Category Archives: THE DOCTOR’S PROGNOSIS

The Doctor’s Prognosis

Through the Looking Glass with the RESIDENT EVIL Films

0-reseries-eyeAfter fifteen years and six films, the RESIDENT EVIL film franchise has reached its FINAL CHAPTER…if you want to believe that. I mean, let’s face it, we’ve seen FINAL titles before in series that blasted past them soon enough. And with soft reboots and complete relaunches, who’s to say there won’t be another RESIDENT EVIL in a few years’ time? In fact, it’s probably a certainty.

Where was I? Oh yes…after fifteen years and six films, the RESIDENT EVIL film franchise is wrapping things up (yeah, yeah). So to celebrate the big finale (now in theaters as I post this), I thought it was time to provide my take on the entire series to date. I had already covered the first film in depth in ZOMBIEMANIA many years ago, but now it was time to watch all of it – every movie, every mid-air twirl, every bullet casing with the Umbrella logo lovingly shot in slo-mo as it fell to the floor. I was joined by Accidental Hellraiser Scholar Natalie Litofsky, and together we queued up one DVD after another.

tumblr_ncksocWfh81szylh2o3_500The team is assembled, so let’s get to reopening the Hive! We want to know what went on down there…

(NOTE: I usually give a film a “brain” rating in my reviews, but in order not to break up the flow, I’ll hold those until the very end.)

RESIDENT EVIL (2002)

MPW-48590It’s too easy sometimes, but it’s as true here as it often is with other long-running series – the first film is still the best. A tightly-constructed, claustrophobic, atmospheric action horror romp, RESIDENT EVIL does what it needs to do and does it well. It sets up its characters nicely, including the memory mystery at the heart of Alice’s dilemma as our heroine – played as she ever will be by stalwart Milla Jovovich (in a performance of confidence and conviction throughout all the insanity the series will one day throw at her) – wakes up into a world that will soon turn upside down.

"I've really got to buy a new bed."Joining her are notable cast mates like Colin Salmon, James Purefoy, Michelle Rodriguez (doing her usual badass routine), and Eric Mabius, among others. The movie also employs good old-fashioned shambling zombies – reanimated by the T-Virus rather than space radiation, which opens the door for some seriously problematic mutations later in the series – it has some fantastic action sequences including the razor-sharp laser corridor scene, and it has a propulsive score with a satisfyingly contained environment for zombie mayhem.

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True, there are some clunky expository moments, but that’s more or less just a nice nod to the series’ video game origins – and the Hive map does provide a good way to orient the audience as to the location of our heroes during the story. The story rolls along relentlessly toward a stunning conclusion, and as I’ve often observed elsewhere, this has what may be not only one of my favorite final shots in zombie genre history but film in general. As the camera pulls up to reveal a ruined city, the foreboding setting for Alice’s next big challenge, the movie ends on a promise that the sequel will ultimately fail to fulfill in spectacular fashion. About that…tumblr_lt2vy2mdra1r3enmso1_500

RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE (2004)

Resident-Evil-Apocalypse-movie-poster-1020268127Squandering the superb setup from the end of the first film, APOCALYPSE is not nearly as bad as I used to think…but that’s only because the series still has so far to fall. Eschewing the clear direction and stylish lighting from its predecessor, this movie adopts the awful “shaky cam” approach to action that prevents viewers from getting a bead on anything, adding some silly slow motion strobing for additional ill effect. Sienna Guillory makes her first appearance as Jill Valentine in a scene that immediately demonstrates how incapable she is of speaking or behaving like a human in any way (but for game fans, at least she’s wearing the right outfit).

0-reseries-apocalypseThere are some decent set pieces, including the relatively rare “corpses clawing out of cemetery graves” gambit that people only think the genre is all about, and a cute horde of zombie kids having a reporter for lunch. Alice is now officially bonded with the T-Virus and becomes a full-fledged superhero, even though she already had one hell of a midair zombie dog drop-kick in the first film.

tumblr_lzplonpr2N1qe1li6o1_500What starts as a painful comedy stereotype with LJ (Mike Epps) results in one of the movie’s only likable characters, and Oded Fehr (of THE MUMMY fame) is pretty well wasted. As for Eric Mabius’ Matt, he’s mutated into the Nemesis creature (no longer played by Mabius), giving the movie a chance for a final boss fight with more shaky cam. The movie ends on a sinister note that will be addressed about midway through the next film with a couple lines of dialogue. And on we go…resident-evil-Nemesis

RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION (2007)

resident-evil-extinction-posterIt’s a brave thing to drastically change the style and setting of a series in its third installment, but EXTINCTION benefits from the shift as well as the direction of HIGHLANDER helmer Russell Mulcahy, following series originator Paul W.S. Anderson and APOCALYPSE director Alexander Witt (whose IMDb page will clearly show how that worked out for him as far as other directing gigs). The desert setting and accompanying sandy color palette offer a stark contrast to the metallic blues of the first two films, and Alice’s now brown gear fits in nicely with her new surroundings (but really girl, stop cutting your own hair with a weed whacker). In fact, she’s now taken a step up from superhero to Messiah, with her blood a possible cure (they’re going to drop that entirely soon enough though). Ali Larter joins up as Claire Redfield but doesn’t add much presence, while two additions from APOCALYPSE get dramatic exits.

RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTIONThere’s a nice tribute to Bub from DAY OF THE DEAD in one scene, and that’s not all – this one seems to be very interested in paying homage to everything from THE OMEGA MAN to the PLANET OF THE APES movies to THE BIRDS…or is that ZOMBIE 5: KILLING BIRDS? And after almost entirely ignoring or obscuring them in APOCALYPSE, the zombies are back with a vengeance here, sporting some excellent textured makeup designs. Some of them are even capable of being trained as a sort of zombie strike force, but fortunately they don’t do anything as silly as arm them and give them motorcycles (just wait until RETRIBUTION).

residentevilextinction2Besides Alice’s magic blood, EXTINCTION also establishes a number of cold hard facts about the state of the world that the rest of the series will completely ignore, like the drying up of the oceans (which are miraculously just fine in a movie or two). The movie ends with the films’ second-best finale, setting up an army of Alices – or is that a Wonderland of Alices? – that will take the fight directly to Umbrella. Surely the series wouldn’t throw away this setup like it did the one from the first movie? I mean, surely the next installment is a feature-length war of Alices Vs. Umbrella, right? Right?Resident_Evil_Extinction5

RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (2010)

resident_evil_afterlifeWrong. Eliminating the entire army of Alices in the opening sequence, AFTERLIFE is the beginning of a major downturn in quality for the franchise, topped (or bottomed if you like) in its ineptitude and embarrassingly bad 3D-reliant “special” effects only by its immediate successor. Although RETRIBUTION holds the record for letting go of any semblance of logic even in the relative unreality of the RESIDENT EVIL series, this movie begins to sever the series’ ties with sensibility in several ways.

149012110_tumblr-llf8110kAs a primary villain, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) is actually laughable – his every exaggerated neck crack (please, can we retire this from all movies now?), his you-want-to-punch-his-smug-face smirk, and his painfully obvious Agent (“MATRIX“) Smith shtick made us laugh out loud. And when he gets half of his own head shot off and still comes back only to get blown up at the end (only to return again next time), it eliminates any tension whatsoever; the man is just a walking Looney Tune.

Resident Evil AfterlifeSpeaking of cartoons, Alice loses her powers but continues to flip through the air and survive fiery crashes with no trouble; some of the composited shots of her and her clones swinging or plummeting generated more laughs. And who needs powers? One guy with no bonded cells manages to stop a plane from going over the side of a building with his bare hands, while Claire does a run up a wall and twirls over an opponent easily enough.

tumblr_mdj6j5wzrc1rg2xo9o1_500As for her opponent, what the hell was that giant FINAL FANTASY Axe Monster? He shows up with no explanation whatsoever – one simple line of dialogue referring to him as another product of the Nemesis program could have covered it. As for the now flower-mouthed THING-like zombies, apart from the bad CGI, they’re just a very stupid concept (source game faithfulness notwithstanding).

BONUS NATALIE QUOTE: “I didn’t know this was a comedy!”

As you can surely tell, this is the movie that really started to lose me. Now for some – especially game fans – the later installments may be more satisfying because they begin to utilize some of the weirder creatures and elements from those games, reality be damned. But for me, the film series narrative starts to go off the rails as everything transforms into much more of a heightened live-action animé than a zombie movie. This one ends with the shocking return of a previous character who is so unrecognizable here compared to her last appearance, you’d have to know that’s how she looked in later games; that shows no respect for those that only watch the movies, but hold on – it’s about to get much worse…resident-evil-afterlife-claire-versus-axeman-ali-larter

RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (2012)

Resident-Evil-Retribution-I-Poster-2-8-12Starting with a backwards-running sequence that rips off the concept from the DEAD ISLAND game trailer released one year earlier, and following that with an extended copy of the 2004 DAWN OF THE DEAD opening, here is without a doubt the worst film in the series…at least as far as I know as of this writing. There are tons of visual callbacks and a number of familiar faces from as far back as the first film returning in roles that give them nothing good to do but only serve to pander to an audience that will merely look at the faces and say, “Hey it’s him/her again!” or “I recognize that!”

BONUS NATALIE QUOTE: “Is this entire movie about them getting out of the facility?” (ANSWER: Yes, pretty much.)

In particular, the introduction of Ada Wong suffers from the worst kind of disregard for moviegoers – she’s never given any proper backstory or character, relying entirely on game fans that will simply see her in her distinctive outfit and be happy she’s flesh and blood. As a non-game viewer, I still require characters to have personality and purpose; she has neither.

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If the humans are zombie-like in their development, the zombies are by contrast bizarrely developed to comedic levels. The undead in this series long ago started running rather than shambling, as well as sprouting flower-mouth appendages and other assorted lunacy, but now we have the “Las Plagas” zombies with uniforms, guns, chainsaws, and motorcycles. As for their creators, Umbrella’s motivations have grown so convoluted and insane, one wonders what their end game is if they intend to still function as a corporate entity at all (more on this below).

4827_originalMoving on from homages in previous films to flat-out thievery, this movie also grafts a random sudden surge of motherhood onto Alice in a duplicate – right down to the alien cocoons – of the Ripley/Newt ALIENS relationship, while the Red Queen has gone full Skynet (from TERMINATOR, of course), waging war on Mankind. The endless city simulation sequences are just an excuse to shoehorn some disaster porn into the series, snow and ice don’t appear to make anyone cold anymore, and if you enjoyed the unexplained Axe Monster in the last one, here are two! Sigh.

ANOTHER BONUS NATALIE QUOTE: “So the entire world ended because one dude thought he could make some money on some stuff.”

RETRIBUTION is definitely one of the worst big-budget films it’s ever been my misfortune to see, a tidal wave of nonsensical visuals with no underlying plot, no sense of character, and little to no consideration for the reality established by the previous movies, to say nothing of its contempt for moviegoers’ intelligence. With this as the last installment before the FINAL CHAPTER, one would be forgiven for contemplating whether or not to give the sixth movie a miss, but when you’ve gone this far, and the winged Hell demons are already dive-bombing the White House…

RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER (2016)

153_161207132929_1As I write this, the final installment (yeah, right) of the series is out in theaters. What do we have to look forward to? If I were to guess based on the most recent film, nothing good, but hope springs eternal – even in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by a massive malevolent conglomerate. I’ll share my thoughts on THE FINAL CHAPTER when I can, but for now we leave Alice and her many friends and enemies on the precipice of Hell itself. For anyone else brave enough to attempt to binge-watch these films in a weekend as Natalie and I did, you may well find yourself feeling much like Alice, staring blankly out at a nonsenical, hellish landscape of fire and destruction, wondering how everything went so wrong…

Logo Umbrella_CorporationBefore we get to the ratings, a few last general comments about the Umbrella Corporation:

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• They sure do love their branding. Forgot where you work? Just look at the floor or the wall or literally any piece of technology and there the logo will be to remind you.

Underwater_Umbrella_base_containing_replica_of_cities
• Where do they get all that space? Umbrella sure does love enormous architecture, but the underground facilities in particular just get crazier and crazier, from the ship that’s clearly bigger on the inside (calling the Doctor from DOCTOR WHO), to the primary base under Tokyo that looks bigger than the city above it? How did they build that thing? And at this point, shouldn’t the Earth just be imploding after Umbrella has managed to dig out everything under the crust to build their endless array of secret bases?

Jill Valentine Mark Two (RETRIBUTION).
Jill Valentine Mark Two (RETRIBUTION).

• The cybercrab controller that debuts in AFTERLIFE also brings up a question: Why bother doing that when you can simply kill an uncooperative individual and clone them endlessly into mindless minions, like they do with, oh, everyone else they have working for them? And why did it take virtually an entire movie for Alice to come up with ripping one of those things off Jill, and why does Jill remember herself and everything after removal, but Claire was afflicted with almost total amnesia post-crab?

resident-evil-retribution-michelle-rodriguez-attacked-by-zombies-in-the-water-ice
• Let’s talk about clones. Forgetting how insanely complex and amazing that one technological breakthrough is in comparison to everything else, by the end of the series we know that just about everyone working for Umbrella is a clone trooper (sounds familiar) or a copy of a known person. So if they’re struggling with what the T-Virus has done to destroy humanity, how about deploying thousands of clones to repopulate the world instead of leaving them all hanging on racks under the Kamchatka ice? And why would Umbrella run clone-populated simulations using clones imprinted with incredibly detailed internal lives that include political activism?

Eric Mabius as Matt before the Umbrella makeover...and after (RESIDENT EVIL & APOCALYPSE).
Eric Mabius as Matt before the Umbrella makeover…and after (RESIDENT EVIL & APOCALYPSE).

• Finally…what the hell is their end game anyway? We find out by the fifth film that Umbrella sold the T-Virus around the world to everyone and had run countless outbreak scenarios for all the world’s major cities, so even if the initial Hive outbreak was an accident, it couldn’t have been entirely unplanned or unforeseen that one day the virus would get out and about (Natalie’s addition: How did they sell it to everyone without having the antidote developed and sold as part of the package? Who would buy the first part without the second part?). And although earlier, the Red Queen seemed to want to assist in containing and even curing the situation in the first film and EXTINCTION, by RETRIBUTION she’s waging war on all living humans. Meanwhile, Umbrella keeps maintaining armies of clones, taking over people with cybercrabs, running simulations for a virus that already destroyed the world, and letting a guy in sunglasses monologue incessantly until most of the people working for him probably wish he would shoot them in the head. And when the world is over and all are dead…how will Umbrella make money exactly?

And now, without further ado, the ratings round-up!

RESIDENT EVIL

08brains

APOCALYPSE

05brains

EXTINCTION

07brains

AFTERLIFE

02brains

RETRIBUTION

01brains

HELP US BY ORDERING THE MOVIES VIA THIS LINK!

Train to Busan (2016)

THE PATIENTS

Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Writer: Sang-ho Yeon
Starring: Yoo Gong, Dong-seok Ma, Woo-sik Choi

THE PATHOLOGY

An overworked fund manager takes his daughter by train to visit her estranged mother, only for them to get caught up in a zombie apocalypse as a viral outbreak turns nearly everyone into hyperkinetic bite-happy maniacs. Can a group of diverse train passengers band together to make it to the end of the line…alive?

train-to-busan.jpg.size.custom.crop.1086x727

THE PROGNOSIS

This is director Sang-ho Yeon’s first live-action production, having worked in animation to this point; in fact, he returns to that format for a prequel to TRAIN that sets up the apocalypse seen in the film. SEOUL STATION arrives in August, and I for one cannot wait to see this world expanded in that new chapter. And why? Because this is quality epic summer blockbuster storytelling, with a pitch-perfect mix of strong characterization, thrilling set pieces, deft emotional touches, and polished camera work. While I don’t feel it’s always warranted to compare a film to another (that’s too easy a trap to fall into, praising one thing by denigrating another), I did find myself thinking of WORLD WAR Z quite a bit. And at the risk of falling into precisely that trap, I’ll note that the difference between the two is that TRAIN TO BUSAN is very good indeed.

The standout performance comes from Dong-seok Ma as a working class husband with a baby on the way and a heroic heart of gold, whose natural ability to care for others enables him to teach our hero a lesson in empathy. But truly everyone in the cast is superb and makes you instantly care about them (or, in the case of one character, feel an appropriate level of loathing for him). From teen lovers to aging sisters, there’s a satisfying range of backgrounds and personalities thrown together in the midst of tragedy, and yes, you will feel some losses like stabs in the heart – a tribute to all involved in this production.

You will feel some losses like stabs in the heart – a tribute to all involved in this production.

As for the zombies themselves, the makeup effects are excellent if not too elaborate, and the related CGI is similarly very effective except very briefly in one key scene set in a train station. Behaviorally, they’re an intriguing blend of Western and Asian tropes, with their jerking, body-bending, frenetic movements and hissing attacks familiar from Asian horror while their swarming behavior is very reminiscent of the aforementioned WORLD WAR Z. They are reanimated running zombies but not flesh-eaters per se, as they only seem interested in biting just enough to spread the infection but don’t consume their victims. The most intriguing element is their disproportionate reliance on sight as a means of identifying victims. Although they also respond to sound and movement, staying out of sight is the primary way to defeat them, leading to some very clever strategic gambits on the part of our heroes to evade danger.

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If I had any criticisms, they’re minor. Perhaps the only one worth noting at all concerns the opening gag in which we first see the zombie effect take hold via a reanimated deer (an identical bit is also seen in SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE). This scene promises a subplot that never materializes, since we never see any zombie animals again. Something involving, say, an infected pet on the train might have added another dimension to the already excellent proceedings, but then again, why worry about what might have been? There’s so much here that works well, zombie pet or no zombie pet.

Perhaps the film’s greatest strength is not just that it fully and capably embraces the genre’s use of a zombie apocalypse to reflect meaningfully on human nature, but that it does so at a time when its specific message could not be more important or impactful. The primary villain in this movie is a self-interested narcissistic businessman that sees all other human beings as pawns, manipulating them through ignorance and sowing fear, then throwing them to the wolves as he seeks to protect his own worthless existence. As for the heroes, they only manage to save those they love by exhibiting empathy and recognizing that they are #StrongerTogether.

The heroes only manage to save those they love by exhibiting empathy and recognizing that they are #StrongerTogether.

And when the propulsive music kicks in and our last few survivors try to ride a train engine to an uncertain future while a growing horde of zombies begin to drag behind it, I defy anyone not to feel their pulse pounding. This is excellent action-packed movie-making that American film makers could learn from, but I’d be happy just to see more Korean movies make their way into our theaters…especially zombie movies!

RATING

09brains

Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

0review-halloween8b

THE PATIENTS

Director: Rick Rosenthal
Writers: Larry Brand, Sean Hood
Starring: Busta Rhymes, Jamie Lee Curtis, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Ryan Merriman, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tyra Banks, Bianca Kajlich

THE PATHOLOGY

After a prologue that provides a final, epic farewell to Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode, we move on to Haddonfield, where Freddie Harris (Rhymes) is about to present a new Internet-based reality program dubbed “Dangertainment.” Lock the usual assortment of attractive young people in the Myers house, strap webcams to their heads, and let the fun begin. Oh, did I mention Michael has come home again? Oops. Bet nobody had him sign off on this production.

THE PROGNOSIS

I won the scorn of many colleagues when I confessed to actually enjoying this 2002 installment in the slasher franchise. Yes, the Michael Myers seen here is a pale shadow of the Shape we once knew; yes, it makes Busta Rhymes a more imposing presence than Myers, to the detriment of Michael’s stature as the series’ indestructible juggernaut; and yes, it won’t win any awards for plotting or performance quality. It’s a less than ambitious entry in the series and middle-of-the-road horror fare for a more conservative era.

It’s a less than ambitious entry in the series and middle-of-the-road horror fare for a more conservative era.

But hell, it’s also a pretty decent HALLOWEEN sequel when your expectations are suitably lowered, and sometimes you have to evaluate a film within its own narrow category rather than relative to the vast universe of cinema in general. When compared with the lethargic 20th anniversary entry, RESURRECTION at least gets down to business with some old-style Myers murders (Tyra Banks’ demise, regrettably, happens off-screen), a decent level of suspense, and even some welcome continuity touches that have been absent from the series for a long time. Anyone remembering the sudden reality shift in HALLOWEEN 5 when the old Myers house became a Gothic-style cathedral-like edifice should have no problems here. The Myers home not only serves as the central location for most of the action, but it looks almost exactly as it did back in 1978. Good show, set designers.

The premise is marginally clever as well, taking advantage of the slew of reality-based shows on TV then (and now) and incorporating aspects of the growing Internet culture and the “found footage” genre. True, some fans might question why Michael is driven to continue his rampage at all now that his last remaining relative is gone in the first fifteen minutes, but to hell with logic. For a series with two distinct continuity threads, who needs consistency? At least Michael, played here by Brad Loree, recaptures a bit of his trademark body language, and the mask is not at all bad. Michael even shows a wry sense of humor by presenting his bloody knife as a collectible trophy to a mental patient obsessed with serial killers. What a nice Shape he is sometimes.

Our new Laurie stand-in, Sara (Kajlich), is pretty flat, but then so was Laurie. Come on now – the HALLOWEEN movies were never about brilliant acting anyway. The rest of the cast dies well enough, and Busta emerges as one half of a heroic team – the other being Sara’s Internet and Palm Pilot chat pal ‘Deckard’ (Ryan Merriman) – that gives Michael a definite run for his money. And once again this brings us to the issue of the HALLOWEEN series’ recurring problem with endings.

At least Michael, played here by Brad Loree, recaptures a bit of his trademark body language, and the mask is not at all bad.

In the theatrical cut of the film, it’s Busta that wipes up the floor with the Shape. This is director Rick Rosenthal’s second shot at a HALLOWEEN film after the legendary near-disaster that was HALLOWEEN II, and once again he was subject to a lot of last-minute tinkering in the editing room. In the original ending, it was Merriman’s character that arrived to save the day, but test audiences demanded that Busta survive and save the damsel in distress instead.

Either way, we all know damn well that Evil never dies, but this is the end for the original HALLOWEEN series. After eight films and two storylines, the decision was made to hand the character to filmmaker and musician Rob Zombie to reimagine for a new era. But perhaps some night soon, the one true Shape will come home again…

RATING

05brains

HELP US BY ORDERING THE MOVIE VIA THIS LINK!

ALL THE OTHER FILMS IN THE SERIES:
HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN II

HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER

Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)

0review-halloween7b

THE PATIENTS

Director: Steve Miner
Writers: Robert Zappia, Matt Greenberg
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams, Adam Hann-Byrd, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Janet Leigh, Josh Hartnett, LL Cool J, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Chris Durand

THE PATHOLOGY

Twenty years after the Night He Came Home, Keri Tate (Jamie Lee Curtis), alcoholic school marm and dead ringer for a girl who was terrorized one horrible Haddonfield Halloween night, must face her demons in the form of her brother-turned-demonic killer. Can Keri – sorry, Laurie Strode – save herself and her son (Josh Hartnett) as well as his friends when a ghostly Shape from her past returns to kill again?

THE PROGNOSIS

We never thought it would happen. Jamie Lee Curtis – screamer turned star – returned to the series that made her a modern horror star just in time for the twentieth anniversary. Perhaps it was fate that Curtis would be back – yes, fate definitely caught up with her here. Fate never changes.

H20 was a laudable attempt to bring some mainstream gloss to the B-movie slasher series, and Curtis’ return garnered this seventh installment considerable media coverage. Sadly, Donald Pleasence had since departed this mortal realm, so Curtis’ rematch with Michael would happen without the sorely missed presence of Dr. Sam Loomis.

Of course, the previous three movies had established Laurie as dead and mired themselves in a convoluted continuity of their own that nearly buried the series. The creators decided to take a chance with fan sensibilities and jettison everything that happened in HALLOWEEN 4-6. Although the resulting anniversary sequel plays like a love letter to fans of the original two films, there are problems. Why was the opening voice-over, a word-for-word re-enactment of a speech first performed by the late, lamented Pleasence, re-recorded with a younger man trying to replicate Pleasence’s distinctive tones. Surely they could have extracted the audio. Rights issues? Too much background noise or interfering music?

Although this anniversary sequel plays like a love letter to fans of the original two films, there are problems.

Some might get a rush out of hearing the classic Carpenter-penned HALLOWEEN theme rendered with a full orchestral sound, but after the initial excitement of this mainstreaming installment dies down, rewatching exposes all the flaws. In a move towards broader audience acceptance, the gorier aspects of the earlier films were toned down, but so too went much of the suspense and tone. The movie feels more like a generic action thriller than a horror/slasher movie. At best, it’s an uncomfortable marriage of two approaches, and while the killings aren’t as intense, they do seem more tragic and almost unbearably sad in the style of HALLOWEEN homage series SCREAM, in particular when one girl is savagely stabbed multiple times while pinned to the ground, and in another when a really nice guy gets the knife-in-the-back-elevator-ride that Michael once gave a nurse in HALLOWEEN II.

While none of the new kids are particularly impressive, they scream when they need to and run when they have to. You might stifle a giggle when Curtis stands menacingly in shadow and screams Michael’s name at the top of her lungs in challenge as the theme kicks into high gear; it’s a bit too over the top. Curtis’ overwrought performance as the alcoholic Strode grates on the nerves after a while, and by the end you may be hard-pressed to decide which sibling you want to root for. Let’s see – who’s the likeliest one to come back in several more HALLOWEEN movies? I know where I’m putting my money…

By the end you may be hard-pressed to decide which sibling you want to root for.

As for the eternal mask issue, the filmmakers were unhappy with their new mask after shooting had already begun. The replacement, while an improvement that comes as close to the original as we’ve seen so far, still shares screen time with the crappy first version due to ham-fisted editing.

Finally, there’s that ending calculated to elicit a huge audience cheer, but it only holds up if this is truly the final HALLOWEEN. Since we know it’s not, it just becomes a matter of figuring out how they plan to get around the seemingly inescapable conclusion. Fans who had read an earlier script for that last scene, circulated around the ‘net, were already ahead of the game. We all knew the Shape would return…but would Laurie be back to face him again?

RATING

06brains

HELP US BY ORDERING THE MOVIE VIA THIS LINK!

ALL THE OTHER FILMS IN THE SERIES:
HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN II

HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION

Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

0review-halloween6b

THE PATIENTS

Director: Joe Chappelle
Writers: Daniel Farrands
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan, Mitchell Ryan, J.C. Brandy, George Wilbur

THE PATHOLOGY

We learn that the night the Man in Black rescued the Shape, they also took Jamie with them! When she turns up again, she’s older (J.C. Brandy), pregnant by her uncle Michael (!), and on the run from a sinister cult that may have been behind Michael’s rampage since the beginning. As the movie implodes before your eyes, an aging Dr. Loomis (farewell, Donald Pleasence) meets Laurie stand-in Kara Strode (Marianne Hagan) and the original HALLOWEEN’s Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd). The Thorn tattoos are explained – sort of – and the origins of the Shape and the Celtic cult that controls him are laid out in confusing partial detail. When the Man in Black is revealed to be a character from the original film with absolutely no logic to back it up, even the most die-hard fans will be hoping for another sequel to wipe away this hopelessly labyrinthine story and get back to basics. Fortunately…

THE PROGNOSIS

Although the filmmakers didn’t know it, this installment was the end of the road for the increasingly convoluted but occasionally intriguing mythology built into the series beginning with HALLOWEEN 4. When this movie finally limped into theaters after some truly brutal editing, most moviegoers agreed that Michael desperately needed a very long rest, perhaps even a permanent one. He had already been absent from the silver screen for six years while the producers wrestled with the problem of digging themselves out of the hole they’d dug with HALLOWEEN 5, but this surely wasn’t the solution. Yet oddly enough, even as this represents the absolute nadir of the HALLOWEEN series, CURSE also contains some of the most touching tributes to the original film and a poignant though ultimately squandered final performance by Donald Pleasence.

Even as this represents the nadir of the series, CURSE contains touching tributes to the original film and a poignant though squandered final performance by Donald Pleasence.

At the time, I was looking forward to learning the secret of Michael’s evil, but sometimes you shouldn’t get what you want, and CURSE is a perfect case in point. While there are affectionate nods to earlier installments, including a beautiful bit with Tommy reliving a ’smashing pumpkin’ moment from his childhood and even a monologue from the elderly Mrs. Blankenship that recalls similar material from the otherwise unconnected HALLOWEEN III, the scientific basis for Michael Myers’ escapades rings hollow and cheapens everything that came before. Ultimately, the Thorn cult is an intriguing but woefully misguided addition to the mythos. And after all of this, viewers are still left with a plethora of unanswered questions and an ending so vague, surreal, and poorly edited that “ambiguous” doesn’t begin to cover the level of exasperation and rage audiences felt when Loomis moaned in agony and the closing credits rolled.

George Wilbur returns to play the Shape a second time, but since HALLOWEEN 4 he’s packed on a few pounds. And since Myers becomes an afterthought in his own series while everyone else runs around playing X-FILES, he gets very little to do. As for the mask – eh, not the worst it’s been, but not exactly a stunning re-creation either.

No matter what version you watch, HALLOWEEN 6 is a frustrating experience that promises much but delivers little.

Shortly after the film’s release, a “Producer’s Cut” surfaced via bootleg VHS copies circulated by fans, and while this curio was by no means a masterpiece, it was a much improved cut that not only enhanced the movie’s ties to the older installments but featured an entirely different final fifteen minutes that set up an even more bizarre cliffhanger that would never be resolved. It did manage to illuminate some of the theatrical cut’s ambiguity by pushing the conspiracy storyline toward a slightly more satisfying Celtic/magic explanation rather than a scientific one, and it also replaced Rudd’s opening narration with a more pleasing version recorded by Pleasence. The “Producer’s Cut” also clearly came down on the side of “less is more” by featuring far less gruesome murders than those seen in the theatrical version.

No matter what version you watch, HALLOWEEN 6 is a frustrating experience that promises much but delivers little. Most tragically, it serves as our less than dignified final encounter with the great Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis.

RATING: THEATRICAL CUT

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RATING: PRODUCER’S CUT

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ALL THE OTHER FILMS IN THE SERIES:
HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN II

HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION