The Carpenter-Hill Team - Less Is
(The Salt Lake Tribune/Aug 09/1981/US) By
For movie producer Debra Hill,
the old saying "less is more" is more than a cliche.
She and her partner, director John Carpenter, have made a name for themselves in
Hollywood by producing inexpensive films that do big business at the box office.
They burst onto the scene in 1978 with a little movie called Halloween,
which cost less than $400.000
and was filmed in 20 days. It took off like a shot at the box office, gets
re-release every October, and has become the victim of a number of rip-off
artists, trying to copy and capitalize on its success.
In Town to Talk
Hill, who was in Salt Lake City this week to talk about the team's latest
endeavor, Escape From New York, says turning out a high-quality product
on a low budget is the result of "a lot of hard work." But she wouldn't have it
any other way.
"First of all, we feel it is irresponsible to overspend money. When you have
or $40 million you become
less creative. When your funds are limited you work harder. I think that is a
good rule for all businesses to follow."
The writer and producer says what distinguishes her and Carpenter's films from
the rest of the horror movie pack is how they develop suspense.
"Our pictures don't resort to the visceral images in order to get the scares
over. The people who made Maniac and Friday the 13th wanted to
flourish financially by capitalizing on the fact that audiences loved and were
scared by Halloween.
But they didn't have the imagination to do it successfully. The one that came
closest was When a Stranger Calls. When a Stranger Calls was
really good. It was scary and it didn't have to resort to beheadings on camera
and things like that.
"What we tried to do in Halloween and The Fog was a stylized
suspense genre, instead of killing for the sake of killing."
Hill and Carpenter are putting the last touches on
II. It's a
roller coaster ride," says Hill. Both she and John Carpenter served as writers
and producers on the movie. It was directed by newcomer Rick Rosenthal, a recent
graduate of the American Film Institute.
II overlap by five minutes, according to
Hill. The sequel will take place during the same night of terror, during which
Jamie Lee Curtis plays a babysitter stalked by a psychopath. "It's a
continuation of the night," says Hill. Donald Pleasence returns as the
Halloween II .
Hill's latest movie, Escape From New York, is set in the Big Apple in the
year 1997. A huge wall surround Manhattan as the island has been converted into
the country's only maximum security prison. What was once Broadway and Central
Park and the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building is now a gigantic
ghetto with bands of criminals wandering the streets, starting fires to keep
warm and destroying whatever remains in one piece.
While the movie had the budget of $7 million, Hill and Carpenter's largest, it
is still inexpensive compared to what most movies cost these days. It is an
especially low budget when you consider the task of recreating a dark and
Escape From New York is one of those pictures in which every penny is on
the screen. Again, Hill attributes that to hard work and a little creative
thinking. Very little of the movie was filmed in New York. Instead St. Louis
doubled for Manhattan.
"I sent my location man on an all-expense paid tour of the slums of the United
States. When he got to St. Louis he said, 'Stop, this is it.' St. Louis has a
big fire a few years back which devastated the downtown area, making it ideal
for what we had in mind."
Escape From New York is a movie about violence, but there is very little
blood. The violence, as Hill says, is stylized.
While she puts standards on the movies she makes, Debra Hill is adamantly
against regulating what a person, of any age, should be able to see in a movie
"Censorship is a personal thing. I don't think you can tell somebody that they
cannot see something because it is going to be damaging. I think it is the
responsibility of the parents to teach their children that when they are
bothered by something, they don't watch it. If you are bothered by TV, you turn
it off; if you are bothered by a movie, you don't watch it."
And why do people enjoy going to see a John Carpenter-Debra Hill movie so much?
"Our films are fun. They're escapist. They are bigger than life. I think all
media does on of three things: persuade, inform, or entertain. We entertain."