Maniac (1980) – William Lustig

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What do George Costanza and Norman Bates have in common besides being, well let’s call it, socially awkward? Mommy issues. Big time. If you were to combine the George and Norman, and then ramp up the insanity by about 25%, you’d get Frank Zito – title character of William Lustig’s 1980 exploitation slasher, Manic. If you’ve seen Seinfeld, you probably know that George was only about 3 episodes from going on a rampage anyway. That might have been a better ending to the series…but we’ll tackle that in a different blog. Anyway, Maniac is one of those cult movies that was banned, censored, etc. when it was released. The violence was too just gruesome and disturbing to be shown in its original form. Since then, the bar has been raised dramatically in terms what we consider “too gruesome”. Other than a scene or two, the violence in this movie is on par with a Saw or a Hostel or any other gory modern horror movie.

Technically speaking, Maniac is a nightmare-in every sense of the word. Conventionally, it is a nightmare to watch him butcher young ladies, cut off their scalps, and nail the hair to mannequins in his dingy apartment. For the first half of the film, I really wasn’t sure if there was going to be a plot. It was just a long and drawn-out sex tape that keeps getting interrupted just when it’s about to get good. And by interrupted, I mean by a knife, a shotgun or length of piano wire. As this plays out, we slowly get inside Frank’s head and that’s when things start to get interesting. I’d like to think that the way the film unfolded was a Tarantino-esque revealing of facts out of order, but I think it was more like a 16 year-old struggling to unhook his date’s bra in the back seat of his parent’s minivan.

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The movie starts out with the killing of a young couple on a beach. Then we cut to Frank in his house acting sad and creepy, then back to another murder, then back to Frank’s house for more moping and Buffalo Bill/Leatherface/Ed Gein-style insanity. So the movie just bounces back and forth in this fashion for like 45 minutes, and we are starting to get a sense of who Frank is and why he does these things. Inexplicably, Frank meets and begins to date a beautiful European photographer- who, by the looks of her apartment in Manhatten, is doing very well for herself. This is inexplicable because Frank is a big, ugly fat, scared monster of a man. He’s able to turn on the charm and act like a completely well-adjusted member of society.

Of course, homegirl starts to figure out that something is off with this guy when he takes her on a date to go visit his mother’s grave. Remember I mentioned those mommy issues? I won’t give away the ending but it’s worth sitting through this one because the payoff at the end is worth the awkward set-up (see bra reference in the second paragraph). There are some serious plot holes in how Frank and his girl struck up their relationship. You’re going to have to flex your willing-suspension-of-disbelief muscles in a big way on this one. The storyline is patchy and confusing at times and downright retarded at other times. But, as with all movies like this, that’s not really the point.

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Maniac falls into this sort of sub-genre of 70’s/ 80’s dark, gritty, New York City/urban horror movies- The New York Ripper and Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer are 2 good examples. They focus on how sick, crazy people can move unnoticed through a busy city. They can be sitting next to you on the subway or walking past you on the street and you’d never know it. When you think about it, this actually makes them a lot scarier than any monster/ghost movie out there. To build up their cult status, these movies usually shared 3 main elements. 1. Over-the-top violence and gore. 2. Not so subtle sexual violence toward young, attractive women. 3. A dismal, and gloomy view of city life. These movies are (in the grand scheme of things) presented in a realistic and plausible way. That makes them even scarier.

There are so many things that shouldn’t have worked in this movie, but they do work. Once you forgive the plot holes, and the awkward, flirty dialog (It’s like Sloth from The Goonies is trying to pick up Jennifer Aniston and it’s working) the movie actually falls in place and gets pretty intense. There are some jarring POV changes, but they work too. You go from following Frank around to following his next victim. That adds to the suspense because you know he’s close, but you don’t know where he is. Or sometimes you know he’s right around the corner but the lady getting out of the bathtub has no idea.

The gritty, realism of how Maniac was shot, is its biggest asset. It wasn’t fancy or pretty, it was dark, bleak, and unpleasant. You just feel uneasy watching this movie. It’s so un-stylized and low-fi that you almost forget it’s a movie. You get the sense that you’re in the filthy subway station with someone following you.

  1. Is it scary? 7- A grim view of city life and some grisly murder scenes will keep this one pretty high on the list.
  2. Originality: 4- It fits into that urban horror tradition I mentioned, but Lustig still tells the story from an angle that gives the audience something new (at least in 1980).
  3. Blood: 8- Times have changed so this movie probably wouldn’t be banned if it was released today, but there are still some shocking moments. There’s a very famous scene where Frank does some reconstructive surgery to a dudes head with a shotgun. It’s appalling and vivid.
  4. Believability: 6- There are some distracting technical issues, but the premise is believable. That’s what makes it scary.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 8- The dark, dreary way the movie is shot, and it’s setting in the dense urban jungle are what makes it a success.                                                                                                     

Final Score: 33/50

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Sleepaway Camp (1983) – Robert Hiltzik

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If I was one of those toothless old miners who sift through muddy river water for gold pieces in the 1800s, I’d be yelling out, “Paydirt” right now. Robert Hiltzik’s 1983 slasher classic Sleepaway Camp is an 80’s B-movie gold mine. Even though it’s a flagrant knock off of the events at Camp Crystal Lake 3 years before (I’m talking about Friday the 13th), this film has its own charm and its own special place in our twisted little hearts. On paper, everything is just wrong with this movie. The writing and the acting are horrendous. And it feels like it was directed by a bar of soap with a learning disability. But like so many 80’s classics, this film works in spite of itself. And you have to give them credit for the final frame of the movie. For my money, it’s the scariest single moment/shot of the 1980’s. No other scene from a movie haunted me so much growing up.

I think the reason these terrible 80’s movies worked was that they were still inventing the mold that we just see on every horror movie today. They were still fumbling through it and creating the genre as we know it today. So even though this film was largely lifted from F13, it still felt genuine in a way. Hiltzik was still fumbling to figure it out what this whole slasher thing was going to be. Kind of reminds you of the award, pubescent kids in this movie trying to fumble around and figure out how to take off the bra of the girl from Bunk 15.

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In broad strokes, the plot is fairly familiar (even if you haven’t seen Friday the 13th). The movie opens with a boating accident in which a father and a young child are killed by some negligent and horny teens on a speed boat. Fast forward a few years. Cousins Angela and Ricky get sent off to summer camp by the world’s most insane and creepy mother. It’s unclear exactly how the 2 plotlines go together. So Angela is really shy and quiet at camp and her cousin Ricky has to constantly defend her from cruel camp bullies (and a hall-of-fame sexual predator/camp cook who whips his dick out to Angela after 5 seconds of alone time in the walk-in refrigerator.) This man also refers to the young campers as “baldies” and remarks that no age is too young for him. Basically people keep picking on Angela, then Ricky intervenes, swears, punches, etc. Then those people end up dead. We never get to see who the killer is until the very end. And even if you think you’ve figured it out, there’s a twist. Again, this is reminiscent of F13, but it’s not what you think.

Now, this movie is unapologetically 80’s (if 80’s can be used as an adjective-and I think it can.) The costumes worn by the characters are just ridiculous. I wasn’t very old in the 80’s but I find it hard to believe that people actually dressed like this.  The whole thing feels like a PG-13 attempt at a gay porno. In almost every scene in this movie, there are beefy, hunky, sweaty men in cut-off belly t-shirts and short shorts that would make the local Hooters Restaurant look like a monastery. I’m not joking, you can literally see dudes butt cheeks hanging out the bottom of their shorts. There’s a scene where the guys try to get the girls to to skinny dipping, but none of the girls want to go, SO ALL THE GUYS JUST GET NAKED AND JUMP IN TH E LAKE TOGETHER. Maybe we’re too uptight these days and that’s just how it was in the 80’s (and Ancient Greece).

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I think the point is that when Sleepaway Camp is doing horror movie stuff, it is excellent, but the minute we get into extraneous plotlines, the whole thing rapidly devolves into Elton John’s wet dream. If anything, I’ll say that they could have pushed the envelope a bit more in terms of the violence. Most of the violence happened just off camera, Like in a Hitchcock film. We saw shadows and hands and feet squuirming but very little direct violence. I guess it’s tough when the average age of your victim is like 15. People really don’t want to see that. Though the implied violence is definitely pretty intense.

Overall, I think Sleepaway Camp is one that we love for its flaws and its accidental success. By all rights it should have been a failure but it fit so well in its little place in time that any logical improvements would actually take away from the overall effect. This whole movie is a giant set up for the punch line at the end. And it’s totally worth it.

  1. Is it scary: 7- Up until the final scene I’d give it a 2. But that fucking thing scared the shit out of me the first time I saw it.  
  2. Originality: 4 – It’s like they weren’t even trying. The twist at the end is worth a point or two though.
  3. Blood: 3- There is a lot of implied violence but you see almost none of it. Even for that I have to give it something because some of the murders were particularly gruesome. Our minds still fill in the gaps.
  4. Believability: 3- Script and acting needed a lot of work. But like I said, we loved this one for how shitty it was.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 4- Nothing fancy here. Just some kids in the woods.  They could have made it scarier with some lighting.

 

Final Score: 21/50        

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Halloween 2 (2009) – Rob Zombie

Happy Halloween Everyone. If you’ve been paying attention, over the last month, I’ve reviewed all the movies in the Halloween franchise from John Carpenter’s terrifying classic, to Rob Zombie’s over-stylized brutal remakes and everything in between. “The Shape” has been slashing throats and crushing skulls for over 30 years now and it’s not clear whether he’s done. At this point, I really hope there is another sequel, either to the original storyline or even to the 2000’s reboot. (Rob Zombie has publicly stated that he has no interest or desire to be involved with any sort of Halloween 3 which is good news for everyone.) Both storylines left the door open for another installment so from a true Michael Myers fan, I’m hoping we haven’t seen the last of him.

Rob Zombie’s 2009 Halloween 2 was an epic shitstorm. Like we’ve seen in several of the previous Halloween sequels, we’re seeing the filmmakers trying to retrofit this complex and convoluted backstory where it doesn’t belong. It takes away from the present storyline and the urgency of what’s happening to the characters. It over-explains things to the point of insignificance (I’ll get back to this). It’s fairly clear that Rob Zombie had no actual storyline left and he just wanted to make a snuff film. He even alludes to, but then awkwardly strays from the Halloween II storyline we know and love (Laurie strode in the hospital). The whole movie is poorly constructed and seems to be an attempt to upset the audience rather than entertain them. Some of the death sequences are so drawn out and painful to watch that it borders on torture porn. Also MICHAEL MYERS ISN’T EVEN WEARING A MASK MOST OF THE TIME. What the fuck, Rob?

Warning: This review contains spoilers to the previous film and some early parts of this film.

Ok, like the original HII, this movie opens right where the first one left off. If you remember, the first Zombie film ended with Laurie Strode introducing Michael’s cranium to a .357 Magnum round from a range of about 8 inches. That’s goodnight nurse, I don’t care who you are. They take her to the hospital and there’s a graphic, painful, and drawn-out surgery scene where she’s screaming and crying. It’s not fun to watch. Michael kills the morticians (He actually saws homeboy’s head off with a piece of broken windshield.) Then Michael heads to the hospital and plays a little more goodnight nurse. You’re like, “OK this is cool. Just like the original HII. But no. After 20 minutes of this, we realize the hospital scene is all a dream. Cut to 2 years later and Laurie is seriously traumatized and losing her shit- to the point where it’s annoying. One second she’s freaking out, screaming and crying and the next second she’s happy go lucky. I think this was sloppy writing/directing rather than complex psychology at play.

We find out that Michael’s body was never found and even though everyone thinks he’s dead, Laurie is still scared that he’ll come back. Malcolm McDowell is back as a snotty rich Loomis who wrote a book about the murders and all he cares about is publicity and book sales. This Loomis is a complete dildo. Nothing like Donald Pleasance’s Loomis or even the Loomis from the first Rob Zombie Halloween. There’s no cohesive story-line really. We just see Laurie unraveling and Loomis being a dickhole while Michael Myers killing random and inconsequential people for an hour and a half with or without a mask (By the way, without the mask, he looks like a giant Rob Zombie-I wonder if that was an accident). There’s a ludicrous showdown at the end and too many important characters get killed. It’s just like they gave up on writing-cranked out the last 15 or 20 pages in like a half an hour and started filming. After the hospital dream scene, this didn’t even feel like a Halloween movie.

One of the most annoying things was the way they tried to explain Michael’s rationale for killing even more. Occasionally we’ll see things from Michael’s point of view. We get a little further into his psyche and are subjected to a silly persistent hallucination he has. He imagines himself as the child in the clown costume from the beginning of the sage. His mother is there in a white dress egging him on to kill again. Ultimately, she wants him to kill his sister so their family can be together again. There’s some nonsense about a white horse and the Moody Blues song “Knights in White Satin” plays whenever Michael is coming. It’s all a little overcooked and yet underdeveloped. Nice try Rob but this white theme is a little heavy-handed for my taste and it didn’t quite land.

Ok, so the directing sucked, the writing was asinine, the characters were weak and underdeveloped, and the overall execution of the Halloween theme was questionable at best. Were there any redeeming qualities of the (so far) final page in the Michael Myers saga? Yes. The way this thing is shot is actually pretty great. It just looks scary. Zombie and the lighting/cinematography team did a great job making this thing look the part. There are some great back-lighting shots with cool silhouettes, interesting camera angles and tracking shots. You could make the argument that it was too dark at times to see everything but if you remember the original, that’s how Carpenter did it too. So props to Zombie on that. Also, true to his roots, Zombie picked a great horror score for this one. The music is not really my taste, but it fits well in this type of brutal horror movie. Heavy industrial music really sets the tone for what we’re watching.

Overall, the movie is a big swing and a miss, but if you’ve come this far, just watch it so you can say you’ve got the whole series under your belt. And who knows, I’d be surprised if this was the last we see of Michael Myers. Now, I think this movie will get a halfway decent rating below-which just proves that the rating system is not perfect- in fact, far from it.

  1. Is it scary: 3- Don’t make the mistake of confusing blood with scares. This had a few intense moments but overall, not conventionally scary.
  2. Originality: 3- It just felt like reprocessed, repurposed horror/Halloween stuff. It was like the Spam of horror movies.
  3. Blood: 7- Pretty Goddamn bloody. Almost too realistic and traumatic to be enjoyable.
  4. Believability: 2–The story and writing are ridiculous. Characters do the dumbest unbelievable things.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 7- Like I said, Zombie did a good job here. The film is shot very well and really looks scary.                                                                 

Final Score: 22/50

Halloween (2007) – Rob Zombie

Without even a hint of hyperbole or exaggeration whatsoever, I can say that Rob Zombie’s 2007 Halloween remake is not only a crime against the franchise, but against mankind and against nature itself. Not many people know this but Rob Zombie violated 2 UN treaties in the creation of this film and has been officially declared a war criminal. He is currently thought to be hiding out somewhere in the mountains of Argentina.

In his typical fashion, Zombie cranked up the grittiness, the brutality, the swearing, to make this already heavy-feeling slasher even heavier and darker. He brings an element of realism  to it that may be appealing to some fans but I think it takes away from the mystique of the Michael Myers character. I’ll get more into the plot shortly, but Zombie explains away Myers’ psychotic behavior by establishing a traumatic childhood. He takes Michael Myers and turns him into the fucking Columbine shooters.

Myers was so scary because he had no reason to snap and start butchering people. If you explain it away by saying he had a rough childhood and he was bullied, blah blah blah, I think it trivializes Michael Myers. I understand the approach of trying to make him more realistic as a source of more fear, but this changes the movie altogether. Rob Zombie is humanizing the monster. It’s scary in a different way to see an innocent little boy be tormented and mistreated to the point where he snaps. But that’s not Michael Myers. That’s not Halloween. 

The film is long. We spend a lot of time seeing Michael as a child. Zombie is just building his case for Michael to snap. Michael is growing up in a “white trash” kind of house. His mom is actually nice, but she’s got too much going on to take care of little Michael. Also she’s a stripper and kids harass him at school for it. His step dad is a drunk and he’s home all the time on some kind of disability. They scream and fight constantly. His sister Judith is nasty and she’s a skank. There’s a deadbeat boyfriend around too. Textbook toxic home life and family. No support for the kid. One day a bully is messing with Michael and he beats him to death with a log. Then on Halloween night, his mom has to work and his sister is supposed to take him trick-or-treating, but she stays in to bang her boyfriend instead. Michael starts slicing everyone up, except baby sister (Who will become Laurie Strode).

Michael spends 15 years in a mental hospital with Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). We see a good bit of his psychological decline over this time. They play up his obsession with masks and whit his surviving little sister. Finally, Loomis tells Michael that he has failed him because he’s not getting any better. He quits and leaves Michael alone in the hospital. Of course, one day Michael breaks out and heads straight for Haddonfield. Then we basically pick up where the original movie started. Things are mostly the same, though there’s a bigger body count, of course. The ending is a little different, but we’re still set up for a sequel.

In general, this movie has a different feeling or a different tone than all of its predecessors. It feels darker, more visceral, and more serious. It’s less entertaining to me, to watch somebody get killed in a really realistic fashion. I don’t quite know how to explain it. In all of the previous films, there is an inherent screen or filter that removes what we’re seeing from reality. This movie didn’t have that as much. I’m not sure exactly what I’m trying to say, but to me, it is a negative. To be fair, the same point might be seen as a positive from some other horror fans point of view. It’s just not for me.

I don’t think it can be disputed that Zombie took liberties with the storyline that he shouldn’t have. He trivialized the Michael Myers figure and he changed the face of the franchise. If his two installments are the last thing we see of Michael Myers, I’m going to be more than a little upset.

Again, to be fair, this isn’t the worst movie ever. Credit where credit is due. It has some solid scares and it actually tells an interesting story. In my mind though, it didn’t have to be Halloween. It could have just been another mediocre Rob Zombie blood-bath flick. I will say that he did a good job with the Michael Myers mask. Probably the scariest mask of the series. Also, Danielle Harris, who played Jamie Lloyd in H4 and H5 plays Annie-daughter of the sheriff and friend of Laurie’s from the first film.

Overall, the movie isn’t that bad if it stood alone, but I think it took advantage one of the best horror franchises out there and that is just unforgivable. Still, for die hard Halloween fans, it’s a must-see.

  1. Is it Scary: 4- There were some solid scares in this one. Nothing to lose sleep over (to be honest, I had trouble keeping my eyes open towards the end).
  2. Originality: 3- It’s a remake so it can’t be that original. It’s like they watched a 60 minutes special on the Columbine shooting and then watched Halloween and mixed the two.
  3. Blood: 6- True to form, Zombie made this one pretty gory, even for a Halloween movie.
  4. Believability: 4- I guess it was fairly believable. Maybe too much so. There were lots of little distracting issues though. At one point, Loomis is dumping his .357 revolver into Michael and you can clearly see the chambers are empty. Little things like that.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 5: Zombie did an adequate job here. It definitely looks scary.

Final Score 22/50

Halloween Movie Showdown: The Best and Worst of Michael Myers.

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If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I’ve recently been watching and reviewing all the original Halloween movies. I’m still going to do the Rob Zombie remakes before the big day but I thought I’d do a little recap and do some summative ranking of the movies.

It’s time for the big Halloween movie Showdown. Michael Myers has been busy these past 30 odd years and it’s time to give him credit for all his efforts. He’s been out there doing the Lord’s work. Executing heathens and sinners who would dare to drink, smoke, fuck, or take the lord’s name in vain. The world is a better and slightly less-populated place thanks to Michael Myers and I just wanted to give credit where credit is due.

I’ll be ranking the Halloween movies from best to worst. Then I’ll rank the masks used in each movie and I’ll pick the best death scene in each film and rank them also. I’ll be excluding H3 from the mask and death scene rankings because Michael wasn’t involved but I’ll still include it in the overall film rankings.

Let’s start with the masks. Michael dons a different mask in each film. Some of them are great and some of them are just terrible. Note: It was hard to acquire the best screenshots of some of these masks but I did the best I could. The rankings are not based solely on these photos but on the overall impression I got of the mask while watching the film.

7. Halloween 4. This one is the worst. It’s just too plain and blank. Not scary at all.

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6. Halloween H20. The issue here is consistency. They changed the mask during post production. Did some re-shoots with a new mask and did some CGI touch-ups. Some scenes just look foolish. Not scary.

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5. Halloween Resurrection. What’s up with your eyebrows bro? Too much detail on the face. Not scary.

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4. Halloween 5. A lot of it has to do with the eyes. His eyes are mostly blacked out in this one. Definitely makes it look scarier. Not too realistic but still has some nice detail. And I dig his hair in this one.

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3. Halloween II. This was very close to being number 2. It’s totally scary but something feels slightly clownish about this one. Maybe it’s those streaks of blood coming out of his eyes.

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2. Halloween 6 (Curse of MM). His hair alone looks crazy as shit and the mask just looks angry.

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1. Halloween. You can’t beat the original. The torn out eyes and the blank stare. Definitely the scariest of all.

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Now for the best Michael Myers Deaths. I’ll pick the best one from each movie and then rank them. To be fair, Michael did most of his slaying with a large butcher knife. He has a couple of other instruments but he doesn’t have the creativity that Jason had. Even so, he does a good number of people in with his bare hands. By my count he’s got 73 people all together in the 7 films he’s in. This is up for debate and there are a couple of questionable ones. Get at me if you think the count is off.

7. Halloween Resurrection: There were no amazing deaths here. Jamie Lee Curtis’ makes me too mad/sad so I’ll go with this one. Michael does a nice slash with his butcher knife and cleanly removes the head of one of the more annoying characters in this film.

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6. Halloween 5: Michael introduces some kind of gardening claw tool to this dude’s skull. They do not get along.

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5. Halloween 4: Ambulance Driver gets his head bashed into the wall repeatedly and then Michael shoves his thumb through homeboy’s skill into his brain.

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4. Halloween. Bob gets knifed through the chest and pinned to the wall. Again, I have some questions about the physics here, but I’ll take it. This one’s a classic. Mike will do this maneuver a few more times as well (in H4, he does it with a shotgun.)

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3. Halloween II. Boiled Nurse. Michael drowns/boils the nurse in the hot tub after turning the temperature all the way up past the danger level. All her skin comes off and stuff.

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2. Halloween H20. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets stabbed through the face with an ice skate blade. I have some questions about the physics here, but it’s still a great death.

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1. H6. Michael stabs Laurie Strode’s uncle through the chest and then shoves him onto the fuse box causing his head to explode. That guy was such a dick. He deserved this one.

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Now for the final showdown. My overall rankings of the original Halloween movies.

8. Halloween 3. This one is a piece of shit. I’d rather have Michael J. Fox give me a vasectomy with a rusty fork than watch this again.

7. Halloween Resurrection. The worst of the Michael Myers Halloween movies. Who would have thought a horror movie with Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks would suck big time.

6. Halloween 5. This one felt too stylish and gimmicky to me. It had some interesting elements but I don’t think it was executed well enough.

5. Halloween 4. I always had issues with the whole plotline of 4 and 5. I guess they’re ok, but there was too much going on to be truly scary.

4. Halloween (6) The Curse of Michael Myers. This one gets a lot of hate. I thought they did a good job with making everything look really scary. I liked the storyline too.

3. Halloween H20. Laurie Strode is back. The plot was more simple and to the point. Jamie Lee Curtis should be in all these movies. Long live the queen.

2. Halloween II. It felt the most like the original to me. Dark, brooding and not overly fancy. It still holds up as one of the scariest in the series.

1. Halloween. I don’t feel that I need to explain my thought process here.

Well, That does it folks. Feel free to give me your input, feedback, bash my opinions, etc. you won’t hurt my feelings.

Thanks for reading.

Happy Halloween

Halloween Resurrection (2002) – Rick Rosenthal

“Trick or Treat, motherfucker.” One of many pointed and eloquent one-liners delivered by critically-acclaimed thespian, Busta Rhymes in the final chapter of the original Halloween series, Halloween: Resurrection. I don’t like to throw around the phrase “warrior poet” very often, but Busta’s wise words throughout the film, along with his ample kung fu skills, helped defeat Michael Myers and any legitimate hope of resurrecting the series without Rob Zombie’s rueful reboot. This movie sucks balls. Like big greasy balls that have been trapped in the same sweaty overalls for 25 years while their owner slices up teenagers in a white mask. It’s terrible. It’s gimmicky, it’s pointless, and it’s a terrible way to end one of the best horror franchises out there. It panders to the audience rather than challenging them or showing them something new.

Rick Rosenthal, director of Halloween II, returns in 2002 for the 8th installment in the saga. The film starts out with an interesting plot twist taking place at the end of the previous film H20. That plotline is promptly stabbed in the back and tossed off the roof to its death on the cold ground. Enter the new modern plotline, an atrocious and accidentally comical script, and a cast of characters that you won’t care about- in fact I was frustrated that it took Michael so long to kill them.

Warning: This review contains spoilers to the previous films and the beginning of this film.

The movie opens with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) locked in a mental hospital. At the end of the previous film, H20, Laurie has Michael pinned against a tree branch and she chops his head off with an axe. Except in the opening scene of this movie, we find out that Michael had switched clothes with one a paramedic and escaped. The guy whose head Laurie removed was not her brother. She has gone insane with guilt. Of course Michael shows up. There is a big face off which will end their sibling rivalry for good.

Then the film decides to discard this interesting plotline and set up the nonsensical plot that follows for the next 75 minutes. Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks are TV producers filming a reality show in the Myers house. 6 sexy teens sign up to spend a night there filmed by hidden cameras and try to figure out what drove Michael to his murderous state. Busta has planted some red herrings around the house. Of course Michael shows up and starts eliminating the acting school dropouts as they break the cardinal rules of horror movies one by one. Now (spoiler alert) we see Michael’s eyes pop open in the final frame of the movie so all hope is not lost for the franchise (I’m counting the Rob Zombie remakes as a separate entity). I’d hate to see the original saga go out on this note.

This film jumps right onto the early-aughts reality TV bandwagon. They even make a reference to ‘voting someone off the island.’  That paired with shaky, intentionally scratchy,  28.8 kbps webcam footage are probably making John Carpenter spin in his grave. Well he’s not dead, but I’ll bet he’s the type of dude that sleeps in a coffin. Probably surrounded by hoes. Anyway, the movie just caters to the lowest common denominator of horror fans. If Anna Farris was in it, and the score was a little different, you’d think it was Scary Movie 2 and you’d probably laugh your ass off.  It’s gimmicky and pointless and it’s offensive to me as a human being.

The characters are all dull, and flat. They’re like bland caricatures. Even the leading lady -I guess she’s the lead, she really receives less development than some of her friends who are clearly there as butcher knife fodder – is just the overly-stereotypical good girl. “Are you sure it’s not too revealing?” she says at one point about a rather conservative top that her friend picked out for her.

If you can summon the inner masochism to watch this train-wreck, bring a bottle of booze and play this drinking game. Take a drink every time:

  • Busta Rhymes gives someone sage advice
  • Michael Meyers blatantly defies the laws of physics
  • A character makes an inappropriate sexual advance on someone they just met
  • The good girl says something pointless to prove she’s the good girl
  • Busta uses Halloween themed puns or wordplay with the word ‘fuck’

Probably call an ambulance after about 20 minutes because you’re going to have alcohol poisoning.

To be fair, if this movie wasn’t tantamount to drawing moustaches all over the Sistine Chapel, I would have actually liked Busta Rhyme’s performance. He is the only character with any real development and he’s actually pretty entertaining and funny. Not scary, funny.

  1. Is it scary: 3- There are a couple creepy moments in the old Myers house, but the dialog and the acting keep you from experiencing any real fear.
  2. Originality: 2- This is just cookie-cutter horror. Utterly clichéd and rehashed.
  3. Blood: 4- Not bad. I could have handled a little more gore though.
  4. Believability: 2–The storytelling and the acting were so bad. This whole thing was a waste of time.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 3- I actually kind of liked what they did with the Myers house and the basement and whatnot but the stupid webcam stuff was terrible.                                                                                                             

Final Score: 14/50

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) – Joe Chapelle

After a 6 year hiatus, Michael Myers is back in the 5th sequel, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. We’ve got a new director, Joe Chapelle, and a new cast of characters, except for Myers and Loomis. In general, I think this film is flawed, but its one of my favorites in the saga. The plot is ludicrous and overcomplicated. They’ve done even more of the retrofitting backstory than in the previous sequels. In terms of plot, this one just goes too far, but there are a lot of redeeming elements for me and I think the 6th installment comes out as a win.

Also I should mention that I’m in the minority in having that opinion. Most people hate this movie but I think it’s underrated. Ok, I’ll grant you the plot is a mess, but visually, this film is awesome. The setting and lighting are perfect for setting the creepy mood. In general, this film is a return to form, of sorts. It draws on several elements from the original- I’ll talk more about these later. Let’s get the asinine plot out of the way and I can get to the good stuff.

Warning: This synopsis contains spoilers to the previous films.

The film is set 6 years after the events of the last movie. We open to a woman going into labor in some sort of medieval torcher dungeon. There are cloaked druid priests or something around and when the baby is born, they mark him in blood with the symbol we saw showing up in the previous film. Some sort of ancient blood ritual. The woman turns out to be Jamie Lloyd all growed up. Once again, the math on her age is a little off because she should be 15 years old. Ostensibly what happened is that after the man in black came and shot up the police station and broke Myers out at the end of the 5th film, he took Myers and Jamie away somewhere for 6 years. I guess she was impregnated there? It’s unclear what exactly happened during the downtime.

Anyway, Michael shows up and Jamie escapes with the baby. She stashes the baby in a bus station bathroom before Michael kills her with a large piece of farm equipment. Now, Remember Tommy Doyle (the kid Laurie Strode was babysitting in the first movie)? Thanks to some idiotic writing, he lives in the house across the street from the Myers house. Oh and Laurie Strode’s adoptive uncle (is that a thing?) and his family live in the Myers house. Doyle (played by Paul Rudd) has been obsessed with Myers for years and he finds the baby. Doyle and Loomis team up to protect the baby from Michael while he slices up the Haddonfield locals. There’s a whole big conspiracy and a pagan sacrifice and druid astrology blah blah blah.It’s irrelevant. It makes no sense.

Anyway, forget the plot. That’s not what this is about. There are lots of little things that pay homage to the original that make this one a lot of fun. If you know your stuff, you’ll remember that in 1978, little 8 year-old Tommy drops a pumpkin and it breaks everywhere. Here we see grown up Tommy accidentally scare a kid and the kid drops his pumpkin. There’s a scene where Laurie’s cousin and her kid are banging on a door waiting for Tommy to come downstairs and open it up that’s very reminiscent of a scene from the original. There are some shots of Michael standing still and staring in the window when only a little kid sees him. Then he just disappears. Just like in the original. We also go back to Smith’s Grove (the mental hospital where Michael went after he killed his sister) and there are some other fun little allusions in there too.

Like I said, the movie just looks awesome and scary. They do some great things with light and shadows that help the spooky atmosphere. It seems that they’ve figured out the “turn on a cold blue light” trick when it gets dark so that we know it’s dark but we can still see what’s happening. The settings are great. I love the scenes in Smith’s Grove.

My biggest problem with this movie, and the later part of the series, is the way they try to explain why Myers is the way he is. To me, it’s so much scarier when we have no idea why he’s like this. To try to explain it away with voodoo magic and druid curses and star alignments just takes away from the effect. You might as well say he got dunked in toxic waste or his mom stood too close to the microwave when she was pregnant with him. Remember Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds? Nobody knew why they started freaking out and killing everyone. That was part of what made it so scary. It’s the lack of a reasonable explanation that’s unsettling to us as an audience.

The best part is the Myers doesn’t give a fuck about all this voodoo nonsense. He will literally kill anyone and everyone including the priests conducting the sacrifices, rituals, etc. It’s a little unclear as to how he’s tied in with these people, but it doesn’t matter. They way he slices and dices, these people may as well be his sisters.

Anyway, you should watch (or rewatch) this one with an open mind. Don’t get too bogged down with the script and just have fun. Also, the 90’s distorted electric guitar playing the Halloween Theme was great. It’s as if John Carpenter hired Soundgarden to score the movie.

Sad note: Donald Pleasence (who played Dr. Loomis in the series) passed away shortly after this movie was complete. He made these movies great and he will be missed.

  1. Is it scary: 5- The sloppy writing and the over-explanation of Michael’s um, condition, take away from the scariness but the lighting and camera work add a bit.
  2. Originality: 4- Even though it was twisted and nonsensical, I have to give them some points for originality. Not a lot, but some.
  3. Blood: 5- On par with the rest of the series. It could have been bloodier but it got the job done.
  4. Believability: 2–This got a lower score than usually because there were just so many of those moments where you’re like “What? Why….?”
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 6- Old Smith’s Grove Sanitarium was awesome. You could tell there was a level of competence in the lighting and camera crew that wasn’t around in the previous films. It just set the mood and made everything look scary.                                                                                   

Final Score: 22/50