Film 10 – Halloween (The Remake)

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The tenth and final film in my Halloween film posts is about Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake of Halloween. While the original will pretty much always be the fan favorite (including mine), this film is so mesmerizing. It is a great take on the Michael Myers story, and I enjoy watching it almost as much as John Carpenter’s. Let’s talk about why.

Halloween

Spoilers 

The 2007 version of Halloween follows essentially the same story line as the original film. Michael Myers kills his sister at a young age and grows up to escape Smith’s Grove mental heath facility to return to Haddonfield, Illinois to wreak havoc. However, this film goes into much more detail about young Michael’s home life and his mental state as a child (and it is set in a more modern era–possibly 1990s). We see that Michael’s mother (played by Sheri Moon Zombie) is a stripper with an abusive boyfriend. His older sister is a typical “mean older sibling” with a grungy boyfriend. He has a younger sister he calls “Boo” who is really the only one he truly loves in the household. The film begins with Michael (Daeg Faerch) killing his pet hamster in his bedroom, followed by an unsettling and dysfunctional family breakfast. In the next scene at school, Michael is in trouble because a teacher found a dead cat in his backpack. This is where we find out that Michael is also bullied at school (on top of everything else). Our young psycho has had just about enough of these bullies, so he follows one of them into the woods after school and beats him to death with a large tree branch, all while wearing a clown mask. (It is Halloween day–gotta be festive.) That night, after trick-or-treating by himself (because his mom was out stripping and his sister was having sex with her boyfriend), Michael goes on a killing spree within his own house, murdering first his mom’s boyfriend, then his sister’s boyfriend, then his sister. The only one left alive is little “Boo.”

Young Michael is then sentenced to treatment at Smith’s Grove, where he is under the care of Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). At first, Dr. Loomis is able to talk to Michael and seemingly make progress, but over time, the boy becomes more and more withdrawn. He spends most of his time making masks in his room to literally and figuratively hide himself from the world, and eventually he refuses to ever take off his masks. His mother still visits him regularly until one fateful day. A nurse says the wrong thing to Michael at lunch time, and he takes a fork and stabs her in the throat with it. After seeing her child commit murder once again, Deborah Myers falls deeper into depression and takes her own life.

What happened to little “Boo” (aka Angel Myers) at this point though? It turns out that she is none other than Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), the protagonist for the rest of the film. She was adopted shortly after her mother’s suicide, but she is unaware of this fact, not knowing that she even has an older brother, let alone that he is a serial killer. Michael (now played by the towering wrestler Tyler Mane) escapes from Smith’s Grove and makes it back to Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween day, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. He systematically murders teen after teen until he finally finds Laurie. It turns out he doesn’t want to kill her–he wants a family reunion. She, of course, doesn’t understand this, and she stabs this man who has so brutally murdered all of her friends. This enrages him, and he decides that he does need to kill his little sister after all. She ends up getting away from him with the help of Dr. Loomis, but Michael manages to get to her again. The film ends with Laurie shooting Michael in the face after having fallen out of a second story window during a fight with him. She is screaming and covered from head to toe in blood.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film because it took a deeper look at something that I really wanted to know about but wasn’t covered in the original film–the back story of young Michael. What was Michael Myers like as a child? What provoked him? Where did it begin? This Halloween answers that question plus so much more. Looking at his home life, one might wonder if he could have ever turned out “normal,” even if he didn’t have homicidal tendencies. The psychological impact of his upbringing did nothing to help his underlying violent urges.

Zombie’s Halloween is also so incredibly brutal. Everything is gritty and dirty, and the characters are raw and so deeply flawed (every one of them, including Laurie). Every murder is so violent and so “real,” it almost seems like you can feel what is happening on the screen within your own body. Not many horror films can do this, so this is a great accomplishment in the cinematography aspect of the film. It is very well crafted in that regard.

I know that this film is not everyone’s “cup of tea” so to speak, but I believe that it adds some great aspects to the Halloween story. I also enjoy Rob Zombie’s style of film, which, I am well aware, is not widely popular among general audiences because of the realism and harsh brutality. That is what makes this film special to me though–it gives you something that others cannot and will not deliver. So if you’re not squeamish or easily offended, watch the 2007 remake of Halloween this Halloween!

(Thank you for going with me on this journey of Halloween-themed films! I’ve loved writing about them!)

Film 9 – Halloween (The Original)

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Film nine in my Halloween movie posts is none other than John Carpenter’s 1978 hit titled Halloween. This is the film that created a new horror category–the slasher. It is a cultural icon, and it deserves that position in film history.

Halloween 1978

There are several films in the Halloween series, but I am going to only discuss the first one, since this is essentially the horror film that set the tone for all horror films to follow for the next few decades. Spoilers follow, of course. 

Halloween tells the story of one Michael Myers, who starts out the film as an 8-year-old boy creeping on his older sister Judith and her boyfriend getting busy on Halloween night, 1963. After Judith’s boyfriend leaves, Michael, dressed in his clown costume (to up the creep factor, of course), goes into his sister’s room and stabs her to death with a kitchen knife. We then skip forward 15 years, and Michael has escaped from Smith’s Grove, a mental health facility. Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance), who wanted Michael to stay locked up forever, is very angry about this new development. However, he knows just where Michael is heading–Haddonfield, Illinois, the psycho’s very own hometown. He’s waited 15 years just to go back and commit some more murders. At this point in the film, we are introduced to Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis’s premiere role), a goody-goody teenager in Haddonfield with some pretty promiscuous friends.

(Side note: I want to get something off of my chest. Every character in this film pronounces the name Laurie as “Lori,” with an “O.” This has always bothered me on a deep, nagging level. As you may know, my name is Lauren, and I absolutely cringe when people mispronounce my name. It is one of my biggest pet peeves. There is no “O” in my name or in Laurie Strode’s first name. It is pronounced Law-rie, or Law-ren in my case. End rant.)

Laurie keeps seeing a strange masked man walking around Haddonfield throughout the day on Halloween, and when it turns night, all hell breaks loose. Laurie’s friends are busy making plans to have sex with their boyfriends and leaving the kids they’re supposed to be babysitting with her, the responsible one. Meanwhile, Michael lurks in the shadows, killing a dog here and there, waiting for the opportune moment. He ends up killing all of Laurie’s friends, and he comes after her as well. However, we all now know (because the precedent was set by THIS VERY FILM) that Laurie was never going to die. She’s a virgin. A good girl. Good girls don’t die in horror movies (at least not in 1978). While I do not agree with the extremely anti-feminist message behind this horror movie trope, it is why we have a surviving female protagonist.

At the end of the film, Dr. Loomis shoots Michael six times, the force of all the shots pushing Michael backwards and out of a second story window. However, when the good doctor looks down, Michael is no longer there. He can’t die! He’s not human anymore, you know. His hate has made him immortal. He is no longer a man, but just “The Shape.” Michael Myers is pure evil. We end the film not knowing where our killer is, but we know that there will be more movies to follow that will answer that question, of course.

When Halloween was first released in 1978, there really had not been another movie like it. It set in motion a sub-genre of horror that is still going strong to this day (that I love as well). Plus, it’s name is Halloween, so you’re sort of obligated to watch it around this time of year!

Film 8 – Coraline

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The eighth installment in my series on Halloween films is a 2009 stop-motion feature titled Coraline. While this is advertised as a “children’s” film, you need some serious emotional maturity to watch it without being totally freaked out. So that is why you should totally watch it for Halloween. 😉

Coraline movie

Spoilers

Coraline follows the story of young Coraline Jones, who just moved to The Pink Palace, a mansion converted into apartments in rural Oregon, with her too-busy parents. Coraline feels neglected by her overworked and stressed out mother and father, and she wishes that things could be different. She gets “different” when a mouse leads her through a door in her house one night into “Other World,” where she has an Other Mother and an Other Father (who are exactly the same as real Mother and Father, except with button eyes…). They are attentive, loving, and enamored with Coraline, or so it seems. After seeing marvelous (yet eerie) sights in Other World, Coraline eventually learns the truth about Other Mother–she collects the souls of children. Coraline is able to escape Other World upon her final visit there and gets rid of the key from the real world to Other World with the help of her friend Wybie. In the end, Coraline is happy to have the life that she does.

This film is beautifully made with a cast of characters that bring out all sorts of personalities and walks of life. In the end, we see that there is perfection in the imperfection of our normal lives–that things are as good or as bad as we make them out to be. You can find beauty in the most mundane objects, and you can be happy with what you have right in front of you.

This film is a great balance of creepy and heartwarming, which makes for a wonderful Halloween watch. If you have young children though, be aware that this is not for those who are easily frightened. However, my four-year-old niece who shares the same name as this film’s heroine is just fine watching it! 🙂

(Aunt Lauren loves you, Coraline! Happy Halloween!)

Film 7 – The Shining

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Film seven in my Halloween movies posts is another one from my favorite director–The Shining. Stanley Kubrick knew what he was doing when he made a horror film. Anyone who has watched this 1980 gem knows that it’s a movie that will stay with you.

The Shining elevators

 

Spoilers

The Shining centers around the story of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and his son Danny (Danny Lloyd). Jack has recently become the winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel, which is pretty much cut off from the entire world during the snowy months. The family moves into the Overlook so that Jack can have time for his writing, which is what he really enjoys. From the very beginning, strange things happen at the hotel–like the fact that little Danny has the ability to “shine” or communicate telepathically with the chef, or that there are some rooms that they just “shouldn’t go in,” or that Jack keeps becoming more and more withdrawn… What his family doesn’t know is that Jack is seeing and speaking to ghosts who are telling him things about his role here at the Overlook.

Things come to a head when Wendy finds Jack’s “manuscript” that only consists of pages and pages of the phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Jack finds her looking at his work, and he immediately goes into a murderous rampage. Wendy and Danny try to escape, and Danny manages to make it outside into the the hotel’s inexplicably complicated maze while Wendy is left wandering the hotel and seeing ghosts and blood avalanches. Outside, Danny manages to outsmart his insane father, making it out of the maze and reuniting with his mother. Jack ends up freezing to death in the snow, but that doesn’t matter. His spirit is where it was always supposed to be–at the Overlook Hotel.

This psychological thriller is consistently ranked among the scariest films of all time, and with good reason. It’s creepy, deliberate, and shocking. You’re left wondering if what you saw was real or part of a character’s imagination. You’re never safe when it’s your mind that turns against you, you know. You’re also not safe when malevolent spirits determine that you’re never going to leave this place. Either way you look at it, it’s scary.

Also, this film was a major breakthrough technologically, being the second film in history to use a steadicam and developing a special low-mount version of it for Danny’s key scene. (You know what scene I’m talking about.) Also, the movie is full of Kubrick’s signature attention to detail and character shots, which I love.

The Shining is an A+ all around. It’s definitely worth a watch at any time of year, but you should especially make time for it around Halloween!

Sleepy Hollow Season 2, Episode 6 Recap

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“And the Abyss Gazes Back” had a lot of great moments in it tonight. Ichabod and Abbie were consistently there for each other, bonding over yoga and finding a cure for Wendigos and such. We also got to meet Joe Corbin, Sheriff Corbin’s son, who holds some resentment toward Abbie because of all the time his daddy spent with her instead of him. I loved the flashback scenes of Abbie and Sheriff Corbin–we need way more of those and way less of Ichabod and Katrina’s background. Take note, show writers. I’m not the only fan saying this. In the end, Abbie saves Joe, and their relationship is getting back on track.

BUT…Henry was behind everything that went wrong this episode. He caused every heartache, and in the end, Ichabod is trying to make the argument that Henry can be saved. He won’t give up on “his son.” That is some bullshit. Once you give up your soul and become a Horseman of the apocalypse, there isn’t any coming back. You’re on the dark side forever. Sorry, Ichie.

Overall, this was a strong episode, so I’ll end it on that positive note before we have to endure yet ANOTHER “save Katrina” episode next week…

Until then…

ichabbie ep 6

Film 6 – A Clockwork Orange

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The sixth installment of my Halloween movie posts is a film that I have loved from the moment I first laid eyes on it. It is my ABSOLUTE favorite film of all time, directed by a man who is also my favorite director of all time, and it is so very frightening. It is Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film A Clockwork Orange. Words truly cannot express how this movie makes me feel and what it means to me, but I’ll give it a shot.

clockwork orange

 Spoilers…

The film, based on Anthony Burgess’s book of the same title, follows the story of Alex DeLarge (a surname he gave to himself to describe his manhood) and his pack of droogs in a dystopian future. Alex (played by the amazing Malcolm McDowell) and the gang like to engage in a bit of the old “ultraviolence” every now and then. However, one evening, they were caught by the police after a night of breaking an entering, rape, and an accidental (?) murder. After Alex’s droogs assure that their arrogant leader will be the only one captured by sufficiently incapacitating him, Alex is taken into custody and subsequently sentenced to fourteen years in prison.

While in prison, we get to hear more of Alex’s insane inner monologue until he is taken to a treatment facility where he is conditioned to feel physically ill whenever he even thinks about committing a crime, whenever he wants to engage in sexual activity, or whenever he listens to what used to be his favorite song–Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. He is sufficiently “cured” at this point and released into the general populace, only to be beaten by his former droogs (now policemen) and stumbling across the house belonging to the man whose wife he raped a few years before…

The man eventually recognizes Alex after he hears him sing “Singing in the Rain” (the same song he sang while raping the man’s wife) while in the bath. The “Singing in the Rain” sequence is often viewed as one of the most disturbing moments of the film, taking what is a happy and uplifting song and pairing it with a heinous, violent, and graphic crime. That is what makes A Clockwork Orange such a masterpiece–it is not afraid to go into the deep recesses of the human psyche. It’s not afraid of scaring you, offending you, or disgusting you. It’s going to show you what humans can really do when the circumstances line up just right…

Alex is eventually trapped in the attic of his former victim’s house with none other than Beethoven’s Ninth playing very loudly in the background. This is torture for our reformed criminal, and he tries to commit suicide by jumping out of a nearby window. We then see Alex in a hospital with bandages and casts all over his body. He has several psychological tests performed, and it is determined that he no longer has an aversion to sex and violence. The last scene of the film is one of Alex descending back into madness. Where will he go, and what will he do next? I guess we’ll never really know.

I love this film for so, so many reasons. It is visually amazing, for one. Every shot is meticulously planned and arranged (a hallmark of all Kubrick films, but more on that later). But also, the story brings up some very risque and thought-provoking topics–what is the penalty for a totalitarian government? What are the repercussions of conditioning people into becoming “model citizens?” What are human beings capable of doing to other humans? Is what the judicial system did to Alex just as bad as what he did to his victims? What is justifiable punishment? That’s for the viewer to determine. The film leaves it up to you.

Also, Alex is one of my favorite characters in all of film history. He is reprehensible. His crimes are unforgivable, but he is so captivating. It is his voice narrating the film in a new-age part Russian/part English dialect. (“And then I viddied that thinking is for the gloopy ones…”) You follow the story from his perspective, so even if you can’t understand why he does all the things he does, you’re going to hear about it in the most enthusiastic voice to ever come out of a psychopath. He draws you in, and once you’re there, you can’t go back.

A Clockwork Orange will change you forever. That’s not an exaggeration. I first watched it when I was a teenager, and I still think about it on a regular basis. (It is my favorite film, after all.) It is all at once frightening, challenging, awe-inspiring, and beautiful.

So if you want a movie that will truly haunt you for Halloween (something beyond shadows and machete-wielding crazies hiding behind trees), watch A Clockwork Orange.