Wednesday, October 29, 2014

no musical sleeping bags, no booze, no drugs, no kidding

Not right, getting that hockey mask in the first two minutes of Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. If someone shows up with knives on his fingers...

(Sidenote: Director Steve Miner also directed Friday the 13th Part 2 and III—the one that introduced that hockey mask—and was an associate producer on the original Friday the 13th.)

This movie is an interesting animal. It deliberately ignores 4 and 5 and [6]. Ignores III as well, but who doesn’t? Then—and I admit I don’t really know cars—the car Michael’s driving looks a bit like the one he stole from that other Michael in 5.

Personally, I have a problem with the Laurie setup. At first I liked the numerous prescriptions in the medicine cabinet, except if this were Laurie Strode (and not just Jamie Lee Curtis) returning here, Laurie seems to me like the kind of girl who could get past what happened 20 years ago. I mean, she’d never totally get past it, but she was a girl who knew how to relax—with marijuana, with pumpkin carving, with scary movies. She was a responsible, stable girl who, yeah, found three of her friends dead and was nearly killed herself. Keep in mind that she probably has no meaningful memory of the events she witnessed (and she did not witness most of the murders) in II because she was on some serious painkillers (or whatever they injected her with). Hell, that would probably take away some of the trauma of the events from earlier that same night. Twenty years on, she should really not be obsessing about Michael anymore.

(Silly gag, having Janet Leigh as the secretary who mentions the clogged shower drains. Nice she got to be in this movie, albeit briefly, with her daughter, though.)

So, then there’s this:

Do you think it’s possible that something so tragic can happen to somebody that they never recover from it?

On the one hand, yes. On the other hand, not for Laurie. What happened to her isn’t really what I would call “tragic.” You know:

: causing strong feelings of sadness usually because someone has died in a way that seems very shocking, unfair, etc.

: involving very sad or serious topics : of or relating to tragedy

Ok, somebody died, but Annie and Lynda can’t have been the best friends Laurie ever had.

I don’t like reimagining other people’s stories, generally speaking, but Laurie could have been written back into the Halloween mythos that existed. The Thorn cult held Jamie Lloyd captive for 6 years, they could have held Laurie for close to 20. And, while Dr. Loomis, because of Donald Pleasence’s death, would have had to be written out, Michael’s change of role at the end (of the Producer’s Cut) of [6] would have set up an entirely new dynamic. But, H20 is what it is.

Michael—no longer with any explanation for what he’s doing, waits two decades because reasons, then crosses the country to find Laurie...

And, allow me to interrupt because that Frankenstein bit was both too on-the-nose and entirely wrong; Laurie did not create Michael.

(The bit where Laurie—Keri—tells John he can go to Yosemite as long as he calls and calls and when he feels like he’s called her too many times, call once more—that actually played like the Laurie Strode from the original Halloween.)

The Frankenstein comparison only works if Laurie was responsible for what Michael is, and she just isn’t. Nor does it seem like she feels that she is. There’s a nice setup for what’s coming in this film, I suppose when Molly says Victor Frankenstein only faced the monster when he did because he had nothing left to live for, the monster had taken everything he cared about. But, again, it still only holds up as a comparison if everything Molly says applies.

Back to the premise, though. Michael waited 20 years, crossed the country, then rather than simply kill Laurie and be done with it, he takes his time killing other people. This Michael would have left a string of bodies across the country—just like in 4 he killed everyone in the ambulance and killed that guy at the service station, then killed everyone at the police station just because he could. Michael is systematic, not slow. If Laurie was to be found, it would have been about 19 1/2 years ago.

Nice moment 48 minutes in—Laurie sees Michael, then closes her eyes because, as we’ve already seen, she sees him occasionally when he’s not there, opens them again to see him still there and approaching. Closes her eyes again, but he’s still there, closes them one more time and Will is there. Michael has ducked off to the side because... why not? This is the same Michael who stabbed a nurse in the back right in front of Laurie 20 years ago, but now rather than kill Will on his way to Laurie, Michael hides?

(Clip from Scream 2 is problematic for a couple reasons: 1) that series acknowledges the existence of Halloween as a movie and Jamie Lee Curtis as an actress and 2) that movie is better than this one, less derivative, less an obvious cash grab.)

Judith was 17, Laurie was 17, John is 17—nice detail, though it begs the question. Why?

Meanwhile, I wonder if a teacher in California would really know the name of a mass murderer from a small town in Illinois 20 years earlier. I briefly obsessed over school shootings back in ‘99 with Columbine, did research into earlier shootings, watched a read a hell of a lot of coverage on Columbine specifically—I kinda wanted to use the stuff in a book—but other than Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, I couldn’t tell you today who the other killers were in other school shootings, before or since. That was 15 years ago, but I specifically took an interest in it. Will Brennan doesn’t seem like a guy who would pay much attention to a news story out of Illinois when he was a teenager. Hell, it sounds like Laurie’s story became a Halloween myth to be retold each year, except, why would it? People die on Halloween every year…

And, looking up murders on Halloween got me sidetracked just enough that I almost wasn’t paying attention when Laurie pulls a gun on paramedics in order to steal the coroner’s van, instead of just, you know, shooting Michael’s body a few times, then a few more… then a few more… then a few more. Then the beheading, which will be rather cleverly (I think) retconned into being something it doesn’t appear to be in the next film.

But, about that sidetrack…

First, there’s this: “Does the Crime Rate Spike on Halloween?, Christian Post, 31 October 2013, suggests, there is no particular spike in crime generally on Halloween. But, James Alan Fox at boston.com’s “Crime & Punishment” blog, 29 October 2011, found spikes in Boston’s violent crimes on not just Halloween but also Independence Day and New Year’s Eve. Specifically, though, taking into account time of day, he found that “violent crime count on [the evening of] October 31 is about 50 percent higher than on any other date during the year, and twice the daily average.” In Boston.

As for notable murders on Halloween, a lot of the ones you find right away involve singular victims. But, then I found the 1993 Halloween Massacre in my hometown of Pasadena, California. I was 17 at the time. I don’t recall any mention of it. Seems five members of the Pasadena Denver Lanes, part of the more famous Bloods, opened fire on some teenagers out trick-or-treating. Three were killed. According to a Los Angeles Times article, 23 December 1995, three of the gang members “were each found guilty on three counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder.” The other two shooters pled guilty. A San Gabriel Valley Tribune piece, 21 May 2013, says: “The Halloween homicide, along with Jackson's slaying and other violent incidents of the 1990s, helped spur the formation of the federally funded Community Law Enforcement and Recovery program, known as CLEAR, to combat gang violence in the Pasadena and Altadena areas.” Never heard of it, and I lived in Pasadena until 2002. Go figure.

I found another interesting murder story, as well. This one tied to a different Pasadena—one of the two reasons it caught my eye—Pasadena, Texas. Timothy O’Bryan, age 8, was poisoned to death by a Pixy Stix on Halloween night—the other reason this story caught my eye—in 1974. A Houston Chronicle piece, 29 October 2004, reminds us that this sort of thing was rare. “The decades-old idea that depraved strangers are targeting children with tainted Halloween candy, however,” the author writes,

is more fiction than fact, says a sociologist who has studied the phenomenon for 20 years. University of Delaware Professor Joel Best said he has yet to find a case in which a stranger deliberately poisoned trick-or-treaters.

"This is a contemporary legend that speaks to our anxiety about kids," Best said. "Most of us don't believe in ghosts and goblins anymore, but we believe in criminals."

Turns out in this particular case, Timothy was poisoned by his father, Ronald O’Bryan, who handed out five such Pixy Stix, apparently to get some insurance money for his two kids’ deaths (and I guess the other three were for cover). Dubbed the “Candy Man,” Ronald Clark O’Bryan was found guilty after only 45 minutes of jury deliberation, and sentenced to death after 70 minutes more, according to The Hoax Project’s entry on the incident. He was executed a decade after the murder. Maybe if I went trick-or-treating regularly as a kid, this story would have come up, but this is, as far as I know, the first I’ve heard of it. And, this is exactly the kind of story that would spread on Halloween, like the purported razor blade apple that makes an appearance in Halloween II. A series of murders, mostly at a hospital—despite the numbers—I wonder if it would have the traction of how we see it, a boogeyman story. We see it that way because we watched Michael stalk his various victims, we watched him kill.

Plus, the story would only have traction if they got into the detail of the relationship between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, something she and her family probably wouldn’t make any effort to publicize, and something that that nurse from Smith’s Grove probably wouldn’t share with reporters. Dr. Loomis obsessed over Michael, but he didn’t even know Michael had another sister, so outside of that one file, that information was not readily available. Laurie went into hiding, presumably soon thereafter. She wouldn’t have been “the sister” in the story Will might have heard.

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