Tuesday, October 30, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 8

Two more days 'til Halloween, Halloween, Hallo....
Well, it's two more days as of this writing; it's liable to BE Halloween before I post this, though, so I might ought to not commit to specifics on that Silver Shamrock ditty.
Anyways, let's dive right in, beginning with another Tobe Hooper movie I'd never seen before:

Sandwiched in Tobe Hooper's filmography between the great 1979 miniseries Salem's Lot and the great 1982 feature film Poltergeist is 1981's The Funhouse, which I found to be a real treat.  I'd never heard many good opinions of the movie, and I suppose an argument could be made that it never quite comes together as well as its potential indicates it might.  I don't think I'd be the one to make that argument, exactly; but it could be made.
Either way, I enjoyed this top to bottom; maybe the climactic confrontation is a mild letdown, but even that is fine.  It's probably be something I gave a thumbs-up to if only for the opening scene, which is a combination homage to both Psycho and Halloween.  Good stuff.
It's a great setup from there: a quartet of teenagers go out for the night to a somewhat disreputable carnival, and walk around experiencing the sordid pleasures there to be experienced until one of them makes a suggestion -- that they go to the Funhouse dark ride, get out of their cards, and hide inside and spend the night.
And so they do.  Naturally, at some point bad things begin to happen; yes, they surely do.

Monday, October 29, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 7

First up this time:
I'd never seen this one, amazingly.  I remember it being a big deal when it came out, though; in the eighth grade, some classmate described it to me in gory detail, so much so that as the arm-wrestling scene approached tonight while I watched it, I got a little antsy.  I powered through it, though; and it wasn't so bad as eighth-grade me thought (though eighth-grade me would have disagreed vehemently).
I also recall reading the short story by George Langelaan at some point around the same time, and just being aghast at the way it ends (dude getting crushed to death in an industrial stamper).  Sickened to my very core, I was by that story.  I wish I could remember exactly when I read it; I feel certain it was before my King-reading phase began, and I feel similarly certain that it helped pave the way for me to be able to tolerate some of King's bloody excesses.  I think I might have read it after my classmate described the movie to me, sort of as a I-can-read-anything act of defiance. 
So, in that sense, it may be that The Fly is kind of a part of my King-reading origin story.  The memory is too indistinct to say for sure.
Bottom line, though, is that I've finally seen the movie, and I mostly liked it.  I didn't love it; that could happen over time, but for now, I didn't quite get there.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 6

When we last met, we discussed a late-seventies horror remake scripted by W.D. Richter (1978's Invasion of the Body Snatchers), and so shall we begin this time: with 1979's Dracula.
In no way is this film the measure of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but don't let that fool you; there's a lot here to recommend, and I'd rank this as being a worth Dracula tale.  It doesn't have the mystique of the Tod Browning version from the thirties, nor does it have the sheer cinematic verve of Francis Ford Coppola's version from the nineties, but it's solid, and has its own identity.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 5

No time to waste!
I've got a very fond memory of the first time I saw this movie.  The same friend who introduced me to Halloween gave me a killer birthday present one year: the entire Nightmare on Elm Street series in the form of a DVD box set.  Shortly thereafter, I had my wisdom teeth taken out, and in the several days I was recuperating from that, I worked my way through the entirety of the box set; not just the movies, but all the bonus features, which were considerable.  I was zonked out on meds, naturally, but cognizant and more or less wakeful.
Far and away the most fun I've ever had being sick.
Anyways, A Nightmare on Elm Street is obviously a classic, and this fresh viewing -- first one for me in at least a decade, and probably more like fifteen years -- did nothing to change my mind about that.  It also did nothing to change my mind about the fact that the movie is a little shabby in places; stray shots, occasional line readings, some of the effects.  (I've never thought the moment when Freddy's arms are unnaturally long looked like anything other than shit; probably never will.)
I guess you could let stuff like that distract you if you wanted to, but you sure would be missing out on a lot if you did.

Monday, October 22, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 4

I'm making pretty good progress in this series of posts thus far this month, don't you think?  We're about halfway through the month -- which I admittedly began before September had ended (and will admittedly push through at least November 1) -- so it's looking to me like there'll end up being eight or nine posts.  Will that be enough to get to everything I want to get to this month?
Of course not.  Never enough time for everything, is there?
But this next title was definitely one I wanted to cross off the list, and my not-even-vaguely-patented random-selection process has come through for me once again.  So let's look at

This 2014 film was directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, whose adaptation of Pet Sematary will be out in April 2019.
And if I like it as much as I liked Starry Eyes, that'll be cool, because I liked Starry Eyes quite a bit.  It's not perfect; the low budget rears its head a few times, and the pace and tone slip every once in a while.  Still, I'd rate this as a B+ at worst, and further consideration might bump it up from there.  [UPDATE: I'm already up to an A-.  It's sitting in my brain nicely.]

Monday, October 15, 2018

"Halloween" Watchthrough, Part 5: Rob Zombie's Director's Cuts

The bad news: I've got yet more to say about the Halloween movies.

The good news: this one is going to be pretty quick.  Relatively speaking, I mean.  It's still me, so it won't be that quick.

Today, I want to cover the two director's-cut versions of Rob Zombie's movies.  With the first of his remakes, there isn't a huge amount to be said (one scene excepted), because many of the differences between this and the theatrical cut consist merely of scenes that have been extended slightly at one end or the other for the director's cut.

For example, there is some extended dialogue in the breakfast scene.  Judith says she doesn't want any eggs because they're chicken abortions, which Deborah says isn't true.  "Like you know what an abortion is," snipes Judith, which makes Ronnie laugh.  To be honest, it kind of makes me laugh, too.

A brief shot of Loomis arriving at the principal's office appears in this cut.  I kind of like hip young Loomis, who is neither as hip (nor as young) as he likely imagines himself to be.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 3

Welcome back for another dash through the various things I watched this month as part of my yearly Halloween-season binge.  No further preamble seems required, so next up is
In 2014, there was a movie called Ouija that was based on the board game -- they'll make movies about goddamn anything these days, eh? -- and was a bigger hit at the box-office than anyone expected.  Not huge; we're not talking Get Out or A Quiet Place or nothin' like that, but it was profitable.
Thing is, nobody liked it.  I mean, fucking nobody.  Did I see it?  Sure didn't, and I probably never will.  Which begs a question: why did I see the prequel that was made and released two years later?
Two words: Mike Flanagan.  
After seeing and loving his adaptation of Gerald's Game last year, I decided to see a few more of his movies, and after seeing and loving both Oculus and Hush, I decided to see all of his movies.  Which brings us to now; I've still not seen everything, but with Origin of Evil I'm one step closer, and I can definitively say this: I've got a new least-favorite Mike Flanagan movie.
Aha, BUT, y'all, don't let that fool you into thinking I disliked Origin of Evil.  I liked it just fine.  I can't honestly say I loved it, but if this is what Flanagan doing director-for-hire work looks like, then that dude is in good shape.
Anyways, having not seen the first movie, I can't speak to how much of this prequel is beholden to plot points established there.  What I can say is that this movie is set in the sixties, and is about a widow and her two daughters making a living by holding seances for paying customers.  It's all bogus, of course, right up until the point it isn't.
Flanagan knows how to construct a scene for suspenseful purposes, and while there's a little too much of the modern-day creepy-face style of jump scares, a few of them work pretty well and the rest of the movie is strong enough to survive the impositions.
Part of the fun I had was due to being outright pandered to by Flanagan's amusing use of reel-change cigarette burns in the editing.  See, I used to be a 35mm projectionist; I was one for about a decade, so this sort of thing is like catnip to me.
Allow me to explain.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 2

We'll begin with a movie that may or may not count as horror; not that it matters much either way, as I very much enjoyed:
I didn't see this when it played in theatres, and boy, do I wish I had.  I'd have loved to be there when...
...well, we've got to get spoilery as blue blazes in order to discuss this movie in the way I wish to discuss it, so I'll give you a buffer to move along to the next film on the list.

Friday, October 5, 2018

"Halloween" Watchthrough, Part 4: Rob Zombie's Halloween(s)

After 2002's Halloween Resurrection killed off both Laurie Strode and the public's interest in the franchise, there was seemingly only thing to do.  
Start over from scratch.
Rob Zombie was the guy who was hired to accomplish this task.  Zombie had started his career as the leader of the metal band White Zombie; he later went solo, and eventually began directing the music videos for his songs.  The videos, and his concerts, and indeed the songs themselves, had a very horror-movie sort of aesthetic, a style that culminated in Zombie's first movie, 2003's House of 1000 Corpses.  It got some good reviews; it got some bad reviews.  Some horror fans loved it; some found it to be a loud and unpleasant exercise in style with no weight to it.

The sequel, 2005's The Devil's Rejects, was less garish, more realistic, and better-reviewed.  It was hailed by some as being a new horror classic; others found it to be more of the same, a needlessly brutal and preposterously vulgar bunch of scary-redneck sound and fury.

Clearly, not everyone was onboard with Zombie's aesthetic.  But whether one liked it or disliked it, I think one had to admit that it was a clear and specific aesthetic.  He'd been building it going back at least as far as his White Zombie days; he'd been consistent in pursuing it, and had developed his ability to express it over time.

And so when Zombie was hired to direct the remake of Halloween, there was never any chance that he wasn't going to bring that aesthetic to bear on the story of Michael Myers.

You probably know this already, but I'm a fan.  At the time his Halloween was released in 2007, I'd have said I was a bigger fan of Rob Zombie by far than I was of the Halloween series overall.  Not, perhaps, a bigger Zombie fan than I was a John Carpenter fan; but Carpenter had been involved in fewer than half of the Halloween movies, so that was no contradiction.

I may as well tell you now: I'm still a bigger Rob Zombie fan than I am a Halloween fan, if we're talking about the entire series.  He hasn't made anything I like as much as I like Carpenter's Halloween, but that's no sin; and with the exception of Season of the Witch, I'll take his movies over anything made from The Return of Michael Myers straight through to Resurrection.  That's not even a choice.

In other words, I am bringing a bias of sorts to this post, and I don't want to shy away from it or inhibit it or try to trick anyone into thinking that's not the case.  I adore John Carpenter's Halloween, and always will, but I also adore Rob Zombie's aesthetic.  Because of that, I was -- and am -- willing to put the Carpenter film to one side and forget about it while I'm watching Zombie's remake.  There are deep transgressions against the Carpenter movie in Zombie's.  For me, that's okay, because the Zombie film is mostly its own thing; and Carpenter's film remains unassailable, and is undamaged by any of what Zombie is doing.

That's how I myself see it.

If you see it differently, I totally get it.  If I were not a fan of Zombie's music and filmmaking, I think I would be enraged by these movies.  I've certainly got the potential to despise a movie or series if I perceive it as being too far removed from the franchise of which it is a part.  Ask for my feelings on Spectre or Star Trek: Discovery sometime if you want examples of me in that mode.  (Better yet, don't.)  They are deep and, so far, ungovernable.  Zombie's Halloween films provoke the same partisan rage in many horror fans, and I totally get it.  I just don't share it, and I don't think it makes them bad movies.

My goal with this post is simple: I'm going to give you my take on these two films.  It's admittedly biased, but my hope is to at least be able to back it up.  If you're not willing to go there with me, I totally understand; like I said, I've been on the opposite side of the equation with several things in the past few years.  (Some of them King-related atrocities like The Dark Tower and Castle Rock.)

But if you are willing to go there with me, maybe we'll have a good time.

We're about to hit the road, but first, I need to talk about what format this post is going to take.  See, there's a decision to be made in covering Zombie's Halloween films: theatrical cuts or director's cuts.  There are substantial differences for both movies, and pros and cons for all versions.  It's the director's cuts that are most commonly available to viewers, so in some ways, that seems like the most natural place to begin.

However, I decided against that.  This review (or set of reviews) is an expression of my own viewpoint, and therefore I think it ought to reflect my own experiences.  My own experiences with these movies is that I saw the theatrical cuts first, and only years later saw the director's cuts.  Therefore, even if the director's cuts eventually supplant the theatrical cuts, they are forever the second way I experienced these movies.  So I figure I may as well keep viewing them in that way; it doesn't prevent them from being superior in some ways, but I think it's more accurate to my viewpoint to consider them as secondary versions.

With that in mind, we're going to first look at the theatrical cuts of both Halloween and Halloween II, and then follow that with a look at some of what makes the director's cuts different.

We begin, of course, with:

Let's kick things off with a discussion of one of the most controversial elements of Zombie's remake: the decision to have Michael Myers in this film be just a psychopath, and not a supernatural being of some sort.

This was probably the best decision Zombie made, in my decision.  Don't get me wrong; I love the fact that the first film's Michael Myers is some sort of literal boogeyman.  That's an iconic depiction which gave us one of the best ending scenes in cinema history; what's not to love?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 1

As I write this, it is September 21.  Kingmas: the birth of our Uncle Steve, this year being his 71st.  With that, we begin the marking of the Halloween season, and this year, as last, my intentions for the season are plain: watch as many horror films as I can squeeze in.
And this year, boy do we needs it.  Yes, precious, we needs it something fierce.  And we shall have it, yes!  Haha, indeed we shall, beginning with:

By the time this post appears online, the one-week IMAX 3D engagement for Michael Jackson's Thriller music video will have come and gone.  It played in front of showings of The House With a Clock in Its Walls (more on which momentarily), and looked and sounded marvelous.
The video was directed by John Landis.  I'd not seen it in probably about a decade, and I'd forgotten how effective a short horror film it is.  Rick Baker's makeup is terrific; they did not skimp on the werewolf action or the zombie action.  
More than anything, though, I was struck by the not-so-simply sight of seeing a young and impossibly talented Michael Jackson doing his thing on an IMAX screen.  He was a good film actor, and watching this, I found myself wishing that I could somehow go back in time and warn Michael to take a slightly different path than the one he ended up taking.  Would it have made any difference in the end?  Impossible to say.
But it's also impossible for me not to wish that somewhere around the beginning of 1984 -- before the accident while he was filming the Pepsi commercial -- Jackson had decided to focus on acting for a while.  I'm not saying leave the music biz, necessarily; I think there was probably a scenario in which Jackson could have been the man to bring the big Hollywood musical back into serious popularity.  Seeing him here, and remembering how good he is in The Wiz, it seems like a logical thing to have had happen.
Alas, it didn't happen.
Seeing Thriller in all its glory (and then some) again, all I can think is: what a shame.

Monday, October 1, 2018

"Halloween" Watchthrough, Part 3: The Return of Laurie Strode

Previous posts in this series can be found at:
Today, however, we'll be closely -- how closely remains to be seen (depends on how long my tolerance holds out) -- examining my two least favorite Halloween films of them all.
About that: just because they're my two least favorite doesn't mean they aren't somebody else's top two.  So to any of you who love (or even like) H20 and Resurrection, let me say that I apologize for my attitude toward these films and in no way want you feel like I'm attempting to discourage YOU from liking them.  If anything, I'd encourage you to use the comments section below to give me your thoughts on the movies; maybe seeing them through your eyes might change my mind.
Stranger things have happened, that's for sure.
For now, though, it's probably going to be a rather negative look I'm about to take.  Let's try to get through it quickly.
First up -- Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, which I refuse to type out in full again.
We open with a fakeout: this Michael-style butcher's knife, which murders the fuck out of