Archive for John Carpenter

Shocktastic Shudder Shorts

Posted in Short Scares, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Since it’s launch in October 2016, the horror equivalent to Netflix and streaming service, Shudder UK has provided fans with accessible access to genre movies with a click of a button. Featuring a comprehensive selection of movies, separated into creepy collections, the eclectic mix ensures that the service offers up something for everyone whether it be Giallo’s, American Slashers, Monster Movies or Ghostly Going’s-On.

ShudderUK

While, Shudder is excellent for supplying old favorite movies and popular Arrow Video titles, to name a few, since using the service from last Autumn, Shudder’s standout aspect is it’s assortment of  featured ‘exclusives’. Shudder imparts a platform for lesser known, underground short films and brings the work of underrated indie filmmakers to the forefront. The service gives the opportunity for viewers to experience films that would otherwise fade into obscurity as far as the mass public are concerned.

In this review, I am going to discuss some of the most well-crafted, interesting pieces of short films currently included on the channel.

The Puppet Man (2016)

  • Directed by Jaqueline Castel

puppet man

The Puppet Man is a intensely lit, stylish throwback to the 1980’s heyday of horror. John Carpenter’s influence is monumental especially as he features in an ironic cameo and the synth-charged, irresistible score is acquired from his debut studio album, ‘John Carpenter’s Lost Themes’. The plot itself is a little thin on the ground but, The Puppet Man works as a stylish spectacle playing on internal fears and hysteria. The aesthetic construction of the titular character is reminiscent of the iconic Freddy Kruger as he stalks and scares a young woman and her friends in a sleazy, neon-drenched deserted bar. When horror is reflected on as a genre to this day, the noteworthy figures that come to mind are of course the stalking slasher’s of ‘the golden era’ e.g. Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees who have never gone out of style. The Puppet Man includes seductive visuals and a booming soundtrack. Celebratory of it’s past influences, The Puppet Man expresses this within it’s whole core.

I Want You Inside Me (2016)

  • Directed by Alice Shindelar 

IWYIM

When viewing this short it’s difficult not to draw comparisons with 2014’s surprise hit, It Follows. The two share an identical subject matter acting as a metaphor for the dark side of becoming sexually awakened. I Want You Inside Me is a slow burner that joins up elements of body horror with a coming of age story, which of course was done extra successfully with 2016’s RAW. CJ (Abigail Wahl) decides to lose her virginity but when her first sexual encounter enigmatically disappears, even though unnerved she cuts her losses and moves onto the next one. In one sense this short breaks the “stigma” of expressive female sexuality being portrayed negatively, i.e. just because a woman is comfortable and provocative with her sexuality does not mean she should be labelled with derogatory connotations. However at the same time this short could be deemed as ‘overly feminist’ when it’s revealed that her male conquests don’t exactly fare well. I Want You Inside Me is an uncomfortable watch and quietly grotesque. It’s conspicuous title is literal and leaves the viewer feeling abruptly cold by the end. This film certainly had a great deal to convey but isn’t strongly executed. There’s no denying that it’s well made and beautifully shot but it comes across as mystifying in terms of what it sets out to achieve. As an audience are we intended to root for CJ and view her behavior as “powerful” and “liberating”? I Want You Inside Me is a perplexing watch, the characters aren’t particularly likable and it tries too hard at combining it’s oddness with a taboo subject matter.

He Took His Skin Off For Me (2014)

  • Directed by Ben Aston

hthsofm

Out of the narrative-driven, fictional shorts, He Took His Skin Off For Me is the one that struck a chord. It would be easy to presume that this film is affecting primarily based on the physicality of the skin removal alone. However, it’s the underlying emotionally-charged subtext that makes this film haunting and long lasting in the mind. Told via voice-over, He Took His Skin Off For Me centers on a couple in a domestic setting. Events take a twisted and bizarre turn when the male takes his skin off at the request of his girlfriend, but it soon transpires that the act of flesh removal wasn’t the best idea! Cue, a lot of iciness involved and strands of normality such as cleaning won’t be the same again. The tone vergers on peculiar, sometimes even funny but its ultimately melancholic. It has been a while since I’ve experienced something so absorbing and unusual. Director Ben Aston, accomplishes the contrast between every day domesticity and pure body horror to an exceptional degree. That alone, makes this film so mesmerizing. He Took His Skin Off For Me is visceral horror at it’s best, while stating that you should never change yourself for anyone underneath the foregrounded horror. Even if a layer is removed the problems and issues will still exist and are worsened which this film takes to the absolute extreme. The make up effects are astonishing with a realistic edge. Aston’s vision and use of metaphor is unforgettable with this piece and is Shudder content that I can’t recommend enough.

Primal Screen (2017)

  • Directed by Rodney Ascher

primal screen

Primal Screen has been making an impression on social media as of late. Teased to become a series, and like with all good suspense, Shudder are keeping us in anticipation. Primal Screen is a horror shaped gift and due to the incredible quality of it, viewers are dying for more! Rodney Ascher (Room 237, The Nightmare) directs this fascinating visual documentary which taps into primal childhood fears and questions how uncanny imagery can make us truly afraid and furthermore how surprising components can lead us to overcome these fears later in life. As someone who grew up feeling unnerved by creepy dolls which partly led me to become besotted by horror films and seek out more and more dark material, this documentary is highly relate-able. Primal Screen is not your average, paint by numbers, talking heads documentary. Ascher is an innovative visual storyteller who contextualizes the imagery used in order to get his vision across. There’s a beginning, middle and end that sees where the fear materialized, how it effectively spiraled before reaching a content resolution, told over five intertwining segments. Primal Screen is powerful filmmaking, the horror genre rinses and repeats itself so many times so it’s therefore refreshing to see a more inventive take on familiar material. Ascher delves into deep psychological concepts such as the rational vs the irrational, and the uncanny valley. The final result is well a structured and thought provoking documentary offering. Primal Screen is one to look out for as Shudder continues to develop it’s brand and introduces more original content to satisfy horror hungry audiences.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

Advertisements

Evil Selfie (2016): Short Film Review

Posted in Horror Festivals, Short Scares with tags , , , , , , , on June 15, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Eros Bosi directs and stars in his debut short film, Evil Selfie. This Italian supernatural short takes society’s fixation with the worldwide ‘phenomena’ of the ‘selfie’ to extraordinary heights.

A ghostly presence stalks a ‘selfie mad’ couple who venture off to a picturesque woodland area in their car, as you do in horror movies! Evil Selfie is a black comedy that blends exaggerated scenarios with elements of spookiness. It’s evident that the project is a labor of love for it’s director, paying homage to familiar genre tropes while making a statement on an influential component of recent pop culture.

Featuring striking visuals and crisp cinematography, Evil Selfie is a slick, fast paced effort. The FX  courtesy of Pasquale Miele and make up effects by Amanda Rosi are well done and of a professional standard, providing the ghostly presence with a disturbing appearance. A commendable aspect about the film is that instead of going down the route of appearing dark and dank to achieve atmosphere, the bulk of the film is set outdoors in broad daylight which aids a more unsuspecting vibe for when something sinister is likely to strike.

 

As a new filmmaker, Bosi has collaborated with more experienced industry figures within the Italian horror circuit. Luca Alessandro who co-wrote and co-directed 2013’s The Pyramid and Alex Visani who produced the aforementioned episodic movie were both on board to lend a hand to Bosi throughout the process of creating his debut short film; with a creditable end result.

Evil Selfie is very much an audience film and would play well at frightening film festivals with the potential to initiate both laughs and scares from it’s prospective viewers. It cleverly conveys it’s concept without taking itself too seriously and has fun with what it does.

Evil Selfie was shot in Bosi’s hometown of Terni, utilizing it’s stunning locations greatly. The film premiered at Narnia Terror Night in November 2016, a festival devoted to supporting independent, Italian cinema.

Check out Bosi’s John Carpenter influenced trailer below. It comes as  no surprise that the subject of the ‘selfie’ will grow more prevalent in contemporary horror with Evil Selfie imaginatively echoing back to Carpenter’s cult classic, They Live (1988) in it’s themes. The link between society’s indulgent obsession of social media and horror is an interesting subject to explore, reinforcing the notion that we are in danger of losing sight of what’s around us while we are glued to our devices.

Bosi has cemented himself as a talented director and has a promising career ahead of him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFh2PzWg2go

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

 

It Follows…(2014)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on July 1, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS**

Without a doubt, if you have sex in a horror film its guaranteed that deadly consequences will await. Director/Writer David Robert Mitchell takes this concept to a whole new, terrifying level in his first genre feature It Follows. Arguably a supernatural metaphor for the fear of sexually transmitted diseases through unprotected sex; It Follows is a nightmarish ordeal that sees nineteen year old Jay (Maika Monroe) stalked by a mysterious entity following a meaningless sexual encounter with her date. Her only option is to pass the curse on to the next unsuspecting victim in order to free herself of the strange presence that follows…

download (1)

It Follows is an intense throwback to John Carpenter’s style of horror of the 70’s/80’s; its an atmospheric experience with suspenseful set pieces that effortlessly embeds a constant sense of dread into the viewer. While the majority of modern horror relies on gore effects and jump scares to garner a reaction, It Follows is subtly scary, sticking to the approach introduced by Halloween (1978) where less is more. Its the cinematography that provokes the consistent creepy tone. The camera pans around giving the feeling that there is always something there, while the lingering long shots down the suburban streets create unease. From its emotionally charged opening moments until the credits roll there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

it follows film still

The visuals in the film speak volumes as the script is minimal. There’s very little dialogue and a quiet ambience, making it all the more eerie. There’s no real deep character development but the performances manage to convey a sense of real fear and despair. Maika Monroe, the breakout star of Adam Wingard’s  The Guest, is expressive as Jay (allegedly a reference to Jamie Lee Curtis); she appears pained and frightened suggesting that she knows whatever it is will catch up with her sooner or later.

download (2)

It Follows is a visual piece, combining an art-house style with traditional horror conventions. The focus is on a group of teenagers making irresponsible decisions with no one to turn to. The lack of authority or parental roles are notably absent, allowing the teenagers to cope by themselves which is a scary concept in itself. It Follows doesn’t make the era its set in obvious however with no technology in sight, it appears to be echoing back to around the late 70’s-early 80’s. As far as teen horror’s go this one is incredibly clever in what it does.

Surreal, effective, chilling paranoid horror that will linger in the mind long after viewing with its striking, disturbing imagery. It Follows is available to own on DVD and Blu-Ray, watch it alone in the dark if you dare! A modern classic in the making.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

**Fourth Anniversary Article** My Top Six Slaughter-tastic Underrated Slashers!

Posted in Anniversary Pieces with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Slasher films; low-budget, gory-fuelled romps; masked killers lurking in the shadows ready to slash n’ hack their sexually charged teen victims who never ever learn their lesson!

download

Despite being considered bottom of the barrel when it comes to our great genre especially after the 80’s mass saturation of endless sequels leading to never-ending franchises, there’s something that always brings us back to the slasher film. There’s the entertainment factor, the creative gore effects and on a deeper scale the social messages underneath the surface of all the blood, guts and sex! Let’s not forget that some of today’s most famous actors began their careers getting bloodied up by a super-human lethal killer, there’s that Depp bloke you may have heard of who’s done a few films here and there and that Kevin Bacon guy who is busy selling ‘the UK’s fastest mobile network’ these days; to name a few!

download (1)

friday6

Most will argue that the slasher reached its peak during the early 80’s; notably as Jason rose from the murky depths of Camp Crystal Lake for the third time. The slasher was  semi- revived in popularity again later in the decade with Child’s Play then most prolifically in the mid-90’s with post-modern hit Scream which has since paved the way for the train of remakes, spoof films and more a brutal type of horror in the shape of Saw, Hostel and The Collection from the mid 00’s to the present day.

10437776_10153348714383572_5464969057220383348_n

If it wasn’t for slashers I probably wouldn’t be the horror freak (I mean, fanatic!) I am today. It was discovering the Scream/Elm Street/Friday franchises at a young age that aided my growing interest in the genre. There was nothing better than coming home from school and watching the latest taped VHS of whatever slasher had been on TV the previous night instead of doing any of that boring homework stuff! For me, slashers represent nostalgia, escapism and fandom. To this day slashers still maintain a level of popularity, they prove increasingly marketable and continue to be revived. Thanks to films such as The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014), Stage Fright (2014) and the Hatchet series (2006-2013) the sub-genre is alive and well and is slowly being taken in new, fresh directions! Slashers are pretty easy films to watch however there’s plenty lurking underneath the surface to interpret; there’s running themes of murder and revenge, a level of mystery and they are played out as cautionary tales for teenage viewers. There are always consequences for bad decisions. Slashers reflect a universal fear in society that are applicable to their cultural and historical contexts e.g casual sex in 80’s slashers used as a metaphor for the AIDS scare.

Halloween 2011 001

Its been four years since I began reviewing so what better way to celebrate that take a look back at my personal favorite entries from the sub-genre that made me horror obsessed. This list will not contain the typical choices of Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, A Nightmare on Elm Street etc. we all know they are critically-acclaimed and completely awesome and rightfully so! However, this list will contain films that are appreciated by a genre audience and have generated a cult following over the years but are not as well regarded among the mainstream. Some films included also may have been popular on their original release but have since gone under the radar. So here it is, Hayley’s Horror Reviews most beloved slasher films.

**WARNING: Will contain Spoilers!**

6. Prom Night (1980)

prom night1

Prom Night is what happens when you capitalize on the popularity and cast the star of hit slasher Halloween in order to create low-budget Canadian horror flick. Filmed over 24 days during 1979, director Paul Lynch struggled to achieve finance for his movie about a massacre circulating around a high school dance; that was until Jamie Lee Curtis who was making a recognizable name for herself as the final girl of horror at the time came on board as Prom Queen Kim Hammond. Paramount expressed an interest in distributing the film however would only give it a limited theatrical release whereas Avco Embassy offered a much wider release in which Lynch decided to go with. Also starring Leslie Nielsen, Prom Night was popular around the drive-in theater circuit and was somewhat financially successful upon its release in 1980, making it Canada’s highest grossing horror movie of the year.  Its a classic tale of revenge, a prominent theme of the Slasher. Six years before the main events take place a young girl is taunted and accidentally killed by a group of mean-spirited kids and the blame is placed on a local pervert who is arrested for the crime, flash forward to the ‘present day’ of the movie and someone has bloodthirsty revenge on their mind; but the question is who saw the “accident” and knows what they did?

images

Halloween’s Producer Irwin Yablans advised Lynch to center the film around a seasonal setting, building on the success of the  John Carpenter classic. Lynch opted for the prom scenario and tied the his premise around a story written by Robert Guza Jr. that told the tale of a tragic accident that had come back to haunt the children who were involved several years later. Prom Night has the classic makings of a traditional slasher but it has its own unique tone. What’s most striking is it builds up the characters and plot slowly, introducing us to the self-righteous teenagers who are about to get more than they bargained for. Essentially, its what happens when you cross Carrie with Saturday Night Fever, which is an apt description as there’s plenty of disco galore and polished choreographed dance sequences that sort of stall the carnage but creates a kind of spectacle. If you enjoy blood and dancing, like myself, Prom Night is one for you! While not as popular as its contemporaries, genre fans will take something from it as one of the more underrated slashers of the early 80’s that knew how to exploit the slasher movie marketing machine!

5. Scary Movie (2000)

Movie_poster_for_-Scary_Movie-

Scream set the rules, then generated dozens of copycats. Some really held up prominently I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend while too many to name fell flat. The concept had been taken so far and in the four years since its release, the slasher was dying out once again. Something needed to come along and shake things up and thanks to the comedic talents of the Wayans brothers, that something certainly did! While not the first slasher spoof, Student Bodies (1981) takes that crown, Scary Movie is hip, crude and satirical of the contemporary horror of that period. You will never be able to watch Scream, Last Summer, The Matrix and The Blair Witch Project in the same way again!

scarymovie2

Scary Movie cleverly weaves the fantastical story mainly poking fun at Scream and Last Summer, while being non-stop hilarious throughout. There are some genuinely amusing critiques, the characters ponder about who would be cast to play them if they were in a slasher movie; they comment that actors in their late 20’s-early 30’s would be the most likely candidates, creating an awkward exchange with that being the cast’s actual ages! Shannon Elizabeth’s aptly named Buffy Gilmore possibly has the best death scene, she fails to take the killer seriously, critiquing how a typical death scene in a slasher will go as she’s hacked to pieces until she’s a talking severed head!  Regina Hall equally steals the show in a too funny for words parody of Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Scream 2 murder scene and Marlon Wayans is completely memorable as loveable stoner Shawty. While its a product of its time by today’s standards, who still remembers the “Wassup” Budwiser advert that gets the parody treatment?! For fans you’ll be surprised how hilarious it really is even fifteen years later. A batshit blend of laughs and gore, Scary Movie poked fun but manages to be an entertaining and outrageous comedy that literally slashes the fourth wall!

4. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

friday-the-13th-part-4---the-final-chapter-movie-poster-1984-1020207716

Well what a misleading title! In all fairness, in the documentary Camp Crystal Lake Memories its stated that the intention was to lay the tormented Jason to rest once and for all after this instalment! But if something is profitable then why stop?! The Final Chapter picks up where Part III left off. Jason (played by stuntman Ted White this time around) is presumed dead is rushed to the morgue only for him to rise off the cold slab and brutally slay an unsuspecting nurse and frisky doctor! Immediately The Final Chapter ups the gore spectacularly with each kill proving more blood thirsty than ever before. Some kills come off as repetitive e.g. horror’s fixation with shower murders that inevitably aren’t as shocking as Psycho (1960) was but these are certainly some of Jason’s goriest moments. Its thanks to the return of FX master Tom Savini who effectively returned to finally kill off his own creation. Typically, The Final Chapter does feature a group of self-absorbed, horny teenagers with one thing on their minds but it also shifts the focus to a family staying at the camp. Divorced mother Mrs Jarvis (Joan Freeman), her teenage daughter Trish (Kimberly Beck) and young son Tommy (Corey Feldman) bring in a new dynamic, representative of the changes in familial roles in America that were emerging at the time, notably the father is absent in the film. A metaphorical external fear is present with Jason lurking in the backdrop of the family’s separation and it paves the way for Friday’s original theme of the protective mother figure to be incorporated.

core

Corey Feldman is brilliant as the young Tommy Jarvis, establishing his status as one of the franchises most popular characters. He is the first pre-teen to be featured in the Friday series and his character single-handedly breaks the traditional final girl convention by being the one to ultimately defeat Jason and protect his older sister. His performance is genuine and brings in authenticity, he was actually frightened during the scene where Jason grabs him through the window. The Final Chapter is iconic in its own right, it continued Jason’s hockey mask legacy that began in Part III, it also confirmed Mrs Voorhees’s (Betsy Palmer) first name as Pamela, as seen on her graveside as the teenagers drive to Camp Crystal Lake. Finally, Crispin Glover starred as the awkward Jimmy Mortimer pre-Back to the Future fame. The Final Chapter is my favourite instalment for the grizzly gore effects, the shift in dynamics, the return to the Jason POV shots instead of the stepping into the frame style they used in Part III, it bravely having a young boy take on Jason and its ambiguous ending.

 3.The Burning (1981)

BurningUKQuad

Tom Savini turned down Friday the 13th: Part 2 to bring his splatterific, gory visuals to life in 80’s camping slasher The Burning. Taking inspiration from Peeping Tom and the slew of similar films that were consistently being churned out during the decade (its been debatable that it was in production the same time as Friday 1), The Burning was certainly ahead of its time featuring a killer audiences were able to empathize with. Bizarrely, it found itself banned in the UK under 1984’s video recordings act due to the graphically violent and now infamous raft scene. It challenged typical conventions in regards to pre-marital sex, it was much more self-aware than the films that came before it and also featured a final boy instead of the final girl slasher staple. I wrote extensively about The Burning during one of my Halloween Month specials which can be read here. I also discuss The Burning in the context of the Video Nasties panic in this video:

2. Tourist Trap (1979)

Tourist-Trap-trampa-turistas-1979

Stephen King took the words right out of my mouth; in his book Danse Macabre he describes Tourist Trap as an “obscure classic”. J A Kerswell, who wrote my favourite guide to the slasher ever, Teenage Wasteland referred to it as “an interesting sub-genre film”. Both are incredibly valid statements. Unlike Halloween released a year previous, Tourist Trap doesn’t have the mainstream appeal but there’s something so freakish about it you won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen. Possibly used as the primary inspiration for 2005’s non-remake of House of Wax, Tourist Trap sees five teenagers become the victims of a deranged psychopath with telekinetic powers who lures them to his run-down Wax museum located  in the middle of nowhere.

tt3

Aside from the undeniably creepy visuals that see wax figures come to life entering into uncanny valley territory, what’s incredible about Tourist Trap is its use of sound. Italian composer Pino Donaggio creates an otherworldly sense using breathy female vocals for the mannequins that proves effective. The sound effects are the film’s most outstanding factor, a bizarre atmosphere is created placing a sense of unease for the audience throughout, without its strangeness diegetic sound the film certainly wouldn’t have managed the same impact. Tourist Trap has a considerably small core cast creating an isolated and compact feeling. Chuck Connors is unforgettable as the ambiguous Mr Slausen, who is definitely a fascinating slasher villain. We discover his back-story is again cemented in the slasher’s favourite trope of revenge however he is phenomenally creepy in his methods of murder. One victim Tina (Dawn Jeffory-Nelson) meets a painful end by having her face slowly covered with wax, her skin is burned and she is suffocated. The whole film’s tone, including the death scenes has something so mean-spirited about it! Many genre fans will say Tourist Trap needs to be seen to be believed. Its a truly fantastic, bizarre and mesmerizing slasher film that wholly deserves its cult status.

1. Sleepaway Camp (1983)

sc

Happy Campers gather round as we take a look at the best underrated slasher film of the 1980’s (In my humble opinion, of course!). Instead of a masked maniac slicing and dicing his victims, Sleepaway Camp offers a whole new kind of killer, the mysteriously sweet, thirteen year old and trans-gender Angela (Felissa Rose). A tragic accident occurs in the opening sequence that sees a young child killed, years later cousins Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) and Angela are sent to Camp Arawak for the summer by Angela’s eccentric Aunt (one of my stand out performances in any film of this kind!). At the camp, a bloody rampage begins, which sees a bunch of young teens with enraging hormones and the corrupt staff slaughtered! Sleepaway Camp weaves in some taboo themes which were becoming prominent within society during the 80’s. Both gender and sexuality are explored along with bullying and familial issues. Strong hints are evident throughout the film in regards to Angela’s anxieties and motive with the symbolism of phallic objects used as murder weapons, hair straighteners anyone?! Sleepaway Camp heavily uses POV shots, conveying that the killer could literally be anyone, cleverly masking Angela’s reveal until the shocking end!

maxresdefault

The film is mainly overlooked due to its low-budget feel and hammy acting (more so from the adults!) but this film and its subsequent sequels have an endearing quality to them, even Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008) which is pretty laughable, in a good way! The sequels starring Pamela Springstein as Angela are also amazingly fun to watch, especially Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988).  It pushes the boundaries in regards to actually featuring characters playing their ages, a risky move for the sub-genre at the time having a cast so young in a film of this kind. Sleepaway Camp is pretty much an enjoyable entry in the sub-genre. The killer’s identity is unexpected and fantastically twisted. Angela endures cruelty at the hands of the more ‘well-developed’ campers especially Judy (Karen Fields) who utters the quotable line, “She’s a real carpenter’s dream: flat as a board and needs a screw!” adding to the tension and building on Angela’s insecurities, therefore its no surprise that she snaps! Sleepaway Camp is distinctive in its own right. Its memorable enough to be beloved by its fans and is extraordinarily warped.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my trip down slasher movie memory lane. Here’s a big thank you to everyone who follows and supports my site as well as the other side projects I’m involved in. You’re why I keep on writing about the movies I adore. Here’s to another four years of blood, guts and gore!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Halloween Month: Halloween: 20 Years Later, H20 (1998)

Posted in Halloween Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

It wouldn’t be Halloween month without a revisiting a film from this well-loved franchise. This time round we’re swapping Haddonfield for sunny California; where Laurie Strode returns under a new identity for a showdown with her murderous long-lost brother, 20 years after the night HE came home. Halloween: 20 Years Later or most commonly referred to as H20 (easily confused with the chemical name for water!) unsurprisingly returned to the slasher screen following the resurgence in popularity for the sub-genre thanks to Scream. Miramax’s genre based film company Dimension garnered success with Scream and also owned the rights to the Halloween franchise so it made perfect sense to attempt to generate another horror hit. Considering fans were disappointed with the outcome of the sixth film in the franchise, The Curse of Michael Myers following negative feedback at test screenings that resulted in cuts, another film in the series was therefore a must.

HalloweenH20poster

Twenty years following the Haddonfield Halloween Massacre, Michael Myers breaks into the home of Dr. Sam Loomis and steals confidential papers that contain information about his long-lost sister’s whereabouts while slashing his way through some brand new victims including Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an early role. Now, we’re in the post-Scream era, there needed to be a big important opening death scene to convey that anything can happen. Nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) Loomis’s nurse in the first film was therefore one of the first to be butchered by Michael. Under the new identity of Keri Tate, Laurie is now a headmistress at Hillcrest Academy, still living in fear of the traumatic events she suffered at the hands of Myers while raising a teenage son and turning to alcoholism to cope. Soon enough Laurie is confronted by her past as Michael continues to kill until he gets to her.

llcoolj-halloween-h20

In the late 90’s every slasher poster was constructed by featuring images of the cast posing with their ‘afraid faces’ at the forefront, spawned after the success of Fisherman stalk n’ slash flick I Know What You Did Last Summer. Typically a famous rapper of the time (in this case LL Cool J) would also star and be a main attraction on the cover to y’know be hip! In all fairness LL Cool J gives an entertaining performance in the movie, much better than Busta Rhymes in Halloween: Resurrection but we’ll talk about that insulting film later!

summer17f-2-web

scream2posterurban_legend

While it wasn’t the worst idea in the world to resurrect this franchise and provide the grizzly showdown fans had been waiting for, H20 goes by in a blur with a short run time of 86 minutes, making it the shortest of all the Halloween movies to unsatisfying effect. There’s heaps of potential there to explore while placing the story in a 90’s context. Laurie Strode’s arc is strong, Jamie Lee Curtis packs a punch in her performance and updates Laurie from frightened teenager to a headstrong but damaged woman. Ultimately, H20 is Laurie’s story however the inclusion of younger teen characters didn’t bring as much depth as it could have which has its short run time to blame; causing the film to feel rushed and underdeveloped. Fresh off the new teen show at the time, Dawson’s Creek, Michelle Williams starred as Molly Cartwell. Williams is the one actress in the film that didn’t receive enough screen-time which was a shame considering how talented she is, there was potential for a new scream-Queen in the making rather than just the ‘girlfriend’ archetype. To its credit, while slightly bloodier than the 1978 original, H20 didn’t go down the gratuity route with the camera lingering on gruesome death scenes like studios had insisted on with previous sequels in order to keep up with horror trends. It managed to keep the spirit of Halloween while generating its own edge to determine that a Halloween movie could translate into post-modern 90’s horror.

halloween-h20-2

In general the Halloween franchise is a problematic mess in terms of its story arc. H20 decisively ignored the presence of IV, V and The Curse of Michael Myers. Part IV indicated that Laurie Strode had died in a tragic accident leaving a daughter she had around 1980 in the care of foster parents. Her apparent husband only referred to as Mr. Lloyd was also killed. Clearly the idea was to awaken the terror all over again, ten years after the Haddonfield massacre with Laurie 2.0. Same story, different characters with links back to the original. Young Jamie Lloyd (the first horror role for Danielle Harris) was subsequently targeted by her psychotic uncle throughout the span of three films. Jamie (later played by J.C. Brandy) eventually met her demise in the sixth part, The Curse of Michael Myers, prior to that she had a child.

Jamie Lloyd, Laurie’s forgotten daughter.

 

In H20, its revealed that Laurie faked her own death to escape her evil brother all those years ago. There’s no mention of the daughter she would have practically abandoned or the notion of a grandchild, however as mentioned Laurie does have a teenage son John Tate (Josh Hartnett). John is seventeen in the film to make it all the more fitting that he’s the same age his mother was when she was originally targeted by Myers. The time span between Laurie faking her own death and then having another child doesn’t really add up, considering John would have been born in 1981.  It has been said in  Kevin Williamson’s (Writer of Scream & Scream 2) original idea, there was to be a scene where the Jamie Lloyd arc was acknowledged. A bitchy student at Hillcrest Academy reads out a class report on Michael Myers reign of terror discussing what happened to Jamie. The revelations become too much for Laurie, who is seen to flee the classroom to throw up. Many fans tend to place the 1978 movie, 1981 sequel and H20 as in canon with parts 4-6 set in a separate universe while avoiding the horrible Halloween: Resurrection completely.

1_7eds6

Laurie’s seventeen year old son, John Tate.

 

The idea for Halloween: 20 Years Later initially came about when Jamie Lee Curtis expressed interest in developing a movie to mark the anniversary of one of slasher film’s greatest. Excitingly John Carpenter was named as a possible director and Curtis eagerly wanted to collaborate with him again. Carpenter did agree to direct but with a starting fee of $10 million which he deemed as fair after some financial problems with the revenue following the original Halloween. His salary for H20 would have been his compensation however when he was refused the money he made the decision to step away from directing a further sequel. The directorial reigns ended up in the hands of Steve Miner, director of Friday the 13th Part II and III. Its possible that if Carpenter had been director then fans may have experienced an even better film than the final product despite Miner’s horror background.

usa-which-of-these-john-carpenter-flicks-are-your-favorite

As previously mentioned the initial treatment for H20 was written by Kevin Williamson. Known for his edgy and witty dialogue and ability to challenge horror conventions incredibly well. If Williamson had written the finished screenplay and teamed up with Carpenter as director, much like his pairing with Wes Craven two years previous then H20 could have been even bigger than Scream. There were attempts in H20 at being meta. When the characters of Sarah (Jodi Lynn O’Keefe) and Molly (Michelle Williams) are preparing for their Halloween party, the scene where Cici Cooper (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is terrorized by Ghostface in Scream 2 plays on the television. The purpose of this was to break the fourth wall. In Scream, Jamie Kennedy’s character Randy Meeks dissected and analysed the first Halloween film as part of constructing the rules of the horror genre. Incorporating the Cici death scene in H20 came as a homage. Originally, it was said that Sarah and Molly were to be watching So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993) with an in-joke that they were watching a film starring Mike Myers which in terms of irony works a lot better. The Scream 2 clip was added in post-production as a nod to Williamson’s involvement.

tumblr_m6t2sftutA1r74762o1_500

 

Another reference to Scream is where Laurie tells her son and his girlfriend to “go down the street to the Becker’s house” which is of course referring to Drew Barrymoore’s short-lived character Casey Becker who spectacularly opens the first Scream movie. However in Halloween, there is a similar line which is “go down the street to the McKenzie’s house”, it was also uttered in the Barrymoore death scene. The most meta aspect of all was the casting of Jamie Lee Curtis’s real life mother Janet Leigh as her secretary Norma. Leigh was of course famous for her portrayal of Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Psycho (1960) and is even accompanied with the original car from the legendary film. Having these two appear together in the film is a real joy for fans especially with the tongue-in-cheek dialogue between them. Curtis and Leigh had starred alongside each other in John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980) however their characters did interact as much, sharing only one scene to my recollection. P.J. Soles was asked to play the role of Norma Watson initially but was sceptical toward the idea of playing a different character to Lynda, her character from the 1978 film who was killed off.

Janet.Leigh_.Halloween.H20

John Ottoman composed the score for this instalment but was however displeased after part of the Scream score by Marco Beltrami was placed in during post-production as producers opted for a darker, 90s slasher edge. The inclusion of Mr Sandman performed by The Chordettes to open the film on the Dimension logo added in a nice touch and brought in a reference to the old school Halloween. Another controversial aspect of production that was discussed in documentary Halloween: 25 Years of Terror (2006) was a dispute regarding the masks used for Michael Myers. Several re-shoots were done with a CGI mask inserted over footage of Chris Durand (The Myers Actor) and in total 4 masks were created.

owo5btvuyxjosjvsfnoqt6tijgj

H20 opened  in the August of 1998 to a mix of reviews. Many were disappointed with its ignorance of previous instalments while other criticized its slow pace. It is a difficult film to watch considering the knowledge of what came after it especially with how final this film feels. Laurie’s battle with Myers is one of epic proportions, providing the satisfying closure the series deserved as she unapologetically slays him with an axe. It is considered one of the more favourable sequels and is second highest grossing instalment within the franchise, next to Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake.  As a stand alone it has its moments. The cinematography is stunning, romanticizing the Halloween season, capturing the holiday incredibly well. Even though underdeveloped the young cast do well with the given material. Josh Hartnett is believable as Cutis’s teenage son and Curtis herself delivers a phenomenal and unforgettable performance.

Laurie face to face with her evil brother is one of the film’s most iconic moments.

H20 is one to watch this Halloween because despite its flaws it wouldn’t be Halloween without it and it has Laurie Strode kick some psychopath ass!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Halloween III Re-boot. (Poll)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Following speculation on Bloody Disgusting last month, Dread Central have now confirmed that the Halloween franchise reboot will continue with  the next installment, Halloween 3D. News of a third film emerged at the Cannes film festival, allegedly the Weinstein company are keen to bring Michael Myers back to the big screen however no names are currently attached to the possible third sequel, although a screenplay is in the works. Rob Zombie’s re-imagination of the classic John Carpenter 1978 chiller was released back in 2007 with a direct follow-up in 2009 with Halloween II. Last year Zombie stated that he would not be directing the next Halloween film if anything was to come of it. This leaves the door open for several possibilities and direction that the franchise can be taken in. At this stage its uncertain whether this intends to be a direct sequel to Zombie’s Halloween or a whole new fresh take on Haddonfield’s masked murderer. Let’s not forget that the original Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) stepped away from Michael Myers slashings with its own sinister story surrounding a mask making company, Silver Shamrock. As a cult classic for many, a remake of Season of the Witch wouldn’t be welcomed as it’s a well-loved, stand alone film that didn’t make a massive impact and doesn’t require a re-boot of any kind. Continuing the Myers story could be intriguing especially if a fresh idea is developed set in the present day, it can’t be left at Halloween: Resurrection (2002) surely? The 3D on the other hand feels opportunistic and gimmicky due to the title. Hopefully us Haddonfield horror hounds will hear more developments soon.

000

 

What do you think of yet another Halloween installment? Especially since its hot on the heels of the upcoming Friday the 13th part 2 reboot.

 

For the latest Ghostface Girls Debate on whether The Purge should become the next mainstream horror franchise, click here.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Women In Horror Month: Final Girls and Psychotic Women. (3-1)

Posted in Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Here is part five and the final piece of coverage celebrating the fifth annual Women in Horror Recognition Month. Earlier this month I began a countdown of who I consider to be the bravest final girls in horror as well as the most psychotic and deadly women. Narrowing it down out of a vast range of characters that have made an impact on our blood-splattered screens for decades has been tough and there’s plenty more I’d have liked to have included. A follow-up countdown next year may be a possibility. Now we’re onto the top three, it’s time to analyze my ultimate favorite genre women. The criteria set for these three is down to the impact they’ve had on the genre and on myself, their iconic status within Horror, how they’ve either set up recognizable tropes or challenged them and just for being downright awesome.

1003221_10152571738910558_1375135215_n

I want to thank everyone for their support in reading my work. For all the shares, likes, re-tweets and comments. Your feedback is always more than welcome and its always brilliant to speak to like-minded fans. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my choices. Who do YOU think should be THE Woman of Horror?

I’d also like to give a personal thank you to Hannah Neurotica who has set up this amazing cause to address the restrictions and prejudices that many women have faced in the industry and to celebrate a genre that has so many phenomenal female contributors. Let’s all keep raising awareness for Women in Horror Recognition Month. Long may it continue…!

WARNING: There will be Spoilers!!

3. Mary Mason, American Mary (2012)

  • Played By Katharine Isabelle
  • Written and Directed By Jen and Sylvia Soska.

amermary01  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that sadistic surgeon Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) slashed her way onto this list. Interestingly, she is the first character included in this countdown who has been written and directed by women, which to a degree emphasizes the lack of strong, iconic female characters written by women for women within the genre. But when Mary splattered onto the Horror scene back in 2012 she certainly made her mark as the fabulous filmmakers Jen and Sylvia Soska (aka. The Twisted Twins) worked incredibly hard to promote the film, generating plenty of interest via social media and the film wound up being one of the most ‘must-see’ events in the horror genre that year. It also resulted in major studio Universal acquiring the rights to the film making it’s female directors a modern day industry success story. The film itself actually laments the disheartening experiences the Soska’s went through as striving filmmakers echoing the negativity and sleaziness they encountered amongst the film system.

One of the most fascinating pieces of horror to emerge this decade, American Mary is a modern day Universal Monster in every sense of the word. She is a deeply complex character with so many layers its hard not to be compelled by her story arc within the film from promising medical student to rogue body modification surgeon to psychotic woman. Mary is the embodiment of a woman who can be both highly intelligent and sexy. With an array of stylish yet provocative outfits, Mary looks amazing whether she’s covered in blood in a PVC apron or in the designer green dress created for her by Ruby Realgirl (Paula Lindberg). She knows what she has to do in order to survive and is not to be crossed with as deadly consequences will arise. The majority of the time Mary is cool, calm and collected which is vital as she carries out some obscure and unconventional methods of surgery in order to either please her clients or torture her victims. When a horrific incident happens to her she takes matters into her own hands enlisting the help of smitten club owner Billy (Antonio Cupo) and gentle giant, bodyguard Lance (Twan Holliday) in order to act out her revenge.

A master at her craft, its evident she relishes in the work she does, which molds her into a creative, beautiful yet feared woman. The majority of the time Mary is sarcastic and deadpan which underlines her disillusion with her unfortunate experiences. Her relationships with the other characters in the film is interesting. She doesn’t quite let them in and deals with her problems mainly alone. Her quasi-friendship with Betty Boop lookalike Beatrice (Tristan Risk) is one of the film’s highlights, with contrasting personalities and attitudes Beatrice tries her hardest to get to know what’s behind Mary’s exterior more so than other characters. Through Billy’s eyes she is seen as sensual yet frightening, comparatively to other women he hires at the club he holds more respect for Mary and there’s a genuine fondness on his part. She also manages to deceive Detective Dolor (John Emmet Tracy) for as long as she can demonstrating how double-crossing she can be while protecting herself and her unique body modification “business”.

A complex and compelling character, Mary continues to gain cult and iconic status providing Scream Queen Katharine Isabelle with another memorable role under her belt next to Ginger from Ginger Snaps (2000). Whether feared or admired, there’s certainly something about Mary!

2. Laurie Strode, Halloween Series (1978, 1981, 1998, 2002)

  • Played By Jamie Lee Curtis
  • Directed By John Carpenter
  • Written By John Carpenter and Debra Hill

laurie strode  Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is one of the earliest examples and arguably the most famous of the ‘final girl’ trope. Despite not being the first horror heroine to come up against and survive a maniacal killer in the slasher territory (See. Jess, Black Christmas (1974) and Sally, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) as earlier examples) she holds a great deal of significance. Laurie’s character and status as ‘the final girl’ has been famously examined by Carol Clover in Men, Women and Chainsaws and its become pretty much concrete that Halloween (1978) set the standard for the slasher films that came after it and coined several of the tropes that have been recognizable ever since. The term ‘Final Girl’ came from Clover who stated the attributes as being a strong female character and one that was distinct from other females within slashers. As us horror enthusiasts know if you’re the slutty blonde cheerleader your more likely going to die but if you’re the shy, bookish, virginal girl, you’re going to survive! The final girl is the one who realizes the extent of the threat facing her and its even suggested that once she confronts the killer and more than often stabs him with a knife (a penetrative motion) its used as a metaphor for her sexual frustration.

It seems as if ‘Final Girls’ during this period of horror were constructed as masculine, with their feminine qualities suppressed, they were in place more as an experience for cinematic terror. By having a female figure rather than a male the intent was to convey fear as women aren’t viewed as physically strong as men. It created more vulnerability when the final girl would face up against a killer twice her size.

Another attribute of ‘The Final Girl’ is having a gender neutral name which supports this idea that the role of the female in slasher films is for a male audience to be able to identify with. Clover’s theory however has been criticized for being problematic as it doesn’t suggest that the heroine reflects female identity and anxieties. Laurie in fact does display several of the characteristics Clover set out. Despite thwarting the killer at the climax and surviving, Clover’s focus on a male outlet has been argued against as Laurie is ultimately rescued by a male character Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence). Through this she is not entirely an ‘active’ final girl who seeks out the killer herself but she is one step ahead of the other characters as she remains continually cautious and is smart enough to keep herself alive. Laurie is an early reference point for the trope however she does evolve over the years. In the sequel she is hospitalized but still displays more awareness, warning others about the boogeyman who attacked her, the doctors dismiss her fears and continue to sedate her. In Halloween II (1981) Laurie makes the connection that her attacker is in fact Michael Myers and also her brother. With that knowledge she is able to defeat him once more with the help of Loomis. During Halloween IV (1988)V (1989) and The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) she is presumed dead leaving behind a young daughter Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris) who becomes Myers next target. In Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) its discovered that Laurie is alive and living behind a secret identity. Fragile and unable to cope with her past, she is on medication and a shadow of her former self, which makes her more human. This time round she has her teenage son John (Josh Hartnett) to protect as Michael targets his little sister once more. By the end Laurie gains the courage to fight back and finish off Michael Myers once and for all, beheading him with an axe. By this point Laurie had molded from the vulnerable teenager in the first installment to a stronger woman. Unfortunately Halloween:Resurrection (2002) exists, destroying everything the previous film had intended with the evolution of Laurie’s place as a final girl, by having Myers kill her off in an asylum in the films opening minutes. Allegedly Laurie had decapitated a security guard rather than Myers in H20.

As stated Laurie Strode is one of the most emblematic heroines to emerge from the genre. Even though she does fall into several categories that make up the traditional final girl, its not to say that she doesn’t display any feminine qualities. She begins as a teenage girl with insecurities and becomes a strong woman which is plenty for a female audience to relate to. Laurie is without a doubt the first notable final girl in the slasher sub-genre and a huge influence on all the strong horror females that came after her.

1. Sidney Prescott, Scream Series (1996, 1997, 2000, 2011)

  • Played By Neve Campbell
  • Directed By Wes Craven
  • Written By Kevin Williamson

scream4_06  The countdown has now reached an end and its time to finally discuss the feistiest female in Horror and that is Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) from the slick, post-modern Scream franchise.

If Laurie Strode was responsible for evoking ideas about ‘the final girl’ then Sidney Prescott was in place to challenge them. The 90’s were upon us and the horror genre was in dire need of a re-vamp. Precisely everything had been done by this point and filmmakers needed to find a way to keep on terrifying audiences who were now all too aware of the cliches and tropes thrown at them. Enter Kevin Williamson, a complete godsend. Williamson re-invented the genre with his quick-witted, self-aware but also brutal Scream (1996) along with the experienced genre director Wes Craven on board. Instead of re-hashing the same tired conventions, Williamson challenged them by creating a slasher film where the characters were conscious of being in one yet still met a bloody demise at the hands of an all new sinister serial killer, Ghostface (voiced by Roger L. Jackson) who knows these movies inside out and through the knowledge of the conventions is able to outsmart the targeted teens.

As a final girl Sidney on one hand does qualify for some of the attributes Clover discussed. She has a gender-neutral name and has intimacy issues. On the other hand she is clued up on how females in horror are constructed yet when faced with a slasher-type situation she acts on instinct rather than logic. That’s until the sequels where she becomes even more savvy on how to outsmart the knife-wielding masked murderer. The previously mentioned intimacy issues are down to trauma rather than just playing the good girl. Sidney’s mother was brutally butchered before the events of Scream (1996) however she eventually bows down to pressure from suspected boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and sleeps with him right before the blood-curdling climax. Even more of a turning point is Billy does turn out to be one of the killers meaning in this instance rules have changed and Sidney not only has sex, she has sex with the villain which establishes what audiences thought they knew about horror conventions is about to change.

By Scream 4 (2011) Sidney has encountered and defeated seven serial killers that donne the Ghostface disguise all out for her blood. Sidney achieved somewhat of a sick, celebrity status as ‘everyone’s favorite victim’ even though she yearns for a normal life where she doesn’t have to look over her shoulder. She overcomes more than most, the death of her friends and her only stable boyfriend Derek (Jerry O’Connell) as well as family members attempting to massacre her yet she still comes out on top. There has been rumors over the years that if another Scream installment was to be made there is the possibility that Sidney may be killed off however that would be disrespectful to her character and legacy and would be taking it down the previously mentioned Halloween:Resurrection route, which would just be awful! What’s empowering about Sidney is she isn’t afraid to pull the trigger and takes no second chances when eliminating the threat. There has been criticism that technically Sidney is as bad as the killers in the franchise as in self-defense she murders them in equally bloody measures however given the situation any rational person would react similarly in order to save themselves and remaining friends. She does all she can to protect herself, in the sequel she stays around her friends and is given two bodyguards, in the third installment she is a broken woman who isolates herself in a highly-secured house before deciding to come out and face the danger rather than pushing her surviving friends away. By the fourth and most recent film Sidney is wiser and displays more confidence, she even becomes an author recounting her traumatic experiences as a way of catharsis.

Sidney Prescott is my number one female of horror because she is strong, empowered, determined, will always fight back and has a well-rounded character arc. Sidney is a survivor who has left just as much as an impact as Laurie before her through turning conventions on their head and giving genre audiences much more to expect from what a final girl is capable of.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.