Choose Your Own HALLOWEEN Adventure

Earlier this month, the trailer for the latest film in the long-running HALLOWEEN franchise had its unveiling, and along with that came the information that it would be serving as a direct sequel to the original HALLOWEEN (1978).

Now, long-running franchises will often have “non-canon” installments. Sometimes they’re meant as an intentional new direction, sometimes they come as a result being disregarded by a subsequent film (for example, Superman Returns wisely side-stepped the existence of Superman III and Superman IV), but either way, it usually just means that if you were to sit down to watch the whole franchise, you could skip over an installment or two and not have it affect the main storyline.

But the HALLOWEEN franchise takes it one step further. As of right now, it has managed to create multiple divergent storylines within its franchise. Indeed, you can easily say that HALLOWEEN has now become the Choose Your Own Adventure of film franchises.

Partly due to original HALLOWEEN heroine, Jamie Lee Curtis’s unexpected agreement to return on multiple occasions to her most iconic role, selections from the 11 films in the HALLOWEEN franchise can be viewed in such a way that you can have up to 6 possible storylines based purely on what direction you want the story to go…just like the much cherished CYOA books of many of our youths.

How so, you ask?

Well, you give a [SPOILER WARNING] and then you start just like this…

(Tip: follow the orange path you choose by jumping to it’s matching green heading)*

It is a dark and foreboding night. An owl hoots in the distance. The only other sound is from the wind’s occasional rustling of the fall foliage. In other words, it’s a perfect time for a HALLOWEEN marathon! But now you must decide: Do you want your film experience featuring the masked killer Michael Myers to be…

…launched under the ground-breaking, atmospheric and skillful direction of John Carpenter? If so, then start with HALLOWEEN (1978).

…seen through the grubby and gory eyes of director Rob Zombie? If so, then start with HALLOWEEN (2007).

…a one-and-done film free of any appearance, reference or relation to Michael Myers? If so, then skip to HALLOWEEN III: Season of the Witch.

*NOTE—if you were one of those people who just always skipped to the end of Choose Your Own Adventures, then do what you know and skip to the TL;DR section below for a round-up of the films in each storyline.

HALLOWEEN (1978): Michael Myers, imprisoned in a mental institution since he was 6 years old for the brutal murder of his sister, escapes on the eve of the 15th anniversary of her death – Halloween, 1978. He heads back to his hometown of Haddonfield where he begins stalking a small group of teens and eventually kills three of them. One survivor, babysitter Laurie Strode, fights off his repeated attacks until he is shot six times by his psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis, and plummets off a second story balcony.

If you want Michael to escape and continue his night of terror in Haddonfield, move on to HALLOWEEN II (1981)


If you want Michael to get caught, skip to HALLOWEEN (2018)

HALLOWEEN II (1981): continuing from HALLOWEEN (1978): Michael Myers, having survived being impaled with a knitting needle, poked in the eye with a hanger, stabbed with a butcher knife, six gunshots to the chest and a two-story fall off a balcony, shakes it off and casually makes his way to Haddonfield Memorial, where his only surviving victim, Laurie Strode has been taken. While Michael slices through the hospital’s graveyard crew, Dr. Loomis learns that Laurie Strode is Michael’s baby sister (who was adopted after Michael’s parents were killed shortly after Michael was incarcerated for killing his sister). Realizing that Michael has returned to Haddonfield specifically to kill Laurie, he races to the hospital, managing to save Laurie once again before it’s too late. This time around, he fills an operating room with flammable gas, flicks a lighter and blows him and Michael right the hell up. Michael, fully on fire, stumbles out of the room and then falls to ground, motionless.

If you want Michael and Dr. Loomis to both survive, then follow their saga through HALLOWEEN 4: The Return of Michael Myers, HALLOWEEN 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers and HALLOWEEN: The Curse of Michael Myers


If want Dr. Loomis to survive the fire and Michael to be presumed dead, jump to HALLOWEEN H20: Twenty Years Later

HALLOWEEN (2007): Sit in on the story of Michael Myers’ childhood and watch as this cherub faced moppet develops an interest in torture and brutal violence that reaches its apex when he kills a bully, then his sister, her boyfriend and his stepfather all on one Halloween night. Incarcerated in a juvie loony bin, Michael manages to kill a nurse, which finally drives his Mom to suicide. Michael then grows up to be human giant Tyler Mane and makes a bloody breakout on Halloween Eve to return to Haddonfield. Determined to find his baby sister Boo, (who now goes by the name her adoptive parents gave her, Laurie Strode) Michael extracts gory, rage-fueled carnage on anyone who even glances his way. He is ultimately shot by Laurie herself, since his psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis, is not much of a reliable nor noble person.

Still alive, Michael is taken away in an ambulance to HALLOWEEN II (2009), where he escapes when the ambulance hits a cow. We then go to the hospital where Laurie has been taken for what is obviously a dream, because it’s a quite-well executed and suspenseful sequence where Michael stalks Laurie through the hospital corridors, stairwells and outside grounds. But then Laurie wakes up and is now permanently grumpy and whiney. Michael spends a year as a killer hobo before he returns to his quest of reclaiming his sister Laurie-Boo. As Michael is driven on by visions of his dead mother and a white horse to brutally massacre an assortment of redneck stereotypes and other unlikable people, you only have yourself to blame for watching this ugly mess. THE END

HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH: A doctor uncovers a sinister plot by an evil Halloween mask maker that involves a ritual requiring the sacrifice of thousands of children. To execute his plot, his company’s top-selling Halloween masks (“The Halloween Three”) each have a built-in death device to be triggered by a special TV signal on Halloween night. The doctor joins forces with a missing mask retailer’s daughter and they struggle to prevent the Halloween carnage from happening. Do they succeed? Unclear. THE END

HALLOWEEN 4,5,6 (Return, Revenge, Curse) continuing from HALLOWEEN II (1981): It’s 10 years after that fateful Halloween night that ended with a hospital fire that crippled Dr. Loomis and put Michael Myers into a coma. In that time, survivor Laurie Strode got married, had a daughter (Jamie), then died in a car crash with her husband. During a patient transfer, Michael wakes from his coma, makes a bloody escape, and returns to Haddonfield to kill his niece, 9 year-old Jamie.

He is pursued yet again by Dr. Loomis as he slices his way through Haddonfield but is ultimately unsuccessful in killing Jamie, so he returns the following year (HALLOWEEN 5) to do it all over again. He is briefly caught and taken into custody before a mysterious man in black ambushes the police station, releases Michael and kidnaps Jamie.

Seven years later (HALLOWEEN 6) we find out that Jamie was kidnapped by a cult that protects Michael and we also learn that the method to Michael’s madness all has to do with some Celtic ritual that has ties to his bloodline. Dr. Loomis and Tommy Doyle (Laurie’s babysitting charge from 1978) team up, track down the cult and finally, if not ambiguously, put an end to Michael’s reign of terror. THE END

HALLOWEEN H20: Twenty Years Later continuing from HALLOWEEN II (1981): It’s 20 years after that fateful Halloween night that ended with a hospital fire that crippled Dr. Loomis. Michael Myers was presumed dead as his body was never recovered, but that didn’t stop Laurie Strode from going into hiding. In fact, she faked her death, changed her name and moved to California, where she had a son and became headmistress of a secluded private school. But now, Michael—alive and well all these years—finds this information out by breaking into the house of the now-deceased Dr. Loomis, stealing his files and killing his former live-in nurse (the same nurse who was there with him when Michael escaped in 1978!). Michael then makes his way across the country to the private school, kills some students and faculty and attacks Laurie and her son. Laurie, who has had ENOUGH, takes charge of things, goes head-to-head with Michael and eventually beheads him, ending the terror once and for all.

If you want Michael to really be dead so Laurie can finally have closure, then this is THE END


If you want Michael to escape death (because of the worst case of mistaken identity ever) and then tie up loose ends before gaining a new motive for murder, go watch HALLOWEEN Resurrection

HALLOWEEN Resurrection continuing from HALLOWEEN H20: Laurie has been hospitalized due the trauma from her realizing the man she beheaded was not her serial killer brother, but an EMT who Michael attacked and then placed, unconscious, in his mask and coveralls. Eventually, Laurie is found once again by Michael. But she’s prepared for him this time and has an elaborate trap waiting for him on the hospital roof. Unfortunately, a moment’s hesitation proves to be fatal for Laurie as Michael stabs her, sending her swan diving off the roof. Michael then returns to live like a squatter in his now-condemned childhood home until a live webcast featuring college students investigating the “mystery of America’s most brutal mass murderer” sets up shop at chez Myers, giving Michael a new reason – and victims – for some bloody Halloween havoc. THE END

HALLOWEEN (2018) continued from HALLOWEEN (1978): Michael Myers has been imprisoned since 1978, having been caught shortly after killing three teens in Haddonfield on Halloween night. 40 years later, he escapes to take up where he left off, by going after “the victim who got away”, Laurie Strode. But Laurie—now a grandmother—has been prepping herself all these years, survivalist-style, for just this moment. How will the confrontation end? Find out this October. THE END…?



Choose Your Own HALLOWEEN Adventure! 11 films…

…six possible storylines!





Halloween Treats: FANGORIA Flashback

Recently my LCS (local comicbook store) had something interesting tucked away at the end of its new releases rack. A handful of vintage, shrink-wrapped FANGORIA magazines, from their first few years of publication (a time before I had even heard of the magazine, let alone was old enough to buy them)!

Few people outside of its target audience are familiar with Fangoria magazine. But for horror-movie heads in the 80s and 90s, Fangoria was sacred text. In that pre-internet era, it was the ONLY source of horror movie news, special effects features and behind-the-scenes info and interviews.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t always meant to be that way. Originally conceived of as FANTASTICA, it was intended to be a companion to Sci-Fi mag STARLOG, but focusing more on fantasy, freaks and creatures. A legal wrangle prompted the last-minute name change to FANGORIA and cover star Godzilla helped launch issue #1. One year and six issues later, Fangoria still hadn’t caught on, and was losing money with each publication. A creative shift came next that ramped-up the focus on horror (as those were the features that were proving most popular with readers) and that’s when things started to click. And Fango never looked back.

It surged in popularity through the 80s and 90s, and, quite amazingly for such a niche magazine, it managed to survive and thrive in the post-internet era. The Fango empire grew to include such offshoots as: a multi-city series of horror movie conventions (Weekend of Horrors/Trinity of Terrors), an annual horror awards ceremony (the Chainsaw Awards) and a film production/distribution company, (Fangoria Films). Unfortunately, not all good things can last forever and Fango ceased its regular print production in 2015. But the Fango spirit still lives on (mainly through its still-active website

Now, back to my back issue discovery. I picked up a trio of these flashback fright mags, and later noticed  they were issues #2, #12, and #22 – each published about a year and a half apart – and noted that taken together, they provide nice little snapshots of how Fangoria found its footing during its early years on the cusp of the modern horror film boom. So, in honour of all the Halloweens and other times of the year that Fangoria provided heaping helpings of horror, join me as I take a look back at the early years.

Issue #2, October 1979

  • Cover – Evidence of Fangoria’s non-horror roots abound, from the tagline “Monsters, Aliens and Bizarre Creatures” to the Doctor Who pull-out poster, to a feature on the fantasy art of Carl Lundgren.
  • New releases – Creature feature Prophecy and the sci-fi tinged Phantasm check off the current horror boxes for this ish.
  • Nostalgia alert – Fango didn’t just cover contemporary movies. In fact a large portion of its page count in the early years came from nostalgia features, as this issue exemplifies. In addition to the War of the Worlds piece featured on the cover, this issue also featured deep dives into ’30s classics Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein. 
  • Shape of things to come – In the Postal Zone letters column an editorial reply to a fan confirmed that “Horror will continue as our main concern”
  • Shape of things not to come – Elsewhere in the Postal Zone, Fango confirms that the next JAWS sequel will be titled National Lampoon’s JAWS III, People: 0 and is to be co-produced by the teams behind Animal House and the JAWS films. Obviously that sequel never came to fruition and instead, 4 years later, we got JAWS 3-D.
  • Flashback fun –  Upcoming projects mentioned include blurbs about John Landis’ , American Werewolf in London and acclaimed “young director” John Carpenter’s The Fog, the follow-up to his mega-hit Halloween.

Issue #12, April 1981

  • Knightriders (George Romero’s knights-on-motorcycles flick), Clash of the Titans and a profile of a Warner Bros. animator prove that there’s still a mixed bag of genres being covered.
  • Nostalgia alert – A Roger Corman interview and a look back at the gimmick films of William Castle
  • New releases – Friday the 13th Part II gets the horror spotlight here, with other contemporary fright features spotlighting the Michael Caine thriller The Hand and an interview with director Tobe Hooper, fresh off The Funhouse.
  • Flashback fun – Director Steve Miner on his directorial debut, Friday the 13th Part II: “…even if it were a huge bomb, which I know it won’t be…” (an obviously true prediction, but doubtful that even the confident Miner would have predicted that his sequel would be the first of a franchise that would eventually include 9 sequels, a cross-over and a reboot)
  • Now filming – Announced as “currently filming” is a little film based on a Phillip Dick novel called Blade Runner.

Issue #22, October 1982

  • Cover – Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Friday the 13th Part IIICreepshow – by virtue of the cover alone, you can see that Fango has now pretty much embraced the horror-heavy focus that would remain for the rest of its run.
  • Still room for more – The non-horror spotlight shines it diminishing light on  The Beastmaster and Pink Floyd’s The Wall
  • The hostess with the mostest! – Elvira, Mistress of the Dark gets an “introduction” article, profiling the television host of the then Southern Cal-broadcast-only Movie Macabre.
  • Paging Dr. Loomis – The push behind Halloween III is quite amazing, everyone is all gung-ho on this non-Michael Myers non-sequel as being the start of turning the Halloween movies into an anthology franchise (and we all know how that turned out – HIII flopped, angered fans and caused the series to go dormant for 6 years while Jason and Freddy dominated the slasher scene, until they finally dusted off Michael’s white mask and let him loose in Haddonfield once again)
  • Silver Shamrocks – But still, being able to order the masks that are central to the plot of Halloween III, was a pretty sweet marketing tie-in (obviously aimed at collectors, but I wonder if any parents actually shelled out the dough to get some of these for their kids– especially given what happens in the movies to kids who wear the masks….)

And that’s about it for this FANGORIA Flashback! So, I guess all that’s left to say is…“ ‘Fangs’ for the memories!” (ouch. Sorry.)

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Treats: Surprisingly Good Late-Series Horror Sequels

The horror genre is easily the most prolific when it comes to sequels. Unfortunately, quantity rarely means quality, and most horror franchises tend to see diminishing returns with each lackluster entry. So it’s always a treat to stumble across a late-series entry that’s actually better than would ever be expected. So if you’re looking for some such treats this Halloween, here are a few you can check out.

Final Destination 5

The unique thing that sets apart the Final Destination films from other horror fare has also been its downfall. In the first FD, the idea of turning Death itself into a supernatural slasher (determined to right the scales in his favour when a teen’s premonition saves him and his classmates from a plane explosion where they would have surely perished), was original and exciting. But with each sequel simply repeating the same conceit with different characters, it quickly became old hat – not only to audiences, but to people within the movies themselves. The characters in the fourth installment don’t even bat an eye when they find out Death is stalking them, they just dutifully move the action along from one high-concept deathtrap set piece to another.

So it was surprising that when Final Destination 5 came out, there was some obvious effort on the filmmaker’s part to kick the quality back up a few notches. And it worked. Suspense oozes out of every deathtrap sequence and the signature opening catastrophe was stellar – second only to the highway pile-up of FD 2. The collapse of a huge suspension bridge is well staged and choreographed and the special effects are incredible (and personally, a little jarring – since the bridge that was used in the film is Lion’s Gate Bridge in Vancouver, which is just a mere 5 minutes away from where I live, and I always think of it collapsing whenever I drive over it now).

Another plus is that the film tries to mix up the whole “Death is killing the survivors in the order they should’ve died” by adding in a ghoulish twist – that the survivors may be able to avoid death by Death by killing someone else in their place. And to top it all off, the 3D work is handled very well, with set-ups designed specifically for 3D filming – no muddy, post-conversion 3D here.

Saw VI

I liked Saw. I did not care for Saw II. And I have no idea why I saw every subsequent Saw film even though I’m not a fan of torture and the copious flashback reveals made each film just more and more muddled. I guess I just kept hoping that one of the sequels would at least be able to hold up to the first one. Thankfully, it finally paid off with Saw VI.

Sorry, you'll have to wait - this ride's all full.

Sorry, you’ll have to wait – this ride’s all full.

Instead of deadly games master Jigsaw or his minions selecting immoral or damaged souls to “learn the value of life” by placing them in deathtraps (which is about as morally righteous as Jason Voorhees narrowing his victim list to only trespassing campers and annoying teens), this time the action is centered on a person whose day-to-day life involves playing god with people’s lives. A health insurance agent whose personal selection policy favours the healthy over the ill has resulted in the deaths of a number of individuals who were denied coverage and treatment (including Jigsaw himself). After being kidnapped, he awakens to find himself trapped in a deadly funhouse of terror traps along with six of his coworkers and associates, who are strapped to a literal carousel of death. He now has to make his way through the funhouse by juggling the fates of the lives of those six just as he juggled with the lives of every sick person who he denied coverage. And just for an extra kick in the ‘nads, he is being observed by the wife and child of one such man who recently died.

Hmm…a Saw film that is actually comments on a current and controversial topic (health care)? And does so while offering some great suspense-filled set-pieces? Yep, there you have it – Saw VI, the best of all the Saw sequels.

Halloween: H20

How many times do I have to tell you - we have no more candy!

Go away – we have no more candy!

I’ve already mentioned the film officially known as Halloween: Twenty Years Later in a few previous posts, so I’ll just sum it up quickly: this seventh installment of the Halloween franchise disregarded sequels 4-6, brought back ultimate final girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and had her face off once again with the murderous, masked Michael Myers in a direct follow-up to the first two Halloween films, which is easily the best sequel since Halloween II. With a focus that leans heavily on suspense-over-gore that was the original film’s trademark, the only quibble here is that it’s too short. The set-up seems a tad rushed and an extra 10 minutes before the final act would have been welcome. But no deal breaker is this! I’ll take a brisk Halloween: H20 over the other late sequels or either of Rob Zombie’s Halloween remakes any day.

Honourable (Video Game) Mention

Silent Hill Downpour

SHDPThe survival horror franchise that is Silent Hill has seen many ups and downs since it’s high-water mark of Silent Hill 2: Shattered Dreams. When subsequent installments like Silent Hill: The Room and Silent Hill Homecoming didn’t do much to thrill fans or critics, not much was expected from eighth entry Silent Hill Downpour.

Gladly that was not the case. In a serious effort to bring back the creepiness and chills that have been missing from the survival horror genre, Silent Hill Downpour wrapped its single-protagonist main story in the pseudo-open world setting of the town of Silent Hill itself – complete with a number of optional side quests and stories to explore. These side quests, which involve solving mysteries connected to the macabre history of the town, is what actually provides most of the chills of the game, and it was just great to see Silent Hill (the town) being treated like an actual character instead of just a backdrop. Sure there were a few shortcomings with the game itself, but again – we’re talking about Silent Hill and about surprisingly good late-series horror entries, and that means that the box next to Silent Hill Downpour is the one to check off.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

The Three 3-D Three-Quels of the Early 80s

In between its 50s heyday and its current-day renaissance, 3-D films briefly came back in vogue in the early 80s. This period was only punctuated by a handful of films, the most notable of which all happened to be the third installments of popular horror franchises. So let’s take a little look back on this trifecta of third dimension terrors and the mark they made on pop culture history.

Friday the 13th Part III (1982)f13iiiskinnyposter

Opening weekend: $9.4 million
Total domestic gross: $36.6 million

In the early 80s, advances made in 3-D technology, along with the release of a couple of quickie, low-budget 3-D flicks, caught the attention of the major motion picture studios. Frank Mancuso, Jr. got the ball rolling at Paramount and soon movie theatres across North America were being upgraded to support the next generation of 3-D films. Originally, Star Trek III was slated to be given the inaugural 3-D treatment, but when that plan fell through, Friday the 13th Part III ended up with the honour.

It proved to be a wise decision, because even though the expensive 3-D process resulted in a bigger budget than the typical slasher films of the day were given, the box office results were worth it. Friday the 13th Part III not only opened at #1, but it also became the film to finally dislodge E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial from the top slot. It also greatly improved of the box office results of Friday the 13th Part 2 and helped set the franchise on its path to longevity.

Its success also prompted other studios to take notice, and soon its formula for success was being implemented on other familiar franchises – albeit with drastically different results.

jaws3dposterJaws 3-D (1983)

Opening weekend: $13.4 million
Total domestic gross: $45.5 million

Whereas the addition of 3-D to Friday the 13th Part III was generally seen as nothing more than a fun enhancement to the film, the 3-D aspect of the second Jaws sequel was generally regarded as a “gimmick” to lure viewers into theatres. Basically, Friday the 13th Part III could stand on its own without the 3-D effects, but Jaws 3-D was seen as a poorly written and directed film than relied heavily on its 3-D effects. This might not have necessarily been a problem however, if the effects were well done. Unfortunately, while Friday the 13th Part III had a number of practical effects and props designed for it, Jaws 3-D relied more on a number of post-production effects that were hardly convincing on their own, and then made worse due to the murky 3-D conversion process.

(top) Friday the 13th Part III's eye-popping practical fx and (bottom) Jaws 3-D's murky, cut-n-paste post-production fx

(top) Friday the 13th Part III’s eye-popping practical fx and (bottom) Jaws 3-D’s murky, cut-n-paste post-production fx

Still, as a gimmick, it did the trick and pulled in some respectable box office numbers. And while it ended up raking in more than Friday the 13th Part III, it didn’t mirror that film’s feat of improving on its previous franchise entry. Coupled with the poor reception it received critically and its dismal and cheesy effects, the most successful film of the 80s 3-D revival also signaled that the end of this era was near. And in just a few months, the last major 3-D film of the 80s would confirm it.

Amityville 3-D (1983)

Opening weekend: $2.3 million
Total domestic gross: $6.3 million

Just as with Jaws 3-D, the third Amityville film appropriated “3-D” directly into its title, making dual use of the numeral 3. However, due to a potential lawsuit from The Lutz family (whose history with the iconic, supposedly haunted/cursed New Jersey house provided the basis for the first two Amityville films), the makers of Amityville 3-D had to actually add a disclaimer to the film’s advertisements that stated it was not a sequel to The Amityville Horror and Amityville II: The Possession.

amity3dposterUltimately, that proved to be of little consequence to the film’s reception. The 3-D effects were called out for being blurred, murky and headache-inducing while the film itself struck out big-time with critics (it currently has a 0% rating on the aggregate rating site Rotten Tomatoes). The Amityville franchise was already faltering before Amityville 3-D hit the theatre, and even though it opened at #1 just like Friday the 13th Part III and Jaws 3-D, its  take was so meager that its total domestic gross didn’t even come close to the amounts those films pulled in for just their opening weekends.

The new age of 3-D was now most certainly as dead as any of the hapless victims featured in this triumvirate of 3-D terrors, and it would take over 20 years before 3-D would again make a significant mark on moviedom.

Nowadays, the improvements in the 3-D process has resulted in many films of a quality that is leaps and bounds beyond those of the 80s. However, that doesn’t stop many a genre lover from looking back at this era and these films with endearing nostalgia for delightfully silly effects viewed through cheap, cardboard, two-toned glasses.

I Know What You Live-Blogged Last Summer

Something I’ve wanted to do for a while now is a live-blog of a movie viewing, and when it was recently announced that a remake of  I Know WhatI_Still_Know_What_You_Did_Last_Summer You Did Last Summer was underway (I guess Hollywood finally ran out of 80s horror films to remake), it got me thinking that it’s not-so-esteemed sequel would be a perfect candidate for my first attempt. Of course it’s not really a “live” live-blog, but you know, minor details.

Anyhoo, if you feel like taking a flashback trip to the world of 1998 with Jennifer Love Hewitt, Brandy, Freddie Prinze, Jr and a killer fisherman with a really big hook, then let’s jump right into my live-blogging of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer!

0:45  I must say – I do like the quick little pre-credits “audio flashback”

0:50 And let’s just get this out of the way – technically, the title should be  I Still Know What You Did Two Summers Ago or something to that effect.

1:10  J. Lo Hew enters the biggest, emptiest, most candle-lit church ever.

1:44  “Forgive me father, for I now have to summarize the previous movie”

2: 24  I don’t know anyone who has ever screamed themselves awake from a nightmare like J. Lo Hew here.

4:11  Whoa, pre-Gossip Girl Matthew Settle, looking REALLY young.

4:21  “The one in shower?” subtle Settle explaining the first movie’s cliffhanger ending as just a J. Lo Hew nightmare

5:17  This campus seems WAY too populated for: 1) a summer school semester; and 2) a Fourth of July weekend

6:30  Aw, Freddie Prinze, Jr. and his sexy, dumb, mouth-breather schtick – essential for a late-90s teen flick.

7:04  Seriously, there are like a bajillion students just randomly running around this campus

7:15  J. Lo Hew’s apartment is the campus version of Monica and Rachel`s apartment on Friends – SO big and in no way affordable for its residents.

8:00  Cameo appearance of Sarah Michelle Gellar on her Croaker Queen float from the first flick (after the Fisherman did her a solid by hacking off her hair into a cute bob)

8:21 First obligatory J. Lo. Hew tank top sighting

8:50  Yep, I always keep a huge butcher knife in my nightstand, too.

I Still Know J Lo9:40  Brandy learns that it’s never a good idea to go creeping through your roommate’s closet when said roommate is going through some serious PTSD (and sleeps with a huge-ass butcher knife at the ready)

12:15  “You better recognize/’Cause that’s how my species survives/You’ll never convince me otherwise” – Mekhi Phifer, Mr. Smooth Talker 1998

13:32  Fisherman in da club!

13:46  I forgot just how over-the-top the “scary music” in this flick was. Oy.

13: 54  J. Lo Hew, deftly navigating her way through a seizure-inducing strobe light effect.

14:24  Uh-oh – J. Lo Hew’s Spidey-sense is tingling…

15:16  Tank Top Sighting #2

16:10  And now for the beginning of the most convoluted slasher revenge scheme EVER – Brandy just won the “radio contest” for a trip for 4 to the Bahamas – by naming the capital of Brazil as “Rio de Janerio”.

16:35  It’s kinda sad at how confident the makers of this movie were in thinking that no one in their target audience would realize that Rio de Janerio is the wrong answer.

17:25 And here’s J. Lo Hew’s soundtrack contribution, “How Do I Deal”. Somewhere, Brandy is still counting her blessings for being able to dodge having to do a horror movie tie-in single.

20:44 FPJ and his grubby friend have just come across the second part of the convoluted slasher revenge scheme – a staged car accident.

22:22  Yee-ouch – grubby friend just got mouth-hooked.

23:45  For a dumb mouth-breather, FPJ at least had the common sense to jump out of the way of a vehicle bearing down on him (as opposed to the Charlize Theron-in-Prometheus method of running in a straight line)

25:35  “It’s the only way on or off the island” – thanks for the exposition, ferry boat captain.

26:07  Note: there are easily 40-50 people at this Bahamas resort, sun tanning, jet skiing, swimming, etc (we’ll come back to this later)

27:11  And here comes a be-dreadlocked Jack Black, who for some mysterious reason is uncredited in this movie…

30:35 “Off-season staff of 5…Fourth of July weekend…storm season begins today” Asshole hotel manager Jeffery Combs cramming a lot of exposition into his spiel.

31:25  “We won a competition!” Uh, no you didn’t, Brandy. All you did was answer a question (and incorrectly, at that).

33:10  FPJ just jumped out of his hospital window, as one does

33:25  Jennifer Esposito, strictly cashing a paycheck, but classin’ up the joint, nonetheless. By the way, it is now just a few hours after the J. Lo Hew Crew’s arrival and the resort is now DESERTED. All those other vacationers got the hell outta there real quick, y’all.

35:47  “Ooo – Karaoke, perfect!” “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” – said no one outside this movie, ever.

36:12  Like J. Lo Hew has ever had to be dragged reluctantly onstage to sing I Still Know Espo

36:42  J. Espo, giving side eye while sucking on an orange wedge, is the best thing ever.

37:22  J. Lo Hew’s song lyrics come onscreen as “I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER!” – holy crap, the karaoke machine is sentient!

39:34  You guys – young Matthew Settle is like, super-cute.

42:50  The dockhand’s punishment for not wanting to get jiggy on the mainland with pot-head Jack Black? DEATH.

45:20  And now the housekeeper just got killed. You know what that means – no more clean towels.

51:28  J. Lo Hew just found the dockhand guy gutted and hanging in her closet. Worst room service ever.

51:47  “I want off this island!” “That’s not possible. There won’t be another boat for days.” “Then I’ll call the mainland for one!” “The phones just went down three minutes ago”. Asshole hotel manager is really being an asshole.

52:30  “Four spoiled city kids who wouldn’t know a hurricane if it blew up their ass” like, a total asshole.

52:40  And right on cue – storm season has begun!

53:29  Jack Black not only has a hilariously huge grow-op in the pool house, but also a rack of deadly gardening tools conveniently displayed right next to his couch. He knew the Fisherman might want to give the ol’ hook a rest (he did, and he opted for some garden shears).

56:00  Trading a 1 carat diamond ring for $300 and a revolver – not the best return-on-investment, there FPJ.

56:10  Oh wait, he’s insisting on $300 and a loaded revolver – way to hold out for the big bucks.

56:18  Tank Top Sighting #3

57:39  First karaoke and now a gym workout? Note to self: never let Brandy plan your vacation itinerary.

1:02:10  Okay, so Brandy just found the housekeeper stuffed in a dryer, Mekhi and Matthew just found Jack Black skewered in the pool house and the Fisherman is closing in on an oblivious J. Lo Hew in her tanning bed and he…ties the lid shut, cranks the heat up and slips back out? Um, you’re doing the whole slasher thing wrong.

1:03:00  Everyone just full-on reacted like J. Lo Hew was being eaten alive by her tanning bed

1:03:49  Asshole manager just got machete’d in the head. Guess we won’t need to fill out those feedback cards now.

1:05:14  Brandy is PISSED that J. Lo Hew has been keeping her sordid slasher history to herself. LIKE IT MATTERS.

1:05:25  FPJ, popping pills on a Greyhound to Miami, as one does.

1:06:45  Jack Black had a grow-op in his room and Estes the porter has a straight-up voodoo shrine in his. I’m starting to see why this was the “off-season staff”.

1:08:10  The producers just realised J. Lo Hew was wearing a sweatshirt for two consecutive scenes. She’s now in a too-small Oxford shirt with just one button done up right below her cleavage.

1:08:50  The globe in the lobby is spinning but there’s no one around. J. Lo Hew’s Spidey-sense is tingling again as the globe comes to rest on South America and…

1:09:35  BRASILIA, BITCHES! Estes drops the bombshell that the dumbass girls gave the wrong answer for the capital of Brazil.

1:10:10 “This whole thing is a set-up!” Yeah, a ridiculously convoluted slasher revenge scheme set up.

1:11:10  FPJ, hijacking a ferry boat at gunpoint, as one does.

1:13:25  “The phone lines are down, the boats are gone and there’s no way off this island” – Brandy, providing an in-movie recap for anyone just getting back from a bathroom break.

1:15:00  Estes is trying to hightail it off the island in his secret rowboat. Damn right – every man for himself, y’all.

1:16:05  J. Espo returns – and clocks Mekhi with a rolling pin. Sweet.

1:17:10  J. Espo: “Excuse me, but this place didn’t have a murder rate until you people showed up!” Truth.

1:17:45  Mekhi: “Worst vacation ever.” *gets hooked through neck, dies*

I Still Know Brandy1:19:31  Dumb klutz Brandy just crashed through a mirrored ceiling with the Fisherman, vaulted over a balcony and fell onto the roof of a greenhouse.

1:20:53  Brandy tries to get off the roof by stepping right in the center of each pane of glass – DUMB – and then just falls ass-backwards through the roof – KLUTZ.

1:23:20  J. Lo Hew finds an axe, but decides to just give the Fisherman the stink eye instead of hacking him and then runs away.

1:24:23  All of the victim’s bodies have now been piled in the storm shelter. Not only is this slasher revenge scheme convoluted, but it involves a LOT of unnecessary heavy lifting.

1:27:02. J. Espo and Estes get shish-kebab’d, Friday the 13th  Part II-style. Dammit, now all the good actors are dead.

1:27:16  Dumb klutz Brandy has just toppled backwards through a glass display case. That’s three glass-shattering events in less than 10 minutes – she should be sliced like sushi by now.

1:27:47  Matthew Settle is (gasp!) in on the revenge scheme – and he punches J. Lo Hew! (*audience cheers*)

1:28:03  Matthew is Ben the Fisherman’s son, and his name is Will Benson. Ben’s Son. Get it? GET IT?!

1:28:28  Pistol-packing FPJ to the rescue!

1:29:01  Or not.

1:29:12  Now the Fisherman punches J. Lo Hew! (*audience cheers again*)

1:30:15  Slasher Pro-Tip:  Running at someone you are about to impale with a giant fishhook while your son is directly behind him, holding him up, may not be the wisest course of action (and it’s not, FPJ twists and Fisherman hooks his son).

1:31:00  J. Lo Hew does what FPJ couldn’t and fires a bajillion bullets into the Fisherman, sending him flying into an open grave.

1:31:59  Get to the (Coast Guard) choppa! Oh hey y’all, look – Brandy’s still alive! Phew!

1:33:10  Back on the mainland for Tank Top Sighting #4

1:34:19  FPJ, to his electric toothbrush, “I love this thing!” Never change, cute, dumb mouth-breather.

1:35:41  J. Lo Hew sits on her bed and her Spidey-sense is…too late! Fisherman grabs her from under the bed! Bye now!


And just to recap why this was the most convoluted slasher revenge scheme ever: Instead of just breaking into J. Lo Hew’s apartment or jumping her on campus, the Fisherman decided a better plan would be to have his son enrol in the same school as her, befriend her and Brandy over the course of the year, THEN set them up to win a trip to the Bahamas (and pay for 4 plane tickets and accommodations). THEN, set up a perfectly timed car accident scene to get rid of FPJ, and THEN quickly jet down to the Bahamas, run himself ragged killing all the resort staff and dragging their bodies around to play mind-games and torment J. Lo Hew until he finally reveals himself so he can…just kill her. Dude. You’re really doing the whole slasher thing WRONG.

(But I can’t deny that it made for a gloriously cheesy and entertaining popcorn flick).









When Lightning Doesn’t Strike Twice

When the following pairs of artistic professionals initially collaborated, they didn’t only find success, but they also managed to create landmarks in the world of pop culture. So of course it seemed only natural for them to collaborate again. Unfortunately, their subsequent projects proved just how hard it is to make lightning strike twice.

John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John

The Hit: Grease (1978)

The Miss: Two of a Kind (1983) 

After the smash success of Grease (with an initial domestic gross of $159 million – at the time one of the top money-makers ever) the Twoofakindduo who immortalized the summer lovin’ Danny and Sandy reunited onscreen for another tale of romancin’ – albeit this time without the dancin’…or a sensible plot. Two of a Kind involves Travolta as would-be inventor who bungles a bank robbery and Newton-John as the teller who gives him a bag of deposit slips instead of cash and takes the loot for herself. The film then follows this upstanding duo on a series of chase scenes and musical montages while they randomly start falling for each other. Oh, and the whole thing is being observed by a gaggle of heavenly beings who have made a bet with God that if this misguided duo can reform, then he won’t wipe away mankind and start all over, like he’s been itching to do. Yup.

Needless to say, movie-goers didn’t really go for this pairing of the former Rydell High lovebirds, and critics didn’t go for the film’s nonsensical story. Two of a Kind managed to eke out $23 million at the box office before going off to celluloid heaven. (However, as with her previous flop, Xanadu, Newton-John fared much better with the music from the movie. Her rendition of the film’s lead single, “Twist of Fate” peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100).


Wes Craven & Kevin Williamson

The Hit: Scream/Scream 2 (1996/1997)

The Miss: Cursed (2005) 

Director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson did the near-impossible back in 1996. Not only did their collaboration, Scream, become a mainstream hit horror movie (domestic gross: $103 million), but it also resurrected the long-dead “teen slasher” sub-genre, deconstructing and updating its tropes along with help from a witty script full of savvy characters and filmed with genuine shocks and scares. Striking while the iron was hot, the duo re-teamed for Scream 2 just one year later, and it was just as big a success as the first, pulling in $101 million.cursed_poster

Commitments to his show Dawson’s Creek kept Williamson away from working with Craven on Scream 3, but the two were still itching to collaborate once again, but this time on something different. Thus, Cursed was born – and if ever there was an apt title for a film, this was it. The movie, concerning a brother and sister (Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg) who stumble across a werewolf attack was plagued by one problem after another: production delays, script rewrites, characters being recast or just cut completely (some even after they had filmed their scenes). Mandy Moore, Skeet Ulrich, Omar Epps and Scott Foley are just some of the many actors who were originally in (or intended to be in) the film at one time or another. After more than a year’s delay, Cursed was finally released, but not without one last stumbling block. The studios wanted this film about savage werewolf attacks to come with a PG-13 rating – which is pretty much the kiss of death for any horror movie – so Craven had to go back to the editing room and comply.

When this bloodless, scare-free, jumbled mess of movie finally limped into theatres, critics killed it and movie-goers buried it. Cursed closed with a gross just shy of $20 million (or about 2/3 of what Scream 2 made in its opening weekend).


Brandy & Monica

The Hit: “The Boy is Mine” (1998)

The Miss: “It All Belongs To Me” (2012)                                                                                                                                                                                                          

In the summer of 1998, you couldn’t turn on a radio or channel surf past MTV and VH1 without hearing Brandy and Monica smoothlyBrandy Monica staking their claim for the same man. “The Boy is Mine” spent a staggering 13 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the biggest single of the year and eventually netting the songstresses the Grammy award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.

So while it wasn’t surprising that they reteamed for another single, it was surprising how long it took for them to do it. 14 years after their first collaboration, the duo released “It All Belongs To Me”. Now, in the music biz, 14 years is a lifetime – heck, two lifetimes even – and the pop music scene itself is ever-changing. When “The Boy is Mine” topped the charts, Brandy and Monica were both entering the peak of their careers (it was the lead single for each artist’s second album) and most importantly, R&B and Hip Hop artists were dominating the crossover charts.

Monica BrandyCut to 2012 – with Brandy and Monica both having much lower profiles, R&B not enjoying as much crossover success as it has in the past and a song itself that was roundly dinged for being lacklustre, and the end result was pretty much “too little, too late”. “It All Belongs To Me” became a moderate hit on the R&B charts (#23) but didn’t even manage to crack the Hot 100 at all.

Franchise Highs and Lows: Halloween

Just a glance at my most-used tags lets me know that I tend to talk about the Halloween films a lot. But seeing as how I did a “Franchise Highs and Lows” piece for Friday the 13th on a Friday the 13th, I just couldn’t let October 31st come to pass without giving the Halloween franchise the same treatmeant – so let’s get to it!


halloween1978Halloween (1978) – The first and still the best. It kick-started the modern slasher genre and set the template that would be used by countless followers. In the hands of writer-director John Carpenter, a simple story of a masked killer (Michael Myers) stalking three girls in the peaceful suburb of Haddonfield,  Illinois became a chilling tale of suspense and terror. Add in perfect performances by Jamie Lee Curtis as the definitive final girl, Laurie Strode and Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis, Michael’s determined and slightly off-kiltermyers1 psychiatrist and you have a modern-day classic.

The Original Mask – take one William Shatner “Captain Kirk” mask, paint it white, and voila – the terrifying non-face of evil is born.

Halloween Theme  – It’s safe to say that the tension and scares in Halloween would have been a lot less effective if it were not for the inclusion of John Carpenter’s score. His main theme has also become so iconic that it’s the horror movie version of the Bond theme, appearing in one form or another in every film in the  Halloween franchise (which was also a sly way for the producers of the non-Carpenter sequels to get his name on the credits).

Halloween 4 and Halloween H20

The original Halloween series was resurrected not once, but twice – and both times it rose from the dead to give fans exactly what they wanted – a return to that classic “Halloween feel”. Halloween 4 returned Michael Myers to the franchise after the Myers-less Halloween III and Halloween H20 brought Jamie Lee Curtis back into the fold after a 17 year absence – ignoring the nonsense wrought by Halloween 6 (more on that below) and picking up the story after Halloween II (which I explained in more detail here).

This Moment*

Halloween 4 Opening Credits – This sequence has an understated genius. It’s nothing flashy or ground-breaking – just some bleak, countryside Halloween-themed images that get more and more sinister looking as the sun sets and the score build ominously. Definitely sets the tension for the film right from the start.


Halloween III: Season of the Witch – this non-canon sequel was an attempt at taking the franchise into an anthology-type direction, but with absolutely no connection to the previous films at all (it took place in the “real” world, where Halloween was only a movie) the “III” added to the title only served to confuse and anger movie-goers who went in expecting Michael Myers and instead got an evil, cult-worshipping mask manufacturer bent on killing a ton of kiddies with his deadly masks.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers – the sixth Halloween entry  tried to introduce an over-wrought cult mythology to explain the motivations of Michael Myers. Constant studio interference to the final cut of the film resulted in a bootleg director’s cut surfacing on dvd (aka Halloween 666) with almost 45 minutes of cut footage and storylines. With or without it though, the film was still a jumbled mess full of questionable continuity and plot holes a-plenty.


I guess even masked killers want to experiment with their look sometimes

Mask Continuity – Unlike fellow franchisers Jason (Friday the 13th) and Ghostface (Scream), Michael Myers didn’t wear a mass-produced mask. And that became a problem with each successive Halloween film as they tried their best to replicate the original. They met with varying degrees of success, with the worst of the lot definitely being Halloween 5’s flat-ironed hair/flared neck version.

Busta Rhymes – With no more Dr. Loomis in the storyline, Halloween: Resurrection enlisted rapper Busta Rhymes to go mano a mano with Michael Myers. Playing Freddie, a kung fu loving reality tv producer, Rhymes used his velociraptor maw to chew scenery with gusto and make viewers long for the days of the dearly departed Donald Pleasence.

Rob Zombie’s Vision – while Zombie indeed brought new ideas to his 2007 take on Halloween (detailed more here), his “vision” also included changing Haddonfield to a town that was mostly dirty and unappealing and filled with mostly dirty, unappealing (and not to mention foul-mouthed) people – not doing a lot for empathy there. And by Halloween II (2009), Laurie Strode had become so insufferable you were almost rooting for Michael to actually kill her this time around. And as for Michael – he was turned into such a mindless rampaging beast that it almost seemed like a parody (seriously, when you have Michael Myers foot-stomping someone’s head until it is a literal mashed, bloody pulp, the result isn’t scary, it’s just revolting).

But, just to end on a good note, I leave you with this – a decidedly different take on a classic scene – Happy Halloween!

lil halloween

*gif via Popobawa