61 Days of Halloween 2013: Introduction

Prologue

I figured this year I’d change things up, oh-so-slightly. Rather than have the following intro bulk up the beginning of each post I’d have it in its own post. Not only that I figured I’d also have a huge list of the films included in the past for two reasons: one, so you all can have easy access to the titles featured previously and, two, so I don’t accidentally repeat one. Enjoy and look for 2013’s first title later today. I also hope to have much more than last year’s offerings, and ideally a post a day. Subscribers be prepared to occasionally get a few notices a day as some regular site features will continue as per usual.

Introduction

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

2012 (31 Movies, 1 Retrospective)

Call of the Cthulhu
The Crazies
(2010)
The Children (1980)
The Children (2008)
The Other
The Mist
A Nightmare on Elm Street
(2010)
Case 39
Devil
Zombieland
A Haunting in Connecticut
Survival of the Dead
The Last Exorcism
Paranormal Activity
Frozen
Daybreakers
House
(1977)
Cat in the Brain
Vinyan
The Sinful Dwarf
The Final Destination
Village of the Damned
(1960)
Children of the Damned
The Final
Girl vs. Monster
Trick ‘r Treat
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
(1974)
House of Long Shadows
Friday the 13th Part 2
Friday the 13th Part 3
Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter
Friday the 13th Part 6
A Nightmare on Elm Street
, the Series Revisited

2011 (47 films, 1 list)

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest
Mother’s Day
Genesis
Aftermath
Crawlspace
Hatchet for the Honeymoon
It! The Terror from Beyond Space
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

Children of the Corn
Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice
The Video Dead
The Prowler
Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering
Masters of Horror: Family
The Evil Dead
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror
Satan’s Little Helper

Masters of Horror: Pick Me Up
Garfield’s Halloween Adventure
Teeth
Masters of Horror: The V Word
Halloween (1978)
Halloween II (1981)
Child’s Play
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Child’s Play 2
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
Halloween Resurrection

The Amityville Horror (1979)
Tremors
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
Amityville II: The Possession
Halloween (2007)

Top Evil Kids in the Children of the Corn Series
Amityville 3D
The Curse
Homicidal
The Stuff
Santa’s Slay
Die, Monster, Die!
Freaks
Vampire Circus
All the Colors of the Dark
A Blade in the Dark

Advertisements

Book Review: Stephen King Goes to the Movies

On occasion when I read a book that links either tenuously or directly to film I will review it here.

When Stephen King Goes to the Movies was initially set to be published the impression that it gave was of a book that would be as much a memoir/behind-the-scenes as it would be a regurgitation of some of his better known tales. After it was published it became clear that a great majority of its 600-plus pages were just the tales reprinted. It seems as if it was a book churned out to meet with some contractual obligation (i.e. more the publisher’s idea than King’s), which is not to dismiss it entirely, but a writer so prolific releasing an anthology of previously published works is not that common.

Of course, anyone unfamiliar with The Mangler, Hearts in Atlantis: Low Men in Yellow Coats, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, 1408 and Children of the Corn this volume will be well worth checking out. Those of you who have read those tales it is suggested you merely take the book out on loan from the public library and read the brief introductions that accompany each tale in the book.

Not to say that there isn’t some entertainment value in these introductions. King remains, as always, humorous, humble, and at times, self-deprecating. While you do get very good insights in small doses it is nowhere near the amount of detail he could’ve provided say if he had profiled his story Trucks and subsequently his directing of the cinematic adaptation of it, Maximum Overdrive.

Perhaps the epitome of the lack of detail in the book is that in the table of contents you see a page designation for Stephen’s Ten Favorite Adaptations of his work. When you turn to the aforementioned page literally all you get is the 10 titles listed and no commentary as to why these stand out, except for the rare case of coincidence where one story was included in this collection and thus got an introduction.

Again there are things to be gleaned from it. Just reading through it very quickly created four pages worth of notes based on the facts and opinions learned. It’s just not worth dropping eight bucks for the paperback when libraries are still free. Even if it is just a glorified “New Foreword by the Author” edition of many of these stories give it a read and knowing exactly what to expect your opinion may thus be enhanced, there is some gold in dem darn pages just not as much as there could be.

61 Days of Halloween: A Nightmare on Elm Street, the Series Revisited

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Each year, since I’ve started doing 61 Days of Halloween anyway, I’ve selected a long-running horror series to view in its entirety in rapid succession. I’ve already done Halloween, Friday the 13th, Children of the Corn, Hellraiser and Final Destination. Now, whether I spawned write-ups or not on each individual film has varied, what it does serve is to track the trajectory of the series, to follow certain narrative threads, concepts and plot points through the series.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a series I should’ve done earlier. There is a a slasher trinity in 80s, it just stands as a fact whether I like it or not. I’d peg the Nightmare on Elm Street series 3rd overall, and I still do having seen it all. Essentially, what it boils down to is that it’s a great, great concept that’s never executed to it maximum effectiveness.

One issue that always plagued the series as a whole is the rendition of Freddy Krueger. In Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, a film which does great things with simulacrum and reflexivity, there is a great joke where Heather Langenkamp (playing herself) is confiding in Robert Englund (also playing himself) that she’s having nightmares about Freddy. Englund responds something to the extent of “What, like, me as Freddy?” Heather responds, “No, scarier.”

It’s a wonderfully perceptive joke by Craven. Over the course of the original series, Craven only is involved in the first two, Freddy becomes more frequently a vehicle for one-liners and clownishness. It ends up being the situation, and whether or not we have any sympathy or identification with the characters, that determines whether or not we’re involved. Freddy does have an arc in the series, which is gravitates towards comedy. Jason and Michael Myers stay virtually the same, we may learn more about them, but they as symbols do not change; they don’t speak, they rarely if ever show their face and they haunt in their same way.

Perhaps the best thing about the Nightmare series consistently is that it does come of with very creative ways to have Freddy attack anew, or to explore a new aspect of the Dream paradigm. In a similar manner to the Children of the Corn series, the second Nightmare film is perhaps the most unfortunate and furthest removed from the intentions of the tropes established in the first. In this one, Freddy is able to lodge himself in his victim’s mind in his sleep and he bursts forth with a body anew whenever he takes over. It’s a symbiotic, quasi-Dark Half oddness that doesn’t befit the rest of the series.

Similar to the Halloween series which follows Jamie Lloyd for a few films, there are the Alice Johnson movies in this series. Some under-served ideas occur in her films in both Dream Master and The Dream Child wherein you have very interesting concepts that don’t get the kind of films that live up to how fascinating the ideas folded into it are.

Aside from New Nightmare, which flips the script literally, Dream Warriors is the best new ground covered. It reintroduces Nancy years later in a pretty great evolution of her character becoming a mental health professional with a unique insight to her young patients’ nightmares.

Now, as I mentioned above, in ranking the iconic 80s-started series, I put Halloween above Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. I would do so anyway, but having the two other series involved in the farce that is Freddy vs. Jason doesn’t help. And, of course, the way that film ends, even taking it for what it is, didn’t please me in the slightest.

So, the concept is great and was original upon its inception. In horror movies the “it was only a dream” escape was always a cop out. Here, in this series, there’s nothing more dangerous than dreaming. It’s not only a dream. That above all is most refreshing.

Now, this film, like the other two iconic franchises of the 80s, has been re-imagiend for the 21st century. I already wrote plenty about it in my initial review, but it did find a new avenue to make sleep attack when you least expect it. It was also a set-up part one that could’ve been improved upon in part two. However, the good news/bad news is that apparently the pie is split too many ways to make a sequel financially desirable; so for the time being Freddy’s dead anew. If and when he’s resuscitated let’s hope his persona leans towards the remake, and that the film makes no apologies for his villainy and the dream concepts are fully enforced.

61 Days of Halloween- Children of the Damned

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Children of the Damned

One thing I must admit is that I will not slam on a sequel as a rule. One needs only look at some previous posts I did in this serious such as those on latter-day Halloween, Friday the 13th or Children of the Corn series to know that I at times will be taken aback by a later follow-up. I also do appreciate a thoroughly examined through-line, a sequel which either adds to the myth-building or tries against all odds to reconcile disparate elements that seemed hastily added in a prior installment.

What this sequel does is that it cuts straight for incident. However, there’s a lack of moral compass in this film as compared to the last one. While there is only a thematic tie to the original, since it is government agents devoid of attachments to these kids the impetus is eradication makes sense but is reached far too quickly.

That’s fine in a vacuum, since in this series we know that these children aren’t innocents. However, the issue then becomes extrapolating more information about their other-worldly abilities, which this film also fails to do. There are great scenes between David (Martin Stephens) and Gordon (George Sanders) prior where there is a prodding back and forth: Gordon is seeing how much the children know and the children are deciphering how much Gordon knows. In this film, the children hardly speak and for the most part are devoid of personality. The best part of them in this version is that they are more diverse. This film picks up on the notion that similar occurrences and births took place all over the world such that there is a British, Indian, Chinese, Nigerian and American child with the ability in this version.

I can grant that the IQ testing would reveal these children as gifted sooner, as random as the reasoning for the tests is, but the assumption of bad intentions is still fast. Even in making such a quick assumption this film has less incident and more running time than its antecedent.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of the experience is in the early-going you can see how films like these set the stage for things like The Omen to come about. However, as a standalone piece Children of the Damned falls woefully short.

Horror Films and Stephen King (Part Two)

Stephen King’s philosophy on how he approaches the horror genre as a writer is three-pronged. “I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out” (Danse, 25). He believes this to be a hierarchy system in which he has three methods of attack in which to impress the reader. He will, without question, attempt each of these tactics through the course of either his writing and/or filmmaking. 
    

In the novel Desperation, as in the film version of The Shining, I feel there is a tremendous undercurrent of terror running through each of these tales. Maximum Overdrive relies mostly on the gross-out as its means to scare the audience but that does not depreciate its aesthetic value. “But the gross-out is art, and it is important that we have an understanding of this. Blood can fly everywhere and the audience will remain largely unimpressed. If on the other hand the audience has come to like and understand – or even just to appreciate – the characters they are watching as real people, if some artistic link has been formed there, blood can fly everywhere and the audience cannot remain unimpressed.” (Danse, 189).
  
 
And we are impressed to an extent in watching the havoc that King has created in this North Carolina town. That gag reflex does work on us on occasion. We are drawn into certain situations. The drawback of the gross-out being so dominant is that it’s the only level on which this film worked and it’s the bottom level. The reason it doesn’t climb higher is because “the gross-out serves as the means of last-ditch sort of identification when more conventional and noble means of characterization have failed.” (King, Danse, 190).
  

One thing that may have been a challenge to King is that this was his first produced first full-length narrative screenplay. His first two screenplays were Creepshow and Cat’s Eye. The former is an homage to EC Comics, it tells five tales and is masterfully put together by George Romero. Cat’s Eye, which isn’t as good, but it is in the same anthology format. Stephen King had written many screenplays that weren’t used prior to directing his own film. Scripts for The Shining, Poltergeist, The Dead Zone, Children of the Corn and Cujo all weren’t used for various reasons. And he had previously given an idea to the Dino de Laurentiis Company for something called Training Exercises, which was never produced. This is likely what prompted King to finally direct but just because he was finally directing didn’t mean producers wouldn’t interfere.

Franchises Which Could Use a Reboot

While I am no proponent of the rebooting trend there comes a point where screaming protestations does become tiresome, when even the biggest purist has to sit back and say “You know what? If this is the trend it may as well serve some kind of a purpose.” To that end here is a list of 10 film series that should be rebooted for one reason or another.

Rex Harrison in Dr. Doolittle (20th Century Fox)

10. Dr. Doolittle – This is another example Eddie Murphy’s sad decline ruining an altogether fine film concept. The Doctor Doolittle books by Hugh Lofting are magical and if adapted at the very least faithfully if not slavishly could certainly still be a huge hit and there is no reason it can’t start up again. Considering that the original 1967 rendition with Rex Harrison is mostly an afterthought it’s about time the series as written was done properly – installment by installment if possible.

Asterix & Obelix (Clement)

9. Asterix et Obelix – One of two foreign entries on this list. While there are animated versions of this popular comic available ad nauseum there are only two live action films and one can clearly see why. The story came across as stale and lacking in whimsy. Gerard Depardieu who was one of the leading men in cinema once upon a time comes across as a charmless, fat oaf and not Obelix. The cast and director should be scrapped. It can be done in France or anywhere for that matter as long as it lives up to the magic these stories that travel through history are capable of and with that theme story possibilities are endless since the source material already provides many of them.

In light of the worldwide box-office success and aesthetic triumph of Tintin motion capture would be a wonderful place for this series to go.

Daniel Cerny in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (Dimension)

8. Children of the Corn – This is a series that has had a remake of the original. Now as it stands the original is fantastic. It is a quintessential 80s horror film and overall one of the better ones ever made simply due to its overall impact. Having said that the series of sequels that followed soon thereafter have watered down and bastardized the brand and the drop in quality from the original to the sequels is one of the most precipitous of any horror franchise ever (with few exceptions). For that reason I have placed the franchise on the list and it will be with a bit of curiosity that I will attend the remake to see if the franchise can be revitalized.

Zombie (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

7. Zombie – These are perhaps the films that Lucio Fulci, Italian giallo director, is best known for and it’s a mystery why. Slow-moving, sunlit and un-suspenseful when compared to Fulci’s best works. The occasional grossly unsettling make-up job is not enough to save any of the set-ups. These are a prime candidate for a relaunch. The island can be shot at night, or it could simply not be set on an island. Zombie films are all the rage for the time being find some other way to turn the genre on its ear under the zombie brand and it is sure to be a hit.

Jaws (Universal)

6. Jaws – Yes, Jaws is an absolute classic and should not be touched. There are reasons why the series is on the list. The series as a whole is very bad. Nothing that happened after Spielberg is any good and Hollywood has proven time and time again that absolutely nothing is sacred, not even Spielberg. A Poltergeist remake is in the works. So, theoretically, yes the Jaws series does belong here.

Samuel Costa in O Menino Maluquinho (Inter Filmes)

5. O Menino Maluquinho – This is the second foreign selection on this list and it is the film adaptation of the best-selling children’s book by Brazilian illustrator/author Ziraldo. The first film was absolutely wonderful and while not a literal adaptation it was most definitely one in spirit, which is the most important thing. There was a sequel which was good but not as good as the original as the cast was a little too old at this point to be believable in the story. However, with the character still popular in a daily comic strip it is easily a candidate for reboot. Brazilian audiences, especially younger ones are used to long series like Os Trapalhoes, and it would work perfectly if the kids were recast every few installments similar to the James Bond franchise.

4. Home Alone – This is another example of a series where it was the sequels failing the concept more so than the original. This is also one of those series where it’s one of the least necessary reboots but it’s the kind that makes you wonder why it hasn’t happened already, especially considering that it’s a John Hughes project Anyway, the second was regurgitation, the third was decent but weird in as much as it was just a continuation of the situation not characters or plot and the fourth was just painful.

Gremlins (Warner Bros.)

3. Gremlins – Yes, the first only was classic but they kind of dropped the ball. The sequel, though enjoyable, seemed like an afterthought and the time between the original and the follow-up could’ve contributed to its lack of success. It’s an idea that’s endlessly appealing and one of the best combinations of horror and comedy around while the film is an 80s classic there is no performance that’s irreplaceable so it’s surprising that studio executives haven’t jumped at the opportunity to jump-start this one.

Anthony Michael Hall, Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo and Dana Barron in Vacation (Warner Bros.)

2. National Lampoon’s Vacation – The Vacation films weren’t ever really designed to end. They’re all so great each one more memorable than the last and just silly. I think it’s a series that could easily come back into play by just having Rusty or Audrey go on a trip with their kids and have Grandpa and Grandma (Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo) along for the ride (Seriously, what else are they doing? And they should be doing something). With the last film being in 1989 there is so much socially and about the world that can be mocked, parodied or lampooned that wasn’t even in the public consciousness back then that it’s about time. People still laugh at the old ones and they would laugh at new ones too.

Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear (Paramount)

1. The Naked Gun – Yes, the 3rd film was called The Final Insult but those kinds of titles have been contradicted before. I think along with a new James Bond we should have new Frank Drebin pictures. This can be done in one of two ways one the old pulling the investigator out of retirement against his will ploy can be implemented or he could be unwillingly training his replacement. Either way good parody is a necessity and his were second to none and he should be leading, not making appearances in second rate attempts so the parents in the audience can have a good laugh.

Ideally, I’d have loved the late great Leslie Nielsen to have been involved but the fact of the matter remains that the parody film is fast becoming a lost art of the comedy genre and perhaps a classic vehicle is needed to revive it with the right people in place.

61 Days of Halloween- Top Evil Kids in the Children of the Corn Series

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Top Evil Kids in the Children of the Corn Series

Below you will find a ranking of the featured evil children in the Franchise to date. Apologies to Robbie Kiger and AnneMarie McEoy and the other actors portraying the good kids of Gatlin and the surrounding communities throughout the series but this is the bread and butter of it after all.

12. Adam Wylie in Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror

Adam Wylie in Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (Dimension)

As I indicated in the review of Fields of Terror this ranking isn’t a reflection of Wylie’s abilities as a performer so much as they are a function of his being miscast for this role. Despite his conviction and acumen in delivery he is rarely believable and never intimidating.

11. Dusty Burwell in Children of the Corn: Genesis

Dusty Burwell in Children of the Corn: Genesis (Dimension)

OK, confession time: Burwell does kind of get a pass based on his age and the fact that the script demanded very little of him. He’s constrained by a small amount of activity he’s asked to do and no dialogue. Due to most of the faults being that of the film and not the actor I can bump him up slightly, however, his character was the least involved of all the evil children in this series thus far.

10. Daniel Newman in Stephen King’s Children of the Corn

Daniel Newman in Stephen King's Children of the Corn (SyFy)

Newman is given the unenviable task of reprising the role of Malachai which was made iconic by Courtney Gains in the original film. Granted the character in the story and this script is much less involved and demanding, however, nary does Newman really engender fear based on a look or a line. The tension of the film is purely situational.

9. Preston Bailey in Stephen King’s Children of the Corn

Having recently seen him in Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer I can say he has become a stronger actor. Which is not to say that he’s weak in this film. He does admirably with his dialogue and is always as imposing as he can be he may just have been a bit young for the part, however, he does have his moments.

8. Brandon Kleyla in Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering

Brandon Kleyla in Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (Dimension)

Many of the actors in this part of the list are in similar boats: they were in roles that were larger in significance than size. Kleyla is one of the more under-involved having said that he doesn’t capitalize much on it and is somewhat forgettable aside from some good kills and nasty appearance.

7. Ryan Bollman in Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice

Ryan Bollman in Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (Dimension Films)

At least Bollman is in a cast where the cabal is large so he has support. He is good for an occasional evil stare that is effective but not as strong with dialogue. If they were on even par he might be higher up.

6. Sean Smith in Children of the Corn: Revelation

Sean Smith in Children of the Corn: Revelation (Dimension)

Sean Smith sadly can’t claim top billing amongst the evil kids in his own film, however, a lot of that is due to the design of it where minion ghosts bear more of the brunt than the boy preacher does. In his limited time he is rather formidable both as a personage and as an actor. He has chilling glares from cold eyes and puts quite the assault on the protagonist.

5. Jeff Ballard & Taylor Hobbs in Children of the Corn: Revelation

Jeff Ballard and Taylor Hobbs in Children of the Corn: Revelation (Dimension)

Here’s a rare case where the effectiveness of the kids and the quality of the film don’t quite match up. The film in terms of premise and execution is sad. This pair also don’t talk much but overcome that because they fit the parts so well and are committed to their actions with demented glee.

4. Robert Gerdisch in Stephen King’s Children of the Corn

Robert Gerdisch in Stephen King's Children of the Corn (SyFy)

This is the standout of the King remake both in terms of writing and performance by a juvenile. As I’ve stated before a great teaser scene can be a good thin or a bad thing. Here it’s a great thing. Gerdisch’s preaching is a chilling tone-setter that is wonderfully delivered and one of the highlights of the film.

3. Daniel Cerny in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest

Daniel Cerny in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (Dimension)

Here’s a prime example of how heavy involvement by the preacher kid in this film can be a boon to it. Cerny shoulders more of a load in this film than any other young actor in the series and has some of the better material and moments. For the most part all are used to his advantage and he also has the intangible that just is scary.

2. John Franklin in Children of the Corn

John Franklin in Children of the Corn (New World Pictures)

I think appropriate that I state that the top two could easily be reversed. The top two are, as one might expect, in the first film. Franklin’s casting, in the original, is inspired. He was playing a character younger than he was at the time and was easily convincing and also quite unnerving. No preacher had more verve and downright zealotry. His return in the original is perhaps the pinnacle of the film. It’s truly difficult to separate this team. Their strengths are enhanced by the fact that they share the same film.

1. Courtney Gains in Children of the Corn

Courney Gains in Children of the Corn (New World Pictures)

Why does Gains get top spot? First, there’s a question of his character. He is the wildcard enforcer and in a moment revealed as the more feared amongst the children. He makes simple lines emphatic and shocking. He has an intimidating glare and makes his onscreen time count, every second of it.

61 Days of Halloween: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Bradley Schachter in Halloween III: Season of the Witch (Universal)

The first thing that immediately comes to mind when I think of Halloween III: The Season of the Witch is the old Shakespeare quote “What’s in a name?” Apparently the answer to many a film fan, especially devotees of the horror genre, is a lot.

The fact of the matter is I cannot completely absolve the decision to tag this film as part of the Halloween franchise, however, I do not feel it defines the film. In fact, the first time I saw this film was during a Halloween marathon and I had no prior knowledge so I did keep waiting for Michael Myers and though I eventually realized he would not be there it still didn’t ruin the experience for me.

The sad part is the title cost the film. If it had just been labeled Season of the Witch, which has every bit as much to do with it as Halloween (which is not a great deal), people might’ve been able to judge it for what it is and maybe there would’ve been a sequel to examine the aftermath of the diabolical plan. It also caused Part 4 to be subtitled: The Return of Michael Myers because this film had been lumped into the series.

It’s hard to think of a horror concept more perfectly suited for the 1980s. It all hinges on commercialism and cynicism surrounding consumerism. Yet it is also in a way about the ubiquity of television in a day and age when there was no real choice, which plays brilliantly into the plot.

Like many films in the series, however, it does deal with the countdown concept of the approaching holiday. It does so more effectively though as the countdown to Halloween is an intrinsic part of the story which is embodied in a catchy jingle and as we learn more the jingle becomes more and more dreadful.

Perhaps another place where there is a disconnect surrounding this film is that it operates on a more antiquated notion that explanations are overrated when the occurrences within the tale are frightening enough. What is the goo? Why are there spiders? How can the stones target their victims? These are all questions that you walk away with but the answers are virtually irrelevant. What matters is the impact of the story, which is massive. I’ve seen this film a handful of times and the end still leaves my skin acrawl with goosebumps.

When you get right down to the nitty gritty of horror most people are only concerned about one thing: the kills. Some of them in this film are truly memorable and one, when you learn the nature of the mask, is truly iconic.

While within the chronology the film does get to October 29th rather quickly the information does mount steadily enough from that point on that the pace never does suffer.

The music in this version, though also a departure, is quite successful and the return of Dean Cundey behind the camera assures some brilliant imagery.

What is also interesting is that the city of Santa Mira where the Silver Shamrock factory is located is rendered as sort of a cinematic precursor to Gatlin, Nebraska in the Children of the Corn. Its citizens virtual automatons who are functionaries of the company and who look with disdain on any outsider.

There are concrete facts that could be discussed further but what is most interesting about this film is that it floats many big ideas: How this could possibly be the last Halloween, The size of the cataclysm intimated by what the TV ratings may be and also the notion of simulacrum as a few times on TV you see that the world premiere of the Halloween will be airing.

This is a film that while it doesn’t technically belong within the series is still one that ought not be overlooked or underrated.

9/10

61 Days of Halloween- Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror

David Carradine in Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (Dimension)

Here we are again in Gatlin, mind you that’s not a complaint. As you have seen and will see later on in the series keeping the geographical ties in this tale are quite difficult. The fact that Urban Harvest works so well in Chicago is nothing short of astonishing. No, this series didn’t have the affinity for Gatlin, Nebraska that Friday the 13th had for Camp Crystal Lake but both those series had a successful airing outs. Here though despite the many possibilities that still existed the returns to nearby towns and Gatlin itself almost always have a bit of staleness to them.

Perhaps no film in this series does more to distance you at the beginning of the film than this one does with the intro it has. Not only do you have the stereotypical college kids on a road trip but to not put too fine a point on it they’re douche college kids. Fantastic. And these are the people I’m supposed to want to see escape the grasp of smarter, more organized albeit crazed zealot children, to quote the great philosopher Ed from Good Burger “Uh, no?”

As if their intro with blow-up doll road markers and typical over-the-top fratboy-jerk-loserness isn’t bad enough we’re supposed to then think that these broad, over-the-top types have dimensions, heart and a conscience and want to save some of the of the children of Gatlin from the fate that’s befallen them. Even if the performances to this point had ridiculously exceeded what was on the written page, the script had already doomed the notion would pass the suspension of disbelief test.

It’s a ludicrous notion to want to save the children because the one thing that has always been somewhat a strength and a detriment to this series, depending on how it’s handled, is that the kids aren’t subtle. Basically, because kids just aren’t usually. They hate b.s. and subterfuge. So in an insular setting with a mob rule/cult mentality they’ll yell “Outlander!” at you and chase you with a scythe no problem. This film is not that different. The children don’t waste a lot of their time telling the students they’re trespassing on private property and that they best be on their way. They proceed to get lost and then trapped there by the children yet there’s still some trust there, some you’re willing to try and save?

Now as mentioned the acting here again is not stellar which you could almost come to expect but what makes it more difficult to take is that there were some weird casting choices. One of the students is played by Ahmet Zappa, now I can’t argue he doesn’t fit the type of character he plays but why Ahmet Zappa would be cast in anything is beyond me.

A bit more unfortunate I feel is the casting of Adam Wylie in the role of the preacher boy, Ezeekial, now I stress that it’s the casting I question here. Adam Wylie in this era was a child actor who’d pop-up in almost anything you can think of, rather akin to Nathan Gamble in as much as you saw him in many things but just likely never placed a name to the face and minus a breakout role now but talented nontheless. Wylie in the realm of a horror film was suited more to be the scared kid you’d be rooting for rather than the flip the switch type: seeming all sweet and innocent until you get on his bad side. A polar opposite of Daniel Cerny in III film.

This film also has a stellar bit of casting that sadly does little to nothing to help the film at all. David Carradine plays the role of an elder guide here. Despite the fact that he gets some decent dialogue that he’s allowed to work brilliantly with his susurrous delivery it adds a weird wrinkle to the story. In the original run of the series The Age of Reason, meaning the age at which children reach adulthood and must sacrifice themselves to He Who Walks Behind the Rows, changes clumsily. In the short story and remake it’s clear why, however, never is it adequately explained why a group with such a rigid dogma would not just allow this man to live among them but act as counselor.

This is one of the cases in this series where the film lost their religion. At certain points it seemed to vanish entirely other times fundamental precepts were change regardless of consequence or lack of sensibility. Clearly installments of this nature suffer more than most.

This film also changes the ritual of sacrifice, which is one that I can forgive so long as one character is the interpreter of the will of He Who Walks Behind the Rows things like that may shift. However, on top of everything else in this film there was a lack of explication.

The very least I can say for the film is that they did create other avenues for leaving town once a car is taken out of the equation but it very predictably goes wrong. However, it does beg the question why is a bus stopping in a ghost town? Other locals may have a handshake agreement to leave the children alone and keep their lives but a bus? Why?

Everywhere you look in Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror there are head-scratching decisions. Such that my initial reaction was after this installment no wonder they felt it necessary to re-hash Isaac for the next one.

2/10

61 Days of Halloween- Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering

Naomi Watts and Mark Salling in Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (Dimension)

Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering is an absolute dud. If it wasn’t for some of the performances this film might rank lower in the annals of the franchise than it does. It is seriously sluggish throughout and never gets anywhere fast.

The most notable thing about this film is that two of its more prominent players have gone on to bigger and better things and you can see why Naomi Watts and Mark Salling (Glee) are so much better than the parts they play and the film they’re in that they scarcely lift it up but merely make their portions of the film somewhat tolerable.

To get a sense of the issues that this film faces there is yet another noteworthy performance in this film and it is that of Karen Black. It’s actually a shame to see someone like Karen Black in a film like this and it made me think of the Family Guy joke about her just a little bit different, not as an obscure reference but in an obscure film.

This also one of the films in the series wherein the child prophet (Josiah played by Brandon Klayla) is missing through a large majority of the film. Rather than write him scarier he’s disfigured with bad prostheses and doesn’t invoke as much fear as he should, however, he is behind the eight ball due to his screen time.

This film also suffers from the fact that it’s the one that does the most to try and absolve the children of being evil. The corn and its disease plays a major role in this film and though some of the hospital scenes are the better ones in the film it’s a perpetuation of an unfortunate development in the series that thankfully dies after this film.

While this film does only somewhat better in juggling a blossoming romance and a horror story it misses the boat. The problem is romances are exciting and new and you “have” to watch the courtship and have it detract from the reason you’re watching the film, to be scared. Yes, it could help you connect to these characters and raise the stakes but it also introduces a lot of artifice and room for easy exposition, life stories as exchanges and so forth. Whereas in the original, the remake and the latest installment one of the stronger elements in all of them is that the couples have an existing relationship. They have a history they talk, debate, bicker and fight and you learn about them in a more subtle way and have a better chance of rooting for them because they are together and want to get out go on a honeymoon, have kids and what have you. Marriages, and/or committed relationships have more permutations, interest and conflicts than star-crossed love stories.

The other huge issue with this film is indicated by the subtitle, The Gathering. There’s not much more to it than that. It’s likely if not the most, one of the most anticlimactic films in the series. In the other ones, even those that aren’t good, at least deliver a compelling climax, in conception anyway.

I frequently write about the last image, shot and/or scene of a film being very important. After a film such as this one you want that scene to something quick and simple and hopefully not open, I’ll grant it that this one wasn’t an open end but still kind of a gimmicky one but unfortunately fitting considering what preceded it.

3/10