Review: John Carpenter’s New ‘Anthology II (Movie Themes 1976-1988)’ is Scary Good

John Carpenter
Anthology II (Movie Themes 1976-1988)
5/5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

With his new release, horror icon John Carpenter proves that Taylor Swift isn’t the only legend who can re-record material and breathe new life into the work. On Friday (October 6), Carpenter released the new album, Anthology II (Movie Themes 1976-1988), which features “newly recorded” renditions of some of the artist’s most well-known themes from his massive filmography.

[RELATED: John Carpenter Enlists the Help of Family for ‘Lost Themes III’]

But how does the album stack up against expectations? What are the standout moments? For those answers, let’s dive into the songs below.

The Intro: A Refresher

Working with now his longtime collaborators, his own son Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, son of the Kinks’ guitarist Dave Davies, Carpenter re-recorded many of his best-known songs for the new Anthology II (Movie Themes 1976-1988).

Carpenter, a master of horror and suspense, includes themes from movies like Escape From New York, Big Trouble in Little China, They Live, Assault on Precinct 13, Prince of Darkness, The Fog, Halloween, and The Thing, in this new collection. In total, there are 14 tracks on the new release. Each is a mini-movie unto itself.

The Music: Hit After Hit

Now, the music. The newly recorded LP kicks off with a bang and “Chariots of Pumpkins,” the theme from Halloween III. While Carpenter wrote both the first two Halloween movies, the third installment didn’t feature any of the same characters or plot lines. Yet, it did include music from Carpenter—eerie, synth-driven music. It’s a powerful open and gets your blood going. And a good way to open the new LP.

With that shock to your system out of the way, Carpenter gets a bit more thoughtful and quirky with his next offerings, “69th Street Bridge” from Escape From New York and “The Alley (War)” from Big Trouble in Little China. What’s great about the entire collection and these songs specifically is that they bring to life these movies, many of which fans have seen multiple times. They jump-start the shadows in your mind.

Your brain becomes a movie theater unto itself as the song list unfurls. This happens throughout the record thanks to Carpenter’s signature sonic touch and the skilled musicianship from Davies and son Cody. Truly, he has made so many movies that have made huge impacts. Known for the Halloween series, others like the sci-fi They Live and alien-oriented The Thing are beloved. And his music is a major reason why those films succeed.

To hear songs from those films back-to-back-to-back, curated and sequenced by Carpenter is like walking through a wing in the Hollywood Movie Hall of Fame. And the jaunt continues with emotive songs like “The Shape Enters Laurie’s Room” from Halloween II and “Season of the Witch” from Halloween III.

The second side opens with the pulsing part-orchestral, and part-hellscape “Love at a Distance.” With a few more songs—one from Halloween II, three from The Thing and one from the eerie The Fog—the album concludes with one many Carpenter fans will recognize, “Laurie’s Theme,” from the original Halloween, a movie that should be played on repeat all through October. That song is bright and scary, deep and stirring.

Those words can all be used to describe Carpenter, himself. The brilliant, though at times reclusive musician, songwriter, director, script writer, and producer is a singular talent.

Indeed, he’s scary good.

Photo by Sophie Gransard / Courtesy Biz 3

Leave a Reply

The Meaning Behind “Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce