Halloween III: Season of the Witch; or Happy Happy Halloween, Halloween, Halloween

images-3

Hello and Hallo-welcome to our last edition of Sequel Sunday this Hallowfest, where we see if films can make it through the tricky world of sequels. You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they pop on their Silver Shamrock masks and settle down in front of the television, reading for a special surprise to be revealed on Halloween.

Today’s film offering: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Andy: Time to settle in for another Horror History lesson!

The original Halloween, coming out in 1978 was always intended to be the first in a series of movies – but they were going to all be standalone stories with different plots and characters – all set around Halloween. And so, in 1982, Season of the Witch came out, completely unrelated to Michael Myers or Laurie or Haddonfield.

There was a tiny problem though, and that problem was called Halloween II.

Trouble is, the first movie had been so mind blowingly successful, and creative executives so pathologically averse to risk, that it was inevitable that the white-faced boiler-suited asylum escapee would be back – and as a result, the Halloween franchise is now indelibly linked to Mr. Myers et al. Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers banged the final nail into that coffin, and as a result Season of the Witch is one of the weirdest curios around – a member of a franchise which, well, isn’t.

So what is it about? Well, the story (penned by Nigel Kneale who also penned Quatermass be still my beating heart) concerns a slightly shady company in the business of selling children Halloween masks, and a grand conspiracy to do with ancient witchcraft…

Lilly: Where’s Michael Myer’s, again?

No, but seriously, why did this film have to find itself in the Halloween franchise? A tale with genuinely spooky elements and creepy conspiracies and scary stuff, Season of the Witch could have been a contender, yet it got the short end of the stick as to which franchise it was randomly plopped into. I mean, if it had been thrown into the Sleepaway Camp franchise, who knows how popular it could have been! Who knows!

As a person who is generally creeped out by children in masks, this film takes that fear and just rubs your (non masked) face in it, and does so with a jingle that will stay in your mind forever. I mean, just forever. When I think of the word ‘Halloween’, I think of two songs: ’This is Halloween’ from The Nightmare Before Christmas and the stupid Silver Shamrock commercial jingle. I mean. Effective advertising, but still. Wait. Was this film actually about how advertising can infect your very soul? Wait. Ooooh. Oh, you got me, Halloween III. I see you.

Andy: Ooo deep themes about advertising’s effects on the population. Me like.

Lilly: All joking aside, I enjoyed this film. Not as much as Halloween (a sigh of relief can be heard throughout the land, I know) of course, but it’s not a slasher film, so do you compare them beyond my personal preference? It’s a film about black magic, so maybe you’d be better off comparing it to other films of that ilk, if you must, but if you just look at it as a horror film, straight up, it’s not that bad. It’s got some decent acting, it’s got some spooky plot points, and hey, it scared me.

Andy: Yeah, it’s sort of like a really, really well made TV movie – like those Stephen King adaptations that get churned out every few years, but better. It’s never going to make any top ten lists, for instance, and it’s not the first movie from 1982 I’d recommend (The Thing, obviously), but it has a charm all of its own. Definitely one to file under the ‘cult classic’ category.

Lilly: So, why not give this black sheep of the Halloween family a try? Go, watch, and enjoy!

An American Werewolf in Paris; or Reports of My Lycanthropy Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

456742467604_06160506_American_Werewolf_Paris_704_large.jpg

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another Sequel Sunday, where we take a second look at second (and third) films! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they pack their bags and brush up on their handy foreign phrases (‘êtes-vous un loup-garou?’ for instance).

Today’s film offering: An American Werewolf in Paris

Andy: Good Lord, there was a lot of crappy movies in the late nineties. We’re probably the only generation that can add the phrase “Thank God” to the end of “They don’t make ‘em like they used to.”

An American Werewolf in London was a fantastic example of something lots of movies try and very few are completely successful at – it was a loving pastiche of its genre, as well as being a very effective member of it. Paris is … less successful. It’s a lot less witty, has fewer likeable characters and a more incoherent plot. It also has literally no connection to the previous film other than the title.

Still, we musn’t be mean to the little darling, I mean, London is one of the greatest werewolf movies ever made, and we didn’t give Alien 3 as much schtick for not being Alien.

Lilly: Actually I liked Alien 3 more than Alien…

Andy: I, uh, well. We’re all entitled to our opinions, I guess.

So, An American Werewolf in Paris concerns three teenage lads on a trip to Paris who discover a secret party for wolfmeat young go getters like them and are respectively devoured, captured by an evil – coven? pack?

Lilly: Pack. They’re like dogs or, hey, wolves, so pack. Or gaggle, because hilarious. Gaggle of werewolves!

Andy: …Pack of werewolves who seem to think that eugenics is a fun and useful idea in modern society and bitten but rescued by the beautiful but mysterious Serafine, herself a werewolf but not associated with the werewolves who are also Nazis.

Lilly: Yeah, #notallwerewolves.

Paris is not a film about the torturous adjusting to the monster inside so much as a ‘Yes, they are also Nazi-like, keep up!’ action thriller type film. There is little subtlety, and what actual exploration there is of the lycanthropy of this film is thrown into maybe five minutes of movie science-ing (which, for those of you just tuning in, I hate). The film seems more concerned with really making the point that not all werewolves are dangerous if they take precautions and take their medication–man, so many metaphors there. So many. Can we have a reboot of werewolf films as a thing? We can all apologize for 2010’s The Wolfman and just embrace all the things being a werewolf can symbolize. Come on!

The two main problems with Paris were that, as Andy mentioned, I didn’t really like anyone involved and the film didn’t really grab me. I mean, for starters, screw you, Andy (from the film, main character was called Andy, to be clear), maybe she doesn’t want your help, that poor sad French woman, but that is her business. What she chooses to do with her body is her business! Even in a film where the once a month her body turns on her schtick is in play! Second of all, the guys were going around, illegally jumping off buildings for fun, and that just rubs me the wrong way. Then there was the throw backs to London like the dead bothering the living after being killed by a werewolf that only served to remind me of a better film. Then there was the fact that it felt like a made for tv movie with the low quality it had, but a tv movie made for a channel that showed breasts.

Andy: Yeah, it’s just not very good.

Lilly: There you have it, ladies and gents. Our first non-go, watch enjoy of the year! Don’t bother. Just. Watch another werewolf film. Go watch Ginger Snaps or Teen Wolf. Or, actually, watch An American Werewolf in London because that is an enjoyable, interesting film to enjoy!

Jaws 2; or Why is Anyone Still Swimming in the Ocean?

jaws 2b.jpg

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Sequel Sundays, where the story continues when sometimes, it ought to have ended! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they put on their water wings and wade out into the peaceful, blood-soaked waters of Amity Island.

Today’s film offering: Jaws 2

Lilly: Welcome back to Amity Island, Jaws lovers! Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water because you forgot the grisly shark deaths from a few years ago–nope, this island is a magnet for big murder sharks so just stop swimming at the beach already! Jaws 2 takes place a few years after the events of Jaws, and the Amity Island tourist bureau clearly had been working hard, because everyone seemed to have forgotten about the messy shark deaths, including that of a little boy. I mean, sure, there had never been deaths of that multitude at Amity beaches before, but whatever, stop being so ridiculous about it, Brody!

And oh yes, we are joined by Jaws survivor/final guy (though not really since Hooper makes it), Police Chief Martin Brody! After the traumatising events of the first film, the poor man stuck around to attempt once more to get that peace and quiet he had hoped for in this post in the middle of nowhere tourist country. Not that he enjoys the water any more than before, and in fact, seems to openly despise it. If Jaws was the story of a shark menacing an island of people, Jaws 2 is the story of the ghost of that shark tormenting one of the residents while a real shark gets up to murdery mischief, the town council thinking it all a case of the Brody who cried shark.

Andy: Except of course there is an actual shark running around out there, with the gimmick that this time it’s had half its face burned off due to an incident early in the film involving a woman basically setting herself on fire with a gas can. This is worth watching in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way – gone are the measured cadences of Spielberg’s attacks. Instead we have … this.

Lilly: The film is taken a step further when Brody’s son, now grown up into the teenage rebellion stage where we all went out into waters where a shark had attacked us and killed a man in front of us to spite our father, right? Parents just don’t understand! Mike decides to take some friends (and his little brother) out on boats to hang out, because why not! It’s not like there is a recent case of a murder shark around these parts, right? Wait. Opposite.

Andy: Yeah, there’s a definite skew towards the younger folks here. Gone are the three middle-aged men out re-enacting Moby Dick; instead we have a group of teenagers trapped on a sort-of floating raft of their boats. It seems kinda harsh to say the latter group is less well-characterised than the former – Quint, Hooper and Brody being three of the most fully realised characters in, well, anything – but they aren’t really characterised at all, so when some of them inevitably get sharked, it’s more like the shark is a slasher villain than the strange, existential threat of the first.

Lilly: Jaws 2 is a film which not only continues the story of Amity Island, but explores what happens to characters after the horror film is over. Another shark is introduced, but this shark seems so much worse due to not just the upped ante of a sequel but also because Brody’s clear PTSD ramps up the tension, so scenes where even the audience knows it isn’t a shark but in Brody’s imagination are proven to be scary because we see Brody suffering in a way that is almost too real. Brody is a very real character in this film.

Andy: He is. He’s probably the only one, though. Even returning characters, like his wife and sons or the town mayor (wait, how did he get re-elected?) don’t really move past their characterisations in the first movie.

Lilly: Then we also see the horror of a town that lives off tourism. What do you do in the position of the town council of Amity Island, where you’ve clearly got a shark problem but you also don’t want to drive away money that will help your people survive through a long winter? Well, in Jaws 2, maybe the council goes too far with their denial and treatment of the shark issue as nothing, but seriously, it’s a scary thought. How do you risk the town’s tourist money without definite proof that it will save lives? A blurry photo of a shark from a site of a known shark attack of the past doesn’t really cut it when livelihoods are at risk. Shark attack politics! I love it!

Andy: Despite what you might have heard it’s not horrible, but it’s not very good either. It’s not that it doesn’t measure up to the first one – almost nothing does – it’s like it’s on a completely different scale. And this is coming from the guy who defended Alien 3 at length a few weeks ago – if my love for that and my ambivalence for this is any kind of scale to judge whether you should see this by, then use it.

Lilly: I definitely recommend it if you like monster shark films–if you are watching Sharknado, you should definitely give this a try. While you get all the fun of a monster shark, attacking sexy teens and doing general menacing, you also get a little peek into the mind of someone who survived such a thing, and see how sometimes, no matter what you do to save your town, it still doesn’t beat out small town politics for levels of horror. Go, watch, enjoy!

Blade 2; or Ice Skating Up Hill A Second Time

blade-2-wesley-snipes-slice-600x200

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Sequel Sundays, where we give second (and third) films second chances. You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they get their sunglasses and suit up in leather for an adventure with a certain hunter.

Today’s film offering: Blade II

Lilly: For those of you who only know Wesley Snipes from his brilliant role of Noxeema Jackson in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (which was the case for me), the Blade films are based off comics starring vampire hunting Blade, a human with vampire traits (or a “daywalker”) that hunts vampires. The first film features Blade storming about the place, making life difficult for any vampires that think they can get one by him.

Andy: It helps that the vampires in the Blade universe are ridiculously vulnerable to just about everything.

Lilly: Some mother effers are always trying to ice skate uphill, or so the ever-wise vampire hating Blade quoted in the first film, and the second film carries on in the same vein. After getting rid of a vampire that had been pesky to the vampire higher ups, Blade is asked to step in by the monarchy (of the vampire world) to help with a pest control problem.

Andy: Of course, in the first film, it appeared like the vampires were ruled by a council of Elders, which raises interesting questions about who is actually in charge of vampires. Also, can you have a nation without any land? Genuine question.

Lilly: Anyway, we end up with Blade hunting a super vampire with a super vampire disease that infects those bitten and turns them into Reapers, or vampires wrapped around a parasite that needs blood (and will feed off the host if it can’t get it from an outside source).  Why not! He joins a team of vampires who have been training for This Day by training to hunt him–fun!

Andy: The scene where they break into his base to get him to join them has some of the most hilariously bad CGI I have ever seen (seriously guys, just green screen or something. Never, ever do this) but it’s made up for by Blade’s introduction to the team. He’s not much of an inspirational leader, but the way he gets a bunch of bloodthirsty psychos who hate his guts to follow his orders is really, really funny.

Lilly: Blade II was directed by Guillermo del Toro, and boy does it ever show. Whimsically gross death scenes and vampire biology that comes to be the focus of his Strain series, you see touches of del Toro from the creature design to the fact that Ron Perlmen is in it. And let’s talk about those creatures! Unique Reapers with a design more like a parasitic organism than any vampires going today, and the actual vampires are like 90s rave wet dreams in leather with fierce gold eyes. The characters of Blade II are creative right down to the fact that the vampire Lord has blue blood. Ha! Get it?

Andy: AND he looks like the vampire from Cronos, which is kinda cool.

Lilly: As vampire films go, this is a lot in line with the Underworld series, wherein they are action films that feature vampires. Blade II has vampire politics (purebloods and half breeds, etc.), a sub-plot of power struggles within the rank of a unit, and then you suddenly find yourself in a conspiracy plot to boot. Then there is all the stuff with Whistler, an old ally Blade was hunting at the beginning of the film who needs to have one eye on him at all times in case the torture he underwent left him a bit undependable. It’s engaging, and treated like a serious thriller, not just a CGI fest with vampires that has a bit of plot.

Andy: Oh yes. It’s almost like this is a dry run for the other big del Toro superhero Hellboy. There’s a real style to the whole thing that makes it cool, bt a very different kind of cool from the first film.

There are, however, some problems.

Lilly: Surprise!

Andy: The bad CGI I’ve already mentioned – this is not a problem that really goes away at any point, as many fight scenes feature this ‘enhancement’.

Lilly: An ‘enhancement’ which has CGI Blade moving a bit like the guests at your park in Roller Coaster Tycoon when you pick them up, all weird movement and limbs not quite swaying right.

Andy: Another is that while the fight scenes are fun, there are a few moments where you just think to yourself “Wait a minute – did he just suplex that guy?” Wrestling moves are purposely designed to be big, flashy and not actually crippling. When you’re supposedly fighting for your life, a different approach may be in order.

Lilly: I smelt what Blade was cookin’, is all I’m saying.

Andy: However, it is fun, and a worthy companion to the first film and an interesting alleyway of Guillermo del Toro’s career.

Lilly: Absolutely. I’d give it a chance if you are into horror action films, though watching Blade first is definitely needed. Unlike some sequels, there are a good few tie-ins in this one that could stand the background information. So, watch both! Heck, throw in Blade: Trinity and have yourself an evening in with Wesley. Why not. Enjoy!

 

Alien 3 Assembly Cut; Or This is Rumor Control, Here are the Facts!

maxresdefault

Hello and Hallo-welcome to our first Sunday review, where we’ve decided to give second chances to second (and third and fourth) films in franchises–it’s Sequel Sundays! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, who have lived to see themselves through to the third installation in the Hallowfest series, but who knows if this year will be their last?

Today’s film offering: Alien 3 (Assembly Cut)

Lilly: I want to go on record here that I will never stop calling this film Alien Cubed. Ever. Just getting that out right away. Proceed.

Andy: Probably sporting the most troubled production, well, ever, and a director who has officially disowned it, this film is not likely to be on too many people’s radars. Which is a shame, because the Assembly Cut is really rather good.

After the end of Aliens, where it seemed the threat had been ended through a big explosion and fisticuffs with a walking forklift, it seemed that our intrepid survivors were headed home. Alas, it was not to be, and after a pretty brutal crash landing we are left with two dead, a smashed up android and Ripley, who’s getting pretty tired of this shit. Oh, and a facehugger, which attaches itself to the nearest ox.

Lilly: Quick note: since we’ll be looking at sequels of films on Sundays, there will be no apologies made for spoilers of the films that came before–I, for one, will not take responsibility for what order you watch the films in, but if you don’t want to be spoiled for the films that came before, don’t read a review of the film that came after!

Andy: Right. Unfortunately for Ripley, she’s crashed onto a prison planet filled with dangerous criminals, but it’s OK, because they’ve found God and have taken an oath of celibacy and quiet reflection, one that must be pretty easy to maintain on a planet where your choices for a good time are crazy Paul McGann or the nearest ox.

Lilly: Yeah, I’m pretty sure an oath of celibacy on a prison planet where there is no chance of sex for all the hereosexual menfolk isn’t an oath so much as a “shrug, guess we aren’t getting any” sort of movement. But I guess fine, whatever, pat on the back all ‘round, guys, for not having sex. Now, if you’ll pardon me, I have to go and fetch my eyes as they rolled clean out of my head there.

Andy: Still, things could be worse. I mean there could be an alien running aro… bugger. And Ripley now has to convince a skeptical superintendent, a kindly doctor and an apocalyptic religious leader that it’s going to start knocking off the brothers.

(As a side note, the scene where she tries to convince the super is one of my favourite scenes in any of the Alien movies, mainly for his incredulous description: “Let me see if I have this correct, Lieutenant – it’s an 8-foot creature of some kind with acid for blood, and it arrived on your spaceship. It kills on sight, and is generally unpleasant.”)

So why do I like this one so much? At the risk of getting all literary on a fairly lighthearted review blog, this one has such awesome themes. Alien has had entire books written on the psychosexual smorgasboard it presents–

Lilly: Ugh, ew.

Andy: –but one of the weaknesses of Aliens is a slightly overdone ‘Vietnam was a bad idea’ motif and ultimately a reaffirmation of the Reagan-era idea of the nuclear family. Blech.

Lilly: But at least there were less genitals worked into the set design. Ew, I say again.

Andy: Alien 3 though takes things in a very different direction. Most of the sexual themes and militarism are gone, and instead we are placed in a lead foundry apocalyptic nightmare with a doomsday cult who discover that the Devil isn’t merely a metaphysical threat to the soul, but an active threat that will grab you, eviscerate you, burn you. The Beast is Out There indeed. How cool is that?

Lilly: Well, there is still sexual themes–what with Ripley nearly getting raped and the celibacy oath being a plot point. Maybe, for the sake of my own sanity, I can accept that these elements were put in to really drive home the base nature of human beings–eat and screw–versus the instinct of kill, kill, kill the alien had. While the men were busy eyeing Ripley up, the alien was merrily carrying on with its menacing tasks of procreating via parasitic acts and killing stuff.

Meanwhile, can we talk about the design of the prison system in the future? Rehabilitation is clearly out the window, as they are obviously just removing all ability to commit crime and that’s it. Then it is labour for you! How is it that we have AI like Bishop walking around, but the criminal justice system seems to have gone backwards? It’s like they thought ‘Hey, a prison colony worked for Australia, sooo…’  So many questions. But you were talking about how cool it was?

Andy: It helps that so many of the cast are so charismatic. I’ve expressed my love for the Superintendent Andrews already – add to that a cheerfully foul mouthed Morse, brooding cult leader Dillon and a calm doctor played by Charles Dance of all people, and this is a wonderfully memorable group – and this is before we mention the poor crazy bastard whose response to the alien is to start worshipping it.

Lilly: I did enjoy the characters of this film far more than Aliens (save Bishop, who is my Alien franchise MVP, honestly)…

Andy: (And one of the very, very small number of reasons to watch Alien vs Predator.)

Lilly: …but that might come down to the fact that they weren’t all soldiers or a child. That, and one, as mentioned, was played by Charles Dance. And then there was the guy from Wayne’s World. I mean, it was a cast of ‘oh that guy!’s which I can get behind. On top of that, they also seemed to have stuff going on besides either the alien attack or being a soldier, like actual plot you could sink your teeth into, which I enjoyed.

However. Can we talk about the climax scene? The last attempt at ridding themselves of that turbulent alien down in the foundry? It lasted two days, or so it felt, and it was basically running, screaming, and everything was brown. I have a real problem in horror films (or action films, for that matter) when the attempt to make the energy the characters are feeling translate into the camera work, which leads to blurry nonsense and loud noises. We were already down to a few brothers (it’s not a spoiler to say some died, this is an Alien film, deal with it) that were harder to tell apart, and so it lead to not a few moments where I had to work out which one just survived that near miss, and if everything was going according to plan or not. And then, when it was finally over…it wasn’t over. There was another climax with a surprise guest to the prison colony. Just. Stop. Stop film. I’m done. I’d like to get off now, please. 

Andy: Even if Hicks and Newt will always hold a special place in your heart, you need to watch or rewatch this movie in it’s Assembly Cut form. You may not love it as much as I do, but I’m sure you’ll like it a lot more than you expect.

Lilly: As much as I like to pick holes in it, I actually really enjoyed this film, too. Moreso, even, than Alien. Gasp, I know! From the strangely adorable/hilarious xenomorph that is featured in it to the budding friendship/romance/whatever between Ripley and Charles Dance, I found myself happy to be horrified by this one. So even if it is going to be retconned the heck out of come the next film in the Alien series, give it a shot. You might be surprised.