Posts Tagged ‘halloween’

My Top 10 Favorite Slasher Films of All Time

October 5, 2010

With Halloween just around the corner, I’ve decided to compile a list of my all time favorite films from my all time favorite sub genre of horror: the slasher film. From the inspirations drawn from the Italian Giallo genre, the slasher film exploded in the late 70s and early 80s. The year 1981 gave birth to hundreds of cheaply made slashers and each one of them made money. The simple formula of a crazed killer stalking and killing a group of unsuspecting teenagers one by one has been probably the most successful form of American horror next to the zombie film. It was a direct product of a cynical era still trying to come to terms with sexual freedom and the women’s movement. Some call the films puritanical rage against feminism and the casual sex and drug use of the late 60s and early 70s. Whatever it was that caused this pop culture phenomenon, I regard the slasher genre as one of the most honest and pure forms of horror ever created. To this day Hollywood continues to churn out slasher films for new generations of teenagers to enjoy. They are a rite of passage for young lovers and a good excuse to cling on to somebody in the dark. This is a list of my all time favorites…

1. HALLOWEEN (1978)

This is the undisputed classic that was such a huge success, it created a flood of copycats trying to cash in on its low budget money making magic, and it is the main reason the slasher genre was born. It is also the template for all slasher films to follow: Deranged, masked killer escapes on the anniversary of committing a horrible crime and kills every horny, pot smoking teenager he comes across. The “survivor” girl is a prudish, all American type who must confront the maniac one on one. This is also the first slasher to create an unstoppable killer who simply will not die, so he can return again in sequel after sequel. It is also the first of many “holiday” theme slasher films, taking the best of them for its own and creating the most iconic killer ever created, Michael Myers. Everything about this one is perfect. John Carpenter’s brilliant direction combined with Dean Cundey’s incredible steadicam photography, the erie opening theme music and Jamie Lee Curtis’ beautiful portrayal of Laurie Strode add up to greatness. This film also has the amazing Donald Pleasance as the greatest adversarial psychiatrist ever born. As Sam Loomis, he is the Captain Ahab to the boogeyman’s Moby Dick. This film is a genre definer.

Best sequel: HALLOWEEN II (1981)

2. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

HALLOWEEN may have been the slasher film to start the wave of imitations, but John Carpenter himself was obviously inspired by this, the first holiday themed slasher film ever made. Although its inspirations are more Giallo than anything else, this is the movie that started it all. A crazed maniac has broken into a sorority house that’s emptying out for the Christmas holiday. He delivers frightening obscene phone calls to the few girls remaining and then starts killing them off one by one. The creepiest thing about this movie is the fact that you are never aware of who and why the killer is doing what he’s doing. Several red herrings are tossed around, but in the end the lunatic is still loose and never revealed. This is probably one of the most chilling and creepiest slashers ever made. If Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN is the Father of the genre, BLACK CHRISTMAS is the Grandfather.

3. MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)

Another great entry in the holiday slasher formula. This one concerns an escaped madman named Harry Warden, who has returned to the town of Valentine’s Bluff on you guessed it, Valentine’s Day, to extract some vengeance on the towns people who left him in an collapsed mine shaft for way too long. Or is it really Harry Warden? There’s a romantic love triangle at work in this grimy, working class slasher that really changes the game in a very interesting way. The final reveal and ending scene are one of the most chilling I’ve ever witnessed.

4. THE BURNING

The “summer camp” slasher is another wonderful byproduct of the genre and a direct result of the success of the original FRIDAY THE 13th. THE BURNING stands out for many reasons. First, it was written and produced by the Weinstein brothers and industry mogul Brad Grey. Second, it features first time performances by Jason Alexander (with hair), Fisher Stevens and Holly Hunter. Third, it breaks from the standard slasher formula in several unique ways: There is a mass group murder in which the horribly burned killer Cropsey chops up a raft full of kids with a pair of gardening sheers. Also, the “survival” girl prototype is abandoned for a “survival” boy. The gore effects by maestro Tom Savini are top notch and there is a pervasive theme of sleaze, voyeurism and aggressive male sexuality that makes this one a little grimier than the others.

5. THE PROWLER (1981)

THE PROWLER is another one of those slashers that fucks around with the spurned lover concept. This one opens with a WWII G.I. jilted in a Dear John letter who returns home with a vengeance. After killing his disloyal love and her new beau with a pitchfork, the movie jumps decades ahead to a dance thrown at the same sight as the previous murders. This movie is a total balls out slasher with some of the goriest and most creative kills ever produced by SFX master, Tom Savini. It also has a scary ass ending that’ll make you jump out of your seat with fright.

6. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

Wes Craven really changed the game with this awesomely entertaining and atmospheric slasher that totally twists the genre in a unique way by inventing a killer who’s already dead and can only kill you in your dreams. Sooner or later we all have to sleep and that’s when the iconic Freddy Krueger gets you with his glove made of knives. The first one is still the most serious and the most scary.

Best sequel: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS

7. FRIDAY THE 13th (1980)

This one owes just as much to Mario Bava’s Giallo classic TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE (A.K.A BAY OF BLOOD) as it does to HALLOWEEN. The first of the “summer camp” slashers, it is also the first to really amp up the inventive and violent kill scenes. Tom Savini creates one brutal murder after another, as a mysterious killer starts offing a group of counsellors trying to open a closed camp. This is the first of one of the longest running slasher series ever made and the introduction to the iconic Jason Vorhees.

Best sequel: FRIDAY THE 13th PART 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER

8. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

There is a perverse joy I get from this film about a crazy orphan who dresses up like Santa Claus and butchers folks with an ax at Christmas time. A child is severely traumatized by watching a criminal dressed like Ole Saint Nick kill his father and mother (after raping her). He grows up to be a psycho who loses his shit at the holidays and starts offing the locals. The movie is cheaply made in Utah and features some of the cheesiest acting since TROLL 2, but there is something so delightfully WRONG about the movie, I just can’t help but love it to death. B-movie hottie Linnea Quigley impaled on a pair of deer antlers while topless and wearing a pair of Daisy Duke’s has to be seen to be believed. This movie was picketed by angry parents upon its initial release for degrading the holiday. Just another reason to love it.

Best sequel: SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 2

9. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1984)

If you’ve never seen SLEEPAWAY CAMP before, you haven’t lived a full and complete life. It is one of the craziest, weirdest, most off center summer camp slashers ever conceived. People are killed with boiling pots of water, beehives and a hot curling iron. The acting is unnerving at times. The overall ambience of the film is like David Lynch on model glue. And the ending! My god, the fucking insanity that is the ending must be seen with your own eyes, which you will need to wash out with powerful industrial chemicals afterwards. Only the 1980’s could produce a film this warped and fun to watch.

Best sequel: THE RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP

10. SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1984)

What happens when a feminist writes a slasher movie and it’s directed by another female? SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is what happens, bitches! This film works as a parody of the genre, while at times it also appears to be playing it somewhat straight. The result is a hilarious send up of all the slasher standards that have come before it. A group of high school girls throw a slumber party and an uninvited guest shows up and starts killing them. The maniac is a very average looking guy clad from head to toe in denim and sporting a large drill that is used more than once as an obvious phallic symbol. The movie is what Eli Roth’s THANKSGIVING trailer was. A very funny take on a worn formula.

Best sequel: SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE 3

Hope you enjoyed my Slasher Top 10. If I get a chance, I’ll do a list of the rarest and most seldom seen slashers of all time soon. Nerd out!

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Rob Zombie’s Halloween II: More of the same crap…

August 28, 2009

halloween_2_pumpkin_poster

This review contains spoilers.

I went to a midnight show of the new HALLOWEEN II remake/sequel with some friends in Hollywood, last night. I walked into it with an open mind, even though I really wasn’t pleased at all with Rob Zombie’s “re-interpretation” of the first film. The movie had a lot of problems, but my main issue was the “idea” of making the audience feel sympathy for a young Michael Myers. By trying to show him in a “real” manner, everything that’s cool about the character was destroyed. The reason Michael Myers is so fucking scary is because we DON’T know or understand his motivations. He is a FORCE of pure evil that keeps growing larger and more unstoppable. In John Carpenter’s original HALLOWEEN we are never given any explanation other than that he is inhuman and must be stopped. Like the shark in JAWS, Michael Myers is a monster that just keeps moving. An emotionless creature that hides his face behind a mask that reflects his lack of humanity and who can only express himself by murdering young people who engage in pre-marital sex and drug use. Michael Myers was THE personification of puritanical rage against a changing time.

In the original 1981 sequel to HALLOWEEN, Michael was given the added motivation that he was attempting to finish off his long lost “sister”, Laurie Strode. This plot twist has provided all future HALLOWEEN sequels, including these two remakes, with the mythology behind Michael Myers. He just wants to bump off the rest of his family like the efficient little masked maniac that he is.

In Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake he screws it all up royally, by spending the first half of the movie with a young, white trash Michael Myers and introducing the sister thing right away. I guess he was trying to give some sort of real-life motivation to the reason why Michael kills, so that he can reunite his fucked up family. Once again, I really don’t want to feel sympathy for the guy killing everyone. That’s just me.

He also fucked up the great character of Sam Loomis, by making him an opportunistic sleaze that is around for comic relief more than anything else. The original Loomis character was the obsessively protective force of good and a great “Captain Ahab” to Michael’s “White Whale”. Zombie ruined this element too.

I also hated the way he made his remake take place in the same grimy, white trash universe that his previous two films, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS took place in. HIS is a Haddonfield full of rednecks who obsessively drop “F” bombs and who are as over-sexed as a motorcycle gang O.D.ing on Crack and Viagra. This “slumming” of the original Haddonfield took away from the ANYTOWN U.S.A feeling the first one had and made it a place where I could really care less who gets killed. Fuck ’em all.

"What's my motivation, little boy?"

"What's my motivation, little boy?"

Halloween2_07

The new hobo/8 Mile look.

It wouldn't be a HALLOWEEN movie without a "Weird" Al cameo. What the fuck!?

It wouldn't be a HALLOWEEN movie without a "Weird" Al cameo. What the fuck!?

I really did go into H2 with a clear mind, hoping that it would be good and that it would make up for the last one. I was thinking that maybe Rob Zombie was trapped in a box on the first film and now he was going to break free with the sequel. I was optimistic. Truthfully, I did like it more than his first one, but it really isn’t that much better and it’s basically more of the same crap without the “origin”. But that doesn’t mean we’re done with the “young” Michael Myers story, because the film opens with a flashback of him telling his mom (Sheri Moon Zombie returning because only her husband will cast her in anything) that he dreams of a “White Horse”, which according to the movie represents “pure” rage and more BULLSHIT motivation for his character.

There is a “hospital” sequence in the opening that seems like a nod to the original sequel and picks up right where the last film ended. It’s an effectively scary sequence and it gave me hope that this thing might not be so bad after all. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a Laurie Strode “survivor” nightmare and we find ourselves a year later and still in Haddonfield, Illinois, where Michael Myers’ body has never been found and Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) now lives with her surviving friend Annie (cutie Danielle Harris returns for her fourth HALLOWEEN outing) and her father, Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif). But it’s Halloween again and you know what that means. Laurie is dealing with the past, by hanging out with a new group of girls who call each other “bitches” and “fuckholes” and only want to party and get laid.

Meanwhile, Sam Loomis (another awkward Malcom McDowell performance) has survived his skull-crushing from the previous movie and has become even more famous with his new tell-all Michael Myers book. This is the most tragic victim of Zombie’s HALLOWEEN, the character of SAM LOOMIS. In Carpenter’s original, Donald Pleasance created something truly iconic with his performance. His obsessed, gun toting psychiatrist made a perfect counter to the unstoppable Boogieman. He was like a “Van Helsing” to Michael’s “Dracula”, but in H2 he’s nothing more than comic relief. He even has a scene with ‘Weird” Al Yankovic, where they appear on a local Haddonfield talk show together. I don’t know what’s dumber, the “Weird” Al cameo or that a small mid-western town has it’s own talk show, but it was all profoundly STUPID and not even remotely amusing. Also, the script is so poorly written, we are expected to swallow the notion that Loomis’ new book and tour begin on the day of Halloween and are kicking off in the small town of Haddonfield. What a shitty publicist!

Zombie also turns Michael Myers into a hooded hobo with a Grizzly Adams beard, who’s been walking around the mid-west for a year, I guess to recover from the bullet in the head he got in the last movie. He’s come back to Haddonfield to reunite with his sister and bring the family back together, so they can all live in peace with a “white horse” in Heaven. You see, he and Laurie keep having these INGMAR BERGMAN style hallucinations that feature Sheri Moon Zombie in Kabuki makeup and white robes. BIG FUCKING YAWN!

Rob Zombie has a gruesome visual style that at times can be really effective. The best moments in H2 are when Michael kills. He moves now like a vicious animal who grunts and screams behind the cracked mask while he attacks his victims. He stabs, hacks, beats, kicks and crushes into mulch, everything that gets in his way and this is where the direction and visual style are the most confident.

The rest of H2 is like a better shot version of HALLOWEEN 6.┬áIt’s ultimately the writing that totally sucks and derails the whole thing! Zombie just isn’t a very good writer. His words worked well in his first two films (especially DEVIL’S REJECTS), because they were white trash horror movies. But when he writes this style into the HALLOWEEN world it just takes me right out of it. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois and the reason I always connected sooooo much to the original was that it was a horror movie that seemed to take place on my turf! Even though most of it was shot in West Hollywood, Haddonfield, Illinois looked and felt like the suburbs. It’s hard to believe now, but back then, horror movies didn’t take place in the safe environment of the ‘burbs that often and I think this had a lot to do with the first film’s power and success.

In Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN I and II, Haddonfield is a redneck sewer where mental hospital guards rape patients and ambulance attendants talk about fucking corpses. It’s a town where people call each other suckholes, cuntfucks, and fucktards a lot. Actually it’s a town where the word FUCK is used more commonly than any other word in the english language. There’s even a scene in HALLOWEEN II where a helpless victim screams the word about a hundred times, over and over again. I don’t know if this was a conscious nod to his own “style” or what, but all I gotta say is, FUCK YOU ROB ZOMBIE! Learn how to write a good script man! Here’s an idea, direct someone else’s script for a change! And no more remakes!! What the fuck is this I hear now about you doing a remake of THE BLOB?! The fucking BLOB has already been remade you douchebag! And what the fuck is this I’m reading about it not looking like a BLOB?! What the fuck are you talking about?! And stop casting your talentless wife in all your goddamned movies! She can’t act and most importantly, IT MAKES YOU LOOK LIKE A BITCH!! And how about challenging yourself and doing a movie where nobody says the word fuck at all. And no more of these insipidly juvenile character names like UNCLE MEAT and places like RED HOT PUSSY LIQUORS for awhile. FUCK!

Sorry, I had to get all that off my chest. Please don’t see HALLOWEEN II this weekend. Netflix the original HALLOWEEN I and II instead. Then throw HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS on after, because it’s cheesy as hell, but still a lot of fun (as well as being the first appearance of a 10 year old DANIELLE HARRIS as Laurie Strode’s daughter Jamie). And please Rob Zombie do something original and dare I say, a little smarter next time. I truly do like the way he makes a horror movie look and feel at times.