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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Forty years after she first “dropped the knife,” Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) tangles, yet again, with the unstoppable killer Michael Myers—and this time, she’s got an arsenal and a panic room.

The original Halloween was an art film. John Carpenter put together a perfect little horror movie with an auteur’s eye, full of beautifully mapped shots, an expert use of lighting, that unforgettable score and that photogenic, painted-up William Shatner mask. It set the high-water mark for slasher films—a mark that has never been surpassed.

The new Halloween comes to us courtesy of writer-director David Gordon Green and writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley. Green is no slouch, responsible for a few highly regarded indies (George Washington, All the Real Girls) and classic comedies (Pineapple Express, banner episodes of TV’s Eastbound and Down). When it was first announced he and McBride would be working on a new Halloween, the initial, “What? Huh?” was quickly followed by “Say … this could work!” Thankfully, it works quite well.

This is the 11th film in the franchise, and the 10th to feature Myers. (Halloween III: Season of the Witch jettisoned the character.) It’s easily the second-best Halloween movie after the Carpenter original, mostly because it takes many of its cues from the 1978 offering. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the maestro himself, Carpenter, returned to rework his iconic theme and provide the film’s eerily effective score.

Forget all those chapters that have unspooled in the four decades since the original. Green even disregards the hospital-based Halloween II, which Carpenter wrote with writing partner Debra Hill. According to the new Halloween, Michael got apprehended shortly after Donald Pleasance’s Loomis emptied his revolver into him, and he’s been percolating in an insane asylum ever since.

A prologue scene features a couple of podcasters gaining access to Michael in his asylum’s courtyard, where they show him his original killing mask. This proves to be a rather bad idea, with Michael busting out of a prison transfer and returning to Haddonfield, where a reclusive, bitter and ready-to-rumble Laurie still resides. Michael promptly resumes his murderous spree, totally messing up candy day for everybody all over again.

A Halloween movie won’t work if the mask looks wonky. Green and his crew came with a good look this time out: The mask, now four decades old, has rotted out a bit, but maintains its contours and fine hair. It even has a puncture wound on the side from when ’78 Laurie put a sewing needle in Michael’s neck.

Green raises the gore quotient from the original, with some nasty head-stomping and brain splatters. It’s not easy to scare audiences who have seen it all before, but I assure you: Green and company will make you squirm and jump. The film’s best scene, a restroom slaughter, is reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s Alien, when an exquisitely crying, cowering Veronica Cartwright was cornered, eventually meeting a merciless doom. It’s not for the faint of heart, and it’s proof Green knows his way around a slasher movie.

Curtis is clearly having a blast. Her hairstyle is identical to the style from her ’80s heyday, but her weapons of choice have most definitely been upgraded. Judy Greer plays her skeptical daughter, with Andi Matichak present as the third Strode generation.

Danny McBride’s writing is evident in key scenes where humor sweetens the mood and creates endearing characters—so we can feel extra-bad about them when they get dispatched. A scene in which a young boy explains to his father that weekend camping trips are fine, but dancing is his focus now, has McBride all over it. Huge credit to both Green and McBride for keeping the comic moments genuine and far from campy.

I, for one, would be totally OK if this is the last Halloween movie. It finishes on a satisfying note with a perfect final shot. However, after taking in nearly $80 million domestically on its opening weekend, something tells me we haven’t seen the last of Michael Myers.

Halloween is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Look, I liked the first go-round of Stranger Things (Season 2 premiere Friday, Oct. 27, Netflix) just fine, sort of like Panda Express takeout: filling, not quite dog food, coulda been worse. But then you people whipped up a breathless hype frenzy like it was The Greatest TV Show of All Time, and things just got ’80s-romanticizing-stoopider from there. And Barb? She’s dead; get over it. Season 2 of Stranger Things picks up a year later, on Halloween 1984, with Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) returning from The Upside Down to help the gang take on a new crop of weirdness in Hawkins. Meanwhile, Joyce (Winona Ryder) as cray as ever. (Hey, if ain’t broke.) There’s also the Reagan/Bush re-election campaign to deal with—boo!

What an ambitious year 2015 was for broadcast network dramas—successful, not so much. Scream Queens, Limitless, Blood and Oil, Heroes Reborn, The Player, Wicked City, Rosewood, Minority Report—all dust in the wind. Quantico is (sort of) still alive, as is Blindspot (Season 3 premiere Friday, Oct. 27, NBC), the crime-conspiracy thriller that went from “The next Blacklist!” to Friday-night filler in two seasons. There are still mysteries to be solved in Jane (Jaimie Alexander) and her tattoos, but first, she has to face her vengeance-bent bent brother Roman (Luke Mitchell) and rescue her former FBI team from his clutches (which really raises questions about said team’s competency). So, Blindspot … still on.

Saturday Night Live was a groundbreaking, counterculture oddity in the ’70s; today, it’s a meme generator. Tom Hanks’ “David S. Pumpkins” appeared twice on SNL last season, which has somehow led to The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special (special, Saturday, Oct. 28, NBC) being a thing. But it’s not much of a thing: It’s just a half-hour, barely animated special featuring the voices of Hanks and ex-SNLer Bobby Moynihan, as well as Peter Dinklage (!), wherein nonsensical character Pumpkins shows kiddies “the true meaning of Halloween”(?). The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special is just another pointless, cynical SNL cash-grab that should make Lorne Michaels roll over in his grave.

Some of us were lucky enough to see Ozzy and Co. on their final tour last year; for the rest of you, there’s Black Sabbath: The End of the End (special, Saturday, Oct. 28, Showtime), the concert film capturing the finale of the influential metal band’s 49-year run. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler put on a hell (ha!) of a show for being 60-something vampires, backed by a younger sit-in for drummer Bill Ward who literally looked like Jesus; and an inaudible off-stage keyboardist/guitarist whom I’m assuming collected an equal paycheck. With the exception of anything from 1978’s underrated Never Say Die! album, The End of the End features every classic Sabbath song. Play it loud.

So far, there are not a lot of scary Halloween recommendations, right? Might I suggest a few selections from RiffTrax (streaming, Amazon Prime), the guys who spun off from Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy) into something completely … well, the same? They still hilariously mock terrible movies, and there are a handful of their horror offerings available on Amazon Prime, like When a Stranger Calls Back, The Last Slumber Party, Frankenstein Island, House on Haunted Hill, The Revenge of Doctor X and the incomparably awful Rock ’n’ Roll Nightmare. (Seriously—I challenge you to make it through that one.) Or just keep binge-ing Stranger Things.

Why is Stan Against Evil (Season 2 premiere Wednesday, Nov. 1, IFC) returning the day after Halloween? And, while we’re at it, why isn’t Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead coming back until February 2018? You B-level cable outlets are killin’ me. Anyway: Stan Against Evil, a thinly veiled rip-off of/homage to Ash vs. Evil Dead that will do for now, I suppose, remains a reliably goofy/scary vehicle for comedy vet John C. McGinley to rage-shrug as the former sheriff of a demon-plagued town built on the site of a 17th-century witch-burning. This time, he’s begrudgingly trying to save his replacement sheriff (Janet Varney), who’s trapped in another time. (February 2018? Take me!)

Published in TV

On this week's pleasantly filling weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World introduces us to TrumpCare; Jen Sorenson offers tips for getting along with Trump voters; The K Chronicles celebrates more of life's little victories; and Red Meat gets an early start on Halloween planning.

Published in Comics

Here’s my list of some of the better DVD/Blu-Ray gift options for 2014.

A warning: If you give one of these as a gift, and the person who gets it has actually read this article, he or she will know you cheated and aren’t at all original in your gift giving. But that’s OK … we all have our shortcomings.

The prices listed here are from Amazon.com as of the time of this writing (and for some reason, Amazon.com prices change ALL THE TIME, so consider yourself warned).


BLOCKBUSTER GOODNESS

Guardians of the Galaxy (Blu-ray) $19.99: One of the year’s better blockbusters is out on Blu-ray just in time for stocking-stuffing. Giving this one also provides a nice excuse for you to make somebody a mix tape.

Godzilla (Blu-ray) $14.99: At the beginning of the year, I said this was the film I most anxiously anticipated, and that if it were a bad movie, I would spiral into severe depression. As things turned out, I enjoyed it immensely, and I have a distinct spring in my step. The Blu-ray is cool, with some fun mock documentary stuff about Godzilla and behind-the-scenes items.

Edge of Tomorrow (Blu-Ray) $24.99: This was a blockbuster wannabe that fell a little flat at the box office. Tom Cruise’s character gets caught in a death loop and must die thousands of times—and the film is amazing. Give this one to that science-fiction-loving person who refused to plunk down the dough at the IMAX theater. They will love it, for sure.


FOR THOSE WHO ESCHEW CABLE AND MISS COOL STUFF ON TV

Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery (Blu-ray) $83.81: Far and away, this is the best Blu-ray of the year. If somebody you know loves Peaks, get them this. When they open it, just throw your hands up like you scored a touchdown and start dancing.

One of the greatest TV shows ever made gets a spectacular treatment, full of archived features. You also get Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and the movie’s long-rumored deleted scenes. Yes, the movie would’ve been a little more fun had director David Lynch kept some of these in.

The show is coming back for season three in 2016, so this works as a nice primer for more things to come.

Family Ties: The Complete Series (DVD) $55.29: Alas, this classic series will probably never have a date with Blu-ray, meaning you will never see Justine Bateman’s Mallory Keaton in HD glory.

Batman: The Complete Series (Blu-ray) $174.96: Adam West and Burt Ward finally get their due on Blu-ray. I would suggest boycotting this, because the two fools skipped out on Reno Comic Con this year, but that would be unprofessional. If you feel like springing for another $400, get them the cool collectible dolls available over at sideshowtoys.com. There are some people on your list worth $700, right?

Fargo: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray): $29.96: I had my doubts about this one, but the Coen brothers movie’s TV-show offshoot, which stars Billy Bob Thornton, proved to be a worthwhile endeavor. The Blu-ray comes with audio commentaries, deleted scenes and making-of docs.


CULT GREATNESS

UHF (Blu-ray) $18.38: Shout Factory has grown into one of the cooler purveyors of cult-cinema home-viewing. “Weird Al” Yankovic’s one and only foray into being a movie headliner was great satire in its day, and it’s still funny. Michael Richards kicked ass as Stanley the Janitor, and the “We don’t need no stinkin’ badgers!” moment still kills me. You get a Weird Al commentary, his 2014 Comic Con panel, deleted scenes and more.

Eraserhead (Blu-ray) $26.49: What can bring on the holiday cheer quicker than an embalmed cow fetus crying for its mommy? Nothing whatsoever, I say! Gift this one along with the aforementioned Twin Peaks box set to give that special someone a joyous David Lynch geekgasm. It’s a Criterion Collection release, so that means it costs a little more than the average Blu-ray—but it’s totally worth it.

Snowpiercer (Blu-ray) $9.99: This came out this year, and it’s an instant cult classic. Yes, it’s an apocalypse film, but there’s lots of snow in it, so that qualifies it as a holiday movie, sort of. Even though this one is about the survival of the planet and contains some gross stuff, it’s no scarier than that freaking creepy The Polar Express animated movie.

Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go (Blu-ray) $18.74: The alleged last Python show ever was a little sloppy, but everybody still alive in the troupe is like 139 years old now, so we’ll cut them some slack. The five remaining Pythons were fun during this stretch of live performances in London, with big musical numbers and a surprisingly nimble Terry Gilliam, who jumped 10 feet off the ground during the Spanish Inquisition sketch.

Frank (Blu-ray) $12.99: Here’s another movie from 2014 that next to nobody saw, although it’s already garnered that instant-cult-classic badge. Michael Fassbender wears a big mask on his head the whole time, and the result is one of the year’s funniest movies. Give this to the music-lover who idolizes Syd Barrett.


GIVE THE GIFT OF GARBAGE TO SOMEONE YOU DESPISE

Blended (Blu-ray) $22.99: Remember when we used to gather ’round the TV in the living room around holiday time, ready for a good laugh? We’d have the fireplace going, and we’d pop in the latest Adam Sandler flick for chuckles. We’d roast candy canes, and smoke marshmallows, safe in the knowledge that Sandler would provide a couple of good gut-busters. Those days are so gone. Long gone. This movie is a crime against movies, people, dogs and various insects. Give it to somebody you can’t stand, and then run out of the house as soon as they unwrap it.


THE BOX SET I WANT THE MOST

Halloween: The Complete Collection (Blu-ray) $79.99: Hey, I’m not shy. This is probably my only chance to let folks know what I really want under the Christmas tree (over at their place, because I don’t have a Christmas tree). This puppy comes with all of the Halloween movies—even the ones Rob Zombie did—and a big load of extras. So … now you know. Would somebody buy this for me, please?

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing
Published in Snapshot

Hey, it’s fall, so that means it’s time for yet another Blu-ray packaging of the John Carpenter classic Halloween.

This umpteenth package commemorates the film’s 35th anniversary (a fact which will surely make a lot of us feel very old). After 3 1/2 decades, Michael Myers is still quintessential slasher villain. Yes, he’s had to endure some terrible sequels and some semi-crappy Rob Zombie remakes, but a viewing of the film that started it all shows that he was, and still is, cinema’s best psycho creeper.

The film has aged well … for the most part. Oh, sure, P.J. Soles saying “Totally!” way too much grates on the nerves, and some of Jamie Lee Curtis’ dialogue sputters. (I always hated her line: “Well, kiddo … I thought you outgrew superstition.”) Still, Carpenter nailed the scares in this one. The shot in which Curtis’ Laurie Strode is sitting in the hallway when that white mask slowly emerges from the dark doorway is brilliant.

It’s fun to watch Donald Pleasance, thinking he was involved in a true piece of garbage, going nuts as the obsessive Dr. Loomis. And next to Psycho, nobody ever came up with a better horror-movie theme. (That theme was also penned by Carpenter.)

A year ago, there was a report that Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes company would be taking over the franchise—and that was the most-recent news regarding further Michael Myers movies. Honestly, I’d rather watch a bad Halloween movie than another Insidious.

Special Features: If you don’t have one of the prior editions, this is a good one to pick up. There’s an all-new commentary with Carpenter and Curtis that is a real treat. You also get a rather long documentary about Jamie Lee attending a horror convention, as well as footage from the TV-movie version.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Here are some exclusive Coachella Valley Independent iPhone CrapCam images from the Arenas Road Halloween Costume Contest!

A crowd shot at the Arenas Road Halloween Costume Party.

The crowd watches as various winners are announced.

Check out those legs!

Check out those legs!

An orange wig. A funny hat. Why not?

An orange wig, and then headwear that looks like the bastard cousin of a Hot Dog on a Stick hat. Why not?

Not a bad Wednesday crowd in Palm Springs ... even if it is Halloween.

Non-costumed folk watch the costumed folk.

And finally, just in time for Star Wars: Episode 7 in 2015: A stormtrooper.

Published in Snapshot