As a script consultant and script writer for hire I get a lot of time to reflect about what types of directors I like. And, in writing these 82 blogposts on 100 films you must see, I’ve kept returning to two directors in particular. John Carpenter and Walter Hill.
I’m not saying these two are the greatest directors in the world, but they’ve both got bodies of work with very specific themes, and they both work in genre’s that aren’t seen to be great for filmic art. Essentially they’re entertaining directors, but the themes and styles of both men are a throwback to an earlier age.
And so, Carpenters The Thing is remake of a film which Howard Hawks had a lot to do with. Hawks was a great director, he excelled in films made about men of action. Carpenter’s The Thing is a throwback to more hardboiled times, with updated special effects and gore for the 80s.
Famously, the film was a huge flop, released at the same time as E.T the films downbeat narrative and ending killed it when people preferred to laugh and be uplifted by Spielberg’s kids film.
The Thing gets richer and better every year. It’s a geeks dream of a film. A great script, a cinematic location, some of the best old school SFX ever, some stop motion and green screen. Some great looking dogs, ace music and you know what else? It gets funnier every year that passes. And the cast are fabulous.
So while E.T set up Spielberg for yet more middle of the road entertainments Carpenter retreated to his low budget roots. Some of his low budget films have more ideas in them than a 1000s E.T.’s…
So, 18 films to go…
Matthew Cooper has written for Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs. He was winner of the first ever Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge and the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize. His first short film starred a then unknown Ewan McGregor and was picked up by Channel Four when Matthew was 19 years old. He’s been a script consultant, script writer for hire and filmmaker for hire for over 20 years.