Category Archives: THE DOCTOR’S PROGNOSIS

The Doctor’s Prognosis

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

0review-halloween5b

THE PATIENTS

Director: Dominique Othenin-Girard
Writers: Michael Jacobs, Dominique Othenin-Girard, Shem Bitterman
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Wendy Kaplan, Beau Starr, George Wilbur

THE PATHOLOGY

Jamie (Danielle Harris) is in an institution, and Loomis (Donald Pleasence, bless him) is now certain she’s in direct psychic contact with her uncle Michael. The Shape has been resting for a year, but as he prepares to hunt down his niece and ruin another Haddonfield Halloween, a strange Man in Black arrives. Both he and Myers sport identical triangular tattoos on their wrists; funny how we never saw that before. Who the hell is this guy?

THE PROGNOSIS

In case you’re wondering where it started to go horribly wrong, here it is. One year after the successful resurrection of Michael Myers and the HALLOWEEN series with HALLOWEEN 4, they quickly cobbled together this follow-up. An ill-conceived attempt to expand the story by turning Michael’s rampage into a complex conspiracy with shadowy mystery figures left many a HALLOWEEN fan leaving the theater with one thought: “What the hell was that all about?” And just wait until the sixth movie! Join me now for those heady days of Thorn tattoos and men in steel-toed boots…

There were minor clues in the finale of the previous film to this psychic link Loomis keeps harping on, but it’s still a leap; then again, Loomis is never crazier than he is here, so let’s give him some leeway. As for Michael’s convalescence with an old man that takes him in, cares for him, and is then rewarded with a horrific death, it’s one of several sequences teased prior to release and savaged by editing. But we haven’t even begun to confuse you yet…

In case you’re wondering where it started to go horribly wrong, here it is.

We meet the latest horde of oversexed Haddonfield “high school kids” in their late 20s, including new heroine Tina (Wendy Kaplan), whose bubbly Jennifer Tilly impression sets her apart as a character with some energy for a change. She’s not your typical virginal slasher heroine, and she gets to participate in one of the best confrontations with the Shape in the series.

But this is still Jamie’s story. This film was blasted for depicting relentless violence and emotional torment directed at a little girl, but it’s to Harris’ credit that she makes it work. One of the most talked-about scenes involves Jamie convincing Michael to remove his mask, revealing a tear running down his face. Are we now to believe that trapped inside this demonic engine of destruction is a little boy who just wants to be loved? This attempt to add “depth” to our favorite psychotic slasher falls fatally flat. Speaking of that mask, it’s the worst one in the series, made more annoying by the fact that it’s supposed to be the same one he was wearing in 4 and yet couldn’t look more unlike that one if it tried (don’t even get me started on the Myers house).

The confusion is marginally relieved by the fannish satisfaction of finally watching Loomis beat the crap out of Myers with a board…with a nail in it!

Protected by a distraught sheriff (Beau Starr) and two moronic deputies who are so unbearably funny (not) that their every action is accompanied by goofy cartoon sound effects and bumbling music, the kids of Haddonfield are understandably doomed. Then Loomis stages a trap for the Shape, revealing knowledge of what drives Myers despite specifically stating in past films that he had no idea what was going on behind those black eyes. When did he come by this knowledge? The confusion is marginally relieved by the fannish satisfaction of finally watching Loomis beat the crap out of Myers with a board…with a nail in it! The gore goes up a notch as people are skewered, slashed, and stabbed in the face. And for the second time in as many years, the entire police force is massacred! Recruitment is going to get tough around there.

Then there’s the final scene with the machine gun-wielding Man in Black rescuing the corralled Myers, which doesn’t win the award for “Most Confusing and Frustrating HALLOWEEN Ending” only because HALLOWEEN 6 is yet to come. HALLOWEEN 5 posed many questions that failed to enrich the saga and that would also remain unanswered for years due to the poor performance of this lackluster installment. When the answers finally did come, they wouldn’t satisfy anybody…

RATING

03brains

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 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

0review-halloween4b

THE PATIENTS

Director: Dwight H. Little
Writers: Alan B. McElroy, Danny Lipsius, Larry Rattner, Benjamin Ruffner
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris, Beau Starr, George Wilbur

THE PATHOLOGY

On a rainy night in 1988, the Shape is about to be moved from the medical facility where he lay comatose for ten years since the concluding moments of HALLOWEEN II. One medic signs for the bandaged Michael Myers while another checks his blood pressure. They’re ready to move him. Then the music blasts from the screen – HALLOWEEN is back! It’s just like going home again.

THE PROGNOSIS

One of the greatest fanboy thrills of my teen years was sitting in a darkened movie theater and seeing two doomed paramedics moving the dormant body of Michael Myers. HALLOWEEN III, while a fun experiment, was almost the death of this film series; no Myers was a no go at the box office. Finally, in 1988 producer Moustapha Akkad resurrected the Shape and reunited him with his tireless pursuer, Dr. Sam Loomis, once more played by Donald Pleasence. There was no chance Jamie Lee Curtis would return to the series – her career had to take a few more downturns before that would happen – but Loomis found allies in a new sheriff (Beau Starr) and a fresh bunch of young Haddonfield natives led by Rachel (Ellie Cornell) and her foster sister Jamie (Danielle Harris). Did I mention that Jamie is the late Laurie Strode’s daughter and Michael Myers’ niece? Yes, Michael has a new family member to kill, and the stage is set for good old-fashioned HALLOWEEN mayhem!

Michael has a new family member to kill, and the stage is set for good old-fashioned HALLOWEEN mayhem!

HALLOWEEN 4 ages pretty well. There are likable characters in Rachel and Jamie, and Loomis – now more deranged in his obsession with Myers and with scars from the hospital explosion at the end of HALLOWEEN II – has a chance to grow into a more complex and magnetic foe for the Shape, a Gerard to Myers’ FUGITIVE. Musically, the theme tune and “Laurie’s Theme” are used frequently and well, further tying this new installment into the HALLOWEEN universe. Recapturing some of the tone of the original, there’s only a small amount of actual blood or gore. Arguably the most violent sequence involves a rowdy bunch of Haddonfield redneck vigilantes incorrectly identifying a fellow gun-toter as Myers in the movie’s funniest scene. George Wilbur is also a decent enough Myers, although he lacks the distinctive body language created by Nick Castle and Dick Warlock.

The worst part? That mask! So begins what HALLOWEEN fans often consider the ultimate cross they must bear through every new sequel – enduring an endless parade of completely inaccurate mask sculpts that utterly fail to recapture the simple terror of the William Shatner white-face that started it all. The expressionless, way-too-clean version seen here lacks the scowl and twisted mouth of the original, robbing Myers of his trademark demonic visage…and what’s with the friggin’ ’70s sideburns? Now that’s pure evil! (And yes, I know he acquires this new mask in town early in this movie, but with an icon like the Shape, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. If Haddonfield can keep stocking the damn things despite all the history that builds up around them – surely residents must cringe to see the face of their own local Boogeyman in stores every Halloween – they can at least stock the right style!) Let’s not even talk about the awful shot at the school with the platinum blonde version of the mask that looks like a poorly executed tribute to Ben Tramer from HALLOWEEN II.

The concluding scene promised an all-new direction for the series that might have been fascinating but was never meant to be.

The ending is a brilliant parallel of events at the start of the first HALLOWEEN, and Loomis’ tortured screaming should send a chill down any fan’s spine. Unfortunately, the concluding scene also promised an all-new direction for the series that might have been fascinating but was never meant to be. Moviegoers were quite happy with HALLOWEEN 4, but they definitely wanted Michael Myers back at fighting strength for 5. There was no room for a new Shape, and Akkad wasn’t about to disappoint his audience. But soon enough, fans would rue the day they clamored for the revenge of Michael Myers…

RATING

07brains

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 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION

In the Flesh Soundtrack (2015)

THE PATIENTS

Composer: Edmund Butt
Also Featuring Songs By: Keaton Henson
Label: Silva Screen Records

THE PATHOLOGY

The brilliant and all too short-lived BBC Three zombie drama IN THE FLESH – created by Dominic Mitchell and starring Luke Newberry, Emily Bevan, and Emmett J. Scanlan – not only presented a compelling and innovative take on the zombie genre but did so with an ethereal atmosphere enhanced by a stunning musical score. After an apocalyptic event known as the Rising in which the dead returned as reanimated corpses seeking living flesh, the living discovered a medical solution that allowed zombies to return to their former personalities and resume their lives as PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome) sufferers. The resulting clash of religious beliefs, prejudices, and fears – not to mention the memories of atrocities committed by the PDS citizens before their rabid behavior was brought under control – leads to daily challenges in the lives of the Risen (or “Rotters”), their families and friends, and those that would gladly see them return to the cold ground.

THE PROGNOSIS

After two excellent series (or seasons in American terms), IN THE FLESH came to an abrupt end with many plot lines left unresolved. We may never see the beleaguered Welsh village of Roarton again, but we can return to its gray and strangely romantic environs with this soundtrack. Featuring instrumental work from throughout the series as well as songs by Keaton Henson, it’s an aural tribute that should be in any fan’s playlist.

The IN THE FLESH soundtrack is an aural tribute that should be in any fan’s playlist.

I’ve often commented on the DOCTOR OF THE DEAD podcast about what I think is a certain musical sound that seems appropriate to the zombie genre, but it’s hard to dissect. The alternating use of propulsive percussion and string-heavy soundscapes that seem to wash over you and around you, enveloping you in a dark but somehow enticing world, not to mention the occasional shift toward synthesized rather than real instrumentation and driving rock, all feel right in the context of a zombie movie or TV show. IN THE FLESH has it all, beginning with tracks like “The Prophet” and “Kieren Turns,” which slowly bring you into this post-PDS world with a combination of wafting, wailing, and insistent melodies. In its quieter moments, the album captures the stark landscape and timelessness of Kieren’s hometown; “Back to Roarton” is at times a note-for-note reinvention of Howard Shore’s “Concerning Hobbits,” the Shire theme from the LORD OF THE RINGS films. That influence comes through in several other tracks, including “Read Your Bible.”

Things get a bit tenser and threatening in tracks like “Wolf,” “The Second Coming,” and “There’s Still Time,” while an almost innocent, fairy tale quality comes through in the slightly atonal “The Goddess Ishtar.” The score also weaves in tributes to other material that will surely reward the pop culture-savvy listener. From nods to the bands Consolidated and Enigma, to guitar riffs in tracks like “The Rotters” and “All Alone” that may make gamers remember adventures in the world of DIABLO, there’s a rich tapestry of thematic work that will encourage you to “stay awhile and listen!”

Every plaintive note reminds you of the beautifully bleak series we’ve lost due to BBC3’s ill-judged cancellation of a modern zombie masterpiece.

If the incredible instrumental work by composer Edmund Butt (LIFE ON MARS, ASHES TO ASHES, DOCTOR WHO: AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME) and The Chamber Orchestra of London presented in the first 19 tracks doesn’t move you to tears, you’re unlikely to resist the final three songs by musician Keaton Henson, whose thready, wavering voice virtually pleads with you to cry for the Risen. His vocals and accompanying music all sound as if they’re reaching us from another world far away, stretching out fingers from beyond to grasp at our reality one more time.

There’s an elegiac quality to the entire album, which suits the subject matter in any event but now feels particularly heightened by the loss of the series. Listening to this soundtrack may be as close as IN THE FLESH fans will ever get to revisiting Roarton (some might even wish to use this soundtrack to accompany role-playing game scenarios with similar settings), but it’s also an appropriately melancholy experience; every plaintive note reminds you of the beautifully bleak series we’ve lost due to BBC3’s ill-judged cancellation of a modern zombie masterpiece.

RATING

09brains

HELP US BY ORDERING THE SOUNDTRACK VIA THIS LINK!

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

0review-halloween3b

THE PATIENTS

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Writers: Tommy Lee Wallace, Nigel Kneale, John Carpenter
Starring: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy, Jamie Lee Curtis (the voice of Santa Mira), Tommy Lee Wallace (the voice of Silver Shamrock)

THE PATHOLOGY

The petite but buxom Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin) teams up with troubled alcoholic physician Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) to investigate the disappearance of her father. There’s a peculiar little toy factory churning out the coolest masks this Halloween, and every kid wants one. So why do the strangely emotionless minions of Silver Shamrock founder Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) seem so hellbent on murdering anyone who tries to uncover the secret behind their special Halloween promotion? And why does a kindly Irishman like Cochran have a full-size piece of Stonehenge sitting in a warehouse in company town Santa Mira (a nice reference to ’50s paranoid sci-fi tale INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS)? What demonic fusion of modern electronics and ancient Druidic rites will enable Cochran to resurrect the “true meaning” of Halloween and have a last laugh on the giggling trick-or-treating children of this great land of ours? Ooh, that Cochran! He’s one nasty warlock!

THE PROGNOSIS

Wait a minute! Where’s Dr. Loomis? Where’s Laurie? No MICHAEL MYERS?! What the f***!

This movie has suffered much over the years. I admit that Michael Myers fan that I am, I too used to savage this film for committing the heinous crime of bearing the HALLOWEEN title and numbering but leaving out the horror icon himself. But with age comes maturity; I can now evaluate this for what it is – a self-contained Halloween-themed tale that attempted to take the series into anthology territory. It didn’t succeed, but it was an admirable effort. It’s also a damned nifty little chiller with a creepy Carpenter electronic score and a superb hammy turn by O’Herlihy. At times, Cochran is so giddy about the prospect of murdering millions of children that you just can’t help but root for the guy (well, maybe not), and that’s largely due to O’Herlihy’s delightful performance.

HALLOWEEN III is a damned nifty little chiller with a creepy Carpenter electronic score and a superb hammy turn by Dan O’Herlihy.

This installment ratchets up the gore and viciousness, with both adults and children stricken with electronically-enhanced magic and turned into exploding bags of flesh filled with bugs and snakes and all sorts of creepy crawlies. Eww! There’s also a drill to the temple, a hands-on decapitation and a few androids leaking yellow ichor, but nothing beats that early scene of Ellie’s father having his skull crushed. While we’re talking uncomfortable visuals, there’s the otherwise chaste sex scene between Nelkin and the craggy but heroic Tom Atkins, who gets to put his beefy hands all over the poor girl in a sequence that should give you more chills than any horrific Halloween trick Cochran could cook up.

As long as you’re willing to forget that this is part of a series at all, which it really isn’t, then you can enjoy SEASON OF THE WITCH on its own terms. It’s a great homage to UK horrorfests of the sort you might see on an old DOCTOR WHO (which regularly featured small towns controlled by ancient evil back in the 1970s, as did much of British fantasy television), not least because it was actually written by QUATERMASS creator Nigel Kneale. It also makes good use of Carpenter’s repertory group, musical skills, and talent for staging suspenseful sequences capped by sickening, bloody deaths.

Just imagine if Cochran had access to cable or the Internet (there’s your remake premise)!

Everything leads up to a Bondian final confrontation in Cochran’s factory, and while the warlock’s grand plan crumbles around him, Challis discovers that saving the world isn’t as easy as movie heroes make it seem. Then again, he has only three networks to call as he struggles to get the deadly Silver Shamrock commercials off the air; just imagine if Cochran had access to cable or the Internet (there’s your remake premise)!

Although Carpenter has often been quoted as listing THE THING, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, and IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS as his three “End of the World” movies, this dark fairy tale comes damn close to an apocalypse itself. Can you imagine the clean-up on November 1st? Ugh. Now let’s all sing along: “One more day to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween! One more day to Halloween, Silver Shamrock!” Watch the magic pumpkin…watch…

RATING

08brains

HELP US BY ORDERING THE MOVIE VIA THIS LINK!

ALL THE OTHER FILMS IN THE SERIES:
HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN II

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: RESURRECTION

Halloween II (1981)

0review-halloween2b

THE PATIENTS

Director: Rick Rosenthal (and John Carpenter)
Writers: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lance Guest, Pamela Susan Shoop, Charles Cyphers, Hunter von Leer, Nancy Stephens, Gloria Gifford, Leo Rossi, Ford Rainey, Dick Warlock

THE PATHOLOGY

The Night He Came Home continues as Dr. Loomis pursues the supernatural Shape to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, where a final showdown ends Michael Myers’ reign of terror at great cost…

THE PROGNOSIS

I saw Michael Myers, AKA the Shape, descending a staircase in a television trailer for this movie when I was about ten or eleven years old. It was an extreme upward angle with Michael’s Shatner mask in half-shadow, hair sticking out in every direction. The demonic image enthralled me; I had to see this movie! So it was HALLOWEEN II, not the first film, which introduced me to Haddonfield’s unstoppable killer and his tireless pursuer, Dr. Sam Loomis. I found the movie at the first video store we ever visited, back when video rental was presented with all the trappings of an elite club. There was that striking pumpkin skull on the shelf of new releases at Barry’s Video Station, and that night he was definitely coming home.

What may be my favorite moment in the series arrives as Loomis fires his warning shot and takes control of the night.

HALLOWEEN II is a mostly satisfying follow-up to a movie that had already achieved near-legendary status by 1981. The first good move was the opening; with a great dialogue sting launching into the best title sequence in the HALLOWEEN series (not to mention a wonderful use of the song “Mr. Sandman”), HALLOWEEN II follows Michael’s rampage through the rest of that 1978 Halloween night. While Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie spends most of the running time asleep, drugged, or otherwise incoherent – and wearing a horrific wig that doesn’t begin to match her ‘78 hairstyle and color – Donald Pleasence more than picks up the slack (“I shot him six times!”). The kills are also more graphic this time around in order to compete with HALLOWEEN’s many slasher competitors since 1978. An enticing scene set in a local school, suggesting that Michael has some unknown connection to and certainly awareness of ancient Celtic rites, is given no further attention (in this movie anyway) but sets up a chilling monologue by Pleasence on the unwavering primitivism of human nature (Loomis does mispronounce Samhain though; come on, Doc!). And then what may be my favorite moment in the series arrives as Loomis fires his warning shot and takes control of the night.

Despite the nostalgic fun and truly explosive finale that not only showcases Loomis as one of the coolest horror heroes of all time but also reveals Laurie’s inexplicable sharpshooting skills, there’s a lot wrong with HALLOWEEN II. It’s surprisingly boring in long stretches, with most of it taking place in the most underpopulated hospital on the planet. The movie also has a disjointed sensibility indicative of post-production scrambling to save the film from total incoherence. If you watch the television edit (and you should), you’ll be treated to extra bits that should surprise anyone that has only seen the theatrical cut. In fact, the ‘new’ last scene in the film is a shocking revelation about the survival of another key cast member that illuminates post-HALLOWEEN II Myers family continuity. Best to just turn on the TV version for the ending, though, as the rest of it shifts entire scenes back and forth until the whole mess of celluloid is tangled up in itself. Count yourself lucky if you can figure out why any one scene follows another in the TV cut; it’s truly impressive in its sheer unwillingness to embrace the linearity of time.

The TV cut is truly impressive in its sheer unwillingness to embrace the linearity of time.

But I come to praise HALLOWEEN II, not to burn it. I still have a lot of affection for this first HALLOWEEN sequel. It continued the saga with a seamless transition from the first movie to the second, and it added a crucial bit of history between Laurie and Michael that may have been gratuitous but ultimately enabled future films to extend the story in intriguing directions. This is no GODFATHER PART II or BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, but it is a good rematch between the Shape, Laurie, and Dr. Loomis, and the last we would see of all three of them for years to come.

RATING

08brains

HELP US BY ORDERING THE MOVIE VIA THIS LINK!

ALL THE OTHER FILMS IN THE SERIES:
HALLOWEEN

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: RESURRECTION