Thursday, October 17, 2013

Halloween:The Curse Of Michael Myers, Part I

Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers
Director: Joe Chappelle
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Paul STEVEN Rudd, Marianne Hagan, Mitch Ryan, Kim Darby, Bradford English
Rated: R

A long, long time ago, it was a night of great power. When the days grew short, the spirits of the dead, returned to their homes to warm themselves by the fire's side. All across the land, huge bonfires were lit. Ohhh, there was a marvelous celebration. People danced, and they played games, and they dressed up in costumes, hoping to ward off the evil spirits. Especially the boogey man.
                                                  ~Mrs. Blankenship

There I was, my first new Halloween movie in the theater opening weekend with my uncle Mark.  It was playing in one of my favorite theaters, the Holiday 1&2 which sadly have been torn down.  They were two old school big movie houses with a large screen and auditorium.  They gave off a vibe of school movie watching that you need to live somewhere special that has an old auditorium still in use to get this feeling today (the theater I saw Peter Jackson's King Kong at in Westwood comes to mind-its featured during the Dirty Harry scenes in Zodiac).
I've said for years, Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers may very well indeed be the first ever studio financed fanfilm.  The film is very much written by a fan for fans.  There are so many conspiracies and connections to the original and other films that ONLY a fan could have written this.  Its all wishy washy stuff that you could see on someone on some fansite message board coming up with and many people saying "yeah that's a great idea".  If you're anybody that knows anything about film, you know these are all sorts of terrible ideas that really would never work and the person with them you can tell doesn't know much about cinema or how it works at all.  Daniel Farrands is not in that category (the guy has gone on to make some of the most fantastic documentaries on movie franchises ever.  Seriously, the guy's talent in this field is UNMATCHED), but this script (which he claims is a shell of his original idea) sure reminds me of that.
Let's see these connections.  First we have Laurie Strode's aunt, uncle and cousins now living in the Myers house.  They are being watched from across the street by a crazed, Myers obsessed Tommy Doyle (the little boy Laurie Strode was babysitting in the first movie).  The woman who rents Tommy's room to him is Mrs. Blankenship (a name referenced in Halloween III, so now that movie is tied in).  The Man In Black's identity is revealed to be Dr. Wynn.  He's the guy who had one scene with Dr. Loomis in the original movie.  And that line in the original about Michael driving "He was doing very well last night, perhaps someone here was giving him lessons" turns out to be the basis for this whole film.  As you can see, this is the stuff of fanscripts and the like.  Things that are just kind of silly and ridiculous.
When I first saw this movie, and through most of my youth, I ate it all up.  I was a hardcore fan, I was LOVING it.  This was a movie for me.  I had done my homework and obsessive watching and I was being handsomely rewarded.  As I've mentioned in other places, I was fortunate enough to watch these horror franchises at a young impressionable age.  I never realized or knew how much these were mainly just cash grabs and that each one was being done here and now and not some kind of grand scheme.  When I was watching, I always felt that these stories were as they were intended to be from the beginning.  That they knew this was coming back in the 80s, they were just working toward it.  Like there was some sort of book full of this big story and they were slowly adapting it all.  Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers felt like it was "all leading to this" for me.
But what was it leading to?  After my first viewing of the movie, I wasn't pissed and I didn't hate the movie (I generally left liking it).  I was, however, quite a bit confused.  I felt like maybe I wasn't paying the best of attention.  Like I missed something.  There were things I wasn't understanding at all.  I needed to watch this movie again and again until I discovered this deeper meaning I wasn't getting the first time.  The room with the fetuses in green liquid, Michael bleed green, and Dr. Wynn saying "Halloween is over, you can take off that silly costume".  Was Thorn not real?  A ruse?  But then why did they do all this.  What was going on?  My uncle and I thought maybe we missed something.  The whole car ride home was full of what the heck the last 20 minutes of the movie was all about.
As I mentioned early on, Halloween taught me a lot about movie making.  Halloween 6 was about to teach me a lot more.  I will be discussing more of this in the next part, but for those who haven't seen or are not familiar with this film's backstory...what I was talking about just now was never made to make a whole lot of sense.  So, this deeper mystery I was looking for some sort of hidden answer to wasn't there.  It was all a bunch of bullshit.  But, we'll discuss that next time.

While Clueless came out prior, this was Paul Rudd's first movie.  As a kid I was taken with Tommy Doyle.  I thought he was pretty awesome.  He was an awesome lead.  Looking back, however, I don't think he's as terrible as people have claimed, but its nowhere near the tour de force I had once thought.  Its a rather weird performance, but Rudd manages to give off that mentally disturbed aspect rather well.  With Pleasence's age and health coming into question, its obvious that this was to be a passing of the torch type role in the film.  Tommy would be a younger, hipper Dr. Loomis going forward.
This was the final film for Donald Pleasence.  And it's only appropriate he went out on the role his career became synonymous with.  And in my opinion, he gives his best performance since the first one.  The role is stripped of its camp and much more grounded.  He's a humbled, tame retired old man in this.  His role in the final act was trimmed and chopped to bits, but Pleasence still manages to make his mark and bow out in one kind of fitting final moment.  I don't know why, but maybe not in the context of the scene, but the performance and line said seem like a fitting exit.
The rest of the cast is probably the best acted bunch of the last couple films.  I've always really enjoyed Marianne Hagan in the film.  She's never really gotten much work outside of this, but her performance has always seemed quite real.  We get a little bit older, mature woman to follow through the terror.  Its not a hapless teeny bopper.  I dunno, I've always been able to get behind her in this movie.  I can't got without mentioning Bradford English absolutely knocking one out of the park as one of my favorite assholes in film history.  The man just chews up and kills with this role.  Its shocking this guy didn't make a career off of this (well, the movie underperformed, so i guess not that surprising).  He reminded me very much of Thomas F. Wilson.  And he's got that great line "Enough...of this Michael Myers...bullshit!".  Heck, he might be one of the most quotable characters of the entire series.  Conventionheads are constantly having this guy recite his dialogue at the panels.  He's also someone you applaud when he gets his head exploded.  Say what you will about this movie, Bradford English was awesome.
As poorly as this film has been received, you'd think it'd look cheap and shitty.  Far from the truth.  This movie sports the best aesthetic of the series since Cundey left.  There's a really spooky, realistic tone throughout the film.  Fall really feels like fall again.  Yes, there's a very 90s look to the characters, but it kinda goes with the fall feeling.  I actually like the quick flash cuts used sporadically throughout.  What I don't like is the worst score of the entire series.  I dunno who's choice it was to "hip up" the score, but the electric guitar led, grunge band rendition of the themes just flat out gives a generic 90s horror feel to it.
I really like some of the set pieces in the film.  But, one i love is the stretch that begins with the homage to rear window and leads to Kara going to get Danny in the Myers house.  Its well shot, creepy and pretty damn suspenseful.  Its milking from Laurie Strode's chase in the original, but its doing a damn good job of it.  This is (returning Michael) George Wilbur's best stretch of playing the Shape in his career.  And they really deliver a nice sense of geography for the house to make it work better.  There's also a terrific shot when Kim Darby is running from Michael through the laundry clotheslines and meets him waiting with an axe.  Chappelle really shoots Michael Myers well in this movie.  He manages to reveal him in full early on, yet keep him mysterious and throw him in some creepy background shots that Girard was attempting and failing at in the previous film.
This film caps off the "Jamie Lloyd Trilogy" of the Halloween series.  And while open-ended, it does feel quite conclusive.  Its funny how the big horror icons each have a little self contained trilogy within the scheme of their bigger series.  Friday the 13th had the Tommy Jarvis trilogy and Nightmare on Elm Street had the Dream Warriors/Master/Child Trilogy.  Little sets of films that have their own little sense of time place and events in the middle of something bigger.  Sort of like what the Wrath of Khan/Search For Spock/Voyage Home run did for Star Trek.  It's a shame there wasn't an importance placed on getting Danielle Harris back to see her character through.  They weren't going to use her at all, but then she showed up on her own wanting to reprise her role.  She offered to take a minimum amount to do it, but that was deemed to much and she walked.  Her role likely would have been a big bigger had Danielle come back.  JC Brandy takes it on and gets a nice chase scene and vicious demise.
The theatrical version of Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers isn't a great film.  Its a bit overly complex and quite the headscratcher and "F you" in its final act when it turns on and retcons the entire idea of the film.  Watching the film now, it screams production problems.  However, its a better made and acted film than the previous.  But, where this film is overly complicated and completely mess with its mythology/plot, the last film was at least simple.  But its also the last film's fault that we got this (it was the one that posed the questions we were getting answers to).  In my youth, I didn't pick up on a lot of this right away.  However, I was about to learn even more about filmmaking thanks to Halloween 6.

I'd like to quickly mention, that there are some topics regarding this film that I purposely didn't touch upon yet.  Don't worry, they're coming...cuz I'm slapping TO BE CONTINUED on this one.

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