Sunday, January 22, 2012

"What If?" Sequels: Part 2

Continuing on the countdown of the 10 slasher films that deserved a franchise but sadly never got one. The previous five films were:

10. TOURIST TRAP (1979)
9. HELL NIGHT (1981)
8. THE MUTILATOR (1985)
7. HUMONGOUS (1982)
6. NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1980)

Here are the following five slashers that I would have loved to see continue their stories...

(SPOILERS BELOW)


5. NIGHT WARNING (1983) - a.k.a Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker 

Original Film's Logline: When orphaned Billy Lynch (Jimmy McNichol) tells his over-protective, practically incestuous Aunt Cheryl (Susan Tyrrell) that he's leaving her to study at the University of Denver she begins a murderous rampage to make sure he stays with her... forever.

How the Original Ended: Billy and his girlfriend Julia (Julia Duffy) discover Aunt Cheryl's crimes and, when she attacks them, Billy ends up stabbing her to death. Homophobic detective Joe Carlson (Bo Svenson) arrives on the scene, looking to pin the killings on Billy (who he has had it out for since the beginning). He threatens Billy with a gun, but Billy is saved by his coach (Steve Eastin) and Billy ends up shooting Carlson in self defense. Billy and Julia then go to the University of Denver together.

Sequel Idea: You can always continue a good story, even if the main villain of the original has been killed off - just look at SCREAM and FRIDAY THE 13TH! In their respective sequels, a new murderer sets the pace for the sequel, so the same thing could have easily been done with Night Warning. If they were to have made a Night Warning 2, it would be a mix of SCREAM 2 and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING. Jimmy McNichol and Julia Duffy would have had to return as Billy and Julia. Once again, a series of grisly murders connected to Billy's would start anew. The police would immediately look toward Billy, after the events of the last film, and Billy would begin to assume that, quite possibly, he is taking up Aunt Cheryl's old murderous ways. Could it be Billy, who has now gone insane? Could it be a copycat killer? Or could it be a relative of Joe Carlson, out for revenge on Billy?

Sadly, a sequel to Night Warning is kind of impossible at this point - the film has become too obscure and the principal cast is way too old to continue things. It's a shame, too, because Night Warning could have had a sequel (or even a trilogy) of great, scary mysteries surrounding the life of Billy Lynch. 


4. JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981)

Original Film's Logline: When one of them inherits land in the Oregon mountains, five friends travel for a weekend of camping and hiking and, after warnings from local mountain ranger Roy McLean (George Kennedy), they fall prey to a machete-wielding mountain man.

How the Original Ended: After discovering that their three friends have been killed, Warren (Gregg Henry) and Constance (Deborah Benson) make one last stand until morning and are attacked by - not just one mountain man - but two of them! They are twins with an identical taste for terror. Ultimately, it is Constance who ends up killing them and saving her wimpy boyfriend Warren from the madmen.

Sequel Idea: It might be hard to make a sequel to Just Before Dawn, as the villains of the first movie have been killed off. But what about taking the original idea for THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 and putting a spin on it for the Just Before Dawn universe? The original plot for Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was to have a whole town of cannibals, so Just Before Dawn 2 could have a whole community of deranged, psychotic hillbillies. The events of the first film could set into motion a terrifying series of events - Constance, Warren, and Ranger McLean escape and alert authorities about what happened, and thus the whole community is questioned as accomplices and suspects. Then... the psycho hillbillies flee the mountains for the nearest "civilized" community, and the bloodshed starts again!

A bigger body count is a must, and a sequel has to retain that key atmospheric build and beautiful cinematography. But the idea of a sequel has always been to make the story larger and grander. How much larger can you get than a whole town of hillbilly psychos terrorizing a town of normal folks? And maybe add in some soci-economic commentary, making the town the hillbillies attack a development community that is being built on land that was once sacred to the hillbillies?


3. THE PROWLER (1981) - a.k.a. Rosemary's Killer 

Original Film's Logline: Hell-bent on reliving a gruesome unsolved double-homicide from 35 years ago, a masked killer in Army Fatigues stalks and brutally slashes a group of college students holding a spring dance.

How the Original Ended: Pam (Vicky Dawson) and her boyfriend/the town deputy Mark (Christopher Goutman) survive the killer, who it turns out is the Sheriff (Farley Granger), who originally killed Rosemary (Joy Glaccum) and Roy (Timothy Whrer) out of a jealous rage after returning from World War II. Ultimately, Pam and Mark kill the Sheriff by blowing his head off with a shotgun.

Sequel Idea: In the original film, there was a gap of 35 years between the murders of Rosemary and Roy in 1945 and the main murders of the film (which take place in 1980, even though the film's release was 1981). Well, the 35th anniversary of the film is coming up (the anniversary of the murders will be 2015 while the actual film's 35th anniversary will be 2016). So, how about a sequel or reboot that plays on the idea of 35 years later (70 years after the murders of Rosemary and Roy!). Just think - ever since the events of the first movie, the town has not held the spring dance... but now think its time to move on and hold the dance again - it's a whole new generation! But this time, more murders start up, and a whole new mystery begins to unfold.

It might sound almost exactly the same, but after three and a half decades you can get some unique things thrown into the plot. And rather than being a remake, it has to be a sequel - acknowledging the events of the first movie but still catering to a whole new generation of slasher fans (sort of like MY BLOODY VALENTINE and its reboot). 


2. MADMAN (1982)

Original Film's Logline: At a summer camp for special needs children, one of the cocky campers calls out the name of "Madman Marz", a deceased mass murderer. It isn't long before the camp counselors start getting butchered by the legendary Madman Marz.

How the Original Ended: When she realizes that all the other camp counselors have been killed, Betsy (Gaylen Ross from DAWN OF THE DEAD, as Alexis Dubin here) packs the kids up in a bus and tries to escape, only to realize that she is missing Richie (Jimmy Steele), the camper who originally summoned Madman Marz. She gets the bus to safety and goes to the Marz farmhouse, looking for Richie, but instead encounters Madman Marz (Paul Ehlers). He kills her, and Richie witnesses the whole thing and runs away. Madman lives to kill again.

Sequel Idea: Wow, where to begin. It's amazing that a sequel to Madman was never made. It has a classic villain, a detailed backstory, and the original film ends on a beat that is just asking for a sequel. I mean, really, after the watching the first movie can you honestly say that you don't want to see more of Madman Marz? Here's an idea - now that he has been summoned, how does one stop Madman? That issue was never addressed in the original movie, but could have been addressed in the sequel. Also, wouldn't it make sense for Madman to start hunting down the people who killed him in the first place - an act of vengeance on his executioners? It all seems logical and sensible for a sequel.

The original Madman might not be the most competent movie, but its insanely fun to watch. I feel like, had a whole series stemmed, it could have been even more exciting to watch than any of the Jason or Freddy flicks. And apparently Paul Ehlers has been trying to get a sequel/remake made for years, but nothing has really seemed to come of it. 


1. THE BURNING (1981)

Original Film's Logline: After being horribly burned in a prank gone wrong, former camp caretaker Cropsy (Lou David) is released from the hospital psychiatric ward and goes on a killing spree, targeting the teens he blames for his disfigurement.

How the Original Ended: The first movie ended in a showdown between Cropsy and the film's hero Todd (Brian Matthews) as Todd is trying to save geeky and slightly perverted camper Alfred (Brian Backer) from Cropsy's clutches. Todd ends up killing Cropsy in the end, and he and Alfred are rescued by Todd's girlfriend Michelle (Leah Ayres), who has called the in the police.

Sequel Idea: The Burning is another one that I'm just amazed has never had a sequel, especially since its production company Mirimax (Harvey Weinstein's company) took off shortly after its release. It has all the right ingredients - a cool killer, awesome atmosphere, insanely cool death scenes, and a decent amount of suspense. Cropsy would have to return, in zombie form (hey, Jason and Michael get away with it, why can't Cropsy?), and a new group of teens would have to be in danger. Probably not campers, as that has been done. But what about people on an outward bounding trip? And to throw some more conflict into the mix, how about some criminals on the run, too. The criminals take a group of outward bounding people hostages and they hide out in the ruins of Camp Blackfoot, where Cropsy returns and starts slicing and dicing. To add even more spice into the mix, Todd could return - he has made it his personal mission to make sure Cropsy never kills again, and securing Camp Blackfoot seems like the best way.

I love the original The Burning so much. I'd rank it up there with some of the all-time greats, and I think its better than any Friday the 13th film. But now thinking about The Burning, maybe part of its appeal is that stands alone. Maybe a sequel would have bastardized it? Or maybe a sequel would have been just what it needed? Sadly, we'll never know, as right now the only chance we have of resurrecting this film is with a remake.



So there you have it! The ten movies that, in my opinion, deserved sequels. I'd love to hear of how you would make a sequel to any of these flicks, or even something I left off the list.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review: NIGHT WARNING (1983)

Don't you just love a good surprise? Especially when it comes to movies? Like when you decide to watch a movie, thinking its going to be something familiar, and then it turns out that said movie is completely different from what you were expecting. That's kind of what happened when I just decided to watch NIGHT WARNING on YouTube.


Let's get one thing straight - Night Warning is not a straight-up slasher movie like THE PROWLER or PROM NIGHT. Nope, not at all. Whereas those movies mainly focused on the gruesome set pieces and killer's motive, Night Warning takes a different approach and allows its characters and the social problems of the time drive the film from start to finish. The result is a unique and surprisingly captivating slasher movie that, ultimately, does not feel as dated as a lot of its kin.

Night Warning tells the story of Billy Lynch (Jimmy McNichol), a senior in high school and star of the basketball team. Ever since his parents died in a freak accident years ago, Billy has been left in the care of his wacky, eccentric Aunt Cheryl (Susan Tyrrell). And as a result, Aunt Cheryl has grown a deep, almost incestuous bond with Billy that has grown from simple guardianship caring to full-blown obsession. When Billy says he's been offered a scholarship to go to the University of Denver, Aunt Cheryl realizes something... she's losing Billy, and she's got to find a way to make him stay, at any cost.



Once the murders begin, Billy becomes the prime suspect in the eyes of Detective Carlson (Bo Svenson). Carlson is a homophobic, narrow-minded, hate-filled cop who doesn't really care as much about punishing the guilty as he does about punishing the gays. This becomes a particular problem when he connects Billy's basketball coach (Steve Eastin) to one of Aunt Cheryl's victims, and consequently comes to the conclusion that Billy, the coach, and the victim were all lovers. Not even Billy's girlfriend Julia (Julia Duffy) can seem to convince him otherwise.

The movies does a magnificent job of building itself - Night Warning takes it slow but never gives itself enough time to get boring. The script and direction is more focused on the characters and story rather than making it a body-count flick, which is why Night Warning succeeds in standing out. In many ways, it is similar to SWEET SIXTEEN, the slasher film starring Dana Kimmell and Bo Hopkins released the same year.

Don't be fooled by the film's seemingly subdued horror; there is still enough blood to satisfying most hardcore gore hounds. The opening sequence of the film, which shows the "accidental" death of Billy's parents, definitely served as a gory inspiration to the opening highway pile-up of FINAL DESTINATION 2, released twenty years later. On top of that, horror fans will get their share of stabbings, guttings, decapitations, and explosions.

Before finally sitting down to see Night Warning, I heard a lot of complaints about the film's pacing, but I just don't understand this at all. Whereas some horror fans don't want to think about the characters at all during the runtime (they'd prefer stuff like DON'T GO IN THE WOODS... ALONE! and HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE), they miss out on the whole catharsis of letting the story reveal the actions. Night Warning is a tightly wound thriller with great pay-off.

The acting is also much better than the average slasher movie. Susan Tyrrell steals the show as crazy Aunt Cheryl, and despite an at-times over-the-top performance, Tyrrell helps to transcend into the madness of the character. Tyrrell takes us on a journey into madness, and in the end pulls off a performance that rivals the best of the crazy mammas - she's more convincing than Betsy Palmer's Mrs. Voorhees in FRIDAY THE 13TH and she's just as good as Joan Crawford at her craziest in WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?.

NIGHT WARNING (here as NIGHTMARE
MAKER), originally won the "Best Horror
Film of 1982" Award by the Academy of
Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror.
Bo Svenson, too, is awesome as the hateful racist homophobe detective who ultimately serves as the film's second antagonist. The kids of the story, Jimmy McNichol (brother of Kristy) and Julia Duffy are pretty standard, but they do their jobs well. McNichol is basically shirtless throughout the movie (driving in that homosexual tone) and Duffy is the underplayed sweet girlfriend. The whole cast does well with the roles they're given.

Would I say Night Warning is one of the best slasher movies of the early 80s? Yes, and no. It stands out for its creativity and story, but it lacks the certain mythology that helped turn films like HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, and THE BURNING into classics. A large reason for that is director William Asher's lack of interest in captivating visuals and a truly scary, heart-pulsing musical score. Asher is better known for directing the camping muscle beach movies of the 1960s, such as MUSCLE BEACH PARTY and BEACH BLANKET BINGO, and it shows that he lacks some experience with suspense.

Yes, Night Warning is leagues better than most of the flicks to come out in the Golden Age of Slasher Films, and if you call yourself a slasher film aficionado, than you have to get your hands on it.


Recommendations: 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"What If?" Sequels: Part 1

The horror genre - and especially its slasher sub-genre - is notorious for having series of never-ending sequels. In fact, some of the longest-running, most expansive film franchises started with low-budget slasher movies from the 70's and 80's - namely HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and A NIGHTMARE ON ELMS STREET.



But these three titans of terror are not alone in the franchise market. Some others - such as PSYCHO,  SCREAM, CHILD'S PLAY, and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE - have expanded into their own huge franchises, with sequels, prequels, spin-offs, comic books, and novelizations. Heck, even low-budget exploitation fare like Wes Craven's THE HILLS HAVE EYES have enjoyed franchise success, and low-budget titles like PROM NIGHT, BASKET CASE and SLEEPAWAY CAMP have each spawned into cult-favorite franchises. More recently a craze of rebooting old slashers like MY BLOODY VALENTINE, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS, and THE FOG has become a new form "sequels" that continue the stories.


But the reasons for making a franchise out of a certain movie has always baffled me. Yes, Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream were overwhelming successes and guaranteed a sequel. But what made The Hills Have Eyes deserve a sequel, a remake, and a sequel to the remake (I'm not bashing - I find campy humor in the 1985 sequel and the 2006 remake is one of the most badass movies of the past decade).

Sometimes its for the best that certain movies never continue their stories (BLACK CHRISTMAS and THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW are extra creepy because they don't have a sequel), but sometimes it makes you wonder how a stand-alone movie could have continued (especially with great villains in the mix)?

So, in my opinion, here are the first 5 of 10 movies that should have been franchise starters:


(SPOILERS BELOW)


10. TOURIST TRAP (1979)


Original Film's Logline: After experiencing car troubles, a group of young friends become stranded at a secluded off-road museum, where they are stalked by a mysterious plaster-faced killer with the power to control inanimate objects with his mind.

How the Original Ended: As it turns out in the end, Plaster Face and museum owner Mr. Slausen (Chuck Connors) are actually the same person, and after killing all of her friends, Molly (Jocelyn Jones) is left alone to fight him. She ends up subduing him and escaping, although its quite possible that we haven't seen the last of Plaster Face.

Sequel Idea: Some of the best horror franchises are built around interesting and unique villains that can do unique and interesting things. Plaster Face is a telekinetic serial killer - think Sissy Spacek from CARRIE without the embarrassing girl problems. So in a sequel, Plaster Face's kills could get more and more creative and gruesome (unlike the original film's rather tame deaths, due to its PG rating). Just think about the insanely inventive death scenes where Plater Face could take ordinary objects (such as a scarf, in the first film) and turn them into deadly weapons without ever using his hands. It could be like FINAL DESTINATION, only with a tangible villain. The sequel should move Mr. Slausen/Plaster Face to the grounds of the city, where he is living under an assumed name to escape prosecution or capture.

The setting of Tourist Trap is, what I believe, kept it from achieving greatness. The film's setting overshadowed its unique elements, like the cool twist of having Slausen and Plaster Face literally be the same person, and the telekinetic aspect to the killings. Instead, it comes off too much like other backwoods slashers, including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, and most notably MOTEL HELL and HOUSE OF WAX. The House of Wax remake in 2005 was largely inspired by Tourist Trap, and shares more in common with this film than it does with the 1953 original.




9. HELL NIGHT (1981)

Original Film's Logline: As their final right of initiation, four college pledges are forced to spend the night inside an abandoned mansion where they are stalked by a monstrous man who is the surviving member of a family massacre that occurred at that very mansion years earlier.

How the Original Ended: Marti (Linda Blair), Jeff (Peter Barton), and Seth (Vincent Van Patten) believe that they have killed the mutated killer of Garth Manor... only to discover that the killer has a brother! Seth and Jeff are picked off rather quickly, leaving Marti to take on the ghoul. She kicks his ass, hitting him with a car and impaling him with a gate.

Sequel Idea: Marti would have to return. She would just have to. She was such a badass heroine. She could have become the Ellen Ripley of teen slasher films. And with a sequel, Marti could grow from traumatized victim into hardcore mutant butt-kicking bitch. And you know Linda Blair would have been down to return. In the sequel, more would have to be explored in Garth Manor... maybe both brothers didn't die, or possibly there are even more siblings that survived the original Garth Manor massacre (they said the boys had a sister, didn't they...)? In any case, I would envision a small film crew from the college making a short documentary about the events of Garth Manor for their thesis project, and then murders begin anew. Before filming, they try to get Marti to join them, but she initially refuses. Eventually, Marti comes around and wants to make sure the teens are safe. Soon, she's face to face with Garth terror once again!

Ever since the PROM NIGHT came in number one at the box office back in 2008, Screen Gems has been trying to develop a remake to Hell Night. And they want it to be PG-13. Luckily, that project seems to have slowed down. To this day, the idea of having my proposed Hell Night sequel could work. Heck, Linda Blair certainly could use the work.


8. THE MUTILATOR (1985)

Original Film's Logline: After accidentally committing matricide as a young child, a now grown college student returns to his beach house with his friends for spring break, where his now crazed father stalks them and kills them in increasingly creative ways out of vengeance for the mother's death.

How the Original Ended: After killing all of their friends, psychopath Ed Sr. (Jack Chatham) confronts his son Ed Jr. (Matt Mitler) and his girlfriend Pam (Ruth Martinez), attacking them and refusing to die until finally, Ed Jr. and Pam are able to chop off Ed Sr.'s legs and drive away, leaving him for dead.

Sequel Idea: Okay, don't bite my head off, but I'd prefer a reboot of The Mutilator over a sequel. I mean, really, how could the story actually continue after the original? Ed Sr. gets bionic legs and slowly, over the course of the franchise installments, becomes a cyborg? Or Ed Jr. just snaps and picks up the role as the mutilator? No, they all sound... pointless.

Rather than having a sequel, The Mutilator is ripe for a remake. Face it people: the first film is really not a good movie, but it has interesting ideas. Take the basic story - a father wanting revenge on his son for killing his wife - and you've got a classic slasher film story. But why not amp things up? Rather than having the crazed father attacking his one child, why not have him target twins or - wait for it - triplets. And with each triplet comes slasher fodder friends, too. And rather than having the mother get murdered, why not have her die of birth complications? Then the triplets are left in the care of their father, who goes mad after his wife's death and tries to kill the infants but they are rescued and put up for adoption while the father is sent to a sanitarium. 18-years later, the father is released, and the triplets are on their fall break.


7. HUMONGOUS (1982)

Original Film's Logline: A woman is raped at a cocktail party and, years later, her offspring grows up as a savage monster who stalks and kills teens shipwrecked on his abandoned island.

How the Original Ended: After everyone else is killed by the monster, Sandy (Janet Julian) is on the run and finds the monster's shrine, and - ala FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 - she pretends to be his deceased mother until finally burning down the shrine and killing the monster. She then goes and sits on a dock, waiting for help to arrive.

Sequel Idea: Well, the problem with Humongous is that it borrows so much of its story from Friday the 13th Part 2, especially the ending where the final girl finally defeats the villain. What started as a fresh story in the genre (monster stalking teens stranded on his island) eventually suffers from a technical lack of creativity. And that's a shame, but its also ultimately a franchise killer.

Like my suggestion for the above film, The Mutilator, the idea would not be to create a sequel to Humongous, but rather a complete reboot that could stand completely alone. Once again, the idea is there, the execution was just weak. Humongous' basic plot reminds me of a classic ancient Greek myth - a monster on an island terrorizing people. So let's think about it and apply it to Humongous - set it in ancient times (perhaps after the Trojan War). A soldier is returning home to his loved one, but when he arrives home he discovers his village has been pillaged by bandits, and the said lover has been taken along with other virgins by these bandits. They take her on their ship, but a storm shipwrecks them onto Dog Island, where they encounter the beast - the monstrous offspring of a witch who was raped by a criminal. While the slayings begin, the soldier follows clues in search of his girl. How could would a slasher film be in the style of 300 or IMMORTALS? The gory possibilities are endless.


6. NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1980)


Original Film's Logline: A professor, obsessed with cryptology, takes a team of students into the forest to investigate a series of gruesome killings that he believes is connected to the legendary creature Bigfoot.

How the Original Ended: Does it really matter? A bunch of people die and Bigfoot still walks the lands. Professor Nugent (Michael J. Cutt) and his cadre of Anthropology students discover that Bigfoot raped a hermit called Crazy Wanda (Melanie Graham) and then she gave birth to his mutant son. Oh, and there's also a cult that worships Bigfoot.

Sequel Idea: Night of the Demon has a lot going on for such a low-budget movie - aside from being a standard backwoods slasher, it also features Bigfoot, a Bigfoot cult, a mutant child, and a bunch of random killings (yes, this is the movie where someone dies by getting their penis ripped off while urinating in a bush). The best part of this movie is that Bigfoot is such a crazy character and villain. Well, that, and the fact that its unintentionally hysterical.

Still, over time Night of the Demon has gained a larger cult following than it deserves, largely due to its campy nature, its rather obscure availability, and the fact that it is about Bigfoot. A sequel should simply continue the story, further investigating Bigfoot and the crimes he has committed. It could be interesting to continue looking at the idea of Bigfoot cult, and seeing if they somehow control him (like the Thorn Cult in HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS). But at the end of the day, a sequel to Night of the Demon just needs to feature Bigfoot destroying a bunch of people.




Stay tuned for the final 5 slasher movies that deserved - or still deserve - a franchise. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Review: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003)

I remember in the summer of 2003, I went to see Michael Bay's BAD BOYS II with my family. I was about 13 years old at the time, and about to enter my freshman year of high school. Sure, it was entertaining for a 13-year old boy, but what I will never forget about that movie experience was the trailer that played beforehand. It was for Marcus Nispel's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and the trailer alone scared the crap out of me. Being someone who had loved and seen all the HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, SCREAM, and CHILD'S PLAY films, I decided it was time to broaden my then-young horror scope and get into some Leatherface.


My mom hated the story of the original TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, and she remembers being young and just hearing the story from one of her friends, and having subsequent nightmares because of it. While I could not get my hands on a copy of the original film without my mother knowing (this was before Netflix and Hulu, folks), I eagerly anticipated the remake. Just watch the trailer - you'll see what I mean about building anticipation!


Finally, after much persuasion and nagging, I got my dad to take me to see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - the Monday after its opening weekend (where, might I add, it broke box office records on its way to make over $80 million domestically). And boy, was I not disappointed in what I saw. For its time of the early 2000s, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was like the perfect horror movie - it was tense and suspenseful, thrilling and scary, bloody and gory, and down-right action packed. From the moment when Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) busts out and swings his chainsaw around the room in an assault on Erin (Jessica Biel) and Andy (Mike Vogel), there is not a moment in the film that misses a beat.


Over time, I came understand that my taste in horror is too vast to literally decide upon a "perfect" horror film (I believe, however, that the original Halloween, BLACK CHRISTMAS, and of course the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, among others, are pretty damn close to perfect). Really, the 2003 showing of Leatherface is nothing more than a thrill-ride, with little substance to make it stand the test of time like its original counterpart (now, not even 10-years later, it's starting to feel a little dated). But despite its flaws, it is a highly enjoyable remake of a film that - with such a distinct style and infamy - is nothing easy to remake.


The same basic plot as the original movie plays out - five clueless hippies fall into the clutches of a chainsaw-wielding maniac and his equally psycho Texas family members. But make no mistake, the 2003 film is a totally different beast than the 1974 film. It is hard to compare them because they are so different in approach, style, and priorities. The film tries to give more background to the characters, ultimately losing some of the mystery behind the horror that made the original so disturbing.


While the film is not as violent and gruesome as other films to follow (the SAW films are much worse, as are most of the remakes such as THE HILLS HAVE EYES and HALLOWEEN, and even this film's own prequel, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING), it still is not a pretty sight and gore-hounds should get their fill of slasher torture-porn. The big draw to the movie are the incredible set-pieces, such as Biel running through a meatpacking factory or two of the characters inspecting the family's home while Leatherface ominously watches.


Aside from a decent leading lady performance by Biel, the rest of the cast is enjoyable and has fun with their characters - bringing their fear onto the screen. Mike Vogel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, and Eric Balfour all do playing the normal slasher-fodder, as most of the film weighs on Biel. Bryniarski is a fine Leatherface, although everyone will still probably agree that the original's Gunnar Hansen remains the king of the role. Still, Bryniarski is the best thing to wear a mask made of human flesh and swing a chainsaw since Hansen's iconic performance, and he is all the terror he needs to be. The real show-stealer is R. Lee Ermy, who plays the sadistic Sheriff Hoyt. You'll laugh at him while also trembling at him. Think FULL METAL JACKET without any rules.


Now that we're in 2012, a new breed of Leatherface is being released for the new generation - in the fall, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3D will be released to the 3D fans. The news buzzing around the next chapter of the franchise is interesting (the most interesting being that it is a direct sequel to the 1974 original), but it makes me want to revisit the franchise in the same way that the release of the 2003 film made me have an immense interest in the 1974 classic.


So watching it after all these years, it's easy to see that it is far inferior to the original movie and will not be remembered with the same strong support, but it does what it sets out to do - revisit a classic, modernize it, and make a more thrilling movie. After looking at the dozens of remakes that it's success spawned, I can honestly attest that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the best of the bunch. A true piece of 2000s horror movies!


Recommendations:
Saw (2004)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What Horror Needs: HALLOWEEN III



I don't know why, but I've never liked Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN attempts. While I enjoyed THE DEVIL'S REJECTS - one of the finest horror outings of the decade - and would absolutely love to see his faux trailer WEREWOLF WOMEN OF THE SS made into a feature film, it's hard to wrap my head around his two Michael Myers movies. HALLOWEEN II (2009) was a vomit-inducing mess from start to finish, and the best news to come from it was Zombie's permanent departure from Haddonfield.

Rumors about the plot of the next Halloween constantly circulate the web. Apparently Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer, the dynamic director/writer duo behind the MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D remake, will be bringing the franchise out of the grave with the 3D treatment. But isn't the whole "3D" gimmick played out? Its not like last summer's 3D horrors FINAL DESTINATION 5 or FRIGHT NIGHT really made a huge dent in the summer box office, and Wes Craven's 3D-outing MY SOULD TO TAKE has been slapped with a label from fans calling it the director's worst. And as for Lussier and Farmer, I can't say I'm overly excited (their most recent collaboration, DRIVE ANGRY 3D, didn't impress).


What the series need is to go back to its roots - basically listen to the original 1978 classic and learn from its master. Kind of like how THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3D is forgetting the sequels and remakes and "rebooting" the splatter saga as a direct sequel to the original film (even though its now almost 40 years later). Yes, the Halloween franchise needs to follow the same suite - understand what made the first one scary... a ruthless, mindless psychopathic killer stalking innocently unaware babysitters in a sleepy American town. Basically the story of the Boogeyman.


HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF
MICHAEL MYERS (1995)
HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION
(2002)
HALLOWEEN II (2009)






Fans toss around other ideas for the next movie, as well:
  • A sequel to Zombie's two Halloween movies, continuing with Laurie Strode and Michael Myers in the world created by Zombie. 
  • A direct sequel to HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS that follows Stephen - the child of Jamie Lloyd who has grown into a teenager and wants to find out his origins. 
  • A different direct sequel to HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION focusing on Michael continuing his terror against Haddonfield. 
  • Or, simply making another remake of the first movie. 

While some of those ideas are interesting (yes, I would like to know what happened to Stephen), they just aren't marketable and Dimension Films is not going to risk putting money down on the continuing stories of the less successful films in the series. There also isn't a need for another remake, obviously. And please - PLEASE! - don't make a sequel to Zombie's awful films - we've seen enough of that to last a lifetime.


The new movie can take place in the present day (35 years later), picking up after where the first film ended - Dr. Loomis saved Laurie Strode from "the Shape" by shooting him "SIX TIMES!"... but Michael disappeared and has never been found! The legend of Michael Myers and that Halloween still haunts Haddonfield, Illinois. The murders have become the town's main attraction, and over the years newer generations have become desensitized to the bloodbath and have sort of exploited it. Much like how the town of Texarkana, TX has an annual viewing of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN in honor of the Phantom Killings that have made their town notorious. Likewise, the citizens of Haddonfield have grown used to the legend of Michael Myers and in a strange way, proud of it.


Then... on Halloween night... the murders begin anew. Has Michael Myers returned after all this time? Is a copycat killer stalking the streets of Haddonfield, hoping to ride off the notoriety of the original crimes? Or, quite possibly, could it be both?

There needs to be a Dr. Loomis-eque character, too. Donald Pleasance is a legend with Halloween fans, and his character has become a staple to the franchise. Could his niece or nephew continue in his footsteps? Much like their uncle, this new protagonist is obsessed with Michael Myers. It's only logical, as Myers is a pretty big part of the Loomis family history...


Finally, we need... the fresh blood! The young teens who are unaware of both Michael's presence and the horror movie clich├ęs. These character need to be an updated version of the original teens - a different, distinguishable set of characters that mirror the disco-aged Laurie and her gang, but now they're obsessed with iPods, iPhones, YouTube, Facebook, and "REVENGE".

HALLOWEEN III still needs originality - the stalking scenes, some creative kills (although none ridiculous or overly bloody like in Zombie's movies or the recent FRIDAY THE 13TH reboot), and of course the classic theme song. There are staples to the saga that must not go unnoticed - Michael Myers, innocent victims, and a dedicated doctor teetering on the edge of sanity - but the series needs to be rebooted without focusing on the sister-storyline. Start fresh... but keep things familiar. 


So I've given my opinion on the future of the Halloween series... what are your feelings?