61 Days of Halloween- Halloween (2007)

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 (2007)

Daeg Faerch in Halloween (Dimension)

Rob Zombie’s Halloween is one of the most confoundingly schizophrenic horror films in the history for the genre. Rarely, if ever do you see unabashed greatness and miscalculation fight so mightily with each other for screen time.

You have here such juxtaposition such that I’ve revisited the film several times. A great film is rarely as compelling and fascinating as one that squanders greatness somewhere along the way and this film does that perhaps in more spectacular fashion than almost any film.

The film follows Young Michael for 35 minutes. Most of those minutes are riveting, even when there are shortcomings it is still engaging because it is brand new material. The mistake in this film was to ever age Michael.

I am not arguing that Zombie needed to be beholden to the continuity of the original series. It would just have been a much more effective tale had you examined Michael further and left him right on the brink of what he was about to do on Halloween. There was a room for it. You could’ve witnessed the trial shown more of him being responsive to Loomis before he shuts down. He could create more havoc in the institution.

And conversely the sequel could be a condensed version of all that he and Laurie go through with a lot of the fat trimmed out. However, for what the film does decide to do there are still areas where execution could’ve been better.

The first 35 minutes of the film are the epitome of horror and here’s why it gets under your skin and makes you so terribly uncomfortable: A case in point would be Michael’s first kill. You sympathize completely with Michael due to the bullying Wesley subjects him to. However, when Michael gets his revenge his assault is so brutal it’s stomach-turning. So you’re left with this unease and ambivalence that is just jaw-droppingly horrific. The same can be said for his disposal of his family. It’s not necessarily that there is even sympathy for the victims so much that his killing is so brutally assured that it’s bone-chilling.

A lot of that is conveyed through the iconic performance by Daeg Faerch. Sadly, I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened this way but I am quite certain that if Faerch hadn’t been around, this film ought not to have been made at all. Much like is Spielberg hadn’t seen Haley Joel Osment he would’ve delayed A.I. indefinitely. It’s that kind of performance a coupling of character and actor that works so well it’s rare and truly a sight to see. Think of the great antagonist horror performances of the last 25 years and this one is on par with if not better than they are.

Look at it this way, Michael is being given a face and voice in this film after nearly 30 years of silence. That is a massive undertaking for an actor. A hard role to live up to and much less excel in.

Now for me to say the wheels come off simply because the original started being rehashed would be unfair, it is a remake after all. It is how the rehash is executed that makes it not work.

Laurie Strode and her friends need a different tone. They didn’t talk and act all that much different than the Myers family. Half of which Michael killed and we wanted him too. There needs to be some added virtues to Laurie that make us want to root for her.

This is the alternate universe of a horror film where our baser instincts come to the surface. Michael is who we are most familiar with. He is the star, he will not die. There has to something special about a character to make us really want them to escape his clutches. If you’re just a foul-mouthed skank no different than the sister he killed except that you never met him why should I care?

Look at Laurie Strode in the original, yes, her friends talked frankly about sex and drug usage and things of that ilk but Laurie was honestly embarrassed by some of the talk. She kind of went along with her friends but she was not the fornicating-when-she-should-be-baysitting type. That’s why we identify with her. Not only is she an innocent but we like her better than her friends and if we want the friends to live it’s only for Laurie’s sake.

So the type of characters Laurie and her friends are is a problem. Unfortunately, so are the actors playing the parts. There is such a wild inconsistency in the quality of performance in this film that it makes it nearly impossible for it to succeed. You run the gamut from Daeg Faerch and Malcolm McDowell to Sheri Moon Zombie and Scout Taylor-Compton.

You also get small and at times distracting appearances by many actors who have made a splash in the history of horror films. Had this been a completely original tale that may have been less of an issue. Dealing with an iconic character and story it’s unwelcome.

Poor acting is forgivable to an extent in a horror film if the situation remains scary and interesting enough but quite frankly the film gets long in the tooth. It’s not necessarily that in a series you can really get pre-conditioned to a running time but frankly the Halloween films typically clock in a just over 90 minutes for a reason: that’s all you need. Whether the theatrical cut (109 minutes) or unrated (121) it’s too long, for the given story. It really makes me wonder what the edited Brazilian cut (83) plays like.

Then of course you have the ending. The open ending that isn’t quite open and has about five too many screams in the mix. It may be the greatest anti-climax of an ending that any film in the series has. Even the follow up has a better, more coherent and effective capper than this despite the fact that its even worse. After nearly two hours a screaming close-up is really not the taste I want left in my mouth. It literally could’ve been almost anything else and it would’ve been better.

5/10

61 Days of Halloween- Halloween: Resurrection

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: Resurrection

It’s nearly impossible to drop the ball as badly as this installment of the series does. This is the one that almost justifies starting all over from scratch. Which would be fine but the fact of the matter is no one sets out to make something terrible just so they can start over. There are no ‘rebuilding films’ you think “Oh, this’ll work.” Then when you fall flat on your face you start trying to figure out how you’re going to fix it.

What makes it so terrible is the set up is there. This film pulls off the best cross-film trick of the series. Laurie’s triumph is rendered her tragedy and in a much more convincing way than occurs in the new series Laurie ends up institutionalized.

However, in a much worse way than Part 6. This film botches a farewell. Laurie Strode is this franchise every bit as much as Michael and Dr. Loomis are. You don’t send her out the way they do such that it was a near accident. That is no blaze of glory which after four films is what she deserved.

So here you are left with an Austin Powers in Goldmember kind of set-up (“Austin caught me in the first act, what’s with that?”). Who are we to root for and who does Michael want to kill now because at this point he’s gotten everyone, except Laurie’s son but no he doesn’t go after him, this would be the rare case where I’d be for recasting, he goes after random people.

Granted these are random people who are all in his house in Haddonfield but random nonetheless. In other words these people are all expendable I could care less whether they live or die, in fact, the quicker Michael kills them the happier with this pile of slop I’ll be.

But it gets worse and here’s how: remember how there was actual social commentary thru the guise of a mid-90s shock jock in Part 6. Yeah, well here there’s a reality show and it really just serves as a vessel through which they will attempt to get a “modern” audience to relate. In the end it just allows these ridiculous caricatures to be even more dense than they otherwise would’ve been through their pathetically contrived audition tapes with their deep thoughts on Michael Myers.

The sequence in which this farcical show is being taped manages to be just as if not more slow moving than the crater-sized lull in Part 5 but what makes it harder to bare is that there is literally not a person you want to make it through this thing alive.

The acting overall is just plain pathetic and as if it’s not bad enough the capper to the series is left to Busta Rhymes who cannot convincingly deliver a line unless the more complete and vulgar variant of mofo is included. Lucky for him he says mofo a lot. His conclusion is Michael is a mofo. He is a smart man and this is a dumb, dumb movie, which isn’t worth the film stock it was shot on.

1/10

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

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- Halloween II (1981)

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 II (1981)

Halloween II (Univeral Pictures)

What is interesting to note about the second Halloween film is that much like the Friday the 13th series it rewinds and replays the end of the previous film. This film does so to great affect because it doesn’t go back too far or splice it up it only backtracks the necessary amount to be able to continue the story in exact chronological order. So in the world of this film it is still October 31, 1978 and the film does a tremendous job in creating a very believable continuity in all aspects.

Much like the first film, and many horror films, there is an homage on a TV and you see clips from Night of the Living Dead.

Part of what makes this film interesting is that it starts with the media not yet having released that it is Michael Myers. So his legend is not yet re-popularized, which does mean you need to make a leap of faith when you see that someone is walking about dressed like him. The first seems to indicate the jumpsuit is acquired from a trucker. This potential hole aside the scene is still tremendously effective because later you do see the medical examination of the charred corpse and also because it ends up being Bennett Tramer, Lori’s crush who is merely mentioned in the first film.

This is also the first real taste you get of the vilification of Dr. Loomis. The police show a lot of, if not infallible, patience in the first film. Here Myers affects them personally and they lash out at Loomis.

The flow of news that’s being disseminated is very well handled from news stand ups to snippets overheard from a boom box. It reflects the widening of Myers’s scope. While this widening is well handled it’s part of what makes this film not quite the first. While it is very chilling throughout there was a certain sense of claustrophobia that was created by focusing on two babysitting assignments on either side of a street in the first film that is better and absent here.

The cinematography in this film is perhaps even better than the first. An advantage of the changed scope is that Dean Cundey is given a wider variety of canvases upon which to paint.

What propels the series in this edition is the twist it provides. It provides Michael both in the original and in this installment with motivation that goes beyond just simple revenge. It is also different as it provides a twist to the nature or identity of the victim as opposed to the villain.

There is more, however, which makes this a truly special film not only in horror but in the realm of sequels. This film also has an iconic moment, more a concept really, and that is finding the word “samhain” written in blood on an elementary school chalkboard.

What is perhaps best about the character of Lori Strode is that she always seems to very genuinely connect with the audience, which is not merely a function of her being played by Jamie Lee Curtis. It is also due in part to the fact that she very often reflects the audience’s thoughts: “He is the Boogeyman,” or in this film “Why won’t he die?” and because it’s Jamie Lee Curtis it sounds like a genuine question and not a punchline from an Austin Powers film.

Lori is also able to distract Michael long enough to get him offguard by showing she knows who he is. In what could’ve been a move that took it over the top Michael is shot in the head and blood runs out of his mask’s eye holes and represent the tears he cannot shed. It does work, however, because his action belies that seeming representation of emotion. However, he was stopped when he saw he was recognized.

This film also makes Loomis, despite all the failings he’s had whether they were his fault or not, its hero as he manages to stop Michael (or so it seems) even in the final confrontation there is a great image and moment to be had.

While it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor it does do right by the story, concept and its characters.

8/10

61 Days of Halloween- Halloween (1978)

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 (1978)

At times it can be almost more difficult to write about a great movie than it can be to write a mediocre or terrible one. That, however, is not the case when it comes to John Carpenter’s Halloween.

So much in this film works to absolute perfection. It starts right off the bat with the theme. It is not only one of the best themes in the horror genre but in cinema and furthermore there are variations on it such that the entire score is fantastic.

The film starts, of course, with the brilliant prologue which shows Michael’s genesis. There is tremendous use of POV in this scene and also silently the character is being built. Many a horror villain are too chatty. What separates Myers and Voorhees is their silence which amplifies the fear factor. What sets Myers apart is that he never has anyone acting on his behalf he is always “evil incarnate” as Dr. Loomis calls him. Which helps make the prologue more shocking and why it lands high on this list (don’t follow the link if you haven’t seen the film).

The prologue ends in a near cinematic tableau as we are allowed to absorb the awe of what we just witnessed. The story recommences 15 years later. Loomis is introduced and immediately another brilliantly staged and crafted scene breaks out where you see Michael in his present state.

Following this is where Haddonfield and its characters are introduced. The first two sections are played in darkness but then Loomis chasing Michael, Loomis talking to authorities, Laurie Strode’s day and Michael’s following are played in daylight. Night falls for good in the 35th minute of the film and from thereon in horror film history is made.

It can not be overstated that what makes the most effective horror films nine times out of ten is building character and concept. Loomis both in trying to get people to understand what they’re dealing with reveals some of what his experience has been and how he’s become not so much jaded as aware.

What should not be overlooked is all the talk about the boogeyman. It may be too easy to slough this aside as childish nonsense, however, the film makes it perfectly clear by the end that it’s as good a description as you’re likely to get.

Part of what makes Michael Myers such an iconic figure is that he really does get under your skin. He watches you when you don’t realize it, when you think you caught him he vanishes and he comes out of nowhere with some of the best entrances you can ask for in cinema. It truly is spine-tingling stuff. Furthermore these entrances while accompanied by SFX and music don’t crank the volume up so loud that that’s what scares you. That’s what I call a false scare. In this film music and effects underscore what is scaring you which is Myers.

It’s hard to think of a third act in a horror film which has more memorable, shocking and iconic moments. There is Judith Myer’s tombstone, the double-scare corpses and the shadow lurking. Yet it doesn’t stop there. Right at the end there are four extraordinarily memorable moments which to not give too much away I will similarly label: He is the Boogeyman, The Unscored Moment (where the silence makes the visual even more frightening), Vanish and The Breathing Montage.

It’s about as well-crafted as a film, regardless of genre, can be. It spawned a slew of imitators and it attacks primal fears on so many levels. There’s not much like Halloween and even with the ups and downs of the franchise it is likely the best horror series ever.

10/10