Much of the power of the best films by the cult director John Carpenter can be attributed to their use of music — music that, more often than not, was composed and performed by Carpenter himself. What began as a necessity for the low-budget productions by Carpenter became a major part of his aesthetic, and established him as a pioneering figure in genre-film score work as well as electronic music in general. Now, flanked by his son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies, and with two albums (Lost Themes and Lost Themes II) of non-soundtrack material under his belt, Carpenter has decided to revisit some of his most beloved themes.
Assault on Precinct 13 was the first feature film Carpenter made after film school, and he made it partially as an urban reimagining of Rio Bravo, a film by his idol, Howard Hawks. In Carpenter’s movie, a soon-to- be-closed police precinct is placed under siege by a gang who have taken a blood oath to kill someone inside. Assault is a classic, not least of all because it has perhaps Carpenter’s best-loved theme. The theme’s main synthesizer line, partly inspired by the score to Dirty Harry and Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” is catchy and dread-inducing in equal measure.
Carpenter’s theme for The Fog is one of his finest, and creepiest. In the film, a weather-beaten old fisherman tells an ancient tale of betrayal and death to fascinated children as they huddle together by their campfire. As a piece of driftwood in a child’s hands glows with spectral light, an eerie fog envelops the bay, and from its midst emerge dripping demonic victims of a century old shipwreck, seeking revenge. The spooky synthesizer tone in Carpenter’s composition evokes the advance of the fog itself, helping to make this a quintessential horror score for a classic horror movie.
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