John Carpenter Has No Idea What ‘Elevated Horror’ Means

"I can guess what it means, but I don’t really know," Carpenter said of the term largely meaningless outside Film Twitter.
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 13: Special Guest John Carpenter attends the screening of 'Escape from New York' at the 2019 TCM 10th Annual Classic Film Festival on April 13, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for TCM)
John Carpenter
Getty Images for TCM

The term “elevated horror” came around in 2019 to describe the wave of horror movies — mostly A24-produced — that imbued their storytelling with metaphor and strong craftsmanship over jump scares and schlocky twists. By then, we had “Get Out” (Universal) plus A24’s “The Witch,” “Hereditary,” and “Midsommar.” Never mind that art horror was a term dating back to the German Expressionist films of the 1920s.

Horror master John Carpenter is making the press rounds lately in part to promote “Halloween Ends,” which he didn’t direct or produce but did write the music for. (He’s composed the scores for many of the “Halloween” movies, going all the way back to the 1978 original with Jamie Lee Curtis, plus films like “Assault on Precinct 13,” “The Fog,” “They Live,” and “Escape from New York.”)

In a recent interview with AV Club, the topic of “elevated horror” came up, leaving Carpenter, 74, perplexed. (It’s a largely meaningless term outside of Film Twitter.) When asked, “Are you familiar with the phrase ‘elevated horror?'” he replied, “I don’t know what that means. I mean, I can guess what it means, but I don’t really know.” Pressed again about movies like Ari Aster’s “Midsommar” and “Hereditary,” he said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

But finally, he said, “There’s metaphorical horror. But all movies have … they don’t have messages. They have themes. Thematic material, and some horror films have thematic material. The good ones do.”

Of the balance between scaring audiences and leaving them contemplating the themes of the movies, Carpenter added, “When a scary scene comes along, we should be scary. It all depends on what we’re looking at on the screen. That balance is done by the director. [Referring to himself and his composing team] We’re just carpet. We’re just carpet men here. Your hardwood floors need a carpet? We provide it.”

“Halloween Ends” opens in theaters and on Peacock on October 15. It’s directed by David Gordon Green and features Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, the original final girl from John Carpenter’s first “Halloween” movie.

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