Although I am extremely hesitant to give a despicable click-bait headline more intended traffic, it is a must that all of you dedicated horror fans read this before you waste a further five minutes of your life reading my rebuttal.
So here it is, a headline run by the New Republic website, which claims to have been around for 100 years although I have never heard of them before today :
Where have all the monsters gone?
The vampires have been de-fanged and transformed into teen heartthrobs. Frankenstein’s monster is now an action hero. The wolfman will warm your heart, rather than rip it out. The Creature from the Black Lagoon got lost somewhere in the shuffle. The Mummy is being re-imagined yet again. And the list goes on…
Universal Studios has long had a name synonymous with the legendary monsters of modern cinema, beginning in 1923 with Lon Cheney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The studio had great success with it’s long line of monster and horror films in the 1930’s when Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi stepped in and became Dracula, The Mummy, and Frankenstein’s monster. The studio developed many adaptations of the work of Edgar Allan Poe and seemed to thrive in the darker side of the growing medium of film. In the ’40s, Lon Cheney Jr. filled the shoes of the Wolf Man, even as the original Universal monsters were now becoming ripe for comedy and parody films, effectively ending their legacy with Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein. In the ’50s, The Creature from the Black Lagoon was a surprise hit, reviving some of the classic films for theatrical distribution as double features, and the company attempted to keep their monsters relevant all the way through the 1960’s, when they began to disappear.
Over the following decades, many homages and attempts to revitalize these now classic characters have appeared to varying receptions. Excepting honest and loving tributes like 1974’s Young Frankenstein and 1987’s Monster Squad, most of these attempts to bring the monsters back into the spotlight have been spectacular failures. Of course some good can be found in many of the remakes over the years, like Kenneth Branagh’s flawed but fun take on Frankenstein and the recent gothic remake of The Wolf Man, many of the others have been pure embarrassments like Van Helsing and the recently released Dracula Untold.
Now, Universal Studios has inexplicably announced that they are attempting to re-brand and re-imagine their stable of classic monsters for a new generation, but without all that pesky horror stuff getting in the way. Continuing in the vein they began a few weeks ago with the really rotten new Dracula film, these legendary horror icons will become a new breed of action star, in the hopes that the studio will be able to compete with the likes of the many superhero films crowding the box office lately.
According to Universal studio head Donna Langley, “We have to mine our resources. We don’t have any capes [in our film library]. But what we do have is an incredible legacy and history with the monster characters. We’ve tried over the years to make monster movies — unsuccessfully, actually. So, we took a good, hard look at it, and we settled upon an idea, which is to take it out of the horror genre, put it more in the action-adventure genre and make it present day, bringing these incredibly rich and complex characters into present day and reimagine them and reintroduce them to a contemporary audience.”
Which, to me, sounds like a horrible idea. And leads to the question “Why is horror still a bad word?”
Horror has consistently proven to be a genre populated with quality work, if you take the time to do your homework and find it. Many of the great directors of our time have deep roots in the horror genre, which has been a springboard for film-makers like Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Jackson, David Cronenberg, Sam Raimi, and most recently, James Gunn. Despite all of this, the horror genre has always been the red-headed stepchild of cinema, for some reason or other. One reason could be the glut of lower budgeted “B” films that flooded the market throughout the 60s and 70s, giving the genre a bad rap. Even The Exorcist, which should have been a clear best picture winner in 1973, was snubbed because it was an unforgiving horror film. The Silence of the Lambs finally broke the stigma in 1991, but is widely regarded as a thriller. Many horror films are marketed as “psychological thrillers” or other nonsense simply in an attempt to reach a wider audience.
Right now, “horror” is everywhere, especially your television set. One of the most popular shows on TV right now has the word right in the middle of it’s title, but has proven to be more of a musical comedy of late rather than the American Horror Story it promises. Zombies have proven to make great lovers in a few recent laughable romantic comedies like Warm Bodies and Life After Beth. And the less said about the sparkling fresh teenage “vampires” of the Twilight saga, the better.
And now, we are primed to get a series of films featuring our beloved Universal monsters in a modern day setting, all designed to lead up to an action adventure spectacle reminiscent of Marvel’s cinematic universe. A horrible, misguided idea from a bunch of studio heads who are so empty of interesting ideas that they are mining decades-old properties and reshaping them into a package that doesn’t even fit. If Dracula Untold was meant to be a jumping off point for this new series, then the path is already lost, as that film was a jumbled, confused and pointless mess which I wouldn’t have even bothered to see if it weren’t playing a double feature at my local drive-in with the far superior Nightcrawler.
But that is just me, and my opinion as a life-long fan of monsters and all things horror.
Please, Universal, just let our monsters be monsters, or else don’t bother to resurrect them.
Two trends that are widely regarded as overused gimmicks are coming together at last, in a valiant effort to unite them for the good of movie fans everywhere. Found Footage 3D intends to be that singular film which transforms the bad into good, and finds a way to use these techniques as useful ways to tell a story rather than the tired gimmicks they have become. The innovative film has been completely shot, and in the editing process they discovered that the budget for their effects was double what they thought it would be for some tricky effects shots.
While director Steven Degennaro is adamant on his use of mostly practical effects during the shooting of the film, it turns out that at least one shot required much more in post-production. Check out his reasonable plea in the very amusing video below :
This film comes from some serious horror fans, who even went so far as to enlist the assistance of a co-creator of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Kim Henkel. According to the film-makers this project is meant to be the Scream of the “found footage” genre, reshaping the familiar elements into something new and exciting. According to their indiegogo campaign :
You may remember the same thing happening to slasher movies in the late 80s and early 90s. So when Scream came along, horror fans were ready for a smart movie that poked fun at the worst of the genre while exemplifying the best of it. It was funny, clever, and scary in equal measure, and it’s one of my absolute favorite horror movies.
Which is why, 20 years later, I’m making Found Footage 3D.
FF3D is about a group of filmmakers who go to a cabin in the woods to shoot “the first 3D found-footage horror movie”, but find themselves IN a found-footage horror movie when the evil entity from their film escapes into their behind-the-scenes footage.
Like Scream, the characters know all of the rules, tricks, and clichés of the genre. Like Scream, it turns those clichés on their heads and exposes many of the genre’s recent efforts for what they are: cynical cash grabs by clueless amateurs and/or Hollywood suits with dollar signs in their eyes. And, like Scream, FF3D is not just funny—it’s scary as hell.
Make no mistake—this is a horror movie, not a spoof.
Finding new and engaging ways of using these techniques in the face of the backlash these two genres seem to encompass seems to be the risky proposition here. Director Steven Degennaro took to reddit yesterday to answer any questions, and we were able to learn a little more about the film and the ideas behind it. For example, in response to the question of the current state of animosity in these genres and why he chose to combine them, he says :
3D and found footage are actual a more natural fit for than even I realized when I started to write this script. Because we are making a movie where the camera actually exists inside the world of the story, we get to play with 3D in a way that no one has ever really done before. If we want something to appear in one eye, but not the other, we can do that. If we want footage on a computer monitor that someone is filming to appear in 3D to the audience instead of just a flat screen, we can do that do. And we can have things move from one window on a computer screen into another window by coming into and out of the plane of the monitor. There are lots of things like that that I’ve had a ton of fun playing around with.
At the same time, the nature of found footage means that we used consumer-grade camcorders to shoot the movie. One of the qualities that these cameras have is really deep focus, meaning that we were able to compose shots with lots of layers of depth in 3D. In a more traditional movie, the thing you want the audience to look at is in focus and the rest of the shot is blurry, which means that even if you (as an audience member) wanted to, you couldn’t look at the background, or a tree in front of the characters. With our movie, there’s a much more realistic sense of depth because your eyes can choose to focus anywhere on the screen (for the most part). It’s much more like real life, which makes it perfect for found footage, which is supposed to be immersive and real.
Another interesting answer from the director came in response to the question of how he thinks his film separates itself from the current glut of found footage and/or 3D films :
Mostly by telling a compelling story with quality acting. There are a whole bunch of people who think that because they own a cell phone and have a couple of friends, that makes them a filmmaker. They think that found footage is easy. It’s not. I’ve made 4 or 5 short films now, and worked on hundreds of movies in my career as a sound guy, and I can say pretty confidently that making a found footage movie is actually a lot more difficult than making a “regular” movie in a lot of ways.
So even though this is my first feature, I’ve been in this business for almost a decade, and I’ve been writing scripts for longer than that. I spend two years working on this script and months finding the perfect actors. Our budget is considerably higher than your average found footage movie, but still lower than your average indie horror flick. So we get the best of both worlds, meaning that rather than blowing our entire budget on lighting and Red cameras and all the other things that are required to make a low-budget move look professional, we instead were able to spend that money on the things that actual matter to making a movie better: hiring the right cast and crew to tell a really compelling story.
The other thing we have going for us in the “meta” angle. Our movie is funny and smart in how it approaches the tropes and cliches of found footage and skewers the glut of derivative crapfests that have been released in the last few years, while at the same time telling a story that is truly scary. So if you love found footage movies, then you’ll love our film. And if you think most found footage movies are stupid, you’ll still love our movie.
Or so we hope, anyway. The audience will ultimately have to decide for themselves.
The film’s indiegogo campaign goes on for a few more days, until November 11th, so get in there and show your support for an independent film project from some creative people who are dedicated to bringing you a new and uniquely horrifying experience!
They have tons of great rewards up for grabs, including signed props, T-shirts, original Texas Chainsaw merchandise from the private collection of Kim Henkle, and even a bloody chunk of flesh and bone from one of the film’s more gruesome deaths!
Support their indiegogo campaign here, and learn more on the official Found Footage 3D website.
“I searched forever for a memorable quote to start this article with, but couldn’t find a single one in this horrible, pointless film.”
- Larry Darling Jr, author of this article.
Any constant readers of this site over the past three years will recognize and hopefully appreciate the fact that I rarely post negative reviews. The way I look at all of this is simple: I love horror movies, even the bad ones. In certain cases, I especially love the bad ones. As a blogger, I tend to subscribe to the “Promote what you love rather than bash what you hate” point of view, and there is generally something positive to be found in every film if you look closely enough. Sometimes just the simple fact that someone got off their ass and created something is enough to give me some measure of enjoyment.
All that being said, I fucking hate Halloween : Resurrection.
If you have been following along at home, I have been counting down to Halloween 2014 by watching every single film and trying to build an interesting post about each one, thanks to the new Blu-ray collection released last month. And honestly, up to this point it has been a pretty enjoyable journey through the twisted, nonsensical, and often convoluted mythology the film-makers created over the years. The genuine chills of the original and clever execution of the first sequel ; the randomness of Part 3 ; the introduction of Danielle Harris as Jamie in part 4 and 5 ; even the critical overload of oddball ideas that made up part 6, each of these installments brought something interesting to the table. Culminating with the cathartic 20th anniversary of the original with H20, which brought the story of Laurie Strode vs. her murderous brother to a satisfying conclusion for fans of the series.
Is there a more fitting end to the decades-long saga than Laurie finally putting Michael Myers down once and for all, as we fade to black along with the desperate crooning of that guy from Creed? Well, possibly a better choice of song, but I digress…
After H20 hit big at the box office, work started immediately on the next film in the series, which was then referred to as Halloween : Homecoming. Continuing the film-making by committee way of doing things that had haunted the franchise for years, there were of course many disputes on the direction the series should take, especially after being ended so definitively in the last film. The Weinsteins suggested a completely new direction for the series, similar to the spectacular failure of part 3, but long time producer Moustapha Akkad would have none of that nonsense. Online polls and test screenings influenced this film heavily, as public opinion seemed of much greater importance than creativity. The script went through several writers and two directors were attached and dropped due to creative differences, before they finally settled on Halloween 2 director Rick Rosenthal, who should be ashamed of himself.
All of these spoons stirring the cauldron, and the best that they could come up with was this?
The film begins with what can only be described as a giant slap in the face to everything that came before it. We catch up with Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis filling out her contractual obligation of a cameo in the sequel), now catatonic in some low-level asylum. We quickly learn from two nurses during an expository walk down the hallway, that Laurie lost her mind after finding out that the man she decapitated during the emotional climax of the previous film was not Michael after all. He was an innocent security guard, and Michael had actually crushed the poor father of three’s larynx and switched costumes with him, playing the ultimate trick on everyone. Yeah.
So, essentially in the opening scenes of the new film, the idea is to piss all over everything that came before and insult the fan base that has been along for the ride for all these years. Whoever came up with that one deserves an award for being a huge asshole.
Within the first ten minutes, Michael shows up at the asylum and hacks his way through a few bumbling guards, chasing Laurie to the roof of the building. Little does he know she has cleverly assembled an Ewok-level trap which he steps right into for some fucking reason! She pushes a button and has him dangling in the air by one roped foot, but hesitates, and he turns the tables and stabs her and she falls to her death after a sisterly smooch on the lips.
To hear the people responsible for this travesty call it a satisfying conclusion to the story of Laurie Strode is just plain offensive. This is not satisfying in any way, rather incredibly lame, disappointing, and downright unforgivable. You know what was a satisfying conclusion to her story? The ending of H20, that’s what! Okay, let me take a breath.
While it is tempting to just turn the damn thing off right there, it would be a shame to miss the one good performance in the whole movie. The kid in the dorm room who bursts in to warn the new batch of victims that they are, well, victims all the while caressing their panties on a drying rack. He is the best thing about the whole movie. What the Cabin In The Woods crew would refer to as “The Harbinger”, this kid eats the scenery alive in his few seconds on screen, and leaves the rest of the actors in the film to try and catch up to his incredible performance.
Considering that after the appearance of The Harbinger there are still about 80 minutes of film to fill up, we get a bunch of half-baked ideas thrown into a blender with a cast of one-dimensional characters all tossed sloppily into a ridiculous and technologically-naive scenario.
Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks show up for some fucking reason (well, the honest reason is that the producers learned that the Halloween films tested well with African-American audiences thanks to LL Cool J, and rushed to populate this sequel with more brown faces) as producers of some stupid show with an even more ridiculous name — Dangertainment. Seriously.
They assemble a fresh-faced cast of hot-at-the-time young stars (because that was what made H20 successful, right?) and fit them all with cameras in the goal of producing the biggest new thing in the “internet universe”, whatever that is. These one-dimensional future victims are brought to the childhood home of Michael Myers, in order to broadcast the scary night to the whole world through the grossly misunderstood 2002 world wide web.
I don’t even know if the characters have names, other than Bitch, Slut, Black Guy, Dorky Guy, Smart Redhead, and Edgy Leather Jacket Guy. The dialogue is stiff, forced and unconvincing, and sounds like what old guys think teenagers sound like. The characters are vacant and uninteresting. At one point Slut (or Bitch I can’t remember) asks Black Guy if all he ever thinks about is food. He might as well just answer, “Yes, because that is the only characteristic that they wrote for me.”
Oh yeah, there is also a subplot concerning the geeky kid who has an online crush with one of the victims, and corresponds with her using some giant primitive internet text messaging device. Seriously, what the fuck is that thing supposed to be?
Anyway, unbeknownst to any of these moronic caricatures, Michael has returned to his home. Apparently he has given up on his life-long goal of ending his bloodline (which would have logically led to him stalking Laurie’s still-living son) and only wants to come home, only to find it populated with nubile young victims. Could they make it any easier for him?
As expected, he takes them out one by one in a style that is meant to recall the first film but is just plain boring as filmed, seen through POV camera angles and grainy footage on security screens. Michael meets his match, however, when he comes across the one and only Busta Rhymes, who then proceeds to spin kick Michael in the face (while making Bruce Lee style noises) and ultimately electrocutes him right in the balls.
Yup, Michael Myers got taken out once and for all by a loud-mouthed rapper, who even proceeds to insult the legendary killer after his death. Which, of course, is followed by a lame jump scare attempt in the morgue which lets us know that he is still alive…zzzz
Certainly the worst entry in the whole series, and it can even be blamed for the franchise becoming ripe for a complete overhaul, which then leads us to Rob Zombie’s remakes, only serving as another reason to hate this movie. A pointless, ignorant and offensive entry to the series, this one will be collecting dust on my shelf while the originals will certainly come out again and again.
As for the special features, there is a lot to slog through, but most of them consist of on-set interviews, in which the actors and crew are forced to speak politely about the piece of garbage they knew they were unleashing on the world. A few alternate (but just as bad) endings and deleted scenes round out the bonus material, along with featurettes talking about how innovative the head cameras were and blah blah blah.
Laurie Strode:With a really big, sharp kitchen knife.
After almost 20 years of trying to escape her fate as the ultimate scream queen, at long last Jamie Lee Curtis decided to return to the role that made her famous. Setting aside her well-known distaste for the genre that had made her, she zealously came onboard to this sequel, hoping for a full reunion including original director John Carpenter.
Although for years Carpenter had been absent from the series as well, he agreed to return to the director’s chair for a nominal fee of $10 million. An exorbitant amount in the eyes of producer Moustapha Akkad, despite the fact that Carpenter’s original had grossed over $55 million on a budget of $300,000 back in 1978. In 1998, however, Carpenter remained adamant that he deserved to earn from his creation one way or the other and stood his ground.
That said, the director they finally brought on for the film was Steve Miner, a veteran of the early Friday the 13th films, who had recently worked with Jamie Lee Curtis on Forever Young. A script that abandoned all of the convoluted elements from the previous sequels was written by Robert Zappia, and was later polished by the ubiquitous-at-the-time Kevin Williamson. Considered a direct sequel to the events of Halloween II, it was meant to return the series to it’s roots as the suspenseful creation it had once been.The film was released on August 7th,1998 boasting the biggest budget yet in the history of the franchise.
While it seems very odd to just abandon the entire notion of everything Danielle Harris’ character of Jamie had gone through in the intervening years, the film quickly acknowledges that Laurie did indeed fake her death in a car crash before establishing a whole new life and continuity for the character. When we first see Laurie Strode all these years later, she is a tightly wound headmistress at an all-girls school, suffering from severe nightmares and barely keeping her functioning alcoholism under control.
Despite the fact that the film-makers all claim to have the intentions of returning the film to it’s humble beginnings, the script is one that tries too hard to be clever. The omnipresent in-jokes which populate the film, combined with distracting stunt-casting threatens to overwhelm the carefully built undercurrent of tension. The film is mostly successful, and ultimately much more satisfying than any of the previous sequels, if only for the delight the audience gets from returning to one of modern horror’s most beloved characters.
The connection to the original 1978 film is immediately established in the opening scenes of the film, as nurse Marion from Halloween 1 and 2 finds her office ransacked and robbed. The file on Laurie Strode has gone missing, and young neighbor Joseph Gordon Levitt gets an ice skate to the forehead for his efforts to help, while Michael makes a bee-line for his sister’s new home in Northern California. The opening credits roll with a haunting re-recording of Dr. Loomis’ chilling speech from the original, and all of this helps to make the audience feel that we are in familiar territory.
Laurie has a comfortable albeit jittery life at the school under the name Keri Tate, including a teenaged son and George Clooney-lookalike boyfriend. The aforementioned stunt-casting rears it’s head here for both better and worse. The good is in the form of Janet Leigh, Curtis’s mother and veteran of Hitchcock’s Psycho, as Laurie’s secretary still driving the classic car from her iconic appearance at the Bates Motel all those years ago. It is a great nod to the things that came before. Where the casting goes horribly wrong is rapper L L Cool J as the security guard of the school, with aspirations to become a romance novelist. His scenes and performance are hokey and distracting.
The film as a whole is without a doubt a product of it’s time. The slasher and franchise films were seemingly dead, and the Scream series (also written by Williamson) had debuted with a self-referential splash just two years before, changing the face of contemporary horror. So, obviously, more “homages” and references to the past populate the film, but it rarely distracts from the meat of the story, which is pretty lean and mean.
Although H20 does take it’s time getting to the finale that audiences had been clamoring to see for years, the slow and steady pace is in fact more reminiscent to the first film than any of the previous sequels ever came. It is also a bold move to change the setting completely from the streets of Haddonfield to a wide open and vacant boarding school, lending itself to some new ways to thrill the audience.
When Laurie comes face to face with her persistent brother at last, it is a showdown that works to great effect. When Laurie finally decides to stop running and go on the offensive, calling out for Michael while brandishing a fire axe, it is a rewarding sequence for fans of the films, a pay off twenty years in the making. The fight between them is decidedly epic, and leads to a touching moment between the disparate siblings a moment before she removes his head with a satisfying swing of her fire axe and fades into the credits with a ridiculously out of place Creed song.
Definitively ending the saga of Laurie vs. Michael which had begun two decades before, H20 was the most satisfying entry since the first one, and should have ended the series once and for all, with class and a soulful 90’s power ballad. But no, even decapitation couldn’t keep Michael down, as we will learn tomorrow when we take a look at the single most insulting film in the whole series, Halloween : Resurrection.
This new disc in the complete Blu-ray collection includes a brand new commentary with director Steve Miner and Jamie Lee Curtis, along with an all-new featurette, The Making of Halloween H20. Also included are some vintage interviews, the original trailer, and an interesting collection of scenes using the original, largely rejected score by John Ottman, which interestingly change the tone of the film quite a bit.
“When Michael Myers was six years old, he stabbed his sister to death. He was locked up for years in Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, but he escaped. Soon after, Halloween became another word for mayhem! One by one, he killed his entire family, until his nine-year-old niece, Jamie Lloyd, was the only one left alive. Six years ago – Halloween night – Michael and Jamie vanished. Most people believed them dead but I believe someone hid them away. Someone who keeps Michael, protects him… tries to control him. If there’s one thing I know, you can’t control evil. You can lock it up, burn it, and bury it, and pray that it dies, but it never will. It just… rests awhile. You can lock your doors, and say your prayers, but the evil is out there… waiting. And maybe, just maybe… it’s closer than you think!”
- Paul Rudd as Tommy Doyle, Halloween 6
The sixth film in the Halloween series took its sweet time in development, coming almost six years after the fifth film debuted as the lowest-grossing entry in the franchise history. Behind the scenes, however, there were many interested parties attempting to get another sequel off the ground. Legal squabbles over the rights to the film were delaying production, as Moustapha Akkad had somehow let the rights to his life’s work slip, and Miramax bigwigs the Weinstein brothers had slipped in for a piece of the Michael Myers pie. While all of these legal rumblings were taking their sweet time to get worked out, several different writers and directors made pitches for the direction of the next Halloween film, intriguingly including Quentin Tarantino (!) in 1994.
Ultimately, young aspiring screenwriter Daniel Farrands won the opportunity to write the script based on an extensively-researched treatment he put together on his own as a fan. A dream come true for a fan-boy, Farrands seemed to know more about the mythology and seemingly random plot points from previous entries in the series than the producers did and set about attempting to tie it all together with a big satisfying explanation for the many mysteries behind the pale faced stalker.
The sixth film begins abruptly with a replacement actress as the character of Jamie (despite the fact that Danielle Harris wanted to reprise her role so badly that she became legally emancipated at the age of 17 for that sole reason), now aged 15 and giving birth to a child under some adverse conditions. It is revealed (explicitly in the new cut) that the baby is the product of incest with her uncle, and Uncle Mike seems intent on finding the child. And we all know how Michael gets when he sets his mind to something…
Meanwhile, an elderly Donald Pleasence returns once again for the final time as Sam Loomis, and comes out of retirement after randomly hearing Jamie on the radio trying to warn the citizens of Haddonfield of her family’s return to town. There are a new family of Strodes, distantly connected to the adoptive parents of the original’s Laurie, and even the debut of Paul Rudd as a now grown up Tommy Doyle, the kid Laurie was babysitting that fateful first time that he came home. While Farrand’s tireless research and detailed connections to the past films are certainly respectable, after a while the film just feels bloated and bogged down with inconsequential references that do nothing to advance the story.
We get something for everyone, I suppose. A new group of disposable teens; a family with the sole purpose of gory deaths; a random radio shock jock; Paul Rudd lugging a baby everywhere he goes; a black-robed cult; a strangely placid (and un-scarred) Dr. Loomis — and all of these characters are forever tied to one pale-masked weirdo lurking in the shadows.
Eventually it is revealed that Michael has essentially been controlled by a cult of Druids for all of these years, suffering under “The Curse of the Thorn”. The symbol of the Thorn was first seen in Part 5, as an unexplained tattoo on the wrist of Michael and his mysterious benefactor in black. In this film it has an explanation : Thorn is an ancient Druid symbol that represented a demon that spread sickness and caused destruction. To prevent this, one child from each tribe was chosen to bear the curse of Thorn to offer a blood sacrifice of its next of kin on the night of Samhain. When the corresponding Thorn constellation appears, Michael appears. The curse explains why Michael is out to kill his family and also accounts for his superhuman resurrection abilities.
One last thing that always bothered me about this film is the inconsistent movements of Michael Myers, who was played by several different gentlemen this time around. There is a specific scene late in the film where, while not exactly running, Michael is pursuing one of his victims at a rapid pace, something we have never seen him do before. “The Shape” is best remembered for his professional lurking, and slow measured pace while he confidently stalks his victims. As a character that never speaks, who audiences have grown to recognize for years, the decision to have Michael suddenly speed-walking after his victims is laughable and appallingly inappropriate.
Of course, there is no one to definitively blame for the botched handling of this sequel, as the film had two directors, numerous on-set rewrites, re-shoots that took place months later under dodgy supervision, and as many as a dozen potential endings. A classic case of two many cooks in the kitchen, the uneven result is nevertheless a unique and ambitious entry into the series, especially if you look at parts 4, 5 and 6 as one complete story. It is impossible to point fingers in one direction, and Farrands even coined the subtitle “The Curse of Michael Myers” as a joke in reference to the troubled production itself. Ultimately though, in the sequels that followed, ALL of this storyline is dropped and never even mentioned again!
The inclusion in this new set of the long-rumored “Producer’s Cut” was one of the most interesting additions, making this one a must buy for me. After years of poor quality bootlegged versions of the film floating around the internet, we finally get treated to what is said to be a closer version of the story to the script than what audiences ultimately got in 1995. While the original ending is slightly more satisfying than the theatrical ending, by the final scenes of the film it has all become pretty complicated and frankly too silly to care all that much.
Overall, part 6 of the Myers saga is an ambitious but ultimately very flawed addition to the legacy of “evil on two legs”. While it is nice to see old plot threads followed up on and forgotten characters return, the complicated over-explanation of Michael and his motivations gets taken to a ridiculous degree in this sequel. In either version, the film ends up effectively destroying the mystery and enigma that originally was Michael Myers, and revealing him to be little more than a dog on a leash all these years. I have said it before and will say it again, it is the unknown which is scary. Audiences think they want all the answers, but they really do not. The horror of the original comes from the inexplicable lack of motivation, not from a cult of elderly weirdos in silk coats with high collars controlling the actions of evil.
Although the previous two films in this new set came with some pretty skimpy special features, this disc is crammed full of fascinating bonus items. As mentioned above, both the theatrical and the producer’s cuts are featured here, along with several interviews with various cast and crew and an audio commentary from lucky writer Farrands. Everyone seems to recall the troubled production differently, and while they generally acknowledge the production’s problems they tend to look back upon the film fondly and respectfully. That is, with the exception of Danielle Harris, who in an incredibly candid interview tells her side of the story of her exclusion from the film, and her dissatisfaction with her treatment. Also of interest are some very gory deleted scenes not found in either official cut of the film, and a nice tribute to the late Donald Pleasence, who passed away at the age of 75 during filming.
Both cuts of the film are dedicated to the memory of the legendary actor.
“I prayed that he would burn in hell. But in my heart, I knew that hell would not have him”
- Doctor Sam Loomis
According to long time Halloween producer Moustapha Akkad, “Drunk off the success of Halloween 4, we began production on Halloween 5.” And that drunkenness shows itself almost immediately after this haphazard sequel begins, considering they even forgot to put the subtitle “Revenge of Michael Myers” in the opening credits of the film.
Rushed to production after Michael’s return hit big at the box office, part 5 lurched into theaters just one year after the previous film. After a quick recap of the ending of part 4 that boldly changes things that were key to the previous plot, we see Michael floating down some river rapids and arriving at the shack of an old hermit. Going against all the priorities of most recluses, the old man takes him in and nurses him to health for a whole year before getting brutally murdered for his troubles.
We catch up with Michael’s niece Jamie as she convulses and cries at a children’s hospital, and find out that the shocking ending from the previous film has been altered to fit the new direction of the story as well. Both of these plot points feel like cheats in a way, but by this point the series had already proved to be increasingly forgetful of it’s past, so most audiences just rolled with it.
Donald Pleasence is back again as Loomis, looking weary and old but still spry enough to pop up with a cryptic warning or two whenever trouble is near. Also returning from the previous installment is Ellie Cornell as Rachel, although she gets stabbed in the chest with a pair of scissors early on and oddly no one even mentions her again.
Instead the rest of the film plays out with Rachel’s friend Tina as the main focus. It is an abrupt shift, and Tina has much less charisma than Rachel or Laurie or frankly any of the “final girls” from the glut of horror films at the time. Tina is one of those characters where the audience ends up just waiting around to see how she is going to die.
Admittedly rushed into production before a script was even finished, this attempt to throw as many ideas at the film as possible leads to some even more baffling twists and turns. A mysterious man in black appears, and lurks through the film as the half-formed idea that he is.
Jamie is inexplicably mute for the first half of the film, and rather than become like her uncle (as suggested by the awesome ending of the previous film) she has somehow developed a psychic connection with the killer and can predict his next strikes.
This leads the more-desperate-than-ever Dr. Loomis to plan a trap for his prey, with the little girl as bait. They lead Michael back to his old home and snare him in chains, and Loomis proceeds to shoot him with a tranquilizer gun and bash his head in with a wooden plank. He is taken off to a high security prison where it is promised he would never leave again.
In a clear afterthought ending, the mysterious man in black shows up at the prison and massacres the entire police force, and ends the film with the clear notion that Michael Myers is still on the loose.
It is tempting to criticize this sequel as lazy, but French director Dominique Othenin-Girard manages to pull off some memorable sequences in spite of the patchwork script. The early scenes where Michael is stalking in broad daylight are eerie and reminiscent of the classic original. Some of the kills are inspired, and the laundry chute scene was something new at least. The gore effects are great and were created by a very new studio called KNB, which would go on to become a leading name in special effects these days, and constantly had to be trimmed and toned down for the film to avoid the dreaded X rating.
The addition of the comic relief cops, however, should have been left on the cutting floor. And some of the tedious and jumbled plot points unnecessarily complicate the storyline, making it feel like it takes much longer to get to the climax of the film than it actually does.
Overall, Halloween 5 has gone down in history as one of the weakest entries, but after slogging through some of the more recent releases, part 5 still holds up as an interesting and stylish flick at times. It adds some mysterious elements that were picked up later, while dropping some intriguing plot threads from the previous films. The thing is, it is never scary at all, and the oddball plot threads give the film a strangely inconsistent tone, where the audience is mostly left in the dark with no one really to root for or give a shit about.
This edition of the release included in the new box set looks great on Blu-ray, but is another disc sparse on special features. It includes only audio commentaries with the director and a few of the stars, and one on-set featurette.
“Apocalypse, End of the World, Armageddon. It’s always got a face and a name. I’ve been huntin’ the bastard for 30 years, give or take. Come close a time or two. Too damn close! You can’t kill damnation, Mister. It don’t die like a man dies.”
- Jack Sayer, while sharing a drink with Sam Loomis.
After the bold box office failure that was Halloween III : Season of the Witch, the producers of the series scrambled to get their golden goose back on track. While the idea of a Myers-less Halloween had seemed like a brave idea, the films’ financial and critical disappointment was a hard pill to swallow.
One thing was for sure : audiences wanted more Michael Myers!
Rushed to release to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the now-classic original, Halloween 4 continued the trend of many behind the scenes voices guiding the direction of the films. John Carpenter and Debra Hill were initially brought on to return the film to its roots, with Carpenter as writer/director and Hill once again as producer. Carpenter teamed up with horror author Dennis Etchison to pen a script, and the wheels were in motion for Michael’s murderous return to his hometown.
According to Etchison, the story would have followed a more “supernatural” storyline, which seems in line with Carpenter’s original plans for the series. In an interview, Etchison says, “Halloween was banned in Haddonfield and I think that the basic idea was that if you tried to suppress something, it would only rear its head more strongly. By the very attempt of trying to erase the memory of Michael Myers, the teenagers were going to ironically bring him back into existence.”
Making a name for himself under the psuedonym Jack Martin, Etchison had already penned the novelizations for Halloween 2 and 3. Teaming with Carpenter for a new vision of The Shape seemed to be an excellent idea, but something went very wrong behind the scenes. The producers quickly rejected the script for being “too cerebral”, and this rejection led to Carpenter and Hill leaving the project (and ultimately the series), selling their interest in Halloween for good.
With producer Moustapha Akkad finally taking ownership of the rights and complete control over the direction of the series, he set about constructing his ideal sequel, bringing in director Dwight H Little and screenwriter Alan B. McElroy. With a writer’s strike looming, the script was completed in just eleven days, and ultimately gave us what Akkad refers to as “the most successful” of the Halloween films.
While it might have been the most successful financially, the film itself is not without it’s problems. For one thing, scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis is nowhere to be seen (other than a few keepsakes and photos), and the focus is suddenly shifted to her orphaned daughter when we learn that Laurie died in a tragic car accident years before.
Her daughter Jamie Lloyd, played by fresh-faced future scream queen Danielle Harris, is living with an adopted family, blissfully unaware of her murderous uncle. In an exposition-heavy opening scene, we see Michael Myers making his move for freedom during an ill-advised patient transfer in the middle of a rainy night on the eve of Halloween.
Donald Pleasence is back in pursuit, with some minor burn scars from being exploded way back in part 2, more frantic than ever as he makes his way back to Haddonfield. Loomis knows that Michael is “evil on two legs”, and goes above and beyond the call of duty to stop him.
The problem is that everything feels so rushed and contrived, and we as an audience are asked to just accept some odd connections and motivations. The family connections never sat well with me in the first place, as I always preferred the original version of Myers as an unstoppable unexplainable killing machine. The afterthought addition first introduced in part 2 connecting Laurie and Michael always seemed forced to begin with, and the rushed explanation of Laurie’s death in this sequel are jarring and honestly kind of offensive. So, we are supposed to believe that our sweet “final girl” immediately got knocked up after getting out of the hospital, then died unceremoniously in a random car accident?
But, if you can let all of that go, there are some fun thrills and kills to be had in this sequel, as Michael rampages his way back home, and a group of hicks, teenagers and cops team up with ol’ Doc Loomis to fight him off. The late 80s teenager characters are charming and it is fun to watch them get murdered. Danielle Harris is great as little Jamie, and Pleasence rants and raves with the best of them. The climactic scenes are fantastic, as Jamie and her adopted sister scramble to escape Michael on a rooftop, then lead him to his dramatic death, shot to bits by rednecks and lost down a mine shaft.
The final scenes are also excellent and one of the only unique ideas in the whole film, as somehow Michael transfers his evil to his niece, and we see her murder her adoptive mother with a pair of scissors in a nice first person homage to the original. Also, Loomis’ reaction here is priceless, as he instantly draws his gun and breaks down with frustration just before the credits roll.
It is unfortunate that this story thread was unceremoniously abandoned in the next film, as it could have made for an interesting new take on the mythology.
Overall, Halloween 4 is a fun watch with a really good cast. While the tone is inconsistent at times and some shots are jarringly strange (how did no one notice the Myers mask had blonde hair in that school scene?), it definitely gives those who were clamoring for more Michael after part 3 what they wanted. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel or do anything revolutionary, but is a solid slasher sequel that cemented Michael Myers as a true icon of modern horror.
This new edition collected in the box set unfortunately contains no special features, and has a strange audio sync issue about halfway through the film. Anchor Bay has offered up replacement discs to those who bought the set early and have since promised the discs will be corrected.
Although this disc is the sparsest, not even offering any feature commentaries, the new set does come with a bonus disc which contains two documentaries about the making of the fourth film. (FYI the bonus disc is packaged with Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2, so purists might not even be aware where to find it!)
“It’s time. It’s time. Time for the big giveaway. Halloween has come. All you lucky kids with Silver Shamrock masks, gather ’round your TV set, put on your masks and watch. All witches, all skeletons, all Jack-O-Lanterns, gather ’round and watch. Watch the magic pumpkin. Watch…”
- Commercial announcer, Halloween III
Categorized as either a huge failure or a bold experiment, depending on individual points of view, the second sequel in the Halloween franchise quickly followed just a year after part 2.
For all intents and purposes, Michael Myers was dead for good, his eyes shot out and his body burned to death along with Dr. Loomis in the finale of the second film.
The filmmakers were done with Myers as well, and this sequel proposed an ambitious new plan to make the “Halloween franchise” into a yearly anthology series of films focusing on a new storyline involving the holiday and new characters in each incarnation.
In fact, John Carpenter and Debra Hill are credited only as producers this time around, although their fingerprints and ideas are all over the finished film. Director Tommy Lee Wallace credits Hill with the original idea of “pod people”, even though he is solely credited as the writer of the film. In truth, Wallace was merely one of many who had his hand in this script, beginning with reknowned science fiction novelist Nigel Kneale. After the producers rejected Kneale’s script for unspecified reasons, Carpenter and Hill jumped in, and Wallace did a final polish before taking on the reigns of director.
Of course the biggest black mark against Halloween 3 is that our favorite masked madman Michael Myers is nowhere to be seen (unless you count the cameo he makes on the TV screen in the bar, meta before meta was cool). But, as the creators contended, Myers was dead, his story was told, and the time had come to move on to something fresh and different. If Carpenter had gotten his way, every year would have brought us a new Halloween-centric film with a new plot and new characters, and we would be celebrating over thirty years of innovative film-making right now.
But sadly, it was not to be. Halloween 3 was a huge disappointment to fans of Michael Myers, and they were in the vocal majority at the time of the release, ultimately killing this experimental film in its opening weekend.
Halloween 3 starts off a week before the titular holiday, where after an awe-inspiring (for the early 80s) digitized pumpkin shows off the credits, we witness the horrible untimely death of shop owner Harry Grimbridge. Grimbridge mutters “They’re going to kill us all” while clutching a children’s Halloween mask as he is being admitted to the hospital, and later is murdered in his hospital bed by a mysterious man.
His doctor Daniel Challis (played with manly gusto by Tom Atkins) is drawn into the mysterious death, partly due to the arrival of the dead man’s attractive young daughter, Ellie (cutie Stacey Nelkin). The pair’s investigation leads them to a small company village in northern California called Santa Mira (named after the town in Invasion of the Body Snatchers), and they start to realize something big is going down right in time for the horrific holiday.
A sci-fi throwback with a cruel streak a mile long, it is easy to see why audiences didn’t immediately connect with this material, especially when they were expecting a “knife movie” and got a weird little “pod movie”. As the mystery is revealed slowly and deliberately, the bad guy (played with relish by Dan O’Herlihy) lays out his sinister plan for world domination via party masks in long monologues like an overconfident Bond villain.
The bleak ending is unique for its time, and for any film really. Although in a later interview, star Tom Atkins says that he thinks his character finally accomplished his mission and stopped the insidious commercial from infecting the minds of masked children everywhere. This overly hopeful outlook is not the way most audiences see it however, as the ambiguous ending suggests that the bad guys actually won and turned the heads of all the children of the world into mushy nests of insects and snakes.
As always, when looking back at these older films, it is important to keep in mind the huge changes in the world over the intervening thirty years or so. At the time, all of the major horror franchises that we now consider classics were just in the beginning stages. Satanic panics and rumors of teenage cult memberships were considered realistic threats to society. Halloween, the holiday, was at its peak in popularity and trick-or-treaters were everywhere, despite the underlying strangeness of the customs. Technology was new and scary. All of these elements make their way into the film, and work in varying degrees then and now.
The Silver Shamrock theme song deserves mention here, as it finds a way to burrow into the viewers head like the best of ear-worms, and lends credence to the mind control/subliminal message plot that is in motion. Set to the tune of the handily public domain song “London Bridge is Falling Down”, it takes only the briefest snatch of the song to take hold somewhere deep in the pysche of the viewer, and does not fail to make the viewers uncomfortable.
One of the coolest additions to this release is the documentary Stand Alone, featuring recent interviews with earnest director Tommy Lee Wallace. After over thirty years of criticism and being forced to defend his film, it is nice to see the cult following it developed and Wallace to finally get his props for some unbelievably bold film-making.
Ultimately, Halloween 3 inhabits a strange kind of bizarro place in the canon of the series. The red-headed stepchild of the series, abused for years, that finally reveals itself to be better and more useful than anyone ever realized. If only the minds of horror fans in the early 80s had been open to new and unique concepts, we would have been spared years of repetitive sequels in favor of something new and different to look forward to each year.
More on that tomorrow, but in the meantime…
I will say that what got me through writing that script was… Budweiser. Six pack of beer a night, sitting in front of the typewriter saying, “What in the hell can I put down?” I had no idea. We’re remaking the same film, only not as good.
- John Carpenter, on writing the script for Halloween II
Three years after the original Halloween had become the biggest grossing independent film of all time and inspired dozens of cheap imitations, a follow-up appeared in theaters continuing the struggle of good vs. evil. Although the first film is obviously a complete work of art, the audience and especially the producers who had profited so greatly were clamoring for more.
Picking up just minutes after the end of the first film, Halloween II suffers from the simple fact that sometimes “more” is just too much. After retooling the original for television with new sequences that hint at the connections between The Shape and his “Final Girl”, this sequel introduces the idea that the two are in fact related, and gives the unkillable stalker a vague motive, for the first time letting on that Michael’s ultimate goal (for some still unknown reason) is to kill his whole family.
This new development is the first (of many) wrong steps that filmmakers made in demystifying the character of “The Shape”. Although as time and the subsequent sequels will prove, this film adds that plot point while planting more seeds of mystery to the origin and story of Michael Myers. The script drops hints that will get picked up and retooled later in the series, but here they are more misdirection and an attempt to recapture that unknowable feeling of an unstoppable killing machine at the same time they are humanizing him. It doesn’t really work, nor does it fail as miserably as some of the later entries.
After her horrifying ordeal, we meet up with Laurie that night at the hospital (three years older and wearing a wig to make her look the teenage part), as she goes in and out of a comatose state. Apparently, Jamie Lee Curtis was not exactly thrilled to reprise the role that had made her into the first of a new generation of “scream queens”, but came back out of loyalty to John Carpenter.
Carpenter, however, seemed to be taking the film less seriously and his interviews looking back on his work for the film are pretty amusing. It is easy to forget that he was not a household horror name at the time, and had many promising projects in the works at the time. For example, in between the time of the first and second Halloween films, Carpenter had directed The Fog and Escape From New York, and he was prepping to shoot what many consider his greatest achievement, The Thing. So it is hard to blame him for passing on the director job for the highly anticipated sequel, and pretty funny to think of him drinking beer and trying to come up with someone for Michael Myers to murder. As he puts it in an interview, “Hey I’m a capitalist. If they want to pay me, I will do the work.”
Another familiar face back to rant for his paycheck, Donald Pleasance returns to the role of Dr. Loomis once again, and attempts to track his charge and scare the shit out of everyone with his cryptic ramblings. A freak accident (that no one seems too concerned about) concerning a speeding police car slamming into an innocent trick or treater, leads Loomis and the police to believe Michael is dead. But the determined Loomis knows better, and follows the trail, finding clues that vaguely connect his charge to occult business.
While Laurie whines and flirts with the orderly in the hospital, the real Michael is coming at her with the same conviction as ever. Although this time around, The Shape is played by stunt coordinator Dick Warlock (best name ever), he is as unstoppable as before, tracking his victim (who Loomis and the audience finally learns is Michael’s sister) all the way to the hospital.
Although Carpenter turned down the directing job, he hand picked director Rick Rosenthal for the job. Rosenthal treats the material respectfully, and tries his best to mimic Carpenter’s style from the original, but as the writer himself concedes, this is lesser material. Carpenter claims he was pressured to add more gore and grue to the film in post production, saying that the rough cut he saw was “about as scary as Quincy”. Carpenter actually was brought in during post-production and oversaw some new inserts into Rosenthal’s cut, adding a scene where Michael knifes a girl before heading to the hospital, along with some amped-up blood during the kills. Rosenthal, on the other hand, didn’t care for the changes, and contends that the post-shoot meddling “ruined his carefully paced film”.
Overall, Halloween II is a good continuation of a story that didn’t necessarily need continuing. This is a sequel from a time when sequels were not what we now know them to be, but this one set another precedent that has been aped for years now. If John Carpenter would have had his way, the story of Michael Myers would have ended here, in fire, and we would have had new Halloween-themed original films for the past 35 years or so. The decision to end it once and for all was Carpenter’s, as his script called for Michael’s eyes to get shot out and he is burned to death along with his pursuer in the climactic sequence. In a 1982 interview, Carpenter said matter-of-factly, “The Shape is dead. Pleasence’s character is dead, too, unfortunately.”
This new Blu-ray edition contains both the theatrical version of the film and a television edit for NBC, which removes much of the added gore and cuts in more expository scenes, one which shows The Shape cutting the power to the facility, and also boasts an alternate “happy” ending, if anybody wondered what happened to Jimmy the orderly in the original cut. My only gripe is that there is not an option to watch the added scenes outside of the TV cut, but it is nice to have everything included here. Deleted scenes, new commentaries, a return to the original shooting locations and an extensive making of featurette round out this release.