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John Carpenter has long been regarded as a master of horror. His early work reshaped the entire landscape of American horror films and his recent infrequency of film production has been a source of discontent for his fans. He recently broke his film silence with 2010’s The Ward and there is evidence to suggest that he is not yet ready to sneak back into the shadows of semi-retirement. During a Fangoria panel at the 2011 Fright Night Festival, Carpenter spoke briefly of his next project.
At around the 7:20 mark, a fan asks him about his love of westerns. His response is intriguing.
A Gothic western? Color me interested, but not convinced. I am an enormous fan of Carpenter, but I am also sadly aware of his decline over the last seventeen years. I’m in the camp of fans who believe that 1994’s In the Mouth of Madness was his last good film. From there we got a parade of disappointments to the tunes of Village of the Damned, Escape from L.A., Vampires, and Ghosts of Mars. Even his newest film The Ward is getting mixed reviews. I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it for fear of having my hopes dashed again. But again, here we’re talking about a Gothic western so at least it’s something new for him, right?
Wrong. The other lingering doubt that keeps nagging at me is that Carpenter has not once, but twice during his period of decline dabbled in different variations on the western genre and both have been disasters. Vampires is the most obvious example, with his legions of the undead wandering around dusty, desolate landscapes and his slayers being modern cowboys. But even Ghosts of Mars has its western elements thanks in large part to the fact that it’s a remake of Carpenter’s own Assault on Precinct 13; itself a remake of John Wayne’s Rio Bravo. So again, the track record is less than stellar.
Plus, weren’t we supposed to be getting a Darkchylde adaptation directed by Carpenter? I mean it’s been nearly a year since he was attached to the film and yet not even a peep about the production schedule or even casting? Shouldn’t that be his next project? But perhaps he will get this gothic western off the ground, and maybe, just maybe, it will be the film that reverses his unfortunate slide. Once more, fans must play the waiting game.