BRIDE of HALLOWEEN HORROR MOVIE CHALLENGE
It’s Year 3 of the HHMC and if previous years are any indication, I’ll have 31 movies ranging from classics to absolute turds, with a simple drinking game to go along with each one (for some of these, you’re gonna need some booze). So let’s get crackin!
Cabin in the Woods
This must’ve been a tricky movie to promote, because the ultimate appeal of Cabin in the Woods is that it’s not your average “cabin in the woods” horror flick. But that’s something that must be discovered – gradually – as you watch (though the opening scene should raise some eyebrows right from the start). Thankfully this isn’t another movie that builds to a twist ending; rather, it’s carefully layered, and reveals itself more as it goes. Co-scripted by Joss Whedon and featuring Chris Hemsworth as one of its twentysomething characters, this was filmed in 2009 – I’m guessing a little movie called The Avengers finally gave it the traction needed for release this year. It’s not as clever as it seems to think it is – it’s basically a horror movie version of The Truman Show – and the final scene takes a slightly strange turn that ultimately dissatisfies, but this is still a refreshingly different addition to the horror genre. The execution occasionally fails the premise, but the characters are great, the dialogue is sharp, and the laughs and jumps come at equal measure. 3.5/5
- Drink every time one of the engineers hit a button. Finish your drink when you finally see the Merman.
The Thing (2011)
Though technically a direct prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing (showing how the shit first hit the fan on the Norwegian side), Universal downplayed that aspect and treated this like a remake anyway, most notably by frustratingly keeping the title the same. Since it rather underperformed at the box office last year, I wonder if it made any difference. Part of the charm of Carpenter’s version was its all-male cast, which made the story immune to obligatory love interests or even a strong heroine, as it ratcheted up the paranoia among a bunch of cranky, testosterone-fueled dudes with itchy trigger fingers. This prequel/remake/whatever threw that idea out pretty quickly, as Mary Elizabeth Winstead was the first one cast, in what was sure to be the Ellen Ripley role. But I like Winstead, so no problem there. Where I do have a problem is with the over-reliance on questionable CGI (something the filmmakers denied while in production, since Carpenter’s movie is lauded for its mindblowing practical creature effects) as well as the general feeling that, after these events were hinted at in Carpenter’s movie, we didn’t really need to have all the blanks filled in. Yet this one has at least a couple of interesting sequences and a relatively likeable cast (no small feat after the last one), making it a decent enough time waster I guess. 2.5/5
- Drink whenever the creature reveals itself.
Paranormal Activity 3
How ironic that the movie to dethrone the long-reigning Saw series quickly became a franchise with similar problems itself – mainly, figuring out a way to crank out a new installment every year without the story/mythology going off the rails. Paranormal Activity 2 had a neat trick up its sleeve by being an immediate prequel to the events of the first one, and round 3 takes things back even further, so we can see these psycho sisters as kids. As expected there’s another detail or two revealed about that pain in the ass demon (here playfully given the name “Toby” by one of the girls), but only as much as one installment of these things will allow. PA 3 is roughly on par with the last one, which I found considerably more enjoyable than the overrated amateur-hour that was the first Paranormal Activity (a great idea crippled by a beginner filmmaker with virtually no budget, and a rare case when a more professional team and a little more money actually helped). Its most ingenious gimmick is a camera mounted on a slow-moving oscillating fan, which provides some of the film’s best moments without being overused. Of course there’s plot holes abound (hard to believe neither of the girls remembered this stuff happening to them when they were kids) and it should also be noted that for better or worse, half of the scenes depicted in the trailers for this are nowhere to be found in the final version. It’s a sign that perhaps all involved are flying by the seat of their pants, and it’s only a matter of time before this series begins to circle the drain. 3/5
- Drink every time someone says the name “Toby,” and whenever the filmmaker boyfriend makes a wise-ass comment.
Underworld: Awakening sorta reboots the leather-clad vampires vs werewolves series, and also brings back Kate Beckinsale, who basically skipped the prequel/detour Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. This one moves the setting ahead 12 years or so; both parties are seemingly on the verge of extinction, after the humans catch on and incite a mass extermination. Gone is the convoluted plot and the overly serious Romeo and Juliet undertones of the original, as well as the “let’s piece together boring shit from our past” mystery element of the last two installments. Instead, this one’s virtually nonstop action and mayhem, with the gore cranked up a notch or two and the obligatory scenes of clunky dialogue and exposition kept to a minimum. While the first movie had too much plot, it’s hard to believe that four separate writers cobbled this one together, given how paper-thin it is. At least they understood what previously worked and what didn’t, stripping away unnecessary shit (seriously – not counting the opening flashbacks/credits and the closing credits, this movie’s an hour and 15 minutes long), upping the amount of bloody violence, and giving us a ‘roided-up werewolf the size of a Mack truck. The ending stops itself cold to blatantly set up another one, which will look pretty embarrassing if it never happens. 2.5/5
- Drink whenever Kate Beckinsale fires two guns at the same time, or does some crazy gravity-defying shit.
Friday the 13th (2009)
Though he made two encores with Jason X and Freddy vs. Jason, Jason and the Friday the 13th series pretty much stalled with 1993’s Jason Goes to Hell, or arguably Jason Takes Manhattan, before Paramount sold the rights to the character (but not the rights to the name Friday the 13th) to New Line. Production company Platinum Dunes, having already remade Texas Chainsaw Massacre and a few other titles, took the reins here, for better and for worse. They did do some things right: for the first time in a long time there’s actually some likeable characters on the chopping block, instead of a bunch of faceless teens. And the lengthy pre-title sequence plays like a mini-movie in itself, with a couple of truly brutal kills. But after a strong start the movie slips into routine with some perfunctory deaths and other cliches like inept cops, and the slick direction of Marcus Nispel (coupled with the obvious Texas settings trying to substitute for rural NJ) lose a lot of the old vibe we’ve closely associated with the series. Still, this is the most entertaining and least embarrassing the series has been since probably Part VI, making it a minor success. 3/5
- Simple: drink every time the characters do. Finish your drink when the lovable Asian guy bites it.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Creatively speaking, this is the best of the Nightmare sequels (the actual sequels; New Nightmare aside). The re-involvement of Wes Craven in the scripting process and the return of Heather Langenkamp as Nancy helped right the ship after the misfire that was Part 2. Dream Warriors’ crowning achievement, I think, is Freddy’s perfect balance of menace and wisecracks; future sequels would lean too far to the latter. As a result, you get some memorable kills ranging from utterly hilarious, to pretty grotesque. The characters are likeable all around, and while the idea of harnessing powers in their dreams to ward off Freddy isn’t taken quite as far as it could go, it still adds to the mythology without disrupting it like Part 2 did. Though the original has a certain timeless quality about it despite being made in 1984, Dream Warriors is thoroughly ’80s in places, especially Dokken’s theme song that closes it out. Maybe this is why it’s never taken quite as seriously as the original (having a 3 in the title will do that too), but the mediocre sequels still to come would raise its stock considerably in the end. So crank that Dokken! 4/5
- Drink every time Freddy laughs; finish your drink when you hear the immortal “Welcome to Prime Time, bitch!“