Halloween (2018)

October 31, 2018 by  
Filed under Movies

“Halloween” is now 40 years old, and every generation we’ve had since has had a sequel and remake or reboot of the series. Following “Halloween II” in 1981, there was another sequel that acted more like spin-off, “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” which wanted to re-start the series as an anthology. But it was essentially “re-booted” in 1988 with “Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers”. In the 1990’s, we got another “re-boot”/sequel with “Halloween: H20”. Then, there was a sequel to that, “Resurrection”…which…doesn’t need to exist at all.

The series was re-booted entirely and re-made with Rob Zombie’s “Halloween”, that re-imagined (RE: RE: RE:) the whole story, giving Michael Myers a backstory and made it a bit more sympathetic than many people wanted. Then THAT movie got a sequel, so we got another “Halloween 2”, which also…doesn’t need to exist at all (Zombie didn’t even want to do a sequel in the first place, much like his predecessor following “Halloween” in 1978).

Now, we have a bit of a mish-mash with “Halloween (2018)”. First, it’s the THIRD movie called “Halloween”, and it follows nearly exactly the same plot as the original and its reboot. And for this generation…I mean, how can we confuse them anymore than we have? You just have to call this “Halloween ’18” for the sake of sanity.

Speaking of sanity, we are introduced to Michael Myers in the present day, 40 years after “Halloween”. That’s right–none of the sequels/re-boots/spin-offs/re-makes exist at all in THIS “Halloween” Cineverse. Myers is being held at a hospital, where Doctor Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) has been observing and caring for Michael since Loomis’s death years ago. So in this world, Myers committed the “babysitter murders” (the original title of “Halloween”), and was committed to the institution. Now, however, he is being transferred to an actual prison to serve out the rest of his however many life terms. Two “podcast” journalists, Aaron (Jefferson Hall) and Dana (Rhian Rees), have been seeking him out for years, trying to get him to speak. They bring him his mask, and Aaron beckons passionately to say something until we are bolted into the opening credits.

There’s an interesting effect with the pumpkin in the credit sequence. We have a smashed or deflated pumpkin that gradually becomes full again, and the sequence ends with us peering into one of its lighted eyes. As if to say we are…resurrecting…the “Halloween” franchise all over again. So strap in!

The film mainly centers around Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who has become a recluse even while raising a daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), who is now grown and has her own daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak). The three of them are the nucleus of the narrative: but we are somewhat led to believe that the podcasters in the beginning and Dr. Sartain, are also going to play big parts. But more about that in a minute.

When Michael escapes (again…or…for the first time…again), Laurie becomes obsessed with killing him. In fact, that’s all she’s done since he’s been locked away. She’s been waiting for the moment he “comes back” so she can finish the job. She has been practicing firing guns, self-defense, everything that can make you ready to…kill someone. It’s also at this point that this “Halloween” starts looking a lot like all the other “Halloweens”.

And most of it looks like it’s on purpose. We are given many shots of recalls to not only other “Halloween” sequels, but the original “Halloween” as well. Most of it is visual, and many are allusions. But it begins to feel like this could literally be called “Halloween: Tribute”. Director David Gordon Green certainly wanted this to be a love letter to the series, while making his own movie–but in terms of “fan fiction”, sometimes this goes a little overboard.

There are sub-plots that go nowhere. There are scenes with unnecessary amounts of gore that even undermine what the original’s spirit was: killing scenes more implied than graphic. This has bludgeoning murder sequences that even Rob Zombie might flinch at. And I didn’t see the point. There are scenes merely set up to add to the body count, and they’re not all that interesting otherwise.

The film’s strength comes from its trio of heroines, and each one has their moment to shine. Allyson is caught in the teenage web of bad boyfriends and bad parties, but she still has time to help save the day in the end. Karen is trying to shake off bad memories of a childhood lost because her mom taught her to be afraid of basements and closets, awaiting the return of Michael.

But as the movie plays out like many of its sequels and re-boots, I just couldn’t help but think that this could have been done completely differently. Maybe Laurie becomes the villain in some way. After all, taking away her daughter’s childhood is pretty drastic. Maybe Karen grows up to be something dangerous.

Instead, we are given another version of “Halloween” and…yeah, it’s nice to see the music back in full form. It’s nice to see a GOOD Michael Myers-driven sequel. But other than that, it’s a pretty empty shell of its former self, and once again, out of the three movies called “Halloween”…the 1978 version is still the best. And maybe, the only one you ever really need to see in your life.

My rating: :?

Munger Road

October 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Movies

The horror genre has always been kind of a side joke it seems in the grand scheme of things as far as Hollywood is concerned. It is always interesting to me, though, that many actors get their start in horror films (Johnny Depp, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Bacon to name a few). But probably 80% of them aren’t critically praised, and even blockbuster hits are seen as just “fun bad entertainment”.

These days, the horror genre is completely dominated by remakes to the point that it’s almost become its own sub-genre. With big franchises like “Friday the 13th”, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” already having been re-booted, Hollywood is even taking aim at the more independent films like “Fright Night” and “I Spit On Your Grave” lately. It’s completely gutted the genre, and turned it into just a mindless cash cow, with no creativity or imagination put into it. It’s almost as if the genre has given up on itself. As schlocky as the 80’s were, we at least had gems like “Creepshow”, “Return of the Living Dead”, and “The Thing”.

But here comes along a small budget film that doesn’t look low budget, has the atmosphere and tension of something along the lines of “Halloween”, and it’s so fresh and invigorating to see life put back in the genre that this review may actually come off as a promo for it rather than a review. I will try to be fair, though. But “Munger Road” is the most effective horror thriller I’ve seen in years, and it actually gave me hope that if it finds major distribution, it could give the horror genre some leverage to be relevant again.

I thought “The Blair Witch Project”†would have†done the same 11 years ago; all it did, though, was spawn a lot of headaches like “Quarantine” and other wanna-be’s. “Munger Road” takes the more traditional approach.

It’s a ghost story. Actually, it’s a ghost legend story. It takes place in the western suburbs of Chicago, in St. Charles (a town I know quite well since I used to live around there). The legend is simple: there’s a road in Bartlett, Illinois called Munger Road that runs along train tracks. According to legend, a school bus stopped on the tracks and was hit by a train, killing the children. To this day, they “haunt” the area. So if you drive up to that road, and park your car, the children will push your car over the tracks so you’re safe. There are stories of a ghost train as well. There’s also a story of an old farmhouse where someone was murdered. But that one’s disputed. The popular theory is the latter, with the ghost children.

Of course, one of the best things about history is folklore. We can’t help but be drawn to stories like this. We want to believe them. For four kids, it’s their goal to get “evidence” of the ghost children pushing their car along the tracks. So they get a handcam, and baby powder, and their girlfriends, to go along and see if the Munger Road legend is real.

The kids are Corey (Trevor Morgan), his girlfriend Joe (Brooke Peoples), his buddy Scott (Hallock Beals), and Scott’s girlfriend Rachel (Lauren Storm). The girlfriends are obviously not into it, thinking this is just some dumb boy thing. But the boys are convinced this will be a good time. There’s a bit of a complication in Corey and Joe’s relationship that is never truly paid off between them, but it serves as an interesting underlying subplot that does actually have a good pay off in the end.

Meanwhile, the town of St. Charles is preparing for Scarecrow Fest, a fall carnival that is celebrated every October–and there’s a problem (isn’t that always the way?). An escaped lunatic has come back home, according to reports. The Chief of St. Charles Police, Kirkhoven (Bruce Davison) has to track the killer, or else the festivities could be upset. He takes his partner along with him, Deputy Hendricks (Randall Batinkoff), and the two discover a few clues that actually bring them close to where these kids are headed.

The film cuts back and forth between the cops and the kids, and first time writer/director Nick Smith does a good job of pacing the two stories, after a slow and somewhat clunky start, where eventually we’re just as invested in these officers getting their man as we are seeing these kids get out of their situation.

Oh, the situation is this: when they get to Munger Road, the two guys set up to make it look like kids handprints are on the car after it is mysteriously pushed forward over the tracks. The girls are upset when they figure it out, and just want to go home. But there’s a problem. The car won’t start. Didn’t see that one coming! But instead of this being an eye rolling cliche, we are invested enough in these kids thanks to good writing, that we really want them to get out of the situation. Munger Road is in the middle of nowhere, and their cell phones won’t work (of course!) so one of them has the idea that heading down the tracks back to town is a good one. Problems arise when he isn’t heard from after he leaves the car, and his girlfriend, Joe, tries to track him down.

One revelation that has one of the kids legitimately scared–they did capture something on the video recorder they didn’t expect. When they were trying to start their car, there’s the presence of someone behind them. Could it be the killer? That’s the obvious conclusion. But Smith does something interest with a bit of a twist at the end that we’re not really expecting. Let’s put it this way: it just isn’t as simple as the escaped killer; but it also may not be as simple that the legend is true.

The climactic scenes are very effective, even if there is a bit of a lull where there may be an expectation of a big reveal or “final fight” or something. It is a bit of a weakness, but I really did like the last scene. And although our expectations may be a little high by the time the film ends, I think Smith has enough command of the narrative that he did this on purpose.

There were a few “quiet” scenes between the kids that I would have liked to see a little more opening up about who they are; but there is so much tension in the air during their little adventure that I can forgive that Smith decided to forego a deeper look into the characters. We know enough to care.

I mentioned “Halloween” as a comparison. I do not mean to say that this film is in the same league, because that film is a classic and this film is just a bit too “familiar” to be considered on that level. That isn’t a slight to the movie, though. “Halloween” is one of the best horror films ever made. But Nick Smith has made a real contribution to the genre with “Munger Road”. And†Smith uses atmosphere†and tension†instead of blood and gore, the way Carpenter†did. And like Carpenter, Smith is always in control of this story.†It may†be something we’ve seen before, but it’s well executed, well written, and extremely well acted. The actors are very natural, and it reminded me of the performances in “The Blair Witch Project” (and the good news for them is that they don’t have to worry about their careers since this film isn’t built on the “found footage” gimmick). The character of Joe is the glue for the kids as much as the chief is the glue for the cop story, and both actors are very capable and so it’s all held together very well.

If you’re looking for a good “scare” movie, see this one–and take a date. It’s definitely better than what Hollywood’s been shelling out lately.

And if you’re going to go to Munger Road, just keep in mind–we all know about it. Including the cops. So be careful. And if someone starts pushing your car, just turn your car on and drive on. Do not stop. And definitely don’t check out the farmhouse, if you happen to find it.

My rating: :-)

Halloween II

August 31, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured Content, Movies

When Rob Zombie came onto the horror film scene in 2003 with “House of 1,000 Corpses”, I welcomed him fairly warmly. His film, while a somewhat derivative send-up of 70’s gorefest Drive-In horror movies, was, at its heart, a fun movie. It didn’t take itself too seriously, and it gave a much needed jolt into a horror genre on life support. He created a film version of a Halloween funhouse: something that would give you chills, some laughs, and entertain you throughout. His cast was likable, and his skills as a filmmaker were more than competent.
When he followed that up with “The Devil’s Rejects”, I knew we had a filmmaker in this guy. He took what made “House” strong and made it even better, adding a more serious side to “Devil’s” that gave it a sense of reality, and it was not only gritty and horrific, but endearing as well. But how would he follow that up?
Well, I was hoping he’d continue his quest in original filmmaking, but instead he went the remake route. I had never been in favor of remaking any classic film, be it horror or otherwise. You should remake bad movies, not good ones, I always thought. But the fact that Zombie signed on to do a remake of “Halloween”, I was intrigued. Unlike many horror remakes, this guy at least has a clue and a purpose.
And unlike a lot of people, I actually enjoyed his take on “Halloween”. I looked at both movies differently, and appreciated both for what they were. But I felt Zombie had done his job, and needed to move on.
Hollywood thought otherwise. He apparently didn’t want to make a sequel, but I’m guessing the Weinstein brothers threw enough money at him for him to sign on, and now we have a sequel to a remake, which should instantly make your head explode due to the fact that this is the ultimate deadly sin in filmmaking, in my opinion. But what more could Zombie do?
Unfortunately, this is 105 minutes of proof that the answer is: Nothing. Zombie can blame the producers for forcing his hand (which I still have no sympathy for the guy for), but he did write the script, and the script is very banal. He wanted to create a portrait of insanity by having Laurie Strode increasingly become more like Michael, or at least–insane like him, not a murderer.
But instead of a character film we just get the same hackneyed, cliche’d slasher film all over again–and this time, even the kills aren’t interesting. Scout Taylor-Compton is probably one of the most irritating actresses I’ve seen in the last few years, and while I could look past my own bias in the last film, it really couldn’t be ignored in this one. The laughably extravagant dream sequences, the insistence on hillbilly victims, and the trite “symbolism” with the White Horse and Mother Myers with Young Michael imagery didn’t work and showed that either Zombie had nothing left in the tank, or he is losing his touch. I’m guessing it’s the former over the latter, but Zombie deserves to be torched for this film because it’s lazy filmmaking, and he has always struck me as anything but that, as an artist in general.
There are a few things that save this film from ultimate suckage, however. There is a death scene that actually moved me. I won’t give it away but it involves probably one of the only likable characters in the film. The death scene is far from cliche and I appreciated the sad piano music accompaniment, and the delicate way Zombie handled it. It was the only time I’ve ever been emotionally stirred in a slasher film, I think. I also liked the scenes involving Dr. Loomis that revealed him as a fraud to the public, such as appearing on a late night talk show in which he is *following* “Weird” Al Yankovic as a guest.
Other than that, though, it just seemed like Zombie didn’t have fun at all with this one. I was hoping he’d move on to his own films after this, but apparently he is going to take on “The Blob” next. I’m hoping he will at least get a little more creative with that one. This is the most unnecessary “Halloween” film since…well, I guess anything after the original could be considered unnecessary. But not since “The Revenge of Michael Myers” (Part 5) have I been this bored and uninterested with the franchise. At least Halloween Water had a few funny moments.

My rating: :(