31 October 2011

October 31st - HALLOWEEN

Let Me In (2010) directed by Matt Reeves
I know it's never a hip thing to say, but I think I like this American remake as much as the Swedish original. I watched the original a couple of years ago, so my memory is a little fuzzy, but the movies seem to be very, very similar.  The differences are small but affect the tones of the films quite a bit.  The largest difference between the two that strikes me is that the American movie is pretty clearly a romance.  In the Swedish version, I liked to think of Eli as a manipulator: an ancient soul using her youthful appearance to ensnare a new helper when her former helper grew too old to be of any use.  The brief shot of her with an old woman's face seemed to reinforce this.  There is no such shot in this film.  Instead, Reeves has Owen reading Romeo and Juliet for school and Abby sentimentally keeps an old photo of her and Håkan (unnamed in this film) from when Håkan was a child.

A few of the scenes I felt were done better than the original.  Towards the end, I liked that Owen actually closed the door on the policeman while Abby was eating him.  It gave him more of an active roll in his first experience at helping Abby feed.  A greater special FX budget likely accounts for a more intense version of the scene in the pool at the end of the movie.  We watch from underwater as the bullies are dragged upside-down through the water while body parts float past Owen in a red storm.  It's beautiful.  Also beautiful was an entirely new scene of Håkan's final kill.  In it, he hides in the backseat of a car.  Unfortunately for him, the driver stops to pick up a friend and get gas.  Suffice it to say, when Håkan decides in a panic to try to steal the car, things don't work out well.  He gets into the most brilliant POV car crash shot I've ever seen, with a Slurpee-obscured windshield only giving us a hint of the violence going on outside of the vehicle.

Though I prefer the vampire in this tale to be an soulless schemer as she was in the original, the remake has a lot of other good things going for it to make up for that loss. (7/10)

The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror XXII" (2011) directed by Matthew Faughnan
Ugh.  Every once in a while, I'll watch a random Simpsons episode on Hulu just to see if the show has gotten any better.  It never has.  This remains sadly true for the once-beloved Halloween episodes as well.    In this one, there's a joke about the ill-fated Spider-Man musical and a parody of Avatar, which only serve to remind me of how slow the show is in comparison to South Park.  Also, 10-year-old Bart -- in a alien body -- loses his virginity to an alien and gets her pregnant.  C'mon, man, I don't want hear about it.

Ghoulies (1985) directed by Luca Bercovici
Here's another one of those '80s movies with tiny, toothy creatures in it that I've always meant to watch but never got around to.  I had no idea what it was about, so I was thinking it'd be like Critters and feature creatures running around biting people (probably on the butt as they used the toilet, as the poster seems to suggest).  Nope.  Turns out this is a pre-Full Moon Charles Band production, so the ghoulies are pretty much just like the toys in Puppet Master, running around a mansion killing guests at the behest of their dead master.

It's still kind of fun in a bad movie way.  By far the best part is when the ever-lovable Jack Nance pops out of nowhere dressed in a wizard's outfit and proceeds to do magic-battle with the main bad guy.  They grab each other around the necks and then take turns shooting lightning bolt/lasers out of their eyes while Nance cackles madly.  It's pretty awesome.  The rest of the movie... not so much. (5/10)

Cemetery Man (1994) directed by Michele Soavi
AKA Dellamorte Dellamore.  This was quite an interesting Italian zombie flick, completely different from a Fulci or Bava film.  Hard to pin down, Cemetery Man swings from zombie horror to romance to black comedy to fairytale.  Francesco is a caretaker at a cemetery in which the dead seem to return to life.  Unable to get anyone in town to believe him or to convince the mayor to investigate, Francesco simply finds it easier to shoot the zombies as they pop up.  When he loses the love of his life -- the widow of one of his clients -- to his own eagerness to shoot zombies, Francesco begins to leave reality behind.  Soon he's seeing visions of the Grim Reaper, attempting to get his penis surgically removed and shooting nuns through the eye.  It's a wild ride.  I'm going to need to watch this one again soon to absorb more of it. (7/10) 

The X-Files: "Home" (1996) directed by Kim Manners
Often called the most horrific of The X-Files' horror episodes, I hadn't seen this one since it originally aired.  It's essentially the story of everyone's favorite federal agents encountering The Hills Have Eyes family in a small town.  For horror veterans, this is nothing particularly shocking; we see inbred rednecks cast as monsters all the time.  But, I can imagine why the more normal sci-fi audience for this show found it disturbing.  I have to admit, the image of the limbless mother being pulled out from under a bed screaming is pretty powerful.

The Exorcist (1973) directed by William Friedkin
I'd been itching to watch my new blu-ray of this classic and Halloween seemed to be the perfect night to do so.  I'd forgotten how intense this picture is.  It builds nice and slow, like movies used to, showing us Regan's normal life before her troubles and Karras' troubled life before his sacrifice.  By the time we get to the actual exorcism, we've earned it.  We've seen how utterly horrible Regan has become and we've completely exhausted every rational explanation for her predicament and every excuse not to try the Catholic rite.  Also, holy cow, Jason Miller as Karras is absolutely amazing.   I'd probably go out on a limb and declare his performance in this film as the best in any horror movie ever made.  Haunted and skeptical and guilty and tired and angry, Karras finds unlikely meaning in his life when tasked with helping Regan.

If I have any complaint at all, it's that I can't figure out how these events were described to Lt. Kinderman in a way that didn't make him immediately throw someone in jail.  Two people died on the steps outside of Regan's window and one person died in her bedroom.  Regan has cuts all over her body and bruises from being tied up.  Her bed is padded and covered in vomit.  From the outside, it's looking like the butler or maid went insane and terrorized the family.  I don't know.  Maybe Kinderman was Catholic? (9/10)

Halloween (1978) directed by John Carpenter
My 13th Halloween watching Halloween.  In recent years -- I suppose ever since Scream -- it's been hip to analyze slasher movies in terms of conservative values asserting themselves against rebellious youth.  We all know the score: the kids who smoke pot and have sex are the ones to die at the hands of the monster.  The virginal innocent is the one to defeat the monster and survive to the end.  Halloween is often pointed to as the originator of this theme, but I really don't see it in this film.

It is true that Michael seems to have a problem with sex.  He began his career as a murderer by killing his post-coital sister and continued 15 years later by killing Lynda, Bob and Annie after or right before they had sex.  However, Michael is also fixated on the non-sexual Laurie just as much (let's not get into the long lost sister BS from the sequels).  Laurie, we should remember, is not quite so innocent.  Right before going to the Doyle house to babysit Tommy, she shares a joint with Annie.  Babysitting stoned would be a death sentence in an '80s slasher, but not quite so here.  Not-so-innocent final girl Laurie also does not defeat Michael.  All she does is  manage to hide from him long enough for Loomis to shoot him.  She does stab him a couple of times, but this doesn't slow him down. Nor do Loomis' bullets.  In Carpenter's universe, morality has nothing to do with it: evil exists, it will always be here, and it'll come for you whether you've gotten laid or not. (9/10)

The Real Ghostbusters: "Halloween II 1/2" (1987) directed by Masakazu HiguchiRichard Raynis
I ended the night and the Six Weeks by popping in a childhood favorite.  The Real Ghostbusters is one of those things that helped form me into a horror fan.  This episode was the sequel to the popular "When Halloween Was Forever" episode that introduced Samhain, the pumpkin-headed spirit of the holiday.  While this one is not as good, it's still some fun with dozens of goofy ghosts gathering at the transformed firehouse to help Samhain on his quest to make every day Halloween.  Can the Real Ghostbusters, Slimer and the Junior Ghostbusters defeat him and return things to normal?  

I had a good Six Weeks.  I watched 61 1/3 movies and 27 TV episodes this year, not a bad effort.  I got to go to two different horror cons and had a blast at each.  I got to take both of my daughters out for some major trick 'r treating this year.  There was pumpkin pie and apple cider and Halloween cupcakes to eat.  My Freddy sweater kept me warm at work.  It was a good Six Weeks.

Squirrels chewed my eyes!


  1. I think the sexual/Freudian interpretation of slashers was probably around a lot sooner then "Scream." But, yeah, "Halloween" doesn't fit the mold in a lot of ways. Honestly, the slashers cliches wouldn't be crystallized until much later. Even the "Friday the 13th" doesn't harp on it that much. The final girls in both one and two weren't exactly virginal.

    I love "Dellamorte Dellamore." Of course, I love Italian horror and weird arty shit so I'm probably partial. But, yes, definitely watch it again. Also watch the director's earlier "Stage Fright," seriously one of the scariest slasher films ever made.

    I thought it was a great Six Weeks of Halloween and am looking forward to the next!

  2. Re: "Home"... the song "Wonderful Wonderful" instantly makes me uneasy to this day.