The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: ‘The Carpenter’ (1988)

Posted by Damon Swindall - June 21st 2012 @ 2:46 pm

After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!

Wings-tastic VHS Cover

The Carpenter is not a horror film about horror maestro John Carpenter, or one by him. It is also not some slasher film involving Jesus – though I think that would be amazing. Instead this is a movie all about a haunting handyman with a penchant for violence to anyone who doesn’t love his craftsmanship. You would think that there would be more construction related horror, but I can only think of a few examples. That’s just off the top of my head, there could definitely be a ton out there unknown to me. Still, in 1988 director David Wellington took this Mr. Fix-It premise and went with it, resulting in a mostly boring, but sometimes hilarious slasher thanks to its titular character.

Martin and Alice Jarett move out to the country into a large, lovely home in the middle of renovations. Alice is fresh from the psychiatric hospital and in desperate need of some peace and quiet while her husband goes to town where he is a college professor teaching the world’s most boring class. He’s also spending his office hours nailing one of the students. So while his lovely psychotic wife is at home with the hired construction crew, she begins to have some uneasy feelings. This is pushed when she comes across a strange handyman working in the middle of the night. The two form a special bond, made even stronger when the mysterious carpenter saves her from an attempted rape by one of the regular workers. Alice spends her time trying to decipher if this guy is real or if it’s all in her head while bodies stack up around her.

Couple's Nail Gun Fun

This movie has very little to offer when the lead is not onscreen. The carpenter is played by none other than Wings Hauser who uses his camera time to chew the scenery he is so lovingly fixing. The story goes that he once owned the house and was remodeling all alone when he went crazy and started killing people. After his death his ghost haunts the home until all renovations can be completed. This one dead guy works way faster than the whole team of workers who hammer away during the day. I guess he is a supernatural being and all, so it only makes sense.

Once Hauser meets Alice (Lynne Adams) it is love at first sight. Who can blame him? Lynne should have a career doubling for the lovely Mary-Louise Parker. Hot stuff. The two form a very special late-night bond over talk of what a real man should do/be, her innocent beauty, and a little dismemberment by circular saw. You know, the normal stuff. Meanwhile her unfaithful husband is nailing a college student who gets pregnant, resulting in one hilarious scene of him zipping his pants back up faster than anyone ever. Talk about a boner killer.

Now, I know that Alice is a tad crazy but how does she immediately fall for our crazy carpenter friend? When she first meets him he’s in her house, uninvited, in the middle of the night and then proceeds to shoot a rat from across the room with a nail gun. Yeah, like that’s a normal thing. She just shrugs this all off like there’s nothing abnormal about it all. One would think just his presence would be off-putting enough, but killing rodents with power tools should definitely push that over the edge.

Hey, good lookin'!

There’s not really much more to say about this film, so you get a short column this week. There are plenty of deaths – well, at least compared to last week’s paltry three – some fun times with Wings Hauser and not much else. Whenever the killer isn’t onscreen, this is pretty much a bore of a flick. It can be fun at times but if I really suggested that any of you actively seek this out I’d get slapped for sure. If you do have an interest you can find a relatively new DVD version quite easily. I know, I know… you just need this to complete your Hauser Collection shelf.

Until next week – I’m on the lookout for a killer Bob Vila!
Body Count: 6
First Death: 24:12
Best Death: Mistress Nail Gunned Down
Best Secondary Character: Mort, the proprietor of Mort’s Empire of Paint
Number of Wood Related Puns: Only one, surprisingly enough

Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-6/20/12: Bad Dreams (1988)
-6/27/12: Dead Dudes in the House (1991)
-7/4/12: Don’t Go in the House (1980)
-7/11/12: Don’t Panic (1989)


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