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John Carpenter is a horror filmmaker. Most of his movies fall into the genre, including at least two of the most perfect horror films ever made. Funny thing, though: whenever he decides to step out of his scarified comfort zone (at least in his ’70s-’80s heyday), the results are usually gold. There’s nary a fright to be found in the ultra-badass urban decay of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK; same goes for the delightfully oddball ALIEN-meets-Douglas-Adams-meets-Allman-Brothers student film DARK STAR (unless you have a crippling fear of beach balls). Even THEY LIVE is more of a gonzo sci-fi media satire than a straight-up horror film. Then there’s perhaps his weirdest effort: 1986’s gloriously excessive action-comedy BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA.

The plot, convoluted as it is, concerns a John Wayne-drawling trucker by the name of Jack Burton (played by Kurt Russell, who is never better than when he’s working with Carpenter) agreeing to pick up his friend’s fiancee at the airport, only to be dragged into an underworld ruled by an ancient sorcerer named Lo Pan who must find a woman with green eyes in order to… you know what? I’m not even going to bother. The fun of the movie lies in its breakneck spiral into absurdity; even poor old Jack can barely keep up (as seen in this hilarious supercut). Partial credit can surely be given to co-writer W. D. Richter, whose previous film, THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE EIGHTH DIMENSION, was out-there enough to fuel rumors that it was ghost-written by Thomas Pynchon. The tone, however, is pure Carpenter, and BIG TROUBLE finds him at his most playful (right down to the music: in addition to composing the typically synthy score, Carpenter sings the theme song!). And if that weren’t enough, it also inspired the only “Gangnam Style” parody you’ll ever need to watch.

BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986) Dir. John Carpenter
Friday 4/4 & Saturday 4/5, 11:59 PM
Coolidge Corner Theatre (290 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446)

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