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Monday, March 28, 2011

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch

"The Night No One Comes Home!"

     Yes I know- it's the most hated of the franchise. Virtually everybody in the world it seems to absolutely detest HALLOWEEN 3: SEASON OF THE WITCH.  But in all honesty, that's hard for me to swallow.  I'm used to being in the minority anyway when it comes to the things I truly dig, so here goes. I actually find the third installment much more entertaining and creative than the rest of the franchise. Yes, I said it. It's true. And I'm not ashamed to admit this either...

     This was a terrible flop when released,  as audiences in 1982 simply wanted gore and more gore, and they wanted Michael Myers providing it. HALLOWEEN 3 came hot off the heels of the sequel, which grossed $25.5 million in 1981.  Movie-goers didn't quite feel the same way about the third, and I just can't understand why.  I honestly believe that if the movie was never released as a HALLOWEEN film at all, it would have an entirely different reputation. The only reason people hate this movie so much is the absence of Michael Myers and Jamie Lee Curtis. If it had simply been titled SEASON OF THE WITCH, with no reference to the HALLOWEEN films at all, I think the film's reputation would have been far greater today.

     Because in all honesty, it's actually quite good. I'm being totally serious here. This movie is nowhere as "bad" as it's supposed to be, and there's lots to love here.People just can't seem to grasp the concept that Carpenter and crew figured that Michael Myers was actually dead at the end of HALLOWEEN 2,and that they never intended to be an anthology of films featuring him anyway, so why bring him back?

     Instead, they thought that a whole slew of spooky stories about October 31st would be a much more creative and energetic series. The original idea was to do a Twilight Zone-like series of movies, all having something to do with the actual date of October 31st, but not the storyline of the original. No Haddonfield. No Laurie Strode. No Dr. Loomis. No Michael Myers. Just a bunch of creepy stories centering around Halloween and all its rich atmosphere. So after the success of HALLOWEEN 2,  the powers that be figured audiences would be ready for this new direction in the series. Which... they weren't. Slashers were white hot at the time- fantasy/horror hadn't become popular yet.  Audiences still wanted a masked killer with a knife offing horny teens, and I think this film was a bit too intelligent and ahead of its time.

      I still firmly believe that the original concept would have been a much more rewarding and creative series of movies. I mean, think about this for a minute. Imagine the possibilities of say, ten different films, all taking place on or around October 31st, but all different, original storylines... Are you seeing what I'm getting at here?  Imagine the possibilities!

      SEASON OF THE WITCH is actually much better written, has much better cinematography, direction and acting, and is honestly just put together better overall than all of those later HALLOWEEN films combined.  It's actually a dark and strange little horror movie, the kind of story you might find in an old issue of "Tales From the Crypt" or a hoary old episode of that late-night staple, "Tales From the Darkside". It offers a taste of what the series could and should have been, instead of the disappointing and annoying HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS...  This movie offers an amazing sense of dread and fear- great atmosphere.  Superb October atmosphere, to be exact.

     The film is based on an idea that there is a evil plot by a mask company who with the aid of witchcraft,  intend to kill the children of America on Halloween night through a series of masks- witch, skull, and jack-o-lantern. Sounds silly, right?  Sure. It is silly. But HALLOWEEN 3 really is just like a good episode of the old "Tales From the Darkside" that I used to watch late at night.  I mean, you get Tom Atkins,  first and foremost, which I'll take in any movie. It's Tom Atkins!  Plus you get a great and eerie electronic score (brilliantly synthesized and moody!), creepy Stepford-like men in suits, an INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS-type conspiracy, witchcraft, tons of bugs and snakes, and some clever homages to the original HALLOWEEN and other classic horror films. Oh and that damn Silver Shamrock jingle that will not leave your head once you've heard it.  I find myself endlessly fascinated and mystified by SEASON OF THE WITCH, because it's just so different and daring. And dark. This really is a twisted and diabolical little movie.  It's just frustrating because so many people have such a closed mind when it comes to this movie.

     Now as far as actually being as 'scary' as the original?  No, it's not. But it is a quietly disturbing little horror movie that actually does have a lot to offer, if only given the chance. People complain about how formulaic and un-creative Hollywood can be, yet when they actually do try something creative, they're crucified for it.  Let's face it- the latter HALLOWEEN movies are just nowhere near the level of the first two films in the series.  They are mindless sequels only made to satisfy the masses and to top the latest FRIDAY THE 13TH and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET installment. And it shows. Get some half-assed Michael Myers killing teenagers.  That's basically about it.  If you ask me, those movies have tarnished the good name of the series, not the third installment.  At least this movie had some creative thought behind it, even though it didn't turn out as good as it could have been.  Not a perfect movie by any means, but it's still far better than most make it out to be. I actually find this to be a very cool movie, and there's a reason why it's always shown on television around Halloween.  I love it!  The original, the sequel, and this one make the perfect October trilogy.  Skip the rest.  Trust me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Food Of The Gods


        I had always wanted to see "The Food Of The Gods", and finally, I got my wish.  O...m...g...  This trashy adaption of H.G.Wells' classic story is just something that has to be seen to be believed.  Simple as that. It's just so wild and bizarre- and somehow manages to be hilarious, disturbing, ridiculous, and somewhat creepy all at the same time.  The plot goes something like this.  Basically some farmers, one being Ida Lupino, discover some weird goop mysteriously bubbling up from the ground on their land.  Thinking it a gift from God, they start feeding it to their chickens.

      Which soon results in a barn full of giant chickens.  It's absurd for sure, yet kinda scary at the same time.  Giant birds are spooky anyway, but a giant chicken? Yikes.

      To make matters worse for them but awesome for us viewers,  rats, wasps, and other vermin have managed to get into this "food of the gods"- resulting in, guess what?  You got it.  An island crawling with giant critters.  One of the many man vs. animal movies of the 70's, this one is a sight to behold, that's for sure.  This is total drive-in schlock.  Completely batshit and over the top.

     Now as sublimely cheesy as this movie is, it does get really disturbing once the giant rats come into the picture.  As the movie goes on and the humans become more and more desperate for survival, the rats seem to take center stage- which results in lots of rats getting blown away.  Many people were disgusted and shocked by the violent scenes of the rats being shot and destroyed.  And it is disgusting and shocking.  Some claim that it's all done with paintballs and special effects, but it quite obvious that you're seeing many rats visibly killed in some of the film's most infamous scenes.  A source of controversy for years, it's somewhat surprising that as late as 1976 acts of cinematic cruelty to animals would be allowed to be shown on film, especially in mass quantities like in "The Food Of The Gods".

     Bottom line- "The Food Of The Gods" is one of those movies that starts off so bad, you just have to keep on watching to see what happens next.  There are many sublimely ridiculous moments- I myself will never forget the sight of Ida Lupino desperately beating the giant plastic worm supposedly chewing on her arm.  The special effects are pretty laughable, but somehow all this works, to a certain degree.  I'm not saying I love this movie, or even like it.  But I own the movie, so I must like it somewhat... Okay, I do like it, okay?  Fine.  I like it!  This is most definitely a movie I would love to see on MST3K.  It would be a hoot, for sure.  Overall, as cheesy and laughable as the movie gets at times, it still manages to be entertaining.  The film has achieved a cult status of sorts, and it's certainly not the worst horror movie out there- although it does almost reach Ed Wood level at times.  Which of course is why it's so watchable and why I recommend Bert I. Gordon's classic nature's-revenge opus from 1976. You just gotta love the 70's, man.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter

     Believe it or not, FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER actually was intended to be the very last Jason Voorhees movie. But with it grossing $32 million dollars at the box office, the powers that be said they weren't retiring the hockey mask so quickly after all. And it's a shame, because it's such a doozy of a film that it could've ended the series with a strong bang. 

FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER is one of the last, great slashers of the 80's, and unfortunately the last truly good film of the franchise (well, besides the sixth installment, which we'll get to later...). Picking up right
where the previous FRIDAY left off with Jason lying in a barn with an ax in his head, the fourth installment kicks off in high gear and never lets up for a second.

     THE FINAL CHAPTER was the goriest entry to date, with the great Tom Savini returning in the effects department. Savini has said that since he basically "created" Jason, he wanted to be the one to "destroy" him once and for all, which makes perfect sense to me. Jason is still a hulking, scary menace- he's superbly portrayed by Ted White, who perfectly continues what Richard Brooker did in Part 3.

     Director Joe Zito generates some genuine unease and good, solid scares along the way- which blend well with the top-notch effects by Tom Savini. Zito also throws in some nice homages to the first three films, bringing the story full circle.

     It really should have ended for good after this one. They would have had 4 relatively strong and influential slashers to go down in history as a remarkable series- but they didn't. They have honestly milked Jason Voorhees for all the poor guy's worth- the same fate has also been bestowed on Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger, if you ask me.

      This is it kids- the last, great one before the franchise would mercilessly jump the shark and become more and more ludicrous with each passing film. This is Jason's swan song. It's over the top, more of a rollercoaster ride than a movie. There's not much of a plot here, but does it really matter at this point? Jason is found dead in a bard and taken to the morgue. Of course he's not dead, and escapes. He goes back to the woods to kill more. That's pretty much all you need to know- and it's a helluva lot of fun.

    THE FINAL CHAPTER provoked strong audience interaction and participation in theaters as the movie-going public ate up every single frame flickering on the big screen. The film was a hit, grossing $32.9 million in the US- even though the slasher film craze was starting to end. Besides, you know you're usually in for a good time when Corey Feldman shows up. Throw in Kimberly Beck who makes a great Final Girl, some DoubleMint Twins, Crispin Glover, and a wicked sense of humor and you've got a great 80's slasher that holds up well today.

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