Halloween Movie Review
Hey, it’s Reaper Rick and I’m baacck! The how and wherefore of my continued assignment here within the pages of The World of Myth I will discuss next issue, but now it’s time for the Halloween Special Movie Reviews.
Ahh, Halloween. This, of course, is my favorite holiday and one of the oldest celebrated holidays known to man (or woman). In days of old, Halloween was a time of real fear for many people. Today, it’s fun to look forward to a little scare, especially when we go to the movies. But what constitutes a ‘scary’ movie? For me, a movie is scary if it repeatedly startles you—if it makes your heart skip a beat, makes you jump (slightly or a lot), maybe makes you gasp in shock or fright, and then dumps a small dose of adrenalin into your bloodstream every few minutes. If you sit on the edge of seat waiting for that next ‘fright’ scene, then it’s a scary movie.
Understand that I seriously differentiate between Horror movies, Slasher flicks, and what I call Terror films. A Horror movie will just plain scare you. Slasher flicks (‘Halloween,’ ‘Friday the 13th,’ ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and similar movies) may scare you, but they are not Horror in my opinion. These movies usually consist of a bunch of insipid teenagers being killed simply because they deserved to die in the first place. That is not entertainment. Films like ‘Hostel,’ ‘Saw,’ and ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ are Terror films. Again, people are butchered for no apparent reason other than to prove how sick and twisted some members of the human race really are. Yet a lot of movie goers seem to like this kind of movie. I’m sure that says something about the condition of our society, but I would be afraid to suggest just what it might be.
But, enough small talk—let’s get on to the reviews already.
I did manage to see one recently released Horror movie just for this review, and this film reinforces my decision not to see movies in theaters anymore. Day Breakers stars Ethan Hawke, William Dafoe, Sam Neill, and Claudia Karvan. This is a great cast, but it was not a great movie. The time is 2019 and about ten years previously (right about now, in fact) a plague or something—it was never really discussed—caused most of the human race to become vampires. As might be expected, all of these vamps soon drain the blood of nearly all of the humans who remain on the planet. Sam Neill steps in with a company which collects humans and farms them for their blood, thus keeping the vampires alive for a while longer, but all good things must come to an end and the human race is now almost extinct. Ethan Hawke works for Neill’s company. He is a hematologist and is working on a blood substitute; a solution which doesn’t seem to be happening soon enough to save the vampires. To make matters worse, as the vampires begin to run out of human blood they start to feed on themselves. Turns out their own blood is poisonous to them and eventually turns them into a worst-case-scenario type of vampire—something which resembles Nosferatu—which feeds on humans and vampires alike.
Hawke (literally) runs into some humans (Dafoe among them) who have discovered a cure which will turn the vamps into humans again. Hawke takes the cure and goes to tell his boss about it, but Sam Neill doesn’t want to be ‘cured.’ He likes the immortality and power being a vampire gives him, and who wouldn’t.
So, you can see that a lot is going on in this movie, and I only touched on some of the situations involved. Without giving any more of the plot away (just in case you want to watch this movie), I have to say that aside from some new ideas on the old vampire theme and good performances by some of the actors, this film was somewhat disappointing. It was just not cohesive—too many things were left unexplained. And the ending left nothing resolved, which I suppose leaves a big opening for a sequel if this one makes enough money to warrant another one.
This movie is “R” rated for sporadic and gruesome bloodletting and violence. Some of those scenes were interesting, but there were very few actual ‘scary’ bits in the movie. I was torn between giving this flick 2 ½ or 2 howls of pleasure. However, because of some new ideas on the vampire theme (the corner coffee shops where you get blood with your brew), good actors, and a few gory scenes of bloodletting I give Day Breakers 2 ½ Half Howls of Pleasure . It’s a good popcorn movie, but not a great one.
Now I would like to discuss a few seriously ‘Scary’ movies for your Halloween enjoyment. Yes, these are all older flicks, but age in no way diminishes their Horror. I will not ‘Rate’ the following movies. Some I have already reviewed, and the very fact that I am going to discuss them here means they are worth the effort of renting one or more of them to watch on Halloween.
I recently watched The Grudge (2004, with Sarah Michelle Gellar) for the second or third time and it scared me all over again. Some may feel this movie is merely a rehash of the original Japanese horror movie of the same name, but if you have never seen the first one The Grudge is definitely worth watching. This is just a freaky, twisted, spooky tale of revenge and death, and while Gellar isn’t all that great in this movie, the two dead Japanese actors (well, they’re dead in the movie) make up for it. The director Takashi Shimizu uses his amazing skills to repeatedly frighten the viewer. Even when you just know something bad is going to happen you are still startled when it does. As the young housekeeper goes up into the attic with only a cigarette lighter to look around—you know she is going to be grabbed, but when the dead girl snatches her you still jump. The scene where the sister is hiding in her bed with the sheets pulled up over her head and she looks down beneath the covers to find the dead girl in bed with her—freaky. But when the camera switches angles and you see the screaming sister pulled under the covers and then the lump in the blanket slowly subsides and disappears—spooky.
This movie has a few dry spots in it, but overall it is filled with tension, suspense, and horror. It is a definite Halloween Horror flick. See it again if you haven’t yet done so.
If we take the “Way Back” machine a ways back to 1979 we run across Ridley Scott’s classic Horror/Sci Fi movie, Alien. This has got to be in the Top Ten of my all time favorite movies, especially in this category. I’m sure everyone knows the plot line by now so I won’t bother with that, but the combination of director Ridley Scott’s camera angles and H.R. Giger’s alien creation, along with his design of the interior of the alien space ship make this movie a real ‘Gotcha’ kind of film.
The scary scenes are somewhat mixed in with a lot of suspense and tension, and while the movie starts out rather slowly, by the time our alien friend literally bursts forth into the movie things begin to pick up. Along with the alien birth scene there are several places in the movie when you think everything is all right, and just as soon as you relax some other damn thing happens and more adrenalin is dumped into you. Flashing lights, steam spraying across the corridor, and a countdown to destruction help make the ending a nail biter. And just when you think Sigourney and the cat are safe in the escape pod… they aren’t, and the tension and fright start up all over again. This is another Great Halloween Horror movie, even if you have seen it before.
If we move forward in time a couple of decades we run head-long into another Sci-Fi/Horror movie which may not seem like much at first glance. Event Horizon is from 1997 and stars Laurence Fishburne and our friend Sam Neill. This movie was rather a sleeper when it first came out and many horror fans may not be aware of it. It seems a typical sci-fi flick as it begins, but it soon becomes a horror-filled journey and you are trapped in outer space with no way to escape.
The Event Horizon was a high-tech research vessel which disappeared seven years ago while on a secret mission to test a new, untried, star drive engine. When it suddenly reappears near the edge of our solar system there is no response from the crew, so a rescue mission is sent out to retrieve the ship and find out what happened while it was gone for seven years.
Our rescue team finds the crew is missing from the ship, but they discover a cryptic message left behind by the captain of the ill-fated Event Horizon. When the rescue members begin to have bizarre hallucinations and then begin to kill themselves in very strange ways, it is discovered that the ship’s star drive actually worked, but the ship did not just leave this solar system, it apparently left this dimension. And it returned with something else aboard.
Now it becomes a race to get off the ship before whatever resides on it destroys everyone on board and then heads for Earth. Tension rises as each remaining member of the rescue team becomes ‘infected’ by the mysterious entity and attempts to sabotage the rescue efforts.
There are a few really ‘scary’ moments in this flick, but suspense and general horror abound. A great Sci-Fi/Horror movie and should be seen if you missed it when it first came out. This is a Good Halloween Horror flick and a great popcorn movie.
I just want to quickly mention Mirrors from 2008 with Kiefer Sutherland. This movie moves rather slowly, but has some great, really bizarre, and horrific scenes of bloodletting. A Good Halloween Horror flick if you have never seen it, and a Good popcorn movie.
Another good fright movie is Silent Hill from 2006. I realize that this movie is an adaptation of a video game, and while the game may not have been very good, the movie certainly is. It is full of sick and twisted graphics and special effects, and while the visuals are bad enough the sound effects in this movie really got to me. A siren blares whenever the ‘Darkness’ is about to descend on Silent Hill and it reminded me of a time when I was young and every city in the United States would ‘test’ their nuclear warning sirens every month. And just like in the movie, when the sirens blared everyone had to take cover to avoid possible destruction.
There are so many great scenes in this movie, but one of my favorites is when the heroine (who is looking for her lost child amid the ruins of Silent Hill) attempts to get past a horde of blind nurse-like creatures in a darkened narrow passageway. Freaky and spooky, to say the least. The entire movie—with a few exceptions—is packed with tension and suspense, and while there are few really ‘fall off your chair’ scary moments, it is worth viewing just for the special effects and horror quotient. This is a Great Halloween Horror flick. See it in a dark room on a big screen TV for best effect.
For those of you who enjoy a bit of humor thrown in with your horror, I highly recommend the 2007 movie Planet Terror, also known as Grindhouse Presents Planet Terror. If nothing else, the cast may impress you. Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Jeff Fahey, Bruce Willis, Quentin Tarantino, and Michael Parks, plus many more actors, turn this into a classic horror movie in the making.
When a military experiment goes horribly wrong, the results turn people into zombie-like creatures who eat people. Nothing really new there, but the way director Robert Rodriguez goes about telling the story will crack you up! Some of the scenes are so grotesquely horrifying you cannot help but laugh out loud.
This movie was purposefully made to resemble those old drive-in flicks of the 50s and 60s and it does an amazing job—from scratchy film segments to an entire missing reel of footage. For those of you who may have missed those glorious years of going to the drive-in with your steady or even on a first date (I cannot tell you how many of us… er, I mean people experienced their very first sexual encounter in their cars during these movies), well, you missed out on some history, let me tell you.
Planet Terror is a fun-filled romp through horror, blood and zombie attacks, and is a Great Halloween Horror flick. You should absolutely see this one if you missed it when it first came out.
And finally (yes, I’m almost finished) we return once again to yesteryear (1968 in fact) for a Classic Horror movie, Night of the Living Dead. By today’s standards this movie may be considered raw, to say the least, but when it came out it caused quite an uproar. Cannibals—people eating people! That was unheard of in those days, but it was a ground-breaking movie then and should be watched again and again simply because it is worth watching. The actual horror of this movie may have dimmed somewhat with the passage of time, but it is a classic horror film and would be a Great Halloween Horror flick and it is a marvelous Popcorn movie.
Okay, so that’s it from me for this issue. I’m sure I missed some great horror flicks in this review and if I did just drop me line and let me know what you think should be on the list. Either way it’s almost Halloween, so get out there and watch some Scary movies! I’ll see you next time.
Happy Halloween everyone!