Archive for malcolm mcdowell

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou wants you to GET CRAZY (1983)

Posted in 1980s Movies, 2013, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Cult Movies, Drive-in Movies, Just Plain Fun, Rock 'n' Roll Movies, Roger Corman with tags , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

GET CRAZY (1983)

gcposterWelcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

After director Allan Arkush released the wonderful drive-in hit ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL in 1979, he was tapped to make the big budget Christmas release, HEARTBEEPS, co-starring Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters in 1981.  Have you seen it?  Neither did anyone else, so Arkush returned to the genre that gave him his biggest hit – rock and roll comedy!  In 1983, he found a great script about the final concert given at a rock theater and all the people involved in that New Year’s Eve show.  In his wayward youth, Arkush had been an usher at the Fillmore East, and he’d seen more than his share of great concerts.  So, this was a project close to his heart.  Once completed, Arkush gave the world its first Robert Altman multi-storylined, actor-centric movie by way of the Zucker Brothers (AIRPLANE, 1980).  GET CRAZY is rock and roll heaven.

Daniel Stern and Gail Edwards get involved with some monkey love.

Daniel Stern and Gail Edwards get involved with some monkey love.

Max Wolfe (Allen Garfield of THE CONVERSATION, 1974 and THE STUNTMAN,  1980) owns the Saturn Theater, and he’s had one chili-dog too many, causing a heart attack.  He decides to throw one last, huge concert on New Year’s Eve, invite everyone who’s played there, and turn the reigns of the Saturn over to one deserving soul.  His kiss-ass nephew, Sammy (played by Miles Chapin of THE FUNHOUSE, 1981 and THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT,  1996) wants to sell the theater to big-time promoter Colin Beverly (Ed Begley Jr. of AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON, 1987 and the ST ELSEWHERE TV series), who only cares about how much money he can make by bulldozing the hall and putting up a shiny new theater, getting rid of the sex and drugs and rock and roll forever.  Max wants to keep the place as it is, so the kids can see the artists, afford the tickets, and enjoy themselves.  He is followed by his two minions played by none other than (former teen heartthrobs) Fabian and Bobby Sherman.  Meanwhile, the stage manager, Neil Allen (Daniel Stern of HOME ALONE, 1990 and CITY SLICKERS, 1991) is falling in love with the new girl on the crew, Willy Lomann, played by Gail Edwards (star of TV’s FULL HOUSE and BLOSSOM).  She once worked for Max years ago, but gave up the rock when she thought she had a future with a bigger promoter.  Neil’s little sister is desperate to see the concert and sneaks out of the house, but Neil must make certain she doesn’t get into too much trouble.  Plus, their unobservant parents are played by the great Dick Miller and Jackie Joseph (LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, 1960 and GREMLINS, 1984)!  Electric Larry, the local drug dealer, delivers plenty of speed to keep the staff moving at top velocity.  The lighting tech (Mary Woronov of EATING RAOUL, 1982 and SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT, 1972) is having electrical failures; the local doctor (Paul Bartel, also from EATING RAOUL and HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, 1986) is trying to keep Max alive for the night; and lighting intern Joey (Dan Frischman of TV’s HEAD OF THE CLASS), just wants to lose his virginity.  A bus full of hippies led by Captain Cloud and the Rainbow Telegraph arrive with a pass for New Year’s Eve 1968, take over the green room, and immediately get high while planning the finale for the show.  The fire inspector (“No spark too small.”) is on the warpath and refuses to allow any fireworks or open flames.  Meanwhile, Max puts through a deathbed request to Auden, a Bob Dylan-type of folk singer who hasn’t performed in years and is played by Lou Reed!  Auden gets in a taxi and starts planning what song he’ll play for Max’s last big show.

Electric Larry brings the New Year's speed.

Electric Larry brings the New Year’s speed.

Then, the bands arrive!

First up is a slightly punk all girl group (much like The Go-Gos) called Nada (fans scream Nadanadanadanada!) with special guest, Piggy, a pierced punker locked in their trunk, played by Lee Ving (lead singer of the real band Fear and one of the stars of STREETS OF FIRE, 1984).  Nada is played by the lead singer for King Creole and the Coconuts, Lori Eastside.  After an all-blind, all-blues funeral, King Blues (an awful lot like Muddy Waters) and his new guitarist, Cool, show up, but they are accidentally sent a Jews band instead of a Blues band to back them.  Then, along comes Reggie Wanker, a Mick Jagger type of English strutter played by Malcolm McDowell (of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, 1971 and CAT PEOPLE, 1981).  He has a midlife meltdown onstage and during a truly existential moment (and a truly extended drum solo), he has a long conversation with his penis in which he decides how to live the rest of his life!  It’s a funny moment, but McDowell wrings it of every bit of pathos he can.  Remember when he was a great actor and not just someone who took every part that came his way?  His girlfriend, the Countess Chantamina wants more out of life, and she decides to find a new love.

Malcolm McDowell plays Reggie Wanker.

Malcolm McDowell plays Reggie Wanker.

When the concert starts, all hell breaks loose with multiple story-lines overlapping while awesome music plays constantly in the background.  One great joke involves every single band playing a cover of King Blues’ “Hoochie Coochie Man,” including a fantastic, adrenaline-fuelled punk version by Piggy.   “Who says a white boy can’t sing the blues?” the old bluesman says.  Every band gets to play an original number and a version of the hilariously familiar “Hoochie Coochie Man.”  Oddly enough, the music is all pretty terrific, and it raises the silly comedy to a whole new level of insanity.  I suggest you crank it to eleven and make the walls shake!

Piggy (Lee Ving) and the Nada band perform "Hoochy Coochy Man."

Piggy (Lee Ving) and the Nada band perform “Hoochie Coochie Man.”

The crowd goes insane, LSD ends up in the water supply, romance blossoms, a giant living joint is chased all over the theater, the bathroom is infested with sharks, the fire inspector ends up naked and hallucinating, a bomb is hidden in the theater, and every actor gets a bit where they can do something funny.  Somewhere in that great, gigantic cast you can also find Clint Howard, Robert Picardo, and Linnea Quigley.

With so many plots and musical performances flying around like an air traffic controller’s nightmare, it would have been easy for Arkush to drop the ball, but he maintains the juggling act right through the explosive finale.  Everything works so well, I can’t find anything to criticize.  The comedy bits drop so fast and furiously, if one joke falls flat, the next one works beautifully.  And the editing is special, too, especially when the bomb is being planted while Reggie Wanker sings his heart out onstage.

Plus, “Hoochie Coochie Man” is a really great song!

It’s too bad the movie didn’t do well; GET CRAZY epitomizes a fun time at the theater.  This would be a perfect comedy to watch on New Year’s Eve with your buddies and plenty of cocktails.  You need to see it!

I give GET CRAZY three and a half giant joints out of four!

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl



Posted in 2012, 3-D, Based on a Video Game, Cinema Knife Fights, Demons, Monsters, Religious Cults with tags , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2012 by knifefighter

Cinema Knife Fight: SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A strange ghost town, where ashes fall from the sky like snow. L.L. SOARES is standing in the middle of the street with an umbrella, when MICHAEL ARRUDA approaches)

MA: Nice weather we’re having.

LS:  Yeah, I checked the Weather Channel. Partly cloudy with a chance of ashes, followed by ash showers off and on all day.

MA:  I’m surprised you have an umbrella.  I figured you’d be roughing it.

LS: Just looking out for my health.

(The MARLBORO MAN rides by on a horse)

MARLBORO MAN: Holy Onions! This place looks like a giant ashtray!

(He coughs as he continues riding away)

MA: Hey, do you have another umbrella?

LS: Sure. Do you have twenty dollars?

MA: Twenty dollars?  That’s a rip off!  What are you trying to do, cheat me out of my money?

LS: Yep.  I guess I have something in common with SILENT HILL: REVELATION after all.

MA: Ain’t that the truth!  This is the second time in two days I’ve been cheated out of some cash!

(MA hands LS a twenty-dollar bill, and LS gives him an umbrella)

LS: Well, I guess the sooner we start, the sooner we can get out of this awful place.

SILENT HILL: REVELATION is a sequel to the 2006 movie SILENT HILL, and I’m surprised it took so long for them to make a sequel. Both movies are based on the video game, also called SILENT HILL.

MA: A movie based on a video game. That’s a bad sign right off the bat.

LS: Do you think?

Let’s go for a walk.

(The two of them stroll down the empty street)

LS: When SILENT HILL: REVELATION begins, teenage girl Sharon (played by Jodelle Ferland in the first movie, and now played by Adelaide Clemens) is having horrible dreams about a strange town called Silent Hill. To add to the confusion, Sharon is now going by the name of Heather, as she and her father Harry (played by Sean Bean, whose name was Christopher in the first movie) are constantly moving around and taking on new identities. Harry has told Heather/Sharon that they constantly move because he’s wanted by the police. But in reality, they’re trying to stay one step ahead of some weird cult that is hunting them down.

Heather goes to her first day in a new school, which is pretty horrible since she’s always the new kid and never has a chance to make any friends. Although this time around, there’s another new kid named Vincent (Kit Harrington), who clearly wants to bond with her. She keeps putting him off, but eventually, a friendship will develop

On her way to school that morning, Heather was approached by a strange man named Douglas Cartland, who appears to be stalking her. He later shows up at her school when she’s leaving later in the day, which seems to confirm her suspicions. She calls her father to warn him and arrange a place to meet (she doesn’t want to lead the guy back to her house). At one point, Cartland corners her and tells her he is a private detective working for some people he no longer trusts, and that he has told them of her whereabouts (something he now regrets). Soon afterwards, he is killed by a monster that looks like a psychotic clown.

MA:  I liked that clown.  And if you were blinking just now, you might have just missed the only time in this review where I say that I liked something about this movie!

LS:  When Heather gets back home, her father is gone, and there’s a note written in blood in big letters on their living room wall that says, “Come to Silent Hill.”

Heather does not remember the events of the first SILENT HILL movie—.

MA:  Neither do I!  Blocked it all out.

LS:— when she had gone to the town of Silent Hill as a child. She has since been told that her mother, Rose (Radha Mitchell from the first film, who has a brief appearance in this one as well) had died in a car crash (when in reality she had stayed behind in Silent Hill in order to get her daughter to safety).

It’s at this time that Vincent reveals his secret agenda, as well, and he agrees to take her back to Silent Hill to save her father.

It’s never really clear if Silent Hill is a real town, or if it is in another, Hell-like dimension. My impression is that it’s both.

MA:  I would agree with that impression.  It seems to be both, but imagine if writer Michael J. Bassett actually fleshed out the story, we might know more about this bizarre demonic town!

LS:  There’s some kind of eternal fire going on beneath the earth in some coal mines, resulting in the sky raining ash in the town continuously. The residents of the town are also quite odd, looking like a collection of zombies and other monsters.

While she tries to find and save her father, Heather must deal with Leonard and Claudia Wolf (Malcolm McDowell and Carrie-Anne Moss, respectively), the leaders of the strange cult who want to use Heather as a vessel for the rebirth of their god, and they kidnapped her father and brought him to the town to lure her there.

MA:  And that’s probably the reason Bassett didn’t flesh out the story.  As soon as people start talking about what’s going on, it gets laughable real quick.  A vessel for the rebirth of their god?  Really?  It’s all so forced and contrived.  The problem I have with it is if you’re going to write a fantasy, you’d best convince your audience that it’s real, and the folks behind this movie just aren’t interested in doing that.  And that’s because this is based on a video game, and if it looks like a video game, and the same characters from the game are featured in the movie, then that’s good enough for the target audience.

But you know what folks?  It really isn’t good enough.  This is a movie, not a video game, and it needs to be treated as such.

LS:  There is also the demonic Alessa (also played by Adelaide Clemens), who is kind of like Heather’s dark side. Alessa lives in Silent Hill and is the one who keeps the cult members confined there (some of them can leave, but only for short periods of time). Alessa is not happy to see Heather again, since she knows the cultists have plans for her that would end their torment under Alessa’s rule. Instead of tormenting the annoying cult members, I wish Alessa had just wiped them out. Hell, I wish all of them would have wiped each other out, and spared us having to sit through this movie.

Along the way, we also encounter various strange monsters, some of which are directly from the Silent Hill video games. One is the ogre-like “Pyramid Head” (Roberto Campanella) who looks like a big, muscular guy who carries an oversized sword and has the head of giant pyramid. He is actually Heather’s guardian in this strange dimension, and he defends her against other beasts.

I had a mixed reaction to the first SILENT HILL movie. I’m not a big fan of movies based on video games, but I thought SILENT HILL was one of the better ones. That said, the plot was confusing and kind of annoying (even though it was written by Roger Avary who also co-wrote at least part of the scripts of Quentin Tarantino’s early films). But the imagery was very interesting. The first film was directed by Christopher Gans.

SILENT HILL: REVELATION is written and directed by Michael J. Bassett, who also directed DEATHWATCH (2002) and the recent film version of Robert E. Howard’s SOLOMON KANE (made in 2009, but only get limited theatrical release this year). Despite the different writer and director, the new movie has much of the same strengths and weaknesses as the first one. In REVELATION, I found the plotline aggravating and pretty boring at times, but the monster effects were kind of fascinating. This series at least has unusual visuals. I find the creature “Pyramid Head” to be especially fascinating (he’s in both films, as well as the games).

MA:  I agree that the visuals in this movie were creative, and for a while there, I thought the cool visuals might be enough to carry this movie, but it turned out not to be the case.

I was hoping that perhaps this would be one of those bizarre movies where the visuals were so wild and intriguing, that you could look past the weak story and still like the movie.

Not so.  And why not?  Because these images were mostly eye candy.  Director Bassett didn’t really do much with them.  This movie isn’t suspenseful and it’s not scary, and so you’re watching these scenes of weird monsters, but they’re doing things that aren’t so weird.  Had this movie pushed the envelope more, really got into the audience’s face, and created some chilling, memorable scenes, then we’d be talking about a pretty cool movie.

Instead, and I’ve said this many times now about movies based on video games, it’s like watching someone else play a video game.  And that gets boring real fast.

(A teenager walks by playing a hand held video game.)

TEEN:  Come on!  It’s fun to watch people play these games!

MA: Really?  Do you like watching other people read, too?

TEEN:  That’s stupid.  The games are fun to watch.
MA:  Well, maybe so, but the movies based on these games aren’t.

(TEEN walks on, suddenly surrounded by other teens watching him play, cheering him on.)

MA:  It’s strange new world.  Remember the games we used to play?

LS:  Tie the helpless virgin to the stake and sacrifice her?  Ah, the good old days!

MA:  I was actually thinking of kick ball.

LS:  Is that anything like “kick the severed head into the sewer?”

MA:  Er, let’s just get back to the review.

LS:  Okay.  The acting is pretty underwhelming. While I think Sean Bean has been terrific in things like the first season of GAME OF THRONES (2011) where he played Ned Stark, I found his performance here very disappointing.

MA:  And did you notice that sometimes Bean had an accent, and other times he didn’t?  I thought it was one of his more disappointing performances.  I mean, he’s usually very good.  Not so here.

LS: Yeah, I hate to say it, but he’s awful here. And other good actors like Malcolm McDowell and Carrie-Anne Moss are pretty much wasted here. It was actually painful seeing McDowell in this movie. What a waste of his talent.

MA:  They probably had to be wasted to say their awful lines!

LS:  Kit Harrington (another actor from GAME OF THRONES, where he plays Jon Snow) is okay as Vincent. I did like Adelaide Clemens as Heather/Sharon/Alessa, however. She actually reminded me a lot of a young Michelle Williams, and while her role was underwritten, I thought she was one of the better things about REVELATION.

MA:  Clemens was okay, but I think you nailed it when you said the role was underwritten.  Like the rest of the movie, I didn’t find her character Heather all that real. She’s pretty one-dimensional, and in terms of acting performances, I thought Kathryn Newton made more of an impression last week in the lead role in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4.

LS:  Definitely. Newton was much more believable as a real teen. If you make a comparison like that, REVELATION is going to come up short! Hell, seeing a movie like this makes me realize how maybe PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 wasn’t all that bad, compared to the other crap we’re forced to see.

The special effects by Brendan Carmody and his crew, and the visual effects by “Mr. X Inc.” are quite good. And I thought the film’s music, by Jeff Danna and Akira Yamaoka was effective as well. But the weak link here is Michael J. Bassett’s script, which starts out okay, but then journeys into the cliché (everything from bad use of occult symbols to demon-possessed people with way too much makeup on) and the downright incomprehensible.

As for the action, I found most of it a yawn. There’s actually one fight scene that I liked, toward the end, where Pyramid Head fights this demon woman who has buzz-saws imbedded in her head. She looks like one of the cenobites from the HELLRAISER movies (so much so, that I started wondering about the originality of the visuals in the SILENT HILL series that I found so interesting). But that big battle lasted all of about two minutes! What a rip-off!

MA:  Yeah, I would agree that it started off okay.  I found myself actually enjoying the beginning of this movie, before they get to Silent Hill.  There was enough initial intrigue to almost hook me in, but then strangely, once they get to Silent Hill, it all goes downhill, and that’s because once there, Bassett felt a storyline was no longer needed.

LS:  The 3D effects in this one were okay, but hardly worth the extra money (the movie ticket I bought for the 3D version cost me $16, and I definitely felt cheated). There are some scenes where things come jumping out at you, and the ashes falling from the sky once we get to Silent Hill look pretty good.  But it still doesn’t justify the higher ticket price.

MA:  The 3D effect ran hot and cold for me in this one.  For most of the time, I thought it looked pretty bad, and I remember sitting there thinking, this is some of the worst 3D I’ve seen in a while! And then all of a sudden, the film would make fun use of it, like there’d be a severed body part floating in the air towards the audience, but there weren’t enough of these moments.

All in all, as is the case with most 3D movies I see—and pay more for— these days, I wish it had been in 2D.

LS:  Me, too. I would have preferred it.

(They pass a pile of ashes and LS takes out a top hat and puts it on top of the pile. Suddenly, the ashes come to life and look an awful lot look FROSTY THE SNOWMAN)

FROSTY (blinking his eyes): Happy Birthday!

MA: It’s not my birthday.

LS: He always says that when he first comes to life.

MA: But this isn’t snow. He’s Frosty the Ash Man.

FROSTY: Buddy, I’ll take what I can get.

MA: So tell us, Frosty. Now that you’re suddenly alive, do you have anything interesting to tell us?

FROSTY: Are you kidding? I just want to find me a frosty beer before the wind blows this hat away and I turn back to a heap of ashes.

LS: Ah, an ash man after my own heart.

(FROSTY runs ahead of them, looking for a bar)

MA: Well that was disappointing.

LS: Kind of like the movie we’re reviewing, don’t you think?

For its visual sense of style alone, I give SILENT HILL: REVELATION just one knife. But that’s about it. Otherwise, because of the lame script, this movie was pretty forgettable.

MA: I can’t forget about it fast enough.

You know, I’m really starting to hate movies based on video games, and they’re starting to be as painful as all those TWILIGHT movies we’ve suffered through.

LS:  Starting to?  Where have you been?

MA:  I guess I haven’t been paying attention, but after the latest RESIDENT EVIL movie, and now this movie, well, these video game movie-wannabes have my attention now.  And that’s what they are:  movie wannabes.  They’re video games using real actors in their scenes, and they’re not telling stories the way movies do.  What bothers me is there are probably people out there who think movies like this without stories are real movies that are worth the price of admission.  That’s sad.

You should feel cheated, people!

LS: I think you nailed it with this one. It’s a matter of perspective. People who make movies based on video games seem to think that if the movie looks like a video game, with the same kind of pacing, it’s a good thing. But it’s not. Movies are a completely different medium. How about taking the characters and themes from the video game and beefing them up? Giving them a decent story and motivations that surpass the limitations of a video game? How about giving us a story that actually has some meat to it? Every single one of these movies seems like a missed opportunity. You could take the original concept and use it as a jumping-off point to give us something a lot better. Instead, of using the ingredients to whip up a fantastic entrée, they seem satisfied to give us the same old soup. It’s called lack of ambition.

MA: This movie wouldn’t know a story if it fell from the sky and hit the writer in the head!

So, Heather has to enter an alternate reality world called Silent Hill in order to save her father.  How very nice!  You know what would make this even nicer?  How about some details?  Where did this alternate reality come from?  Why does it exist? Just who are these strange people living there anyway?  And why is Heather the only one their god needs?  The world is full of people.  Couldn’t someone else do?  Why is Heather so important?  What makes her so special?

Where did all these creatures come from?  What is their purpose?

(A SPIDERY CREATURE pops out of building behind them.)

CREATURE:  Our purpose is to kill!  To maim!  To scare people!

MA:  How come you didn’t do any of that in this movie?

CREATURE:  I did so!

MA:  To a main character in this movie who we actually cared about?

LS:  There were no characters in this movie we actually cared about!

CREATURE:  You guys are mean!  Don’t I look creepy?

MA:  Sure, but so does the old lady who lives down the street from me.  Big flippin deal!

(CREATURE runs away sobbing.)

MA:  If the creative minds behind this movie had given this project even just a little thought, they might have had a real movie here.  Instead, they shower us with mindless visuals for 90 minutes, and the end result is about as fascinating as sitting in front of a tropical fish tank.  I like looking at fish tanks like the next guy, but not for 90 minutes!

For example, I liked the look of the carnival sequences in this movie.  I sat there taking in this amusement park setting, and I thought, “cool!” Now let’s do something with it.  Make me feel like I’m inside this place.  Give me events in the story which take place here that will really make me remember this setting.  Get me to say, “Oooh, the carnival sequence!  That’s the scene where the demonic clown terrorized the two girls.  That scene scared the crap out of me”!

Instead, we have a cool-looking carnival where a bunch of unimportant things happen quickly to unimportant characters, and nothing that happens in this place resonates with me as an audience member.  As a result, by next week, I won’t even remember these images.

And how about just a little bit of suspense, please?  A scare here and there?  Something that I can sink my teeth into?

Nope.  Nada!  Nil!

(They pass FROSTY THE ASH MAN, who is blowing the head of foam off a big mug of beer)

LS: Now that’s what I call a frosty one.

(FROSTY goes to drink it, when the wind blows his hat off, and he turns to a pile of ashes again. The beer spills to the ground)


LS: What a waste of beer!

MA: SILENT HILL: REVELATION bored me to tears.  I’m giving it one and a half knives.  I wouldn’t say that I liked it better than you, because I didn’t like it, but I did enjoy the visuals, even though they got no support from the weak story, uninspired acting, and ridiculous dialogue that pretty much ruined the rest of the movie.

Don’t see this movie, people.  Keep video games out of the movie theaters!  And I hear people chatting that they want this to become a movie franchise?  Come on!

LS:  It’s a losing battle, because these movies make money.

MA:  And that’s why people shouldn’t see them!  Heck, I love baseball, but that doesn’t mean I like all movies about baseball, or even that I want to see movies about baseball.  When I’m in the mood for baseball, I watch a baseball game!  Why do video games have to become movies?  Just play the games!

(Suddenly, giant chunks of ash begin to pour down upon them.  MA’s umbrella crumples under the pressure of the ash storm.)

MA:  What kind of a cheap umbrella did you sell me?

LS:  The kind that doesn’t last.  (Pulls out another umbrella)  Here, you can have this one for just ten bucks.

MA:  Ten bucks?  What do you take me for, a fool?

LS: Yes.

MA (looks at camera):  Ask a stupid question—.  I’ll just take my chances.  (Pulls his shirt over his head.)  Okay folks, we’re done here.  Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you again next week.  Gotta run!  (Exits quickly.)

LS:  Yep, we’ll see you all again next week.  (Exits at his leisure with his sturdy umbrella).

(Behind him, a coughing MARLBORO MAN falls off his horse into a pile of ash).


© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D ~ one and a half knives!

LL Soares gives SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D ~one knife.

Blast from the Past: Review of HALLOWEEN (2007)

Posted in 2007, Cinema Knife Fights, Lame Remakes with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2009 by knifefighter

(We’ll be posting our entire archives of past columns here. We’re starting off with the ones we did for Fear Zone from 2007  to 2009. This is the very first one we did for them. First published on Fear Zone on 9/15/07.)

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares
Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN (2007)

(FADE IN: LL SOARES and MICHAEL ARRUDA are standing in front of a dilapidated house as autumn leaves fall to the ground.  Somewhere an owl hoots. LL SOARES is dressed as a clown and laughing.)

MA:  It’s good to be back bringing you Cinema Knife Fight again.  I’m Michael Arruda, and this is L.L. Soares, dressed as a— who are you supposed to be?

LS: (waving an empty pillow case) Why, isn’t it obvious, my boy? Heh heh. I’m Captain Spaulding. Happy Halloween!

MA: It’s not Halloween, it’s Labor Day. I think you’re a little confused.  We’re supposed to be reviewing the movie HALLOWEEN.

LS: Er…I knew that.

MA:  Sure you did.

LS: (looks disappointed) Does this mean we can’t go trick or treating?

MA: I’m afraid not. Nobody’s going to give you candy in September.

LS: Sumbitch! I got all dressed up for nothin’.

MA: Of course, when a movie called HALLOWEEN is released on Labor Day weekend, there’s reason for confusion.   Anyway, why don’t you tell the folks a little bit about the movie.

LS: Okay. Well, as everyone must know by now, the new movie HALLOWEEN, directed by Rob Zombie, is a remake of the 1978 classic by John Carpenter. It basically tells the story of Michael Myers, who becomes a killer as a child and, while spending time in a mental institution, becomes something much scarier. Years later, when he escapes, he has become “The Shape,” a supernatural entity who is something more than human and who lives to kill. Myers goes back to his hometown of Haddonfield to pick up where he left off.

I guess I should start by saying that I was really looking forward to this film. On the whole, I usually hate remakes, and there aren’t many I can think of that were worth the celluloid they were filmed on.

MA:  Don’t forget Hammer Films.  Their best movies were remakes.

LS:  (clears throat) Yeah, yeah. Hammer Films aside, John Carpenter’s THE THING comes to mind, as that rare sequel that’s even better than the original, and, to a lesser degree, I thought Alexandre Aja’s remake of Wes Craven’s HILLS HAVE EYES was decent. Otherwise, remakes range from passable to just plain awful, with most of them falling into the latter category.

However, I’m a big fan of Rob Zombie’s work as a director. His first film, HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES was a lot of fun and a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale horror movie market at the time. His second film, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, is easily one of my favorite movies in the last 10 years. So I figured, if anyone could remake HALLOWEEN and do the material justice, it was Rob Z.

Coming out of the theater after seeing Zombie’s HALLOWEEN, however, I had a really mixed reaction. I liked that he tried to flesh out the Michael Myers’s character a bit more, giving us a closer look at his childhood, as well as his mask-fixation. But we still come no closer to understanding how he transformed from a child serial killer to a supernatural being. And where Carpenter’s original film built suspense and had really good pacing, Zombie’s version pretty much loses any sense of suspense by the second half. In the remake, Myers isn’t so much a boogeyman come to life, as he is a variation on The Terminator, which has its appeal, but doesn’t leave much room for suspense. As played by former wrestler Tyler Mane, it’s believable that this Michael Myers can easily smash through doors and walls, but he’s just not as interesting as the original version. Since the new Michael Myers is a hulking, unstoppable force, he seems almost more of a machine than a person. His mask looks a lot cooler this time around, though.

MA:  I agree with you about the fleshing out of the Michael Myers character.  Rob Zombie’s attempt to give meaning to Michael Myers’ behavior, to show how such a monster could be created, really worked for me.  For the first 10 to 15 minutes of the movie, I’m thinking this is going to be good, but then things go downhill after that.

The scenes with Malcolm McDowell’s Dr. Loomis and young Michael in the mental hospital, for example, were very interesting, but at the same time, it was at this point where I started checking my watch, not because the material was boring, but like you said, the pacing was painfully slow. While Carpenter’s original moved like knife jabs, this version is slower than Michael Myers walking down a staircase.

The original also was scary.  It contained many well-crafted shock scenes and built a sense of suspense that had audiences squirming and screaming.  This version the audience was silent.  Not one scream.

While I’ll admit this was a creative re-thinking of John Carpenter’s original HALLOWEEN, it was also too depressing for my liking.  It reminded me of  PSYCHO IV (1990)— well done, but do I really want to know how Norman Bates, and in this case Michael Myers, became such screw-ups?  Do I really need to see them suffer to understand them?

In this case, I wanted to understand Michael Myers, and when the film began, I grew excited.  I wondered, with this new knowledge of Michael, where the journey might lead.  Sadly, it led nowhere we haven’t been before.

And you’re right, they don’t explain how Michael makes the jump from maniac to supernatural killer.  Had they done this, it would have been a much better movie.

I did enjoy some of the little touches, like showing clips of the original version of THE THING (1951) on TV, which Carpenter did in the original.  And while I was glad Zombie included “Don’t Fear The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult, which Carpenter used in his original, did he have to use it so often?

LS: Did you notice how effective Carpenter’s original theme for HALLOWEEN was? It was the one piece of music in the movie that, the first time it comes on, I felt shivers up my spine.

MA: That’s because the rest of the score was so forgettable.  I was also a bit confused by the time element in this film.  People dressed and acted the same in both segments, even though 15 years supposedly had passed.

LS: I thought the cast was pretty good for the most part. Sherri Moon does a fine job as Michael’s stripper mother. Although it was odd to see a stripper who doesn’t get naked.

MA:  That’s okay.  Everyone else gets naked.

LS:  The great Malcolm McDowell (he was Alex in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, after all) is good as Dr. Loomis (although Donald Pleasance still owns the role), and I thought it was interesting that McDowells’ Loomis isn’t completely likeable – since he did cash in on Michael’s notoriety by writing a book about his patient.

MA:  Luckily, Malcolm McDowell didn’t get naked!

LS:  Daeg Faerch is interesting as the young Michael. He does a good job alternating between being intense and being vulnerable (in the scenes with his mother), and I liked the scene where the bully gets his comeuppance. And Scout Taylor-Compton is okay as Laurie Strode, but she’s no Jamie Lee Curtis, who turned in her best performance in Carpenter’s original film.

MJA:  I thought Daeg Faerch was the best part of the movie.  His performance as the young Michael stole the film. You really feel how horrible it is to be him.  And I thought Scout Taylor-Compton was actually pretty bad as Laurie.  Didn’t you find the dialogue in the scenes with Laurie and her friends awful?  I thought so.

LS:  (shrugs) Two stand-out performances for me were in more minor roles. William Forsythe (Sheriff Wydell from THE DEVIL’S REJECTS), as Michael’s verbally abusive stepfather, was a real hoot and I wish he’d been onscreen more. And the scene where the great Ken Foree (he was Peter in the original DAWN OF THE DEAD) plays “Big Joe Grizzley” in those big mutton-chop sideburns is so funny I was laughing out loud.

Other great actors in small roles include: Brad Dourif, Danny Trejo (“MACHETE” himself), Bill Moseley, Tom Towles, Richard Lynch, Sybil Danning, Sid Haig, Udo Kier, Clint Howard and even former MONKEE Micky Dolenz as a gun salesman. See how many you can find.

MA:  Yes, these cameos were fun.  So was seeing Bela Lugosi in his scenes from WHITE ZOMBIE (1932) which was also on TV in a key scene.

LS: (pops up wearing a Michael Myers mask and waving a big knife) Look at me, I’m William Shatner!

MA: You know, I was actually hoping that somewhere in the film there’d be a William Shatner reference, some off-the-cuff remark, like “that mask looks like William Shatner!”  Now, will you take that off! I told you we can’t go trick or treating.

LS: (removes mask) Like I said, I’m a big Rob Zombie fan, but I think of the three films he’s directed so far, HALLOWEEN is the weakest. Partly because the material is too familiar to have the same intensity it once had, and partly because the original film is such a classic that anyone’s remake would probably come up short. But I can appreciate Zombie’s ambition in trying to put his own spin on the material, and that he didn’t do a scene-for-scene rehash of the original. Although he did bring back the gag with the guy wearing the sheet and the glasses from the original, which was fun.

I just hope that, if this film does as well as expected, Zombie doesn’t get sucked into directing more HALLOWEEN films. I’d much prefer to see more of his original ideas put onscreen. He’s too talented a filmmaker to keep rehashing other people’s ideas.

MA:  Well, I’m not a Rob Zombie fan, nor am I fan of this movie.  John Carpenter’s 1978 HALLOWEEN was stylish and scary.  The 2007 remake is brutal and heavy handed, and it grows more and more shallow as it goes along, working its way to an ending that would have been better if the scenes leading up to it had more meat to them instead of blood and gore.

LS: I think I liked it more than you, but it had a lot of flaws. I was expecting something a lot more powerful. It’s really too bad that Rob Zombie didn’t hit this one out of the park.

MA (chuckling):  A baseball reference from you, the sports hater? That’s funny.

LS: (raises an aluminum baseball bat) Not as funny as what I’m gonna do to you to now that our review is over.

MA:  It ain’t over till it’s over.

LS:  Don’t start with the baseball clichés!

MA:  It’s not over till the fat lady sings.

LS:  Enough!  Shut up!

MA:  (singing):  Take me out to the ball game—.

(LS swings bat at MA)



© Copyright 2007 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares