Synopsis: Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.
Release Date: October 19, 2018
Thoughts: Michael Myers has sure been around the block. After the tremendous success of the 1978 original Halloween there were seven sequels of varying quality (#2, #4, and #7 are tops in my book) and then the icky remake and even ickier sequel from shock rocker Rob Zombie. There were rumors another movie was going to materialize but no one expected the franchise to do an about face and effectively wipe the slate clean – which is exactly what’s happening with 2018’s all new Halloween. Treating the sequels as if they never happened, director David Gordon Green (Our Brand is Crisis) directs a script he co-wrote with Danny McBride (This is the End) starring Jamie Lee Curtis (Terror Train) and has the blessing of original director John Carpenter. This first look is pretty creepy…but perhaps shows a tad too much for my taste – I’d have preferred it to show less so we expect more. Knowing the fates of several characters already lessens some of the impact – but I’m counting on all involved to have a few tricks ‘n treats up their sleeves.
I have a serious problem with movie trailers lately. It seems like nearly every preview that’s released is about 2:30 minutes long and gives away almost every aspect of the movie, acting more like a Cliff Notes version of the movie being advertised rather than something to entice an audience into coming back and seeing the full product.
In this day and age where all aspects of a movie are fairly well known before an inch of footage is seen the subtlety of a well crafted “teaser” trailer is totally gone…and I miss it…I miss it a lot. So I decided to go back to some of the teaser trailers I fondly remember and, in a way, reintroduce them. Whether the actual movie was good or bad is neither here nor there…but pay attention to how each of these teasers work in their own special way to grab the attention of movie-goers.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
I still feel that Halloween III: Season of the Witch gets a bum rap. Look, it’s no classic and is pretty silly overall but most of the ire directed toward the film is because it doesn’t feature Michael Myers, the masked killer who stalked Jamie Lee Curtis through two previous films. Original writer/director John Carpenter originally thought about making the Halloween series an anthology…but the audience reaction to this one and the overall popularity of Myers effectively killed that dream.
This teaser for Halloween III: Season of the Witch is pretty creepy, not giving any indication the series was about to take a step in a different direction. Probably a good idea considering I’m not sure how many people would have gone to see it had they known in advance Michael wasn’t stopping by. Also included at the end is the final trailer that incorporates parts of the early teaser in it as well.
Synopsis: A psychotic murderer institutionalized since childhood for the murder of his sister, escapes and stalks a bookish teenage girl and her friends while his doctor chases him through the streets.
Stars: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, PJ Soles, Tony Moran, Nancy Loomis, Kyle Richards
Director: John Carpenter
Running Length: 91 minutes
TMMM Score: (9.5/10)
Review: The high water mark from which all horror films of the 80’s and onward would be judged against, John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece more than earns its stripes and remains a surefire winner for those looking for a good scare. Movies like this that are such a part of our cultural identity can be difficult to return to because they can start to remind us of the imitation films we’ve seen along the way. Halloween bucks that trend with ease, making repeat viewings almost essential to remind audiences how to do horror right.
Carpenter didn’t set out to make a genre defining classic when he wrote and directed the film on a shoestring budget. Originally intended to make some money to finance future projects, I’m not sure anyone really imagined the film doing the kind of business it did or receiving the kind of critical praise resaved for big-budget Hollywood films. Because Halloween was made with modest intentions, it had no preconceived notions or expectations of what it could become. It was created to entertain and scare the pants off of audiences and it does that and so much more.
Before the credits even begin, Carpenter’s unforgettable score hits our ears and establishes a mood from the get-go. This is a film that has a heartbeat to it…and it brings you along with it making our pulse quicken right along with it. Carpenter gives us lasting frights as he puts the camera in place of a killer in the prologue, shows us what happens one rainy night at a mental asylum, and terrorizes poor Laurie Strode (Curtis) as she and her friends are stalked on October 31 by a masked killer returning to his hometown.
The casting of Curtis was nearly a glorified publicity stunt. Wouldn’t the daughter of Janet Leigh (who so memorably took an ill-fated shower in Psycho) be great to headline her first film in the same genre her mom found such success with? Well…stunt or not it’s clear that Curtis was perfect in the role and it’s in her performance that I feel the movie really cements its place in history. Without a lead character to root for, the audience wouldn’t be as afraid for her as they are as she is hunted in the night by Michael Myers.
Subsequent sequels would flesh out the connection Strode and Myers had but in this film it’s the not knowing what his motivations are that are the most frightening. In this first film the lumbering Myers (referred to as The Shape by many) doesn’t hunt his victims so much as he stalks them with an eerie curiosity like a caged animal would look at prey that has strayed too close to the bars. The deaths in the film are not without meaning or feeling…Carpenter is good at establishing who these people are before Myers dispatches with them.
That’s not to say the film isn’t without its flaws. While Curtis is exceptional it’s strange that top-billed Pleasence has relatively little to do in this entry. He’d become a major part of future installments but he’s largely a secondary player here as the crux of the film involves Curtis and Nick Castle as Myers (ironically, Castle would go on to become a director of family-friendly films). As the best friends of Curtis, Soles and Loomis are a fun bunch but lack something in the acting department. Loomis especially confuses insincerity with wiseacre a bit too often…but it does play nicely off of the demure performance Curtis turns in.
Most film fans know that Myers kept coming back for more over the years in sequels that couldn’t measure up (even though Halloween II is a strong follow-up and should be watched in tandem with the original). If you can, try watching the movie without thinking about the legacy that these films have spawned over the past three decades. It really is a masterwork of fright that’s on display here, a can’t miss and must-see film. I’ve seen it more times that I’ll admit here and continue to get something out of it with each viewing.
Synopsis: When a group of teens win a contest to spend a night in Michael Myers’ childhood home to be broadcast live on the internet, they believe they are in for a little fun and some free publicity. But, things go frightfully wrong and the game turns into a struggle to make it out alive.
Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Busta Rhymes, Bianca Kajlich, Katee Sackhoff, Tyra Banks, Ryan Merriman, Thomas Ian Nicholas
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Running Length: 94 minutes
TMMM Score: (2/10)
Review: Well, once again the Halloween franchise followed a nice high with a real low when four years after Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later they brought Michael Myers back to life for another homecoming event featuring the masked killer and a bunch of idiot teens. While it’s not quite as bad as the worst of the bunch (Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers) it’s pretty close…and it’s an especially disappointing entry considering some of the players in front of and behind the camera.
Halloween IIdirector Rosenthal is back with absolutely nothing to bring to the table. The film looks messy and feels like it was directed by committee in conjunction with a freshman film studies major. Actually, Rosenthal did need some last minute help from John Carpenter before Halloween II could be released so maybe Carpenter was the key factor not present in this outing. Not that Carpenter would have gotten anywhere near this lame-o plot that tries to capitalize on the live webcast internet craze that was popular in 2002 and now seems so incredibly goofy.
The grumpiest looking person in the whole movie is Curtis who wisely high tails it out of the film in the first fifteen minutes. Thinking that she had taken care of her big brother (and the franchise) once and for all at the end of H20, she clearly took part in this fiasco so she could be done with the character for good.
Since the Halloween films nearly always have a female protagonist the new one introduced here is a Kajlich and she’s a pale comparison to those that have come before her. Boring and forgettable, she’s overshadowed by everyone and everything on screen which may have been her intention considering how awful the script is.
The script. Oh yargh…what a mess of dead ends and deadly ends for our characters. At this point in the series, when Myers kills someone they drop dead in two seconds. I’m pretty sure that being stabbed in the shoulder shouldn’t make you keel over dead without a whimper but it happens in this here film. It’s a walk and stab job for the actor playing Myers and it’s hard to imagine how anyone could encounter him and not run to safety with ease. Taking place in the Myers house, the small exterior gives way to a Daddy Warbucks style mansion that our characters run around screaming in.
It’s so terribly boring…a film with no pulse. Speaking of no pulse…Rhymes and his performance are dead on arrival. It’s an awful, awful performance laced with obscenities and flat delivery from someone that has no business celebrating Halloween much less starring in a sequel of the popular franchise. Banks also is sky-high bad playing a character that is required to do nothing but get killed.
This proved to be the final straw for audiences who turned their backs (justifiably) on the movie and its creators. It would take five years for Rob Zombie’s truly unsettling remake of Halloween to hit the screens and slightly reinvigorate the character. I just hope that the modest money that the greedy producers made off of this was worth the price they paid in their reputation.
Synopsis: Laurie Strode is rushed to the hospital, while Sheriff Brackett and Dr. Loomis hunt the streets for Michael Myers, who has found Laurie at the Haddonfield Hospital
Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Lance Guest, Pamela Susan Shoop, Leo Rossi, Ana Alicia, Charles Cyphers
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Running Length: 92 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Note: If for some reason you haven’t seen Halloween before (get on that!) you are hereby warned that some spoilers from that film pop up here…
Review: When John Carpenter’s Halloween changed the face of horror films in 1978, it was not a cut and dry deal that a sequel would creep its way into production. At the time, sequels weren’t looked at with the most respect and very few films warranted them outright anyway. Keep in mind, this was right around the time that the teen horror flick was still finding its footing and the multiple sequels to Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street hadn’t started to ramp up yet.
In 1981, the original Halloween was three years old and Friday the 13th was getting ready to release its first sequel. The studio brass at Universal Studios came-a-knockin’ at the door of Carpenter to see if he’d be interested in directing the sequel to his megahit. Carpenter was a hot commodity with The Fog and Escape From New York under his belt and was the obvious person to go to when a continuation was needed. Carpenter declined to sit in the director’s chair but instead contributed to the script and some last minute pick-up duties (i.e. they brought him in when there was a need for more blood and kills).
At the end of the original, escaped killer Michael Myers had fallen off a balcony after being shot several times by Dr. Loomis (Pleasance) only to disappear into the night. A master touch (for the time) by Carpenter, this would be looked at nowadays as a cheap ploy to leave the possibility of a sequel open. In the case of Halloween, it served for one last scare as Carpenter left you with the feeling that Myers could still be around any corner, ready to pounce.
Picking up precisely at the moment the first film ended, Halloween II follows sole survivor Laurie Stode (Curtis) to Haddonfield Hospital where the staff is picked off one by one by the masked killer who has come to finish his business. It’s not that far-fetched of a plot, actually, and its simplicity and efficiency is classic Carpenter. Along the way we learn a little more about the history of Myers and his connection to Laurie, and also gain a bit more insight into the obsession that Loomis has with his patient.
Taking the directing reins from Carpenter was Rosenthal (who would later come back to direct Halloween: Resurrection) and he maintains Carpenter’s minimalist approach while injecting some necessary life into characters and plot turns. Because the film is really a continuation of the first, it was pretty much required that part II look and sound like the original and I think all involved met that challenge.
As far as horror sequels go, Halloween II is one of the better ones because it sticks to (some would say copies) many of the techniques that made the original so noteworthy. Placing its characters in situations where they are at a disadvantage but not helpless contributes to the realistic tone. As the sequels would go on, logic would be pretty much heaved out the window but in the second outing of Myers there’s little that will ring false to the horror minded cinephile.
It was pivotal to have the two leads from the first film return. Pleasance was by all accounts a very eager-to-please actor and signed up for the film without much grumbling. It helped that there was some nice character development for him that I’m sure kept him interested and gave him something to work with. By this time, Curtis was the reigning Scream Queen, having starred in four horror films (The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train, and Road Games) in the three years since the original but she doesn’t have much to do but look dazed and confused for the first half of the film. It’s only when visiting hours bring a killer to her door that she has to fight for her life for the second time in one long Halloween night.
Some interesting kills and several clever uses of camera and lighting to create some ample scares helps to give Halloween II high marks on the thrill scale. It may be blasphemy, but I enjoy Halloween II maybe a little more than the original. There’s something about its pace and through line that has always provided good entertainment whenever I find myself re-watching it. It absolutely makes for a nice double feature if you are checking out the original for the first or fortieth time.