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APRIL 5–22

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For the cult-flick enthusiast, John Carpenter’s films can easily be divided into three categories: the director’s low-budget work of the ’70s, his special-effects-laden ’80s films, and everything made after 1988’s They Live. For all but the most ardent Carpenter loyalists, it’s universally agreed upon that the last group—which includes such stinkers as Vampires and Ghosts of Mars—is to be avoided at all costs (with the possible exception of In the Mouth of Madness). And, to those weaned on Reagan-era late-night cable, such films as The Thing and martial-arts fantasy Big Trouble in Little China (starring Carpenter favorite Kurt Russell) will forever hold a special place. Yet it is undeniably the director’s stripped-down early work that satisfies the geek within—which is probably why the Library of Congress’ John Carpenter retrospective is titled “The Beginnings” and not “Ride the Pork Chop Express.” The LOC’s showcase, which features his first three films, kicks off with Dark Star (at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 5)—a loose parody of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, made for $60,000 while Carpenter was still a student at the University of Southern California. But it’s the series’ other two entries—Assault on Precinct 13 (at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 14), an updated version of Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo recently remade with Ethan Hawke, and the genre-setting slasher Halloween (pictured; at 7 p.m. Friday, April 22)—that put Carpenter on the map. Bring your subliminal-message-detecting Ray-Bans when the series opens Tuesday, April 5, and runs through Friday, April 22, at the Library of Congress’ Mary Pickford Theater, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free. (202) 707-5677. (Matthew Borlik)