‘Halloween’ Review

Director: David Gordon Green

Writers: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride & Jeff Fradley

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Judy Greer, James Jude Courtney, Rhian Rees, Jefferson Hall, Toby Huss, Virginia Gardener, Dylan Arnold, Miles Robbins, Drew Scheid, Jibrail Nantambu, Haluk Bilginer, Nick Castle and Will Patton

Synopsis: Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

In 1978, legendary director John Carpenter gave us one of the best horror movies in Halloween, and gave us one of the most iconic characters in film, even to this day, in The Shape aka Michael Myers. It’s a real testament to the movie and Carpenter for what it and he was able to do with Halloween, especially considering the movie wasn’t a big studio movie, but rather an independent movie. Halloween was made on the cheap, and yet, it has had a tremendous staying power over the years that can’t be explained.

Sadly, not all the movies in the franchise have been great. Carpenter never really wanted Halloween to become a franchise, but he was asked to write a sequel with Debra Hill – who also co-wrote the first movie. He ended up making it a family affair when he made Myers and Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode siblings. Halloween II was then suppose to end the Myers character, but Hollywood wanted more. We got a different Halloween story with Season of the Witch, but audiences wanted more Myers, and that’s what they got, and that’s where things got bad. Going from continuing the family affair, adding a supernatural cult, bringing back Laurie Strode as it ignored the cult storyline, to remaking them with Rob Zombie, Halloween has come a long way to get back to this point.

That’s why many were surprised and curious to see what horror production banner Blumhouse would do with the property, especially since Jason Blum was able to get John Carpenter back to the franchise. The biggest question mark was who they got to direct, David Gordon Green, and co-write, Danny McBride. However, their idea was said to be okayed by the man himself, Mr. John Carpenter. This new Halloween is a sequel to Carpenter’s first movie, and will ignore everything after it. So, is the wait worth it? Or is Halloween an over-hyped sequel?

Forty years after the events of Halloween, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has waited for the day that Michael Myers aka The Shape (played by original actor Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney) would escape custody after being caught for the murder of her friends on Halloween night. The movie starts off with podcasters Aaron (Jefferson Hall) and Dana (Rhian Rees) visiting Michael the day before he’s to be transferred to serve the rest of this time. From there they visit Laurie, who has become a recluse, who lives in the middle of nowhere, and has modified her house for a potential attack.

It’s there that we learn what Laurie has been doing since that fateful night. We learn that she’s been married twice, and had her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer) taken from her at the age of twelve. The two have an estranged relationship, but it’s Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson (newcomer Andi Matichak), who tries to keep some kind of relationship with her. However, almost everyone sees her as a basket case, and no one wants to hear about Michael Myers anymore. Unfortunately for them, Michael Myers does escape, and comes back to Haddonfield to continue his murderous ways.

I have a very special place in my heart for John Carpenter’s Halloween, mainly because it was the first horror movie I ever watched. Not only that, I still to this day, get chills when I hear that iconic theme music. So needless to say, I was looking forward to this and seeing what McBride and Gordon Green would bring to the table that made Carpenter come back after all these years. Turns out, it was still a family affair after all.

Halloween does a great job establishing the relationship of this broken family. Jamie Lee Curtis does a hell of a job playing Laurie again. Gone is the woman who was a victim and dragging herself away from her attacker. In her place is a strong and ready survivor who prayed everyday that Michael would break out so she could kill him. That doesn’t mean that she’s cold and heartless, no, we see the effects that night had on her, and how her actions affected the relationships around her. The relationship between her and Greer’s Karen doesn’t have too much screen time, but it has enough to make its point, and make you care for them by the time the third act rolls around. Then there’s Matichak’s Allyson, who I wished had a little more do to. Sure her character is almost a mirror image of Laurie from the first movie, but for the most part, she acts as the middle-woman between her mother and grandmother.

The rest of the supporting cast is hit-and-miss. Toby Huss plays Allyson’s father Ray, who comes off as the awkwardly funny day/comic relief, which is welcomed especially considering the rest of the movie is pretty heavy. Rees and Hall as the podcasters serve their roles well, but don’t really standout too much. Virginia Gardner, Dylan Arnold and Drew Scheid play friends of Allyson, but the only one that really stands out to me is Gardner’s Vicky, who ends up babysitting Jibrail Nantambu’s Julian in one of the better comic relief scenes in the movie.

We have the always reliable Will Patton playing Officer Hawkins, whose character was apparently there when they took Michael Myers to prison after the events of the first movie. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t really do too much with that, and even when it does it feels like an afterthought or is too rushed. Finally, we have James Jude Courtney playing The Shape/Michael Myers – Castle only plays Michael in one scene – and he does a tremendous job. This Michael is everything that John Carpenter wanted him to be, pure evil. Michael Myers shows no remorse in this movie, and some of the kills some might find borderline over-the-top, but for you gore fans, there is a plenty for you to like.

Now, not everything is good. The one real misstep in the movie is an out of nowhere twist that really makes no damn sense. In a way, it meant to get Michael where he’s suppose to be to confront Laurie, but it happens so out of the blue and with no real build-up that it slows the movie down and takes you out of everything that happened. There also the subplot, or lack thereof, of Allyson and her boyfriend played by Dylan Arnold, that again, feels like it happens only to get her alone and run for the third act. Speaking of the confrontation – this isn’t a bad part of the movie – it is a long, tension-filled sequence that is brutal and well worth the wait.

All in all, Halloween is a worthwhile sequel, and the first proper sequel – besides Halloween II – to John Carpenter’s classic horror film. Jamie Lee Curtis returning as Laurie Strode is both powerful and vulnerable, The Shape/Michael Myers is scary again and the score in the film, done by Carpenter, his son and Daniel A. Davies is amazing and totally fits into this new movie. Of course, the movie will be probably divide some fans, but for me, I really enjoyed what they did and I can’t wait to see what they do after this.  Also, for those worried about McBride’s humor being too much for the movie, don’t worry, it’s not all entirely there.

Halloween

4 out of 5

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‘Venom’ Review

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Director: Ruben Fleischer

Writers: Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, Kelly Marcel and Will Beall

Cast:  Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Scott Haze, Peggy Lu, and Reid Scott

Synopsis: When Eddie Brock acquires the powers of a symbiote, he will have to release his alter-ego “Venom” to save his life.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There are two post-credit scenes.*

 

There’s a lot to say about Venom before even watching the movie. A solo movie has been in the works for a while, and of course we got a version of the character in the god-awful Spider-Man 3 (not all of it was bad, but a good chunk of it), we know have a solo movie with a great lead in Tom Hardy. This version, of course, was caught in a storm of “is it or isn’t it connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?” Of course, the answer was a big ol’ nope, but apparently it is left open for the possibility of being connected – which is why the movie is PG-13 – well, at least one reason. There is also Hardy’s comments that the movie cut thirty to forty minutes, but he later backed off those comments, and the early reviews saying the movie isn’t good.

Then the theory that A Star is Born lead Lady Gaga’s fans are saying negative things about Venom to help her movie get the better of the weekend – which is honestly dumb to even think, but whatever – so all of that said, where does Venom actually land? Well, for me, it’s a very, very mixed bag.

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Venom follows Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a journalist who has made a name for himself by exposing the dirty stories. His next assignment leads him to Life Foundation founder, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), who is secretly running experiments on people with alien parasites called symbiotes. When Eddie pushes Drake with the tough questions, Eddie loses everything; his home, job and fiancée Anne Weying (Michelle Williams). Eventually, he gets the opportunity to expose Drake, with the help of Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), and while he finds evidence of Drake’s nefarious ways, Eddie gets a symbiote called Venom (which he also voices) attached to him, and everything gets much worse.

Like I mentioned, Venom is a very, very mixed bag. On paper, Venom was set up for success with the talented cast and a character that comic book fans love. Unfortunately, Venom drops the ball with pretty much everyone involved, and while the hate or dislike for Venom is very strong online, I can clearly say that Venom is not as bad as some would have you believe. Is it a great or good movie? No, not really, but Venom is somewhat entertaining when it decides to let loose.

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Of course, everyone joked about Hardy playing Eddie Brock/Venom because he has a career of voicing characters that are hard to understand or what-have-you. That said, Hardy does the role justice for what he’s given. There are some moments as Eddie that are borderline, but for the most part he’s rather controlled. It’s voicing Venom that may divide some fans as the relationship between the two is somewhat odd at first, but as the movie keeps going, it becomes pretty cool to see them play off each other, even though it is Hardy basically talking to himself.

That being said, Venom also deals with a huge tonal problem, and some of it relates to the character of Venom himself. The movie tries to interject some humor in scenes – most of it doesn’t quite land – and when it comes to Venom, there are times were he’s a cold-blooded killer, and then starts cracking some humorous jokes. I’m not against adding some humor, but the execution of it doesn’t land at all.

Going back to the cast, the supporting cast is pretty much wasted here. While it’s cool to see Riz Ahmed play a bad guy, Carlton Drake just wasn’t the villain role for him. The character comes off as a mustache twirling villain at times, and his transformation to the big bad in the last act is extremely underwhelming and rushed. Michelle Williams, Jenny Slate and Reid Scott as extremely underwritten with Williams’ Anne playing a glorified ex-flame, and while she has one standout scene, it’s not enough to make up for her nothing character. Speaking of nothing characters, Reid Scott plays Dr. Dan Lewis, Anne’s new boyfriend after breaking up with Eddie and doesn’t really serve any purpose other than being the other guy. Lastly, and unfortunately, Jenny Slate gets the worse end of it as she serves as an exposition character informing us and Eddie why Drake is using the symbiotes. Her character should have been more important, given that they give her a reason for doing what she does, but we don’t see it.

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When it comes to everything else, the special effects are just okay. Venom himself is arguably the best looking visual effect in the movie, but it’s not saying much when everything else either looks muddied or okay. The final fight between Venom and Riot is hard to watch, not because it’s bad or rushed, but because it’s hard to sometimes know who is who. The action is also not that bad, with an escape/chase sequence in the streets of San Francisco and a showdown with police being the standouts. Finally, the rating really shows. The movie is rather bloodless considering how certain characters die, and Venom biting people’s heads off on some occasions. I’m not that concerned with a movie’s rating most of the time, but it clearly shows here.

All in all, Venom is a mix bag of everything, and missed opportunity to do something great, and start Sony’s Marvel Universe strong. There are some good things, some bad and some downright awful, but watching Tom Hardy do his thing could be enough for you to sit through the whole thing and not regret it. Regardless of that, it should be interesting how Sony moves forward with this.

Venom

3 out of 5

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