The Zero Boys (Blu Ray Review) When war games go wrong…

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THE ZERO BOYS

 

THE SETUP

UK distribution company “Arrow Video” have been in the game since 1991. They’ve been responsible for some of the best film restorations in recent times and I never miss an opportunity to pick up more new content from them. Arrow takes the old negatives, tidies them up, color corrects them, and jam packs the releases with new features and interviews etc. The 1986 backwoods style Horror/Thriller, “The Zero Boys” was given the same treatment and it was recommended to me by a friend. The Zero Boys is a genre mash-up about war games that go wrong. The zero team is headed up by the ultra-competitive, Steve (played by Daniel Hirsch) and consists of his two buddies, Rip (Jared Moses) and Larry (Tom Shell) who spend their days playing elaborate survival games in the wilderness. After celebrating a fresh victory, of which the prize being young psych student Jamie (played by Kelli Maroney), Steve, the boys, and their respective girlfriends all head off for some downtime but unknowingly find themselves in an authentic kill or be killed situation. Zero Boys is Co-Written and Directed by Nico Mastorakis (Island Of Death), and also stars Nicole Rio (Sorority House Massacre), Crystal Carson (TV’S Dallas), Joe Estevez (Samurai Cop 2) and Gary Jochimsen.

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THE GOOD

This 4K transfer of Zero Boys is incredibly sharp, though having never seen the film in 35mm or the heyday of VHS, I can’t make a full comparison. That said, if I was betting man, I’d say that this print is as good as the 1986 cut will ever look. Almost all the imagery looks clean, and the sets being laced with rain and fog certainly adds an element of charm to the proceedings. DP, Steven Shaw (who had previously worked as an AC on Spielberg’s E.T) carries out some really fine Steadicam operating and utilizes some effective high angle shot choices. The clean and loud audio and fresh master both do the film a huge service. I’m sure that chunks of the dialogue were re-done using ADR (additional dialogue recording), but in this case, it doesn’t make the result any less rewarding. The brandishing and chopping sounds of the killer’s machete are one of the standout features of the sound. Both Stanley Myers, and much-lauded composer Hans Zimmer (Black Hawk Down and The Dark Night) are credited for the surprisingly impressive score on display in The Zero Boys. Zimmer has since become one of the most sought-after people in Hollywood but ZB is one of a handful of the places where he honed his craft. The opening theme is interesting, balancing high-frequency synth with a military march tempo to match the setting of the film. The style of synth becomes more energetic as the film progresses. Myers was responsible for all the suspenseful themes involving the bass, cello, and violin. The best theme comes in a scene that sees Trish (Carson) enter the bathroom to clean herself up only to encounter one of the killers. It’s very Hitchcockian in nature and delivers on the suspense front. I got a kick out of Nico’s nods to both iconic characters “Rambo” and “Jason” (from the Friday The 13th franchise), those were a bit of fun. Some of the cheesy disses spouted between characters provide a number of amusing moments too.

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The introduction to The Zero Boys is one of the most entertaining ten-minute sequences in 80’s horror. The trio and their arch-enemy Casey (played by John Michaels), play up the significance of their on-going rivalry something fierce. The 80’s were undoubtedly a simpler time, at least they must have been for Steve and his pals. The proof is in the pudding, in the sense that the appeal of approaching college life and an opportunity for greener pastures would surely outweigh the trivial bragging rights of besting your peers in juvenile war games, wouldn’t it? Well, no, apparently it doesn’t (haha). This innocent game appears to be the most relevant thing in their lives, and I suppose that’s both a happy notion and a sad one. If I measure the characters and quality of the performances here against those in John Carpenter’s infamous slasher film “Halloween” (which came just 8 years earlier), it’s not even a question as to which is better. I believe the budget’s for both films were similar and those who know me know that I’ve been quite vocal about both characterization and acting in the latter film. The arcs were purely one dimensional and the performances lacked the required emotional reactions. Whereas each of the characters in The Zero Boys is first and foremost likable, and though the stereotypes are present, they’re never overstated. Even with Steve’s hot-headed persona, he’s smarter than he lets on (despite voluntarily emptying his magazine at nothing), and Rip’s humor is pure, never mean-spirited. With Larry, the pretty boy looks make him seem like he doesn’t quite fit, so it’s an interesting inclusion to the team. As for the women, they all sport those big hairdo’s. Jamie has a tough exterior and doesn’t pretend to be something she’s not. Sue and Trish are both quieter types who offset their respective boyfriends. None of them are overly annoying or stupid, and consequently, the performances they turn in are pretty good. The threat of violence is ever-present but there’s not a lot of it on-screen. However, one eventful kill does take place during the third act and it includes some practical blood effects.

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THE BAD

The only weakness in this brand new transfer of The Zero Boys is the lack of grain management in some of the night exteriors. Ninety percent of the film looks vibrant and illustrates complete clarity, but there are a few scenes guilty of inconsistent resolution efficiency. As I said, the performances are much better than one would expect from a genre film from this time. A handful of lines do feel a little scripted as the film intensifies, resulting in some rather weak delivery. The Zero Boys isn’t without a few obvious continuity issues and some lapses in credibility regarding the writing. Steve and Larry reference a girl from a videotape they watch in the barn, yet none of the other girls ask any questions about it. The same thing can be said about the girls discovering a body in a trunk and expressing virtually no reaction to it. I suppose Trish does spontaneously vomit, but the other girls give nothing. I expected at least some screaming or calling out to the boys for help. In the aforementioned barn scene, Steve and Larry proceed to shoot the shit out of the timber door because there’s a lock on it (one that mysteriously wasn’t there the frame before). Do you know what an Uzi would do to wood? It would completely shred it. Needless to say, the boys enter the barn with the door completely intact and the lock gone. What’s more, they recklessly empty countless magazines all over the barn despite not knowing how many killers are really out there. I’m sure you’d look to conserve ammo and not waste it. The highlight of the film action-wise (involving a pitfall), doesn’t end up holding much integrity. I’m almost sure I saw the entire group walk over the area the hole was in during the prior shot of Sue falling in (it’s also in plain sight might I add haha). Not only is it not covered, but it’s also shown to be so shallow that you could climb out of it on your own. The one thing hindering the re-watchability factor of The Zero Boys is its lack of action and blood and gore.

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The Zero Boys is another solid Blu Ray release from Arrow Video. The film is more of a backcountry thriller than it is a horror or slasher flick. It’s in the vein of “Hunter’s Blood” (coincidentally released the same year) or the underrated “The Backwoods”. There’s even a touch of something like “Blood Games” about it, just replace the softball team with a bunch of paintballers instead. I couldn’t have been more impressed with the overall transfer. The cinematography is nice, the sound is crisp, and the Zimmer/Myers score is fantastic and helps drive the suspense. Most of the comedy is upbeat, the film references are fun, and the opening scene dives straight into the setup. Excusing a few flatly delivered lines, the performances are all pretty even and the characters are surprisingly appealing. The night exteriors could’ve used a little more work during the restoration process. I suppose some of the continuity stuff could be deemed artificial given the type of film this is, but characters reactions and actions during crucial moments don’t always add up. The aspect that lets the film down is that it’s almost void of action. Mastorakis stated in a feature interview that it wasn’t intended to be that type of high body count film, fair enough I suppose. Though when you set up the story with 6 or 7 characters and call it a horror film I’m expecting multiple deaths, and I didn’t get that. Still, there’s a bunch of things to really like about The Zero Boys and 1986 was a damn fine year, the year of my birth in fact. I can definitely recommend this one to fans who like these types of Horror/Thrillers. You can check out the official Arrow trailer below!

My rating for “The Zero Boys” is 6/10

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E-Demon (Review) When evil goes viral…

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E-DEMON

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Kate at October Coast PR, along with Dark Cuts Distribution for allowing me early access to an online screener of a new Horror/Thriller called “E-Demon”, Written and Directed by Jeremy Wechter. E-Demon is set within the wonderful world of the interweb, where a group of old friends are enjoying a video chat when things suddenly take a turn for the worse after one of them foolishly releases a demon that’s looking to spread virally. The film stars Julia Kelly, John Anthony Wylliams, Christopher Daftsios, Ryan Redebaugh, Jessica Renee Russell and Vincent Cooper.

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THE GOOD

It would be safe to say I approached E-Demon with a fair amount of trepidation. For no reason other than the fact that it’s a small independent release presented to us through the familiar medium of the lens of a web camera (or series of web cameras to be more precise). We’ve come to equate a lot of these types of films with amateur technical execution and sub-par acting so you can imagine my surprise as E-Demon rolled on and neither of those expected shortcomings eventuated. This is Wechter’s debut feature-length film after making a dozen or so shorts since 2005. The film’s foundations are deep-seated inside the parameters of the possession component of the genre. Everything is divulged through either the video chat or the eye of each persons headset and web camera. It’s a risky method for storytelling and can easily translate as gimmicky depending on its use. In this case, the live feed works and those end credits in the form of dos information was unique. E-Demon has good quality audio all around, excluding perhaps one half of a phone call that occurs toward the climax. In the beginning, there are several news reports that make reference to “The Quad Murders”, which gives you a little insight as to what’s in store. Following the initial disclaimer delivered by a mysterious hooded figure, we’re introduced (in a roundabout way) to the group of four friends. Kendra (Kelly) is an aspiring author who shares an apartment with her two friends, Taylor, and Fawn (played by Max Rhyser and Lindsay Goranson respectively), AJ (Daftsios), is a confident and charming practical joker with a new girl always on the go. Dwayne (Wylliams) is happily married with two girls, and then there’s the struggling Mar (Redebaugh), who’s just moved back in with his siblings and gamma (grandma).

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Once you start to get a look at the different personality types, you can see the potential for drama to unfold amongst them when the situation inevitably escalates. Making matters worse is the parties penchant for elaborate pranks and one-upmanship. Coming in the form of an impromptu game of “Freak Out”, where the goal is self-explanatory- scare the other into thinking the action you act out is real. What I like about this addition is it creates a sense of uneasiness from the get-go, and ultimately you can see things going the way of the boy who cried wolf. There’s some effectively creepy imagery over the course of the film, most notably with AJ’s character, and Wechter does divulge the demons origin story (although stock standard in nature) to save questions being raised in the wake of all that happens. The most clever phase of the writing is incredibly subtle, so much so that I’m not even sure it was intentional. As we come to learn that the demon has the ability to change hosts without warning (well sort of), it appears to ingeniously pit friends against each other through false concern and accusation. At several points throughout the film, Kendra, AJ, and Dwayne all use messenger to type to each other. I noticed that when AJ chats to Kendra about Dwayne and vice versa, his arms and hands don’t appear to be moving… (now that’s creepy). It could just be that the image isn’t entirely clear (due to the format) but I’m going to give Jeremy the benefit of the doubt because I thoroughly enjoy finer details like that. The performances are pretty solid from all involved, particularly the three leads who have varying degrees of experience.

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THE BAD

The frames with distorted representation aren’t something I’m really a fan of. I suppose it does create a sense of dread in a couple of the scenes, but fortunately, it’s kept to a minimum. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t catch Wallace’s dialogue in the initial conversation with Bastian (Cooper), that particular audio was quite muffled. There are a couple of minor continuity issues throughout E-Demon. In one scene, a member of the group gets involved in some commotion that involves someone being fatally wounded. A stabbing is implied but when the body is removed there’s no blood on the rug (I guess it must have been an expensive one). On another occasion, Dwayne flees the kitchen and races to the basement in order to avoid possession. We see the shaky cam from his headset point of view but when he sits down in the second location he’s looking through a webcam again. I guess we’re led to believe he has a second computer in the basement? Feasible enough I guess, but one that just so happens to have a camera as well? There are a couple of other specifics that don’t make a whole lot of sense. For one, no one seems to question why Mar’s camera is upside down for an extended period of time (even if his sister did take it), and when paramedics arrive at Kendra’s place they go on the assertive immediately, even though there’s nothing to suggest that “camera control process” (for lack of a better term) has taken place. The last five or so minutes lost me somewhat too, the people running off in different directions came across as unintentionally funny (think The Sims). Was the resistance network member AJ? That was my take on it anyway.

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Much to my surprise, Jeremy Wechter’s Horror/Thriller E-Demon is a really solid first outing from some pretty inventive folks. It feels like a combination of “Unfriended” in terms of its style, yet thematically much more akin to something like Mike Boss’s relatively undiscovered “Anonymous 616”. https://adamthemoviegod.com/anonymous-616-review-it-knows-everything-about-you/ It’s a prime example of smart independent filmmaking on a budget. We’ve seen this type of presentation before but the real-time approach is well done and the audio sounds good. The characters have their individual trademarks, they interact the same as well-established friends do, and each of the performances further highlights that. The game they play serves as the catalyst for the ever-growing tension between them, that and a couple of Wechter’s creative choices are innovative and add another previously unseen layer. There are a couple of marginal technical hiccups and some continuity errors, but that’s par for the course. A few of the details don’t quite add up and I don’t think the climax is as strong as the rest of the film. The pacing is quite good but a couple of scenes could’ve been trimmed slightly. All in all, E-Demon is one of the surprises at the lower end scale of Horror for 2018. If you like these types of films conceived with a survelliance style of footage, I can definitely recommend this one. Check out the official trailer below and the film will be available in US theatres and on VOD from September 14th!

My rating for “E-Demon” is 6/10

Trouble Is My Business (Review) And the business is good…

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TROUBLE IS MY BUSINESS

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d like to say thank you to Lumen Actus Productions and both Co-Writer/Director, Tom Konkle, and Co-Writer Brittney Powell for sending me an online screener of their latest film “Trouble Is My Business”. Trouble Is My Business is a Film-Noir/Crime film set in Los Angeles in the late 1940’s. Former cop turned private investigator, Roland Drake (played by Konkle himself) has fallen on hard times after backlash from the public, ultimately causing him to be evicted from his office. From there, Drake unknowingly becomes entangled in a web of deceit and betrayal when he takes on a missing persons case involving a woman who he’d previously had relations with. Jennifer Montemar (played by Powell), a wealthy socialite and sister of the woman in question, inquires about his services but all is not as it seems in this world of double-crosses and femme fatales. The film also stars Vernon Wells, David Beeler, Ben Pace, Jordana Capra, Mark Teich, and Steve Tom.

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THE GOOD

I logged on the other day to find a request from Co-Writer and Actress, Brittney Powell inviting me to watch and review Trouble Is My Business. Shortly thereafter, Tom spoke to me about it as well and I informed him that I had funnily enough just recently purchased a hard copy (which comes complete with both color and black and white versions of the film). I’m a bit of a sucker for film noir and crime films of the era’s gone by. I went on a kick there a while back and purchased a good one hundred or so of the best older crime films (most of which I haven’t even watched yet). It’s clear that Konkle and Powell are both film noir fans too, and perhaps this is their independent venture aiming to serve as a love letter to the genre. The script has all the essentials of the genre, private investigators, corrupt cops, femme fatales and a rare diamond thrown in just for good measure. DP duo, Jesse Arnold and PJ Gaynard achieve quite a simple but clean look with their photography style. Everything is nicely framed and the establishing shots (often conceived with CG) feel diverse and as though they fit well. I’m interested in going back to watch the color version at some point but I was advised to watch the black and white edition (which I’d usually do anyway). Sections of the nearly all CG backgrounds look rather impressive, most notably the driving sequences with Drake and his old partner, Lew (played by Beeler). In addition, the audio track is nice and clear as well.

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Thomas Chase and Hayden Clement’s original score is another solid aspect of Konkle’s film. There’s a moody orchestral score in the beginning and plenty of effective french horn and clarinet (or at least what sounds like those two instruments) used in between pauses and moments of dramatic emphasis. The costume and wardrobe design isn’t bad considering the limited funds that would’ve been allocated for it. Tom has a good voice for narration and there’s some enjoyable stuff on display over the course of the film. Though who he’s actually narrating the events to, I don’t know? Most of the performances are serviceable and hit the appropriate beats that best fit the film noir bill. Tom carries a good portion of it and Powell complements him nicely. Both Beeler and Pace, who plays John, Jennifer’s beau (of sorts), provide a clean smart-alec sense of humor to the proceedings. Jordana Capra presents with a natural and well-rehearsed mannerly front as Evelyn Montemar, head of the rich family at the center of the case. Rivers the butler (Teich) is lively, but the characters motivations make very little sense (unless I missed something). A special mention goes to Steve Tom in his small role, and for pulling off a thick and believable Russian accent, no easy thing to do. There are a few moments of decent gunplay and action in Trouble Is My Business but it’s not the prime focus.

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THE BAD

There’s the odd bad shadow here and there but the film’s technical aspects can’t be faulted, and that’s an impressive feat in an of itself, especially on this kind of budget. The two biggest issues with Trouble Is My Business are its lengthy runtime and the overall slower pacing of it. Now, that wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the film had more on-screen action or even extra active content, but it doesn’t. There aren’t a whole lot of altercations that occur during the near 110 minutes and that’s a problem. Some of the dialogue feels a little stiff, especially when it comes to Wells character, Detective Barry Tate. Vernon is an Aussie born actor that’s made a solid living for himself in the US, and he’s a guy I usually like watching. Unfortunately, I can’t say that about his performance in Konkle’s latest film (for which he was given top billing). I couldn’t tell what his intended accent was, whatever it may have been though ended up feeling inconsistent and at times noncommittal. Even Well’s off-screen delivery was lacking, and in turn, the appropriate demanding nature of the character doesn’t really translate. A couple of scenes didn’t quite work tonally speaking. The obvious one coming early on between Drake and Jennifer, who have just met, and have to deal with an office intruder in a rather odd altercation. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be funny or if the intended emotional hint just didn’t fit. I thought Drake’s reaction to the situation was rather unrealistic too. There are other examples of characters lacking the appropriate reactions, such as Jennifer pointing a gun at Drake, who gives absolutely no response, yet he doesn’t know her at that point so you’d think he might have some questions. Credibility has to be called into question when the pair overpower three Russian guards, and what the hell was going on with Rivers? Why was he acting crazy? Did I miss something there?

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I was looking forward to checking out Trouble Is My Business and I ended up getting to it much sooner than I probably would’ve had Tom and Brittney not inquired about a review. The film is an earnest throwback to the likes of film noir gems like “The Big Sleep” and “The Maltese Falcon”, with perhaps a modern-day touch of something like “Give ’em Hell Malone”. The camera work is great, the audio is sharp and the atmospheric music completes the desired foundation of a genre film like this. Some of the CG is high quality and the costumes are nicely detailed too. The performances are mostly consistent and the script is satisfactorily written. What’s missing though is that important layer of action to help keep viewers intrigued. I’m aware that mightn’t have been the initial intention, but it needed to be. Two hours (or thereabouts) on little money is a long time to try to keep people entertained. Wells performance falls on the disappointing side, some characters actions and reactions don’t always appear to make a lot of sense, and the sluggish pacing makes it a bit of a battle along the way. That said, down the track, I’m still interested in watching the color version and seeing if I gain anything new from it. Whilst I can’t recommend it to everyone, I do think hardcore fans of the film noir style should give this sincere endeavor a look, and keep doing your part to support independent film. You can check out the official trailer below and the film is now available for purchase!

My rating for “Trouble Is My Business” is 5/10

Bad Samaritan (Review) What could possibly go wrong…

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THE SETUP

Electric Entertainment presents “Bad Samaritan”, a new Horror/Thriller that’s just hit VOD (video on demand). It’s the latest film from actor turned director, Dean Devlin (Geostorm) and is written by Brandon Boyce (Apt Pupil). Bad Samaritan centers around Sean Falco (played by Irish actor, Robert Sheehan), a young man living in Portland who’s been floating through life hoping that his passion for freelance photography takes him somewhere. Whilst Sean moonlights as a valet at a restaurant, his girlfriend Riley (Jacqueline Byers) is studying to get her degree. With parents constantly on him about growing up and taking responsibility, Sean ends up resorting to petty crime to support his leisurely lifestyle. Along with longtime friend Derek (Carlito Olivero), the pair gets in over their heads when they decide to target Cale (played by David Tennant), a wealthy man whom Sean discovers has been keeping a dark secret inside his home. The film also stars Kerry Condon (TV’S Better Call Saul), Rob Nagle (Dawsons Creek), Lorraine Bahr and Tracey Heggins.

Bad Samaritan

THE GOOD

Bad Samaritan is the latest entry in a slew of recent home invasion-style thrillers. This particular sub-genre has found itself somewhat rejuvenated of late, and that’s a good thing for fans of the PG-13 style content. Devlin’s film boasts some of our very own homegrown talent in the form of Australian DP, David Connell (TV’S Leverage). His cinematography is a big part of what drives the high production value of the film. All the framing is consistent and the shot types are smart and simple. There are a number of particularly effective POV (point of view) shots, as Sean carefully explores Cale’s rather lavish house looking for things of easy access. One of the central locations is the home itself, and it’s a great one. It has the look of a new age apartment, complete with a wood look finish, an open plan staircase, lots of glass paneling, and large entertaining areas. Connell’s able to light and shoot each of those internal scenes perfectly, knowing where to darken the frame and how much to keep front and center. Some of the crew were credited for additional audio work, but as far as I could tell, the track sounded clean and natural. Composer, Joseph LoDuca (The Evil Dead Franchise) has almost 40 years worth of experience, and it shows with the class of score he developed here. After working with Sam Raimi back in 81′ (on his first picture none the less), LoDuca continued on in horror for several years before eventually getting a gig on “Hercules”, and thus began a lifetime of composing for the Action/Adventure genre. This particular score triumphs with deep and brooding violin and cello that plays throughout the more intense moments.

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Boyce’s screenplay does call to mind other similar thrillers, but it doesn’t make the film any less enjoyable. He’s able to bring about a certain amount of suspense through purely just placing you in Sean’s shoes. Ultimately Sean’s a nice guy, relatable and respectful. Well, as much as one can be while they’re doing some pretty questionable things. We’ve all done it hard at some stage throughout our lives, or let someone we care about down, and that’s what keeps you connected to this grounded and flawed character. The strongest scenes are those in which Sean and Cale almost cross wires but they don’t. The acting is reliable right across the board too. Tennant and Sheehan both leading from the front. Unlike some, I didn’t go into the film with pre-conceived notions of David (having not watched his infamous role on Dr. Who), in fact, I’m not entirely sure that I’d ever seen a film that he was in prior. The multitude of mannerisms Tennant seems to be able to throw out are reminiscent of someone like Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills and Carnage Park). Olivero’s lighthearted take on Derek makes for the logical ying to Sheehan’s yang, and Byers serves as the innocence throughout the whole thing. Kerry Condon’s role is mostly one that requires an emotional display and she does it quite well. Bad Samaritan doesn’t have a whole lot of action, at least not until the final act, but the evolution of the story is still entertaining.

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THE BAD

Without spoiling anything, I’d say Bad Samaritan puts a nice spin on its home invasion facet, but if you’re a seasoned watcher then there’s a chance that you might have still seen it all before. The film feels like a descendant of something like “Disturbia” or Fede Alvarez’s white-knuckler, “Don’t Breathe”, only not quite as extravagant. It’s not exactly original, so if you’re one of those movie-goers who’s bothered by that element, your overall enjoyment of it might be limited. The very opening scene feels like something out of a western and it makes for an odd introduction. It has absolutely no context until the latter part of the film, and what’s even worse is that it misdirects you into thinking its somehow relevant to Sean, seeing as shortly thereafter he awakens from a sleep rather unsettled. It’s a small thing but Derek’s constant use of the word “dog” or “dawg” (as it’s known) while referring to Sean, started getting on my nerves after a while. There are a few of those obvious plot holes that usually come complimentary with this type of film. The one that always irks me is when a particular character (in this case Sean) discovers something huge going on but fails to tell a key player about it when given the opportunity to do so. Hell, not even a key player, I’d settle for just anyone, tell anyone! Sean should tell Derek exactly what he’s uncovered, but he doesn’t. Boyce saves face somewhat with that piece of writing though because Sean is able to divulge the information in the next scene (but that’s not always going to be the case in films). We’re not told in as many words, but it’s safe to assume that Cale is some kind of high tech designer, and even safer to wager that he ain’t short of a dollar. Even knowing that though, I still question the credibility of the lengths he goes to regarding his home and Sean. The biggest question of them all though is why would Cale enter the address of his isolated cabin into a GPS? Wouldn’t he already know where it was? And wouldn’t you question the risks if someone gets wind of that location? For a guy who’s clearly smart and doesn’t leave traces, Cales actions weren’t and traces were left.

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Despite its lack of originality, Bad Samaritan makes for highly entertaining home invasion viewing. Boyce’s script is mostly solid and Devlin’s directing is formidable. The cinematography is high class and suspenseful, the audio work is crisp, and the low-toned score is rather atmospheric. The characters are sufficiently watchable and the acting is strong all around, with both leads delivering authentic American accents. It was my introduction to Scottish born, David Tennant and I’d love to see him taking on some more darker roles like this moving forward. Being Irish, Robert Sheehan also brings something fresh to the production, and the remainder of the cast is good too. The runtime is perhaps a fraction long and the opening scene wasn’t necessary. Not all of the dialogue phrasings worked and the film is guilty of having characters carrying out actions that weren’t all that believable. Plot holes vary from nitpicky status to fairly sizeable, but nothing that can take away a couple of hours of time well spent. I can definitely recommend Bad Samaritan to fans of Suspense/Thrillers. It’s currently playing on VOD and you can purchase the film on DVD and Blu Ray. Check out the official trailer below!

My rating for “Bad Samaritan” is 6.5/10

A Reckoning (Review) Revenge comes in all different forms…

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A RECKONING

 

THE SETUP

Papa Octopus Productions and Vega Baby present the release of “A Reckoning”, a Drama/Western film Written and Directed by Justin Lee (Big Legend) see review https://adamthemoviegod.com/big-legend-review-something-lie-beyond-the-woods/. A Reckoning is set in the 1800’s and picks up with Mary O’Malley (played by June Dietrich), the wife of a farmer whom she comes to learn was just brutally murdered. Seeking revenge, Mary leaves her life behind and vows at all costs to hunt down the man responsible. The film also stars Kevin Makely and Todd A. Robinson (Big Legend), as well as, Lance Henriksen (Aliens) and Meg Foster (They Live). Immediately after A Reckoning’s credits started rolling I began looking at some of the reviews for it online. Much to my surprise I only found a couple. The first was quite receptive and constructive in his feedback, the second not so much. Opting instead, to personally attack Lee and a number of those involved with the film (despite initially saying he doesn’t go on the personal attack). I have to ask what purpose does that serve? Honestly. Why would anyone want to deter others from doing something they’re clearly passionate about? It makes no sense to me why we tear each other down. This particular critic panned A Reckoning as if it were an amateur hour production, slapped together by a bunch of students going through the motions in order to get extra credit on an assignment. Not only were the comments disrespectful, they have zero merits. Now I’m well aware that we all see different things in a film, but some things are just fact. The sky is black at night, right? A Rubix cube is the shape of a cube, yeah? (cue 27 more examples). Needless to say, this particular reviewer lost all credibility in one fell swoop. That being said, I’m not saying Justin’s latest film is perfect because it’s not. Let’s get into it.

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THE GOOD

What we have here is a good old fashion American western. A Reckoning was conceived on a modest budget (to say the least) by a filmmaker who’s clearly a fan of the longstanding genre. Lee is a proud and dedicated independent filmmaker who’s hard work speaks for itself (having made three films with limited cast and crew and in quick succession). The film comes across as more of a love letter to the genre rather than an action spectacle set in that very familiar world. Justin Janowitz, who served as the DP on Justin’s aforementioned film Big Legend, returns here. He frames everything nicely and utilizes what is a simple but beautiful landscape, in order to get the most bang for buck in regards to the cinematic look and feel. The sets are plain, as they would’ve been in that era, and the costumes are fittingly hardened leather and wool with colors made up of mostly earthy tones. Lee’s clear willingness to get to numerous locations, if for no other reason than to shoot coverage for establishing shots in order to build this lost world, is something to be praised. A lot of filmmakers wouldn’t bother going to those sorts of lengths. The overcast beach scenes are reminiscent of those in the post-apocalyptic survival film “The Road”. The films audio track is loud and clear, and composer, Jared Forman is no stranger to those recognizable western tones (having worked on TV’s Hell On Wheels). Lee’s introduction of Mary comes layered with subtle blues, via acoustic guitar, and later, transitions into some much darker notes with a choir singing underneath them. Sweeping violins and cello enter the fold when the drama of the piece heightens.

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Plenty of film fans have been calling for stronger female protagonists and more focus on that part of the storytelling process for a while now. Westerns, in particular, have primarily been a male-dominated culture (minus the odd film here and there). It’s a nice change of pace to see Dietrich at the core of this narrative, and even Meg Foster impresses as Ms. Maple, a townie who sympathizes with Mary at the beginning of the film. Both her and Henriksen, playing a town elder of sorts, give the film another level of depth as they showcase their expertise through a couple of lengthy yarns. In fact, this is the best I’ve seen Lance in years. He takes command with every moment he’s on screen. June is solid as the strong-minded Mary, though, with just the basics of an arc, one might have hoped she’d display a wider range of expressions. I’m a little disappointed that Robinson (who was so damn good in Big Legend) doesn’t have a lot to do here. I feel like if given the chance, this guy could chew scenery with the best of them. Kevin Makely shows up for the third act, and despite the questions that come with his character “Marrow”, he turns in a lively display to close the film. To the untrained eye, A Reckoning could perhaps appear to be a case of style over substance. I’d argue that Lee knows the confines of making a film like this on such a small budget, and that’s primarily why it’s not an action-heavy film. With that said, the fight choreography is still decent and there are a couple of on-screen kills. Better than that, Mary carries the same reservations that one in a similar inexperienced position would. Lee doesn’t once make her out to be Black Widow or Wonder Woman, she’s grounded, and the learning curve that comes with that is made obvious through some of her failures.

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THE BAD

You’ll probably be left with a few questions at the end of A Reckoning, and certain details perhaps aren’t as fleshed out as adequately as they could have been. The main issue here is the same one that I have with a lot of westerns, it’s a slow-burn. I like a good slower paced method of storytelling if everything gets explored during that timeframe. Unfortunately, due to the lack of action (mostly a budgetary constraint), a lot of what we’re left with for this 80-minute runtime are long-winded transitions and copious amounts of interaction with secondary characters who never really fully figure into the equation. There’s a ten-minute scene involving a local trader that Mary happens upon. It does serve as a means for her supplies but they talk for what seems like forever, and she eventually stays the night. The sequence probably could have been cut in half and it wouldn’t have lost anything. Marrow (so in turn Kevin) goes on what can only be described as an environmentally defensive rant in the latter stages of the film and seeing as though it’s our first look at the character, there’s no real significance to any of it. Short of mentioning a trail that most travelers seem to take, Mary never reveals how she knows where to find the mystery man, or who he even is. I guess she figures it’ll be obvious when the time comes (which turns out to be true), but still, can anyone say coincidence? The film may have benefited from introducing a flashback scene involving Marrow and the late husband, giving the audience at least a piece of the puzzle in relation to what went down. In addition, it serves to break up the monotony of Mary’s constant travels. Speaking of her journey, after she takes care of a certain bit of business (those who’ve seen it will know the scene I’m referring to) I expected she’d want to get her horse back? Especially when it’s going to potentially save you a day or two on foot. I thought that element of her story was a touch thin.

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I’m really surprised that Justin Lee’s, A Reckoning isn’t getting more love from critics and western fans alike. Other than perhaps “Jane Got A Gun”, and to a lesser extent “Brimstone” (which was epic), both of which featured heavy hitting casts and were made on much bigger budgets, there’s been little in the way of female orientated protagonists within the genre. It’s important to understand the Director’s intent and the restrictions that almost always come with DIY, independent filmmaking. If you don’t, perhaps you’re not the best person equipt to be critiquing it. A Reckoning has plenty working in its favor. The cinematography is high-class, the set design looks neat and the costumes were given the appropriate sense of detail. The music is some of the best I’ve heard in a while and each of the performances is solid. In spite of what could be considered a reserved visage, Dietrich holds it all together, and Lance Henriksen and Meg Foster deliver some of their best work in recent memory. The slow burn nature is bound to put some viewers off, and I’ll be honest by saying it does get a little strenuous at times. I think had we got more of a look at Makely’s character and that lead up to his conclusion with Mary’s husband, it might have evened things out somewhat. Not all of the decision-making seems logical, nor do we gain any solid proof behind Mary’s knowledge of Marrow’s whereabouts or identity. I’m not going to fault Lee for the film’s lack of action because I have a good grasp of the limitations on a film like this. A Reckoning is clearly Justin’s avenue for showing an appreciation and love of the genre and I can’t see how that could possibly be a bad thing. If you’re a fan of simplistic storytelling in the parameters of a western, this one is well worth your time. You can purchase the film on DVD and it’s also available through various streaming platforms now. Check out the trailer below!

My rating for “A Reckoning” is 6.5/10

14 Cameras (Review) This is the real Gerald’s game…

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14 CAMERAS

 

THE SETUP

Bought to you by Gravitas Ventures and Hood River Entertainment comes “14 Cameras”, A Horror/Thriller Written by Victor Zarcoff (13 Cameras) and Co-Directed by Seth Fuller and Scott Hussion. 14 Cameras is the follow-up to 2015’s 13 Cameras, a film that centered around Gerald, a seedy and reclusive landlord with a specific perverse pleasure for surveilling people while they went about their daily lives *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/13-cameras-review/. 14 Cameras opens up with Gerald (played by the returning Neville Archambault) once again, mid spying on a young vacationing couple (played by Zach Dulin and Kodi Saint Angelo) who are unknowingly staying in a home that he actually leases. Later, a family of five comes to stay in the same lavish home but are unaware that Gerald has rigged the place with a series of spy cameras that are live streaming 24 hours a day over the internet. The film also stars Amber Midthunder (Hell Or High Water), Brytnee Ratledge (Only The Brave), Brianne Moncrief (13 Cameras), Chelsea Edmundson, John-Paul Howard, Hank Rogerson, Lora-Martinez Cunningham and Gavin White.

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THE GOOD

I enjoyed the structure of Zarcoff’s original film (which he also directed) and how it raised the concerns that come with these sorts of technological advancements. Perhaps the more we learn about electronics, the less we can control in terms of confidentiality.  The subject matter fittingly lends itself to a voyeuristic presentation and Fuller (also the DP) handles that very well. Much like in the first film, the production is a balanced mix of surveillance footage and conventional cinematography. Much of Gerald’s screen time is spent watching his cameras, so we see what he sees. Then when the film takes a more intimate look at the seemingly oblivious subjects, we start to get the more cinematic approach. Fuller’s framing is neat and he employs a lot of nice tracking shots and rotating movements over the course of the 90 minutes. The resulting edit is clean,  the pacing is good, and the audio track is consistently clear. The music by Paul Koch is quite tempered, not something you’d usually expect in this type of thriller but it works. There are some nice low-end synth notes but it’s the use of a heartbeat sound effect that really stands out and coincides with Gerald’s growing elation. Due to its subtlety (I know… who’d have thought?), it actually took me a while to realize a few of the surprising connections to the first film. The biggest improvement upon the previous 13 Cameras is the sheer likeability factor with some of Victor’s new characters. That and the multiple avenues that see three sets of different characters given screen time over the course of the story, rather than just the one.

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In spite of some fairly one-dimensional bases, most of the core family present as inherently nice people. There isn’t the petty level of bickering and overplayed drama that surrounded the young couple in Zarcoff’s previous film. I even like the couple that was introduced in the beginning and was disappointed they got such little screen time, especially Kodi who was lovely. All the performances are solid and each of the female characters looks gorgeous. Two different stories play out simultaneously over the course of 14 Cameras. Married couple, Arthur (Rogerson) and Lori (Cunningham) unknowingly become targets of Gerald’s after renting the home and dragging their teenage kids, Molly (Ratledge) and Kyle (Howard) along, with Molly’s best friend, Amber (Midthunder) in tow. Molly’s the type of girl who is very much what you see is what you get, but Danielle, whose struggling with a cheating boyfriend, clearly has a little bit more of a wild side that comes to the surface when she drinks and smokes. Kyle is sort of third wheeling it and doesn’t really want to be there but does the family thing anyway. The second story involves Sarah (played by Edmundson), a young woman who is held against her will by Gerald, and who ultimately ends up working with another victim (Moncrief) in a desperate attempt to escape. Whilst everyone is solid in their respective roles, it’s Archambault that takes the cake here. His brutish nature and imposing physicality is something seldom seen, but that’s only part of the reason he impresses. It’s actually his jilted mannerisms, mouth always agape, and the fact that he says very little, in turn making Gerald so powerful. Additionally, Archambault has protruding varicose veins that help project an unwavering intensity. Gerald doesn’t just watch, he interacts via some creepy behavior that appears to be randomly gone for at any given stage.

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THE BAD

Some of the editing transitions are unnecessarily jolting as they go between the various house cameras. I don’t like the shaky approach that’s representative of someone knocking the camera. Clean cuts would’ve looked a lot better. It’s conveniently always quite dark inside the holiday home, especially as night approaches. Even after the girls hear a few noises and begin to suspect that all might not be as it seems, they still don’t actually turn on any lights. I didn’t find that overly realistic. There are a number of different locations that Gerald makes his way around to over the course of the film and I lost my bearings on a couple of occasions. I couldn’t help but think logistics might have been more problematic for him than we’re led to believe. There’s the key location where the family are staying, Gerald’s place, Sarah’s unit (I don’t know where that is in relation to the other desolate locations) and a hole in the ground that serves as his underground “chamber” (for lack of a better word), which I believe was on the same property as his house but I’m not entirely sure. The film is nicely paced but the anticipated payoff doesn’t come in the usual form of a body count or an escalation in on-screen violence. Most of the dialogue is pretty well-written but Kyle not being able to go a sentence without dropping the F-bomb does get a bit tedious. There’s a few continuity issues and details we’re not privy to but they’re fairly minimal. E.g, What was his incentive behind live streaming the family across the internet? It seems like a big risk to take if you’re trying to stay anonymous. Little things like not being shown how Gerald ultimately vacates a place that’s being guarded by a dog, or when he’s hit by the truck in the third act it occurs via the wrong direction. We see young, Jr (White) facing the engine with his back to Gerald, which would indicate the driver needing to move forward to run him over, but instead, she reverses to do it. Speaking of the truck, it’s big, and it’s likely that someone would’ve seen it parked at one of the locations, especially considering Gerald visits each of them multiple times.

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14 Cameras is a surprisingly good Horror/Thriller sequel, albeit somewhat predictable. It’s reminiscent of films like “Alone With Her” and the incredibly underrated “388 Arletta Avenue”. Seth and Scott explore the potentially damaging effects of a world controlled by big brother, especially when those capabilities are accessible to everyday people. The cinematography methods are practical, the sound design is good, and the music works well too. The inclusion of several more characters, of whom are likable, is a welcomed addition. Each of the performances is strong and the story ends up cleverly tying into Zarcoff’s original film. Neville Archambault’s intense portrayal of a seemingly sleazy man, who deep down is perhaps just a lonely soul, is the main reason for giving 14 Cameras a spin. Some of the editing techniques and faint lighting weren’t fully to my liking, and if you’re not paying attention to the ever-changing locations you can get lost. There are a handful of minor continuity troubles and a few things that raise questions. A little more action wouldn’t have gone astray either. It’s rare that a sequel outshines its original, but 14 Cameras just so happens to be the superior of Zarcoff’s two films. If you like the less is more approach when it comes to your thrillers, I think you’ll get a kick out of this one. It’s currently playing on Netflix and you can check out the official trailer below!

My rating for “14 Cameras” is 6.5/10

Halloween (Review) The night he came home…

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HALLOWEEN

 

THE SETUP

WARNING: For anyone who hasn’t yet seen John Carpenter’s iconic 1978 Horror/Slasher film “Halloween”, this in-depth analysis of the film will contain many SPOILERS. I also urge people who have a categorized bias toward the film to proceed with caution, as I aim to strip every element of it right back. Halloween is a Horror/Slasher film set in the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois and it centers around teenage babysitter, Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) whose stalked on Halloween night by Michael Myers (Tony Moran), a knife-wielding maniac. The film also stars Donald Pleasence (The Great Escape) as “Dr. Loomis” Michael’s psychiatrist, Nancy Kyes (The Fog) as “Annie” Laurie’s best friend, P.J Soles (Carrie) as “Lynda”, and Charles Cyphers (The Fog) as “Sheriff Brackett”.

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THE GOOD

There’s simply no doubting that this genre-defining classic will forever have its place in the history of horror filmmaking. Released in October of 78′ and made on a budget of just $300,000, John Carpenter’s Halloween went on to gross 47 million dollars just in the US alone. It became the highest grossing film of the time, a record that it held for many years, but why was it so successful? I suppose in most people’s minds, up until its release, the only films that even slightly resembled what we’ve since coined “the slasher”, were the works of Alfred Hitchcock in the 60’s (Psycho). Genre greats, Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper, who were also young filmmakers at the time, had explored a much more exploitative brand of horror with their respective films, “The Hills Have Eyes” from 77′ and the groundbreaking “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” in 74′, but there was nothing quite like the idea of a cat and mouse game between young teens and a deranged psychopath… or was there? Because that’s not entirely true, is it? Bob Clark’s 1974 Horror film “Black Christmas”, about a group of sorority girls being stalked by a stranger on Christmas, may well have played a part in shaping Carpenter’s idea behind Halloween. Even still, horror, as we know it today, was uncharted territory in the United States at that time (minus perhaps The Exorcist). The Giallo (Italian murder mystery) was flooding the European market throughout the 70’s but there was very little in the way of genuine slasher horror until Halloween came along.

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Groundbreaking for the time, Halloween’s consequent success was in big part due to its marketing and promotion. The studios cut a restrained trailer, designed an eye-catching one sheet, and the film was officially released just a few days before the holiday itself. Being born in 86′, I never had the privilege of seeing the film in the era it was intended to be seen in, so I’ve got fresh eyes on it I suppose. That said, I’m a proud cinephile and I love films of all genres from all eras and I don’t let pre-conceived notions affect my judgment or critique. Halloween is most certainly a slow-burn where very little slashing actually occurs. I can respect that it was a different time though, with different standards and methods for scaring audiences. Even with its lack of excitement and somewhat passive progression, the film never gets boring. Carpenter is able to sustain the desired atmosphere even when not a lot is happening on-screen. I’m a sucker for Horror against the backdrop of safe, small-town, American suburbia and that’s one of the best things Halloween has going for it, Haddonfield. The streets are clean, the trees are leafy, houses are unassuming and the neighborhood is quiet. Enter, Michael Myers, who was once a 6-year-old boy who stabbed his sister Judith to death and wound up institutionalized, now, an adult escapee patient looking to return to his hometown to kill again. That contrast of a peaceful and somewhat naive community going about their daily lives while a masked killer lurks in the shadows (or not in the shadows as is often the case here) is what makes Halloween appealing. With Michael Myers, Carpenter created one of the most memorable villains in the history of horror cinema. The combination of the mechanic’s jumpsuit, the William Shatner look mask, and the long kitchen knife, makes it all extremely unnerving, at least aesthetically speaking.

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Let’s talk about some of the technical facets that make Halloween a memorable viewing experience. Carpenter’s regular DP, Dean Cundey shot the film on 35mm with a Panavision Panaflex camera and the end result in cinematography is impressive. It’s incredibly clean, the framing is expertly handled, and the use of shadows through lighting help to create some of the more memorable shots. Carpenter is always aware of how much or how little to show of Myers at any given time. So much so that Michael isn’t fully revealed to the audience until the climax and showdown with Laurie. Long takes of nothingness amplify the atmosphere, and clever gentle camera positioning and tracking gives some diversity to the presentation. Whenever you mention Halloween, it’s usually that iconic piano and synth motif that first comes to mind, made famous by Carpenter himself. It’s a great piece of music and it continues to live on all these years later. If I’m critical of one thing it’s that it’s overused throughout the film, and slowly but surely it negates the fear initially induced by the sudden appearance of Michael. The theme conveniently cues his arrival every single time when it really doesn’t need to, and in fact, the film would have been scarier had it not. Aside from some inventive daytime leering, the two best scenes in Halloween are the opening POV sequence (point of view) followed by the drive to the facility, as well as Michael’s final showdown with Laurie. Contrary to popular belief, the opening isn’t unique because of its POV element, which Bob Clark had previously explored in the aforementioned Black Christmas but didn’t get the praise he should’ve. No, the reason it’s so good is that you don’t know the context yet, the motive (if there is one), or who’s under the mask. What a great way to start a horror film. The unique nature of daytime stalking is great and it works surprisingly well here. The scenes in which Michael just stands off in the distance are incredibly simple but effective. I also like the way he uses a vehicle as a means of surveillance and doesn’t just do it all on foot.

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THE BAD

Okay. So now’s where things are going to get a little controversial. I haven’t done detailed research on the holiday itself or its initial inception, but I know it’s been around a long time. Halloween is a huge tradition embraced in many places around the world, and none more so than in the United States. Bringing me to the biggest weakness in John Carpenters film, the complete lack of attention to detail surrounding the night itself. There can be no denying that Halloween is simply void of any actual Halloween, and that’s a problem. In fact, if not for the title, a few jack o lanterns and Myers putting a bed sheet over his head to imitate a ghost, you wouldn’t even know it was October 31st. Hardcore fans are certainly set in their ways and refuse to acknowledge that the film is missing many crucial details that appropriately set the scene. Some argue that’s just being nit-picky and all the film is about is Michael Myers vs Laurie and the cat and mouse game between the two. I’d argue that you don’t have to delve deep at all in order to notice all the little shortcomings in Halloween, and they all add up. How can there be nothing but a few pumpkins to represent the holiday? I liken it to a western without horses or a saloon, A war picture without uniforms and guns. Would you believe that? With a $300,000 budget, I’m quite sure Carpenter could’ve set a small portion of it aside so as to authentically establish the foundation for the film, So the question is why didn’t he? And why has no one ever questioned it? There’s not a single decoration to be found throughout the movie. No cobwebs, no cheap gags, no toilet paper covered trees. Carpenter even introduces a scene at the school which is just one of a number of opportunities to hang some fake cobwebs, buy some cheap props and gags. It’s a school, a building full of kids (and kids love Halloween) and yet there’s no promotion. No costumes, no banners, not a single mention of candy, nothing. No matter how you spin it that’s incredibly poor for someone as good as Carpenter. If for whatever reason funds were tight, the simple fix would have been to establish that the film takes place on another night other than Halloween itself. Perhaps the eve of?

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As I previously mentioned, it’s not like there weren’t opportunities to create some of these missing facets either. There are some kids at the beginning that could’ve later figured into events but don’t. Lindsey and Tommy, the two kids that Laurie ends up looking after, are the only ones given any screen time and they don’t at any point indicate anything Halloween Esq. Not to mention their acting is really weak. There’s a scene where Lynda and Bob are having sex and he leaves the room to go and get the beer, a prime example of good timing to perhaps introduce a trick or treater to help build the suspense. Is it Michael at the front door or not? Is he inside? If for no other reason than to give credence to the fact that it’s actually Halloween. What’s worse is that Carpenter indirectly highlights some of these problems through pieces of the dialogue and specific characters actions. Now, I’m not saying the audience needs to be shown absolutely everything, especially if it isn’t crucial to the advancement of the story, but how about something? Just one thing? Because I don’t recall any. Sheriff Brackett finds Dr. Loomis outside the old Myers house waiting on Michael’s return, and it’s understood that later he patrols the town looking for suspicious behavior. I suppose that’s fair enough, but he makes mention of just seeing the usual Halloween stuff, looters and such. Well, everything we’ve seen (or not seen) in Haddonfield up to that point suggests that there’s very little activity and there aren’t even many kids around as it is. Time would have been better well spent if Brackett actually informed his station of the escaped Myers and how much of a danger to the town he is. Though If I’m honest, that’s not really the issue because it’s all just passing dialogue between him and Loomis. The bigger problem is that awful line from Laurie as she looks out the window to a street with literally nothing happening on it and proceeds to say, “Everyone is having a great time tonight”….. ah, excuse me? What? Who is everyone? There’s no one around! The edit was odd, to say the least. I’ve been informed by fans that the blue van on the street (which apparently belongs to Bob) is the visual cue Laurie is referring to in regard to her friends being the ones having such a great night while she’s stuck babysitting. We’re never officially introduced to Bob prior to his scene with Lynda though so I’m not sure how we’re supposed to know it’s his van? If that’s what Carpenter meant to imply he could’ve easily had Laurie say the line to herself in frustration rather than showcase an empty street at the most inopportune time.

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I found Halloween void of even an ounce of tension, nor were any of the performances believable. Two aspects that are of the utmost importance in a film like this. Had they been better, I might have not been looking elsewhere at all those little specifics. If the streets were at least semi-populated it probably would’ve been a great cover for Myers and raised the suspenseful component of the film. The one thing Carpenter does get right is the atmosphere, mainly due to the aforementioned cinematography and his eerie score. Unfortunately, atmosphere doesn’t translate to suspense. The body count is low and the on-screen violence is almost non-existent, so all that’s left is the scares. Now I’m well aware that this was violence in 1978 and people didn’t know any better, but now, such is not the case and that makes the viewing experience completely different. I can let Curtis’s emotionally strained performance slide somewhat, if for no other reason than it was her first time in front of the camera, but I have no idea how people see her as a scream queen (well a good one anyway). It’s all the little things like eye line and incorrect directional delivery that threw me off. All of Annie’s stuff is particularly bad. At one stage she’s having a conversation on the phone in her kitchen while she’s babysitting. Young, Lindsey sitting in the lounge which is to Annie’s right, yet when she calls out to her she does so facing the left, wherein a previous shot it’s established that to her left is the end of the house. Michael is also shown watching her straight through the window and in the very next shot he’s standing at the side of the garden bed and the window is now at an angle like he’s reapproaching. Those are just a couple of examples of things that had me scratching my head. Each of the performances is incredibly weak and despite what fans say, the era had very little to do with that. John Dall and Farley Granger were very good in Hitchcock’s “Rope” and that was in 48′. Anthony Perkins was impressive in “Psycho” and even Brad Dourif’s debut role in the masterpiece “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” 3 years prior to Halloween was great. They’re just a few examples supporting the fact that the time period had very little to do with it. I know we’ve come a long way but no one could ever convince me that the standard of acting in Halloween is anything other than bad. Even Donald Pleasence comes up short and he had 25 years experience prior to Halloween, I don’t know what happened here.

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Carpenter missed his chance with both Loomis and Brackett, to make sense of why his version of Halloween night appears so inexplicably peaceful. Despite my earlier sentiments about changing the date of the film, all viewers really need is a reason as to why there’s nobody around. If Dr. Loomis was serious about Haddonfield and Myers (whom he claims is pure evil after having looked into his eyes) he would’ve insisted that Brackett’s station get a town-wide curfew in effect (much like Craven did in Scream), in turn, making sense of the empty neighborhood and all the absent particulars that one can’t help but question. Hell, even when Loomis appears on-screen in the latter part of the film he’s strolling up the street or standing around in one place. There’s no sense of urgency about any of it and there’s no excuse for that. Once again, the common response from fans is that they’re all nitpicky issues. For mine, nitpicking would be highlighting the credibility of a psychiatric facility without any security. There sure as hell doesn’t appear to be any when Loomis and the nurse discover patients outside the gate. I wouldn’t ordinarily even mention that scene because the lead into it through the forest and the heavy rain is so well done aside from that fact. Reaching would be emphasizing what a coincidence it is that Loomis finds the abandoned mechanics vehicle and white hospital gown right by where he just so happens to stop to make a phone call (doing so without any prior paper trail on Michael). Other things like not officially introducing Bob, something that would have made sense during the school scene, or even questioning where the parents are in all of this? Did Laurie’s parents go away? What about Annie’s mom? Does she have a mom? Maybe it doesn’t matter but all these little things better flesh out the characters. Otherwise what you’re left with is one-dimensional arcs all around, as is the case with Halloween. It’s painstakingly clear that Carpenter’s intention was to solely focus on Michael and Laurie, however, for that to occur, he left out too many things to make the film believable. For that reason alone I can’t see how Halloween could be the masterpiece everyone seems to think it is, it can’t possibly be.

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So I’m well aware at this point that it probably sounds like I’m tearing into a film that has since become one of the most iconic films in the history of horror, but I’m really not. Hear me out, yes, I’m a self-proclaimed fan of “new school” horror more so than one of old and I make no apologies for that. With that said, I still like and respect the films that paved the way and ultimately made the genre what it is today. I’ve seen John Carpenter’s Halloween three times and there’s certainly a few things to like about it, but perhaps because I wasn’t there in that time and place I can’t truly get an accurate read on it. Now it may not be fair, but all I can do is analyze where it fits in the genre now and how it stands up by today’s standard. I’m sure that if Halloween were remade today (which it was and successfully by Rob Zombie) but followed most of the same aspects as Carpenter’s film but cleaned up all the easily rectifiable issues it has, it’d be a very impressive and timeless film. Unfortunately, I can’t see it in that light. Every facet of the genre has changed so much over the years, from the standard of acting, the technical capabilities, and even the writing, and I just don’t see a way in which Carpenter’s film holds up in relation to any of those things. I respect the hell out of the man and he’s made some great films over the years (some of my favorites) but I have to call a spade a spade and question the masses and what they’re seeing. Halloween is supposed to be a horror/slasher masterpiece and yet it’s got no real slashing, nor is it scary, not even close. If you do happen to find this film frightening I’d suggest perhaps seeking some professional help (I kid, sort of). Masterpieces are few and far between in any genre and even more so in horror. When I think of films that are the best at what they do though,  I think of both Wes Cravens film “Scream”, a slasher that reinvented the wheel, and A Nightmare On Elm St, one that gave birth to an iconic villain in Freddy Krueger. The Thing (also from Carpenter), Argento’s “Suspiria” and even independent films like Bryan Bertino’s “The Strangers” and Mickey Keating’s “Darling” come to mind. Sad to say I just don’t think of Halloween in the same light, I wish I did.

My rating for “Halloween” is 4.5/10