There was no question that the big draw for the 2011 FRIGHT NIGHT FILM FEST was John Carpenter. If you’re a horror fan, the prospect of meeting a legend such as this is one few could pass up. After all, this is the man who grabbed a few friends and made a low budget/independent film, not knowing all the while that it would become one of the grandaddy horror films of all time ( HALLOWEEN) and a cultural phenomena. Far from a “one shot wonder,” Carpenter would also give us ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, THE THING, and one of my all-time favorites – THE FOG. Like his fellow Master of Horror, Dario Argento, his best work appears to be far behind but is still one of the best film resume’s around.
Carpenter came across, in my opinion, as cold but, regardless of whether or not he shows the same level of warmth and devotion to his fans that one would experience with, say, George Romero, its still an honor just being in his presence. The first meeting I had with him was last Friday. I had a VIP pass which enabled me to jump to the head of the line to meet him. In truth, his line moved rather quickly whether you had this pass or not. I suppose that’s one of the advantages of him not being so personable. I was literally whisked to his table where I brought out my posters of THE FOG and HALLOWEEN to be signed while also grabbing an 8×10 for my co-blogger, David.
What was a major event in my life as a horror fan went so quickly I might of missed it had I had time to blink. He grabbed the posters and noticed the other personalized signatures. “What’s your name, Dave?” signs posters and 8×10,” Thanks, Dave! Who’s next?” We fans were clearly on a conveyor belt awaiting our John Carpenter “stamp” (autograph) before being sent off to market. Of course I have no regrets in doing so as I’m sure none of the other fans did either. For most of us, that John Carpenter “seal of approval” is pretty darn special. We now have the luxury of going back and telling all our friends and relatives for the rest of our lives that we communed (be it ever so brief) with the legendary John Carpenter. Not altogether bad for $30 autograph vouchers and a 5 second encounter when you really think about it.
Carpenter was, in many ways, similar to meeting Ace Frehley a few weeks back (see that story HERE). Again, you’re meeting a legend and should never waste time worrying about whether or not you’re getting your money’s worth. It simply is what it is and you walk away with the “experience” of being in their presence.
Photos with Carpenter were not unlike those done with Frehley either. You pay an additional $30 to get one and they use their own camera (always guaranteed to be out of focus). Unlike Frehley, a photo voucher came with a time stamp. I bought mine on Friday and was told to return the next day at 6:15pm to line up at a photo station. I zoomed over after attending what was, for me, the highlight of the weekend – the DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW panel (which I’ll be covering soon).
Once again, I was quickly brought before Carpenter who looked at my shirt and said, “Terror from Beyond the Daves? What is that?” When I told him, he said, “Sounds great, look over at the camera!” As they snapped the photo I did mention (through grinning teeth) that I enjoyed his commentary on a German documentary about monsters (MONSTERLAND) that I was able to view at a past G-Fest. In it, Carpenter stated that the HOSTEL movies were little more than US propaganda to further perpetuate the post 9-11 feelings in this country that they should fear being outside of the United States. I thought that was an interesting take and told him so. “Thanks!” he said….as I was escorted out the door.
One thing that was better than the Frehley situation was that, a couple hours later, you could pick up an 8×10 copy of the picture rather than have to download it a couple days later. This gave me the opportunity to return to Carpenter on Sunday and have it signed.
Probably the most disturbing aspect of the Carpenter situation was at his Q&A panel which I will give an overview of soon. Carpenter comes across as a cantankerous old coot who looks at his movies as just another “day at the office” as opposed to the works of art we fans (and film history) believe them to be. I didn’t get the feeling that this was simply modesty (again see George Romero who thanks you for standing in line to see him while apologizing because he doesn’t feel he’s worth the trouble) but just overall disdain. It was almost like going to a comedy show where the comedian walks out and rips on members of the audience – while receiving plenty of laughs and applause. In that, I will let you be the judge.
All in all the experience mirrored much of the atmosphere that was ever present at FRIGHT NIGHT. That we horror fans were all spending money to attend a show
….where the joke was clearly on us.