I guess it must be time to refill the well. I find myself in a mode of consuming, rather than creating, and I’m enjoying the time spent here. I’m truly glad I invested in the 30 film Blu-ray set of the original Universal horror films, which have been remastered to eliminate the scratches and wear marks that we’ve always seen as we watched the old films on TV. They’ve even eliminated those circles we’ve always seen in the upper right corner now and then, which served as a signal to the projectionist to switch to the next reel.
What many don’t know is that analog film stock provides a very high resolution, on a par with today’s 4K digital standard, so the clarity of these films is only limited to the choice of lenses that were used at the time of filming. I believe the quality I’m seeing on my 4K Sony is better than what was seen in theaters when these films were first released.
On a related note, I just read a short book titled “It’s Alive!”, which details the extraordinary obstacles Carl Laemmle Jr. had to overcome to make 1931’s “Frankenstein” and have Boris Karloff star in the title role. It’s scary how close we came to having Bela Lugosi take that role, which (if you’ve ever watched Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man) he was completely wrong for. Karloff was the right man for the part and gave it a persona that I don’t think any other actor at the time could have equaled.
These movies, curated and presented by Zacherley, the “Cool Ghoul” on WPIX’s “Shock Theater” in the early 60’s served as my introduction to the world of horror, even before Ed Sullivan brought music into my life when he first introduced the Beatles one fateful Sunday night. I guess the reason I enjoy watching Rich Koz as Svengoolie on Saturday nights is because he’s the latest in a long line of horror hosts, a group that held John Zacherle in such high regard.
In addition to my frequent trips down memory lane via this set of Universal classics, I’m also keeping up with the more current lineage of horror. This past Friday, I enjoyed watching “Halloween Ends” on its opening day, and although I understand a lot of the flack and push back it’s getting, I personally enjoyed it and found it a fitting end to the decades of terror brought by Michael Myers.
Time for a word of caution – the discussion about Ends is about to land heavily into spoiler territory, so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to know what happens before you do, you’d best back out of here now and return, if you so choose, once you’ve seen it for yourself.
I saw John Carpenter’s original “Halloween” in a theater when it came out in 1978, and found it to be a landmark film, not unlike Hitchcock’s “Psycho” a decade and a half earlier. Sadly, the line of sequels it spawned ranged from bad to virtually unwatchable, and I’d personally include Zombie’s two films in that mess. I believe they were all about trying to financially capitalize on the characters created by Carpenter and Debra Hill in the original.
David Gordon Green’s trilogy, which began with 2018’s “Halloween” was the most faithful in terms of following in Carpenter’s footsteps, and I liked that it tossed all previous sequels out the window and brought Michael and Laurie Strode into our world today. I had a severe dislike for the asshole doctor Sartain in that one, especially when he stabbed Hawkins to prevent him from shooting the prone Michael in the head and found myself cheering when Michael stepped on his head, crushing it like a piece of rotten fruit en route to his showdown at Laurie’s fortress of a home.
I wasn’t that crazy about his follow up, “Halloween Kills”, although Green did redeem himself somewhat by bring back Dr. Loomis in a flashback sequence where the actor chosen did bear a strong resemblance to the great Donald Pleasence.
I found the hospital sequence with the entire town chasing the wrong escaped inmate to be overly long and drawn out, especially with both Hawkins and Laurie sidelined by their injuries. The beating, stabbing and shooting Michael endured before his furious rampage at the end of Kills sets the stage for the weakened Michael we find hiding in the sewers beneath Haddonfield four years later in Ends.
(Side note – I had to wonder if he encountered any stray balloons… or clowns in those sewer pipes?)
I think what most people didn’t like about Ends was the side story involving Corey and Alyson taking away from Laurie and Michael, but I see where David Gordon Green was going with this aspect. I think he was stating that Michael wasn’t actually the villain. He was the embodiment, the personification, but EVIL itself was and has always been the true villain in the Halloween series. Dr. Loomis actually stated that in the original, when he described looking into the boy’s eyes and seeing pure evil there, so when Michael has Corey by the throat in the sewer and they stare into each other’s eyes before he releases Corey and lets him go supports exactly what Loomis was saying back then. Corey’s rampage was poorly executed at best, but it did serve to invigorate Michael for his final confrontation with Laurie at the end.
(Side note – be sure to watch for a cameo by OG Nick Castle, the ORIGINAL Michael Myers from 1978 in the bar scene with Alyson and Corey)
I liked when Hawkins entered the kitchen, looked at Alyson and Laurie and simply said, “Michael?” referring to the prone body on the table and Laurie replied, “He’s dead”, followed by Alyson adding, “Not dead enough.”, leading to the procession by the entire town to the auto junkyard. It was fitting that Alyson turned on the shredder and Laurie actually rolled Michael’s body into the shredder, where he was ground to raw meat between the massive steel rollers. Michael Myers is absolutely dead, once and for all, but evil? No, not by a long shot.
For me, the lineage of Halloween is best served by Carpenter’s original and Green’s trilogy. These four films are all I need in my collection to represent the Michael Myers saga and once Ends is released on Blu Ray, those four will reside on my server along with the universal series and the Hammer collection featuring Christopher Lee as Dracula.
I do have one nagging question, though… when Laurie has Michael pinned to the table, she removes his mask before she uses the large Chef’s knife to slice open his throat. Whatever happened to that mask? Director David Gordon Green said he’s finished with the Halloween saga now that this trilogy is done and released, but… Whatever happened to that mask?
As I expected (and feared), I dug into Stephen King’s “Fairy Tale” like a hungry dog, but once the tale left our world and descended into the fairy tale element, my reading slowed to a crawl, and ultimately stopped. I like my horror firmly grounded in the world in which we live, as King did so well in works like “’Salem’s Lot”, but his flights into fantasy lands like the new one and his Dark Tower series (which I’ve never read) just don’t appeal to me. I might just commit the ultimate crime and skip ahead to the final chapter and read the conclusion of Fairy Tale! I’m glad to hear he has another book with Holly Gibney (from Mr. Mercedes) in the works for next year – I’ll be looking forward to that one for sure!
I did enjoy the film adaptation of “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone”, although it was shocking to see how much Donald Sutherland has aged. I found it to be a good ‘coming of age’ tale, which is an area where King truly excels. That was another one that didn’t get a lot of love because it wasn’t “horror enough” for the complainers. Wonder how they felt about ‘Stand By Me’?
The old saying is so true – Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one.
Funny thing about “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” … after watching that, I did scribble a quickie a day or two afterward. It’s nothing to write home about, an idea for a first draft at best, but at least it did inspire me to hit a few keys during a lull at work!