Posts Tagged ‘Donald Pleasance’

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Oh, Just Die Already.

October 17, 2008

HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995)
d. Joe Chappelle 

The downward slide continues with this last entry prior to the H2O reboot. It saddens me to think that this would be one of Donald Pleasance’s last movie and that, if IMDB is correct, his role was further reduced in the editing room because the director found his scenes “boring.” I would think many scenes suffer from over-zealous editing because there is a disjointed feeling from scene to scene. But still, I was immediately struck by how frail Donald Pleasance seemed in the six years since the last film.

Halloween 6 tells the story of Michael Myers’s search for Jamie Lloyd’s daughter who has fallen into Tommy Doyle’s care; parallel to this storyline is the reintroduction of the Strode family, specifically Cara and her son, Danny. For some inexplicable reason, Danny is hearing orders from the Thorn cult, a mysterious organization attempting to locate the baby to sacrifice it to Michael so he can leave Haddonfield the hell alone.

In any case, this movie picks up themes from the last film, specifically the intriguing if misguided attempt to explain Michael Myers’s motivation with the Thorn cult origin. Basically, this cult curses a family to be sacrificed so the village can be blessed; there are some minor parallels in this idea to the far superior (and original) Wicker Man. What’s commendable is the attempt to tie in Halloween’s (the holiday) origins to the contemporary mythology of Michael Myers, however it feels like its in the wrong movie. The cross-breeding of the supernatural with the slasher is not entirely unconventional, it just feels wrong.

There are many missteps this movie takes in spite of strong cinematography and a step up in special effects. First of all, it reintroduces the Strode family. Plus! However they don’t realize that the house they just moved into is the original Myers house (looking more as it once did unlike the gothic fabrication of Halloween 5). How the hell do they not know?!

Another plus is Paul Rudd plays Tommy Doyle, the grown-up version of the kid Laurie Strode babysat in the original film. However, his character is inconsistent and inadvertently gets more laughs than not — and you can tell Paul Rudd can’t quite get the proper handle on his character. Also Jamie Lloyd is back all growed up and has just given birth — hmm, interesting. She is killed within the first act — no surprise here, but what a waste. Are Hellraiser and A Nightmare on Elm Street the only franchises to keep its original lead heroine alive past two movies? Oh wait, Scream does as well. And Alien. Whatever, it’s still pretty rare in the slasher genre.

Finally, the Thorn cult is so vague in its conception and execution that their motives are muddied and inconsequential. There is the suggestion that Danny, who can hear their voices, may be susceptible to the same rage as Michael Myers, I think. It’s never fully explained and the mystery isn’t worth investigating. I understand the director and writer were going for a Rosemary’s Baby type cult, but they fail to properly establish them as a presence other than the one Man In Black figure. Even the cult in Hot Fuzz is more dangerous than these fools.

And, unfortunately, the ending suffers from lacking a true final confrontation between Dr. Loomis and Michael, mostly because Donald Pleasance died before completing his scenes. So the last we ever get of the good doctor is an off-screen scream that implies his death at the hands of The Shape. That sucks. 

So, some good lighting, some good gory effects, but a lackluster story and the death of Donald Pleasance cast a pall over this film. One star.

Hopefully things pick up with the franchise reboot, Halloween: 20 Years Later, or the rather silly abbreviated H2O.

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Get A Hobby, Michael!

October 16, 2008

HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1989)
d. Dominique Othenin-Girard

As earnest and as surprising as Halloween 4 struck me, this film feels flabby and not as fresh. Coming out within a year of the last one, it settles for typical slasher movie tropes despite an effort to maintain continuity within the Haddonfield-verse and despite an anemic attempt to inject new interest in the franchise.

Picking up where the last film ended, this movie has eerie parallels to the structure of Halloween II. We follow the fate of Michael after he falls down the well, to discover his near escape and recovery in a nearby river-shack. Only after establishing that Michael is still alive do we jump forward a year to revisit Jamie, suffering nightmares and voiceless in a children’s clinic.

For much of the movie, Dr. Loomis spends his time brow-beating Jamie into giving him info on Michael’s whereabouts, but for some inexplicable reason (besides having lost her ability to speak) she won’t help him except when her immediate friends are in danger. While Rachel from the last movie is offed in the first act, she is replaced by a friend, Tina — perhaps the only bit of good casting in this film.

So, as we lumber like the Shape from set piece to set piece, the kills not feeling particularly inventive or scary (or even gory) the movie feels mired in mud. Even the final confrontation between Dr. Loomis and Michael lacks any real thrill or tension — a heavy chain net? Really? And sedative darts? What?!

This film also has the dubious honor of introducing the mysterious “Man In Black” who wears a tattoo seen briefly in Michael Myer’s house (which, by the way, looks nothing like the original house from the first film), and leaves more question marks hopefully to be answered in the next installment.

So 1 1/2 stars just for the able and engaging performance of Wendy Kaplan as Tina, and for the script paying attention to continuity. Otherwise not a very memorable entry in the Halloween franchise.

Next up, we hack our way into Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, featuring an early performance by Paul Rudd.

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“We Are Talking About Evil On Two Legs!”

October 15, 2008

HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS (1988)
d. Dwight H. Little

Hoo boy, and does he! A little pudgier than previously, but he’s back! And so is Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) spouting warnings about “evil on two legs” to anyone who’ll listen — and surprisingly, people do.

Halloween 4 tells the story of Michael’s return to Haddonfield, 10 years to the day of his original killing spree; apparently he and Dr. Loomis both survived the explosion of the oxygen tanks, and while Michael went into a coma, Dr. Loomis suffered severe burns on the right side of his body.

Here We Go Again!

Here We Go Again!

During a transfer from a federal psych ward back to Smith’s Grove ward, Michael escapes to seek a young girl named Jamie (nice!) who is the daughter of Laurie Strode. It’s not explicitly stated what happened to Laurie, but it is implied that she died some 11 months earlier. Jamie is now in the foster care of the Carruthers.

In revisiting this franchise, I was surprised at the effective mood and some fair scares; this is mainly brought on by some solid acting, Donald Pleasance’s spouting notwithstanding (though it’s not as histrionic as I expected), and very effective lighting. It does a good job of establishing many new characters while keeping in mind its roots (mentions of Chief Brackett, Jamie’s photo of Laurie, Jamie dressing in a clown suit for trick or treat).

Perhaps what surprised me the most, other than how seriously this movie was taking itself, was the script; it is at times engaging in setting up the thrills, but most of all, it actually respects its characters.

For example, when Dr. Loomis shows up ranting that Michael has returned, Sheriff Meeker actually trusts and believes him! Sure, he expresses some doubt, but a quick look at the decimated police station is enough to spur him to action. This makes Michael’s threat all that more believable because these guys are scared and act sensibly — they hole up at Meeker’s house and prepare to barricade themselves, unaware, of course, that Michael is already there.

Another moment in the script that floored me was after Rachel and Jamie elude Michael at the school, they bump into a vigilante group. After catching them up to speed, their response is to get the hell out of there. Good for them! No, “let’s split up and catch him” bullshit, just get in the truck and go!

Of course, these logical reactions by these people only lead to my main complaint about the movie: Michael Myers is fucking everywhere! He’s in the tea pot for crying out loud! (not really) But apparently he is faster than cars and able to read minds. So when the local gun group is like, letsgeddafugouttahere, guess who hitches a ride on the back of the pick up. Yup. Michael. When Dr. Loomis and Jamie, well ahead of Michael, get to the school, guess who they bump into in the hallways. Yup. Michael. Yeahbuhwha–!

The last leap in logic, which soured the movie for me is the final ’“twist” ending which comes out of left field, even if you were to factor in trauma spurring on the character’s actions. It doesn’t make sense.

So not the total turkey I half-remembered, but not any better than Halloween II and not even as good as Halloween 3. Therefore, two stars.

Next, we keep rolling with the Halloween sequels — Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers.

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“It’s Time, Michael…”

October 10, 2008

Halloween II (1981)
d. Rick Rosenthal

Oh yeah, I can’t begin to describe how much I like this movie. I’ve seen it before, but I thought I’d run through the entire Halloween series as I try to cram in all types of horror/sci-fi/fantasy films before the day of Halloween. And yeah, it isn’t the greatest sequel, but due mainly to John Carpenter’s and Debra Hill’s script, it does a really great job of taking and expanding the scope of the first film.

C'mon Baby, Light My Fire

C’mon Baby, Light My Fire

Basically, the film re-establishes the last five minutes of the first film with some minor revisions and additions. Think back to the beginning of Back to the Future 2 or The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and how cool it was that it did the exact same thing. It immediately replaces us in the thick of the action and re-establishes many of the main characters.

Here, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is rescued by Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) from being killed by Michael Myers. However, just as in the ending of the first film, the body of Michael has disappeared despite being shot! six! times! (as Mr. Pleasance shouts, chewing every word like it was a last meal) and falling of a second floor balcony onto the cold hard ground. And, in an interesting writers’ choice, we end up in Michael’s POV in the moments immediately following this exchange; we abandon our protagonist, Laurie, for pretty much most of the first act. At first I thought this was a mistake, but on reflection, it’s actually a pretty cool idea.

What’s cool about this decision is that it allows us to experience the flow of news information that slowly expands outward about the killings and the bodies discovered in the house opposite the Strode abode. We get to see how the information affects the neighborhood and how it spreads. And of course, within this first act, Michael gets to kill again.

Another interesting decision made by the writers is the decision to keep Laurie traumatized and on drugs; for a large part of the movie, she is bed-ridden and out of action (similar to Judith O’Dea in Night of the Living Dead). When Michael finally tracks her to the hospital, we understand how extremely vulnerable she is, and yet she still proves very resourceful and capable.

The script also establishes a reason as to why Michael has targeted Laurie. It’s a little bit of a soap opera plot involving a hushed up birth and adoption and name change, and yet it remains plausible and acceptable. What doesn’t seem plausible is why Michael waited for as long as he did, and how he found out about his relationship with Laurie. Hmmm.

Finally, this film plants the seeds of Samhain and the druish hocus-pocus which, I believe, parts 5 & 6 pick up on.

One of the biggest drawbacks of this film is the music; the score suffers from not being performed by John Carpenter and being an 80s synth update rather than the percussive and haunting piano. Also, there is the killing where MM tilts his head sideways, recalling the same movement after he killed P.J. Soles’s boyfriend in the first film; here it is done in close-up and it’s neither effective or creepy.

Still, there are a lot of cool things about this movie: the shoes falling of the nurse as MM lifts her off the floor with a scalpel in her back; the very cool background killing of Bud while his girl sits in the foreground; then there’s the bug-nuts slamming of the cop car into the teenager. And finally, there is Dr. Loomis’s last line of this film. It would have been the perfect ending for both characters, except Halloween IV happened.

In any case, this movie back to back with the first, and classic, film makes for a satisfying duology. I give this film three out of five stars.

Once again, I will promise to see The Fabulous Stains. Cross your fingers!