Posts Tagged ‘jamie lee curtis’

Today’s the day I balance the karmic scales with director Rick Rosenthal. If you’ll recall, yesterday I was pretty harshly critical of his Halloween : Resurrection, and why not? It deserves all the scorn I can possibly heap on it and then some. But today we’ll take a look at his first stab (sorry, I couldn’t resist) at chronicling the exploits of  “slasher God ” Michael Myers, 1981’s Halloween II.

Basically, this flick succeeds not just because it picks up exactly where the first one left off, and not because series creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill wrote the script and wisely chose to set almost the entire thing in a hospital (always a great location for a horror flick), but because Rosenthal chooses to do things more or less exactly as Carpenter  would do them (hmmm — WWJCD? Does that sound like a bumper sticker horror fans would go for?) from his perch in the director’s chair. Whether we’re talking strictly visually, or extending things out to consider other aspects like overall tone and pacing, this feels like a seamless extension of the first film, and following a proven winner by aping it more or less exactly is frankly a darn smart move. Memorable (enough) characters like Lance Guest’s Jimmy and Leo Rossi’s Bud help matters as well, as does Donald Pleasence’s increasingly unhinged take on Dr. Loomis and Jamie Lee Curtis’ somewhat-toughened-up iteration of Laurie Strode, but all in all this feels more like an extension of the first film rather than a proper sequel per se, and while that might cause it to lose some points with those who, for whatever reason, demand some “originality” (whatever that even means anymore) in their entertainment, for those of us who just want to have a damn good time watching the slasher genre firing on all cylinders, well — we can’t ask for much more than this.

All that being said, the fine folks at Shout! Factory’s new(ish) Scream! Factory sub-label have given us a heck of a lot more with their new Blu-Ray and two-disc DVD release of this film. The remastered anamorphic widescreen transfer of the film and 5.1 sound mix are flat-out stellar, and the menu of extras included is well and truly mind-boggling. Check it out : there are two versions of the film included, the standard theatrical release and the TV version which includes quite a bit of material not in the theatrical cut (and leaves a lot out, needless to say); each version has a full-length commentary track (Rosenthal and Rossi do the theatrical cut while actor/stunt coordinator Dick Warlock handles the honors on the TV version); there’s a 30-plus-minute “making-of” documentary feature; there’s a feature revisiting the filming location as they are today; there’s a nice selection of deleted scenes playable with or without Rosenthal’s commentary ; we get a never-before-seen alternate ending (again with or without optional Rosenthal commentary); and there’s a hefty selection of promotional material including numerous TV spots, theatrical trailers, radio spots, and an extensive poster and stills gallery.

Whew! Talk about getting your money’s worth, they’ve absolutely pulled out all the stops on this one. So what are you waiting for? If you’re a fan of this series at all, then this should immediately skyrocket to the top of your “must-buy” list — if you haven’t done the wise thing and purchased it already, that is.

I don’t think the Halloween season would feel complete if I didn’t include a couple reviews of films from John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s seminal slasher series featuring the one and only Michael Myers as part of my annual “Halloween Horrors” roundup, and while I’m pretty close to having written about all of them over the last few years, I’ve still got a few to go, and we might as well start with the one that causes me the most pain as both a viewer and fan, just to get it out of the way if nothing else.

I’m referring, of course, to director Rick Rosenthal’s 2002 release Halloween : Resurrection, my personal least- favorite installment in the entire series (yes, I even like The Curse Of Michael Myers better), the flick that had the less-than-stellar idea of relaunching cinema’s most venerable slasher franchise as an I Know What You Did Last Summer – style teen horror, even though that largely lamentable subgenre was already pretty well running out of gas by that point.

Featuring Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks (who, let’s face it, we were all hoping would lose her shirt at some pint in this flick — no such luck) as the head honchos and hosts of a “reality website” called DangerTainment (dumbest name ever) who get the hare-brained idea of putting together a group of randy teenagers to spend the night in the abandoned Myers house and broadcast whatever happens live on the internet, a plot conceit which also allows Rosenthal to attempt to spice up the proceedings with a few visual  nods to the then-nascent “handheld horror” craze, the whole thing is a sad amalgamation of incongruous elements that frequently don’t even work out so well on their own, much less slap-dashed together in “throw enough shit at the wall and hope something will stick”- fashion like this. Add in an unceremonious and undignified final exit for Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode character and the end result is a movie that isn’t just plain bad, but is frankly flat-out insulting to both longtime fans and more casual viewers alike.

It’s no huge surprise that this was the final nail in the coffin for Halloween until Rob Zombie came along and performed his from-scratch relaunch — even though it did in fact turn a tidy enough little profit at the box office, it was so obvious that anyone and everyone who had been involved with the series for a fair amount of time (Rosenthal had previously directed the perfectly serviceable Halloween II) was out of ideas with what to do with it that mothballing it for a good few years was the only option the Weinsteins, who by this point had obtained the rights to it under the auspices of their Dimension Films label, had left. The whole thing feels like nothing so much as an injured, limping, shot prizefighter running out the clock on what would prove, mercifully, to be his final turn in the ring. Michael Myers certainly deserved a better finale than this.

Original "Halloween" Movie Poster

Well, hey, why not?

Okay, I admit, reviewing John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher classic Halloween might be the most obvious thing in the world to do at this time of year, but maybe it was so obvious you didn’t see it coming. Whatever the case may be, my point here is not to either surprise or bore you with this selection for the 2010 Halloween 12-pack, but to convince you to watch this movie again if it’s been awhile. It shouldn’t prove too difficult a task, seeing as how it’s showing on half the cable channels in the universe these days, but if you want the full, unedited, un-bleeped-out version, it’s also available on demand on most cable systems this month, and of course it’s been released on DVD several times over (this reviewer humbly suggests that you go for the Anchor Bay “Divimax” 25th Anniversary 2-disc edition — the widescreen anamorphic transfer is superb, it features either a 2.0 stereo track or a terrific 5.1 surround mix for the audio, the commentary from Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis, and co-producer/co-writer Debra Hill is downright enthralling, and the second disc contains the highly informative 87-minute original documentary Halloween : A Cut Above the Rest that’s probably the most thoroughgoing look at the genesis and production of this iconic horror staple ever made, and  an awesome selection of trailers, TV spots, radio spots, and promotional and advertising artwork, to boot).

In short, there’ simply no excuse for you not to watch this masterpiece in the month of October, so if you haven’t done so yet — why not?

I’m assuming no plot recap is even remotely necessary here, the story is elegant in its simplicity and has been copied by ever slasher franchise and one-off in the thirty-plus years since its arrival on the scene. This is the earliest, and purest, distillation of the slasher-flick formula you’re ever going to find, precisely because there was no formula prior to Halloween, and this ended up being the template that everybody else has followed because, well, it’s downright flawless.

It all started here, folks — the “final girl” (Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, in this case); the “Captain Ahab” figure (Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Samuel Loomis); the silent killer (Michael Myers, of course, portrayed in this first outing by Tony Moran); the teenage cast of victims; the indestructible madman who can’t be killed; the sexually active girls getting killed (usually pretty soon after taking their shirts, at least, off) while the innocent one who maintains (we assume) her virginity survives — everything you know and love (or got sick of) vis-a-vis the slasher genre started right here.

Oh, sure, Bob Clark’s superb Black Christmas beat it into theaters by a few years, but that didn’t really set the mold that would follow and remains more a slasher precursor than an actual prototype, in my view. It may have blazed the trail for  Halloween, but this is the movie that mapped out the territory in no uncertain terms.

And what’s even more impressive than how thoroughly this film masters the big picture, so to speak, is how it hits the ball out of the park on all the smaller counts, as well — whether we’re talking about the pitch-perfect-from-start-to-finish musical score authored by Carpenter himself (the theme tune is the best in movie history with the possible exception of Ennio Morricone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly), or the chillingly basic titles sequence , or Dean Cundey’s amazingly evocative cinematography, Halloween gets all the details right.

This is the movie horror fans in the years prior to 1978 had been waiting their whole lives for, they just didn’t know it yet, and frankly we’re still waiting for anyone to come along and do it better. I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you  — my bet is that it won’t be happening anytime soon. The original is still the best, as the old saying goes, and it always will be.

"Not Quite Hollywood" Movie Poster

"Not Quite Hollywood" Movie Poster

“Stone.” “The Man From Hong Kong.” “Stork.” “Fantasm.” “Long Weekend.” “Mad Max.” “Turkey Shoot.” “Razorback.” “Dead-End Drive-In.” ” Mad Dog Morgan.” “BMX Bandits.” “Patrick.”

If the names of these movies don’t ring a bell—or even if they do—you’d be well-served by checking out director Mark Hartley’s respectful-yet-irreverent new indie documentary “Not Quite Hollywood,” a fascinating look at the history of “Ozploitation,” the bizarrely unique brand of low-budget exploitation filmmaking from Down Under.

In a very real sense, the history of the Ozplotation and the history of Australian filmmaking are one and the same, as no other country on earth has a movie industry whose roots lie in low-budget, drive-in pictures, and while more serious and scholarly arthouse fare like “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and “The Last Wave” were the types of films Australia wanted to be known for producing in the 1970s, in truth these high-brow pictures were few and far between, and the bedrock of this nascent industry was the low-budget genre picture designed to draw people into the drive-ins (Australia is the only country besides the US with a distinct drive-in movie culture) and deliver the same types of cheap thrills, cheap shocks, cheap sex, and cheap gimmicks as their more-well-known American counterparts—all, of course, delivered on a cheap budget.

In truth, there was no Australian film industry to speak of until “Stork,” an ultra-low-budget screwball sex comedy, came along in 1971 and proved to the Australian filmgoing public—and prospective producers/investors—that Australia could produce its own fare for its cinemas and even, eventually, worldwide distribution markets. A veritable flood of Aussie sex comedies followed, such as the highly-popular “Alvin Purple” and “Fantasm” films, and the nudity-filled romps rules the day for several years until the small cadre of Australian filmmakers started to branch out into genres such as horror, action, and biker (or “bikie” as they’d say down there) movies, as well—there were even a few Australian kung fu flicks!

“Not Quite Hollywood” covers it all, with candid interviews from the directors, producers, stars,  and cinematographers behind many of the most notable Ozploitation efforts. Special attention is paid to the gonzo, balls-to-the-walls stuntmen who did so much to make this bizarre brand of filmmaking what it is, as well. American and British stars who made the trek Down Under  to either revive sagging careers or just plain keep working such as Dennis Hopper, Jamie Lee Curtis, Stacy Keach, and George Lazenby are on hand to share their recollections, as well.

Plenty of folks who went on to have fairly successful careers in Hollywood like George Miller, Fred Schepisi, and  Russell Mulcahy got their start directing Ozploitation pictures, and while names like Brian Trenchard-Smith are not as well-known stateside, their names are well-known to the Australian filmgoing public and their contributions to the growth and development of Aussie film cannot be overstated. Future mega-stars like Nicole Kidman and Mel Gibson got their start in the world of Ozploitation, as well.

Oh, and there’s plenty of Quentin Tarantino, too, if you’re interested—as a human treasure-trove of knowledge of all things exploitation, he knows many of these movies well and his thoughts and reminiscences on them are insightful, interesting, and delivered with a lot less self-involved self-importance than we’ve grown accustomed to from him over the years.

I’m a little biased toward the subject matter here because I absolutely love Australia, having spent six months there, and I absolutely love low-budget exploitation filmmaking, so pairing the two is a match made in heaven for your humble host. But I have to admit that my own exposure to the world of Ozploitation has been minimal at best, since most of these films are unavailable on DVD here in the States. Sure, I’ve seen most of the well-regarded “classics” of  the filed like “Stone,” (my personal favorite of those I’ve seen and one of the absolute best biker movies ever, period) “Mad Max,” “Roadgames,” Razorback,” and what have you, but this movie has got me wanting to hunt more down—a lot more. There’s a plethora of delights for the low-budget coniosseur to be found in the wild world of Ozploitation, and I can’t wait to discover some of them for myself.