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

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Once Upon a Time In The 80s: Sequels (Part 4 of 17)

“Leaves the door wide open for a sequel,” is a phrase that was not part of the cinematic vernacular even in the 1950s. It really does sound like something you’d say after watching a slasher movie. These films, of course, were very popular in the 1980s, but just because you didn’t see a horror movie didn’t mean you were safe from someday hearing of a sequel.
 

In the 1970s the ‘pre-sold’ product became a big thing with studios there were many literary adaptations so logically sequels would soon follow. In 1981 there were 42 sequels produced worldwide; in 1989 there were 124. By the end of the 80s there were six Police Academys, five Halloweens, Howlings, Star Treks and Nightmare on Elm Streets; if you wanted to kill someone you could strap them to a chair and make them watch these in succession. There’s probably more but it would get redundant. As opposed to the positive legacy of special effect, the 80s left us with a trend that has only gotten worse. While there are no new series that are growing ridiculously, although Friday the 13th has reached 10 [now 11 with a 12th in development], it is much easier for a film to get a sequel now such as Legally Blond which didn’t even hit 100 million, but was made on no budget so the profitability was easier to hit. Another new trend is immediately announcing a sequel: when Spider-man opened with $115 million dollars in its first weekend the studio announced plans for a sequel. Opening weekend sequel plans have become commonplace and they can be directly blamed on the 80s who exacerbated sequel-mania in a need for guaranteed money.

While the contrived sequel can be called a spawn of the 80s on the good side there is also the series. The difference is that a series is a story that is not supposed to be in one film or book as the case may be. While there was only Indiana Jones and Star Wars these films helped develop the business concept of ‘the franchise,’ more so to me than the other films than those sequelized ad neauseum. The franchise by my estimation is a designed series of films that will also be a cash cow. To me these two series planned by Lucas and Spielberg are what set the stage for some of the better films of our times.

The studios relied on the sequel for easy money because the horror films that made them all their money were pick-ups. The Slasher Trinity of Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street were all independent productions which cost their respective distributors practically nothing. Thus, when they each took off like rockets they didn’t want to see the profits stop. And like at anytime in film history, you never know what’s going to be a hit and what isn’t, no matter how much test research you do. So they figure they’d just repeat what worked. And people went, and will go, if only out of curiosity.

While I can justify all these sequels that seemingly have no point I in no way excuse them. Because what started as just a rash has become a plague and now any film which shows and inkling of profit potential is a candidate to be butchered and repackaged in a sequel. For the most part I very much enjoy these films of the 80s, but a tendency towards needless repetition is something I can live without.
 

Work Cited:  http://us.imdb.com/List?year=1989&&tv=on&&keywords=sequel&&nav=/Sections/Years/1989/include-commongenres&&heading=8;sequel;1989

Note:  This is a recapitulation of a paper I wrote in film school. It will be published here in installments. This is part four you can read part one, two and three here.

61 Days of Halloween: Friday the 13th Part 6

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.

Friday the 13th Part 6

The deeper into a horror franchise you get the more your status as a die hard is tested. And while I will still testify that Friday the 13th stands second in the slasher trinity to Halloween, this film will likely solidify the fandom of many if the second film didn’t already.

While the auteur theory can sometimes backfire, meaning that having a writer/director is not always a good thing, this is a film that benefits from the concise vision that having one man in both of the most crucial positions on a motion picture.

The film begins without hesitation with a shocking, slightly startling musical strain. While the somewhat puzzling chronology, and odd trajectory of Tommy Jarvis’s character continues in this film; here he is suddenly hero and although there is reference to a mental facility, though he is no longer psychotic, which is a blank not filled in.

Regardless of that this film does many things that make it work. The first being that it addresses the unlikeliness that Jason is truly dead, and it has Tommy wanting to exhume the corpse and burn the body. If you can get past the Frankenstein-like resurrection, which I eventually did, you’ll enjoy this film a great deal.

There are many reasons why: Firstly, Tommy is recast, as long as there liberties being taken with chronology; why not? And it’s for the better. Second, this film has its sense of humor in the right place. For example, the gag about “some folks have a strange idea of entertainment,” with the lens being nearly spiked and someone referring to having seen enough horror movies to know they’re in trouble.

The list continues: the reference to Part 4, for backstory purposes, is audio not visual, so the reflexivity is strongest in jokes not in the narrative itself. The necessary annoying bit players are killed quickly, with impeccable timing and great comedic value.

Also, by having the Sheriff of the newly renamed Forest Green act as an alternate antagonist we can fully support Tommy and not feel quite so crass in taking some kind of perverse enjoyment in Jason’s successes, as it’s the sheriff’s fault his rampage has begun.

Perhaps the most effective part of the film is that the campers at the lake are young kids most no older than twelve, making them much more innocent than Jason’s usual potential victims who are fornicating eighteen-year-olds.

While the ending predictably enough opens the door for Part 7 at the very least they didn’t make the odds of survival or re-animation seemingly insurmountable like they did last time. Visually, narratively and structurally this is a much more accomplished piece of filmmaking than most of the other installments and is a good deal more enjoyable than many of the intervening titles since Jason’s introduction as villain.

61 Days of Halloween: Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter

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.

Friday the 13th, Part IV: The Final Chapter

As per usual, this installment started with scenes of the previous films spliced in, here, however, they finally get creative with it and have it be more montage style and less blatant exposition as it also shows several memorable kills right off the bat to get the audience’s appetite whetted for what’s to come.

The film also picks up immediately with the paramedics and police clearing the scene of the latest massacre. In a very nice touch, the film actually takes a breath once the camp is empty anew and lets us realize that this was just the scene of chaos and now it’s as if nothing happened, all we hear are the crickets. It’s perhaps the best of the few masterful strokes this film has. It’s a film that eventually trips itself but that was a great moment.

The dialogue throughout most of the film is nothing short of a train wreck. Couple that with much overacting and it’s difficult to have sympathy for many of the characters who Jason is about to slay.

There are too many characters in the equation in this film, especially considering how it ends. You meet the Jarvis family, then a group of teens going to a cabin in the woods (cue the score from Evil Dead: The Musical) and the twins they meet and then a Jason hunter. Now, I am well aware that this is a body count franchise but the time could’ve been alloted differently. Shorter teen & twins intro, shorter canoodling sequence, get them killed build the Jarvis family and the “Jason hunter” who will factor greatly in the film.

There are, in the end, too many balls in the air that don’t really have any bearing on the end of the film or the main thrust of the film. Again, these things can still happen but they were either too long or repetitive. There is some bad random 80s dancing, randomly found silent porn which is watched for too long, a lot of cattiness both of the male and the female variety that can all be avoided.

While the end with Jason being fooled by Tommy and Tommy’s turn are wonderful truly masterful strokes there is prior stupidity that undercuts its effectiveness. The main sticking point is this Trish is frantic when she finds out Jason’s loose and has to get home to protect Tommy. She returns home in a panic to confirm he’s fine. She is informed their mom is missing. Even though “The Hunter” insists she stays home while he finds her and Jason she insists on going…which leaves Tommy, who she was just so panicked about, alone again…come on man! It’s the simplest fix in the world and it wasn’t fixed and just took me out of the moment. Suspension of disbelief, gone.

The end does manage to be effective. If you like the series and are a completist definitely view it but it was hanging on by thread to liking it but that lapse in logic lost me.

61 Days of Halloween: Friday the 13th Part III

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.

Friday the 13th, Part III

One thing that is typically an interesting feature of the Friday the 13th series, at least in the early going, is that there is an attempt to keep some semblance of continuity. Images from past films will typically be spliced in at the beginning to remind viewers where we’ve been. This film shows more than the last but it is needed.
 
However, the one chance at clarification that exists isn’t taken. It glosses over the escape from the last film. This one starts with a typical band of teenagers on their way to the country all of whom are stoners, one of whom is pregnant.

There are some decent touches early on like a cop car with lights on that is not chasing them. Sadly, this film decides it needs a replacement lunatic doom-sayer even though that character was killed off in the last film, and absence of said character, makes the teens more unwitting victims. Unfortunately, the pranks and fake scares gone awry multiply in this edition.

Since the film was originally exhibited in 3D, it becomes painfully obvious that things were shot for that effect. A tremendous amount of the story is taken up with the rivalry by happenstance that occurs with a local gang of thugs. It does influence the end of the film but it takes up way too much screen time, becomes too much of a distraction and, in the end, it’s annoying. The one big positive is that it gives Jason kills you can unabashedly root for.

Another thing that gets in the way and in the end serves only one purpose is the character of Shelly (Larry Zerner). This character has the annoying habit of trying to freak out his fellow soon-to-be-victims which makes for a rather aggravating experience when you rarely get a real scare on the heels of a bogus one. The one purpose of his being annoying serves is that it sets up the most memorable kill in the movie as one of the girls thinks its still him when it is, in fact, Jason. The confusion is, of course, caused because Shelly was wearing a hockey mask which Jason steals and there you have that tidbit.

While the building of Jason’s character continues which is an interesting thing to see there are too many encumbrances that make this film nowhere near as enjoyable as the first two. While there is one sequence where a girl is running around screaming and amazingly you actually feel her fear, which is rare but too many of the characters are disposable and you don’t feel their loss and want it to an extent. For the first time in the series, some of the kills are very weak which, when you’ve been made to wait, is a very bad thing indeed. Some of the make-up work is also not passable.

Lastly, at the end Jason’s body is left alone there’s no paramedic or cop wheeling it off, forget the fact that in the story he has survived miraculously before, it’s a body why are you just leaving it around? It was a film that wasn’t far off from working, which is unfortunate.

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 Five)

Note: What follows is a full analysis of the entire film, all other parts of this essay are fairly spoiler-free with regards to the film but this is not. You’ve been warned.

Maximum Overdrive begins with a title insert basically stating that the earth will be stuck in the tail of a rogue comet for about a week. The insert seems a extraneous to me and takes away from the story to a certain extent, however, King may have stated his reasoning in an earlier writing “…any horror film (with the possible exception of the German expressionist films of the teens and twenties) has got to at least pay lip service to credibility” (Danse, 156). One will note that even Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street give their slashers traumatic pasts they must exorcise. In this film the explanation comes early and removes a necessary suspense element I feel would’ve helped the story out. One may also notice that the picture of the earth used in this sequence is backwards meaning Egypt now looks out on the Atlantic. I don’t know how no one caught that.
    

The film is set in Wilmington, North Carolina for the duration of the story. The only other time King set a tale in the south was The Green Mile. He’s set tales in Nevada, Pennsylvania and had a few go across some states but usually relied on atmosphere or people he could sketch reasonably well, which is Maine. The characters in this tale while are sometimes sketched and drawn out by King, to the extent he could with the limitations of the film but they’re acted like caricatures in most cases.
 (Note: This geographic note was correct upon the original writing. Since then King has taken to wintering in Florida, thus his fiction goes there sometimes too).    

We first see the way that the comet affects machinery on the streets of Wilmington.  First, we see a news ticker over a bank that constantly displays the phrase “Fuck You.” Then we get the early King cameo in which, he’s a bumpkin who’s called an “Asshole” by his ATM machine, this is humorous but nowhere near as good as his role as Jordy Verrill in Creepshow.  These small details may add a bit of eeriness to the beginning but as is the theme throughout this film we get a lot more humor than fright. In this sequence all the laughs are intended.

After this we get what might be one of the more frightening sequences of the film, unfortunately no one really escapes this scene unharmed. There is no protagonist who makes their way out of this wreckage and moves on to where a bulk of the action takes place. Instead, what we get is quite an effective crash scene that shows that all machinery can now think and the drawbridge lifts even though all the cars got the green light. The bridgemaster and his assistant look befuddled and the bridge is a disaster area. Everyone is stuck at the base of the lifted bridge. A motorcycle rider flies off the edge, this is the source of the big continuity error one man slides of his motorcycle and we see him seemingly go in two directions, and also go out the gap which hasn’t opened as big as camera angles would have us believe later. This huge mistake is also surprising considering Evan A. Lottman, who edited The Exorcist and Sophie’s Choice worked on this film. This scene is somewhat freaky but is also a little extraneous.
    

We then cut and see the Happy Toyz truck, it’s adorned with a huge demon face on the grill and has a slogan emblazoned across its broadside (“Here Comes a Load of Joy,” King’s ability to come up with clever and humorous slogans is uncanny). It is driven by Andy (J. Don Ferguson) who stops at the Dixie Boy Truck Stop. We get our first good shot here it comes when Andy’s talking to one of the gas jockeys, it’s a medium from the inside of the truck and we get a hint that soon there’s going to be some trouble.
 

We’re introduced to our protagonist next, Billy played by Emilio Estevez in his first role outside of “The Brat Pack.” Someone should have told Emilio that it is very difficult to flex your acting muscles and make a name of yourself from one horror film. Inside the Dixie Boy we now see that the pinball, coffee and cigarette machines are going crazy in the game room and we get a bad performance out of Videoplayer (Giancarlo Esposito) who is quickly killed off.

The first act’s pace is relentless as soon after Duncan (J.C. Quinn) is outside filling the Happy Toyz truck and the pump has mysteriously stopped. He removes the nozzle to check what’s going on and gets sprayed in the eye with diesel. At this moment we get our first sample of the score, the true score and not any sort of source music. While the score like so many is reminiscent of Hermann’s Psycho we only get this stabbing music on a few rare occasions. A few old AC/DC songs were used for this film along with a new one entitled “Who Made Who?” I happen to know that Stephen King is a big fan of AC/DC but I feel that he knows enough about horror to not have left most of the music track in this film dead. There is a lot of silence and it wasn’t very effective at all. AC/DC provided the wrong kind of mood with their high to medium Heavy Metal riffs. It makes me wonder if most of the budget wasn’t diverted towards pyrotechnics and Emilio’s salary further taking away from the film’s quality.
    

We’re later introduced to Bubba Hendershot (Pat Hingle) who shows himself to be the human villain in this tale. He is unscrupulous and uncaring. His character is quite well played. Then we see King’s first big touch when we see a headline about the comet. Prior Duncan and Joey (Pat Miller) had been talking and it was more subtle and many people won’t realize that the “Mickey Mantle” they were referring to is Deke (Holter Graham), Duncan’s son. In this film King had a little more than 90 pages and too many characters to deal with in that allotted time.
 
   
Our next two mechanical attacks work in different ways and introduce two more characters. A hand-held electric saw attacks the waitress Wanda June (Ellen McElduff) gets her forearm sliced into this is quite a gross moment and also establishes Billy as the protagonist. Then we cut to the baseball field and Deke’s team has just won and the coach is attacked by soda cans shot out of the vending machine. There is some great makeup work in this scene and it’s also pretty funny along with a shocking steamrolling shot that literally made my jaw drop. There are more characters to get to though.
    

We are in a car and getting a radio report about the odd occurrences a la Night of the Living Dead, but more subtle, and are introduced to the Bible Salesman (Christopher Murney) and Brett (Laura Harrington) a hitchhiker he has picked up. The Bible Salesman actually ends up being quite a good hypocritical character in this tale carrying a briefcase with has gold leaf on it and has “The Holy Bible” scrolled across it. Brett is going to be the love interest and this party like Deke are heading to the Dixie Boy. Laura Harrington should have gotten an Oscar…thrown at her, she was so terrible in this film. As a matter of fact the casting in this movie for the most part is rather weak; I wonder why in the closing credits the Casting Director got top billing. A director should know his actors limitations and should have reworked his characters accordingly.
  

Staying in the mode of less than satisfactory acting we switch over to Curt (John Short) and Connie who are a newlywed couple. Connie (Yeardley Smith) who went on to make a name for herself on The Simpsons as Lisa, is so annoying in this role it is nearly impossible to sympathize with her. John Short is one of the actors who ruins some of Stephen King’s great dialogue by having no idea how to deliver it. This is where King should have stepped in and altered the dialogue. It does pain a writer to change effective and intelligent dialogue for simple, pedestrian dialogue but it should be done when the actors sound stupid saying these lines.
    

Along Deke’s journey on bike to the Dixie Boy we see the wrath of the machines has left many dead bodies splayed all over the place. We get an eerie feeling again with a guitar riff for each corpse that is found. If there is one thing that can be said for this film is that all the effects are well done; as we see the trucks maneuver, drive and terrorize people. When these vehicles are on the move on their own they even drive better than real people in film they did quite an admirable job in that respect.
    

Perhaps the best dialogue King has to offer us in this film is when the Bible Salesman is trying to sell some editions in the Dixie Boy. This is also where we see Wanda June start drinking it may be the most well written scene of the film capped off by the salesman saying “This Bible has everything from the creation of this beautiful world to the fall of mankind.” This is the closest we come to seeing the implications that King had intended to impose, aside from a painting of the Last Supper we see for a few seconds, in the short story and there isn’t enough emphasis placed on this scene in my opinion. I also feel it’s a humorous commentary on how the salesman doesn’t know his scripture because all Bibles, regardless of denomination, include those tales.
    

Right before Duncan goes out to be killed we see how the blood has escaped his burned eyes. It’s a rather creepy shot that reminds me of one of King’s favorite films X – The Man with X-Ray Eyes. This death occurs in minute 32 and already we’ve seen so many characters. The Bible Salesman is later sent flying into the sewer after he charged the truck that smashed his car. King, being one who doesn’t believe in any one Christian doctrine, throwing a Bible Salesman into a gutter is a great touch. The truck that decks him also rolls over his Bible briefcase which I liked. When the body is returned to the truck stop we get another good piece of dialogue Bubba says, “He’s dripping all over my floor.” to get the people moving.
    

Stephen King also usefully employs the sewer in the attempted rescue of the Bible Salesman who we find many minutes later is clinging to life in the gutter. This provides the film with it’s only truly good looking and dark cinematography. John Short also displays his inability to deliver a great off-color line written by King in the sewer sequence (“What happened to the people who peed in this?”). The salesman we see is ultimately not worth saving when Deke finds him and the salesman says “Help me or I’ll kill you,” very Christian.
     

Just after the trucks smash a phone booth, we assume in order to effectively isolate them, and begin to angrily circle the truck stop instead of attempting to build some tension we cut away to Curt and Connie, who are chased by an eighteen-wheeler, it’s literally a cut to the chase situation. King had the opportunity to have a situational and somewhat atmospheric film but I feel that was robbed from him by producers looking to imitate many of the 80s poorer films.
    

The way in which these massive hunks of metal are fought most of the times is through gunfire, this is aided by the fact that Hendershot has a huge armory in his basement, which seems to hold everything from AK-47s to Bazookas. The only way in which the special effects fail in this film, being no ballistics expert I’m not sure, but the bazooka’s missiles are never seen in flight we only see the truck exploding. With something that big I’d go to the optical lab and add it even if it is technically inaccurate. 
    

King touches upon the flying airplane mentioned in his short story but this also comes out as comical. Once again we have a nice shot from the inside of the plane and can see the plane operating itself. It is turned humorous by the employment of Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries.”
    

Aside from the seemingly incessant presence of the comedy in this film we are also pestered by the lack of darkness; we are bombarded by light. “The dark, it goes without saying, provides the basis for our most primordial fear.” (Danse, 182). Cinematographer, Armando Nannuzzi, had done plenty of films in Italy for years on end and had most recently done quite an admirable job with King’s Silver Bullet. The nighttime footage in that film was effective in deemphasizing the low-budget werewolf but he seemed to thrive on the use of daylight to make some of his more impressive shots in Maximum Overdrive. In all fairness, Maximum Overdrive is a bright, pretty to look at film with sporadic good shots but it’s not quintessential horror. With the positive affect of darkness being so obvious one must wonder if budgetary concerns or perhaps weakness in the lighting department played into it. Even though much of the story is at day time in prose King must have realized he’d need more nighttime scenes for the film. He also knows that not only is it needed but the dark and night time is often heavily used in certain films. “All but approximately eighteen minutes of John Carpenter’s Halloween are set after nightfall.” (Danse, 186). Whereas after sunset we have but 17 minutes in the dark, and then we also have the interesting situation in which most of the human deaths occurred in broad daylight. In this film, the first scene to be set in a darkened place is in minute 48 and the sun only sets three minutes later more than halfway through the movie. Later on in the sequence, the truck stop also loses its power but this is not used in any sort of dramatically moving way and it comes back on before ever having taken any sort of toll on the story. And we are made well aware of it by a beautiful shot of the sunset.

Afterwards, we get the weird green effect in the sky which is larger in some areas of the sky than others. It was used at the beginning to symbolize the comet’s tail. In a poorly acted moment yet again provided by Laura Harrington, in the role of Brett, assumes the comet must be causing all this. It’s in a way also King’s most unfortunate piece of writing because the title card shown from the beginning is practically reiterated for the audience.  At night it seems that only Wanda June and Deke have been affected negatively. Billy is courting Brett, all others are unmoved by the celestial oddity. It’s very unusual that King with the understanding of character he has wouldn’t have gotten on these actors and told them they weren’t driving home the suspense and claustrophobic elements that should have been what was carrying the film.
    

Billy and Brett dominate this section of the film with their nighttime romance which I can only describe as filler. While I understand people can cling to each other in such a situation there was too much focus on the romance for my liking while I do applaud King for not being afraid to implement it. Wanda June dies an overacted death, she was completely drunk and yells the lines I least liked from King’s short story “We made you.” and if a film such as this can have a subtext she just blurted out part of it and she made this little speech more than once.

    
Another thing which constantly plagued this film was that it was very heavy with incident in the beginning and towards the middle of the film the action begins to taper off. The story becomes diverted to an extent.
    

Many times we are shown that Deke is the best drawn of all the characters. In the beginning we see him check on his injured coach, he’s then scared off by the salesman. He breaks down upon hearing about his father’s death, then the next morning has apparently regressed and is blowing bubbles. Not only that but when the trucks start beeping he not only realizes it is Morse code but translates it. What would have made this a better film was some more focus. At the end, when the great exodus of the Dixie Boy begins, we see eleven characters running, three of which I don’t think ever had their name uttered in the film but were perhaps named in the script.
    

The Morse incident is where the trucks admit that they need to be refueled. Billy’s reasoning eventually wins out. They pump gas for the truck because the dried out ones might call for one or many that can destroy them. A few more vehicles do show up including what appears to be a mini-flatbed with a machine gun set on a tripod, which in the end seems a little too beatable. During this sequence Emilio Estevez’s performance, which was nothing earth-shattering to begin with, also slips when we see him yelling at the truck, the Happy Toyz one with the Green Goblin face.
    

Towards the end we get an escape. The truck stop blows up. The Evil Truck which has been harassing the people and is the villain gets a bazooka in its open mouth. This moment is somewhat effective as we think for a moment maybe that one can’t be beat but then it explodes. We end with another annoying title card with a sappy finishing touch and some odd Soviet involvement in destroying a “weather satellite.” And the film closes on a comedic note with the last line of dialogue being Connie saying “Ooh, I think I’m gonna whoops my cookies.”
  
 
Maximum Overdrive is a film that has a few shocking and jaw-dropping moments. All the effects are well done and the cinematography is well-composed. What King ends up providing is a movie that ends up being a pretty good comedy/adventure, which is probably why he didn’t like it all that much. He should definitely give it another go because despite the bad casting there were some good performances in this film most notably those of Holter Graham as Deke and Pat Hingle as Hendershot. One thing King can be thankful for is that his film doesn’t ever tread into the so bad it’s good region.
 

61 Days of Halloween: Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

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.

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

As per usual this installment started with scenes of the previous films spliced in, here however they finally get creative with it and have it be more montage style and less blatant exposition as it also shows several memorable kills right off the bat to get the audience’s appetite whetted for what’s to come.

The film also picks up immediately with the paramedics and police clearing the scene of the latest massacre. In a very nice touch the film actually takes a breath once the camp is empty anew and lets us realize that this was just the scene of chaos and now it’s as if nothing happened, all we hear are the crickets. It’s perhaps the best of the few masterful strokes this film has. It’s a film that eventually trips itself but that was a great moment.

The dialogue throughout most of the film is nothing short of a train wreck. Couple that with much overacting and it’s difficult to have sympathy for many of the characters who Jason is about to slay.

There are too many characters in the equation in this film, especially considering how it ends. You meet the Jarvis family, then a group of teens going to a cabin in the woods (cue the score from Evil Dead: The Musical) and the twins they meet and then a Jason hunter. Now I am well aware that this is a body count franchise but the time could’ve been alloted differently. Shorter teen & twins intro, shorter canoodling sequence, get them killed build the Jarvis family and the “Jason hunter” who will factor greatly in the film.

There are, in the end, too many balls in the air that don’t really have any bearing on the end of the film or the main thrust of the film. Again these things can still happen but they were either too long or repetitive. There is some bad random 80s dancing, randomly found silent porn which is watched for too long, a lot of cattiness both of the male and the female variety that can all be avoided.

While the end with Jason being fooled by Tommy and Tommy’s turn are wonderful truly masterful strokes there is prior stupidity that undercuts its effectiveness. The main sticking point is this: Trish is frantic when she finds out Jason’s loose and has to get home to protect Tommy. She returns home in a panic to confirm he’s fine. She is informed their mom is missing. Even though “The Hunter” insists she stays home while he finds her and Jason she insists on going…which leaves Tommy, who she was just so panicked about, alone again…come on man! It’s the simplest fix in the world and it wasn’t fixed and just took me out of the moment. Suspension of disbelief, gone.

The end does manage to be effective. If you like the series and are a completist definitely view it but it was hanging on by thread to liking it but that lapse in logic lost me.

4/10

61 Days of Halloween- Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

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 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Danielle Harris in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (Universal)

So here you have the return of Michael Myers to the Halloween series. For my opinion of the nomenclature issues that faced Part III and how I loved Part III regardless go here.

One thing that is worth noting about the Halloween series is that their pace of production has frequently fallen behind that of the Friday the 13th series and perhaps event the Nightmare on Elm Street films, which has allowed I believe for a greater consistency. In fact, I heartily applaud the recent decision to postpone plans for Halloween 3D due to scheduling so it can be done right as opposed to fast.

What is interesting is that this film marks the beginning of the Jamie Lloyd section of films. Much like the Friday the 13th films had their Tommy Jarvis sections.

This edition starts with Michael being transferred anew. More precautions are taken but adding to his legend this does do any good and he manages to get out.

Typically, the Halloween films worked hard to give Michael legitimate reason to get out and go on a rampage. Sometimes they worked a bit too hard trying to explain and you wonder how he knew but at least he was given motive and is not merely a killing machine.

This also begins the section of the films where Loomis starts fighting wars on two fronts. One with the medical establishment who does not take his warnings seriously enough and with the cops who place blame on him for being Myers’ doctor.

While it may strike some as a little convenient that Loomis hitches a ride with a preacher it is an interesting little interlude that lends some depth to the film. While in any other context the preachers warnings and admonishments might seem a little absurd in the context of Michael Myers they make perfect sense.

While we do see Jamie teased some at the beginning there is not enough of a connection established to her such that we identify enough with her. So we want for her to escape from Michael’s clutches only because she is an innocent and not because we know her.

This film also tries to create this E.T.-like symbiosis between Michael and Jamie that doesn’t quite work. It’s a bit of a leap of faith.

This is also where the series starts to make cross-film tricks. In the first Halloween you knew he got away. That was the shocking twist at the end. Here there was little evidence to suggest survival except that you knew there’d be another movie.

The twist here will be lightened in the next film. Of the pair this is clearly the better film as this chapter of the tale doesn’t close as successfully as the previous one.

6/10