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: 7/10
Pairs well with: Halloween 124 and 5.

Film Review: Resident Evil (2002)

Also known as: Resident Evil: The Movie, Resident Evil: Ground Zero (working titles), Biohazard (Japanese English title), Resident Evil – Genesis (Switzerland)
Release Date: March 12th, 2002 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Marco Beltrami, Marilyn Manson
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, Martin Crewes, Colin Salmon, Jason Issacs (narrator/cameo)

Constantin Film, New Legacy Films, Pathé, 100 Minutes

Review:

“You’re all going to die down here.” – The Red Queen

I never saw this when it came out and I didn’t have much urge to, as I wasn’t invested in the video game series and it looked like a low budget action horror film that didn’t pay much attention to what the first game was. Based off of my experience playing the original Resident Evil, when I originally saw the trailer for this, I was baffled by it.

However, this has gone on to spawn a half dozen movies and is the most successful film franchise based on a video game, so I figured I’d kill 100 minutes and actually give it a watch, 16 years later.

Well, it’s not terrible but it also isn’t very good. It had some decent bits in it but most of it felt as soulless as the zombies roaming in and out of the picture.

I guess the worst part of it all was the acting. Milla Jovovich was actually pretty decent and Eric Mabius wasn’t bad but everyone else around them delivered their lines like a punch to the gut. Most of these character and the actors portraying them were pretty off putting. Michelle Rodriguez’s line delivery certainly takes the cake for acting cringe in this film.

The special effects are good when they are practical effects. The CGI employed in this is fucking terrible. From what I’ve seen from later films in the series, the creature CGI effects at least improve beyond this film. The Licker creature, which was the big bad of the movie, looked atrocious. The digital monsters looked like something from a SyFy movie but a SyFy movie when it was still 2002.

As far as a positives, I really liked the concept and the idea of the Hive, an underground tech heavy fortress controlled by an evil A.I. called the Red Queen. I felt like there was a lot that they could do with this but it was left pretty unexplored, other than a few key moments like when the task force got sliced to pieces by lasers. But this also felt like it was heavily borrowed from Cube.

This was a fast paced, fun movie. I’ll give it that. I wasn’t bored watching it or waiting for things to pick up. However, I did suffer from my mind going numb due to stupid characters making stupid decisions.

Also, another positive is that I feel like I should watch the other movies as well. I’ve never seen any of these in their entirety. I’ve seen bits and pieces of some of the sequels but I don’t even know which ones. It just seems like these movies are on FX all the time.

Anyway, I guess I’ll follow this up shortly with reviews of the other five Resident Evil movies.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the pther Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.

Film Review: Hardware (1990)

Also known as: M.A.R.K. 13 (alternate title)
Release Date: August, 1990 (Edinburgh International Film Festival)
Directed by: Richard Stanley
Written by: Richard Stanley
Based on: SHOK! by Steve MacManus, Kevin O’Neill (uncredited/plagarized)
Music by: Simon Boswell
Cast: Dylan McDermott, Stacey Travis, John Lynch, William Hootkins, Iggy Pop (voice), Lemmy Kilmister (cameo)

Palace Pictures, British Screen Productions, British Satellite Broadcasting, 94 Minutes

Review:

“[on radio] Kill! Kill! Kill! Today’s death count is 578.” – Angry Bob

For a movie that doesn’t really work when you put too much thought into it, Hardware is still a pretty intense picture that masterfully builds up tension and suspense. I have some issues with it but it brings a lot more good than bad to the table.

I guess my biggest gripe is that it takes way too long to really get into it. The first half is slow and actually pretty boring. However, once the killer robot is fully functional, at about the movie’s midpoint, things go nuts and you’re glued to the screen until it all plays out.

However, this robot is self repairing, covered in armor and locked in an apartment with an unprepared woman that falls asleep. She wakes up just in time to dodge the robot’s first attack but then this hardcore killing machine just chills in the shadows of the already dark apartment. I just assume that a killer robot would go full throttle into kill mode because this woman has no weapons, poses no real threat and flesh is soft and easy to tear apart. I never understood why the robot just laid back like he did. But hey, at least he picks off the creepy sleezeball dude.

What I really like about the film is the tone. It’s post-apocalyptic which was done to death by 1990 but this felt like a strong cocktail mixed with Mad Max and Blade Runner with a 151 Terminator floater. It has such a hard edge to it that it laughs at the word “gravitas”. And the woman does become quite the badass over the course of the picture. Plus, you’ve got Iggy Pop and Lemmy Kilmister in this. It’s punk, it’s metal, it’s rock and fucking roll, bay-bay!

I love the robot’s design in this film. I also liked that his skull started out as just a piece of art and it was painted with an American flag for its face. This was one of the coolest killer robots of the era.

Hardware is pretty much forgotten but it is still a solid sci-fi thriller with a nice amount of gory bits.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Incidents in an Expanding UniverseDeath MachineDust Devil and Saturn 3.

 

Film Review: The Man Who Laughs (1928)

Release Date: April 27th, 1928 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Paul Leni
Written by: J. Grubb Alexander, Walter Anthony, Mary McLean, Charles E. Whittaker
Based on: The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo
Music by: Ernö Rapée, Walter Hirsch, Lew Pollack, William Axt, Sam Perry, Gustav Borch
Cast: Mary Philbin, Conrad Veidt, Brandon Hurst, Olga V. Baklanova, Cesare Gravina, Stuart Holmes, Samuel de Grasse, George Siegmann, Josephine Crowell

Universal Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“[via subtitles, to the House of Lords] A king made me a clown! A queen made me a Peer! But first, God made me a man!” – Gwynplaine

This is sort of the swan song to the typical German Expressionist style, even though it was an American film. The director was German and Conrad Veidt, the title character, originally made his mark in the expressionist film style. Plus, even though this takes place in England, the sets look very German, especially for the time.

Now while it shares a strong resemblance to German Expressionism, it isn’t as surreal as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or as brooding as Nosferatu. But it still has a darkness to it and even though IMDb and other places categorize this as horror, it is very light in that regard. In fact, the only thing one can argue that fits the horror genre is the grotesque disfigurement of the title character.

Veidt plays Gwynplaine, a man who, as a boy, had his mouth disfigured by a king to look like a creepy smile. As a child he meets Dea and over the years they fall in love, even though Gwynplaine feels he is unworthy of her due to his disfigurement. Gwynplaine constantly wears a scarf over his mouth unless he is performing in the freak show of his traveling carnival. Dea, however, is blind and she sees her blindness as a blessing as it lets her see the true Gwynplaine.

As the film rolls on, it is revealed that Gwynplaine has a right to the throne and he is then pushed into a marriage with a Duchess, who is pretty much a horny vixen that weirdly is turned on by his disfigurement. But all Gwynplaine cares about is spending his life with Dea in his arms.

The character of Gwynplaine is one of the most iconic in cinema history, even if he is mostly forgotten by modern audiences today. His look was the inspiration of the Joker in the Batman comics. He would also inspire the look of the title character in the iconic ’60s horror picture Mr. Sardonicus. Most recently, the origin of his smile was an inspiration for Christopher Nolan’s version of the Joker, as played by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.

This also came out during the time when film was transitioning from silent pictures to sound. Initially, this was released as a purely silent movie but due to its quick success it was re-released with a score, it’s own theme song and added sound effects.

The plot is based off of a Victor Hugo story, which the studio thought would help capture some of the magic they had with the adaptation of his more famous story The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Regardless of that, The Man Who Laughs stands quite strongly on its own.

This is a well crafted movie, the narrative flows nicely and the acting is exceptional, as you fall in love with a few of these characters and you want to see Gwynplaine achieve the happiness he yearns for.

A solid motion picture, through and through, The Man Who Laughs is one of the finest pictures of its era.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other German Expressionist films with a dark edge: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, The Golem, etc.

Video Game Review: Alien vs. Predator (PS3)

I was really excited when this came out because I love both Alien and Predator franchises and especially love when they come together. Well, maybe not in the movies but I always liked the Alien vs. Predator comics, as well as the video games before this one. That old Atari Jaguar game was great for the time.

This boasts good graphics, solid maps and the ability to play as a Predator, an alien or a human space marine. There are three different story routes and a lot of cool game play options.

One thing puts a real damper on this game for me though and that’s the overly complicated controls. I typically play as a Predator because why wouldn’t I? Predators are the friggin’ best and I can turn invisible and violently rip enemies to shreds with my knife gauntlet or blast them into smithereens with my shoulder cannon.

But that’s the problem. Predators can do too many awesome things that keeping track of it all, in the heat of battle, is sometimes difficult. Playing as an Alien xenomorph or a human isn’t that much easier either. Running around as a xenomorph can be very disorienting.

I think that this game was a good step in the right direction for what this needed to be but maybe it needed more refinement. And the learning curve to get the controls down is tough. One certainly can’t be ready to be thrown to the wolves after the weak and brief tutorial mission.

This is a lot of fun once you do get the hang of it though but it seems to lack in replayability.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Alien vs. Predator games and similar sci-fi/horror first person shooters.

Comic Review: Justice League Dark: The Last Days of Magic

Published: July 25th, 2018 – September 26th, 2018
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, Brad Anderson

DC Comics, 79 Pages

Review:

Man, this series is a lot of fun and this short, three issue arc was a great kicoff to this new version of the Justice League Dark team.

This squad consists of new leader Wonder Woman, as well as John Constantine, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Man Bat and Detective Chimp. Doctor Fate is also involved but there is a twist to his involvement. By the end of this arc, I’m not sure if he’s going to be a member of this team or not.

These first three issues of Justice League Dark serve to set up a crossover event called The Witching Hour, which just started. It’s a crossover between the regular Wonder Woman comic and Justice League Dark and sees Princess Diana gain some pretty powerful magical abilities that she’s never had before.

I love how dark and how fun this series is. I bought it because I liked the team and every member in it. Granted, I think Man Bat comes off as dumber than he should be, I mean, he’s a brilliant f’n scientist. But I love all these characters and it seems like a really cool and fresh angle for Wonder Woman. I like seeing her tap into the magical parts of her existence. I also like the stuff that was added to her backstory here.

I really dig the new villain that comes out in the third and final issue of the story. He’s creepy as hell but just freaky and badass enough to make things really interesting. Plus, his power level, as far as one can tell from this story, is pretty damn incredible. But this also leads to Wonder Woman evolving into something beyond her own power level. Is this leading to a Dark Phoenix sort of saga for Wonder Woman? It very well could but I don’t want to ruin this for those who want to read it.

James Tynion IV has written a damn fine and damn fun comic book story. I hope that this maintains its great momentum going forward, as it’s one of my favorite comic books being put out by DC, right now.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The Witching Hour crossover that follows and the original Justice League Dark series.

Film Review: Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Also known as: Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (full title)
Release Date: November 9th, 1994 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Written by: Anne Rice
Based on: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
Cast: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater, Stephen Rea

Geffen Pictures, Warner Bros., 122 Minutes

Review:

“The world changes, we do not, there lies the irony that finally kills us.” – Armand

In the ’90s and early ’00s, I watched this film a lot. But I had seen it so many times that I actually haven’t seen it now for at least a decade. But that time off from it made me appreciate it even more.

This is the best vampire motion picture of the 1990s. It is pretty damn close to being a masterpiece. It is a beautiful adaptation of a book that really has become a literary classic, at this point. And it’s great to see that Anne Rice penned this script, as no one knows these characters better than she does.

There are a few minute changes from the book. The stuff with Louis’ wife was omitted and the character of Armand has a different appearance from the literary version. However, these minor alterations don’t matter within the context of this film. Had it actually gotten sequels (and it should have) the Armand thing might of been a bit problematic but I’m still okay with Antonio Banderas in the role for this one-off outing.

Anyway, Neil Jordan did a superb job directing this. He had just come off of The Crying Game, a film that earned him two Academy Award nominations for direction and script, and also had some experience with supernatural gore after his work on the barely remembered film The Company of Wolves. Both of those experiences would serve him well in this film, which had supernatural gore and also tapped into very light homo-eroticism between a few characters.

One thing that really stands out is the film’s score by Elliot Goldenthal. It has the makings of a great classical composition mixed with some very powerful and energetic flourishes that help accentuate the scenes in ways that a less capable score wouldn’t have been able to accomplish. The music also flows with the picture, it’s not distracting or in the way, it just exists to set the tone appropriately and really, that’s all a film score needs to do. But the craftsmanship of these classical tunes is what sets this film apart and gives it such a grandiose feel. There are just few scores that can make this sort of emotional and narrative impact in modern film.

The acting in this is also possibly the best you will see in any vampire movie. Tom Cruise, at first glance, just doesn’t seem to fit the role of Lestat but he was absolute perfection and this is still my favorite performance of his. This was also where I first noticed Brad Pitt. This is where his career was really born, in my opinion, as this was a turning point for him and his exceptional abilities. I could use those same words for Kirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas, as well. Both of them made such an impact in this that it really helped to set them off towards bigger and better things going forward.

Something else that stands out is the special effects handled by Stan Winston and his team. Most notably, the scene where Lestat is withering away to a corpse on the floor. That moment was masterfully crafted and has held up exceptionally well. It looks better than the vast majority of CGI effects that would have been used to achieve this today. Also, the amazing looking ash remains of Claudia and Madeleine were made by Winston and based off of photographs of victims from Hiroshima.

Interview with a Vampire is a perfect storm. It’s a film where everything, at every level, went right for the production. While there are some other good vampire films from the 1990s, this one takes the cake for me. It’s stellar from start to finish and it’s still an incredibly satisfying experience even after seeing it well over a dozen times.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Bram Stoker’s DraculaNear Dark and The Lost Boys.