Friday, October 31, 2014

every murderous impulse we've ever had

I have never actually seen the released version of Halloween: Resurrection; saw it at a test screening. Watching it on Netflix tonight. But, really, I’m barely inclined to talk about the movie itself... Don’t get me wrong. I will still do that. But, with only another day of slasher films left, I feel like I need to try to summarize this month in addition to talking about today’s movie and tomorrow’s (Freddy vs. Jason).

First, a couple complaints—and I had to pause the movie to rant about both of these things out loud; it’s still paused.

1. Michael Myers, as he exists in this film is not a serial killer. The nurse at the psychiatric hospital just called him one. A serial killer does not show up in a small town and kill a whole bunch of people (14 in one night back in 1978) then disappear for 20 years. A serial killer does not show up 20 years later to kill 6 more people. Keep in mind, this movie is a sequel to H20, which ignores Return, Revenge and Curse. Now, Clover (1992) might disagree with me a bit here, given the whole “psychosexual fury” thing. But, that fury, in Michael Myers, has led him to mass murder—hell, I believe I complained previously (and pasted some guy’s diagram of Michael’s kills to prove my point) about him being termed the greatest mass murderer, or however they phrased it a couple movies back. I’m forgetting the distinctions between, say, a mass murderer and a spree killer; Michael’s kills, especially going from the suburban neighborhood to the hospital in the first two films, might be termed a spree killing. But, his kills in H20, that is like textbook mass murder. One general location, a bunch (and not even his biggest bunch) of kills. Hell, even in this movie, Freddie refers to Michael as “our most brutal mass murderer.”

2. Laurie Strode/Keri Tate spent 20 years, we’re supposed to believe, being paranoid and messed up in the head over her friends being killed and her brother trying to kill her. Nevermind that she was stable enough to fake her own death, set up a new identity, get an education, become a teacher, and a good enough teacher to teach at a rather posh private school. Nevermind all that—she was suffering psychologically 20 years later, obviously, because she hallucinated Michael Myers. (Except, if that is a sign of real psychological distress, these films have seriously traumatized a lot of people... actually, that might be an idea worth exploring.) In cinematic terms—not actual psychology, mind you, but the way events are generally presented in film—the last reel of H20 was Laurie basically getting the fuck over it already. She sent John and Molly away (just like she did Lindsey and Tommy two decades earlier) and—

I can’t believe I’m using this phrase, considering how often I write about gender in this blog, but I think our patriarchal society just doesn’t have a gender-neutral term for it

—manned up, fought back. Hell, she went that extra step of taking Michael’s body, ostensibly without a plan in mind, but she ended up taking his head off. Though this movie rewrites that beheading, in cinematic terms, Laurie should be fine. Instead, she’s sitting in a mental hospital. Three more years later.

Now, back to the movie. I’m just under 4 minutes in.

And another complaint (made it 50 seconds) or two:

3. The paramedic who died in Michael’s place—he’s a horrible paramedic. He approaches what looks like a dead body, pulls a knife out of him, barely focuses on what he’s doing, and is easy prey for Michael. Dude didn’t even have any medical supplies with him. He should have had a bag or something. That’s just bad prop work from the production crew and, because of that, a really bad paramedic who, in slasher film terms, kinda deserved to die.

4. Cop who found the dead paramedic? Also not good at his job. No crime scene photos yet—we actually hear him calling out “here” presumably to a search party. So, what does he do? Tampers with the scene, pulling the mask off the severed head.

Back to the—damn it.

5. So, Laurie is faking the “extreme dissociative” state, not taking the meds she’s being given, because... Michael can’t get into the hospital for three years now? It can’t be that secure. Plus, the previous film implied that her son was also Michael’s intended victim now, or that whole 17-years-old thing was just a stupid coincidence that both the film and Laurie drew attention to. So, sitting in this hospital for three years is an irresponsible parenting decision on Laurie’s part. John was probably killed by Michael 2 1/2 years ago, because she was too busy sitting on her ass pretending to do nothing.

Six minutes in, now. Clover (1992) makes a point of how just in the four years between the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre and the original Halloween, the Final Girls went from passive (running away) to active (stabbing back) defense (p. 37). This opening sequence is quite simply backtracking Laurie from her active defense into something much more passive.

6. Michael’s one-handed reverse pull up might have looked cool in the previous movie (even if it did invite one to imagine Michael having to jump up there in the first place, which isn’t all that scary an image), but we didn’t need to see it again. Jason may break through windows in al of his movies, but Michael is much simpler—he walks after people, and occasionally pauses at the top of stairs or somewhere where he can look a little bigger and a little cooler for a moment. He doesn’t need some weird trick.

Even if she’s got that trap rigged on the ceiling. I mean, she couldn’t set that up at her house? She might not be “afraid” of Michael but she is kinda stupid over him. Wasting three years of her life just to set this trap. She should have called the FBI guys who took down Jason at the beginning of Jason Goes to Hell.

7. How could she be sure it was Michael by taking off the mask? She has not actually seen his face since they were kids, and we can’t be sure she a) remembers it clearly or b) could deduce what he would look like a few decades later.

8. Crazy guy with the clown mask who seems to be a fan of serial killers, lists off Michael’s kills—his sister, check. Three teenagers in 1978, check. Three nurses and a paramedic, check. What about the doctor? What about the mechanic whose clothes he stole? What about the orderly? And, whatever else all those people in II were? Four students in 1998, check. What about the teacher? This guy seems like he’d have more accurate information.

Jungian shadow stuff in play here—at least this film is trying for something new, not simply “evil.” But then, Busta Rhymes calls Michael Myers “evil in its purest form.” Less than a minute later, another character mentions Hitler. you know, the go to exemplar of evil.

9. The scream thing was stupid.

Evil in its “purest” form would not have killed only 20 people (or only 12 according to clown mask). There’s a reason we use Hitler as the exemplar of evil—the holocaust was systematic. Systematic is scarier than random, scarier than maybe he’ll show up this year and kill a few people. Systematic suggests something much darker (and fundamentally human, since we’re talking about Jungian shadows) than Michael Myers.

10. (NOT A COMPLAINT) I rather like that the Myers house interior actually resembles the Myers house from the original film, unlike that house they used in Revenge.

Systematic killing like that done in Nazi concentration camps—that says more about the darkness possible in humanity than anything Michael Myers does. Michael Myers is effectively inhuman. Like Jason Voorhees, like Freddy Krueger (but not like Leatherface), Michael is a supernaturally strong slasher, something closer to a force of nature. A tornado may be scary but it is not evil.

Great sequence with the first kill in the Myers house here, bringing us back to a month ago, talking about Peeping Tom. Michael kills with the leg of the tripod, hooked to a camera that’s running. It’s the I-camera common to so many slasher films, and specifically calling back to that film that helped birth the genre. “Much is made of the use of the I-camera to represent the killer’s point of view,” Clover tells us.

In these passages—they are usually few and brief, but striking—we see through his eyes and (on the soundtrack) we hear his breathing and heartbeat. His and our vision is partly obscured by the bushes or window blinds in the foreground. By such means we are forced, the logic goes, to identify with the killer. (p. 45)

Clover goes on to disagree a little bit with that logic, citing the shark’s POV in Jaws and the Birds’ POV in The Birds, and suggesting that the I-camera “works as much to destabilize as to stabilize identification” (ibid). But, the I-camera providing us the POV of the killer is such a staple of the slasher genre that it is hard to argue that it is not there to put us with the killer, to perhaps make us acknowledge our accountability and culpability in his killing each victim. He does so for us, after all. Halloween: Resurrection, if I remember it rightly, is not a very great film, but it aims to do a couple rather great things: 1) it incorporates modern technology into a genre that needs something new, predating POV reality programming like Ghost Hunters by a few years, and only partially invoking found footage horror and 2) it puts we in the audience not only quite specifically into the POV of the killer but just as much, if not more so this time, into the POV of the victims. We are not only responsible for the deaths we see, we are the victims of our own choice to watch this and all other slasher films. We choose to be scared, we choose to watch the murder and the gore, the sex and the drug use. And, we choose a genre that not only provides us with such transgressions but regularly suggests that those transgressions are worthy of death. In my recently published piece about Plato’s charioteer and the modern shoulder angel and shoulder devil (Black, 2014), I argue that we put angels and devils on our shoulders in cartoons and whatnot as a reification of a binary moral compass, a simplistic take on Bentham’s panopticon. We keep ourselves in check by constantly reminding ourselves what action is good and what action is bad, and more importantly, that actions must be one or the other. What this film does, in terms of the I-camera use, is put us quite directly into the good and bad sides of the action. We are the killer and the killed. This film is not about this collection of students exploring Michael Myers house. It is also not about Michael Myers. It is about all of us watching it, all of us watching the previous entries in the Halloween series or any other film within the slasher genre. The Jungian shadow being explored here is not Michael’s, not any of these other characters’, but ours. The slasher film is our way—and I think I’ve used this phrase before—to both exorcise and exercise our demons. Writing about Peeping Tom, Clover (1992) tells us:

[It (and I would extend it to other slasher films)], in short, should also be taken at face value as a commentary not only on the symbiotic interplay of sadistic and masochistic impulses in the individual viewer but equally as a commentary, within the context of horror filmmaking, on the symbiotic interplay of the sadistic work of the filmmaker and the masochistic stake of the spectator, an arrangement on which horror cinema insists. (p. 179)

I would take it even further, here. Just as there is an audience within this film, watching

(and cheering on—hell, in the third act, Miles is even directing Sara where to go, just as we so often do when we’re watching these kind of films, but this time the directions are actually heard by the character)

that action online, we watch both levels of the action, and we cheer, too. We do so not simply because we are masochistic, but because we are sadistic as well. As John Carpenter once said, “Monsters in movies are us, always us, one way or another” (quoted in Derr, 2012). We want to watch people be hurt. We want to watch people be killed. And, when it’s over, we want to walk out of the theater (or our living room) safe and sound. We want to get close to the danger, close to the death, as close as cinematically possible, then we want to be free to walk away. To have our cake and eat it, too, as the saying goes. Set our inner demons and our inner fears loose for a while. Then, return to our (probably) safe reality. We who benefit from lives in which we have the time and money to watch these movies—we’re probably doing ok. And, if we’re not, if we live in a bad neighborhood, or we fear terrorists across the globe, or disease outbreaks (if you’re reading this entry in the future, Ebola has been in the news a lot lately), or we have maybe created a vicious cycle out of watching movies like this to fuel our mean world syndrome-induced view of things, then we can set aside our real-world fears for a while for something more controllable and controlled. These murders, even if we have to take some responsibility for them in order to be witness to them—they serve as an acceptable proxy for everything dangerous and scary in the real world.

And then, the credits roll and all is well.

11. (NOT A COMPLAINT) The fall into the pool of blood is a nice visual tie to Halloween II

12. Chainsaw is a nice touch, but she should have stayed quiet while using it. Her “This is for [insert name here]” lines sound silly.

13. (NOT A COMPLAINT) Michael sits up just like he did in the original. Nice visual.

14. Unplugging a wire and touching someone with it would not electrocute him. Either it is the male end of the wire, in which case unplugging it took away its power, or it’s the female end, in which case there’s no metal sticking out to transfer the electricity.

15. Busta’s rant to the news people? Silly. Not just because it’s a bit simplistic and kinda trite, but because if anything, this series of events has proven the power of media coverage rather than suggesting it needs to go away. If not for the cameras, there would be no survivors here. Freddie will be planning another DangerTainment outing in no time.

But, now these credits roll. And all is well.

One slasher film left to watch, then no horror films for a while.

For this blog, I mean. I would never give up horror films.

Works Cited

Black, R.E.G. (2014). From Charioteer to Shoulder Angel: A Rhetorical Look at Our Divided Soul. Colloquy... (and I will have to fix this citation tomorrow; my copy of the issue is on the shelf in my office at work)

Clover, C.J. (1992). Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Derr, H.L. (2012, October 5). A Feminist Guide to Horror Movies, Part One: Daddy Knows Best. Ms.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

he just wanted his machete back

Jason Voorhees in chains, his hair a frizzy (grey?) mess. Nice start—would have been even cooler if they didn’t have the onscreen descriptions of where we are and why he’s there. It’s not a crawl, but on a Red Letter MediaBest of the Worst“ video this week, they were talking about how film crawls usually set the world badly, give too much information and/or information you just don’t need. Any audience going to see Jason X would have been quite likely to know who Jason is, and we’d figure out what was going on. A little more showing us, a little less telling us.

By the way, I link this movie to Hellraiser: Bloodline in my memory, as if they came out around the same time—a couple horror movies set in space

(I also connect them both to the bit in Halloween 5 when they talk about Michael Myers in space.)

—but they were 6 years apart, Jason X being the later of the two.

(Shuttle looks like a wingnut.)

Saw Hellraiser: Bloodline at a test screening, if I recall correctly. Might have just been a special premiere screening—tickets through Mark and Brian maybe. Don’t think I saw Jason X in the theater at all...

I argued recently—In this blog and in its comments section—that every horror film is about sex, or at least has something to say about sex and/or gender. The robot girl in this film—she wants nipples because a “real” girl has them. And, the scene with her showing off her breasts is the only actual nudity crosscut with a couple sex scenes. Just about everybody on this ship—the Grendel—is having sex with someone else. (The girl who was frozen along with Jason—who is presumably going to be the Final Girl—she is not having sex with anyone.) No teenagers (well, maybe a couple) but they’re all acting just like the teenagers in the usual slasher film. Really, there’s no particular reason for this film to be set in the future at this point. One way to bring Jason back to life is as good as another in this series. Plus, I’m finding myself comparing it to the original Alien. And, the aforementioned Hellraiser: Bloodline, which had a much better thematic reason to show the future in its storyline.

(Ha, the guy’s gun is a BFG—nice Doom reference.)

With all the guys with guns going after Jason, this is playing out more like something in the same vein as Doom, actually.

And then that level of the game ended. We’re back to a horror film. Jason even breaks through a window, an action which I think he has averaged more than once per film.

This movie echoes stuff from earlier entries in the series. Two sleeping bag kills instead of the the one in VII. An android instead of a telekinetic girl, also in VII. The student coming on to her teacher, like in VIII—only here, her advances are more welcome. Hell, students in general ties back to VIII. Jason’s mask at the bottom of the lake in the end also connects to Jason at the bottom of the lake, say, at the end of VI and his mask left behind at the end of Jason Goes to Hell. Plus campers who “love premarital sex” from, well, nearly every Friday the 13th film.

I realize I neglected to come back to the gender thing from above. The nipples thing, for example—this suggests that KM thinks women are defined specifically by their biology, their secondary sex characteristics. She has, of course, been programmed by KICKER, a male. He also, using her help, programs the diversionary campers. Rowan may be the only female here not specifically sexualized during the film, except we see her underwear being cut off of her.

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’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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

it was supposed to be a spiritual experience

Note #1 - Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is set according to the titlecard at the beginning May 22, 1996. Depending on how you look at it, it was released either in 1994 (which for how I’ve been watching these films puts it a few days ago, between Jason Goes to Hell and New Nightmare) or 1997—it had two releases and, if I remember it rightly, barely even got released.

Note #2 - At this point, the slasher film is dead. Jason’s dead. Freddy’s dead, briefly meta-revived, then dead again. The two of them are partying it up in Hell planning a crossover film that would take a decade to come to fruition. Michael has, depending on the edit of Curse of Michael Myers either been beaten mostly to death then maybe kinda disappeared and/or killed Dr. Loomis or left Dr. Wynn for dead, finally changed his own look, and walked off into the metaphorical sunset (actually a long hallway that inexplicably has very few doors). Michael’s not dead, but he’s free; the curse may have moved on to Danny Strode, and the job of looking after him has moved on to Dr. Loomis (meaning Loomis is not in a position to want to stop Michael even if he were still killing people—and since I argued that Michael was enjoying his job, it’s safe to say he might still be interested in killing people, Thorn curse or not. But anyway, I’ve previously framed the slasher film as a sort of response to the women’s movement of the 1960s, notions about gender equality challenging what it meant to be a man or a woman, masculine or feminine.

(Meanwhile, are those fake breasts the woman flashes the first nudity in the Texas Chainsaw films? There has been implied offscreen sex before—plus that Leatherface/Stretch bit in 2—but I don’t recall any nudity.)

Leatherface belongs in a slasher film, but these films just aren’t quite slasher films.

(Really, the Texas Chainsaw films, while they generally get lumped together with slasher films, don’t quite fit the usual mold. Too few victims, not enough inferable commentary on gender roles/relations. There is the psychosexual fury, sure, but is that enough? Or is that an aspect to any horror film, maybe? Is all horror inherently sexual? The Texas Chainsaw films are closer to The Hills Have Eyes or Wrong Turn, with the classist urban vs. rural underpinnings. While the slasher film generally takes place in a more rural location, it isn’t necessarily a requisite detail.)

Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey, Oscar-caliber actors, and he’s hamming it up and she’s barely registering. It’s interesting that the later release of this film was delayed to cash in on her Oscar win, but his people tried to keep the film from being released.

(Finally, a chain saw, almost 40 minutes in.)

I’ve mentioned before how many later-big name actors had parts in slasher films. While this film isn’t very good, I’m not sure why it should be such a horrible thing to have on one’s resume...

Actually, I take that back. Almost immediately after typing it, I take it back. This movie should be offensive to pretty much anyone who lives in rural Texas—since they are nothing but mentally deranged and/or deficient killers in this film. The helpless young kids who wandered into their territory don’t fare much better. McConaughey and Zellweger are both from Texas, so, yeah, they should probably distance themselves from this thing.

Possibly even worse, considering what is happening in this film, why the lack of gore? I mean, for example, I have no idea what Vilmer just did to Heather. Bit her somewhere on her face, I guess... ah, later, we see a little bit of blood on her nose

Then the film goes crazy.

Monday, October 27, 2014

what's the boogeyman?

I have seen parts of Halloween [6]: The Curse of Michael Myers many, many times. I worked in a movie theater when this thing was out.

(I must interrupt this introduction to point out the lazy screenwriting and/or direction in having the doctor call her “Jamie Lloyd” when telling her to push. We’ll figure out who she is soon enough.)

I saw parts of this movie—especially the beginning and ending—a few times a day when I was working, which was a few days a week.

(Not two minutes later, call her Jamie again, you know, just in case the audience doesn’t get it. It might actually play better if we have to figure this crap out for ourselves.)

I believe I said before that Halloween 4, 5 and [6] work together pretty well. The thorn setup, while certainly not what the audience wanted, makes retrospective sense. Michael tensed up a the beginning of 4 when his niece (which we can assume he didn’t know about previously) was mentioned... more on the cult stuff as it comes up in this film.

(You know what would have been nice, even as much as I hate Halloween III, if the cult in this film were linked to the Shamrock folk in that film.)

In the behind-the-scenes stuff on the DVD for 5 Ellie Cornell says something about knowing that her character, Rachel, having survived 4 was not going to last long in 5, except that isn’t necessarily a thing in slasher films. Survivors tend to a) not come back or b) keep surviving. Tommy Jarvis, for example, survives three Friday the 13th entries. Laurie Strode survives both of her initial Halloween entries, is killed off offscreen then rewritten (or retconned—I’ll doublecheck how that goes when I watch H20 again in a couple days) into still being alive to survive an entire movie, plus part of a fourth. Jamie Lloyd survives two then gets killed in her third—which really plays as an inappropriate plot development as I see it. Jason and Freddy both had plotlines involving infant relatives, and the mothers of those infants didn’t need to be dead just for the plot to work.

Meanwhile, we’re introduced to an adult Tommy Doyle plus the Strode family—relatives of Laurie’s adoptive family—living in the Myers House (the Strodes living there, I mean; Tommy lives across the street). John, the asshole of a patriarch, is brother to Laurie’s real estate agent father. Kara, John’s prodigal daughter, has returned home with a bastard son, and is taking college courses in psychology.

Dr. Loomis comes by to tell Kara’s mother about Michael Myers and the house and only barely in time for Michael to come by and kill her. She was smart enough to believe Loomis, though, but it was just too late for her.

Tommy gets to explain “the curse of thorn.” Basically, sacrifice one family to the demon represented by Thorn to save the tribe. Michael was supposed to sacrifice his family...

Minor quibble: what about Michael’s parents? Did they not count in this sacrifice?

Major quibble: why kill everyone else? why go around stalking people, showing up to scare people first, then giving them a little time to get away, before you kill them? You can’t really protect the rest of the tribe if you somewhat randomly kill its members.

The thing is, Michael is cruel. He is not an emotionless killer. Case-in-point: his murder of Jamie. He stalks her, he catches her, and he shoves her onto whatever that piece of farming equipment is. Then, she tells him he can’t have the baby, and he steps to the side and turns on the machinery to basically grind up her insides. It’s unnecessary. But, he does it anyway. After he kills Beth, he not only leaves her in the bed, he pulls the blanket over her so it looks like she’s asleep, and he hides Tim under that blanket. He props up bodies to be discovered, the only real purpose of which is to scare people. Basically, I think it’s fair to say Michael enjoys this. Sure, the cult and the Thorn curse is behind it, but Michael is just fine with what he’s got to do and what he gets to do.

Dr. Wynn, though played by three different actors, does appear in the original Halloween as well as 5 before being revealed here as the silver-tipped boots guy from 5 and (apparent) leader of the Cult of Thorn.

The ending… Tommy kinda losing it as he basically beats Michael to death with a pipe—that’s a good ending, I suppose. Then—note: I just watched the version that’s on Netflix, not the “Producer’s Cut”—Loomis shows up, says he’s got some business to attend to inside, we see that Michael is gone, we hear Loomis screaming, and, the end? It’s a weird edit, meant to imply that Loomis was killed (Donald Pleasence had died between production and post-test-screening reshoots)…

So, I turn on a copy of that “Producer’s Cut,” jump ahead to the end. Basically, from the Cult of Thorn showing up at the house, it’s different. Instead of waking up on a bed at Smith’s Grove (the version I just watched), here Kara wakes up tied to an altar in an old-fashioned sacrifice ritual. Classic cinematic visuals, but not the sort of thing movies take seriously anymore.

Tommy’s got an idea about canceling out the Thorn rune with a good rune… sounds a little like another Tommy, with notions that he knows how to stop the killer.

Wynn gets a bit of speechifying in, Loomis is knocked out, then on to the ritual, with Danny and Michael standing around. Kara suggests that Jamie’s baby is Michael’s (in a dream earlier—Jamie is shot while in the hospital, having survived Michael’s attack—we see evidence that Michael was, indeed, the father).

And, Michael gets stopped by some stones… Loomis ends up with the mark of Thorn, and Michael leaves, dressed in Wynn’s clothes (but no silver-tipped boots).

Hm. Problematic in that it not only leaves Loomis alive but suggests an entirely new role for him in future Halloween films. But, otherwise, it works fairly well. Tommy’s crazed beating was nice—and a bit therapeutic—but it isn’t necessarily missed.

Whatever the ending, the next entry in the series that we get pretty much leaves any version of this film behind.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

join us in the definitive nightmare

Note #1 - I skipped a movie on my list today—I will get to it in a few days—because I wanted Day 450 of this blog to be something I knew I liked. I barely remember Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation but I know it had some issues with its release... and I’m using that to move it down the line for this “month” of slasher films. In case you haven’t been paying too much attention, I’ve been going in order of cinematic release (in the US). I skipped that particular film past its initial release to its later release, so that I could watch...

Note #2 - Well, so that I could watch Wes Craven’s New Nightmare tonight. And speaking of release dates, I first saw this film before it was released in theaters, saw it at a test screening at the United Artists Marketplace Theater in Old Town Pasadena. At the time, it seemed like New Nightmare was just a working title. But, the prospect of Wes Craven returning to the series was good reason to go see the film as soon as possible.

Now, onto the movie.

Starts with a dream that is about making a movie, already getting into the metafictional side of things. Then, the earthquake, which is an interesting detail because the 1994 Northridge quake happened during the filming of this movie. According to Peitzman (2014), they already had an earthquake written into the story and, “suddenly, production had access to real-life disaster footage they could incorporate into the final cut... The eerily timed disaster was particularly strange on a film that details breaking the fourth wall. In this case, it was almost as though the earthquake had rumbled through it.”

The bit with Dylan watching the original A Nightmare on Elm Street but only screaming when Heather turns it off amused me at the time, but just recently I heard, or read, that kids are actually more likely to be frightened by horror films when their parents are present... something to do with younger kids just not always comprehending exactly what to be afraid of, so they take cues from their parents, and if their parents are frightened, or even a little tense, the kid is more likely to be as frightened, as tense, or more so.

Ebert (1994), writes of the metafictional nature of New Nightmare in his review:

That’s part of the fascination, as “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” dances back and forth across the line separating fantasy from reality. This is the first horror movie that is actually about the question: “Don’t you people ever think about the effect your movies have on the people who watch them?”

Heather Langenkamp, quoted in Peitzman, says, “It’s not like we’re looking at the audience and winking at them. We’re taking the audience into a new spatial relationship with the real lives of people who act in them.” Peitzman continues:

Breaking the fourth wall... is an inherently distressing concept—it disrupts the sacred relationship between the audience and the movie—but breaking the fourth wall in horror in horror is downright terrifying.

Because in horror, when you knock down that wall, you might not like what you find on the other side.

Movies that break that fourth wall and do it well—I love those movies. And, it should be clear that I love horror films by now, so New Nightmare is a great film for me. It contains some interesting ideas about the link between fiction and reality, why we choose to watch (or read) what we choose to watch (or read), why we choose to participate in the stories that we participate in. It also contains some very bleak notions about the ways we might deal with grief—Dylan climbing on top of the playground rocket and saying afterward, “God wouldn’t take me”—and about what horrors we (need to) create to deal with the world around us, not to mention a little bit of religion (or at least creation)—“Freddy” tells Heather/Nancy, “Meet your maker,” except having become Nancy at this point in the film, she has literally already met her “maker;” she has known him for a decade. The fictional versions of Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund and Wes Craven have certain demons they need to exorcise. Together they made the original A Nightmare on Elm Street and they need to answer for that. In Peitzman, Craven talks about why we watch horror films:

You don’t enter the theater and pay your money to be afraid. You enter the theater and pay your money to have the fears that are already in you when you go into a theater dealt with and put into a narrative... Stories and narratives are one of the most powerful things in humanity. They’re devices for dealing with the chaotic danger of existence.

I’m reminded of Benesh (2011)—

(Benesh’s dissertation is a source I never thought would come up after the year of Groundhog Day was over, but sometimes the unexpected happens.)

—and her take on how film becomes personal. She writes:

Thus, for viewers, no less than for Phil [or Heather], an imprint remains as during the film he audience members “introject” or take in its psychic content including symbols, images—

Like Dylan in New Nightmare incorporates the fictional Freddy into his dreams, we incorporate the fictional Freddy into, well, our ideas of what horror is. Not just horror in film, but horror inside us, around us, horror within the entire world, the same idea that Craven was getting at above.

—and narrative, as well as projecting individual personal concerns. After the film, if it is particularly “resonant,” the process continues as the film “plays on” in the viewer’s mind. A personal “edition” of the film is thus created and is assimilated into the psyche of the viewer. (p. 8)

This film asks—and the nurse does so quite explicitly—what happens to us when we watch horror films, what happened to our children when we let them watch horror films. Benesh (by way of Izod (2000)) links our viewing of film to dreams. This film invites us to make that connection quite explicitly. Dreams and film, film and reality—the lines are blurred by the story in New Nightmare.

And, keep in mind the story that inspired Craven’s original film. “I’d read an article in the L.A. Times,” he tells Vulture Magazine,

about a family who had escaped the Killing Fields in Cambodia and managed to get to the U.S. Things were fine, and then suddenly the young son was having very disturbing nightmares. He told his parents he was afraid that if he slept, the thing chasing him would get him, so he tried to stay awake for days at a time. When he finally fell asleep, his parents thought this crisis was over. Then they heard screams in the middle of the night. By the time they got to him, he was dead. He died in the middle of a nightmare.

Dreams have power over our thoughts and our behavior. So do films. I think it has been proven that just watching horror films, for example, doesn’t turn one homicidal, but it is difficult to imagine that there is not some correlation between the choice to watch darker films and having darker thoughts, something like the Mean World Syndrome—are horror fans perhaps more paranoid about strangers? Do they assume the worst about people they don’t know? Are they afraid of the dark because there are real dangers lurking in it, or because their mind is full of dangers real and imagined that are just a little more visible in the dark than in the light of day?

I wouldn’t suggest a definitive answer to any of these questions. These are more things to think about than things to really know.

Something perhaps more interesting in the end of this particular film, since I keep coming back to Clover (1992) in this “month” of slasher films: Heather/Nancy stabs “Freddy.” Unlike the “feminist Final Girl” she was in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street according to Christensen (2011), Nancy here takes up the phallic weapon and attacks. Of course, she does so out of motherly protection, so take Clover’s notions with a grain of salt. It is interesting to note Lankenkamp’s reaction to Freddy’s attack at the end of the film:

When he finally turns into a snake at the end and he’s wrapping himself around my throat and strangling me that way, it’s the only scene that I’ve ever had nightmares about, because it really, to me, was Freddy... He humiliated me in a way. It was really scary. It was really mean-spirited. It was a very sexual power that he was expressing. There was nothing funny about it. ( Peitzman )

He was no snake, though. Instead, it was his tongue, stretched out in what could easily have been a comic moment in one of the earlier sequels but which here does come across as real power Freddy is exhibiting over Heather/Nancy. And, yes, the tongue is very sexual. And, this sexual attack is thwarted when Dylan stabs Freddy’s tongue. And, soon thereafter, Freddy loses his power and dies.

In the end, the film ends just where it began as Nancy reads the script to Dylan. I’ve got another week almost of slasher films, but really this one right here would have made a great ending to this “month.” While some slasher films stretch the definition of what a slasher is, in certain ways, they are all very much the same, and taken together they become quite repetitive, and to end back at the beginning is thematically appropriate.

Works Cited

Benesh, J.E. (2011). Becoming Punxsutawney Phil: Symbols and Metaphors of Transformation in Groundhog Day (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (Accession Order No. 3450252)

Christensen, K. (2011). The Final Girl versus Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street: Proposing a Stronger Model of Feminism in Slasher Horror Cinema. Studies in Popular Culture 34:1. pp. 23-47.

Clover, C.J. (1992). Men, Women, and Chains Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Ebert, R. (1994, October 14). Wes Craven’s New Nightmare [Review].

Peitzman, L. (2014, October 15). How “New Nightmare” Changed the Horror Game. BuzzFeed.

Marks, C. & Tannenbaum, R. (2014, October 20). Freddy Lives: An Oral History of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Vulture.

Friday, October 24, 2014

smoking a little dope, having a little premarital sex, and getting slaughtered

So, the opening sequence to Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

—possibly my favorite thing in any of these slasher films. This is what happens if one of these preternatural killers actually existed, actually kept coming back and coming back and racking up the kills; the government would step in and a) try to capture and exploit him and failing that, b) kill him and kill him some more. It’s like my “We will stab it until it dies.” They shoot him until he dies.

I really want to see that death of Freddy scene with the goofy fish demons played along side the heart eating and possession of the coroner in this film. The former is laughable, fairly deliberately. The latter, just by its sound effects alone, is far darker and scarier. And, the visual effects are many times better. Only two years later. This opening almost makes up for the downward direction of the Nightmare series. And, proves my point that the Friday the 13th series is the better one. Better probably than the Halloween series as well, and definitely better than the Texas Chain Saw series.

An interesting link between the various slasher series—they add family members to circle back on their mythologies. Freddy’s sister shows up to help take him out. Jason’s sister and niece are introduced here. And, Michael’s thing—as we’ll see in a couple days—is all about family. His targeting (and eventual murder) of his niece is just circling back into why he killed his sister in the first place all those years ago.

(Throw the condom away, and you are going to die. This camper scene is what proves the basic rules of the slasher film... as Karnick (2009) puts it, the slasher film carries “hidden warning about the fatal consequences of self-indulgence and self-absorption.”)

Similarly, this film rewrites the history of Jason Voorhees, complicates it, explains it. But, even better than all that, it takes it seriously. So seriously, that initially—I remember either reading in Fangoria or Cinefantastique or hearing in an interview with either director /writer Adam Marcus or producer Sean S. Cunningham on the Mark and Brian morning show on KLOS (Mark and Brian appear briefly in this film as police officers)—it included no campers (except the sting at the beginning of the film, of course). The camper bit was added later. It exists as, depending on who you ask, a mockery of the previous entries in the series, or a loving embrace of those entries. Jason’s body switching doesn’t contradict anything we’ve seen before, and even explains one reason why he may have looked so different in the various films. I mean, clearly Jason from Jason Lives through to the end of Jason Takes Manhattan is the same Jason, but we haven’t seen how Jason got from Tommy Jarvis’ attacking him at the end of The Final Chapter to the grave at the beginning of Jason Lives. (There is specific explanation for this involving Jason’s father, I believe, in one of the comic books, but I’m going strictly by the films here.) While the timeline from the end of Part 2 to the end of The Final Chapter is a matter of days, Jason certainly could have switched bodies somewhere in there.

There is of course the matter of redefining what is a slasher film in this film that doesn’t really involve teenagers, and barely involves Clover’s (1992) “psychosexual fury.” Actually, I take that last bit back. Jason specifically penetrates a series of people, eventually crawling inside his own sister to be reborn. But, this film brings the Necronomicon (using a prop much like—or is it the actual prop from?—Evil Dead) and body switching to, yeah, turn it into a different beast than just a slasher film, but that doesn’t make it less of a slasher film, nor does it make it less of a Friday the 13th film either. It makes it more than these things, not less. And, even if Karnick is correct about the generic nature of the characters in slasher films, and the Friday the 13th series in particular—I disagree with that argument—

(And, we get dagger ex machina to complete the transition into a serious supernatural horror film (still tacked onto the backbone of a slasher film, of course).

Plus, technically, Jason not only grunts a bit in this film, he even speaks. We don’t know which body he’s in when he arrives at his house. And, Creighton might actually more cold than Dr. Loomis, telling Jessica to kill both the cops who show up.

And, along with the Necronomicon from Evil Dead, apparently Pamela or Jason brought the crate from Stephen King’s “The Crate” from Creepshow as well, because that’s in the basement.)

—this film has pretty much none of that. Every character works here.

The ending: again, compare Jason being dragged into the ground by those demons to Freddy’s last scene in Freddy’s Dead. That scene plays out so lamely compared to this one. And, really, while I understand why Wes Craven came back to the Nightmare series with New Nightmare (watching it tomorrow), I really think that the evil being that decides there to be Freddy would have been better off choosing Jason.

Works Cited

Clover, C.J. (1992). Men, Women, and Chains Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Karnick, S.T. (2009, February 13). Babes in the Woods. National Review Online.

just keep on ticking

“Do you know the terror of he who falls asleep?
To the very toes he is terrified,
Because the ground gives way under him,
And the dream begins...”
— Friedrich Nietzsche

“Welcome to Prime Time, bitch.”
— Freddy Krueger

A few credits, then the outline of the US, with Springwood marked, and this:





So begins Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. Since Robert Englund gets billing above the title here, it occurs to me that one problem the Nightmare films have is personality. Jason and Michael have personality, sure, but Kane Hodder (who played Jason several times) never got billed above the title, nor did anyone who played Michael. The comedic tendencies coupled with, you know, Freddy actually showing his face—scarred, but still his face—mean the numerous victims and potential victims get short shrift. And the plot is repetitive—been a while since I’ve seen this one, but I’m thinking that last remaining teenager thing is part of the opening dream, not the film’s reality, but if it were, that would at least make this entry stand out from its predecessors. Aside from Alice’s pregnancy, Dream Warriors, Dream Master and Dream Child were basically the same story. Freddy kills the friends of the lead character—characters in the case of Warriors—until that character(s) figures out how to manipulate the dream world to overpower Freddy. This story stands out from, say the original, in that Nancy was not manipulating the dream world but pulling Freddy out of it.

Freddy’s Dead, so far, is playing a little like Warriors, with the troubled teens in the hospital, or whatever it is. And, 14 minutes in we get what’s probably a Chekhov’s gun sort of set up—”ancient dream demons” on a poster.

If Springwood has no kids or teenagers, wouldn’t people outside of Springwood know?

Roseanne and Tom Arnold... not a good sign for what’s supposed to be a horror film.

If Springwood has been falling apart for ten years, shouldn’t the residential part of town be just as much of a wasteland as the center of town? The premise for this film is just weird. And, not in a good way.

Actually, the premise might be ok if, perhaps, we the audience were not told up front what was going on. All the strangeness would be like we are having a dream. Reducing the sound when Freddy cuts Carlos’ ear—that’s a good move, make the audience experience his situation... but then Freddy’s jumping around behind him, which makes no sense without an audience. It’s silly, not scary (problem #1) and it is not for the benefit of anyone who is dreaming (problem #2)... if Carlos is dreaming this bit, and his head just exploded in the dream, who is dreaming as Freddy says another line?

Interestingly, all of this playing to the audience fits somewhat with the ideas behind New Nightmare, which I’ll get to in a couple days, but the problem there is that the being who has decided to be Freddy in that film is not a trickster like this Freddy but something much darker. This Freddy does silly shit like running his knives across a blackboard and running a psychedelic video game dream that is in no way scary...

I already called these early 90s slasher films the death throes of the genre. Death throes can be awesome—in my opinion, New Nightmare and Jason Goes to Hell are two of the best slasher films—and they can be awful—Leatherface seemed kinda pointless and this abomination is more like a practical joke played on the audience than anything resembling a coherent slasher film.

Tracy just, out of nowhere, figured out how to manipulate her dream self to have super powers... you know what really is troubling about this film? As she “wakes up” again, the directing and cinematography remains the same. Shots are askew, there are weird close ups...

And, Freddy has become too powerful, as well. Back in the original, when Tina was lifted out of the bed and cut by claws that weren’t there it was frightening; here when John is yanked out of the van, it’s just silly. And then, it turns out, by killing John and Carlos, Freddy erased them from reality. The thing that is Freddy in New Nightmare would never stand for this crap. This film would be the reason he decided to go be Jason Voorhees instead.

The Nightmare on Elm Street series is almost increasingly bad as it goes... Really, the original holds up quite well to this day. Freddy’s Revenge is an awful little thing. Dream Warriors is pretty good, albeit a bit cheesy, until the very end. The ending to the big confrontation with Freddy is kinda lame. Dream Master is better, but it’s stuck on the cheesy side of things instead of the the darker side. Dream Child continues down that path, a nice idea but the execution pulls the series farther away from scary. And Freddy’s Dead just drops the scary altogether.

What this series does well, I must say, though, is expand its mythology. You learn a little bit more about both Freddy and his backstory and about how dreams work (within the series’ reality) with each film.

But then, Yaphet Kotto’s doctor figures out what we’ve known since the original, you gotta pull Freddy out of the dream to kill him. Except, obviously, that doesn’t work either, or Freddy would already be long gone. Really, as soon as there were any sequels, the plot became pointless because Freddy could obviously survive whatever solution this round of characters can come up with. The series had nowhere to go.

(The heads of the dream demons, once they actually are three dimensional, look a bit like Sleestaks. Not a good reference to have in mind if you want us to be frightened.)

The fishy demons offering to make Freddy “forever” would be the silliest thing in these films if there wasn’t so much competition for that title. The fishy demons that seem more like the fish in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life than demons, for example.

And, the joyful smiles at the end of this movie—as if they just had the most fun of their lives instead of, you know, risking their lives fighting the most evil being the dream demons could find—a goofy bookend to a bad movie. Running clips of the better movies next to the end credits—that’s just salt in the wound of having had to watch this thing.

To be fair, I knew this movie was bad and chose to watch it again, so maybe I’m a glutton for punishment.

Tomorrow, something good.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

there's roadkill all over texas

The opening text crawl for Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III insists on the verisimilitude of this being based on real events. The fact that Norman Bates in Psycho was based on the same guy that inspired Leatherface ought to tell you how real this story is.

I’ve only seen this movie once before, I’m pretty sure.

I don’t actually remember if Viggo Mortensen’s character is part of the Sawyer clan, but I figure if Strider offers you directions someplace, you should listen.

It really only occurred to me now, with only two potential victims present in this film, that Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was not really a slasher film. There just weren’t enough victims.

(And, from what I remember of chainsaws—a family friend from when I was a kid was pretty much a lumberjack, so he has a few—you start them like you do a lawn mower, a little pull cord, and the engine gets going. The noise that you hear when Leatherface comes at Michelle and Ryan when they’re changing the tire is the noise from actually starting the blade moving. But, the engine should have already been running, thus making more noise than his creaky knee brace.)

And, a third victim—Benny—is introduced. Still, this is more in the genre of The Hills Have Eyes or Wrong Turn than a Slasher Film.

Rieser (2001) takes issue with Clover’s (1992) analysis of the male audience-Final Girl relationship; Rieser argues, “the male spectator does neither straightforwardly nor entirely positively identify with the female victim-hero and thus does not necessarily embrace an antipatriarchal and/or passive position” (384).

And, just as I was getting into Rieser because Benny (male) is the proactive one here, fighting back against Leatherface, another girl is introduced. She seems a bit out of it... and she’s killed a few minutes later—did she even have a name?

Anyway, Rieser makes a distinction between the male audience member identifying with the Final Girl—which he says doesn’t happen—and that male audience member empathizing with her instead. “Witness, for example,” Rieser writes,

that the gaze of the camera is only sometimes with her (and even more rarely through her eyes), while at other times “her” point of view is subverted by shots that are looking down at her, huddled and shivering in a corner... Thus, the film lets a male spectator feel her terror, but it remains nonetheless a female who serves as the site/sight of terror. (384-385)

Creepy little girl added to the family, and sure enough Strider is one of them, too.

Personally, I’d side with Clover on this one. Using little more than my own experience, of course, I would argue that the male audience member does, indeed, identify with the Final Girl, because in my experience a good audience member—and I don’t mean to make a True Scotsman argument here—identifies on some level with any character, but especially with lead characters. And, in the slasher film, though I have previously pointed out that it may be contradictory, we can identify with both the killer and the killed, the masked killer and his Final Girl. Rieser may have a point, though, when he argues that the Final Girl might be “less... a stand-in for the male viewer than an imaginary potential partner (‘my girl’)” (385). It certainly helps—in the common parlance of Hollywood films—that the Final Girl is attractive, that her stalker is masked and/or deformed. It makes connecting with her easier. Additionally, siding again with Clover, the male audience member can identify with the killer specifically because he is masked and/or deformed; he serves as our id, wanting the Final Girl perhaps sexually as much as the killer does. And, neither the killer nor we in the audience can have her, not just because she is virginal and unavailable in the context of the story—

(Here, again, is a way this film is not a slasher film—there is nothing particularly virginal about Michelle. Though she did back down from bashing in that armadillo’s head early in the film, remember how quickly she was to head for a rock to kill it in the first place. Her reluctance doesn’t make her necessarily more feminine but simply more human.)

—but because in being on the other side of the screen, being fictional, she is literally unavailable. The killer—with his Cloverian psychosexual fury, acts out in violence to go after first everyone around her, then after her. We males in the audience (and the females, too) may cheer as the killer goes after her, but realizing our culpability in the action before us, and, yes, identifying with her finally, we switch sides, cheering her on as she is victorious over the killer.

Rieser continues:

...the Final Girl does not so much embody what a male adolescent would want to be himself but how he would like his girl to be; not passive but not too active

—Michelle only survived to fight back herself just now because Benny showed up with a gun—

and above all, turning down (indeed against) that other man who desires her, while at the same time fighting her way out of a somewhat too restrictive (read: parental) definition of girlhood (now we don’t want her too chaste, do we?). (385)

Rieser argues, appropriately given what he’s said so far, that this approach is “entirely in accordance with patriarchal power relations. Indeed it corresponds perfectly to the established masculinist practice of ‘protecting’ women in the male’s sphere of influence (wife, girlfriend, sister, daughter) from other men” (ibid). This viewpoint, while consistent, fails at this point, I would argue, because it is the Final Girl who commits the last act of violence. It is not her protector (usually)—Tommy Jarvis in the Friday the 13th series violates the Final Girl standard quite deliberately—who is active in the end; hell, in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre and in this one, the girl’s initial protector—for Sally Hardesty both her boyfriend and her brother (even if he is in a wheelchair), for Michelle, Ryan—is long dead by the end of the film. Sure Benny keeps showing up to help Michelle out, and sure Dr. Loomis keeps saving first Laurie Strode and then her daughter Jamie. And, the Final Girl in Friday the 13th Part 2, The Final Chapter, A New Beginning, Jason Lives, The New Blood, and Jason Takes Manhattan makes it out alive alongside a Final Boy.

(Final note: Kane Hodder as stunt coordinator. Jason and Leatherface together, even if indirectly. They would meet in comic books, but I’ve never read any of those.)

Works Cited

Clover, C.J. (1992). Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Rieser, K. (2001). Masculinity and Monstrosity: Characterization and Identification in the Slasher Film. Men and Masculinities 3:4. 370-392.

uncle. boogeyman

Allow me to quote myself from like three days ago:

...If I just rented or bought Halloween [5], you really don’t need to tell me all about the original Halloween before I watch it. Unless I just don’t understand Arabic Numerals, I’m guessing you realize this is a sequel and you got into this one—part 4—on purpose, so you don’t need an ad for the original.

At least they didn’t include a trailer for 6.

Anyway, on to Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. The opening for this film is odd. I get that Michael survived all those bullets—there’s obviously something super- or inhuman about him at this point. But, then he finds some old dude and... CUT TO one year later? Now, if they had planned ahead for the whole thorn cult thing already—I mean, they do have the tattoo, so I guess it was being setup already. If I had more than one day for this movie, I’d look into some behind-the-scenes stuff that I probably knew once upon a time, but I’ve just got today. Let’s assume the thorn thing is planned in detail. The old guy does have weird symbols on the table so it seems like there’s something going on, but the guy didn’t seem to recognize Michael when he arrived. Plus, how would Michael know to head for that particular shack along that particular river? And, even if he did know about said shack, what are the chances that the lynch mob truck would get to that particular vicinity before Michael gets thrown clear then gunned down? No thorn setup, or at least no one-year jump, and then the luck of being gunned down right on top of that mineshaft is not so bad. Random old guy nurses Michael back to health is a reasonable plot point if there is not something more going on. With something more going on, the year is confusing at best.

The goofy cops with the even goofier musical cue—yeah, this film could have done without them.

Killing off Rachel in the first act—now, that’s just wrong. Plus, the girl who a year ago took one look at Michael Myers in an alley (without really knowing that was who she was seeing) would not ignore Max’s barking, and wouldn’t not go toward the room he’s barking at.

But, let’s backtrack to that pre-movie bit again for a moment. The little recap voiceover said it was ten years ago that Michael was responsible for the largest mass murder ever. a) it was only ten years before the first scene of this film, so the one-year jump is problematic again, because it makes is seem like he’s just wrong. b) the announcer guy says it was 16 murders. I’m fairly sure is was actually only 14 or 15...

Thing is, even if it were 16, there were at least two bigger mass murders in the United States prior to this announcer’s spiel, and one of those prior to Michael’s killings in the first two Halloween films. July 18, 1984, James Huberty killed 21 at a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, California. August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman killed 18 at the University of Texas in Austin.

Lazy scripting alert: Loomis explores the Myers house just so he can set up Chekhov’s laundry chute. Oh, and so silver-tipped boots guy with tattoo that matches Michael’s can... well, do nothing but just kinda be there. If he really wanted to help Michael out, maybe he should have killed Loomis right then instead of killing a bunch of cops later. Someone wasn’t thinking this through.

Michael—Tina’s boyfriend, not Myers—is even more “trigger happy” than Loomis. Michael scrapes the guy’s car and he goes straight to readying to hit Michael—Myers, not Tina’s boyfriend—with a crowbar. He and Loomis should have teamed up to solve crimes or something.

Tina comments on how cold it is outside, and it occurs to me, this movie didn’t make much effort to portray fall like 4 did. After I watched 4 I watched one of the extras—Final Cut, I think it was called—and the director (or maybe the producer... one of the guys interviewed) talked about wanting it to look like fall, but they didn’t film during fall so they had to bring in all the leaves to put everywhere on the ground.

(Why is Haddonfield suddenly a big city?)

Sometimes this month, I have wished for more days. The seven days per movie thing—or the 365 day Groundhog Day thing—that would allow so much more in-depth coverage of these movies... well, not all of them. I would never want to watch, say, Prom Night or Halloween III over and over again. But, the costume choices in this movie alone would provide a good entry, something on my old standby topic of gender. I mean, Tina’s got the jerk boyfriend and is presumably sexually active, and she dresses like a “naughty” maid for Halloween, but she’s also the one girl here who seems alert to danger—a sign that she’s supposed to be the Final Girl for this film—and she never actually gets to have sex since her boyfriend is killed. Meanwhile, her friend Sam is dressed like the devil, and she has sex in this film, and gets killed soon thereafter. Her boyfriend, Spitz, is dressed like a cowboy, the quintessential American man. Backtrack a little to Michael’s (the boyfriend, not the killer) death scene—Michael (killer) challenges his masculinity—as represented/compensated for by his car—by scraping that car. Michael (boyfriend) gets all testosterone-filled and goes for the violence (as already noted) and died for it. His “costume” by the way—a barbaric male mask (it was originally supposed to be a Ronald Reagan mask, by the way, but that was decided to be too political) Tina got him, and that Michael (killer) dons later to pick up Tina for... well, reasons.

Meanwhile, cowboy and devil just died. And, it is worth noting that even devil girl Sam was smart enough to try to fight back against Michael with the pitchfork he’d just used on Spitz. The whole Final Girl thing—this movie is not quite handling it... I was going to say it wasn’t handling it right, but really, is it right to frame the slasher film in gender roles and stereotypes? It may be common, but that doesn’t make it right.

Jamie is already an anomaly as far as the Final Girl thing goes, but kill off Rachel in the first 20 minutes and then have her apparently very sexually active—she just went into the barn to invite Sam and Spitz to go skinny dipping which, in the context of slasher films, is practically asking for death (see: Friday the 13th Part 2, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Friday the 13th Part VII, for example)—friend be quite proactive against Michael, give us just enough of her to think she‘s the Final Girl, then kill her, too. I wonder, actually, if Tina’s role in the story wasn’t supposed to be filled by Rachel originally, since it’s the same motherly protective role Rachel filled in 4.

Then, heading into the latter half of act three, the movie becomes something different. Leave behind the slasher thing, and set a trap for Michael. Change things up for a cliffhanger ending that perplexed a big part of the audience.

(Just noticed there’s a thorn mark on the wall in the Myers house. Nice detail.)

This month, in looking at the slasher film after slasher film, it’s interesting to track the progression of the genre. With Jason Takes Manhattan, this film, Freddy’s Dead (which I’ll be watching in a couple days) and Jason Goes to Hell, the slasher film was coming to an end of sorts. Things would linger, but New Nightmare (no matter how awesome I think it is), The Curse of Michael Myers and the Next Generation Chain Saw movie were more like death throes or last legs than anything else. Still, the slasher genre couldn’t be kept down anymore than Jason or Michael or Freddy or Leatherface could. A few more sequels and reboots and remakes would come. It would be a while—the Friday the 13th remake maybe—before the slasher genre really died off. And, maybe the timing with the “torture porn” horror films helped it go down. The spectacle of the gore took precedence over the story, the stalking. Sure, the Saw series and the Hostel films had something to say, but the message got a bit muddled in all that blood and pain. And, the slasher film got left behind. Now it’s all supernatural horror, found footage stuff, demon possession...

But, I will stick with the genre a bit longer, see what it’s got left. Michael, Jason, and to a lesser extent Freddy, and a much lesser extent Leatherface—they’re like old friends, and it has been nice hanging out with them again after all these years.

(One final note on this film: Loomis was pretty cold in the previous film, I pointed out. Here he is like senior citizen badass, walking right up to Michael and having a conversation (albeit one-sided) with the guy.)

(Oh, and the double meaning when Jamie says “uncle” is nice.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

he musta dreamt himself up

It’s been a while since I’ve watched A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. And, I’m pretty sure I don’t like this movie. And so, I turn it on and the logo is different and it starts with some attempt at artistic extreme close-ups of a sex scene... lit in the generic movie orange and blue.

From nude to nun, the Alice Johnson story... or at least her dream. Six minutes of nudity without showing anything, she might as well be a nun that’s about to be raped by a bunch of mental patients.

Wow, how offensive was that?

Seriously, though, it’s a strange juxtaposition starting off with so much of Alice not only naked but having sex, when the usual slasher film lead is virginal and innocent, maybe even tomboyish. Alice not only had sex but had sex on screen, and she’s going to be a mother. Sure, she was already the Final Girl in a previous film, but she’s still the Final Girl here, too. She just doesn’t fit the stereotype.

Anyway, I am not as tired as when I watched a couple of the previous Nightmare movies, but once again, I am tired. I think I’ve mentioned my long Mondays this quarter, basically from 8am to 10pm I’ve got no break longer than 10 minutes. Freddy Krueger has conspired to catch me when I am tired. Except I don’t get the benefit of having my own nightmares about him. While I like the idea of the character (and love the New Nightmare take on him, I don’t find him particularly scary, plus I’m too old to have bad dreams over a movie. Vivid dreams, maybe. But no nightmares.

Which is too bad, really.

As for this movie, baby Freddy is kinda cute, and not at all scary. This dream is more of an explanatory setpiece than a nightmare. In terms of the story, it makes sense, though; Freddy is trying to get himself dreamed back into “existence” so of course, he’s channeling the story of his birth through Alice’s unborn child. It’s part of what makes Freddy Krueger so resilient, and makes the New Nightmare version work so well—Freddy is not a character, per se, but the story of a character. Not a specific danger but the idea of danger...

Something I haven’t dealt with yet in this blog is Freddy’s self-injury and self-mutilation. Way back in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, he cut himself open when Nancy was dreaming about him at school. In this film, he just removed his own arm (oddly, after pouring champagne on his shoulder to burn it off. I’m not as familiar with the films in this series as the Halloween or Friday the 13th films, so I couldn’t list every instance, but I am pretty sure Freddy has injured himself in all five films so far. Briefel (2005) suggests, “Masochism is central to the construction of male monsters, who initiate their sadistic rampages with acts of self-mutilation” (p. 16). It’s vital that the monster’s masochism be “profoundly disturbing” rather than eliciting sympathy (p. 18). The masochistic self-injury,

...the shock value of which emanates both from the unexpectedness of the monster hurting himself when his apparent role in the film is to harm others, and from its challenge to conventional notions of monstrosity. Is the monster a show-off, bragging to his prospective victims (and, by extension, to his audience) that eh can withstand what they cannot? It he using his own body to preview what he will ultimately do to them, thereby disrupting the boundary between victims and monsters? And, perhaps most importantly, is he capable of feeling pain? In the flashback to Freddy Krueger’s adolescence in Freddy’s Dead, the young monster tells his abusive stepfather, from whom he has just demanded more punishment, “You wanna know the secret of pain? If you can stop feeling it, you can start using it.” ...once he has delivered his declamation on pain, Freddy directs his razorblade toward his father. His transition from inflicting violence on himself to turning the violence outwards suggests that monstrosity originates when the ability to resist pain turns into a desire to harm others.

This trajectory dictates the spectator’s own process of identification in watching the masochistic monster. Freddy’s suggestion that the monster does not feel pain when he wounds himself inhibits audience identification in this cinematic moment. (p. 18)

I’m reminded of the monsters from the Hellraiser series, with their constant wounds. Of course, for the Cenobites, it is not that they don’t feel pain but that they specifically do feel pain and pain and pleasure have become twisted together, just like our titillation and our horror get twisted together in watching them, or in watching a slasher film. Give us the hedonistic teens, let them do drugs and have sex, but then kill him while we watch, while we cheer.

Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees don’t hurt themselves. Perhaps, Freddy’s masochism comes from a different place than just being more monstrous. Maybe there’s some self-loathing on his part. I mean, he was an abused kid, probably blamed himself. He grew up to molest and murder children. He probably doesn’t think very positively of himself. Maybe those moments in which Freddy hurts himself are the moments when Freddy is more Freddy than the moments he hurts everyone else.

Works Cited

Briefel, A. (2005). Monster Pains: Masochism, Menstruation, and Identification in the Horror Film. Film Quarterly 58:3. pp. 16-27.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

you can't get the adrenaline pumpin' without the terror, good people

It’s like this... We live in claustrophobia, the land of steel & concrete. Trapped by dark waters. There is no escape. Nor do we want it. We’ve come to thrive on it and each other. You can’t get the adrenaline pumpin’ without the terror, good people... I love this town.

A few shots of New York City (and it’s stand-in locations in Vancouver, then cut to Crystal Lake. No campers in this movie, though. A couple high school graduates on a boat on the lake and then we leave the lake, and even leave New Jersey.

Jim tells Suzi about the murders around Crystal Lake, and ends amazingly... “And every now and then, the murders start up again.” Beat “Forget about it, Suzi. They’re just stories.” Proceeds to disappear, then shows up in a hockey mask (a conveniently scarred in the forehead mask, I would add—Jason’s injury from the end of The Final Chapter, not the break by the eye socket, though) and stabs her with a trick knife.

Jason shows up once they’re back in bed, dons the new mask—remember, Tina broke his old one in The New Blood—and kills ‘em both. He’s a bit cruel with Suzi, actually, bringing the spear down toward her slowly while she screams.

The Final Girl (and Guy) are introduced rather obviously—they each have character-building storylines going right away—his father (the ship’s captain) wants him to take up captaining, and she, for a so far unexplained reason wasn’t even supposed to be on this boat trip, and apparently she writes—teacher gave her a pen that supposedly belonged to Stephen King.

Introduce us to a few characters, let us know just enough about them to tell them apart but not enough to make us necessarily care when they die... which may contradict something I said the other day; I believe I said the point to having all the different types of teenage characters was as easy ins for the audience members, and I don’t think that’s wrong. I just think it’s secondary to making sure the series of murders is not monotonous. Karnick (2008) argues that Friday the 13th (the original), “changed the horror genre significantly by removing any chance of identification with or concern for the victims beyond the most basic humanitarian feelings.” I think this says more about Karnick than the general audience. “The victims are presented as generic American teens,” Karnick continues, “and beyond that we know nothing about them.” Thing is, the characterization we get on, say, Sean with his captain father is not any deeper than Tamara and her “biology project” or Wayne and his camera.

(Continuity nitpick: a) Jason’s back should be showing not only more flesh but some ribs—he did not have the opportunity to change clothes since Tina (and her dead father) sank him to the bottom of Crystal Lake in The New Blood. b) He also should not need to be picking up so many random things (a sauna rock, a piece of broken mirror, a harpoon, etc.) to kill people because he should still be wearing that toolbelt thing he had on in Jason Lives.

(Kill nitpick: Jason stabbed downward with that harpoon thingy, would have had to the guy’s leg or butt at best, but then on the ground, the guy has the harpoon angled upward into his back.)

“As the killings occur,” Karnick says, “the audience does not look upon the characters with sympathy or even assimilate their demises as the deaths of real human beings. On the contrary, the entire film is a stylized presentation of bloody but strangely unaffecting mayhem.” He’s talking about the original Friday the 13th, but the same is generally applied to each film in this series and all the other slasher series. My thing, though, is it is simplistic to assume we cannot both care about the victims in these films and cheer when they are killed. These two things may seem contradictory, but they just aren’t. Perhaps Karnick just has trouble caring about fictional characters (or other human beings) in general.

(Timeline nitpick: there is no way Rennie could have been in the lake with a child Jason. He drowned in 1958. Even if Jason Takes Manhattan took place in 1989 (the date of its release), which it does not, Jason still would have been a kid more than two decades ago, well before Rennie was even born.)

Karnick also writes about how the killings in a slasher film are

typically initiated by a grievous wrong against the killer or someone the killer cares about, usually done by ordinary people who didn’t know any better. The genre therefore conveys the impression of a world gone unaccountably violent, with vengeance often visited not upon those responsible for wrongdoing but instead upon innocents.

The bikers in Part II, the muggers cum rapists in this one—the Friday the 13th series certainly presents a world where violence can show up randomly (regardless of Jason or his mother, I mean). When Rennie and Sean run into that little diner, Rennie says they’re a maniac is trying to kill them. The waitress’ response: “Welcome to New York.”

(Ending nitpick: a) The leaving behind of the kid makes no sense, but Jason Goes to Hell skips right past the formality of resurrecting Jason to having him just already be alive again, so it doesn’t matter much. b) That being said, did Rennie and Sean just leave that kid in the sewer? That is just rude.)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

maybe nobody knows how to stop him

Before I even get started with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, I gotta complain a bit about the DVD.

A) If I just rented or bought Halloween 4, you really don’t need to tell me all about the original Halloween before I watch it. Unless I just don’t understand Arabic Numerals, I’m guessing you realize this is a sequel and you got into this one—part 4—on purpose, so you don’t need an ad for the original.

B) If I am about to watch part 4, why the hell are you showing me an ad for part 5? SPOILERS much? I mean, I might as well just skip this one because I know the girl in the clown costume lives (though I don’t know who she is just yet), I know that Dr. Loomis makes it through this one, and so does Michael. So, screw the rest of this cast, let’s just move on to the next one. Seriously, either I already know part 5 exists (and, I do, have seen it more than once) and so I don’t need an ad for it just like I don’t need an ad for the original, or I do not know that it exists, in which case, let me watch this one in peace. Throw an ad for part 5 after the end credits if you want, but don’t diminish the role of this one before I’ve even got to it.

Now, the movie. My family, when I was growing up, was a Halloween family. I don’t mean that we celebrated the holiday, because we didn’t. But, we watched the movies, often. When this one came out, we were in the theater on the opening weekend—I remember seeing it on the date on screen at the beginning of the film, but we did see it several times while it was out, so I guess that was later. And, we were excited for this thing, as excited to have Michael back as we had been disappointed by III. This one has a great opening sequence, gradually getting us to Michael, and not starting with the theme music. Give us an attack—a fairly brutal one in the ambulance—then cut away to our new characters, Jamie and Rachel. It’s been 11 months since Jamie’s parents were killed in a car accident. And, Halloween II fans who shipped Laurie and Jimmy are assuming those two got together and had this kid. It’s a cheap out that we don’t get them, but the actors here do well enough that we don’t mind so much pretty quickly.

Then, the nightmare. Great setup, lightning flashing on Michael there in the room, then he’s under the bed, more like a fantasy of Michael Myers than any portrayal we’ve seen. And, that’s just what he is. Gotta wonder how many times Jamie has heard about uncle boogeyman.

Dr. Loomis makes a nice dramatic entrance—he’s got a nice limp, some burn scars and he refers to Michael as “it.”

There’s an interesting take on the end of the original Halloween that I read recently. It may have been on the IMDb boards. Dr. Loomis is very quick to shoot Michael repeatedly when he has no awareness yet of what Michael has done. Sure, he had killed Judith 15 years earlier, but the movie doesn’t even make it clear that Loomis saw the body of the mechanic whose clothes Michael took. Loomis doesn’t know that Michael has killed Annie or Lynda or Bob. He heard some screaming kids and walked in on Michael and Laurie. Sure, Michael is attacking Laurie, but what kind of a guy—especially a psychiatrist—jumps straight to shoot the guy six times? So then, at the service station on the way to Haddonfield here in 4, Loomis does take a moment to speak to Michael, but then in very little time, he’s back to shooting at him. Maybe if you just tried to talk to Michael, you might accomplish something. Not to get all touchy feely, but stop responding to his violence with your own and maybe he’d be less homicidal.

Or, you know, be a better shot.

And, yay, Lindsey and Tommy are still around. I’m sure plenty of fans of the original figured those two kids grew up to be a couple just like Laurie and Jimmy. Of course, they don’t even have a scene together.

Let us be glad that this film doesn’t go the easy route of having those kids who pretended like they’d pick up Dr. Loomis then drove off show up later to be killed. Like Melissa in Friday the 13th Part VII or Kelly later in this movie—it’s good to have at least one victim that the audience is happy to see killed; it helps really build up our culpability in the murders. But, a whole carload of jerks—that’s too easy.

Yeah, Kelly and Brady both—they’re gonna need some killin’ later.

The use of the child as the primary victim and Final Girl here—though Rachel is a close second—changes the equation a little. And, that shot of Michael’s hand tensing when he heard them mention his surviving niece in the ambulance really sets up the next two sequels. I’m not sure how much of the plot was planned, but these three (even if people liked them less as they went on) link together fairly well, setting up a reason for Michael’s murders. It’s not territorial like Jason’s, not for food like Leatherface’s, not for revenge like Freddy’s, but for something stranger. I’ll talk about it more when it comes out more explicitly in the later film, but for now, just now that Michael is set on killing his family, sacrificing the bloodline. Or something along those lines. Haven’t watched 6 in a while.

Rachel can’t even know that the guy she sees is Michael but she makes a run for it. Smart girl.

Multiple Michaels and Loomis again goes straight to his gun. The people of Haddonfield are lucky he doesn’t just shoot everyone in a mask.

Michael is quite systematic, by the way. Took out the ambulance folks, found himself a truck, found himself a mask. Now, he has checked out Jamie’s house, taken out the police and shut down the power around town.

These lynch mob guys from the bar are even more trigger happy than Loomis. Haddonfield is doomed.

Even twelve year old me wasn’t impressed by this Kelly Meeker girl. Sure, her t-shirt is clever—Cops do it by the book—but Rachel is cuter, smarter, more responsible. Liked her back then, and still do.

Deputy Logan is an idiot. Unless his squad car’s back door just has a habit of opening on its own, but that’s a detail that should be established ahead of time.

I’m gonna be outside, upstairs, in the attic. For some reason, that line has been a regular thing for me for... wow, 26 years since this movie was in theaters. It is surprising how useful that line can be.

Actually, the dynamic of sort of having two Final Girls in this film is an interesting one, even in Cloverian terms. Rachel comes across fairly motherly, but she also had intended to go out with Brady tonight. She should have been the one having sex with him instead of Kelly. This fits well with Clover’s (1992) version of the Final Girl, sexually frustrated, virginal (even if not deliberately). But, it contrasts with that motherliness. Her relationship with her adopted sister makes her quite protective, and in the classic mother bear feminine sort of way. Sheriff Meeker is similarly protective of his daughter, but in a more patriarchal, territorial way—he threatens to use the shotgun on Brady if he catches him groping his daughter.

Rachel doesn’t have a Final Girl kind of name—not exactly gender neutral. Jamie is, I suppose, but Rachel, no. In fact, Rachel’s tendency to run, to protect—she’s not Final Girl material at all. In a way, Halloween 4 backtracks into early slasher film territory—the original Halloween, the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre—with men having to come to the rescue. But, at least that means Rachel doesn’t have to turn violence against violence.

Dr. Loomis’ honesty is great. “We’ll hear some sirens soon.” “Then we’ll be safe? You don’t believe that?” “No.”

Seeing as how it takes the men to get the girls out of town, to take down Michael, etc., it’s interesting that Michael is pit against, effectively, the entire town, and mostly he wins. He is not just going after a few teenagers, he’s up against the police force and a lynch mob and they ain’t stopping him.

Ripping open the lynch mob dude’s neck with his bare hand might just be Michael’s most bloody kill in any of these movies. Well, not counting the floor covered in blood in Halloween II, anyway.

And, the ending. Dr. Loomis was going to shoot a little girl. That guy is cold.