Monday, 31 October 2016

Happy Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is a 1988 slasher film. Directed by Dwight H. Little (Bloodstone) starring Donald Pleasence (Halloween, Phenomena), Danielle Harris (Hatchet II) and Ellie Cornell (House of the Dead). The film was the first Halloween movie in 6 years and the first to be produced without co-creators John Carpenter and Deborah Hill.

Halloween 4 is set ten years after the events of the original film. Once again, the psychotic Michael Myers has escaped from a lunatic asylum and is on his way back to Haddonfield to kill his niece Jamie (Harris), daughter of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who has moved into a foster home. Pursued once again by Dr Loomis (Pleasence), Michael starts ruining the town’s Halloween celebrations and ripping through the locals as the inept local law enforcement are organised by Loomis. Jamie’s stepsister Rachel (Cornell) is left to protect Jamie as Michael continues his rampage, despite the efforts of a vigilante mob, and a final showdown ensues in the Sheriff’s house.

As many people know, after the wild success of the first film, and it’s slightly disappointing sequel, John Carpenter and Deborah Hill conceived of a new vision for the franchise where every sequel would focus on a different Halloween story. This resulted in the cult classic Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) which, despite lacking  Michael Myers, weaved a spooky and clever story around Halloween masks that possessed children. However, come 1988, executive producer Moustapha Akkad wanted to revive the franchise and this meant bringing back the Icon himself, prompting Carpenter and Hill to promptly leave the franchise. You would think that the lack of the creative geniuses who spawned the franchise would harm the film, however, the film still works remarkably well and, as good as Halloween III is, Michael Myers is too effective a villain not to bring back.

Taking inspiration from the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, which had already ballooned into parody by this point, Halloween 4 certainly cranks the volume up on the more nuanced atmospherics of the previous films. But still, the plot makes a remarkable amount of sense. Ten years have passed, a new generation of Myers is around, Haddonfield have almost forgotten about 1978. Aside from the old escaped lunatic thing, the plot elements fit really well in the updated setting and Danielle Harris is one of the better child actors to appear in an 80s horror film. Donald Pleasence is always a welcome presence on the screen, however, he looks like he’s starting to get a little sick of the franchise and his whispered/yelled dialogue does get a little annoying after a while. Although the film is pretty over the top in terms of its violence and dripping in the 80s, there is still a great deal of atmosphere retained from the original film and Carpenter’s creeping dolly shots live on. 

Stronger than most horror franchises by its fourth entry, The Return of Michael Myers delivers what it promises and there are certainly many franchises of the day that would’ve benefited from a 6 year gap and a break for their antagonist. A surprisingly inventive plot with a great shock ending and some excellent reworkings of the iconic theme music. Halloween 4 is a lot better than you remember.

What do you think of Halloween 4? Were you glad to see Michael Myers back?

Thursday, 27 October 2016

New Cloverfield movie coming next February

Interestingly, there appears to be a new Cloverfield film in production which is set for release in February 2017. Hot on the heels of 10 Cloverfield Lane (one of my favourite films this year), Paramount and JJ Abrams are looking to quickly expand the rather cryptic shared universe between the first and second films.

The new film's working title is God Particle, although you can expect that to change, and centres around a group of astronauts who make a terrible discovery (presumably in space). What's more shocking that this is the rumour that Paramount hopes to release a Cloverfield movie every year from now on. I'm a huge fan of the first 2 movies, and I can't wait to find out more about the mysteries that tie the universe together, but, annualising the franchise could be a mistake. We'll find out more when The God Particle is released in February.

Are you excited by the news? Do you think annualised sequels will overexpose the films?

Monday, 24 October 2016

Godzilla 2 moves forward with Krampus Writers

The upcoming sequel to Legendary studios 2014 Godzilla reboot, appears to be moving forward despite being dangerously close to falling into development hell. After original director Gareth Edwards left the project, there have been big question marks over who will take over writing and directing duties, pushing back the release date to 2019.

However, an answer has been found! Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields have just been signed up to write the movie, with Dougherty heavily rumoured to assume the directors chair as well. This is very reassuring as I had feared the sequel would suffer from the personnel changes and Krampus (2015), as well as Trick r Treat (2007), was an instant cult hit. As long as the duo can adapt from seasonal anthologies to giant monster movies, the King of the monsters will be in very good hands.

What do you think of the news? How do you think the sequel will differ as a result?

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Lights Out (2016): Review

Lights out is a 2016 supernatural horror film. Directed by David F. Sandberg and starring Theresa Palmer (Warm Bodies), Maria Bello (A History of Violence) and Alexander DiPersia. The film was adapted from Sandberg’s own short of the same name from 2013.

The film follows a dysfunctional family unit where Rebecca (Palmer) has become estranged from her mother Sophie (Bella). Struggling to raise her other child Martin on her own after the death of her husband, Rebecca becomes involved in the welfare of her younger sibling. However, Rebecca soon realises that the reason behind her mother’s failing mental health is linked to a figure from her past “Diana”, who now haunts the family but only under cover of complete darkness. Remembering Diana from her own youth, Rebecca investigates the origins of the spectre and attempts to unravel the mysterious link between Diana and her own family before it’s too late.

Lights Out made a huge impression on the horror community when it emerged as a startling short in 2013, and rightfully so. The singular image of a ghoulish silhouette that could be glimpsed one moment, and disappear with the flick of a light switch was genius in its simplicity. This carries through really well to the feature film as the mechanism is not only terrifying but extremely relatable and the interplay between light and dark evokes the most memorable of the German expressionist horrors (Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari). Similarities to Mama (2013), another feature film adapted from a short, are also unavoidable but favourable as both films succeed in adapting their simple ideas for a larger story.

Sadly, the film is hugely let down by its cast and it’s script with delivery of much of the dialogue feeling like the proverbial bucket of cold water after the heart pounding sequences featuring Diana. The exposition is clunky and the backstory constructed to flesh out Diana is simultaneously half baked and overwrought. Admirable attempts are made to create the kind of sympathetic backstory that is so effective in Japanese horror but It didn’t really work and I struggled to invest in any of the characters to a large degree. That being said, the nail biting visual direction and pitch perfect sound design serve to compensate for these shortfalls on many occasions, still making for an effective, traditional horror movie.

Lights Out is far from perfect, but, it serves to capture the suspense and atmosphere from its original incarnation in a way that many would not have expected. Best enjoyed with lights, and brain, turned off to enable maximum immersion into the terrifying world of the shadows. I guarantee you’ll think twice the next time you use a light switch.

**** 4 Stars

What did you think of Lights Out? How do you think it compares to the short?

Friday, 14 October 2016

War for the Planet of the Apes gets first teaser trailer

A brief, but very exciting, teaser trailer has been released for the upcoming third entry in the acclaimed rebooted series. A visibly aged and weary Caesar (Andy Serkis) declares that "War has already begun!", which seems to be reflective of the older, darker character Matt Reeves and Andy Serkis have been pitching.

We'll have to wait until July of next year to learn the exact scale of the War and the fate of Caesar, a character which has been masterfully crafted by Serkis over the last two films. Combine this with the upcoming Skull Island, and we're in for a very Apey 2017 indeed!

What do you think of the darker style? Are you a fan of the rebooted series?

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Greasy Strangler (2016): Review

The Greasy Strangler is a 2016 black comedy film. Directed by Jim Hosking and starring Michael St Michaels (The Video Dead), Sky Elobar (Don Verdean) and Elizabeth De Razzo (Eastbound and Down). The film was also produced by Elijah Wood.

The film follows Big Ronnie (St Michaels) and Big Brayden (Elobar), a father and son duo who have an unusual relationship. Even more unusual is the fact that, at night, Ronnie transforms into a slimy, Creature from the Black Lagoon type monster, known as “The Greasy Strangler”. However, by day, Ronnie and Brayden happily run their disco tours business, and Ronnie enjoys Brayden’s greasy cooking (although not quite greasy enough). A rift soon appears between the two as Janet (De Razzo), a customer on one of their tours, comes between them and a pretty gross love triangle ensues. Eventually, Ronnie’s unexplained absences and penchant for greasy food arouse Brayden’s suspicion and he uncovers the mystery of the greasy strangler.

Hosking is mostly known for his contribution to The ABCs of Death 2 (2014) and the segment “G is for Grandpa” and, if you’ve seen it, you’ll get an inkling of the sort of weirdness you’re in for with The Greasy Strangler. The film wears it’s weirdness as a badge of honour and it’s this, rather than any particular genre, that defines the film. Of course, the easy comparison here is to the films of John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray) and that influence is certainly felt in its hyper-artificial dialogue, use of colour and trash tactics. You also get a little of flavour of Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) with the comedic style and timing and it reminded me of some of the more schlocky Troma films of yesteryear.

The performances of St Michaels and Elobar are really strong and, despite how deliberately unconventional this was intended to be, I ended up feeling pretty invested in the father and son relationship as well as Brayden’s ineffective attempts to woo Janet. The deadpan humour kept me laughing throughout and the over the top makeup effects, some of which I’m still trying to unsee, perfectly complimented this. As fresh and original as the film was, I did think it lapsed into a comfortable repetition towards the end where my interest started to flag a little. This didn’t detract from the overall appeal, but I would have liked a few more twists and turns in the plot to deviate from the cycle of the greasy strangler.

A bizarre and unusual film, The Greasy strangler marks a strong debut from Hosking and you’ll be unlikely to see anything quite like it this year (apart from Swiss Army Man maybe). Equal parts revolting, sweet, absurd and charming, this artsploitation flick will keep you laughing and ingrain mental images that may never leave you!

*** 3 Stars

What did you think of the movie? Was it too ridiculous?

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Chloe Moretz joins Suspiria remake

The remake of Dario Argento's Giallo classic Suspiria (1977) is well underway as Chloe Moretz joins the cast, along with Dakota Johnson (50 Shades of Grey) and Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer, Only Lovers Left Alive). Argento's countryman Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash) is directing and, although we don't know who Moretz will be playing yet, we do know that Johnson will be taking the lead Suzy, with Swinton taking the role of hard nosed headmistress Madame Blanc.

Regardless of what you might think of horror remakes, Moretz certainly knows a thing or two about hem as this is a record 5th for her! I'm also not a massive fan of the original, iconic as it is, so am pretty interested to see what Guadagnino can do with it. He's certainly assembling a strong cast! The film is scheduled for release next year.

What do you think of this remake? Would you like to see more Giallos remade?

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

31 (2016): Review

31 is a 2016 American horror film. Directed by Rob Zombie (The Devil’s Rejects, House of a 1000 Corpses) starring Sheri Moon-Zombie (every Rob Zombie Film), Jeff Daniel Phillips (The Lords of Salem) and Richard Brake (Hannibal Rising). The film was partly financed by crowdfunding.

31 follows a group of carnival workers as they drive through the countryside on the way to their next gig. Along the way, they get jumped by a gang of stripy, clown faced goons and wake up in an underground facility being taunted by weirdos dressed as 18th century nobility (including an obligatory appearance from Malcolm McDowell). They are informed they have been ensnared in a deadly game where they will be hunted by a gaggle of carnival themed assailants, including a dwarf dressed as Hitler, a pair of chainsaw wielding clowns and ultimately the sinister “Doom-head” (Brake). As they’re picked off one by one, it comes down to a final confrontation between Charly (Moon-Zombie) and Doom-head as they battle up to the surface again to try and finish each other off before 31 ends.

If there is one talent that Rob Zombie possesses (and believe me, it is only one), it’s being able to make a film simultaneously ludicrous and incredibly tedious. There is only the most basic semblance of a plot and not a shred of originality and, as with many Zombie films, you can check off the clich├ęs as you go (seriously, chainsaw wielding clowns?). Things could have gone very differently for poor old Robert, as since he burst on the scene 14 years ago exploitation films have seen quite the revival largely due to people like Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Jason Eisener. The sad truth is, whilst Rob Zombie clearly loves exploitation movies, he has no idea how to write one and it’s no coincidence that his grindhouse trailer "werewolf Women of the SS has not received the feature film treatment whereas Hobo with a shotgun and Machete have (I want my Nic Cage Fu Manchu dammit!). 

The dialogue is cringeworthy, even by exploitation standards, and does nothing to propel the plot or develop the cartoonish characters who are lazy pastiches of 70s horror movie tropes to begin with. Even Moon-Zombie looks pretty bored playing more or less the same character she plays in all of her husband’s films. The only saving graces of the movie are the gore, which Zombie always executes to a high standard, and the refreshing performance of Richard Brake as the psychotic “Doom-head”, dumb character name aside. From his opening black and white monologue, to his closing speech as he taunts Charly, he takes the wonky grindhouse dialogue and delivers it like he means it with the kind of intensity I’d like to see explored by more adept directors. 

 Not content with remaking other movies, Zombie has now started remaking his own films and the result is one of his more brainless efforts to date. His filmography is not without it’s cult following, but even fans of The Devil’s Rejects will find little to satisfy their longing for a continuation of the tired Texas Chainsaw tribute act. Rob Zombie’s career continues to mirror his decomposing, shambling namesake, and not even crowdfunding can bring him back to life after this one.

* 1 star

What did you think of the movie? Are you a fan of Zombie’s earlier work?

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

What we do in the Shadows getting TV spinoff

Last year's cult hit What we do in the Shadows is getting the TV spinoff treatment in the form of "Paranormal Event Response Unit". Whereas the mockumentary film focused on the trio of Vampires, this will focus on the police officers who only featured in one scene. 

This is obviously great news as WWDITS was the best film of last year and we're already getting a sequel in the form of "We're Wolves". And let's not forget, the last time Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi collaborated on a TV show, we got Flight of the Conchords! 

Are you excited for the TV show? Is the franchise being overexposed? 

Monday, 3 October 2016

Turbo Kid Returns!

Great news for fans of last years post apocalyptic romp Turbo Kid, as not only has a sequel been greenlit, but a prequel music video has been released to tide us all over. The sequel will directly follow the events of the first film, in which "the Kid" befriends loveable android Apple in a quest to overthrow evil warlord Zeus.

The music video, however, follows the Apple's adventures before the events of the first film and another unlikely friendship (all set to French style electro-pop, naturally). Check out the video and expect Turbo Kid 2 in the near future..

Were you a fan of Turbo Kid? Do you like the idea of a music video prequel?