Right of reply: 'It didn't turn me into one': John Carpenter, the director of the horror film Halloween, offers a few home truths to those who blame violence

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The Independent Culture
JOHN CARPENTER is a respected film-maker. He is also one of Hollywood's leading players in the horror genre. Had he made Halloween (the 1978 film for which he is best known) today, the chances are that it would fall foul of the Government's new guidelines and would be denied a video release by the British Board of Film Classification. Here he argues that real life, and not movie life, is at the root of the 'video nasties' debate.

'DO I believe that television makes murderers? No. Do I believe that videos cause people to kill? No. It's a totally absurd argument. Back in the old days there was a movie called The Curse of Frankenstein with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and it was supposed to be the bloodiest, the most horrifying. Today, it's a classic. You look at it and think, 'Come on, guys, a little blood? What were we talking about?' I've watched it happen decade after decade - we all look back and ask what the fuss was about. Likewise, our kids will look back and ask what we were worrying about.

'I won't let my kid watch everything. I'll do with him what my dad did with me: monitor what he sees. So yes, some stuff is certainly inappropriate for young kids, but it's totally ridiculous when people suggest that watching a horror film is going to turn a kid into a monster. It didn't turn me into one. When I was a kid, I watched everything I could get my hands on.

'I've heard the same argument for 25 years. My father even presented me with it. He said, 'You shouldn't be watching these things, it may harm you.' So I reasoned with him later and said, 'What were you talking about?'; and he said, 'I don't know, I was just scared myself]'

'I know the difference between fantasy and real life. Take The Night of the Living Dead, where you've got these zombies walking around eating people's intestines; well, you can look outside your window and know it's not happening. It's a fantasy.

'I can't imagine sitting around a stable household and needing to worry about watching anything on television. What about the unstable household? Yes, they are your problem, but it's not the videos. Real life causes this stuff, not phoney life, not movie life.

'I wish that if you put on a movie filled up with goodness and light, then it would make everybody be good, but it just doesn't work. You can instruct people how to dribble a basketball, but if they get out there on the court, it's got to be them, not the video, it's got to be innate. When all the video tapes are gone from the shelves, let me know when the murdering comes to an end. Will it be a week? A year? Ten years? Never. Nothing will change.

'If you have a lot of problems in society, and there's no obvious way to solve them, this is the easiest place to look: to ban some sort of thought. When everything gets out of control, people turn to the right wing - what we're in danger of is a kind of creeping Fascism. People want quick answers; they'll turn to the thought-police to ban them completely. But you can't get rid of them completely, they'll always be around somewhere. There'll just be a black market.

'I'm offended when anything is suppressed. I'm not offended personally that this is a ban on an area in which I work, but it is a terrible error. Here in the States - a society basically founded on freedom of expression - we have our battles, too. There are a lot of folks who want to ban science books because they don't conform with the ideas in Genesis. That, to me, is the same thing.

'So I'm not personally offended by it, but I do feel real sorry for your country.'

(Photograph omitted)

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