Category Archives: Everything October

GUILTY PLEASURES – “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers”

With “Guilty Pleasures”, I revisit some horror flicks that fans have almost unanimously derided and labeled “unlikeable”, but are ones that I actually get a kick out of. This time around, it’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.

mike2 The Halloween series – like all of the memorable horror franchises – has carried on long past its expiration date. It’s had 7 sequels, 2 remakes, and even tried completely omitting Michael Myers at one point early on. Since its inception, the series has never gone more than 6 years without a sequel or remake of some sort so, as we approach the 6 year anniversary of Rob Zombie’s embarrassing and confusing take on the series, it should come as no surprise that there has been talk of yet another film to add to the anthology – apparently currently in the works. And it’s this laughable-yet-strangely-admirable refusal to stay dead that has time and time again forced dunderheaded writers and money-hungry producers to make awful, knee-jerk decisions which tarnished the legacy and caused puritanical fans to overturn tables. Sure, they tried the whole ‘telepathic niece‘ angle. And, believe it or not, they even had a CGI mask at one point (I’m never forgivin’ ’em for that one.) But for all the series’s trip-ups and missteps, no entry was harder to get on the screen in one piece than Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (aka Halloween 6, aka Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers.) They had a hell of a time finding a director: at one point or another, Peter Jackson, Scott Spiegel, Jeff Burr, and Fred Walton were all attached to direct the film – and Quentin Tarantino was even attached to produce. Take a minute to wrap your head around that. And there was also last minute script switcheroos and onset bickering between the crew, leading most involved to disown the movie and swear to never be involved in another Halloween flick again. It was that bad. I mean, hell – even ol’ Jamie Lee starred in four of ’em (including the worst in the series) so you know making Halloween 6 had to be rough. It’s unfortunate that arguments, re-writes, and re-shoots caused what could have been (according to original screenwriter Daniel Farrands) a potentially dark and revitalizing entry into a hacked-up head-scratcher (The Man in Black? The Mark of Thorn? Cults, sacrifice, druids? I mean, we’re still talking about that guy from the Illinois suburbs who killed his sis when he was a kid, right?) But dang it all. I like it! I can’t help myself! I saw this in theaters the day it came out. I was 12 years old and I went with my buddy Arnold – I had my parents buy our tickets. I had just read issue #147 of Fangoria and I was pumped, baby! And for whatever reason – despite its numerous and obvious flaws – I still enjoy it. It pays homage to the original quite a bit, which is why I think I like it so much. I’ll try to help illustrate why Halloween 6 is, sadly, the last good entry in the series. (Don’t get me started on the infuriating Halloween H20, aka Halloween Water. That’s a separate article all-together.) rudd Starring and introducing Paul (Stephen) Rudd. Not only is it Rudd’s debut, but it was the first time in the series that a male had become the protagonist hunted by Myers. And he plays Tommy Doyle, a character in the original 1978 film, now a full grown man obsessivly watching over the Strode house from across the street – totally great idea! loomis A retired Dr. Sam Loomis, hidden safely away in a cabin deep in the woods, writing his memoirs. After years of battling Myers, this is how you wanna see old Loomis living out his remaining days. (Sadly, actor Donald Pleasance would pass away before the movie’s release.) mike1 Michael’s mask. Sure, he kinda has this Rawhead Rex thing goin’ on with his hair. But the mask is the closest thing to the original since, well, the original. haddonfield Atmosphere. Haddonfield looks dreary, empty and damp, like a town forever scarred by the memories associated with this autumnal holiday. It’s a look Halloween 4 helped to established and one I’m glad this entry reignited. Just ignore those pesky Illinois mountains in the background. tumblr_mwd70gpA3a1t0megjo1_500 Michael is actually spooky in this! Shot mostly in shadow and under the cover of night, he definitely gives off some eerie vibes in this one. doc Dr. Loomis gives one final “pure evil” speech, and though it is brief, it’s still poetry:

This force, this thing that lived inside of him came from a source too violent, too deadly for you to imagine. It grew inside him, contaminating his soul. It was pure evil. This house is sacred to him. He has all of his memories here, his rage! Mrs. Strode…I beg of you, don’t let your family suffer the same fate that Laurie and her daughter suffered.

pumpkin Smashed pumpkin reference. Tommy Doyle (Rudd) causes a boy to drop his pumpkin, much like how Doyle fell on and smashed his own pumpkin in the original. bakcyardAnother nice homage, using Michael’s presence in the backyard, alongside billowing white sheets on a clothesline. woman This creepy old woman gives a speech about Halloween that rivals Loomis’s ‘pure evil’ speech. It ends up being a bit exposition-y and injects a little too much unnecessary backstory, but damn if it don’t start strong! But extra points for her referring to him as ‘little Mikey Myers’. (Plus, Mike in the background!) guy This world class a-hole who you just know is gonna get it good. The original Halloween had a cast of bubbly teens you didn’t wanna see get killed, but every sequel from there on threw that idea out the window and made sure to have some jerk you just wanted to see get theirs (Bud in Part 2; Kelly Meeker in Part 4; pretty much everyone in Part 5, especially that little kid with the stutter.) 1 There’s a brief scene set at a live radio show on campus. There are people partying in costumes, barrel fires, twinkling bokehs – all being ominously narrated while we follow Rudd in slow-motion. It’s a fleeting set piece but one I really liked and wanted to see used more! 2 Radio host Barry Simms gets killed in his car – an homage to Annie’s demise in Halloween? I think so! Also, I’d like to point out that earlier in the film Barry makes a joke about “Michael Myers being sent to space”. Just six years later, Jason Voorhees would make that joke an awful reality. 3 “It’s raining, mommy. It’s raining red. It’s warm.” 4 In yet another homage, the damsel in distress runs to the neighbor’s house, banging on the door pleading for help – all while we see Michael slowly making his way across the street to her. Now that I mention it, maybe this article shoulda just been how Halloween 6 is one long homage to the original! 5 So it’s around this time that the movie kinda flies off the rails. The climax is set in a hospital (Halloween II, anyone?), and basically it’s just one long scene where Michael murders a boatload of doctors while strobe lights are going off – no, really. However, it’s a notable scene for one specific reason: it’s the first time since the original that you see Michael run! It’s brief – and I do mean brief – but if you look closely, Michael picks up the pace a little when chasing a doctor down some underground corridor. Michael hasn’t moved that fast since he scaled Loomis’s station wagon and escaped from Smith’s Grove! 6 The movie does its best to end with a ‘bang’, but goes out with more of a muted ‘poof’. The final scene sees Rudd thinking he’s beaten Michael to death with a pipe. He really wails on ol’ Mike for awhile with that thing. But after he and the other survivors leave the hospital, Dr. Loomis stays behind – only to be murdered (you can tell by his screams offscreen) by the still living Myers. It’s an entry not without its flaws, and major ones at that. But I truly feel it does a better job of honoring the original in many subtle ways than the glossy and pandering H2O does. In a way, this film was ahead of its time – maybe too ahead of its time. After all, it was written by a fan – and who better to do a horror franchise justice than its obsessive fanbase. Perhaps if the producers had just left the original script alone – and not beaten it to death with a lead pipe – we’d be singing its praises instead of cursing it. 7

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Not-so-awful Sequels! (Part One)

Hollywood gets a bad rap. People think of it as this horrible money machine, but the truth is Hollywood has nothing but a filmmaker’s best interest in mind. Believe it or not, producers and financiers actually care about creativity and artistic vision and want nothing more than to protect the filmmaker’s creation, and they want to encourage originality by supporting new ideas. Hollywood is about integrity and respect.

No, I’m only kidding. Hollywood is a bloated, greedy monster that cares only about how much money a film makes and absolutely nothing else. And if a film can somehow keep making boatloads of money years after its been released, even better! But how do you do that? Make it a franchise. There are no better cash-cows than horror franchises. Perhaps you’ve heard New Line Cinema referred to as “The House that Freddy Built“, due to the popularity of the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. And how do you build a house? Money. Lots of money. Continue reading Not-so-awful Sequels! (Part One)

Great Horror Movie Drunks!

Horror movies and drinking go together like…horror movies and drinking. Whether you’re tying a few on while watching a splat show with a couple equally buzzed buddies, or if the drinking is happening among the characters in the movie itself, there just seems to be no better suited pairing than beer and blood.

So, before you puke up your green-dyed guts and pass out earlier than 6pm on this, the booziest of holidays, take a moment to read my list of great horror movie drunks! You might just pick up a few ideas.

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I gotta get the obvious choice out of the way right off the bat: Jack Torrance from The Shining. Nicholson’s Torrance is the epitome of “great horror movie drunk”, a recovering alcoholic who battles demons both literally and figuratively. Stephen King, author of The Shining, is himself a writer who struggled with the bottle, so perhaps writing this wasn’t much of a stretch for him. But if ever there was a film that could convince me to abstain from drinking, it’d be this one. (Nah, not really.)

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Another great “drinking will ruin your life” film is 1971’s Wake in Fright (aka Outback), a terrifying thriller set in the sun-soaked Australian desert. A mild-mannered teacher on his way home for summer break has a layover in a small town inhabited by the scummiest, most desperate drunks on the continent. The frightening part is just how quickly and easily the sensible John Grant slips into their debaucherous ways.

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It’s a beautifully shot film that really emphasizes the importance of beer to these low-lifes. But man, they do make drinking look good. Be right back, I’m feeling thirsty.

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I can’t think of a more perfect actor to portray Jud Crandall than Fred Gwynne. A tall, lanky hick with a garbled Maine drawl, he’s a good-hearted old-timer who cares for the neighbor’s kids, but he doesn’t sugar-coat the facts about life and death. And in his spare time, he likes to unwind with a Budweiser or six.

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He even likes those little stubby 7 oz. bottles! But ever the equal opportunist, he offers plenty of love to the long-necks, too.

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There’s just something authentic about Gwynne’s performance. When Crandall sits on his front porch, sparks up a cigarette, and cracks open a Bud – only to be seen nodding off a few scenes later – you can’t help but believe Gwynne knows from personal experience exactly what his character is doing.

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“Darlin’, you’re gonna be the death of me! But what a way to go…” Those are literally Martin’s final words, right before Crystal Lake mainstay Jason Voorhees uses the whiskey bottle he’d just been drinking from to gouge him to death.

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If I had to maintain a cemetery near Camp Crystal lake, aka “Camp Blood”, aka “Camp Forest Green”, I would probably talk to my pint of whiskey, too. Martin is a likeable old coot, so it’s a shame to see him go. Earlier in the film, upon discovering Jason’s grave had been dug up, he immediately reaches for his flask…

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 12.00.01 PMAnd after wiping away the dribble, he looks directly into the camera and addresses the audience: “Some folks sure got a strange idea of entertainment.” They sure do, Martin, they sure do.

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Gary Busey is a goddamn treasure in Silver Bullet. Not only does he deliver the type of performance that convinces the viewer he wasn’t even aware he was filming a movie, but he portrays unclehood in such a way that you wish he was your uncle. Easily the world’s greatest cinematic uncle since Buck. He tells you dirty jokes, plays cards with you, and builds you a rocket-powered wheelchair – all while chipping away at a bottle of Wild Turkey. Who wouldn’t want him hangin’ around the house all time?

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Look at that face. I been there, brother.

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Like the aforementioned Martin the gravedigger, Kurt Russell’s helicopter pilot, R.J. MacReady, is a sympathetic drunk. What else are you supposed to do when you’re stationed in the middle of nowhere Antarctica? Poker with the boys can only be entertaining for so long. It wouldn’t be long before you’d feel the urge to numb your brain to save it from isolation madness. The fact that there’s an unseen killer among your group probably ain’t too good for the nerves, either. And in a wonderful homage, wouldn’t you know it? R.J.’s drink of choice is J&B scotch – a favorite drink among gialli films.

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Can you imagine the type of light sensitivity you’d have when the sun was glinting off pure whiteness, everywhere? Those awesome goggles are a must for anyone hungover in arctic territories.

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The Halloween franchise has been spotty at best. As the series progressed, the story got murkier and murkier. And the characters? They didn’t fare much better. They weren’t likable or memorable. In fact, any fringe characters that showed up in the later sequels you knew were just thrown in to be chum for Michael Myers. But Halloween 4 – one of the best entries besides the original, in my opinion – managed to have a fun, straight-forward premise and also featured characters you were interested in – from stepsister Rachel, her horny boyfriend Brady, and hell, even Wade was enjoyable, and he’s only onscreen for two minutes:

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But one of the best secondary characters has to be Reverend Jack Sayer. His screen time is even less than Wade’s. However his appearance may be the most important in the entire series. The scene sees him pick up a hitchhiking Dr. Loomis on a lone, dusty highway. The two men don’t know each other, they’ve never met, but Rev. Sayer feels an immediate kinship to Dr. Loomis. In fact, he seems to know exactly what it is Loomis is after.

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“You’re huntin’ it, ain’t ya? Yeah, you’re huntin’ it alright. Just like me…You can’t kill damnation, Mister. It don’t die like a man dies.”

While Sayer is hunting a more metaphorical evil and Loomis a more literal evil, the two men share a common end-goal, and for once in the entire series you have a character who not only understands and empathizes with Loomis, but one who doesn’t look at the Doctor like he’s a madman. (I mean, except for that screenshot above. Ignore that.)

The two men share another thing in common: a fondness for the drink. So when Sayer offers up some liquid warmth, Loomis gladly accepts. And as he drinks, the reverend sings a gospel to lighten the mood. And it’s only the second time in the entire series that we see Loomis crack a smile – a brief moment of relief; they’re no longer two men spending their remaining days hunting evil – they’re just two men enjoying a drink and each other’s company.

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“Lay off the fuckin’ booze for awhile, why don’t ya?” This is a question posed to (yet another) drunken helicopter pilot, Bill McDermott, in Day of the Dead. Again, I understand why he’s such a hard drinker: it’s essentially the end of the world. Zombies have overrun the land, and McDermott and his cohorts are stuck in an underground bunker. I’d be drinking, too. But I feel it should be noted: McDermott is screamingly Irish. He even shouts “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” a few times throughout the film.

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Last, but certainly not least, we have Aunt Bedelia. Like Rev. Sayer, Aunt Bedelia’s screen time in Creepshow is brief. But Viveca Lindfors’ portrayal of Bedelia Grantham is so wonderfully nuanced and flawlessly delivered, that she’s able to steal the show in her short time onscreen. Bedelia’s guilt from murdering her father has left her frazzled and slugging Jim Beam by the bottle-full. She’s probably spilled more than you’ve drank.viveca-lindfors-creepshow-bedelia-5

She’s such a boozer, that even the comic version of Creepshow makes sure to note her love of spirit-imbibing.

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Bedelia’s scene – one where she sits by her father’s grave, pounding the booze while cursing him in some odd, coastal accent – is brilliant and fun. But Aunt Bedelia ain’t the only one in Creepshow who likes to drink.

If you weren’t aware, Stephen King wrote the story for Creepshow, so naturally there’s a lot of drinking. King, who also stars in the movie as nunkhead Jordy Verrill, enjoys some Ripple, as well as a mean Screwdriver later on.

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Then there’s Wilma. But you can call her Billy. Everyone else does!

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And even Fritz Weaver as the inconsolable Dexter Stanley:

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Even Leslie Nielsen has a drink to calm his nerves – every segment except the final one features boozehounds. Speaking of Creepshow drunkards, this list wouldn’t be complete without one of the most prolific drunks in horror history, Tom Atkins. In fact, he’s the M.V.P. of this list!

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Tom Atkins is just the best, there’s no denying that. He was in all the great horror flicks of the 80s. And in every one of ’em, he’s drinkin’. Like in Creepshow, from the picture above.

Or like in Halloween III: Season of the Witch, where he’s constantly drinking – whether it be alone of with some homeless people:

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 Or in Maniac Cop, having a cold one with a co-worker after a long, hard day in the office:

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Or in Night of the Creeps, where he plays a cop so haunted by his past that he’s suicidal. Not even booze – or even daydreams of delicious tropical drinks – can soothe his mental scars:

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Hell, he even says “It’s Miller time!” right before shooting a zombie in the goddamn head. So legendary is his onscreen drinking, that upon Googling his name I discovered random pieces of fan art which detail this very fact:

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In short, the man loves to drink.

And this is where I leave you, friends. May your day of drinking be a peaceful one, void of any slashers, zombies, werewolves, or alien lifeforms. There’s nothing worse than a spilled or unfinished drink. Have a safe and bloody holiday, but don’t forget to drink a few extra in honor of the entrants on this list. It’s Miller time!

(Read Great Horror Movie Drunks Pt. 2!)