Unstoppable Trickery (Trick, 2019)

Trick_PosterOne Halloween at a party of the local high schoolers, one student suddenly shocks everyone by slaughtering almost everyone at the party.  The student, nicknamed Trick, is wounded and while in the hospital breaks free, after taking several bullets and falling out a window, he disappears.

While everyone else is sure he is dead, believing he had leaped into the nearby river, Det. Mike Denver is not so convinced.  He believes that Trick is still out there.

The following Halloween, he is proven right as Trick starts appearing in different masks, wearing creepy face makeup beneath. Like Jason or Michael, Trick seems capable of surviving multiple wounds and appearing anywhere at any time.

So, Trick is the latest from Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry, My Bloody Valentine) and screenwriting collaborator Todd Farmer (Drive Angry, My Bloody Valentine and Jason X) have created a fairly by the books action slasher.  This is not bad, as they show they have a pretty solid grasp on the tropes and find a way to explain them in a late film twist. The film is fairly tense with some thrills.

The cast is quite good, led by Omar Epps.  But he is supported by genre vets like Tom Atkins and Jamie Kennedy. And the faces I was less familiar with, such as Kristina Reyes and Ellen Adair were good as well.

As noted, the film is not breaking new ground, but it is a pretty fun and exciting slasher film over all.

Loss of Identity (Bruiser, 2000)

Bruiser_PosterRomero wrote and directed this exploration of identity and what a person is willing to do if they lose any sense of it. Henry Creedlow is a pushover.  His wife is cheating on him, his boss treats him like garbage.  At a work party, his boss’s wife has created blank masks from Henry’s face that people are then to decorate, representing their identity.  Henry leaves his untouched.

What follows is a discovery that the mask no longer comes off…it is his face.  Progressively, Henry becomes aggressive and violent, taking out those who have wronged him.  Only then does he start adding splashes of color to his mask.

As the police close in, Henry plans an elaborate revenge on his boss.  Throughout this, his boss’s wife tries to bring Henry back to reality.

The cast is pretty good, though the standouts are Peter Stormare and Tom Atkins.  Stormare seems to be having a real blast as the over the top sleazebag boss.

The visual motif of the mask is handled quite nicely here.  The changes he makes as he becomes more lost in his killer identity is quite effective.

However, I will say, the final scene of the film is the most “Hollywood horror” ending of Romero’s films.  It feels like it is tacked on.

In the big party finale, the Misfits perform…which seems so weird for this film…but hey, I like the Misfits.

 

Poe-Vision (Two Evil Eyes, 1990)

two_evil_eyes_poster.jpgTwo Evil Eyes is a double feature from George A. Romero and Italian horror icon Dario Argento.  The two tales are Poe inspired tales The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar and The Black Cat.

Romero’s tale is a pretty straight forward.  Jessica Valdemar married Ernest Valdemar for his riches.  She has to keep him alive, but he is nearing death. She is trying to keep her affair with his doctor, Robert Hoffman, secret.  Hoffman is a practitioner of hypnotism and has been hypnotizing Mr. Valdemar.  He dies during one of these sessions, presenting a problem for Jessica.  His will specified he must live to a certain date for her to inherit his money.

Jessica and Robert concoct a plan to freeze the body so they can claim he died after the necessary date.  But there is a hitch.  Valdemar may not be dead.  Moans come from the basement freezer…and eventually they are able to converse with him. Mr. Valdemar warns of others who want to use him to get into our world.  Robert is obsessed with learning more…and it is not meant to end well.

Argento’s the Black Cat follows crime scene photographer Roderick Usher.  He is following a series of murders seemingly inspired by the stories of Edgar Allen Poe.  Meanwhile, his girlfriend has adopted a stray feral cat.  When he kills the cat in a fit of rage, in spite of lying about it, his girlfriend kicks him out, certain of his guilt.  But the cat keeps coming back.  What ends up playing out is a gruesome telltale heart story.

Both stories have a great cast of horror veterans.  Harvey Keitel is particularly good as the unlikeable cat obsessed Usher.  The Black Cat has far more unnecessary gore than Romero’s story, but overall, they both are fairly effective stories.

I Heart New York (Escape From New York, 1981)

Escape-From-New-York-Poster1981’s Escape from New York was a large change from the Fog and Halloween.   There were no supernatural elements and it was not a slasher.  Instead, it was a straight up action film set in the distant future of 1997.  Reagan married Thatcher and they had a kid who became President.  Or something.  Anyways, the president gets stuck in the worlds largest maximum penitentiary.  Also known as New York.

Snake Plissken is coerced into slipping into Manhattan and saving the president.  A pardon is promised.  Of course, nothing turns out to be easy.  Snake ends up with a small band of folks who help him save the President as well as a cassette tape with top secret intel.

This marked the second of several films John made with Kurt Russell.  At the time, Russell was known for a string of Disney films.  The character of Snake Plissken was rugged.  He had an eye-patch, wore a trench-coat…he was a badass anti-hero.  In the end, Plissken is basically an opportunist and an anarchist.  He is not saving the president because he cares.

Carpenter gets action, and has Plissken face several jams, cunningly escaping each one.  His accidental team include a cabbie (named Cabbie, played with dopey charm by Ernest Borgnine), former partner Brain (Harry Dean Stanton) and his girlfriend Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau).  Their biggest impediment is the Duke (Isaak Hayes) who rules Manhattan.

I would say the weirdest thing is that some of the technology seems like it lacked creativity.  Seriously, cassette Tapes???  On the other hand, the create computer graphics with models that create an impressive effect.

For a lower budget action film, Carpenter keeps the story moving as Snake runs a gauntlet of trouble.  It is an exciting and entertaining film.  This is one of Carpenter’s great films, and in the early eighties, he was on a real role.

Wisps (the Fog, 1980)

the-fog-1980-posterAfter two TV movies, John Carpenter returned to the screen with an old fashioned  ghost story.  Telling the tale of small seaside town Antonio Bay, the Fog follows events leading up to their Centennial.  The town is planning to celebrate the near mythic four founders of the town.  In the days leading up, there are mysterious events.  Add a dense, unnatural fog.  The Fog is not the scary part…there is something in the fog.  Something cruel and angry.

Only a few townspeople know the true history.  Father Malone is a tortured priest who has kept the secret.  And the rest of the town continues on oblivious, writing off his warnings.  But people are starting to discover some bizarre incidents.  They find a ship that appears abandoned, until they find a sea ravaged body.  A body that gets up once on land.  There are knocks at doors, but there is nothing there.  When the fog finally overtakes the town, the vengeful spirits start to decimate the town, while some race to save others.

This is a wonderfully classic haunting story.  The characters are interconnected by the narration of Stevie Wayne, the local DJ who works in a converted lighthouse (it is, of course, related to the horrific history of Antonio Bay).   As Stevie, Adrienne Barbeau has a sexy and raspy tone.  Stevie is a single mother who is separated from her son, and her only way to communicate the threat is to keep talking on the radio.  She also has a playful and flirtatious relationship with weather man Dan (Carpenter regular Charles Cyphers).  Their relationship is entirely over the phone, but it is engaging.

Tom Atkins (always welcome in any film) is rugged local Nick Castle who picks up hitchhiker Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis, returning from Halloween).  They end up trying to save people after hearing Stevie over the radio.  Hal Holbrook’s weary priest is a great performance.

The effects are so simply that they impress.  The fog crawls through forests, engulfs houses and the ghosts hidden within are emphasized by eerie back lighting.  Carpenter has filled the film with many great little touches, such as using the scenery of the town as a character all its own.

If you want a great and classic ghost story?  You won’t go wrong with the Fog.

The Night He (Never) Came Home (Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, 1982)

halloween-3-season-of-the-witchAs I noted on Monday, Halloween 2 was supposed to be the end of Michael Myers. Halloween 3 was to signal a new era for the franchise. Each movie would have a different cast of characters, story and be unconnected to the previous film. The only connection is that they would generally take place around Halloween. I think the producers believed this would give the franchise a long, long life and keep it from getting stale.

Lo and behold, they were wrong. Very wrong. See, the theory might have worked. If, you know, 1982’s Halloween 3 had been…you know…good. But as anyone who has seen it can attest to? It is…well…not good.

This was the directorial debut for Tommy Lee Wallace, who had gained a lot of experience working behind the scenes with John Carpenter on all his late 70’s work. As debuts go, it’s not very strong, and it’s plot is very…odd.

Spoilers are coming your way…

So, as I noted, Halloween 3 bears no relation to the Michael Myers mythology. Instead it follows down on his luck Doctor Dan Challis (the very great character actor Tom Atkins), who is working the night a crazy man with a mask clutched in his hands drives his car into the hospital apparently killing another man. However, while sifting through the remains of the car, he discovers strange items that do not appear human. The items appear mechanical, but do not appear to be car parts.

While Dan speaks to the old man’s daughter a stranger in a suit walks in and kills the old man. This all leads Dan and the daughter on a chase. They end up in a small town where the Silver Shamrock Corporation manufactures and distributes it variety of Halloween masks (by variety I mean three). The company is run by the Old Man from Robocop (Dan O’Herlihy), named Conal Cochran. Oh sure, he seems like a kindly old man, but this is a horror movie, and if he was truly just a kindly old man? It would be a short and pointless film (instead of a pointless average length film).

No, Mr. Cochran has a devious plan. He has added computer chips to the base pf each mask. At the appointed time, the mask will fire a laser and bugs and snakes will pour out of the head of the wearer. Really. Apparently, this plan involves a commercial that will air simultaneously on every channel. Why the kids are supposed to be excited to watch this commercial flew past me. But when they watch the commercial, along with a big chunk of rock from Stonehenge make the kids heads collapse and spew out snakes and spiders and other unpleasant creatures that will apparently eat the parents. There is even a scene where Cochran shows Dr. Challis the plan by having the top seller of the masks sit with his family in a small room and he kills them. This all apparently has something to druids and and ancient druid worship.

And all his employees are robots, by the way. And this all leads to Challis starting the commercial and then dumping a bunch of the laser micro chips down and they zap all the robots and the Old M-sorry, Cochran gets hit with a pure white beam of light and is…vaporized? We do not really know. Not sure I really care.

After they drive away, the daughter of the old guy from the beginning attacks Dr. Challis in the car. This causes an accident and we discover that she is a robot. Now, has she been a robot since we met her at the start of the film? Since Cochran kidnapped her and Challis? If it was later in the film, what happened to the real her? Is she dead? This is one of the many unanswered questions the film raises. Finally, Challis comes upon a gas station and begs the attendant to use the phone. Just like any other American, he clearly has the phone numbers for every local network memorized as he calls one network, actually, come to think of it, apparently there is just one office for every channel. He only talks to one person and gets multiple channels to stop airing the Silver Shamrock Commercial of Death. All but ONE.

I’ve heard claims from some fans (and the film crew behind the movie) that it just gets an unfair rap, and that if it had not had the heavy burden of Halloween in the title, somehow, people would not think it was a bad movie.

Do not believe it. At all. This would be a bad movie if the title was Evil Old Druids. Or Killer Shamrocks. The story makes no sense, the entire film is incoherent and full of plot holes. Many questions are left unanswered. It lacks suspense or even real scares. Druids, robots, laser beams… where are the leprechauns?! No, this movie is probably the reason that there was not another Halloween film until 1988.

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