Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

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Wow, the Haddonfield police are one of the dumbest groups of people in film history. They filled Michael Myers full of holes in part 4, and he fell into a well, or a mineshaft, or something. The police basically just shone their torch down the hole where Michael had fallen and went “well, he’s probably dead down there, let’s call it a night, shall we?” This amazingly isn’t the dumbest thing they do during the course of this film.

Of course, ol’ Michael takes a kickin’ and keeps on tickin’. After being shot a bunch, he falls down the shaft, but luckily there’s a tunnel that leads to a nearby river at the bottom. He goes for a bit of a swim down-river, and fortunately happens upon a hermit’s shack. He collapses, the hermit decides to just look after him (friendly hermit), until Halloween the next year when Michael bashes the guy’s head in and goes back to Haddonfield to finish his work off, whatever it’s supposed to be at this point.

I think there ought to be a new way to judge slasher films. It’s not so much if they’re any good or not – most of them are absolute garbage – but on how cleverly they set up the pieces for the next sequel. As you may have noticed with the treatment of Michael, this one just goes “ah, who cares?” Perhaps it’s not the sort of thing you’d notice if you watched them a year apart, but watching them all over the course of a week, certain things pop out, and apart from MM, it’s mainly to do with Jamie (Danielle Harris).

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It’s obvious at the end of part 4 that she killed her foster mother. Both the actress and Donald Pleasence wanted her to be the villain in part 5, or at least Michael’s sidekick, but what actually happens is there’s a spot of retconning – she only moderately wounded the woman, who is now referred to as her step-mother; and she’s been sent to a childrens’ psychiatric hospital. Rachel and friends from the last film gather round to try and cheer her up at the beginning of the movie, which is nice BUT SHE TRIED TO KILL HER MOTHER! Dr Loomis, who was inches away from shooting her at the end of part 4, is now her best friend; and, of course, the parents aren’t around, having gone on a camping trip. Why bother sticking around at the most traumatic time of the year for your children? It’s not so much the retconning itself, more they had an opportunity to do something interesting with the franchise and decided to go back to the lame safeness of the indestructible Michael.

Donald Pleasance is a mainstay of the franchise, only leaving it when he died, most of the way through filming part 6. He’s fully in scenery-chewing territory here, either being given weird direction or having some competition with himself to see what’s the craziest line reading he could slip into the final film. He also looks a lot older than he did in part 4, shot the previous year, which indicates he was already a little ill by this point. The sole interesting part of this film is strong indication that Loomis is just as crazy as Michael is, but it’s a tiny oasis in a desert of idiocy.

You don’t really need me to incredulously recap the rest of the stupidity in this one. I could talk about the two cops who refer to themselves as “lousy” and even have their own comic relief-style theme music; the boyfriend, beamed in from the 1950s; the psychic link that Jamie and Michael share – we all know that Uncle-Niece bond is the strongest of all; how Jamie has weird fits every time Michael kills someone, except when the film forgets and she doesn’t; the endless bullshit jump-scares; the way that people dressing as Michael Myers for a joke have been directly responsible for a lot of deaths in these movies; why the movie is called “The Revenge Of…” when he’s a damn mass murderer who’s got no-one to take “revenge” on; and, finally, why Michael is after this group of teenagers, who have no relationship whatsoever to him or his family.

I’ll leave you with a little more cop stupidity, though. Loomis sets up a trap for Myers at his old house, and the police finally realise he’s not dead so are out in force. Firstly, they don’t bother checking the attic of the house, or wondering why it’s lit up (yes, “someone” is already up there), and secondly, when the kid has a psychic vision of where the killer is, they all drive off, leaving one idiot and a sheriff’s deputy to protect Jamie and Loomis.

Anyway, it’s the dumbest Halloween film probably of ‘em all (although I’m really not looking forward to Halloween Resurrection). Its cliffhanger ending is at least different, even if it’s really stupid (knowing what I know about the mysterious man in black who drifts through this film, it would be difficult to be more stupid).

Rating: thumbs down

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

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“Both of them nearly burned to death”.

I want you to keep that line in mind when you watch the ending of “Halloween 2”. The room that Michael Myers and Dr Loomis are in EXPLODES. Loomis never leaves, and the last we see of Michael is him staggering out of the room, on fire, then collapsing, and the end credits playing over a shot of his burning corpse.

But that’s not all. The first ten minutes of this film is when it – and the series – stops attempting the remotest link to reality and just becomes a consequence-free slash-fest. For no reason whatsoever, Michael Myers, still alive, is due to be transferred from the hospital basement he’s been left in for the last ten years, and of course the only time they can possibly do it is the rainy night of the 30th of October. Oh, and Dr Loomis is still his doctor, for even less reason – he’s already shot him twice. When Myers, travelling in the ambulance, sticks his thumb through the skull of one of the paramedics, all bets are off! I can sense you asking questions, but don’t. Relax and enjoy.

The film, amazingly, isn’t done piling on the “boy, we ought to have hired a better scriptwriter or director for this” fun. Jamie Lee Curtis had the good sense to not come back for part 4, so her character Laurie Strode apparently died at some point in the last ten years. Before she did, she had the time to get married and have a kid, called Jamie, who looks 10 years old or so by the time of this one (so it must have happened pretty quickly after the trauma of having her brother kill dozens of people trying to get to her). But we’re still not done! All Laurie’s family are dead, so the poor kid is put into foster care. The only town they could possibly find with a willing foster family? Haddonfield, the site of the mass murders committed by her Uncle!

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Michael luckily finds a mechanic to kill and steal some overalls from, so he can keep the same look he had in the first two films; also luckily, those white William Shatner masks are now big business thanks to his exploits a decade ago, so he grabs another one. Loomis, his only visible injury being a bit of a scar on his cheek, pursues Michael back to Haddonfield, and it’s on for another Halloween night of slaughter.

Even if you can accept all this, the film has a bit more for you! For some completely unknown reason, the two paramedics mention in Michael’s presence that he has a niece, and they know where she lives, which activates his family-killing superpowers. Also, would you know where the power station that supplied your town was? It’s not the sort of thing that gets advertised, but Michael finds it immediately and blows it up, which combined with long-distance phone lines being down, isolates Haddonfield from the rest of the world. What a mastermind Myers is!

Of course, we need some teenagers to be cannon fodder, and this film has Rachel, Jamie’s much older foster-sister. She does normal teenager stuff, but her treatment is so appallingly sexist that it’s like they’re going for some sort of “Anti-Feminism In Cinema” Award. During a car ride near the beginning, she and her friend (supposedly the same character that Laurie baby-sat in part 1, fact fans) are discussing boys, and they end with “don’t be too pushy, boys don’t like that”. At the end, Rachel’s almost-boyfriend has slept with another woman, and she tells Rachel that if she doesn’t understand what boys really want, he won’t be the last boyfriend she loses to a girl like her. Wow! The film gives zero indication that these statements are wrong, and it’s not like either of them really play into the plot at all, so it feels like someone with a very skewed perspective on relationships crowbarred these parts in.

Amazingly, after all this, the film itself is rather good. If you take the first ten minutes as a “well, the producers want a film, here’s the least stupid way we can resurrect the killer and his only antagonist who’s prepared to come back” and the ending as “holy crap did we have to go that dark?”, then the film itself is a tight and decent enough thriller. If you ignore the rotten sexual politics, then Rachel is a smart and resourceful heroine who behaves in ways you don’t normally get from slasher ladies, and apart from a weird 20 minute lull (where the only two cops left in town lock themselves in a house and wait for Myers to show up) it keeps up the pace, and Pleasence is always good to watch.

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Myers gets his first kill which I’d call “playful” (well, my wife coined the phrase) where he pretends to be the cop sat in the dark who he just killed. It’s way out of place for the implacable force of evil which the film wishes it had the brains to portray him as, but it’s quite good fun. The kids at Jamie’s school are legitimately horrible like kids actually are in real life, but sadly Myers doesn’t kill any of them.

So, streets ahead of part 3, and more fun to watch than part 2. We’ve got some fun ahead of us, ISCFC readers. There’s a couple more films left in the “original” run, then there’s part 7 which retcons parts 4-6 out of existence and a part 8 with Busta Rhymes in it. YES! Then there’s fan films and two Rob Zombie reboot films…we’ll still be reviewing Halloween movies next October 31st.

Rating: thumbs up

PS. Perhaps an example of how lazy these sequels had gotten is the fetishisation of hiding Michael’s face. He’s got full-face bandages the only time we see him without his mask on, and a later film in the series made a point in its advertising of “Michael Myers unmasked!” This ignored the fact that in part 1 – the only really good one, the horror classic that everyone will remember long after the sequels are dust – you see his face, clearly. It’s just not important, until you become desperate to make a few more dollars any way you can.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

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Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

 

Mark has been reviewing a lot of classic slasher films in recent weeks. It has inspired me to look at the remake of ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’. I’m a sucker for masked horror villains, but there’s something extra sinister about a maniac running around with a burlap sack on his head. It’s a lot more terrifying than a hockey mask.

The original ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’ is a cult favourite, and one of those horror films all the more terrifying because it is based on a true story. In a little American town called Texarkana, the Phantom killer murdered five people in 1946. The killer was never caught.

The great thing about Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s remake is that it is able to directly reference both the 1976 original movie, and the murders which inspired that film in ’46. Cleverly there is a nod to a real life tradition of outdoor screenings of the film which occur on Halloween. The whole movie has a jerky, jittery retro feel which faithfully continues the lineage.

Texarkana is a traditional town which hasn’t caught up with the rest of the world, it is the kind of place where the majority of the town still attend meetings and the church is regularly full, particularly in light of a spate of murders which occur, reminding the town of what happened in 1946.

After a showing of the ’76 version of ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’ a young couple named Corey and Jami go to a secluded spot. The couple kiss and fumble before they are disturbed by what they think is a peeping Tom who is watching them from the bushes. They then see a man wearing a sack on his head. It’s the phantom killer! The couple lock the doors but it’s all to no avail as the phantom attacks. The phantom kills Corey and sends off Jami (Addison Timlin), to spread the message about what he has done.

Addison Timlin is good as the plucky & resourceful scream queen who overcomes her trauma by trying to connect the dots between who killed Corey and who was behind the murders in 1946. Jami is a strong young woman who is determined to make the use of our second chance in life. In many ways she is portrayed like a cross between the characters of Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers in ‘Scream 2’. What I mean by this is that there is an element of poise in her character, and not your typical helpless pretty girl frantically running away from the murderer.

The gore of the film is wonderfully overdone, blood sprays all over the place as the Phantom continues to prey on young couples. The Phantom, and indeed this film is rather progressive, there is even a couple of gay men who are brutally slain in a scrapyard. This scene, perhaps overshadowed by the violent use of a trombone, should not be overlooked. It is progressive in the sense that it acknowledges that Texarkana, and in a wider sense horror movies, are not just populated by heterosexuals.

It is great also to see a horror movie with a well-developed supporting cast and not just nameless victims. Newspaper archivist Nick (Travis Tope), a cynical veteran policeman played by Gary Cole, the son of the director who made the ’76 film Charles B. Pierce Jr (Denis O’Hare) and Anthony Anderson as Lone Wolf Morales all add so much to the film. It’s also not entirely obvious who the Phantom is, with a host of possible suspects, and this makes the big reveal a genuine shock. Though I felt the reveal was a bit of a rush job, it’s a minor gripe about an otherwise gripping retro flavoured slasher movie.

– RJW

7/10

 

 

The Town That Dreaded Sundown on IMDB

Dagon (2001)

This bloke is an extra and barely in the film, in case you were wondering

This bloke is an extra and barely in the film, in case you were wondering

I like dreaming up weird conspiracy theories for films, like they were made with the entire cast and crew at gunpoint, or the director was an alien. Quite a few films are secretly the result of two different films mashed together, or footage filmed and then abandoned being added to by a different crew years later; “Dagon” really seems to be a film that was started in Spanish, then they ran out of money and had to put a few Americans in it to get international funding.

 

Paul (American) and Barbara (Spanish) are a couple on a rather nice yacht, holidaying with another couple. Barbara is one of those free spirits who seems fun when you’re a teenager but a heck of a lot of work when you’re in your late 30s; after seesawing between happiness and bitter anger a few times, she throws his laptop into the ocean because he shouldn’t be checking how much money he’s got, he should be enjoying life. Seriously? How do you think you ended up on that boat? Do you think they just hand out yachts to vaguely attractive women and their pasty white boyfriends? Actually, how the hell did the two of you end up together?

 

Paul’s been having dreams about a large undersea structure, a giant eye-shaped thing, and a beautiful woman with odd features – when she opens her mouth, she’s either got multiple rows of razor-sharp teeth or tentacles emerging from it. He’s not got tons of time to ponder the most recent dream because the yacht is shipwrecked in a storm, luckily a short dinghy ride from a small Spanish fishing village.

 

People just love opening their mouths

People just love opening their mouths

My first thought was “if any tourism developers had seen this village, it’d be covered with hotels” but luckily for the film, it’s thoroughly dilapidated and there’s only one. Paul and Barbara make their way to the village and start encountering the locals, who all look mysteriously pale and are covering their faces. They get split up, then Paul goes back to the yacht and finds his friends have disappeared, then things really start going strange.

 

It’s a rare criticism to make, but this film moves too quickly. There’s no time to think “hey, this village is a bit creepy” before everyone starts losing their minds and attacking Paul, and while there are some decent little set-pieces, his chase feels weird to watch because they’ve not bothered to establish why everyone wants to chase him. Besides, you’d think with their Lovecraftian activities that they’d kind of want to not draw attention to themselves, rather than skin and slaughter anyone who wanders along (perhaps an okay idea when the story was written, but in the days of radios and GPS, not so much). Saying that, the discovery of the “tannery” is a genuinely creepy moment, and well done.

 

I think HP Lovecraft has been treated pretty badly by filmed adaptations of his work. That this is regarded as one of the best ones tells you all you should need to know, from the old Spanish actor with the thickest, most incomprehensible accent I’ve ever heard English spoken in, to the horribly annoying main characters. What it does have is a strong main story. Paul literally meets the woman of his dreams, and he discovers the history of the little village he’s found himself in. Also, a lot of other adaptations of his work just assume his “Elder Gods” are Satan, and make it a black magic thing, when in reality his fiction was about creatures which long predated humanity and any ideas of God or the Devil.

 

What a smug douchebag

What a smug douchebag

A new word was coined during this movie – “bloil”. It’s that mix of blood and oil you get in horror films, and is used liberally in this one. Booting a fish-human-monster hybrid where the sun don’t shine is now “kicking him in the caviar”…that my friends and I had time to dream up a bunch of new words and phrases may give you some indication of how good this film was. They had the atmosphere nailed, but the film itself was a weirdly paced confusingly acted mess.

 

Rating: thumbs down

 

PS. Fans of one of the greatest computer games of all time, “Resident Evil 4”, may notice a few similarities between that game and this film – okay, it’s more “ganados” and less fish-men, but the vibe is there. I think it’s safe to say the game developers saw this film before they made theirs.

Pieces (1982)

Dutch poster...greatest poster ever?

Dutch poster…greatest poster ever?

This is the movie that people complain about when they complain about slasher movies. It’s a cheap looking ripoff of “Halloween” with a smidgeon of “Psycho” and is chock full of gore, but…well, read on.

It’s 1942. A kid of about 10 is doing a jigsaw puzzle of a naked woman when his mother comes in, is disgusted at what she sees so decides to bag up all his offending stuff and burn it. Unfortunately, the kid can go from zero-to-raving-lunatic in 5 seconds, so he grabs an axe and hacks her to pieces, including leaving her head on a shelf. The film is a trifle unclear on the details, but it seems the kid escapes detection for his crime by waiting in a cupboard and pretending he was hiding from the murderer.

Now, right here “Pieces” is trying its best to confuse us. What do you think the odds are of being able to find a jigsaw puzzle of a naked woman, with an early 80s haircut, in 1942? If you’re a ten year old child? The mother’s dress isn’t remotely time-appropriate either, nor is the phone, nor is the sport banner on the wall (for a team that would not exist for another 20 years) but whatever. The blood-spattered jigsaw representing sex and death, horrifically intertwined, is not even the least subtle thing this film does.

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Then, 40 years later! The killer (no reveal til the end, what sort of film do you think this is?) gets his dead mother’s shoes and dress out of a box, still helpfully covered in bright red blood after four decades, gets the jigsaw out and decides to remake his mother out of the body parts of women at the university, in Boston. Definitely not some manky backlot in Madrid, oh no. His decision to use a chainsaw for most of the murders is not only moderately impractical, but leads to the most hilarious scene in the film, when he walks into the lift behind victim no.3, hiding it behind his back. Oi, mate! Why are you hiding that large chainsaw? He leaves it at his first crime scene but luckily gets it back, obviously from the police, before the next one.

Reviewing this film could easily be just cataloguing the insane decisions it makes and neanderthal-level sexual politics on display. But I’ll try to limit myself, because you really ought to watch “Pieces”. After the first murder, the police are called in, but decide to keep it from the public, the press, and so on, for the sole reason of making it easier for the killer to carry on killing women. No-one is warned, no extra security is put in place, no extra lights are turned on – the only thing that happens is a female cop is sent undercover as a tennis coach. Oh, it turns out she’s a pro tennis player as well who just happens to be a police officer as her day job. Man, it must have been tough for athletes back then!

And as far as sexual politics is concerned, most of that hinges around the “star” of the movie, Kendall. A girl who begs him for sex at the beginning of the movie is the first victim, but he’s not all that bothered by it, laughing with a friend that he never has a problem getting with women. As he’s stood around openly smoking a joint outside a class, one of his female friends looks at him and says – yes, I paused the film so I could capture this gem – “the most beautiful thing in life is smoking pot and screwing on a waterbed”. Ah, such poetry! Another woman he sleeps with later on, after asking him if she talks too much, suggests that he tie her up and gag her to stop her from annoying him.

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This film is the response to people who think slasher movies are empowering to women. The male killer brutally slaughters women throughout, and only one of them even bothers trying to defend herself. The female cop, who you might think would kick some ass, does nothing and requires the help of Kendall at the end to save her life. Women are basically objects to be cut to pieces in this movie.

We have the “Caroline Award” here at the ISCFC, named for my wife, and for films which feature male (but no female) nudity. Despite there being plenty of female nudity here, the lingering view of a partially erect penis is enough to cancel that out, and she was happy to give this movie the award too. Congratulations “Pieces”!

I feel like there’s so much more to tell you! The campus sort of looks like either a concentration camp or some stables; the unnecessary shouting of “BASTARD!” three times in a row; the moronic behaviour of the cops at every turn; and how the film makes guessing the killer’s identity really easy by ruling out everyone but two people a little under halfway in. But I want to talk to you about one scene, which has so much rich early 80s goodness in it. Just after the dong shot, we see the lady-cop walking through a dark bit of campus, and as she turns a corner she’s attacked by an Asian guy. She kicks him in the balls and he goes down, Kendall turns up and says “oh, it’s my kung fu teacher!” He grins sheepishly, blames his behaviour on “bad chop suey” and just jogs off. We never see him again.

What? Turns out there’s a simple but stupid explanation – the producer was also shooting kung fu films in Rome at the time, and his main star was Bruce Lee impersonator Bruce Le. So, he decided to write his guy a scene in the film, despite it making absolutely no sense whatsoever. I miss the days of companies doing crazy stuff like that.

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“Pieces” is a remarkably gory film. It’s clear they were trying to make a statement, from its Sharknado-esque tag line (“It’s Exactly What You Think It Is!”) to the use of a pig carcass to double for a human when one of the poor ladies is chainsawed in half. Gallons of blood, body parts everywhere – the lame justification being, he’s recreating his dead mother, it would seem – and unlike so many other horror films that tried to rely on plot or character, this one understands that unless they put in a woman getting hacked to pieces every ten minutes or so, people are going to get a bit bored.

The ending is truly, staggeringly bizarre. After I’d already written “this ending is crazy” they then ramped up the crazy with one of the most OTT scenes maybe ever, which poses way more questions than it answers. I seriously can’t recommend this film highly enough. It’s so sexist it almost goes beyond sexism to be some weird parody of itself (almost), but provided you don’t take the film seriously for one moment, you will definitely have a good time. One of the craziest slasher movies ever.

Rating: thumbs up

Rampage: Capital Punishment (2014)

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Directed by: Uwe Boll

There was a certain amount of disbelief when Uwe Boll made a ‘ok-ish’ movie in the shape of ‘Rampage’. Thankfully he is back to form on with its sequel – ‘Rampage: Capital Punishment’, Boll delivers a real turkey stuffed full of OTT violence and overlong ranty political guff.

‘Rampage: Capital Punishment’ cleverly brings us up to speed on what happened to the first film’s antagonist Bill Williamson. Bill went into hiding for a couple of years after his massacre, now he’s back planning another atrocity that will get America’s attention. Boy he sure is angry about the state of his nation.

Uwe Boll has given the film a point of view feel, which comes from the immature mind of the kind puny male who goes on a shooting spree, and then in its aftermath, all the tabloid bin sniffers dig out a tatty manifesto that has been either posted in a blog or uploaded to YouTube, and label this deeply troubled and disenfranchised young man insane in their hallowed pages under the guise of news. In recent times we’ve seen countless school shootings, and at its worst in recent years we’ve had the Boston marathon bombings. After these tragic events occur fingers are pointed towards the media, violent movies, violent video games, lack of parenting, aggressive music, because some angry young man has gone ballistic. Boll taps into the fear, but does so clumsily, not particularly making an original point, yet somehow holding a cracked mirror to popular culture, politics and new media. There’s a plot line involving a news anchor named Chip who has one eye on the changing political landscape and the rise of whistleblowers and hactivists like Julian Assange, but is preoccupied with ratings and boardroom pressure from his Producer (played by Boll); but mostly this film is a mess of empty rhetoric without any incisive original thought.

Is Boll saying that peaceful protest gets you nowhere? Perhaps so, I mean the crisply shot ISIS (IS?) beheading videos and other such viral propaganda released this year have seemingly spoken to thousands of disillusioned young men and women, causing them to trek across the world and partake in war games, it is a call to arms in a way that the short lived OCCUPY movement wasn’t. This revolution, which popular figures like Russell Brand talks about, needs to go viral, but in the mind of Bill Williamson, that revolution needs to begin through violence.

As the audience, are we supposed to agree with the sentiment of Williamson’s views? We certainly can’t condone his murdering ways, but his points are ultimately overshadowed by the violence. He tries to get our attention, but all we see is red.

– RJW

5/10

 

Rampage: Capital Punishment on IMDB

 

Dark Haul (2014)

(aka “Monster Truck”, apparently)

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I’ve seen so many terrible SyFy Channel films – devoid of any craft, tedious, humourless, lazy – that to watch one that’s good on purpose is still a bit of a shock. The gradual sense of “hold on, I’m enjoying this” is the equivalent of going into a burnt-out McDonalds and finding someone in there who’s serving a perfect steak.

In 1735, a 13th child is born to a 13th child, and this is triggers some ancient prophecy, apparently. I always liked the 7th son of a 7th son thing, myself, but anyway! Tearing itself out of the mother’s belly is a…creature…of some sort, and it does a fair bit of damage before it’s subdued by a group of monks. Also inside the mother is a human-looking baby girl, the only difference being that she has a tail.

The opening credits give us, in animated and voiceover form, their life for the next 270+ years – they’re effectively immortal and able to gradually regenerate from most injuries, with no explanation given. They’re guarded by the same religious order, and the prophecy is always there in the background, that there will come a final battle between man and beast, on the spot where the beast was born. The brother escapes from time to time and starts the legend of the Jersey Devil, but the sister – Zib – is able to control him, by and large.

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The order has a collection of religious relics which look like the sort of tat you’d be able to buy in a gift shop in Rome, but seem to work to an extent, and are the only thing that offer protection against the “Halos”, which are the hallucinations that the brother is able to place in peoples’ minds. Well, the other thing is weakening both of them, and they have rather an unpleasant way of doing that – he gets his wings chopped off, and she has a tailectomy.

He’s becoming too powerful even with all their plans, so after a discussion they decide to take him to a new base, and this involves a large sigil-encrusted cell being placed in the back of a truck. This journey, where the armed wing of the order tries to keep him under control is really effective – with a great scene at a petrol station, and eventually a pretty spectacular (by SyFy standards) truck stunt, as they are plagued with hallucinations and try to fight them off while keeping the journey going. He’s able to manipulate things so he gets closer and closer to the site of his birth and the culmination of the prophecy, while Zib has an extremely conflicted relationship with both her captors and her brother.

Not only is this a tense thriller, but it’s also a pretty original idea – something you can say about very very few SyFy films. And it’s all anchored by an amazing central performance from Evalena Marie as Zib. She’s a physical force, and you can see how she’s torn between love for and fear of her brother, hatred and admiration of her captors and the alternating desire to save the world or watch it burn for how it treated her. She’s just brilliant, and I look forward to seeing her in more films. Her captors are, after all, good religious people who’ve given up their lives to keep the two of them under lock and key for the world’s benefit, and as they fight amongst themselves as to the best way of dealing with the Jersey Devil, and try and hold themselves together while their chaotic journey rumbles on, it dawns on you that they’re having a serious conversation about a serious topic, it’s well written, well performed and not just filling time to the next fight scene. The use of the “haloes” to trick and confuse both the guards and the viewers is a neat little trick too.

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It wouldn’t be a SyFy review without the “well, it’s not all good” section. The second tier of acting is pretty ropey, and the special effects aren’t all they could be. Tom Sizemore, as the “bad” side of the religious protectors, is a bit too evil sometimes, but that might just be how Tom Sizemore acts in 2014. That’s about it though!

I hope both director Daniel Wise and writer Ben Crane go on to bigger things, as this is their first credit. It’s not just a good film, but visually interesting too, which for SyFy is almost never the case; and Evalena Marie is just fantastic (and is making her own films now, so keep an eye out for her). SyFy Channel, if you read this, which is I admit unlikely, “Dark Haul” is the sort of movie you should be making! Give young, fresh talent a try and let them make more interesting films, and you’ll be rewarded with gems like this.

Rating: thumbs up

Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch (1982)

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This is a strange film with a great story behind it. John Carpenter and Debra Hill, writer / producers were quite bored by the Halloween series by this point, and decided that rather than resurrect Michael Myers again, they’d turn the Halloween films into an anthology series. So, every year you’d get a different scary movie based around some Halloween myth or legend, and hopefully things would tick over nicely for many years. That this is the only one, and Halloween 4 was right back with good old indestructible MM, will tell you all you need to know about how successful their plan was. But the question we’re going to answer is – was the failure of Halloween 3 to do with it deviating from the slasher template, or to do with it being a terrible movie?

Before we even swing a bat for the first time, the title gives us two hefty mistakes. If you’re going to turn this into an anthology, don’t number it as if it’s a sequel to the last one; and if you’re going to call it “Season of the Witch”, PUT SOME DAMN WITCHES IN IT

You’ve almost certainly heard of the plot, if you’re reading this site. The Silver Shamrock Novelty company has made a bunch of masks, each of which imbued with a tiny fragment of Stonehenge. When a certain advert is played on TV, the masks activate then a bunch of worms and bugs devour the face of the person wearing the mask, then the person gets replaced with a robot, I think, as the villain also has a robot factory. One might ask “why does a toy manufacturer want to turn all the kids in the world into robots?” but you would not receive an answer from the film itself. How does a company which makes three rubbish looking masks have such an extraordinary market penetration? No, down that path is madness.

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There’s a bereaved woman, a local cop, and a town which seems under the thrall of the toy company, and they, in true “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” style, try to save the day. The sad thing is, I’d agree with the tone of the film. It’s got a strong anti-corporate message, which becomes more prescient with every passing year, when toys and worthless junk for the next big holiday appear on supermarket shelves earlier and earlier. But the good thing about being a progressive, a leftie, call it what you will, is that I don’t have to like things just because they agree with the way I see the world.

This film was originally written by Nigel Kneale, the British writer who gave us “Quatermass”, one of the all-time great speculative fiction series. Unfortunately, when the studio and director had finished with his script, what might have been a genuinely fascinating story was turned into a boring, stupid film with a ridiculous plot, some of the cheesiest scenes I can think of (the guided tour of the evil factory, for one) and one of those awful nihilistic endings that comes into fashion every now and again.

Is there anyone who thinks this is bad, or badly reviewed, because of the lack of Michael Myers? Get ready for my reviews of the later films in the series if you think that’s the case. This is a curious film, because it seems to have got something of a following in these internet-filled times. Every now and again, two or three people who love this film will find each other and create a loud piercing noise that drowns out all the sensible people who say “yes, this film is absolutely terrible”, and a passerby, like me for example the first time I watched this film, will think “perhaps it’s not that bad” and give it a try. Please do not be one of those people. Because it started drifting into “worst films of all time” lists in the 90s and 00s, some people just got desperate to the one who rediscovered it, I guess.

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It’s probably not the worst film ever made, but it’s really pretty terrible. It’s either sleazy (the cop’s relationship with the leading lady, for one), stupid or boring, or a combination of the three.

Rating: thumbs down