Director John Carpenter hasn't made a good film since 1994's In the Mouth of Madness, but that hasn't stopped the prolific god of eerie, D.I.Y. synth scores from making music for nonexistent movies. Touring in support of Lost Themes II, Carpenter mans that iconic synth—which can be felt in everything from Jann Hammer to Kravinsky—this Wednesday at the Schnitz. In honor of the chain-smoking auteur's appearance, we picked Carpenter's top five scores to movies that actually do exist.
1. The Fog (1980)
The score to Carpenter's pirate-ghost story, like the film itself, is all about creeping in and getting under your skin. It's a remarkably subdued exercise in classical piano-synth fusion that creeps in and buries itself deeper than a rusty hook.
2. Prince of Darkness (1987)
When your movie features a homeless Alice Cooper being impaled by a bike frame, the music has to bring the surreal. Carpenter and collaborator Alan Howarth tap into their inner Goblin for a screechy, ominous bit of orchestral nightmare fuel.
3. Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
An early Carpenter siege movie that deserves way more credit, Assault basically laid the groundwork for every synth-based action score to come. And, come to think of it, probably a whole generation of run-and-gun games on the 8-bit systems of yore. The Escape From New York theme is more iconic, but Assault is Carpenter's action-theme masterpiece.
4. They Live (1988)
A slow, droning, harmonica-driven synth oddity, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper's theme is reminiscent of some sort of hybrid futuristic Western blues odyssey, with a little porn sax for good measure. Excellent for kicking ass and chewing bubblegum.
5. Halloween (1978)
Yep. It's obvious as hell. And sure, the Howarth-assisted Halloween III score is more nuanced. But the simplicity of rhythm here is horror's most memorably creepy score, more than "Tubular Bells" or even Jason's heavy breathing. Once you hear those three stabbing piano notes, you know some baby sitter is about to get kebabed.
SEE IT: John Carpenter plays the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, on Wednesday, June 15. 8 pm. $40-$60. All ages.