Halloween Kills (2021)

I was fascinated by horror at an early age but it was the viewing of John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (’78) on TV one fateful night (while babysitting the night before the holiday) that spurred my lifelong obsession with the genre. The universe depicted in the Halloween franchise (regardless of timelines) will always be my home away from home. Just as so many of my generation gladly lose themselves in THE HOBBIT’s Middle Earth or STAR WARS’ galaxy far, far away, I’ve found my happy place roaming the back alleys of Haddonfield.

Love it or lump it, HALLOWEEN KILLS offers an express ticket to exactly where I personally want to be and it allows me to visit with characters I want to learn more about. Yes, I really do care what happened to Tommy Doyle and Lindsey Wallace (well played here by (new to the role) Anthony Michael Hall and (a returning) Kyle Richards)! In fact, it turns out I also care about what happened to the original film’s bully Lonnie Elam (now portrayed by Robert Longstreet). Lonnie, Tommy and Lindsey are friends now and it warms my heart. Some call this fan service and well, I’m a fan and I appreciate the service! For better or worse, it’s my ambrosia. These places, people and events provided me with distractions from harsh reality all my life and I’m nothing if not loyal. I’m saying I loved this movie and I can’t wait to go back.

HK takes place the same night as 2018’s HALLOWEEN but first we’re treated to a variety of spellbinding fresh scenes that occur the night of the 1978 original. We even get a view of killer Michael Myer’s eventual arrest complete with a remarkably staged revisit with Dr. Loomis that shouldn’t work at all, but does and exceptionally well (truly, it’s the type of uncanny that delivers goosebumps). Soon we’re rocketing all over town, spending time with firefighters, cops, medical workers, mobs and almost anyone who had the misfortune of crossing paths with the dreaded MM. This movie goes far out of its way to lean away from the slasher trope that the drama and trauma is all about one lone special “final girl” and it’s refreshing as hell. It may sting for some that Laurie (the always compelling Jamie Lee Curtis) takes a backseat and has no cathartic battle with the beast, but I think it’s high time we acknowledge that death concerns everyone (and frankly, she deserves that weight taken off her back).

Characters that were mere blips in the previous movie get hearty vignettes in this one and the attention to detail and the enthusiasm for callbacks is rich and rewarding. My favorite new addition is an older gay couple named Big John and Little John (the hilarious Michael McDonald and Scott MacArthur) who have moved into the Myers house, are tormented by pre-teens and are NOT spared the wrath of Michael. Not gonna lie, I saw myself and Aunt John in these two (hanging out, listening to records and watching movies; I can relate. Though, another victim’s choice of viewing THE FUNHOUSE suits me better than MINNIE & MOSKOWITZ on All Hallow’s Eve). You know if Michael came to town I’d appreciate being treated just like everybody else (I’d even fight with Aunt John for the on-screen kill). Probably won’t matter to most people that after all these films we finally got a duo like this represented but I sure dug it. Sure, Laurie does have to step aside to allow it to happen but I’m glad she did. Some might say the structure is loose and/or wayward in this flick but that’s kinda the point; HALLOWEEN KILLS opens the window and lets the long in the tooth slasher format breath a little.

I see a lot of online vitriol for this movie and I’m baffled. Even if you don’t care for the highly repetitive dialog or the baby step forward in Laurie’s saga, director David Gordon Green delivers one of Michael’s most threatening romps yet. The kills here are off the hook and I don’t remember the last time I actually gasped out loud during a horror film death. Myers is absolutely ruthless in this film (although he is kind enough to pose a few corpses). Oh well, we all have different tastes. There’s a reason my brothers and I would trade candies back and forth after trick or treating. Some folks dig tried and true traditional chocolate bars, I’m more of a fan of the variety of Bottlecaps. BTW, why are Bottlecaps candies so tiny these days? No wonder I’m so damn nostalgic.

Three Non-Horror Movies For Horror Fans:: By Ghastly1

That Cold Day in the Park (1969). My favorite Robert Altman film -a distant second being Brewster McCloud– in which a lonely frigid spinster (Sandy Dennis) comes across a wet and shivering 19-year-old boy (Michael Burns) sitting on a park bench, who awakens long submerged and hopelessly deranged passions in her. One thing leads to another and much to his chagrin, the boy finds himself locked away in the apartment with a rapidly mentally deteriorating old maid. No Skin Off My Ass (1991) also drew from the source novel this film is based on. All I have to say is, Sandy Dennis can hold me hostage any time.

Sanctuary of Fear (1979). I admit that what initially drew me to this was the fact that I fell in love with Kay Lenz when I first saw her in one of my all-time favorite films, Breezy (1973). The fact Barnard Hughes of The Hospital (1971) and The Lost Boys (1987) fame plays Father Brown also certainly didn’t hurt matters. An actress witnesses several bizarre and frightening incidents but the police won’t believe her, luckily for her, Father Brown does. This is a pretty good thriller which was to be the pilot for a television series which unfortunately was never made.

Rubin and Ed (1991). Here’s a funny, thoroughly enjoyable film with great spirit which I cannot recommend enough. Rubin Farr (Crispin Glover) is an unsociable guy living with his mother who forces him to make friends against his will. Ed Tuttle (Howard Hesseman) is a would be, try hard businessman who is nonetheless unsuccessful and who falls for a pyramid scheme. They go on an adventure to bury Rubin’s dead frozen cat in the desert and become friends along the way. This film is both surreal in many respects and subtly subversive of the mainstream mindset afflicting most today. It is a contender in my book for one of the best movies about a relationship between a human and an animal (even if that animal has ceased to be). Also, if you have ever seen the famous clip of Crispin Glover seemingly drugged out of his mind, dressed strangely and nearly kicking David Letterman in the head and wondered to yourself, what the hell is that all about? this is the answer.

Name That Trauma:: Marko on a Monster Kid

Hi, I hope someone can help me identify something I watched as a kid. None of the things I can remember may be reliable. It may have been from the 70s or 80s. The little I can remember is, a man goes to a mansion to do some type of work for a woman. I don’t think he was a workman, maybe a writer…detective…scientist I don’t know, but at the end the man sees a monster/alien child emerge from a dimensional portal and the monster kid keeps saying mama mama mama. It may have been from a horror anthology TV show or movie. Hope someone knows what it is.

Thanks, 
Marko

Name That Trauma:: Rick B. on a Giant Yellow Alien Ball

Hi,

While probably a benign little heart-warmer or lesson-imparter which was in no way meant to be unsettling, I’m haunted by a short film shown at summer camp. Reckoning it’s from the mid 70s to very early 80s, as the music was all burping Moog (at least in memory).

The most I can offer is a hazy recreation of a single moment… young girl at her open bedroom window, nighttime, she peers out into the woods and glimpses a large, (yellow?) ball come slowly bounding down the distant hillside, perhaps during high winds or a storm. I feel as though the ball was an alien visitor, maybe even a sinister presence? (And I’ve seen Dark Star, so this isn’t my memory conflating two extraterrestrial balls…)

That’s it. The rest was promptly erased by hikes, horseback, and failed attempts at leather-work. Hopefully enough for somebody to go on, any relief will be most welcome, with thanks in advance!

Cheers,
Rick B.

Nightbooks (2021)

I was feeling under the weather recently and wanted to watch a horror film but I wasn’t in the mood for anything that was going to bum me out or destroy my last shred of will to live (you know how it goes). Luckily I found the PG-13 dark fantasy/gateway horror flick NIGHTBOOKS hanging out on Netflix because it completely shifted my mood and delivered everything I could possibly ask for, especially during spooky season. It’s surprisingly dark and intense at times (I’m pretty sure it references SUSPIRIA) but there’s great humor too and the characters are super relatable and the message it delivers is something that’s useful no matter what your age. Based on a children’s book by J. A. White, it somehow successfully transported me back to the eighties and I was swearing I was watching a lost Joe Dante flick for much of the runtime.

Winslow Fegley stars as Alex, a kid obsessed with horror movies (posters for THE THING, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, CANDYMAN and others align his bedroom wall) and writing scary stories. Feeling alienated by others for his interests, he swears to forever reject his passions and destroy all of his writings in his Brooklyn apartment building’s furnace. Before he can achieve his goal though, he is enticed into a neighboring apartment where he spies a TV playing THE LOST BOYS and a tempting slice of pumpkin pie. Suddenly he is trapped in a newfangled telling of Hansel and Gretel with a wonderfully sinister witch named Natacha (Krysten Ritter who is aces and born for the part), her prisoner Yasmin (Lidya Jewett) and a trouble-making mystical cat (who I immediately fell in love with) named Lenore. To stay alive, Alex must rekindle his love of storytelling to entertain Natacha, and frankly, she’s a bit on the detail-oriented, critical side.

Our heroes may be trapped but their prison is a fantastic place to spend time for viewers. Natacha has an endlessly spiraling library, a neon garden full of truly threatening spider creatures and a menagerie of Hummel-like figures of her past victims. I don’t wish to spoil anything but what’s going on in her backyard is even more eye-popping, psychedelic and candy-coated Wonka glorious.

Eventually, strong bonds are formed, the mischievous cat reveals an appreciative heart and even Natasha inspires a tad of sympathy before her comeuppance. Most importantly, Alex learns that what makes him different is exactly what makes him special and I’m all for everybody getting down with that way of thinking. Do yourself the sweet favor of watching NIGHTBOOKS this Halloween season. It really is all any horror fan could wish for.