Tag Archives: Slasher films

Happy Birthday to Me-1981

Happy Birthday to Me-1981

Director-J. Lee Thompson

Starring-Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford

Reviewed March 4, 2017

Grade: A-

Happy Birthday to Me is a 1981 slasher film that I fondly remember scaring the living daylights out of me as a little kid-clearly too young to be watching a film of this nature, but sneaking into my parents bedroom with my brother to catch this film. Certain that the film helped shape my passion for the horror film genre, I hold a fondness for it- critics be damned. My opinion is that the film is a small treasure in the land of 1980’s slasher films, containing a neat whodunit and a grotesque ending.

Melissa Sue Anderson, clearly desiring to break out of her nice television persona thanks to the wholesome Little House on the Prairie, is cast in the lead role. Happy Birthday to Me also achieves some merit since the film is directed by acclaimed British director, J. Lee Thompson (Cape Fear). Anderson carries the film quite well in a challenging part. Glenn Ford co-stars as a Doctor.

Virginia Wainwright is a pretty and popular senior at exclusive Crawford Academy- a school for elite, rich kids. In fact, she is part of the “Top Ten”, the most popular and richest kids in the school. The ten friends meet nightly at the local pub. One night, Bernadette, one of the top ten, is murdered by an assailant on her way to meet her friends. This murder sets the tone as, one by one, the others are subsequently killed off, sending the school and local townspeople into a frenzy of panic. To thicken the plot, Virginia was involved in a horrible car accident four years earlier, which killed her mother, and caused Virginia to only have sparse memories of the accident. This piece is key to the film’s mystery.

There are many comparisons I can make to slasher classics that heavily influenced Happy Birthday to Me, but the most prominent must be 1978’s Halloween. The character of Virginia is very similar to Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), in their somewhat virginal, good girl characters, and both have an almost identical hairstyle! Also, Happy Birthday to Me successfully uses the killers point of view as the camera frequently serves as the perspective of either the killer or somebody lurking around spying on someone else. The film also just “looks” similar to Halloween.

The whodunit aspect is the most effective of all the qualities of the film. There are a multitude of likely suspects and the film does not shy away from this, purposely casting doubt on several characters- could it be the creepy Alfred, who carries around a pet mouse and creates a fake head of the murdered Bernadette? Or the suave French student, Etienne, who snoops in Virginia’s bedroom and steals a pair of her panties? Finally, could it be Head Mistress, Mrs. Patterson, a harsh, no-nonsense woman harboring resentment for the snobbish, elitism that exists at her school?

When the killer is finally revealed a measure of pure shock and confusion will undoubtedly transpire- how can this be? But by the time the ultimate finale is played out all will make sense. The conclusion does disappoint slightly in the implausibility factor, and the original ending is much more logical and compelling than what was actually in the final cut- rumors have run rampant that the screenplay of the film was rewritten numerous times well into the production- never a good thing. So, the motivations of the actual killer are quite weak, but the buildup is amazing.

Not to be outdone by the whodunit, the kills themselves are superlative: a shish kabob to the throat, falling gym weights, a scarf caught in the spokes of a bike, and the traditional fireplace poker are done in macabre and fantastic fashion. We always see the killers gloved hands and we are aware that the victim is friendly with the killer, so we continually try and deduce who it could possibly be.

The gruesome “Birthday party” finale is gruesome and gleeful at the same time. Each murder victim is propped up around a dining room table, each with a party hat on and all in various forms of dismemberment or blood soaked from their murder wounds. It is a grim and hilarious reveal. The murderer parades out of the kitchen wielding an enormous birthday cake, cheerily singing “Happy Birthday to Me”. This is one great finale.

Happy Birthday to Me is a wonderful trip down memory lane and the film still holds up as a key, perhaps overlooked part of the slasher genre that should be rediscovered by fans and followers everywhere.

My Bloody Valentine-2009

My Bloody Valentine-2009

Director-Patrick Lussier

Starring-Jensen Ackles, Jaime King

Reviewed January 20, 2009

Grade: B

What can I say? The remake of the classic slasher film from 1981 is a very slick version of the perfect Valentine’s day treat- My Bloody Valentine. To compare the 2009 offering to the original is unfair since I consider that one top notch. This version is what I expected it to be. Though several aspects of it were changed from the original, it was entertaining all the same.

The sleepy mining town that the film is set in becomes immersed in scandal as a string of grisly murders occurs in one of the town mines. It is revealed that a tragic accident occurred at one time causing several deaths. The one remaining victim awakens from a coma and goes on a killing spree. At the same time, youths throw a party near the mine and a series of deaths begin again.

The 3-D effects are necessary to a film like this, for without them, this movie would have been generic as anything else in the same style. The story is lame, implausible, and the characters are dumb, but looking past all that, as I usually do in the horror genre, this was a fun ride. Lots of gore nudity, violence, and a few genuine scares.

Friday the 13th-2009

Friday the 13th-2009

Director-Marcus Nispel

Starring-Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker

Reviewed February 17, 2009

Grade: C-

As a devoted and faithful fan of the Friday the 13th film franchise and having many wonderful memories of Friday the 13th’s of the past, I was expecting better than this version. There was no reason for the producers to start from scratch with a brand new beginning- that makes no sense to me.

There is really nothing to distinguish this, 2009 Friday the 13th,  from other sequels. They would have been better suited making a “Friday The 13th Part 11” since that’s really what it was. In essence, an entire new story-line was created- only keeping to the original Jason and Mrs. Voorhees characters, and Camp Crystal Lake location.

This movie is not scary, nor are any of the characters particularly likable. In fact, several were quite unlikable- way too many horror films do that. The film also contains very distinct stereotypes, which in this day and age seem ridiculous. Also, Jason has now graduated to “taking prisoners” instead of simply hacking his victims. There is also a “flashback” scene from 1980, which, inexplicably is a newly filmed scene. A wiser choice, and treat for loyalists, would have been to show this scene from the original Friday The 13th from 1980 instead of foolishly recreating one.

The story is completely implausible in countless ways. I am giving this film a very liberal C- grade for at least giving us a new film and for being somewhat entertaining, even though there are many negatives. This film will be forgotten before too long.

Friday the 13th: Part VII: The New Blood-1988

Friday the 13th: Part VII: The New Blood-1988

Director-John Carl Buechler

Starring-Lar Park Lincoln, Terry Kiser

Reviewed December 8, 2010

Grade: B-

The seventh installment of the legendary Friday the 13th franchise is enjoyable, yet clearly predictable. However, props must be awarded to the creators for at least making an attempt  at a novel idea- this time the “final girl” is not the damsel in distress type, but rather, gives as good as she gets. Friday the 13th: Part VII: The New Blood is a decent offering in the horror genre and certainly better than some of its companion films.

The main heroine is a telekinetic girl named  Tina Shepard (Lar Park Lincoln). Via flashbacks, we learn that Tina’s father was an alcoholic and abused her mother. When Tina’s telekinesis was unlocked ten years earlier, Tina caused her father’s drowning death, conveniently at Camp Crystal Lake. Tina has harbored deep regret ever since and is now treated by Doctor Crews (Terry Kiser). The duo- along with her mother- decide to stay at the lake where a group of partying kids take up residence next door. Apparently none of them have any idea who Jason Voorhees is.

The beginning and end are ridiculous even by horror standards as the action is way over the top and too convoluted to go into, but everything else is fine. The cast seems a bit larger than in other chapters, which is great because that means more kills. Unfortunately, many of the kills have been edited to make an R rating. (I try to watch NR horror films- no edits). My favorite kill by far is the “sleeping bag” kill. Awesome!! Unfortunately, the DVD version of this kill is severely edited from the theatrical version.

Also, Jason looks like a true monster in this one and that is to be applauded. Stuntman Kane Hodder would begin a successful stint at the killer and he looks the part. Friday the 13th: Part VII: The New Blood is a fun popcorn horror flick.

Halloween II-1981

Halloween II-1981

Director-Rick Rosenthal

Starring-Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence

569099

Reviewed October 31, 2016

Grade: A

The follow-up to the surprise 1978 cult classic, independently made Halloween- directed by legend John Carpenter,  Halloween II was made in 1981. In real life it is three years later, but in the film picking up immediately where the original left off in a chronological sense- the infamous night Michael Myers came home to brutalize the town where he killed his sister years earlier. This is an excellent plot point that makes this film successful as it takes the viewer immediately back to that infamous night. Halloween II is one of my personal favorite film sequels.

Despite not directing Halloween II, John Carpenter, along with Debra Hill, both wrote the script so that they are, thankfully, heavily involved in the production of this film, giving it authenticity and familiarity. So much so that Halloween and Halloween II can be watched back to back- like one long film.

Michael Myers path of destruction continues in the sleepy, suburban town of Haddonfield, Illinois. This point looms large in this fantastic sequel and we are treated to a direct transition from original to sequel. The events switch from babysitter territory to the community hospital as new characters- mostly doctors, nurses, and ambulance people are introduced to the story, Laurie’s friends are sadly deceased.  Certainly, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Doctor Loomis (Donald Pleasence) are the main stars of the film and by the climax take center stage.

As a recap- the determined Loomis shot Michael Myers several times as he tumbled off of a balcony to his presumed death. In spectacular fashion, the original Halloween brilliantly set the stage for a sequel, as Myers survives and disappears into the night-whereabouts unknown. Now hours later, Laurie is transported to Haddonfield hospital for treatment.  While there, the hospital staff do their best to protect her, but are subsequently offed one by one by the crazed killer, who finds his way into the (conveniently!) deserted hospital.

A great quality to Halloween II is that it is gorier than it’s predecessor. More characters are sliced and diced in unceremoniously brutal fashion. One has her blood drained, another is stabbed in the eye with a syringe. Yet another is repeatedly dunked into scalding water. And then there is the traditional knife in the back.

In contrast to many other slasher films, the supporting cast of characters are quite likable and they are given little back stories of their own- a great touch. Bud- the wise cracking ambulance driver is dating Nurse Karen. Jimmy, a handsome orderly, takes a shine to Laurie. Mixed in with the clearly heavy horror are nice comic moments, as when Nurse Janet ineptly tries to assist the hospital security guard- the bumbling Mr. Garrett, with a walkie-talkie, or when Head Nurse Mrs. Alves scolds the staff for being tardy. We grow to care for these characters, in their little night-shift family, so that their inevitable demises hit home.

The chilling music- so instrumental to the success of the original- is slightly modernized into more of a keyboard style sound. This gives a slicker, more commercial appeal. Not to take away from the brilliance of the original score, but it is nice to hear a change- giving a fresher, more contemporary sound, rather than simply copying the same music.

Admittedly, Halloween II is not quite on par with Halloween, but that is asking the impossible. Halloween is a masterpiece, but Halloween II holds its own and is more than adequate as a sequel having large shoes to fill. Thanks to many of the same creators involved, it does not lose its edge nor its relevance all these years later.

Halloween: H2O-1998

Halloween: H2O-1998

Director-Steve Miner

Starring-Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin

16915002

Reviewed October 30, 2016

Grade: B

Halloween: H2O is the seventh installment of the Halloween franchise, though only associated story-wise with Halloween and Halloween II. Made in 1998, the film capitalized on the twenty year anniversary of the original classic horror film. To measure up to that masterpiece would be an impossibility, but the film is not bad on its own merits and nice odes to the past are peppered into the story making for a film franchise pleaser. Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the role that made her famous.

Before we are even re-introduced to Curtis’s character, we are treated to a nostalgic scene involving chain smoking Nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) from parts I and II. Her house is vandalized by Michael Myers as he steals a file she has kept on Laurie Strode. How nice to see this character back in the fray- though her screen time is limited. She is pivotal to the kick-off of the new story.

Laurie (Curtis) has faked her death and is now living life anew in California- running a prep school as its headmistress. Her son John (Josh Hartnett) attends the school and her boyfriend Will (Adam Arkin) teaches there.  John’s girlfriend Molly (Michelle Williams), a poetic security guard (LL Cool J), and a dizzy secretary, Mrs. Watson,(Janet Leigh) round out the cast.

For the past twenty years, Laurie has been troubled by the notion of Michael Myers returning to kill her and clearly her fears come to fruition. The film has an interesting slant- no longer is Laurie the victim, cowering in cars and corners. Now, she is intent on exacting her own revenge on Michael- her brother. She wants this long chapter in her life finally closed.

What nods to history this film contains!  And is really the best part of it. Otherwise, without the history, it would be a run of the mill slasher film. Besides the obvious Michael/Laurie connection, what a treat to see Jamie Lee Curtis’s real-life mother (and original scream queen herself), Janet Leigh. Furthermore, her character’s car is the exact make and model, and same license plate, from 1960’s Psycho, in which she starred- a brilliant treat for horror and classic film fans.

The film also uses some impressive stylistic choices- the use of mirrors and reflections are used successfully, as well as events occurring in the background- seen by the audience, but not the other characters are well used.

Halloween: H2O contains several young, up and coming stars, who, years later, would be big stars (Hartnett, Williams, and a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Who new these talents got their starts in one of the greatest horror franchises?

Let’s be clear- Halloween: H2O is not a masterpiece- far from it. The horror clichés run rampant- the silly, supporting characters (friends of John and Molly’s) eager to drink and party and clearly meant for comic relief, in addition to the LL Cool J character. These characters are stock types. Predictably, we more than once think that Michael Myers is finally dead- only to resurface- perfectly timed to the plot.

The inevitable standoff between Laurie and Michael Myers is well done and a satisfying conclusion to a fantastic franchise. Laurie gets her revenge while Myers gets his just desserts in dramatic fashion.

April Fool’s Day-1986

April Fool’s Day-1986

Director-Fred Walton

Starring-Amy Steel, Jay Baker

60024022

Reviewed October 24, 2016

Grade: B-

Emerging at the tale end of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s slasher film craze that encompassed that period in cinema (for better or worse), April Fool’s Day capitalized on the “holiday theme” marketing tool that escalated Halloween and Black Christmas to superstar ranks.

Unfortunately, for this film, it is not a traditional horror flick, in that is has plenty of comic elements, but also contains the standard slasher characteristics, thereby making it a blockbuster failure. Is does not know what its identity truly is. From a story perspective, the film has one great twist, but otherwise suffers from mediocre writing and unmemorable characters that nobody cares about.

We are treated to an ensemble of actors, mostly of the unknown variety, except for horror maven Amy Steel, (Friday the 13th Part 2), who portrays Kit, arguably the most relatable of the female characters . A clever facet, weaved by director Fred Walton, is the casting of eight principals in April Fool’s Day, all with similar amounts of screen time, rather than one obvious “final girl” surrounded by minor characters, who we know will be offed.

The set-up is all too familiar in the slasher genre- the group of college-aged kids escapes mundane life for a spring break weekend getaway at their wealthy classmates, Muffy St. John’s, island estate. Conveniently, her family is away- leaving the friends to have the run of the mansion, with a dinner party as part of the plan. Even more convenient is that the ferry the group takes does not run on weekends, so once they are dropped off at the island, there they stay until Monday. This sense of foreshadowing gets the anticipated peril and dread going.

We also sense that there is something very off with Muffy- despite being everyone’s friend. When Muffy finds a jack-in-the-box stored in her attic, and has a childhood recollection, we know this is the set-up to the mystery. Is she mentally unstable? Is someone out to get Muffy for a childhood prank or event that once occurred?

Since it is April Fool’s Day weekend, the groups spends most of the film playing pranks and amateurish jokes on each other (a whoopee cushion, an exploding cigar), mixed with a dash of intrigue- someone is leaving trails of past history as part of the jokes. One girl had an abortion, so the prankster leaves an audio tape of a baby crying. In another room, heroin paraphernalia is left for someone with a former drug habit. Slowly, one by one, the college kids disappear one by one, but is it just a hoax? Or is the hoax just a hoax?

The final twenty minutes or so is really the main reason to watch this film. As Kit and boyfriend Rob are the last remaining “alive” there is suddenly a startling twist that changes the entire dynamic of the film- in one moment everything the audience thinks of the story is turned upside down-this is wise writing, but comes too late in the game.

Sadly, some parts of the film are downright silly and most of the characters are of the stock variety- the flirtatious blonde, the obnoxious jocks, the stuck-up preppy, which ruins the creative twist that is aforementioned.

With glimpses of genius and striving for something more clever than the standard, run of the mill 1980’s horror film, April Fool’s Day has some potential, but ultimately winds up with something missing and heaps of unearthed potential.

My Bloody Valentine-1981

My Bloody Valentine-1981

Director-George Mihalka

Starring-Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier

Top 20 Horror Films-#20

60024026

Grade: A

Reviewed May 15, 2016

My Bloody Valentine is a perfect slasher film to watch on the romantic holiday of Valentine’s Day or, in fact, any day during the cold and snowy month of February. The film sort of loses something if watched during summer or any other time of the year, since the dark and harsh feeling of the film is perfect atmosphere if watched appropriately.

In my opinion, My Bloody Valentine is an underrated gem of the early 1980’s- just as Black Christmas was to the 1970’s- and both ironically are heralded so by directors such as Quentin Tarantino. Other less gritty films of this nature received greater exposure and commercial success, but I am proud to name My Bloody Valentine as one of my Top 100 favorite films. Both are also “holiday themed” films.

The plot is basic, yet layered, with a unique setting. Rather than a creepy house, a summer camp, or some other tried and true device, we have the ingenious coal mine setting- immediately fraught with great potential. Think about it- a coal mine is dark, suffocating, creepy, with countless secret passages, the fear of being lost, and running out of oxygen. It is also underground where help can easily be unobtainable. The town is aptly named Valentine Bluff (how clever) so Valentine’s Day is a major holiday. The Mayor and police chief figure prominently in the story and the use of town history makes the film engaging.

Typical for the slasher genre we have a bunch of horny teens, partying to the max, who decide that the coal mine is the perfect place to throw a Valentine’s Day party, and they do so with gusto. There are a few middle-aged characters with meaty stuff to do, and the main plot is of the whodunit sort. The killer’s get up is simply genius. He (or she) is wearing a miner’s outfit, completely dark, with an oxygen mask, which elicits a heavy breathing sound adding to the great atmosphere that My Bloody Valentine contains.

One of my favorite scenes involves the offing of Mabel Osbourne, the earnest, sweet-natured party planner, who excitedly is preparing the annual Valentine’s day town dance. She marvels at receiving a box of chocolates with a wonderful poem until she reads the poem. “Roses are red, violets are blue- two are dead and so are you”! Poor Mabel then has her heart removed and it is sent (gift wrapped naturally) to the Mayor and police chief. The scene is both horrific and comical.

My Bloody Valentine is a favorite of the genre for me and actually cascades that genre with its bloodiness, fun storytelling, and wicked charm.

Friday the 13th: Part 4: The Final Chapter-1984

Friday the 13th: Part 4: The Final Chapter-1984

Director-Joseph Zito

Starring-Kimberly Beck, Corey Feldman

60002390

Reviewed June 13, 2013

Grade: B

Being the 4th chapter in the popular Friday the 13th saga, and the shameless marketing of this installment as being the final chapter, obviously a fib since the ending of the film clearly sets up another sequel, I have a soft spot for this Friday the 13th sequel, but, if I am being honest, with each viewing I realize more and more it is not nearly as good as the first three. In fact, from a storyline and technical perspective, it is a crappy movie. It now seems incredibly dated and of its time- the acting is mediocre at best. Fans of the franchise will love it, it is predictable, like eating at McDonald’s, you know exactly what you will get and that is fine- a gathering of horny, pot and beer induced teens flock to Camp Crystal Lake for a weekend of revelry. Apparently not knowing, or caring, that dozens of other teens have been slaughtered there before, they begin their partying.

For horror fans there is comfort in this film. We know the youths will be killed- we just don’t know how or when. That’s the fun and beauty of it. Will someone be decapitated? Lose a limb? Will the murder weapon be an ax or a machete? Who will be the last remaining victim? The introduction of the twins is a nice touch and a very young Crispin Glover appears. The addition of Corey Feldman to this one adds child feistiness. Otherwise, it’s pretty formulaic and not much separates it from any of the others. Fans of the Friday the 13th franchise will love this film, all others stay away.

Friday the 13th: Part 5: A New Beginning-1985

Friday the 13th:Part 5: A New Beginning-1985

Director-Danny Steinmann

Starring-Melanie Kinnaman, John Sheperd

60020915

Reviewed June 28, 2013

Grade: B

The fifth installment of the seemingly never ending Friday the 13th franchise, Part 5 offers viewers a twist, a twist that sadly did not go over well with horror audiences. Hardly high art, and hated by myself initially, I have grown a fondness for this film over the years after repeated viewings. Originally, I was not crazy about the twist at the end of the film, but I now recognize, for this type of film, an appreciation for trying something different.

The lighting is brighter and more modern than its predecessor, Part IV, despite being made only a year later. There is greater comedy in this one- the hillbillies are laugh out loud fun and the waitress scene is howlingly awful in the acting department- in fact most of the acting is atrocious and can be laughed at, but a much needed change of setting away from Camp Crystal Lake works and seems refreshing. The final victim is, for a change, not a teenager, but a mature, intelligent young woman.

Released smack dab in the middle of the 1980’s, the film has a jarring dated look to it, which doesn’t do the film any favors in the longevity department. Obviously, the film cannot compare to the original or even the first three installments (the best in my opinion), but more experimental than any of the others, which deserves some credit.

Friday the 13th- 1980

Friday the 13th-1980

Director-Sean S. Cunningham

Starring-Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King

Top 100 Films-#18     Top 20 Horror Films-#6

525111

Reviewed July 17, 2014

Grade: A

Friday the 13th is one of my favorite films (horror and otherwise) of all time as I have such fond and scary memories of watching at too young an age! My personal highlight is in later years watching this film alongside star Betsy Palmer herself in a movie theater. I can watch this film countless times and never tire of it. Is it high art? Hardly. Is it brilliant film making? Not a chance. But for whatever reason, this film is very close to my heart and I love it.

The premise involves seven young adults, all squeaky clean and All-American looking, who flock to Camp Crystal Lake for a summer involving counseling, partying, and frolicking around the lake. They engage in strip poker, smoke pot, and play jokes on each other, but share a good spirits.

Through flashbacks we learn that two brutal camp counselor killings occurred years ago and the camp has been unsuccessful at reopening since that time due to strange events like bad water. The residents of the town are convinced that there is a curse involving the lake and warn the teenagers to stay far away, specifically one loony townsperson named Ralph, who frequently shows up proclaiming messages from god and other rants of doom. Inevitably, the teens begin to be systematically hacked to bits one by one in creative fashion such as a slit throat, axe to the head, a dagger through the neck, and other good, old fashioned horror kills.

The film has many standard horror elements- a dark, ominous storm, a mysterious hidden killer lurking in the shadows, giving first time viewers a suspenseful whodunit. Could the killer be crazy Ralph, one of the counselors? Or Steve Christie, the man opening the camp? As each victim is killed one begins to narrow down the remaining suspects to the crimes and at least one red herring comes into play, which leads us trying to figure out the conclusion, which, critically speaking, is an enormous surprise. The looming killer, whose feet and arms/hands are really the only parts shown throughout is successfully ominous. As the killer angrily watches the counselors swim and goof around, one of them gets a sixth sense of being watches and is sure she sees someone in the trees, but quickly shrugs it off. Another ominous scene involves one counselor setting up an archery game for the kids as another counselor jokingly shoots an arrow near by. They both laugh, but the foreshadowing of what is to come is fantastic.

Betsy Palmer and Adrienne King add so much to this film, which would not be nearly as good if not for them. The conclusion involving a knock down drag out, mud fight is my favorite sequence, in addition to the final thirty minute chase scene around the camp and its vicinity. The final character hides in closets, store rooms, bushes and a cat and mouse game climaxes. Great stuff. The big twist at the end almost rivals, and is very similar to, the shocking ending to the 1976 horror classic Carrie.

The sound effects are spectacular- the distant loons and the creepy sound effects add a ton to making Friday the 13th a classic fright-fest. The line “kill her mommy, she can’t hide” is undoubtedly permanently etched in horror fan’s minds.

Friday the 13th has successfully held the test of time and is now a highly regarded classic within the horror genre. A highly entertaining, mainstream, cut above the rest, and a fun must see for all horror fans.

Halloween-1978

Halloween-1978

Director-John Carpenter

Starring-Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence

Top 100 Films-#4     Top 20 Horror Films-#3

569090

Reviewed November 21, 2015

Grade: A

 Halloween is an iconic horror film from 1978 that set the tone for the barrage of slasher films to follow throughout the 1980’s and into the 1990’s.  Today, the film continues to hold up incredibly well and I am proud to list it as, not only one of my favorite horror films (in which I religiously watch every Halloween), but one of my favorite films of all time. The focus is on style and substance over gore (the film contains little) and the score is one of the scariest and most effective in cinema history.

The premise of the film is simple- a homicidal maniac is on the loose in a sleepy little town named Haddonfield, Illinois and is targeting three female babysitters one crisp Halloween night. The audience knows that the six-year old little boy dressed as a clown on a dark Halloween night years ago, and who butchered his older sister to death, is the now grown-up culprit. What we do not know, nor should we, is what his (Michael Meyers) motivation is.  This confusion only adds to the impact of the story. Subsequent remakes have added complexities to the character, needlessly so, but in the original, we see a seemingly happy child with stable parents and a good life.

Similar stories have been told over time in film history. But with Halloween, it is simply one of the greatest horror films ever made. As simple as the story is, it is the way the film is made that makes it a masterpiece. Everything about Halloween is mesmerizing- the lighting is perfect, the ambiance, the incredibly scary musical score brilliant, the battle between good and evil, the perfect feeling of a chilly Halloween night. Highly unusual for its time, the point of view of the killer and heavy breathing is prevalent throughout the film, which will startle and scare the viewer. The opening shot is through the eyes of a masked six year old kid wearing a clown mask. The unique technical aspects go on and on.

Director John Carpenter had a vision for this film and thankfully no studio influence ruined it since it was an independent film on a shoestring budget. The Hitchcock influences are evident in the character names- Sam Loomis. Many scenes involve someone watching the action or peeking around a corner, through a window, which makes the viewer anxious and nervous. Set in small-town USA, a frightening element of the film is that it could happen anywhere and the location is ingenious. There is very little blood, let alone gore, in Halloween- it is needless. It is the creepiness that makes the film brilliant.

The three teenagers are perfectly cast- Jamie Lee Curtis is the serious bookworm, P.J. Soles and Nancy Keyes are the flirtatious bad girls, but the chemistry between them is great and the audience buys them as best friends. The jump-out- of- your seat moments are incredibly well-timed and it is one of the few genuinely scary films.

Forget solely the horror genre- Halloween is one of the greatest films ever made.

Girly-1970

Girly-1970

Director-Freddie Francis

Starring-Vanessa Howard, Michael Bryant

70132676

Reviewed June 14, 2014

Grade: B-

Girly is an unusual British horror film about an affluent, bored family, clearly deranged, who kidnap victims and force them to become “members” of the family by participating in game playing escapades for their delight.

The premise of the film is appealing and intriguing as to how it will play out. The family members (Mumsy, Nanny, Girly, and Sonny) are played with gusto by the cast, but are never over the top. My favorite is “Mumsy”, wickedly played by British actress Ursula Howells. The film itself has a fairy tale quality to it with the sets of the house they share. The main victim (a male gigolo) is miscast (too old, not sexy enough) and begins a cat and mouse game of trickery, plotting the family against one another until the inevitable bodies pile up.

The film loses steam midway through and the ending is not satisfying. Why the victims are not able to escape the vast property is weak (a 7 foot tall flimsy fence??). “Curious” film that becomes a tad boring towards the conclusion.