BONUS EPISODE – HALLOWEEN (2018) panel from “Halloween: 40 Years Of Terror”

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Fright Fans! Get out your pillow cases and plastic pumpkins because we have a surprise treat for you! Joe recorded the HALLOWEEN (2018) panel at “Halloween: 40 Years Of Terror” last weekend, and now we can share it with you just in time for the wide release of the movie. Happy Halloween!!!

BONUS EPISODE – HALLOWEEN (2018) panel from “Halloween: 40 Years Of Terror”

[Film Review] HALLOWEEN (2018)

By Joe Meyers

HALLOWEEN (2018)

Rated R – 1h 46min –Release Date: October 19, 2018 (USA)

 

Directed by: David Gordon Green

Written by: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, and Jeff Fradley

Based on the characters created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill

 

Starring:

Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode

Judy Greer as Karen

Andi Matichak   as Allyson

James Jude Courtney as The Shape

Nick Castle as The Shape

Haluk Bilginer as Dr. Sartain

Will Patton as Officer Hawkins

Rhian Rees as Dana Haines

Jefferson Hall as Aaron Korey

Halloween 2018 posterPoster by artist Bill Sienkiewicz

 

HALLOWEEN (1978) is my favorite horror film of all time, and HALLOWEEN (2018) was my most anticipated film of the year, which made my expectations sky high. Thankfully early reviews and word of mouth since its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival helped me temper those expectations into something more realistic. I say thankfully because HALLOWEEN (2018) is a good addition to the franchise, it can be one hell of a ride when it’s firing on all cylinders, but that’s despite some glaring flaws.

HALLOWEEN (2018) picks up forty years after the end of the original, with Michael Myers locked away in Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. On the eve of his transfer to another facility Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) and Dana Haines (Rhian Rees), two journalists and podcasters from England, visit Michael in the hopes of getting him to talk about the Halloween murders of 1978. The long silent Michael is not cooperative and shortly after The Shape escapes to once again stalk the streets of Haddonfield, leading to another confrontation with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).

The heart of this film is how people deal with trauma, and how that has a bearing on every single thing, and every single person, in their lives. Laurie Strode has become strong because of that night forty years ago, but at the same time she’s still dealing with the fallout of those events in unhealthy ways. Some of the best scenes from the movie are Laurie’s interactions with her estranged daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). All three of these actors shine, and I really wish the movie would have given us more build up time with them and their dysfunctional family dynamic.

I’m thrilled to say that this Michael Myers/The Shape (a returning Nick Castle and, newcomer to the franchise, James Jude Courtney) is a return to form over versions we’ve seen in other sequels. He’s back to being an unexplained, pure force of evil that is to be feared. The scenes showing his carnage, as he makes his way through Haddonfield with a shark like efficiency, will be a highlight for many fans. I hope James Jude Courtney is asked back when (yes, when not if) we get more films in the future. It also pleases me to say the mask is fantastic, and easily the best looking one since the original. Gone are the days of The Shape looking laughable instead of scary, as we devolved into with some of the sequels.

Cinematographer Michael Simmonds did a solid job making Charleston, SC look like Pasadena, CA as the new stand in for Haddonfield. I appreciated that he made some of the shots feel like the original film without entirely copying it for the movie’s duration. The music by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel A. Davies further tied this film into HALLOWEEN (1978), and adds to the iconic legacy of Carpenter’s work.

While he’s not a conventional choice as director, I think David Gordon Green did an admiral job. So much so, in fact, I would love to see him receive further work in the horror genre. He really was given an impossible task, which makes what works well with HALLOWEEN (2018) seem all the more impressive. I will say the pacing felt off at time, especially during the middle section. That could have been an editing issue though, so I won’t lay that complaint entirely on him.

My big problems with the film reside with the script by David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, and Jeff Fradley. I liked HALLOWEEN (2018), however, it could have been a great film. There are moments of humor that fit, and some that feel very forced and out of place. We get several call backs to the original film, some of which work perfectly and some of which are the worst parts of “winking nod fan service.” I also had issues with the dialogue at certain points, mostly with one specific actor. My main complaint is regarding a plot point that is so unnecessary, so ridiculous, and so idiotic it nearly derailed everything for me. I’m honestly not sure how it stayed in the script it was so awful. What makes it even more egregious is removing this scene would have altered absolutely nothing with the events that unfold afterwards. It truly came oh so close to derailing the movie into disaster territory for me.

Rewrites to solve those problems would have made me love HALLOWEEN (2018), and it would be destined for a spot in my top three favorite films of the year. Instead it will likely land somewhere in the back half of my top ten of 2018. With that said, the showdown between Laurie Strode and The Shape was worth the forty year wait and it helped redeem the scene I loathed enough in my eyes that I left my screening with mostly positive thoughts. I do look forward to watching it again at the cinema this Thursday night. I can’t wait to chat in detail with my fellow horror fans upon the film’s release…whether they agree with me, if they outright loved the film, or even if they felt about HALLOWEEN (2018) the same way I feel about the Rob Zombie Halloween films.

What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now? – Tourist Trap (1978)

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For those Fright Fans familiar with my viewing habits this time of the year, you know I’m neck-deep in three different viewing challenges over on Letterboxd, most notably the fifth annual HoopTober horror viewing challenge. But this viewing is related to the Horror x52 challenge (52 horror movies in 52 weeks) that I’ve been working on since the summer.

In comparison to the other films I’ve viewed and reviewed so far in my “What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now?” series, 1978’s Tourist Trap is probably the most known of these random cult classics. This was my very first viewing of it, and I felt it had enough oddballness (is that a word?) going for it that it fit with the spirit of why I started writing these posts. So let’s dive into this 40-year-old film, shall we?

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The Rifleman has a rifle!

The story centers around a group of guys and girls out on a random road trip when one of the cars gets a flat. We open on Woody rolling the tire to whatever gas station he might find along this back road that saw better days before the highway came through and diverted traffic. Within the first five minutes, we witness Woody getting whacked by either a poltergeist or a telekinetic attack after getting trapped in the remote gas station! Gotta love it when a film hits the ground running, right?

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Woody, we hardly knew ya . . . .

Well, of course the rest of the gang (featuring a young and brunette Tanya Roberts) goes looking for Woody and have their own car troubles out of nowhere. It just so happens that the breakdown is on the property of Mr. Slausen, played by the legendary Chuck Connors! Friendly Mr. Slausen runs a waxworks museum that saw better days and better business before the highway came along, too. In his efforts to help the remaining four protagonists, things get more and more creepy when he talks of his brother who made the wax figures but went to the city. About this time is when we start seeing someone wearing various masks and wigs, stalking the quartet.

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Anyone else getting a Leatherface vibe here?

I don’t want to say much more about the story because there is a plot twist (which most of you will see coming) and various plot points that make this film unique and interesting enough to stand out as an early slasher that more horror fans should make an effort to see. The final 5 minutes or so had some nice “Wait. What?” moments to make you glad you took this journey to it’s totally messed up ending.

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As Al Snow use to ask: “What does everybody want?!?”

Another reason to watch this is to pick out the influences behind it and the influence it may have had on some classics that came after it in the 80’s. Beyond the obvious House Of Wax inspiration there is a strong Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe throughout this, and that’s probably due to the co-writer of the screenplay having been the editor for TCM. Tourist Trap also uses the same effects crew as TCM. The telekinetic part may have been a note from Carrie, and one of the jump scares is a straight up homage to Psycho. For the films that came after, I have a feeling that Motel Hell was heavily influenced by this. The level of dark humor, the remote roadside setting, and the use of an aged-but-known actor in the lead can’t help but make me come to that conclusion.

I must note at this time that there is essentially a remake of this film that was an utter waste of my viewing time: 2005’s House Of Wax. Yes, they try to claim it was a remake/reboot of the 1953 classic, but come on! The 2005 film has far more in common storywise with Tourist Trap than with the true House Of Wax with Vincent Price. I mean, the only good things about the 2005 film is seeing Jared Padalecki pre-Supernatural and that Paris Hilton gets killed. Seriously.

Anywho, if you want to watch this, I strongly suggest watching it how I did. Watch it on Shudder with the “Last Drive-In” commentary from the legendary Joe Bob Briggs. The nuggets of truth and trivia and just plain ol’ fun he drops elevates any movie.

Now to get back to my movie challenges . . . . .

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Keep watching, Fright Fans!!!

What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now? – Belladonna Of Sadness (1973)

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A couple of years back, I started doing the “HoopTober Challenge” created by user Cinemonster over on Letterboxd because I love horror (obviously), making film lists, and being challenged to watch new stuff. During that time, there was one film that popped up on numerous lists in the category of “Films From Another Country”: 1973’s Belladonna Of Sadness. Given the fact that I’m also doing the “Horror x52 Challenge” and the “Birth Year Challenge”, both created by user kynky, waiting until now to watch it helped me kill two birds with one screening.

Belladonna Of Sadness (aka Kanashimi no Belladonna; La Sorciere, Tragedy of Belladonna, or Belladonna) is an animated Japanese production written by Yoshiyuki Fukuda and
Eiichi Yamamoto, and directed by Yamamoto, based on Satanism and Witchcraft by Jules Michelet. It tells the tale of young Jeanne and Jean, lovers preparing to wed in medieval France. Seeking the approval of the local Baron on their wedding night, the Baron instead demands a tax from Jean that he knows cannot be paid. Going beyond claiming “prima nocta”, the Baroness encourages her husband to share Jeanne with the entire court.

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Follow this, Jeanne vows her revenge, and in doing so sows the seeds to allow the devil in. Jeanne rises within stature and wealth within the village only to be struck down by the envious villagers and the wicked Baroness. When she has hit rock bottom after being cast out of the village, the devil manifests in his full power and seals the pact with Jeanne that brings her into her full powers as well.

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For the rest of the story, I encourage you to go watch this for yourselves, Fright Fans. This film is visually stunning and quite beautiful at times with the primary use of water colors for the animation. Most of the animation is actually camera pans across still paintings, but you let that go as the story draws you in as you cheer for Jeanne to gain her vengeance. The score by Masahiko Satoh is dead-on jazzy 70’s but not to the point of being obnoxious and fits perfectly.

The obscurity of this film is one of the reasons I picked it for this post, but there are some definite WTF?!? moments within it as well, dear readers. The animation depicting Jeanne’s rape is visually shocking in the way that it combines symbolism with the literalness of this violent assault. There is also nudity and fairly graphic sex many times throughout the film, including the devil looking (and acting) very phallic whenever he appears, growing larger with each appearance. And at about the 19 minute mark, I think I witnessed the birth of tentacle hentai when Jeanne’s torn dress kind comes to life.

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But the capper for the sex scenes? Well the orgiastic magical rites that Jeanne enacts with the villagers, of course. I’ve been mulling over how to best describe these scenes for the last day or so, and here’s the best I can come up with: Picture Yellow Submarine and The Electric Company (yes, the 70’s kids show with Morgan Freeman and Rita Moreno) dropped acid with shrooms and formed the largest gang-bang daisy chain you’ve ever seen. … You want to go watch it now, don’tcha? Wait! I left out the bit that looked like someone giving a shocker to a greyhound. Don’t worry. You can’t miss it.

The witchcraft, possession, murder, and devils make this an amazing Asian art-house entry into the sub-genre of animated horror, and I highly recommend watching this wherever you can. It’s currently up on Shudder and has been played on Turner Classic Movies “Underground” block on Saturday nights in the past. Let me know what you think when you do. It does cast quite the spell on a viewer.

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