Glinting and chilling like a blade
John Carpenter Oct 19, Barrowlands, Glasgow
There it is – a chord so ominous, so thick with doom, that a twinge of anxiety gnaws at the stomach; tiny beads of sweat form on the brow. But remember: it’s only a movie – or, more to the point, it’s only a movie soundtrack. This is The Shape Returns, a fresh reworking of Halloween’s main theme. It was the first track to be released from John Carpenter’s soundtrack to David Gordon Green’s new film of the same name.
Cleaner and sharper than the original, the music glints and chills like a blade. You’ll hear it yourself at the Barrowlands later this week when Carpenter performs a rare live show – his first ever date in Glasgow.
This is why John Carpenter is the legend he is; he has the ability to hijack a listener’s emotional experience. Of course, Carpenter doesn’t just do this with music; as the director of the likes of Escape From New York, Assault On Precinct 13, Big Trouble In Little China and They Live, he’s one of the most memorable filmmakers in modern genre cinema. Musically, his influence is unquantifiable, with shards of his atmospheric minimalism and creepy disco being heard across generations of
artists from dance and electronica to post-rock and metal. With its spiralling, maddening 5/4 piano refrain, several versions of Carpenter’s theme to his 1978 horror classic serve as the soundtrack to Green’s film. It sees Jamie Lee Curtis return to the role of Laurie Strode, the young woman who four decades ago narrowly escaped being murdered by Michael Myers – here played by original “boogeyman”, Nick Castle.
Green’s direct sequel ignores the last nine films in the franchise, which is largely for the best. Though hardly a teenager any more, Strode has been waiting 40 years for Myers to escape. It’s no dreadful clanger, with critics saying that though Green’s film lacks the original’s elegance, in tying up the ends of Carpenter’s mythology and giving audiences the final confrontation they suspected they might never see, it should go down well with fans.
It’s Carpenter’s first involvement with the franchise since 1982’s Halloween III, and saw him serving as executive producer, creative consultant and soundtrack composer. The soundtrack is released on Friday – the same day the film is released and Carpenter plays his debut Glasgow show at the age of 70.
He was a late-starter to the studio album, releasing his first, Lost Themes, in 2015. The roots of that record went back to seeing Forbidden Planet in the 1950s as a young boy. Shot in Cinemascope, the space odyssey’s soundtrack was completely electronic. “The way the sounds and images were married together, I cannot tell you how profound that was,” Carpenter told an interviewer.
Released on hip Brooklyn label Sacred Bones, Lost Themes was a collection of soundtracks to films and images still locked in Carpenter’s imagination.
He collaborated on that record, like its 2016 follow-up, with his son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies. The trio collaborated again on last year’s Anthology: Movie Themes and on this rebooted Halloween soundtrack. On this tour, they are joined by John Spiker on bass, John Konesky on guitar and Scott Seiver on drums. “I had a lot of freedom in creating the score and getting into the director’s head,” says Carpenter. “I was proud to serve David Gordon Green’s vision. Film music is really different because it’s coupled with an image, which is what gives it its power.”
John Carpenter, centre, with son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies collaborated on the rebooted Halloween soundtrack