Like John Carpenter's unforgettable characters "Michael Myers," "Snake Plissken" and (for hardcore fans) "Sutter Cane," the legendary auteur's soundtracks are also essential elements — not just of Carpenter's films, but of modern horror in general. Indeed, the ominous theme to 1978's classic Halloween is just as iconic as the spray-painted William Shatner mask that helped birth the so-called slasher boom. Thus, the question posed with Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998 (which is comprised of Carpenter milestones re-recorded with son Cody and godson Daniel Davies, with whom he also collaborated on his Lost Themes albums) is: can you improve on greatness, especially during a period when vinyl re-issues of these soundtracks are occurring with welcome frequency?
The answer is no, but Anthology stands on its own as a gripping showcase of Carpenter's musical vitality. The stalking Goblin-influenced menace of "Halloween" will still get your heart racing like Jamie Lee Curtis during that unfortunate night in "Haddonfield," and "Assault on Precinct 13" and "Escape From New York" are performed with such adrenaline-soaked intensity that they sound current no matter how many times the faithful have heard them. While Carpenter didn't perform the soundtrack to 1982's The Thing, his own take fleshes out Ennio Morricone's sublime malevolence nicely.
Lesser-known gems are unearthed here, too, including the wild, metal-flavoured "In the Mouth of Madness" (if you haven't seen Carpenter's overlooked 1994 triumph, add it to your Halloween viewing) and "Pork Chop Express" (from 1986's Big Trouble in Little China). Both are potent slices of Carpenter's love of hard rock.
Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998 is a fine introduction to John Carpenter the musician for newbies, and a welcome re-visit for longtime fans. (Sacred Bones)