HHMC, PART V

25. Halloween: The Inside Story There’s no shortage of feature-length documentaries on John Carpenter’s Halloween. Along with Anchor Bay’s 25th Anniversary Edition DVD of the movie came Halloween: A Cut Above The Rest, a 90-minute account of what it took to get it made. Then came Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, a look back on the series in general as well as the “Return To Haddonfield” convention. Now 2010 brings us this one, which once again focuses almost solely on the original. As expected it’s mostly a rehash of A Cut Above The Rest, albeit with newer interviews. After all, how many ways can you tell the same story? Thankfully, this one manages to dig a bit deeper in places. While the interviewees are mostly the usual suspects (Carpenter, Curtis, P.J. Soles, Dean Cundey, Irwin Yablans, Tommy Lee Wallace, etc), this one goes out of the way to include some actors who played smaller roles, like Tommy Doyle and Lindsey Wallace, as well as the kid who played Michael at age 6. Even the guy who was brought in to play him for a few seconds when his mask came off shows up. This thing misses a few tidbits from the first documentary, but adds a few of its own. The last few minutes are used to breeze through the sequels, and Jamie Lee Curtis’ comments on Halloween: Resurrection are priceless. And since it was produced this year, it’s inevitably a bit more conclusive, as it recognizes Rob Zombie’s two movies (along with a juicy little tidbit about a phone conversation he had with Carpenter). All in all it’s a fairly good documentary, but if you’re a die-hard fan I recommend watching it in conjunction with A Cut Above The Rest, as the two sorta complement each other in a way. In wake of the excellent four-hour Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, I hope something equally thorough is done for the entire Halloween series, because the 84-minute 25 Years of Terror doesn’t cut it.  3.5/5

26. It took me a few years to get around to watching Monster House, mainly because I tend to be skeptical when it comes to computer animated movies that aren’t from Pixar. This was well-reviewed upon release, and though it’s a bit overrated, it’s still pretty solid. The animation looks a bit weird in places, but the use of motion-capture on the real actors beforehand gave their animated counterparts unusually realistic movement. The voice casting is inspired (particularly Steve Buscemi as the cranky old man who owns the title house) and there’s enough humor geared towards the older crowd to keep them entertained as much as kids. The story is a bit offbeat (especially the twist in the final act, which is a little on the bizarre side), but that’s kind of what gives it its charm.  3/5

27. Saw 3D isn’t terrible, and that’s about all we can ask of the Saw franchise at this point. As a supposed “finale” it wraps things up pretty neatly, but like most horror finales (think Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare), most of it is just another entry; only in the final 10 minutes or so do things begin to get resolved. And so despite the much-anticipated return of Cary Elwes as Dr. Gordon (the only character from the original whose outcome wasn’t explained by the succession of backstory-filling sequels), for the bulk of the movie we have to follow two new characters we don’t care much about, and worse, don’t really factor into the ending, or the ongoing mythology in general. No, what we really want is to see just what became of Dr. Gordon, as well as who will win the power struggle between Hoffman and Jill – two characters we’re pretty much forced to take interest in, only because we’ve been strung along with them for the past few movies. If all this sounds like the ingredients of a soap opera, that’s because it is; I’ve been saying for years now that the Saw series is Days of our Lives with power tools and blood ‘n guts. Some of the “acting” here is laugh-out-loud atrocious; while most of the actors are at least par for the course, Betsy Russell displays acting chops that wouldn’t cut it in most pornos. Despite appearing in every installment since Saw III, this is the first time she’s required to act like her character is in danger, and the results are hilarious. Equally horrendous is Chad Donella (previously seen accidentally strangling himself in a bathtub in Final Destination) as an IA agent, one of the two new characters we don’t really care about, not the least because it’s gotten tiring following all these cops and detectives around when they just end up getting killed anyway. At least he has one intentionally humorous scene, and how often does that happen in these movies? And what is Chester Bennington of Linkin Park doing here? Who invited him? The addition of 3D was probably a mistake. While it was actually shot in 3D (and therefore looks better than most shitty post-conversion jobs), the presence of it crosses the series for one of the first times into camp territory, as cartoonish, CGI-looking blood occasionally leaps off the screen. And as for the ending? I’m not sure how to rate it. Writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan certainly gave a lot of the fans what they wanted, though at the expense of being utterly predictable (seriously – some have been hypothesizing the “big reveal” here since Saw II). Will this truly be the end? I say, never trust the producers and studio behind a successful horror franchise. But if it is, I think time will look back favorably on the Saw franchise. Though none of the sequels ever matched the ingenuity or visceral punch of the original (or for that matter, Saw II) and devolved into a series of convoluted storylines and hilariously excessive gore, for a series that brought forth a new installment seven consecutive years, it could’ve turned out much worse.  2/5

28. For most of its running time, Scream 2 is every bit as fun and clever as the original, even if things escalate out of control during the climax. This one was released not even a year after Scream (what, were they worried they’d lose their audience?), but if Kevin Williamson’s script was rushed a bit, it barely shows. The big “joke” here is sequels, and how most of them suck. Yet the “rules” of the sequel are observed anyway: the stakes are always higher, the body count bigger, and so on. The opening, which features the premiere of Stab, the “movie version” of the first movie’s events, is a touch of brilliance, and there’s a few other inspired scenes, namely one where Neve Campbell and her roommate must exit a cop car with the killer unconscious in the front seat – it’s Wes Craven at the peak of his powers. As with the original Scream, it’s interesting to see bit parts filled out by people who have since gone on to become bigger stars (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Timothy Olyphant, Luke Wilson, Jada Pinkett, etc) and while the reveal of the killer(s) is a bit cheap in comparison to the original, it’s a lot better than the one in the abysmal Scream 3. Bonus points for a random appearance by David Warner. That guy is the shit.  4/5

29. Night of the Demons (2009) I always feel weird watching a remake without having seen the original, so I don’t know how closely this Night of the Demons follows its 1988 cousin, aside from the basic template of a group of assholes who throw a Halloween party at a place they shouldn’t, and accidentally unleash a bunch of demons. What I do know is that it’s a conscious throwback to that ’80s-style horror, where a plot didn’t matter too much as long as there’s a sufficient amount of blood, gore and nudity to supplement it. It sometimes tries too hard to be “outrageous” (if you wanna see a demon rip part of a woman’s breast off, you’ve come to the right place) but it’s hard to fault a movie that’s clearly just in it to have fun. The cast is a bunch of has-beens and (probably) never-will-be’s, with Shannon Elizabeth, Edward Furlong and Monica Keena all joining the party. I guess Shannon Elizabeth is only doing straight-to-DVD and TV movies nowadays, as the last movie she did that I’ve heard of is Wes Craven’s misfire Cursed, back in 2005. And I don’t know what the fuck Monica Keena did to her face since Freddy vs Jason – it looks like Freddy ripped her lips off, sat on them and then super-glued them back on. As for Eddie Furlong, he’s perfect for any role that requires him to simply act like he doesn’t give a shit.  2.5/5

30. Night of the Living Dead (1990) is recommended if you basically want to watch the original with different actors and better makeup effects. While not as shot-for-shot as, say, Gus Van Sant’s Psycho remake, it basically repeats the same events of the original, save for some different dialogue. If your idea of a quality remake is to take the same basic setting and spin an entirely different adventure out of it (like Zach Snyder did with his Dawn of the Dead remake) then you can call this one a failure, but since it sticks so close to the original – and the original kicks ass – then therefore so does this one. It’s curious that although directed by makeup and gore FX maestro Tom Savini, it features very little gore, as if there was a conscious decision to tone it down to stay in line with the original. Yet as a director, he was smart enough to cast Tony Todd in Duane Jones’ role, and who doesn’t like Tony Todd?? The ending isn’t as grim and ballsy as the original’s, but all in all this is one horror remake that time has looked favorably upon.  3.5/5

31. Okay, so The Walking Dead may not technically qualify as a full movie, but you can kiss my ass. I can’t tell you how many commercials for this I’ve had to sit through while watching AMC’s Fear Fest on and off over the past two weeks, but I didn’t mind since I knew it would live up to the hype. And though it may technically be a television show, it’s about as cinematic as television can get, not least of all because of writer/producer/director Frank Darabont, who ensured no loss in quality in his leap to television, as well as AMC, who lets him get away with more unsettling gore than you would have thought possible. Time will tell if the following episodes live up to the promise set forth by the excellent pilot episode, but we’re off to a good start.  4/5

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