Thursday, September 27, 2012

Trick or Treat

Finally, I get around to watching the final of the "Big Three." Or four if you want to count those movies about some guy in Texas with a chainsaw. I'll get to those eventually. Anyhow, this series is classic horror.

Halloween: The one that started it all. Not just the start of the series, but the start of the entire slasher genre. Which is really funny, since there is nearly no blood at all and most of the deaths happen off camera. Even the stuff that happens on camera, so to speak, is really not shown. You hear it, and you see the after effect, but you never really see the knife entering the body at all. Anyhow, we start with some good old fashioned teenage sex, which leads to the inevitable first kill. The shock is who does the killing. Flash forward 15 years, and the killer escapes to go back home and do it all over again. The rest of the movie is a lot of build up with some pretty effective tension, followed by a bit of killing and a cliffhanger ending. What makes this movie so great is the aforementioned lack of on screen blood and guts, as well as the buildup. There are virtually no jump scares, where the killer lunges out of nowhere to get the victim. Instead, you have some wonderful lurking. The Shape (as he is called in the credits) literally just stands around looking ominous, then vanishes when you look away. It works very well to heighten your fear, without resorting to a cheap trick to get the audience to jump. I actually prefer my horror this way. Anyhow, the movies ending is a pretty great way to lead into a sequel.

Halloween II: Oh, look, a sequel. I never would have expected that. All kidding aside, this was a good follow up. Another groundbreaking movie with the first scene being the final scene of the prior movie. Especially interesting since this movie was shot 3 years later. The beginning of this movie is really just an extension of the last one in every way, offering some closure of plot threads from the first and leading into the actual meat of this movie. We get more of the lurking, done even better than before. We also get more POV shots from the view of the killer, which I am pretty sure was revolutionary for the time as well. The main plot of this movie is The Shape (finally actually called Michael Myers a few times) following the survivor of the last movie to the hospital to finish the job. In the process he takes out most of the staff of the place as well. The kills are more explicit this time around, as is the brief nudity. But, we still get more of implied kills as opposed to graphic violence. There is a jump scare placed into the movie, but it is more of the pressure valve to release tension variety instead of the killer jumping out to get you. The movie ends pretty definitively, so you just know they had to do something new for a sequel.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch: What the crap was that? No...Just...No...

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers: And thus, a franchise is reborn. With the misstep that was the last movie, it is amazing this thing was even made. What is great is that it was, because this is exactly what was needed for this franchise. Michael Myers returns, as the title suggests. He has a niece that he wishes to kill now. I would say I am guessing she has a psychic connection to him, if I didn't already know they reveal that at some later point in the series. Nice use of foreshadowing with the clown costume, as well as a nice nod to the original opening scene. Closing scene was also pretty cool for the same reason. This movie was a little predictable in many places, but I credit that to my own knowledge of horror move tropes and not a fault of the movie. Overall, exactly what a Halloween movie should be, in my mind.

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers: A great follow up to the last movie. The psychic angle is pushed a little bit more, but not too much. The little girl has hints of what is happening, but never knows the full story. The kills are still relatively low key, though there is more blood than before (again). The threat is still lurking in the shadows instead of jumping out at you. The body count is relatively low, but high enough to show the threat. I am also enjoying how the police are not completely useless in the movie. The may not like that Dr Loomis is worried about the threat of Michael Myers, but they do listen at least. I'm not sure how i feel about the introduction of the Man in Black, the tattoo looking symbol on both him and Michael Myers, and the ambiguous ending. Especially when I see there was a 6 year difference between this movie and the next one. That seems like a long time to wait to wrap up that plot line.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers: So, that just happened. Not a horrible movie, but definitely not good. Which is sad, because there is some decent potential there. The unresolved plot from the last movie is sort of explained here. Except, it isn't very well explained. Druids? Curses? Um, if I wanted that, I would just stick with the Season of the Witch atrocity. There is no explanation for why they kidnapped the niece and kept her prisoner for 6 years. How did she get pregnant? Why keep her locked up with Michael around, and not just kill her? So he can kill the baby, and end his family line? I am so confused by the whole thing. Then there's the side plot with the Strode family moving into the old Myers house. First of all, everyone knows the story of the house, except the people living in it. You would think that if anyone would know not to live there, it would be the family that adopted Michel's sister into. Also the plot with the little boy supposedly being the next in line for the kill your family druid curse...which is never really used. They bring the point up, but then never even play with it at all. Then there is the strange editing, where they will cut to something for no reason. Like there is a character banging on a door to get in, and the film jumps to showing the other side of the door...unlocked and with nobody there. So, why? What was the point of that? Or the numerous times that there is a sudden jump to something in a scene with no explanation or reason. All in all, this was a mess. Which, like I said, is a shame. I could have seen this going much better with a plot leading in to an introduction to a new villain. Just like how the fourth movie sort of led you to the introduction of a legacy kill, this brings the possibility up. I would have loved the reintroduction of Tommy (the kid being babysat in the original) as a protagonist if they had left the druid crap out. At least they kept the jumps to a minimum, even if they did ramp up the gore a bit more.

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later: The return of Laurie Strode. I think this was a pretty good entry into the series. I was a little unhappy they ignore the entirety of every movie since number 2. Ignoring 3 and 6 is fine, but the whole thing with the niece was not a bad plot thread. Regardless, they ignore that to move on with Michael wanting to kill his sister. Said sister is still a paranoid wreck after her experiences, and is now working at a private school. Which Michael finds, sneaks into, and starts another spree. I was happy that, evne though this was made after the slasher movie had come, gone, and come back it was still pretty close to the original method. More blood for sure, but still the looming in the shadows and not the jumping out of nowhere to get you. It had a pretty cool ending to, with Laurie knowing what was going to happen and taking the bastard out once and for all. Well played all around.

Halloween: Resurrection: So that once and for all thing was a little off. Turns out it wasn't Michael, and he is now back again to finish the job. Which he does early on. Nice closure to that part of the story. Unfortunately, that is before the actual core of the movie. What we get in this is not a Halloween movie, but a heavy handed critique of the (at the time) new fad that is reality television. Internet horror show, stupid college kids, and Michael Meyers. This has more boobs, more blood, more jumps, and less plot than any of the rest. It is still better than Season of the Witch, and about on par with The Curse of Michael Meyers. While I loved the cast of lovely young girls (many of which are still around and still hot), I was not happy with this one at all. Obviously, I am not alone since this killed off the original franchise. The time between this movie and the reboot is the same as between Season of the Witch and Return of Michael Meyers. That says a lot in my book.

Halloween (2007): Proof that Rob Zombie doesn't get it. Seriously, for a guy who is supposedly a big horror fan, he seems to miss the mark with his movies. This movie is a great example of that. He took everything that made the original Halloween great, and threw it all away. In this movie, we get more attention on who Micheal Meyers is than before. Which makes what he does later less interesting. So he had a bad home life, and some issues that were discovered early on. Now he's just like every real work psychopath. Part of the intrigue is that all we knew of the original was that he was a kid who killed his sister and her boyfriend, spent a lot of time locked up, and then escaped. With half of the movie devoted to his back story we suddenly know and care about him. Which makes him less scary. Then we have the gore. The original was pretty much blood free. This movie is dripping with the stuff, and usually after some pretty graphic violence. There is also a lot less "lurking dread" and more "run at you and break through walls" going on here. The only nice touch I can see is the cast was pretty awesomely assembled. What Zombie lacks in understanding good horror he makes up for in casting a shit-ton of horror icons. He gets points for including Danielle Harris and Ken Foree alone, not to mention the rest of the genre cast. Overall, this movie is only slightly more interesting than the last one. Still leaps and bounds better than Season of the Witch was.

Halloween II (2009): Just when I thought Rob Zombie couldn't ruin this series anymore, this movie happens. The movie starts well, and actually had my interested in the beginning. The way is mimics and updates the plot of the original Halloween 2 was great. I liked seeing the serious medical treatment that was needed for Laurie. Then we get the stupid dude driving around with the dead body of Michael in the back. They were completely unlikable, and after the crash the scene went on far too long before anything interesting happened. When we get back to the hospital, I immediately knew we were having a dream sequence. I also spent the entire time thinking that it was way to long to be a properly done dream sequence. After all of that, we get the real movie. Which shows how the surviving character have reacted to the events of the last movie, 2 years prior. Basically Laurie is a bitch, Annie and her dad are dysfunctional, and Michael has turned into Rob Zombie hallucinating horses. Meh. This overall felt like an attempt to mix Halloween 2 with aspects of 4 and 5. Just, you know, not as well done. Apparently the version I watched was not the original ending, as the ending I saw was not the one the Wikipedia article mentions. The ending I saw was far less interesting, and implied Laurie was killed. I wish I had seen the one in the article. I may have liked the ending better for it.

So, overall, this has become one of my favorite franchises. I think that this series does a great job with having tension without the jump, and violence without the gore. The silent killer looming in the darkness, waiting to kill until just the right moment is a great thing that needs to be played with more. I love how the first tow movies were directly tied together, and liked the potential that 4 and 5 had. I would have liked a better resolution for movie 6, and 7 could have been improved with keeping Laurie having had a daughter. It is best to just forget Season of the Witch and Resurrection, though. Season was a poor attempt to alter the idea fo the franchise, and Resurrection was just plain not a good idea. The Rob Zombie movies should never have been made, but part of that is probably my dislike of doing a remake for a franchise that people still know and like. Why remake something with Jason, Freddy, or Michael Myers in it when everyone knows who they are? Pick something less prevalent in pop culture. Anyhow, just like the rest of the major horror franchises I have been watching, starts good and goes down hill but has potential. No surprise there.