It’s All Connected: The Monster Club (1981)

Alright, so yesterday’s supposed team-up of Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, the awesomely titled Scream & Scream Again, may have fallen flat for not making even the remotest amount of sense. However, It’s All Connected must keep going and I wouldn’t let a minor bump in the road slow me down! No, I decided to persevere and even try for another epic old horror guy team up: The Monster Club! Would I join this club?

enter, if you dare…

The Chronological Carpenter: Escape From New York (1981)

escape-from-new-yorkGood golly, has it really been NINE months since I posted about a John Carpenter movie? Well, after checking out 1980’s The Fog last fall, I actually watched the next two films in relatively quick succession (for me at least). But, I never got around to writing about those films: Escape From New York and The Thing. I wanted to get back on this train, so I watched Escape again and here we go.

escape from new york poster 1The first thing that struck me about this film is the scope. All of Carpenter’s movies revolve around strange things happening in the real world (masked killers, ghost pirates, stalkers and voodoo gangs) which create these smaller, twisted realities. But, with Escape, he’s creating a whole world. The Big Apple has been abandoned, the island has been walled off and turned into a prison. On top of all that set dressing we also have characters who all feel like they’re as lived in and sometimes legendary as possible.

And a lot of that comes from Kurt Russell’s portrayal of Snake Plissken. The man doesn’t say much, looks cool and is known by EVERYBODY (even if he’s shorten than expected). He’s also got a deep history hinted at but never fully delved into. This is a nice trick that’s played in comics when it comes to characters like Punisher, Wolverine and John Constantine where we’re impressed (and possibly scared) by them because just about everyone else is. Russell fills the role with his own presence and created an iconic character who continues to inspire comic books and toys to this day.

escape from new york poster 2Adding to that, you’ve also got the denizens of New York, one of the strangest groups of people this side of Thunderdome. Creeps, weirdoes, evil geniuses, murderers and Cabbie? Seriously, why is Ernest Borgnine in this place?! He seems so nice (except for when he ditches everyone). Questions like that might not come the first time you watch the film, but pop up the more times you check it out which broadens the world.

On the surface, it might seem like Escape is an outlier in Carpenter’s filmography because there aren’t any supernatural forces at work, but if you look a little deeper you’ve got the clear influence of westerns (lone gunman with a reputation entering a place and getting the job done), the concept of being trapped by something nefarious and Carpenter’s growing cast of actors who appeared in several of his movies like Russell, then-wife Adrienne Barbeau and Halloween‘s Donal Pleasence as the president (who gives a great latter day Loomis performance here).

 

As much as I like this movie, I have a weird relationship with it. As it turns out, I think I actually watched the sequel Escape From LA first back in high school, so there are huge portions of that movie that live in my brain because that was back when I could absorb the most information. Because of that, I kept wondering when the map seller would show up or when the basketball scene would happen. The other problem is that I seem to fall asleep during this movie more than any other. I don’t know what it is, maybe the music or the subdued performances from many of the cast members. More likely, it’s the fact that I can barely stay up past 11:30 these days. Whatever the case, I’ve started this film more times than I’ve finished it and yet I still love the opening 20 minutes which sets everything up so well. I’d love to see this one on the big screen to really feel the full force of this huge, sprawling and yet subtle at times world that Carpenter crafted.

You might be expecting me to move on to The Thing next, but that won’t be the case. Much like with Halloween, I love that horror classic a lot and, as I mentioned above, watched it not too long ago. I find its best to not overdo it when it comes to favorite horror movies because they can lose some of their power if you’re TOO familiar with them. I think it’s also safe to say that I don’t have much in the way of unique thoughts on the masterpiece of stranded, paranoid beauty he created there (plus I wrote about it a bit back in 2011). That means I’ll be moving on to Christine in the near future!

Halloween Scene: The Halloween Marathon

halloween poster I wasn’t very creative when it came to my Halloween movie marathon this year. On the 30th, I was flipping through Netflix to see what was available on Instant when I realized I should ring in one of my favorite holidays with my favorite slasher movie, Halloween. As it turned out, I was too tired to finish the film (I seem to be turning more and more into an old man with each passing day), but I did wind up watching the rest of the original, 2, 4, 5 and Curse on Halloween. I popped the discs in my computer and watched them pretty small, but with a toddler running around, it’s not like I can watch these movies on what she calls “the big TV.”

As I mentioned in my list of movies that scared me, the original Halloween still gets to me. Since I’ve reviewed all of these movies before, though, I’ll probably just drop a few highlights and things I wanted to point out. I can’t believe I didn’t point this out before, but most of the kids in Haddonfield are complete asshats and are throughout the series. I also like how you don’t get much explanation for why Michael is the way  he is or how he can do the things he does. Also, it’s crazy how much you see of Michael in this film.

One question was answered for me on this watching. I’ve always thought it was crazy how Michael could plan out his kills so well and pose them and all that. This time, I noticed that Loomis said he’d been basically planning this night for 20 years. Makes sense to me! Here’s something else to think about: while Michael was planning, do you think he knew that he couldn’t be killed or did he go in thinking he was human?

I also realized another reason why this movie is so effective: it has so many different scary elements going on. There’s Carpenter’s score, the sense of being followed in broad daylight, the primal fear of the night, the kills, all of the performances from the young women, everything about Michael from his size to his faceless appearance, the fact that Laurie’s protecting children (something I never really thought about before). Chances are pretty good, this film hits on at least one of your fears.

halloween 2 poster Halloween II, which was penned by original writers John Carpenter and Debra Hill with Rick Rosenthal directing, carries on that legacy of combining multiple fears, this time adding in new elements: the fear of hospitals, the fear of being drugged and helpless and that sense of dread that comes from knowing what Michael can do and him still being loose (if that makes sense).

One big story detail that I never really thought about much was how young Michael Myers is. Loomis says he’s 21. That’s super young! Also, while the first one felt a lot more planned out — because it was, as noted above — Michael is a lot more reactionary in this one, trying to get the one that got away. This movie also picks up on something else I thought about while watching the first movie: Michael wasn’t super secretive about being out on Halloween, so people must have seen him, right? That’s mentioned a bit in this film.

I think this is a pretty solid sequel, but it lacks a little focus when it comes to characters. First it seems like the one nurse is the focus, then it switched to the one who gets drowned/burned, then back to the blonde nurse. Laurie’s of course up for the part, but she doesn’t really do much throughout the film until the end. And, as usual, Loomis is all over the place. That plus, the fact that Rosenthal’s no Carpenter, makes this movie not quite as good as the original, but still a solid offering in my opinion.

halloween 4 poster I skipped Season Of The Witch because I watched it casually a few weeks ago and it also holds no bearing on what I like to call the main series. For what it’s worth, I still love that weird movie. Anyway, the slasher’s story continued with Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers. This one introduces Laurie Strode’s daughter Jamie who shares a strange connection with her uncle Michael who has been kept in an asylum for the ten years between 2 and 4. First and foremost it needs to be said how damn good Danielle Harris is as Jamie in this and the next film. She has a heaviness to her that doesn’t come easy for actors, especially child ones.

Anyway, this film continues a few of the themes I’ve noticed. The kids in this movie are even worse than the ones in the original. They straight-up make fun of Jamie for having a dead mom. Even worse, one of the kids sullies his MASK costume by being a total jerkwad. This film also expands on the parties involved in the Michael Myers threat. In the first one it was Loomis, teenagers and eventually the cops. With the second the teens were swapped out for hospital employees. In this one you get the hick-ish lynch mob as well. Plus, since we’re dealing with a story that takes place 10 years after the original, there’s people who have lived with that initial tragedy. I think there’s an interesting commentary here about how we bury our past to the point where it can come back and stab us with a shotgun.

Another more esoteric thing that came to mind while watching these movies is that they’re as much about regular people trying to comprehend the idea of an unkillable man as they are about the man himself. In the real world you can write certain things off as tricks of the light or your mind playing tricks on you, but in these movies, some of the characters discover that those things might also be Myers. They also have to deal with the insanity that comes from experiencing these things. In Loomis’ case, these recurring meet-ups have clearly played with his sanity.

Halloween 5 poster

Halloween 5 picks up where 4 left off, showing how Michael survived the end of the previous film and catching us up on Jamie since she stabbed her step mom. She’s not speaking now, which leads to some super creepy and sad moments, but now shares an even stronger connection with her recently revived uncle.

I actually don’t have too much to add to my initial review of this film. Harris is still awesome as Jamie. Michael’s still scary. Loomis is still increasingly crazy. One element of this film that really stood out to me this time around was how dangerous it felt. In addition to terrorizing a child, Michael kills Rachel, a character you would think was off limits.

While watching this movie I realized that one of the great things about the Halloween series is that the sequels are so easily distinguishable. After a while the Friday The 13th films get really confusing, same with the Nightmare movies, but each Halloween flick is different enough that they’re pretty easy to keep straight.

Halloween-The-Curse-of-Michael-Myers-movie-poster

The first time I went through and watched the sequels, I was surprised with how much I liked 4 and 5, and wound up not liking Curse. Much like my recent re-watching of Jason Goes To Hell, though, I found myself liking this film a lot more the second time around. I think a big part of that is knowing that it’s not super great and having lower expectations. Paul Rudd is stellar in this film, bringing a crawling intensity to his portrayal of an older Tommy Doyle. I will say that this film tries a little too hard to make connections to the previous films though. Jamie (not Harris) is in the beginning, her baby is a major part of the story, then you’ve got the Strodes inexplicably living in the Myers house (was her dad unable to sell it and just had to move in?). I think there’s a real tragic story behind Mr. Strode’s decent into assholery.

Even though this isn’t a great movie and I didn’t see it until much later, I feel like I can relate to aspects of it a lot more because it was filmed in the 90s which were a very formative decade for me. There’s a Power Ranger in the kid’s bedroom. Plus, the music and clothes are of my youth, so even though I know it’s not great and I’ve only seen it twice, there’s a familiarity there that I relate to on some level.

And with that, we conclude what I consider the main Halloween series. When Jamie Lee Curtis returned for Halloween H2O and Resurrection, those films ignored parts 46 which I still think is kind of lame. Anyway, Michael Myers is still my favorite slasher and I think this series still holds up pretty well, especially if you think of the original as more of an outlier of quality (in the positive direction) than an indicator of the whole series which is far below that. This season I also watched every single Friday The 13th film for a list I did on Topless Robot called The 20 Most Deserving Victims In The Friday The 13th Films and I can easily say that Halloween is the more solid franchise, though there will always be a soft spot in my horror heart for all the classic 80s slasher franchises.

One last quick thought about the series. Whether conscious or not, I think these films share a lot of connections with Night Of The Living Dead. I know they’re completely different, but the opening scenes of both movies reminded me of one another. Night starts with that long shot of the car slowly driving up the winding road while Halloween has the long POV shot of young Michael taking out his sister. Then, in the second film someone’s actually watching Night. Plus, as I noted above, these films focus on regular people dealing with horrific elements that challenge their traditional thoughts on death.

Halloween Scene: Scream Factory’s Halloween II

Seeing as how it’s Halloween, I wanted to watch a few new horror flicks today, but instead decided to stop wasting time with something that might suck and watching a movie I already know I like presented by the best DVD-makers around, Shout Factory. I actually got the Halloween II Collector’s Edition from their Scream Factory imprint back when I got the one for Halloween III: Season of the Witch, but was saving it for a special occasion. Today seemed appropriate enough, so I went with it.

Before getting into the bonus features, of which I only got through about half, I want to say a few nice things about this movie. I reviewed this one way back in 2008, and while that post is filled to the gills with spelling errors, I still agree with it. ,mv I think this is an underrated sequel. It doesn’t come near topping the o/. riginal, but I give it a lot of credit for mixing things up, getting into a different location and keeping the horror a lot more tight and claustrophobic.

I didn’t realize before how important the setting is to this film. In addition to giving Michael Myers one specific place to haunt for a period of time, you’re also dealing with a lot of the inherent fears that come from being in a hospital. While in a hospital you’re by definition not feeling well or something’s wrong, so you’re altered emotionally, but then you’ve got all these strangers walking in and out and doing things to you you might not understand. Who’s to say all of those people have your best interest in mind? Put a masked killer on top of all that and you’ve got a pretty great recipe for scares.

Okay, now on to the bonus features. I haven’t watched the second disc which contains the TV version of the film, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, so that’s something to look forward to. I also didn’t have time to re-watch the movie with commentary, but will keep it in mind next time I need something to listen to while working. I did watch the documentary The Nightmare Isn’t Over: The Making Of Halloween II which is a great viewing experience, just like its brother over on the H3 Scream Factory release.

One of the most interesting pieces of info I learned from the doc is that they actually shot an ending where it’s revealed that Jimmy lived. The interesting part isn’t that it got cut, but that director Rick Rosenthal didn’t know it got cut. He said there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen and he didn’t know who cut it. They then talked about the TV cut, which was apparently done more under John Carpenter’s direction and included newly shot scenes with the cast when Rosenthal wasn’t there.

I also once again enjoyed an installment of Horror’s Hollowed Grounds with HorrorHound‘s Sean Clark. He’s not joined by the director like he was with the H3 version, but he’s still full of info and it’s always neat to see locations from the flicks and how they’ve changed or, more interestingly, not changed over the decades. Clark’s attention to detail is always impressive. It’s also fun to see locations from other movies right next to these shooting locations.

Once again, Shout’s Scream Factory arm did an awesome job putting together the kind of presentation that the second best Michael Myers movie deserves. This is far better than the single disc version I already had in my collection and will take that spot with ease.

Halloween Scene: Prince Of Darkness (1987)

This is not going to be a very good review. I watched John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness yesterday on Netflix Instant, but was distracted by work and whatnot. Now, usually, I’d scrap the review, but I actually really liked what I saw in the second half of this movie and want to talk about it, so here it is.

The plot, from what I gleaned, finds a research group trying to figure out what a green substance is found in a dead priest’s cylinder. As they discover, it’s actually the essence of the anti-Christ, which wants to get out and infect people, starting with the staff with an intent to move out into the world at large unless they can figure out a way to stop it.

I missed a good deal of that plot thanks to work, but tuned in better towards the end when part of the group was possessed and going after the others. It was interesting because the movie felt like a reasonable synthesis of Carpenter’s other movies with healthy doses of The Thing in there. Like that movie, you’ve got a group of researchers infiltrated by forces unknown that take over the bodies/appearance of their comrades. You also have a very confined setting, this time because of a mob of murderous homeless people instead of ice, but it’s the same general idea, one that also comes through in Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13. I didn’t find a lot of Halloween in here aside from some similar musical cues, but that’s just more of Carpenter’s overall soundtrack stylings than anything else, I think.

This will sound a bit funny, but I’m continually impressed with the effects work seen in Carpenter’s movies. Since I’m most familiar with Halloween and didn’t expose myself to the rest of his movies until I was older, I still think of him in that vein. Of course, the majority of his output includes much crazier special effects, but even so, I was surprised with some of the stuff going on in PoD and not just the gore make-up, which looked great (mostly). There’s some cool looking water effects done with trick photography that look so much better than they would if done today with CGI.

This is part of what Carpenter refers to as his Apocalypse Trilogy which started with The Thing and ends with In The Mouth of Madness, which I haven’t seen but is on Netflix Instant. There’s no real connection between these films aside from non-traditional endings and dark forces trying to take over the world, but for me, there isn’t enough of either in movies anyways. Even half-watching this movie as I did makes me want to check out more of Carpenter’s films. I started Village of the Damned last night which I hope to finish and then I’m going hit up ITMOM sometime soon. After a while, I plan on returning to Prince of Darkness and giving it a much more thorough viewing

Halloween Scene: Seeing Halloweeners

Much like spying Lost cast members, I love seeing folks from the Halloween movies (well, the ones I’ve seen and liked at least) in other flicks. I’ve recently had the pleasure and surprise of seeing Danielle Harris and Donald Pleasence in various flicks I didn’t even know they were in.

Danielle Harris popped up as a kid in two flicks about dads she doesn’t really like who get into some crazy situations. First up, I watched a movie called Back to Back (1996) starring her and Michael Rooker (who I’ve only seen in Mallrats, he looks kinda funny with hair). Oh, Bobcat Goldthwait is in it too and is super annoying, but don’t worry, he gets blown up pretty good.

Back to Back is not a good movie. It’s not altogether bad, it’s just kind of unremarkable. Rooker and Harris get kidnapped by this guy who has a score to settle with someone for some reason, so he escapes from a police station and blah blah blah. I guarantee you’ve seen this kind of movie before done better. But, if you’re like me and you’re looking for something to watch on Netflix Instant, you can probably do worse.

Harris also appeared as the angry daughter in The Last Boy Scout (1991). I’ll be honest, I wasn’t all that interested in the movie and still haven’t finished it from early last week (I had pretty bad luck picking movies as I’m sure I’ll get to in further detail in upcoming posts). I’m sure there’s some good stuff in there, I just need to finish it out. Thanks to this commute, though, it’ll be rough. Anyone want to give me one of those plug-in internet things? I’d greatly appreciate it and even plug the heck outta you, for what it’s worth.

On the Donald Pleasence front, I peeped him in two movies as well, first up the Sean Connery James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967). In it, Pleasence plays Blofeld, the big villain for the early Bond flicks. Pleasence was the first guy to play Blofeld in person (you saw him petting his cat a lot and feeding fish before this) and boy does he look crazy nutso, but in a good way. It’s pretty clear that Donnie here was the inspiration for Dr. Evil in Austin Powers (down to the suit and even some of the mannerisms).

Pleasence also appeared in the 1979 version of Dracula starring Skeletor-Nixon himself Frank Langella as Drac. I read about the movie on Horror Movie A Day and thought it sounded pretty good. I was bored to tears for most of it, but Pleasence played a mental institute-running Dr. Jack Seward. He didn’t do much but be a dad for the parts I saw (this was another movie I couldn’t get through, even being a captive audience on a train. Ah well, you can’t go wrong with crazy Pleasance, though he still, in my opinion, never topped the upper echelon’s of crazy-old-guy he reached in Halloween 6.

Halloween Sccene: Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

2008-12-03
4:31:42 am

Wow. Faithful readers will remember that I was pleasantly surprised watching the Halloween sequels by how much I liked them. Well, that all changed with the fifth. The best part about Curse is Paul Rudd, an actor I love in his comedic rolls (Wet Hot American Summer, Knocked Up, Friends, etc.). Rudd plays Tommy Doyle who you may remember as the kid Laurie’s babysitting in the original flick. Well, now he’s a melodramatic college student obsessed with Michael Myers. Rudd jumps into the role with an intensity that gives Donald Sutherland’s Loomis a run for his money. Seriously though, as bad as the movie is, it’s kind of worth it just to watch Rudd.

Of course, that might not be enough for most people and I don’t blame ’em as there’s all kinds of craziness going on. First off (not chronologically, of course, just the first thing to pop into my head as I watched this movie over a week ago), the Myers house is being lived in by Laurie Strode’s adoptive family the Strodes. Now, this is incredibly frustrating on a few levels. First off, it looks absolutely nothing like the house. It’s the wrong shape, the wrong color, the rooms are different, the basement is different and the yard is the wrong shape. Maybe you’re average viewer wouldn’t notice something like that, but your average Halloween fan will. Oh, also, the Strodes appear to have no knowledge of Michael Myers and the dad is a complete jerk. He’s close to unbearable to watch.

Really, the only reason they’re in the movie is to have some weird connection to Laurie, oh yeah and their daughter has a kid who has some unexplained connection to Michael which leads him to wander over towards the killer at times. What?! It makes no sense and the only purpose it serves is to get his mom closer to Michael.

So what’s the plot? To be honest I’m not all the way sure. In the beginning you’ve got Michael’s pregnant niece Jamie as a teenager. Some weird dudes in robes kidnap her and force her to give birth in their weird warehouse place. Jamie eventually escapes with her baby but dies. Somehow (I can’t really remember, to be honest) Paul Rudd winds up with the baby. Meanwhile, Loomis is on the hunt as Michael starts attacking again, older and crazier than ever. Loomis is dealing with a doctor (played by Greg’s dad from Dharma and Greg) who SPOILER turns out to be head of the cult.

We also find out that Michael appears to be related to some kind of druid curse, which is an element I actually liked as it’s a fairly creative use of what’s been laid down before it and makes sense (like a Geoff Johns comic). Anyway, it gets fumbled by the poor directing. The whole movie looks like it was made for TV instead of the big screen (which may have been the case as I don’t really remember seeing ads for this movie in 1995, but hey, my memory sucks).

Meanwhile, the rest of the movie gets pretty well fumbled as there’s no real ending (apparently Sutherland passed away during filming and they didn’t really have an ending so they just threw something together, ugh). Michael does way too much corpse-posing which is an element I appreciated in the early films, but after watching 6 or so Friday the 13th movies, it’s getting old. That added to the poor choice for the Myers house and the general lack of likable characters and a coherent plot really make this a disappointing finale to the original Halloween series. I’m still waiting to watch H2O and Resurrection (or whatever it’s called), but I’m not really looking forward to them which is why I’m taking a bit of a horror break to watch some (hopefully) good action movies.

Halloween Scene: Halloween 5 (1989)

2008-10-28
2:22:39 am

This might sound funny, but I keep watching the Halloween movies expecting to not like each subsequent sequel. But I’ll tell you, I dig H5 for the most part too. Sure it has it’s problems, but I Michael Myers is still my favorite slasher and I just love seeing him skulking behind clueless dudes and dudettes. And you know what? Danielle Harris is awesome as Jamie. She’s 12 in this one (she was 11 in the previous one) and I think she does a damn good job of acting scared. It might seem easy at first thought and I’ve never personally been chased by a maniac with a knife, but I feel like her fear fills up the screen just as much as the images. Good for her.

The basic idea behind H5 is that Jamie’s getting hunted by her uncle, Michael Myers but folks like Dr. Loomis, Jamie’s step sister Rachel and Rachel’s friend Tina are standing between The Shape and this little girl. But as you might remember from the very end of H4 Jamie stabbed her step mom. They kind of explain that away by saying Jamie was influenced by her uncle. In this flick, Jamie’s got some kind of psychic connection to her uncle that gives her a kind of Spidey Sense when Michael’s killing someone.

Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis gets even crazier in this sequel and it’s awesome. Watching the transformation from movie to movie has been pretty fun. In this one he threatens another police officer and grabs Jamie as bait. It’s a great bit of business because we’re not sure if Loomis is really nuts and wants to end the madness by letting Michael kill Jamie or if it’s a trap for Michael.

I also really like the opening credits. You get treated to scenes of a knife slashing through something that turns out to be a pumpkin. There’s just something so brutal about the knife work. It does a good job of setting the sometimes brutal tone that the movie has.

But it’s not all love and hugs for H5. There’s a character that he only see in profile or at ankle level dubbed The Man in Black that breaks Michael out of jail at the end. He seems to have only been introduced to do just that. He’s not a character he’s just a plot point.

Another problem I have is how easily duped the Haddonfield police department is. For a force that now has a SWAT team (hey, it’s about time, if for no other occasion than the yearly murderfest, they should get their own tank) they make a really stupid mistake. They’re all camped out at the Myers’ house until Jamie has a vision of Michael attacking the children’s hospital. Loomis and the cops actually listen, but then ALL OF THE COPS leave the house and go to the hospital. Really guys? You’ve never heard of a bait and switch? Sheesh. Loomis knows right away.

Sure there are stumbling blocks along the way, but I think H5 looks pretty good for a movie rushed into production a year after H4 came out. And yet again, I find myself not looking forward to Curse of Michael Myers, except for the performance of a young Paul Rudd. After that I’ve got H20, Resurrection and, huh, the remake. I’m REALLY not looking forward to those three.

Halloween Scene: Halloween 4 The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

2008-10-05
2:18:47 am

Last night everyone (Em and her visiting parents) went to bed at about 9:30 so I was left with a pile of comics and the TV to myself. I wasn’t really feeling a horror movie yet, so I read comics and then watched The Soup (love that show). I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I popped 300 in, but instead of watching that I saw the top 7 songs on VH1’s Top 100 Hip Hop Songs of All Time (or whatever they called it) followed by a documentary about NWA which was really interesting (I was definitely not paying attention to rap at the time so it was a great education on the time period as well the music).

Well after that I was faced with a question, should I just watch 300 or another Halloween Scene flick? Well, horror won out and I popped Halloween 4 in even though I wasn’t very excited about it. And let me tell you, I was pleasantly surprised.

I originally watched most of these slasher movies in high school, so it’s been quite a while in most cases, plus I think I watched some of them out of order. Needless to say, it’s hard to keep everything straight (just wait until I start watching the Friday the 13th flicks). H4 is a great addition to the Halloween franchise as well as a great movie on its own.

It’s 10 years later (remember that, even though H2 came out a few years after the original it was still set on the same night, so it works out time-wise) and we’re introduced to Jamie, who is Laurie Strode’s daughter which makes her somewhere between 7 and 10 I think, I can never tell how old kids are. Laurie and her husband died so now Jamie is living with another family including older “sister” Rachel. And, of course, Michael Myers is still around. Apparently both he and Loomis survived the huge explosion at the end of H2 and Michael ended up in an asylum where he’s been for the last 10 years. It’s not until he’s getting transported to another facility (without Loomis’ knowledge) that he hears about Jamie’s existence, goes crazy and makes his way back to Haddonfield.

Instead of the fake out scares that populated H2, H4 offers more general suspense as you never really know what’s going to happen. The directing and screenwriting has some really inspired moments like when three or four kids in Michael Myers masks and coveralls surround Loomis and the new police chief. One of them might even be Michael as only two called out and/or took off their masks. Another scene I really liked takes place before either Michael or Loomis get to Haddonfield when they end up both in the garage. They stare at each other from across the station, Loomis has a great speech, fires a few shots and then Michael drives out of the station and sets the gas pumps and Loomis’ car on fire.

Which reminds me, kids in the Halloween-verse are big time jerks. Remember in the first one where the three kids pick on Tommy and give him crap about the boogie man? Well, this one tops that with three kids dressed up in those costumes where you basically wear a mask and then a plastic shirt with what you’re supposed to be on it making fun of her for her mom being dead and her uncle being a serial killer. These kids must really taken to heart the old saying that kids can be cruel. But that’s not all as a car with two jocks and two cheerleaders pull over to offer a ride to the stranded Loomis and then drive off laughing at him. Hopefully Myers killed them at some point off screen.

Oh, and those kids that made fun of Jamie? She ends up trick or treating with them later, which results in her getting separated from Rachel who found her crush Brody ready to bone the sheriff’s daughter because Rachel canceled their date in order to take Jamie trick or treating. What a jerk (even though Kelly, the sheriff’s daughter is super hot). Brody is played by Sasha Jenson who was in both the Buffy movie and Dazed and Confused (two big favorites from my younger days). I can’t believe he was 30 when he did Dazed and Confused.

Anyway, back to the story. My mind’s all over the place. Back before trick or treating there’s a scene where Rachel takes Jamie to a drug store to get a Halloween costume. Brody works at the store too (this is when she tells him she can’t make their date that night). So while Rachel’s talking to Brody, Jamie’s looking at the mask section by herself, which brought back memories of the costume store that used to be by my house growing up. They always had those huge crazy monster masks that you never say anywhere but in the store, which was a fun bit of nostalgia. But the scene gets even better as Jamie picks pretty much the exact clown costume we saw Michael wear as a child when he killed his sister in the beginning of H1. But THEN we see Michael’s scarred hand grab a new Shatner mask and appear right behind her. Jamie understandably freaks out and crashes into a mirror and then Michael disappears.

Which got me to thinking about something. Is it a plot hole that he wouldn’t just kill her right there (if in fact that was him)? The answer I came up with was no because Michael doesn’t just want to kill his main target, he wants them to suffer all kinds of mental and physical trauma. Sure, if you were just one of the friends or a side character you’ll get a shotgun stabbed through your guts or a thumb through your face, but if you’re Laurie or Jamie or even Loomis, he wants bad bad things to happen to you, which is why he takes the time to set up the bodies. He’s theatrical that way I guess.

Okay, again, back to the story. The girls wind up with Loomis and the sheriff and a deputy in the sheriff’s house with Brody and Kelly (awkward). But Michael’s there too and he slowly picks off the ancillary characters (the sheriff and Loomis leave on their own accord). Rachel and Jamie have this great scene with Michael chasing them on the roof. For a few minutes, it turns out to be just Michael after Jamie which is kind of terrifying because, what chance does a kid stand against a dude who has survived gunshots and explosions? Then Loomis comes to the “rescue” gets them to the school and then promptly gets thrown through a door, leaving Jamie on her own again. Rachel and a group of rednecks who have formed their own “lynch mob” to take out Michael.

The rednecks drive away from the city with the two girls as cops from the town over (or something) drive past. There’s a sense of relief as they roll into town, but of course it’s not that simple as Michael was under the truck the whole time (or something). And then there’s the one part of the movie that I just can’t buy. Michael pulls himself up over the tailgate and attacks the two or three guys in the back, but the driver and the two girls in the cab don’t notice ANYTHING. Ah well. The girls are left alone with Michael on top of a truck and then crash into a cemetery. Then the rednecks and the cops show back up somehow (how’d they know to turn around?). The guns ring out and Michael falls back into a pit where all kinds of dirt and graves fall in on him.

As if the above wasn’t SPOILERY enough, now I’m going to talk about the very end, which I love. Rachel and Jamie get back to their house and Loomis and the sheriff show up so everything’s cool until we get a replay of the ultra creepy opening scene from H1. You’re not really sure who it is and then we hear a scream and see little Jamie standing at the top of the stairs holding a pair of bloody scissors that she used to kill her new mom. And THEN Loomis pulls his gun out and almost shoots him until the sheriff stops him. Then it just ends. Great stuff, even though I’m not sure why Loomis expects Michael to stay buried. SPOILER, he won’t there’s 2 of 4 more movies in the continuity depending on how you count.

Return turned out to be a really really great horror movie and I highly recommend it. I haven’t seen H2O or the sequel to that one, but it’s one of the better sequels in my opinion (depending on how I’m feeling it and H2 switch places in the favorite sequel category). Good times!

Halloween Scene: Halloween II (1981)

2008-09-28
6:56:00 pm

I’m not sure what’s happening to me, but I’m having trouble getting a full movie in starting at 11 PM anymore. I guess I’m starting to show my age. Because of that it’s taken me three days to actually Halloween II which was written by the original’s John Carpenter and Debra Hill and still starring Jamie Lee Curtis (the last one to do so until the continuity killing H20) and Donal Pleasence. This time though it’s directed by Rick Rosenthal who later directed a TV sequel to The Birds and a ton of TV including Buffy episodes “Help” and “Normal Again.”

H2 is one of the few horror sequels I can think of that picks up directly after the first one leaves off which either means it’s not that common or that I’m just highly forgetful, either seems possible. You even get the last few minutes of the original where Michael does his awesome sit-right-up scene that I love and Loomis coming in gun blazing with Michael falling out the window and disappearing. So, with this installment we get treated to the further adventures of that fateful Halloween night in Haddonfield. Laurie gets taken to the hospital while Loomis runs around town trying to find where Michael has gotten off to.

There’s a definite difference in feel between this and the originally. For one thing it’s a lot darker and harder to understand what’s going on at times. There’s also less of the POV stuff that I loved so much in the first one, but way way more fake-outs. I guess by 1981 people had seen a fair amount of slasher movies, so instead of kind of inventing the tropes, this one tries to play with them to not the greatest effect.

That being said, I do like this flick. It’s got my three favorite elements from the first, Donald Pleasence getting crazier than ever (until next time), Michael Myers (who’s in my top two favorite slashers with Leatherface) and Jamie Lee Curtis. Most of the action takes place in the hospital as Michael makes short but bloody work of the staff, but one of my favorite elements takes place outside as what looks like Michael Myers gets hit by a police car and catches fire. Pleasence and his policeman friend think it’s Michael for a little while. Yes, it’s a little convenient that someone dressed up exactly like the guy who went around killing a good number of the teenagers in town gets killed, but do remember that Michael swiped the mask from a local store so it’s not too too crazy. I just like the idea of them being at ease while Michael’s still out there killing folks. Also, the kid who dies was Bennett Tramer, the boy who Laurie had a crush on in the previous movie (he’s also named after a dude who would go on to work on Saved By The Bell!).

The hospital kills are pretty creative as Michael boils a woman alive in a hot tub (which I don’t think is possible), stabs a dude in the head with something, drains the blood out of a woman and others. But for some reason my favorite is when he stabs a nurse through with a scalpel and then lifts her up about two feet off the floor. She’s understandably shocked, then her shoes fall off and she finally crumples to the floor. There’s just something about the image that has stuck with me since the first time I watched since high school.

That particular kill removes that last other person in the hospital between Michael and Laurie. Laurie’s understandably messed up (I think there was something about a coma, but I can’t quite remember) so Michael does his usual slow walk chase as Laurie scrambles away. There’s something primaly unnerving about watching someone who’s already gone through so much craziness just barely able to elude her killer. It’s not the kind of thing that had me pulling my blanket over my eyes, but it’s the kind of thing that I do think about (probably too much).

Meanwhile, Loomis is driving around with a woman and a cop. He finds out about the hospital and freaks out on the cop, holding his revolver to the cop’s face and telling him to head to the hospital against his original orders. I love me some crazy Loomis. Once they get to the hospital, Laurie’s outside trying to get this dude in a car to drive her away, but the dude passes out or dies. She’s crawling through the parking lot as Loomis and Co. show up, but she doesn’t scream out for some reason until after they’re already in. I think I’m missing a fairly big piece of the story from falling asleep so many times, like maybe she was drugged up or something. Michael gets on Laurie’s trail again so she runs to the door, bangs on it and screams until Loomis lets her in. Michael gets shot a number of times, but of course, he’s not dead.

All of which leads to the ending which I actually like very much. Michael chases Loomis and Laurie into some kind of room where he has them cornered. Loomis gives Laurie a gun, but tries to shoot Michael with his which is empty, so Michael stabs him in the stomach. Loomis crumples to the floor and Michael goes after Laurie who’s crumpled on the floor. Laurie shoots Michael in the face, which doesn’t kill him or even knock him over but it does blind him, forcing him to swing around wildly. I really like this element of the movie because Myers spent the last two movies fairly calm and collected and now he’s acting like an animal, slashing the air. Loomis gets back up and opens up a nearby (what I assume) oxygen tank. Michael moves towards the sound away from Laurie so Laurie gets up and opens up even more tanks. Now Michael’s really going crazy, Loomis tells Laurie to run away, then busts out his lighter and blows the room up. Out in the hall, Laurie gets knocked down by the blast and the camera just focuses on the blaze for a while until Michael comes stumbling out. Holy crap! Then he falls to the ground and everything’s over (haha, right). The song “Mr. Sandman Bring Me a Dream” plays over a last minute show of Michael’s face and mask burning. A nice touch.

Here’s the thing that a lot of people don’t seem to get about the Halloween series. The first was made without expectations of of a sequel (as far as I know) and the second one was made to finish out the series. No more Michael Myers. Then something happened (I’m assuming enough money was thrown his way) and Carpenter decided to turn Halloween into a kind of anthology with a different horror movie every year, which is why 3: Season of the Witch has nothing to do with Michael Myers. Things didn’t go so well with that one so they switched back to Michael for part 4. Any horror fan worth their salt knows the deal, but I still hear people complaining about it, which is one of my big horror pet peeves. I guess I’m just a weirdo that way.

thrashing around blindly

“Mr. Sandman” playing over burning carcass