Toy Story of Terror (2013)
Ah, the Halloween special, a dying pedigree. Every December usually brings one or two new Christmas specials. The Halloween special, however, is a rarer breed. “The Great Pumpkin” gets trotted out every October but new productions are far less frequent. Pixar, for the first time, is throwing their hat into the ring with “Toy Story of Terror,” basically a slightly-longer, televised version of their already popular “Toy Story” shorts. I’m a fan of the company and the series but would a Disney-owned property be willing to get creepy?
Yes and no. “Toy Story of Terror” follow the same batch of toys as always (though Mrs. Potato Head, Slinky-Dog, and Dolly are notably absent), on the road with Bonnie and her mom. When their car breaks down, the group has to stop at a spooky hotel. Once inside, the toys wander off, something strange picking them off one-by-one.
As far as horror-content goes, “Toy Story of Terror” has some fun. The special begins with the toys watching a black-and-white vampire film, which is recreated nicely. Throughout the special, Mr. Pricklepants delivers dialogue about the traditional structure of the genre. After Mr. Potato-Head disappears, the toys investigate the dusty, cobweb-filled sub-flooring of the motel, Buzz’ glow-in-the-dark paint casting an eerie green glow on everything. Jesse quickly becomes a final girl, an off-screen monster picking off her friends. She even has a run-in with an ineffectual authority figure, Carl Weathers hilariously poking fun at himself as Combat Carl. The second half of the special, after the truth is revealed, the horror elements pretty much disappear. This is disappointing, considering the first half did a good job introducing kids to the rules of the slasher film. That’s unexpected for a Disney product. Will “Toy Story of Terror” become a classic like “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown?” It’s hard to say but, if this becomes a yearly tradition, I’d probably be okay with that. [7/10]
Halloween H20 (1998)
After the extended clusterfuck that was “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers,” it was clear that the franchise needed a kick in the ass. A problem facing all the sequels is that Michael Myers is not a particularly captivating character. When faithful to the original, he’s not a character at all but rather an absence of character. It isn’t surprising that Dr. Loomis, Michael Myers’ arch-enemy, was the most interesting part about most of the sequels. “Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later” understands this. It attempts to return the series to its roots, revitalizes the limp franchise, while also providing Myers with a captivating opponent: His first, Laurie Strode, Jaime Lee Curtis returning to the series that made her a star.
Picking up twenty years after the original, Laurie Strobe has moved far away from Haddonfield, faked her death, and created a new life for herself. She is now Keri Tate, a head teacher at Hillcrest Academy, a fancy private school. She has a boyfriend in the school guidance counselor and even a son, seventeen year old John. Laurie is still suffering from the events of that night, having nightmares, seeing her brother everywhere. Her trauma, and her subsequent alcoholism, has put a strain on her relationship with her son. Of course, Michael isn’t dead. He tracks his sister down, targets her child, forcing a final confrontation between the two.
The early parts of “H20” feel like what you’d expect “Halloween” in 1998 to be like. Myers slashes throats and stabs backs with a big knife. Perhaps attempting to capture that classic spirit, the movie double-downs on Michael leaving bodies in unexpected places. The movie feels simultaneously more and less brutal then previous sequels. The kills themselves aren’t particularly cruel but the focus is on stab wounds and shattering bones. A leg crushed in a dumb-waiter is especially squirm-inducing. Michael either teleports a few times or climbs stairs really quickly. The Shape hacking teens outside of Haddonfield feels weird. I can’t say the private school setting works for me. The slasher elements are decent without being anything special.
Steve Miner, director of fan-favorite flicks like “Friday the 13th Part II,” “Friday the 13th Part III” and, uh, “Lake Placid,” contributes above-average direction. I like the billowing curtains. LL Cool J’s role as a security guard/would-be romance novelist is annoying. I like how tall and lanky Myers is but the mask needs work. His eyes are too visible and the mask too lined. “H20” has an uneasy relationship with continuity. Officially, this film ignores four through six. However, it’s easy to fan-wank a connection, as long as you ignore Laurie abandoning her daughter. Though very much a product of 1998, “Halloween H20” is definitely a strong sequel. If it had been the last “Halloween” film, I would have been perfectly happy with that. [7/10]