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: :?

The Lords of Salem

April 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Movies

Rob Zombie’s first major feature film, “House of 1,000 Corpses”, was a bit of a conundrum. On one hand, it was an homage to the grindhouse 70’s horror era, and on the other, it was a drummed up feature length music video. It had some individual style to it, and it definitely marked Zombie as an intriguing filmmaker. Above all, it tried to be entertaining, not taking itself too seriously and having a little bit of fun with its macabre sense of humor. Then came “The Devil’s Rejects” which was, in a way, a sequel to “House”. Much bloodier, much more realistic, with more of a purpose. Though also flawed, Zombie showed a growth and maturity as a filmmaker, and it looked as though he was poised to take over the horror genre himself.

With the “Halloween” remake, he took a bit of a step back–however, he still proved he had the chops to make a good film. He made the “Halloween” film his own, and although the backstory he provided for Michael Myers was a bit predictable and thin, the climactic scenes in the film’s ending were extremely intense and nail-biting.

Since the “Halloween” sequel, and now with “The Lords of Salem”, I’m feeling doubts on Zombie’s film career. There’s no doubt that Zombie is a competent director. He has†a visual style that’s appealing for horror fans and seems to truly get what the genre is about. But he hasn’t proven himself to be enough of a storyteller to pull off a film that can really be considered one of the “great” horror films. But maybe I’m putting a little too much pressure on him.

The film has an intriguing premise: a radio DJ (played amiably by Sheri Moon Zombie) receives a strange package from a group called “the Lords” and her and one of her co-hosts plays the record (which plays backward). Somehow it has a strange affect on her, and she starts having visions and strange dreams and can’t sleep. Meanwhile her landlord begins to take more of an interest in her, and an unrented room (apartment 5) starts to draw the DJ, named Heidi, into it. One of the show’s guests, a Salem historian named Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison), also takes interest in “the Lords”, which is revealed to be a coven of witches from the 17th century in Salem, that were burned at the stake. Straying from the idea that Salem witches were actually just innocent women, Zombie illustrates quite graphically that these witches were truly horrific Satan worshipping disciples.

There isn’t much else of a plot, however, after that set up. Much of the film’s third act simply is one long dream sequence that flaunts a lot of strange symbolism and imagery, some of which is startling, some is creepy; but some of it is also downright silly. And because Zombie never really sets up characters or conflict or an actual narrative arc, the film doesn’t serve much of a purpose except to try and shock you with its grotesque style. While that can work for a short film, this film begins to feel very long at the hour long mark–and at that time, you still have forty more minutes to go.

So, where does Rob Zombie go from here? I would hope he could recapture some of his sense of humor he showed in his first two films. This film takes itself too seriously. There’s no fun, or satire, or tongue in cheek moments. It’s a waste of an appearance by Ken Foree, who can usually effort a fun performance when given the chance. The film is just very drab, and very stale, and most of the imagery isn’t anything we haven’t seen from Zombie before. I hope he can return to form, which was still in development, at “The Devil’s Rejects”. I think he could use either a screenwriter, or some screenwriting lessons, however.

When Zombie was developing his idea for this film, he was on record as describing it as: “Salem radio station, blah blah blah, music.” Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to develop it past that.

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: :(