If punk has a defining characteristic, it’s surely a healthy mistrust of and disrespect for authority. The simple, inescapable understanding that the people in charge probably don’t have our best interests at heart. You can build beaucoup strawmen from that basic material and plenty of them have been marching in our cities the past few weekends like the absolute bell-ends they are, but the fundamental point remains.
With that in mind, for my money John Carpenter remains the most punk director of all time. The call him the Master of Horror, but that’s a misnomer (though, hey – he made Halloween and The Thing, so point taken). If there’s a thematic constant to Carpenter’s body of work, it’s that the system is incompetent at best, actively malevolent at worst. The game is rigged, the dealers are in on it. Authority figures are hapless buffoons on a good day and sociopaths on the median. The best you can hope to do is carve your own path, cut yourself a little slack (in the Subgenius sense), and live another day. From Dark Star to Assault on Precinct 13, They Live and even lighter fare like Big Trouble in Little China and Starman, Carpenter has shouted this ethos, but never louder than he did in Escape From New York, released 40 years ago on July 10, 1981.