You could certainly argue that John Carpenter has never been given enough credit as a composer, even when his status as a filmmaker was at its highest in the 1980s. Indeed, some may not even realise that the man who directed classic horror films like The Fog, Halloween, and The Thing also composed the music for most of his films. Some might point to Carpenter’s efforts as the workaday contributions of a man known for taking on “too many” roles on his films, but French electronic duo Zombie Zombie have sought to rescue Carpenter from this kind of thinking. In re-recording some of Carpenter’s best-known pieces for this EP, they have not only taken a good opportunity to remind us of the director’s musical strengths, but also to interpret his pieces in interesting (if largely faithful) ways.
What Zombie Zombie clearly have on their side is the basic, inherent quality of Carpenter’s compositions. Anyone who has seen Carpenter’s phenomenal Rio Bravo homage Assault on Precinct 13 can testify to the incredibly powerful effect of its score, not only when combined with the film proper, but even with its sparse title sequence. Like the other four pieces re-interpreted here, the main theme from Assault is a profoundly unnerving piece of music, a property which Zombie Zombie have managed not only to preserve, but amplify.
With the exception of the frostily yawning chasm that is the main theme from The Thing, these pieces make for pretty propulsive stuff which means that they’re far more suited to re-interpretation and for casual listening than the work of most composers. Zombie Zombie don’t fundamentally alter any of these works, but they bring them up to modern recording quality standards whilst still retaining their retro late 1970s/early 1980s appeal and handling their nuances effectively. In “The Bank Robbery”, a key theme from Escape From New York, a technique as simple as removing and then reinstating the sure-footed, pounding beats is turned into an almost indescribably efficient factory for tension.
Naturally Zombie Zombie Plays John Carpenter will be of most interest and value to those who are established fans of the great man’s work both cinematically and musically. What Zombie Zombie deserve credit for is their feat of having made a record which, while brief, can appeal beyond Carpenter’s fans, as it is a strong work in its own right.