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A master of horror, John Carpenter created the 1978 thriller hit Halloween, which has inspired and influenced countless other filmmakers.
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Born on January 16, 1948, in Carthage, New York, filmmaker John Carpenter developed an interest in film and music early on. At the University of Southern California, he had his first success with a short student film. While he enjoyed his biggest hit with 1978's Halloween, Carpenter continues to thrill and disturb audiences with such films as 2011's The Ward.
Famed filmmaker John Carpenter, born on January 16, 1948, in Carthage, New York, developed an interest in film and music as a young boy. After high school, he enrolled at the University of Southern California, where one school project, The Resurrection of Bronco Billy, won him an Academy Award (best live action short subject) in 1970. Carpenter co-wrote the screenplay and composed the music for the film.
Working with Dan O'Bannon, Carpenter started his first full-length movie while at USC. Dark Star, a sci-fi comedy, started out as a short film about astronauts on a mission to blow up unstable planets, but the pair later expanded it to feature length. Carpenter handled many responsibilities on the film, serving as its director, producer, writer, and composer. Made a shoestring budget, Dark Star was released in 1974 and eventually became a cult classic.
Paying to tribute to the westerns of Howard Hawks, especially his masterpiece Rio Bravo, Carpenter next worked on Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). The low-budget film is an urban retelling of a traditional western standoff, with a Los Angeles police station coming under siege by gang members. Carpenter earned kudos for this gritty thriller with the London Times calling him "a first-rate story-teller."
With his next effort , Halloween (1978), Carpenter made his name nearly synonymous with the horror genre. Again wearing many hats, he served as the director, co-writer, and composer on what became one of the highest-earning independent films of all time. Costing only $300,000 to make, Halloween terrified movie audiences with the story of Michael Myers, a killer who escapes from a mental institution to returns to his hometown to wreck havoc. Donald Pleasence played Myers's doctor from the institution and Jamie Lee Curtis appeared as a teenage babysitter trying to avoid Myers's murderous wrath.
Carpenter drew comparisons to famed director Alfred Hitchcock for his ability to take the audience on a visual thrill ride. Critics also complimented him for his advanced technical skills. This suspenseful and violent film paved the way for a wave of other slasher movies, such as Friday the 13th. Halloween itself became a film franchise, but without Carpenter onboard. He only penned the screenplay for Halloween II (1981).
With his initial success, Carpenter found himself working on studio films and with larger budgets. Again turning to horror and suspense, Carpenter wrote and directed The Fog (1980). The residents of a small coastal town had to battle against the zombielike beings, the former inhabitants of an old leper colony.
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Their creative visions unsettle, shock and haunt us—then leave us begging for more. Meet some of the biggest horror-film directors in Hollywood; the ones who not only sent chills down our spines and thrilled us with their suspenseful work, but who also made films so good, it became fun to be a little afraid.
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