Film Review: Halloween Kills (2021)

Release Date: September 8th, 2021 (Venice Film Festival)
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Written by: Scott Teems, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Based on: characters by John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Music by: John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Thomas Mann, Anthony Michael Hall, Nick Castle, Kyle Richards, Nancy Stephens, Charles Cyphers, Scott MacArthur, Michael McDonald

Blumhouse Productions, Miramax, Universal Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

“I’m coming for you, Michael.” – Laurie Strode

So this is the second part of the Halloween trilogy by David Gordon Green and Danny McBride. I mostly liked the first one and I also mostly liked this one.

Oddly, there are some things about this one that are worse and also some things that are better. So with that, it kind of just evens itself out and, overall, is on the same level as its predecessor.

Looking at the positives first, I thought that this one committed to the violence of the deaths better. The previous film showed some seriously fucked up kills but then it’s like it met its quota and then some gruesome kills saw the camera shy away from them. Here, it threw everything at you and didn’t pull any of its punches.

This one also brought back some classic characters and some minor characters from the original 1978 film. I don’t like how some of these characters were utilized and ultimately what their fates were but I did like the idea of a group of Michael Myers survivors being fully aware that one day they’d have to come face-to-face with the monster once more.

As for the negatives, I don’t like how reckless and stupid Tommy Doyle was, as well as his dipshit small town mob. They pushed an innocent man to suicide, they got overzealous and then sloppy when they had the advantage over Michael and by the end, you kind of want these morons to get what you know is coming to them.

Additionally, the film did some time jumping early on, which I felt was a bit messy and made the first act of the story somewhat chaotic and disjointed. It also doesn’t really recover from having a bad flow, as it starts introducing new sets of characters that just seem to be on their own side quest from the get go and it pulls time away from the main story and the main characters of this film series.

Also, I get that Laurie Strode was severely injured but I hated that she was in a hospital bed the entire movie, except when she tried to leave, hurt herself, and then ended up right back in bed next to the cop from the first movie, who also stayed in bed the whole time.

I also didn’t like the appearance of Loomis in this. It felt kind of cheap and weird like when Disney used a CGI Peter Cushing in Rogue One. I couldn’t tell if they used CGI on an actor’s face here or if they just got an actor that looks an awful lot like Donald Pleasence.

Other than that, the story was okay and the kills were solid and creative. At the very least, this feels like a good extension of what was established in the original 1978 Halloween and these are much better movies than that white trash Rob Zombie crap from a decade and a half ago. These are also better than the other attempt at a sequel reboot that we got with H20 and Halloween: Resurrection.

Rating: 6.75/10

Film Review: Donnie Darko (2001)

Release Date: January 19th, 2001 (Sundance)
Directed by: Richard Kelly
Written by: Richard Kelly
Music by: Michael Andrews
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Duval, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle, Daveigh Chase, Arthur Taxier, David St. James, Jazzie Mahannah, Jolene Purdy, Stuart Stone, Gary Lundy, Alex Greenwald, Seth Rogen, Beth Grant, David Moreland, Ashley Tisdale, Jerry Trainor

Adam Fields Productions, Flower Films, Pandora Cinema, 113 Minutes, 134 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“I hope that when the world comes to an end, I can breathe a sigh of relief, because there will be so much to look forward to.” – Donnie

This movie had a profound effect on me when I saw it in a movie theater, alone, in 2001. Once it was released on VHS and DVD, I had a copy of both. In fact, I had a version of the VHS that was released in blue plastic, as opposed to the traditional black.

Once I owned the movie, I watched it a lot. Mainly because it was so damn good and I was so damn intrigued by the vague concepts and ideas in it. There was this whole deep, mystical yet science-y mystery, which captivated my psyche.

Beyond that, the film connected with me in a way no other film has. I think that has a lot to do with my age, at the time, and because the title character and myself had similar issues. I liked seeing this character and how he was portrayed, as it felt genuine as hell and like it came from a real place from someone with similar experiences. I’m not saying that Richard Kelly is as “fucked up” as Donnie Darko but it’s clear that he knew what he was writing quite well.

I also liked how this sort of critiqued the Americana lifestyle and was set in the late ’80s, a time where American ideals seemed like they were winning and the middle class were relishing in a time of affordable opulence. Not that any of that is specifically negative, I just thought that this film looked at and examined it in an interesting way.

This is the first time I have watched the movie in probably a decade. I used to watch it so much, it was pretty much burned into my brain. Having that much time away from it, though, allowed me to see it with somewhat fresh eyes and in fact, I was a bit apprehensive about it, as I thought it might not stand up to the test of time and play as well.

Luckily, that apprehension was quickly absolved because this was just as good as I remembered it. Also, in some way, it was like rediscovering it because there were some neat details and nuance that I had forgotten about. I mean, I am starting to get old.

The film is pretty close to perfect and it is so well acted that you get ensnared by it. It’s beautiful visually and narratively and it certainly deserves more recognition than it gets, even if it did establish cult status and a slew of fans over time.

In recent years, though, it feels like it’s being forgotten, as new generations come along and prefer movies with less heart and simplistic, rapid storytelling that deliver constant gratification while moving so fast that nothing in a film older than fifteen minutes seems to matter. Look at the ninth Star Wars saga film and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s sad that Donnie Darko sort of feels like a relic now. At the time, I had hoped it was a bright beacon at the beginning of a new millennium that would help inspire smarter, more original movies but the Michael Bays and J. J. Abramses won out.

And sadly, Richard Kelly tried but was never able to capture the magic he had here with his feature length debut.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: this is pretty unusual but I’d say Richard Kelly’s other films: Southland Tales and The Box.

Film Review: Haunt (2019)

Also known as: Halloween Haunt (Austria, Germany)
Release Date: August 7th, 2019 (Popcorn Frights Film Festival)
Directed by: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Written by: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Music by: Tomandandy
Cast: Katie Stevens, Will Brittain, Lauryn McClain

Beck Woods, Broken Road Productions, Nickel City Pictures, Momentum Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

Featured on a recent episode of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, I didn’t expect much from this modern horror film. The recent Shudder originals and exclusives that I’ve encountered have been a mixed bag but mostly bad-to-mediocre.

This one surprised me, though, and it was a pretty fun experience that immediately made me think of Tobe Hooper’s great 1981 film, Funhouse. I found out after I had that thought, that this was actually inspired by it, as the film’s directors were fans of that picture.

Also, going into this, I didn’t realize that these directors were the same guys that produced and wrote John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place. A film I mostly liked and also thought was much better than most modern horror offerings.

This film sees a group of teens go to a mysterious haunted house that appears to be some next level shit, as they have to give up their cellphones and sign a release form, which includes some worrisome rules like “Don’t touch the haunted house performers.” Maybe they should’ve asked for a safe word upfront.

Anyway, this goes exactly how you’d expect. The haunted house is actually a trap where the teens get murdered in horrifying ways making this picture one-part Saw and one-part slasher with the Funhouse aesthetic. It’s a really good mix and once you throw in some other weird surprises, this is just a good, fun, mindless horror film.

My only big complaint with the film was in regards to the editing. It was a bit quick and felt kind of disjointed. It made it hard to understand the layout of the haunted house. Maybe that was intentional, to make the viewer also feel lost within it but it’s not like it was an actual maze or anything, it was just a series of rooms and sections broke out into two different paths that eventually intersect again.

Other than that, the film looked good, I liked the antagonists and it definitely registered pretty high on the creep meter.

This is one of those things that could probably be spun into a moderately successful, low budget, horror franchise but unlike everything else these days, they should leave it alone and let it stand on its own merits, unaffected by increasingly shitty sequels and formula fatigue.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other more modern horror films but this is much better than most.

Film Review: Hack-O-Lantern (1988)

Also known as: Death Mask (alternative international title), Halloween Night (US alternative title), The Damning (UK)
Release Date: March 25th, 1988 (UK)
Directed by: Jag Mundhra
Written by: Dave Eisenstark (as Burford Hauser), Carla Robinson
Music by: Greg Haggard (as Gregory T. Haggard)
Cast: Hy Pyke, Gregory Scott Cummins, Carla B., Katina Garner

Spencer Films, 87 Minutes

Review:

This weird ass movie is a combination of being abysmally bad and kind of entertaining, when not mulled down by the really dull parts. The abysmally bad parts kind of win out, though.

Hack-O-Lantern is a Halloween-themed horror movie directed by an Indian guy that doesn’t seem to know much about Halloween. Also, he is relying on tropes and themes that were kind of played out by the time this was released. It’s like the guy watched Halloween nearly a decade earlier and said, “Let’s do that but crazy! Very, very crazy!”

The film is about an old grandpa that runs a Satanic cult while also featuring a slasher, who goes around killing teens. There’s also some weird rock and roll band subplot that sees music videos just kind of randomly appear out of nowhere. I guess it’s not even really a subplot. This is just an amalgamation of bonkers ass shit that makes little to no sense.

I only watched this because it was featured on The Last Drive-In. I can’t call it the worst movie featured on there, as it was at the very least, amusing in spite of its massive flaws.

I don’t think that I’ll ever watch this again or even recommend it but I didn’t hate it, so that’s something.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other Halloween-themed horror movies.

Film Review: Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Also known as: Trick or Treat (alternative spelling)
Release Date: December 9th, 2007 (Butt-Numb-A-Thon Film Festival)
Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Written by: Michael Dougherty
Music by: Douglas Pipes
Cast: Dylan Baker, Rochelle Aytes, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Quinn Lord, Lauren Lee Smith, Britt McKillip, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Samm Todd, Leslie Bibb, Tahmoh Penikett, Brett Kelly

Bad Hat Harry Productions, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 82 Minutes

Review:

“Werewolves, zombies and demons of every variety. They’ve all descended on the normally sleepy town of Warren Valley, OH. Where the holiday and all of its strange traditions are taken very seriously. It’s only 8:00 and the streets are already packed with costumed visitors. Some to show off, others to blend in, but all to celebrate the magical night of Halloween. The one night a year where we can pretend to be the scariest thing we think of.” – Reporter

It’s been a hell of a long time since I last watched Trick ‘r Treat and I was a bit surprised that I hadn’t reviewed it yet, as this is already the fourth Halloween season since Talking Pulp started. Not to mention all my other blogs that predate this one where reviewing movies was part of the regular output.

I like this movie quite a bit, especially because it truly is a love letter to Halloween and while we have a lot of horror movies in the universe, we don’t have enough that feel like they’re Halloween specific.

This is an anthology but all the stories are connected and happen in the same town on the same night. The plots overlap a bit and the movie is shown out of order ala Pulp Fiction but it isn’t hard to put the pieces together and it keeps you guessing as the multiple plot threads develop.

My only real complaint about the film is that it felt like it needed one more story thrown in to help pad out the running time and to take the picture to the next level. It’s short, moves really quick and the flick ends before you’re really ready to say goodbye to it. But I guess that’s also a testament to how entertaining it is.

I had always hoped that this would’ve kicked off a franchise of annual or semi-annual Halloween anthologies that exist in this same universe. Michael Dougherty, the film’s writer and director, has said he’s wanted to make more but it’s been thirteen years since this was originally shown and not much has happened since.

Well, Dougherty did do another holiday themed horror movie with 2015’s Krampus and I did enjoy that as well. But still, this deserves more love, more chapters and with that, I feel like it could evolve into a franchise strong enough to rival John Carpenter’s Halloween series.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other horror anthologies, as well as movies about Halloween.

Vids I Dig 212: Midnight’s Edge: ‘Halloween’: The Troubled History Behind the Franchise

From the Midnight’s Edge YouTube description: While Halloween wasn’t the first slasher film, it was the first smash hit slasher and along with ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s’ Leatherface, ushered in a whole era of masked and deformed boogie men at the cinema and video store throughout the 80’s and 90’s. But beyond the 1978 masterpiece, the franchise quickly became a mess. With its creator trying to change its purpose to an anthology series and quickly giving up, to a series that was rebooted and rebooted time and again with an increasingly large list of colorful characters involved in production. Including the 2018 movie, the franchise has been restarted no less than five times. In this video, we will examine the history of Halloween, the many behind the scenes fights, and what future the most recent franchise rebirth will bring.

Video Game Review: Halloween (Atari 2600)

I never knew there was an Atari 2600 game based on John Carpenter’s Halloween. That could be due to the age I was when this would’ve come out but it’s surprising that I still never got wind of it over the years.

Like most Atari 2600 games, it’s pretty basic. But that’s not a bad thing, as this game is at least really amusing and surprisingly violent and comical.

You play as Laurie Strode (I’m assuming) and you need to evade Michael Myers while trying to save Tommy Doyle (or some other little brat). If Michael catches the kid, the little shit is stabbed to death. If Michael catches Laurie, he decapitates her, which leads to her running around headless with blood spurting from her neck stump.

It’s pretty nutty that this was a mainstream video game and probably sold to kids. However, ’80s kids weren’t pussies and video games didn’t have fascist ass ratings back then. Also, life was better and people weren’t so miserable and overly sensitive.

Anyway, that’s about all there is to do in the game. But it’s still a cool game to mess around with.

Also, the 4-bit Halloween theme is badass.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other old school horror movie video games like the original Nintendo’s Friday the 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Film Review: Halloween (2018)

Release Date: September 8th, 2018 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Written by: Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Based on: characters by John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Music by: John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Toby Huss, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle

Miramax, Blumhouse Productions, Trancas International Films, Rough House Pictures, Universal Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“There’s a reason we’re supposed to be afraid of this night.” – Hawkins

Well, the highly anticipated Halloween is here.

This film is a direct sequel to the first movie and thus, ignores everything that came after the original film. So no hospital movie, no Michael hunting little Jamie, no Paul Rudd fighting a weirdo cult, no LL Cool J as a poor security guard and no Busta Rhymes karate moves. Most importantly though, none of that white trash Rob Zombie crap. Although, I did like Malcolm McDowell.

I guess the coolest thing about this isn’t bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter (in some capacity), it’s actually getting Nick Castle back to play the Shape, as he was the original Michael Myers. Side note: did you know that the Shape a.k.a. Michael Myers directed The Last Starfighter?

Anyway, jumping right in, I thought that the first half hour or so of the movie was slow. All of that could have been condensed down to ten minutes, really. This is a slasher film and doesn’t need to give us giant spoonfuls of exposition. Just give us the quick rundown of where the story is and go for it.

After that first half hour, things really pick up but I felt that the middle act of the picture almost went too fast. Michael starts killing and he kills a lot. However, once you get to the big finale at the Strode house in the woods, it slows to a crawl again.

I get that this final act was an attempt at building tension, which it does do well, but as Laurie carefully moved through her house looking for Michael, I was just sitting in my chair thinking, “Hurry it up, already.” I mean, if she was so prepared for Michael coming for her, she should of lived in a one room cabin and not a maze full of mannequins and junk store trinkets.

As far as the kills go, it was a mixed bag. Too many kills happen off screen, which I hate in a slasher film. Commit to the f’n bit and show it! Show it all! What’s more baffling is that the kills that they do show are pretty brutal. So why give us a mixture of violent kills and off screen kills? Were the filmmakers teetering on making this PG-13?

One thing about this movie that really got me into it though was the use of John Carpenter’s music. He did the score for this one and kept it very traditional and tapped into the themes of the original. However, as the film rolls on, those famous tunes start to evolve and Carpenter did some really neat stuff musically. I’ll probably buy this film’s score on vinyl if I come across it at my local record shop.

Another positive is the psychology of this film. I don’t mean to spoil anything but this starts out like a typical Halloween film once Michael gets free but eventually you come to see that the hunter is actually the hunted. Laurie Strode wanted him outside again so that she could finally kill him and finally close this long, dark chapter of her life. Laurie becomes a badass and spends decades preparing for this night in an effort to deal with her PTSD. It’s ruined her life, her marriages, her family and she just wants to put this MFer to bed, once and for all.

However, even though I prefer this movie to H2O, I preferred the other version of Laurie Strode better. Also, that film had that great iconic moment where Laurie and Michael come face to face through a small window. That really was a great moment and gave that film more meaning than it should have had. This new film didn’t have that sort of confrontation, which would’ve actually done more to build tension than Laurie slowly walking through a dark house with a shotgun. Having Laurie and Michael look into each others eyes is something that needed to happen, it froze me in my seat when I saw that in H2O. Nothing about this Halloween came close to having that effect on me.

In the end, I was really happy with the movie. It hits the right notes, most of the time. It was also a great homage to the original film and a few other horror classics. We haven’t had a good slasher film in quite awhile and this at least satisfied the part of me that’s been yearning for a real throwback to my favorite era and subgenre of horror.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Halloween 1245 and 6.

Film Review: Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

Release Date: July 12th, 2002
Directed by: Rick Rosenthal
Written by: Larry Brand, Sean Hood
Based on: characters by John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Music by: Danny Lux
Cast: Busta Rhymes, Bianca Kajlich, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Ryan Merriman, Sean Patrick Thomas, Katee Sackhoff, Daisy McCracken, Luke Kirby, Tyra Banks, Jamie Lee Curtis,

Nightfall Productions, Trancas International, Dimension Films, 90 Minutes

Review:

“You failed, Michael. Want to know why? Because I’m not afraid of you. But what about you? Are you afraid of me? Are you afraid to die, Michael?” – Laurie Strode

This chapter in the Halloween franchise is the bottom of the barrel. Well, at least until Rob Zombie came along to make two films in his white trash reboot.

The only positive thing about this picture is the first fifteen minutes that show the final confrontation between Michael Myers and his sister, Laurie Strode. Jamie Lee Curtis returned for this small part and really, the build up to this fifteen minute intro should have been a film with this as the finale. Everything after their final confrontation is absolute garbage.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve liked Busta Rhymes going back to his days in Leaders of the New School. I also thought he did a decent job with his small role in John Singleton’s Higher Learning. However, watching him imitate Bruce Lee while using kung fu moves to best Michael Myers is just about the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen and I’ve watched some pretty shitty movies in my day. At least Busta looked like he was trying to make the best out of an atrocious script and a stupidly written character.

The basis of this film, after the decent fifteen minute intro, is about a half dozen college students that go on a reality show to “investigate” the infamous Myers house. However, Michael is there and still alive so college kids start getting shish-kababed with sharp objects galore.

The premise is dumb, the characters are even dumber and the whole idea of how a show like this would work makes no sense whatsoever. It was just an excuse to use cheaper cameras and to showcase a lot of the action with shitty head mounted webcams. It is like half normal movie and half found footage. The choppy editing between the two is a distraction and most of the webcam shots are a jumbled mess.

Fuck this movie. There really isn’t much else to say about it. Watch the first fifteen minutes and then turn it off.

And yes, this turd is getting tossed into the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 1 Stool: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass).”

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: the other Halloween films.

Film Review: Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

Release Date: August 5th, 1998
Directed by: Steve Miner
Written by: Robert Zappia, Matt Greenberg
Based on: characters by John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Music by: John Ottman
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams, Adam Hann-Byrd, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Janet Leigh, Josh Hartnett, LL Cool J, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Nightfall Productions, Trancas International, Dimension Films, 86 Minutes

Review:

“Mom, I am not responsible for you. That’s it, I’ve had enough. I can’t take it anymore mom. He’s dead. Michael Myers is dead.” – John

When this film came out, I didn’t even want to see it. It looked awful, I assumed it was awful and when I did see it on video, a year later, I was left unimpressed. However, my tune has changed somewhat, seeing it almost twenty years later.

It isn’t wholly awful and in fact, it has some pretty strong positives.

On the negative end of the spectrum, the opening segment is decent but then the film drags and drags until you finally get to see Michael Myers hunt down his sister. You don’t really get some good Myers action until the last twenty minutes or so of the picture.

Then there is the issues with the Myers action itself. That issue being that half the killing, if not most of it, happens off screen. The majority of the film shows people getting cornered and then it cuts away. A few minutes later, someone stumbles across their dead friend. I assumed this had to be rated PG-13 but nope, it has an R rating but apparently no balls. Strangely, even though it cuts away from real violence and gore, the film is capped off with a decapitation that is actually shown. The way violence is handled in this movie is really friggin’ baffling.

Also, there are just so many bullshit jump scares that it was more irritating than surprising.

The cast in this is also pretty weak. There are really well-known stars in the film but this was before most of them broke out. Michelle Williams would go on to be nominated for four Academy Awards and receive lots of other awards nominations but in this, she’s just teenie bopper eye candy. LL Cool J didn’t seem to have much to do and Josh Hartnett didn’t serve much of a purpose other than being the son of Laurie Strode (Curtis) and giving her a reason to finally hunt down Michael Myers herself.

But lets get to the positives.

Jamie Lee Curtis kills it in this. This is her best outing as Laurie Strode and twenty years later, she finally gets that Ellen Ripley moment, where she has had enough, grabs a weapon and hunts the hunter trying to kill her and her child. The final showdown between her and Myers is absolutely fantastic and it is the best final battle out of any Halloween film. She truly was Michael’s match in this and it was damn cool to see. It actually makes up for the boredom I felt for the first two-thirds of the picture.

Also, we get a nice cameo from Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee Curtis’ real life mother. She’s even got a car like the one from Psycho.

Halloween H20 may have an incredibly stupid name and fall victim to being a standard 1990s slasher, lacking the gravitas of the films from the previous two decades, but that final act is stellar. The moment where Laurie and Michael come face-to-face for the first time in twenty years is actually chilling. I wish they wouldn’t have wasted that shot by putting it in the trailer.

So I no longer have a severe dislike of this film, I actually like it a lot. Especially the final moment between Laurie and her murderous brother.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Halloween films.