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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)

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Wheel of Time, Daughter of The Night

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We’ve reached episode four of Wheel of Time, which means we’re halfway through the season. While it doesn’t seem like much has happened so far, this is the episode where things start heating up.

The Story

We begin this episode with a flashback. Ishamael is raising something dark and twisted. As we watch, it takes the shape of a woman.

More on that in a bit.

Meanwhile, Nynaeve is healing from her time in the arches. She is quiet and withdrawn. She’s also awkward and uncomfortable around Egwene now that she’s initiated and Egwene is not. Her new friendship with Elayne isn’t helping.

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But the three girls come together when Liandrin tells Nynaeve that Perrin has been captured by the Seanchan.

Zoë Robins, Madeleine Madden and Ceara Coveney in Wheel of Time.

However, Perrin is no longer in the clutches of the Seanchan. He was rescued by Elyas and a pack of beautiful wolves. Beautiful and deadly AF by the way. If you have any fear of dogs, this episode might not help that.

Elyas explains to Perrin that he is a Wolf Brother. This means that he can communicate with the wolves, and eventually will gain some of their abilities. While Perrin and Elyas don’t exactly get off on the right foot, he does find a fast friendship with one specific wolf. After a time, he introduces himself by showing Perrin an image of himself jumping up and down. From this, Perrin assumes his name is Hopper.

Finally, we return to Rand. He and Selene have been off in the mountains. They haven’t done much more than each other so far.

And that’s exactly what it appears they’re about to do when Moiraine bursts into the cottage and cuts Selene’s throat.

Rand is surprised and furious until Moiraine explains that the woman he knows as Selene is the Dark Friend Lanfear. With this shocking revelation, the two run off into the night.

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What worked

It should be a surprise to no one that I loved the wolves in this episode. Hopper himself was worth an extra Cthulhu. But this is not just because dogs are cute. It’s also because the dog playing Hopper just does a great job.

On a more serious note, I loved how Nynaeve responded upon coming back to the real world. She isn’t okay.

Zoë Robins in Wheel of Time.

And it’s a good thing that she isn’t. Too often in fiction we don’t see the fallout of emotional damage. Hell, we don’t usually see realistic fallout from physical damage.

But she is hurt by what she experienced. And you can tell. That’s realistic character building, and we don’t see that enough.

I also really appreciate the special effects in this episode. The first time we see Lanfear, she’s eerie. She’s frightening. Part of this is thanks to Natasha O’Keeffe, who does a great job. But the effects are what really sells this.

What didn’t work

If Wheel of Time has any fault, it’s that there is far too much sitting about and talking about things. In this case, there’s a lot of standing about and talking about things. Some of this was necessary, and some of it could have been done better. Honestly, there just has to be a better way to convey that characters are struggling.

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This was most apparent with Rand and Selene/Lanfear. Honestly, anytime the two of them were on screen it was a great time for me to catch up on Instagram.

This might come as a surprise to anyone who hasn’t read the books, but Rand is supposed to be the main character. And here we are, four episodes into an eight-episode season, and so far all he’s done is mess about with his emo girlfriend!

That being said, the story is starting to pick up. With four episodes left, I can’t wait to see how far we go.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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Elevator Game, a Film Review

Elevator Game (2023) is directed by Rebekah McKendry and is the first feature-length production of Fearworks.

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Elevator Game (2023) is directed by Rebekah McKendry and is the first feature-length production of Fearworks. It adapts the supernatural myth and creepypasta of the same name while providing an original plot. This unrated Shudder exclusive stars Gino Anania, Samantha Halas, and Verity Marks. In full disclosure, I had the opportunity to interview Gino Anania and Stefan Brunner about the film.

Ryan seeks to find answers to his sister’s mysterious disappearance. To do this, he infiltrates a myth-busting web series that seems to have some ties to her final confirmed moments. Desperate to force a confrontation, he encourages them to play the elevator game. Unfortunately, there seems to be more truth to the myth than expected.

A woman bends backward to look over at someone. The street she's on is red and ominous.
ELEVATOR GAME’s Samantha Halas as the 5th Floor Woman

What I Like about Elevator Game & as an Adaptation

I am lucky to have additional insight into the development hell this movie overcame due to COVID. It’s commendable that the film manages to make it of that, even if it requires a lengthy delay of the film.

Usually, I provide a separate section for adaptation quality. However, the source material remains the ritual, which Elevator Game performs accurately. While the myth inspires many creepypastas, Elevator Game doesn’t directly take or adapt any of these works from what I’ve seen. Instead, it makes its own film based on the legend.

As the Fifth Floor Woman, Samantha Halas creates an eerie and disturbing character. While I won’t go so far as to say terrifying, she certainly makes an impression. The revelation that the stunts and performance are all her, as an actual contortionist, I give her more credit.

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Gino Anania, given a more complex role than most of his cast members, really does bring a strong performance that creates either friction or synergy with his cast members. I suppose I wanted more of these interactions as some cut sooner than appreciated.

Another amusing element is that the entire motivation for the plot to follow is a forced advertisement from an investor. Something about the chaos being a product of appeasing some investors feels uncomfortably real.

The alternate reality remains surprisingly effective. To be clear, it’s not impressively realistic but stylistic. It genuinely seems like an alternate world with a skewered impression.

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Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes or Trigger Warning

I feel weird mentioning this, but endangering a sister’s life to push the brother’s story forward seems a common trend beyond one form of media.

No discredit to the actors, but the romance feels rushed and unnecessary. Without going into too much detail, to avoid spoilers, there is synergy between the actors but little chemistry in the plot.

A woman holds a man's arm as an elevator door closes.
ELEVATOR GAME – Verity Marks as Chloe Young and Gino Anania as Ryan Keaton

What I Dislike or Considerations

Elevator Game remains set in providing a B-movie experience. Its tight budget leaves little room to surprise the viewer visually. While I am surprised at what it accomplishes, it’s far from overwhelming. This film also remains the first production of Fearworks, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. I’m interested in the future, but Elevator Game leaves much to grow from.

Rebekah McKendry may have a directorial style that influences dialogue, but the line delivery evokes an overexpression that’s common in Lovecraftian films. I say this not as a direct negative, but it remains a required taste best known before viewing. As this isn’t Lovecraftian, I fear it removes some of the reality and tension of those haunting elements.

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Many of the characters feel underdeveloped, making me wonder if cutting these roles might lead to more invested characters. While the performances hit their marks, a tighter cast might give each role more to work toward. As this is a tight cast already, it seems an odd issue to rectify.

Final Thoughts

Elevator Game provides an interesting B-movie experience for those who know the legend. For those expecting something different, this film may not work for you. This film overcame a lot to exist but doesn’t break the mold. While I am excited to see Fearworks pursue further ventures toward its ambitious mission statement, I find Elevator Game falling short of its goal.
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

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My Best Friend’s Exorcism, a Film Review

My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2022) is a R-rated horror comedy directed by Damon Thomas, available on Amazon Prime.

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My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2022) is a horror comedy directed by Damon Thomas. Based on Grady Hendrix’s novel of the same name, this R-rated film stars Elsie Fisher, Amiah Miller, Cathay Ang, and Rachel Ogechi Kanu. As of this review, the film is available to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Abby Rivers (Elsie Fisher) and Gretchen Lang (Amiah Miller) seek to escape the monotony of high school drama with their friends. However, in their efforts to have fun, Gretchen Lang encounters a troubling otherworldly demon bent on controlling her body. It’s up to Abby to help her overcome this demonic threat.

A VHS style cover with a girl with red eyes dominating the page. Two girls below here with pink balloons. A clocktower to the right and a field to the left
My Best Friend’s Exorcism Novel Cover

What I Like in My Best Friend’s Exorcism

The effects are surprisingly good. While not overwhelming, these effects never take me out of the film. Even the less realistic scenes fit the overall tone while looking better than expected or required. The 80’s aesthetic strengthens that believability.

Continuing that thought, My Best Friend’s Exorcism oozes the 80’s. Perhaps this comment should set an expectation for the viewer. I can’t exactly comment on the accuracy of the era, but it certainly fits the era of film. If 80’s films don’t interest you, consider looking somewhere else.

While I don’t meet the target audience, the jokes land and provide an enjoyable horror comedy feel. My Best Friend’s Exorcism focuses more on comedy than horror, but this remains a common trend in horror comedies.

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The performances remain strong throughout, with leads Elsie Fisher and Amiah Miller pulling off that best-friend chemistry. The cast purposely captures that 80’s nostalgia. Added to the campy nature of the film, one might grow irritated with the acting choices. For me, it certainly fits with the tone and setting.

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Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings

Drug use might deserve a mention on this list. While I don’t find this egregious, I imagine this point, or some other technicality, earns the film its undeserved R-rating.

The possession lends itself as a rape allegory, with some characters even believing this to be the trauma Gretchen Lang suffers from. While this isn’t the case, the conversation remains for those who want to avoid such material.

Body horror describes a few scenes of the film, though sparingly. However, one scene convinces me to bring this up for those who get squeamish at the cracking of bones or slimies in the body.

A character is tricked into outing themselves and faces some homophobia because of it. This homophobia is rightfully taken as cruel, not condoned in the slightest, but it remains potentially triggering and deserves mention here.

Two girls sit on a bed, looking at each other. Flower wallpaper in the background.
Elsie Fisher as Abby Rivers (Left) and (Amiah Miller as Gretchen Lang (Right)

What I Dislike, or Food for Thought on My Best Friend’s Exorcism

This film seems to earn its R-rating off some technicality. It is neither raunchy nor gruesome for those expecting that from their R-rated horror films. For me, it’s more an issue of setting expectations. I expect my R-rated horrors to hit hard. My Best Friend’s Exorcism doesn’t.

It would be unfair to expect something like Jennifer’s Body, as this is a lighter and zanier film. There are elements of sisterhood and bodily autonomy that echo the cult classic, but My Best Friend’s Exorcism remains an entirely campier affair.

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In terms of performances that lack the intended impact, three over-the-top anti-drug spokesmen outstay their welcome. It’s clearly a jab at D.A.R.E., which certainly works in increments, but then one character becomes an important part of the plot and still keeps his caricature.

Final Thoughts

My Best Friend’s Exorcism fits the taste of an 80’s horror comedy fan. Don’t expect to be frightened at any point, but the comedy lands well enough. The film knows its niche and hits most of its targets. It’s hard to say if the film will stand the test of time, but it certainly earns its runtime.
3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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