Nerdful Things – John Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy
I’m a fan of John Carpenter. I would say a huge fan but the fact my finger is off the pulse I’d be lying. I’ve watched The Thing countless times and In The Mouth of Madness about three times as much (it is by far my favourite – probably my favourite horror movie of all time) – just recently I watched it two nights in a row. The Metallica-esque opening track is insanely good and you’d be forgiven for thinking it is actually a track by them.
I’ve written a few times now about my newfound addiction with H.P Lovecraft and anything remotely Lovecraftian and In The Mouth of Madness certain fits snugly into that category. What led me to watch the movie again the other night was a Google search for Lovecraft-esque movies. There are some stories of his that have been adapted to films but the scores on IMDb aren’t that great – that’s not to say I won’t watch them – and John Carpenter’s flick came up. But, what drew my attention more was the fact that there was a movie I had heard of yet, to my knowledge, I have never seen: Prince of Darkness. So, that is on my list to be watched.
What shocked me more than that though, is the fact that he hasn’t directed that many movies. I always had it in my head that he had a massive number of movies under his director’s belt. More disappointingly, I’ve only seen half of them.
So what makes Carpenter’s trilogy a Lovecraftian affair? Lovecraft’s universe is a vast, infinite expanse full to the brim with monsters. The realisation that there are far greater beings than humans out there makes the existence of humans slight and inconsequential. Often, he will belittle the human mind as incapable of coming close to comprehending even the most basic understanding of this and those that attempt to do so end up going mad.
The Thing strips away the sense of self. The alien takes over a host and, aside from one slight tell discovered later in the movie, appears to be that individual. As pointed out by Keith David’s character, Childs: “If I was an imitation, a perfect imitation, how would you know if it was really me?” The ensuing paranoia leads to an intensely uncomfortable and volatile environment in which they turn on each other and the fact they have no clue who is who or what, they turn a tad mad. It’s an existential crisis on the silver screen: how do I know I am who I think I am? It kinda flips Descartes’ cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) on its head…
Prince of Darkness, which I am yet to watch and will endeavour to update this afterwards, focuses on religion. Here’s my theory, without having read anything more than the synopsis of the film on IMDb: where religion presents order, the discovered object brings forth chaos as it will unleash some sort of demigod or all-powerful being with designs on destroying or taking over the world.In The Mouth of Madness strips away reality. The film contains one of my favourite quotes of all time, “Reality’s not what it used to be.” Prochnow’s Sutter Cane, a world-famous novelist in the vain of Stephen King and Lovecraft himself, is the creator of the new reality – what he writes becomes manifest and so he is able to create his reality. Well, I say his but I really mean what the monsters tell him. He’s like a conduit the monsters use to pave the way for them to take over. A bridge between two worlds, if you will.
Based on this, it’s like the trilogy goes through different stages of attacking humanity: The Thing destroys our identity or understanding of our self; Prince of Darkness destroys our beliefs and, perhaps, our sense of purpose (if we believe in God and find that it was all one big lie, what do we have left?); In The Mouth of Madness destroys our minds and takes and questions what reality actually is. Could we have been wrong about everything that we think we know?
My opinion may change once I’ve actually watched Prince of Darkness – most would probably have watched it first before taking to writing but I wanted to, I guess, put forward a thesis and then see how close I am.
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