[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 31 – Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

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Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Cast: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy

Screenplay: Tommy Lee Wallace

98 mins. Rated R.

 

Well, here we are again, at the end of it all. I had another great season, and I hope you did too.

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So today, we will look back on, arguably, the strangest Halloween entry, Halloween III: Season of the Witch. As you may be aware, this is the only film in the series to not feature Michael Myers, and the story behind the film is incredibly interesting and perhaps too ahead of its time.

Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins, Lethal Weapon, Drive Angry) takes an interest in the mystery surrounding his newest patient, Harry Grimbridge, a local shop owner who was attacked and left for dead. After meeting and sexing Harry’s 20-something daughter Ellie (Stacey Nelkin, Bullets Over Broadway, Everything’s Relative), who joins him on his quest, Dan discovers that the attack is linked to Santa Mira, California and Silver Shamrock Novelties, owned by the very rich and unusual Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy, RoboCop, Fail-Safe). As he digs deeper into the odd happenings of Santa Mira, Dan and Ellie discover that the link between Harry’s attack and the Silver Shamrock Halloween masks that are sweeping the nation.

Now, let’s discuss the story behind the story. So John Carpenter and Debra Hill had just finished Halloween II, and they had no interest in continuing the story. From their point of view, the story was done. But when pressured by Universal Studios, they came up with a rather interesting idea: make Halloween an anthology series with a new installment each year centered around the holiday but telling a different story. They brought in Tommy Lee Wallace and crafted Halloween III: Season of the Witch. When the film was released, it was panned because everyone went to the theater expecting to see Michael Myers. It was upsetting for fans of the slasher, and the film’s poor reception put the Halloween franchise on hold for six years.

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So is Halloween III really that bad? Not terrible, but it has some problems. A convoluted plot, masked in confusion and the occasional scare, but it relies more on the eerie presence that the setting conveys. I enjoy the film a lot more after knowing the intention behind the film, but it is the dark horse of the Halloween franchise, though not its worst installment. Atkins is a fine lead and O’Herlihy a menacing villain. As it stands, there are multiple underdeveloped plot points and an ending which borders on the silly, but fans of horror anthologies will enjoy the possibility of what might have been. Worth a look.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of John Carpenter’s Halloween, click here.

For my review of Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II, click here.

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 14 – In the Mouth of Madness (1995)

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Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Sam Neill, Jurgen Prochnow, Julie Carmen, Charlton Heston

Screenplay: Michael DeLuca

95 mins. Rated R for images of horror, and for language.

 

Most people who know me know of my love for Halloween. It’s my all-time favorite horror film, but in general, my all-time favorite horror director is John Carpenter. Barring The Ward, there isn’t a single film of his that I wouldn’t watch, and when he hits it, he knocks it out of the park. In the Mouth of Madness is a great example of John Carpenter knocking it out of the park.

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Acclaimed horror novelist Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow, Das Boot, Hitman: Agent 47) is missing. Arcane Publishing is after Cane’s latest manuscript, and they hire insurance investigator John Trent (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) to go after Cane. When Trent is almost killed by a crazed maniac wielding an axe, he begins to discover that there is a lot more hiding in Cane’s books than just words. His search brings him to Hobb’s End, the fictional setting for several of Cane’s novels, a place thought not to exist, and Trent sees that Hobb’s End is very real, and it houses an evil that is more powerful than anyone could have known.

Halloween is a perfect slasher, but In the Mouth of Madness is a perfect study of the human psyche and the power of a story. It is a rich, complex tale about Sutter Cane (who bears more than one similarity with horror novelists Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft). It is an examination of popular culture and its crazed obsession with horror. It’s a look at John Trent and the fragility of the mind (another popular element in Lovecraft’s).

The performances from Neill and Prochnow are great. The two actors have terrific chemistry even though they share very few scenes in the film. Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur, Planet of the Apes) even appears as Arcane Publishing director Jackson Harglow to add gravitas to the picture.

There are multiple allusions to Lovecraft and King, starting with the opening framing device, often used by Lovecraft in his storytelling. There is talk of the Old Ones, and in fact passages of Cane’s stories actually come from Lovecraft’s own work. From King, there is the style of his novels, the New England setting, and the undying fandom around his next novel.

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In the Mouth of Madness isn’t an easy film to find, but if you can, do so. You will find yourself on a most interesting journey through the mind. It is topped off with great performances and gorgeously disturbing visuals from master of horror John Carpenter, with a shockingly unusual ending to tie it all together. This movie is a one-of-a-kind experience for horror fans all alike.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of John Carpenter’s Halloween, click here.

For my review of John Carpenter’s The Thing, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 30 – The Thing (1982)

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Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David

Screenplay: Bill Lancaster

109 mins. Rated R for adult situations/language and violence.

IMDb Top 250: #164 (as of 03/04/2016)

 

Last year, I discussed remakes that add something new and become better than the original. The Fly came up, and I was also thinking about The Thing, a 1982 remake from director John Carpenter (Halloween, The Ward).

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At a remote Antarctic research station, a creature has been discovered; an alien creature from another world is terrorizing several Americans with its ability to mimic their look perfectly. As paranoia sets in, R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell, Grindhouse, Furious 7) has decided that the Thing needs to be stopped before the rescue party arrives and It gets out of Antarctica.

The Thing is one of my absolute favorite films. John Carpenter’s emphasis on practical effects by using effects master Rob Bottin is shockingly elegant and horrifying.

Kurt Russell leads an all-star cast of individuals, each able to perfectly exemplify frightened man lashing out at an almost unwinnable situation. He is aided by some terrific work from Wilford Brimley (Cocoon, Did You Hear About the Morgans?) as the unhinged Dr. Blair and Keith David (TV’s Community, Platoon) as the anger-filled Childs.

Carpenter understands what needs to be said in his film. His usage of themes like paranoia, isolation, and violence explode in this colorful and scary presentation of people without the proper resources to handle a situation.

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Seriously, there isn’t enough praise for this perfect piece of horror cinema. As far as the prequel goes, I would avoid it if you haven’t seen the original. Check out 1982’s The Thing. I know you’ll love it.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of John Carpenter’s Halloween, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 27 – Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)

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Director: Wes Craven

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Angela Bassett, Allen Payne, Kadeem Hardison, John Witherspoon, Zakes Mokae, Joanna Cassidy

Screenplay: Charlie Murphy, Michael Lucker, Chris Parker

100 mins. Rated R.

 

Many horror directors attempt to cross with comedy at some point, and for me, there are two infamous examples of note: John Carpenter’s Memoirs of an Invisible Man and Wes Craven’s Vampire in Brooklyn. I actually really enjoyed Carpenter’s film, and when I originally saw Vampire in Brooklyn several years back, I liked it too. Sadly, on my most recent viewing, my opinion has shifted drastically.

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Maximillian (Eddie Murphy, Beverly Hills Cop, A Thousand Words) is the last of a line of vampires from the Caribbean. In order to save his bloodline, he needs to find a female born from a native vampire he knew. Detective Rita Veder (Angela Bassett, TV’s American Horror Story, Meet the Robinsons) is that woman, working for the NYPD in Brooklyn. After siring Julius Jones (Kadeem Hardison, White Men Can’t Jump, Made of Honor) to be his personal servant, Maximillian sets out to find his destined love in the urban jungle.

Wes Craven (Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street) and Eddie Murphy famously fought on set about the tone of the film, and it is the paramount reason why this movie failed so much. Craven wanted a horror film with comedic elements, and Murphy wanted a comedy with horror elements. The clash was the downfall of the film.

Murphy’s Maximillian didn’t have great voicework, and the choice to do his signature multiple roles thing by playing a few other characters that Maximillian disguises himself as didn’t work nearly as well on second viewing.

Craven’s abilities as a director were really called into question during the making of this film, and his work suffered tremendously from studio interference and the uneasy set. It’s sad, because the overall idea seems like a lot of fun. I really like Kadeem Hardison’s portrayal of the decrepit Julius Jones.

I also don’t think the casting of Bassett works in the film. She has the ability to act, but this just isn’t the movie for her.

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I’m happy to see that Craven was able to recover from a film like Vampire in Brooklyn with solid works like Scream and Red Eye, but Eddie Murphy, who blamed everyone else for making a film he knowingly wrote and acted in disappoints me. He claimed that he only did the film was so that he could finish his contract with the studio and focus on other works. I call bullshit, Eddie. You failed but you couldn’t just accept it.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 31 – Halloween (1978)

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Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, Nancy Loomis

Screenplay: John Carpenter, Debra Hill

91 mins. Rated R.

 

Well, here it is. I promised you would make it to Halloween with me, and you did. Congrats!

 

I think I knew that this would be the movie for today. I didn’t plan for it until I got down to the last couple days. It just so happens that John Carpenter’s Halloween is my favorite horror film, and I am excited to share it with you today. Enjoy and then go have some tricks and treats, whatever they may be, and thank you for a great month.

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Halloween opens with an absolutely amazing shot (okay, it looks like a single shot but is actually three, I think) of Halloween night some years ago. Young Michael Myers is supposed to be watched by his older sister Judith but instead she chooses to have her boyfriend over and she ignores Michael as her and her fella proceed to have sex upstairs before he leaves for the night. Michael, in a seemingly unbelievable act, grabs a kitchen knife and his clown costume, goes upstairs and kills his older sister in a gruesome and merciless way. He then goes downstairs to greet his parents as they come home and discover his grisly act. Flash forward several years to modern day 1978 Haddonfield. Michael Myers has escaped from Smith’s Grove Penitentiary and made his way home, now stalking several teenagers on Halloween night.

The film might seem very simple for younger audiences, but it was one of the very first slasher films of its time, and certainly the odd that created all the elements that would later be overused into mediocrity. The plot, though, isn’t about the normal stalker chasing down woman. This isn’t just Michael Myers we are talking about. The credits perhaps say it best, calling him The Shape. He is being pursued by the incredible versatile Donald Pleasance (The Great Escape, Escape from New York) as Dr. Sam Loomis (see the Psycho reference?). Pleasance is at the top of his game here, and it equally matched by the commanding performance of then-newcomer Jamie Lee Curtis (True Lies, Veronica Mars) as Laurie Strode, a normal girl who just wants to finish her babysitting gig and get home alone, a task not always as simple as she would assume. Laurie is a girl plagued by real-world big problems like the question of whether or not Ben Tramer like-likes her. Her fellow friends Lynda (P.J. Soles, Carrie, The Devil’s Rejects) and Annie (Nancy Loomis, The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13) are also on The Shape’s radar tonight, and both are ably performed characters that do nothing special but also do not deter us from our fears.

It is difficult to talk about the cinematography of a low-budget horror film. Many contain nothing of merit. Halloween is not one of these regulars. John Carpenter (Escape from L.A., The Ward) has always been known for his handling of the camera. His shots are sweeping and focused and always purposeful. When the camera doesn’t move, it haunts. From there, the film is perfectly plotted and edited into a tight package of fear.

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There are times when I try to come up with something bad about this movie as a fun little game, and I usually lose. I find John Carpenter’s Halloween to be a perfect film in every way. There isn’t a single thing I would change about it. I have been watching it since I was four years old and I will keep watching it multiple times throughout the October holiday. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I advise it. Not only is it a working film school of guerilla movie-making, but it is still scary today. Enjoy it. It is Halloween after all, and everyone is entitled to one good scare.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For the rest of the 31 Days of Horror, click here.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

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Director: Marc Webb

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Chris Zylka

Screenplay: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves

136 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence.

 

I feel like I should describe the film I’m about to review, but to streamline and simplify the process by just having you watch Spider-Man. This film is little more than a carbon copy, subbing one villain in for another and one love interest in for another. I should point out that this is mostly a well-made movie, but the pacing issues really drag it down given the fact that we had seen all of this before.

The Amazing Spider-Man tells the story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, The Social Network, Never Let Me Go), a loser but a smart one at that. The only thing he seems to want in life is Gwen Stacy (perfectly casted with Emma Stone, The Help, Birdman). That, and to discover the truth behind his parents’ death. Dr. Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans, Notting Hill, The Five-Year Engagement) is the man who may hold some truth, but he is a bit too preoccupied with becoming a monstrous half-man/half-lizard hybrid.

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There is a lot of sameness to this film. Peter becomes Spider-Man. He fights the monster and tries to save those around him from certain doom. This plot is kind of boring for a regular superhero film at this point, but the fact that this is the second time it has been shown on film makes it all the more painful. If this first 90 minutes had been more brushed over, we could be enjoying ourselves a lot more, but this movie just drags. The subplot mystery surrounding Peter’s parents does help, but not enough.

I personally thought Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Spidey was less likable than I would’ve hoped for. Now Emma Stone was pretty likable. She was some damn perfect casting, as with her father, played by Denis Leary (Two if by Sea, Draft Day).

Then you have Curt Connors, a character who was merely cameos in previous Spider-Man films, and here he is in all the glory. And he is friggin’ creepy as The Lizard. Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) and Sally Field (Forrest Gump, Lincoln) are Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and give us solid performances given the unsolid scripting.

Now, from a cinematography standpoint, Marc Webb’s film has some very nice touches. The new costume for the masked hero is actually pretty nice looking. The ending was pretty awesome. I like that they are taking a page from Marvel to end on a note that not all is finished here. So the film does have some great moments, given that it is the same movie.

Now, I’m going to just state something. I hate comparing reboots and remakes to their predecessors. I don’t think it is fair as we have already had too much time to fall in love with the originals. It doesn’t offer up a fair fight, but then again, maybe that is the reason that we shouldn’t have remakes. It makes a good argument, but at the same time, I feel like some remakes are pretty damn perfect (John Carpenter’s The Thing and Peter Jackson’s King Kong to name a few). The problem with not comparing The Amazing Spider-Man to Spider-Man is that both films are so close in both exact plotting and timing that it is difficult not to. If you make a film right, it doesn’t have to be up for comparison. I never find myself comparing Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins to Tim Burton’s original Batman because both films have difficult tones and aim for different ideas.

So, when I come to a topic of comparison from a music perspective, I don’t want to compare the fun and upbeat feeling of Sam Raimi’s trilogy to the ominous toning of Marc Webb’s film. But I do, and the difference and preference keep me to the original.

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Now, this film was originally scripted as Spider-Man 4, and I don’t understand the reason to reboot. All the best parts of this film would’ve been made better by continuing the previous film. We already introduced Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3, so even planting Emma Stone in would’ve done fine enough. Curt Conners was already a character, so his introduction would’ve reduced the strained runtime. The mysetery around Peter’s parents would’ve injected some serious intrigue into the series. Even the open-ended finale would’ve translated perfectly. It just felt like a monetary decision (and it was) to push the reboot button, and we can tell.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of The Amazing Spider-Man? Did this tale need retelling or where you experiencing deja vu?

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