Westerns are all about the standoff – that final showdown, ticking seconds off the clock as sweat trickles down the face of a lone cowboy with his hand over his pistol, ready to pounce. They’re about the long game, the waiting game with the big payoff. Being an avid fan of westerns his entire life, this is the kind of tension director John Carpenter has always attempted to bring to each scene of his polished projects, even if the stories don’t necessarily fall in the sweltering heat of gunslinger territory.
That’s why all of his horror movies pack such a punch. That’s why his Kurt Russell roles so closely resemble John Wayne, and why his shootout scenes feel so deliberate and exciting. It’s also why it’s so difficult to rank all of the incredible films that the master filmmaker has crafted over the course of his iconic legacy, but here we are, in the glorious month of October, so I’ll give it a shot.