Archive for Donald Pleasence

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) Review

Posted in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers with tags , , , , , , on October 31, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS

*** ½ Out of 5

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

Release Date- October 21st, 1988

Running Time- 88-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Alan McElroy

Director- Dwight H. Little

Starring- Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris, Sasha Jenson, Beau Starr, George P. Wilbur

Released in 1988 Halloween 4 was the first one I saw in cinemas as I saw the previous 3 on VHS. As a fan of the series I couldn’t have been more excited seeing this on the big screen and it didn’t disappoint. Halloween 4 was one of my favorites of the series and one of my favorite horror films, but over the years for some reason Halloween 4 hasn’t quite held up for me and while I still enjoy it, but nowhere near as much as I once did and I can find myself at times losing focus. If anything Halloween 4 has become one of those films I need to be in the right mood for. When it comes to slasher films of the 80s they were all made possible due to the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween. After Halloween II in 1981 the franchise went in a different direction with Halloween 3: Season of the Witch in 1982, which ended up being a failure. In the 6-years between Halloween 3 and Halloween 4 we saw the emergence of A Nightmare on Elm Street and while the Friday the 13th films weren’t pulling in as much money as the earlier parts they were still turning a profit and Jason like Freddy was now a pop culture icon so Halloween 4 goes back to basics and brings back the character that started it all. By the time the late 80s rolled around there was still some life left in the slasher film, but they weren’t pulling in the numbers they once did and while many would later become cult classics it was Elm Street and Friday the 13th making most of the impact. By this point these films were playing more up to the F/X and Halloween 4 is no different as of this time it was the most graphic, but Halloween 4 attempts at being a legit suspense filled film to go along with the F/X. That’s what I enjoy about the Halloween series is they always tried to keep the movies being legit horror films even if they did add more violence and even the more over the top kills never got cartoonish. Halloween 4 does retain a lot of what made the original film the classic it is and in someways Halloween 4 is more or less the kind of film the original would have been had it been made in 1988. However that’s also some of the problems as it can at times rehash the original and as well as it turned out there was just that little something missing and while I personally wouldn’t rate this as my favorite sequel it really isn’t difficult to understand why so many do.

It’s been 10-years since Michael Myers (Wilbur) went on a killing spree on Halloween in 1978. For the past 10-years Michael has been in a coma and is being transferred on all nights Halloween Eve, but of course you can’t keep a good villain down and Michael escapes and sets off to Haddonfield this time in search of his young nice Jamie Lloyd (Harris) while Dr. Loomis (Pleasence) returns as well in hopes to stop Michael once and for all.

The screenplay was written by Alan B. McElroy who also wrote the Brandon Lee film Rapid Fire, which was actually directed by Dwight H. Little and McElroy would also write Spawn and Wrong Turn. From a pure writing side of things Halloween 4 is perhaps the best written sequel of the series and actually I think the script is just a notch below the original. Apparently the script was written in 10-days to avoid the writers strike, but it really doesn’t feel rushed for the most part. McElroy crafts solid characters with some depth and even if they’re a bit cliched since again the slasher film was done to death by this point, but the characters are actually fairly strong and can to some degree carry the film. In terms of characters, Halloween 4 is one of the strongest if not the strongest of the series. Rather than write faceless victims simply there to be killed by Myers, but McElroy takes his time and develops them. The biggest strength of Halloween 4 is also its biggest weakness; instead of being your typical run of the mill slasher movie the McElroy (and the director Dwight Little) try and be more than that. The plotting is simple, but effective and while the script didn’t feel rushed perhaps with more time Alan McElroy could have fine tuned it a bit more. Despite being generally well written it does suffer from just having been done so many times it does take away from the film.

Halloween 4 was directed by Dwight H. Little who also directed the Stevan Segal action film Marked for Death and the already mentioned Brandon Lee film Rapid Fire. Dwight Little has also been involved with many TV shows having directed an episode of Freddy’s Nightmares and 2-episodes of 24. Dwight H. Little very early on sets up an eerie tone thanks in part to the excellent opening title sequence and Halloween 4 gets off to a great start with a strong feeling of eerie atmosphere and suspense, but as the film goes on pacing can be a little sluggish in spots and Little very much follows what John Carpenter did with the original only it isn’t quite as effective here. Dwight Little does stage some genuine suspense in spots and strong as the characters are the longer the film goes without any action the pace can begin to slowdown. Halloween 4 also boasts quite a large body count, but there are also a lot of off camera deaths, which can be a bit frustrating as the longer the gaps between on camera deaths that can also slow the pace down. I appreciate the fact both Alan McElroy and Dwight Little avoided making the standard slasher film of the era and created a film built on character and suspense and while I felt that was the films biggest strength, but also its biggest weakness. The first half of the film is the strongest, but its the 2nd half where some of my issues start to come in. There’s always a layer of suspense and looming danger and early on its at its most effective, but does run out of a little bit of steam later on. However with that said Dwight Little also crafts some of the more memorable scenes of the series of the series in the 2nd half. The scenes in the Meeker house during the power outage are very effective and eerie with a great buildup though it is a little overly long and could have used a bit of editing, but the payoff is worth it and of course the rooftop scene is among the best scenes of the series. I really can’t fully explain the issues I had since there’s far more good here.

Halloween 4 has a terrific cast led by Donald Pleasence and while he mostly rehashes dialogue from the original I couldn’t imagine the film without him. Danielle Harris was wise beyond her years and was excellent and one of the few child actors that wasn’t annoying and Ellie Cornell makes for an ideal final girl. This to me was one of the better acted installments.

Overall Halloween 4 is a good film, but after a great start it never in my opinion is fully able to get back on track and while there are many excellent scenes the middle sections can lag and despite the high body count Halloween 4 may have been better served with an extra death scene or 2 on camera. The ending of Halloween 4 was quite chilling so there are a lot of positives here, but like I said something just wasn’t fully working at times, which again stems from just being a little too cliched. As stated I fully get the appeal of Halloween 4 and it’ll always hold a special place for me as it was the first I saw in cinemas, but over the years even though I still enjoy Halloween 4 it just doesn’t quite hold up. Despite my issues with the film it does feature some of the most effective scenes in the series.

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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

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HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS

** 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.

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Halloween II (1981) Review

Posted in Halloween II (1981) with tags , , , , , on October 30, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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HALLOWEEN II

**** Out of 5

Tagline- More of the Night He Came Home

Release Date- October 30th, 1981

Running Time- 92-Mintues

Rating- R

Screenplay- John Carpenter & Debra Hill

Director- Rick Rosenthal

Starring- Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lance Guest, Charles Cyphers, Leo Rossi, Hunter von Leer, Dick Warlock

Released in 1981 Halloween II picks up right where the original film left off and making a sequel to a classic film is never an easy task as it’s often a sitting duck for critics and fans, but on the flipside you have an audience before the film is released. Halloween II is one of the rare sequels held in high regard with some hailing as the best horror sequel and with some even rating higher than the original. I disagree on both accounts and while Halloween II is a solid film with enough jolts to get a passing grade it’s also in my opinion far inferior to the original. As far as 80s slasher goes I would rate Halloween II highly as its better than the bulk of these films and I would label it a classic slasher film, but as a horror film while a case can be made for it I would label just under classic status.

The plot for Halloween II is quite simple and actually there really isn’t much of a plot it’s just simply a continuation from the original film. John Carpenter & Debra Hill return to write the sequel and it’s quite clear based on the script they really didn’t have a whole lot of ideas on where to take the movie. Michael Myers (Warlock) pursues Laurie Strode (Curtis) at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital as Dr. Loomis (Pleasence) continues to search for Michael.

Also at this time the slasher flick was highly popular and Carpenter & Hill are content on following the format of the typical slasher flick of the time, which is ironic since all those films were following the format of the original Halloween. The characters are the typical type that dominated the slasher flick at this point; Halloween II is filled with faceless victims that are only here to add to the body count and none of them really make much of an impact on the movie. The plot of the movie relies far too much on the original and while this might work well through the early parts of the movie the middle sections however is when the plot runs out of steam and Carpenter has admitted he wasn’t sure where to take the movie and that’s how the brother/sister plot came about. It really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and it’s clear it was a spur of the moment idea, and while it doesn’t really make sense if you don’t linger on it one can accept it.

For the majority of the running time Laurie is reduced to being in a hospital bed and there really isn’t anything Laurie adds to the movie and it seems she’s here for the sake of it. Laurie was one of the few characters in a slasher flick that actually had some depth and it’s a shame she doesn’t have a whole lot to do in Halloween II. Dr. Loomis has a little bit more going on than Laurie, but for the most part the script has Loomis repeating what he said in the first film only worded differently. As I stated the characters were one dimensional and were only there to add to the death toll of the movie; the characters have little personality and sadly unlike the original, the characters in Halloween II are the typical faceless victims. Despite the shortcomings of the script, Halloween II isn’t poorly written. Carpenter & Hill make the most out of it and while it’s disappointing the characters aren’t stronger I suppose they serve their purpose and Carpenter & Hill deliver an entertaining script and even with the flaws it’s still better written than the majority of the 80s slasher flicks.

Rick Rosenthal makes his directorial debut and delivers an entertaining, but uneven movie. From the start of the film, Rosenthal does set up an eerie tone and is able to deliver a movie that has some strong suspense and scares and this is one of the better made slasher flicks of the 80s. The pacing can at times lag, but the script can be partly to blame, but horror flicks can still be scary and suspenseful regardless of the script. I’d go as far to say the original Halloween became the classic movie it has due to Carpenter’s direction and music the script was good, but really nothing special. The hospital makes for an eerie setting and while Rosenthal does handle it mostly well, it does however get tiresome seeing Michael walk around the hospital in search of Laurie and most people will put the blame on the script and rightfully so, but again a horror film can succeed despite the script.

Michael is a lot slower in this one than the previous part and at times it’s a little frustrating since if he just moved at the speed he did in the original he would have caught Laurie with rather ease I suppose if one really wanted to they can explain it as Michael being a little bit weaker from being shot at the end of the original. There are times Michael moves at the same pace as he did in the original, but when chasing after Laurie in the final act he moves way too slow and John Carpenter did do some reshoots so perhaps it could be due to having two different filmmakers. For the most part Rick Rosenthal is content on following what John Carpenter did with the original and never really injects his own style to the film. And while if you’re gonna knockoff any filmmaker, Carpenter is a great choice and while this doesn’t hurt the movie it does however make Halloween II feel like a rehash without an identity. However with that said Rick Rosenthal still delivers a well made chiller with some genuine suspense and scares to go along with an eerie atmosphere.

The performances were quite strong for a 80s slasher and while the characters may be one dimensional the acting is a step above the majority of the slasher flicks made in the 80s. Jamie Lee Curtis delivers a good performance, but as I stated she really isn’t given much to work with, which is a shame since an excellent actress gets sort of wasted. Donald Pleasence is a little more over the top this time around and what I love about Pleasence is he could play a role straight like he did in the original Halloween, but he wasn’t afraid to ham things up either. Pleasence walks the line of straight and camp in Halloween II, but delivers an excellent performance and while the character doesn’t add a whole lot at times like always Pleasence is a joy to watch.

When all is said and done Halloween II, while in my opinion not on par with the original it still gets it the job done by being a fairly suspenseful and scary movie and while I think this part lacks what made the original such a groundbreaking masterpiece, Rosenthal still delivers an excellent chiller that’s only really bogged down by being like every other 80s slasher flick, which is a disappointment since the original was a cut above everything that followed, but overall I’d still rate this as one of the better slasher flicks of the 80s and one of the better sequels.

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10 Movies to watch for Halloween Night

Posted in 10 Movies to Watch for Halloween Night with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

This isn’t a top 10 all-time favorite list. It’s only a list for films I feel would make great Halloween night viewing. Also this isn’t in order either.

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Halloween II Lobby Cards

Posted in Halloween II Lobby Cards with tags , , , , , on October 9, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

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Halloween Posters and Lobby Cards (Sequels)

Posted in Halloween Posters and Lobby Cards Vol. 2 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

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John Carpenter’s Halloween Posters and Lobby Cards

Posted in Halloween Posters and Lobby Cards Vol. 1 with tags , , , , , , on October 2, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

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