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Photo by Kyle Cassidy

What does evil look like and how does a person survive it?

Prolific director John Carpenter, who achieved international fame with “Halloween” in 1978, has pondered this question for many years — and in many films.

As the Halloween observance approaches, the Museum of the Moving Image will screen five Carpenter horror films from Friday, Oct. 26, through Sunday, Oct. 28.

Simon Abrams, a film critic who has contributed to “Slant,” “Esquire,” the “Village Voice,” and other publications over a long career, served as guest curator for this series. He chose five Carpenter pieces that find unique and unnerving ways to ponder his question about humanity’s dark side.

All the selected works share the director’s signature gallows’ humor and pragmatic humanism. The world is beginning to spiral to the end. The protagonists struggle to make sense of bizarre scenarios as humans stop resembling themselves, roads cease leading to their regular destinations, and reality is erased.

Here’s the schedule.

  • “The Thing” (Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. and again on Oct. 28 at 2 p.m.) stars Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley. The 1982 adaptation of John W. Campbell’s novel “Who Goes There?” pits a team of scientists against a parasitic alien that assimilates and then imitates its victims. Paranoia ensures.
  • “Christine” (Oct. 27 at 4:30 p.m.) stars Keith Gordon and Harry Dean Stanton. The 1983 adaptation of a Stephen King novel is centered on a Plymouth Fury named “Christine” that seems to have the power to kill.
  • “Prince of Darkness” (Oct. 27 at 7 p.m.) stars Donald Pleasence and Lisa Blount. The 1987 movie is part of Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy with “The Thing” and “In the Mouth of Madness.” A green liquid has a mind of its own and the power to create chaos.
  • “Body Bags” (Oct. 28 at 4:30 p.m.) stars Tom Arnold and John Carradine. The 1993 made-for-television anthology consists of three unrelated vignettes involving murderous psychopaths in a style reminiscent of “Tales from the Crypt.” The first one has a serial killer, while the other two involve transplants (hair, eye) that take over the recipients’ personalities.
  • “In the Mouth of Madness” (Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.) stars Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, and even Charlton Heston. The 1994 dark comedy follows an insurance investigator who discovers a horror novel’s real life impact on readers.

Carpenter released his first film, a science fiction comedy short called “Dark Star,” while he was attending the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. He later expanded it into a feature-length sci-fi comedy that hit theaters in 1975. Since then, he has been involved in countless projects for film and television, mostly in the horror, thriller, and sci-fi genres. His biggest commercial successes include the “Halloween” franchises and “Escape from New York” (1981). He’s also a composer who wrote the scores for many of his films.

Admission is $15. All films will screen in the Redstone Theater. The Museum of the Moving Image is located at 36-01 35th Ave. in Astoria’s Kaufman Arts District.

Gallery images: The Museum of the Moving Image


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