61 Days of Halloween- Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

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 H20: 20 Years Later

Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (Dimension)

About the only thing that Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers was not about to tackle was the whereabouts of Laurie Strode. In fact, that had been left rather open since the end of Part II. It was safe to assume that Michael was alive so why couldn’t she be?

With a name like Halloween: H20 you wouldn’t expect much but there are many pleasant surprises. The first of which is the return of the song “Mr. Sandman.” It’s a small touch but it’s such a great dichotomous use of source music it is welcome back and it’s acknowledged by Laurie for a good laugh.

The first kill in this movie is notable because it is a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt who gets his face sliced open but what’s most notable in the casting of this movie is, of course, the return of Jamie Lee Curtis. She is great reprising the role of Laurie Strode many years on and having her as anchor makes up from some of the shortcomings the film does suffer from.

One of those shortcomings is that though the series has not been rebooted there is some confusion in chronology. The original established Michael as 6 when he killed his older sister and he was 21 when he broke out. This film seems to indicate he was 15. It’s little details like that which may drive you crazy.

It’s good to hear Donald Pleasence in voice over even though he cannot be there. While Jamie Lee being back is clearly the biggest casting storyline there is in this film one of the better casts the series has boasted and much of it due to good fortune. The next installment would attempt one-upsmanship by trying to name pick but this one had young stars before they had broken out.

The conflict between Laurie and her son (Josh Hartnett) was quite good as he was trying to move on with his life and trying to get her to move beyond Michael Myers. There is also a scene between Jamie Lee and her mom Janet Leigh, where strains from Psycho play underneath it. It is a rather funny scene because of it and well played by both.

Laurie’s psychological struggles are used to great effect in this film and create some surprising scenes where you think you can discern reality from hallucination.

Even the phony scare which becomes a staple of the series works very well here and perhaps there is the most effective cross-film trick conveyed in these two films not to give too much away.

This film though adding a new generation of actors and paying tribute to one past still stays very grounded in what this film is about. It knows that you can’t move the story to Southern California unless Michael is given a reason to go there. It doesn’t do things just to be hip or trendy but because they make sense and it actually works surprisingly well nine times out of ten.

This would’ve been the perfect place to leave the series off before thoughts of reboots entered anyone’s mind but alas it was not to be.

7/10

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Review- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Will Poulter, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes and Georgie Henley in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (20th Century Fox)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is in a word, though there could be many, many more; glorious. Absolutely glorious in every single, solitary respect. Not only does it work brilliantly as a standalone tale but it also closes a chapter in a series with great effect. How it functions within the series will be detailed later.

The first thing that should be commented upon is the virtuosity of the players involved. Now this tale does have a rather big obstacle to overcome as in this tale the Pevensie quartet becomes a duo, as Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) are scarcely seen but worry not Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes are very strong and prodigious leads in the film. They each face their own trials and tribulations in their journey and support the film equally. Will Poulter, who broke out with his earth-shatterlingly good performance in Son of Rambow, is flawless in the part of Eustace Scrubb. He applies the affectations of an uptight, snobbish brat with great aplomb from a pitchy voice to flared nostrils and as his character mellows those layers peel back. Truly, Son of Rambow was most fortunate to have both he and the incomparable Bill Milner in the fold and The Dawn Treader would be so much less than it is without Poulter.

Lastly, and here is where we discuss this film in the context of the series, there is Ben Barnes. Ben Barnes, as Caspian, who is now a King; reprises his role but not identically to the last installment. In Prince Caspian a decision was made that the Talmarines, to differentiate themselves as men of a different nation, should be Spanish or speaking in a brogue thereof. Barnes did what he could to work with this impediment but that decision along with some in structuring made that installment a little less than it could’ve been. Therefore kudos are in store for the production team, principally the late great director Michael Apted, for deciding to rescind said decision. Ben Barnes speaking in his true voice is another actor entirely and he is a credit to this film.

This film, unlike many fantastic voyages, actually allows you to get into the character’s head a bit. In fact, that’s really what the enemy is all about: exploiting fears that each of the characters have. The characters are seen alone, the characters dream and they do battle with an enemy that knows how to defeat them. Mist or fog can be a very effective cinematic motif, as evidenced by eponymous films but you add a sentient nature to said mist and a whole other level is reached. Especially with the way it is framed and how the characters very infrequently sense its presence. I wrote recently of the jolting scares to be found in the most recent Harry Potter, well that is trumped by the ominous looming and chasing of the mist in this tale which gave me goosebumps on more than one occasion, as did some other events, CG or not.

Speaking of CG this may be an aspect of this film, which is almost taken for granted. To go through a laundry list of awe-inspiring visual achievements that the effects artists conjure up in this film would be tedious. However, it does need to be said that the work in this film is so accurate and precise that it likely goes overlooked by many. It has been short-listed for an Academy Award nomination and if it does not receive said nomination it will be one of the greatest injustices they’ve ever perpetuated [It didn’t get it, surprise, surprise].

This film is expertly edited and flows like a dream and treats time like a tinker toy. It makes the film move very briskly throughout but grinds the action nearly to a halt when things need observing in the minutest detail. If you had no notion of the time you’d swear the film is at least 20 minutes shorter than it really is, which is a testament to the pace of the tale.

You can’t have a sweeping epic story line without a sweeping epic score and this film most certainly has that as well, as there’s not much it doesn’t have. The score always matches but doesn’t overpower or over-accentuate the film and is dazzling.

The superlatives could continue to flow but I saw this film twice on the weekend so that should say something. I may see it anew to gauge the 3D quality, for the time being bear in mind that it is post-converted so buyer beware [I did end up seeing it in 3D later on and the conversion was pretty good] .

You have in this tale characters who are human therefore flawed and must struggle mightily against the darker parts of their nature to achieve their goal. You also have here in a series an ending as should the films continue different characters coming to the fore, even if this wasn’t the case the ending is quite the effective tear-jerker. This is without a doubt one of the most complete cinematic experiences I’ve had in a while, one of the best films of the year and a no questions asked must see.

10/10

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is available on DVD and Blu-Ray today.