Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Film Appreciation - Haddonfield: Part I


Jay Burleson braves the streets of Haddonfield, Illinois for a three part, reverse order Film Appreciation look at the Halloween franchise.

Part I covers the Rob Zombie remakes, Halloween: Resurrection and H20.

While I have already written appreciations on both the original Halloween (1978), and a surprise favorite of mine in the series (part 5), I thought it'd be fitting to touch on the series as a whole now, since it is the perfect time for Michael Myers.

In this series review, I will look back at each Halloween film and give some thoughts, as well as personal stories about the installments. This will be a 3 part entry and I will be going in reverse order, finishing up with the original 3 entries in the franchise.



HALLOWEEN II (2009)

While much debate can be made about just how good or bad this film is, it holds a special place in my heart. I was actually on the set of Rob Zombie's Halloween II with fellow filmmaker/actor Lane Hughes (Pop Skull) and another friend of ours, Bart Hyatt. The film was shot in the Atlanta, Georgia area and as soon as we heard they were looking for extras, we jumped at the chance to submit. It is on this set that Bart and I actually first met Lane. Lane is from the same small town in Alabama as Bart and I are, but we never met until on set of Halloween II in Atlanta. We've been close friends and collaborators ever since.

Us on set of Halloween II. We are the three dudes!

Our journey was documented in a vlog and featured on every major horror website that I know of, including Fangoria and Dread Central. The experience itself was a dream come true for me, as I am a lifelong fan of the franchise. I also entered a trailer editing contest for the film, and was one of four runner-ups, claiming the prize of a signed H2 posted by Rob Zombie himself. Here's my trailer --

video

I found the film to be more enjoyable than Zombie's reboot, and I was glad to see the risks he took, such as having Myers unmasked, and keeping with the degraded quality of the original Myers mask in general. The odyssey of Myers returning back to Haddonfield, with aerial footage of Michael walking through fields, was an amazing touch and another great way of pulling away from the traditional approach of, "It's Halloween and Michael Myers has miraculously showed up in Haddonfield!" that so many of the other sequels employed. It was nice seeing Michael's trek, and also more realistic that he didn't just show up with a brand new Myers mask and a clean pair of overalls, ready to kill again.


I'm a big Scout Taylor-Compton fan, so I enjoyed her again in II, and the grainy 16mm film was perfect for the vibe Zombie wanted. While I feel there were some missteps, I also still think this is one of the better Halloween films since the original.



HALLOWEEN (2007)

Rob Zombie's remake is even more controversial amongst horror fans than his follow-up. I've never seen a group of people more divided over a film than this one, but it's hard to handle a remake of such a highly regarded film. I personally wasn't a fan, and in fact, at first I thought it was quite a terrible attempt at recreating the Myers story. With time, I grew to appreciate it as a fresh take, and have even grown to like a lot of the things Zombie did with it.

I'm still not much for the backstory section, other than some great cinematography and an enjoyable performance from Hanna Hall as Judith Myers. The second half is Scout Taylor-Compton heavy, which I like, and it was nice seeing Danielle Harris in the franchise again, even if it was weird. Brad Dourif as Sherrif Brackett is the most perfect casting in the entire film, and he's great in both this and part II.


The best moment of the entire film is probably when Brackett phones the Strode house with Loomis in his office. The kooky Halloween answering machine message that they have, mixed with the cuts of the carnage Myers has left behind, hits an emotional note that isn't often found in a slasher.

I'm still not necessarily a "fan" of this film, but I respect it. The franchise needed a fresh start, and Rob Zombie definitely gave it that, though one major problem I have is that he could've done even more. He took so many risks, especially in part II, but if he had avoided linking Laurie Strode and Michael Myers as family, he could've crafted something that really stepped away from the "Michael Kills Family" storyline that the original franchise ran into the ground. His sequels would've definitely been able to go in any direction, but as we see now, things are in limbo as there is no real great way to continue the story he left audiences with.

I still fondly remember the period in my life when this movie was released, and can remember the experience of watching this in the cinema just as if it were yesterday.  I was about to attempt my own slasher movie and was deep in pre-production when the film opened on August 31st, 2007. I had highly anticipated the release, and knew so much about the film from internet spoilers that I already knew I was going to be let down. Oddly enough, the coolest thing about the film was the workprint opening credits that had leaked onto YouTube. Those things were killer, and I think Zombie would've left them in if the film wasn't already so long as it stood.



HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002)

Hands down, my least favorite installment in the franchise. This thing is a complete dud, and since this is a Film Appreciation article, I won't spend much time trashing it.

What I did like: It was set in Haddonfield and felt much more authentic as a Halloween film than Halloween: H20. Some of the casting choices were interesting, and Jamie Lee Curtis delivered some enjoyable stuff in the opening. I'll have to admit too that they did a good job with the webcam plotline and executed it fairly well.

What bothered me: Haddonfield, a small town, now has a community college. Tons of other things that I should not get into. On the downside of the web cam plotline-- it just wasn't very interesting or wanted.


The best thing I can say about this is that it ended this storyline and gave us a few years without a Halloween film. Sometimes it's good to miss something and want it all over again. Halloween: Resurrection definitely didn't did leave anyone wanting more back in 2002.

This one has some memories attached to it as well, as I went to see the film in theaters with my friends Andrew and Mike, as well as my mom. I tried to pretend the film was great because I'm a homer, but something in me knew it just wasn't up to snuff.



HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER (1998)

My first Halloween film in theaters, and I had to convince my grandmother to take my cousin and I just so I could attend the first screening of the day. My mom had to work, so the responsibility of getting two kids into an R rated horror film fell to a woman in her 70s, who probably thought the original Psycho was too risque for her tastes. It wouldn't be the only time I had her escort me to a horror film screening though.

I had anticipated the release of Halloween: H20 like it would be a life-changing experience. I wanted to see the movie more than anything in the world. It was 1998 and I was only eleven years old, so my internet access was extremely limited. This meant any TV spot, cast interview, etc. was like a fountain of new information that I had to take in. I can still remember the pictures that accompanied Fangoria's biggest write-up about the film before its release. I still have that issue somewhere, I'm sure. I'll never forget certain moments that led up to the release of the film, such as a TV spot playing unexpectedly as I sat on the couch at my grandmother's house.


My quest to attend the first screening of the film worked perfectly-- until the lights were dimmed and the film started. Within seconds, we could all tell something was off with the projection. Images were out of proportion and looked odd, then the screen went haywire and cut to black. The explantation we were given was that the film had literally broken. We could get a refund or return in a few hours for the next screening. Of course, I convinced my grandmother that we should stay in town and come back as soon as possible. I don't remember much of the next few hours, other than heading out to get something to eat. The only other thing I can recall is being back in the theater and enjoying the film.

The movie itself is pretty bland, but definitely a solid entry as far as the franchise is concerned. I loved the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, and the opening was pretty effective. The first few minutes also did a great job of creating the proper vibe that a Halloween film should have. It felt like fall in a small town. The rest of the film did not, as it was set in California, at a boarding school, and there was absolutely no "Halloween" vibe to speak of. Jamie Lee was great, and I love some Michelle Williams and Josh Hartnett, but it might as well have been a sequel to Scream, because it felt like a cash-in on that. Of course it was, as they even had the composer for Scream create some very "anti-Halloween" score pieces to round out the music.

Of course, this was the first Myers entry in the entire franchise that didn't feature Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis. He had passed away after the making of part 6. To have the same film with Dr. Loomis still playing a big part would've really been something special, and despite the flaws, Halloween: H20 with Pleasance as Loomis would've been top two or three in the entire franchise. As it stands, it's just an alright film that some Halloween fans really love, but I only view as mildly entertaining compared to more enjoyable watches throughout the list.

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