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Steve Miner’s Halloween H20 seems like it was destined to generate mixed feelings. For starters, the man who played Dr. Loomis, Donald Pleasence had died, so he obviously wouldn’t appear in the movie. Fortunately, they didn’t cast someone else to play him, aside from a brief voice impersonation by Tom Kane, and they did not egregiously try to resurrect him through CG animation. These were wise decisions.

However, what might disappoint some fans is that Halloween H20 does abandon the whole “Thorn Trilogy” story arc. Some had been invested in that storyline, and it appeared to be casually tossed away, or sidestepped, if not nuked from orbit. While not everyone appreciates Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, some did and wanted a follow-up, or they were just thrown off by the abandonment of that story.

Then again, there are always some who wish the story had evolved with Michael Myers’ niece, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris), as the new killer, or maybe as a strange protĂ©gĂ© (admittedly, either story idea might have ended up terrible, but the potential was there). On the bright side, Halloween H20 did make a few bold ideas come to life, and we’ll look at those first.

Halloween H20: Strengths?

When looking at horror films, one of the go-to topics will be “the kills.” Halloween H20 actually has a few decent ones. It also pays to remember that, for the most part, the original Halloween featured what might be considered “meat and potato” type kills. It’s mostly just him swiping at people with knives or, in the case of Annie Brackett (Nancy Kyes), a combination of choking and slicing. Steve Miner’s film is not the goriest in the Halloween franchise, but the death of the character Sarah Wainthrope (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) is particularly memorable (or painful to watch).

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As another possible strength, this film doesn’t abandon the premise that Michael (Chris Durand) and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) are brother and sister — unlike 2018’s Halloween (which sidesteps that, as well as scrapping both the “Thorn Trilogy” story and practically all unique elements from this film, aside from the “Laurie’s revenge” motif).

Personally, I never had a problem with them being related, as I think it adds some depth to the characters. Sure, it humanizes Michael a bit, but less so than similar examples, such as the relationship between Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) and his brother, Brian (Christian Camargo), on the series Dexter. It complicates their dynamic rather than subtracting from it.

I also like how Laurie has largely moved on from the traumatic events of Halloween 1 & 2. In fact, she even has a boyfriend (Adam Arkin), even though they seem awkward and timid with each other. She has moved away from the Myers’ house and is the headmistress at a boarding school. Also, when Michael arrives and the shit predictably hits the fan, there’s never an expectation that she’d attempt to alert Dr. Loomis, even if he was alive. At the same time, this perhaps helps shatter the illusion that Michael could easily kill them all.

Halloween H20: Weaknesses?

Yes, I feel I need to discuss this film’s weaknesses a bit, too, and one of the weaknesses is actually Laurie’s strength. Yes, I know, you might be saying “That’s sexist!” but hear me out. Back when Myers was in his house in Haddonfield, he had what might be called “home-field advantage.” He was basically in his element, where he would stay for a time. Take him out of that and what do you have? Well, it’s a bit like taking Freddy out of Elm Street. Sure, you could do it and maybe it can work, but that certainly doesn’t mean it will work as well.

Add that to the growing perception that Laurie is ready, willing, and able to kick Michael’s ass and a lot of the tension is gone. Now, honestly, I was never that afraid of Michael Myers or most slasher villains, so to lose the fear factor, even more, doesn’t really do this movie favors.

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Yes, we might look at the example of someone like Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), who ended up kicking some alien ass in “Aliens.” However, that was in outer space and more obviously an action movie. While I’m glad they didn’t put Michael in space (as they did with Jason, the Leprechaun, and even Pinhead!), I’m not sure they put him in a compelling place in Halloween H20. It seems like the boarding school environment didn’t add much and, frankly, the matchup between Michael and Laurie also seems to end a little too quickly.

The Big Critique

Plenty of horror movies fail to fully explore their dynamics. Others perhaps benefit from not doing so. At the end of the day, it can be hard to walk that fine line between revealing too little or too much. I can imagine writing Michael Myers is tricky for that reason. In contrast, in some characters, you fully expect them to get cheesier and to have more quirky details revealed. For example, one might expect Chucky (Brad Dourif) to delve deeper into the whole voodoo doll thing, especially when the character actually is a frickin’ doll. Similarly, everyone would expect The Evil Dead franchise to summon some crazy demons.

However, just like you wouldn’t expect a whoopie cushion scene in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, you probably don’t want Michael to become less mysterious, less threatening than in previous films. In this case, Michael Myers doesn’t really come across as supernatural, or like an evil, mysterious force. He’s a bit more like just some random guy in a Halloween mask. He might still be dangerous, but he doesn’t seem as much like Michael Myers.

I have heard others make this critique, and I’m not trying to rip them off here. It’s just something I definitely agree with. I would contrast it with “Part 4,” in fact. Yes, that movie has some detectable flaws, too, but when Michael Myers falls into a mineshaft, it somehow still feels like it’s him. In fact, to prove I’m not screwing around here and playing favorites with this critique, I’d even say the Michael Myers from the much-hated Halloween: Resurrection is more like the old school Michael than the one from Halloween H20.

Final Thoughts

On the surface, it probably seems like I hate this movie, or like this is a hit piece. I actually don’t hate it, but just think it should’ve been beefed up a bit more, and some things could’ve been better. Yes, Michael’s abandoned house remains freakier than the boarding school environment, and the film lacks the flair of Dr. Loomis (for obvious reasons). Still, this movie ends on a respectable note with a bold decision regarding the main villain’s fate. That alone might be respectable, in some way. And, holy shit, I need to stop typing now…

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What are your thoughts on Halloween Water…oops, I mean Halloween H20?! Let us know in the comments! (Just don’t pin us to a tree with a vehicle and lop off our heads over this article)

Movies n TV

Fallout, The Beginning

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We’ve now reached the end of Fallout, season one. As I mentioned during the last review, I was heartily concerned that this show, like so many others, was going to drop the ball at the finale and ruin an entire season.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. This episode was everything it needed to be and more.

Let’s discuss.

The story

We begin our story with Maximus returning to the Brotherhood of Steel compound. He has a head, which he is claiming is the real head of Wilzig.

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I don’t know why he thought that was going to work.

Of course, it doesn’t. The elder cleric is about to kill Maximus until Dane says that they hurt their foot.

Because of this, the Brotherhood is sent out to get the head. Or rather, what’s inside of it. They head to the city run by Moldaver. This happens to be the same place Lucy and The Ghoul are headed.

Still from Amazon Prime's Fallout.

There, Lucy does manage to find her father. What she ends up finding is so much more than she wanted to find.

What worked

The first thing I have to discuss is how seamlessly the storylines of the series combined.

Each of our four main characters has been on their own journey. Lucy is trying to save her father. Maximus wants to become a knight. The Ghoul wants to find his family. Norm wants to know what’s going on in Vault 31.

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I sure wasn’t expecting all of these stories to come together in the way that they did. And to preserve the ending, I don’t dare say more. I will only say that yes, all four stories tie in perfectly with one another. By the end, two characters end up having the very same goal.

As I hinted before, I did not see the twist ending coming.

Ella Purnell in Fallout.

Yes, we might have guessed some things from the last episode. We of course guessed that Lucy’s dad was involved in some nefarious and probably sci-fi way. But the way this story twists at the end is nothing short of serpent-like. Which is why I cannot go into too much detail here. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to experience it blind.

Finally, I can give the Fallout season finale the most important praise I can ever give a finale. It did its number one job, getting us excited for season two. We have answers, but now we have new and more exciting questions. And even better, we have a desire to see vengeance done.

What didn’t work

Now that the season is done, though, I can bring up something that bothered me through all eight episodes.

I don’t buy Lucy and Maximus’s relationship.

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Maybe because it’s rushed. Maybe because the two actors don’t have a lot of chemistry. Maybe it’s because I’m not sure even now either character could tell you a single thing about the other. There is just no spark between the two. So their love story feels tacked on. I honestly feel like their love story could have been removed from the show entirely and it would have no negative impact.

I also didn’t buy Dane’s confession. This is a minor spoiler, but it comes up early in the episode. Dane confesses that they hurt their foot so that they wouldn’t have to go into the wastelands.

And at first, I kept expecting Maximus to thank them later. I honestly thought that they were just lying to save Maximus’s life. But no, as it turns out, they were not.

But it just doesn’t make sense. The motivations don’t jive. I honestly think it would have been better for the story if they had lied to save Maximus’s life.

At least then there’d be one other Brother of Steel who had some nobility.

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In the end, this first season of Fallout was everything I could ask for. So far as I can tell, it was everything fans of the Fallout franchise could ask for. There wasn’t a bad episode in the bunch. Honestly, the only real complaint I had was that the season was so short.

I’ll be counting down the days to season two, and I hope you’ll be joining me then. Because war, war never changes.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

If you like my work, you can check out my latest science fiction/horror novel, Nova, launching on May 17th. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Radio

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Episode seven of Amazon’s Fallout is the penultimate episode. This is often when a series goes off the rails and starts to mess things up. After being burned so often recently, I was apprehensive when this episode began.

Thankfully, this was a fear that did not come to pass. And so far, Fallout’s finale is doing just fine.

Lana the dog in Fallout.

The story

A lot happened in this episode, so we’re just going to skim over some of the more important storylines. We’ll start with Lucy and Maximus, in Vault 4. Lucy has discovered what she believes is a secret collection of monsters. But of course, it turns out that it’s simply people that the vault dwellers discovered and are trying to help heal. But her meddling around was enough for them to kick her out of the vault. With two weeks’ worth of food and water, of course.

But Maximus assumes they’re going to do something much worse. And so he steals their power coil to fight through the perfectly innocent people and save Lucy.

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Meanwhile, we dive further into The Ghoul’s past, when he was still Western star Cooper.

After attending a Communist meeting, he’s approached by Lee Moldaver. She suggests that Vault Tech is hiding something, something terrible. And she tells Cooper that his wife Barbara knows more about this than she’s letting on. Moldaver gets Cooper to bug Barbara’s Pip Boy, and listen in on an important meeting.

Poor Cooper hears far more than he wants to.

War, war never changes.

What worked

I would like to first point out that this was one of the funniest episodes so far. I mean, it got incredibly tragic and sad by the end. But it also had some great laugh-out-loud moments. This should be a surprise to no one, with such an array of comedians guest starring. Chris Parnell was in the last episode as well but is now joined by the incredibly funny Fred Armisen as DJ Carl. This is of course not his first foray into the funny and spooky world, as he also played Uncle Fester in Wednesday.

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Most of what makes this episode funny is the character’s understated and deadpan responses to wild situations. When Maximus returns the energy coil and is greeted by a simple thank you. When Thaddeus gets an arrow through his neck, and slowly realizes that hey, he might be a ghoul. These were hilarious because they could have been truly dark moments. But because this world is so dark, and the characters have already been through so much, they’re simply done. They take all of this in stride because of course that’s what’s happening. It’s par for the course for them.

Aaron Moten and Ella Purnell in Fallout.

On the other hand, we’ve finally seen the full extent of The Ghoul/Cooper’s past. And it’s so much worse than we could have imagined. I assumed that he’d lost his beloved wife and daughter in the atomic blasts two hundred years ago, somehow not dying with them and instead turning into a literal and figurative monster. The truth is so much worse. I’ll do my best not to spoil the ending. But I will say this. There is nothing more painful than mourning someone and hating them at the same time. And it’s easy to see how Cooper turned into The Ghoul. That sort of pain could drive anyone mad.

This balance between comedy and tragedy is one of the reasons why this episode worked so well. It’s one of the reasons why the series is working so well. It manages to combine the core tenets of theater in a way that never compromises the strengths of either. The eventual downfall of Thaddeus is a great example of this because it’s both tragic and funny. We’ve seen what happens to ghouls, and it’s a horrible end. But as he’s hardly been a sympathetic character, we can all get a good laugh at his predicament as well.

The sheer amount of good old-fashioned gore doesn’t hurt either, of course.

What didn’t work

All that being said, there was one thing that bothered me about this episode. And it was the reveal of Vault 4’s big secret.

Honestly, I was expecting the Vault 4 storyline to go way darker. I wanted it to go way darker. While I’ve never played these games myself, I know enough about the story to say that these vaults are not the bastions of safety and morality that they have so far been portrayed as. And while that has certainly been alluded to, we haven’t seen it.

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We haven’t seen the depravity in these vaults. And it’s there. But maybe we just haven’t gotten to it yet.

In the end, The Radio did exactly what it needed to do. It set us up to have most of our questions answered in the season finale. And I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you like my work, you can check out my latest science fiction/horror novel, Nova, launching on May 17th. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Trap

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Amazon Prime’s Fallout has continued to be a suspenseful delight. And with the last episode’s dramatic cliffhanger, I was certainly looking forward to this one.

Thankfully, it did not disappoint.

The story

We start our story with Lucy and Maximus waking up in a decontamination room in Vault 4. They’re welcomed guests, once they’re done with decontamination.

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Vault 4 at first seems very much like Vault 33 to Lucy. She’s surprised, however, to find that a lot of people who live there are actually from the surface. And the people who live in this vault are, well, a bit mutated. Their overseer, named Benjamin and played by the hilarious Chris Parnell, has just one eye in the middle of his face. Some people have extra limbs or missing ones. And yet it’s clear that everyone’s living together in peace and companionship.

At least, that’s what it’s supposed to look like. There is, after all, the matter of the weird cult the surface dwellers seem to have formed. And, the small matter of the vault level no one is supposed to go to. It should come as no surprise that, of course, that’s exactly where Lucy finds herself before the episode is over.

Ella Purnell in Fallout.

Of course, this episode wouldn’t be complete without checking in with the Ghoul. And his part of the story is, honestly, more compelling.

We see him apprehended by people referring to themselves as The Government. And while he appears to be a prisoner, it’s clear soon enough that he’s the one in charge.

Far more compelling are his flashbacks to his past. While his wife, Barb, is starting to be more secretive, he learns more than he wants to about Vault Tec. He also learns that the Communist party in Hollywood might know more about what Barb does for a living than he does. And it’s clear soon that she never wanted him to know.

For good reason.

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What worked

I first want to draw attention to the excellent way we are learning about the Ghoul. As we learn more and more about his past, we can see how he’s become the monster he is today. It’s clear that once upon a time he had everything he could want. A lovely home, a family he lived for, and a successful career. And he lost all of that, even his dog. And with those losses, he lost his humanity in more ways than one.

But I also think we’re seeing signs that his humanity at least isn’t as lost as he thought it was.

On a lighter note, I loved Maximus’s response to the vault. While he’s apprehensive at first, he is swept away by the welcome basket. He’s lived his whole life hungry, barely surviving, and suddenly he has food. Good food. Caviar and oysters. He has a warm robe and TV and a safe place to exist. It must have been like stepping into a fairy tale for him. And while it wasn’t exactly helpful for Lucy, it’s completely relatable that he decided to sink into a chair and have a snack in front of the TV for a while.

What didn’t work

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While this episode was mostly good, I do have one complaint. When Lucy is first meeting with Overseer Benjamin, we see him accidentally drinking a cup of coffee that has gotten moldy.

Chris Parnell in Fallout.

Now, this makes perfect sense in our world to convey someone too busy and forgetful to clean up old mugs. But it’s hard to fathom someone living in a Vault in which every resource is carefully monitored, letting something like coffee go bad. It’s a small detail, and it was funny. Also more relatable than I’d like to admit. But in this instance, in this world, it was jarring.

So far this season has been intense. There’s a lot of intrigue and mystery. There’s a lot of high emotions. And there’s a lot on the line for everyone. Maybe, for one character, more than we’ve ever realized before.

Good thing we still have two episodes to discover what’s happening.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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If you like my work, you can check out my latest science fiction/horror novel, Nova, launching on May 17th. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

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