Hellbent (2005) Review

Posted in Hellbent with tags , on October 16, 2014 by Last Road Reviews


** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- When the Night Belongs to the Devil, the Party Goes to Hell

Release Date- September 16th, 2005

Running Time- 84-Minutes

Rating- R

Writer/Director- Paul Etheredge

Starring- Dylan Fergus, Bryan Kirkwood, Hank Harris, Andrew Levitas, Matt Phillips

Released on the festival scene in 04 and a limited release in 05, Hellbent is sort of the typical low budget slasher with a slight twist; we have a set of guys looking to hook up, but instead if chasing after women they’re chasing after other guys. Hellbent is a gay themed slasher and sadly that’s the only difference between this and most slashers. The characters are the typical kind in these films who just so happen to be gay. While this film is obviously aimed at a gay audience I don’t think it matters what your sexuality is unless you’re the hateful kind. At the end of the day Hellbent fails at doing anything different than any other slasher outside of the gay characters. Quite honestly I really can’t see the target audience really feeling any different at least those who are fans of the horror genre. While I’m sure the target audience will appreciate seeing characters they can identify with, but I think most will feel the film was a bit subpar.

The plot has 4 gay men going to a Halloween party in West Hollywood where they end up being stalked by a killer and that pretty much sums up the plot.

The script by Paul Etheredge is rather weak and never different than any other slasher film outside again being focused on gay men. As for the characters, we’ve seen them before in a million other slashers and being gay hardly adds anymore depth to them. However with that said I did like the characters and found them entertaining despite being cliched. On paper the idea sounds better than it came out. But at the end of the day regardless of sexuality everything here we’ve seen before and the gay twist can only take the film so far. If anything since I found the characters entertaining sort of salvages the script, but its still subpar stuff.

As director Paul Etheredge doesn’t fair much better as Hellbent is poorly paced and cheap looking. While I get the budget is low, but that doesn’t excuse the weak production values. There really isn’t much in the way of suspense and scares and it seems having a gay themed slasher allowed the director to be a bit lazy as he figured he would have a built in audience. Perhaps that’s true, but the film is still weak and forgettable. With sluggish pacing and lack of suspense, Hellbent can be quite boring at times and the final act lacks any excitement as rather than speed things up it just moves so slow and seems to take forever to get to the action, which wasn’t very good to begin with.

The problem with Hellbent outside of being sluggishly paced is it also lacks an identity. While the characters are fun, but everything else by the book. Perhaps Hellbent will get over more with the target audience, but I still think the target audience will be bored by it. While not terrible, Hellbent is quite forgettable.


Halloween Night (2007) Review

Posted in Halloween Night with tags , , on October 15, 2014 by Last Road Reviews


** Out 5

Release Date- October 26th, 2006

Running Time- 85-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Michael Gingold

Director- Mark Atkins

Starring- Derek Osedach, Rebekah Kochan, Scot Nery

Halloween Night was released in 2006 is from Asylum Films, which often knockoff big budget popular films. Quite honestly I’ve never been a big fan of Asylum, but I get their appeal to horror fans though I did enjoy Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies more than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (though the book trumps both). Halloween Night had potential to be a fun throwback to 80s slasher films and it started off that way, but as the film goes on my enjoyment level started to drop and drop. While the film does provide some fun moments, but for me it ended up being quite a chore to get through.

Halloween Night was written by Michael Gingold of Fangoria and writing articles on the horror genre is totally different than writing screenplays and that very much shows here. The basic plot deals with an escaped mental patient who returns home. I think its quite clear the basic idea of the plot stems from Halloween; however once our escaped mental patient is out he heads home and finds people in his old house throwing a Halloween party and this reminds me a bit of Halloween: Resurrection just replace reality show with a party. I doubt Gingold was inspired by Halloween: Resurrection since I can’t see anyone in their right mind being inspired by that film, but the truly terrifying thing is Resurrection is actually the better film! As a child Chris Vale saw his mother raped and killed and Vale ended up horribly burnt. It seems as if the father was involved, but the writing and editing are so sloppy nothing is clear. Now 10-years later Vale (Nery) as stated before makes his escape from the insane asylum and returns home.

After a fun start, Gingold’s script quickly becomes a poorly plotted mess of a script. The characters are dull and lifeless and better off dead. There’s no depth or anything it’s just boring characters that the sooner they die the better. If you wanna create a backstory for the killer fine, but really nothing is explained and it seems these pages were written simply to fill a required page count. Michael Gingold early on does deliver a fun script, which makes it more frustrating when things quickly go downhill. The concept even if hardly original was fun and Gingold had the right idea, but as it goes on the writing gets worse and Halloween Night is in my opinion quite poorly written and granted slasher films aren’t exactly known for writing, but this is poor even by slasher movie standards.

As director Mark Atkins fails at brining any suspense or excitement and the film is quite poorly paced. Halloween Night gets off to a fun start as mentioned, but quickly falls a part and can be quite a chore to sit through. Horror films can get away with a subpar script, but too weak and there is only so much the director can do, but Atkins just ends up making more of a mess out of the production.

Overall Halloween Night is a terrible film and while fans of Asylum make find something here worthwhile everyone else are better off passing.

Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998) Review

Posted in Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later with tags , , , on October 14, 2014 by Last Road Reviews


**** Out of 5

Tagline- 20-Years Ago He Changed the Face of Halloween, Tonight He’s Back

Release Date- August 5th, 1998

Running Time- 86-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Robert Zappia & Matt Greenberg

Director- Steve Miner

Starring- Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett, LL Cool J, Michelle Williams, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Janet Leigh, Chris Durand and Adam Arkin

When it comes to horror franchises the Halloween series is one of the most iconic and the original Halloween kicked open the door for the wave of slasher films that dominated the market in the 1980s. H20 was released in 1998 and of course based on the title came 20-years after the original, but to me it was far more fitting it was released 10-years after Halloween 4 since both films go back to the basics. After Halloween 3 attempted to take the series in a new direction and was a sequel by name only, but it ended up brining the series to an end and was despised by fans of the series. While over the years Halloween 3 has gained a cult following its still largely dismissed. Halloween 4 brings back Michael Myers and resurrected the series and was actually the number 1 movie for 2-weeks straight. But by the time Halloween 5 was released in 1989 the tide was starting to turn on the slasher film and Halloween 5 became the lowest grossing of the series also released that year were Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child and Jason Takes Manhattan also became the lowest grossing and Elm Street 5 took in roughly half of what the 4th film brought in. As much as I personally enjoyed Halloween 5 and believe it or not its my favorite sequel of the original series, but it kind of backed the series into a corner and by the time the 6th film was released in 1995 the slasher film was dead and Halloween 6 like the 3rd film also tried to take the series in a new direction only this time with Michael Myers, but the 6th overly complicated a simple formula and was plagued by production troubles and while it turned a profit it wasn’t very successful and like Halloween 3 was mostly dismissed by fans. However in 1996 Scream, which was written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven was a massive success and brought back the slasher film. Originally before Jamie Lee Curtis was on board Halloween 7 was gonna be made DTV and continue the series, but not continue the thorn angle. Once Jamie Lee Curtis signed on the story was altered and made for a theatrical release and it would ignore the events of Halloween 4-6 (obviously 3 as well) and would continue from Halloween II.

I hate when a film comes out and ignores previous installments, but in the case of Halloween I really don’t think there was much of a choice. For starters the last two weren’t as successful in terms of box office business and general fan opinion and again the 6th film overly complicated the formula. With the return of Laurie Strode (Curtis) linking 4-6 would be too complicated. In Halloween 4 its stated Laurie died 11-months ago, which would place her death sometime in November of 1987. So that begs the question why would not only Laurie fake her death nearly a decade after, but why would she leave her daughter Jamie in Haddonfield? And why didn’t she return for her? Some people blame Halloween 4, but at the time nobody knew Jamie Lee would return and sure looking back there’s a number of directions Halloween 4 could have gone, but again who knew Curtis would return. In H20 Laurie has a son John Tate (Hartnett) who is 17-years old and yet in Halloween little Jamie having a brother was never mentioned. Trying to link 4-6 would just not only complicate the film, but slow it down too much and originally there was a passing mention, but was dropped in rewrites, but for the hardcore fan it would have too many questions and would take away from the film. Even all these years later it does bug me to some degree a whole bunch of films were wiped from the timeline, but its not difficult to see why.

20-years after the events of the first 2 Halloween films, Laurie Strode is now living in Northern California under the name Keri Tate and is headmistress of a private school. For the last 20-years she’s lived in fear her brother Michael Myers (Durand) would find her and with the 20th anniversary, Michael has returned to finish what he started.

Kevin Williamson wrote a treatment for the film, but apparently he was busy with other projects and was unable to write the screenplay, but there are drafts online for H20 with Williamson listed as the writer, but I can’t vouch for how legit they are. Robert Zappia was originally hired as the writer and even submitted a draft, which was liked, but once Jamie Lee Curtis signed on it needed a rewrite and Zappia was kept on and a couple of aspects of his script carried over into the final draft. The screenplay by Robert Zappia & Matt Greenberg is well written and for a 7th film it’s surprisingly excellent. I love the concept for the film and its great to see just what has become of Laurie 20-years later. I also like the change in her character from shy to a character with a bit more of an edge and take charge. The teen characters are also fairly strong, but no doubt the script is at its strongest when Laurie is the focus. Characters have some depth and the script unlike the past couple of films isn’t overly complicated and is back to the basics. H20 is very much a product of its time and the influence of Scream is quite obvious. Apparently Kevin Williamson did some uncredited writing and his style of writing is very much present.

Originally John Carpenter was in talks to direct, but when he ended up passing on it Steve Miner was brought on. Miner started off his career working on such films as Last House on the Left and Friday the 13th and made his directorial debut in 1981 with Friday the 13th Part 2, which of course was also Jason’s debut as the killer. Steve Miner than followed that up with Friday the 13th Part 3 so he’s no stranger to slasher films. Miner also directed such films as House, Soul Man and Warlock and made the underrated comedy My Father the Hero. Miner first worked with Jamie Lee Curtis on the film Forever Young, which also starred Mel Gibson and working with Jamie Lee on that film is what lead to him getting H20. Miner also directed various TV shows from the Wonder Years, the Practice, Chicago Hope, Dawson’s Creek and Psych to name a few. Steve Miner can be seen as a director for hire as he’s worked in various different genres and has more or less found success in them all, but its his work in the horror genre he’s most associated with. Whatever trend is popular at the time, Miner is a filmmaker that can deliver a film within the style of whatever trend is popular at that time. Many cite H20 as the one film in the series that captures the essence of the original, but I’d actually disagree with that. While there are clear homages to the original and Miner does take some cues from John Carpenter, but he crafts a more Scream like atmosphere. H20 is fun and well paced for most of the film, but the middle H20 does sort of hit a standstill. The one area that H20 follows the original is for a good bulk of the running time it’s a build up with Michael stalking his would be victims and while Steve Miner does create some strong suspense, but these scenes aren’t quite as strong as the original and the middle of the film does slightly lack and I think H20 could have possibly used maybe a death scene or two to keep the pace strong. However despite some slight pace issues, Miner still handles the middle sections well, but while entertaining it isn’t quite as strong as the opening and closing acts. Speaking of the closing Steve Miner very much gets the film back on track with quite an exciting final act. H20 only runs at 86-minutes and without credits it clocks in at under 80-minutes so the film moves on pretty fast and even if I felt there were some pace issues in the middle it’s never boring by any means and with the brief running time any lulls don’t last long. With H20 Miner directs one of the stronger sequels and one of my favorite horror films of the 90s. The following year after H20, Steve Miner would direct Lake Placid, which was written by the legendary TV writer/producer David E. Kelley and in my opinion was Miner’s best film, but H20 easily ranks as one of his best.

H20 marked the first film without Donald Pleasence in his iconic role of Dr. Loomis (not counting Halloween 3 of course). When I first saw H20 back when it was originally released it did feel a bit weird not seeing Pleasence and even over the years it still feels strange watching a Halloween film without Pleasence who passed away at the age of 75 in 1995, which impacted reshoots for Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. This was also the first Halloween film not set in Haddonfield (again not counting Halloween 3). While it makes perfect sense the setting has changed, but Haddonfield very much became a character in the series. For the most part H20 gets the passing grade from fans of the series and while this one is a lot more Hollywood stylized it also has stated takes the series back to the basics. For me this was the last of the original series and I don’t even acknowledge Halloween: Resurrection, which for me was by far the worst of the series. H20 had the perfect ending to the series, but was ruined with Resurrection, which would have been easier to accept if the film turned out well, which for me and many others it sure didn’t. Overall Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later was a nice return to form for the series and was great having Jamie Lee Curtis return and it also helped make up to some degree the loss of Donald Pleasence. It’s a little annoying that Halloween 4-6 were ignored, but as stated there was little choice due to the formula getting overly complicated and more importantly would just have far too many questions. H20 was an overall entertaining film that should please most fans of the series.










The Invasion (2007) Review

Posted in Invasion with tags , , , on October 8, 2014 by Last Road Reviews


** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Do Not Trust Anyone. Do Not Show Emotion. Do Not Fall Asleep.

Release Date- August 17th, 2007

Running Time- 99-Minutes

Rating- PG-13

Screenplay- David Kajganich

Director- Oliver Hirschbiegel

Starring- Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeremy Northam, Jeffrey Wright with Roger Rees and Veronica Cartwright

Released in 2007 the Invasion is the 4th adaption of the classic novel the Body Snatchers written by Jack Finney back in 1955, which was later retitled to Invasion of the Body Snatchers to match the film. The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which was released in 1956 is one of the greatest sci-fi/horror films of all time and actually improves upon the terrific novel and I’d rate the film as one of my personal favorites as its simply a great chiller. The 1978 remake is one of the few remakes I’d rate higher than the original as it improves on an already great film and what the film added takes it to another level. To me the 1978 version is quite chilling with an incredible amount of paranoia as within the first couple of minutes the tension already starts building. The 3rd version titled Body Snatchers was a solid film with some eerie moments and even though I liked the film its far below the first two films, which brings us to the Invasion. The problem here is the film is quite pointless as another version really wasn’t needed. One could even say that about Body Snatchers and while that film added nothing new it was still a fair enough film. The Invasion attempts to bring a new twist on the concept, but it just didn’t work unlike the 78 version, which shares a few scenes in common with the original, but than adds its own twist on things, but still keeps true to the concept without rehashing it. Even Body Snatchers to some degree avoided being a rehash and while the Invasion more or less avoids that it does stray from the concept and just comes across as a cheap knockoff.

I love films about alien invasions with my favorite kind being films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers where just by looking you can’t tell the difference between a human and alien. I’d rate the first two in the series very highly with again the 78 version being my favorite and one of my very favorite films of all time. Even if I don’t rate Body Snatchers as highly its still an enjoyable film as I’m just a sucker for the concept and when I first saw the Invasion I quite enjoyed it and really didn’t get the dislike the film seemed to get. While it was for me far inferior to the first two films I’d rate it just a notch below Body Snatchers, but upon revisiting the film it just doesn’t quite hold up and I found it quite a chore to sit through. Like I said I just love alien invasion films in this style I also loved the Faculty and They Live, which puts a nice twist on the alien invasion film, but the Invasion was for the most part a failure with some decent, but poorly executed ideas. Based off my last viewing I’m not even sure why I liked the film in the first place and as the film went on I found myself losing interest, which was quite a departure from my first viewing. Perhaps with all the negative feedback and being such a fan of the first two I had lowered expectations? Whatever the reason is the 2nd time around I found the Invasion a mess. The film was plagued by production troubles as it went through massive rewrites and reshoots and upon my first viewing I didn’t really notice it, but seeing it again its quite clear and the flow of the film is quite sloppy.

After returning to earth a space shuttle explodes and brings an alien virus that takes over the human population.

The screenplay was written by David Kajganich and apparently Andy & Lana Wachowski were brought in for rewrites. The script as mentioned as a few decent ideas, but the script is quite sloppy and these ideas fail. I’d have to see Kajganich’s final draft to fairly say if the issues were his writing or rewrites, but unlike the past 3 versions the characters are all bland and at least for me I didn’t find myself really caring if anyone survived. As silly as it might sound my biggest gripe is the fact there aren’t any pods. I’ll give Kajganich credit for trying to bring something new to the series when the easier thing to do would be just follow the exact same formula as the past three films, but in the end the film just feels like a cheap knockoff. The one aspect of the script I did like was on how when everything is normal again our world is again plagued by violence and war and this had it been used more throughout the film could have added another dimension to the film.

The Invasion was directed Oliver Hirschbiegel a German filmmaker who with this film made his American debut and with all the production troubles Hirschbiegel was later replaced with James McTeigue for reshoots however only Hirschbiegel is credited and I have no idea, which filmmaker is responsible for what. While the Invasion attempts to build mystery and suspense from the start of the picture it never quite works. Despite the films best intentions it never quite has the paranoia of the other versions in particular the 78 version. The pacing can be quite sluggish in spots and as stated the film never becomes as eerie and suspenseful as it tries to be. The flow of the film is also a bit sloppy, which most likely has to do with two different filmmakers. Some of the other problems are some of the worst CGI I’ve seen in a Hollywood release and the only thing worse is the atrocious editing where the film jumps all over the place with no flow. I’d have to see the original cut by Oliver Hirschbiegel, but quite honestly I’m not sure how much better the Invasion would fair since the entire film has issues, but I do think rewrites and reshoots added to the problem.

Another issue was the casting. While Nicole Kidman is a very good actress I’m not sure she was the right choice and while she was failed by the writing, Kidman offers nothing interesting in the role of Carol Bennell. The one area this remains true is you can trick the aliens by showing no emotion and if one didn’t know any better you would think Kidman’s character was an alien the entire film as she shows zero emotion. Daniel Craig while onset learned he was cast as James Bond in Casino Royale and Craig has become my favorite Bond, but like Kidman he wasn’t right for this film and his performance suffers from the same issues. Its not that their acting was poor, but rather quite boring. The only real bright spot was Veronica Cartwright who appeared in the 1978 remake.

Overall the Invasion just simply a subpar film and I’m sure some of these issues are due to rewrites and reshoots, but I still think the film would have issues. As stated I enjoyed it upon my first viewing, but the 2nd time around I’d keep checking how much time was left. It was a nice idea to try and inject something new to the series, but again it just feels like a poor knockoff film.






Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) Theatrical Version

Posted in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (Theatrical Version) with tags , , on October 7, 2014 by Last Road Reviews


** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Terror Never Rests in Peace.

Release Date- September 29th, 1995

Running Time- 88-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Daniel Farrands

Director- Joe Chappelle

Starring- Donald Pleasence, Marianne Hagan, Paul Rudd, Kim Darby, Bradford English, and Mitch Ryan as Dr. Terence Wynn

Released in 1995 Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers draws a lot of mixed reactions from fans of the Halloween franchise; a small minority hails it as one of the best sequels of the series and many fans see it as the worst or one of the weaker installments. While I can see both sides of the argument I personally would rate this as one of the weaker installments with the worst in the series at least for me is by far Halloween: Resurrection. The longer a franchise goes on there comes a time when rehashing previous parts just doesn’t work anymore and often we see a series go in a totally different direction or a backstory is introduced. The Curse of Michael Myers introduces a backstory, which explains the mystery behind what drives Michael Myers (George Wilbur) to kill and the big question on the identity of the man in black, which was introduced in Halloween 5 is finally answered. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers takes the series in a new direction and as stated it was met with very mixed reviews. There are moments when the Curse of Michael Myers does feel unrelated like it was another film and rewritten to be a Halloween film (mostly the opening and closing acts).

Daniel Farrands had the tough task of making sense out of the whole man in black. I’ll be the first to admit I enjoy Halloween 5 perhaps more than I should and the man in black did bring a bit of mystery to the film, but it also backed the series into a corner as well. The ending of Halloween 5 had a great cliffhanger and regardless of what anyone thought about the actual film it did get fans talking, but again I go back to how it backed the series into a corner and no matter what direction the film took fans would still be split. It took 6-years until Halloween 5 was followed up and after the 4th and 5th film were made independently the series moved over to Dimension films, which of course is the Weinsteins.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers was very much a cursed production that was plagued by too many different people with different ideas on how the film should go. Daniel Farrands wrote a number of drafts for the film and even after the film started shooting it was still going through rewrites and this led to reshoots that resulted in two very different cuts of the film. I’ve read some of the different drafts and quite honestly I was never overly fond of them and that has nothing to do with Daniel Farrands as a writer since I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the direction the film took, but in his defense he didn’t exactly have ideal conditions either. I fully understand the film industry and how things like this can be common, but you’d think by the time shooting started everyone would finally be on the same page, but obviously not.

The screenplay by Daniel Farrands is quite a mess, which again isn’t on him since the script went through a number of rewrites and as stated reshoots and apparently producer Paul Freeman was involved with some of the rewrites as was director Joe Chappelle who from what I can gather rewrote a good portion of the final act. Due to all the outside interference the script is quite sloppy and just a complete mess. This time around we get a deeper explanation for what drives Michael to kill and my biggest issue is that at least for me is it sort of takes away the boogeyman aspect of Michael Myers. I’ll give Farrands credit for attempting to breathe new life into the series rather than take the easy way out and simply rewrite John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s script, which is more or less what the other writers did. The concept of thorn and the occult angle was quite interesting, but I can’t help but feel it would have worked better if it was its own film and not Halloween. I understand at some point in a franchise you have to give an explanation in an attempt to keep things fresh and bring the series into a new direction, but I felt it was the wrong move in explaining Michael’s motives too deeply. Again I found the idea interesting, but it just strays a little too much at times. If this was the 2nd film or maybe even the 3rd the concept of thorn might have worked a little better. However with all the rewrites and reshoots the whole thorn angle becomes quite sloppy and by the time the final act rolls around plot ideas are completely dropped in favor of carnage and it sort of rules everything that came before pointless, which isn’t because of Daniel Farrands, but since he’s listed as the writer he gets the blame, which isn’t fair. However with the shortcomings of the script in regards to the plot the one area where I did feel Farrands did a good job was with the characters and while they weren’t anything epic they are fairly decently developed and add a little more to the movie than simply victims for Michael. Kara Strode (Hagan) was a solid character and doesn’t get the credit she deserves due to the mass opinion on the movie and it was interesting seeing Tommy Doyle (Rudd) again and seeing what has become of him since the original film. In many ways Tommy is sort of the new Loomis (Pleasence). Apparently it was Joe Chappelle who wanted to use less of Loomis whereas in the Producer’s Cut, Loomis has a much larger role. While I liked Tommy quite a bit I don’t think the character was strong enough to carry the film. With all that said I felt Farrands did a nice job with the characters, but too bad it’s often overlooked.

Director Joe Chappelle delivers a mostly sloppy and uninspired movie; according to some of the cast apparently all he cared about was a securing a 3-picture deal from Dimension Films. Chappelle’s scenes have no real sense of pacing and it’s mostly devoid of any suspense; the death scenes are poorly set up and the whole production is very pedestrian. Chappelle delivers a few decent scenes in terms of suspense, but not enough to make much out of the film and its also brought down by the terrible score and editing (both are far better in the Producer’s Cut). Even though I felt the script was a bit of a mess with the right director it could have sort of salvaged the movie, but instead Joe Chappelle just makes even more of a mess out of everything as he never really manages any sense of atmosphere or as mentioned suspense and while the sequels may not exactly be classics of the genre they did at least offer a decent feel of suspense at times, but Curse of Michael Myers mostly lacks in every area and the overall production feels like a DTV film.

Overall Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers is quite a mess of a film plagued by too many rewrites and than reshoots. As mentioned the score and editing were quite awful and I wonder who decided they were a good idea? That in part zaps any possible suspense the film had going for it. While my review might sound quite harsh the film does have its moments and I can tolerate it and even watch it every so often, but I’d recommend watching the Producer’s Cut instead.


Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) Producer’s Cut

Posted in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (Producer's Cut) with tags on October 6, 2014 by Last Road Reviews


*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- The Only Thing More Terrifying Than How It Began, Is How It Will End

Release Date- September 23rd, 2014

Running Time- 95-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Daniel Farrands

Director- Joe Chappelle

Starring- Donald Pleasence, Marianne Hagan, Paul Rudd, Kim Darby, Bradford English, and Mitch Ryan as Dr. Terence Wynn

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, which had the working title of Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers had quite an interesting journey to the screen. Daniel Farrands was hired to write the script and it went through several different drafts. I’ve read a couple of the unused drafts online and while I can’t vouch for how legit they are I was never really fond of any of the scripts I read and in my review for the theatrical cut I called his script mess, which really wasn’t totally on Farrands. After the film was shot it went through more rewrites and than reshoots. Typically when a film is reshot its only a few scenes at least in most cases and the good portion of the film is the same with the exception of a few minutes, but in the case of Halloween 6 its roughly 40-minutes or so of differences and it is in many ways two different films and you could maybe watch both versions back to back and not be too bored. I read all about the Producers Cut, but reading about it and seeing it are two totally different things and reviews were generally more positive with the majority hailing it as a far superior version whereas as a few reviews say it was the worse of the two. The only footage I saw was when Halloween 6 would air on TV and due to edits made for content and time a few scenes from the Producers Cut were added in (I’ll get more into that a little later). Through a friend I was able to see a VHS copy and I can’t say I was overly impressed than a few years after that I purchased a bootleg DVD and still wasn’t overly fond of it, but seeing as both copies were simply atrocious for me personally I had trouble getting into it. And now with the Halloween Collection blu-ray set a better copy can now be seen in HD no less. The Producers Cut is more about the Thorn Curse than the theatrical version and while I can’t say I loved the concept it does play out a little better here than in the theatrical cut, but I prefer this version for various reasons. Of all the Halloween films Halloween 6 for me would rate towards the bottom and the only film I would rank lower would be Halloween: Resurrection. However with that said I don’t exactly hate Halloween 6 as it does have its moments, but the theatrical and Producers Cut of the film is quite a mess in spots for different reasons. Perhaps its because of the numerous rewrites? I cannot fairly answer that question without reading what Daniel Farrands submitted as his final draft. My favorite version (though still not very good) is actually the TV version and while most of the footage is that of the theatrical cut it does however feature some of the stronger scenes from the Producers Cut and with a few more edits mixing it up a little more it could have been a little better still. But that’s starting to get off topic.

It’s very common in horror franchises that as they go on more is explained. Freddy’s Dead and Jason Goes to Hell both gave their villain a backstory and with Halloween 6, Michael Myers now gets a backstory. I guess the longer a series goes on at some point you have to go into more detail in an attempt to keep things fresh even if Halloween 6 may explain a little too much, but lets be honest at this stage there’s no mystery left. We know what Michael is gonna do even if no reasons for why are given. Halloween 5 kind of started it with the mark on Michael’s wrist and introducing the Man in Black who also had the mark. In Halloween 5 nobody knew what this mark was, though there was a scene after Michael survives the mine shaft and it does bring in occult elements, but these scenes were reshot with the old hermit. Don Shanks who played Michael Myers in part 5, also played the Man in Black as one idea was he would end up being Michael’s twin brother. Even if Thorn wasn’t the intention this again did back the series into a corner and something had to be explained and honestly no matter what direction Halloween 6 took it would still no doubt be mixed. I personally like Halloween 5 always did and I think I like it for more of what it could have been rather than what it was and some people dislike Halloween 5 because of 6, which isn’t really fair, but I guess again I’m getting off topic. It took 6-years before we finally found out just who this Man in Black was and just one last thing before I get into that. The ending of Halloween 5 the Man in Black shoots up the Haddonfield police department killing everyone inside and when we learn his identity in 6 I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but laugh thinking really this guy did all that damage? I understand a cop or two in the element of surprise, but this guy managed to do all that damage? For me the biggest problem with Halloween 6 is it explains way too much (even the theatrical version) it strips away Michael’s boogeyman factor, but again I go back to what I said before on by this point we may not know why, but the mystery of the character is still more or less gone. The Producer’s Cut as stated has its issues, but the film generally flows better and while even this cut isn’t exactly the original intentions, but according to Daniel Farrands and Malek Akkad it’s much closer to that original intent than the theatrical and this is the preferred version for both of them.

The Producers Cut has a slightly different and in my opinion far better score. Gone is the annoying guitar usage as well as the other changes. The P-Cut uses the traditional score and I don’t get why it was even changed in the first place as the score used here is far more effective. Other changes are some of the deaths scenes. For instance Jamie (J.C. Brandy) doesn’t get killed by Michael in the opening act, but instead is killed later in the film while in a coma by the Man in Black. The death has drawn mixed feelings, but one thing I sort of agree with on those who prefer her P-Cut death is Michael never gets her. At some point throughout the series, Michael killed just about everyone, but while he got Rachel and even Laurie he never managed to kill Jamie. John Strode (English) also has a different death and Beth (Mariah O’Brien) is basically the same only edited a little different and its’s far more effective here as is John Strode’s death for that matter. The opening narration is done by Dr. Loomis (Pleasence) rather than Tommy Doyle (Rudd). We also see Jamie and Michael’s abduction after the events of Halloween 5. Some differences are as simple as just extended scenes or even alternate shots, but in my opinion all the differences make this film more effective even if still flawed. The only thing more annoying than the score in the theatrical cut was the terrible flash editing, which isn’t present here. The final act of the film is also quite different as well and features far less carnage and the final act to both films have their problems, but plays out better here mainly due to the editing, score and the fact it doesn’t drop plot lines developed over the duration of the film like the theatrical cut.

As I mentioned I never really fond of any draft I read by Daniel Farrands, but that has more to do with me not really liking the whole thorn concept and some of the issues again could possibly be blamed on various rewrites. The theatrical cut the script is a total mess as ideas are simply dropped in the final act and there’s just no real flow. Farrands script for the Producer’s Cut is better written and has a better flow and actually makes a bit more sense. From what I’ve read the original intention was sort of Rosemary’s Baby meets Halloween and while not only is Rosemary’s Baby a great horror film, but a great film in general, however it’s nothing like Halloween and the two mixed together doesn’t really fit. In the final act of the theatrical cut Michael goes on a rampage and slaughters the cult members whereas here that doesn’t happen and they seem to have more control over him (though Farrands says that wasn’t his intentions) and this and reasons given for what drives Michael does again sort of strip his boogeyman factor to some degree at least. In Halloween 5 as I mentioned nobody really knew who the man in black was. There were a couple of ideas, but nobody really knew and the problem with 6 is no matter what direction Daniel Farrands took people would have issues with as everybody at the time had their own theory and even over the years some fans debate on other directions it could have gone. Unlike other franchises that develop a backstory that more often than not have no connection to past films, the whole thorn isn’t as far removed as people think as in Halloween II, Dr. Loomis does mention Celtic rituals and I’m sure Farrands got some of his ideas from that scene. The script is by no means perfect here, but it is better written than the theatrical version. The only thing I liked about the script in the theatrical cut were the characters and in this version they work just as well and some such as Loomis and Dr. Wynn work better as their roles are a bit bigger. Again even in this cut the script has issues and some scenes were rewritten by other people, but this script is a lot more focused and again just flows better.

Some of the blame for Halloween 6 being a mess does fall on director Joe Chappelle, but he also had a lot of outside interference. The one area where the P-Cut is vastly better is the pacing. The P-Cut runs at 95-minutes whereas the Theatrical runs at 88-minutes, but this version flows at a much better pace. There’s a decent level of suspense in spots, but overall it does lack, but many scenes play out far better here, which has nothing to do with the direction, but the score and editing. Joe Chappelle doesn’t capture the atmosphere of the series and one thing I always loved about the series were the use of locations in particular 4 & 5 being shot in Utah, but Chappelle doesn’t in my opinion really use his locations as well. While Chappelle does deliver some decent suspense in spots I personally felt there was a bit more he could have done. The death scenes are well staged and not as graphic as the theatrical cut, which I felt actually works in the Producer’s Cut’s favor. Joe Chappelle gets a lot of heat from fans of the series, which is easy to understand. At the end of the day he went with the studio and I can’t say I blame him as he was early into his career. Even with the issues in the Producer’s Cut the film is much better directed even if it isn’t perfect. But in the theatrical cut, Chappelle butchers the film by dropping plots and adding more violence and again I don’t blame him for following orders, but there was a missed chance here for something more, but all in all, Chappelle makes a more competent film with the Producer’s Cut.

Over the years the Producer’s Cut has gained a cult following and as I mentioned the majority seem to favor this version and I often wonder if this version had been released instead would the reviews still be as kind? Some of the issues people complain about are still present here, but yet some still list this as one of the better sequels and I can’t help but think a lot of it stems from being quite difficult to obtain at one point as a lot of underground films seem to get much praise and whenever a studio intervenes people automatically are against it. In the case of Halloween 6 the studio was wrong, but there are still issues with this version. The way Tommy stops Michael wasn’t written by Farrands and the scene is quite silly I understand the meaning, but its rocks! Another thing I really wanna mention is in this cut its implied Michael is the father of Jamie’s baby, but in the audio commentary, Daniel Farrands says that wasn’t quite his intentions. When compared to the theatrical version this is a much better version, but this one again flows better and feels like one movie whereas the theatrical version is a mess that is easy to tell went through reshoots. I also think the score and editing are a major factor in why this is better as well.

Overall the Producer’s Cut again has its issues, but is generally the better film and I enjoyed more than I thought I would. I applaud Daniel Farrands for trying to mix things up, but Halloween 6 strays a bit too much from not only the slasher formula, but the Halloween formula. The most successful slasher films are the ones that keep true to the formula. Even in franchises the ones that begin to stray are the ones most disliked. I’m glad Farrands cared enough to try and breathe new life into the series and there are ways to do your own thing without straying and while to some degree, Daniel Farrands does that, but at times it does almost feel like an unrelated film only altered to make it a Halloween film.

The theatrical version was released September 29th, 1995 and the official release of the Producer’s Cut was released part of the Halloween Collection by Anchor Bay and Scream Factory on September 23rd, 2014, which is almost exactly 19-years since the original release. The bootleg versions were atrocious and barley watchable so anything would be an upgrade, but the HD quality here is fantastic with a strong audio track. The disc is also jam packed with features and this in my opinion might be top 5 releases by Scream Factory.



Slugs: The Movie (1988) Review

Posted in Slugs: The Movie with tags , , , on October 3, 2014 by Last Road Reviews


*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- They Ooze. They Slime. They Kill.

Release Date- September 16th, 1988

Running Time- 89-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Ron Gantman (Novel- Shaun Hutson)

Director- J.P. Simon

Starring- Michael Garfield, Kim Terry, Philip MacHale, Santiago Alvarez, John Battaglia

Slugs was released in 1988 and was directed by Juan Piquer Simon under the name J.P. Simon and he’s also used the name J. Simon and he’s been dubbed the Spanish Ed Wood and a couple of his films have even played on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Juan Piquer Simon is probably best known to horror fans for the 1982 cult classic so bad it’s good Pieces. I first saw Pieces back in the 80s on VHS (how retro is that) and its a movie I never forgot. I saw so many horror films back in the 80s that years later I would rent or buy something thinking I’ve never seen it only to start watching and remember it, but Pieces I never forgot. As a kid I thought it was one of the greats, but as a kid a film featuring some nudity and a whole lot of gore is gonna be a major appeal. When I finally saw Pieces again as an adult after not seeing it for several of years I didn’t quite see it as one of the greats anymore, but I still loved the film for all its idiocy. I first saw Slugs about 2006 and even though Pieces was the only film by J. Simon I saw he was a favorite filmmaker of mine and Slugs is just another reason why I love this guy. While not as gory as Pieces, Slugs is just a campy good time that matches Pieces in the fun factor. I also saw Satan’s Blood in which, Piquer has a producers credit and according to the credits on IMDb also did some uncredited directing.

Juan Piquer Simon truly was the Spanish Ed Wood and that’s not meant as an insult since I enjoy some of Wood’s work, but in terms of styles they are a lot a like. I actually see Pieces as J. Simon’s Plan 9 from Outer Space as both are meant to be serious, but are high on camp and both have odd random plot points that have nothing to do with the film. Slugs is in someways semi-forgotten despite a couple of DVD releases and its a film that deserves more of a following as its such a fun film. The film is quite absurd, but the fun factor is through the roof. While many fans of the director would most likely cite Pieces as their favorite film by J. Simon and that’s a great choice and the gore F/X for a low budget splatter film look terrific, but me I think I might favor Slugs, but its very close and I often change my mind. I love the full title Slugs: The Movie. I guess when people went to see this in theaters perhaps just to make sure they know its a film just title it Slugs: The Movie. That just kind of makes me laugh I mean what else would it be?

Mutated man eating slugs begin to feast on the people of a small New York town.

The screenplay by Ron Gantman was based off a novel by Shaun Hutson, which I have never read so I have no idea how much they have it common. The script by Gantman is highly entertaining due to the silly nature of the absurd plot. The film is set on Halloween with the final act on Halloween night, but the setting really has nothing to do with the film since its just a passing mention and there aren’t even any decorations. Characters are actually fairly decent and while they may not have a whole lot of depth they are however better developed than most would assume going in and more importantly the characters are a lot of fun. I’m not sure how much of the campy aspects of the script were intentional, though I assume some were, but most weren’t, but regardless Slugs is high on camp value with some truly hysterical dialogue. This would have to be my favorite exchange.

Kim: Did you hear about Harold and Jean Morris?

Mike: Nope, why?

Kim: They’re dead.

Mike: Come on now.

Kim: Yeah, I heard it on the news. There was some sort of explosion in their greenhouse. They were both inside.

Mike: Wha-Wait a second, how’d this happen?

Kim: No one knows.

Mike: Ah, Jesus. They were nice people. I liked them a lot.

Kim: I know, I did too.

And here’s possibly my favorite bit of dialogue;

Frank: You ain’t got the right to declare happy birthday. Not in this town.

As director J.P. Simon crafts a fun, but also slightly sluggishly paced film. From the start intentional or not, Simon sets up a fun tone. The pace as mentioned can be a bit sluggish in spots and while Slugs is never boring it can feel a little overly long despite running at only 89-minutes. However the film is also quite fun and while nowhere near as gory as Pieces, J.P. Simon still stages some excellent gore scenes that can be quite gruesome. There really isn’t much suspense, but there are some effective scenes such as after a couple has sex the floor is covered with 100s of Slugs. J.P. Simon lives up to the Spanish Ed Wood title with a silly, but often fun film that while has some pacing issues is still a good time. Juan Piquer Simon would pass away in January 8th, 2011 at the age of of 75.

One thing that never fails to make me laugh is the main character played by Michael Garfield his name in the film is Mike Brady and every time he’s called by his full name I think of Robert Reed from the Brady Bunch as on the show his name was Mike Brady. And the name Mike or even his full name is mentioned some many times its actually quite funny.

The score by Tim Souster is also a highlight as its often campy and more often than not doesn’t fit in with what’s happening onscreen and it feels as if Souster was composing a different horror film and it was just applied here. And lastly Frank Brana who fans should recognize from Pieces has a small role as Frank Phillips.

Overall Slugs is quite enjoyable despite some issues I had with the film its still quite fun. Fans of schlock cinema should enjoy.



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