John Carpenter is an American master of horror cinema. The Kentucky born director has also dabbled in science fiction – “Starman” – and gave the world one of the best movies about rock music pioneer and pop cultural legend, Elvis Presley, in the Kurt Russell starring “Elvis” from 1979. But the writer, director and producer’s great volume of film work lies in the horror genre. Classic shockers like, “Halloween”, “The Fog” and “The Thing” put him in the same celebrated cinema roster of Hitchcock (Psycho), George Romero (Night of the Living Dead) and Wes Craven (Nightmare On Elm Street). And arguably, even lesser efforts like “They Live”, “Christine”, “Prince of Darkness” or “Vampires”, firmly ensures him a place on the best and most popular horror filmmakers of all time. Although Carpenter’s male characters like Macready (Kurt Russell) or Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) are well known, beloved and dynamic heroes for sure, the director is also adept at and well known for cultivating female characters. Here are the most celebrated heroines of his films.
Jamie Lee Curtis – Laurie Strode – Halloween
Jamie Lee Curtis, unlike some actresses, isn’t embarrassed over the role which helped make her a star. Indeed, in on Shout! Factory’s recent Blu-Ray release of Carpenter’s, “The Fog”, Curtis thanks the director for launching her career. Although that movie isn’t of her liking, she warmly embraces Halloween and her character. What may be most likeable and surprising about Strode is how strong and resourceful she becomes when confronted with the ultimate evil of Michael Meyers. Strode is bookish, nearly nerdy – though surrounded by the cool kids of Annie and Lynda – and when the proverbial caca hits the fan, Strode brings her survival A game and survives to see more installments. Though Rob Zombie should be commended on re-imagining a classic in such a different, transformative way, his version presents a Laurie Strode which isn’t half as interesting, nor memorable.
Adrienne Barbeau – Stevie Wayne – The Fog
In The Fog BD audio commentary, Barbeau (Maude) reveals that she used Allison Steele – a popular NYC disc jockey on air in the 1970’s and 1980’s – known over the air as the Nightbird, as her emulation for her bassy voiced character. Wayne is the local DJ of Antonio Bay in the film, and provides a play by play during the movie’s most bizarre and action packed moments. Barbeau’s Wayne may not be as physically in the moment as Laurie Strode, but her radio coverage and alert warnings save more than a few of the town’s residents.
Lisa Blount – Catherine Danforth – Prince of Darkness
Actress Lisa Blount projects from her character a believable intellectual veneer, yet also effectively shows us her humanity and tender side during the more intimate moments between her and lover Brian Marsh – Jameson Parker (Simon & Simon). Danforth becomes a kind of ultimate savior – even messianic, owing to the movie’s more deeply wrought spiritual aspects – at the tale’s end. Danforth expresses her inability to see beyond the equations and hard science of her graduate study, so when she acts so economically and without hesitation, there’s a sense that she’s finally gone to that next level of understanding – albeit at the most precious cost of all.
Natasha Henstridge – Lt. Melanie Ballard – Ghosts of Mars
Henstridge has elegantly defined the strong – even ultimately destructive – female in her respectable career. For most of us, her breakout role was in the sci-fi thriller, Species, opposite Ben Kingsley and Michael Madsen. For Carpenter’s sci-fi horror romp, Henstridge got the role after rocker Courtney Love had to pull out after sustaining a foot injury while training for the role. In Ghosts Of Mars, Henstridge plays the capable law enforcement officer who somehow must confront a world run amuck with the alien spirits of long dead martian denizens taking control of humans. Unfortunately, the movie remains John Carpenter’s worst financial failure, but has had a kind of rebirth and re examination through home video.