Archive for October, 2008

31
Oct
08

Halloween Party: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

Ah, here we are friends. October 31, All Hallow’s Eve, the festival of Samhain, the night when the spirits of the dead and damned roam the world to exact their terrible vengeance upon the living. How better to spend the night, then, than with a blanked-toting kid sitting in a pumpkin patch?

 

To close our Halloween Party here at Evertime Realms, I’m going to give you a review of the new Deluxe Edition DVD of that perennial favorite, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I’ve talked about this special in previous Halloween parties, of course, but this new DVD demands new scrutiny. Great Pumpkin is, of course, my favorite Halloween special of all time, and it is second only to A Charlie Brown Christmas in the hierarchy of great Peanuts specials. On Halloween night, while the rest of the gang is preparing for an evening of trick-or-treating (followed by a big bash at Violet’s house), Linus is instead preparing to spend an evening sitting in a pumpkin patch, awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin. This mythical creature arises from the most sincere pumpkin patch each year, flying through the air with his bag full of toys for all the good boys and girls.

 

This bizarre predilection of Linus’s has always confounded me, albeit in a good way. How does a kid who, otherwise, is the town genius, conjure up this fundamental misunderstanding of Halloween? Did some truly sadistic adult tell him about it as a prank? Come to think of it, it’s the sort of thing I would attribute to big sister Lucy, if it weren’t for the fact that she gets so mad at him every time he starts talking about the gargantuan gourd. Did he just imagine it himself – possible – and somehow convince himself that it was a long-standing tradition? And how exactly does one cultivate a belief in something no one else believes in? Other legends are taught and passed down. Is it some sort of dementia? We’re getting into some deep psychological territory here, friends, and frankly, it’s making me uncomfortable, so let’s move on and talk about the beagle that flies the doghouse.

 

Aside from the story of Linus and the Great Pumpkin, the other interesting thing about this special is that it begins the animated version of Snoopy as the World War I Flying Ace, one of the little elements from the comic strip that made it legendary. The animation here is truly amazing, and the way Snoopy’s story flows into Linus’s at the end is wonderfully entertaining.

 

Although I’m no expert on things like DVD picture and sound quality, I was pretty impressed by how this cartoon looked. The picture was clean, and I could hear every syllable of dialogue and every pristine note in Vince Guaraldi’s classic musical score. We’ve all seen the special a trillion times, you don’t need me to tell you how good it is, but you can take my word that the DVD (on my meager setup, at least) is as good as it could possibly be.

 

Like all Peanuts DVDs, this one comes with a bonus cartoon. The backup from the previous DVD release, You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown, has been spun off onto its own DVD (which, now that I think about it, would be fun to review on Tuesday), so this edition includes a new-to-DVD cartoon, the 1981 short It’s Magic, Charlie Brown. In this cartoon, Snoopy’s attempt at a magic show goes away when he makes Charlie Brown invisible and can’t change him back. Ol’ Chuck, although initially dismayed, soon sees this as an opportunity to dish out some karmic justice.

 

While not every Peanuts special has achieved the brilliance of Great Pumpkin or the first Christmas cartoon, almost all of them have some redeeming quality, something to enjoy. This may be the first Peanuts cartoon I have wholly disliked. There are two main reasons here. First, the idea of Snoopy actually performing “real” magic bothers me. It disrupts the basic reality of the Peanuts world. And yes, I am aware that I’m discussing the realism of a cartoon featuring a dog who thinks he’s a World War I Flying Ace, but at least he only defies physics in his mind. This was a jarring cartoon, and I couldn’t really accept it.

 

The second reason may seem geeky even by my standards, but I’m sticking to it. Spoiler warning – if you’re really concerned about not knowing how this cartoon ends, skip ahead to where I discuss the new documentary on this disc.

 

Are they gone? Good. The other thing that bugs me about this cartoon is that, while invisible, Charlie Brown actually kicks Lucy’s football. This is practically sacrilege to me. Charles Schulz was always firm that Charlie Brown never kick the football, not even in the very last comic strip. It takes something away from who Charlie Brown is. So when he kicks the ball not just once, but repeatedly, something in my gut churned to a stop and I said, “Whoa. That ain’t right.”

 

The last feature on the disc is a new short documentary, We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown. This feature goes behind-the-scenes of the creation of the Great Pumpkin special. After the fantastic success of the first two cartoons, A Charlie Brown Christmas and Charlie Brown’s All-Stars, the network wanted another blockbuster hit. This documentary, through interviews with Schulz’s family and the late producer Bill Melendez, traces the creation of the cartoon from its early stages to its status as a holiday classic. It’s a really interesting look back at this beloved film, and for the hard-core Peanuts fan (like myself) it’s more than enough to justify purchasing the DVD even if you have the original DVD release.

 

Well, gang, that’s just about it. I should be back tomorrow with a photo roundup from Halloween night, but we’re done with this year’s Halloween Party. I really hope everyone enjoyed it (although I’d reeeeeally like it if you guys were more vocal about it). Anyway, just in case you missed anything, here’s a checklist of everything we covered in the party this year:

 

The Restless Dead of Siegel City:

Reviews:

Everything But Imaginary Columns:

2 in 1 Showcase Podcasts:

 

 

31
Oct
08

The Restless Dead of Siegel City Part Six

Our heroes reach the finish line today, guys — but what sort of monsters will be waiting when they arrive? Hope you enjoy the conclusion of our story! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

ELEVEN

Linda must have sense the slight concern on our faces, because a few moments after her declaration, she frowned and said, “What?”

“Oh… nothing, it’s…” I stammered. If this girl was, in fact, one of the Lionhearted, that meant she was honest, loyal, and brave as they come. But she was still ten.

“You’re a little small for a monster-slayer, aren’t you?” Animan said.

She furrowed her brow at him. “Do I know you?” she asked. Then she shook her head. “Forget it. Look, I’m here because that thing is dangerous, and not just to this city. If it isn’t stopped, more people than you can imagine will suffer.”

“I can imagine big,” I said.

“Look, if you were ‘sent’ here, were you sent with a plan of any kind?”

She reached under her sweatshirt and pulled something from the waistband of her pants. It was a brown leather sheath, from which she withdrew a glittering silver dagger. “If I got here before the Wraith hatched from its cocoon, I was supposed to cut it out with this. If it comes out even a second early, the shock can kill it.”

I frowned at Animan. “Annie was going to punch the sac open.”

“Well how was I supposed to know? Hotshot is the one who beat it last time!”

“What if it’s already out?” I asked.

“Then we’re in real trouble,” she said.

I had a lot of questions – where Linda was from, who sent her, why the hell they sent a little girl like this to do such a gruesome job – but I knew this wasn’t the time for them. Of course, we weren’t all that prescient.

“Where are you from?” Tom asked. “Who sent you? Why the–”

“Not now, Kiddo,” Animan said. “Okay, Linda, why don’t you two wait here while Copycat and I–”

“Don’t even,” she said. “You couldn’t keep me here if you wanted to. I’ve got a job to do.”

“And you couldn’t keep me here if you tried,” Tom said, tapping his forehead.

“Yeah, I guess they’re right,” Animan said. “Let me just suit up, then we’ll go.” He took out another totem and transformed again, this time becoming a small man with long, gangly limbs draped in a cape of some bizarre gossamer fabric.

“I don’t think I recognize this one,” I said. “What’s his name?”

“Silkworm,” he replied. He turned towards the kids, arms, extended, and a thick webbing of silk burst forth from his hands.  The net wrapped around the kids and they fell down to the floor, wrapped up from their shoulders to their toes, shouting.

“Hey! What are you doing?” Tom shouted.

“Sorry, kids,” Silkworm said. “This is too dangerous. If anything happened to you, we couldn’t live with ourselves.”

“We can’t just leave them here, though,” I said. “What if one of those monsters comes in here while they’re tied up?”

He looked out the front window. “Come on,” he said. We each picked up a thrashing, shouting child and carried them into the street. The roaming mobs of the dead were gone, off terrorizing someone else, I supposed. Silkworm marched to the middle of the street and opened the secret manhole cover again. “Sorry kids. You’ll thank us later. Well… no, you probably won’t.”

Then he chucked Linda down the slide to the safehouse. I sent Tom after her, and he closed the cover. Silkworm dissolved, and Animan was back.

“Ready?” he asked.

“As I’ll ever be. Let’s hope that thing hasn’t hatched.”

“Hold on, let me change.”He pulled out one last totem and transformed himself before my eyes, hunching over, getting hairy, snout elongated and teeth and claws growing. I knew this alias well – the lupine superhero called Wolph.

“Considering the circumstances,” he said, “it seemed appropriate. Let’s go.”

 

TWELVE

Back in the Crypt of Doom, the fog machine was evidently still cranking at full blast. We walked through the graveyard scene, mist clinging to the ground, swirling around our feet. It seemed rather atmospheric to me. So far, we hadn’t seen any of the expected creatures in the house. The only vampires, mummies, or zombies we’d encountered were unconscious costumers. The less we saw of Frankie Ferris, the better. Still, I knew they were close. I could still sense their powers and their curses encroaching on me, gnawing at me. Hunger, thirst, frailty, strength, hatred… other things I didn’t even know how to put into words.

As I looked down at all the people laid out by the monster, I noticed many of them twitching. They weren’t unconscious, I realized, they were asleep. And dreaming, too. And from the expressions on their faces, the dreams weren’t pleasant.

We made it past the graveyard, turning the corner into the alien encounter scene, and I realized where the Rushes were coming from. All the monsters were there, surrounding the cocoon, watching as splits continued to grow along its seams. It was almost like a religion, watching their messiah come from the womb. Halloween was the Undead Christmas.

“We’re too late,” I said as the chunks of cocoon fell away from the creature beneath. I caught a glimpse of long, hairy legs stretching their muscles, and I shuddered.

“In our line of work, lad?” Animan said in Wolph’s inexplicable British accent. “Being in the nick of time is our specialty.”

With that, he leapt headlong into the mob, cutting and slashing with his claws and teeth. The mummies and zombies didn’t seem to notice him unless he engaged them directly, but as the vampires realized there was a werewolf in their midst, they attacked as a mob.

“Go!” he shouted. “I can hold the line!”

I tried to draw on the strength of the vampire, leaping over the fighting mob. I couldn’t make it far enough, though. I came down in the middle of a pack of large, hulking things with skin like zombies and eyes like Frankie. They were clad in brown tunics with metal helmets covering their skulls, some of which were visible through hanging gaps in the flesh. I could feel their intense strength flowing into my body, but I was heavily outnumbered.

One of them swung a battleaxe down at me. I just barely managed to wriggle out of the way before it sank into the flesh of the creature behind me. As it pulled the axe out, a disgusting stench poured out, choking me, and the axe dripped with thick, black ichor.

“Holy crap, what are those things?” I said.

“They are called Draugr,” rumbled a voice. “In the land of the Vikings, they are soulless corpses that seek flesh.”

The voice was enormous, powerful. It seemed to echo in the ears and my mind at the same time. The cocoon split wide open now and the creature inside unfolded itself: a giant, quivering mass of legs and slime. Its face was inhuman, unkind, and hideous.

“Hello, Joshua,” it hissed. “Let’s see what you’re afraid of, shall we?”

The haunted house fell away and I found myself on a rooftop. In the sky above me, I saw First Light, her body sparking and convulsing in its death throes. Several of the Five-Shares surrounded me, and I was on top of just one of them, using stolen powers to shield him and part of myself. It was happening again, it was all happening again. First Light died in a blaze of light and heat, and the other Five-Shares on the roof were consumed by the flames.

“No, no, not again…” I looked down at the Five-Share underneath me. This time, though, she didn’t survive. She was broken, bloody, crushed by my weight. My failure was total.

“Not good enough, are you boy?” Lionheart was there, towering over me, his face twisted into a grimace. “You couldn’t even save one of them, I could have saved them all. You think you’re worthy to wear my emblem?”

Fear tore at me – fear and doubt and grief, tugging at me, draining at me, draining me…

I broke out of the miasma I was in, then looked up at the man in front of me. “No. Lionheart believed in me,” I said. “I fought to protect everything he stands for. I’m better than this.” I grabbed him by the tunic and screamed, “I can be better!”

I punched his face as hard as I could, and the reality of Lionheart and the rooftop shattered like glass. I was back in the haunted house, and it wasn’t Lionheart I was fighting, but a Draugr with mad eyes and a splintered jawline. I’d hit him hard enough to break the bones in his face, and he slumped to my foot. The Soul Wraith reared up like a bucking horse, crying in pain.

“How many souls do you have, child?” it shouted at me. It refocused its energy on me and I was trapped in a cascade of emotion. All around were monsters, and not just the Universal Studios variety. These were creatures – things – without shape, without sanity. Hideous abominations that I can’t even describe, and they were coming for me, clawing at me, reaching for me…

My head exploded and the monsters vanished. Tom was there, Linda next to him, and he was looking at me with concern.

“Josh? Where were you?”

“H.P. Lovecraft’s nightmares,” I moaned. “How did you get out?”

“I was still holding the knife,” Linda said. “That was a dirty trick.”

“It’s too dangerous here for you!” I shouted.

She looked around at the carnage in the room. “Yeah, like you guys are doing so good without us.”

The Soul Wraith let out a sound that was as much a roar as it was laughter. “More of you?” it said. “Delicious. Simply delicious.”

Around us, there was a rushing sound, and a whirlwind of blue mist appeared, swirling in towards the Soul Wraith. A tendril of the mist approached me and I saw a screaming face inside it.

“What is that, Josh?” Tom asked.

“It’s the souls,” I said. “All the people here, it’s eating their souls!

“Joshua…”

In the midst of the vortex, a familiar face appeared, a slender face with elf-like features and long, flowing hair.

“First Light! No!”

“What do we do?” Linda screamed.

Wolph broke through the wall of Draugr. Linda shrieked at him, but I held on to her. “It’s okay! He’s with me!”

“We’re running out of options here, Copycat,” Wolph said.

“I know, I know, just gimme… gimme…”

“Give you what?”

“Time to think!” I said. “I’ve got an idea – it’s a longshot, but…”

“But what?”

“Come on, Tom, let’s save a city.” I nodded at Animan, grabbed Tom’s arm, and thrust forward with my mind. Tom and I, together, rushed forward using his power. When we stopped, we were sitting in an unpleasant mind, staring through eyes with thousands of little facets. Through one of them, I could see Animan defending our bodies, which were standing up, frozen, in the crowd of the undead.

“What’s going on?” Tom said. “I can’t see through these eyes.”

“It’s got compound eyes, like an insect,” I said. “I guess our brains can’t process the information.”

The Wraith screamed. Where are you? Why can I hear you speak in my mind?

“Don’t talk,” I said. Then I motioned for Tom to turn around. Like in Frankie’s head, the back of the Soul Wraith’s mind was full of firing synapses loaded with memories… but he had more. So many more. The memory array was staggering, and the memories seemed to belong to thousands of different people. With each soul that the Wraith absorbed, more memories were added. I saw Annie’s soul in the mix, and Spectrum’s, and my mother’s. I saw two of Five-Share, I saw my own grandfather, I even saw members of the United Front, the first heroes of Siegel City from back in World War II. This thing was gobbling up the souls of the living and the dead.

“What do we do now?” Tom said.

I grabbed at the synapses, careful not to touch the memories themselves, and began to pull. Tom followed my lead, and soon we were tearing the thing’s mind apart. It started to shriek, and the scene outside its eyes quaked chaotically. As we kept pulling, Tom touched a memory by mistake. He shouted, and his body froze, unable to break the connection. When he cut loose a few moments later, I chanced talking to him. “Are you all right?” I asked. He moaned something, a name that meant nothing to me, then snapped back. “I’m… I’m okay.”

We turned our attention back to the havoc we were creating, and the beast kept shrieking in pain. Every glob of memories we tore free evaporated, and as it did, the soul it belonged to slingshot out of the thing’s head. We threw them out in bundles, ripping out the souls of the long-dead and the still-living alike, and then the only memories left were those of the creature itself.

They were incredible.

Most of them were just stars. Deep stars, glittering in space, more stars than we can ever see through the polluted atmosphere of the Earth. They were beautiful and terrible at the same time… memory after memory of nothing but drifting through outer space, alone.

“Jeez,” I said. This kind of loneliness, this kind of solitude… it would be enough to make anyone go mad.

It was not, however, enough to make me sympathetic. I started to tear at the creature’s own memories, even as Tom continued to jettison the new souls it was still trying to absorb. New memories kept sparking around us and we kept tearing at them, until one last memory signaled the end. It was Linda, leaping through the air, dagger extended, until she drove it into the monster’s face, right between its grotesque compound eyes.

 

THIRTEEN

Tom and I were ejected from the Soul Wraith’s mind and back into our own bodies. From there we could see the thing writhing in pain. Linda stood on its face, stabbing down again and again, even shattering its eyes. Animan rejoined us. “Are you lads all right?” he asked.

“Spot-on,” I said. “What’s happening?”

“As soon as the lass hit that blighter, the corpses around us started to disperse.” He was right – all the undead nasties we’d been chopping our way through were beginning to wander off. The swirling hurricane of ghosts was spinning in the opposite direction now, each soul being returned to where it belonged. Most importantly, the people on the ground who had slept restlessly since this whole thing started were now beginning to rouse.

“Think they’re okay back in the safehouse?” I asked.

“Yeah. I have a hunch people are waking up all over the city right now. And the lucky ones have no idea anything happened. They’ll figure they had a few too many gulps of pumpkin nog or whatever people drink.”

“Do you think it’s gone for good?”

“I hope so. Linda really did a number on it. Morrie is gonna have a hell of a time covering this one up.”

I shrugged. “Maybe not. After all-…”

Before I could complete the thought, I saw one last shimmer of light. A slender face looked out at me, smiling, then faded away.

“…it is Halloween,” I concluded.

Just then, my cell phone chirped. I reached into the special belt-pouch where I kept it and answered. Listening to the voice on the other end, I smiled. “It’s Annie,” I said. “She wants to know why she woke up underground and why there’s a pair of ripped silk sheets in the corner.”

I told her we were all right and I’d explain everything once she was topside, then turned my attention to Tom, who was sitting there with a dazed look on his face. “So, ‘Mindwalker,’ how are you holding up?”

“Okay, I guess,” he said. “When I touched that thing’s memory it… it did something. Its mind was so powerful that it kind of showed me backwards, like I was seeing my whole life in reverse. And then… other things. I don’t really remember much.”

“You said a name when you were coming out of it,” I said. “Do you know anybody named Curtis?”

He shook his head. “Nobody I can think of.”

“Hey, Linda!” Animan shouted at the girl, who was still sifting through the remains of the Soul Wraith. “Linda-girl, what are you doing?”

She smiled, then pulled something away from the creature’s body – a yellow-green oblong object about the size of a football. “Yes,” she said. “I’ve got it!”

“Is that an egg?” I said.

She looked over at us. “Thanks, guys,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

She spun on her heel and ran for the exit. I was about to go after her, but Animan caught my arm and stopped me. “No, man, let her go.”

“But we don’t even know who she is, or where she came from.”

“Yeah we do,” he said. “Girl was right. She has seen me before.”

“What are you talking about?”

He lowered his voice, and his face became very solemn. “Josh, I think it’s time someone introduced you to Evertime.”

30
Oct
08

Halloween Party: The Showcase Crew Versus Michael Myers!

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the third annual Evertime Realms Halloween Movie Marathon! As longtime readers of my assorted sites recall, back in 2006 I sat down and bravely watched all 11 Friday the 13th motion pictures. Not to be outdone, last year I rounded up as many of our little Showcase geeks as I could to tackle seven Nightmares on Elm Street. So this year, for round three, we had to go to the daddy of ‘em all, Michael Myers. In a two-day stretch (because we’re old) we’re attempting to tackle the nine Halloween films.

 

Since Mike’s parents are staying with him after their home was damaged in Hurricane Gustav, Kenny graciously offered to let us use his apartment to kick off this year. On Friday evening, he and I sat with Jason and Andrea, and Daniel and Lauren, patiently awaiting the arrival of Mike, who apparently forgot we were doing this in the vast expanse of time (the day before) since I called and reminded him we were doing this. While we’re waiting, how about a brief history lesson? John Carpenter’s 1978 flick Halloween is widely credited as being the first slasher film, with all others (the adventures of Freddy and Jason included) being derivatives of that first maniac in a whitewashed William Shatner mask. It should be interesting watching this, as I know that at least a couple of our intrepid geeks have never seen the first Halloween before, whereas Jason knows it about as well as I know the Richard Donner Superman. The differing opinions will be great, right up until Kenny grabs one of the many bladed weapons he keeps around the apartment and runs Jason through as he attempts to defend Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

 

For information’s sake, I’ll just point out that I have not seen all of the films in the franchise either. The ones I have seen include the original Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween III, Halloween H20 and the recent Rob Zombie remake. So four of these flicks will be all new to me as well.

 

Okay, Mike’s here! Let’s get this show on the road…

 

Halloween (1978) The first slasher film comes on the DVD player, with the option to play either in widescreen or fullscreen. Kenny loses geek points for even asking which one he should play. As we go through the long opening shot, Jason and Mike begin arguing over whether Rob Zombie topped this film. (Jason argues it is impossible, while Mike claims the lack of “jump in fear” moments in the original makes it inferior. I merely nod and continue typing.) The argument comes to an abrupt halt when lil’ Michael Myers walks in on his sister naked, causing Mike to cheer in joy. The carnage has begun. As the film scrolls out of the Myers house, Mike comments on how cute he is, standing here holding a bloody blade. Daniel chimes in, “it’s like a little Kenny.”

 

As Dr. Loomis (the immortal Donald Pleasance) makes his appearance, noticing the breakout at the mental institute where lil’ Mike has been for 15 years, the classic John Carpenter theme music appears.  And friends, no matter what else we say about this franchise over the course of this marathon, I want to make one thing clear: Carpenter wrote the best slasher movie score of all time. I mean… the Nightmare theme is okay, and Jason has his “ki-ki-ki… ma-ma-ma…” thing going on, but… oh, sorry. I was distracted as Kenny wondered aloud how a 22-year-old man who’s been in a mental institution for 15 years knows how to drive a car.

 

The action shifts to Jamie Lee Curtis, the young babysitter Laurie Strode, walking home from school past – as Daniel observes – a street full of Volkeswagons. She’s the virgin of the group, this inspiring horror movie tropes that would last decades. A little later, as Jamie Lee’s slutty friend brings her young charge over so that Laurie can watch both the little girl AND the little boy, Jason chimes in, “in five years, those two will have sex and get killed in a Halloween movie!” Mike looks over, incredulous. “Really?” I shrug. “Well, they’ll be eligible.”

 

As we approach the climax of the film, Mike pshaws the “lame” slash Michael makes at the terrified Laurie. I kinda think it’s intentional, though. Based on the later reveals about their relationship, I don’t think he was actually trying to kill her. As Jason points out, “he could have gorked her easily.” This begins a five-minute dissertation on the etymology of the verb “gork.” Daniel, meanwhile, tries to rat out Jamie Lee’s hiding place in the closet to Michael.

 

In the end, of course, Dr. Loomis shows up, and blows Michael away… or does he? Honestly, it’s a very good movie, but I don’t think it’s quite the masterpiece that some people (namely Jason) make it out to be. I give it a lot of credit for inventing the slasher subgenre, but there are later films, in my opinion, that did it better. I like this movie quite a bit, but I don’t think it’ll ever make it into the ranks of my all-time favorite horror flicks.

 

Halloween II (1981). Picking up literally minutes before the end of the first movie, we re-watch the final scenes we’ve already seen, with Laurie facing off against the Shape after letting the little kids flee in terror. Dr. Loomis shows up, again, to save the day, and the second movie begins in earnest. The new stuff becomes obvious when Loomis rushes outside to find a hysterical body imprint in the grass. Laurie, having been wounded in her encounter with Michael, is whisked off to the hospital by Lance Guest, who will always be The Last Starfighter to me. As she gets an injection of a sedative, Jason squeals and covers his mouth, while Daniel leaps up and shouts, “Stick it in there!”

 

As Michael makes his way to the hospital, Laurie starts to have nasty dreams about being a child, visiting someone… somewhere. Really, at this point it should have been obvious where it was going, but hey, it was 1981. We then move down to the therapy ward of the hospital, where Nurse Naughty Parts is getting ready for a soak with the Last Starfighter’s partner. Mike gets excited, while Andrea just questions what kind of hospital they’re running here. Mike’s enjoyment of the film is curtailed only seconds later by the first appearance, in this franchise, of NMA (“Nasty Man Ass”) just before the paramedic is strangled on the other side of a frosted window while the nurse gets out of the tub, not even attempting to cover up despite the fact that a film crew is right there in the room. At this point, we ask Mike if he’s satisfied. “Eh, not really,” he says. Nothing satisfies that jackass. As Michael goes on to kill the nurse by making her bob for apples in a hot tub that’s gotten waaaaay too hot, I foolishly question why his hand isn’t burning. “He’s been shot 17 times!” Daniel shouts. I concede the point.

 

Finally, inevitably, Laurie is the last person still standing in the hospital and, after 70 ponderous minutes, the Shape begins to really go after her. Laurie and the Last Starfighter end up in his car, trying to flee, when he passes out and falls on the horn. “How in the hell is he gonna pilot a Gunstar?” I asked.

 

Fleeing from her comatose protector, Laurie tries to get BACK into the hospital, with Michael hot on her heels. Loomis gets her inside just under the wire, having just realized what everyone else figured out am hour ago: Laurie is his sister. Loomis shoots Michael – a lot – but then Haddonfield’s answer to Barney Fife tells him to stop. “He’s dead!” he shouts. Loomis shouts back, “no he’s not! He’s still breathing!” I nod. “That’s the smartest thing anyone has ever said in a horror movie,” I observe. “And it’s the last time it’ll ever happen,” Daniel adds.

 

Michael continues his rampage, stabbing Loomis, prompting someone to ask if he’s dead. “No,” I said, “he comes back.” Kenny ads, “he had the scalpel set on ‘stun’.” They flood the surgical room with gas, Laurie escapes, and Loomis lights a Bic, causing an explosion of epic (not really) proportions. Michael staggers out, burning like the Human Torch, before finally collapsing. How the hell Loomis survived that one, I’ll never know. At least, not until we get around to watching Halloween 4.

 

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) Before Kenny can even get the disc with the black sheep of the Halloween franchise into the DVD player, Mike and Jason are humming the “Silver Shamrock” song. The third film, famously, is sans Michael Myers entirely. John Carpenter decided to try to escape the trap of using the same antagonist in every installment of his franchise, which in and of itself, is a decision I can get behind. But man, man, man did he fall short in the execution.

 

In this film, the Silver Shamrock corporation begins marketing the most popular Halloween masks of all time: a pumpkin, a skeleton, and a witch. Accompanying the mask is a television show with the most ubiquitous, obnoxious theme song in human history. “Eight more days ‘till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween! Eight more days ‘till Halloween! Silver Shamrock!” What exactly a Shamrock has to do with Halloween is never adequately explained. The film follows a drunken doctor summoned to treat a man who was almost killed fleeing in terror from Clay Aiken. Clutching a Silver Shamrock pumpkin mask, he pleads, “They’re going to kill us… all of us…” The token black guy in the scene immediately runs for his life, causing Daniel to proclaim him the smartest black guy in one of these movies ever.

 

A few days later, Drunk Doctor is throwing back a few in a bar when a trailer for the first Halloween movie comes on. Seems there’ll be a special screening, sponsored by Silver Shamrock. The film has officially committed the same cardinal sin as the Simon Welles version of The Time Machine – you never remind the audience that there is an earlier, better version of the movie you are watching. Drunk Doctor hunts down the daughter of the guy who died with the mask, hoping he can solve the murder. Together, they decide to investigate the Silver Shamrock factory, in the totally Irish town of Santa Mira, California, where everyone is a freaky-ass stalker-type. As they stop for directions at a local gas station, I see that unleaded is only $1.32 a gallon. Upon reflection, I decide it may be worth living on top of a portal to hell if gas was that cheap.

 

As Drunk Doctor and the Daughter continue their investigation, they start doing unspeakable things to each other in the Santa Mira hotel – things his wife at home would certainly never approve of. Meanwhile, in a nearby room, a woman who came to town to get masks for her novelty shop uncovers something terrible – a computer chip in the mask’s trademark that kills her violently via a really bad special effect. Ironically, the mutilated remains of her face are probably the best splatter effect we’ve yet seen in this series, and when insects begin crawling out of her mouth, Lauren gets all squeamish. As we begin to discuss this effect, Drunk Doctor leaps to attention, exposing us again to the horrors of NMA. We all scream and cover our eyes, except for Lauren and Andrea, who just laugh at us.

 

The dynamic duo take a tour of the Silver Shamrock factory, which Daniel and Lauren are convinced was filmed at some museum they visited in Nashville. They continue to debate it while the CEO, Bob Silver Shamrock (or whatever the hell) gives a “processed” mask to a kid on the tour. Drunk Doctor decides to sneak back in that night, only to get attacked by one of the goons that’s been gouging eyeballs out of people for the entire movie. He manages to beat him up, punching a hole into his gut and making a startling discovery: the bad guys are robots, and they apparently bleed honey mustard sauce. Captured, Bob Silver Shamrock decides to conveniently reveal his whole plan to Drunken Doctor: they bring the a kid who begged like a hobo for a mask earlier, have him put it on while he watches the godawful commercial, and we see a portal to hell open up inside the kid’s head, resulting in bugs and creepy crawlies flowing out all over his fetid corpse. Mom was right about what happens to you when you sit too close to the TV. Y’see, these old Celtic folk hate how we Americans have corrupted the ancient ritual of Samhain with our candy and kids in masks, so he decides to kill all the kids as a human sacrifice to bring back the devil or Gilligan’s Island or something. I wasn’t really paying attention any more at that point. The doc slips out of the trap by transforming from a drunken slob to MacGuyver, busts the girl out, and sabotages the operation by pressing exactly the right buttons on the evil giant UNIVAC computer. The whole town blows up behind them as they flee, but the broadcast is going to go on as planned. Oh, and the girl is a robot now. I dunno. He escapes and manages to run into one of the least satisfying endings in horror movie history.

 

This film is the “New Coke” of the franchise. It really just made people want Michael Myers even more. There’s a reason you can still buy his modified William Shatner mask at any Halloween store, but damned if you can find one of the Silver Shamrock specials.

 

At this point, as it was late and we were old, we retired for the night. We reconvened the next day at Mike’s house. At this point, it was me, Mike, Kim, Chase, and – improbably – Mike’s mom and grandmother for the next adventure…

 

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1987) Having learned their lesson from the “Season of the Witch” fiasco, producer Moustapha Akkad decided to bring back Michael Myers for the fourth round. Taking place ten years after Michael’s original rampage (which, if you’ll recall, took up both of the first two movies), we pick up the story with Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris), the daughter of the late Laurie Strode. Oh yes – they decided to kill off Jamie Lee Curtis in-between movies. (We’ll debate this more when we reach Halloween: H20). It’s been 11 months since the death of her mother, and now Uncle Mike has apparently come back to hunt her down. Evidently, he somehow survived getting burnt to a crisp at the end of part two and now he’s back as a giant super-strong psycho burn victim.

 

As lil’ Jamie gets upset because her foster sister doesn’t want to take her trick-or-treating, which (as Chase observes) is really rather shallow of her. She pouts and Loomis – now a burn victim himself – pops up to continue his Ahab-like quest for Michael. He finds a bloody ambulance upside-down in the river, which in these movies is the surest sign of a psycho killer. It’s at this point that I really start to appreciate Loomis as a character. Most of these movies always feature a string of protagonists who are totally in denial about the murderers in their midst. It’s nice to have at least one character who doesn’t have his head up his ass. He continues his search, only to find a dead guy dangling from the ceiling by chains. Mike’s mom then pops out with the best quip of the night thus far: “He’s not a very good mechanic.” Loomis finds Michael and begins to beg him to stay away from Haddonfield and leave lil’ Jamie in peace. When Michael doesn’t say anything (horrors!) he opens fire on him, missing him enough times at short enough range to qualify instantly for a job as an Imperial Storm Trooper.

 

Jamie’s foster sister takes her shopping for a Halloween costume, where she meets her pinstriped boyfriend, who drives me absolutely crazy because I know I saw him in some 80s movie and I can’t remember which one and it’s driving me batty! Jamie, meanwhile, picks up a clown costume that, coincidentally, looks just like the costume Michael wore when he killed Judith waaaaaay back in the first movie. She goes out trick-or-treating and Michael breaks in, coming across her photos of her mom. Jamie’s sister is heartbroken to see her butt-ugly boyfriend hanging out at another girl’s house (a girl who is wearing nothing but a T-shirt that says “Cops do it by the book,” which virtually guarantees she’ll be hamburger patties before the movie ends). A group of rednecks show up and start shooting and random things, and Butt-Ugly Boyfriend starts doing decadently non-PG-13 things with Whore Girl, which sends Mike into fits when he realizes that she actually keeps her boobs nominally covered. Pretty soon, everyone is dead except Jamie, her sister, Butt-Ugly Boyfriend and Loomis, and Michael has them all trapped in the house. BUB gets killed just after I hear his name is “Freddie” and vow to look him up on IMDB when I get home. Rachel, the worst sister in the world attempts to help Jamie escape, and Michael soon has them dangling over the edge of the house. Sis falls and Jamie rushes to her aid, screaming “you can’t be dead!” and thereby proving that she’s never seen one of these movies. As they finally escape by the skin of their teeth, they meet the rednecks, who show an out-of-character amount of good sense when they agree to get the hell out of town and let the National Guard take care of Michael. Michael manages to hitch a ride and pull one of the guys’ faces off, leaving the girls alone to deal with him. Michael is finally killed by getting run over by a car, sprayed with a hail of gunfire, and trapped in a mine explosion. The girls go home… just in time for what is admittedly one of the best horror movie endings ever. As Foster Mom draws up a bath for lil’ Jamie, she dons her clown mask and, in a tracking shot reminiscent of the first film, approaches mom… only to reappear seconds later, covered in blood. The evil, it seems, survived.

 

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) Two years later, it was time for round five, and I begin to weep as I realize that this film actually only marks the halfway point of our marathon. After a particularly brutal “pumpkin carving” scene, we open with a recap of Michael’s overkill death via car, gunfire, and explosive. However, this time, we see him narrowly escape the blast and get away, according to Chase, by riding a Schlitterbahn waterslide to safety. He gets away and almost kills a transient, then passes out. Flash forward to one year later, in a child’s mental clinic, where Lil’ Jamie is strapped into a machine that’s monitoring her nightmares. She flashes back to brutally murdering her foster mother and wakes up screaming, then gets cuddled by a nurse who asks to… call her mom? Huh?

                 

We see Michael wake up in the transient’s shack, where he wakes up without his mask. Chase then tells us to rewind the DVD so we can see how cute he is, and we are all far more frightened than we have been for the entire marathon to date. Jamie mimics Michael putting on his mask, helping strengthen Mike’s theory that they’re sharing some sort of mental link, then starts going through convulsions as he kills the friendly neighborhood transient. Eh. It happens. Jamie is better later, except for the fact that she’s apparently lost the ability to talk, and it soon becomes clear that Rachel has taken on a mother role for her. Chase sums up my thoughts about this perfectly: “SHE KILLED YOUR MOM, LADY!” It does seem a little bizarre… until Rachel again says, “Mom and Dad send their love.” As we debate whether the murder was a dream sequence or if mom just survived the attack or what, someone throws a rock through the window with a note that says, “The evil child must die!”  I immediately think of a few former students of mine.

 

Over the course of the next several minutes, Rachel is interrupted from a shower by Jamie having a premonition of Michael killing the dog. We then meet the worst pair of cops in Haddonfield, evidenced by the goofy music that accompanies them. Seriously, it’s like listening to a Vaudeville routine. Loomis begins shouting at Jamie to tell him what she knows and she starts to week. I shake my head. “not a child psychologist, are you Sam?” I ask. Chase pops up with, “I thought he was…” Oh. Yeah.

 

After Michael kills Rachel (Mike weeps because he never saw her boobies), her friend is picked up by a guy who I can only describe as looking like Fonzie, “if he was a douchebag.” Loomis terrifies Jamie some more, and then we see some dude with metal-tipped boots get off a bus and kick a dog. Mike’s mom chimes in with, “You no-good man! I’d kill you right now!” My only response is, “that’s going into the blog.” The next genuinely terrifying moment? When we see a convenience store that keeps its spinner rack of comic books outside. Those books weren’t made to handle the elements. Fonziedouche backs up behind the behind the store where Michael appears, doing something worse than killing him. He scratches his car. Then he stabs him in the face with a pitchfork, and we’re all happy.

 

Jamie breaks her streak of not talking just in time to save her friend Tina from Michael. As we begin a long, ponderous section featuring kittens and a jackass friend dressed as Michael pretending to kill people, we realize that Halloween 5 is, in fact, too dull to even effectively riff on. We’re all pretty relieved when the real Michael drives a pitchfork through the guy as he’s on his girlfriend. Then he comes back with a scythe to take her out. The worst cops in the world hear the bloody deaths, then they actually summon Michael to their car to chew him out. We’re pretty happy when he kills them too.

 

Michael comes after Tina with a car, but somehow, Jamie screams at him and makes him come after her instead. Mike and Chase are amazed at how his car can turn on a dime, while I am amazed that it’s apparently too slow to catch up with a 12-year-old girl in a fairy costume running over uneven terrain. They get away, Tina dying in the process, and Loomis issues his challenge to Michael: face him “back where it all began”! They’re going to the Myers house, and Loomis clearly has no qualms about using a 12-year-old girl as bait. Loomis is a jerk.

 

At this point, Kenny joins the fun, and we are temporarily distracted by the fact that he is now clean-shaven for his new job. It’s like Samson losing his hair. We barely notice the rest of the film, but that’s not really that big a loss. Jamie runs to the attic, where she finds the corpses of everyone she loves, and he hides in a coffin, which is the worst hiding place ever. Michael approaches her, but before he can turn her into kibble, she calls him “uncle” and asks him to stop and take off his mask. Which he does, prompting her to say, “You’re just like me.” I don’t quite get the connection. She’s not a nine-foot-tall psycho killer from hell. Loomis arrives (again), chains Michael up, and beats him with a two-by-four. Of course, he’s still not dead. He’s going to a “maximum security facility,” to stay there until he dies. People in this franchise are idiots. Finally, metal-toe-boot-man arrives (we’ve been watching him periodically pop up throughout the film), and begins trying to shoot Michael through the bars. Jamie wanders back into the jail, where the cell is burning… and it ends. “Thank god,” I say, before the significance of this event dawns on me. Yeah, the cell was on fire, but dammit, Michael was gone.

 

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) The film begins with Jamie, now a teenager and played by somebody else, being wheeled through a hospital and into a large satanic-looking chamber to, evidently, deliver a baby. The child is marked by the silver-toed dude from the last movie, but Jamie manages to grab the baby and flee… right to an abandoned farmhouse, where she abandons the screaming infant and is soon killed by Uncle Michael. This, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, is the cardinal sin of a horror movie: bringing back the previous film’s survivor girl just to kill her off in the opening act. I hate that. Anyway, before she dies, she whispers to him that he can’t have the baby. Then she dies a lot.

 

Back in Haddonfield, we find a man who was actually stupid enough to buy the Strode house, and as a result is being plagued by kids putting standees of Michael in the yard. Living here is a lovely non-nuclear family: Abusive Grandpa and Grandma, their teenage son Tim, their slightly older daughter Kara, and her son Danny. It gets worse when it dawns on me that this is another branch of the Strode family, Laurie’s foster-relatives. After a fight at the breakfast table, Grandpa slaps Kara, only to have Danny grab a steak knife and point it at him. This is why you never buy a house that previously belonged to a serial killer’s foster sister. Living across the street, however, is the grown-up Tommy from the first movie, now played by Paul Rudd. He’s been watching Kara undress through the window, while meanwhile obsessing over the minutia of the Michael Myers legend… he’s clipping newspaper articles, listening to radio call-in shows full of Myers conspiracy theorists, and genuinely creeping the hell out of everyone. Somehow, he finds the missing baby in the restroom of a bus station, which is by no means the most sanitary possible place. Kara and Tim find a drawing by Danny featuring his entire family being stabbed to pieces, which Tim thinks is “cool.” Tim is freakin’ strange. Tommy hunts down Dr. Loomis to ask for help, which makes me realize that Loomis apparently hadn’t begun his child-terrorizing tactics in the first movie.

 

Tommy reveals that an ancient cult used to choose one child per town to be possessed by a demon and be driven to slay his family, thereby saving the rest of the town… which is evidently what happened to Michael. Which means it didn’t work, because how many non-Myers has he killed? Case in point: in the next scene Abusive Grandpa finds Grandma’s head in the washing machine, then gets stabbed and electrocuted. Really, I’m calling this spell an absolute failure.

 

Later, at a sort of outdoor Halloween festival (this town never learns) Tommy walks around being creepy, and finds a little Halloween fairy princess dancing in a “red rain.” It’s Tim’s buddy the shock jock, dangling from a tree and bleeding on things. Tommy calls Dr. Loomis and informs him that “it’s happening.” Well duh. Tim and his girlfriend get iced, and Danny (showing the sort of foresight that people always display in these movies) runs to the Myers house. Kara goes after them and manages to knock Michael down the stairs. She immediately becomes my favorite character in the franchise since Laurie.

 

Chase and I miss out on her battle with Michael as we debate who died first in each of the Scream movies for no apparent reason. Kara and Danny run across the street to meet up with Loomis and Tommy, and EEEEEEVIL VOICES call to Danny. It’s silver toed shoe man, by the straight-laced dad from Dharma and Greg, who is Loomis’s boss. Evidently, everyone in this movie has been part of a conspiracy to get their hands on the baby. Kara leaps from a window, but gets captured, and Michael chases the whole gang to the asylum or something. Tommy busts Kara out just in time to get away from Michael, who takes a very large-caliber bullet right in the chest. Yeah, like this will work. Barely wounded, Michael goes to town in the operating room, though, resulting in a nifty little bloodbath and Mike screaming, “WHY IS THERE A STROBE LIGHT IN A HOSPITAL?”

 

Tommy tries to fake Michael out by giving him a fake baby, but the real one cries and screws the deal. Then Kara starts to beat the crap out of him with an iron pipe, further cementing her as my favorite. he still takes her down, but Danny shouts at Michael, drawing him away just in time to save her life. Loomis shows up AGAIN, does nothing AGAIN, and the others all leave him behind because he’s got “something to do.” We don’t know what, though, because that’s where the movie ends, along with a memorial to the late Donald Pleasance. Much as I goofed on Loomis, he really did add an air of class to these movies, and the next two feel his absence in a particularly painful fashion.

 

Halloween: H20 (1998) This was actually the first Halloween  movie I ever saw. Jason and I caught it when it first came out, and I hated it. I haven’t seen it since, and I’m hoping that my new familiarity with the franchise will make me enjoy it more. This film, you see, ignores every movie since the second one. It begins in Langdon, Illinois, at the home of the late Dr. Loomis. The house is open and his nurse is freaking out, so she asks the kid from 3rd Rock From the Sun to investigate. We all bemoan the fact that he’s going to play Cobra Commander in the upcoming G.I. Joe movie, and just hope he dies. Instead, he freaks out and beats up a pot rack, then takes a beer from the refrigerator. The fridge light is on, even though nothing else works. Apparently, the fridge is on a completely different circuit than everything else in the house. I’m not feeling particularly optimistic that this movie will be better than I remember. I do perk up a little when the teenage brat gets a pair of hockey skates shoved in his face a few minutes later.

 

On the plus side, Jamie Lee Curtis makes her triumphant return in this film. Evidently, Laurie Strode faked her death years ago and is now living under an assumed name with her fiancé, Alan Arkin, and her son, Josh Hartnett, and is the headmistress of a prestigious boarding school in Summer Glen, California. Of course, she’s still haunted by the memory of her big brother. As she meets her secretary, I am reminded that Janet Leigh is in this film, which is amusing on a few levels. First, she’s Jamie Lee’s real mother, and second, she was awesome in Psycho. She’s picking up some of the class slack left by Donald Pleasance’s absence. 

 

There is a moment of vindication when we see Michelle Williams’ character washing dishes. You see, for years, Chase has referred to this movie as Halloween: Water, But There’s No Water in the Movie, as if it was the full title. When I point out the water in the sink, he apologizes. A few seconds later, as she walks down a hallway full of puddles, he announces, “There’s water all over this freakin’ movie!”  I also make everyone quiet when we get to the best moment in the movie: when Janet Leigh tells Jamie Lee that she’s not trying to be “maternal,” and that “we’ve all been through things in the past.” When Jason and I saw this movie in the theater, we were the only two people who laughed at this line.

 

Chase had to step out at this point, as he was catching a plane in the morning, and by now Mom and Granny were in bed, so we were down to four riffers, and Kim was falling asleep.

 

Pretty soon, Jamie Lee is getting stalked again, but she keeps imagining she sees Michael all over, so when the real deal begins showing up, she thinks she’s just hallucinating again. The four main kids skip out on a trip to Yosemite to stay at the school and do dirty deeds, which terrifies Laurie when she realizes it. Mike comments that this episode feels too much like the Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer franchises, and I point out that it was made in that era of the Slasher. The killing finally starts when Michael takes a corkscrew to one of the kids and a carving knife to another. Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, she gets her leg caught in a falling dumbwaiter before finishing her off. I must admit, it’s one of the more creative murders in these films as of yet. The remaining kids, including Laurie’s son, flee, and brother and sister come face-to-face once again.

 

We then get a first in this franchise – Laurie’s fiancé accidentally shoots LL Cool J, thinking he’s Michael, before getting gutted himself. Laurie sends her son and his girlfriend away and she decides to face him, alone, once and for all. Kenny suggests she put on a William Shatner mask and go after him. I counter – “No, no… Leonard Nimoy.” Laurie manages to stab the hell out of Michael, and she’s about to finish him off before LL Cool J pops in and stops her because, “He’s dead!” LL is a moron. Laurie, knowing it isn’t over, wait until the cops load Michael into a coroner’s van, then steals it and drives off into the middle of nowhere for the final battle. This includes throwing him through the windshield of a moving van, running him over, plunging both him and the van off a cliff, pinning him between the van and a tree, and chopping his head off. Credit where credit is due. Laurie doesn’t do things in half-measures. “I’ll say this,” I conclude. “A bad movie, yes, but with a good ending.”

 

Halloween: Resurrection (2002) Mike says “Oh my god, this is gonna suck ass” from the beginning of the opening credits, which features Busta Rimes and Tyra Banks. I cannot disagree. The movie begins with Laurie, now in an insane asylum. She’s there for decapitating “a man.” Y’see, it seems in all the confusion after Michael was beaten in the last movie, he put his mask on some other dude and stuck him in the coroner’s van, so Laurie actually killed an innocent man while Michael roamed free. Frankly, all things considered, I think she’s remarkably well adjusted. Michael has been on the loose for three years now, and he’s somehow tracked Laurie down. After killing a couple of security guards (because that’s how he rolls), he bursts through the door to Laurie’s room and chases her to the roof, where Mike notices that the mask in this movie doesn’t look anything like the previous ones. Where the hell does Michael get these things? Anyway, Laurie manages to catch his foot in a trap and dangle him over the roof, but she reaches for his mask to be sure it’s him. He grabs her, stabbing her in the gut before he throws her off the building. This just plain pisses me off. Laurie is the ultimate Survivor Girl. Dying 15 minutes into the movie? First of all, it ain’t kosher. Second of all, with her dead, Michael has no more reason to exist. But somehow, we’ve still got at least an hour of movie to go through.

 

Flash to Haddonfield University (apparently there is one) and we meet three college students who have been picked to be on an internet reality TV show called Dangertainment. God help me.  They, and three others, are being sent to Michael Myers’ childhood home to “look for answers,” whatever the hell that means. A quick interview sequence makes me conclusively determine that five of them are pretentious idiots, leaving only our apparent new Survivor Girl, Sarah, who freaks out when a light is knocked over and whose scream apparently turns on Busta Rimes, who begins talking to himself in the third person. We all want him to die.

 

The killing starts even before the show does, though, as one of the technical producers is murdered with what must be the sharpest tripod ever made while Tyra Banks dances around and makes herself a cappuccino. The kids begin investigating the house, where they discover everything has been falling apart for years… except that a cursory investigation of the kitchen shows fresh fennel.  Apparently, when Michael came home he took the time to refill the spice rack. Meanwhile, Sarah’s dorky high school-aged internet buddy is dragged off to a party against his will, when all he really wants is to log on to a computer and watch her. He finds a kick-ass computer setup in the house where they’re staying and logs on. From there, he figures out Michael is in the house long before anyone actually in the house wises up, except for the ones he kills. We briefly have a moment of hope where we think that Busta is going to get killed as, dressed like Michael, he chews him out under the assumption that he’s the missing producer. But then Michael lets him live, disappointing us all, and goes on to kill the cute redhead, further disappointing us all.

 

The remaining kids figure out Busta’s plot and are about to leave, just before the real Michael shows up and starts cutting them up. Soon, only Sarah is left, and her only hope of survival is a primitive text message system with her geek buddy, giving her clues to keep her alive. In the end, this is a movie with stupid, shallow characters and a stupid flash-in-the-pan story. With the possible exception of three, I think this may well be the worst in the franchise. The house actually burns to the ground in this one, with Michael in it, which I guess makes it technically the end. After all, the next one is a remake…

 

Halloween (2007) Last year, Rob Zombie remade the beginnings of the franchise. Mike, Kenny and I saw the remake when it first came out, and we all liked it, so it’s nice to know we’re ending with a good movie. Zombie went back to Michael as a child, starting with him being bullied by his dad, torturing animals, and ultimately killing one of the bullies that tormented him. At this point, we’re all pretty exhausted, and the riffing has dwindled to a minimum. Still, we’re into the flick. It’s actually the Richard Donner Superman formula. The first half of the movie is all origin; he doesn’t put on the familiar costume or go to the familiar setting until the second half of the film, and from there, all hell breaks loose.  Just like that other masterpiece of cinema to use the same formula: Santa Claus: The Movie.

 

Young Michael’s first kill, like I said, is the school bully. That night, after his older sister refuses to take him trick-or-treating so she can stay home and do things to her boyfriend, he duct-tapes his stepfather to an armchair and butchers him before taking care of the happy couple. At this point, Mike scares us all by announcing that, at this point in the movie, he’s rooting for Michael. Sure, Stepdad is a drunken jerk, but man… Anyway, after the killings, we flash through his treatment by Dr. Loomis (now played well by Malcolm McDowell), into an obsession with making masks, through his murder of a nurse, and through his mother’s suicide, unable to deal with the fact that she seems to have given birth to the Antichrist. I don’t know if I can root for this Michael, but Zombie has succeeded in making me pity him.

 

Anyhoo, 15 years later it’s the same ol’ thing. Mike breaks out and stalks his way back to Haddonfield, and the new Laurie Strode. Maximum cool points go for the casting of Danielle Harris, lil’ Jamie from 4 and 5, as Laurie’s friend Annie. And may I say, she did a damn good job of growing up. Hotcha. On the other hand, out of the three main girls, only Scout Taylor-Compton (as Laurie) could possibly pass for a teenager.

 

Once the killing starts in earnest, Zombie starts recreating scenes, lines, deaths, even shots, from the first two movies, which is a lot more fun to pick out having watched the original just last night (although it seems like about ten years ago.) We begin picking out comparisons between the two: Annie lives in this one, but died in the original; the cops are competent in this one, but morons in most of the other films… the big question is as to what time period, exactly, the different segments of the film are supposed to be set in. The second half feels very contemporary, very 2007. The first segment felt very 1970s. But only 15 years had passed. That first section in no way felt like 1992. It’s kind of hard to reconcile the two halves of the film, we say. The debate continues until Danielle Harris takes her top off, at which point all conversation ceases.

 

Eventually, as must always be the case, it’s down to Michael, Laurie, and Loomis, who turns out to be a much better shot in the remake than in the old movies. Bullets still don’t really work for beans, but at least he’s a better shot. The final fight, the last 20 or so minutes of the movie, are totally brutal and unflinching. It’s harsh, it’s dirty, and it’s disturbing. Which, frankly, is what makes it work.

 

The final tally: Mike, Kenny and I all seem to agree that the Rob Zombie Halloween is the best of the bunch, although I contend that it wouldn’t be as good if you hadn’t seen the original. Season of the Witch is hands-down the worst, but if we’re only going to count Mike Myers movies, the consensus is that Resurrection sucks hardest. And thus ends the third annual Evertime Realms Halloween Marathon, guys. Hope you enjoyed the recap as much as we enjoyed doing it! And come back next year. I don’t know what the fourth franchise we’ll tackle will be (Mike is too scared of Chucky to go for Child’s Play), but we’ll come up with something. And I’m confident it’ll be a blast.

30
Oct
08

The Restless Dead of Siegel City Part Five

Copycat to the rescue? Or will he just get in over his head?

NINE

Without thinking, I jumped into the transport tube and hit the launch button. The floor lurched upwards and I shot to the surface, racing up the tube like I was in a drive-up bank window. The manhole cover slid open above my head and I flew into the air. Thanking Nightshadow for the training he’d given me, I executed a flip in midair and came down hard on the backs of two of the mummies. These undead were dried up, dessicated, and broke easily if you hit them hard enough – but each limb, each clawing hand, each chattering jaw, kept moving on its own.

“Who are you?” the girl shouted.

“Always nice to meet an admirer,” I replied, spinning around and knocking the head off another mummy with a roundhouse kick. The girl was small, and about the same age as Tom, wearing dark blue jeans and a blue hoodie. On her head was a red baseball cap, and a long, blond ponytail dangled from the back. “Are you okay?” I asked her.

“I don’t know yet,” she said. She looked at me then, and I mean looked. It was like she was peeling back layers of my soul, an invasive glare that made me shudder and want to confess all sorts of indiscretions whether I was guilty of them or not. But after a few moments, she blinked and said, “Okay, you’re all right. What do we do?”

“Oh, about the mummies?” I asked, punching another in the chest. It fell backwards, but it seemed to be a bit more ambulatory than its zombie cousins. The thing kept coming.

“Cu-ca-MONGA!” A thick pair of green feet kicked off the mummy’s head and knocked it to the ground. “I’m trying a new battle cry. What do you think?”

“Needs work,” I said.

The girl blinked again. “Is that a giant turtle?”

“Tortoise,” Animan corrected her. “Dude, what were you thinking? There’s no one up here for you to glom powers from.”

“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to spare a totem?” Animan’s only inherent power, the one I could borrow, was to activate his various identities via the animal totems. I’d done it once or twice, but he got touchy about it. He just patted the pocketless gi Tae Kwon Do Tortoise was wearing.

“Left ‘em in my other pants,” he said.

“Do either of you guys have any plans to – I dunno – get out of here?” the girl asked.

I have an idea, Josh. It was Tom again.

“Not now, Tom!” Suddenly the pain in my head got much more intense and I heard Tom’s voice boom like a cannon.

Darn it, Josh…

My head split open and Tom hurtled through the air. He kicked one mummy, then hopped out and into the head of the next. He cut through them like a domino chain, causing one mummy’s head to explode as he burst through (without healing up like the living did after Tom used his power) and knocking the blocks off the others. Within 30 seconds, the entire crown of mummies were wandering around headless, crashing into each other, into cars, into lampposts… basically, roaming with no guidance. It was how I liked them.

“Will you trust me, Josh?” Tom asked. Then, seeing the girl, he struck a pose. He was still wearing his Halloween costume. The girl looked up at me, puzzled.

“Do you guys all come with pint-sized back-up copies?” she asked.

“Hey! I’m as tall as you are,” Tom shouted.

“Look, Mini Sam and Diane, can we worry about this later?”

The kids looked at me, puzzled. “Who?” they both asked.

I rolled my eyes. “Never mind. Geez, do they teach you nothing in public schools these days? Come on.”

The four of us made for the nearest secure-looking building – a movie theater, as it turned out, showing a marathon of slasher flicks. How seasonally appropriate. The lobby was full of unconscious customers and employees. One girl was slumped over, lying in a waterfall of orange soda that just kept flowing into the cup she was still pressing into the soda fountain.

“At least no one is moving in here,” Animan said, again resuming his human shape. I looked at the girl.

“What’s your name, kid?”

“Linda,” she said. “Who are you guys?”

I was taken aback. “Really? You don’t recognize the uniform?”

“I’m from out of town.”

“Ah. I’m Jo—you can call me Copycat.”

“Animan.”

Tom struck his pose again. “I’m Mindwalker!”

“Mindwalker?” I asked.

“I’ve been thinking about this.”

“And you’re all superheroes? Like… really real superheroes?”

This was strange. Sure, most people outside of Siegel may not be accustomed to seeing superheroes on a daily basis, but she was looking at us like we’d rolled out of a cartoon or something. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Where I’m from, superheroes are usually made-up.”

Animan shrugged. “You came to the right place.”

“What’s going on?” she asked. Animan and I exchanged a look. If our theory about why we were still up and about was right, we could trust this girl. She was one of us. And what’s more, I trusted her. That was another sign in her favor. If one of the Lion’s Children saves the life of another, like we did for the girl, it forged a sort of unspoken fealty. Even if we didn’t know who she was.

“It’s a monster,” I said. “A monster that’s feeding on people’s fears.”

“Or don’t you have monsters where you come from either?” Animan asked. We were loyal to each other. That didn’t mean we couldn’t be sarcastic.

She shook her head. “No. Monsters are real enough.”

As we talked, I felt another Rush, and it wasn’t a good one. There was that rage, that raw hatred boiling in my blood again, and although I was trying to keep my wits about me, at that moment I wanted nothing more than to rip the Soul Wraith apart with my bare hands.

“Hey, did you guys notice what movies this place was showing?” Animan asked.

“A horror marathon,” I said. “Why?”

“Because this is the best-looking Frankie Ferris mannequin I’ve ever seen.” He pointed at the thing standing against the wall, eight feet tall with green, rubbery skin and heavy, rusted metal bolts in the side of its neck. The stitches lacing its flesh looked not only authentic, but very poorly applied. And the carving knife in its hand looked very, very sharp.

“Oh no,” I said, realizing the direction of the Rush I was feeling. “Animan–”

He turned to look at me. “What?”

The turning was the mistake. When he looked at us, that’s when Frankie Ferris raised his carving knife and buried it in Animan’s back.

 

TEN

Linda screamed as Animan tumbled forward. A small totem spilled out of his hand and I grabbed it. Animan’s hand reached down to his pocket, flailing, and I shouted to Tom to help him. I concentrated on the totem I’d grabbed. I felt my limbs become more flexible and agile, even as a hard outer shell wrapped itself around my torso: Tae Kwon Do Tortoise reborn.

As Tom wrapped Animan’s fingers around the totem he’d been scrabbling for, I leapt over him and kicked Frankie in the face. That anger and hate I’d been feeling was intensifying again, and it was a relief to have someone there to focus it on. Frankie slashed out at me with his carving knife, and I ducked down, kicking out at one of the poles used to set up the divider ropes in the ticket queue. The base of the pole was weighted, and I swung it around like a mace, smashing Frankie’s skull. The monster staggered, then roared, waving again. As he did so, I felt an upswing in the strange anger inside me. This one was more intense, more focused – anger at teenagers, at those little teasing cheerleaders, at those stupid jocks they dated, a desire to butcher my mother, my father, my sister, my—

I didn’t have a sister.

“Dude,” I said to Frankie, “That’s your big power? Hatred? Must suck to be you.”

He charged me again, but this time I went down, flipping him through the air. He crashed through the glass candy counter, crumpling to the floor in a big pile of broken glass and Reece’s Pieces. I was about to leap again when a voice boomed, “Allow me!”

A rain of silver stars zipped through the air, embedding in Frankie’s face, neck, and torso. I grabbed my pole again, aiming this time for the stars. I hit hard and drove them in further. Frankie shouted in pain, but I’d seen the movies. I knew it would take more than that.

“Distract him!” I yelled to the man who assaulted him with the throwing stars – a tall man in blue and purple with a starfish-shaped mask. He nodded and let loose another volley of the stars. As he enraged Frankie, I opened up with Tom’s power. In my mind, I could see through Frankie’s eyes – everything was blood-red, and the man in the star-mask looked like a demon with long tusks, razor-sharp teeth, and blood pouring from his jaws. Suddenly, I understood Frankie a little better – through his eyes, the world looked like Hell.

I tried to push out like Tom did. Sometimes the strain of having someone use your head to teleport could be too much for people – that’s what happened to the mummies outside – but Frank’s skull was too solid. I couldn’t budge him. Stymied, I turned to plan B. I’d learned, through the course of exploring, my own power, that most people with abilities never learned to use them to their full potential.  A little experimentation often revealed new uses or angles for their powers they hadn’t considered. So using Tom’s power to sit in Frankie’s head, I decided to try something new.

I turned it around.

I felt like I was in the cockpit of an airplane, looking out the windows, then I looked away at the controls. Behind Frankie’s eyes were weird organic-looking globs of nerves and synapses, crackling with electricity. Most of them featured faces, voices, images of people being ripped apart and brutally murdered. I was looking into his memory, and on the edges were more abstract images and waves of energy.

“Damn, Tom,” I said. “You’ve got no idea how interesting your power is, do you?”

I touched one of the sparkling memory clusters and got hit with a reminiscence. I was Frankie, holding a hockey stick with the blade broken off, leaving a jagged wooden edge. I was in a locker room, littered with pads, ice skates, and masks, and around the corner I could hear the unmistakable sounds of romance. A peek showed me a hockey player pressed up against a locker, wrapped in a liplock with a girl wearing part of a cheerleader uniform. They were engrossed in each other. So engrossed, in fact, that neither of them saw as I/Frankie raised the stick, aimed for her bare back…

And thrust.

I broke the connection, snapping out of Frank’s memory and into his mind. I glanced out of his eyes again, seeing him chop at the starfish-man, only to roar in frustration as each wound healed before his eyes. The starfish-wielder could hold his own a little longer.

I touched another memory. This one wasn’t much better – a girl in a shower getting her throat cut with a broken shard of mirror. Then a man in a postal uniform being impaled on a picket fence. A dog – a dog – stuffed in a pillowcase and smashed against a brick wall. This was one sick son of a bitch.

I was about to give up when I caught a glimpse of a small memory in the middle of the cluster. It was faded, yellowed around the edges. Was I looking at this thing’s first memory?

I touched it.

This memory began with a flash, like I was being struck with lightning. There was a man standing over me… thin, spindly, a wild look in his eyes. “Hello, child,” he said. “Do you know me? Do you know who I am, Franklin?”

A dead moan rumbled from my throat and the man smiled. “I am your father, Franklin. You are my son.” He laughed. “Son of a dozen maniacs. There’s a promise in that concept, don’t you think? Now rise, Franklin.”

I sat up. “And now, Franklin, listen to me. Listen… and obey.”

I broke the contact, finally having an idea. Looking around his skull, I lowered my voice. “Franklin,” I moaned. From all around, I could hear Frankie moaning.

“Franklin,” I repeated. “Listen to me and obey.”

For a moment I was as afraid he would rebel, lash out against his false father. But instead, the moan came back. Yes, Daddy.

Outside, the starfish-demon looked puzzled. “Daddy?” he asked.

I whispered instructions to Frankie and pulled out, back into the solid world. Frankie looked around, then began to walk in my direction.

“Look out, Copycat!” Tom shouted.

I shut down the tortoise-totem and stepped aside. “It’s okay,” I said. “Let him go.” He lumbered past me, out of the door, and into the streets, moaning the whole time. “I told him the real demons are outside. Let him deal with the Legion of the Damned while we figure out how to stop the Soul Wraith.”

“Soul Wraith?” Linda said. “What’s happening here?”

The starfish-man’s body shimmered and Animan took his place, hale and hearty, except for the bloody gash in his coat and shirt. The human back underneath, though, was fine. “The Starfish was wicked regenerative powers,” he said. “I always carry him around for just such an occasion.”

“No, I’m talking about the Soul Wraith,” Linda said. “Do you know where it is?”

The rest of us exchanged confused looked. “Do you know what it is?” I asked.

“It’s why I’m here,” she said. “I was sent to find it… and kill it.”

To be continued…

29
Oct
08

Everything But Imaginary #284: One Last Ghoulish Gasp

One last Wednesday before Halloween friends, and this week I talk about a couple of creepy comics that have just recently come to my attention. Take a look!

Everything But Imaginary #284: One Last Ghoulish Gasp
Inside this column:

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to update you guys on the reviews I’ve been writing over at Comixtreme.com. Partly because, what with the play and all, my review output has been slowed down considerably. Still, there have been several reviews up there, so here’s the ones I’ve done since last we updated. Oh — and comics with Halloween or creepy content will be in orange, just for you. Because I care.

29
Oct
08

The Restless Dead of Siegel City Part Four

Things are heating up for our heroes, so let’s jump right in!

SEVEN

We rushed through the fake graveyard at full tilt then. I wanted to put as much space between myself and the zombie as possible. The further we went, though, I began to feel even more conflicting Rushes. That vampire thirst came over me again, joining the zombie hunger. My arms and legs began to feel brittle, but the muscles were strong. And there was a rage, a sort of red hatred in my gut that was trying to claw its way into my skull.

“What’s happening?” I hissed.

“Forget that,” Spectrum said. “What the hell is that?” He pointed up ahead and, past the graveyard, we saw an enormous metal structure that could only have been a spaceship. Beneath it, bathed in ugly white lights, was a huge green-and-brown object covered in slimy webbing. It was almost cylindrical, nearly 20 feet long… and it was pulsating.

“Is that a cocoon?” Animan asked.

“A cocoon about to burst,” Mental Maid said. “And when it does, the Soul Wraith will be at the height of its power.”

“Well then, let’s make sure that doesn’t happen,” Annie said. She stepped up to the thing and drew a hand back, ready to punch. Animan grabbed her arm.

“Wait. This thing is strained as it is. If you hit it, you may just rip it open prematurely.”

“What do we do, then?” she asked.

“Uh… guys?” I said. “I know this is hard to believe, but I think that just became our secondary concern.”

“What could be more important?” Animan asked.

“Those.” I pointed back out to the graveyard, where a mob of slow, shuffling zombies was approaching us, moaning and salivating. “Quick safety tip: don’t get bitten.”

Animan smiled and pulled out a totem. “I’ve been wanting to try this one out,” he said. He concentrated on the little carving in his hand and his flesh turned green. A thick shell appeared over his torso, and it soon became evident he was transforming into a giant reptile wearing a martial artists’ gi. “I’m thinking of calling this one Tae Kwon Do Tortoise.” He stepped between Annie and myself and we waded into the mob, punching, kicking, and generally avoiding zombified teeth. Mental Main and Spectrum, whose powers were less physical in nature, continued their examination of the cocoon.

I dodged a pair of chomping teeth, driving a blow into the creature’s face. It fell backwards into a chain of more zombies, causing them to fall like dominos. As they climbed over each other, trying to stand, Tae Kwon Do Tortoise executed a deft maneuver in which he spun on his shell, sweeping the legs of the nearby zombies and knocking them down as well.

“Dude, this is almost fun!” Animan said. Annie, who had just thrown a zombie out of the alien encounter and into a tombstone, didn’ seem to agree.

“J-josh?” she said. She ran up to me, grabbing my arm. “Josh, what’s going on?”

“Annie?”

“Josh, I’m so scared!” she screamed.

What?” In the time I’d known Annie, she had always proven herself to be anything but a scaredy-cat. I grabbed her hand, fighting a feeling of hatred bubbling up in my gut. “Annie, it’s not you! It’s the Wraith!”

She just started screaming then, howling like a horror movie vixen, and from behind us Spectrum and Mental Maid joined her. Animan looked around in astonishment. “What’s happening to them?”

“The Wraith! The Wraith is going to ha–”

There was a horrible tearing sound and the cocoon shuddered. A seam appeared across the side of it and, at the same time, the hologram of “normal” Josh covering my uniform flickered off like the lights dying in a thunderstorm. Spectrum fell to the ground, unconscious, and we were all revealed in costume. Mental Maid fell with him, and Annie collapsed in my arms. Animan and I stared at each other, not comprehending any of this.

Fortunately, even with her unconscious, I could still access Annie’s powers. I hoisted her up over my shoulder, then grabbed Mental Maid and tossed her over the other. “We’ve got to get them out of here.”

The huge reptile nodded and picked up Spectrum in his arms. Then – thank God for fire codes – we belted past the chomping zombies towards the nearest EXIT sign. Hurtling the undead, Tae Kwon Do Tortoise kicked open the door, triggering an alarm, and we burst out into the streets.

This was not of any comfort to us.

The streets were still full of costumed revelers, adults and children, partiers and trick-or-treaters alike, but now each and every one of them lay on the ground, unconscious. Cars were smashed into each other, the drivers knocked out behind the wheel. A police horse wandered aimlessly, its rider slumped forward in the saddle. The only people moving were a mob dressed like vampires, zombies, and mummies.

No, not just “dressed like,” not if the wave of power I was feeling was any indication. These monsters were real.

And they were coming straight for us.

 

EIGHT

Animan began to mutter curse words in more languages than I’d realized he knew. We looked around for an escape route, a shared panic washing over our faces. Our backs were to the haunted house, and with it, the Soul Wraith. There were mobs of the undead slowly marching upon us from all sides. And, just to give us a bit of a capper, there was nobody nearby with flight powers for me to borrow.

“What do we do? What do we do?” Tae Kwon Do Tortoise shouted.

“Hope we don’t taste good without lemon sauce!” I yelled back. In front of us, the ghouls were slowly advancing. Many of the vampires, easily the most expressive of the lot, were smiling.

“And here we thought everyone was supposed to be unconscious,” one of them said. “What a nice little Trick-or-Treat.”

Josh?

There was a voice in my head and, for an instant, I thought it was First Light again. The second time it called my name, though, I realized just who it was.

“Tom, not now!” Annie’s younger brother, as we had learned, had a few tricks of his own. He could “climb” into a person’s mind and see what they saw, hear what they heard. He could also teleport to the side of whoever’s mind he was reading, but that last the last thing I wanted, and not just because the process involved a rather painful headache on the part of the second person.

Josh, something is wrong! Everybody is knocked out! Mom, Quentin… everybody!

“Crap… Tom, listen, I want you to–”

Whoa! he exclaimed, looking through my eyes. Are those vampires?

“Yes! And that’s why we need you to stay put!”

“Or bring reinforcements!” Animan said. He couldn’t hear Tom’s half of the conversation, but he didn’t need to.

Josh, let me through! I can help! I could feel a pressure in my head, then, the telltale sign that Tom was trying to burst through. I screamed again for him to stay where he was. Trying to remember what First Light had done in the wax museum, I aimed a hand at the encroaching mob. I tapped into Spectrum’s powers and sprayed a widespread flash of light. The vampires all shouted and covered their faces, but the mummies and zombies didn’t react at all. It would have to be enough.

“Come on!” I charged the stunned vampires and rushed past them, still carrying the two women on my back. Animan leapt after me and, together, we made it through the mob and into the street.

“This way!” he shouted. He ran out into the middle of Gaines Avenue and tapped a manhole cover with his fat, green foot. He hammered out a peculiar rhythm and bits of the cover began to light up. It opened up, retracting into the concrete all around, revealing the top of a slide.

“Emergency hatch,” he said. “They’re all over the city. I’ll go first to catch them, you slide ‘em down and come after me.”

“Right!” I watched him leap into the hole and then slid Spectrum, Annie, and Mental Maid down after him. I was about to jump in myself when I heard someone shout, “There he is!”

The vampires, all looking like they just spent six hours on a tanning bed, rushed at me. I grinned. “Later boys,” I said, rolling over and into the slide. As I zipped down beneath the surface of the city streets, I heard the manhole cover seal itself above me.

I landed at the bottom of the slide on a nice, soft mat. Animan, still in his tortoise guise, was carrying Mental Maid to a bench against the wall. Spectrum and Annie were already there, slumped over. I’d heard of these emergency safehouses before, but this was the first time I’d ever been in one. It was a small room, little more than a concrete box, lit by a track of fluorescent lights. In one wall there was the chute for the slide next to a tube to launch yourself back up to the surface. Two walls had benches, and on the fourth was an emergency medical kit and communication console, including three monitors showing security camera footage of the surface.

“We’ll be okay down here until someone comes for us,” he said. He concentrated on his totem and shifted back to his real form, then punched a button on the console labeled “all call.”

“Animan here, come back. Animan at the Gaines Avenue station with four others. Situation serious. Come back.”

We waited for several seconds in silence. “They aren’t answering.”

“You noticed that too? What’s going on here? And why didn’t it affect the two of us?”

“Three,” I said. “Tom says everyone else is out at home too, but he’s okay.”

“Well then, what is it? What’s different about us three?”

I thought about it for all of a second. The answer came to me quickly, probably because I never stopped thinking about it. “We’re Lionhearted,” I said. “The three of us.”

The thing we called the Heart of the Lion was a mystery, even to those of us who possessed it. It was some sort of spiritual connection. Some of us were just born with this hyperactive sense of justice. Those same people always seemed to get drawn to danger. We called ourselves the Children of the Lion, for lack of a better term, and all of the people in Siegel City that night, I only knew of three with the Lion’s heart – Tom, Animan, and myself.

“Why would that protect us?” Animan said. “It doesn’t really make anything else about us different.”

“Who knows?” I said. “But I can’t think of any other reason the three of us would be the last living people in the city who aren’t in slumberland.”

I need to learn to stop making statements like that one, because as soon as I did, the little safehouse was filled with a terrified scream. We looked up at the monitor, where we saw a girl – a living girl – in the middle of a crowd of mummies. And she was fighting them hard, fighting bravely. But that didn’t change the fact that she was going to lose.

To be continued…

28
Oct
08

Halloween Party: Disney’s Halloween Treat

Some time ago, I reviewed the direct-to-DVD movie Mickey’s House of Villains here in the Halloween Party, and while I liked it well enough, it did leave me kind of missing the far superior Disney Channel special of my youth, Disney’s Halloween Treat (or, to the layman, simply A Disney Halloween). It’s been years since they showed it and I’ve missed it quite a bit. Well, miraculously, someone managed to provide me with a digital rip of the show from an old VHS tape. Don’t ask me how I got it – I had to do some things I’m not proud of and I’ll never be able to look at string cheese the same way – but now that it’s in my possession, I knew I had to review it for you guys.

There have been several cuts of this special over the years at several lengths, the best being a 90-minute version that actually combined the original Halloween Treat with an older special, Disney’s Greatest Villains. When I started watching, I realized this was the network TV edit from the old Magical World of Disney TV series hosted by Michael Eisner. After a brief segment with Eisner and the crew getting ready for Halloween, we got into the real show. The version I remembered, see, was hosted by the Magic Mirror from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but this had a generic, faceless narrator. Curses. On the plus side, we still get the awesome opening song played over the old Silly Symphonies short, Skeleton Dance.

The special is essentially a clip show featuring segments from Disney cartoons and movies, and it gets right into it with the classic Night on Bald Mountain sequence from Fantasia. Considering how utterly sanitized Disney as a company has become, it’s hard to imagine a sequence about a giant demon summoning the spirits of the dead making it to the screen now. This, incidentally, is what makes it awesome.

Next is the “Wizard’s Duel” sequence from one of my favorite Disney flicks, The Sword in the Stone. The Halloween connection here is kind of strained – really, the only tenuous thread is the great witch character, Mad Madame Mim. It’s still fun to watch, though, as it’s been quite some time since I saw the movie (despite the fact that I bought the movie when the most recent special edition came out on DVD). This leads into one of Disney’s all-time greatest short cartoons, The Old Mill. This wordless film begins with a nice, serene look at a run-down windmill and all the animals that live there. When night comes, though, a storm rolls in and the mill is turned into a house of horrors. Purely from an artistic standpoint, this is one of the first pieces of animation that really elevated the art form – it’s amazing, and from what I understand, it created many of the techniques Disney would use in their first feature, Snow White.

There are two lighter shorts next – a very brief segment from a cartoon in which Mickey looks for a burglar in his house, and a much longer excerpt (almost the whole cartoon) from Donald Duck and the Gorilla. As the cartoon irises out over Don and the gorilla crying over a mound of onions, the narrator begins talking about the stuff of nightmares. By the time I realize he’s segueing into the “Heffalumps and Woozles” sequence from The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, I realize he’s a much creepier host than I gave him credit for.

Next is Pluto’s Judgment Day: a kind of bland sequence about Pluto facing down Figaro the cat over some milk leads into a much better dream sequence in which Pluto imagines actually dying, then being judged by a demonic cat courtroom in the bowels of Hell! Let me stress that again: Mickey Mouse’s dog went to Hell!

Between the near-damnation of Pluto and the next cartoon, is now becoming clear to me why this special has been pulled from circulation. These days, Disney doesn’t want anything so intense to have Walt’s name on it, despite the fact that it’s awesome. This next cartoon is the only one I don’t remember from my youth (a quick search of Wikipedia explains it’s “The Truth About Cats” from an episode of the old Disney’s Wonderful World of Color TV series). It’s a great sequence about the history of cats, how they were believed to be familiars for witches, and the history of the Salem Witch Trials. Check it out: actual educational content. Plus, it’s just a great piece of animation. I wish I could watch the whole thing.

Next is the only segment in the special I don’t really care for: the “We Are Siamese” number from Lady and the Tramp. I don’t really have a reason why, I’ve just never liked that number. Does this make me a terrible person? Probably. I’m mentally checking out of the film when, all of a sudden…

…yes! He’s there! The magic mirror lives! I realize now he only hosted the part of this special cobbled together from the villain show, as he begins by shining the spotlight on Captain Hook and his epic battles with his two greatest foes: Peter Pan and Tick-Tock, the crocodile who ate Hook’s hand and, ever since, has wanted another taste. I’ve always loved this bit and always will.

(It’s also worth noting, here that both the mirror and Hook were voiced by the inimitable Hans Conreid. Nice little self-promotion there.)

Up next is a scene from one of the few Disney classics I’ve never seen in its entirety, The Aristocats. I really do need to watch this movie sooner or later, because the context of this segment is lost on me. I’m happy when Mickey Mouse takes center stage in our next cartoon, a long segment from Mickey and the Beanstalk. The Mirror actually makes a pretty compelling argument here. First of all, the hero in this story is interchangeable. Jack is replaced by Mickey, Donald, and Goofy without harming the story at all, but just try telling this story with no giant! What’s more the giant is kind of a victim here. He’s sitting in his castle, minding his own business, and these other three clowns burst in and start stealing his gold and eating his good. What’s up with that?

After the “Trust in Me” number from The Jungle Book, we go into Disney’s first true masterpiece: the transformation of the wicked queen from Snow White. This scene is really a testament to Disney’s early animators. It was the first ever full-length animated feature, and the animation holds up today even better than most contemporary stuff.

The next scene, from Sleeping Beauty, features Prince Phillip’s battle with Malificent – the only really memorable character from the film. The transformation scene, right up until her death, is great.

The Magic Mirror’s segment ends with a sort of montage of villainy, starring the evil stepmother from Cinderella, Cruella DeVil from 101 Dalmatians, the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland and Madame Medusa from The Rescuers. A hail of gunfire causes the mirror to flake out and run away, greatly diminishing his cool factor.

It’s just as well, though, as there’s only enough time left for two of the all-time great Disney Halloween bits. Lonesome Ghosts features Mickey, Donald, and Goofy opening a sort of Supernatural Investigation service. Or, as I like to put it, they’re the original Ghostbusters. A quartet of bored spooks call them in to clean out the very house they’re haunting, and chaos ensues.

Last, but most certainly not least, is the classic Trick or Treat. When Donald lays a trick on his nephews instead of a treat, they recruit a real live witch to help them serve up a little Halloween justice. Besides just being a really funny cartoon, there are two things that make this a classic. First up is Witch Hazel, voiced by the legendary June Foray. Foray is famous for dozens of classic cartoon characters – Rocky and Natasha from the old Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, Smurfette from the Smurfs, and from the Looney Tunes stable, Granny (Tweety and Sylvester’s owner) and their own version of Witch Hazel… plus others too numerous to count. She is perhaps second only to Mel Blanc on the list of all-time great cartoon voice artists.

The second thing that makes this cartoon a favorite of mine is the wonderful “Trick or Treat” song, which has become a Disney staple:

When ghosts and goblins by the score
Ring the bell on your front door
You better not be stingy or
Your nightmares will come true!

What grace! What poetry! This is a song that doesn’t even try to rhyme the fourth line, and why should it? What does it have to prove?

Watching this special brought back some great memories for me, and I know I’m not alone in wishing Disney would remaster it and give it an official DVD release. Or at least start showing it on the Disney Channel again. I mean, how many times a year can they rerun Halloweentown anyway?




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