Posts Tagged ‘john carpenter’

An evening with John Carpenter, The Thing and the Prince Of Darkness.

September 30, 2009

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There are certain filmmakers from the 70’s and 80’s that contributed in raising me and turning me into the kind of movie nerd that I’ve become. And there were none more prolific than John Carpenter, whose films I literally grew up watching since my family first took me to see HALLOWEEN in ’79. There was a new John Carpenter movie out pretty much every single year of my early childhood and teen years in the 1980’s and I would always be there on opening day. THE FOG, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, CHRISTINE, STARMAN, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, THEY LIVE and the two that I’m gonna talk about now, ruled that decade and have provided the creatively bankrupt movie industry of today with a whole bunch of original properties to remake and ruin.

This week the New Beverly Cinema programmed a great double feature of Carpenter’s all-time masterpiece THE THING (1982) along with the criminally underrated PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987). I joined the rest of the “real” geek squad on Sunday night, but almost didn’t make it inside when I was attacked in line by Max Landis, who was wearing an original ROB BOTTIN mask mold from the movie!

Max Landis attempts to "assimilate" me!

Max Landis attempts to "assimilate" me!

I distracted him with my TROLL 2 shirt and ran inside to take a seat and watch one of my favorite horror films of all time…

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The New Bev’s own Julia Marchese interviewed actor Joel Polis before the film and he talked about how THE THING failed at the box office when it was first released in 1982, because it was sandwhiched in between E.T. and POLTERGEIST.  I remember seeing all three of them, one after another, that summer. 1982 was definitely one of the greatest genre movie summers ever.

He also told us a few stories about the production, including an explanation of why the audience never gets to see the demise of his character Fuchs. Apparently, they actually shot an entire scene in which Fuchs is hung up on a door with an axe in his chest and all covered in blood. Carpenter decided that the Thing just wouldn’t kill someone this way and that it was way too slasher-ish, so they came up with what you see in the movie instead. I personally like that it’s ambiguous as to whether or not Fuchs burned himself up or if someone or some-THING else did.

The New Bev's Julia Marchese interviews actor Joel Polis about The Thing.

The New Bev's Julia Marchese interviews actor Joel Polis about The Thing.

Then the film started and for 2 hours you couldn’t hear a pin drop, except for the screams. THE THING is a great film with a brilliant script, cast and direction. I love so many things about it and I really enjoy watching it with an audience and people that have never seen it before. It’s a testament to how effective the film still is when they continue to jump and scream like crazy at all those classic moments. Like the dog kennel scene. Or the scene where Copper gets his arms bitten off by Norris. Or my favorite scene with the blood test where Palmer goes berserk.

YIKES!

YIKES!

Kurt Russell in another badass iconic role for John Carpenter.

Kurt Russell in another badass iconic role for John Carpenter.

I want this!

I want this!

Other things that are awesome about THE THING:

KURT RUSSELL coming off an iconic badass performance for John Carpenter as SNAKE PLISSKEN, creates another iconic badass performance with R.J. MacREADY!

ROB BOTTIN delivers a tour de force of the greatest makeup effects ever created and what he couldn’t finish, the late great STAN WINSTON contributed!

Carpenter has scored the music for every single one of his films (and a few he didn’t direct too), but didn’t have time to do it for THE THING. But that’s fine because he got the genius Italian composer ENNIO MORRICONE to do it! It’s also cool how the score is very much like Carpenter and very unlike Morricone.

The entirely male ensemble cast lends a lot to the intensity of the film with their performances. There is an increasing amount of hostility that comes out of the men as the paranoia begins to rise and it’s due to some superb acting that includes KEITH DAVID, WILFORD BRIMLEY and T.K. CARTER.

When the movie was over, there was a short break and then…

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I saw PRINCE OF DARKNESS in the cineplex back in 1987. I think it is one of Carpenter’s most overlooked films and it was a great pairing with THE THING because even though they are very different in tone and pacing, they have a very similar set up and story.

PRINCE OF DARKNESS tells the tale of an old Catholic church in downtown Los Angeles that has been keeping a lid on Satan as he sleeps in a large container of swirling green energy. DONALD PLEASENCE is the priest in charge of keeping it a secret, but it has become apparent to him that the church’s unwanted guest is starting to awake and illicit others to do his bidding. He brings in a group of quantum physics students and their professor to help figure out a way to stop it, but they are slowly taken over by Satan’s will.

This is a horror movie about the coming of the Anti-Christ that has a heavier emphasis on science than religion. It is much more atmospheric than any of Carpenter’s other films and has a slower dreamlike pace that feels like it was influenced a lot by DARIO ARGENTO.

For me, one of the creepiest moments in the film is when everyone has that weird “dream” of the dark figure walking out of the church. It becomes even creepier to learn that these are actually video messages being sent back in time from the future to warn them that if they fail, the world will be taken over by the Devil. Every time we see one of them I always get goose bumps, never fail.

This image never ceases to scare the HELL out of me!

This image never ceases to scare the HELL out of me!

Alice Cooper as a homeless disciple of Satan.

Alice Cooper as a homeless disciple of Satan.

This lady got a degree in demonology.

This lady got a degree in demonology.

Before the film there was an intro and interview with script supervisor and wife of John Carpenter, Sandy King and actors, Anne Marie Howard and Peter Jason (who’s been in a lot of Carpenter and Walter Hill’s movies). The actors told us how they all had private “zombie” meetings with John Carpenter to discuss how their character would return from the dead. Actor David Warner suggested to Peter Jason to play the part like he was in constant pain and that’s what he did. Sandy King told us how the movie was made for about 3 million bucks and was a union shoot that was mostly shot in her living room. She also said that when Carpenter started writing it, he told her to go out and “get everything you can on quantum physics”, which she did. When someone asked her if POD will ever be remade she said that it was the only one that they haven’t been approached with a remake offer. Thank god! POD is it’s own unique little snow flake and nobody can provide as much fright on such a small budget as Carpenter could.

Sandy King, Anne Marie Howard and Peter Jason talk PRINCE OF DARKNESS.

Sandy King, Anne Marie Howard and Peter Jason talk PRINCE OF DARKNESS.

This was another great double bill at the New Beverly Cinema. This Saturday at midnight they are showing SHOCKER and WES CRAVEN will be introducing it! See you there! And if you see some-THING that looks like Max Landis, RUN!

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

August 28, 2009

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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?"

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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. It’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.

Saturday night sequel insanity: TROLL 2 and HALLOWEEN II

August 17, 2009
The evil goblins of TROLL 2. Huh?

The evil goblins of TROLL 2. Huh?

One of the great things about being a nerd in L.A. is that there is a huge “revival” theatre scene going on that allows a plethora of options for all geek tastes. This last Saturday evening I was faced with two exciting options for my nerd-dollar. The Silent Movie Theatre had a screening of the infamous, so-bad-it’s-awesome TROLL 2 and a few hours later at midnight, The New Beverly Cinema was showing the original HALLOWEEN II. Since the theaters are only a few blocks from each other, I decided to check them both out for an evening of sequel insanity…

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When TROLL 2 was released on VHS back in 1990, the makers were trying to capitalize on the modest success of the film TROLL from 1986. One of the first wonderful FAIL signs on this film is that it is not a sequel in any way to the original. It doesn’t even have any trolls in it. The evil creatures in TROLL 2 are actually goblins! The film was made ultra-low budget, by a crew of Italian filmmakers in the woods of Utah. The director of this trash-terpiece is a man named Claudio Fragasso, but for some reason he’s credited in the movie as Drake Floyd. Most of the cast is made up of Utah locals, all of whom seem to be acting for the very first time ever. Lots of beautifully awkward performances in this film, but the REAL star is the plot!

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Meet the Waits family! They have decided to go on a vacation to the town of Nilbog (go on, spell it backwards) where they will exchange homes with a local family. Little 8 year old Joshua Waits has been warned by the ghost of his dead Grandpa Seth that bad things will happen there, but Mom and Dad think he’s insane. His sister Holly wants to bring her boyfriend Elliott along, but he can’t seem to leave the side of his 3 male friends in their winnebago. I’ve never seen SO MUCH implied homosexuality in a film about killer goblins before. The Waits arrive in Nilbog and are treated with amazing hospitality. The family that the Waits are exchanging houses with have left them a huge feast of weird looking green food to enjoy. But Grandpa Seth warns young Joshua that the food will hurt them and that they must not eat any of it. The decision to have the small boy urinate on the feast to protect his family is one of my favorite, “WHAT THE FUCK!” moments. You see, the townspeople are all evil goblins and if you eat their crazy chow you will dissolve into a disgusting green mess so that they can gobble you up easily.

Don't eat the corn covered in green frosting! It's not ripe!

Don't eat the corn covered in green frosting! It's not ripe!

GRANDPA SETH TO THE MOTHER FUCKING RESCUE!!!

GRANDPA SETH TO THE MOTHER FUCKING RESCUE!!!

The town folk of Nilbog. Eat their food and they eat you!

The town folk of Nilbog. Eat their food and they eat YOU!

As Elliot’s “friends” are turned into goblin-mulch one by one, it is up to Joshua and the ghost of Grandpa Seth to save the fucking day for the Waits clan! I will not give away the ending, but it goes out on a perfectly fucked up note that you will not soon forget. All in all, TROLL 2 was exactly what I was hoping it would be. A highly entertaining “bad” movie from start to finish. God bless the talents of Drake Floyd, Utah, Nilbog, the Waits, Elliott, and of course Grandpa Seth (who had the audience cheering his name every time he appeared to save the fucking day). There was a second feature by the same director called MONSTER DOG starring ALICE COOPER, but I couldn’t stay for it. I had a date with Michael Myers…

More of the night he came home.

More of the night he came home.

To this date, the original HALLOWEEN is still the best horror movie I’ve ever seen. I consider HALLOWEEN II to be the second best film in the series and yes, I’m including Rob Zombie’s putrid remake in that equation. The HALLOWEEN series is my favorite horror-franchise of all time and I have seen every single film in the theatre, upon initial release, so I hightailed it to the New Bev to check out the screening of a newly struck 35mm print and was dumbstruck at the sight of the largest line I’ve ever seen there. If it wasn’t for my friend and fellow geek Cat saving me a seat, I wouldn’t have made it in to the sold out show. Which would have sucked, because it was a great time!

Before the movie started there was a Q and A with director Rick Rosenthal, actress Gloria Gifford who plays Nurse Alves and the great Alan Howarth who composed the score with John Carpenter on that and many others. It seems like everyone really enjoyed working with each other and had a lot of fun making the movie.

Gloria Gifford, Rick Rosenthal, and Alan Howarth.

Gloria Gifford, Rick Rosenthal, and Alan Howarth.

Before the movie started we were treated to a trailer for the original HALLOWEEN and then it began…

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One of the things I always thought was so cool about HALLOWEEN II is that it’s the only sequel I know that picks up precisely where the last one ends and is truly a continuation of the first film’s storyline. Without all of the setup from the first, it just jumps right into the terror and I love it! Also, even though the movie wasn’t directed by John Carpenter, he and Debra Hill came back to write the screenplay and produce it and he even creates a scarier score than the first one. Yes, the film is not quite on the same level as the original slasher masterpiece, but it is head and shoulders above most slasher sequels (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE, etc.). You also have all the principal performers returning (JAMIE LEE CURTIS, DONALD PLEASANCE, MICHAEL MYERS, CHARLES CYPHERS, even NANCY LOOMIS returns as Annie’s corpse!) and most importantly, cinematographer God DEAN CUNDEY is back behind the lens. I think it’s a kick ass sequel!

Michael Myers is crying bloody tears over his sisters excellent marksmanship.

Michael Myers is crying bloody tears over his sisters excellent marksmanship.

This is why smoking isn't allowed in hospitals.

This is why smoking isn't allowed in hospitals.

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Haddonfield Memorial is not really the best run place.

After the movie we got a reel of trailers including (the awesome in it’s own right) HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH, my second favorite sequel HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS, HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS, and HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS. It was a great fucking time and I’d love to see a HALLOWEEN movie marathon some day at the New Bev!

And that was my Saturday night sequel insanity.