes the mysterious fog come alive and Carpenter’s ethereal piano compositions throughout are just insanely suspenseful. He uses the music in this film to chip away at our perceptions, fears and sense of safety. It works like no other score by him, ever.  If you track it down on CD, I recommend the Expanded Edition from 2000. Enjoy!

Honorable Mention –

They Live

Vampires

In The Mouth of Madness

Prince of Darkness

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16 comments

  1. Nice list! Funny thing…I love “H3:SOTW” and have seen it repeatedly over the years but despite all of that I never realized that Carpenter was responsible for the music!
    And you’re absolutely right about his original Halloween theme being popular decades after it’s release. It can currently be heard in “ParaNorman”. It’s the ringtone on Norman’s phone!

    • It’s funny, really, that so many more people are coming out these days claiming that they actually like H3 on it’s own merit and I agree that it is under rated and wrongly maligned. It isn’t a bad effort at all and Howarth and Carpenter cooked up a very creepy score for it. Can’t wait to see Paranorman. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Great list Vic. Carpenter is such a great composer it would be tough to narrow it down to 5. Odds are mine would be the same as yours. Though I would rate Halloween as my top pic. But you can make a case for so many of his scores.

    I know it’s early, but do you have any special reviews planned for October? I have a few ideas myself, but might end posting most this month rather than wait.

    • Thanks for reading, Dave, much appreciated like always. Umm, right now I haven’t anything too elaborate in mind other than my Halloween Picks for the month and such. I do have a couple of things I am thinking about but nothing very concrete. I eventually want to use those “Alien” stills you sent me to do something with. Maybe, I’ll keep in touch with you and perhaps we can do something together. Let me know.

  3. Yeah man if you got any ideas in what we can do I’m game. The only thing I have planned for sure is remember the Friday the 13th posters and lobby cards I did? I’m doing one for Halloween.

    Besides that no plans either.

    • Ok, I will most definitely stay in touch then, Like I said I do have some ideas bouncing already in my head and I love your lobby card posts! Can’t wait to see them.

  4. Oh man, I *love* John Carpenter. Great selections, Victor. Can’t argue with any of them, though I would probably include Assault on Precinct 13 as well. One of my favorite films from him, with a killer score to boot.

    • dude! I totally forgot to show AOP13 some love in my honorable mentions. Thanks for the reminder. I will remedy that. I’m glad you liked the list. I was fun to do (and hard). Thanks for stopping by. Much appreciated!

  5. So nice to see someone give Christine its due. I love that move. Filled with great performances, one badass looking car, and it is just a movie that actually takes King’s novel seriously which is something I always appreciate as a huge Stephen King fan. Great list man

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