#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 28

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Halloween. The franchise that some (including some of the creators) say should never have become a franchise. After the runaway success of the first film, John Carpenter returned to lend a hand in writing the sequel as well as produce, even though he never intended for a sequel to be made in the first place. For the Third installment, Carpenter serves as producer only. The Intention was to drop the Michael Myers story and turn the franchise into an anthology with each film telling a separate story taking place on Halloween. Great Idea! Halloween III: Season of the Witch was ultimately a flop as fans clamored for the return of Myers. Well be careful what you wish for, fuckers…

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The ensuing three film arc was really only good for two things. Starting Danielle Harris on her path to becoming one of this generations greatest Scream Queens, and bringing back the always wonderful Donald Pleasance to reprise his role as Dr. Loomis. The plot involved Michael stalking and attempting to kill his Niece(Harris playing the young Jamie Lloyd) while Loomis tries to foil him. Part 5 sees the introduction of The Curse Of Thorn plotline which was fully explored in part 6 in an attempt to explain why Michael cannot die, and what compels him to kill his family. The concept behind the Curse of Thorn is that Michael had been under the influence of an ancient Celtic curse that drove him to  murder all family members in his bloodline. Once this task is complete, the curse would be passed to another small child. Right from the beginning of production, the film was waylaid by Jackassery on the part of Producer Paul Freeman and Director Joe Chappelle.

These two reportedly rewrote the ending on-set, sometimes even from shot to shot, all with deadlines looming. Freeman would do stupid things like send the crew home when crucial scenes needed to be shot, deleted scripted scenes indiscriminately, rewrote dialogue and action sequences, decided to direct second-unit shots as well as supervise the post production. Eventually his many fuck ups and bonehead decisions resulted in Miramax stepping in to take control of the film, and order reshoots.

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After filming and editing was completed, the film was given a test screening and in the ensuing Q&A, one viewer expressed displeasure at the ending. So Naturally, Miramax decided to excise the intended ending and a new one was shot, an ending which almost completely dropped the Curse Of Thorn Plot Line. Not only that, but 20 additional mins of footage was removed creating several glaring plot holes and resulting in the disappointed piece of shit we’ve known as Halloween 6 all these years.

For years, bootleg copies of “The Producers Cut” have been floating around. This version of the film contains all the cut material as well as the original ending. On Sept 23rd, the Producers Cut finally saw official release as part of the Halloween Complete Blu-Ray collection, and this is the film I watched. Its hard to erase the stink of the original release, however the restored version feels like a much more cohesive story. Things make more sense and the loose ends are tied up. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not crazy about this ending…But for Fuck sakes, just about ANYTHING would be better than the original release. Even with the restored footage, I still feel it’s a weak film…it’s just better than it was before. I know I’m very much a minority in that I wanted the anthology concept to take off instead of telling more stories about Michael Myers. What made the first Halloween work so well is that we had no idea what Michael was, or why. We were to project our worst fears onto him as he became a living Bogeyman. The more films you make with him, you are faced with a problem: You have to either keep doing exactly the same thing as before, or you have to define what he is. That is what killed the Halloween series to me…and to put it into perspective just how bad this was, the next Halloween film, H20, completely ignored films 4-6, rendering then non-canon! Would I recommend this film? Absolutely! If for no other reason than to see the final performance of the late Donald Pleasance.

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Swallowed up in Madness

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Many directors have attempted to adapt the works of H.P. Lovecraft, most with dubious results. John Carpenter has managed to craft one of the best attempts yet with In The Mouth Of Madness. While not a true adaptation, there are enough references and common themes that fans of Lovecraft’s fiction will know whats up.  This film also marks the conclusion to what Carpenter has called his “Apocalypse Trilogy”, which began with “The Thing”, and continued with “Prince Of Darkness”. While the 3 films have little in common from a narrative perspective, they do each contain potentially world-ending scenarios.

*I will try my very best to omit any spoilers as this film is totally worth watching*

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In The Mouth Of Madness is an oddly “Meta” film that begins at the end, only to tell the bulk of the story through flashbacks. It concerns an Insurance investigator who is tasked with recovering the latest Manuscript by acclaimed Horror Novelist Sutter Cane after he has gone missing. Along the way, it becomes clear that we are slipping into the world depicted within Cane’s novels, begging the question: “which came first, the world? Or the Writing” As we try to comprehend this unanswerable paradox, we are treated to unsettling imagery depicting insanity slowly corrupting our reality, of unspeakable horrors from a time before existence, of hopelessness and despair.

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Heavy stuff, right? Sam Neil does a great job of playing the level headed skeptic who is sucked into insanity. As with a great many of the works of Lovecraft, Madness plays a heavy role in this story. As do unspeakable slimy tentacled things.  The Film’s title is a reference to both “The Shadow over Innsmouth”, and “The Mountains of Madness”, two of Lovecraft’s best know works.  Direct reference is even made to “The Old Ones”, which fans of Lovecraft will know full well from the celebrated Cthulhu Mythos. We even get treated to a few references to Stephen King as well, in claiming that the writing of Sutter Cane is both scarier than King’s and outsells him.

This film manages to provide genuine chills without the need to show ghastly monsters in every frame, or to shock us with gore. There is a distinct dream-like quality to the events, as if you know you’re dreaming, but refuse to believe it. How does it all start? Did the Old Ones use Cane as a conduit to bring themselves into our world? Or did Cane create it all? Did these people places and things spring forth from his twisted imagination, given power by the sheer number of readers? What came before the books? What did reality used to be? Ask yourself these questions, and you’ll truly know Madness.

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Trailer: http://youtu.be/_PFcOeM_Usk

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 31

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Oct 31: Halloween III: Season Of The Witch(1982): http://youtu.be/RkN1Oh-RLBU

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Since just about everyone watches Halloween on the 31st, I figure that Michael Myers is getting all the love he deserves. Also, I feel that part 3, Season of the witch did not get a fair shake when it was released. Speaking from my own experience, for years i hated this film, simply because it was the Halloween that had nothing to do with Michael Myers. I felt cheated, and i knew plenty of other Fright Fans felt the same way. After the release of Halloween II, producers John Carpenter and Deborah Hill wanted to turn the franchise into an Anthology series, where each year a new Season-Themed sequel would be released. According to the director, Tommy Lee Wallace, “there are enough stories in All Hallows Eve that you could go on for years and years and years doing fresh ideas and stories about this phenomenon and this was supposed to be the first in a long series”, however poor box-office and critical reception registered the experiment as a flop, and the next installment saw the return of Michael Myers.

The story follows Dr. Challis, who is investigating the strange death of Harry Grimbridge, a man who was admitted to his care late one night. The man is babbling, saying “They’re gonna kill us all”, and is clutching a Silver Shamrock brand Halloween mask. The very same kind of mask that seem to be all the rage this year, and have catchy commercials airing round the clock.

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After teaming up with Grimbridge’s daughter, Ellie, they both track Harry’s movements over the last few days of his life, and learn that something must have happened when he traveled to Santa Mira, to the Silver Shamrock factory. Also, a news report states that a large stone column from Stone Henge has vanished without a trace(remember that, kids). Travelling to the Silver Shamrock factory, Challis and Ellie find the town to be very odd, complete with curfew, and video monitoring, all controlled by the mysterious Conal Cochran. Jumping ahead a ways, we learn that Cochoran is a great big Irish bastard!

He has stolen a stone from Stone Henge, presumably using ancient Druid magic to get it to his factory, and is putting fragments of the stone into chips attached to all his Silver Shamrock masks. These chips will be activated when within range of a signal transmitted through tvs to all the children who are wearing the masks, melting their heads, and unleashing a plague of insects and snakes to kill everyone else within range.

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Why would anyone want to do this? Because, FUCK EM, THAT’S WHY! Well, actually it’s because Cochoran is apparently a centuries old Druid who has been tipped off by the alignment of the planets, that the time is right for the return of Samhain, and to usher in that change with a massive sacrifice.  Is it a brilliant concept? Of course not, but it’s still a pretty original idea, and manages to make for a fun film. Particularly funny is a shot of men in lab coats, chiseling pieces off the Stone Henge Column, while another lab-coated man watches from behind, glancing up and down from his clip-board as he takes notes. What the fuck is he supervising here? What could possibly be noteworthy?

Not only does the film have it’s own unique score provided by Carpenter, but it has a built in drinking game. Throughout the film, several references are made to the original Halloween film, some are subtle, some are painfully obvious. Drink when you spot em.  *hint, look (and listen) very closely*

Had this film been released without the Halloween moniker, simply as “Season Of The Witch”, it would have been judged on it’s own merits, rather than being known as the “bullshit Halloween Sequel”, but nonetheless, thanks to DVD and Blu Ray, it has found it’s audience. I, for one, would like to see the Anthology idea given another run, but to keep fans appeased, keep the film more closely tied together. Have them all take place within the same world as MIchael Myers, have minor characters appear or be mentioned in multiple films, make Smiths Grove Sanitarium a common location… could work!

Well, it’s been a slice, creeps! I hope your 31 days of Horror were as fun as mine. See ya next year!

#31DayOfHorror: Oct 7-9

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Oct 7th: Silver Bullet(1985): http://youtu.be/WQ24mMwi9Mk

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Y’know how the movie is never as good as the book? Well that goes double for movies based on books written by Stephen King. King’s Novella “Cycle Of The Werewolf” is a year long arc, broken up into chapters based around the lunar cycle, and telling the story of a Werewolf hunting in a small town, only to be found out, and ultimately stopped by a young brother and sister. Where  “Cycle” really shone was in allowing King to do what he does best by crafting a haunting and engaging atmosphere, one in which we cannot help but look forward to what horror lurk on the next page. Helping this along were the incredible illustrations of Bernie Wrightson, who King had also collaborated with on Creepshow.

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Now as far as 80’s werewolf films go, Silver Bullet is far from the worst, but when compared to the Holy Trinity of 1981 (The Howling, Wolfen, an An American Werewolf In London), it pales in comparison. Having said that, it’s not without it’s charm. It stars Corey Haim as the wheelchair-bound Marty, Gary Busey as the Cool-as-shit Uncle Red, and Everett McGill as Reverend Lowe, later revealed to be the werewolf. The story depicted in the film is greatly compressed, taking place within a single summer, rather than a full year, and sees Busey turn in a fantastic performance, the highlight of which is him unleashing the “Full-crazy-face” when he finally sees the werewolf. 

Oct 8th: The Fog(1980): http://youtu.be/nOZwnivtLbc

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This was the first film made by Carpenter after his massive success in Halloween. While it was not nearly as big a hit, it still works as a good old fashioned ghost story. 100 years ago, 6 men conspired to sink a ship full of Lepers and loot the wreckage. The sea-side town of Antonio Bay was founded with the ill-gotten gold, and on the centennial anniversary of the town, a mysterious glowing fog rolls in from sea, carrying with it the vengeful spirits. Carpenter’s films are often known for their simple yet iconic synth scores, and this may be his finest yet. A truly creepy dirge that captures the feeling of the film perfectly. In 2005, a remake of The Fog was released…and the less said about that the better. Carpenter’s Fog still stands up as am eerie, moody film, drenched in atmospheric horror. This should be required viewing for young-uns who need a horror film education.

 

Oct 9th: Sleepaway Camp(1983): http://youtu.be/5pjjuFT6QF4

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Where to begin? This gender-bending camping gem is responsible for one of the strangest twist endings in film history and packs more than its fair share of odd sexual plot points. The film opens to see a Father and his two young children enjoying a summer day on the lake, when a freak accident sees a speedboat crash into them. 8 years later, and we learn the lone survivor Angela now lives with her cousin Ricky and her very odd aunt. As Ricky and Angela are leaving for camp, it is established that Angela isn’t very talkative, and her Aunt speaks like a Stepford wife who says literally everything that comes to her mind. Upon arriving at the camp, it’s teen politics as usual, with Ricky being somewhat popular and keeping a watchful eye out for shy Angela, who proves an easy target for the other kids. Kids are assholes. Soon after the camp opens and the campers arrive, it becomes clear that a murderer is at work, and it seems like Ricky might be the culprit…but the eventual reveal (never has that term been more appropriate) will be something NOBODY will see coming.

Because it’s the 80s, there are an awful lot of campers and counselors alike wearing hilariously short shorts, and feathered hair. It also spawned two hilariously bad sequels. After the big reveal…ah fuck it, Angela is actually a boy, we get a more clear picture of the mental state of the Aunt. At first she just seems odd and quirky, but when we learn that she views the taking in of her orphaned nephew as an opportunity to have the little girl she always wanted, it becomes very clear she is a deeply disturbed woman. It is also revealed that before the accident, Angela and her Brother walked in on their father in the throws of a homosexual relationship, the significance of which isn’t really addressed, but we are left to assume has left Angela traumatized. And because the sexuality on this film wasn’t deviant enough, the first victim is a Pedophile working in the mess hall, who attempts to take advantage of Angela before she is saved by Ricky. I confess that i don’t know exactly what the writers were trying to say by incorporate all these elements, but I will say that anytime i meet a cute girl, part of me wonders if she has a dick. 

The Rob Bottin Drinking Game

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Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a double feature at the Rio Theater hosted by FX Guru, Todd Masters, and Jen & Sylvia Soska. The films featured that night were John Carpenter’s The Thing, and Slither. Both chosen for their fantastic practical effects, as well as being crowd pleasers in their own right. Any night celebrating top notch visual effects will inevitably turn into a love fest for Rob Bottin, The genius behind The Thing, The Fog, The Howling, Legend, and many other films, and this night was no exception. The night’s festivities included a video made by two lovely little songstresses proclaiming their love and appreciation for Rob Bottin (Search Rob Bottin Song), a Skype Q&A session with one of Rob’s right hand men while working on The Thing (I’m sad to say his name escapes me), merch giveaways, doling out screen used props from Slither (Big ole slimey phallic parasites), we got to give Michael Rooker the finger (You had to be there) and a drinking game. Yes, a drinking game. The setup was, we were to all watch an interview with Rob, talking about a particular effect in The Thing, and drink every time Rob said “Yah-Know”. It was great, The Soskas even had signs they would hold up as our que to drink. I’m not adept enough to tell which Soska is which yet, so the pretty one held up a sigh that said “YAH-“, and in the same beat, the other pretty one would hold up a sign that said “KNOW”. Now, I had seen this interview before, and many like it. I know how much Rob Bottin says “Yah-Know”. I knew I was fucked. And I had Tequila. I’m not able to find a YouTube link to the interview in question, but if I’m not mistaken, it should be on the DVD release of The Thing.

I’ve since played the Rob Bottin drinking game on three other occasions. I am the undefeated champion.