By now everyone should know, John Carpenter is not only a celebrated filmmaker but also a musical maestro whose soundtracks have become synonymous with the genres of horror, suspense, and science fiction. His innate talent for composition and his deep understanding of how music can elevate storytelling have left an indelible mark on the world of cinema, and a haunting presence in people’s record collections.
Anthology II continues the celebration of his compositional genius via an excellently sequenced collection of some of his most iconic pieces of music from his extensive filmography, all newly recorded with his musical collaborators Daniel Davies and Cody Carpenter.
The compilation opens with “Chariots of Pumpkins” from Halloween III, a track that perfe
ctly captures the eerie essence of the cult classic film with its pulsating synths and haunting melodies. The listener is engulfed by a sense of unease and anticipation, before being thrust into “69th St. Bridge” from Escape From New York, a dynamic track that encapsulates the futuristic and gritty nature of the film and the intensity and urgency of the protagonist’s mission via the use of throbbing bass lines, driving rhythms, and electronic textures. A sense of adventure and excitement follows with “The Alley (War)” from Big Trouble in Little China, a track that combines Eastern-inspired motifs with rock and synth elements. The track evokes fantasy and humor, a purposeful emotion that carries on to “Wake Up” from They Live with its driving rhythm, rock riffs and overarching rebellious energy.
Carpenter’s ability to create tension through minimalist and repetitive musical motifs is a famous trademark of his that is evident in tracks such as “Julie’s Dead” from Assault on Precinct 13 and “The Shape Enters Laurie’s Room” from Halloween II -with the former displaying a more sparse yet effective instrumentation and the latter some ominous dissonant synths to create that much needed tension and fear for the iconic villain’s approach. The record lays on the intensity with tracks like “Love at a Distance” from Prince of Darkness, with its haunting choral arrangements and ambient textures that reflect the film’s supernatural and apocalyptic themes, and “The Shape Stalks Again” from Halloween II, a relentless and suspenseful track with stabbing and repetitive synths that fittingly accompany the relentless pursuit of Michael Myers.
The record has a more isolating tone as it skulks through ambient leaning tracks such as “Fuchs” and “To Mac’s Shack” from The Thing, and “Walk to the Lighthouse” from The Fog, all of which display a slower tempo, foreboding undertones and an ethereal atmosphere that feels like a distant whisper.
Worth a special mention is that the three tracks from The Thing are lost cues, previously unreleased and now re-recorded. The Thing marks one of the rare occasions that John Carpenter stepped away from scoring duties and entrusted the task to another composer, the legendary Ennio Morricone. However, Carpenter felt that the film could benefit by the inclusion of additional music and took the initiative to record multiple synth driven cues in his renowned scoring style and edit them into the film.
Everything has been cautiously laid in preparation for the grand finale – the iconic and instantly recognizable ”Laurie’s Theme” from the original Halloween. Its simple yet menacing piano melody which has become synonymous with the horror genre, concludes the album by striking fear into the hearts of listeners.
These tracks represent just a fraction of John Carpenter’s impressive musical repertoire. His ability to capture the essence of his films through evocative melodies, atmospheric soundscapes, and innovative use of synths has solidified his status as one of the most influential composers in the history of cinema. With each haunting note and pulsating beat, his soundtracks continue to resonate with audiences, forever etching his name in the annals of film music history.