Red Balloons (It, 1990)

It_1990_posterStephen Kings has had many stories brought to the screen with varying success.  In 1990 he had a good year.  We saw the release of Misery and the birth of the “Stephen King Mini-Series Event” on ABC.

The film begins with a young girl being attacked and killed.  We the audience, of course, know it is Pennywise…but while the police are doing their work, Mike Hanlon, Local Librarian, shows up.  He finds a picture from his past, and he knows it is time to bring all his friends back home to make good on a promise.

As Mike calls each friend, they seem almost confused as to who Mike is, but we get treated to extended flashbacks to their childhoods thirty years prior.

The kids discovered an evil that feed in the town every thirty years.  They believed they were able to defeat the creature, but promised to return home if the creature ever came back.  And now that it has, the now grown group of friends return to Derry to try and destroy it forever.  Of course, Pennywise tries to prey on their fears and use as many tricks to stop them as he can.  but they refuse to back down and run away.

The cast is pretty solid.  John Ritter is Ben, former fat kid  Ben who is now a hard drinking and partying architect.  Annette O’Toole is grown up Bev who married a man as abusive as her father.  Harry Anderson is a little over the top hamming it up as comedian Richie Tozier (young Ritchie is played by Seth Green).  Really, the whole cast is pretty good.

Of course, what really make the mini-series memorable is the performance of Tim Curry as Pennywise.  It is a highly memorable turn and a highlight of Curry’s career.

Veteran horror director Tommy Lee Wallace does pretty good with his budget.  He makes sure to focus on the skills of his stars to sell the intensity of moments.  And that is a good thing.  Why?

Probably the biggest sore spot for It is it’s visual effects.  Some are good low budget effects.  And you do not forget look of Pennywise.  But the creature design for the final battle of the film is…uh,..  disappointing.

It is a bit more successful than many of the film adaptions of King’s horror work because it has room to breathe.  It is carried more by it’s performances than anything else.  And while some of it can feel almost hokey today, it still is a fun watch.

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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