FAREWELL AND R.I.P. TO THE LEGENDARY DICK MILLER!

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Dick Miller 1928-2019

It is with a great sadness that news has broken that legendary character actor and frequent Roger Corman and Joe Dante performer Dick Miller has died. The Bronx born actor starred in many classics and cult classics frequently playing characters named Walter Paisley, whom he first played in Corman’s Bucket of Blood in 1959. A veteran of over 100 films, Miller was 90 years old.

Just some of the classics and cult classics Miller appeared in!

-MonsterZero NJ

Source: Variety

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BARE BONES: ERREMENTARI-THE BLACKSMITH AND THE DEVIL (2017)

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ERREMENTARI: THE BLACKSMITH AND THE DEVIL (2017)

Netflix original is based on a European fairy tale and finds a bitter and angry blacksmith (Kandido Uranga) holding a demon prisoner (Eneko Sagardoy). He blames the demonic creature for the bad things that have befallen him and torments it. When a young orphan (Uma Bracaglia) wanders into his smithy, things get a bit complicated for the three of them.

Film is directed well by Paul Urkijo Alijo from his script with Asier Guerricaechevarría based on this old folktale and takes place in the Basque Country of Spain. The visuals are quite sumptuous and the demonic make-up is exceptionally well-rendered. It’s a dark tale that includes a last act trip to Hell itself, but also has an old world charm to match it’s somber tone. There is some graphic violence, as it is a dark fairy tale after all, but a very well made one, with a good cast and would probably make a nice double feature with Pan’s Labyrinth or The Viy.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JAN 25-27

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to the reviews here at The Movie Madhouse!

1. “Glass” $19 Million

2. “The Upside” $12.2 Million

3. “Aquaman” $7.35 Million

4. “The Kid Who Would Be King” $7.25 Million

5. “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” $6.15 Million

6. “Green Book” $5.4 Million

7. “A Dog’s Way Home” $5.2 Million

8. “Serenity” $4.8 Million

9. “Escape Room” $4.2 Million

10. “Dragon Ball Super: Broly” $3.6 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: HE’S OUT THERE (2018)

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HE’S OUT THERE (2018)

Wife and mother Laura (Yvonne Strahovski) is taking her two daughters Maddie (Abigail Pniowsky) and Kayla (Anna Pniowsky) up to the family’s remote cabin in the woods…always a bad sign…with husband Shawn (Justin Bruening) to join them later. Unfortunately, the three are not alone and soon find themselves stalked by a deranged masked individual.

While the film is nothing original story-wise and is reminiscent somewhat of Mike Flanagan’s Hush, it is still quite effective in it’s own right. It’s very well directed by Quinn Lasher from a script by Mike Scannell and is quite spooky and suspenseful, even though familiar. Lasher gets good use out of his remote woodland location and the large old cabin setting and evokes strong performances from his small cast. There is graphic violence though it is used sparingly and thus has impact. Strahovski is especially good in the final girl…final mom?…role and the Pniowsky sisters are impressive, too. The film wouldn’t work as well without an effective villain and the deranged individual who calls himself “John” (Ryan McDonald) is disturbing despite being derivative. He delivers his few lines of dialogue well and conveys a threatening presence behind his creepy mask. All in all, a solid horror/thriller now streaming on Netflix…where you can also stream Flanagan’s Hush for comparison.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: HÄXAN (1922)

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HÄXAN (1922)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Häxan is a 1922 Swiss silent film whose title means “Witch”. It’s part documentary and part dramatic recreation of tales of witchcraft, the demonic and the inquisition that arose from the fear of such, around the Middle Ages. Told in seven segments, it starts out with some facts about early claims of witches, devils and demons and then delves into recreations of some tales of witchcraft and Satanism and then the fear-filled and cruel reaction from the clergy of the time. The documentary then tries, in it’s last part, to give modern…modern at the time, as this film is now almost 100 years old…explanations for what is perceived as the signs of witchcraft, such as psychological and physical ailments.

The film is directed by Benjamin Christensen from his own script. Häxan covers a lot of folklore tales about witches cavorting with The Devil and his minions, demonic seduction and corruption and in doing so, provides some very startling and spooky imagery. The representations of witches flying through the air on brooms, being seduced by demons and even giving birth to monsters, is quite bold for a film of this era and quite well rendered for a film almost a century old. Some of what we see is quite brazen, such as demons frantically churning butter while watching the sexual acts between witch and devil. Their swift up and down arm movements obviously simulating…well, you get the idea. The scenes of torture and interrogation are quite effective, as well and one feels sorry for those under the clergy’s scrutiny or accused of evil acts. The film is loaded with atmosphere and some extremely Gothic imagery, one of the first films of it’s kind to represent such subject matter so graphically. Christensen’s visual eye is quite stunning and filled with Halloween-esque images, especially when portraying the scenes of the witches partying with the demonic in the woods. There are a variety of demonic creatures, uniquely designed and rendered and involved in acts that must have been considered quite daring for the early 1920s…and it was daring as the film was banned here in the United States at the time.

This is a pioneer horror film that was one of the first to portray witchcraft and satanic activity in such detail. Benjamin Christensen gives a history of suspected witchcraft and then treats us to some wildly vivid representation of the tales and folklore that terrified the middle ages. We get stunning visuals of nude maidens sleepwalking into the arms of their demonic seducers, witches flying on their trademarked brooms and even a tongue flickering Satan himself (Christensen) corrupting nuns in their own convent. It’s a stunning achievement and at almost a century old, a work that hasn’t lost any of it’s potency and a film every true horror fan should see.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 witches brooms (out of 4).

 

 

 

 

 

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HALLOWEEN II (1981) and HALLOWEEN (2018): A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

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HALLOWEEN II (1981) and HALLOWEEN (2018): A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! In order to properly compare these two films, I have to give DETAILED SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen Halloween II (1981) or Halloween (2018), there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!

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Comparison In Horror is back!…and in this installment the comparison is between the two direct sequels to John Carpenter’s original classic Halloween. In 1981, the success of Halloween led to an inevitable sequel, Halloween II. Recently, for Halloween‘s 40th anniversary, a new film, Halloween (2018), was made that went back to the source and erased all the previous sequels, as a direct continuation of Carpenter’s original story. It’s created a unique situation where one classic film now has two direct sequels…remember, Halloween H2O, acknowledges the story elements of Halloween II, so it is not quite a direct sequel to the 1978 classic. Two direct sequels that take place forty years apart, let’s take a look these two films and compare…

(Click on the highlighted movie titles to go to the full length reviews and on the photos to enlarge them!)

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THE STORY

Halloween II takes place on the same night of the original, basically picking up right where the first film leaves off. The flick continues with an injured Laurie Strode (Jaime Lee Curtis) being taken to a hospital in Haddonfield, while Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and the police scour the neighborhood for the still at large Michael Myers (stuntman Dick Warlock). Unbeknownst to them, Michael has discovered Laurie’s whereabouts and heads to the hospital to find her, leaving a trail of bodies along the way. Once there, he begins to decimate the hospital staff, one by one, in search of his prey. It is in this film that it is revealed that Laurie is actually Michael’s other sister and he has come home to finish the job he started 15 years ago.

Halloween (2018) opens forty years later to find Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) living in solitude after some failed marriages and loosing custody of her only daughter Karen (Judy Greer). She’s taught herself to survive and fight and is in a constant state of preparedness for Michael Myers’ (Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney) possible return. As for Michael, he was recaptured after that fateful night and has been re-incarcerated in the Smith’s Grove Asylum ever since. A pair of British journalists (Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall) visit Michael, on the eve of his transfer to an even more secure institution, and try to evoke a response by presenting him with his old mask. Of course, that night, the transfer bus suffers an accident and Michael escapes, reclaims his mask and heads off to Haddonfield in time for Halloween. Hearing of his escape, Laurie intends to protect her daughter and granddaughter (Andi Matichak) and goes on the hunt to confront Michael once and for all. By ignoring all the sequels, this film eliminates the subplot that Laurie is Michael’s sister and returns her to a random victim.

Except for both films being direct sequels to John Carpenter’s Halloween, the stories are vastly different.

 

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MICHAEL MYERS

Obviously the Michael Myers in 1981’s Halloween II is the same as in John Carpenter’s Halloweenas the film picks up minutes after the first movie. He’s about twenty-one years-old and is a brutal killer, murdering anyone he encounters during his pursuit of Laurie. It starts out as random neighbors, as he flees from the police and Loomis, to various hospital staff once he finds Laurie at Haddonfield Hospital. He uses a variety of weapons or his hands to brutally dispatch his victims. His mask is still new, stolen earlier that day from a general store. There are hints that there is something supernatural about him, a pure evil more than human.

Halloween (2018)‘s Michael is a Michael forty years older than when we…or Laurie…last saw him. He’s got grey hair, is balding and covered in scars from his first encounter with Laurie. Once reunited with his mask, it too is showing wear and tear, with cracks and thinning hair much like it’s wearer. Despite being 61 years-old, he is still a strong, brutal and efficient killer murdering any innocents he encounters on his way back to Haddenfield and Laurie. In comparison, he seems a bit more vicious here, using his bare hands more often and otherwise mostly sticking with a simple kitchen knife, ironically obtained in a nice homage to Halloween II. He still prefers gas station coveralls and stalking women home alone or babysitting. The supernatural hints are downplayed here, save for a few lines in a nice homage/vocal cameo by Dr. Loomis.

In neither film does he ever speak and any emotions are marked by a shifting of his head or an intensifying in his movements. While he seems more interested in babysitters than their charges in the 1978 and 1981 films, 2018’s Michael has no qualms killing a young boy with a gun…but will still spare a baby. In the 1981 sequel, he started to appear more invincible and unkillable like his cinematic rival Jason Voorhees. In the 2018 sequel, he is back to being more human and can be hurt or injured.

 

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LAURIE STRODE

The Laurie Strodes portrayed in both films are a vast contrast due to the proximity and/or passage of time to the original film’s events.

In Halloween II Laurie is a terrified high school girl who is still traumatized from her encounter with Michael that night. She is basically a damsel in distress, continually on the run from Myers once he reacquires her. She actually seems to have a little less fight in her than she did in her earlier battle with the masked killer, though understandable being wounded and sedated by the hospital staff. Loomis once again comes to her rescue.

In Halloween (2018) we find a Laurie Strode who has been haunted for forty years as a result of the attack by Michael Myers and the murder of her friends. Aside from a few failed marriages and having a daughter from one, Laurie has lived a solitary life where she constantly prepares for Michael’s return…in fact she actually prays for it. The only way Laurie can purge the events of that Halloween night in 1978 from her mind is to kill the man who traumatized her and turned her into the paranoid recluse she now is. When she hears of Michael’s second escape, instead of hiding, Laurie arms herself and the hunter becomes the hunted. Laurie is more Sarah Conner than damsel in David Gordon Green’s film and Jamie Lee Curtis gives one of the best performances of her career.

 

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THE SETTINGS

The settings for both of these films is Haddonfield, Illinois and despite taking place forty years apart, not much has changed. In both films Haddonfield is a small suburban midwestern town that seems to celebrate Halloween enthusiastically. Halloween II ‘s town is still mostly unaware there is a killer in their midst and are only starting to hear the news that there has been an escape at Smith’s Grove and murders committed locally. The original Myers murder of his sister Judith, fifteen years earlier, is almost an urban legend at this point, especially to the town’s younger generations. A lot of the action takes place in the local hospital where Laurie has been admitted.

Same goes for Halloween (2018)‘s Haddonfield which has almost forgotten about the murders of forty years ago, save for the reminder of the eccentric woman who lives secluded in the woods. The new generation of teens know very little about Myers and that night and are too busy partying and trick or treating to realize a killer is on his way home again. Much like Halloween II, the Myers story is treated as an urban legend by everyone but for Laurie and a save few, including her daughter and granddaughter. The action takes place first at Smith’s Grove and then moves to Haddonfield with a last act at Laurie’s fortress home.

 

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THE OPENING SCENES

Rick Rosenthal’s 1981 sequel opens at Halloween‘s climax with Michael vanished and Loomis pursuing him into the street, much to the chagrin of a next-door neighbor. The opening sets the tone of the movie by quickly recounting the closing moments of the first film and then establishing that the danger is still out there. After a very effective opening credits scene where a pumpkin splits open to reveal a skull, we get Michael’s theft of a knife and first kill to make sure the dread is re-established.

Halloween (2018)  Opens with a pair of British podcasters visiting Michael at the Smith Grove Asylum. Journalist Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) uses some connections to borrow Michael’s mask and brazenly shows it to him to no effect. The other inmates react and it is their reaction that gives the opening an unsettling creepiness. After a very effective title sequence with a rotten pumpkin slowly reforming, we then follow Korey and his partner Dana (Rhian Rees) as they visit the reclusive Laurie, thus re-introducing us to her after all these years.

Both openings serve their respective stories well. Though in terms of sheer effectiveness, Halloween II is definitely the more potent opening, when going from Loomis’ classic “You don’t know what death is!” line to the pumpkin/skull credits, in getting us in the mood to be scared. Halloween (2018) only really gets going at a gas station scene which amusingly homages Halloween 4.

 

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THE ENDINGS

Both films end in fiery conflagrations with Michael at the receiving end.

In Halloween II, Michael bursts in as Loomis and Laurie are hiding in an operating room. Blinded by some well placed gunshots, Michael is lured into the center of the room as Laurie escapes. A wounded Loomis ignites the oxygen tanks causing a massive explosion. Myers walks out of the fire engulfed in flames before collapsing. Carpenter intended this to be the end of Michael Myers, though he would return for five more sequels before being “re-imagined” by Rob Zombie.

Halloween (2018) has Michael and Laurie engaged in a final(?) showdown at Laurie’s remote fortress house in the woods. She traps Michael in the cellar and then ignites the house which was always fitted to be a trap for the serial killer. Michael stares up at her as the room becomes engulfed in flames around him. Next we see the room, it is completely in flames, yet we see no sign of Michael. As we do hear his trademarked heavy breathing during the end credits, we are led to believe David Gordon Green is not done with the saga of Michael and Laurie quite yet.

 

 

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MISC

Halloween II is directed by Rick Rosenthal from a script by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, while Halloween (2018) is directed by David Gordon Green from a script by he, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley. Both films are scored by Carpenter himself, with collaborations from Alan Howarth on the 1981 film and son Cody and Daniel Davies on the 2018 film. Both films look great with Dean Cundey doing the cinematography on Halloween II and Michael Simmonds on Halloween (2018). Both films feature graphic violence which is well represented by their respective make-up effects departments. As the recipient of such, both flicks have characters that are obviously there just to be Michael fodder. Each film does make good use of spooky Halloween imagery and were both box office hits with Halloween (2018) coming in just under the original film when tickets are adjusted for inflation.*

*as per Box Office Mojo

 

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IN CONCLUSION

Both films have their flaws and both have their merits. Both films effectively continue the story, but from completely different points in the timeline. One movie beginning where the first left off and the other continuing the story four decades later. As in all cases such as this, it’s up to the individual to choose a favorite. On a personal level, I’ll go with Halloween II as it’s an 80s slasher after all…my favorite kind…and flaws aside, it’s still the last Michael Myers film to really feel like a Halloween movie with Carpenter scoring and Dean Cundey doing cinematography…and let’s not forget the sadly missed presence of Donald Pleasence as Loomis. Halloween (2018), certainly got a number of things right, and does include a great performance from the queen herself. It also stumbled too, especially with it’s Loomis wannabe Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) and a failed subplot involving him. The 2018 film does have a strong police presence in Will Patton’s Deputy Hawkins who makes a nice replacement for the original part I and II’s Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) and Deputy Gary Hunt (Hunter von Leer). Addressing issues such as the long term effects on an attack victim, Green’s film has more substance, though Rosenthal’s sequel is simply more fun. Either way, Michael Myers fans win, as we probably haven’t seen the last of him. 🎃

-MonsterZero NJ

Check out more editions of A Comparison In Horror here!

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JAN 18-20

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to the reviews here at The Movie Madhouse!

1. “Glass” $40.5 Million

2. “The Upside” $15.6 Million

3. “Dragon Ball Super: Broly” $10.6

4 “Aquaman” $10.3 Million

5. “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” $7.25 Million

6. “A Dog’s Way Home” $7.1 Million

7. “Escape Room” $5.3 Million

8. “Mary Poppins Returns” $5.2 Million

9. “Bumblebee” $4.7 Million

10. “On The Basis of Sex” $4 million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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HAPPY 71st BIRTHDAY TO THE LEGENDARY JOHN CARPENTER!

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The_10_best_movie_soundtracks_according_John_Carpenter_photo_by_Kyle_Cassidy_750_501_75_sThe man, the myth, the legend!

Today legendary genre director John Carpenter turns 71 and as he has directed so many classics and is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, who’s created some of my all-time favorite films, MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse wishes him a very happy, healthy birthday!

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: PLEDGE (2019)

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PLEDGE (2019)

Nerds David (Zack Weiner), Justin (Zachery Byrd) and Ethan (Phillip Andre Botello) are looking to pledge a fraternity and not having any luck. Respect from their campus peers is something they are lacking. They’re invited to a party at a remote social club by pretty Rachel (Erica Boozer) and are offered a chance to join. To be accepted they must go through 48 hours of hazing, which at the deranged hands of those running the club, turns into two days of abusive and increasing violent treatment. Can the trio make it through this brutal initiation alive?

Tale of the horrors of hazing gone extreme is written by star Zack Weiner and directed by Daniel Robbins. As the subject of harsh college initiation practices has made the news more than once in the last few years, Weiner and Robbins have decide to take it to new heights…or should we say, new lows. The film is disturbing as we watch the three tormented continuously with a couple of other young men. After a party of booze, drugs and beautiful girls they are lured into pledging, which turns out to be a blood-soaked mistake. The film gets progressively darker as the ordeals become more sadistic and cruel and just as it starts to hit that torture porn level, it turns into a deadly fight to survive, as our three pledges have had enough. There are some twists and reveals along the way and the cast all do well as villain and victim alike. While we’ve seen stuff like this before, it is done effectively and well here. Pledge can be an unpleasant sit at times, but it shows filmmakers with promise. Overall, a deft mix of social commentary and straight up horror with a chilling finale. Also stars Aaron Dalla Villa, Cameron Cowperthwaite and Jesse Pimentel as the tormenters in question.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JAN 11-13

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to the reviews here at The Movie Madhouse!

1. “The Upside” $19.6 Million

2. “Aquaman” $17.2 Million

3. “A Dog’s Way Home” $11.3 Million

4. “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” $9 Million

5. “Escape Room” $8.9 Million

6. “Mary Poppins Returns” $7.2 Million

7. “Bumblebee” $6.7 Million

8. “On The Basis of Sex” $6.2 million

9. “The Mule” $5.5 Million

10. “Vice” $3.2 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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