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 1245 and 6.

Film Review: Curse of Chucky (2013)

Also known as: Child’s Play 6 (working title)
Release Date: August 2nd, 2013 (Fantasia International Film Festival)
Directed by: Don Mancini
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Joseph LoDuca
Cast: Fiona Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, Brennan Elliott, Maitland McConnell, Chantal Quesnel, Summer H. Howell, A Martinez, Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly (cameo), Alex Vincent (cameo)

Universal 1440 Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 97 Minutes

Review:

“25 years. Since then a lot of families have come and gone; the Barclays, the Kincaids, the Tillys. But you know Nica, your family was always my favorite. And now, you’re the last one standing… So to speak! [laughs manically, then glares down at Nica]” – Chucky

This came out after a long break from Child’s Play films. The later sequels: Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky got so humorous and weird that the darker spirit of the franchise was gone and the films sort of became parodies of themselves.

Curse of Chucky did a pretty decent job at correcting the tone, as Chucky, while still humorous because he always has been, is much scarier, more evil and also back to being more patient in how he reveals himself to his victims.

The one thing that this picture does really well is suspense. It’s a slow build until we really get to see Chucky at his murderous best. Sure, he kills and at first glance, it might suck that these heinous acts aren’t captured on film as they happen but the wait is worth the payoff, as once Chucky reveals himself to one of the main characters, shit truly hits the fan.

Now the film does feel really confined, as it primarily just takes place within one house. However, this actually benefits the film, as you feel the doom closing in and tightening its grip. Add in the fact that the main character is stuck in a wheelchair in a multilevel house and you really feel like you’re stuck in a sardine can with a live piranha by the climax. Those two key elevator scenes were fantastic as well and really served to make the environment work for the movie.

It was nice to see Chucky return to a darker, broodier tone. However, the film, sadly, isn’t as fun as the original three. Those still had a real darkness about them but they were more exiting and they have actually aged really well, considering their budget and time of release.

But I think that this and its follow up Cult of Chucky were good entries in the Child’s Play franchise. I had hoped to see more but I guess they’re going to reboot the series in the near future for some dumb reason.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: he Cult of Chucky, it’s direct sequel and the original Child’s Play trilogy when they were still really dark.

Film Review: See No Evil (2006)

Also known as: Eye Scream Man, Goodnight, The Goodnight Man (working titles)
Release Date: May 19th, 2006
Directed by: Gregory Dark
Written by: Dan Madigan
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Kane, Samantha Noble, Christina Vidal, Luke Pegler, Michael J. Pagan

WWE Films, Lionsgate Films, 84 Minutes

Review:

“[to Jacob. Referring to Kira in the cage] I’d like you to tell me… why is that whore still alive?” – Margaret

I have yet to see a single movie that has made me believe that WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) should be in the motion picture business. And really, they aren’t in the real motion picture business, they are just using the medium to try and make their stars more relevant and to try and draw new audiences to their product. The only way that See No Evil could possibly succeed at this, is due to the fact that WWE’s wrestling programs are actually better than this abhorrent film.

I never wanted to see this but since it was on Shudder and incredibly short, I finally gave it a watch.

Whatever low bar I had for it though, wasn’t low enough.

So Kane, the WWE wrestler and current Mayor of Knox County, Tennessee, plays a brutish beast of a man that is obsessed with mauling and mutilating people. He likes to take their eyes and he keeps a nice collection of them. He also uses a meat hook on a chain as his weapon of choice, which I will admit, was cool to see and was applied quite creatively, especially when used from the ceiling.

Anyway, there is more to his character and his backstory but I won’t spoil it, as I’m sure everyone is dying to watch this if they haven’t already.

So most of the movie takes place in this giant, disgusting, abandoned hotel. A bunch of petty criminals are sent there to clean it up as part of their community service punishment. This hotel is so gross that f’n bums wouldn’t want to live there. Granted, we do find out that some did but Kane stole their eyes. Anyway, there is no way any city government would send a bunch of degenerates to clean this place up. It should be condemned. The hotel is definitely unsalvageable and should be burnt to the f’n ground.

I don’t know, this movie is everything you’d expect it to be but much worse. It is terribly edited, uses ’90s thrash metal music video editing tricks and it just looks like some cliche slasher film a couple stoned film students would put together and get a D on because their parents are boosters and you can’t fail the kids of your financiers.

See No Evil got a sequel for some reason, eight years later. I’ll probably watch it to roast it in a review but I’m not in any sort of rush.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: See No Evil 2, and the Hatchet film series.

Film Review: Slice (2018)

Also known as: Kingfisher (working title)
Release Date: September 11th, 2018 (Internet)
Directed by: Austin Vesely
Written by: Austin Vesely
Music by: Nathan Matthew David, Ludwig Göransson
Cast: Chance Bennett, Zazie Beetz, Chris Parnell, Paul Scheer, Rae Gray, Joe Keery, Hannibal Buress

Frëhand, N2ition Cinema, A24, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Looks like I’m going on a wolf hunt tonight.” – Astrid

I was pretty hyped for this movie when I first saw a trailer for it. It looked low budget and cheesy but it also looked really creative and fun and I’m really liking Zazie Beetz after seeing her in Deadpool 2. Plus, this has Joe Keery in it and he’s my favorite person from Stranger Things.

But sadly, it was a big disappointment.

The film is a comedy horror story but if the comedy doesn’t work, you’ve got one big dud of a movie. Just nothing in this was all that funny and most attempts at trying to be funny where all pretty cringe worthy. It felt like a really stale CBS sitcom without the laugh track.

I mean, sure, it was bloodier than a CBS show with some decent slasher moments but this was poorly written grade school humor that was beneath the talents of most of the people in it. Paul Scheer can be great or he can be terrible but it’s based off of the material he’s given. And really, the same goes for Chris Parnell, whose scenes with the witches were like the worst shit that Saturday Night Live has pumped out in the modern era.

I really wanted to like this because on paper, this very much should have been my cup of tea. Instead, it was a luke warm cup of piss.

Some of the effects were good but it certainly doesn’t live up to the basic standard of what CGI should be in 2018.

Chance Bennett was really the high point of the film but by the time he takes the reins, in the second half, this cat turd was already dried up and ready to be scooped into a bag.

I guess I now know why this got a one night theater run on only a few screens.

If you have to see this, wait till it’s streaming free somewhere. I want my $5 back.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: Summer of ’84, Blood Fest and Arizona.

Film Review: Psycho III (1986)

Release Date: May, 1986 (Seattle International Film Festival)
Directed by: Anthony Perkins
Written by: Charles Edward Pogue
Based on: characters by Robert Bloch
Music by: Carter Burwell
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Diana Scarwid, Jeff Fahey, Roberta Maxwell, Donovan Scott

Universal Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Conservative clothes never go out of style.” – Norman Bates

As impressed and surprised as I was by Psycho II, I was kind of hoping that the magic would sustain into the third film in the series. Also, considering that this one was directed by Anthony Perkins, a man who knew Norman Bates better than anyone on the planet, I was hoping that he’d bring some real depth to the character and story.

Well, this doesn’t live up to the quality of Psycho II and it’s nowhere near as clever but it works alright as an ’80s slasher picture, as long as you aren’t looking for a massive body count or an overabundance of gore.

The film benefits greatly from the performances of Perkins, as well as Jeff Fahey, who has been a favorite of mine for years and who always brings a little something extra to every movie that he’s in.

Although, apart from the two male leads, the rest of the cast is pretty damn weak.

Also, the story just isn’t there for me. It’s kind of like a rehash of elements from part II but mostly comes off as a fairly mindless slasher movie. It lacks the psychological terror of the first two pictures and Perkins doesn’t seem to have the acumen, behind the camera, to really propel this story forward visually or from narrative standpoint.

The script, however, is pretty terrible and it doesn’t seem to understand some of the things that worked so well before. For instance, it has always been assumed, at least by me, that Norman was actually speaking to himself in his mother’s voice. Here, it’s as if his mother’s voice is in his head because we often times see Norman reacting to the horror of her requests as she talks to him off screen. It takes the magic away and there’s just something more batshit about Norman speaking, as his mother, to himself. The film also cuts to shots of Norman’s dead mother pointing and changing her position from shot to shot without his assistance. Maybe the film is trying to take some sort of artistic liberty in trying to show these moments through Norman’s eyes but it doesn’t work.

Where you weren’t sure if Norman was the killer in part II, that mystery is gone here, as he’s pretty much just a slasher, cutting his way through some ladies. But he still has that good side in him and doesn’t necessarily want to do evil but the ending of the second film set him off and there are certain moments in this one that pull the triggers to propel Norman to murder, once again.

This isn’t a waste of time, if you like the Norman Bates character, but this chapter in the original string of films is weak. I can’t speak yet for the fourth and final film, as I haven’t seen it and I actually can’t find it streaming anywhere.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: The other Psycho films.

Film Review: The Strangers (2008)

Also known as: The Faces (script title)
Release Date: May 29th, 2008 (Russia)
Directed by: Bryan Bertino
Written by: Bryan Bertino
Music by: Tomandandy
Cast: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, Laura Margolis, Glenn Howerton

Vertigo Entertainment, Mandate Pictures, Intrepid Pictures, Rogue Pictures, 86 Minutes, 88 Minutes (unrated cut)

Review:

“Since we’ve been here, I haven’t heard a dog bark… or a car pass. Nothing. Just us and them.” – James Hoyt

This was a film ruined by its marketing, which is why I never wanted to see it in the theater ten years ago and only decided to finally check it out because it was on Netflix and less than 90 minutes.

But the reason this film was ruined for me before I even saw it was due to one of the trailers where Liv Tyler’s character asks the psychos, “Why are you doing this to us?” And one of them simply says, “Because you were home.”

That killed this picture for me because I knew that those lines were the big reveal of the “mystery” within the film. The shocker moment; the money shot. And I also knew that if I saw this film, that answer was all I was going to get. So I didn’t need to see it, really. Because I’ve already seen home invasion and psycho slasher movies a billion times.

A user review on IMDb refers to this as “stupid people being tormented by stupid killers” and that’s probably the best description of this that there is.

This was a poorly written plot where it relied completely on the psychos just having good luck. It also made them have unnatural stealth abilities, which can only be explained if they were ex-Navy SEALs or trained in the ninja arts.

But seriously, the psychos were stupid, the victims were stupid and I kind of just wanted an asteroid to smash the house and kill them all.

Look, you have two people, holed up in a house with a shotgun and a shitload of shells. Outside are just three people armed with handheld tools from the family shed. How in the hell do you not just blow their f’n brains out in 2 minutes and order a pizza while waiting for the cops to show up.

And then, the only person to get their brains blown out was Dennis from Always Sunny, who just dropped in to say “hey”.

This movie was so painfully stupid that it hurt me physically.

There isn’t much else to say about it, really.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Probably the sequel I have no interest in seeing, as well as VacancyYou’re Next and the modern remake of The Last House On the Left.

Film Review: Psycho II (1983)

Release Date: June 3rd, 1983
Directed by: Richard Franklin
Written by: Tom Holland
Based on: characters by Robert Bloch
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Meg Tilly, Robert Loggia, Dennis Franz, Hugh Gillin, Robert Alan Browne, Claudia Bryar, Lee Garlington, Tom Holland

Oak Industries, Universal Pictures, 113 Minutes

Review:

“Mary, I’m becoming confused again, aren’t I?” – Norman Bates

I didn’t know what to expect from a sequel to a Hitchcock classic. Plus, this came out 23 years after the original, was made by a different studio and had a completely different vibe that embraced more of the slasher side than the classic suspense side.

The thing is, this also did a fine job of building suspense and ultimately, it was a damn good story, kept me guessing and wasn’t something that had an obvious outcome.

I really liked the script, I liked the curveballs and I loved that Norman Bates was actually reformed, even if circumstances pushed his buttons and made his resistance to his killer urges weaken over time. But is he the killer in this picture? You would be safe to assume so but the answer to that question isn’t a simple one.

Now I do feel like the ending of the film was a bit sloppy, after such a good story and great build up towards the finale. The ending felt like something that wasn’t decided upon until production had already started and the producers ended up meddling with things. I don’t know if that happened, it’s just a guess, but it had that kind of weird execution in the third act of the story.

The movie was written by Tom Holland, who would later direct Fright Night and Child’s Play. Kudos to Holland for penning a really compelling, smart script that really gave respect to the original movie while also showing respect to the audience. He also had a lot of layers to his story and explored what happens when a once insane man is clinically cured but has to later deal with the social repercussions of his past actions. How will he handle the hatred; how will he respond when pushed against a wall?

Another person I have to give major kudos to is Vera Mills. She really kills it in this, pun intended. Also, she truly committed to this picture and the slasher style killings. She does get taken out in this and that moment is one of the best in the film. Vera goes out like a friggin’ champ and it was cool to see her do that scene.

Meg Tilly was adorable in the film and it was hard to not crush on her character, just as Norman did. She is not who she seems to be at first glance but she develops mutual feelings for Norman and wants to genuinely support him. Sadly, she gets pulled into his chaotic orbit.

Even though a few things I’ve said here may be seen as spoilers, they are very minor ones, as Holland’s script isn’t as simple as it may first seem on the surface. Plus, just because someone dies in this, doesn’t mean that they’re just some victim. In fact, this feels more like a Clue whodunit mystery than a straight up serial killer thriller. And just when you think you’ve got the answers, you realize that you don’t.

It was great seeing Anthony Perkins return to his most famous role. Even within the context of his past crimes, Perkins is so good in this role that you feel for him emotionally. You know he did horrible things but you also get the sense that he is trying his damnedest to move forward and to truly be a good person. When he’s poked and prodded, you get angry for him. I just don’t think anyone else could have made this work quite like Perkins did.

On paper, Psycho II is a film that should have never been made. The original should have been left alone. But this is a very rare gem, as it’s better than it has a right to be.

The film isn’t as good as it’s predecessor because really, Psycho is a perfect film. But this is a damn good examination of psychological rehabilitation and it somehow makes you care for a man that was once a cold blooded murderer.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Psycho films.