31 Days Of Horror: A Nightmare On Elm Street 2

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2 (1985) is the first film in this month-long horrorthon that I have never actually seen before.  Out of the Elm Street series, I’d seen 1, 3, 7 and Freddy vs. Jason, and most of those were when I was a teenager.  It’s a series I need to become more familiar with, especially seeing as I own the DVD boxset.

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2
The DVD boxset comes with this nice souvenir booklet with lots of cool images and factoids about the films. I should get round to reading it sometime!

The credits call this ‘Part 2’, but as that appellation became very associated with the Friday the 13th series, it seems to have been quietly dropped in subsequent merchandising.

The film opens with a loner-looking teenager, Jesse, on a school bus, being laughed at by the other kids.  It becomes apparent that this is a nightmare when the bus drives off the road and away over a field, and is revealed to be being driven by Freddy Krueger.  The ground opens up, and the bus plunges back and forth on a precipice, threatening to fall.

Cut to suburbia where Jesse has just woken up from the bad dream.  Apparently nightmares are common for him, judging by the reactions of his family.  He drives to school with Lisa, his sort-of girlfriend, and we cut to gym class, where it’s revealed Jesse is no good at sports.  He gets into a fight with another boy, Grady, but they sort of make up in a boy way while being forced to do punishment press-ups by sadistic Coach Schneider.  When Jesse explains that he’s just moved into the area and is living on Elm Street, we get some backstory from Grady: the house that Jesse and his family have moved into is Nancy Thompson’s old house.  The story around town is that Nancy went crazy after watching Glen get killed in the first film.  Jesse doesn’t believe Grady.

That night, Jesse investigates a noise in the garden, which is a very Elm Street scene – suburban gardens with lots of trellises and trailing plants.  Freddy appears, trying to influence Jesse’s mind rather than killing him – he clearly needs to use Jesse to achieve his evil ends.

Jesse, understandably, doesn’t sleep well for the rest of the night, and the next day, a boring biology class sends him to sleep.  He dreams a snake is strangling him, causing him to yell out and wake up, only to find himself holding a real snake from one of the classroom tanks.  The teacher thinks he’s messing about.

Back home, Jesse intends to go out and meet up with Lisa, but his dad insists that he clean his room first.  Jesse plays loud pop music (Touch Me by Wish and Fonda Rae, a very minor hit that nevertheless has its own Wikipedia entry) while doing so, which is not very suited to the situation – some metal or punk would be more rebellious.  This is quite a silly sequence, with Jesse singing into a pretend microphone and dressing up in daft accessories until Lisa arrives, having convinced Jesse’s mother that he’d invited her round to help sort out his room.

Jesse and Lisa find Nancy’s diary on a shelf.  Apparently the events of the first film took place five years ago, which is infuriating if you’re enough of an ’80s fan to have a keen eye for the changing fashion trends throughout the decade.  The first film was released in 1984 and this one in 1985, meaning that they both look emphatically mid-’80s.  You couldn’t even get away with saying that the first one was set in 1982/1983 and the second in 1987/1988, because the fashions and decor trends of each year of the decade are so completely distinctive.  Obviously in 1985 they had no way of predicting what the world would look like in 1989, but it’s still a real annoyance.  To me, anyway.

That night, Jesse finds Freddy’s glove in his dream. ‘Kill for me!’ says Freddy, still trying to turn Jesse into a puppet.

The next day, the whole of Jesse’s family are complaining about the heat in the house, but Jesse’s little sister tells them to shush, because the pet birds are sleeping – there’s a cover on their cage.  Unfortunately, the cage starts shaking bizarrely, and then explodes.  The pet birds go nuts and start flying at Jesse’s dad’s face to peck him, drawing blood in a nice callback to The Birds, before exploding in a shower of feathers.  Nasty.

Completely randomly, Jesse wakes up in the middle of the night and sneaks out to a nightclub.  Coach Schneider is also at the club, catches Jesse, and takes him back to school (still in the middle of the night) to make him run circuits of the gymnasium.  This whole bit is so bizarre that at first I thought it was supposed to be a dream sequence, but apparently not.  There’s lots of Adidas product placement here too, which is distracting.

After a scene where all the basketballs and tennis balls in the gym equipment come flying out to attack Schneider, he’s dragged into the showers by an invisible force.  There’s then a bizarre telekinetic towel whipping sequence, before Freddy, possessing the body of Jesse, kills Schneider.

There’s a knock on the door at Jesse’s house, and his parents answer to find the police bringing Jesse home after apparently finding him wandering naked along the highway.  The next day, Jesse’s dad fits bars to all the windows, just like Nancy’s mother in the first film.

Another dream sequence, where Jesse finds Freddy’s glove in a drawer in his bedroom, then goes into his sister’s bedroom to find her skipping to the creepy ‘One, two, Freddy’s coming for you’ rhyme.

In the morning, Jesse confronts his father, asking angrily if he knew about the previous goings-on in the house, with Nancy going crazy and Nancy’s mother apparently committing suicide.  Apparently Jesse’s dad did know about it, but didn’t care ’cause he was getting a good deal on the house.  This is pretty much the same plotline as what happens with John Strode and his family in Halloween 6, which was released a decade later, so I guess Halloween 6 copied this one.

Lisa has been busy since they found the diary.  She drives Jesse out to Krueger’s old boiler room and shows him all the research she’s done into the backstory.  Jesse is too panicked about the dreams to listen to her – he believes that he’s going crazy and killed Schneider himself.

In Jesse’s next dream, Freddy nearly gets him to kill his little sister.  Jesse starts taking pep pills to try and avoid sleeping.

Nobody at the high school seems to care much about Schneider having been brutally murdered (as we’ve seen multiple times this month, the standard motto of every horror film high school is ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’), and so the topic of conversation in the cafeteria at lunchtime is the party that Lisa’s throwing.  Grady says he can’t go, ’cause he’s grounded.

At Lisa’s party, her parents go to bed early as promised.  This results in a bizarre moment where the party gets wild and loud as soon as all the party guests see the lights go out in the parents’ bedroom.  Just as I was about to ask, ‘surely the parents can hear all of this?’, we do indeed cut to the parents in bed, looking surprised at the fact that the party kids are stupid enough to think they won’t hear anything.  However, Lisa’s mother persuades her husband to leave the kids be.  The whole sequence is a bit weird and unsatisfying.

Jesse is so stressed he’s close to a panic attack, but Lisa calms him down by dragging him into the cabana for some alone time.  However, Freddy tries to take over Jesse while he and Lisa are making out, and so he runs off, leaving her confused and annoyed.

Jesse breaks into Grady’s bedroom through his window and wakes him up.  In an awesome and much-appreciated bit of set dressing, Grady’s room is super super ’80s – triangle-patterned wallpaper with Stray Cats and Limahl posters everywhere!  Jesse makes Grady promise to watch him while he sleeps to make sure Freddy doesn’t appear, but once Jesse’s fast asleep, Grady gets bored and decides to go to sleep after all.  However, Jesse then wakes up, and there’s a grisly body horror moment as Freddy breaks out of his chest, killing Grady and causing everything in the house to explode.  This whole telekinetic power thing of Freddy’s is not very well explained – I don’t remember it being a thing in the first film.

Jesse becomes himself again and returns to Lisa’s house, but then turns into Freddy again and starts to chase Lisa.  He slashes Lisa’s leg, but Lisa can’t kill him knowing Jesse is somewhere inside Freddy.  There’s then a confusing sequence where Freddy keeps disappearing and reappearing as he goes through doorways, kills a bunch of kids in front of loads of witnesses including Lisa’s parents, then disappears again.  I’d love to know how Lisa’s parents explain that one to the police, but of course it’s never followed up.

Lisa drives to the boiler room to confront Krueger, and has to cope with a bunch of hallucinations including creepy dream dogs with human faces and her leg wound being infected with locusts.  After a final chase sequence, in which Lisa refuses to believe that Jesse is dead, keeps imploring him to fight Freddy from within, and then finally kisses Freddy (ew!), Freddy seemingly burns to death, and we get a ‘love conquers all’ victory with a burnt Jesse emerging from Freddy’s corpse.  The whole thing is a bit confusing.

Cut to daylight, where an unburnt Jesse (apart from a bandage on his arm) waves goodbye to his mother and goes off to catch the bus to school, meeting up on the bus with Lisa and her friend Kerry.  This school bus sequence is seemingly another dream, especially when Freddy bursts out of Kerry’s chest and the credits roll.  It’s just as unsatisfying an ending as the first film, with more questions than answers.

Oh, and there’s some completely out-of-place old-timey music over the credits (Bing Crosby’s Did You Ever See A Dream Walking).

Something a lot older and a bit more sedate tomorrow!

Kicking off another running weekend!

It’s a race weekend for me and Geth, so we volunteered at parkrun this morning in the pouring rain.  According to the weather forecast, we’re going to be running the race in the pouring rain tomorrow, so I suppose it was good practice.

We had a nice meal out with lots of pasta in order to carb-load for tomorrow, enjoyed the main Strictly show, and are now watching triathlon TV to get us in the mood for the race!

OOTD 13th October 2018
OOTD: actually today’s second outfit, ’cause I had to change out of the first after getting soaked at parkrun. Glasses Emporio Armani (2017), hoodie unknown brand (2009), Duran Duran t-shirt Amplified (2018), jeans H&M (thrifted from Steff 2016), trainers Reebok (2013).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Johnny Hates Jazz – Shattered Dreams
Princess – Say I’m Your Number One
Razorlight – Somewhere Else
Duran Duran – Save A Prayer
Rod Stewart – Baby Jane
Sacre – London Marathon
Duran Duran – The Reflex
Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
Vance Joy – Riptide
Madonna – Hollywood

31 Days Of Horror: Halloween: Resurrection

Today’s film is Halloween: Resurrection (2002), which was the first Halloween film I was able to go and see in the cinema.  I was seventeen then, which as we saw in the last film is a notable age for Halloween characters, so it was nice that an entry in the series came out that year!  If you’re paying attention, though, you’ll notice that the film is actually set in 2001, because it’s stated to be three years since the events of 1998’s Halloween H20.  From what I remember, this was because the film was originally meant to come out in 2001, but suffered from production delays.

Halloween: Resurrection
Another ‘head lineup’ example of film promotion.

We hear about this three-year gap as part of the ludicrous opening backstory from the nurses in the mental institution in which Laurie Strode is now being held.  Apparently the man Laurie beheaded at the end of the last film was not Michael but instead a random paramedic – Michael had set this up by putting his mask on this guy and crushing his throat so he couldn’t tell anyone he wasn’t Michael Myers.  This ridiculous retcon obviously doesn’t solve all the problems with the scenario.  Watch the last scene of Halloween H20 again and you’ll see ‘Michael’ clutching his head and face, feeling that he’s got a mask on.  Why didn’t he take off the mask to show that he wasn’t Michael?  This also ruins the oddly touching moment that I discussed yesterday.

Laurie has been mute for three years, according to the nurses.  When they leave the room, we see she’s not as messed up as she’s pretending to be – she’s not actually swallowing the pills they give her, instead hiding them inside a doll.

Another patient, Harold, likes dressing up as serial killers and is constantly being caught wandering the grounds in different masks, cosplaying as his favourite psychopaths.  This raises a lot of questions about the competence of the facility.  Where is Harold getting his masks from?  Why is he allowed them?  The point of this character, of course, is to ensure that when the security guards see Michael Myers on the security cameras wandering around the basement, they think it’s Harold.  The guards are easily picked off as a result.

Despite Laurie setting up lots of traps on the roof, Michael finally manages to kill her, because when she has the chance to kill him, she instead decides she has to be sure this time and so tries to take his mask off, enabling him to stab her first.  ‘I’ll see you in hell,’ she says before falling to her death, which is a bit of an abrupt end for such an important character.

Rather cutely, Michael decides not to kill Harold, instead giving him his knife as a souvenir!  This leads into an epic monologue from Harold, listing all of Michael’s murders, which emphasises that we are still very much in the H20 continuity that ignores 4/5/6.

The action moves to Haddonfield University, where we meet main character Sara.  If you’re keeping score at home, you’ll remember that we only just had a character called Sarah in the last film.  This irritating lack of character name imagination occurs a lot in this film, as we’ll see throughout the review.

Sara’s friends Jenny and Rudy are excited about being picked for an internet broadcast called ‘Dangertainment’ that’s about to be filmed in the Myers house. ‘We could be bigger than the Osbournes!’ says Jenny, dating the film horribly.  I want to note that I absolutely hate the ‘isn’t this Web 2.0 thing new and exciting’ theme that characterised films and TV of the early ’00s.  Because information technology moves so quickly in this century, over-featuring the latest messenger software and mobile phones is an absolutely surefire way to ensure that people watching the film in twenty years’ time will laugh at the quaintness of the whole thing.  Media makers have still not really learnt their lesson about this (as shown by the number of songs in the charts at the moment that refer to things like Instagram Stories and Snapchat filters, which will have the kids of the 2020s and beyond shaking their heads and going ‘what?’), but the whole ‘wow! isn’t this technological century exciting!’ thing is not as prevalent as it was fifteen years ago.

We get a nice bit with a creepy fellow student doing the whole ‘you’re doomed!’ speech in lieu of Dr Loomis, but sadly we don’t see this character again.  Sara, meanwhile, turns out to be sort-of ‘online dating’ a high school freshman student who hasn’t told her his age.

Freddie (Busta Rhymes) and Nora (Tyra Banks) are in charge of Dangertainment.  I am pretty sure neither of them have done much acting either before or after this film.  In another bit of unimaginative naming, Nora is a very similar name to Norma from the previous film.

Most of the students chosen for Dangertainment are total idiots – Jenny is vapid and just wants to be famous, Rudy has a gory, morbid sense of humour, Bill is really pervy, Jim is really creepy, and Donna is just pretentious.  Sara is the only one who comes across as normal.  When she visits Freddie in his dorm room (Freddie’s a student?  He looks far too old, and with good reason – Busta Rhymes was thirty when this film came out!) and tries to back out of the project, he explains that her ‘normalness’ is the reason he wants her on the show, because she’s ‘real’.  Freddie is also shown to love kung-fu movies, but not quite as much as he loves himself.

Back to Sara’s ‘online boyfriend’, who calls himself Deckard, and his fellow freshman friend.  Deckard wants to stay in for Hallowe’en and watch Sara on Dangertainment, but his friend is insistent that they have to go to a party instead, because it’s a really big honour for freshmen to be invited to a party hosted by older students.  ‘Your sister invited us so you wouldn’t tell your mother about her tattoo,’ retorts Deckard, which was a line I really appreciated at the time, since a major feature of my late teens was me and my mates constantly getting tattoos that our parents didn’t approve of.

The nasty shaky primitive internet camera used for the broadcast is incredibly irritating to watch, and is another thing that dates the film now that we’re in the age of slick YouTubers!

Nora is setting the broadcast up from a small studio with lots of screens for the different cameras, liaising via walkie-talkie with a cameraman.  The cameraman is called Charley, which is another slightly-differently-spelt reused name from the previous film – this is fairly infuriating now.  He quickly gets offed by Michael, but Nora is too busy dancing to a CD she’s put on and hence conveniently turning her back on the screens to see him getting killed.

Michael Myers is ‘a mystery wrapped up in a riddle wrapped up in an enigma’, according to Freddie.  This phrase crops up in fiction a lot, but apparently originated with Winston Churchill.

The students enter the Myers house, and immediately things don’t seem right.  The ‘forty year old’ ingredients in the kitchen cupboards smell fresh, according to student chef Rudy, and there’s a creepy baby high chair with chains on it, which indicates the whole broadcast is obviously a setup.  Unfortunately the participants are a bit thick, and so they’re nowhere near close to realising this fact yet.

Deckard and his friend are clearly only at the teen party to add some visual interest and comedy relief to the film, seeing as Deckard spends the whole party on a PC watching the broadcast – other partygoers join him in watching the show as the film goes on!

Bill gets killed by Michael through a mirror, but Freddie and Nora are too self-absorbed to notice what’s happening on the screen in front of them.  The students in the Myers house find more creepy obviously-planted toys, and Rudy finally realises that the whole thing is fake.

Donna and Jim start getting it on in the basement, only to be fallen on top of by a creepy skeleton.  Watching in the studio, Freddie and Nora high-five, for the benefit of the one remaining viewer who hasn’t realised they’re the ones who’ve set all this stuff up.  Donna and Jim realise the skeleton’s fake, and Freddie decides to up the ante by donning a Michael Myers mask and entering the house.  We then get a ridiculous comedy scene of one Michael Myers stalking another.  Freddie notices the real Michael behind him, thinks it’s Charley, and has a go at him for ruining the setup, telling him to get out of the house.  Strangely, the real Michael obeys, despite there being no reason for him not to try to kill Freddie at this point.

Jim leaves the basement, but Donna investigates the hole/tunnel revealed by the fake skeleton.  She finds a news clipping about Laurie Strode, a half-dead rat (ew!) and Laurie’s doll from the sanatorium, indicating that she’s found the real Michael’s lair.  Before she can warn the others, she gets chased down by Michael and killed.

Jenny and Rudy are smoking a bong in an upstairs room, which is a flagrant breach of Scream‘s Rule 2.  Sara, meanwhile, freaks out when she thinks she sees Michael roaming around, and drags Rudy downstairs to investigate.  The fake Michael leaps out and drags Sara along the ground, but has to reveal himself to be Freddie when Rudy starts beating him up.  Sara, Jim and Rudy are angry at being set up, but Freddie implores them to finish the broadcast, promising that they’ll be well-paid.

Meanwhile, the stoned Jenny discovers Bill’s corpse, and runs out to the landing screaming.  The real Michael materialises behind her and chops her head off with a knife (grim!), meaning the other characters finally realise what’s going on.  This is the point where the students start dropping like flies – Freddie is seemingly knocked out, Jim gets his head crushed, and Rudy gets killed in exactly the same way as Bob from the first film, which is a morbid but much-appreciated callback.

It’s cute that Deckard can direct Sara around the house via old-fashioned early ’00s text messaging.  This leads to a well-done tense sequence as Sara hides from Michael.

Freddie turns out to be still alive, and he and Sara try to escape together.  This leads to a slightly cringeworthy scene where Freddie uses his kung-fu movie knowledge to kick Michael out of the window and suspend him from a cable.  However, by the time Sara and Freddie have had a lengthy debrief by the front door (WHY are they not running straight out of it?), Michael has escaped his predicament, and stabs Freddie from behind.

Sara, still allergic to the front door, goes down into the basement to play find-the-body.  Climbing up through the tunnel to the Dangertainment studio, she finds that Nora has been killed offscreen.  Luckily, there’s a convenient chainsaw stashed in the cupboard, which means Sara can carry out CHAINSAW REVENGE! on Michael…until the chainsaw runs out of fuel.

The leaking fuel sets the studio hut aflame, and Sara is trapped by a fallen table.  Must be a fairly heavy table if she can’t push it off herself.  Michael readies for the kill, but Freddie’s still not dead yet. ‘Trick or treat, motherf***er!’ he says as he blasts Michael into a burning wall, which must be the worst line of dialogue in the entire Halloween franchise.

Wrapped in a ‘horror film survivor blanket’, Sara speaks to the press (and thanks Deckard for saving her life, leading to him becoming the hero of the high school party), as does Freddie, who is a character that really shouldn’t have survived this film by rights.  When have we ever seen the idiot who decides to stir up danger actually surviving a horror film?  That character is always meant to be satisfyingly killed about halfway through the film, as penance for his own stupidity.  Those are the rules!  As a result, this ending feels very unsatisfactory.

Michael has seemingly burnt to death, but long-time viewers will know better.  In the morgue, his eyes open, and the credits roll.

Another quick break from Halloween tomorrow!

A productive Friday

Another good day getting lots of work and admin done in preparation for the weekend!  Now catching up with Strictly and other TV.  I’m really looking forward to the next couple of days – it’s a race weekend so we’ll be volunteering at parkrun to kick things off tomorrow morning.

OOTD: a cosy day in. Jumper Faber (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2018), jeans Levi (2018), boots Carefree (2017).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Calvin Harris – Acceptable In The ’80s
The Clash – I Fought The Law
Let Loose – Crazy For You
Madonna – Crazy For You
Duran Duran – Girls On Film
Duran Duran – Come Undone
Abba – Lay All Your Love On Me
King – Love And Pride
Will Powers – Kissing With Confidence

2018 Ciders #65: Smirnoff Mandarin & Pink Grapefruit

This is the last of the Smirnoff fruit ciders I tried recently.  As you can see, I was enjoying it so much I didn’t remember to take a picture of the bottle until after I’d finished!

Smirnoff Mandarin & Pink Grapefruit
Smirnoff Mandarin & Pink Grapefruit.

This flavour is really summery.  The fruit in it is really tasty and refreshing!  It’s probably my favourite out of the Smirnoff ciders.

31 Days Of Horror: Halloween H20

We kick off a new Halloween storyline with Halloween H20 (1998), which ignores the ‘Thorn trilogy’ of Halloween 4/5/6.  In this storyline, Laurie Strode didn’t have a daughter called Jamie in 1981 and then die with Jamie’s father in a car crash in 1987; instead, she faked her death in a car crash sometime before 1981, moved to California and changed her identity to Keri Tate, got married, had a son called John in 1981, got divorced, and became the headmistress of a private boarding school.  Everyone caught up?  Great.

Halloween H20
A good example of the late ’90s ‘head lineup’ poster popularised by Scream.

We get a reprise of the Chordettes’ Mr Sandman playing over the opening scene, symbolising the continuation from Halloween II.  Still gloriously creepy!  The action opens in Langdon, Illinois, where Marion Whittington, the nurse from the first and second films, is still chain-smoking away.  She arrives home to find her house has been broken into, and sensibly goes to get help rather than investigating by herself.

There’s a Friday the 13th series reference as Marion bumps into someone in a hockey mask.  It turns out to be neighbour kid Jimmy, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a beautifully late ’90s bit of casting.  Despite Marion’s exhortations to wait for the police, Jimmy goes straight in to explore the house.  Marion’s office has been ransacked, but nothing else has been touched; however, Jimmy spends so long nicking beer from Marion’s fridge that it’s dark outside by the time he comes out, and the police STILL haven’t shown up yet!

The power goes out as soon as Marion goes into her house, because that’s Michael Myers’ MO.  She investigates the ransacked office to find that the ‘Laurie Strode’ file is missing, and immediately realises who’s responsible.  She heads over to Jimmy’s house to get help again, but it’s too late – Jimmy has taken an ice skate to the face from Michael, and his friend’s dead too.  The police finally show up just as Michael catches up with Marion, and Michael drives away at the same moment they start discovering the bodies.

Next morning, we get a backstory infodump from the detectives investigating the case.  Marion’s house turns out to have belonged to Dr Loomis – ‘he was that shrink who died years ago, she took care of him’ – meaning that the office and the files were the property of Loomis.  Appropriately, we get a voiceover of Donald Pleasence’s monologue about Michael from the first film, along with a montage of newspaper clippings explaining what happened, over the opening credits.

A couple of notes from the credits: Marco Beltrami from Scream did the additional music for this film!  Also, there’s a photocopy of Laurie’s high school yearbook that reads ‘Class of ’78’, but it should be ‘Class of ’79’, because she was in her senior year in October 1978.

Laurie, as I explained at the start, is now ‘Keri Tate’, a headteacher in California.  She’s having nightmares about twenty years ago, and is shown still to have the scar from where Michael slashed her in the first film.

Josh Hartnett makes his first film appearance as Laurie’s son John.  He’s used to dealing with his mother’s nightmares and gets her some pills from the bathroom.  He receives a birthday card from his father, two months late, revealing that he’s seventeen.  Laurie, as you might expect, is horribly overprotective of him and is refusing to let him go on a school trip to Yosemite.

John complains to his friends Charlie, Molly and Sarah about not being allowed to go, and because it’s now the postmodern post-Scream era, we get a Psycho reference from Charlie – ‘in twenty years you’re probably still going to be living with her, running some weird hotel out in the middle of nowhere’.

Laurie is having hallucinations about seeing Michael everywhere.  This is apparently a normal occurrence, especially around Hallowe’en.  Meanwhile, the teenage characters make non-Yosemite plans, deciding to have a Hallowe’en party in the school while everyone else is away on the school trip.

We then get a scene with a mother and child attempting to use a roadside public toilet – the ladies’ are locked, so they use the gents’.  This is the standard ‘Michael needs to change cars while travelling to Haddonfield’ scene, although unusually, he doesn’t kill them – perhaps it was considered a bit too brutal, but it comes across as out of character.

Laurie turns out to be having a secret relationship with Will Brennan, the school counselor.  The school secretary Norma, meanwhile, is played by Janet Leigh, who was Jamie Lee Curtis’ real-life mother and whose most famous role was Psycho shower victim Marion.  I’m very fond of this particular horror callback!

LL Cool J is, I believe, the earliest example of the curious trend of late ’90s/early ’00s slashers featuring R&B stars who weren’t generally known for their acting.  In this film, though, it’s an inspired choice – his characterisation as Ronny, the security guard and wannabe novelist, is hilarious, with him constantly on the phone to his wife reading out the bad erotica he’s been writing!

John has Ronny wrapped around his little finger, and persuades him to look the other way while he and Charlie sneak out to town to get supplies for the party.  Laurie is also in town, and is clearly freaked out by the kids in costumes roaming the streets.  On her lunch date with Will, she turns out to be using alcohol to deal with the stress, sneaking an extra glass of Chardonnay while Will is in the bathroom.  I quite like this character beat.

In case we hadn’t guessed, John then explains to Charlie that he can’t steal booze from Laurie’s cupboard because she’s a ‘functioning alcoholic’ and would notice if it went missing.  Charlie goes shoplifting for it instead, which is a pretty good indication he’s not going to survive this film.  Laurie catches them in town and drives them home, and we see Michael Myers brazenly pulling up in his car right behind them at the school gates.  Nobody notices for some reason.

John meets up with girlfriend Molly to show her his decorations for the party – he’s excited as he’s never celebrated Hallowe’en before.  In class, Molly reprises Laurie’s classroom scene from 1978 – she sees Michael Myers staring at her from outside, but is distracted by being asked a question by the teacher (in this case Laurie, who apparently teaches English class as well as being headmistress – the class discussion is on Frankenstein, because postmodernism!).

At the end of the class, Laurie reveals that she’s changed her mind about Yosemite, and gives John the permission slip.  He’s already decided he’s not going, though, as he wants to party with his friends.  The school clears out for the trip, leaving the building deserted.

Laurie bumps into Norma, who repeats the Sheriff Brackett line from 1978 (‘it’s Hallowe’en…I guess everyone’s entitled to one good scare’), and then launches into an absolutely shameless Psycho callback sequence.  ‘I know it’s not my place, but if I could be maternal for a minute…we’ve all had bad things happen to us,’ she says to Laurie, then gets into the car she drove in Psycho, while the Psycho soundtrack plays in the background!

Ronny finally notices Michael’s car, and goes out to investigate.  I love how Michael just casually saunters past him while he’s checking out the car!

The phone lines are cut, cutting off Ronny’s wife, which is a shame ’cause she’s one of the best things about this film.

Laurie sees Michael approaching her, and assumes she’s hallucinating again.  Before she can wonder why she can’t get rid of the hallucination as usual by squeezing her eyes shut, Will shows up, and they decide to go back to her place once he’s checked on the students staying behind.

In Molly and Sarah’s dorm room, they’re watching the video of Scream 2, because this is the late ’90s.  This, incidentally, results in one of those fictional universe paradoxes where, as we saw yesterday, the Halloween series exists as a fictional story in the Scream universe, and as we see now, the Scream series exists as a fictional story in the Halloween universe.  I would love to see the version of Scream that exists in the Halloween universe – it’d be a very different film without all the Halloween references!

Sarah stubs out her cigarette just as Will enters the room.  There is no way on earth he wouldn’t be able to smell it!

Back at home, Laurie has a whole tumbler of vodka plus a swig of gin to calm her nerves.  Will shows up with a pumpkin, and suddenly Laurie doesn’t seem so against celebrating Hallowe’en.  She tells Will her backstory, and suddenly realises that both she and her sister Judith were seventeen when Michael came to kill them, the same age that John is now.  Freaked out, she tries to call the Yosemite trip to make sure John’s okay.  The phone lines have been cut, and she notices that John never picked up his camping gear.  Laurie immediately grabs a gun, and nearly ends up shooting Ronny, who has come to her house to report about the strange car.

About five different characters say ‘I’ll be right back’ in this film, which is probably another Scream reference.  Charlie dies offscreen, and after discovering his body, Sarah gets chased down by Michael, leaving John and Molly the lone party survivors.  They escape through a window, and Michael gives chase, slowing them down by stabbing John in the leg.  There’s a brilliantly tense sequence where they’ve managed to get through a locked gate but can’t open the door behind it, meaning they have to cower from Michael trying to stab them through the gate.  Laurie gets them through the door just in time, and the small window in the door allows her to come face-to-mask with her brother for the first time in twenty years.

‘Do as I say, now,’ orders Laurie as she ushers John and Molly into a locked room, which is exactly what she said to Tommy and Lindsey in the first film when hiding them in the same way.

Will accidentally shoots Ronny, apparently killing him.  This has become a bit of a theme in these films!  As they’re checking Ronny’s body, Michael sneaks up and kills Will.  Laurie manages to escape with John and Molly in her car.  At the school entrance, she gets out of the car to open the gate.  ‘I want you to drive down the road to the Beckers, get them to call an ambulance and get the police,’ she says to Molly, paraphrasing words we’ve now heard many times during this horrorthon!

Laurie stays in the school to confront Michael, grabbing an axe to fight with.  After a lengthy fight sequence around the school, where it’s no longer clear who’s chasing who, she seemingly manages to kill him, and then drops the damn knife AGAIN, just as she was always doing in the first film.  Luckily, though, she has another one, and goes down to make sure she’s finished the job.  Unfortunately, just as she’s about to stab Michael, Ronny shows up and stops her, apparently not dead after all.  To be honest, I don’t think stabbing Michael would have killed him – he’s too superhuman for that.

Ronny, despite having been shot several times, seems perfectly fine in the aftermath, chatting away to his wife on the phone about his new idea for the ‘erotic thriller’ he’s going to write!  Maybe Will was just a really bad shot.

Despite the fact that hundreds of police and ambulance workers have shown up to deal with the situation, Laurie decides to take matters into her own hands and drives Michael’s body away in a van so she can kill him properly.  When she sees him wake up, she brakes hard so he goes flying through the windscreen, and then runs him over, sending the van crashing down a hill into a tree and jumping out of the van just in time.

After the crash, there’s a sort of oddly touching moment where the trapped Michael reaches out a hand to Laurie, and she reaches back, nearly touching but not quite.  Then she chops his head off with an axe, which is the only sensible way to deal with Michael Myers, and the film ends.

Incidentally, this is the second Halloween film in a row that has an ‘In Memory of Donald Pleasence’ caption during the end credits.

Another Halloween film tomorrow!

Keeping on keeping on

It’s been a fairly normal Thursday, bookended by Slimming World and Pilates as ever.  We have a couple of weeks’ break from Pilates now, so it’ll be good to have some extra time to get on with things.

Now spending the evening watching some of the BBC4 music shows I’m always recording and never getting round to watching!

OOTD 11th October 2018
OOTD: comfy Pilates gear. Hoodie Sonar (2006), t-shirt Great North 10K (2016), leggings Primark (2018), trainers Reebok (2017).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Bucks Fizz – Piece Of The Action
Backstreet Boys – Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)
The Jam – Going Underground
Duran Duran – All She Wants Is
Duran Duran – Hungry Like The Wolf
Duran Duran – Come Undone

31 Days Of Horror: Scream

I first saw Scream (1996) shortly after it came out, with my friend Fiona.  I was eleven and she was twelve, so no, we didn’t see this 18-rated film in the cinema – she got her mum to rent it from a video rental shop, which was a thing that existed in the 20th century.  It was the first slasher movie I ever watched.

Scream
A much better DVD cover than we’ve been featuring recently!

The opening sequence with Drew Barrymore is infamous – she promoted the movie like she was its star, so filmgoers expected her to be the final girl, but instead she turned out to be the girl who gets butchered in the first ten minutes.  As Halloween is referenced continually throughout this film (Barrymore’s character, Casey, identifies it as her favourite horror film in the very first scene), we’ll say she’s the Judith Myers rather than the Laurie Strode.

When the stranger on the phone says A Nightmare On Elm Street was scary, Casey opines, ‘The first one was but the rest sucked.’  Apparently director Wes Craven didn’t want to include this line because he felt it would come across as him slagging off the Nightmare films that he wasn’t involved in!  Screenwriter Kevin Williamson persuaded him to go with it by explaining that ‘the rest’ included Craven’s New Nightmare.

The trick question about Friday the 13th is inspired – I bet nobody ever gets that one wrong in pub quizzes nowadays!

When I was younger I absolutely loved the trope callouts in this film, but nowadays I find it a bit too knowing – maybe just because the film has been dated by its slew of late ’90s imitators that formed the ‘postmodern slasher era’.  It was hugely original at the time though, so I will try to look at it without the twenty-two years of hindsight.

‘Get in the car, drive down to the Mackenzies, call the police,’ says Casey’s father to her mother, which is an almost verbatim copy of what Laurie says to Tommy towards the end of Halloween.

We’re introduced to real main character Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) now, who is using very old-fashioned computer software for 1996 – you’d think she’d at least have Windows!  Sidney’s dad, Neil, is conveniently going out of town for a few days, which is a bit strange given what is revealed later in the film.  Sidney is visited through her bedroom window (major ’90s flashbacks to Clarissa Explains It All and Dawson’s Creek!) by her boyfriend Billy, who is not super happy about Sidney not wanting to get too physical with him recently.  Billy can’t even complain about not getting sex without using a film analogy, which is a bit of a theme in this film and is part of the reason I find the characters and dialogue a bit awkward and unrealistic sometimes.  We get a cover of Don’t Fear The Reaper (by Gus) playing during this scene, which is another callback to Halloween, in which Laurie and Annie listen to the original song while driving to their babysitting jobs.

(A quick ’90s note: after watching Halloween 6 and Scream, it’s settled in my mind that curtains were the worst, ugliest, most greasy-looking ’90s hair mistake ever and I can’t believe I used to have posters of boy popstars on my wall sporting that look.  Wash your hair and put a bit of volume in it, for the love of God!)

The backstory is that Sidney’s mother Maureen was murdered a year ago, which is why it’s weird that Neil is going away on a business trip – you’d think they’d want to support each other during a difficult anniversary.

Marco Beltrami’s score is gorgeous!  Really evocative.

Reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) appears here, and her skirt suit is insane – bright neon green and ridiculously short, like the Spice Girls going to a business meeting.  In other words, it screams 1996 (no pun intended).

I think this is the only role Rose McGowan, who plays Sidney’s friend Tatum, ever did as a blonde – she dyed her hair in order to contrast with Campbell and Cox.

Yet another example of a high school not shutting down even though two of their students have been brutally murdered!  However, it means we get some quality time to appreciate the brilliance of casting Henry Winkler (the Fonz from Happy Days, if you’re not aware) as the principal, Mr Himbry.

Sidney’s friend group – Tatum, Billy, Stu and Randy –  are mostly idiots who don’t seem to care about what’s happened, instead making jokes about horror movie tropes.  It’s kind of difficult to like the characters in this film.  Sidney is perturbed and decides to stay at Tatum’s overnight.

However, back at home, she falls asleep for too long, and wakes up when it’s dark, meaning the killer comes (phone) calling.  Sydney doesn’t seem very scared considering what’s happened – she just assumes it’s a prankster.  However, once the killer appears, she’s really capable, and manages to fight him off.  Billy arrives through the window again, to Sidney’s relief – but when she hugs him, a chunky ’90s mobile falls out of his pocket, and she decides he must be the killer.  It’s a bit odd that she suspects Billy just for having a mobile – i know they were less common in 1996 but he can’t have been the only one!  Indeed, at the police station, he insists to the police chief that ‘everyone’s got one’, but the chief decides to hold him until they can check the phone records.

Gale Weathers is a total cow, even to her cameraman Kenny.  Kenny is overweight, which is a definite death curse in a horror film, as it means you can’t run fast enough!

Billy’s surname is Loomis, presumably after Dr Loomis, which is yet another Halloween reference if you’re keeping score!

Dewey is bit of a ‘comedy incompetent’ cop, which is pretty frustrating.  He and the chief discuss the process of finding out whether it was Billy’s mobile that made the calls to Casey and Sidney, which is going to take until the next morning.  I wonder why it takes so long to cross-reference calls?

Linda Blair (who played Regan in The Exorcist twenty-three years earlier) makes a cameo as a news reporter!

Sidney goes into the school bathroom to find that a couple of girls are gossiping about her in the stalls, speculating that she’s the killer.  Even the cheerleaders at this high school have morbid imaginations!  Sidney is then attacked by someone in the ghostface costume, but it’s not clear whether it’s just a prankster student or the actual killer.

Gale and Dewey flirting with each other is just really weird and uncomfortable.  I’ve never bought into this pairing, even though there should have been good chemistry given that the actors ended up marrying each other in real life.

Himbry finally sees sense and closes the school, to much jubilation, and Stu announces a house party.  There’s a daft sequence with Himbry trying on the ghostface mask, investigating a noise to find that the only person around is a janitor wearing a Freddy Krueger jumper (played by Wes Craven in a ridiculously self-aware cameo!), and then getting killed due to the school being deserted.  Maybe this is why high school principals in horror movies don’t usually close schools – they’re protecting themselves!

Good use of School’s Out by Alice Cooper!

A rare non-slasher horror reference as we see the Universal version of Frankenstein being shown onscreen at the video shop where Randy works.  Randy, Stu and Billy are clearly not all there in the head – they’re still making jokes, speculating about each other being the killer, and generally being really unsettling and not at all like actual human beings.  Randy, the resident geek, out-and-out knows he’s in a horror movie, and makes no bones about it.

More awesome background music as the police announce a town-wide curfew – this time Red Right Hand by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.  The chief tells Dewey that the phone calls have been traced to Neil Prescott’s phone, which is the most obvious red herring ever.

Stu’s party attracts a lot of attention, with Dewey having been sent by the chief to keep an eye on things and Gale and Kenny sniffing around for more on the story.  Gale persuades Dewey to let her come with him when he checks out the party, and secretly installs a secret camera to watch what’s happening from outside.

‘Why is Jamie Lee Curtis in all these movies?’ asks Sidney, flipping through Randy’s video collection.  ‘She’s the Scream Queen,’ he replies, and it’s clearly slasher fan Kevin Williamson speaking here through Randy!

Tatum barely gets to enjoy the party, instead being picked off by the killer in the garage.  When I was a kid, this death by catflap seared itself into my memory!  Again, she automatically thinks the person in the ghostface costume is a prankster rather than the killer, which is not really a sensible assumption when it’s known there’s an actual killer about.

‘What’s Leatherface doing here?’ asks Randy when Billy arrives, giving us a nice Texas Chainsaw Massacre reference.

The footage from the secret camera that Kenny is watching in the TV van is on a thirty-second delay – this is important later.

Billy’s Silence of the Lambs analogy is one too many for Sidney, but his insistence that ‘life is just a big movie’ doesn’t put her deciding she’s ready to sleep with him.

Appropriately given the amount of Halloween references we’ve had so far in this film, the party guests are now watching the film, giving Randy an opportunity to explain ‘The Rules’ that characters have to follow in order to survive a horror movie:

  1. You can never have sex.
  2. You can never drink or do drugs.
  3. You can never say ‘I’ll be right back’.

Relatedly, we then get to the point in Halloween where there’s a topless shot of Linda, which is juxtaposed with Sidney taking her top off.  Interestingly, ’90s slasher films are pretty much free of sex and nudity, especially when you compare them to ’70s and ’80s ones.  I don’t know if it’s because they were trying to get more lenient cinema ratings (pretty much a lost cause with that much blood and gore!) or if those kinds of scenes were just considered a bit tasteless at that point in time.

Randy answers the phone to somebody who tells him about Himbry’s butchered corpse having been hung from a goalpost on the football field, so the bulk of party guests leave to go check it out (grim! there’s something really wrong with the teenagers in this town), which sets up the isolation nicely for the final sequence, as Randy chooses to stay and watch the rest of Halloween.

Gale and Dewey find Neil Prescott’s car while out in the woods.  How does Dewey recognise it straight away?

While getting dressed, Sidney starts probing Billy about his one phone call when he was arrested, and I wonder why she’s starting to suspect him again at this point.  Was the sex that bad?  The killer shows up and allays her suspicions by seemingly stabbing Billy.

While Randy is watching Halloween, the killer creeps up behind him.  ‘Look behind you, Jamie Lee!’ Randy says, when he should be taking his own advice.

Kenny dies due to the thirty-second delay – he and Sidney open the car door to try and warn Randy, only to find the killer has already caught up with them.  Sidney escapes out of the back of the van.  We then get the background of John Carpenter’s Halloween score playing while Dewey investigates the empty house, due to the film still playing on TV, which provides an automatic creepy atmosphere and presumably meant less work for Marco Beltrami.

Given that blood is pouring from the car roof, why doesn’t Gale realise there’s a body on top of there? She then knocks herself out by crashing the van, which is not helpful.

Dewey gets stabbed in the back offscreen, which is standard for an incompetent cop.  Sidney can’t escape in the police car, because the killer has taken the car keys, which is at least original – usually horror movie killers just let out the petrol.  The killer then somehow gets into the back of the car and grabs Sidney from behind, which echoes Halloween again.

Sidney escapes and runs into the house.  Randy and Stu come running up behind her, each accusing the other of being the killer, but Sidney doesn’t trust either of them (which is understandable, given how creepy they both are).  Billy is shown to be still alive – he seems at first to have survived his injuries but then reveals himself to be the killer by shooting Randy and explaining that his ‘blood’ is corn syrup.  ‘Same stuff they used for pig’s blood in Carrie‘.  It’s now quote-a-minute with the horror references, with Billy’s next line being Psycho‘s ‘We all go a little mad sometimes’.

Stu turns out to be Billy’s accomplice, which is not really surprising.  Billy reveals his motive (his father was having an affair with Sidney’s mother, causing Billy’s mother to leave town), and also a tied-up Neil Prescott.  The killers reveal that it was them who killed Maureen Prescott, not the guy who is in jail for the murder, and then explain their plan, which is to frame Neil for the murders and appear to ‘survive’ the killings.  This means the two of them start stabbing each other to cause believable injuries, which is really grim!  Billy’s motivation is clearly revenge, but I think Stu is just mad.

The plan appears to be foiled when Gale returns, having survived the car crash, and steals the gun.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t know how to take the safety off, and Billy knocks her out.  Just as he’s about to kill Gale, Stu notices Sidney has disappeared – she then turns the phone game on them, puts the ghostface costume on herself, and seemingly manages to kill both killers.  In what is could be yet another Halloween reference but is probably just me obsessing, Sidney has the sense that Laurie didn’t, and picks up the knife from next to Billy’s body (seriously, it’s always really annoyed me in Halloween that Laurie is continually dropping knives next to Michael Myers whenever she thinks she’s killed him, so that whenever he wakes up he can just pick up the knife and go again!).  Stu, meanwhile, suffers death by television, meaning we finally stop hearing the Halloween soundtrack in the background.  I wonder how many royalties the filmmakers had to pay John Carpenter?

Billy wakes up and attacks Sidney again, but Gale wakes up at the same time, and has finally figured out the safety on the gun.  ‘Careful,’ warns Randy as they approach Billy’s body.  ‘This is the moment when the supposedly-dead killer comes back to life for one last scare.’  He’s not wrong, but Sidney now has the gun, and shoots Billy in the head.  ‘Not in my movie,’ she says, bringing things neatly to a close.

As the film wraps up, we see that Dewey has survived (spoiler: he sort of becomes the Dr Loomis of the Scream franchise in this respect).

Side note: it was Roger Jackson who did the ‘phone killer’ voice!  I’ve loved his voice acting in videogames for years.

Back to the Halloween films tomorrow!

A cautious Wednesday

I woke up with a sore throat this morning, so I decided not to risk going for the short run I’d planned.  Lots of paracetamol seems to be sorting me out though, so I think I’m okay to go to the dinner party hosted by our friends Mark and Ruth tonight.  Looking forward to that!

Geth had pest control come round this morning and get rid of some wasps’ nests that had accumulated around our property, so I’m also glad we don’t have to worry about those any more.

OOTD 10th October 2018
OOTD: dinner party outfit! Scarf unknown brand (2016), dress Polo Ralph Lauren (2018), tights unknown brand (2014), shoes Office (2018).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Robin Beck – First Time
The Wonder Stuff – Give Give Give Me More More More
Panic! At The Disco – High Hopes
Duran Duran – Meet El Presidente
Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells
Ne-Yo – Let Me Love You
Madonna – Crazy For You
Calvin Harris and Sam Smith – Promises
Duran Duran – Planet Earth