Toy Terminator

Around the holidays, especially for those of us in the business of celebrating fringe cinema, social media is dominated by posts celebrating the likes of Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, Black Christmas and other Christmas horror fare.

And while we’ve made no bones about loving these franchises, we made our bones on this site actually championing indie cinema and giving a home to filmmakers trying their best to generate exposure in a space dominated by frequently indifferent gatekeepers.

In the spirit of the season, we are shining the spotlight on Toy Terminator, an inspired, bombastic 7-minute short, currently screening on Filmfreeway and the brainchild of Matt Wisniewski, with whom we connected on Instagram.

The director, is “stylistically influenced by derivative, low-budget schlock from the late 80s and early 90s,” a description that is so up our alley, we half expect some leather-clad goons with bandanas, bad muscle tone and lead pipes, lying in wait for a rumble.

It should be said that many of the submissions we receive, are of…how should we put this diplomatically…”varying quality.”

Thankfully, Toy Terminator is really well made with atmosphere to spare. It’s gorgeously lit too.

With a plot described as “An isolated puppet-maker fights off a tiny insurrection,” it features an eyepatch-wearing protagonist, a really gripping score that marries twangy Western and 80s synth Italian horror sensibilities, and of course, lots of incredible puppets.

How to improve the Halloween franchise

The 2018 and 2021 Halloween films were garbage. No burying the lede here.

Halloween 2018 lacked atmosphere, dispensed with a character’s mobile in the most hackneyed and embarrassing way, threw in podcasting (because true crime is popular) and asked an audience to believe that podcasters, rather than dispassionate academics or clinicians, would be allowed to freely saunter into an asylum and goad a notorious killer with tools of his trade.

Both films were an exercise in cynical, bad faith fan service, loads of exposition as a hedge against an audience perhaps unfamiliar with the 1978 original. And in the recent film, to keep the old guard happy, Blumhouse folks decided on shoe-horning in a bunch of original faces from 1978 and getting them to meet in the least likely of locales: a bar (as opposed to say, a victims of trauma church basement get together) and on the least likely of days, October 31.

And in the case of Halloween Kills at least, the end-result is a bunch of strung-together vignette/set pieces showcasing a bunch of kills (and a bunch of different people) absent telling an actual cohesive story. Well, that’s not wholly correct. The characters actually TELL a story by rehashing events from 40 years ago, or worse, by talking about what’s happening now.

We’re supposed to be invested in Tommy Doyle, a survivor of that fateful night decades ago. Never in the history of drinking, have pub denizens been so enraptured by a karaoke/open mic talent night campfire-style updating of a decades old, unsolved murder case. It’s an absurd, nonsensical way to introduce a character. And not just that, it goes counter to what made Halloween great in the first place: that nobody knew what was going on, but that there were reports of a supernatural figure lurking in the shadows killing people.

Though it’s too late for the folks at Blumhouse, we all know that future films will be disregarding the events of the 2018 and 2021 incarnations, especially once there’s a buck to be made, and once Halloween Ends disappoints (and you have our personal guarantee that it will).

So, onward. Some suggestions for better ways to have approached the material, respecting the irreplaceable original, while keeping its mystique intact.

A real “new” Loomis

Since Donald Pleasence was our resident expert, it makes sense to replace him (but not in the case of 2018, when it makes a potentially interesting replacement wholly disposable). Here’s a thought: have a new crop of Haddonfield clinicians “move on” from Loomis, and disparage the old doc’s research and pronouncements about Michael being “pure evil.” So, the “new” Loomis says the original clinical research is valuable, and is immediately pitted against academic colleagues, biological determinists who claim recent pharmaceutical interventions are foolproof and that those, in combination with strict behavioural modification therapy, have paid dividends for 40 years. This provides some nice tension, because you have unheeded calls from an expert (“new” Loomis) whose expertise is questioned by academic colleagues who think his research methodologies are suspect and who tell the police to ignore it.

True Crime Tour

Whether it’s Dahmer in Milwaukee or the veritable cottage industry of Jack the Ripper tours in London, these kinds of excursions provide a more natural way to provide some exposition. But not just that: they’re populated by true crime pedants and amateur sleuths who could provide their own theories about the real origins of Michael Myers, who had, like BTK, been dormant for a lengthy stretch. Did he change his identity upon release? What happened to him at Haddonfield Memorial? Was he subjected to experimental treatments? Was he imprisoned elsewhere? Did he flee the country? Does he even exist at all?

Better yet, once the tours disband the people can be left to explore on their own and can be systematically picked off by The Shape. Myers works best when he’s lurking in the shadows.

It also makes sense to originate these tours from nearby Chicago, which has the added bonus of creating a little bit of rural/urban tension between Haddonfield residents who want to be left alone and not have their peaceful little town exploited. There’s also potential for creating dramatic tension between townie detectives and Chicago PD, creating overlapping jurisdiction issues.

Michael Myers’ story

With Jack the Ripper, pundits linked the notorious Whitechapel murderer to the Royals, and basically generated a wealth of plausible and implausible scenarios. You could even have FBI profilers posit a bunch of scenarios, further creating tension between Haddonfield’s resident experts and input from outside. By making their efforts fruitless, it can keep John Carpenter’s original filmic vision of Myers being a supernatural force, rather than a run-of-the-mill spree killer or Jason copycat like he is in Halloween Kills.

Laurie Strode’s PTSD

The one aspect that Halloween 2018 got right from a narrative perspective was Laurie Strode’s decline thanks to the events of 1978. She can remain shell-shocked from the events of that fateful night and finally reconnect with a “new” Loomis (or perhaps even one of the more reputable true crime tour guides) as a united front against Haddonfield’s resident experts, perhaps after a couple of podcasters question her sanity or whether her account of The Shape is even trustworthy.

A wingnut Tommy Doyle

Tommy was the kid under Laurie’s care in the first film. Instead of having him be a community organizer, and helping galvanize a public against Myers, it’s more interesting to have him be some kind of crank, exploiting his connection to the case and putting forward unreliable, or stupid theories and having him be an obstacle to Laurie. This can be a way to further divide Haddonfield residents…who are you, Team Laurie or Team Tommy?

Hawkins

The original responding officer from the first Halloween, can be living his life in retirement on the other side of the country putting the events of that night behind him, being a reluctant hero now or just staying as far away from the proceedings as humanly possible. Can also make him a conspiracy theorist saying that The Shape was a government creative, and being gently urged into retirement by spinning wild theories.

The Halloween house

The structure could be slated for redevelopment as part of a condo project, or could be shown by real estate agents. Hell, it could be an Air B’n’B listing. After all, enough time has passed for this to still be considered notorious.