Escape from New York

Escape from New York ★★★★½

I never understood why some classified this as horror, especially by today's standards. Carpenters reputation probably held sway in that regard. But after viewing again I finally get the arguement. Today's horror generally is something scary as hell with equal amounts of gore. Though that trend seems to have veered slightly over the last few years. But where that argument holds water is the terrifying atmosphere. This idea of once glacial towers of glass and bustling vitality throughout Manhattan turned into an island of life in never ending terror. Where every imaginable animal instinct morally dead with an unquenchable thirst rules the high rise landscape. And only the dominant monsters thrive. 1997 was twenty years ago but the creative spirit of this apocalyptic future New York felt like a real possibility in 1981. A time when crime in the city was at an all time high and climbing. From the sets/designs (isn't Issac Hayes Cadillac chandeliers forever burned in your memory) to wack jobs performing and minimal (but quite effective) score. This was meant to creep under our skin. If it didn't cause your blood to race you weren't awake. Everything about John Carpenters Escape From New York is near faultless. With the taut pace, editing and script a perfect combination of precision and brute force. Kurt Russell's Snake Plissican was the cool war hero now giving the middle finger to the confines of societies evolving rules and expectations on its citizens. A man caught and sentenced to a life in this new world of horror. He's given a last chance to save it before he's "kicked out of the world" if he plays the part of a hero one more time. Simple premise but highly volatile and primed to erupt. And the supporting cast is filled with wily characters. Lee Van Cleef's Lt. Hauk brings all the grit and killer impulse of Sabata to the future. Harry Dean Stanton as the double crossing Brain. Whose only survival skill is being smarter than most. But my favorite is Cabbie. Ernest Borgnine as the one stitch of optimism in a fallen society of pariahs. Still loves driving his cab listening to his classic swing music and tossing Molotov cocktails at the neighborhood scourge. Sadly this was made when directors were still trusted and encouraged to create stories outside the box. Without worry of being able to sell toys and other residual income related items. Their art wasn't created to ultimately sell products. If you haven't seen it and like these alternate timelines of high imagination and chaos this will be a steady rewatch. A stone cold classic in my book.

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