Tag Archives: Halloween

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.

Live in the Now!

This month marks 20 years since I first watched Friday the 13th in my parents’ lounge one night in the early hours…

Since that life-changing experience (!), about 680 slasher movies later, I’m still always on the lookout for that kind of familiarity. Or, as The Carpenters sang, Trying to Get That Feeling Again.

To celebrate this anniversary, I’ve sought out some awesome ‘modernized’ trailers from YouTube, that make those old films at the beginning of my love affair with dead-teenager movies look like they could be released tomorrow!

Regardé:

Much like the Michael Myers, this trailer moves slowly and then suddenly goes for the jugular.

I love the use of a creepy Sealed with a Kiss on this one.

So the disco moves, clothes, and hair can’t be unseen, but these two minutes are better than the entire 2008 film.

Jamie Lee Curtis back again, fighting off another vengeful killer. This one shows how much she carries the action in Terror Train.

This film just can’t be improved upon, but this trailer certainly makes it look contemporary. Love the black and white flash at the end.

The Burning still freaks me out a bit two decades after I saw it. Its visceral intensity is cranked up in this re-do.

Why bother calling it anything else?

slasher

SLASHER

3 Stars  2016/360m

“Everyone in this town has a part. Not everyone has a future.”

Director: Craig David Wallace / Writer: Aaron Martin / Cast: Katie McGrath, Brandon Jay McLaren, Steve Byers, Christopher Jacot, Patrick Garrow, Dean McDermott, Rob Stewart, Mayko Nguyen, Erin Karpluk, Enuka Okuma, Jessica Sipos, Wendy Crewson.

Body Count: 15

Laughter Lines: “He’s made himself judge, jury, and …hangman!”


Harper’s Island, Scream: The TV Series, Scream Queensand now Slasher. The Chiller channel’s Canadian eight-part mystery is the latest loon-with-a-knife outing to go straight to the small screen rather than straight to DVD. The generic quality of the title allows for future seasons to start anew with a body count tale in a whole different place and time.

Eight episodes work out better than Scream Queens’ interminable unending thirteen, as the welcome isn’t completely worn out, hacking through our senses until we can take no more and only seeing Ryan Murphy chainsawed to pieces stands a chance of fixing it.

Here, the small town of Waterbury, Halloween 1988, an expectant couple are slaughtered by a machete wielding loon dressed in a creep executioners garb. Twenty-eight years later, the saved infant, Sarah Bennett (McGrath, recently eaten in Jurassic World), moves back to town with her journalist husband Dylan (the always likeable McLaren, dreads sadly gone, but becoming a familiar genre face). They move into the same house. Where the murders happened. Face palm.

slasher-murder

No sooner has Sarah settled in, opened a gallery, made a few friends, The Executioner returns and begins ridding the township of various individuals based on the Seven Deadly Sins: The abusive old lady across the street goes first, then a merciless developer… Anyone with a dodgy secret has their days numbered.

Sarah turns to her parents’ incarcerated killer, Axl Rose lookalike Tom Winston, for help before The Executioner comes for her, and begins developing a bizarre co-dependant relationship with him, that eventually leads to a rather obvious revelation, given that her late mother turns out to have been giving Maureen Prescott a run for her money. Or rather, more bang for her buck.

Inventive murders include a guy stuck in a hole with a sack of deadly snakes tossed in, a severed head found in a deep fryer, live cremation, eaten by nature, plus the usual stabbings, drownings, and beheadings.

Slasher_Verna

Could it relate to the girl who mysteriously went missing five years earlier? A cinderblock dropped on to a car from a bridge in 1968? Or something else completely?

Slasher has a relatively tight budget compared to the other recent series’, which results in a smaller, easier to manage cast roster, and a body count that doesn’t go stupidly ballistic. It plays more like a 90s Scream contemporary than anything (aided by the same writer and director overseeing the whole thing), drawn out to cover the episode order. But this is no bad thing, despite some of Sarah’s decision making, which sees her become BFF’s with a murderer, and venture down numerous dark alleyways on her own.

The killer’s identity, revealed a little sooner than expected, doesn’t make a whole lotta sense, but things take a real dark turn come the end, which bucks the usual trend of the final girl’s passivity in the face of closure, which was pretty impressive. Here’s hoping Season 2 can at least match the potential on show here, hopefully with a more generous financier.

slasher-sarah-dylan

Blurbs-of-interest: Brandon Jay McLaren was in Harper’s Island, Scar 3DTucker and Dale vs Evil; Katie McGrath was in Red Mist; Erin Karpluk was the lead in Ripper 2.

Stock Background Characters 101: The Snooping Reporter

In this feature, we examine the lesser beings of the slasher movie realm, which, if you’re making your own slasher film, could provide a good cast roster for you.

No killer or final girl profiles here, this is a celebration of those underlings who made the most of their fleeting flirtation with stardom. And usually died.

Keep a few bills handy, you’re THE SNOOPING REPORTER

sbc-reportersOverview: Murder makes the news. Multiple murders bring the press like bloodhounds and there’s always one reporter trying to get the scoop, even if it means he/she risks endangering themselves to get it!

Linguistic Snapshot: “Can you confirm or deny that the killer’s still out there and that you have the wrong man after last night’s triple-murder at the old mill?”

Styling: In the slasher realm, Snooping Reporters are more often female than not, so power suits and great hair are usually par for the course.

Hallmarks: Pushy and unrelenting, The Snooping Reporter has but one goal: The scoop. It doesn’t matter how many locals might die, in fact the higher the bodycount the better the story. They will stop at nothing to get their exclusive.

Downfall: The Snooping Reporter sometimes dies, sometimes doesn’t, and they can either be an aide or a hindrance to the final girl. Gale Weathers, doubtlessly top of the horror movie reporter tree, is a caustic, self-centered hack who is eventually instrumental in unmasking and reprimanding the killers in Scream and all of its sequels. In Pieces, the nosy journalist is savagely stabbed to, well pieces, on a waterbed; the feminist critic in Tenebrae also meets a bloody end; TV anchor Robert Campbell (below) makes the error of visiting the old Voorhees house and becoming possessed by Jason himself; student reporter Timmy has his throat cut and is shoved into a locker in Cherry Falls.

sbc-jgth-robertGenesis: Lauren Tewes is a TV newswoman who thinks a killer of women lives in the building next door in Eyes of a Stranger in 1980. Next there’s a brief proto-Gale Weathers character in Halloween II, who utters the awesome line “You need their parents permission to make a statement, if you can’t find their parents, get a statement anyway.” She might be the earliest incarnation of an uncaring, career-focused reporter, but is only in the film for a matter of seconds (apparently she is killed in the novelization).

The doomed journo in Pieces came next, and then Tracy, a brash, trenchcoat wearing reporter who is sure Norman Bates is still killing in Psycho III, ultimately becoming the de facto heroine. By the 90s, Barry Simms fatally decides to broadcast from the Myers house in Halloween 6.

Legacy: Courteney Cox’s portrayal of Gale Weathers in Scream is unquestionably the most significant influence on such characters. In her wake, we had Kate Winsail (!) in Australian Scream knock-off Paranoid, Paul the object of lust for many a girl at Pendleton University in Urban Legend; Taylor Gentry in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, who unwittingly stumbles into final girl territory. Reporters also turned up in the various Scream parodies.

sbc-gale-kate

Gale Weathers and one of her many clones.

Films like Nightcrawler showcase just how far the media might go for the juiciest story, so for the time being it’s likely that slasher films will continue to feature reporters sticking their oars in, probably dooming various local teenagers in the process. To quote the audience member at the press conference in Scream 3: “Are you saying we should go out and cut each others throats because that’s what you did?”

Gale’s response: “Metaphorically? Yes.”

Brutal.

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