Film review: Halloween 2018

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Horror films are still a major part of film releases and we’ve come a long way in the different types.  Early horror films were iconic characters like Dracula, Frankenstein, and Bea Arthur.  Then we had zombies, exorcists, and then back to iconic characters (Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers and to lesser degrees, Chucky and Pinhead).  Then after Hollywood made those franchises silly beyond recognition, (Jason goes to space?  Michael Myers was part of a druid cult?  Hillary Clinton pulled hot sauce out of her bag to relate to black people?)  we then hit the “found footage” horror types.  The Blair Witch Project started it all and then Paranormal Activities came which then gave birth to the Exorcisms of Haywood Jablowme.  For a hot second, we had the Saw franchise sneak a couple of ok sequels in there after a fantastic opening to the series.  But mostly, we’ve seen reboots fall flat: the aforementioned Jason and Freddy rebirths were lackluster and toothless.  

So when I read they’re doing a sequel to Halloween, I could’ve given 5 cat shits.  But then, the reviews came in from the Toronto film festival that this wasn’t a reboot or sequel in its typical sense.  David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, and Jeff Fradley decided to wisely ignore ALL of the Halloween sequels and pick up 40 years after Michael was captured after being shot by Dr. Loomis.  Jamie Lee Curtis reprises Laurie Strode, who is now a recluse that has a gun arsenal that would’ve made Charlton Heston harder than a shark tooth.  She regularly engages in target practice, has a hidden entrance to her basement, and has an insane home security system.  I’m sure Alex Jones would give this house a 5 star review on Zillow.  Laurie has a daughter whom avoids her like people from Pittsburgh avoid diction lessons.  She also has a granddaughter, Allyson, who keeps in touch with her, unbeknownst to her mom and goofball dad.  Laurie keeps reminding her family that Michael is due to be transferred to a new prison and oh yeah, it’s almost Halloween and the 40 year old anniversary of when Laurie’s friends were killed for fucking or just being clumsy.  

Spoiler alert: Michael escapes during the transfer and starts killing more people in 10  minutes than he did in Halloween 1, 2, and 4.  If this is a spoiler, than you need to go to night school.  Double M racks up kills like he’s trying to break the time record of getting 5 stars in Grand Theft Auto.  This film is insanely different versus others where you think some characters have a chance to live.  Nope.  He leaves corpses everywhere like the first 10 minutes of Saving Private Ryan on the D Day Beach scene.

Let’s take a brief timeout to discuss a few gems: John Carpenter never signed off on any of the sequels.  He saw this script and IMMEDIATELY wanted to be attached.  He also signed on to do the music again and the music is as masterfully scored as the first one.  Obviously, you hear a lot of the same arrangements but with cool twists.  And like the master scorers do: Williams, Zimmer, Elfman, etc, the music intensifies the mood and puckers up all the buttholes in the audience.  Back to the story. 

So of course, MM comes back to Haddonfield and lays waste to those good town folk, in search of Laurie Strode and her offspring.  I mean, wouldn’t you move FAR away from a town your mom get sliced up in?  It’s not like they live somewhere cool like Manhattan where you weight the pros and cons of a stalker possibly returning.  You live in a suburban town, ANY of them around the country can suit you just fine.  Why stick it out in Nowheresville where there’s the chance that lunatic could escape and easily track you down because of your laziness?  

Here’s why this film works and other serious reboots like the Batman trilogy, Star Trek reboots, or Dredd worked: Because they took it seriously and made it DARK.  No campy horseshit, no cheap gimmicks like the lack of cell phone reception.  There are a few laughs, some land and some don’t.  But man, these film knows how to build tension and hold it.  There are plenty of visual and musical nods to the original film.  And what really works is you really believe Michael is truly an evil spirit with ZERO human emotion.  Throughout the film, the characters BEG him to say “something.”  The reactions are priceless.  And you truly buy into Michael being a badass by just murdering ANYONE in the way but not for the sake of gore but for the sake of letting nothing stop him in killing Laurie Strode.  

This is EASILY one of the best horror film sequels ever made.  But honestly, besides the original Halloween 2 (It’s fine), Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (love it), or Friday the 13th 2 or 3 (Meh) Dawn of the Dead (maybe), this isn’t stiff competition.  Some will say that Silence of the Lambs (yes, that’s a sequel) or Aliens fall under horror.  I would call them thrillers, not horror.  This film is AWESOME, I dare you not to love it.  You’ll get sucked right in for the 105 minutes and already make plans to see it again.  But in the daytime when not many people will be in the theater.  Because most people chew loudly and make unwarranted, dumb remarks to their friend instead of shutting up for 2 hours.

I give it an 8/10

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Film Review: Ready Player 1

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There are between 1-3 films I have circled every year that I absolutely cannot wait to see.  This year, it’s Avengers: Infinity War, Sicario 2 and Ready Player 1.  One is an obvious superhero sequel, the other is a sequel to what should have been nominated for best picture.  And that leaves Ready Player 1, which  is one of my favorite books of all time.  If you’re not familiar, you need to do so reallllly quickly.  It’s the story of a Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a young man who along with millions of other of citizens, take on a challenge to find a digital “Easter Egg” in the OASIS.  The OASIS is a VR world which is as real as you want to make it.  The winner of the challenge presented by recently deceased creator of the OASIS, James Halladay (Mark Rylance), wins his fortune and control of the OASIS. And of course, there is an evil CEO, Nolan Sorrento, (Ben Mendelsohn) who will stop at nothing to control OASIS. Halladay is a Bill Gates type who grew up in the 80’s, addicted to video games and films from the time.  All of his challenges have to do with both video games and films so turn the nostalgia factor on full blast.  Steven Spielberg directs this film and who better to take us down that road.

Parzival was initially against “clanning”; which is nerd speak for others joining is eventually joined by lady crush, Artemis,  ninjas Sho and Daito, and his best friend, Aech.  They call themselves, “The Top 5,” and they all mesh together quite well and especially when their real identities are given.

There are an absolute shit load of references, characters, and nods to films/video game characters throughout.  You’ll go crazy trying to keep track of whom and what you saw but I’ll give you a few: Goro from Mortal Kombat, Chun Li from Street Fighter, Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees, Robocop, the baby Alien, and even caught a Jack Slater from Last Action Hero reference.  Wade Watts’s OASIS character, Parzival, even drives the DeLorean from Back to the Future with the KITT from Knight Rider lights in the front.  Movie nerds and video game nerds, rejoice.  Scoring the film are 2 juggernauts from the 80’s, John Williams (if I need you to tell you what films he’s worked on, deport yourself) and Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future trilogy).  And you’re going to hear a TON of nods from their previous films in the score.  And you will smile.

So let’s do the eventual annoying “book to film” comparison.  The book was amazing because Wade had to play Joust with one of the guardians for the keys.  Wade also had to do “film syncs”  scenes from War Games and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  In the film, they don’t do either.  The first challenge is a race, the second is a scene within, “The Shining.” And the third is playing, “Adventure” on Atari.  I wish that Spielberg would’ve chosen different challenges, including doing the film syncs.  I know that would’ve brought the same charm and allure that the book brought.  My other biggest complaint is that one of the “Top 5” die in the book but Spielberg pulls the typical “everything ending is a happy one.”  Spielberg kept a ton of the book’s integrity (also noted that RP1 writer Ernest Cline did co-write the screenplay) by tweaking a few things, like the Zemeckis cube.

This film is good and you will get sucked into it without question.  The ongoing references and nods within the score will always keep an ear to ear grin.  But those 2 omissions are glaring ones and major points are deducted for such.  Otherwise, it keeps close to the book and Spielberg does his best work in over a decade.  It will also be the perfect excuse to get your kids researching the great films and games I/we grew up on.

The book is a 10, the film is a 7.