October Horrorshow: Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

Woe be to the viewer when a film series becomes tired. At first there was innovation, followed by repetition. Afterwards comes mediocrity, before, finally, the series descends into total and utter garbage. Such is the case with the last film in this year’s Horrorshow, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. From the opening scene through denouement, the sixth entry in the Halloween franchise is a tedious affair. So tedious, in fact, that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to pay enough attention to this movie to write about it. It was a close call. More than once while I was watching a text message would come in or I would want to look up a member of the cast or crew on the internet, and any deviation in my focus threatened to derail my comprehension of on screen events. How could I possibly write a review of this dog if I couldn’t remember what I just saw? I’ve stopped watching films after fifteen or twenty minutes and still written reviews, but the difference between those films and this one is that, although I only spent a short time with those films, I was able to keep my focus. Halloween 6 was a struggle from beginning to end. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers”

The Empty Balcony: Wake in Fright

I can get the heart of this review out of the way quickly. Wake in Fright is the best movie I have seen in at least the last couple of years. Directed by Ted Kotcheff and written by Evan Jones, Wake in Fright has an interesting history. From 1971, it was close to being a lost film for a long time, with the only known copy in existence of such poor quality that it was unfit for transfer to home media. Twenty years ago, Anthony Buckley, who edited the original film, began to search for an intact copy. After much effort, he succeeded. A restoration was finally undertaken in 2009, and the film was released to the general public once again. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Wake in Fright”

October Horrorshow: Halloween 5

What a putrid mess. Halloween 5 is a shameless cash grab. (The full title is Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, but that full title seems only to exist on posters and other promotional material. The title card of the actual movie has no subtitle.) Halloween 4 was a cheap b-movie that sought to bring a recognizable brand to heel after the failure that was Halloween III. And it worked. Audiences didn’t like the fact that Michael Myers wasn’t the villain in the third flick, and producer Moustapha Akkad took notice. He brought back the slasher icon for the fourth installment, and saw a tidy return on investment, so it was inevitable that there would be a fifth. Of course, since abject cheapness didn’t hurt the bottom line with Halloween 4, there was no incentive to produce a quality product with Halloween 5.
Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Halloween 5″

October Horrorshow: Dracula (1979)

I’ve seen hundreds of horror films. And I’ve seen more Dracula films than I can either count or name. But until recently, I had no idea that this version of the oft-filmed tale existed. This Dracula is so lost to the digital history of cinema that when I searched for it on IMDb, I had trouble locating its page. I have a hard time understanding why. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Dracula (1979)”

October Horrorshow: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Halloween III was a big bust. A successful horror franchise ditched its most marketable characters because series creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill were tired of the idea. I suppose it was a laudable decision from a creative standpoint, but if you’re going to ditch Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, perhaps the greatest on screen villain/scream queen pairing in Hollywood history, it’s probably a bad idea to name your new film like it’s a sequel. Carpenter and Hill learned the hard way that the Halloween brand was in its characters, not its name. Halloween III is not a bad movie. It’s just not a Halloween film. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers”

October Horrorshow: Alone in the Dark (1982)

A slasher flick starring Jack Palance and Martin Landau as murderous psychopaths? It would have been impossible for me not to seek this mother out, especially for an October Horrowshow viewing. Expectations were low. After all, despite the star power, this is an obscure movie, never a good sign. It’s a pretty simple formula. If a movie has stars, and you’ve never heard of it, there’s a chance it stinks. A great example of this idea is Robert Altman’s Quintet. That one had Paul Newman and Fernando Rey, two actors with gigantic reputations in a film helmed by one of Hollywood’s great directorial talents, and it was dreadful. Palance and Landau are no slouches, each having won Oscars for films after their roles in Alone in the Dark, but this film, like Quintet, was tough to watch. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Alone in the Dark (1982)”

October Horrorshow: Halloween II

Halloween has finally arrived. Across the country the ghouls and goblins are out in force, and scary movies are lighting up the airwaves. We’ve been celebrating here at Missile Test for the entire month of October with the second October Horrorshow, when the site is devoted to watching and reviewing horror films. There’s been no rhyme or reason to it other than one common denominator: blood. Good films, bad films, entire franchises viewed out of order...so what? It doesn’t matter. It’s all in fun, as long as there’s death and gore involved. To close out this year’s October Horrorshow, we present a review of Halloween II, the sequel to John Carpenter’s horror masterpiece from 1978. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Halloween II”

October Horrorshow: Halloween

Halloween, the granddaddy of all slasher flicks. Not the first, to be sure, but a film whose formula worked so well it is still being followed to this day in countless horror films, thirty years after it was produced. It also doesn’t hurt that, unlike many of the films it birthed and inspired, Halloween is well made. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Halloween”

October Horrorshow, Retroactive: Prince of Darkness

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Victor Wong will kick your ass with a chopstick and a can of Shasta.

This is attempt number five. The fifth time I’ve begun a review of John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish this effort. Suppose I start with a declarative statement, then justify it with an argument? Sounds like a plan. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow, Retroactive: Prince of Darkness”

The Empty Balcony: Escape from New York

Escape from New YorkBack before the great wave of gentrification began to hit American cities in the mid-1990s, there was the 1980s, an era when the distressed environment of the cities bottomed out. Long decades of neglect, strained local budgets, and rising crime left our cities veritable war zones. The inner cities were voids of hopelessness, abject poverty, and filth. Even affluent neighborhoods were just dangerous enough to breed well-heeled residents with canny street smarts, always looking over their shoulders for the dark figure hiding behind a tree or in an alley. This kind of palpable fear of urban environments is contagious, and it entered into our lore. We could envision no bright future for the American city because we had seen decay extend its grip for so long. Today’s cities have not fully recovered, and they remain always on the brink, ready to slide back as soon as people’s cares turn elsewhere, but it’s hard to picture just how bad things got unless one were a witness.

There are a few films here and there where our urban legacy is on full display. Wolfen had major scenes, some visually stunning, filmed among the devastation of the South Bronx. The classic film The French Connection was a study in browns — rust and dirt every bit as important a character as Popeye Doyle. Fort Apache, The Bronx was a caricature of the inner city, sometimes offensive, but it came from somewhere real. The Warriors has attained mythical status as New York’s ultimate cult film of the night, playing on our fears of a city gone out of control, at the mercy of costumed thugs. At times laughable, the film still wallowed in very real grit, a symptom of the disease that had befallen the city. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Escape from New York”