Posts Tagged ‘Jamie Lee Curtis’

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Alive And Kicking: Halloween 20 Years Later

October 18, 2008

HALLOWEEN: 20 YEARS LATER (H2O) (1998)
d. Steve Miner 

Now we’re talking! After the dismal and misguided part 6 comes this invigorating jolt to the franchise. A large credit goes to the fantastic script and the great ensemble cast.

Oh Shit!

Oh, Crap!

This movie gingerly skips over the events of Parts 3-6, while not entirely retconning them, and picks up plot threads from Part 2. A fairly wise move that allows the film to feel like it’s starting fresh because it dumps the Thorn cult subplot and goes back to its roots (far more successfully than Part 4 had been touted).

Picking up 20 years from the original events, the film reintroduces Laurie Strode who has been relocated by the WPA to Glenwood, CA under the new name, Keri Tate. She teaches at the posh Hillcrest Academy where her son, John (Josh Hartnett in his first major role) also attends. She is still haunted by visions of her brother, Michael, and it is causing tension between her and her son.

The great thing about giving her a son, other than to raise the stakes of what she has to lose, is that we get a relationship that allows her to be human and sympathetic. She has been medicating herself to suppress her memories of that haunting and fateful night, but, in classic horror movie return-of-the-repressed  type fashion, Michael comes back.

He first starts in Langdon, Illinois where he pays a visit to the assistant nurse of Dr. Loomis (Nancy Stephen reprising her role!) and discovers the new identity of his sister. And this initial scene telegraphs how smart and fresh the script will serve up the rest of the scares and thrills; it learned from the Kevin Williamson school of horror screenwriting.

On a side note, Michael looks a lot leaner in this film; he definitely lost the bulk he gained from film to film and it makes him scary fast; like a wiry starved rat. And it seems they cast Chris Durand mainly for his eyes; he does a great job of exuding childlike innocence with pure evil — like a kid intrigued by pulling the wings off flies.

In any case, Michael makes his way towards the academy, which, on the weekend of Halloween, is emptied of practically all the staff and student body (who have gone on a trip to Yosemite) except for a few who remain behind to party it up. This group includes Laurie’s son, his girlfriend (a young Michelle Williams) and another couple. During the time he is traveling, like a fateful bullet on its way to its target, the movie allows us to get to know the characters a little.

And when Michael strikes, as he does, these kids are allowed to fight back and even express how scared shitless they are. Just these actions alone are pretty revolutionary for a slasher film. They truly become our stand-ins because they smartly challenge our suspension of disbelief. What I mean to say is, whenever we watch these kinds of films, we hate it when the characters are stupid and do stupid things. In this movie, they are allowed to do smart things, like fight back. They’re still outmatched by the unkillable Michael, but the very effort allows us to root for them and makes it even more painful when the characters we like end up dying.

For example, when Laurie has a chance to flee with her son and girlfriend she decides to stay and confront Michael. Now this may seem like a stupid thing, but it’s set up in such a way that her action becomes noble and heroic. It’s a kick-ass moment for the character, because up until this point in her life (even reaching back into Parts 1 and 2), she never fought back or really stood up for herself; she was always running away. Here she takes charge, and it is empowering.

Even John Carpenter’s original score benefits from the reboot; it is scored with lush and moody strings and doesn’t fully reveal itself in its original sparse piano melody until after the final scene plays out.

And the final scene is incredible. It is the best death scene in any Halloween picture that made me cheer out loud for the victor. You have to see it.

So, because of a smart script, and a great cast (including Adam Arkin and LL Cool J in great supporting roles) the Halloween franchise finally gets a sequel fairly worthy, and in some instances, even better than the original source movie. Three and a half stars, hands down.

Next up, we’ll see how they squander all this good will in Halloween: Resurrection.

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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!