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Every Film in John Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy (& How They Connect)

John Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy may involve unrelated films, but they all deal with hopeless nihilism against the danger of inhuman threats.

One of the most prolific horror movie directors ever is John Carpenter. Having created such franchises as the Halloween series, he’s also behind other classic fright-fests like The Thing. Though this once panned movie is now seen as a classic, what’s not as well known about it is that it’s the first in a loose creative “trilogy” from the director. Said trilogy is noted for its incredibly nihilistic and bleak themes, making it a downer to plow through.

This “Apocalypse Trilogy” from John Carpenter is made up of The Thing, Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness. Though none of these are true sequels to each other, and they’re all made years apart, each one is a thematic celebration of Carpenter’s love of H.P. Lovecraft, all while bringing the themes into modern America in some way. Here’s a look at how Carpenter tackled cosmic horror three different times.

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Carpenter began his Apocalypse Trilogy with 1982’s horrifying film The Thing. This creature feature was an adaptation of the story Who Goes There?, which was originally adapted into The Thing from Another World. Very much based on the paranoia surrounding the Cold War, the movie dealt with an alien presence that begins to violently possess a group of researchers in Antarctica. No longer able to trust each other, the group turns on itself, with each person questioning their own identity amidst an enemy that could be anyone of them.

1987 saw the release of Prince of Darkness, which turned Christian eschatology into a science fiction horror story. The story involves a long-held Catholic secret: a vile of liquid that’s actually the embodiment of evil known as Satan. Unfortunately for everyone involved, there is no God around to save them. The final entry in the trilogy was 1994’s In the Mouth of Madness, which was an incredibly meta-commentary on the popularity of horror icons, such as Stephen King. As an insurance investigator looks into the whereabouts of a fiction author, he soon discovers that the lines between fact and fiction are blurring to a terrifying degree.

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As the name would suggest, the Apocalypse Trilogy of films by John Carpenter all dealt with themes of imminent destruction that couldn’t be avoided. While this is the main connective tissue of the films, the concept is handled in vastly different ways in each. The Thing is arguably the most personal and less “apocalyptic” of the three, but it still has a research crew that’s utterly helpless and at the whims of some alien creature who simply acts without rhyme, reason or motive.

Prince of Darkness is the most apocalyptic of the three, dealing with the very concept of Satan himself, all while removing God from the equation. This again symbolizes the helplessness and utter despair of the characters in the stories, as they each face some inhuman, cosmic threat that they’re completely unable to fend off. This is showcased in the last movie, In the Mouth of Madness, by making the characters sink further into a meta, insular spiral of events that they can not escape. This descent into madness encapsulates all who attempt to get closer to the truth, touching upon another theme of the trilogy.

In being helpless against the events of the stories, the characters all question their individual free will and actions. This is especially true in The Thing, where the cast doesn’t really know if they’re human anymore. Likewise, in the face of Satan and a creative writer from Hell, the characters in the second and third entries of the Apocalypse Trilogy are stuck no matter what choice they make. These films can all be purchased digitally to stream through Prime Video, while Prince of Darkness can also be watched through Roku and Hulu.

Timothy Blake Donohoo is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he majored in Communication and minored in Creative Writing.

A professional freelance writer and marketing expert, he’s written marketing copy and retail listings for companies such as Viatek.

In his spare time, he enjoys reading, playing video games, watching documentaries and catching up on the latest Vaporwave and Electro-Swing musical releases.

What Was John Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy?

The Apocalypse Trilogy Tackled Immense Destruction in Different Ways

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