Halloween Scene: Halloween H2O & Zombie Island Massacre

Hey, even though things aren’t all rosy, doesn’t mean you can’t depend on me for reviews of old movies you’ve either seen or have no intention of seeing. Yesterday, on what will be my last Train-Ing Video in a while, I watched Halloween H20 (1998) for the very first. time. As long time readers will remember, from my posts about the Halloween movies last year, I had seen the first 5 movies in the original series and then watched Rob Zombie’s remake, but I watched Curse for the first time and hadn’t seen H20 or Resurrection yet.

So, it wasn’t a bad movie. It had Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin (from Chicago Hope), Josh Hartnett, Michelle Williams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (Nash Bridges AND Prison Break!) and Janet Leigh (who I had forgotten was Jamie Lee Curtis’ mom). The whole ignoring-4-6 and being a little too Scream were definitely annoying and don’t make the series hold up in the long run, but I can see how it would be a good introduction to teenagers in the 90s who maybe hadn’t seen the originals yet. I’m not going to really get into it, because, frankly, BC over at HMAD summed my thoughts up pretty well in his review from 2007 (except for the whole “different opinion every time he sees it” thing, cause, you know, I’ve only seen it once).

I do think it would have been cool if this was the end of the original series of movies, but, not having seen Resurrection, but still reading a few things, I know that Michael got better from that decapitation (or it was a paramedic or some such nonsense?). While I’m not planning on seeing Zombie’s Halloween 2 any time soon, I probably will check out Resurrection relatively soon and let you know what’s up.

I also watched a little movie called Zombie Island Massacre (1984) on NetBox this morning. Yes it’s stupid, and SPOILER, no, there aren’t any actual zombies in it (hence the lack of the “zombie” label), but any movie that starts with a white guy in a tribal mask sneaking up on his girlfriend/wife who’s taking a shower, then jumps into Hatchet-territory with a tour group going to see some weird stuff, then it kind of gets into Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things and Night of the Living Dead zones. It really is a pastiche and it’s not bad, but it’s also not good and if you’ve ever seen a movie like this you’ll know what the twist ending will be.

One question I had though: how did they take a bus to the resort’s sister island? I could have easily missed a simple plot point about this, but I still laughed later once I saw the bus. Oh well. It’s got very little gore, but enough nudity to kind of make up for it.

Book vs. Movie: The Virgin Suicides

2008-08-07
4:34:13 am

So, remember when I said that I didn’t read books too often? Well, after finishing Slam I looked at the growing stack of novels I have next to my bed and picked one kind of at random. It was Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides (1993). Someone had put it on the free table at work and I snatched it up, not really knowing anything about it.

So I started reading it and was hooked instantly. It only took me about three dedicated days of reading to get through it (so about a week, real time) and it was one of the most moving, ghostly reading experiences I’ve ever had. The story follows the Lisbon Family as all five of the daughters kill themselves over the span of a year, the first of which Cecilia, predates her sisters by a full year. What really grabbed me about the telling of the tale was that the narrator speaks in the “we” and comes from the point of view of one of the boys in the neighborhood who fell in a sort of love with the girls and desperately wanted to help them. After they killed themselves, the boys spend the rest of their lives (at least to the point we find them in the book), trying to figure out why these five young women took their lives.

Another element of the book that got me was the way that Eugenides packed each page with so many characters, either actually involved in the story or just mentioned by name. Almost all of them seem incidental at first, but come back into play later on. The great thing about it, though, is that I never felt lost. Maybe I didn’t take much stock in such casually mentioned characters, but they all came back in one way or another, which really makes the reader feel like a part of these boys’ (and later mens’) club of failed avenging heroes.

The sense of not being able to penetrate another person is one that I’ve often thought about. Even the girls’ own father who lived under the same roof as them had no idea what was going through their heads as they planned an elaborate suicide plan that involved a number of the neighborhood boys. No matter how hard you try to decode someone’s thoughts and actions, you just can’t get inside their heads. The best you can do is gather accounts to try and put the puzzle together.

Sophia Coppola’s adaptation (1999) is pretty faithful to the book, but not necessarily to the version in my brain. But I think a lot of that comes from the basic differences between books and movies. For instance, in the book, you don’t really get a sense of the girls as individuals until the narrator does which is well into the book. Of course, in a movie, you can obviously see the differences. Though, I do have to give props to the casting folks for making the non Kirsten Dunst sisters all look pretty similar and easily confused.

Aside from Dunst who nails the promiscuous and evocative Lux to a T, the casting didn’t quite do it for me. I didn’t get the same feel from Kathleen Turner’s mother character as I did in the book, even though she looks almost exactly like how I pictured her. The way its conveyed in the book, it’s hard to not feel like she’s majorly to blame for the girls’ suicides. Again, I’m thinking this is because we actually see her reactions to things like her first daughter’s suicide.

I was really most curious to see how Coppola and Co. handled the first person plural narrator of the book in the film (he always uses “we” and never deviates). She got Giovanni Ribisi, an actor I’ve liked since I randomly rented Suburbia at the age of 16 and developed a pretty deep man crush on. Anyway, he does a great job, but isn’t utilized enough to really set the same tone as the book. The lack of entrenchment along with the neighborhood boys leads to more focus on the girls, which almost completely removes the element of being an outsider looking in on them which is central to the novel. Heck, it’s hard to be an outsider when you’re right in their living room as they play Chinese checkers and watch wildlife shows.

One of the downsides to watching such a faithful adaptation so soon after reading the book (I finished it Saturday in between and after errands I didn’t want to run) is that you know when everything’s coming and what’s going to happen. I didn’t feel that way watching Virgin Suicides. I was mostly curious to see how Coppola translated such an artfully crafted novel onto the screen. And kudos to her for doing such a great job. The movie never lags (it’s just over an hour and a half) and, while you’re nowhere near as firmly entrenched with the neighborhood kids as you are in the book, you still develop an attachment for these girls and desperately want to help them, even though it’s a forgone conclusion from about the second line of the script that they’re not going to make it.

All in all, I enjoyed both works, though obviously I liked the book better. I can’t recommend the book enough to people. Heck, if it only took me a few days to read, you should be able to get through it quickly. But, if books aren’t your thing, I also give the movie my thumb’s up.

Faculty Advisory

2008-07-10
3:32:44 am

Robert Rodriguez is one of those director’s who’s always impressed me. Sin City, From Dusk Till Dawn, Planet Terror and his Mexico Trilogy were all great in my mind. So, when we got our online Blockbuster account I added just about all of his movies, especially looking forward to The Faculty because 15-year-old TJ wasn’t allowed to see it and later TJs never got around to it. Well, the wait was a pretty long one and then, what do you know, we included it in ToyFare’s Best Alien Invasions (see ToyFare #133 on sale today to find out what place it took and who snagged the #1 spot). So, with that, I borrowed the flick and watched it last night.

The Faculty (1998)

Written by Kevin Williamson, David Wechter and Bruce Kimmel

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Starring Elijah Wood, Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Usher, Josh Hartnett, Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Bebe Neuwirth, Robert Patrick, Jon Stewart and many more

Well, you can add this one to the list of Rodriguez movies that I dug. Part of it was a sense of nostalgia I got while watching it. It kind of reminded me of Can’t Hardly Wait. Not thematically, but when it comes to star power. There are SO MANY familiar faces in this movie. Just check out the list above. Freakin’ Jon Stewart plays a science teacher who gets possessed by an alien parasite and stabbed in the eye with some kind of caffeine drug. Great stuff.

Oh, I guess I should explain the plot. A small town in Ohio gets invaded by alien parasites who burrow their way into bodies, taking over control of the inhabitant. Elija Wood’s character finds one of the parasites on the football field and later finds himself in a closet with the hot girl as they see the football coach (T-1000 himself Robert Patrick) and another teacher drop a parasite in the hot nurse (Salma Hayek). From there a mismatched group of high schoolers (think basically The Breakfast Club. Don’t know what that is? Go away) bands together and figures out that the drugs that Josh Hartnett’s been peddling around the school can kill them and do their best to stop the invasion.

I really like how they don’t muck about when it comes to the story on this flick. You’re into the story pretty early on with Elija Wood finding the parasite. They don’t mess around with “is this really happening” BS too much that comes with these kinds of movies. You get your set group of characters pretty early on and you strap in for the ride with them. I also like that Matt Parkman’s partner from Heroes (Clea DuVall) actually compares what’s going on to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and all that. She tells Elija Wood about this and he wonders if all the movies and whatnot about aliens is actually a way for them to get people complacent so they don’t think an alien invasion is possible. It’s a great bit of business that feels really natural in “our world.”

Speaking of the cast again, it’s a lot of fun to see some pretty huge actors (along with some not-so-huge and completely unknown actors) in these roles. But they’re also really really convincing in their roles. Elija Wood looks like a huge geek and acts like one too. Josh Hartnett’s loser Zeke is pretty much a genius who just doesn’t like school and deals drugs on campus. They all handle the Thing-like suspense of “who’s an alien and who’s not?” so convincingly that I really couldn’t figure out who was and who wasn’t.

I also liked how the special FX (do they still spell it like that? Probably not, oh well) looked. Especially in the scene where the parasite-controlled Jon Stewart attacks the kids in a classroom. Zeke rips the blade off of a paper cutter and chops Stewart’s fingers off. But they don’t just lie there, the snake themselves towards the kids. But that’s not all, whisps of blood snake out from his fingers until he’s stabbed in the eye, foams and the parasites under his skin die. Crazy stuff.

All in all, this is a fun little romp that shows off Rodriguez’s directing chops along with the acting talent of the cast that has gone on to prove itself just as well as the adults who play the teachers. Oh and Bebe Nuerth looks hot as the principal. Yeah, I said it.