Posts Tagged ‘michael myers’

"Halloween : The Curse Of Michael Myers" Movie Poster

Since we examined the best entry in John Carpenter’s venerable  Halloween slasher franchise a few days back, it seems only fair to take a look at what’s widely considered to be the worst of the bunch — and if there’s one thing fans of the Micheal Myers flicks seem to agree on, it’s that the sixth entry in the canon,  1995’s Halloween : The Curse of Michael Myers (also known, unsurprisingly, as Halloween 6) represents the absolute nadir of the series. The rock-bottom, absolute pit.  Now, maybe I’m just on crack or something, but much as I really should hate any movie that features the debut “starring” turn of Paul Rudd (credited here as Paul Stephen Rudd), I have to say that I really just don’t think it’s earned its lousy rap.

Don’t get me wrong, on paper the “retconning,” as the saying goes, on display here is pretty off-putting — Michael (here played by George P. Wilbur, a name that sounds more like a real-life serial killer than an actor playing one), it turns out, is not some mindless, soulless killer — well, okay, he is, but he’s a mindless, soulless killer being controlled by a modern-day druid cult who’s going after his remaining family members (and anyone else in Haddonfield, Illinois who happens to be in the vicinity) for a very particular purpose (which I won’t give away simply because, contrary to most, I don’t think seeing this movie is a total waste of your time).

When our story gets underway, six years have passed since the last Halloween movie, and Micheal and his niece, Jamie, have disappeared. Jamie is in the process of giving birth to a child (strongly hinted, but never explicitly stated, to be Michael’s), Laurie Strode’s family have moved into the old Myers home (!), Tommy Doyle, the kid Laurie was babysitting in the first movie, Tommy Doyle (Rudd),  is all grown up and living in a crummy boarding house across the street from the Strodes,  and when Jamie escapes the clutches of the evil druid cult that are protecting and controlling Michael, she flees to Haddonfield with her baby and calls into a late-night radio talk show pleading for help from the one and only Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence, whose health was obviously failing when this film was made). The host assumes the call is some crank and wants to get back to the main subject of that evening’s program, the banning of the Halloween holiday in the town of Haddonfield, but a couple of the people listening — namely Tommy and Dr. Loomis himself — know better, and realize that a deadly series of events is about to converge on the sleepy midwestern hamlet once again —

Look, I don’t think that’s a half-bad setup. The “druid factor” is what pisses most hardcore fans off, but for whatever reason I think it works. The direction from Joe Chappelle is a bit MTV-ish in parts for my tastes (although it’s strictly minor-league in terms of this infraction compared to, say, the truly abominable Halloween : Resurrection), but on the whole he plays things pretty straightforward.

I’m not going to tell you that this flick is an underappreciated gem or something, but it’s more intricate and complex than the couple of entries in the series which preceded it, there are some intriguing possibilities introduced in the Myers backstory, there are a couple of solid jump-out-of-your-seat moments, and I appreciate the fact that it attempted to breathe some new life into a series that had, frankly, become a little stagnant at that point, even if not all of the decisions the filmmakers made actually, you know, work.

Halloween : The Curse of Michael Myers is available on DVD from Dimension Films — it’s a bare-bones, extras-free release (apart from the inclusion of the theatrical trailer), but the widescreen anamorphic transfer looks just fine and the 2.0-channel stereo mix is perfectly acceptable as far as the audio goes, as well. It’s also available on demand on pretty much all cable systems this month (and probably next). It’s far from a classic, but just as far from the dreck it’s usually referenced as. If you haven’t seen it I’d recommend it (if you’re bored and/or curious), and if you have seen it and hated it, I think it might be worth your time to give it another look — you may just find it to be less irredeemably atrocious as you remember. There’s also apparently a producer’s (as opposed to director’s) cut floating around as a bootleg somewhere tht’s apparently quite a bit different — if anyone can turn me onto a source where I might be able to obtain it, I’d be most appreciative.

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.

"Halloween II" Movie Poster

"Halloween II" Movie Poster

Okay, time for your host to put on his horror-geek hat here.

As any (assuming there are, in fact, any) regular reader of this blog will no doubt no by now, I’m a huge horror fan. And slasher pics are among my very favorite horror movies, I grew up on this stuff and still love it—always will. And my favorite slasher of them all is Michael Myers. Oh, sure, Jason and Freddy are cool in their own way, but for me, Michael will always be the man. I can watch John Carpenter’s original “Halloween,” as well as the original “Halloween 2,” anytime and be reasonably entertained. I even like a couple of the admittedly lamer sequels, particularly “Halloween 4” and “H20.” On the whole, I enjoyed  Rob Zombie’s first “Halloween” remake, as well. It didn’t have the originality and edge-of-your-seat tension of Carpenter’s movie, but then, I wasn’t expecting it to. I thought filling in Michael’s backstory was interesting, his white-trash upbringing fit the overall trajectory of the character well, and the idea of making him a hulking giant was terrific. Was it a classic in its own right? Probably not. But it was a more-than-respectful “re-imagining” and a pretty solid horror flick on its own merits. Truth be told, if all remakes were this good, then I and my fellow horror aficionados wouldn’t have too much to bitch about—apart from Hollywood being out of new ideas, of course.

So when word got out that the success at the box office of Zombie’s first film had spurned on a sequel, I wasn’t upset in the least. And when word subsequently got out that said sequel would not really be a “remake” of the original “Halloween 2” in any way, shape, or form, but rather an original take on Michael’s second outing, I was actually quite pleased. New ground for an “old standby” character and all that. Sounds good to me. At that point, I shut off the flow of information and figured I’d be much better off not cruising the internet for “spoilers” or any other purported “inside information,” at least half of which would prove to be pure bullshit, anyway. I would content myself to wait and see the final product. Yes, I knew a fair amount of people were excited, a fair amount were concerned, and a fair amount were prepared to hate anything and everything about it before even seeing it, but that’s just par for the course. Apart from seeing a few commercials and previews, I arrived at the theater with no preconceived ideas about what this film was going to be like — which, as it turns out, is probably the perfect frame of mind in which to see it.

Rob Zombie is heavily stylized filmmaker, that much is for certain, and in truth his first “Halloween” is probably the most straight-forward thing he’s done in purely stylistic terms, with few if any of the obvious homages to 70s drive-in horror that populated “House of 1,000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects,” but it has to be said right off the bat that “Halloween 11” is as stylistically different to its predecessor as “Rejects” was to “Corpses.” Almost jarringly so, in fact. I can only imagine what watching both his “Halloween”s back-to-back will be like. This second film looks almost nothing like the first, with a very somber and muted color palette throughout, a shift in setting , largely, away from the small town of Haddonfield and into the bleak late autumn/early winter of the rural countryside outside of it, and a darkly ehtereal, dreamlike quality to much of the proceedings that’s 180 degrees part from the stark realism of the first. Lots of sequences have a rather unfortunate “music video” feel to them, as well, although that gets easier to take as the film progresses.

Make no mistake, “Halloween II” is a movie that wears its influences on its sleeve, and the most prominent (and obvious) of those is, believe it or not, David Lynch. The first scene is —MAJOR SPOILER ALERT — an extended dream sequence, probably the longest in a film since “Mulholland Drive,” that plays out rather straightforwardly (or so it seems, I should say), but when it’s revealed that it is, in fact, a dream, after you get over the initial groan of disappointment, you realize that Zombie has actually sprinkled several clever clues throughout that could have given the whole thing away earlier had you been thinking along those lines. I’m looking forward to seeing it again just to see if I can pick up on any more hints in this rather riveting , imaginatively-constructed sequence of unreal events. This sets the stage for numerous dream sequences, most involving Michael’s dead mother, a younger version of Michael himself, and a white horse that could have come straight out of “Twin Peaks.”

When we get into the story proper, we find that the film does not pick up immediately after the first, as originally thought, but that it’s actually a year later.  Michael’s body, of course, was never found, and so while the whole world believes him to be dead, his (still-unbeknownst-to-her) sister, Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) still doesn’t have any “closure” from the murder of her adoptive parents at his hands and her subsequent confrontation with him, and so she’s become an anti-depressant-popping, therapy-attending, nightmare-plagued young lady on the edge of all-out insanity, trying her best to cope with the help of her friends and the family of the local sheriff (Brad Dourif), who have taken her in to live with them.

Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), Michael’s former therapist, has, for his part, become a total sell-out showbiz phony, capitalizing on his notoriety to pimp another book about Michael that is, at best, unsympathetic toward the plight of others who were in his murderous orbit. It’s in the pages of his latest cash-in true-crime expose, in fact, that —SECOND MAJOR SPOILER ALERT—Laurie learns she is, in fact, our favorite psycho’s sister.

Micheal’s not finished with his family business, of course, and the main thrust of the film’s plot involves, unsurprisingly, his efforts to kill anyone and everyone that stands between himself and his baby sister. And the killings are seriously brutal this time around. Zombie doesn’t spare anything in the gore and savagery department, nosiree. Even your humble host was taken aback on more than one occasion by the sheer brutality of some of the slayings.

One big plus this second effort has going for it is that many of Michael’s appearances-out-of-the-blue are much more surprising this time around even though, of course, you see them coming a mile away. When the deputy assigned to protect the sheriff’s daughter at home steps off the porch to have a cigarette, for instance, you know our guy Myers is going to appear behind him at any second, but I’ll be damned if you still don’t jump a little in your seat when it happens anyway. This ability to make the absolutely predictable still at least a little bit surprising is testament to the fact that Zombie has really grown as a filmmaker in terms of his ability to milk the dramatic tension out of a situation.

The other artist involved who has grown, in this case  by leaps and bounds,  is Scout Taylor-Compton, who didn’t do much of anything to impress as Laurie in the first film and turned in the ultimate absolutely-adequate-yet-nothing-special performance in the first film, but really carries the day here. This is her story every bit as much as Michael’s, in fact even moreso, and she does a terrific job of conveying everything her character is going through physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s truly a star-making performance and she’s got a bright future, I would think, both within and outside of the horror genre.

The story’s trajectory and its various character arcs are all pretty standard—you know exactly who’s going to die the minute they pop up on screen, and you know how things are going to end for Michael, Lauri, and Loomis long before it all plays out, but hey—that’s no major sin in and of itself, provided that the path they take to getting there is an interesting one, which for the most part it is. There’s very little new territory staked out here, but Zombie manages to cover old ground in, primarily, a satisfying and interesting way. And hey, cool cameos along the way from people you haven’t seen in forever like Margot Kidder, Howard Hesseman, and “Weird” Al Yankovic don’t hurt matters any, either. And while the ending itself is, again, straight-up “Twin Peaks” material,  it fits in pretty naturally with all that’s gone before.

All in all, what we’ve got here is not so different than the original. A story that we can pretty much predict right down the line but that manages to tell itself in an interesting and somewhat stylistically diverse way. Zombie isn’t taking us anywhere we haven’t been before, but the map to getting there sure looks a lot different.

For that reason alone, I think this movie is going to divide the horror-fan community, much as the first one did—heck, even more. People expecting a movie similar in tone and content to the previous installment won’t be disappointed, but people expecting it to look and feel essentially the same, as well, probably will be. And for those expecting a faithful remake of the original “Halloween 2″—well, they’re out of business from the get-go.

Rob Zombie’s second”Halloween” offering is essentially the same game, with the same result, played by different rules. If you’re a fan of the genre, and of the “halloween” franchise in particular, that’s not such a bad thing. Something a bit more groundbreaking would have been nice, sure, but showing an old “friend” doing the same things in a new light isn’t the worst way to spend a couple hours and a few bucks.