Halloween II (2009) [Unrated Director’s Cut]

0

As anyone who has read my review of Rob Zombie’s Halloween, you might know that I was immediately open to it and generally liked it basically because it was different. It wasn’t a shot-for-shot remake, but it was also a bit messy. The first half was certainly very good; Zombie’s chronicling of Michael Myers’ life stuck in institution was well explored ground and written very well, but then the second half feels like a push-pull between something like Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Psycho to Zombie’s interpretation of the original material, which is where the first film fell a bit flat. However, with the “Unrated Director’s Cut” of Halloween II, Zombie goes in a different direction yet again, and it feels like Zombie’s finally made Halloween his own.

It’s been two years since the psychotic events of October 31st in Haddonfield, Illinois, and Laurie Strode is a mess. She’s living with Annie Brackett, who used to be her best friend, but animosity has grown since the Halloween incident. She’s having bizarre visions and a revelation in the new tell-all book by Samuel Loomis catapults her into events that will finally bring a close to the Michael Myers’ rampage.

From the get-go, this isn’t your typical horror film. It doesn’t even seem like a horror film. Sure, there are deaths, stabbings, and freaky visions, but it plays out more like a drama that used horror as its basis. It’s one of the smartest moves ever made in a horror sequel. Rob Zombie is the thinking horror fan’s director, he won’t do a retreading of material, he won’t rehash ideas, he’ll keep going in different directions, and I never cease being interested in what he has to say within his films.

Scout-Taylor Compton provides a fantastic performance as Laurie Strode and really makes Strode her own; the scenes involving Strode and Margot Kidder’s psychiatrist are of a particular note, showing Strode spiralling out of control and Kidder’s psychiatrist trying to work out how to help this poor girl.

Strode is having psychotic visions, and it is one of these visions that is probably my favourite parts of the film involving lots of profanity, almost silent movie-esque looks and a glass coffin which works very well, it’s a scene that has a great impact and is visually pleasing, despite the amount of profanity being thrown at the camera.

Of particular positive notes is the inclusion of home video footage of Danielle Harris as a young Annie Brackett. The Halloween fan will know Harris played Jamie Lloyd, the niece of Michael Myers and daughter of Laurie Strode in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, and there is a poignancy of showing this footage with Harris’ history in Haddonfield. It’s quite moving actually, which leads me to Brad Dourif.

In the first film, Brad Dourif played Annie’s father, Sheriff Brackett, and it wasn’t terribly memorable. It was cool as Dourif is the voice of another horror icon, Chucky the Good Guy Doll from the Child’s Play films, but other than that, there wasn’t anything stand-out about him in Zombie’s Halloween. He completely breaks out in Halloween II, showing a father falling to pieces, and bringing such a reality to his character and such sympathy, making Brackett my favourite character in Halloween II, and is probably the best performance Dourif has ever given on screen. It’s positively fantastic, and words can’t describe how amazing his performance is…you need to see it.

The Blu-Ray disc provides a great picture and sound, loud and threatening, just the way I like it. The image has changed from the cinemascope 2:35:1 of the first film to a normal widescreen image that helps bring across the raw energy the film oozes out of every grainy pore it owns. It’s a faithful representation and helps communicate the raw energy of the film well.

Deleted and alternate scenes are included which aren’t much to write home to mum about, they provide interesting but unnecessary alternative takes of different scenes. What would have been better is the inclusion of the theatrical cut. Audition footage is provided of some newcomers. While interesting to watch, is there a need for it? Do Rob Zombie/Halloween fans demand audition footage of as-yet-unknown actors? Of note is Chase Vanek, replacing Daeg Faerch as Young Michael Myers due to a growth spurt. Vanek provides a good substitute but didn’t seem as gloomy as Faerch was. Make-up test footage is also included, which, too, is interesting, but hardly necessary. A blooper reel is included which probably made me smile once or twice.

There is a fictitious band made for this film named Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures, and about nine minutes of music video is provided, intercutting black-and-white typical “music video shoot” footage with the scene in the film with sprinklings of old horror films and cartoons. They’re all the same and not my cup of tea.

Unce Seymour Coffin’s Stand Up Routines. This guy is also in the club scenes and isn’t funny, but does some jokes that may make you smile, but providing unused footage of unfunny stand-up routines for entertainment is redundant. I didn’t even make it past one minute of it. The whole joke in the film is that this guy is funny because he isn’t funny. Providing 5-10 minutes of unfunny material will keep hitting the nail on the head but eventually bore the hammer into the skull and then eventually into the brain matter, providing a painful experience. My thoughts go out to all who watch this in its entirety.

Finally is the audio commentary from Rob Zombie. Zombie is always great to listen to; he’s intelligible and explains certain ideas, cuts, and things become even more clear. He’s a great guy and while he does fall into the audio-commentary no-no of describing what is on-screen, he balances that out by explaining the ideas behind the scene or a story behind the scene, which is alright. He’s insightful company and worth checking out for Zombie fans.

The disc is highly recommended for Zombie fans and for fans of horror in general. This isn’t your typical horror film, not is it your typical Halloween film. But I liked that; it’s refreshing and visually outstanding and has some fantastic ideas. I challenge all who saw the theatrical cut and hated it to watch this fantastic, albeit somewhat slow director’s cut, and try not to change their minds.

The inclusion of the theatrical cut would have made for some nice analyses, and the inclusion of Captain Clegg music videos and Seymour Coffins’ stand up routines are unnecessary waste of precious data space. A faithful reproduction of the image and audio provides the film with a great visceral experience. I could have loved it more, but I loved it more than I expected to. Four skulls.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge

0

From the truly cool opening title cards that would fit more with Terminator than they would with Freddy Krueger, everything goes downhill in this truly below sub-par sequel that’s confusing, unmemorable, and laughable.

It’s been five years since the events of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and a new family has moved into the house that the famous Nancy Thompson (the heroine in the first film) use to live in, and things start out peachy-keen…then spiral out of control.

I usually enter the world of a horror movie sequel with a open mind, honest, because they usually all suck, some more than others. But A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge is an all-new level of sucktastic, but has four things going for it: the very awesome artwork (to your left), a horribly corny title that’s so-bad-it’s-freakin’-awesome (Freddy’s Revenge), the aforementioned Terminator-esque opening titles, and Robert Englund.

To be honest, Freddy’s not my favourite horror movie icon (I hesitate to call him a slasher movie icon), but I like the concept of a demonic sandman killing teenagers in their dreams, leading to the idea of no escape. It is, at least was, refreshing when it first came out, and there was an element of fear, of fright, embedded in the concept that you couldn’t do anything but be glued to your seat, even in this day and age. It was also something different, which is also a good thing. This, however, is titled Freddy’s Revenge. Wasn’t the first film the spawn of his revenge, killing the teenagers of the parents that killed him?

I haven’t seen the sequels, and if I have, I don’t remember them, but this first foray in to the fabled Land of the Sequels proves to be a redundant foray, giving a confusing and badly-written story, disappointing and predictable climax as well as some hokey acting (which, really, is to be expected).

Robert Englund, you have to give the man credit, has kept up appearances through the first film up until Freddy VS Jason (2003), so that’s some damn good commitment. But even what he brings to the table seems lost in this story.

We see where he worked, a factory (making…what? Not explained…), which is where the all-too-predictable and all-too-convenient climax happens, and there is so much here that isn’t really used properly. I could tell there was a story, I could understand what the film-makers were trying to say (sometimes), but this should have gone through some more drafts before filming began, because the execution of this story turns what Wes Craven brought, a truly original and frightening concept, into something confusing and hardly frightening (a few spontaneous combustions involving a toaster, which the family keep afterwards, and exploding birds? Come on…) But most of all, this sequel turns the refreshing story into something unnecessary.

I can’t really recommend this, not even to Krueger fans, but I’m sure all the die-hard fans have already seen it. It’s a silly and worthless sequel and even Robert Englund can’t really save it. Skip it, and go onto A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, whose title is only slightly less corny than this film’s title. See? It’s already better.

One-and-a-half stars.

Bioshock 2 (Xbox 360)

0

NOTE: There is no review of the multiplayer portion of the game.

He’s nicer than the other Daddies…

To judge Irrational Games’ Bioshock as mere by-the-books shooter would be a horrible disservice to everyone involved in the making of the game. It was a refreshing, unique, deep and moral game, filled with mesmerising graphics and textures, a creepy and atmospheric soundtrack, and some memorable characters that could haunt your nightmares, as well as an adaptive storyline and gameplay. So, naturally, I had a feeling of unease when I had heard that, yes, there was a sequel being made, but – by someone else. Of course, Bioshock has stayed in the 2K family (Irrational Games was known as 2K Boston and 2K Australia at time of Bioshock’s release); but its sequel went to 2K Marin (who developed the PS3 version of the original game).

2K Marin have not failed Andrew Ryan.

Continue reading

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

0

Happy Valentines Day!

I had never heard of My Bloody Valentine until I had seen the trailer of the 3D remake, and even then, it wasn’t until a week prior to the film’s release did I actually see the original film, but it blew my socks off.

In the tight-knit mining town of Valentine’s Bluff, everyone is getting ready for its first Valentine’s Day dance in many, many years. However, a local loon, who is also the bartender, warns the teens about a legend, many years ago, where the sole survivor of a mine explosion came back after recovery and went on a ravenous rampage of revenge on the town of Valentine’s Bluff. The teens however, choose to disbelieve this legend, and it will be their undoing, as more and more people are turning up dead on the day where love should be all around…

When you view the original My Bloody Valentine, one thing immediately strikes you: this isn’t your by-the-books slasher movie; it has something, that famous je ne sais quoi that you can’t really put your finger on, no matter how much you try…until you watch the deleted footage.

This effective Canadian gem came out in at the height of the slasher boom of the early eighties, following in the path of the classic Halloween. However, out of all imitators, My Bloody Valentine stands out above all the rest, but, of course, it’s one of those that never grew into a never-ending franchise that has that one film that alludes to the ending of a slasher character, but perhaps that was for the best?

There’s hardly anything wrong with this, and I will go so far to say that if John Carpenter’s Halloween didn’t exist, George Mihalka would be a far better known name for his Valentine’s Day slasher masterpiece.

The Blu-Ray, released by Lionsgate (having bought DVD rights from Paramount) have released the film with the much-awaited deleted footage that has hardly seen the light of day, and while Lionsgate can toot their horn about the inclusion of the sought-after footage, it dramatically changes the way you watch the film, and it’s quite bizarre how a few more minutes of footage can morph the film into something completey different.

The footage, despite what people are saying, is crystal clear. It’s just old. The deleted footage has wear and tear of being mistreated or general storage and at first watching I loved it. It gave the film a true grindhouse kind of quality. However, watching the footage again, on its own, I think the film without the deleted footage works a lot better, whereas if you watch the film with the deleted footage integrated into it, not only does it look like a grindhouse movie, but it also feels like a grindhouse movie. The violence, make-up and gore is in true exploitation fashion, and did, in fact, remind me of the inferior Friday the 13th’s and their respective out-there and consistent, violent kills, effectively giving you two very different versions of the film.

Two other extras, besides a theatrical trailer for My Bloody Valentine and preview for other Lionsgate titles, are presented. First is Bloodlust: My Bloody Valentine and the Rise of the Slasher Film, gives a short and, at first, entertaining look at the slasher films post-Halloween, involving interviews from some cast and crew of this slasher classic, but then takes a right-turn into a full-blown advertisement for Lionsgate’s 3D remake, which I didn’t like – not one bit (it’s pathetic, really).  The second extra is called Bloodlines: An “Interactive” Horror Film History. It is, in fact, called that, but interactive is in inverted commas because it seems like it was taken from an early-90s webpage. There’s nothing interactive about it at all. It’s simply right arrow, left arrow, enter button. It’s a text history, and, whilst comprehensive, unless you’re sitting right up in front of your television, it should prove to be a difficult read.

Watch the original version first, without the deleted scenes, it’s a classic of the genre. Harry Warden is one of my favourite slashers, but Lionsgate haven’t treated him like they should have with a passable but could-have-been-better Blu-Ray presentation. Also, at the end of the day, when you pop the disc into your player, what version do you want to watch? The version that most of us have fallen in love with, that has that je ne sais quoi that most slashers don’t have, or the traditional, by-the-slasher-books version? Three-and-a-half for the whole thing. Too bad the film is tarnished by a sub-par Blu-Ray presentation.

“Jennifer’s Body” by Rick Spears

0

Just to make it clear: I have not yet seen Jennifer’s Body. I was super-psyched to see it until it “bombed” at the box office, and like usual, if it bombs in the States, it’s not worth releasing anywhere else; i.e. Australia. Here I am patiently waiting until late February when Amazon.co.uk has Jennifer’s Body on Blu-Ray so I can finally see the film I was expecting to see last December (the US Blu-Ray is region-locked to Region A, I’m Region B).

This graphic novel (not comic book) delves deeper into the world revolving around Jennifer’s Body, a film written by Diablo Cody of Juno-fame, starring Megan Fox and directed by Karyn Kasuma (Aeon Flux) but the book probably works better if you’ve actually seen the film on which it’s based. Now, I will admit I’ve read the script. Don’t ask me where I got it; I can’t remember. It was hella funny. It was twisted and clever writing, but hardly scary. If anything has changed from this draft (dated 2007; prior to Juno‘s release), it’s that they’ve added more of the horror element, judging from the trailers. However, compared to the original script, this, too, has a more horrific element.

This book is split into four chapters detailing one boy’s journey to being digested in Jennifer’s body, as well as a prologue and an epilogue. I’ll review each chapter.

Chapter one focuses on Jennifer’s first victim, a jock named Jonas who’s having a few problems on the football team, mainly, his balls are shrinking from steroid use. Add to that his girlfriend is bumping uglies with his best friend, Craig. In a fit of rage, he fights Craig, then goes home, depressed. Next day, he finds out Craig has died in a bar fire. Bereaved, Jonas seems distant, even his walnut-sized brain can comprehend emotion and sadness and loss. Enter Jennifer Check, who seemed like she was going to comfort him, only to find a nasty surprise.

Chapter one’s style is not one you’d see in a graphic novel. Perhaps in a children’s comic book you can buy at your local newsagency, but not one you’d see in a – somewhat – sophisticated graphic novel. It’s all harsh edges and vivid, sometimes garish, colours, with some interesting composition. It suits the character of Jonas, implying simplicity in Jonas’ life, since he’s a dumb football jock, but there is something brewing under the surface – SHOCK! – jocks have feelings! I enjoyed this chapter, because Jonas’ priorities are amazingly out of whack, plus it was just fun to look at.

Chapter two focuses on Colin, seen in the trailers for the film, a so-far-in-touch-with-his-emotions-they-take-contol-of-him guy that goes all goth after his favourite record store closes, who has a secret crush on the hottest girl in school, Jennifer Check. He never took the chance at that one summer camp to talk to her, but after he hears her in chemistry, they’re lab partners, you see, she’s listening to Colin’s favourite band, the Dwarves. It is here they hit it off as friends, finding more and more in common with each other. When he asks her out to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Bijou Theatre on a date (with Jennifer thinking he’s talking about Rocky, claiming she “doesn’t like boxing movies”), she gives him a second chance and invites him to watch a film he’s never heard of called Aquamarine at Jennifer’s house, to which Colin agrees. However, he’s not meeting her at her house. And there’s no mermaid chick-under-twelve-flick to be seen…

This chapter was a bit odd. Rick Spears, who wrote all the chapters, prologue and epilogue as well, really got in touch with Colin’s emotions, helping him become even more realistic, however, he looks nothing like he does in the actual film, even after he goes all goth. The ending is abrupt and too short for my liking, and differs from the clip released prior to the film’s release. I enjoyed the backstory of how he dug Jennifer Check at a younger age and never had the guts to talk to her (can anyone say, “Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt!”? I know I can…), but it just seemed, I don’t know. It wasn’t the one I felt was the best visually, either. It was sort of mediocre, it didn’t stand out above the crowd.

Chapter three focuses on Ahmet from India, a character I found hilarious in the script. It chronicles his journey from India to the hole that is Devil’s Kettle for a student-exchange program, where, after a lonely two months, he joins the baseball team after a killer pitch. After the game, however, his team-mates check out his johnson, and from then on, he was called stuff like “Squid”, with his classmates saying “We want a pitcher to throw the ball, not a tentacle”, stupid stuff like that kids actually say. Sad, Ahmet from India decides to go to a local club to listen to a band named Low Shoulder. Their music ignites a passion in him, reminding him of Bollywood, so much so he gets up and dances, with everyone joining in, until something catches light in the club, and the bar goes up in flames. Luckily escaping, Ahmet from India wanders around the streets of Devil’s Kettle, until he sees another survivor, the gorgeous Jennifer Check. “Come with me. We’ll find help.” she claims. “We’ll sort this out.”

This one was interesting, giving a different viewpoint of America through the eyes of a foreigner, going so far as to say “America is horrible.” This is the most depressing chapter in the book, because it seems Ahmet from India is so out-of-place, and so lonely, and homesick, it’s almost alienating just reading it, let alone looking at the images. It does hit a high-point, however, when it goes all Bollywood on us, but when Jennifer actually sets down and begins chowing Ahmet from India up, he takes it, putting his energy into reincarnation. Not resisting, not even surprised that this is happening to him. It’s quite sad, when you think about it.

The last chapter deals with Chip, the boyfriend of Needy (who is the best friend of Jennifer). This chapter chronicles Chip’s depressing existence as boyfriend of the beautiful Needy, but getting caught jerking off by his mum, and then, the next day, caught evacuating the seamen from the Red October during class. Chip is then dumped by Needy, for his own protection, until the night of the school dance, where he bumps into Jennifer, who proclaims her love for him and tells him Needy’s been bumping uglies with Colin, a goth at school, up until he died. Then it goes into an abridged version of events depicted in the film.

This chapter was pretty good, humourous. The artwork was soft, and easy on the eyes. This chapter, like Colin’s chapter, had a too-abrupt-ending for my tastes. The ending leads into the epilogue, which shows Jennifer storming off, supposedly going home to where she’ll meet up with Needy in her shocker of an opening to the movie.

The prologue and epilogue are two, three pages, and are just book-ends for the four chapters.

All in all, I did enjoy this read, but it wasn’t anything groundbreaking. My favourite art was in the first chapter, depicting the simple world of Jonas the football jock, and in each chapter, there was at least one one-page-one-panel piece of art that was pretty cool, be it Jennifer bearing her gnashers, Ahmet from India leading the Low Shoulder Bollywood dance, or something like Needy and Jennifer in a hot fantasy shower, all naked and whatnot. I assume for those that dug the film, this would be a welcome addition to their Jennifer’s Body experience, but those that either have not seen the film (and intend to) or didn’t like the film, you probably shouldn’t bother with this. It has some cool art, some humourous writing and some good nods to the film (or at least, the script) that it should make fans of the film happy. I didn’t dig it as much as I thought I would, but I might dig it more after I finally see the movie. Three-and-a-half skulls.