MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and THE ROAD WARRIOR

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This edition of MZNJ’s Saturday Night Double Feature has an apocalyptic theme, with two of MZNJ’s all-time favorite apocalyptic features!…

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ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981)

Escape From New York is one of my all-time favorite B movies and a bonafide film classic. I instantly fell in love with this film upon seeing it opening night at the legendary Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. and John Carpenter solidified himself as one of my favorite directors.

An outrageously original idea has New York City in a war torn, crime filled, future turned into a maximum-security prison, and legendary director Carpenter makes it work by taking his subject matter just seriously enough to make the audience buy it. Add to that a colorful cast of characters, including one of the greatest, and sadly underused, film anti-heros of all time, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), and you have the recipe for a B movie classic.

The story is simple, war hero turned outlaw, Snake Plissken has been captured and is about to be sentenced to life imprisonment in New York City Penitentiary. Fate intervenes and the President’s (Donald Pleasence) plane is hijacked on the way to a crucial peace summit and crashed inside the city. Former special forces soldier Plissken is the only man skilled enough to sneak in quietly and get him out alive, and Snake now has a chance at a full pardon for all his crimes if he takes the job. A vicious gang leader called The Duke Of New York (Isaac Hayes) has other ideas for both The President and Snake, who has less then 24 hours to complete his mission, or the world goes back to war and the micro explosives implanted in his neck to keep him compliant, will go off.

Director and co-writer (with Nick Castle) Carpenter creates some nice tension and suspense, and his visual eye is great at creating a gloomy hellhole out of the world’s greatest city. Dean Cundey’s cinematography is absolutely beautiful as it captures the world inside New York, which is very effectively portrayed on a small budget. Carpenter moves the film along well, although not as fast paced as today’s audience are used to, and there is plenty of action and chases to keep one entertained. Despite being released in 1981, this film may be the last film to have a real 70s feel to it before the Lethal Weapons and Die Hards changed action films forever. Another film that inspired many and was imitated many times and another great Carpenter film score to add to the atmosphere.

As for the cast… Kurt Russell does his best Clint Eastwood as Snake and it’s only natural then to pair him up with Eastwood co-star Lee Van Cleef as Police Commissioner, Bob Hauk. Rounding out the cast is Halloween vet Donald Pleasence as the President, Harry Dean Stanton as Brain, Carpenter’s then wife, Adrienne Barbeau as Maggie, Ernest Borgnine as Cabbie and legendary soul man Isaac Hayes as The Duke of New York. Not to forget, there is also genre favorite Tom Atkins as Hauk’s right-hand man, Rehme and frequent Carpenter collaborator Charles Cyphers as the Secretary of State. A simply classic B-movie sci-fi/action flick and one of my all-time favorites!

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA:  The studio wanted Charles Bronson as Snake, but Carpenter fought for his choice of former Disney child actor, Russell and the rest is history. Also, the SPFX were done in part by a then unknown James Cameron, who went on to direct Terminator and Titanic. And despite its setting, most of the film was lensed in St. Louis and L.A. with only one-night actual shooting in NYC at the Statue of Liberty.

One of the greatest B-movies of all time!

Rated a classic 4 (out of 4) Snakes

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THE ROAD WARRIOR aka MAD MAX 2 (1981)

Road Warrior is simply an action classic and one of my all-time favorite movies. It still holds up today even after over 40 years and is still better than most of the CGI filled action flicks that get churned out today. I was stunned upon leaving the theater after first seeing it at the Stanley Warner in Paramus, N.J. in 1981 and the film still has its magic when I watch it all these years later.

The film is set years after the events of 1979’s Mad Max and takes place after an apocalyptic collapse of society triggered by the drying up of fuel sources and the resulting panic. It follows ex-cop Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), who we last saw avenging the murder of his wife and child against a savage biker gang, and now wanders the wasteland fighting to survive amidst the scavengers, a once loving family man transformed into a ruthless survivor who looks out only for himself. Max stumbles across a small desert community that is manufacturing fuel but is also battling a large gang of thugs who want to take the gas and slaughter all those inside. Max’s need for fuel leads him to align himself with the embattled village but is it something more that makes him risk his life as the villagers make a desperate attempt to escape the ‘vermin on machines’ and find a better place to start a new life.

The Road Warrior is simply a great movie. One of the greatest action films ever made, the film that turned Gibson into a star and launched dozens of cheap imitations and still inspires filmmakers today (I recommend Neil Marshall’s outrageously fun homage Doomsday). George Miller creates a world that is an apocalyptic Sergio Leone western in S & M gear and features some of the most furious action/chase scenes ever committed to film. He populates this world with a cast of eccentric characters from the bizarre and whimsical Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence) to the equally surreal gang leader Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) and his mohawked henchman Wes (Vernon Wells). Beneath all the leather and carnage, the film also has a heart and a soul and that’s what sets it apart. Ultimately it is about clinging to and regaining one’s humanity in the face of adversity. Not only is Max rediscovering he has a heart underneath the bodies of all those he has killed and all that he has lost but civilization as well is struggling to regain what’s been lost against those who would take advantage of its ruin. Amidst the bone-crushing action and blood-spattering violence there is a message of hope and that is really what makes this film so special and gives it so much substance. Director Miller mixes in his message perfectly with the action, offsetting the brutality with a quirky sense of humor, so the bleak nature of the film never wears you down. A perfect blend of elements if there ever was one. Miller also gives the film a look that would make Leone and Kurosawa proud and Dean Selmer’s cinematography brings it to life along with Norma Moriceau’s inventive costume design and, of course, all the amazing stunt work and action choreography. Wrap that up in Brian May’s pulse pounding score and you have a cinematic experience that is just as effective today as it was over 40 years ago. Miller co-wrote the script with Terry Hayes and Brian Hannant and the film was produced by Miller’s friend and Mad Max producer Byron Kennedy, who would tragically be killed 2 years later in a helicopter crash.

The cast really are perfect, especially for bringing such colorful and strange characters to life. Gibson is both samurai and gunslinger as the iconic Max, portraying a man who is deadly, cunning but still has a heart buried deep down that enables him to become a hero when there are those in need. His actions may seem selfish at first, but the cop and family man are still in there needing a good reason to re-emerge. Bruce Spence is a delight as the goofy Gyro Captain, a bizarre individual who flies a gyro copter over the vicious inhabitants of the wasteland and survives by his wits and the help of his pet snakes. A truly endearing and memorable character. Nilsson and Wells create formidable villains becoming the signature template for all the bad guys in practically every post-apocalyptic action rip-off that arose after this became a sensation. They are both oddballs and nut jobs but very lethal characters with Wells’ Wes practically stealing the show as the loose cannon, psychotic henchman. We also have Michael Preston who is a noble leader as the in-over-his-head Pappagallo, a man who believes civilization is not lost and plans to start again. Young Emil Minty is a hoot as the Feral Child, a stray dog of a little boy who communicates in growls and is quite resourceful and scrappy in a fight, and Virginia Hey is noble and strong as the simply named Warrior Woman, who fights just as hard as any man. There are many other supporting players and they all do well in establishing personalities for their offbeat characters. An almost perfect cast for a film masterpiece.

What else can I say. This film is a masterpiece of action and storytelling and is one of the most influential films of its time. It is one of my all-time favorites and a film that is just as effective today as it was in 1981. It is a clear example that action movies can have a story and a soul and still deliver mind blowing sequences without a lick of CGI. Often imitated but never equaled. A classic in every sense of the word.

Rated 4 (out of 4) warriors of the wasteland!

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BREAKING NEWS: FATHOM EVENTS TO FIX ASPECT RATIO FOR CARPENTER’S THE THING!

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BREAKING NEWS: FATHOM EVENTS TO FIX ASPECT RATIO FOR CARPENTER’S THE THING!

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After fan anger and disappointment was unleased online, led by filmmaker and horror expert Mick Garris, due to Fathom Events’ sub-par print of John Carpenter’s The Thing that was screened Sunday night, Fathom has responded! As stated in an article appearing on Variety’s website last night, Fathom Events will replace the shoddy print with a print in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio for Wednesday’s scheduled screenings!
 
Fathom’s statement as per the Variety article…

 

“Your patronage and trust are of utmost importance to us. We know you come to theaters expecting the very best experience possible and we pride ourselves in being the provider of that experience,” the statement reads. “We are aware that the recent showing of ‘The Thing; wasn’t shown in its original aspect ratio and the disappointment it caused. Wednesday’s scheduled event will be shown in the proper aspect ratio, so you can see the film in theaters, as it was meant to be seen.”

Nothing was said about refunding or appeasing those, like myself, that saw it Sunday with the inferior print, but at least those seeing it at the Wednesday showings will get to see it as John Carpenter intended! Thank you, Mick Garris!

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-MonsterZero NJ

Source: Variety and Mick Garris’ Instagram

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S MOVIE MEMORIES: HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING (1982)!

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HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING (1982)!

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The ill-fated crew of U.S. outpost #31 from John Carpenter’s The Thing!

John Carpenter’s production of The Thing turns 40 years old on 6/25/22 and I was fortunate to see it at a preview screening a week earlier at the long-gone Totowa Cinema in Totowa, N.J. At this point I was already a John Carpenter fan and The Thing from Another World, which is the first film adaptation John W. Campbell Jr’s Who Goes There?, was one of my childhood favorites. I was very excited and as there was no internet to spoil things, I didn’t know what to expect apart from a few stills posted in Starlog and a cast and crew with some familiar faces and names. I was wowed to say the least by this groundbreaking adaptation with some of the most amazing make-up FX I’d ever seen! There was no traditional monster such as in Alien, but a creature that changed shape and form every time you saw it and right before you eyes. I loved the flick and was actually mad when it opened officially a week later to bad reviews and even worse box office. I saw it at least twice more in a theater before it’s sadly brief theatrical run came to an end. now, after four decades I can be happy that the film is finally recognized and regarded as the classic that it is!

 

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Something not of this world has been unleashed from it’s icy tomb!

Last night John Carpenter’s flick, now rightfully recognized as the masterpiece it is, returned to theaters to commemorate it’s 40th anniversary thanks to AMC and Fathom Events. It was a bittersweet return as, sadly, it was an inferior print that was not only faded and sometimes a bit blurry but cropped from the film’s original 2:35 aspect ratio to something more resembling 1:85! WTF!? This totally betrayed Carpenter’s impeccable visual style and Dean Cundey’s masterful cinematography. On that level it was very disappointing. However, the heart and soul of this science fiction/horror was still intact, and it was still a blast and a good time to see Kurt Russell and co-stars up on the big screen once more battling Rob Bottin’s shape-shifting alien monstrosity. It brought back a lot of memories from my first screening in 1982 and proved this flick has lost none of its potency four decades later. It will always remain one of my all-time favorites and if you truly want to see it as intended, pick up Scream Factory’s collector’s edition. The print is a beautifully restored high definition transfer that presents this masterpiece of alien terror in all it’s gory glory!

 

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A last stand against the alien invader!

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-MonsterZero NJ

Photos: Universal Pictures

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: HAPPY 42nd ANNIVERSARY to JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG (1980)

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HAPPY 42nd ANNIVERSARY to JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG (1980)

John Carpenter’s The Fog was released on February 8th, 1980, and my butt was there in a theater to see it! So, in honor of the 42nd anniversary of one of my all-time favorite horror flicks, I am re-posting this look back at Carpenter’s classic!

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One of my all-time favorite horrors and one of my favorite John Carpenter flicks, in fact, since I was too young to see Halloween when it came out, this was the first Carpenter film I saw in a theater and the flick that started me on my love of his movies.

The Fog tells the story of the 100-year anniversary of the small coastal California town of Antonio Bay and as the town prepares for its centennial celebration, a dark secret is revealed. Legend has it a leper colony paid the founders of Antonio Bay a lot of gold to let them settle nearby, but they were betrayed and murdered, as their ship was lured onto the rocks to crash and sink on a fog laden night. All were lost, but now a horde of vengeful spirits returns from the sea, wrapped in a surreal fog, to make the descendants of those who wronged them, pay with their lives.

The Fog focuses not on a main character, but a group of central characters whose individual experiences during this supernatural crisis bring them slowly all together, for its tense and creepy final act set in the town church. A good cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis as hitchhiker Elizabeth, Tom Atkins as local fisherman Nick, Janet Leigh as centennial chairwoman Kathy Williams and Adrienne Barbeau as single mom and radio DJ Stevie Wayne, give life to this ensemble and make them characters we like and care about, so we fear for them when they are placed in harm’s way. Add to that Hal Holbrook as the town’s alcoholic priest and a host of Carpenter regulars—with even a cameo by Carpenter himself—and you have a film wonderfully filled with a variety of characters who are all potential victims for the marauding phantoms. As for those phantoms, let’s not forget to mention the ghostly Captain Blake (FX man Rob Bottin) and his vengeful crew who are portrayed with in-camera practical FX. This makes them quite spooky and gives them a heavy dose of menace and a lot of effectiveness when they are on the attack. There is loads of atmosphere and some very solid scares and suspense created by Carpenter, along with some great cinematography from frequent Carpenter collaborator Dean Cundey, which makes this a good, solid, old-fashioned ghost story and a fun Halloween season treat. Carpenter again delivers a score which adds chills and foreboding to his tale of ghostly revenge, much like he did for Halloween and he starts the film off perfectly, with a chillingly fun opening sequence featuring veteran John Houseman as a crusty sailor who likes to tell kids scary stories. It sets the mood for the thrills and chills yet to come. This classic was made back when there was no phony CGI, just solid make-up effects from master Rob Bottin (who went on to do The Thing’s FX for Carpenter) and some very basic down to earth smoke and mirrors style visuals, that are as beautiful as they are scary. A great flick the likes of which they rarely make anymore and one of MonsterZero NJ’s must-watch flicks during the Halloween season!

The film is thankfully available, on blu-ray from Scream Factory with all the extras from previous releases, plus a new commentary track with Barbeau, Atkins and Tommy Lee Wallace and two really fun and informative interviews with Jamie Lee Curtis and Cinematographer Dean Cundey, who also supervised the absolutely gorgeous transfer!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) spectral sailors!

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HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!

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HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!

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Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken! One of the greatest and sadly underused movie anti-heroes of all-time!

40 years ago today the film world was introduced to Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) as John Carpenter’s Escape From New York was released in theaters! A little EFNY anniversary trivia: studio Avco Embassy Pictures wanted Charles Bronson or Tommy Lee Jones for Plissken, but Carpenter held out for Kurt Russell and history was made! HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!

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The late, great Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. where I saw Escape From New York opening night! (Photo from the Mitchell Dvoskin collection)

-MonsterZero NJ

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE THING 2011 and THE THING (1982)

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In celebration of snagging what appears to be the last Target exclusive NECA MacReady action figure on the shelves, I’ve decided to make a double feature out of Carpenter’s classic and it’s prequel…

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THE THING (2011)

John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my all time favorite movies. It’s a classic and arguably Carpenter’s masterpiece. So, I tried to put the audacity aside that someone would attempt a prequel and went in trying to view this film on it’s own merits as much as possible. Ultimately, since it’s trying to be part of that film’s story, you kind of have to compare and my mind constantly made such comparisons all throughout. Overall, I wasn’t that impressed, but also didn’t hate it and over time, it has grown on me as a sort of amusing companion piece. Still, obviously far from a classic like it’s predecessor.

2011’s The Thing takes place in the Norwegian camp that is seen briefly in Carpenter’s film in smoldering ruins. It details their finding of the alien ship and it’s passenger in the ice and it’s subsequent escape and infiltration of the camp and assimilation of various members. The Norwegians are joined by some American’s including Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Paleontologist Kate Lloyd, Eric Christian Olsen as scientist Adam Finch and Joel Edgerton as helicopter pilot Sam. Aside from Ulrich Thompson as lead scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson, the rest are interchangeable and generic characters that serve mostly as body count. Only Winstead really tries to make Kate a more rounded character, but she isn’t given much to do but look concerned, or scared, or both, till the last act.

This is where The Thing fails to assimilate the 1982 perfectly as it’s title creature would. Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. fails to generate much suspense or create the kind of paranoia that fueled the 82 classic. He does create a bit of a sense of dread, but for the most part, he directs this “prequel” competently, but very by-the-numbers. There’s very little of the kind of tension Carpenter built during his film, even though the situation is basically the same. Even if he was trying to craft a film that was more it’s own “thing” he still doesn’t have the directing chops to really pull it off. The film has a nice visual style, there are some well done action sequences and they did do a good job of matching sets and events to link up with the film this is a prequel to, but it still doesn’t come close to Thing ’82.

Heijningen doesn’t get that much help out of his actors either. Other than Winstead and Edgerton, most of them pretty much perform on ‘paycheck’ levels and there are none of the memorable characters like Carpenter’s eclectic bunch. Well, at least there should be some cool monster stuff, right? Not quite. All this talk of practical effects during production was nonsense, as 90% of what we see is CGI, or enhanced with CGI, and it’s only a few levels about your average SYFY channel movie. So even the monster evokes no emotion, because it looks like what it is, phony. And to be honest, the designs lack the impact of Rob Bottin’s now legendary work. Even at their weakest moments, Bottin’s creature transformations generated awe or disgust. You’d think they’d take advantage of almost 30 years of technological advancement in movie effects, yet the creatures have little impact. And, speaking of our alien star, we are never given much more information about the creature than we already know from Thing ’82. They totally blow the opportunity to add to the creature’s mythos.

I’ll admit, there were a few scenes I liked, especially toward the end where the camp is thrown into all out combat with our computer generated invader and there are some clever bits like one involving tooth fillings. I also liked Winstead’s Kate as our lead. I think Winstead is capable of strong roles and it’s too bad she’s wasn’t given stronger stuff till the last act here. She makes a credible heroine. The end credits nod to the Carpenter flick is the best stuff in the movie. At least the lead-in stuff worked very well and the film ends on a spooky note as we know what comes next…a far superior movie.

In conclusion, I didn’t hate this flick, but would only recommend it as an amusing curiosity or a mindless popcorn monster flick as long as you forget about it even trying to stack up to the Kurt Russell classic. The Thing 2011 did have almost impossible shoes to fill and while it falls far short of the mark, it’s also not the complete disaster it’s made out to be. Best “thing” about the movie is that it is a lead-in to Carpenter’s flick, so you can always watch that afterwards.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 (out of 4) flame thrower wielding cuties!

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THE THING (1982)

Arguably John Carpenter’s best film and his masterpiece, The Thing  was a remake of Howard Hawks’ 1951 classic The Thing From Another World, which was itself based on John W. Campbell’s story Who Goes There? Instead of using the 1951 film’s walking, blood sucking alien vegetable, he went back to Campbell’s story which featured an alien creature capable of imitating whatever it fed on.

Carpenter’s film opens with an isolated American research station in Antarctica being buzzed by a Norwegian helicopter that seems to be trying to gun down a lone sled dog. The incident results in the helicopter being destroyed and both raving occupants being killed, one by the station commander Gary (Donald Moffat) in defense of his crew. Now the team including helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell) are stuck with a bizarre mystery and the surviving sled dog. When MacReady and Doctor Copper (Richard Dysart) investigate the Norwegian camp, they find it destroyed, it’s occupants dead and a huge hollowed out block of ice…not to mention a burned corpse of something barely human. The investigating of the evidence indicates the Norwegians found a strange ship in the ice and brought a specimen back to their camp that apparently was not dead when thawed out. The real nightmare is yet to come as the Norwegian dog reveals itself to be something quite unworldly and that an alien creature with the ability to absorb and become it’s prey may now be among them…or worse, may be one or more of them already. The paranoia and terror grows as the team try to discover who may be a creature in disguise and the creature feeds their paranoia and seeks to eliminate any of the men with the scientific knowhow to unmask it. Can those still human stop it and if they fail, what will happen to the rest of humanity?

The Thing is both a masterpiece of suspense and tension, as well as, of visceral horror. Carpenter, along with Bill Lancaster’s script, perfectly creates the paranoia of not knowing who around you is human and who is not. The setting of isolation is made all that apparent as Carpenter seals his characters in an ice and snow surrounded maze of hallways and dark rooms where the 12 men are trapped with something very inhuman and they can’t even trust each other, as it could be anyone. The team all suspect each other, but as is human nature, turn to those they like for support and turn on those they may have not liked or not gotten along with before. We have 12 men who are social outcasts thrust into a situation where no one is coming to their rescue and they are forced to not only try to save themselves, but literally save the planet, as their failure to stop this creature will unleash it upon an unsuspecting world. Just so we fully understand the enormity of this creature’s threat, we are treated, via make-up FX master Rob Bottin (and Stan Winston who created the dog kennel creature), to some of the most gruesome creature transformation sequences ever filmed. Bottin convinced Carpenter to not go with a standard true form for the creature design, but an organism that is constantly changing and different once revealed and is made up of parts of all the beings it has absorbed during it’s journey through space. The results are visually horrifying and still hold their full impact even today. All this is brilliantly filmed by cinematographer Dean Cundey and accented by a haunting score by Ennio Morricone…who later voiced disapproval of how Carpenter used it. It is said the prominent electronic bits were actually written by Carpenter, though a lot of Morricone’s music is still used.

As for the human players, obviously this is Kurt Russell’s show, as he plays a man who is reluctantly forced to try to save a world he seems intent on hiding from and does so, honorably and selflessly. With 12 characters not everyone is given a lot of attention, but the cast all handle their roles well in presenting a bunch of eclectic social misfits who would rather be in the antarctic than with the rest of the world. The standouts aside from Russell’s MacReady are Dysart’s Dr. Copper, Moffat’s Gary, who crumbles when he really needs to take charge, forcing MacReady to lead the rest, Keith David’s Childs and Brimley’s scientist Blair. Ironic, as Brimley has voiced his complete distain for the film. Maybe he should have read the script before signing on? Rounding out a solid cast are Richard Masur as Clark, David Clennon as stoner Palmer, Charles Hallahan as the meek Norris, Joel Polis as the quiet scientist Fuchs, T.K. Carter as the smart-ass cook Nauls, Thomas G. Waites as cowardly radioman Windows and Peter Maloney as complainer Bennings. Carpenter’s wife at the time, actress Adrienne Barbeau, also has a vocal cameo as the voice of MacReady’s chess computer.

The history of this film is as legendary as the film itself. The flick was critically panned for it’s gruesome gore FX and grim tone and audiences stayed away…not me, though, I saw it at least 3 times back in the day…and it has taken decades for it to finally be recognized as the masterpiece and classic it truly is. Simply a great horror/sci-fi film that has yet to be equaled.

-MonsterZero NJ

A classic 4 (out of 4) Things!

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COOL STUFF: GALAXINA/THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER on BLU-RAY!

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GALAXINA/THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER on BLU-RAY!

It’s amazing to live in an age where two B-movies like these can get a nice remastering and blu-ray treatment. Both flicks are from the long defunct Crown International Pictures and both are nostalgic titles, as I actually saw them in a theater back in the day…when stuff like this still got a theatrical release. While this Mill Creek Entertainment disc is itself out of print, it is still available through E-Bay and independent sellers on Amazon, which is how I got mine.

Both movies look great considering their age and that they were very low budget to begin with. Galaxina is presented in it’s original 2:35.1 aspect ratio with The Crater Lake Monster being presented in it’s original 1:85.1 aspect ratio. The picture on both are colorful with the film prints having only marginal wear. The images are sharp and there is some nice contrast. For low budget movies from the late 70s and early 80s, they look really good, especially considering the disc originally went for less than $15. The audio is only Dolby Digital and DTS 2.0, but considering the age of the movies in question, the sound quality is not bad. There are no extras, but as this was a bare bones release, that was to be expected. If you are a fan of either flick or both, it’s worth checking out Amazon or E-Bay to get a copy while they last. Shop around, I got mine for less than $25 including tax and shipping.

This is a time where digital technology can make a lot possible and this disc is a good example. These were two “drive-in” flicks from a company that produced a lot of movies on this level, but gets sadly overshadowed by rivals New World Pictures and American International Pictures. It’s wonderful that these flicks got the respect they deserve and hopefully they don’t stay out of print for too long.

-MonsterZero NJ

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

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GALAXINA (1980)

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GALAXINA (1980)

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

Galaxina is a low budget 1980 space spoof that would normally have been long forgotten except that it is remembered for being the first starring role of 1979 Playmate of the Year, Dorothy Stratten, who was savagely murdered by her estranged husband two months after the film’s release. Stratten played the title role, a beautiful female robot that space cop Thor (Stephen Macht) falls in love with and then has to be rescued when a mission goes awry.

Without the infamy of Stratten being a cast member, Galaxina is 90 slow-paced minutes of flat jokes, cheap production value and so-so SPFX elevated slightly by some 80s nostalgia. It is directed very by-the-numbers by William Sachs (The Incredible Melting Man) and he fails to give it the energy a homage/spoof like this needs. As he is script writer as well, Sachs is also to blame for the lack of laughs or cleverness the film is vacant of. One also has to question the logic of a movie that hires and promotes a Playboy Playmate of the Year as the star and then keeps her completely covered up the whole time. The flick also stars Ronald J. Knight as the robotic villain Ordric, who was voiced a la Darth Vader by Percy Rodrigues and comedian Avery Schreiber appears as the ship’s captain, Cornelius Butt.

Overall, this is a dull flick sadly made infamous due to the tragic death of it’s beautiful star. It does have some nostalgic meaning to me personally, though, as I actually saw this flick with friends at the long gone Fox Theater in Hackensack back in 1980.

MZNJ EXTRA TRIVIA: frequent John Carpenter director of photography Dean Cundey lensed Galaxina between The Fog and Escape From New York. Even cinematographers have to eat.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 sexy, sassy androids that deserved a better movie.

galaxina rating

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS (2015)

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THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS (2015)

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

Flick is most notable for being the last film to be attached to the late, great Wes Craven as he was executive producer. Director and co-writer Nick Simon tries to give it a bit of Craven’s style, but the film is a mixed bag and a prime example of how a character and the actor playing them, can sink a flick like a stone. Story has pretty grocery clerk, Colleen (Claudia Lee) being sent photos of mutilated women by a couple of psychopaths. The photos also capture the attention of pretentious and self-centered, L.A. photographer Peter Hemmings (an awful Kal Penn) who, for some reason, travels to Spearfish, South Dakota to meet Colleen. Suffice to say this new attention  to Colleen does not sit well with the psychopaths in question and people start to die.

Co-written by Oz Perkins and Robert Morast, the film, obvious by the plot description, has a weak story that ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere. Major plot holes abound, like the local police practically laughing off the fact that Colleen is getting pictures of dead girls and despite disappearances in the area, these local Barney Fifes (including a wasted Mitch Pileggi) don’t seem to feel there is anything worth investigating here. Add to that, gratingly annoying photographer Hemmings, finds out everything he needs to know about it online on a blog and feels these photos are personally calling him out, even thought they are being sent to Colleen, not him. If you are scratching your head, you are not alone. So Hemmings and entourage go to Spearfish and instead of investigating the photos, Hemmings becomes obsessed with making Colleen his new model. Ummm…what? This sets in motion more brutal murders from our killers, who we meet early on and are never given any sort of motive or reason for their actions. Just two redneck weirdos (Luke Baines and Corey Schmitt) who enjoy brutal killings and for no real reason have become obsessed with Colleen. There are a few brutally effective scenes and our psychos are very creepy, if not underwritten, but the plot never comes together or makes all that much sense as a cohesive story. There is very little suspense and the flick basically comes to a sudden and unsatisfying end. At least the production had legendary cinematographer Dean Cundey to give the film an atmospheric look.

The cast are a very mixed bag, too. Claudia Lee is fine as Colleen and she is a girl who can handle herself. She is pretty, though the character lacks the magnetism that seems to attract psycho killers and jerk photographers alike. Speaking of which, Kal Penn is absolutely awful as Hemmings, who is a an annoying character to begin with. The character is just a self-absorbed, prima donna and with Penn’s performance, it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard whenever he speaks. He is completely unconvincing as a sexy, genius photographer and really drags down an already weak movie. Kenny Wormald is fine as Colleen love interest…another plot element that goes nowhere… and member of Hemmings entourage, Chris. He seemed like a bit too much of an ass-kisser to get the interest of a strong-willed, independent girl like Colleen, IMO. There is also scream queen Katharine Isabelle, former Disney channel star Christy Carlson Romano and the awesome Mitch Pileggi all wasted in small roles.

Suffice to say, it’s disappointing the Wes Craven’s legacy ends with his name on this misfire. The flick has barely a cohesive story, there is no real suspense and none of the characters have much motivation for what they do. Kal Penn is not only insufferable as Hemmings, but the characters is awfully annoying as written and really serves no purpose, like a lot of the characters here. There are a few effective scenes, mostly because they are brutal and the redneck psychos are creepy, if not purposeless in what they do. Saving grace has former Carpenter D.P. Dean Cundey lensing the flick and the appearance of some fan favorites in small roles. Not completely awful but definitely forgettable.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 knives.

final exam rating

 

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