Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halloween 2013: October 22

Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

“Halloween: H20” was about as natural a conclusion as the series could ever ask for. It also made a lot of money. Naturally, another sequel had to made, even if it meant undoing a satisfying, logical ending. The studio even agreed with this at first, planning to make another stand-alone sequel but Moustapha Akkad said nope. The public demanded more Michael Myers, they got more Michael Myers. Thus “Halloween: Resurrection” was misbegotten.

“Halloween: Resurrection” spends its opening fifteen minutes undoing that satisfying ending. Which isn’t easy, since Michael was super-dead at the end of “H20.” In order to get around that, the screenwriters had to cook up an absurd solution. The opening retcons the previous ending by having Myers suddenly develop a sense of cunning. He switches places with a paramedic, making sure to crush the guy’s larynx so he can’t cry out, and walks off, leaving Laurie to murder an innocent man. This makes no sense and contradicts 24 years of history. The manslaughter causes Laurie to crack, placing her in the loony bin. This is conveniently explained by a pair of nurses. Anyway, after three years of twiddling his thumbs I guess, Mikey finally tracks his sis down. The final-final confrontation between brother and sister is seriously underwhelming. Laurie ensnares the Shape with a remote-control pulley she set-up at some point. Once again defying characterization, Michael tricks Laurie into (stupidly) stepping into his kill radius, ending their sibling rivalry forever. Just because the movie hadn’t trampled over his personality enough all ready, Myers makes friends with a fellow inmate before walking off. Jaime Lee Curtis only returned so she could die, insuring no further involvement with future sequels. This is very obvious. She sleepwalks through her five minutes of screen time.

Despite conceiving an ending even more final then the previous final ending, “Halloween: Resurrection” continues onward. A pair of internet reality television moguls dream up an event, a group of photogenic college students left in the abandoned Myers house with camera’s strapped to their heads. Their experiences are streamed live over the internet, despite this being 2002, when high-speed internet wasn’t widely used. Michael shows up, of course, slashing his way through another collection of generic slasher bait. He spends most of the movie milling about his childhood home, standing in the shadows, waiting for his queue. The life of a slasher must be so ho-hum…

When I say generic, I mean it. The characters of “Halloween: Resurrection” are by-far its worse attribute. Bianca Kajilch’s Sara is the virginal final girl, shy, reserved, and an attentive student. Best friend Jen, played by a pre-fame Katee Sackoff, is her bubble-headed blonde best friend. If this had been made in the eighties, we definitely would have seen Ms. Sackoff’s boobs. Speaking of boobs, redhead Donna pretends to be smart but is, in actuality, your typical slasher movie slut. She bangs a guy she’s known a few hours and thinks a dusty basement in a haunted house is an ideal romantic spot. Jim, who has no further development beyond “the horny guy,” goes for it. Bill fills the obnoxious prankster role and, thankfully, dies early. Token black guy Rudy seems reasonable at first but even he lights up a bong for no reason. You’d think a post-“Scream” film wouldn’t partake in limp clichés. Such blatant throwbacks might have been charming if it had been intentional. No, “Halloween: Resurrection” is just badly written.

Those characters are thin and terrible. But they’re not the worse. Busta Rhymes plays Freddie Harris, the man behind “Dangertainment.” Rhyme is obviously not a trained actor. He mugs furiously and it only gets worse the longer on camera he is. He shouts all his dialogue in a macho brogue. Early on, he watches a kung-fu movie in his hotel room. This is meant to set up a later scene where he fucking ninja-kicks Michael Myers through a window. As big as an indignity as that would be for any once-feared horror villain, “Resurrection” goes lower. Freddie, despite multiple stabbings, returns to save the day. Busta Rhymes is the one who puts the monster down. How? He shocks him in the balls with a live-wire. Rhymes destroys every scene he’s in. I hope he ad-libbed lines likes “Trick or treat, muthafucka!” or “Like some chicken-fried motherfucker!” Simply because no screenwriter deserves the shame of actually writing dialogue like that. Terrible human being Tyra Banks plays another terrible human being, one who ignores someone being murdered on camera not once but twice. At least the movie has the good sense to kill her.

The movie can’t even get Michael Myers right. Yeah, he looks okay. The mask is one of the better sequel examples, though the hair is still off, and Brad Loree is appropriately tall. However, the killer’s behavior is completely wrong. He puts a knife down in the heat of the moment to kill a dude with his hands. After stabbing someone, he gets more knives just to decorate the corpse. Most egregiously, he lets Busta boss him around in a scene that recalls “Abbot and Costello Meet the Mummy.” At this point, I can only assume that Michael truly did die at the end of “H20” and this character is an imposter. That makes far more sense.

The high-tech angle rarely comes into play but still ends up being one of the movie’s better attributes. A group of partiers watching the live feed recreate slasher movie audiences. They yell at the screen and cheer at the deaths. Sara’s internet boyfriend, who is also a handsome actor and not a fat old guy, texts her helpful hints. These might have been comments on slasher movie formula. If they were, any further commentary is lost amidst the movie’s sea of clichés.

Part 2’s Rick Rosenthal returns to the director’s chair. Any talent Rosenthal might have is over edited, as “Resurrection” features shaky-cam, grainy flashbacks, and flashing white lights. Danny Lux’s score is generic as fuck though makes good use of Carpenter’s original theme. John earned his musical royalty check on this one. The movie is packed full of lame jump scares and unintentional hilarity. For these reasons and more, it is the worse “Halloween” film, outpacing even part six. Six was a mess but its badness was ambitious and audacious. “Resurrection” is boring, lazy, stupid, and pointless. [3/10]

Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)

Part documentary, part surreal horror film, “Haxan” purports to show the history of witchcraft, up to the then modern era. Broken into seven parts, each one discusses a different aspect of the belief. Part one discusses pre-Christian conceptions of evil spirits and the universe before talking about what supposedly happens during a witch’s Sabbath. This information is given to us through a rather flat combination of still images and intertitles. The second half shows witches boiling potions and reveals various superstitions concerning the devil. The third is a dramatization of the accusation of a witch, while part four shows her torture, trial, and coerced confessions. Five is a similar story, this time showing a young woman being convicted of witchcraft because her appearance aroused a monk. Part six discusses the medieval torture devices in more detail before moving on to stories of nuns driving mad by Satanic apparitions. Finally, the final part connects ancient stories of witches and demonic possession with modern conditions such as sleepwalking, kleptomania, or “hysteria.”

While the historical information presented in “Haxan” is fascinating, and sometimes horrifying, the movie is most valuable for its striking and surreal imagery. The devil himself, played by director Benjamin Christensen, leaps out from behind a priest’s pulpit. A nude woman is lured out of her bed at night by demons. A stop-motion demon claws it way through a door while piles of gold dance on a bed. During the old woman’s confession, “Haxan” truly impresses. She gives birth to strange creatures wearing bizarre masks. She and her coven fly through the sky, greeted by black-silhouetted demons. The devils dance with the women, the witches lining up to kiss the dark lord’s ass. A skeleton horses walks around. A large demon spreads his arms, other creatures walking out from under him. Demons excitedly pump butter churns, pantomiming masturbation. Hundreds of different demons contort with their female companions. If a picture is worth a thousand words, “Haxan” must be worth several million.

The film has a subtle thread of dark comedy flowing through it, which help diffuses some of the cruelty on-screen. Priests snicker and laugh as they watch a young woman struggle with her confession. A friar tempted by a love potion is blatantly comedic. Later on, a nun tells Satan to get behind her, which he takes very literally. The demons, with their flicking tongues and wild expressions, are just as likely to get laughs as chills. “Haxan” is ultimately weird enough to inspire either reaction.

The reaction to the other elements of the film are less conclusive. The discussion of medieval torture devices and self-flagellation are fascinatingly morbid while the business with the nuns remind me of “The Devils.” However, the procedures of convicting witches go on far too long. After the impressive, extended black Sabbath sequence, the storyline revolving around the young woman’s trial drags terribly. The final chapter, which takes the film into the modern day, is also extraneous. The kleptomaniac’s sob-story about loosing her husband is hopelessly melodramatic while all the talk about “hysteria” is likely to get a couple chuckles from modern audience. Christensen is obviously coming down on the side of science and against superstition. This moral is undermined a bit by the demonic sequences being far more captivating then the historical ones.

The film was re-released in the sixties with an abbreviated run time, an experimental jazz score, and additional narration from William S. Burroughs. While Burroughs’ gravelly intonations are amusing, I have a low tolerance for the erratic, chaotic jazz of that era. Aside from that, the alternate version is almost preferable since it moves at a snappier pace. Even with its flaws, “Haxan” is amazing at times. It’s hard to say how influential it was on later horror films since, even today, there’s still nothing else quite like it. [7/10]

Tales from the Crypt: “Mute Witness to Murder

“Mute Witness to Murder” has got a fantastic narrative hook. After a successful anniversary party, a woman looks across the courtyard to her neighbor’s window… Just in time to see the man murder his wife. Such a sight shocks her into muteness. That’s not the great hook. The hook comes when her concerned husband calls a doctor, who just happens to be the man from next door. Before the woman has time to write down what happened with her presumably still-functional hands, the doctor drugs her and drags her off to the mental hospital he runs.

“Mute Witness to Murder” is a fairly cheesy pulp story. The conditions of Suzy’s muteness make little sense and the doctor’s psychotic cruelty is over exaggerated. As is his heart condition which, expectantly, becomes important later. Once again, above-average performances and direction elevates the material. Richard “John-Boy Walton” Thomas is fantastically chilly as the evil doc. He speaks every line in a cold, deliberate tone, maliciously planning everything. Who would have thought he’d make such a convincing psychopath? Patricia Clarkson, who I’m raving about a lot this Halloween, more then suffices as the mute witness. You feel for her strife and root for her against the villain. Jim Simpson, who only has one more directorial credit, actually creates a fantastically sterile atmosphere. His frame is wide and rich. The hospital is awfully frosty and the swooping, “Star Trek”-style automatic doors are a nice touch. The ending is nicely ironic and surprisingly cruel. Jan Hammer scores again, his droning electronics adding to the cold tone. Season two continues to impress. [7/10]

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