It is always a delight indeed to sit down with the director of one of my favorite movies. Steve Carver (Big Bad Mama, Lone Wolf McQuade), acclaimed filmmaker and photographic artist extraordinaire has given us all, not only great cinema, but now his first book, Western Portraits: The Unsung Heroes & Villains of the Silver Screen (Edition Olms, 2019). Rendered in evocative tones reminiscent of Edward Sheriff Curtis’s immortal images, the stylized photographs in Western Portraits capture the allure and mystique of the Old West, complete with authentic costuming, weaponry and settings. Among the subjects who posed for the book are the popular actors Karl Malden, David Carradine, R. G. Armstrong, Stefanie Powers, L. Q. Jones, Denver Pyle and 77 others.
From the epic feature film to the TV series and serial, this coffee table book puts the story of character actors and the significance of their memorable roles into an entertaining perspective. Appealing at once to lovers of classic cinema, Western history aficionados, writers, scholars and collectors of nostalgia and fine art photography, Western Portraits of Great Character Actors: The Unsung Heroes & Villains of the Silver Screen will awaken movie memories in people’s hearts while introducing others to the amazing work of these acting artists, serving as a record of the best of the Hollywood Western.
With collaborators C. Courtney Joyner – a writer whose first major output was a string of more than 25 movie screenplays beginning with The Offspring starring Vincent Price, and Prison directed by Renny Harlin. His novels include the new fantasy-adventure Nemo Rising and the Shotgun Western series, which have both been optioned for television – and Roger Corman – Legendary film director-producer – who contributed the foreword for Western Portraits alongside Joyner’s crafted series of insightful essays to accompany the photographs.
He learnt the art of story-boarding from the great Alfred Hitchcock, he learnt to make pasta with Sergio Leone, and has directed the man we remember as the American Ninja. Steve is so full of stories I hope his next book is definitely an autobiography, but in the meantime we have this glorious work to sit and marvel at. Some of the greatest character actors of all time (that have also been my guests, in the persons of Tim Thomerson and Fred Williamson) take center stage in a book the is the ultimate amalgamation of fine art and Hollywood yesteryear.
Brooklyn native Steve Carver studied photography at the University of Buffalo and Washington University in St. Louis. He pursued a formal education in film-making at the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film Studies, also participating in the Directors Guild of America’s apprenticeship program. Prolific motion picture producer Roger Corman hired Carver to direct four movies, including Big Bad Mama. Carver also directed American action star Chuck Norris in An Eye for an Eye and Lone Wolf McQuade.
Eva Rojano is not your average RoboCop fan. I remember Mark Hamill’s narration of the TV special SPFX: The Empire Strikes Back, in which he states, and I’m paraphrasing here: “that Star Wars has excited a generation to such an extent that the children who have seen the film are motivated to become doers . . . as well as watchers.
Eva seems to be the modern day personification of this ideology. What began at the tender age of eight, has blossomed into more the obsession. It is now, unbridled creation. Of course with all artists, we find and fixate on books, movies, comics, fine art, music. These, while they may not have planted the seed, are certainly the fertilizer in which the formation and manifestation of dreams thrive.
Eva’s journey through the wilds of the universe which began with the brutal murder of officer Alex J. Murphy and his subsequent, phoenix-like resurrection as RoboCop, has seen her not only receive friendship and guidance for two of the franchises integral staples; in the form of Nancy Allen(eternally the dynamic and resourceful Officer Anne Lewis) and Edward Neumeier(one half of the creative genius writing team that gave rise to a franchise).
Under luminous glow and encouragement, Eva has ascended from her enthusiastic efforts in the production of electrifying art and fan-fiction, directly associated with the Robo-Universe, to a place where she now has the courage, just as all artists who have come before her, to step out from under the wing of the movie that has nurtured her dreams, and into the light that is birth of her own original concept and voice.
This current incarnation of Rojano’s prolific creative output manifests itself as a novel entitled: The Black Butterfly. And I was intrigued as ever to learn the story, the motivation . . . the journey behind what drove this fan among fans to dig below the surface of her own creative crust – unearthing something fresh, unique and touchingly profound.
What was once purely driven by that glorious cinema classic that is part man, part machine, all cop, now transforms into a bold new vision from a creator that has been fostered by the cinematic equivalent of lightning in a bottle – exploding on to the printed page near you…
Well it’s that time of year folks – when kids in costumes and horror movies walk hand in hand – and while it’s not a staple for folks at the end of October around these parts (it’s more the ropes and the reins, and the joy and the pain, and they call the thing rodeo time), doesn’t mean we can’t sit down together and watch us an awesome little horror gem…that’s quickly turning into my new beer and pizza night movie selection . . . . ART OF THE DEAD.
Imagine if you will, being an artist . . . being a struggling artist. You just want to put yourself out there – be lauded by as many people as possible, carve you name on the tree of immortality as it were. Now . . . you’re this artist and in order to get what you want you make a Faustian deal, so that your name and the power of your work shall be enticing art lovers long after you have slapped on the wooden coat and bought the farm. Trouble is, it’s not really fame that you’ll receive at your end of this deal. No, the ancient evil that has served as your patron has a different kind of eternal damnation in mind…
That’s when we meet the Wilson’s. Boy brings his girlfriend home to meet Dad, Step-Mom and Co. Dad does really well, the house is amazing . . . plus he’s decided to collect some art . . . OH NO! The paintings are shamanistic depictions of the SEVEN DEADLY SINS. Y’all know them…? Anyways the maniacal painter responsible achieved a life beyond death by taking the power he sought and evilly won by inducing, in those who gaze for too long at the paintings, whichever sin is in.
What results is a funky good time at the movies…and I encourage you all to make ART OF THE DEAD part of your Halloween movie banquet. Come watch as the Wilson family, a supportive girlfriend, the sister’s nemesis, an unfortunate hooker and a bold and committed priest do battle against art, black magic and original sin!
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 22: (L-R) Danny Tesla, Zach Chyz, Jessica Morris and Lukas Hassel attend the “Art of the Dead” exclusive cast and crew screening at Ahrya Fine Arts by Laemmle on January 22, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Mahal Empire)
I had a stellar time watching this…but…I have equal joy now in presenting the phenomenal cast and the genius writer/director of my new, favorite little B movie treat for All Hallows’ Eve . . .
Rolfe Kanefsky grew up in the suburbs of New York and attended Hampshire college where he studied Film. He began writing stories at a young age after his childhood dream of becoming a clown took the backseat to his interest in film. He has thus far written and directed 27 feature films and authored another 38 produced screenplays over the last 30 years. The cult flick “There’s Nothing Out There” was his debut at the age of twenty. Since then, Rolfe has continued to work in the horror genre with “The Black Room” starring Natasha Henstridge and Lin Shaye, “Party Bus To Hell” with Tara Reid, “The Hazing” starring Brad Dourif and Tiffany Shepis, “Jacqueline Hyde”, “Corpses”, and “Nightmare Man”. He was the winner of two Best Director awards for his horror flick, “Nightmare Man” at the Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy and The Supernatural Film Festival in Las Vegas & at the I.F.F.Y.N.T.X. Festival in Texas before the film went on to be picked up by After Dark and Lions Gate as one of the “8 Films To Die For: Horrorfest 2007.
Branching out into other genres, Rolfe wrote “Blonde & Blonder”, a comedy with Pamela Anderson and Denise Richards, “A Dog & Pony Show” with Mira Sorvino and Ralph Macchio, the western “Doc Holliday’s Revenge” starring Tom Berenger, thrillers such as “Tomorrow By Midnight” starring Carol Kane and Alexis Arquette and “1 In The Gun” with Steven Bauer and Robert Davi. Recent family fare include the animated “Space Dogs: Adventures To The Moon” with the voice of Alicia Silverstone “A Tiger’s Tail”, “Timber; The Treasure Dog”, “Puppy Swap” with Margo Kidder, “Jimmy’s Jungle”, the period crime story “Bonnie & Clyde: Justified”, and the musical “Adventures Into The Woods”.
Rolfe has also been making a name for himself in the Lifetime thriller world and has authored seven female-driven thrillers including “Killer Photo” aka “Watch Your Back” starring Annalynne McCord. “Deadly Sorority” with Greer Grammer and Moira Kelly, “The Wrong Babysitter” starring Daphe Zuniga, “Deadly Vows”, “Intensive Care” and “The Wrong Vacation”.
With 65 produced credits, Rolfe is a very active filmmaker/writer who continues to work in almost every genre in the business
Known for her portrayal of series regular Jennifer Rappaport on ABC’s “One Life to Live”, Jessica has cultivated her career as the leading lady in various television shows and independent films. Also making a memorable appearance in Universal’s theatrical success “Role Models”. Jessica has recently been the star of Lifetime TV’s hit movie “The Wrong Teacher” and has also had strong guest starring roles on popular Prime-time shows, including Fox’s “Rosewood” and TNT’s “Perception”. In addition, she leads the cast in Tom Six’s highly anticipated new feature film. Jessica stands out as an actress who conveys honesty and depth through all of the characters she plays and has also discovered her passion for screenwriting.
Born and raised in Denmark, Lukas Hassel trained and graduated from the Samuel Beckett Theater School, Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
As a screenwriter, Lukas won the CineStory Fellowship for his top 30 Nicholl’s Fellowship script, “The Mechanic”. This has been optioned by director/producer Charlie Stratton and is in pre-production.
Lukas wrote and directed the sci-fi short film “Into the Dark” which went on the win multiple awards for acting, writing and directing and played in over 70 film festivals world wide. His latest award winning horror short film, “The Son, the Father…”, has screened in 50+ festivals and counting, and got made after winning the Hollyshorts Film Festival competition for best screenplay. Mighty Tripod and Evil Slave LLC produced.
He has appeared on TV in shows such as Blue Bloods, Limitless, The Blacklist, Elementary and more. Currently, he’s shooting “Art of the Dead” opposite Tara Reid in Las Vegas.
Danny Tesla has starred in over 3000 live stage show performances around the world. 1000 of those shows has been his own one-man variety show that he created called “The Danny Tesla Show” He has been working in the entertainment industry for over 30 years.
Danny Tesla started performing at the age of 7 as the youngest member of “The Sunshine Singers” performing in shopping centers and theme parks like Dream World. He also worked in Productions with the Australian Ballet Company such as Onegin, Romeo & Juliet, Don Quixote, and Swan Lake. Throughout his school years he produced, directed and performed every month for 2000 of his fellow schoolmates. He studied with the best teachers in New York, London and Sydney in all aspects of performing from singing, acting, and dancing. One of his dancing teachers was award-winning choreographer Dein Perry who created “Tap Dogs” which lead to Dan being one of the Tap dancers in the Fox Searchlight movie “Bootmen” starring Sam Worthington and Adam Garcia. Which meant he was invited to perform with Adam as one of the lead tappers at the Opening Ceremonies of 2000 Olympic Games live in front of an audience of 100,000 people and telecast to 4 billion people worldwide.
He also performed in Productions on the finest cruises ships in the world. Whichever ship he was on its showcast always was voted number 1 in the fleet. He worked on Royal Viking Queen, Star Odyssey, Silver Cloud, P&O Fair Princess, P&O’s Artemis, Oriana.
A career highlight for Danny was when he was cast as Eugene in “Grease The Arena Spectacular” Which broke all box office records and still holds the record to this day. He worked alongside Australia’s biggest stars like Danni Minogue and Anthony Warlow and John Farnham. Because of his creative contribution to that production he was asked back into two other productions by the same company to reprise his role. Danny has now performed Grease over 300 times to over a million people around Australia and New Zealand.
Danny Tesla was invited to perform at some corporate events in Singapore in 2003 and since then has performed at over 750 events in Singapore. He decided in 2009 to make Singapore his home and became the Creative Director and founder of “Broadway Production Company Pte Ltd” which not only produced more shows for corporate events but also TV commercials and a Musical call “City Gym The Musical” which was staged at Jubilee Hall in January 2013. Danny wrote the script, music and lyrics to City Gym. He also directed and produced the production as well as starred in it. In 2014 Danny moved to Los Angeles and acted in many productions like HBO’s “All the way” starring Brian Cranston and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. That same year he was asked to sing for the soundtrack for a new musical “Tesla The Electrical Spectacle” Inspired by Nikola Tesla’s story Dan Thompson made his stage name Danny Tesla and continues to work under that name winning awards like Best Actor in the film “Birthday in a Dark room” portraying Professor Ansel Adams and starring in other films such as “Surface Wounds”
Moving back to his roots in live entertainment Danny Tesla moved to Las Vegas and performed in Evil Dead the Musical for 6 months on the famous Las Vegas Strip and as a regular actor in the No. 1 escape room in the Country (the Basement) for 8 months. In 2017 he continued to pass on his experience by teaching Acting classes regularly for LA casting Showcase in Las Vegas and lending his acting skills to readings of “Shark Attack the Musical” at the Space and regularly singing at the Venetian. In 2018 he is set to play a lead role as Dorian Wilde in the Feature Film “Art of the Dead” starring Tara Reid.
Danny Tesla is an accomplished Actor, Singer and Dancer.
Robert Donavan dabbled with acting for some time before getting serious about the art. He began studying with Robert F. Lyons when he was 42 years old, and within two years started making films.
He continues to study acting to this day, having admittedly neglected his training as a young man. He has worked with such teachers as Lurene Tuttle, Harvey Lembeck, and James Best. Currently he is studying under Kimberly Jentzen.
He has worked with directors Wayne Kramer, Fred Olen Ray, Jim Wynorski, David DeCoteau, Rolfe Kanefsky, Thomas Callaway, and Elliot Feld.
The number of films Robert Donavan has appeared in is close to 60. They cross genres from comedy, to drama, to science fiction, the supernatural, and to horror. He has portrayed scientists, secret agents, border patrol officers, military officers, FBI agents, drug dealers, psychiatrists, morticians, cowboys, and disgraced priests.
The voice over industry has been a good fit for him, having voiced quite a few commercials, and was until this year, the voice of Yahoo Fantasy Football, and the Toyota Fantasy Football Hall of Fame.
Retirement is not in Robert Donavan’s vocabulary, and he has said he fully expects to work through lunch on the day of his funeral.
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.
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.
I don’t know what they are putting in the water over there in Germany, but I have of late had the privilege of speaking with some of the country’s brightest indie stars. Starting with Dominik Starck and his action movie man-at-arms, Nico Sentner. Then, I stumble into the path of a couple more revolutionaries and fine gentlemen to boot, Erza Tsegaye and Nicolas Artajo – talking about their little gem of a movie, and as history will tell, the forerunner of a new wave in German horror films . . . SKIN CREEPERS. This country Germany seems to have more than just good beer on tap . . . seems the brew cool movie-makers too.
It’s the story (partially inspired by true events: where a Korean family performed an exorcism on a young woman who sadly lost her life) of two unsuccessful filmmakers who want to make a pornographic movie, and things go very, very wrong. See, their lead actress . . . . gets possessed by a demon.
It’s a film, although shot on a limited budget, that is already being recognized for its stunning visual effects and its old-school practical approach to film-making. Following a successful German theatrical run, the film is now celebrating its international release in the US, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland on multiple major VOD Platforms, including Amazon Prime and Tubi, among others.
Filmmaker Ezra Tsegaye, worked previously in commercials as a storyboard artist for Hollywood films such as “THE INTERNATIONAL,” and is also a successful comic strip artist, who was involved in the creation of the first original German superhero comic. This background as a comic book/storyboard artist is mainly responsible for the film’s unique visual style. The picture, produced by media entrepreneur Sebastian Wolf, started the project with the intent to revolutionize German Horror Cinema, putting it back on the map by giving this extraordinary movie the chance to reach the big screen.
So we chatted about the movie, of course. I heard what I would sound like – if dubbed for German audiences. There was talk of good beer, and a pub crawl in Berlin with the boys. How could this interviewer refuse?
SKIN CREEPERS, get out there and enjoy it…The Exorcist meets Evil Dead with a sexy twist!
Frank and Paul are back, this time to discuss John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece, Halloween and how it stacks up to David Gordon Green’s direct sequel. They also discuss the Rob Zombie remake as well as the legacy of the franchise and how it has endured over time.
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.
‘The Phantom Carriage’ (1921) dir. Victor Sjostrom
‘Lord, please let my soul come to maturity before it is reaped’
There’s a certain feeling that Halloween used to invoke when I was younger. It was a fun combination of dread and danger, ghost stories, candy and staying up late. It was crawling under a blanket on the couch and watching PG-Rated haunters with my parents or friends who would come over for a sleepover.
As I grew older this ambiance was replaced with R-Rated films and even more R-Rated shenanigans. It became profanity-laced MST3K style drinking bashes with my friends while watching zombies tear flesh and women get naked. Over the years that ‘old Halloween feeling’ if you want to call it that had all but been forgotten. But then the other day I crawled under the covers and watched Victor Sjostrom’s ‘The Phantom Carriage’ and that Halloween Spirit I hadn’t felt in so long – came roaring back and it felt fucking great!
This film had been on my list for a while. I’m ashamed it took me so long to get around to it. ‘The Phantom Carriage’ is a timeless tale of the macabre. The kind of horror that seeps into your bones. It does a tremendous job of combining the visceral elements of your old-timey chiller with a deeper, more philosophical message. Age has only benefitted this film. Its eerie tone enhanced by the years. The seamless F/X work gives one the impression they are experiencing something truly supernatural and the minimalist score by Mattie Bye for the 1998 restoration really underscores the film’s foreboding tone. Each frame simmers with a sorrowful terror that is captured magically by cinematographer Max Wilen. This is a special cinematic experience and one can see why it was a personal favorite of Bergman’s and Kubrick lifted an entire sequence of it for ‘The Shining’.
‘The Phantom Carriage’ opens with a couple ne’er-do-wells drinking in a graveyard on New Year’s Eve and one of them tells an old tale – that the last person to die each year has to drive the Carriage of Death that goes from door to door collecting the souls of the departed for the following year. When one of the men is killed in a brawl he joins an old friend on the doomed carriage and must revisit the shitty life decisions he made and their consequences before being able to reconcile the ghosts of the past which haunt him in the present. The film unfolds with flashbacks within flashbacks but is shrewdly broken up into 5 parts as to not become convoluted or tiresome.
This Halloween if you’re looking for a truly atmospheric and unsettling film that will get under your skin, turn the lights off and watch ‘The Phantom Carriage’. Trust me.