31 DAYS OF SPOOKY STUFF – Day 31 (Journal #86) – Bob and Harvey Ruin the Shape

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All things must come to an end. And though Scott’s Film Geek Journal will continue, this marks the end of my series, “31 Days of Spooky Stuff.” For this last installment, we’ll look at what happened to the HALLOWEEN franchise once the 1990s reared its flannel-wearing head and Miramax’s Dimension Films took over the production and distribution of the series.

 

RATING SYSTEM

The Best – Reserved for the absolute cream of the crop.
Highly Recommended – Very good. Far better than your typical film and one that I will remember for some time.
Recommended – Just what it says. This is a good film and earns a recommendation. Don’t think that because it’s not one of the top two categories that these films aren’t worth your time. The “recommended” tag is a winner and nothing to sneer at.
Barely Recommended – The middle of the road. Those films where I didn’t feel it was a complete waste of time, but it didn’t set my world on fire either. Not bad, but leaves me feeling bored and/or apathetic.
Disappointing – Close but no cigar. Does a few things right but is ultimately a whole lot of wasted potential. Not recommended.
Awful – A bad movie. Pure and simple. Not worth your time.
The Worst – The Britta Perry of ratings, though not as entertaining. The bottom of the barrel.

CRITERIA

What was the film trying to accomplish and how well did it meet those goals?
In addition to (or sometimes despite) that, how does the film hold up on sheer entertainment value?

 

FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 86

(31 DAYS OF SPOOKY STUFF – DAY 31 – OCT. 31, 2013 – HALLOWEEN)

 

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halloween_the_curse_of_michael_myersHALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (a.k.a. HALLOWEEN 6, HALLOWEEN 666) (1995) – Everyone seems to think Michael Myers is dead, despite him being very much alive the last time anyone saw him. In fact, both Myers and his niece Jamie Lloyd (now played by J.C. Bradley) have been missing since the bloody jailbreak from six years prior. And yet, even Dr. Loomis has resigned himself to a cozy retirement. But both Michael and Jamie are very much alive. Michael has been kept alive by a druid cult that has been responsible for Myers’ reign of terror for the past 30+ years. They have repeatedly tortured Jamie and forced her to mate with Myers, so she could sire his child. In case you’re keeping track, this is undoubtedly the most disgusting occurrence within the entire series. She kidnaps her own child and tries to flee to safety, but is unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Tommy Doyle (an embarrassing Paul Rudd) has grown up into a weird guy ever since coming face to face with Michael way back in 1978. He has researched the druidic symbols and believes that by harnessing the power of the runes, he can put a stop to Michael once and for all. But Tommy will need help, and so he gets Dr. Loomis and the unfortunate young girl now living in the Myers house to help him.

This marked the Weinsteins’ first shot at breathing new life into the HALLOWEEN franchise. And they treated it with about as much care and respect as they did HELLRAISER, CHILDREN OF THE CORN or anything else unfortunate enough to come up against their grubby little mitts. HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS is a terrible film, the type of film where you are embarrassed for everyone who appeared in it (especially Pleasance, who would pass away before it was released) and ashamed of yourself for watching it. The performances are terrible. The storyline is as ridiculous as it is sadistic. And this is too bad, since the film could have done something with the Druidic storyline as wonky as it is. It’s really not such a departure, since there have been hints about this since HALLOWEEN II.

There are two separate cuts of this film. The theatrical version is the only one commercially available and it’s a train wreck from beginning to end. There is also a Producer’s Cut going under the film’s original title, the pandering HALLOWEEN 666. There are a great number of differences in this version. It’s basically what the film was before the Weinsteins intervened as they have on so many genre films over the years. The story takes a completely different track and certain points. Sloppy plot holes are filled and the whole thing is more satisfying. However, there are certain things that no amount of tinkering can fix. It can’t improve the performances. It can’t alleviate the more ridiculous parts of the film and it can’t completely annihilate the mean-spiritedness of the proceedings. The Producer’s Cut is a big improvement, but this has never been a good film.

And remarkably, it’s not even the worst film in the HALLOWEEN franchise.  Theatrical Cut: The Worst.  Producer’s Cut: Disappointing.

 

 

Halloween H20

 

halloween_h_two_oHALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER (1998) – Though it had happened before with films like EXORCIST III, it was not standard practice to retcon an existing franchise when this film came along. Nevertheless, HALLOWEEN H20 (or HALLOWEEN WATER, as I like to call it) supposes that the events of HALLOWEEN 3-6 never took place.

In this film, Michael Myers is alive though no one ever adequately explains how. He breaks into the home of a nurse who assisted the now-deseased Dr. Loomis and steals a file that reveals Laurie Strode to be very much alive (The one thing this film did keep from the previous few films was the notion or Laurie dying in a car accident. This film goes one further to suggest she faked her death.). Laurie Strode is a divorced headmistress at a prestigious private university. She has a son (Josh Hartnett) who attends the school and has been seeing a psychologist (Adam Arkin) on campus. Michael finds Laurie and a group of kids (including Laurie’s son) who are having a secret naughty Halloween party. He dispatches most of the kids and goes looking for Laurie.

This film was met with a great amount of fanfare in the horror community when it was released. When people finally saw it, there were split opinions on it. I would suggest anyone who has fond memories of this film to give it another look. Because honestly, it’s pretty terrible.

The film is directed by Steve Miner, who did FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 and HOUSE, but he also did FOREVER YOUNG, MY FATHER THE HERO and BIG BULLY, so that doesn’t mean anything. While the idea was promoted as being a return to form for the series, it was actually just another attempt to jump on the SCREAM bandwagon of the mid-1990s. The story was written by Kevin Williamson, who wrote the SCREAM films as well as I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. The rewrites by two more writers have the appearance of being pushed back and forth through committee. The film is loaded with cliches, with the assumption that being occasionally self-aware makes their lackadaisical execution acceptable. It doesn’t. A talented cast is brought on for their looks and marketing potential (Hey look, it’s L.L. Cool J.!) rather than anything they could conceivably contribute to the story. Don’t get excited about Michelle Williams appearing here. It would be another year or two before she was allowed to show her talent on-screen.

Jamie Lee Curtis at least tries to bring some dignity to the role, believing the whole time that she is in a much classier production. Curtis is without a doubt the high point here and her final showdown with Myers is pretty good. Too bad the rest of the film has no intention of delivering on its promise.  Awful.

 

 

halloweenres_01

 

halloween_resurrection_ver2HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002) – Hey, remember that cathartic “it all ends here” conceit of the last film? Yeah well, forget it. This eighth film in the series opens up with a lengthy pre-credits sequence featuring Laurie Strode committed to a mental asylum where she faces Myers one last time. There is a truly distasteful way of putting an end to this storyline as HALLOWEEN: RESSURECTION immediately makes it clear how little it cares for the characters and storyline fans have cared about for the past 24 years.

Things just get worse from there. A pair of hip internet pioneers (Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks, for fuck’s sake) have bought the dilapidated Myers house. They place webcams all over the place and hire six attractive teenagers to stay in the home for a spooky online event. But then Michael comes home, because where else is he going to go, and starts killing the teens off.

And here we have it, the absolute bottom of the barrel. The lowest the HALLOWEEN series has ever sunk. Rick Rosenthal may have also directed the entertaining HALLOWEEN II, but it quickly becomes evident that Dimension has no intention of letting anyone slip through their control of this film. Like the previous SCREAM-inspired installment, they populate the cast with several attractive also-rans who seemed to be on the brink of stardom (Remember Sean Patrick Thomas? Eh, you’re better off.). Was Katee Sackhoff really in this film? Wow, I guess Riddick converting her to heterosexuality wasn’t the most squirm-inducing moment of her career after all.

I do have a dubious professional connection to this film. HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION was the first film I ever wrote an online review for. It was the first review published on Horror Express, a website I used to edit. It hasn’t gotten any better since then.  The Worst.

 

 

 

Halloween-2007-3

 

halloweenHALLOWEEN (2007) – If there was ever going to be a successful revival of the HALLOWEEN franchise, drastic measures would need to be taken. And give this to the Weinsteins, that’s just what they did. Rob Zombie had already dealt with pushy studios while trying to get HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES off the ground. Zombie was ultimately triumphant and he followed that film up with a successful sequel, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS. That’s when he was approached to remake HALLOWEEN.

Zombie’s version ruffled a lot of people the wrong way, precisely because his version took the exact opposite point of view from Carpenter’s film. Before the druids got involved, it was originally stated that there was no obvious reason for Myers’ evil. He was merely a force of nature, evil in its purest form, stalking the night and setting his sights on his own family. In Zombie’s version however, it’s a perfect storm of mental illness, familial instability and abuse that leads to his first break. The first half of the film describes Michael’s descent into madness from childhood onwards. The second half is a retelling of Carpenter’s film, though one with the background Zombie has established as well as his own style of direction.

It could have gone wrong in a million different ways. Even the premise raised more than a few red flags. But ever since I first saw Zombie’s film, I was sold. He created a near-masterpiece here. The vision is undeniably Zombie’s and thus we have plenty of his hooks – the odd segways, the strange obsession with classic rock whether it’s the 1970s or not, etc. But none of it detracts from the film as a whole. There is a surprising sensitivity here that touches on the way that serial killers are molded from lifetimes of tragedy and abuse. Malcolm McDowell gives his best performance in decades. Sherri Moon is excellent, and would prove herself more than ready to handle the lead in Zombie’s 2013 film, THE LORDS OF SALEM. Scout Taylor-Compton is a fine new version of Laurie Strode, different from the bookish girl Jamie Lee Curtis portrayed, but completely credible as her own person. Zombie brings us a great supporting cast including Brad Dourif, Danny Trejo and series alum Danielle Harris in a role which would provide the gateway to a fascinating grown-up career in the genre.

This film still rubs a lot of people the wrong way, and I get it. But keeping my mind open to this, I believe that Zombie created one of the truly great horror films of the 21st century. If only it could have remained the last word on the series.  Highly Recommended.

 

 

halloween2009_01

 

h_two_ver4HALLOWEEN II (a.k.a. H2) (2009) – A year after the Haddonfield massacre, Michael Myers inexplicably survives and goes into hiding for a year. Laurie Strode has completely degenerated into a psychological mess. She is now taken to lashing out at even her closest friends, cursing up a storm and basically turning into a completely different person. She even has lots of serial killer and Satanic iconography hanging around, something you’d think she’d want to distance herself from. When Dr. Loomis publishes a new book that outs Laurie as Michael’s long-lost sister, Laurie spirals even further down the void of self-destruction. This is combined with Myers returning to town for Halloween, urged into killing by visions of his angelic dead mother, who stands next to a white horse.

The story goes that Rob Zombie had no intention of making a follow-up to his HALLOWEEN remake. Dimension Films however, was very keen to revisit the Michael Myers mythos after the 2007 scared up a lot of business. So, rather than have some hack contradict and destroy what he worked to cultivate, Zombie signed on to this sequel. And I will give him credit that he did not merely try to imitate the original. He clearly went off in is own wild direction here. I’m just not sure it was a journey worth taking.

The problem is that while Compton is again great in her role, the severe 180 the character takes is not believable. Conveying a personality switch is something a lot of films wouldn’t be smart enough to do. But here, it’s simply too much. The happy-go-lucky girl is now a death-loving junkie who screams obscenities at everyone. Loomis’ character is more disappointing, again no fault of McDowell. Instead of the feelings of guilt and accountability exhibited towards the end of the previous film, he now seems more of a glory hound than ever. Myers now occasionally walks around without a mask and screams. In short, the script is the problem. It’s not the change in characters, it’s that they don’t even seem like the same characters. Most damaging of all is that HALLOWEEN II is needlessly nihilistic and depressing, making it one of the biggest downers in the slasher genre.  Disappointing.

 

 

And there you have it. Ten films, at least the first half of which were total winners. And then, the problems began and things got more complicated. Is Michael Myers dead for good? Right now, he seems to be. But people have counted Myers out before, only to be proven dead wrong.

On another note, thank you to everyone who has been following this series, “31 Days of Spooky Stuff.” You might think I’m burnt out on horror at this point.  But no, there are already more films I’ve watched that haven’t even been mentioned here yet. I love this stuff. The Journal will continue and these films, as well as a bunch of non-scary stuff will be covered.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

 

 

Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 355

Miss any of the previous Journal entries? Check them out here!

And tune into my new web series, Moviocrity! DON’T MISS THE HALLOWEEN SPECIAL!



Categories: 31 Days of Spooky Stuff, Scott W. Davis, Scott's Film Geek Journal

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