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hal-resHALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION

3 Stars  2002/15/86m

“Evil finds it’s way home.”

A.k.a. Halloween 8

Director: Rick Rosenthal / Writers: Larry Brand & Sean Hood / Cast: Busta Rhymes, Bianca Kajlich, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ryan Merriman, Katee Sackhoff, Sean Patrick Thomas, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Daisy McCrackin, Luke Kirby, Tyra Banks, Brad Loree.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “Great legs Donna, what time do they open?”


If somebody came to you and asked you to write a sequel to a movie where the main character’s head was chopped off at the end, what would you do? This must’ve been a dilemma faced by the screenwriters of this much-maligned follow-up to 1998’s ultra-successful Halloween H20, which raked in enough to make further movies a certainty. So how does Michael get his head back? Easy, he never lost it.

We begin impressively enough with the reintroduction of Jamie Lee’s Laurie Strode, now locked up in an institution with a dissociative disorder after she found out that the man whose head she axed off was in fact a paramedic dressed up in her brother Michael’s boiler suit and mask, his larynx crushed to ensure no speaking. Hmmm, we all say and move on. Michael comes to get Laurie at the asylum and duly does so when her confused state of mind prevents her killing him when she has the chance.

hr1This story arc done n’ dusted, we meet our final girl, Sara, a student at Haddonfield U (!?) who has been roped in by her good-time pals Jen and Rudy to entering a content to explore the Myers house during a Halloween night webcast for Dangertainment, a questionable production company run by Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks. Well, the characters they play at least…

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Rappers in horror films, eh? Several have turned up in the shores of the slasher genre; Snoop Dogg in Bones, LL Cool J in H20. Surprisingly, LL Cool J bypassed any issues of ego and did well in an undemanding role and has gone on to carve out quite an impressive on-screen CV, including techno-slasher flick Mindhunters and techno-shark cheesefest Deep Blue Sea. On the shoulders of Rhymes, however, is the nominal lead and to say he struggles with the task is somewhat of an understatement. Banks, on the other hand, has only what amounts to a cameo in a few scenes.

From Halloween to America's Next Top Model

From Halloween to America’s Next Top Model

Six teens enter the Myers house and begin tooling around, looking at dusty objects, all of which seem a little too obvious and easy to find in a house that, according to the let’s-continue-to-ignore-the-sequels policy, has been empty since the sixties. Never mind the family who inhabited it during Halloween 6. Anyway, they pair off and begin to get killed by Michael, who has been residing in a cave-like dwelling beneath the basement. Unlike the previous film, there’s an abundance of brutal bloodletting here with some grisly final outs for the budding cyber stars.

hr4When only Sara is left, she is aided by a group of teen partiers who are watching the show and communicate with her via web text thingies on a device I’ve never seen before or since. Eventually, she and Busta face off with MM, things wrap (thankfully no rap!) and there’s yer usual ‘he ain’t dead’ ending. For both actually as Busta Rhymes seems to be as invincible as Mike. Oh yeah, there’s that line, the one everyone in the cinema groaned at: “trick or treat…motherfucka!”

hr6Despite how ridiculous Resurrection is – and it’s really, really ridic. – and Rhymes sub-dreadful acting abilities, not to mention the martial arts sequence, there’s still some fun to be found here, all you have to do is look for it. Detach it from the rest of the story, pretend it’s a different film altogether, just a slasher flick in an old house with some webcams and Resurrection becomes quite an entertaining B-flick with some good kills, nice chases and the added touch of the remote guides who try to help Sara escape. There’s some decent casting at the teen level too, unfortunately overshadowed by Rhymes’ top-billing: Sean Patrick Thomas, Katee Sackhoff (pre-BSG) and Thomas Ian Nicholas look like they’re having a laugh, even if they might remove this title from their select filmography in the future.

hr5On the flip side, it’s obvious why it’s the likely most-hated of the Michael films, pre-Zombie remakes, there’s little to no respect for what went before, either in H20 or the mid-sequels. By 2002, the reality-TV based horror was already dated, which is unfortunate as the film was due for a Halloween 2001 release but returned for re-shoots when Miramax considered it too unscary.

Some have suggested that it would have been a good move to have Sara turn out to be Jamie Lloyd, not dead after all. I agree with this, it would have served as a good launching pad for the next film or two. Alas, they chose otherwise and when mainstay producer Moustapha Akkad was killed in 2005, all plans for Halloween 9 were washed away and the remake came to be. Bad times.

hr7Blurbs-of-interest: Rick Rosenthal directed the 1981 Halloween II and made a cameo in Lost After Dark; Ryan Merriman later took the lead in Final Destination 3; Daisy McCrackin was in A Crack in the Floor. If you don’t know what other slasher flicks Jamie Lee Curtis has been in then why are you here?

HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER

halloweenh203.5 Stars

1998/18/83m

A.k.a. Halloween 7

“Blood is thicker than water.”

Director: Steve Miner / Writers: Matt Greenberg & Robert Zappia / Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams, Josh Hartnett, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Adam Hann-Byrd, Janet Leigh, L.L. Cool J, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nancy Stephens, Beau Billingslea, Charles Durand, voice of Donald Pleasence.

Body Count: 7


Some things in life are inevitable; “death and taxes,” my dad always said. But let’s not leave out the commercial tendancy to ‘strike while the iron’s hot’ so to speak, or, cash-in on a trend. In this case it was Scream. Scream, Scream, Scream wherever you looked in the horrorsphere left in the wake of Wes Craven’s let’s-state-the-obvious slasher flick. As that film featured footage from Halloween, only survivalist recluses would be fool enough not to consider a big time return to form for the first born serial slasher. Yes, Michael Myers came back!

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In Halloween H20 (oddly pronounced H-2-O like, y’know, water…), we catch up with Jamie Lee Curtis’ final girl extraordinaire Laurie Strode, who faked her death and went into hiding, ending up as the head teacher at an exclusive prep school in California, miiiiiiiles away from Haddonfield. Unbeknownst to Laurie – masquerading under the name Keri Tate – the late Doc Loomis’ house has been ransacked, his faithful nurse and a couple of unlucky neighbours murdered and Laurie’s whereabouts discovered. Roll titles.

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While we reacquaint ourselves with Laurie/Keri, learn that she’s an alcoholic with a rebellious seventeen-year-old in Josh Hartnett, Michael drives across country in time for a Halloween reunion, complete with kitchen knife, boiler suit and freaky white mask. On the day itself, Hartnett and a trio of friends hide out in school for a private party that is, of course, crashed by Mike, who chases the survivors in Laurie’s direction for the ultimate showdown when she opts to stay behind and kill big brother once and for all, doing a neat 360 on Laurie’s mousy run-and-hide attitude from twenty years earlier.

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H20 was intended to be the last word on the subject and so ends with one of the most satisfactory resolves in the history of a genre infamous for loopholes and get-out clauses to allow for possible franchising opportunities. Effective as it was, watching it back now in the knowledge that we were cheated to satisfy the ridiculous concept used in Halloween: Resurrection four years later is frown-inducing to say the least. This, along with the script’s choice to ignore the story arc created in films 4-6, makes for a bit of a redundancy on H20‘s part, it’s rendered nothing but a handsome distraction. And that’s a little insulting to longterm fans of the series, who’ve invested in the unfolding saga of Myers tracking down and killing all his relatives only for it to be closed off, denied and then reverted to cut n’ dried slasher shenanigans in the next film.

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Nevertheless there’s much to enjoy here; Curtis is on fine form as Laurie, while almost nothing like her former self, she’s tough when the chips are down and really gives Michael a taste of his own medicine during the climactic one-on-one smackdown. Her supporting cast are good too, with Arkin amusing but underused as her lover, Michelle Williams – fresh from Dawson’s Creek at the time – as Hartnett’s girlfriend and even LL Cool J manages to squeeze some likeabilty out of his standardly foredoomed security guard character. Curtis’ mom, Janet Leigh, also turns up for a great cameo as a secretary, complete with her original Psycho car and hints of its theme as she requests of Laurie that she “be maternal” for a moment…

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There are some decent back-to-basics terror sequences on show, with Michael leering through windows in the background and spooking lost teens around the deserted school. This is only tripped up by a shrunken body count, which could have used another couple of disposable teens to add gravitas to Michael’s killing ‘spree’ at the academy. Things are amped when Hartnett and Williams flee from Michael and find themselves locked in gated vestibule, being slashed at through the bars.

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The film, based on a draft by Kevin Williamson, who was involved in almost all the slasher flicks of the period (and is credited as co-executive producer here), is positively littered with references to former films in lines of dialogue, musical quips (Carpenter’s theme still plink-plonks along nicely when called for) and visual motifs, all of which make H20 an enjoyable experience, even if it was made irrelevant soon after, indicating it sold out for a slice of the Scream pie. A solid sequel, not as honestly enjoyable as Halloween 4 and possibly Halloween 6 but one of the better entries in a great series.

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Blurbs-of-interest: O’Keefe played the sex-crazed killer of Teacher’s Pet; LL Cool J was in Mindhunters; Nancy Stephens was reprising her role from the first two Halloween films; director Miner helmed the first two Friday the 13th sequels.

September Face-off: HALLOWEEN 6 vs… Itself!?

October be comin’, October means Halloween, Halloween means Halloween, Halloween means Michael Myers and Michael Myers means sequels galore… As it happens, the sixth instalment, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers was one of the first films in the franchise I saw on cable back in the 90s and I’ve always liked it more than I probably should.

Then there’s The Producer’s Cut, a vividly different take on the story, which was meddled with until the version that was released came about. Some folks say it’s better, some folks say it ain’t, some folks don’t know what the hell you’re on about… Let us compare thy Halloween sixes and see…

HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS

halloween6 1995/18/85m

“Haddonfield is ready to celebrate Halloween… So is Michael Myers!”

A.k.a. Halloween 6; Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers

Director: Joe Chappelle / Writer: Daniel Farrands / Cast: Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan, Mitchell Ryan, Kim Darby, Bradford English, Keith Bogart, Mariah O’Brien, Leo Geter, J.C. Brandy, Devin Gardner, George P. Wilbur.

Body Count: 14-ish

Dire-logue: “Relax your crack, sweetheart!”

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At the end of 1989’s Halloween 5, little Jamie Lloyd – Laurie Strode’s daughter – was taken to Haddonfield Police HQ after escaping from Michael Myers for the 37th time. Michael was residing in a cell until a mystery ‘man in black’ came along and shot up the place, killing a load of cops and releasing Michael. The film ended with Jamie – upon discovering said cop corpses – quivering in fear at the prospect of her never ending sprint in the opposite direction of her psychotic uncle.

Now, Halloween 5 was a sucky one, second only of the originals in its ornate suckiness to the non-slasher Halloween III. Let’s just not comment on the Rob Zombie ‘re-imaginings’ here. The introduction of the Man in Black would’ve been weird and very annoying for long term fans as they had to wait six years for the next sequel. In this time, the franchise had been sold to Miramax and they decided to chuck out a quickie follow-up.

Jamie Lloyd (now played by J.C. Brandy after Danielle Harris walked away, reportedly insulted by the fee Dimension were willing to pay her), gives birth amidst scary druidy folks in the dismal surroundings of a sanitorium. A nurse helps her escape with the baby and Michael gives chase, killing her but not before Jamie took the opportunity to hide her newborn.

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In Haddonfield, relatives of the Strode clan are living in the old Myers house, where six-year-old Danny keeps having nightmares about the Man in Black. His struggling single mom Kara is trying to juggle school and her tosser-of-a-dad. To add to her problems, she thinks the guy across the street is perving on her. Not so, said guy is in fact a grown up Tommy Doyle (the kid Jamie Lee was babysitting in t’original) and he’s convinced Michael is heading back to town… Tommy finds Jamie’s baby at the bus station and happens to run into Doc Loomis at a hospital. The good ol’ Doc has been yanked out of retirement by his old cronie Dr Wynn (Ryan). Tommy spouts loads of bollocks about this Thorn Symbol thingy to Kara but even after multiple viewings I couldn’t tell you what it’s about.

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Michael returns and begins stalking and killing off the secondary characters while Loomis teams up with Tommy after Kara and her son are kidnapped by the Man in Black’s Druidy followers and events shift to the asylum where we’re privy to an awesome strobelight operating theatre massacre (which is great with the lights out) before the showdown between Loomis and Michael.

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HALLOWEEN 6: THE PRODUCER’S CUT

halloween6-prod

1995/96m

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “I tried to tell you in the hospital, I think Michael is under the influence of an evil rune…” – Tommy blames a pebble for two decades of death.

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So what of The Producer’s Cut? Well, the first 80 minutes (up to the point where Kara leaps from the second floor window of Tommy’s house) is largely the same, give or take a few scene extensions – we learn Loomis had facial skin graphs – and the fact that Jamie does not die in the barn, but remains in a coma for about half the film until the Man in Black busts a cap in her ass head.

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So instead of Tommy and Kara running around the corridors of the asylum with Michael tailing them, we get some sub-Rosemary’s Baby Satantic rituals with people in hooded cloaks and Kara tied to a plinth awaiting sacrifice at the hands of little Danny until she blurts to Michael that he is the father of Jamie’s bub. More running ensues but here with Tommy dressed in one of the stupid cloaks that makes him look like a member of some 80’s sequin-glam-sparkle electro band, but he does some stuff with rune stones and makes Mikey impotent for the moment (“it worked, the power of the runes stopped him.”) It ends with Michael dancing off into the night dressed as the MIB.

Although there’s something a bit familiar about the Druid get-up…

untitled-1Ah ha!…Agnetha strikes again!!

VICTOR: THE THEATRICAL CUT

So more Thorn, less murder. The body count was dramatically enhanced by the reshoots, apparently at Chappelle’s insistence as he thought Donald Pleasence was ‘boring’. Bet he feels a bit shitty about it now, being that DP died shortly after filming wrapped. Subsequently, the cast were angry with the re-edit but, to give Chappelle his due, the theatrical cut is better. Halloween is a slasher series and The Producer’s Cut turns it into some sort of wannabe Omen offshoot, the final version at least has the sense to keep close to its body count routes.

There’s still much to like in both versions’ slow build, which return to a central Halloweenie theme, lots of pumpkins, trick or treaters, lightning and homages to the original: Kara’s frantic chase from the Myers house to hammer on the door for help across the street and her parents are named John and Debra – awwww. A pre-fame Rudd does well in a role he clearly despised and Hagan makes for a likeable heroine in Kara. It’s a shame that Halloween H20 decided to ‘clear the slate’ on the hard graft parts 4-6 put into the story as it could’ve been interesting to see where they took us next.

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Blurbs-of-interest: J.C. Brandy was later in Devil in the Flesh; Leo Geter was in Silent Night, Deadly Night; George P. Wilbur played Myers in Halloween 4; as well as the preceding Michael Halloween films, Donald Pleasence was also in Alone in the Dark and Phenomena. Marianne Hagan won the lead in BreadCrumbs in 2011.

HALLOWEEN (2007)

HALLOWEEN

2.5 Stars  2007/18/116m

“Evil has a destiny.”

Director/Writer: Rob Zombie / Original Script: John Carpenter & Debra Hill / Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane, Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris, Sheri Moon Zombie, Kristina Klebe, Daeg Faerch, William Forsythe, Hanna Hall, Danny Trejo, Dee Wallace, Ken Foree.

Body Count: 21*

*varies depending on version


Remakes. Ree! Ree! Ree! Clashing thunder! Hell rain! Lava volcano spurting grossness from the depths of hell eeeeeeevil!! A divisive subject if ever there were, not least of all to the faithful horror fan.

You could blame Japan for all those spooky girl-out-of-the-TV films, they’ve resulted in a lot of remakes, as have Euro horrors, most recently the Spanish glut. There’s a real topic here that I could banter on about for pages and pages about, but we’re here to talk about the ballsiest remake so far… Halloween.

The original Halloween, made the same year I was, is an undesputable classic, a horror film so important it never fails to appear on lists of the best horror films ever made… So, after the uninspiring mish-mash that was Resurrection, the death of the series’ executive producer and nothing happening with a ninth entry in the saga, somebody suggested a reboot. Worked box-office magic for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But Hallo-fuckin-ween? Who’d dare to take on that gargantuan task? The name’s Zombie. Rob Zombie.

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As you can see here, things don’t look so different… Creepy stalky Michael, Doc Loomis, Laurie and her doomed gal-pals. Be not fooled, Halloween 2007 is really very different from John Carpenter’s bargain city masterpiece. One of the original ideas bandied around for Halloween 9 was an origin tale of Michael’s years at Smith’s Grove prior to that night. It’s been half-realised in the first hour of Zombie’s effort, notably the better half of a seriously difficult to comprehend project.

Michael Myers is now the middle child of good natured stripper Deborah Myers, who lives with abusive layabout Ronnie, her slutty daughter, Michael, and baby sis who I think was called Boo, but I couldn’t tell. Mike’s got some hot-probs, most concerningly, he’s violent n’ stuff, shown to us when he clubs the school bully to death before offing step dad, sister and sister’s boyfriend on Halloween night. He’s shipped off to Smith’s Grove under the watchful eye of Dr Sam Loomis (McDowell) and we follow his progress there for the best part of an hour, his sinking into a darker place of the soul, further violent outbursts and the eventual suicide of mom.

Fifteen annums later, Michael has miraculously grown from sub-five foot Avril Lavigne look-a-like child to hulking looney bin fixture. Now, the scenes in the asylum vary between the theatrical and unrated versions. In the former, Michael flips and kills a gaggle of security personnel and other employees, leading to his escape, whereas on DVD, the rape of another inmate by a couple of nasty guards sets off this psychosis. Either way, he’s out!

It’s fair to say that up to this point, Zombie has created a pretty good horror film. It’s grisly and littered with his trademark white-trash elements, grime and sleaze, but there’s a thoughtful strain running through it all, a feeling of, dare we think it, sympathy for Michael!? It’s this development that effectively skewers the second half and turns things into a bit of a crapfest. Haddonfield is presented the same as before, a small, tight community where crunchy leaves adorn the pavements and children are revved up for the night’s candy-flavoured surprises.

It’s the characters we meet that begin to unveil a less wholesome insight into things. Think back to Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie. The good girl who wasn’t a swot, she was shy, the doormat to her promiscuous friends. You loved her, wanted her to be your friend, your babysitter. Laurie ’07, played by Scout Taylor-Compton, is a bit of a cow.

She’s smarter than Annie and Lynda, we know this because she wears glasses, but she’s just not very…nice. She’s OK, I spose, but the way in which she greets Tommy shows this Laurie is less model teen, more selfy smart girl. Annie and Lynda are essentially no different than before, just more profane. Lynda is only in two scenes (three if you count the one where she’s dead) and only says ‘totally’ once. Annie is a more interesting story, played by Danielle Harris who was, of course, Jamie Lloyd in Halloween‘s 4 & 5 until the character was cruelly offed in 6. She wants sex with Paul, Lynda wants sex with Bob. They all have sex (or at least attempt to), three of the four die as Annie’s fate is left dangling in a strangely hollow scene.

The stalk n’ slash process, which made up a good 75% of the original film, is shrunken down to next to nothing in pacing terms. There’s no tension to speak of. Characters are killed off very rapidly, very violently and the last half hour is nothing more than Laurie and Michael playing cat and mouse around the abandoned Myers house. He initially kidnaps her to try and forge some twisted sibling connection thing but, as she has no frickin’ clue she’s adopted, doesn’t quite work out so he decides to kill her instead.

Things end very definitely. Laurie gets to ask Loomis if ‘that was the Boogeyman’, to which he responds ‘yes, as a matter of fact it was’, more violence erupts and there’s no sign of any obvious strands by which to attach a sequel. But then it was only a few sequels ago that Michael recovered from total decapitation…

As you can tell from the screencaps, Zombie has created a handsome picture, far more professional looking than 95% of the teen horror films from the last decade. So, what’s the prob, chief? In a word: Laurie. The final girl is at the centre of the slasher flick, without her, it’s pretty much dead in the water. The same outcome occurs when said final girl is undeveloped or obnoxious. I didn’t give a toss if Laurie lived or died this time around, the only character we learn anything about is Michael! This shift of alliance to the killer ruins most horror films, it was what stopped Freddy being scary, what made Jason’s latter outings exercises in rinse and repeat teen-killing. Having said that, I hated this film the first time I saw it, hated it to the point of wanting to cry… A second viewing only cemented that the Haddonfield-set part of it does indeed suck beyond the telling, but that also Zombie’s talent lies in the story of Michael’s past, that he can create a scary psycho out of a floppy haired child and piece together a genuinely engaging horror film beyond the unhinged exploits of his previous psychadelic gorefests.

Blurbs-of-interest: Taylor-Compton continued her retread sins by appearing in the worst of the bunch, the DVD crapfest that was April Fool’s Day. Aside from her previous series appearances, Danielle Harris was also in Urban Legend, Blood Night, Hatchet II, and ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2. McDowell was in The Surgeon. Brad Dourif, of course, was the voice of Chucky in all five Child’s Play films and also turns up in Trauma, Dead Scared (The Hazing), Color of Night and Urban Legend. Dee Wallace was in Scar, Dead End Road and Popcorn. William Forsythe was in Hack and iMurders. Kristina Klebe co-produced and had a small role in BreadCrumbs.

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