Halloween 2018

Faulkner wrote, “Memory believes before knowing remembers,” and many of us believed when we first saw Halloween. And even if it was before our time, its shadows continue to flicker.

We know that Carpenter’s Halloween is one of the all-time great horror films. It’s a starter on any classic horror roster, and whether it laces up with Martyrs, Maniac, Suspiria, Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Night of the Living Dead is up for debate, its inclusion on the team NEVER is.

Our pal Jonathan at Daily Dead says in his Halloween review that studio releases often cater to those who “haven’t built up their horror IQ,” and while that may sound dismissive, it’s true.  We’re beating metaphors with a lead pipe here, but Halloween is to Joseph Conrad, what The Purge is to E.L. James. It’s Beethoven to Annabelle’s Cardi B.

So yeah, it goes without saying that Michael Myers’ work boots are tough to fill.

Enter Blumhouse and director David Gordon Green.

Halloween 2018 wipes the sequel slate clean and gives us Laurie Strode in PTSD survivalist mode. In the interceding four decades that MM’s been confined to an insane asylum, it seems like the hulking killer has gotten more intensive therapy than his victims.

Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is now a wigged out granny (here, referred to oddly and formally as “Grandmother,” …but not all of us were lucky enough to nave a nona or an oma).

She’s a reclusive drunk who’s hunkered down in a home that doubles as a fortress and bomb shelter, with a sliding escape hatch buried under a kitchen counter (daughter Karen ruefully quips, “welcome to my childhood”).

It’s rare (and ballsy) to explore Laurie’s psyche (and the impact its had on her immediate family), to this great an extent. She’s estranged from the rest of the Strodes, save for granddaughter Allyson (the sweetly compelling and headstrong Andi Matichak).

Michael is confined to a state facility, and shown from behind, looks like a grizzled Brett Favre. The inmates are given yard time on a square grid that looks like Myers will move from Knight to F3. A true crime podcast duo a la Serial, has received security clearance to get a visit with the mute psychopath. Like a rough Tinder date, they don’t get much in the way out banter out of The Shape even after goading him with a replica mask. They move on to see if Laurie Strode will give them good radio.

Cue the inevitable prison facility transfer. We know from watching hundreds of action films, that it’s virtually impossible for officials to handle these. They really need a police escort. When will these folks EVER learn? Soon, The Shape is on the loose and when two unlucky Illinois locals happen upon the upturned bus, that’s when things really come alive and we get to see one of the film’s many (too many?) callback kills. It’s chilling and brutal, catering to a modern audience while keeping with MM’s MO.

To the extent the rest of Halloween 2018 maintains the momentum is up for debate. The audience for this screening didn’t do the gasp + laugh combo, the surefire sign that things are going swimmingly. And while that shouldn’t factor in, theater audiences enhance rather than detract from the proceedings. Not sure what to make of this, and Halloween 2018 will require a repeat viewing at home for the definitive statement.

A lot of good came from this production though: Toby Huss brings the dad jokes as Allyson’s pop; Laurie’s son-in-law, Jibrail Nantambu is terrifically funny as one of the local kids; and Drew Scheid makes for a perfectly pathetic incel.  And of course, Jamie Lee Curtis sprays a big can of foaming whoop-ass in the lead.

Tentatively, *** (out of 5) until further notice…

[Check out our discussion of Halloween 2018 on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

A fun directional pivot for the series, and the first appearance of Kane Hodder as the man behind the mask, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, is truth in title and a fun double entendre. New (or fresh) blood: new members admitted to a group, typically as an invigorating force.

There aren’t many ways to go with a stalk-and-slash premise that boils down to “masked guy going on a rampage in the woods.” But here, director John Carl Buechler adds some supernatural / telekinesis elements that bring a fun, Cronenberg-lite touch to the Camp Crystal Lake series in the form of researcher, Dr. Crews.

Jason is rotting on the bed of a lagoon, and this Crystal Lake looks more like a Louisiana bog. Crews is studying young Tina Shepard, a girl with the power to move things with her mind, who’s inadvertently caused the death of her father, as well as reanimated Mr. Voorhees from the lake bottom. He’s an institute-appointment psychiatrist who’s more interested in self-aggrandizement than helping poor Tina assuage her feelings of guilt. And she’s a bit like Charlene in Stephen King’s Firestarter (or Carrie, to acknowledge an oft-cited debt).

The rest of Friday is, of course, Jason getting down to the business of killing once he is broken free from his chains and emerges from his sub-aqueous ecosystem.

Dr. Crews is weed-wacked, and Kane Hodder is a kind of Lucio Fulzi Zombie of a Jason, complete with rotting maggot/worm visage and a hulking physicality.

The second unit director and Buechler shot test footage of the allegedly “too small” Hodder (we should all be that small at 6’2″)  in a mock-up mask and suit and sent it to Paramount. And the rest…is history, at least as far as Hodder in the lead role is concerned (Hodder would go on to play Jason five times).

How does this fare in terms of fitting into the Friday canon?

It’s not the best, but The New Blood is far from the worst: that (arguably) came a year later in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.

*** (out of 5)