Tag Archives: calendar carnage

The Big One.

halloween 1978

HALLOWEEN

5 Stars  1978/18/88m

“The night HE came home!”

Director/Writer: John Carpenter / Writer: Debra Hill / Cast: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Loomis, P.J. Soles, Charles Cyphers, Kyle Andrews, Brian Andrews, Nick Castle.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “You know it’s Halloween. I guess everyone deserves one good scare.”


HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

I’ve been avoiding reviewing Halloween for a few years for two reasons: Firstly that it’s just so huge – what else can I add to a film that’s probably been put under the microscope more times than co-boogeyman Donald Trump has hit on underage girls?

Also, it means I have to troll back through eight years of posts and link it. And it gets mentioned a lot. And I’m old. And tired.

Stand by for lots of pictures.

halloween young michael myers clown 1978

Watching it today, it struck me that I obviously hadn’t seen it with decent picture and sound before, as I heard a whole lot more than usual. Never knew Don’t Fear the Reaper was playing in the car during Laurie and Annie’s drive to their babysitting gigs before.

The simplicity of the story belies its genius: Madman incarcerated for homicide as a child breaks out of his institution fifteen years later and returns to his small down to slay anew.

halloween 1978 body

Everyone always forgets about this poor chap.

As a much-analysed film, Halloween‘s numerous bloopers are brought up a lot, so viewing it with such familiarity sometimes turns into a game of spot-the-mistake, which isn’t a good way to enjoy any film, unless it’s really bad or pretentious.

halloween 1978 laurie tommy myers house

“Lonnie Lamb said bad things happened there.”

What I noticed in this viewing was a significant difference in acting ability between Pleasence and Curtis and the rest of the cast. Of course, it goes in layers, but the primary offenders are bit-parters: Laurie’s dad and his robotic delivery of “don’t forget to drop the keys off…”, the kids tormenting Tommy at school, Judith Myers’ boyfriend.

halloween 1978 bullies

It would’ve been awesome for this trio to have re-appeared in one of the sequels and gotten cut up.

But even within the main cast, Curtis outshines everyone around her with her natural talent: She is the shy girl down the street, sensible and dependable, you would have her babysit for you anytime.

On the flipside of Laurie’s bookish good girl, there’s the lurking presence of evil that’s Michael Myers. Far from most of his ensuing imitators and even his own incarnations in the gazillion sequels, Michael stalks Laurie far beyond most slasher movie killers, who turn up a few minutes before the kill for a bit of peering from behind trees n’ stuff. The first time I watched Halloween, probably close to twenty-five years ago, Michael appearing outside school, behind the hedge, amongst the laundry, was far scarier than a masked maniac manifesting out of the blue with an axe. In that scenario, the threat is sudden and obvious. Somebody watching from out of reach, turning up wherever you go, is fucking creepy.

halloween 1978 michael myers car staking

…outside school

halloween 1978 michael myers behind hedge

…in your street

halloween 1978 michael myers stalking laundry

…in your neighbour’s laundry!

Not so far removed from the recent trend of people in clown masks just trying to freak folks out during October. Maybe that’s what Laurie thought it was? Course, there were no slasher films around to teach her otherwise!

Unlike the genre it ushered in, Halloween takes its sweet time before killing anybody new once Michael reaches his home turf, but is never boring. Carpenter sustains the tension of his presence throughout the scenes, bolstered by our genuine fear for Laurie, as the girl it’s impossible to dislike. I defy anybody to come up with a genuine reason to hate her.

halloween 1978 laurie strode jamie lee curtis

One of the many academic studies I’ve read on the film goes on about how her friends Annie and Lynda are devalued in opposition to Laurie. True, it’s big-picture difficult to imagine the three of them being friends, and Rob Zombie’s horrendous remake of these moments only showed how far we’ve moved on from nice people up for the slaughter towards wanting the cast to bite it.

halloween 1978 annie nancy loomis

There are still plenty of sweet moments between the girls, reminding us that horror (and in particular slasher) movies give actresses much more to do than play the supporting wife, mother, femme fatale. Laurie’s need for her friends is nicely realised, even if they mock her. Listen when Annie tells her she’s losing it, to which Laurie replies “I already lost it,” and Annie quips: “Doubt that.”

halloween 1978 dr loomis and sheriff brackett

What also defines Halloween in its status as the most important teen horror film that ever was is that while a new audience would laugh and point at all the cliches on show, they simply didn’t exist in 1978. Hell, didn’t exist until June of that year.

A girl I went to college with once wrote it off as crap because: “I knew he would sit up behind her!” Of course you knew, because Halloween was so good at everything it did that ten thousand filmmakers copied it.

halloween 1978

In the wake of scores of bodies we’ve seen drop from trees and fall out of closets, the funhouse moment of Laurie discovering her dead friends does seem contrived and a little comical (Lynda’s face-of-death), but it’s just one of countless genre boxes Halloween ticked long before everyone else did it.

halloween 1978 lynda closet dead

Hey Lynda…

 

halloween 1978 lynda dead closet

Lynda!

halloween 1978 lynda dead closet

LYNDAAAA!!!!

What else can be said? While I’ve always been more of a Friday the 13th guy (the early ones, that is) and placed Halloween third in my countdown of The 100 Greatest Slasher Films, only a fool would try and deny in terms of importance and influence that it’s the best slasher movie, and probably teen-horror film of all time.

Blurbs-of-interest: Pleasence returned in parts 245, and 6, plus Alone in the Dark and Phenomena; Curtis came back for II, H20 and Resurrection, and was also the final girl in Terror Train and Prom Night and was the only good thing in Ryan Murphy’s dreadful Scream QueensP.J. Soles took on heroine duties for Innocent Prey and was also in 90s comic slasher Uncle Sam and then the crazy doom monger lady in The Tooth Fairy; Charles Cyphers returned for the sequel.

Here are some more awesome stills:

halloween 1978 wallace house

This shot is ever so creepy. Do you reckon the Wallaces ever moved back in?

halloween 1978 michael dressed as ghost

Michael certainly had a sense of humour.

halloween 1978 annie dead bed gravestone

halloween 1978 closet scene

The old trapped-in-the-closet-while-the-killer-breaks-in routine.

halloween 1978 dr loomis donald pleasence

Series mainstay and, dare I say it, true star: Donald Pleasence as Dr Loomis.

“That was the boogeyman,” a tearful Laurie says.

“Yes, as a matter of fact it was.”

Perfect.

Rankfest: Halloween

Halloween is coming… Well, almost. Sometimes I love this series more than Elm Street, sometimes not. It can be infuriating as we shall see…

10th best: Season of the Witch (1983)

halloween iii season of the witch pumpkin kid mask

Three more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween… DIE.

Maybe because it’s not a slasher film? Yes and no. I certainly wasn’t expecting what I got when I pushed in a dusty old video cassette sometime in the mid-90s and have only watched the film once since then. It does nothing for me.

Best Bit: The guts to off a kid must be admired, when said brat’s possessed mask turns his head to mush.

9th: Halloween II (2009)

halloween ii 2009

Rob Zombie said he wouldn’t make another Halloween film after his 2007 re-thingy. Then did. With very little material from Rick Rosenthal’s ’81 film recycled (there’s a brief hospital dream-in-a-dream bit), Zombie goes off to explore Laurie’s psychosis (she’s an emo bitch), her relationships with other survivors (she’s a bitch to them), and something about her and Michael’s mother as a ghost. Any excuse to crowbar Sherrie Moon into proceedings. Meanwhile, Loomis has become a fame-whore. The result is a grimy, depressing flick.

Best Bit: The father of a victim from the previous film confronting Dr Loomis at a booksigning.

8th: The Remake (2007)

halloween 2007

After Mustapha Akkad’s death in a terrorist attack, plans for Halloween 9 all but dried up in the mid-00s and, instead, plans were drawn up for a remake as the epidemic of such treatment of known horror titles was squelching through Hollywood like The Blob, destroying everything.

Parts of it work out alright though: Michael’s origin stuff is new material, so isn’t particularly offensive, but when we reach the ‘remake’ bits, the wheels sheer off and roll down the street: Scout Taylor-Compton is horrendous as Laurie, almost the antithesis of everything we loved about Jamie Lee Curtis’ take on the role; Michael is a hulking destroyer of everything in his path and literally none of the victims muster any sympathy.

Best Bit: Needs more thought.

7th: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

halloween 5 1989

One year after the events of Halloween 4, Michael ‘reactivates’ having been looked after my some hermit dude for an entire year (!?), kills this Samaritan, and stalks back to Haddonfield to finish off niece, Jamie. The first hour or so is pretty solid stuff, if too derivative of the last film, but when Jamie is plonked into the Myers house – now a fucking mansion – as bait, it all goes to shit, with the stupid Man in Black subplot a sign of desperation on behalf of the writers.

Best Bit: The party at the olde farm, sex in the barn goes awry courtesy of a pitchfork. Well, at least someone got poked.

6th. Resurrection (2002)

halloween resurrection

Hated by most, strangely liked by me. Deduct Busta Rhymes and his dreadful acting from the equation, take away the fucking stupid rationale for Michael’s survival at the end of H20, and get rid of Laurie’s sudden spiral into simpletonville, and Resurrection is quite a fun little slasher romp. Yeah, so I tend to divorce it from the parent franchise, but the basic stalk n’ slash opus is pretty solid on its own merits.

Best Bit: A party of teens panicking as they guide the final girl by way of one of those PDA things (they didn’t last long, did they?) around the spook house of DEEEEATH!!!

5th: Halloween II (1981)

halloween ii 1981 loomis

A huge step down in quality from the Carpenter classic, that he directed some of the early scenes shows, and those are the only reason it ranks this high. Once the action shifts to the hospital, things get real boring real fast, as nameless, thin-as-a-Disney-popgirl characters are laid to waste, while Donald Pleasence looks for clues and Jamie Lee Curtis looks bored out of her skull taking final girl duties for the 67th time.

Best Bit: The first ten or so minutes as Haddonfield collapses into hysteria following the discovery of the murders.

4th: H20 (1998)

halloween h20

Scream is to thank/blame for this one. Abandoning all mention of films 3-6H20 brought back Laurie Strode as an alcoholic, PTSD-suffering head teacher at a snobby Californian academy, where she battles her demons and her rebellious 17-year-old son. As Halloween rolls around, Michael tracks her down and tries to repeat history. The retconning of the sequels is annoying and the body count too low, but at a slender 83 minutes, H20 still packs a lot in.

Best Bit: Surely the end – the power dynamic reversed: Now Laurie is the one with the sharp weapon.

3rd: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

halloween 6 1995

Yeah, I know. But this was the second Halloween film I saw (back on cable in shortly after it came out), and so my love for it is skewered by my naivety to the tropes of the genre as they stood. Michael returns after a six year hiatus, just as Haddonfield prepares to celebrate Halloween for the first time since his last killing spree. Grown-up Tommy Doyle is a Myers-obsessed weirdo who lives across from the Myers house, inhabited now by relatives of Laurie Strode – and guess who drops in?

Best Bit: A strobe-light infused massacre in an operating theater. Can’t see shit, but turn out the lights and it’s pretty awesome.

2nd: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

halloween 4 1988

After seven years off, during which Friday the 13th notched up six sequels, the Akkad’s decided to bring both Michael Myers and Dr Loomis back from their quite final ending in Halloween II. Ten years on from ‘that night’, federal blah dictates that comatose Myers be moved from his institution and, naturally, he awakes on route, kills everyone, and heads back to Haddonfield, with Loomis merrily chasing him again. This time he’s after Laurie’s orphaned daughter, Jamie, and will kill anyone who crosses his path.

A restrained affair with next to no bloodletting, Dwight H. Little tried to recapture the spirit of the original and, for the most part, succeeds, though things start to drag when it’s all vigilante rednecks and Michael teleporting from ideal hiding spot to ideal hiding spot.

Best Bit: The rooftop chase.

1st: The Original (1978)

halloween 1978

Well, duh. I’ve only ever encountered one person who thinks one of the sequels is better, and he’s clearly a simpleton.

What can be said, apart from: “Hud, why haven’t you reviewed this yet?” It’s just too daunting a task! I’ll do it this year. For Halloween. Maybe.

Best Bit: Eessshhk… How to spring for the best part? Probably the scene where Laurie sees Mikey ducking behind the hedge on her commute from school. Creeptastic.

Rankfest: Friday the 13th

You know when you go on IMDb or whatever and there’s always a thread titled “Rank the [insert series here] best to worst”, well let’s do summa that.

Of course the infamous Top 100 ranks my favourites across the board up to Spring of 2014 (Lost After Dark and The Final Girls might now force a few of the bottom dwellers out), but franchise-to-franchise, what is the most logical place to start?

Duh, Crystal Lake obvs.

12th Best: Jason X (2001)

jason2Bringing Jason back after eight years in limbo (nine, if we’re going to count the delayed release) is a bold step. On top of that, putting him in space proved just a step too far. This film is hokey and enjoyable at times, annoying and lazy at others.

Best Bit: Holodeck Crystal Lake, circa 1980.

11th: Jason Goes to Hell (1993)

jgth6I maintain that certain scenes in JGTH out-awesome the previous few films – the trio of campers at the lake, and the opening gag with the sexy chick alone in the creaky old house: Pure Friday. It’s just a shame the rest of it veers off course with all that Hidden crap.

Best Bit: Tentpole. Schwing.

10th: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

jtm3The late-80s-ness of Manhattan is undeniably bodacious, but it’s too long, too tame, and too timid to max out its potential: At the time this must’ve had the highest bodycount of the lot, and is there but a speck of blood?

Best Bit: JJ’s awesome-or-what axe.

9th: Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

fvj-cornfield-stonersLike Jason X, this one is worth a look every decade or so. The WWE-ness of it all is juvenile and irritating, but high-end production values, a love for the series, and a game cast almost make up for that.

Best Bit: Cornfield rave hi-jinks.

8th: The Final Chapter (1984)

fc5I’ll stand by for the townsfolk to come with their torches and pitchforks. The Final Chapter was the last of the Paramount films I saw and by that time the formula was so ingrained it just never resonated much with me. The plot is too derivative of Part III and the characters indistinguishably expendable. Yes, the grue is top of its game, but this alone does not a great film make.

Best Bit: The story so far… “you can’t be alive!”

7th: A New Beginning (1985)

fri6Tatty, sleazy, trashy Part V, a guilty pleasure if ever there was. The leap in production gloss from The Final Chapter was, at least on the old VHS’s I owned, significant, but maybe that’s just because 1985 was a year I actually remember, so the fashions and hair didn’t all look horrific. No Jason? Meh, who cares!? The appeal of this film is how fucking stupid it all is.

Best Bit: “There’s a man with no life in his eyezzzzz…”

6th: The New Blood (1988)

friday the 13th part vii the new blood jason voorheesDry and a ‘lil bit wintry in feel, The New Blood has grown on me over the years like a fungus that won’t quit. While many of the bloodthirsty demises were ultimately cut, leaving us a film drier than a shot of sand, the through-the-motions slashings are almost hypnotically entertaining and several of the background characters unpredictably likeable.

Best Bit: “There’s a legend ’round here…”

5th: Part III (1982)

f3-8A major step down from the dizzy heights of the first two, Part III nonetheless provides Jason with his mask and the audience with cheesy 3D FX. The production shift from the north east greenery to a sandy Californian mud-hole (removing all the Crystal from Crystal Lake) lets it down, but the amateur-night performances and Dana Kimmell’s gloriously rubbish final girl schtick atone.

Best Bit: Dana vs. Jason

4th: The Reboot (2009)

fri1aMost hated it, but it captured the spirit of Fridays past for me – especially those first 20 minutes – making enough changes to give a contemporary feel without entirely abandoning the unmovable elements that make Friday what it is. Of the glut of remakes, reboots, recalibrations, reimaginings etc, it was easily the best.

Best Bit: Campfire tales and nostalgia.

3rd: Jason Lives (1986)

friday the 13th part vi jason livesWho would ever have thought a fifth sequel could land a sucker punch of awesomeness? Tom McLaughlin, that’s who! Wisely taking a step into the humorous side of the genre, after the po-faced exploits of The Final Chapter and A New Beginning, Jason needed a shot of slapstick just to overcome the embarrassment of the previous film. It works perfectly as a pivot for the mayhem and contrived story, resulting in the best Friday outing since the early days.

Best Bit: Paula’s paranoia. Didn’t she leave the bloody machete right there on the floor?

2nd: The Original (1980)

f13-11aRough n’ ready, Friday the 13th has got to be the most copied slasher film ever; from genuine attempts to replicate the formula to sketch show parodies, this is the film they turn to. It’s perfection lies in its innate imperfection – clunky acting, ludicrous plot twists, semi-competent production, and yet it works far beyond the reach of many of its contemporaries and today’s low-end slasher pics.

Best Bit: Rinse n’ repeat stalk n’ slash during the storm.

THE BEST FRIDAY!: Part 2 (1981)

cut2_double-2Yeah, like, big shock, right? I just love this film to death. Taking all that was good about the first one, polishing the production assets, casting the perfect final girl, introducing Jason as an actually quite scary super villain prototype form: That burlap sack gives me the creeps far more than the hockey mask. Whether those infuriating cut scenes will ever see the light of day, who knows, but it detracts not from the slasherific perfection that is Friday the 13th Part 2.

Best Bit: Amy Steel on the run.

Next time: Halloweeeeeeen

A time for family, forgiveness, and foul play

hfth dvdHOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

3 Stars  1972/74m

“There’s nothing more chilling than a warm family gathering.”

Director: John Llewelyn Moxey / Writer: Joseph Stefano / Cast: Eleanor Parker, Sally Field, Jill Haworth, Jessica Walter, Julie Harris, Walter Brennan, John Fink.

Body Count: 3


Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano penned this star-studded made-for-TV proto-slasher, which gives new meaning to uncomfortable festive family get-togethers.

Dying patriarch Benjamin Morgan instructs his eldest daughter, Alex, to gather her three sisters at the old family ranch for Christmas before he succumbs to his old age. So to the house cometh acid-tongued, trice-divorced Jo, pill and booze swilling Freddie, and sweet-natured youngest Christine, none of whom have been back to the house in some years.

Ben tells his offspring that his new wife, Elizabeth, is poisoning him to death. While Alex can’t decide if this is a desperate male-pride rejection of his age, or true due to the gossip that the woman poisoned her previous husband, the other sisters are a little more black and white, with only Christine willing to get to know her stepmother.

hfth2Before long, Jo decides to leave and is hijacked by a rain-macked, pitchfork-toting assailant outside. The next day, Freddie is drowned in the bath, a tragedy written off as either suicide or an accident waiting to happen. But suspicion runs rife and the remaining sisters can’t help but suspect Elizabeth, more so when Christine is chased through the woods by the rain-mack figure, the very coat belonging to Elizabeth. Giallo-tastic.

On TV in 1972, this mystery might’ve been a head-scratcher, but with hundreds of slasher films between then and when I saw it this week, it was no more difficult to solve than a Scooby Doo episode.

Home for the Holidays has barely a drop of blood, no real horror, and, at a thin 74 minutes, tends to drag here and there – it’s certainly not Black Christmas - but the winner here is the casting: Parker, Walter, Haworth, and Field are all on form as the sisters Morgan. The former two were reunited for another TV sort-of slasher film in 1979 in She’s Dressed to Kill, and it’s easy to see why Sean Cunningham was keen on Sally Field donning the lead role in Friday the 13th, her means-well good-girl vibe and screamability is quite similar to Adrienne King’s take on Alice, albeit with less fighting back required, though it’s worth noting Field would’ve been in her mid-thirties by then.

hfth1It’s rare to see such a competent collective of actresses working together. Menfolk are sidelined into virtual irrelevance by the film – it belongs to the quintet of leading ladies. Amusingly, Parker was older than the woman playing her father’s new wife, plus old enough to be Field’s own mother!

A mild, bleakly festive affair (hey, there’s a tree and a wreath!), with more in common with Murder, She Wrote than Silent Night, Deadly Night but intriguing in its own way and could benefit from a decent remake. If you want a fun game, count the number of ominous zooms used to create suspicion.

Meeeeerry Christmas!

Taglinus accuratus

TRICK OR TREATS

1 Stars  1982/92m

“…when Halloween night stopped being fun!”

Director/Writer: Gary Graver / Cast: Jackelyn Giroux, Peter Jason, Chris Graver, Carrie Snodgress, David Carradine, Stave Railsback, Jillian Kesner, Paul Bartel.

Body Count: 3 (!)

Laughter Lines: “These horror movies… they make me scared to drive home alone at night!”


“When Halloween night stopped being fun,” goes the tagline. Darn tootin’. Short of falling ass-first on a running power drill, I can’t think of a less fun way to spend Halloween night, or any other given night, than watching Trick or Treats.

Carrie Snodgress gets her husband carted off to an institution in the opening scene. Why? No clue, ToT doesn’t care about in-filling its plot holes. The scene is slapstick heavy, with two orderlies struggling with the flailing hubby, who tries to climb a tree at one point to escape. They all end up falling in the pool. The only thing missing was a table of cream pies.

‘Several years later’, struggling actress-cum-babysitter Linda (Giroux) accepts a Halloween night job to look after the couple’s horrible, horrible son, while Mom and her new squeeze (Carradine), head off to a party. Meanwhile, Hubby has broken out of the institute disguised as a female nurse, and is heading home to murder his wife and anyone else who gets in his way and nobody else.

Yeah that’s right, this is the slasher movie without any slashing. Hubby punches out a security guard rather than stabs him, threatens a couple of homeless guys (one of whom is horror-fixture Bartel), and eventually mistakenly kills a random blonde chick whom he mistakes for his wife.

This might sound okay, but nothing remotely resembling a threat of violence happens for well over an hour into the 92 minute film. Until then, it’s a never ending cycle of the bratty kid playing a prank on Linda, that she always falls for, and some trick or treaters coming to the door. Again. And again. And again. Until death. Your death. From boredom.

With just 15 minutes remaining, Hubby finally catches up with Linda, thinking her to be Carrie Snodgress, and chases her a bit. Although the film is so darkly turned out you may as well close your eyes and rest for all the good they’ll do you open.

A fittingly annoying twist for a fittingly annoying child in the world’s most disappointing ‘slasher’ film is the shitty icing on this cake. A cake made of the shittiest shit one might dredge up from a shit-filled canal in Shitsville, Tennessee.

Blurbs-of-interest: Carradine was in Children of the Corn VDetention (2010), and Fall Down Dead; Steve Railsback was in Deadly Games and Slash; Paul Bartel was in Killer Party. Graver later directed the equally awful Moon in Scorpio.

1 2 3 4 5 18