Director: Andrew van den Houten (2009)
Starring: Jessica Butler, Holter Graham, Ahna Tessler, Amy Hargreaves
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon

Based on one of my favourite horror novels since ever (although I do prefer the as yet unfilmed predecessor, Off-Season) Offspring has a lot to live up to. Jack Ketchum’s story concerns a family of cannibals, living on the coast of Maine (yes, Stephen King territory, but it’s better than that). They turn their focus on a nearby family and their house-guests, including a newborn baby. It’s a simple plot, but one that is executed excellently by Ketchum.

Well, Ketchum himself actually wrote the screenplay for the movie, which you'd expect to be a good sign. And it’s a good time to be a Jack Ketchum fan, what with recent adaptations of The Girl Next Door, Red and The Lost. He is, by a Maine mile, my favourite modern horror writer, and the more adaptations of his work the better. Those other movies are fine enough, but Offspring is the movie I was really waiting for.

Off the bat, it’s faithful enough to the book. Indeed, whole scenes are transposed literally from page to screen. The home invasion scene looks exactly how you’d imagine it from the description in the book. Bits are taken from the book’s predecessor too though, and there’s less emphasis on the baby-in-peril. There’s plenty of gore and violence, which is one thing Ketchum does very well. His writing is amongst the most gruesome and visceral you'll ever read. Unfortunately, such things are readily available in movies today, and the scenes of torture and violence in the adaptation aren’t really original enough to stand out. Loathe as I am to say it, it stinks of torture-guff here, which many will find either a turn-off or a bore. Although, hey, you’ve never seen anyone “eaten out” in quite that way before (unless you've seen this movies mightily superior sequel, The Woman).

Visually, Offspring is very similar to Wes Craven’s original Hills Have Eyes. It’s stripped-back and basic, with a very low-budget feel (helped, no doubt, by its very low budget). The cannibals, particularly, look very much like the cannibal family in the Hills Have Eyes. They’re very dirty and dreadlocky, and wear a lot of furs. They look a lot like cavemen, as anyone who’s bothered to read the books might expect.

Unfortunately, that look doesn’t really help the movie’s cause, because it’s as stupid as it sounds. The nasties are very overexposed, and it’s hard to be scared of a Year One reject. It’s a shame that the filmmakers didn’t follow a “less is more” approach, because some of it looks downright silly. I didn’t want to laugh at Offspring, but it certainly inspires such a reaction.

The civilised family here aren’t developed, interesting or likeable enough to ever care about. The cannibals arrive only moments after our protagonists are introduced, which isn’t enough time to form an attachment. There’s an abusive ex-husband and a few useless cops thrown into the mix, but none of the characters are particularly memorable.

Still, this is a very entertaining, if decidedly minor movie. Fans of the novel will appreciate its faithfulness, whilst many others will find much to enjoy in the way of cheesy camp and grotty gore. As a die-hard Ketchum fan, I did really enjoy Offspring. However, even that can't defeat the overriding feeling that it simply isn't all that special.

August Underground

Director: Fred Vogel (2001)
Starring: Fred Vogel, Ann Marie Reveruzzi
Find it online: Oh, I wouldn't recommend that. IMDB, official site

Actually, and without hyperbole, the most vomit-inducing thing I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen Twilight. But enough of the obligatory Twi-shite bashing, because after viewing August Underground you’ll be begging for the PG-13 safeness of sparkly vampires and suchlike. You’ll also not want to be eating for a while. Also, there's no actual score for this movie, because I couldn't watch it all. I'm writing this review from in the shower, where I've been cowering since yesterday morning.

It’s like Cloverfield meets the Blair Witch Project, only the antagonists are directing the viewfinder, and CloverZilla didn’t have a thing for faeces. August Underground is, hands down, the most sickening thing ever - although there are a couple of sequels out there, which are reportedly even worse. Because they just couldn't fit enough coprophilia into one movie.

With no timewasting to begin, the movie introduces us straight away to the bad guys and their victim. She’s bound, gagged and nuddy in a desolated farmhouse, surrounded by buckets of her own shit and piss. Did I mention she’s missing a nipple and has a bit of her boyfriend taped in her mouth? The torturers wind her up for a bit; emptying a bucket of (probably) pee-pee over her head and doling out yet more abuse to the poor thing.

Yes, bondage fans, she's all tied up. But if you manage to get a boner during August Underground, you have impressive dedication to the cause. Also, you're giving the rest of us a bad name.

The rest of the movie follows the two serial killers as they drive around America boning hookers and murdering unsuspecting innocents. The gore and grue isn’t particularly realistic, but it has a homemade effect that makes it more harrowing and disturbing than you’d find in one of Eli Roth’s hostels. It was filmed on what looks like cheap-ass video, which really brings out the realism. It wears you down quickly and never lets up. Every so often, they return to the torture basement action, which is where things are at their hardest to watch. I gave up watching at exactly the point where the kidnappee was forced to eat her own poopies.

Like the strangely more infamous Grotesque and Guinea Pig movies, this is a difficult movie to review. Its lack of plot and structure and breaking of the fourth wall suggest that it’s meant to be taken as a piece of transgressive performance art rather than entertainment. It works for what it is, and does that extremely well. Another superlative for you: August Underground is the least entertaining movie I’ve ever seen. If you’re like me, you’ll want to try this simply because of its infamy. It’s unenjoyable on nearly every level, but is a great addition for those who like to “collect” infamous nasties. Everyone else, meanwhile, should read the following opinion for a more balanced view:

Ladies & Gentlemen, please be upstanding for our guest reviewer: The Thoroughly Outraged Ghost of Mary Whitehouse:

I didn't watch this movie but you're all sick for even acknowledging its existence. It's pieces of cinema like Underground August that are responsible for the moral degredation of the world today.

Anyone who watches this filth should be put on a register of some sort. September Downstairs should definitely be banned and you should be chemically castrated and banned from life. Down with this sort of thing.

Thanks Mary. If anyone out there managed to watch it all the way through, drop me a comment or so. I'd love to hear your opinions.

Prom Night (1980)

Director: Paul Lynch (1980)
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

The other slasher movie to star a virginal Jamie Lee Curtis and lots of horny teenagers getting laid and dead, Prom Night will certainly come as a surprise to those who only have its remake as a reference point. Sure, both movies take place on a prom night and have teenagers getting themselves stabbed, but the two nights couldn’t be any more different.

They’re both terrible movies, but at least 1980’s Prom Night has the good grace to be enjoyable in its sheer awfulness. Things start off in a creepy enough manner. A bunch of brat ratbastard kids are playing a variation on hide-and-seek (“the killer is coming”) in a dilapidated old house, when 10 year old Robin Hammond turns up and ruins their game. The little bastards turn on poor Robin and bully her until she falls out of a window and splatters herself everywhere. In true I Know What You Did… style, the kids cover up their death and seemingly get off scot free, blaming it all on an innocent rapist.

In a bit of synchronicity, the six-year anniversary of Robin’s death coincides with the school prom night and the rapist’s escape from prison. Sister Kim has grown up to be Jamie Lee Curtis, and brother Alex has gone a bit strange. The movie also stars Leslie Nielsen in one of his ‘serious’ roles, as the kids’ dad. It becomes apparent that someone knows Robin’s murderers’ secret, and is planning on wreaking themselves some revenge. But who? Could it be the wronged rapist? A vengeful relative? The pervy groundskeeper? Or even Robin Resurrected?

Whoever it is, they’re a lazy-arse killer, since no-one gets killed until well over an hour in. Up till then, much of the screen time is devoted to sleazy eyeballing of the female cast and crank phone calls ripped off’ve Black Christmas. Once the prom gets going, there’s also an overlong dance sequence that reminds of Grease/Saturday Night Fever, mixed with a bit of Carrie. Only with a whole bunch of promiscuous ‘teenage’ shagging. Well, there’s a lot of shagging, but I seriously doubt any of the kids were of high school age (Curtis was 22 when this movie was made). Of all the boning and boobies, my favourite bit involved a chubby guy, his girlfriend and a camper van, although there’s plenty to choose from. A bit more sleaze wouldn’t have gone amiss in the remake.

So the killer finally shows up, but things are still pretty dumb. All the ingredients are primed for a scary slasher icon, but Prom Night can’t pull it off. He (or maybe she, as we’re led to believe) has a nice Giallo inspired look going on, but is ultimately as inept as the Scary Movie killer. The glittery balaclava just isn’t a good look; and consistent uselessness doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. The final fight is a joke, as are most of the kills. My favourite involved the same chubby guy, girlfriend and camper van mentioned in the paragraph above. Its climax makes me smile every time.

Prom Night is ridiculously stupid, but it’s also a hard film to dislike. There’s a general air of eccentricity going on, certainly aided by the casting of Leslie Nielsen. You can really see how he went on to become such a star in the spoof genre. Watching him doing a bit of Dad Dancing at the prom with onscreen daughter Jamie Lee just feels so… right. Prom Night occasionally feels like a spoof movie in its own right. I’m not sure whether that’s because of Nielsen or simply because it’s such a silly flick.

It’s worth watching if you’re a fan of 80s’ slasher movies, and even more so if you like it with an extra helping of cheese.

3/5 screaming Scream Queens!!!

Halloween: a series retrospective

We (well, I) love to celebrate Halloween here at the horror review hole. And what better way than to review each and every Halloween - from John Carpenter's original masterpice, right up to this year's Rob Zombie sequel - back-to-back??

Halloween - "More than your average sleazy, stupid slasher movie - so well executed that it transcended its boundaries to become widely and rightfully acknowledged as one of the greatest horror movies ever made"

Halloween II - "The original Halloween sequel to not suck and be set in a hospital"

Halloween III: Season of the Witch - "The one where nobody comes home"

Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers - "a strong, above average entry to the series. A welcome return from a true horror icon."

Halloween V: Michael Myers' Revenge - "not really worth seeking out unless you're desperate or a completist. Or a desperate completist"

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers - "The one with Paul Rudd vs Michael"

Halloween: H20 -"One of the better sequels, H20 wisely ignores all of the stupid continuity issues that gathered up over the course of Halloweens 4-6 and gets on with telling a good old-fashioned slasher story"

Halloween: Resurrection - "The Batman & Robin of slasher movies, but with no Nolans around to repair it afterwards"

Halloween (2007) - "Worse than the stupidest of the Halloween sequels (yes, even more so than kung-fu Busta Rhymes), Zombie brings us irrefutable proof that he's a bad director even when working with other people's material"

Halloween 2 (2009) - "surprise surprise, this one's actually somewhat slightly good"

Happy Halloween!

Halloween (1978)

Director: John Carpenter (1978)
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, PJ Soles, Nancy Loomis
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Haddonfield, Illinois. Young Michael Myers murders his family with a knife that’s as sizeable as it is sharp. Deciding that he’s evil, the doctors lock the kid up in a mental institution for the rest of his days. Or at least, they try to. All growed up, Michael Myers affects himself an escape and returns back to Haddonfield. Doctor Blofeld (Donald Pleasence) sets out hunting down his evil ex-patient, all the while telling everyone he meets just how evil Michael is. Back at Myers’ childhood home, nubile babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is looking after wee tot Tommy Doyle (who’d grow up to be friend-of-a-Friend Paul Rudd in H6). But as she’s soon to find out, Michael is pretty intent on murderising her.

Obviously, you knew that already. You don’t have to be a horror fan to like John Carpenter’s Halloween, which is the beauty of it. It’s more than your average sleazy, stupid slasher movie. It’s an exercise in tension, so well executed that it transcended its boundaries to become widely and rightfully acknowledged as one of the greatest horror movies ever made.

Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful Psycho and a few lesser slasher movies (such as the mightily underrated Black Christmas), Carpenter delivers what many would call the perfect slasher movie – one which has been often imitated but rarely bettered. Everything from the iconic theme tune down to his framing and use of the Shape’s POV is brilliantly done. Like the similarly influential Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the gore is sparse. The violence comes in bursts. But you know all this already, don’t you??

The casting is perfect. A young Jamie Lee Curtis appeals as babysitter Laurie, and PJ Soles brings her boobies to the proceedings. whilst Blofeld himself is a great foil for Michael. For a bit of synchromisticist fun*, note this: Donald Pleasence’s Blofeld directly inspired the Austin Powers movies’ Dr. Evil… played in turn by one Mike Myers. In this movie, Loomis faces off against Michael Myers. Coincidence? Yes. Look, shut up. I’m just trying to be semi-original here. D'you know how many people have reviewed Halloween over the years??

If there is a fault with Halloween (and horror-reviewing conventions requires me to say that there isn't) then it’s down to the many imitations that've come out since. Being one of the original slasher templates, the movie might feel slow and predictable to first-time viewers. You won’t have a hard time guessing what’s coming next, due to the fact that so many other works have done it so many times since. But such is the case with so many other significant works – such is the peril of being so influential. Still, Halloween stands up extremely well for a film of its age. Michael Myers is still an effective bogeyman – Carpenter largely hides him in the shadows and uses him wisely – and the tension is still expertly cranked. Anyone who ignores this seminal piece of work simply because of its age doesn’t deserve to be calling themselves a horror fan anyway.

* The word ‘fun’ is used here in a highly subjective context, and may not actually be fun.

Halloween 2 (1981)

Director: Rick Rosenthal (1981)
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

The original Halloween sequel to not suck and be set in a hospital, Rick Rosenthal's Halloween II always faced something of an uphill struggle. How does one follow up what is widely regarded as one of the greatest slasher movies of all time? Well, the man himself didn’t really bother, leaving the relatively inexperienced Rick Rosenthal to carry on in his wake (although he did help on writing duties).

Like most sequels, Halloween II delivers up a hefty helping of more of the same, albeit with more gore and a higher bodycount. We return to the action mere moments after the first film ends. Laurie is off to hospital. Doc Loomis is still hunting for Michael Myers after shooting him six times and dropping him off a balcony. Dude’s the original 50 Cent (ah, but if only Curtis J was as silent as Michael). Michael gives him the slip and heads off to the hospital where he hopes to get all stabby with the already traumatised Laurie. Good luck with that, Mike. It’d take him a further twenty-odd years to finally get around to killing Laurie. So he might fail to kill Laurie, but he manages to off plenty of unsuspecting hospital staffers over the course of the movie.

So all the original surviving players are back. Jamie Lee Curtis is a bit too jumpy and traumatised this time around, robbing Michael somewhat of what could’ve been a great showdown. As before, Donald Pleasence’s Doc Loomis is the best of the bunch, obviously having a good time with the role and really selling himself as a badass psychiatrist completely obsessed with hunting down his most dangerous patient.

One thing that Halloween II does bring is the big revelation that Laurie and Michael are related. It’s a nice little twist, and really adds to the characters’ dynamic in a powerful way. There are very few franchises that manage to make two characters just fit in the way Halloween does; watch Resurrection or some of the lesser sequels to see just how pointless it all feels. Michael hunts down Laurie because, without her, he has nothing better to do.

Of course, Halloween II isn’t in the same league as its predecessor, but it never really could be. Michael’s given too much screentime, and the whole thing just seems a bit pointless and redundant – a rehash of earlier goings on, only set in a hospital. But it isn’t nearly as bad as many of the other imitators out there, either – or even its own subsequent sequels and remakes.

4/5 screaming Scream Queens!!!

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace (1982)
Starring: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O' Herlihy
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

No Michael Myers in this one, but plenty of Tom Atkins, which is a pretty fair trade-off. Maybe the upcoming Halloween 3D (Hallow3Dn? Betcha) will try and adapt Season of the Witch with an aged Atkins in the lead. Hm, perhaps not.

If Season of the Witch had been a better movie than it turned out to be, then maybe fans wouldn’t have been so offended at the lack of Michael in this movie. But, it’s shoddy stuff all around, so people were offended, and thoroughly hated the movie.

Having said that, it’s nowhere near as bad as Resurrection or 2007’s Zombieween. The plot, admittedly, does sound like it should have Robin Williams involved somewhere. An evil mask-making company is building nasty kids’ latex masks which kill the wearer by melting their faces whenever a certain TV advert shows (a positively epileptic image of a flashing pumpkin). It’s up to Doctor Dan Challis (Atkins) to save America’s kids from the evil Silver Shamrock company. Because nothing says Halloween like a shamrock.

Tom Atkins is awesome, which you already knew, whilst the story, shocks and overall style is in keeping with Carpenter’s aesthetic. It’s a lesser sequel, to be sure, and probably doesn’t deserve to be a Halloween title, but is definitely worth a watch sometime. Ultimately, your enjoyment of this movie will depend on your stomach for cheesy, naff 80s' horror. It's not as if it did any lasting damage, anyway - the Shape was back a few years later in his Return, which ended up being one of the better sequels.

And Season's tagline -the night no-one comes home - makes me smile every time.

2/5 screaming Scream Queens!!!

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Director: Dwight H. Little (1988)
Starring: Donald Pleasance, Danielle Harris, Rachel Carruthers
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

After an unsuccessful (but not uninteresting) attempt to pull the series in a different direction with Season of the Witch, this third sequel gets things back on track by bringing back the Shape. And, just to let you know they were done with all that originality stuff, the makers advertised it in the title.

Doc Loomis is back too, but not unfortunately not Laurie. Because star Jamie Lee Curtis wanted none of this nonsense (too busy hanging around with Pythons and Fishes Called Wanda), she’s written out as having died in a car accident (on a personal note, I truly hate it when a series kills off a non-returning character in such an ignominious way. I was glad to see Curtis’ death retconned in H20). So in Laurie’s absence, Michael has a niece to hunt down instead.

Yes, trivia fans will be interested to see a young Danielle Harris (that’s right, Annie Brackett of the Rob Zombie remakes fame) starring as Jamie, Laurie’s seven-year-old daughter. Kinda makes you feel iffy about ogling those titties in Halloween ’07, eh? To her credit, she’s less annoying than your average child actor and was one of the few good things about Zombieween. Poor little bugger is bullied relentless at school as a gang of kids follow her down corridors chanting “Jamie’s an orphan” and teasing her about her psychopathic uncle. Harsh.
Obligatory Mike Myers joke

Talking of whom, Michael is catatonic in hospital at the start of his Return. But, after a doctor lets it slip that he has a niece, he immediately breaks free and sets out hunting her down. And you thought your relatives were bad. Before finding Jamie, he confronts Loomis in a roadside cafe. As bad a shot as ever, Loomis fails to kill Michael and instead blows up a small gas station. Being a creature of stubborn habit, Michael heads off back to Haddonfield and finds himself a freshly dirty pair of overalls and a new Shatner mask.

A very good little sequel that doesn’t besmirch the original’s name. The spared use of Michael and the building of tension throughout is excellently managed, whilst I thought Jamie’s hallucinatory dream scenes were well done (actually one of the things I liked in Zombie’s H2). The kills, whilst not overtly gory, are memorable and cool (one character is impaled on a shotgun. Nice). It’s let down somewhat by a slow, kinda predictable second half, but redeemed again by the time Michael takes on one of the teens in a fistfight. If you’re paying attention, you’ll probably see the ‘twist’ coming. I won’t spoil it, but it represents the start of the series’ greater stupidity that bloomed in episodes 5 &6.

H20 gets a lot of recognition for being not-shit, but Halloween 4 is actually a strong, above average entry to the series. A welcome return from a true horror icon.

3/5 screaming Scream Queens!!!

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers

Director: Dominique Othenin-Girard (1989)
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Well, so soon after his Return, Michael Myers comes home – again – this time with Revenge on his mind. And it’s little wonder. The movie kicks off with Michael being run over, splattered across a graveyard with an enormous shotgun and then chucked down a collapsing mineshaft. He’s washed down a hidden river and finds himself rescued by a hermit and his parrot. He then goes and has himself a coma for the next 12 months. This being one generous hermit, the fella cares for Michael for all that time. Maybe he hoped Michael would show him some gratitude and buy a copy of The Big Issue or something. But Michael did always have problems with his manners, and murderises the poor schlub. He then heads back off to Haddonfield in search of his family.

As you’d expect from a Halloween sequel, the production values are high and the action rarely dull (not particularly incrdible, but not dull either). Loomis is back, as is Michael’s niece, Jamie. This time she’s incarcerated in a Loony Bin for Juniors, unable to speak and seemingly tied with a tight mental connection to Uncle Mike.

Gory highlights include a dude getting a facial with a rake and much of the usual stabby business. There’s a pretty naff scene in which he tries to run his quarry down with a car, but fails miserably. The Shape’s mask looks terrible in this movie. Definitely one of the more boring Halloween sequels, it’s really not worth seeking out unless you’re desperate or a completist.

Obviously, the closing moments leave things open for yet another sequel. Worry not, one wasn’t far behind. And it was more batshit insane than anything we’d seen before…

2/5 screaming Scream Queens!!!

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

Director: Joe Chappelle (1995)
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

The one with Paul Rudd vs Michael

Hurms, maybe watching the series backwards wasn’t such a good idea. Whereas the Friday and Nightmare sequels were largely stand-alone, the Halloween mythology at this point is strikingly dense. The latter episodes get a lot of stick, but at least they were trying something vaguely new. Watching the series back-to-back, you’ll realise that there are less legitimately bad sequels in the franchise than many of its ilk managed (there’s a Friday the thirteenth next month, by the by, so expect each and every Jason flick reviewed soon).

Jamie Lee gets a lot of credit as the star of the Halloween series, but many seem to forget that Donald Pleasence’s Doc Loomis was in more movies than Laurie. He’s sporting an awesome beard here, and is as a hoot to watch as ever, lending the flagging series a bit of much-needed gravitas. Pleasance’s performance here makes you realise just how much Malcolm McDowell has been phoning it in as of late.

Anyway, it’s been six years since Michael Myers’ Revenge, and most of the main players have been in hiding for this period of time. It’s revealed that Jamie – that’s Michael’s niece – was kidnapped by Halloween 5’s mysterious Man in Black (not Will Smith) who had her impregnated (a producers' cut later revealed that it was Michael who raped her - bugh). With incredible timing, she gives birth on Halloween Eve, under the watchful eye of the Man in Black (not Tommy Lee Jones either) and a cult or something. Later that night, a nurse helps Jamie and baby escape. Whilst poor Jamie ends up on the wrong end of Michael’s knife, baby finds his way into the protective hands of Tommy Doyle – played by ex-Friend Paul Rudd.

All the stupidity built up over the past few movies pays off here in what is arguably the most ambitious of the series. It may not work entirely – or at all – but it’s certainly interesting stuff, and one can see how they tried to tie it all into the original movie. In brief, screenwriter Daniel Farrands posited that the Myers family was under an ancient Celtic curse; one which drove the family’s young to kill all members of their bloodline. Uh-huh. Further proof of this sequel’s lunacy is evident in that it was originally to be called Halloween 666. It’s interesting how fans can turn on a franchise when it gets too ambitious. The results here are miles away from Carpenter’s Hitchcockian masterpiece, but it’s still no Jason X or Leprechaun in Space, that’s for sure.

The kills are decent enough, and Myers looks more menacing than ever before. Paul Rudd shows promise, playing tortured Tommy. The story, whilst daft, is intriguing enough to hold the viewers’ interest. Halloween purists might balk at the demystifying of Myers’ origins, but it sure beats Rob Zombie’s trailer-trash hickery any day.

3/5 screaming Scream Queens!!!

Halloween: H20

Director: Steve Miner (1998)
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

No, not Halloween Underwater, although that would be pretty cool. H20 ignores all of the suckier sequels, and is considered a direct sequel to Halloween 2. Everyone’s favourite hermaphrodite is back. Jamie Lee Curtis stars as Laurie Strode, and this time she’s got a son, played by Josh Hartnett. But it’s okay, because he’s not annoying in this movie.

We find Laurie working as a headmistress at an exclusive boarding school in Northern California. She’s faked her own death, is living under an assumed name and has her son and a boyfriend. It’s been twenty years since that fateful Halloween, but still she’s traumatised, a sweary alcoholic and living in fear. So much so that her son thinks of her as a nag, and is determined to sneak out after hours for a cheeky little Halloween party of his own…

But Laurie was right to be a nag. Michael decides to mark their anniversary by turning up at the college and murdering people; top of the list, his sister and his nephew. How cute.

One of the better the sequels, H20 wisely ignores all of the stupid continuity issues that gathered up over the course of Halloween 4-6 and gets on with telling a good old-fashioned slasher story, largely inspired in tone and look by the Scream movies (with Kevin Williamson working on the script too). It’s fun and respectful and pretty faithful to John Carpenter’s original vision. In stark contrast to some of the worse episodes, the violence is more slight, the gore less prominent. Bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis also adds a bit of authenticity and is a nice touch, making it feel a more legitimate sequel than most.

It’s not a perfect movie by any means. Due to years of overexposure, Michael’s no longer the imposing figure he once was. There’s no point hiding him in shadows anymore, since we all know what he looks like. And longtime horror fans might be a bit bored by the slight plot and run-of-the-mill slasher stereotypes.

So if you ignore the lesser sequels, Resurrection and Rob Zombie’s remakes, H20 stands as a nice little bookend to Halloween 1-2. The final showdown between brother and sister is certainly the most memorable, and the most definitively final of them all.

But of course, they had to go and fuck up all that goodwill with Halloween: Resurrection, didn’t they? Who would have thunk that following this, the franchise’s darkest days were harkening…

3/5 screaming Scream Queens!!!

Halloween Resurrection

Director: Rick Rosenthal (2002)
Starring: Kung fu Busta Rhymes, Jamie Lee Curtis
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Halloween: Resurrection AKA The one with Busta Rhymes starts, for some reason, with the death of the best thing (Myers aside) in it. Yep, Michael finally gets around to killing sister Laurie. Fella took his sweet time. There’s no mention of whether he managed to kill nephew Josh Hartnett. One would hope so.

Whereas H20 managed to revitalise the flagging series, Resurrection makes you wish they hadn’t started with this whole sorry sequel business at all. It also pretty much killed off the franchise for a good five years, leaving an opening for Rob Zombie to refuck it again in 2007. Resurrection is the Batman & Robin of slasher movies, but without any Nolans ro repair it afterwards. The movie opens with Laurie Strode incarcerated in a mental home, hiding there from Michael and growing her hair to unflattering lengths. With a terrible bit of retcon, it’s revealed that Michael managed to survive the events of H20. The unfolding of events in the hospital aren’t too bad, but everything else is.

When Resurrection came out, it was a time when the reality TV thing was just starting to kick off, with movies such as this and My Little Eye. Sadly, due to a general lack of quality, it didn’t really catch on. Resurrection is set in the Myers household, where an Internet reality TV show is filming there. It’s not an inherently bad idea, but the execution therein truly is. The action is boring and predictable, the tension lacklustre and the acting is awful. Busta Rhymes essentially plays himself, whilst everyone else is flat and unmemorable. Leading lady Bianca Kajlich doesn’t even have a profile picture on IMDB, and has done largely nothing before or since Resurrection. An ironic title, since it pretty much killed everyone’s careers (and the franchise) dead.

As you don’t need me to tell you, Michael turns up and kills everyone. He lops off some poor woman’s head, cuts a few throats and stabs one or two people, but it all feels pointless without Dr. Loomis or Laurie to root it down in Halloween history. But at least Busta Rhymes turns up and performs the now infamous kung-fu bit. Who needs good actors and likeable characters when you got kung-fu Busta fucking Rhymes?

By far the worst-received of the Halloween movies (at least until Rob Zombie turned up), Resurrection is a terrible way for the icon to bow out.

1/5 screaming Scream Queens!!!

Piemen and tigers and bear-traps. Oh my.

Director: Jody Dwyer (2008)
Starring: Mirrah Foulkes, Leigh Whannell, Nathan Phillips, Melanie Vallejo
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Anyone who’s been following this site for a while will notice that I have something of a fetish for the backwoods horror (or Urbanoia) subgenre; be it Deliverance, Southern Comfort, Wrong Turn, the execrable Backwoods or Albino Farm, I’ve watched the lot. There’s something about seeing inner-city oiks on the run from axe wielding Hillbillies that gets to me every time.

Which isn’t to say that the genre is particularly fresh these days. There’s a credit crunch on, haven’t you heard? Skimming through the newest DVD releases, it seems that everyone’s off to the woods for a cheap holiday. But just as you begin to think you’ve seen every imaginable combination of gas station/bear trap/rape/shlock, something fresh and new comes along, reminding you why you keep watching this shit. Dying Breed is my favourite piece of backwoods horror since the Hills Have eyes remake.

Jody Dwyer's movie has all the familiar, tired tropes, but manages to combine them in a way that’ll have you hooked from start to finish. Bear trap kills are getting a bit stale nowadays, but Dying Breed manages to throw up the gnarliest this side of a Saw film.

Two couples head to the forests of Western Tasmania in search of a probably-extinct species of tiger. What they end up finding is the relatives of ‘The Pieman’ – a cannibalistic serial killer shipped to Australia during the days when it was one big prison. Yes, Pieman. Don’t laugh.

The couples consist of Matt and Nina (Whannell and Foulkes) and Jack and Rebecca (Phillips and Vallejo). Mirrah Foulkes gives a great performance as leading lady Nina (although I’m a sucker for an Irish accent) and Vallejo is fine too, but the blokes don’t hold up quite as well. Leigh Whannell is better than he was in Saw, but is a bit nondescript here. It’s an unremarkable, forgettable performance, enlivened only by a bit of melodramatic gurning during the movie’s final quarter. But everyone else pales in comparison to Nathan Phillips’ Jack. He channels his inner Jack Black to create the most annoying character since anything, ever. It’s bearable, but only just. And definitely worth suffering through for the later payout.

And what a payout. Dying Breed will probably be compared to Wolf Creek, simply because it’s of Antipodean descent (and because Phillips is in it), but it’s much more similar to Wrong Turn or The Hills Have Eyes and far nastier than Wolf Creek or either of those movies mentioned there. Axe kills, crossbows and bear traps reign supreme in the second half, all done with startling gusto. There’s a particularly horrible tooth-removal scene that’ll make you never want to visit a dentist again. Animal lovers should probably avoid Dying Breed too.

The later chase scenes are amongst the best I've seen in a horror movie, thanks to Dying Breed's wonderful enviroment (which recalls the swampy murk of the quite similar Southern Comfort) and the nasty yet believable pursuers. There's some neat little twists scattered throughout, and the movie ends on a delightfully cruel note that ensures Dying Breed will stay with you for longer than your average bit of backwoods crud.

It also has the greatest one-sheet poster I've ever seen, which instantly makes the whole thing worthwhile.

4/5 screaming Scream Queens!!!