Good things came from Amazon today! One of my favorite guilty pleasures from the 80, and one of the best of the pre-Lord of the Rings sword and sorcery epics, The Sword and the Sorcerer has finally made it to Blu-Ray, and it’s 4k, too! Directed by Albert Pyun and written by him, Tom Karnowski and John V. Stuckmeyer, The Sword and the Sorcerer is a gory, action-packed 80s cult classic that fans have been waiting to arrive on HD disc for a long time! Now, thanks to the awesome folks at Scream Factory, it was released today with all the extras you have come to expect from this amazing label! I can’t wait to watch it in all its remastered glory! (Full review HERE)
The Laid To Rest flicks are contemporary slashers that have a bit of a following in the horror community. So what better choice for a MonsterZero NJ Saturday Night Double Feature than both of these gory slashers from director Robert Green Hall…
LAID TO REST (2009)
Flick opens with a pretty young woman (Bobbi Sue Luther) awakening inside a coffin. She has no memory and no idea how she got there. Before she has a chance to figure things out, she is attacked by a deranged killer (Nick Principe) with a chrome skull mask and a nasty serrated knife. She barely escapes with her life and is pursued into the night by this madman. She picks up a few allies along the way, in friendly local, Tucker (Kevin Gage) and nerdy, Steven (Sean Whalen), who try to help her escape him. The killer relentlessly pursues her and those trying to help her, murdering anyone that gets in his way. Who is he and why does he want her dead?
Gory slasher is written and directed by make-up FX man and musician Robert Green Hall and is a perfect showcase for his PostHuman FX special effects shop. First and foremost, this is a very gory flick and that gore is very well designed and rendered. Gore fans will enjoy the inventive and very realistic looking kills. It’s not an overly scary film, but there is some intensity in the attack and chase scenes. Chromeskull is an imposing villain and there are some likable characters to fear for, such as our final girl, dubbed “Princess” by Tucker, and Tucker himself, of course. The film moves fast, looks good on what is probably a very modest budget and there is plenty of action. To a degree it’s also a chase film, as we move from location to location with Chromeskull in hot pursuit. Princess is chased from one house to another, makes her way back to the funeral home and then finally to the blood-spattered conclusion at a gas station/convenience store. It’s an economical 90 minutes and delivers plenty of the blood and gore fans look for. If there is any flaw the film has that holds it back a bit, is going all out with the gore from moment one. By starting right off with the brutality and extreme bloodletting, by the time the third act rolls around, we are getting a little numb to it. Otherwise, this is a brutal, bloody and entertaining slasher flick from Robert Green Hall.
The cast are all fine here. Curvy and cute Bobbi Sue Luther makes a fine heroine as “Princess.” Her real identity is kept secret and she is a strong and resilient woman, once her situation sinks in and she decides to survive. Kevin Gage is good as local man Tucker. A likable man just wanting to help out a young girl in trouble. Whalen is also solid as the whiny, timid Steven. The recent death of his mother makes him especially sensitive to the death and murder going on around him. Nick Principe, who was the pig-masked killer in Madison County, is an imposing killer as Chromeskull. We don’t get too much background on him, but he is effective. There are some familiar faces playing killer fodder. Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey is Tucker’s ill-fated wife, legendary Richard Lynch is a funeral director in league with Chromeskull, A Nightmare onElm Street 2010’s Thomas Dekker is Tommy, a convenience store customer and Johnathon Schaech is Tucker’s ill-fated brother in-law. A good cast.
Maybe not a classic, but Laid To Rest is a solid enough slasher that gets the job done. Its extremely gory and it’s inventive and graphic kills are exceptionally done. It may pull the trigger on it’s brutality and graphic demises a little too soon, though, where a build up would have been more effective. Otherwise, it has an effective killer, a likable cast and moves quickly, and at times, with intensity.
Sequel finds that Chromeskull has a well financed and equally disturbed support team run by a man named Preston (Brian Austin Green) and a woman named Spann (Danielle Harris). They resuscitate the masked killer and have a team of surgeons restore him as best as possible. Preston tracks down and kills “Princess” (now Allison Kyle), while Chromeskull sets his sights on new girl Jessica (Mimi Michaels). Jessica is brought to his new lair and so is Tommy (Thomas Dekker), the only survivor left from the last movie. As Chromeskull prepares to play with his new toys, dissension between Spann and Preston threatens to tear this evil organization apart, while the police close in.
Flick is also directed by Robert Green Hall from his script with Kevin Bocarde. It’s a bit of a letdown after the first flick. The impressive gore and kills are still there in abundance, but putting Chromeskull in charge of a sinister James Bond meets Jason Voorhees organization, complete with minions, takes away a lot of the killer’s mystique. He’s a mystery in the last film, now we may find out a bit too much. The bickering between Spann and Preston isn’t interesting, as we know where that will lead, and having the flick set basically in the same location for 90% of the movie, also makes it very stagnant. The last flick was basically one long chase. Here, it’s basically a standstill with victims sitting around waiting for their teased demise…which, for some, doesn’t even come. There are some effective bits, but it never really feels like a slasher flick. That’s one thing the last film did well.
The cast are fine. Nick Principe is effective again as Chromeskull, but it’s how he’s used and what he’s involved in that looses the character a lot of steam. Thomas Dekker gets a bigger role and is good as Tommy, now the hero of the flick. Mimi Michaels is really good as final girl Jessica. She’s pretty and sweet and unfortunately, isn’t given much to do but cry and look scared for most of the movie. The one setting keeps her put till the end and only gives her one scene where she shows some resilience. Green and Harris are going through the motions as Chromeskull’s feuding minions and Johnathon Schaech appears again, this time as an F.B.I. agent.
Second flick is sadly a disappointment from the fun and gory first flick. While the inventive and well-rendered kills remain, the setting and story not only keep the film grounded in one spot, but strip Chromeskull of a lot of his mystique by turning him into a James Bond villain, complete with pontificating minions. The rivalry between his first and second in-commands adds nothing and only succeeds in taking time away from the final girl, who basically sits around crying the whole movie. Despite the end setting up a an interesting possible third installment, Chromeskull has yet to return.
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1988 horror tells the story of Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin), who has been in a coma for 13 years after being the sole survivor of a mass suicde at the Unity Fields cult compound. She suddenly awakens and immediately begins treatment by her psychiatrist, Dr. Alex Karmen (Bruce Abbott). As her memories slowly return, she finds herself haunted by cult leader Franklin Harris (Richard Lynch) who appears to her in her dreams. As the dreams persist, Cynthia’s fellow patients start dying in horrible ways and Cynthia believes Harris is somehow killing those around her from beyond the grave.
Dull Elm Street retread is directed by The Craft’s Andrew Fleming from a script by he and Steven de Souza. It replaces dream demon Freddy Krueger with cult leader Harris, and is a lot less inventive with it’s dream sequences. The film is neither scary nor suspenseful, though, at least there is some well orchestrated and plentiful gore to amuse us. The pacing is very slow and feels longer than it’s 84 minute running time and we question why patients with emotional problems have such easy access to things such as knives and poison. There is a big reveal in the last act, too, that fizzles, as it is even sillier than a phantom cult leader killing from the great beyond.
The cast is a mixed bag. Jennifer Rubin makes a good heroine and performs some silly scenes very straight, which helps. Lynch is an almost legendary movie bad guy and he gets the most out of the thinly written material, making Harris a creepy specter. Abbott is a dull hero and would have been better served as a second banana like he was in Re-Animator. Dean Cameron is completely annoying as patient, Ralph, though veteran Harris Yulin is fairly solid as a stereotypical doctor with a secret agenda. 80s icon E.G. Daily also appears, with a small role as the first victim of Harris’ supernatural hi-jinx.
This film has a following and thus it’s fans. I am not one of them. I didn’t think much of it when I first watched it on VHS back in the day and the revisit didn’t change things, even with some added 80s nostalgia. It’s dull, slow paced and despite some good gore, is devoid of any thrills, chills or inventiveness. A unsuccessful attempt to clone the success of Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors including stealing actress Rubin.
2 scalpels because it takes place in a hospital and that’s all I could think of.
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This is actually a fun anthology the uses the amusing framing story of H.P. Lovecraft (Jeffrey Combs) himself visiting the library of a mysterious sect of monks and sneaking a look at the forbidden book of the title and thus unleashing three stories based on actual works of the author. Now we know where he got his inspiration.
First story, The Drowned, is the best and most Lovecraftian of the three tales. It’s directed by Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) and written by Gans and Brent V. Friedman. It tells the tragic tale of Edward De LaPoer (Bruce Payne) who has recently lost his wife in a terrible drowning accident and now has inherited a run-down, old seaside hotel from a distant uncle. He discovers the original owner of the building Jethro De La Poer (Richard Lynch) also lost his family tragically at sea and used a book called the Necronomicon to resurrect them. Not heeding how horribly Jethro’s story turned out, Edward finds where the book is hidden in the house and plots to resurrect his own lost love. This story is very well acted by Payne and has some of the best SPFX of the anthology in its presentation of resurrected ghouls and Cthulhu-like creatures. It has a nice atmosphere of dread and a great visual look from Gans. As far as evoking Lovecraft, this segment nails it perfectly.
Second story, The Cold, is entertaining, too as it finds nosey and obnoxious reporter Dale Porkel (Dennis Christopher) confronting a woman (Bess Meyer) in an old Boston house as to the whereabouts of the original owner, a Dr. Madden (David Warner). Madden is suspected of being over 100 years old and Porkel claims he can tie him into a series of disappearances unless the woman tells him everything. Be careful what you wish for, as Porkel gets a tale of love, murder and trying to cheat death that is chilling in more ways than one. Another entertaining story, this one directed by the 90s Gamera series’ director Shusuke Kaneko and written by Friedman and Kazunori Ito. This segment combines a tragic love story with a gruesome tale of a scientist trying to cheat death while at the cost of the lives of others. It earns it’s title from the fact that Madden’s cheating of death only works at very low temperatures. The segment is well done, has some very good FX and the cast all perform well, especially David Warner as the ill-fated Madden. Christopher lays it on a little thick but is only in the beginning and end of the segment.
Final story, Whispers is the weakest, but still provides skin-crawling entertainment. It’s written by Brent V. Friedman and Brian Yuzna, who also directed the segment. This tells the story of a cop (Signy Coleman) who is pregnant from her partner Paul (Obba Babatundé). Her overly emotional state while in pursuit of a mysterious suspect called The Butcher, causes an accident that allows the injured Paul to be taken hostage. She pursues them into what appears to be an abandoned building, but soon finds there is an unspeakable and otherworldly horror waiting for her and her unborn child in its depths. Segment is OK but marred by some over-the-top and uneven acting and a story that’s too contemporary to fit in comfortably with the previous old-fashioned tales. What we finally find in its lower levels is gruesome and unnerving and well portrayed by some charming prosthetic effects and Yuzna does have a cinematic style that works well with the subject matter. The story is entertaining, but not as much as what came before and it also lacks the other stories’ charm, though it does have some of the most unsettling visuals.
Obviously, after the final tale, we finish the framing story of H.P. Lovecraft’s search and seizure of the Necronomicon and hint at possible future installments which sadly never happened. The framing segments are fun and also directed by Brian Yuzna and co-written with Brent V. Friedman. This segment has a charming old-fashioned movie serial feel and does get to have a little fun with prosthetic make-up FX in its last act. Too bad the film never took off enough to continue the adventures of Coombs’ H.P. Lovecraft. That might have been fun.
This is, overall, an entertaining movie. The stories may be uneven, but they do capture the flavor of the celebrated horror author’s work and the wraparound story actually involving Lovecraft is charming and fun. The FX throughout are delightful prosthetics, gore, miniatures and rubber creatures with some slightly cheesy visual FX that are all the more fun for it. The cast are fairly solid, except for a few overdone performances, such as in the last story, but are balanced out by the strong work of Payne, Lynch, Warner and the always welcome Jeffrey Combs. A fun and nostalgic anthology that deserves a decent blu-ray release!
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Anyone who’s been coming here for a while knows I love Roger Corman’s productions and am certainly guilty of having my guilty pleasures. But, Deathsport, a movie I actually saw in a theater in 1978 is not one of them. Sometimes bad is just bad and based on the fact that both Corman and Allan (Rock ‘N’ Roll High School) Arkush both tried to save this turkey and failed, is proof of that.
Made as a loose follow-up to Death Race 2000, the film takes place far in the future where the world has been ravaged by war and people either live in walled cities or wander the wasteland led and guarded by the Jedi-like Range Guides and their crystal swords called Whistlers. When the city of Helix plans to go to war against the neighboring city of Tritan, their leader Lord Zirpola (David McLean) plans to sway the populace to his cause by staging gladiatorial games pitting captured Range Guides against their new weapon, the Death Machines which are merely motorcycles covered in aluminum siding and fitted with laser canons. He and his head thug, ex-Guide Ankar Moor (legendary movie bad guy Richard Lynch) make the mistake of picking Guides Kaz Oshay (David Carradine) and the sexy Deneer (Playboy Playmate Claudia Jennings) as fodder for the games. A daring escape, boring chases and endless explosions ensue. And did I mention that Ankar Moor killed Kaz’s mother years earlier?
Initially directed and co-written (with Donald E. Stewart) by Nicholas Niciphor, the film is a mess and even the intervention of Corman and Arkush couldn’t save it with the reported addition of numerous explosions and nudity. For starters, the film has a completely convoluted and silly story filled with large plot holes and lapses of logic, even for an exploitation sci-fi flick. It’s also dreadfully slow paced, for an 80+ minute movie and that’s even with it’s second half being one long chase sequence. The action is badly staged, fights badly choreographed, the FX are terrible, the sets and the costumes look cheap and bad, even for a lesser Roger Corman production and there is very little blood or gore to at least satisfy on an exploitation violence level. It could have used Death Race 2000’s over the top gore and sense of humor, or at least acknowledged it’s badness and had some fun with it. But director Niciphor takes this nonsense deathly serious and it makes his incompetent handling of it, all the more obvious. It’s basically a mess and not in a good way. And to add insult to injury, the film’s score by musician Andy Stein apparently featured guitar work by the legendary Jerry Garcia…not sure how Garcia got involved in this train-wreck!
Star David Carradine, who made quite a living in films like this, looks like he would rather be elsewhere. Jennings is certainly pretty and has a nice body, that gets shown off frequently, but she is no actress and it’s only Richard Lynch who somehow retains his dignity by giving the role his all and adding weight to his extremely silly dialog. A sign of a true pro and an under-appreciated actor. Frequent Corman actor Jesse Vint also looks embarrassed in a minor role and the rest of the supporting cast go from barely adequate to awful.
So, what else is there to say. There is very little to recommend here except for some Claudia Jennings’ nudity and watching a pro like Lynch giving it his all in a terrible movie. If endless explosions are enough to satisfy, you might get some extra mileage out of it, but it’s basically just a bad movie that is even too bad to enjoy as ‘so bad, it’s good.’ Check it out if you are curious, but even with the nostalgia of having actually seen this in a theater in 1978, I can’t bring myself to cut it much slack…No surprise, Corman still made a little money on it, with it’s “If you liked Star Wars, you’ll love Deathsport” tag line, which just goes to show you what a genius the man is.
PERSONAL TRIVIA: I saw this flick at an interesting little venue called The Galaxy Theater in North Bergen N.J. Interesting as it was a tiny movie theater built into an apartment complex called the Galaxy Apartments. As a teen I though the concept of an apartment building with it’s own movie theater was really cool, but it never caught on. While the Galaxy apartments are still there, the theater closed long ago.
Rated 2 (out of 4) actors trying not to look silly. Epic fail.
Having just seen and been a bit disappointed with the latest installment of The Hobbit trilogy, I thought back to another time when sword and sorcery films were popular, in the early 80s. While not having the 100+ million dollar budgets of the fantasy epics of today or the abundant CGI to make these fantasy realms come to life, these films had to make do with the talent and creativity of their makers. The two biggest and most popular were Conan The Barbarian and Excaliburwhich I already covered in a previous double feature (here). For this double feature I am going to go with two B-movie fantasy films that didn’t have anywhere near the budget of those two flicks but, they made up for it with boobs, blood and lots of heart… and in some ways were just as entertaining or more so than the films they were trying to compete with…
Deathstalker is another film that has sentimental value to me as friends and I saw it at the now long gone Loews Harmon Cove in Secaucus NJ. I saw a lot of fun B-movies there such as the laughably bad Luigi Cozzi Hercules with Lou Ferrigno and the Chuck Norris ‘classics’ Missing in Action 1 & 2 and Forced Vengeance. Produced by B-movie legend Roger Corman, Deathstalker is a fun little movie that knows it can’t compete with the big budget fantasy flicks and instead gives us a campy and fun tale filled with spurting blood and bared breasts. This B-movie cult classic has cynical warrior Deathstalker (Rick Hill) hunting 3 powerful objects, a sword, a chalice and an amulet that when combined, will give the barer great power. The amulet and chalice are in the clutches of the evil wizard Munkar (Bernard Erhard) while Deathstalker has possession of the sword. Using a tournament of strength and skill open to all the warriors of the land as a cover to enter Munkar’s castle and retrieve the objects, Deathstalker and travel companions Oghris (the late Richard Brooker) and the warrior woman Kaira (Lana Clarkson) enter the lion’s den. Now Deathstalker must not only battle a slew of fierce warriors, he must also rescue the rightful ruler, the beautiful Princess Codille (Playboy Playmate Barbi Benton) and also battle a traitor in his midst. And if he survives that, there is still the powerful magician Munkar to contend with, who has what Deathstalker wants and wants what Deathstalker has.
This is a fun flick as directed by James Sbardellati, under the pseudonym James Watson. Sbardellati knows he doesn’t have anywhere near Conan’s budget, but has a blast with the material making a far cheaper, but also a far less somber and more campy film. There is little provocation for warriors to clash resulting in spurting blood and lost limbs…and one such limb is hilariously used as a weapon by one warrior creature…or a lusty maiden to drop her clothes and reward the heroic victors. None of the cast are strong actors… though Clarkson gives her warrior woman a nice nobility and fiery sexuality… but it is obvious they are having a good time and it helps us forgive badly recited dialog and the sub-standard fight choreography. The FX are cheesy as are the 60s TV show level sets and the film knows it and takes what little it has and runs with it.
There’s no pretension here, it’s a Corman B-movie in every sense of the word and if you can look past the cheesy production value and just have a good time watching all the rolling heads and jiggling boobs, then this is a fun Saturday night flick that will go quite well with a six pack of your favorite poison. A really fun and delightfully campy B-movie the likes of which they don’t make anymore!
3 battle axes!
THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER (1982)
This modestly budgeted sword and sorcery flick beat Arnie’s Conan movie to theaters by about 2 months and is regarded by some as a lot more entertaining. While I’m not sure I’d go that far, I do enjoy Sword and will admit this flick is certainly lighter in tone and far less somber then the Schwarzenegger classic.
The tale starts out with evil King Titus Cromwell (B-movie bad guy Richard Lynch) reviving the powerful sorcerer Xusia (Richard Moll) to aid him in conquering Ehdan, the kingdom of the good and wise King Richard (Christopher Cary). Cromwell takes the kingdom, betrays the sorcerer and slaughters most of Richard’s family save for his young daughter, who he takes for himself, and Prince Talon who escapes, but is maimed in battle with Cromwell’s men. The film picks up over a decade later with Talon (Lee Horsley) now a famed pirate and mercenary with a gauntlet on one hand and a three bladed sword at his side, returning to Ehdan. Upon his arrival, Talon is hired by the beautiful rebel Princess Alana (Kathleen Beller), who is unaware of who he really is, to rescue her brother Prince Mikah (Simon MacCorkindale) who is now believed to be the rightful heir to Ehdan’s thrown and is in Cromwell’s dungeon for heading the rebellion. Joining the rebels to rescue the Prince and get revenge on the man who murdered his family proves no easy task as there is betrayal and treachery in Cromwell’s favor and if the vile King isn’t opponent enough, there is a vengeful sorcerer who would bring death to anyone who would stand in the way of his revenge.
Directed by prolific B-movie director Albert Pyun, Sword And The Sorcerer was a hit in it’s own right grossing back nearly 10x it’s original $4 million budget. Pyun injects a lot of fun in his fantasy flick giving it the tone of an Errol Flynn movie with added scantily clad babes and gore. He never takes his tale too seriously, but never makes a joke out of it either. There are some fun and bloody brawls and battles to punctuate the derring do and heroics and the scenes featuring the sorcerer Xusia have an almost horror flick look and feel. The FX are decent for this kind of flick with gore and make-up by Allan A. Apone and FX legend Greg Cannom. The sets and costumes are more on a TV show level, but Pyun makes up for it by giving us a quick pace and a lot of action to take our attention away from the budgetary shortcomings.
The cast are all having a good time with Lynch giving us a strong slimy villain in Cromwell, Lee Horsley giving us a charming rogue in the person of the exiled Talon and Beller making a feisty and beautiful heroine of her rebel princess. As with the tone of the film, the actors, who also include George Maharis, Joe Regalbuto and Robert Tessier, never take themselves too seriously, but never fall into camp either…although wrestler/body builder Earl Maynard’s Rasta pirate Captain Morgan is quite a scene stealer. Pyun brings all his colorful characters together for a climactic battle within Cromwell’s castle where swords and sorcery are brought to bare in an effort to settle scores and exact revenge. And it’s a fun showdown between heros, tyrants and scorned sorcerers.
The modestly budgeted Sword And The Sorcerer may be a B-movie at heart, but heart is something this movie has a lot of and fun is a lot of what you’ll have, as long as you go in understanding that despite it’s exploitation film trappings, there is an old fashioned swashbuckler under all the blood and boobs. Sadly, despite showing potential here and enjoying a long career, Albert Pyun would never find the stride he hit with this movie or the success it enjoyed, again, though his Cyborg with Van Damme and Nemesis were enjoyable enough sci-fi/ action B-movies. A fun flick and a good time.
With the Holidays here what better way to show some cheer then by featuring a couple of Rob Zombie movies…and holiday themed Rob Zombie movies at that…OK, the holiday is Halloween, but since it’s Halloween all year round at MonsterZero NJ’s, these flicks are appropriate…in my twisted little mind anyway! I know Zombie’s Halloween features have caused a lot of controversy and evoked some strong feelings both pro and con, but that’s far better in my mind than indifference. So, what did I think of them? Read on…
Both reviews are of the director’s cuts…
ROB ZOMBIE’S HALLOWEEN (2007)
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There are things I like about Rob Zombie’s remake and things I don’t. As far as the things I didn’t like, Zombie’s biggest mistake is de-mystifying Michael Myers. Carpenter’s original had an average little boy from an average family, savagely murdering his older sister for no apparent reason on Halloween night. Zombie makes him the product of a broken white trash home with a stripper mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) who has a taste for loser boyfriends (William Forsythe). Giving Myers a reason for his violent behavior takes away the mystique the character had. Zombie’s Myers is a damaged young boy (Daeg Faerch) who tortures small animals and graduates to killing people and is sent to an asylum where he silently grows into a homicidal man (Tyler Mane). Carpenter’s Myers was pure evil, the young boy stopped existing and grew into a vessel for an unexplained evil force and it was random and thus spookier. The original Myers became a supernatural being, where Zombie’s Myers is all too human. Another mistake is spending almost an hour examining Myers youth and incarceration at the mental hospital before he is set loose to return home to find his little sister, now a teenager with the adopted name of Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton). Carpenter got things rolling within a few minutes in the original and his flick focuses on the stalking of Laurie and gets the scares started early. And Laurie Strode is a random victim in Carpenter’s flick, the convention that she was related to Michael wasn’t added till the original’s sequel Halloween II. Finally, the casting of genre legend Malcolm McDowell, as Dr. Loomis, doesn’t work for me. I love McDowell, but his portrayal is a bit off. He didn’t quite seem to fit the role. He also botches a couple of the classic lines, and these lines are important to the mythos. Patrick Stewart would have made a far better Loomis, not that he would have done such a film.
On the plus side, Zombie does have a nice visual style and things do get intense once he finally let’s Myers loose on the peaceful town of Haddonfield. Zombie’s Myers has a savageness that the original Myers lost after being dragged through numerous sequels, and the havoc he raises is some of the best action the character has seen since the original. Tyler Mane does make an imposing Myers and his Myers is filled with rage whereas Carpenter’s Myers was more methodical. Aside from my feelings on the casting of McDowell, the rest of the cast are fine. Sheri Moon Zombie shows some nice depth as a mother helplessly watching her son become a monster. She generates some real pain in her eyes, and it makes her very sympathetic. Scout-Compton is a spunky and cute heroine and plays Laurie as a typical modern teenager, but also gives her part the needed intensity when HE comes home, and she’s forced to save her babysitting charges and fight for her life. Zombie also peppers the film with familiar faces. We get Halloween sequel veteran Danielle Harris (Halloween 4 & 5) returning to the series now fully grown to play Annie Brackett and she plays a typical feisty teen girl with boys on the brain and genre vet Brad Dourif is cast as her father, Sheriff Brackett who is conflicted as to whether to believe Loomis’ warnings or not. We get cameos by the likes of Dee Wallace as Laurie’s mother, Ken Foree as Joe Grizzly, a trucker who unfortunately provides Myers with his trademark coveralls, Sid Haig as a cemetary caretaker, Danny Trejo as a hospital orderly who takes pity on Michael and Richard Lynch as Michael’s school principal. There is also a nice re-imagining of Carpenter’s score by Tyler Bates which adds some spooky atmosphere especially in the second half when Myers is finally unleashed, and Phil Parmet’s cinematography captures Zombie’s visuals very well.
The scenes in Haddonfield are really what worked for me as they should have. Zombie shows he can produce some suspense and scares and he cranks it up here. Too bad he chose to focus a good deal of the running time on Michael’s youth and incarceration which is less interesting as we know where it all leads, as this is a remake after all. As for the climax, without giving away any details, Zombie chooses to end his remake with a blunt shock ending where John Carpenter crafted an opening ending that left us with a feeling of dread even after the film was long over. It’s not a bad ending and does have resonance but doesn’t have the bone chilling effect of the original.
I stand by my opinion that Zombie has a great horror film in him but, he needs to concentrate on using his distinct visuals more often and moving past his fascination with the 70’s grind house style filmmaking and the white trash characters that inhabited a lot of those films. There is nothing wrong with paying homage to your influences, but Zombie has covered that ground in his first three films now and I think he is capable of his own style.
The lowdown: better than pretty much all of the sequels after Halloween III (which, as you may know, I like a lot!), but a far cry from John Carpenter’s original masterpiece. I at least give Zombie the credit for trying to do his own thing instead of a stale shot for shot remake.
WARNING: If you haven’t seen Zombie’s Halloween remake, there are some points of discussion in the sequel review which may contain spoilers for the first film…
This is the film of the two Zombie Halloweens that gets the most flak, but to be all honest, I’ve come to like this one because it’s more of a Rob Zombie film featuring Carpenter’s characters. He’s free from the confines of a remake and doing his own thing. The results can be mixed, but it is still better than any of the post Halloween III sequels. This film takes place immediately after the last with Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris) in the hospital being frantically worked on and Myers being hauled off to the morgue. But when an accident wrecks the morgue transport, the resilient Michael Myers rises from his slab and walks off after murdering the surviving van occupant. He disappears and the story picks up two years later with a traumatized Laurie living with Annie and her father (Brad Dourif) while Laurie is trying to deal with the approach of Halloween and the fact that Myers’ body was never found. Of course, it’s no secret to the audience that Michael is on his way back to Haddonfield to finish what he started and leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.
The fact that this sequel never really feels like a “Halloween” film works both for and against it. It’s more of a Rob Zombie film and here he is not afraid to take Myers’ mask off or get inside his head for some beautifully visualized hallucination sequences of Michael’s dead mother (Sheri Moon Zombie). Tyler Bates also forgoes the traditional Halloween music for the most part and his score is quite good despite not imbuing the Halloween sound and flavor like all the other movies. Zombie gives his sequel a more methodical pace and while the film never really gets scary, there are some real brutal and intense moments such as Myers’ reuniting with Annie. There are some savagely violent scenes here that are very effective, but by the end of the film, you do feel a bit bludgeoned with all the brutality. McDowell returns as Loomis who is now a pompous bestselling author writing books about Myers and profiting from the horrible experience that left many dead. I didn’t like Dr. Loomis being portrayed as an egotistical asshole. Just didn’t work. The character was always representative of the good fighting the evil and now he is a douche who is willing to sell everyone out to make a buck and himself famous. It also makes his last minute change of heart near the climax hard to swallow. Ironically since McDowell is freed of the confines of the tradition portrayal of the Loomis character, I accepted him better in this incarnation of the role despite not liking the direction the character is taken.
There is a lot of other things to like here, too, though, unless you are a Halloween traditionalist and just can’t forgive Zombie for taking his own direction with things. There are some really twisted and bizarre dream sequences that have beautiful and surreal visuals that really impressed me and cinematographer Brandon Trost captures them well as with the look of the rest of the film. Much like the final act of Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses, it is when Zombie takes his camera into these surreal sequences that his films really come to life and sadly, he doesn’t do it often enough, thought I really liked what he did here and how these sequences got into both Myers’ and Laurie’s heads. I liked the sequences of Myers hallucinating that he sees his dead mother and his younger self (Chase Wright Vanek here as Faerch had outgrown the part), egging him on to kill. And the same for Laurie Strode’s nightmares. Great stuff. And I really liked the WTF ending. He really went outside the comfort zone of this series and in terms of traditional Halloween lore and it was daring. The Kubrick-esque final shot gives the appropriate chills the remake’s end lacked.
He gets some really good performances out of his cast again. Compton is good, but I do prefer her as the sweeter Laurie then the foul mouth tattooed traumatized girl here…though the progression is understandable and she does come across as a very messed up teen, mixing psychological damage with teen angst. Danielle Harris shows that she has grown into a really good actress as Annie, who was far more seriously hurt by Michael and yet is handling it a lot better than Laurie. She’s both friend and mother to Strode while soldiering on with her own life. A strong young woman and it makes her confrontation with Myers all the more powerful. And last, but not least, genre favorite Brad Dourif gives what might be the performance of his long career. Yes, he is that good and thankfully Zombie gives him a lot of good material and scenes to show it in. I loved him in this. Again, we also get some cameos by genre vets and Zombie favorites like Margot Kidder as Laurie’s psychiatrist, Howard Hessman as Laurie’s record store/cafe owner boss and Daniel Roebuck as a delightfully sleazy strip club owner.
While it’s not a great movie, I do like it for what it is, and the risks Zombie took here with characters that are quite endeared to horror fans. Ironically, Zombie has been criticized and chastised for taking these risks, while equally so for not taking enough risks in the previous film. Sometimes you just can’t please fans when it comes to poking around an established classic. I hope someday Rob Zombie makes an original film that finally lives up to the potential he constantly shows. This film showed a progression from Halloween, and I think we are seeing him move away from grind house and more toward Zombie. While many horror fans would disagree, I like this flick and recommend it as long as you have an open mind as to how classic characters are utilized and aren’t offended because someone took an established franchise and thought outside the box with it.