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As Halloween approaches, fans of the horror genre gear up to watch and re-watch films that frighten and disgust. The horror genre has a pantheon of iconic filmmakers like Clive Barker, George A. Romero, Wes Craven and Alfred Hitchcock. Also in that rarified air is the legendary writer/director/composer John Carpenter. In anticipation of the scariest night of the year, let’s take a look at the best suspenseful movies that Carpenter had a hand in making.

5) The Fog

Released in 1980, this is a story of an eerie thick fog with a mind of its own that creeps over a small coastal town bringing death and terror to the occupants. Carpenter keeps the suspense level at 11 throughout the film and his score will also keep your skin crawling.

4) They Live

Carpenter definitely has a sense of humour (Big Trouble in Little China is essential viewing) and it shows in this 1988 alien zombie vehicle. As we all know, aliens and zombies are not just found in movies but increasingly so in video games and online casinos, from Resident Evil to the Stellar Jackpot slot. The political metaphors are a bit clunky but it’s still a fun watch and stars the late pro-wrestling legend Rowdy Roddy Piper with an era-appropriate mullet as the reluctant hero. “I’m here to chew bubblegum and kick @$$.” Classic!

3) Escape From New York

Higher on action than gore, this film maintained Carpenter’s trademark tension with great storytelling and a chilling score. Screened in 1981, this was his first of four films with Kurt Russell who stars as one of cinemas greatest anti-heroes, Snake Plissken. The story’s concept is outstanding as is the supporting cast including tough guy Lee Van Cleef and Isaac Hayes.

2) The Thing 

Some hail this 1982 classic as Carpenter’s finest work and it’s tough to argue against that. While somewhat derivative of horror-classic Alien three years previous, The Thing still stands on its own as a great piece of horror/action filmmaking.

1) Halloween

While not the first slasher film – that would arguably be Psycho – this film is an archetype of the modern version of the genre and baddy Mike Myers is a direct forbearer to other horror icons like Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th) and Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street). The writing, directing and ominous music (again composed by Carpenter) make this film an absolute masterpiece.

A John Carpenter marathon is always a good way to celebrate the Halloween season, either alone or with friends. If you haven’t seen these films you need to; if you have seen them, you need see them again.

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