John Carpenter doesn’t know what “sublime horror” means

“I can guess what it means, but I don’t really know,” Carpenter said of the term, which has been largely meaningless outside of film Twitter.

The term “sublime horror” emerged in 2019 to describe the wave of horror films – mostly A24-produced – that have infused their storytelling with metaphor and strong craftsmanship via jump scares and choppy twists. By then we had “Get Out” (Universal) plus A24’s “The Witch”, “Hereditary” and “Midsommar”. Never mind that art horror was a term that dates back to the German expressionist films of the 1920s.

Horror master John Carpenter has been making press rounds lately to promote Halloween Ends, which he didn’t direct or produce, but wrote the music. (He has composed the music for many of the “Halloween” films dating back to the 1978 original starring Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as such films as Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, They Live, and Escape from New York.”

In a recent interview with the AV Club, the topic of heightened horror came up, leaving the 74-year-old Carpenter stumped. (It’s a largely meaningless term outside of Film Twitter.) When asked, “You know the phrase ‘sublime horror’?” he replied, “I don’t know what that means. I mean, I can imagine what it means, but I don’t really know.” Asked again about movies like Ari Aster’s “Midsommar” and “Hereditary,” he said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

But eventually he said, “There’s metaphorical horror. But all films have…they don’t have messages. You have themes. Thematic material, and some horror films have thematic material. The good guys do.”

Regarding the balance between scaring audiences and making them think about the films’ themes, Carpenter added, “If a scary scene comes up, we should be scary. It all depends on what we see on the screen. This balance is made by the director. [Referring to himself and his composing team] We’re just carpet. We’re just carpet men here. Does your parquet floor need a carpet? We offer it.”

Halloween Ends opens in theaters and on Peacock on October 15th. Directed by David Gordon Green and starring Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, the original last girl in John Carpenter’s first Halloween film.

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Lindsay Lowe

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