Darke Reviews | Halloween (2018)

The most anticipated horror movie of the year, coming out two weeks prior to one of the most anticipated days of the year for a certain crowd. Halloween has a lot to live up to and a lot to make up for. A brief history for those who don’t fully understand where this movie is coming from; which considering the track record of the series makes sense.

Halloween was originally conceived back in the late 70’s to be a serial style movie with a different horror story each and every Halloween. When the original 1978 version made 144 times its budget back the studio insisted on a sequel and effectively dumped money in John Carpenters lap to do something he really didn’t want to; a sequel. Thus Halloween 2 in 1981 and why Michael and Loomis die at the end of it, with Carpenter having the vain hope of ending that story. In 1982, yeah, barely a year later, Halloween III: Season of the Witch came out. This was more akin to what Carpenter envisioned and tells an entirely different horror event on Halloween. It was too weird for audiences who were in slasher heaven and the title confused them expecting more Michael. So 6 years later as the horror and slasher craze grew with Jason, Freddy, and Pinhead, we get the Return of Michael Myers (1988). This is the start of the late Moustafa Akkad reign on the series, as a producer since the ’78 version he began to have more influence on the series along with other producers such as …the Weinsteins. This was the start of the story getting really convoluted and barely following its own continuity. Michael was back, Loomis was back. Now they introduced over the next three movies a cult that gave him supernatural resiliency and more. It’s so much worse than this, but trying to keep it simple here. After Halloween 5 (1989), and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), there is a slight break before Halloween H20. H20 was supposed to be a clean return to form on the 20th anniversary of the original. It returned to basics with Laurie and Michael, but just didn’t quite grab audiences as much as it probably should; even though it has possibly the second most satisfying ending in the series. The last of the original Myers series is Halloween: Resurrection and the less said about this the better. I will not discuss Rob Zombies Halloween movies – except to say I hate them. I’d rather watch the Cult of Thorn run (4,5,6) more than those.

With me so far?

So the writers were in a bind here. How do you tell a Halloween story respecting the lore, the history, and the icon that is Michael Myers but deal with the mess left by the sequels AND remakes? Simple solution reboot the series, but not from scratch. From the original. Ignore everything that has come since 1978 and go. Get Carpenter onboard for the first time in forever and see what you can do. I don’t envy the task Danny McBride (Pineapple Express, Alien: Covenant), his friend Jeff Fradley (writer for the HBO show Vice Principals), and David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, and the critical darling “Joe”) had on this one. Ignoring the content of the other movies is easy, but really remaining true to what the original film delivered character wise and bringing that back 40 years later – thats hard. They are putting themselves, Green especially as a director and writer here, up for target practice.

They need not have worried if they did at all. They did craft an honest sequel to 1978, which has several references that make the necessary callbacks without reminding us of a better movie. With few exceptions no one here in the script does anything dumb or illogical. The characters make sense. They feel like they would make these decisions based on everything you know and it propels the plot forward; if anything aside from Laurie the script lacks care for some of the fodder leaving you to not really care as much when they die which removes some of the tension that could have added to the film. The kills, which are important in this genre are well executed and tastefully done and yes brutal; rather than gore porn or splatterhouse style. The camera remains as still as Michael letting you savor what you both see and don’t see in frame. There are so many shots in this movie that are perfect for a wallpaper for your phone or computer because of how they were filmed; which means credit needs to go to cinematographer Michael Simmonds.

The acting is fantastic from the majority, with Jamie Lee Curtis giving us the same sort of transformed character that Linda Hamilton did between Terminator and Judgement Day. Laurie Strode is damaged, but focused, she is brave yet so afraid. Curtis more than capable of delivering the nuance; while the script and shooting let her as well. Andi Matichak gives a very human turn as Laurie’s grand daughter Allyson, and importantly she feels like she’s part of this family. I’d like to enjoy Judy Greer more as Karen Strode, the daughter to Laurie, but the script and character do her no favors, nor do they give Toby Huss much to work with. I was curious how Nick Castle would be returning to play The Shape once more as he did a majority of the motion and body work in the 78 version; while three other actors did other takes including the one face shot. He nailed it. He and the Mask are a presence and malevolent.

TL;DR?

Cutting the meat a bit short here, but its coming up on 2:30 and I do need sleep and really I just think you should see the movie. With a lean runtime of 106 minutes, John Carpenter back on the score, and some of the best horror cinematography I’ve seen in awhile Halloween is the return to form we’ve been waiting 40 years for. It isn’t perfect and suffers from some character issues and isn’t as tense as it could be Halloween was well worth the sleep deprivation for me and definitely worth it for fans of the franchise.

Should I see it though?

Yes. XD would be lovely to hear the music in admittedly and I did miss that opportunity.

Would you see it again?

Yes.

Buying it?

Yes. No doubts.

Are you overselling it at all? There’s a lot of hype on this one.

Manage your expectations. This movie isn’t the second coming of Michael, but it’s close.

It has some flaws and there is a kind of hollowness to it in some respects; yet I can’t blame those on the movie entirely.  The 1978 version is one of the first of it’s kind and without a doubt the most well known of its kind. John Carpenter and Debra Hill gave us something new and visceral then that Black Christmas (74), The Hills Have Eyes (77), The Town that Dreaded Sundown (76) and even Texas Chainsaw (74) just didn’t quite hit. Since then we have had 40 years of horror, with a majority of them being slasher flicks. There is next to nothing we haven’t seen before you can do in this genre and we all are a bit jaded here in 2018.

That didn’t stop McBride, Fradley, and Gordon Green from doing their best.

Personally, I think their best is good enough and this is the Halloween movie we need right now.

 

Edit: Because I included the original theme in the original review here is Carpenters take on it 40 years later

Darke Reviews | Psycho (1960)

I have to admit, I had never seen this movie fully until this day. Oh sure, it was impossible to not be aware of all that comes with it. There’s no twist for it anymore, there’s no real surprise. While there is some argument over what a slasher film is, I will give my definition first:

A film in which the primary weapon used for murder is a bladed hand instrument that can be use in a motion that strikes across the victim (you know a slash). Stabbing is also a method in which the victims may be expirated.

We don’t call it the stabbing genre though. We call them slashers. While Halloween is sometimes attributed as the first Slasher, it’s body count can help support that, Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out four years prior. There had been films in the 40’s and 50’s that dealt with murder, but perhaps the one that inspired the rest since then – Psycho. Because of the nature of this film and it’s influence on modern cinema, I really want to spend some serious time discussing it. So I give you fair warning now, if you just want to know about seeing it – go to the TL;DR; otherwise, let’s talk Psycho.

Consider yourself spoiled. It’s been five decades.

I want to open this with the trailer. I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like it before or anything since. Let me share first –

Hitchcock himself, just talking on screen. He tells us about the motel, so unassuming, then moves to us to the house. Even the music is light hearted as he speaks about diabolical acts. He then tells us about the movie, I don’t mean lightly – HE DESCRIBES THE DETAILS; all of them, then…he stops. Teasing us with descriptions. He keeps hinting and how horrible it all is. How gruesome and even indescribable some events are. Through out this trailer he masters the concept of the tease, he begins to talk about something then cuts himself off – it is magnificent. The unfinished descriptions leave us wondering, but also tell us when and where to pay attention in the film. He also speaks of this as if it were real. It is absolutely brilliant. Again, to my knowledge nothing before, nothing since. I don’t know that anyone could do it now. I don’t know that anyone is that skilled a director to even try. I am sure some might consider it, but would the studios allow such a thing? Probably not, but I almost want someone to try.

Of course, the trailer just gets us in. Then there is a script by Joseph Stefano pretty much an unknown at the time, but would go on to write and produce for one of the greatest sci-fi/horror shows of all time, the Outer Limits. The script may have been written by Stefano, but it was based on a novel by Robert Bloch one year prior, thus proving Hollywood has always been basing their films on a book. Bloch would also go on to write for Hitchcock himself, on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Now, not having read the book yet, as is normal for me, I am going strictly by Wiki here. I know how dangerous that is, but the final screenplay is pretty much lock step with the story. It is worth mentioning the story could be inspired by the, at the time recent, arrest of Ed Gein, one of the most famous American serial killers. Texas Chainsaw Massacre was also inspired by Gein, as was Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs. Though it is said Bloch did not research the Gein case beyond the news, it does also prove how much art may imitate reality when the stories are locked at side by side. As an aside, I know way too much about serial killers.

To sell this sort of story you need good actors. We’ve seen in recent decades, now 54 years later, what happens if you try this without mediocre or bad actors. Let’s work up the chain shall we?

John Gavin (Spartacus,  is our start, playing Sam Loomis the fly by night lover of Marion Crane. He is a man we in the modern age that many can relate to. He has debts from his family, debts from an ex wife he needs to pay alimony to, and a woman he loves that he wants to be a better man for. For the 60s, this is fairly racy, as he is not quite having an affair since neither him nor his lover Marion are married, but there’s is a secret relationship which is at its tipping point. He is perhaps the catalyst for the story as much as anything else and it is because of him we reach a, I suppose the word here is, satisfactory ending to the film. He ends up being the one to stop our killer, but not alone. This leads us to Vera Miles, as Lila Crane, the sister to Marion. She is gorgeous, honestly one of the prettiest women I have ever seen. She is also, as Lila, single minded and focused in attempting to find her sister. She will do what it takes to do so and really only has a weak moment when she confronts something that is worth having a freak out over. She also reprised her role in the sequel twenty three years later. She was a force on screen in the film and able to drive those around her. Though this may be her only real characteristic, it is worth mentioning.

The two left of course are Janet Leigh, as Marion Crane. She already was a name in Hollywood having worked with greats such as Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, and Tony Curtis.  Of course, as mentioned in The Fog, she is the mother of Jamie Lee Curtis. Much like Miles, she is also one of the most beautiful women to have ever graced the silver screen. The first 45 minutes of movie focuses on nothing but her. She owns it, every scene. Every bit of dialogue, internal monologue, and blocking. She dominates. She is a near perfect actress in this film, worthy of her Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination and Golden Globe win for this part. So much of the film relies on her and her expressions and it works. Even the opening with her in naught but a bra and a slip – racy at the time and rarely seen but she made it natural. Then..there is her exit stage right.

The shower. That magnificent scene which all other slashers must compare to at some level. Leigh, never took a shower again after viewing it, it was how vulnerable she felt, how vulnerable we are there that drove her this way. Not the filming as some report. She has to sell her death on screen and does so with the hand (or scream) of a master.

This of course leads us to the master of the house. Anthony Perkins

AnthonyPerkins

A face only a mother could love right?

 

It is impossible to not know that face and what movie he goes with. His performance is iconic. He is able to sell us both the dutiful motel owner, the loyal son, and of course Psycho. He is just so much the gentleman, but when the light hits just right you see the glint of madness. Of course, we all go a little mad sometimes, right? It’s both a reserved and manic performance. He demonstrates the insanity perfectly and because of this the final scene is *not* offensive. The police quickly go to “he’s a transvestite” and the doctor quickly corrects them saying no. This is often overlooked, the psychological break within his mind is shown so well, so perfectly by Hitchcock and Perkins that such distortion of the psyche is sometimes culturally benchmarked against this movie. This is what we go to, and unfortunately, as a culture it is for the worst. Despite the film saying what kind of madness it is, we associate the man in a dress one step away from a killer. I blame society not the script.

From a technical aspect, it cannot be understated that Psycho was filmed in black and white intentionally. We love our colour films these days, but there is an artistry to black and white. You have to understand colour to use it. The way to light things and how to make shadows fall on the face are so perfectly done. There is a reason this movie is such a classic and cultural touchstone decades later.

TL;DR?

The movie is a masterpiece. I’ve owned a copy of the poster for years, despite not having seen the film just because of how iconic it is. If you really enjoy the slasher genre and you want to see where it all began – watch this film.

If you celebrate classic cinema and have not seen it, as I had not, watch this film.

If such things are not your forte, I would say – try this film. Appreciate the art, but if you still don’t enjoy it there is nothing wrong with that.

This is a film great. It belongs in the top of any “greatest works of film making” list. It may not make someone’s favourite film list, but thats taste and preferences, regardless of artistry. I am glad I got to see it on the big screen, today.

Psycho – a must see film within anyones life time.

 

Darke Reviews | Scream 4 (2011)

The final (for now) installment of the Scream franchise. After 11 years of rotting, the producers, director, and studio thought it was time to resurrect Scream. Perhaps they thought they had something new to say? Perhaps they thought they had something new to satire? Perhaps it was about the money. If it was the last, then they failed miserably. With a production budget of $40 million (same as Scream 3) they made a whopping $38 million (domestic). It looked decent out of the gate with a solid $18 million opening weekend, then dropped 62% in the second weekend. Of course, it was against Fast Five that weekend, which pulled in an amazingly stunning $86 million. So perhaps it was the other two?

Well, actually it was. According to an interview Craven actually thought he had a new story to tell. The landscape of horror has changed dramatically over the decade, actually, that is an understatement, the entire landscape of the world has changed since the last Scream film. Not even getting into the geopolitical landscape, lets look at technology:

Remember these cellphones?

Remember these cellphones?

 

Facebook, Twitter, the deceasing size of camera’s, the increasing size and power of phones. Hell, my first two computers were less powerful than my last two cellphones. Horror has changed so much as well. We had the rise and fall of Torture Porn. For those not familiar with the genre, think Saw, Hostel, etc. These are the films that have an overwhelming focus of the gory deaths, pain, and screams for the sake of the gore, death, and screams but not story. The middle part of the decade was littered with these films and we (wisely) got tired of them quick enough, even if we did get SAW 9000. We also had the re-introduction of the low budget horror with films like Paranormal Activity where “everything” is recorded. Young teens absolutely litter the landscape, and morgues,  of nearly every horror movie coming out during this time; so much so that we’ve grown tired of it. It might be part of the reason for the lack of success as well. There is a lot we are tired of in modern movies, horror is no exception. So what do you do if you are a horror film maker since the beginning of modern horror and want to engage modern audiences.

Well, respect them.

You’ve got Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson returning to work together as director and writer. These two need to work more together on other franchises. Please. They actually do as promised and deliver, again, an intelligent thriller where there are stakes, there are risks, and you do worry someone may die. They don’t insult the intelligence of the returning characters. They successfully mock modern media again, modern movies, while making self referential remarks about how self referential movie characters can be within the movies. It’s a weird inception thing, but I approve of the continued awareness of the characters. We are also in the age of the reboot and reimagining, which is also referenced equally. We returned again to the deaths that have a level of simplicity to them.

A knife. A body. It’s not that hard.

They stick to that which becomes another reason the film works. They also went back to the roots by returning to Woodsboro and the highschoolers. They don’t weaken anyone in the film and the kills are not nearly as comical as they were in the last two. There is a driven intensity to the film. Even the lighting and score queues seem to know it with additional near natural looking lighting and shadows for many of the sequences; to the point where I didn’t feel as if I was on a set but instead my own home. This brought the feeling of the modern home invasion horror to play, while still playing with the stereotypical slasher vibe. Media outreach and inherent millennial connectivity were relevant plot points to the film as well as what it takes for 15 minutes of fame and how modern media responds to it. As much as the media was mocked, deservedly so, the millennial generation was not. Ok, there was some just due to the nature of stereotypes that come to play in a movie, but otherwise they were all (mostly) actually pretty interesting characters in their own right.

Good scripting, helps, but of course good acting. Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courtney Cox can probably play their roles in their sleep. Sidney is no longer a victim or on the verge of fraying, but has tried to reemerge through a book of her own. She is still as strong, still a survivor, and still a fighter. I am not disappointed in her. Cox, sadly has the weakest role and I am not sure why. Where Arquette who had been the comical role takes on the more serious part and Cox gets the comedy. We have our usual introductions of potential up and comers, such as Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars), Alison Brie (Community), Emma Roberts (American Horror Story), and Eric Knudsen (Scott Pilgrim, Continuum). It also features a host of names we do know (or at least I know). Anna Paquin (True Blood), Marley Shelton (Grindhouse), Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars, Frozen), Hayden Panettiere (Nashville, Heroes), and Anthony Anderson (The Departed, Law & Order). Sadly no horror movie great cameo’s as we’ve had in previous films.

The technicals work out in this one fairly well as I spoke before. They wisely didn’t go with shaky cam as many movies these day do and kept with steady cam. The deaths work. So no real technical flaws here and yes when people are severely injured – they go to the hospital!!

TL;DR

As it was a financial wreck, I don’t imagine we will get another. I hope that we don’t unless there is a new story to tell and the landscape changes enough for them to have something truly to satire within the confines of a serious slasher film.

It isn’t a great, but it was a really good send off. I do recommend it, not just as part of a marathon of Scream films, but as a standalone film. It doesn’t treat the audience as an idiot. Its simplistic and complex and it works. I have to say I actually like Scream 4 – I think you might too.

If you don’t, let me know why? I always welcome other opinions on films.

Darke Reviews | Scream 2 (1997)

Ok, so yesterday I talked about a new classic, Scream. I advise you now do not read this review if you have not watched the first, by the nature of being a sequel in a slasher franchise, this does contain some spoilers. Consider yourself warned, I will keep them to a minimum, but it’s unavoidable. The 90’s were starting to turn around for horror after the year prior. We got The Craft, From Dusk til Dawn, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Wishmaster, and Mimic.  Sure there was still some crap, but we were getting some decent things now. We also have a quickly rushed to production Scream 2.  Scream was made on a budget of $14 million and made just over $100 million; seven times profit is nothing to sneeze at. Let’s try it again with more money right? How does $24 million sound. Not a bad start. People were still talking about the first, this is good. Did the trailer intrigue us though?

Actually, yeah it does. It takes the trend, that also started in the 90s, to rapidly exploit true stories into film and yet again puts a lampshade on it. The movie even starts with a movie in a movie, about the movie. It talks about books made just to profit from these stories, but more importantly talks about how the victims deal with it. Can they move on. What happens to them and those around them. On top of all this beautiful satire and storytelling the movie also brings back the rules of horror movies. It tells us the rules of the sequels to the films and reminds us of all the sequels to our franchises we’ve endured. Let’s face it , the word here is endured in so many respects. At this point we have had 7 Nightmares, 5 Halloweens , and 8 Friday the 13th’s.  We have had…Leprechaun in Space.

headdesk

What next Hellraiser in space? Oh…wait…

So, even though we are but a calendar year away from film to film, within the story it is a little bit longer. We’ve moved from high school to college and the survivors of the first have largely gone their separate ways, but they are pulled together when a new serial killer starts the real life killings over. You actually feel as if these were real people and that many are still friends; and the survivors of the Dixie Boy are still survivors. Sidney (Neve) remains our protagonist and has evolved as much as the movie has. It keeps aware of modern technology and how it can change the old tropes, you know like caller ID?  It still makes fun of stereotypes in interesting and brilliant ways. It adds additional intelligent and aware characters, especially of film industry, and lets that awareness help inform the movie. We have both Craven and Williamson behind this, working together again.

Of course, again the right actors help. Returning, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Kennedy. We also have yet more career starters with Timothy Olyphant (Justified, Hitman),  Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek), and (a pre Buffy) Sarah Michelle Gellar. Jerry O’ Connell tries to keep his career alive after My Secret Identity and being fresh off of Jerry Maguire. The interactions between the characters work, some telegraphed more than others, but they do work. The movie tries to write some elements like the first and it’s up to you to decide if they are real or imagined.  They even have good call back jokes to the original, with Tori Spelling playing Sidney.

Again the technicals on this work out. It’s a slasher film, which are surprisingly easy in many respects. If you can get good blood and a good blade you are in decent shape. I also had a realization watching this one as well. It plays equally well on the trope of the unstoppable killer. Here, and in the first, the killer isn’t perfect. They get hit. They fall. They trip. This adds to the human realism and makes it work. The fight scenes and escapes are well planned. The biggest problem this one has over the first is there are some deaths that rely on too much coincidence to make work. That leads me to the…

TL;DR

The movie is good. It isn’t quite as good as the first. The first film has some levels of coincidence to be executed properly within the story. This one relies on it too much. Timing of some events are too reliant on chance to be real and to be functional for a decent plot.

I still feel comfortable recommending this one to watch as part of a marathon. Just don’t expect the same level of play as the first, and thus this one is not quite a classic, but not nearly as bad as so many sequels to horror movies. I should note, that among the things this one pokes at is how bad sequels are typically. There are very very few sequels that are as good or better than the original. This one almost hits the bell, but missed it by that much.

 

Darke Reviews | Scream (1996)

The early 90’s were fairly horrible when it came to horror movies. With only a handful of minor exceptions, the films were little more than retreads or sequels of better works from the 80’s. They also gave us the start of many a horrific franchise (Leprechaun) and the death of others (Alien 3). I mean sure we were getting Stephen King movies as mini series on TV, we got Flatliners,  Tremors, Bram Stokers Dracula, and Prophecy. We also got things like Graveyard Shift, Gremlins 2 (it classifies as horror..not sure why), Nightbreed, and Tales from the Hood. There are a few gems, but the reality is horror was generally horrible during this time. So 1996 comes around and we get a trailer for a new slasher film with a name that we associate to real horror.

The trailer puts a lampshade on all the films we have watched for the past two decades. Rules around sex, what you can say and can’t say, what to do and where to go. All the things that we shouted our TV’s when we watched these films on VHS time and time again. It showed us Drew Barrymore who had nearly vanished into a career of obscurity. It showed us Party of 5’s Julia – Neve Campbell talking to us with a certain self awareness of horror movie tropes. We had no idea what precisely we were getting, but it intrigued us.

That name I mentioned earlier – Wes Craven. The genius behind Nightmare on Elm Street, who had not been having a good decade, that had also given us Shocker, The People Under the Stairs, New Nightmare, and Vampire in Brooklyn. He somewhere along the way was given a script by new comer Kevin Williamson. Between the two of them they put together a movie that is both satire and a love letter of what horror had become since the beginning of the slasher flick. It is beautifully self aware of what it means to be a horror movie and what it means to be a character in a horror movie. It mocks and flaunts the rules and even calls attention to them. We had not had a film that does this ( to my knowledge) before this and to our benefit and our detriment have had dozens since then. This also probably single handedly relaunched the teen slasher film. Williamson, would go on to write I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, and The Vampire Diaries. While he sticks to some tropes, he does actually know how to write teens. This is more rare than you would think.

Craven himself being the master of horror knew what buttons to push, how to craft this, and what to draw out of his actors. He, being one of the forerunners of teen slashers and having seen what it had become was the prime person to do this. Giving him a decent cast also helps. Neve Campbell is our heroine and protagonist of the film and unlike so many others prior – starts strong. She may be virginal, but she is also damaged in her own way and because of that damage is stronger than the typical victims in films prior. The movie also launched the careers of Rose McGowan (Charmed), Jamie Kennedy, and Matthew Lillard (Hackers),  and Liev Schreiber (Wolverine, Salt). Skeet Ulrich, previously seen in The Craft, plays a similar role where its hard not to see him as scummy.  We also have the movie that introduced Courtney Cox and David Arquette, that lead to a marriage in 1999 until 2013. All of these actors combined actually turned a good performance together and made this film work as well as it did.

Even from a technical perspective and execution of the work the movie holds up. We’re almost twenty years out from this one and the plot holds. Even on repeated viewings it holds. That’s not something that you see often. Even the minor bits of gore in the film look good with decent attention to detail. The combat sequences, yes I call them that, are just as inventive and show a growing perception of using the environment to your benefit.

TL;DR

Scream is the rebirth of the teen slasher.

It is a well made, well planned, and well executed film that delivers on all counts and deserves recognition. I happily put this as a modern day classic and worth watching. The sequels…well I will cover them later.

Darke Reviews | You’re Next (2013)

I have to admit, the trailers for this one did not grab me. Going into it  I was not a fan of the home invasion style horror that is so rampant in today’s horror films. It *is* the new style of horror and is representative of what we fear most as a western society. Someone coming into our homes, taking our freedoms, our things, and our lives – our sense of peace and safety. Thats what these are all about, even many of the ghost stories are just a supernatural take on home invasion. It is still an invader in the home of the protagonists that they must take action against or they risk life, limb, and sanity. So when the trailer for this was released I had no desire to see it. I mean check this:

Yay a film about the 1% being murdered? Wasn’t that the Purge? I suppose there is a sense of satisfaction in it, morbid as it may be. As a non 1% I can at least admit to taking some small satisfaction (not always small) in seeing the “Haves” suffer at the hands of the “Have Nots”.  The trailer though doesn’t offer us anything new. It doesn’t entice. Even the music is off putting and seems to be without reason. This is in the category of Trailer Fails that I am going to start using as a tag on my posts. I may have to go back and add it to others, but we will let this one start it.

So what about the film itself? (This one is new enough to remain spoiler free)

It has a script but Simon Barrett. Barrett for one of his earliest projects gave us the SyFy classic Frankenfish. Yes I’ve seen it. Yes it is as bad as you might imagine. You’re Next is his first feature film, with segments on V/H/S and ABC”s of Death coming after the relative success of this film. I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the movie and its writing. It was a touch on the jaded side in dealing with the Rich, it doesn’t even lampshade it. It calls OUT the fact the family is rich with clear intent by the non rich protagonist. There was a certain bias there, but at the same time it is darkly humorous in moments you wouldn’t expect. It also respects the intelligence of some of the characters.

Some of this is in the first 8 minutes , so I do not consider it spoiler. They get to the house. The door is open. Its rationalized off. A small scene later, footsteps are heard upstairs loud enough to shake a chandelier. The woman goes “Time to go” and is talked out of it by the husband. The fact that “we need to leave” were some of the first words in the conversation is a relief. The movie is almost…almost Scream like in many respects. Where Scream is more of a fantastical realistic spoof on the slasher. This one takes much of the fantasy out and lets it be a tension filled take on The Home Invasion. Almost a Black Comedy in some moments, but otherwise it remains solid horror fare.

Credit should be given to the director, who met the writer on the film A Horrible Way to Die, then Auto Erotic – making their joint cinematic debut with this. Since then their careers seem intertwined.  The script informs the dialogue and scenes, but the director and actors inform the performance and staging. In this case the director does a fairly decent job of getting good performances from all actors involved.

While the cast for the family and invaders is fairly significant for the horror film with roughly 14 between them it is still fairly easy to follow. There are of course notables. Nicholas Tucci (no relation to Stanley) as Felix tends to catch the eye and plays his scenes well. AJ Bowen’s Crispian is also fairly memorable through the film; and he himself seems to live for the horror genre with most of his films in that realm. The two biggest standouts are Wendy Glenn as Zee, who chews scenery fairly well and I find her quite interesting to watch, and Sharni Vinson as Erin. This is the one to watch. She seems to be the most intelligent of the bunch and consistently shows it with her reaction to the high stress situation. I want to see more of her in other films of a decent pedigree.

Within a horror movie technical perspective. There’s some creativity in the pain and death dealing. Nothing too horribly gory. Nothing too sickeningly bloody.  There’s a touch too much motion with the camera work that is designed to be disorienting and jarring for an emotional beat but really just ends up distracting and unnecessary.

TL;DR?

I found myself surprisingly enjoying the film when I watched it. The counter horror movie programming that the film offers within the same genre is surprisingly well executed. Even to the last beat of the film.

If you haven’t seen it and enjoy the modern horror genres or home invasion style movies – I think you should give this one a shot.

If horror, blood, home invasion is not your thing – yeah. Dont watch it. You won’t like it. You won’t understand the jabs it does take at the genre because it isn’t your thing. Just give it a pass.

So despite a trailer fail, the movie is good. (total reverse of Clash of the Titans).

Tomorrow night is linked to October but way outside of the norm with the new release – Book of Life.

 

 

 

 

 

Darke Reviews | Halloween (1978)

So last night I had to buy the Halloween, no not the Rob Zombie one, the real one. The original one. These reviews are based on films that I own or have access to and I did not have this one. A sin in its own right for those that really enjoy horror. I do have the option through friends to do an old vs. new on this with Halloween vs. Halloween. I just can’t though. Much like how Doug Walker feels about the haunting. I feel about the Halloween series. The original wins. The Rob Zombie version sucks. I will probably reference this as I talk through the review of the original.

While Texas Chainsaw Massacre beats this by 4 years in release date, Halloween is probably the film most singularly responsible for the Teen Slasher style of horror that dominated the late 70’s and almost all of the 80s. This has everything to do with what the film does successfully that so many many others failed to understand (Zombie).

Let us start with discussing the screenplay that was written by Debra Hill and John Carpenter. Hill, who sadly most people aren’t aware of, was a frequent collaborator with Carpenter on much of his early works. She was a writer on this film, The Fog (excellent),  and Halloween 2. She was also a well known and popular female producer in Hollywood until her death in 2005. Carpenter himself, like Wes Craven, is one of the names most associated with Horror films to this day. It is nigh impossible to discuss the great horror films of all time without either of their names coming up.

Carpenter himself, was of course, also the director of the film. The man has an unusually strong grasp of atmosphere, sound, and darkness.  These elements, along with soundtracks usually designed by him, come through in so many of his other films. He was also the director of Dark Star , the indie film by the guys who wrote Alien. This would be his first wide release foray into horror.

I am going to point out something that is often overlooked, the movie has a budget to ratio of 144:1.  The film was made with a budget of $325,000 and made $47,000,000. By the numbers this makes it more successful than Clerks. It is also perfectly in line with the modern era of horror in which budgets are rather small with relatively successful box offices. Sadly, even the modern era still typically have budgets in the millions and only made 3 to 4 times the budget. Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch being key exceptions to those rules.

The story here involves as escaped mental patient returning to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois (Hill’s hometown is Haddonfield NJ); a stereotypical, near Rockwellian, midwestern town (it actually reminds me of my hometown a bit). His single minded focus is a young high school girl named Laurie Strode.  The patients doctor, Sam Loomis, rushes to Haddonfield to try to stop the patient from reaching his goal.

It is important to know, and this is what sets the movie apart from later reimagining garbage, is that Michael Myers as a character was never named as such. He simply was The Shape. He was a force of nature. He existed as a physical manifestation of evil. He didn’t need a backstory. He didn’t need a reason to be. He simply was. While later films in this particular arc would add  supernatural elements to his story and expand on it, the success here was none of it was needed. He scared people simply by BEING. This talks to Carpenters understanding of things as a director, the thing you cant see is more scary than the thing you can. What you don’t know scares you. Its why the ending of The Thing is so perfect and so iconic and why this film is the same. You never see The Shape fully until the end. You get glimpses. You get partials. Even the movie posters didn’t show a thing. This is brilliance and a brilliance we’ve lost as a film going society.

(ok technically you can put it together. He was called Michael as a child in the beginning and you are told its the Myers house shortly after during Strode’s introduction)

From an acting standpoint, so much rides on the shoulders of first time film actress, barely 20 at the release of the film, Jamie Lee Curtis. She was cast as much for her skill as her heritage, being the daughter of Pyscho’s famous shower scene victim Janet Leigh. Curtis would later be labeled the Scream Queen with future performances in The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train, and of course Halloween II. She as much as anyone starts the tradition of the lone virginal female protagonist overcoming the antagonist of the film after going through a crucible of sorts and find their inner strength and power. Their own rage, their own will to survive.

The weight of veteran actor Donald Pleasence as Loomis adds to the emotion. He consistently through the movie is in a near fervored insanity as he futily attempts to warn people of the threat Myers presents.

From another technical standpoint the film uses its music perfectly. If I were to make a list of iconic themes this would be on it. Without the music or with different music it would lose something.

 

TL;DR?

This is a classic. So many slasher films that follow after are but pale imitations of this. It is a must see film for any horror aficionado. I find that it even holds up watching today.

Because of all that was done right in this, all that works, I truly truly hate Rob Zombies version. For everything this does right, his does wrong.

If there is a Halloween film to watch. Watch the one that started it all.