Showing posts with label jamie lee curtis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jamie lee curtis. Show all posts

Nov 5, 2020

MOVIE MOMENTS: HALLOWEEN: H20 (1998)


As I’ve written before, one of the most anticipated cinematic moments of my then-young life was the 1998 release of Halloween: H20. The studio-prestige approach to a slasher series that had by then descended to dubious levels and flirted with going direct to video, along with the involvement of Jamie Lee Curtis, was a major reason to celebrate the real return of Michael Myers. Though easily the best sequel at that time, these days, in the face of changing sensibilities and especially 2018’s far superior rebootquel, Halloween: H20 feels more like a mostly positive mixed bag. Regardless of its flaws, however, it easily contains one of the best sequences from the entire series.

After surviving several encounters with her long-lost brother, who finally found her hiding place after twenty years, Laurie Strode has a clear path to escape in front of her – there are no barriers, no hurdles to overcome. She’s no longer trapped in a closet or pounding on doors that will never open. She’s got an idling SUV, an open security gate, and her son, John (Josh Hartnett), is begging her to get back in the car and go. But for half her life, Laurie’s been running from her past and hiding behind a pseudonym as the headmistress of a private school in the shadowy hills of Northern California. Her life is in near-ruins; she’s an alcoholic who wakes up screaming in the morning and has an army of prescription drugs waiting in her medicine cabinet to help get her through. And she’s tired of this version of her life – enough that she’s going to make the conscious choice to stop running. In Halloween and Halloween II, every blow that Laurie lands against her attacker is reactionary and based on in-the-moment survival. This version of Laurie, however, goes on the offensive and willfully takes on the role as predator instead of prey. After sending John away, Laurie shuts the gate, smashes its controls, grabs a fire axe, and enters the game, bellowing her brother’s name as the camera takes a God’s eye view of the abandoned school grounds and composer John Ottman’s orchestral rendition of the Halloween theme floods the screen. In a concept further explored in 2018’s Halloween, this is the scene where Laurie refuses to be the victim any longer, and if there were such a thing as immovable fate, as Samuels once wrote, then she’s going to do the impossible and deny that fate as the victim…even if she dies trying.

 [Reprinted/excerpted from Daily Grindhouse.]

Nov 14, 2019

ROAD GAMES (1981)


Director Richard Franklin was known in his native homeland of Australia as “Australia’s Hitchcock,” and that’s not because he was a filmmaker who made notable genre fare, but because, like another noted genre filmmaker, Brian De Palma, Franklin was fascinated by Hitchcock’s techniques and sensibilities and adopted them into his own work. His most direct tie to Hitchcock was his helming of Psycho 2, a belated sequel following 18 years after Hitchcock’s landmark horror shocker. A few years later, Franklin would take a script by well-known Australian screenwriter Everett de Roche (Razorback) and bring it to life as a Rear Window-meets-road-movie hybrid, imbuing it with Hitchcock’s famous themes of paranoia and isolation, along with his use of dark humor and quirky supporting characters.

Road Games gets mentioned a lot when notable 1980s horror titles are being rattled off, especially when that conversation is based around all the horror flicks Jamie Lee Curtis did in her youth to earn the moniker “Scream Queen,” but not only is she not present in a majority of the film, the horror is actually toned down quite a bit in favor of thrills, mystery, and black humor. And despite Road Games being an Australian production which happens to feature some American actors, along with being an obvious homage to Hitchcock, the film also fits right in with ’70s American cinema, unofficially known as the paranoid thriller era. Films like The Conversation, The French Connection, Marathon Man, and more were direct results of the Nixon/Watergate scandal, and the cinematic response was one that would also soon be revitalized by The X-Files, whittled down into one core lesson: trust no one. 


The reason Road Games fits in well with this movement is that for a good portion of the film, Stacy Keach’s Quid is doing nothing more than following his paranoid instincts on what he may have witnessed. It’s not a slam dunk for him from the beginning; he’s not convinced that he’s witnessed anything nefarious, or if he is convinced, he doesn’t have enough evidence to back it up. What he does figure out pretty quickly is that law officials are no help, and all the blokes and sheilas who overhear his frantic demands for help on the bar payphone are not only not overly concerned, but they look upon him with suspicion. There’s an indirect subplot involving a worker’s strike going on in Australia which has resulted in meat becoming scarce, but also leaving natives incredibly wary of people they don’t know. Obviously this doesn’t help matters — not only is Quid American, but he’s a long-haul truck who happens to have a trailer full of meat. Simply put, no one is eager to help him.

Where Road Games falters is with its pace. The first act unloads at a purposeful but ever-intriguing pace. Through Quid’s observations, we “meet” all the other characters on the road around him, and this isn’t for throwaway comedy, but because we will cross paths with these characters again later. It’s through this observational behavior (because what else is there to do on the road besides stare straight ahead and talk to a dingo?) that Quid thinks he may have witnessed a murder — or, at least, a potential murder. Quid fixates on the maybe-killer (Grant Page), who will be personified by his dirty black hippie van for most of the film. It’s when we’re approaching the middle of the second act, after Jamie Lee has hitched Quid for a ride (her nickname is “Hitch” throughout — which serves two purposes: character nickname and Hitchcock homage), where the pace starts to slow. Keach and Curtis have reasonably good on-screen chemistry, and watching them get to know each other is charming, but once Hitch mysteriously vanishes, and Quid begins to question what’s really going on is when Road Games slows to a near halt. After having built such good will with the audience, and provided them with reasons to be as intrigued with the plot as Quid is with that dirty green van, the air is let out of all the goings-on; even as Road Games struggles to get back on track, and it eventually does, too much time is spent waiting for that to happen.


Still, what allows Road Games to speed across the finish line as an overall entertaining contribution to the genre is its identity, helped by the quirky sensibilities of Richard Franklin. Had Road Games been just another slasher flick, but plagued with the same second-act slowdown, it would be just a footnote in the genre timeline. Even though Franklin’s intent was to homage one of the horror greats using an open-road concept, it’s his likeness — far less known to American audiences — that make Road Games a film that’s not willing to be outright dismissed. It’s a flawed film for sure, and some viewers might not have the patience to spend most of their time watching a man riding around in the cab of a truck, but there’s a reason why Road Games has stuck around for so long. Equal measures of mystery, thrills, intrigue, and black humor make Road Games stand out from the rest of its ’80s colleagues, even if it doesn’t play as well as some of them.

Road Games is an offbeat title and definitely not for everyone. The Hitchcock flair is certainly present, both in construction and realization, but also in its usage of black comedy. Though its considered one of the many titles that made Jamie Lee Curtis a “Scream Queen,” her appearance lasts no more than 25 minutes, leaving Keach to carry most of the screen time. (Okay, him and his dingo.) Its pace might be too glacial for some, and its odd tone may turn off those more used to traditional genre fare, but there’s something undeniably quirky about Road Games that makes it easily watchable. 


Oct 19, 2019

HALLOWEEN (2018): ONE YEAR LATER

I wrote this archival piece nearly two years ago, and nearly one year before Halloween (2018) was released upon the world (exactly one year ago today, in fact). More than just a musing on what I thought David Gordon Green might add to the franchise, it was a reflection on growing up alongside the Halloween franchise, how it forged my love for the genre, and how absurdly, ridiculously excited I was, at fourteen years old, for Halloween: H20 (1998) -- the first Halloween sequel to seize on a 20-year anniversary, and to bring Jamie Lee Curtis back to the franchise. At this point, production on the next entry in the franchise, Halloween Kills, which returns all the major participants from Halloween (2018) for another go-round with the Shape, is well underway. While we all anticipate this next sequel, let's go back in time a little for a melancholy dose of watching both Michael Myers as well as the calendar...


As a kid, I was a devout Michael Myers fan. Granted, I was a horror junkie in general, but there was something about that white-masked boogeyman that fueled my imagination and struck fear into my bones like lightning. I can still remember my elementary-school self waiting impatiently in the living room, on Halloween, for my older brother and his friend to complete their dead hockey player costumes by gluing half-pucks to their faces. It took so long, and I was so antsy to get out there and trick-or-treat, that I flipped on the television hoping to find distraction in the cadre of Halloween-appropriate titles sure to be on. While surfing, a burst of screams and frantic chaos in the dark caught my attention. Feeling good about my choice, I’d put down the remote and began to watch.

That was how I first discovered John Carpenter’s Halloween.

Okay, fine, it was only the last ten minutes or so, but as a young horror-loving fiend, what better time to tune in? The film was at its frenzied peak, and the suddenness and ambiguity of the terror helped to heighten the experience. Who was this man in the mask? Who was this old man in the trench coat trying to stop him? Why here, why now? What is this?

I saw it all — Laurie Strode fleeing and shrieking across the street from masked maniac Michael Myers; her frantic pounding against the locked front door; the couch attack, the closet attack, and the final confrontation where Michael was unmasked and Dr. Sam Loomis shot him directly in the jumpsuit.

For a moment, everything was quiet. The shot had knocked Michael offscreen into a back room. Surely he was dead, right?

Loomis ran into that same back room after him. Michael waited in the darkness — still, and very much alive.

At that moment, seeing his unnatural stillness framed by darkness, I was petrified. Beyond petrified. I couldn’t move — something so simple as a scary mask in silhouette, with a bit of inhuman breathing, and I couldn’t fucking move.

Five more gunshots rang out. Michael flew backwards off the balcony and landed with a crash on the  cold hard October ground. Finally, he appeared dead.

But after a quick cut away, his body was gone.

And thus began a forty-year legacy.

After that fateful television viewing of Halloween, I was hooked. One by one I sought every remaining sequel, skipping Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, as I’d go on to learn that it didn’t feature the babysitter murderer known as The Shape. (I’d eventually mature and warm to this entry, which I now watch every Halloween.) This love for the series continued for years. I bought every Halloween available on VHS, including multiple copies of the original. I bought every magazine or book or figure or poster or anything that bared the face of Michael Myers. Had there been a Halloween secret society, I’d’ve been a charter member.

1995 rolled around and I was in the fifth grade. One Friday in September, a childhood chum named Barry and I were swapping weekend plans on the bus ride home.

“My sister’s taking me to see Halloween 6 tonight,” Barry said casually.

My face went full :O and I begged him to take me along.

He did, and soon after, he became a boyhood best friend.

Flash forward a few years. It’s 1998, and I’m in eighth grade. My love for horror continues, and sometimes I’m successful in forcing my friends to go along with it. Scream 2 had proved such a massive box office success that Dimension Films re-released the sequel for encore showings. And so of course I went. It was then, in the popcorn-smelling dimness of the auditorium, that one particular trailer stuck out among all others:


From the audience’s point of view, we glided down long hallways as heavy winds made curtains billow and dry autumn leaves dance across the floor. An ominous voice growled, “he has pursued her relentlessly…”

Meanwhile, the tick-tock piano music in the background sounded so familiar

“He has hunted her…everywhere…”

I knew I’d heard that music somewhere…

“Twenty years later, the face of good and the face of evil will meet…one last time.”

The music was a track called “Laurie’s Theme” from the Halloween soundtrack, and the trailer, which suddenly flashed to Jamie Lee Curtis looking through a window directly into the darkened eyeholes of Michael Myers, would end with the Halloween theme and the title Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later shrieking across the screen.

What I felt at that moment was indescribable — an insane amount of shock and surprise and excitement that I still haven’t felt for a movie to this day. It was euphoria. It was like meeting a superhero, or winning the lottery. A franchise that had seemed all but dead after the abysmal Curse of Michael Myers was suddenly back with a vengeance, and not only that, it was also hailing the return of Laurie Fucking Strode, the ultimate final girl.

In the dark, I could feel my friends look over at me and make their own :O faces. They didn’t care nearly as much for horror and the Halloween franchise as I did, but I could feel their excitement for me. And they were right. At that moment, I didn’t care about anything else. Once I regained my composure, I excitedly ran out of the auditorium and to the nearest payphone. (Yes, a payphone — it was 1998, ok? The only people with cell phones at that time were Mulder and Scully.) There was one person who needed to know – Barry, my horror movie/Halloween partner in crime – and he needed to know NOW. I was overjoyed, over the moon, and not thinking clearly. I felt like a celebrity, as if I had been the first person in the world to experience such groundbreaking news, and it was my privilege and duty to alert the masses.

Seeing that trailer was magical. To be taken completely by surprise still lives on in my mind as one of the happiest moments I’ve ever experienced. And here I am, nearly 20 years later, and the idea behind what I am saying – undying devotion for what is essentially Halloween 7 – sounds completely ludicrous. But that’s the kind of magic I suspect dies off as your childhood does.

By the time I got back to the auditorium, Jada Pinkett was already dead. I was so excited by this revelation that the exploits of Ghostface and the stabbing of Sarah Michelle Gellar barely registered in my mind. Suddenly, Scream 2 didn’t mean shit in the face of Halloween: H20.

For months after that, I waited impatiently for the poster to appear in the theater’s lobby — to confirm that it wasn’t all just a dream, but a reality. And once it arrived, I stared at that poster and marveled at The Shape’s mask, and took in the pure pleasure of knowing it was coming soon…


Consumer-grade internet had just become a thing (we’re talking AOL 3.0), so naturally, for the next several months until Halloween: H20’s release, I would Ask Jeeves and AOL Netfind everything I could about this new sequel. I’d click over and over on distributor Dimension Films’ official website and watch the trailers and look at the photos. Every fold of my brain needed to be saturated with every bit of info I could find. Though I’m now of the age where I depend significantly on an internet lifestyle, I can also remember what life was like before it. Back then, if you wanted to know about the next installments of Phantasm or Halloween, you only had Fangoria Magazine. And all you were allowed to know about their productions was what Fangoria allowed you to know – a quote here, description of a scene there, and topped off with a publicity still that, nine times out of ten, wasn’t indicative of the final film. Back then, I wasn’t in the habit of bookmarking film sites and receiving daily news updates about projects in production. Nowadays, as a grumpy adult with the internet on his phone, I can assure you that finding out about a new Halloween sequel coming soon in the form of an article by an online pipsqueak movie writer isn’t nearly as magical as seeing that same sequel’s trailer in a theater for the first time — the very first sign to you that it existed.

Always the pioneer, I began assembling my own version of Halloween: H20 “special features” on a VHS tape based on material recorded off television; it included a Sci-Fi Channel hour-long making-of special; an MTV thing where the cast and story writer, Kevin Williamson, hosted Dawson’s Creek trivia in between music videos; and multiple appearances of the cast on late-night talk shows. I watched that tape over and over until I could finally see the film for myself.

Opening weekend, I finally did — myself and a whole host of my chums I’d likely strong-armed into going. My eighth-grade self was not disappointed. Seeing Jamie Lee Curtis holding an ax and furiously bellowing her brother’s name gave me chills. By film’s end, I was legitimately shocked and a little heartbroken to see Michael lose his head. I was very happy with it, and my chums seemed to have enjoyed themselves as well. After months of foreplay, the big moment had arrived: the rolling out of Halloween: H20 felt like the successful culmination of a plan I had nothing to fucking to do with, yet I couldn’t have been more pleased with myself. At home I put together a framed Michael Myers memorial, complete with birthdate and death date, because I was a silly nerd/psychopath. Too young to understand the concept of commerce over creativity, I felt assured Halloween: H20 would be Michael Myers’ final hurrah (LOL), and while that made me sad, I felt that it was a perfect finale. (As an “adult,” I look at Halloween: H20 with a more critical eye, as its shortcomings are no longer veiled by childhood romanticism. The mask, which changes frequently, even relying on CGI for one scene, is terrible; the California shooting location lacks that small-town and autumn feel of Haddonfield, Illinois; the stuntman who donned Michael’s mask and jumpsuit was just a hair too pint-sized to be fully intimidating; and except for the lush and orchestral rendition of the Halloween theme, John Ottman’s score, Frankensteined with Marco Beltrami cues from Scream and Mimc, is all wrong. Those misgivings aside, I still think it’s the best Myers-centric sequel since Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.)

What might be the longest intro in the world leads us to the point of all this.

I was born in 1984. By then, the original Halloween was six years old, though I wouldn’t know it existed until the mid-’90s. That’s ten years. When you’re a kid, ten years is forever. Halloween: H20 was the twentieth anniversary of the original film, but to me it was basically Halloween: H4VR. Anything that predated my existence didn’t jive with the timeline of my life. I couldn’t appreciate the full sense of that anniversary because I didn’t exist or wasn’t cognizant for most of it.

Halloween: H20 may as well have been the bicentennial.

Here were are, in 2017, just a couple weeks away from 2018. And with it comes the twentieth anniversary of Halloween: H20, and the fortieth(!) anniversary of the original. A new Halloween film is in production — for the intent of my point, let’s call it Halloween: H40. Like Halloween: H20, this new film will be ignoring all the sequels and getting back to the original’s roots of dread, suspense, and little emphasis on violence. And Jamie Lee Curtis returns as the embattled Laurie Strode.


If you can avoid getting caught in the petty trappings of the internet, Halloween: H40 has a lot going for it. The production is in good hands with Jason Blum, who has kick started the horror genre over the last decade by sacrificing multi-million dollar budgets in exchange for handing off full creative control to the films’ talented writers and directors (a refreshing change of pace from former rights-holding and extremely meddlesome Dimension Films/the Weinstein brothers), with this approach resulting in new classics Insidious, Sinister, and more. (Dude might also be nominated for an Oscar for producing Get Out — you read it here first.) Jamie Lee Curtis is returning, of course, but the casting of Judy Greer as her daughter shows that the production is more interested in talent than vapid Facebook-level recognition value. John Carpenter returns to compose and consult. And it’s being directed by David Gordon Green — an actual filmmaker — who, comedies aside, has a solid body of work, including the very underrated, Night Of The Hunter-ish stalker thriller Undertow.

As of this writing, not a single frame of Halloween: H40 has been shot, but it’s already as terrifying to me as the original was all those Halloween nights ago. Because, to me, Halloween: H20 is only a few years old. I remember everything about the excitement I felt in the months leading up to its release. I remember going to see it, that all my boyhood chums came with me, and what each and every one of them said about it after the credits rolled. I even remember, upon Michael’s first on-screen appearance, my friend Kevin jokingly whispering to me, “It’s him, the guy from the ad!,” quoting from an episode of The Simpsons — something we did constantly.

Within the confines and timeline of my life, Halloween: H20 feels like it just happened to me. There’s no possible way it’s been twenty years. Yes, I’ve lost friends and family; I’ve moved multiple times; I’ve gotten numerous jobs; I’ve been lucky enough to have fallen in love a couple times. Those childhood friends who went with me to share in my excitement of Laurie Strode’s return, all of whom I miss dearly, eventually scattered to different parts of the world, and it’s been years since I’ve spoken to any of them. All of that makes a solid case for a two-decade timeline. But there’s just no way. I can’t fathom it. And I don’t want to.

As a film fan, a horror fan, and a Halloween fan who has weathered some serious mediocrity over the years, I’m more excited than anyone for the coming of Halloween: H40.

But as a mere mortal keeping a wary eye on the clock and the calendar, it just might be one of the most terrifying films I ever see.


[Reprinted from Daily Grindhouse.]

Apr 21, 2013

1340 KAB: THIS IS STEVIE WAYNE, YOUR NIGHT LIGHT


It had been a long day for Al Williams. With the April heat suddenly coming on in full force, all he had wanted to do was stack the Sea Grass with a few twelve-packs and head out into Bodega Bay with Dick and Tommy. Making this difficult was Kathy, his well-meaning but neurotic wife, who had been driving herself crazy – along with Al by default – trying to organize the town’s Centennial. “Had the statue been finished? Had the candles been ordered? Would the dark and somber Father Malone remember he was to perform the benediction?” That’s right, their town of many years, Antonio Bay, was turning one hundred years any minute, and while many townspeople seemed excited at the prospect, he could only scoff and wonder if he should be so lucky to live that long. But he had finally managed to escape, and after handing off the final case of beer to Dick and Tommy, who waited impatiently on the Sea Grass, they shoved off from the docks and motored for a while – far enough away where the only sign of life from town came in the form of some phantom dog barks, but close enough that they could still pick up the signal from the KAB station lighthouse off Spivey Point.

He needed this – bad. Good friends and cheap beer, and sure, maybe they’d try to catch a fish or two. His old vessel creaked and cracked like she were about to fall apart at any moment, but she was sea worthy, alright – he'd been taking her out for years.

He wasn't sure where to set his sights: Whateley or Arkham Reefs, maybe. But he knew the where didn't matter; all he wanted was to kill his engine and drift along with the tide. The journey to the docks where the Grass was tied had been a long one – figuratively and literally – and the evening had grown dark and late. But everything was perfectly in place now, and hopefully, nothing would come along to ruin it. The water was calm, softly lapping at the Grass’ hull, and the sky was clear – not a bad patch of ominous looking weather in sight. And the men had all night to fish – Nick couldn't make the trip, but had said he'd meet them back at the dock at 7:30 the next morning for breakfast.

Al settled into his cot, snapped a beer, and flipped the switch on his ancient radio.

And Stevie Wayne’s show was already in full swing…





Notes:
1 In order to present all the source music heard in The Fog, I had to play around with the film's timeline. Technically, 1340 KAB transmits on two separate nights, so in order to recreate these two shows as one uninterrupted program, I had to do some combining.

2 Only one track from the film does not appear, as far too much of it was talked over, chopped up, and impossible to isolate. I was unable to locate its title or artist to secure a clean copy, so I replaced this missing track with "The Charleston," which is a pretty good doppelganger. Additionally, I added "Moonlight Serenade," which does not appear in the film whatsoever, but I needed one more track to end the show, and it seemed in keeping with the station format, especially alongside the Lindup/Moorehouse stuff.

3 Three of the songs found in the track-list have made-up names, as ID information on them is non-existent. The song titles are phrases lifted from the film, and the artist names are bits of John Carpenter-related trivia (for extra dorkiness).

For all of these artistic liberties, I would normally say I'm sorry, but I'm not, because this was really, really hard.

Jun 1, 2012

HALLOWEEN 2 & 3 SPECIAL EDITIONS!

Holy shit!

Halloween II Collector’s Edition Blu-ray & DVD

Starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence, Halloween II follows the same ill-fated characters as they encounter the knife-wielding maniac they left for dead in the first film. It seems the inhuman Michael Myers is still very much alive and out for more revenge as he stalks the deserted halls of the Haddonfield hospital. As he gets closer to his main target, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) discovers the chilling mystery behind the crazed psychopath’s actions. Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, Halloween II is a spine-tingling dark ride into the scariest night of the year.

Special Features (preliminary confirmed line-up):
  • Audio commentary with director Rick Rosenthal
  • Audio commentary with stunt coordinator / actor Dick Warlock
  • The Nightmare Isn’t Over – The Making of Halloween II, featuring Rick Rosenthal, Lance Guest, Dick Warlock, Alan Howarth, Dean Cundey and more...
  • Horror’s Hallowed Grounds- Revisiting the original shooting locations
  • Still Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer, TV and Radio Spots

Halloween III: Season of the Witch 30th Anniversary Special Collector’s Edition
Blu-ray and DVD
A murder-suicide in a northern Californian hospital leads to an investigation by the on-call doctor, which reveals a plot by an insane toymaker to kill as many people as possible on October 31st through an ancient Celtic ritual and deadly Halloween masks.” Starring Tom Atkins, Stacy Nelkin and Dan O’Herlihy, this third chilling film from the popular Halloween franchise is produced by John Carpenter and Debra Hill and is directed by Tommy Lee Wallace.

Special Features:
  • Audio commentary with director Tommy Lee Wallace
  • Audio commentary with actor Tom Atkins
  • Stand Alone: The Making of Halloween III: Season of the Witch featuring Tommy Lee Wallace, Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dick Warlock, Dean Cundey and more..
  • Horror’s Hallowed Grounds- Revisiting the original shooting locations
  • Still Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots

Part of me wants to express my disappointment that John Carpenter isn't involved with any of these supplements, but then another part of me tells that first part to shut the fuck up, because the world is actually getting a special edition of Halloween III.

I hereby love you forever, Shout Factory.

Pre-order here. Street date is September 18.