Saturday, December 13, 2014

Movie Review: Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers

It's been 6 years since the massive flop of Halloween 3. So producer Moustapha Akkad decided to bring fans what they wanted in a long time: Michael Myers.
There have been many ideas to bring a fresh new take on the story but still have the essence of the original. The filmmakers even tried bringing back some of the old cast but they only brought back Donald Pleasance since Jamie Lee Curtis was a huge star at the time and this being a low-budget movie they couldn't afford her massive movie salary. So this was at the time where movies like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street were taking over cinemas and This Halloween project was going to be a stiff competition. So it wouldn't be a surprise that the filmmakers decided to make it more harder-edged and brutal than the earlier films, along with the continuation of Halloween and Halloween 2.
I can see why everybody enjoyed this one, however, It was rather dull. Not that it was bad or anything, it was just so-so, I thought there would be more to this but it came to a point where it's just another generic slasher film. There was so many ideas that would've made this movie better, however, it all fell flat at the end. The biggest problem I have with this is the writing. There was a big writer strike in 1988, which is part of this problem. We have far more important storylines the filmmakers needed to focus on yet the majority of the movie involves an unnecessary teen love triangle subplot which is rather boring and uninteresting. The plot holes are pretty obvious as well. Okay, Michael Myers from the second movie was basically incinerated but in this sequel, apparently, that hospital explosion only got him into a coma with a few burn scars here and there. That's impossible, I mean he was literally burnt into a crisp. This also goes to Dr. Loomis who has tiny scars on his face even though he too was blown to bits. The movie's excuse was that he was thrown out of the hospital but that's just goes beyond logic. How come Jamie is having visions of Michael when she doesn't even know who he is? I know the next movie stupidly explains this but there is no rhyme or reason Jamie is suddenly having nightmares about him. When did Michael have superpowers? Head crushings, throat-rippings, and impaling somebody with his thumb? What? And there is one death scene that goes beyond physics and I'll tell you later in the review.
Guys, I don't think this is a horrible movie or anything, sure it's entertaining but there is just so many  flaws, plot holes, and inconsistences that keep this movie from being any good.
The Story: It's been ten years since Michael Myers terrorized the streets of Haddonfield and now that the mass murderer is being placed in a coma, Smith's Grove officials decide to transfer him but before someone says he has living relative in Haddonfield he instantly breaks out of his coma and proceeds his deadly path of finding his long lost niece. Meanwhile, young Jamie Lloyd is preparing for Halloween along with her foster sister Rachel but little do they know is that Michael is dead set on their tracks and he's ready to spill blood on Haddonfield once again.

The cast is actually good but it's just certain characters that are not just that interesting to me.

Okay, let's start with Rachel. I know she's a fan favorite and everything but I don't think she's all that special. When she is first introduced, she comes off like a typical whiny, self-indulgent teenage girl. Sure, it makes her somewhat realistic, however, all her storyline revolves around this guy named Brady, a guy she doesn't even know herself.

But I would say this, the moments between her and Jamie are sweet, even though she says the wrong things at the wrong time with her.  The fans say that Rachel is likeable but maybe it's the actress that makes her likeable. I'm sorry I just don't think Rachel is the true main character to me. With Laurie from the first movie, we've got to know her as a person. With Rachel, not so much.

Then there's Brady, Rachel's main squeeze. What's there to say about Brady? Well, he's cute in a generic 80's sort of way. But surprise, surprise, He cheats on Rachel with the Sheriff's daughter. So yeah, Brady's kind of a jerk but that's all I can say about him other than being a stereotypical horny teenage boy.

There's really nothing for me to say about Kelly or Kathleen Kinmont's acting. She just your usual blond bimbo in a horror film and she's also nothing more than a fan service treat for guys. Though, there's one interesting thing about her is that she gets one of the most confusing death scenes ever put in a slasher film.
Now for the more important characters:

Danielle Harris gives a heartbreaking performance as Jamie, a young girl who is not only psychologically damaged by her parent's sudden death but seem to be troubled that she's Michael Myers's niece. Viciously bullied at school and haunted by the eternal boogeyman, Jamie is now at the same position her mother once was when the night he came home.

Jamie is a thoroughly-written character, it's just there's not much time with her. In the end, she's treated like the typical child in a horror film, even though I feel she is the actual main character. however, I can't help but feel she was sidelined a bit. Overall, Danielle Harris is an accomplished actress and having a such a perfect performance at such a young age, she came a long way.

Donald Pleasance comes off as a bit worn down in some places but he still is magnetic as Dr. Loomis. He has even become more iconic as the shape himself.

He takes things in his own hands in this version whenever Michael wreaks havoc. I would also like to point out this one pivotal scene he has with this preacher guy. They are both trying to fight different evils in the world and I thought the movie handled that well. But to be honest, not much is focused on Dr. Loomis. Sure, he fights his way into saving the town of Haddonfield, It's just not much importance on him to salvage the story.

And now The Shape is back and powerful than ever.....Here is.....Michael Myers....Though this version of Michael is a mixed bag for me. A VERY mixed bag. Let's first talk about the mask. Oh God, it looks like a cheap dollar store copycat. It's just so plain-looking. I know that they couldn't make it look like it once was back in 1978 but at least they should've put the effort to replicate it.

Not only that but he looks extremely bulky in this version.

He also seems to be incredibly powerful as he rips apart people with his bare hands. he just comes off too much like a Jason Voorhees knock-off.
Which leads me to this:

How the hell can he impale someone with a shotgun? It just goes beyond the laws of physics. But really, this isn't the Michael Myers I used to know. I feel like a certain slasher villain have their own agendas and strategies. I don't think this version of Michael is not as pure or scary as he was in the original.
In this sequel, they tried really hard to make this a gorefest which isn't really effective but I do appreciate a certain scene when all of the characters are in one house, anticipating whether Michael would pop up or not. It's one of the few scenes in the movie that is actually suspenseful.
Now for some trivia:
Melissa Joan Hart (yes, that's Sabrina The Teenage Witch) once auditioned for the role of Jamie.
And Here's a Freddy and Michael connection! Actress Ellie Cornell once auditioned for the role of Alice Johnson (or Kristen Parker, from other sources) in  A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: Dream Master.
And Speaking of Jason, Here's a Jason and Michael connection:

Stuntman Tom Morga who once played Jason in Friday The 13th: A New Beginning, also played Michael in the first few scenes. To be honest, I would rather the filmmakers had him to play the role in general instead of just a stand-in. He has the tall, slender build that filmmakers needed for the role. But oh well.
John Carpenter originally teamed up with Dennis Ecthison to write a Michael Myers-centric storyline. Their script focused on how traumatized Haddonfield had become following the first two films, banning the Halloween holiday altogether. It was then by the attempted erasure of his legacy that Michael Myers returned. Moustapha Akkad rejected the script as being too cerebral. Well, in my opinion, it would've made the movie better, it would've had more story than it does. A lot more than the stupid subplot with the teens.
But at least the movie made money at the box office, cashing in at 17,768,757, even bigger than it's 5,000,000 budget. Wow.
I just don't know what to think of this one. Some part of me wanted to like since it is a fan favorite but there's just too many flaws that are so open.

There's one good thing I could say about this is the ending which probably had the potential to open doors for much more interesting  sequels but sadly that never came to be.
I was kind of hoping that this would be an anthology series and then make a sequel about Michael Myers. It would've been more......substantial. More interesting. But it is what is and we have the next two horrible sequels to cover. So brace yourselves, guys.
My Last Word: It's just okay to me. It can be watchable at some point but it's not memorable.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Movie Reivew: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

It's been 13 years since the classic 1974 original, so Toby Hooper and crew decided to make a sequel but with a slightly different direction. I don't like it when certain horror movie franchises changes the serious tone of the first movie but then turn it into a horror-comedy venture for the sequels. The only good example of this is Evil dead 2 and 3.
So when I first watched this, it was just a weird experience. The tone was just all over the place. It had a good enough story that kept me interested but then the movie veered into something else and that's where I got confused. I'm okay with black comedy in horror, however, the humor just wasn't subtle enough and I wished they kept it more serious. Though since this movie was released in the mid-eighties when slasher movies became a bit campier, there was no point it was going to be dark and disturbing as the original. But later in life, I didn't think it was all that bad though it's still not good either. But overall, it's a pretty entertaining for what it is.
The Story: while working at her local radio station, Vanita "Stretch" Block is being harassed by two idiotic teenage boys, constantly calling her with obscene messages on her hotline. They do this all the while driving down a highway going on a joyride. But all of a sudden, Stretch hears blood-curdling screams of the boys being slaughtered and soon enough the phone calls stop....The next day, Stretch begins to investigate the mysterious deaths and informs Sheriff Boude "Lefty" Enright about the encrypting recording but he later scoffs at her claims but thinking it's a connection to his nephew Franklin's death and the traumatization of his niece Sally, he urges Stretch to play the recording for her next show. Later that night, Stretch plays the recording and unbeknownst to her, the Sawyer family is at her door, craving for new flesh...
The cast was actually quite good and the acting was at least decent. But it's only at the end when everybody gets a little too over the top for their own good.

Caroline Williams is a really solid actress and gave a pretty good performance. Through the strange vibe and bat-shit craziness, Caroline Williams remains serious in her role. Some may say there's nothing special about the character of Stretch, but there is actually. A lot. She is the basis of Men, Women, and Chainsaws, An analysis book by Carol J. Clover (a book I actually own). It explains how different Stretch  is from other final girls, using her wits and strategies in a unique way. In the book it explains that both the killer and the final girl are sexually repressed people, sort of separating themselves from society, Which serves their connection with each other. The difference with Stretch is, is that she's not particularly sexually repressed, rather just a single woman focusing on her career.

Once she is attacked by Leatherface and sees his attraction towards her, she suddenly begins to play up her feminine wiles as if she was a dominatrix of some sort. When I first viewed this, I thought it was kind of weird but now that I read articles and analytical reviews based on this scene it makes sense now. What Stretch is trying to do is use her sexuality in order to survive which haven't been done before in 80's horror film. And through the rest of the movie, she becomes Leatherface's love interest/victim. Instead of Sally who just screams throughout most of the first movie, in the Post-Ripley era, Stretch becomes a much more layered character using her wits and strengths to survive the movie.

And at the end, she is, of course, holding the chainsaw (which is a metaphor for penis) as a trophy.

Dennis Hopper is probably the strongest actor of the film. Him being balls to the wall over the top works as well, matching the movie's tone. He is truly an actor who has a commanding presence, whether the film is good or not.

As for the character of Lefty, yes he's cool and badass but that doesn't mean he has his stupid moments too. And might be slightly crazy as the antagonists are. Okay, for instance, when Stretch is being chased by a truck to the abandoned carnival, turns out the person driving the truck is Lefty. So yeah, why didn't he yell out "hey it's me!" any sooner? Why did he have to chase down Stretch until she fell into the trap? I mean really? Or how about this, he takes his sweet little time trying to destroy the villain's hideout while Stretch is getting possibly tortured and almost killed by the family. I mean seriously is this guy supposed to be the hero of the movie?

But let's move on to the cool moments which is the climatic fight scene between him and the Leatherface clan. He actually go so far as to sacrifice himself along with the in order to save Stretch, so he gains cool points for that.

The Sawyer family this time around is a bit on the cartoony side. The Cook Drayton Sawyer is over-the-top, along without having an indoor voice, Chop-Top (the replacement for the hitchhiker) is even more over-the-top, running around like a bunny rabbit on pep pills, and Leatherface comes off like a na├»ve teenage boy just learning about sex  and relationships. So yeah, they're not as scary as they were in the first movie.

The problem with Drayton is that he comes off like a Saturday morning kids villain. He's rather too goofy and slapstick to be taken seriously. What was scary about him is that he came off as a nice, normal guy, you would never realized he might be one of the psychos. It was always unexpected. In this version, he's loud, boisterous, and kind of irritating. This was Jim Sideow's last role and does his best that's all I can say but for once I wanted his character to shut up.

Chop-Top is even worse, coming off like a hyper child hooked on sugar. Some would say he's the hitchhiker from the first film but he's actually the TWIN brother of the hitchhiker, he just so happens to be stationed to Vietnam at the time of the first film.

I don't know if Chop-Top is treated as comic relief but it's very evident. You see, I thought the hitchhiker was a very creepy guy and for him to be replaced by this sort of character, it was disappointing. However, Bill Moseley does bring a sort of quirkiness to the role that makes the character somewhat entertaining.

Lastly, we have the ultimate meat basher Leatherface who is now played by an actor named Bill Johnson. Now....Leatherface isn't the big hulking ferocious killer her we always known him to be. Now, he is more than a child-like shell of himself.

Most of his story arc involves him and Stretch. It's kind of a twisted version of Beauty and The Beast, if you look at that way. This interpretation of Leatherface has a sense of nativity to him, being repressed by his family and that's sort of how he falls into Stretch's charms. So there's not much to say about Leatherface other than just being a henchman to his loud, overzealous family, and not the frightening force of nature in the first movie.

There's not only a slight swift in tone, but with the budget as well. I really don't mind this because slasher movies at the time mostly had bigger budgets, however, it's missing that raw visceral edge of the 1974 original. And the simplistic score is now replaced with blaring rock music. Most of the suspense is half-gone really.

 I would like to add the close-up shots of the grandpa's face did sort of creep me out....
and can I say this? The music score is really terrible, it's sounds like a cat play with a synthesizer. Just saying.


But I would say that the gore effects are outrageous, thanks to the mastery of Tom Savini. I guess that' why everybody loves this movie because it's the divine definition of a splatter film. You have skinning, self-mutilation, impalements, and even chainsaw vagina like wounds. It's totally insane.
Now for some trivia:
Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel originally had an idea for a sequel that would feature a town of cannibals, in the vein of 2,000 maniacs called "Beyond The Valley Of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" but never came into fruition. Though if it did, it would be a bloody campy mess.
Horror film critic Joe Bob Briggs was cast in the film and his name is listed in the closing credits but his scenes were edited out in the final version.

In the original screenplay, Stretch was going to be Lefty's daughter and also the cousin of Sally and Franklin of the original.
Out of all the sequels and remakes, this is the only film which follows the same timeline of the original film.
Although the movie was successful in it's theatrical run, it didn't make back the film's budget. Fans, at first, was totally against the film for not staying true to the original and it's rather offbeat feel. But now it has become a cult classic with many favoring this movie than the sequels and remakes after it.
But for me, I'm sort of in-between but I would say it's at least better than the later sequels. However, it's just a fun, silly, campy, over-the-top, bloody horror movie. It's definitely something you could watch late at night. And for a Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel, it's surely underrated.
My last word: Although this isn't everybody's kind of movie, it's a fun, popcorn flick none-the-less.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Movie Review: Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch

After the success of the second film, Producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill decided to bring the series into a different direction. So they brought in Tommy Lee Wallace, the producer of the first movie, to write and direct a project which would eventually become Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch.
I think it was how rushed the production was is the reason why people have so many problems with this sequel. The filmmakers started the project a year after Halloween 2, which sort of hyped up audience's expectation that it will yet be another sequel involving Michael Myers. So I think that's how the movie became one of the worst Halloween sequels made.
But what's my opinion on it? Well, I don't think it's all that bad. Don't get me wrong, this movie is filled with flaws and inconsistences. There are many problems I have with this movie but nothing major.
Let me start at the beginning. When I first saw this, I was kind of confused when the title said Halloween 3 but didn't have Michael Myers in it. That's one of my few problems. If the movie was just called Season Of The Witch and would later be associated with the Halloween universe, I think people would be less harsh to it because when the fans watch a Halloween movie they would expect Michael Myers to be in it. So as I watched it, I begin to be very bored by it. I just didn't get into the plot and I thought the whole warlock with killer robots angle was just strange to me. Though, I was only a kid back then. Now looking at it with fresh eyes, I could see that the movie had a lot potential, however, if the writing would've been a bit better this could've been a cult hit.
The Story: On October 23, 1982, shop owner Harry Grimbridge is chased by mysterious figures wearing business suits. He collapses at the gas station while clutching a jack-o-lantern mask. While at the hospital, he is put under the care of Dr. Daniel Challis, while the police investigates the connection between the man and the mask. But meanwhile at the hospital, one of the malicious businessmen kills Harry with his own bare hands. So the next day, Dr. Challis, tries to put two and two together and decides to play amateur detective all the while tagging along Harry's grieving daughter Ellie. The two soon drive off into a weird desolate town from where the mysterious Jack-o-lantern mask was manufactured and runs into an established toymaker Mr. Conal Corchan, owner of the silver shamrock masks company. Once Daniel and Ellie dig deeper and uncover the town's seedy origins, the plot thickens and the silver shamrock company has a much more sinister plan beneath their grip.

The majority of the cast was great, especially given the strong performances of Tom Atkins and Dan 'O Herhily. I like how it focuses on everyday normal people instead of your usual horror movie stock characters. And I like how in horror movies when regular normal people gets trapped in a extraordinary situation. And that's how a horror movie should work. It's not about people walking into danger, it's about the situation at hand that danger comes to them.

Dr. Dan Challis played by the classically handsome Tom Atkins is a flawed character. He doesn't spend that much time with his kids, he's a bit of boozer, and he's also a notorious womanizer. There's also an indication that he was going to be much "worse" in the script. So it's a good thing that Tom Atkins was cast in the role. He just has that presence of an action hero that makes the character work for him. At first, I didn't know why he was dragged into the plot given that's he just a doctor and if he was an actual police detective it would make much sense. But the circumstances coming from the events at the hospital( the death of Harry Grimbridge, the robot henchman igniting himself in a car) It would make a bit of sense for him to be intrigued by the shamrock plot which also involves his own children who seems obsessed with the toy company's advertisements.

Overall, Tom Atkins is a really good actor and gave a much more down to earth and humble performance. He is a truly an underrated actor. And have I mentioned he has a nice ass?

Ellie Grimbridge played by Stacey Nelkin, on the other hand, does an okay job. I'm not saying she's a bad actress or anything, she just comes off bland for most of the time. As for her character, there really isn't much to talk about.

Sure, she is a plot point but from then on there's not anything for the character to do other than just being a shoe-in love interest.

Speaking of which, I didn't get Dan and Ellie's "supposed" romance, if anything it was nothing more than just a hook up. Not only have they just met each other but given that the girl just lost her father and all of a sudden wants to have sex with a man she doesn't know, is just weird to me. But seeing that Tom Atkins is a handsome man, I don't blame her.

Conal Cochran played by Dan O' Herlihy is probably one of the most scariest villains I've seen in a while. The way he gives his speeches in a cold emotionless manner will give a chill down your spine. he is an example of a corrupt cooperate executive but on a more sinister level, as he is the head of a toy company called Silver Shamrock Cooperation, but it's only a ploy to lure the children to wear the masks which has a chip that denigrates their bodies into mutilated bug infested mess in order to sacrifice for the Celtic figure Samhain.

This villain is probably much more scarier than, dare I say it, Michael Myers. It's only because of how detailed his evil plan is and it all boils down to Dan O' Herlihy. He is just perfect in this type of role because he can smile in your face in one scene and give you the evil eye in another. Even in the final scene of his defeat, it shows that the character isn't afraid of death. This shows how cold and unfeeling the villain is. He is not human or has any remorse on human life whatsoever.

And I would like to add a special note, that it was funny to see Nancy Loomis who was known as the pot-smoking, free-spirited Annie, now playing this uptight suburban mom. Cosmic.
I may not like this movie as a kid but there were certain scenes in this that creep me out.

First there was this scene where one of the townspeople discovers the missing chip from one of the masks, once she picks at it a little, all of sudden a big zap hits her mouth and her face begins to mutate. It's. Batshit. INSANE.

But the one scene that really got me was this one. The death of a child is always unnerving and I really thought this scene was really disturbing. It was just too much to handle. Plus that annoying yet creepy theme song ringing in my ears is very haunting

Speaking of the theme song, I found it to be annoying at first but seeing how the song plays plus the even creepier advertisement to go with it, can actually kill you, it kind of gives you the goosebumps.
But guys, there is one big problem I have with this film. And that is the plot twist involving Ellie.

Okay, it turns out that Ellie is actually an female android. So the purpose of her plan was to seduce Dan and lure him to Conal Cochran? If that the case how did he know of Dan? Or did Conal Cochran and his henchman killed the real Ellie and replace her with a real robot, Stepford wife style? Whatever the case, It still lives a lot of open questions for me and I think this is one of the weakest aspects of the movie.
But there's one thing to make up for the flaws of this movie and that's the atmosphere and the film's musical score, it all adds up to the sense of dread, even at the beginning with a touch of John Carpenter's classic Halloween score tweaked into ominous techno synth.
Now for some trivia:
Jamie Lee Curtis makes an uncredited cameo as a phone operator and as the voice announcer informing the town's curfew.
The whole "witchcraft in the computer age", you can just thank Debra Hill for that.
Dino De Laurentiis didn't like Nigel Kneale's first draft of the script that much and through the course of weeks, there were constant re-writes to the point where Nigel Kneale walked off  the project, later having Tommy Lee Wallace and John Carpenter taking over the writing credits, which explains why I think some of the writing is kind of weak.
This was the last Halloween movie to use the pumpkin introduction, this time with a digital computer screen.
This was Nancy Loomis (or Keyes for that matter) last appearance in a Halloween film before retiring from acting.
The film would mark the last series entry of John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Barry Benardi, and Dan Cundey.
The movie was a box office flop, ranking in 14.4 million dollars less from the two previous movies. It was universally hated by fans and critics, having problems with the weird story plot and the absence of Michael. But what some of you don't know was that John Carpenter was planning an anthology series instead of a franchise involving The Shape.
I feel like if the movie was made years later with time and care, It would've been a much better film. I'm not say this is my favorite movie or anything, I'm sort of in the middle with this. It's not bad but  it's not great either. But at least the creators tried to bring something new to the table. So in the end, this would've been a potential what could've been.
My Last word: It won't hurt to at least give a watch. Whether you like or not, it's your choice.