Will the real John Carpenter step forward? Is he the diabolical, masterful horror trailblazer who made Halloween and The Fog, or the sardonic, self-aware b-movie cheese-slinger who made Escape From L.A., Ghosts of Mars, and Body Bags? What makes this collection so good is that it not only represents some of his biggest and best, but you can almost see the transition take place. Carpenter is in top form with The Thing, a gripping, atmospheric feat of pure horror. Prince of Darkness is somewhat of an experimental film, with little in the way of special effects, a relaxed and naturalistic pace, and perhaps even heavier on the atmosphere, complete with a strange, somewhat elliptical tale. While it has its moments, Village of the Damned seems to be a misstep, and while Carpenter seems to handle this movie with a straight face, the subject matter is ultimately too meager and silly to make it a worthwhile watch. Thankfully, Carpenter remedies this disjunction with They Live, helming a far out, 50s pulp era story and giving it both the seriousness it needs for us to connect with it while also ensuring hammy performances and exaggerated visuals as a counterpoint.
The four movies are collected on two DVDs, and thankfully, they're one-sided discs with artwork instead of those abominable flippers. We get The Thing and Prince of Darkness on the first disc, with They Live and Village of the Damned on the second. All four movies are in Widescreen, but that's all you get here. There are no special features of any kind, not even any trailers. In fact, there aren't even chapter selection options on the menu screens, so if you want to get to a certain point in the movies, you have to play them from the beginning and then skip chapters from there.
Thankfully, the packaging makes up for the threadbare content. This four movie set is contained in a standard size, clear 2-DVD case with 2-sided artwork, although the inner artwork is pretty plain. This is topped with a slipcover that has the same cover art but highlighted with iridescent ink that lends some beauty to the horrible images imposed there.
So, is this set worth it? Chances are, if you're a fan of the man, you already own most of these, and the lack of any special features really degrades the value of this set. But, if your Carpenter collection consists of The Thing and Halloween, this inexpensive, compact, varied array of movies housed in a handsome package is too good to pass up.
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