David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills

When David Gordon Green’s 2018 Halloween dropped I didn’t quite believe that talk of an entire trilogy was true because we’ve heard that one before. As such, there were things that felt unwieldy, strange and open ended in the narrative that are explored further and deeper in Halloween Kills, a film that is getting some serious bad mojo out there in internet land. Well, it’s certainly not perfect, but I still enjoyed it for what it was: an expansion on the 1978 Halloween night and Myers lore with a whole circus tent of new characters, comic relief asides, callbacks, fresh themes and a surprising amount of actors from Carpenter’s original film returning once again. It’s hectic, it’s cluttered, at times it feels like far too much is going on but there’s also this feverish momentum to it as Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie and her whole band frantically run about trying to track down Michael and kill him. There’s her daughter Karen played by the always lovely Judy Greer and granddaughter Allyson played by Andi Matichak, a wonderful actress who creates a character you care about and is the emotional lynchpin of this new vision, I like the dynamic between the three of them that is given more room to develop here. Will Patton returns as Haddonfield’s toughest Sheriff’s Deputy, it’s always nice to see him and I’m not sure what’s spoiler territory or not in mentioning who shows up but none of it seems to really be a secret, they are kind of hit and miss across the board. Anthony Michael Hall is oddly stilted and stiff as grown up Tommy Doyle (where’s the 78 Doyle actor?) , while Kyle Richards is utterly sensational reprising her role as now adult Lindsay Wallace, she has become a terrific actress, a beautiful woman and the closest the film gets to a true retro Scream Queen, she rocks it in the single most suspenseful Michael sequence I’ve seen in these intense new visions. Equally effective is the wonderful Robert Longstreet as adult Lonnie Elam, exuding the same gritty humanity he brought to Mike Flanagan’s Haunting Of Hill House and Midnight Mass. This might be the most ambitious Halloween sequel we’ve seen yet and, naturally, not all of it works or clicks into place in a way that feels earned and organic, but look back at each instalment in the canon and you’ll find films that aren’t perfect, are rough around the edges but to a true diehard fan of this franchise (raises hand) all have some lovable quality or aspect that can be enjoyed and held dear. Except for for Resurrection, fuck that movie right up it’s Jack o’ lantern ass. But Kills is a sequel with a lot of inspiration and heart for the Myers mythos, the overarching Haddonfield saga and the slasher motif. There’s a sequence in the film where Haddonfield’s residents are whipped up into an angry, frenzied mob trying to hunt down Michael, but they become a maniacal, non thinking rabble with tunnel vision instead of carefully examining their situation and forming a tactical, realistic plan. I see a lot of that on the interwebs, where one bad review snowballs into a fervour of keyboard mashing until a big dumb mob forms to rip the film a new one. But did that first guy even see the thing, or form a focused, logical assessment of why the film is bad? Did you, dear critic, even read that before suiting up and joining the ranks? If you saw Halloween Kills and genuinely thought it was a bad film and can concisely articulate for us why it didn’t work for you, then carry on. But don’t just pitch your voice in tune with the din because that’s the way the fish are swimming, because that doesn’t make you cool, babe, it just makes you boring. I for one got a lot of enjoyment from the film, both in that special nostalgic spooky way the original two films made me feel and in a fascinating expansion of lore sensibility too. It’s not a perfect film and maybe not even a great one, but it sure works as an effective, formidable and entertaining chapter of the Michael Myers legacy for me.

-Nate Hill

Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2

Rob Zombie was always going to make the jump from musician to filmmaker, you could just feel it in the air and it also felt apparent that he’d be a successful one too, unlike a few of his compadres (poor Dee Snider). The term shock rock has been applied to his work and that can be said of his films too; he’s always been about brash, crass stylistic choices and as such it shocks *me* when people are appalled at his films and their off putting nature, I mean this is Rob Zombie the heavy metal guy we’re talking about here, not someone innocuous like Barry Levinson. What consistently surprises me about his work in film is that along with all the appropriately trashy, nasty imagery and visual grotesquerie there is a strong drive to explore themes, cultivate mature, realistic characters and build worlds that feel like our our own to tell his scary stories in. This is all apparent in his Halloween 2 which I feel is an overlooked, misunderstood piece of horror madness and brilliance.

Being a huge fan of his original Halloween reboot I was surprised and curious at his decision to follow it up, because the first stands on its own and wraps up very nicely in the final moments, in its own way and as a calling card to Carpenter’s original. But he and the Myers name made Dimension Films a big pile of money and this film went ahead, which I’m grateful for. His vision of H2 is a spectacularly terrifying, relentlessly bleak and disarmingly psychological one, worlds away from his first outing and while it still bears the profane, yokel brand of his dialogue writing in spots, this is some of the most down to earth filmmaking he’s done. Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor Compton) is a mess following events past, and understandably so. She lives with her friend Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris, a perennial totem of the franchise) and Sheriff Leigh Brackett (Brad Dourif), barely coping with constant nightmares, waking dreams and hallucinations from her trauma and sees a psychiatrist (the great Margot Kidder) who doesn’t prove to be all that effective. Malcolm McDowell’s once helpful and compassionate Dr. Loomis has fought his own trauma by drinking hard and becoming a cynical, nasty media whore who cruelly makes it public that Laurie is in fact Michael’s baby sister, which doesn’t help her mental climate much. Add to this the fact that Michael did indeed survive that fateful Halloween night and is slowly making his way back to Haddonfield for round two and you have all the ingredients for a perfect storm.

This film is horror to its core but I also love how Zombie dutifully explores Post traumatic stress disorder in brutally realistic fashion, something that none of the other films in the series bothered to look at, seriously anyways. Compton is fantastic in a picture of hell as Laurie here, disheveled and dissociated to dangerous levels and damaged by Michael’s evil beyond repair. Michael (Tyler Mane) is different too, spending much of the film without his mask and followed by ethereal visions of his long dead mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) and otherworldly, surreal demonic figures who spur him on in haunting dream sequences. Dourif is emotionally devastating as Brackett and people sometimes forget just what kind of dramatic heavy lifting this guy is capable of. He plays a nice, kind man who only ever tried to protect his daughter and Laurie both and when they collectively pass through the event horizon of being able to heal from the horror, the anguish and heartbreak in his performance shakes you to the bone. Zombie populated his supporting ranks with a trademark bunch of forgotten genre faces like Daniel Roebuck, Dayton Callie, Richard Brake, Richard Rhiele, Howard Hesseman, Mark Boone Jr, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Duane Whitaker and Sean Whalen and new talent like Brea Grant, Nancy Birdsong, Octavia Spencer, Angela Trimbur and, uh… Weird Al Yankovic too. Michael spends much of the film on his journey back to Haddonfield here after escaping a percussive ambulance crash (perhaps of his own elemental making) and as such many of the shots we get are him on the moors, farmlands and eerie fields of the neighbouring counties, haunting the land like some restless spirit until it comes time to kill once again. The atmosphere is one of dread and abstract mental unrest as we see each character, including Michael himself, begin to lose it. It all culminates in a horrifying, darkly poetic confrontation complete with a hectic police chopper and all the careening madness we can expect from Zombie’s vision of this world. Then he decides to give this legacy a disquieting send off that works sadly and beautifully by bringing back the song Love Hurts, this time crooned softly by Nan Vernon instead of a raucous strip bar sound system. Whether you’re attuned to Zombie’s aesthetic or not, there’s just no denying his artistic style, commitment to world building and brave openness in reinvention and experimentation within an established mythos. Great film.

-Nate Hill

Halloween 6: The Curse Of Michael Myers – that glorious Producer’s Cut

Halloween 6: The Curse Of Michael Myers was one curious and troubled production, living up to that title and then some. Bashed on release, fans heard hushed rumours of the fabled ‘Producer’s cut’, a much different take on the story with numerous alternate scenes, augmented kills and a brand new score by Alan Howarth. I finally got a chance to snag a Blu Ray of it from amazon (for six bucks no less, I’d get on that now if you’re interested) and after checking it out last night I’m elated to say it’s pretty much a whole new film as well as one of the best of the sequels, between the changes to story and the beautiful picture restoration.

Here’s the cool thing about Halloween 6 for me: while the rest in the franchise all sort of come as stylistic and narrative package deals/double feature type things with one another, this really stands on its own. The original and 2 happen on the same Halloween night and both have Carpenter’s stamp plus Laurie Strode. 4 & 5 feature Danielle Harris’s Jamie Lloyd and bear similar approaches. H20 and Resurrection both have an early 2000’s Scream/MTV vibe and an older Laurie Strode. Rob Zombie’s two versions were intrinsic to one another and even the 2018 reboot is getting some three’s company fellowship in the coming years. But 6 is really a singular, unique vision and stands like a lighthouse of originality albeit still bearing the framework and blueprint of the Myers legacy.

Michael is back and more violent than ever as he hunts down Jamie (J.C. Brandy stepping in for Danielle Harris) and in turn pursued by the now semi retired Dr. Loomis (beloved Donald Pleasance in his final franchise appearance), his colleague Dr. Wynn (Mitchel Ryan) and the now grown up Tommy Doyle, played by a young Paul Rudd in a turn that can only be described as a knowingly campy harbinger of his then untapped comic talent. Michael shows up in 90’s Haddonfield on that night of nights to cause quite a bit of trouble for the family living in his old house, but his ultimate endgame is to find Jamie’s baby, who somehow holds the key to… something.

So this is known as that Halloween film that betrayed the legacy by explaining away Michael’s evil with the inclusion of a spooky pagan cult that worships the power of ancient Celtic runes and thereby both gives him his power and uses him for their agenda. Not even Rob Zombie was that brazen with his extended Smith’s Grove childhood sequence. I have no real problems with the direction they went here though. Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for spooky folk horror, maybe it’s the excellently atmospheric Howarth score that sells the weirdness, who knows. I suspect it’s the big, unwieldy and multi-canon best that this franchise has become over the years though. There’s been a few restarts, do overs, lapses in overall logic and liberties taken with continuity to allow new ideas and the paving over of them next time someone gets out the crayons. What’s wrong with a Myers timeline in which he’s controlled by a spooky Pagan cult whose leader looks like Jack The Ripper dresses by Johnny Cash’s tailor? It’s cool, it’s well done and in terms of camp, style and music it holds a candle and then some to other entries in this run. This Producer’s Cut is the way to go though mind you, I’ll probably toss my old DVD and only ever revisit this cut again.

-Nate Hill

David Gordon Green’s Halloween

David Gordon Green’s update on John Carpenter’s Halloween is currently slashing its way through theatres, and aside from a few nit-picky asides, it’s a winner, both in terms of a genuinely scary horror and as the long awaited sequel to a film that practically reinvented the printing press of the horror landscape.

The new Halloween is sleek, vicious, aesthetically pleasing and brings back Michael Myers to do far more killing than he ever did the first time around, as this takes place in a universe bereft of any other sequels, an interesting choice which gives the it a fresh, immediate vibe. Also back is Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode, who has calcified into a paranoid, blunt realist who doesn’t so much worry if Michael will come home, but just somehow knows it in her bones. Judy Greer is fantastic as her estranged daughter Karen, Toby Huss provides great comic relief as her husband and Andi Matichak is a sensational find as Laurie’s granddaughter Alyson, who echoes both the resilience and vulnerability we remember in Laurie when she was her age. Will Patton also kicks ass as the Haddonfield Sheriff’s deputy, always great to see him.

It’s nice to see references that aren’t overt or forced, but woven into the narrative almost seamlessly and with purpose. Many instances feel serendipitous, and as the infamous classroom scene always intones and reiterates here, fate is an inexorable bitch from which there is no escape. Green and his team have lovingly made Michael the relentless stalking Shape we fondly remember, using fluid tracking shots, lingering suspense, mounting dread and those classical music cues to herald his arrival on the fringes of nocturnal suburbia like a monster in a bad dream. There are impeccably orchestrated scares involving a closet and a motion sensor light that are impressively effective and nerve shredding. There were a few things that felt dumb, like the extended involvement of a Dr. Loomis proxy called Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) who at first is welcome until his arc gets inexplicably loopy, as well as some ham fisted writing for Alyson’s male friends, one of whom is so irritating I wish they’d casted an actor who looked and sounded like less of a ripe cheese, but oh well, at least he’s short lived.

Now, my favourite thing about the film: that beautiful score, and I’m not just referring to the original jangly tune. Carpenter himself, his son Cody and Daniel A. Davies worked together to not only rework the iconic theme a bit but compose swaths of new stuff, atmospheric passages and nightmarish synths that are instantly worthy of the main theme. This is definitely the best sequel since the original Halloween 2, which can be considered a companion piece to Carpenter’s first anyways as he reportedly directed chunks of it. This feels like a slasher should, but it’s also smart, deliriously stylish and scary in that elemental way where it’s not the violence itself that haunts the experience, but the spaces in between where Michael is lurking with intent and the suspense builds. That’s what Halloween is about.

-Nate Hill