Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988) review

Halloween 4 posterDirector: Dwight H Little

Starring: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Lloyd, Ellie Cornell, George P Wilbur

“We’re not talking about any ordinary prisoner, Hoffman. We are talking about evil on two legs.” (Dr Sam Loomis, Halloween 4)

While Halloween III: Season Of The Witch wasn’t a bad movie by any means (in fact, judging by the films to follow it was one of the better entries in the series), many moviegoers were enraged when they found that the film they’d gone to see didn’t continue the story of evil stalker Michael Myers and was instead a completely different tale about a nutjob plotting to kill children with cursed Halloween masks powered by Stonehenge. A brilliant (if fucking insane) idea, sure, but you can understand people’s annoyance at paying for a Halloween film and not getting to see Michael Myers.

Halloween 4
“Oh, hello there. Um, this is awkward. You weren’t supposed to know I was here. Boy, is my face white.”

As explained in the Halloween III review, this was mainly down to John Carpenter’s wish to make the Halloween movies a collection of unrelated stories all based on Halloween. The first two films would be the Michael Myers story, the third would be the one about the cursed masks, the fourth would be something completely different again. When the fans turned on this idea and the studio told Carpenter they wanted a standard slasher with Michael Myers in it he decided “fuck you then” and ditched the series altogether.

Determined to to make some serious greenbacks with a Myers return, producer Moustapha Akkad decided to start work on Halloween 4, being sure to include “The Return Of Michael Myers” as part of its title to ensure people who’d abandoned the series knew they were getting him this time. In a rush to beat the writer’s strike of the late ’80s, the entire film was written in 11 days. The result is a movie that, while not great, did a decent job of bringing back “The Shape”. Continue reading “Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988) review”

Slaughter High (1986)

Directors: George Dugdale, Mark Ezra

Starring: Caroline Munro, Simon Scuddamore

“They say he still roams the nuthouse, ever hopeful of a chance to escape, so he can take his evil revenge out on us all.”  (Skip, Slaughter High)

After Friday The 13th made the cheap slasher movie popular, a slew of imitators were quickly churned out over the following years. One notable example was Slaughter High, which was originally called April Fool’s Day but had a quick last-minute title change after it was noticed that Paramount had its own film called April Fool’s Day set for release that year. The moniker modification came so late, in fact, that the film’s title card still says “April Fool’s Day” with a hastily added “AKA Slaughter High” superimposed on the bottom! Turns out Slaughter High was a much better title anyway, because not only is it actually set in an abandoned high school, you can also do some tinkering with your video box and change the title to the far more appropriate Laughter High fairly easily.

Jamie Oliver's cookery class for forgetful people didn't go too smoothly

Slaughter High begins with a flashback in which the implausibly nerdy Marty (Simon Scuddamore) is coaxed into the girls’ locker room by the school hottie, Carol (Caroline Munro), for some apparent sexy times. What he doesn’t realise is that it’s April Fool’s Day and Carol and her friends are actually playing an elaborate practical joke on him. After an extremely embarrassing incident involving a surprising degree of male nudity and inappropriate touching, Marty flees to the emotional security of his beloved chemistry lab to continue his school project. Unfortunately, there he becomes the victim of another, harsher practical joke, one which sets the lab on fire and leaves Marty hideously scarred for life.  Continue reading “Slaughter High (1986)”

Gremlins (1984)

Director: Joe Dante

Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, Corey Feldman

“I warned you. With mogwai comes much responsibility. But you didn’t listen.” (Old man, Gremlins)

When it comes to Christmas presents, some people like to keep it simple. A few DVDs, a book or two, maybe some flowers or the ever-reliable box of Quality Street. Not so with Randall Peltzer’s dad. A dodgy inventor by trade, Randall decides that this Christmas he’s going to surprise his son Billy with something he’s never seen before in his life. While on a trip through Chinatown selling his wares, he comes across just the thing – a mogwai.

After naming it Gizmo, Randall gives Billy the mogwai while also passing along three very important instructions given to him by the shop owner – keep it away from bright lights, don’t get it wet and, above all else, don’t feed it after midnight. It’s like taking care of a fat goth, basically. Anyway, guess what happens next?

"I thought you said you were going to install seat belts in this bastard"

That’s right. After getting Gizmo wet and discovering it makes him multiply and spawn loads more mogwai, Billy’s clock dies and he accidentally feeds these new mogwai after midnight, causing them to turn into evil monsters called Gremlins.

At the time, Gremlins was a revelation. The creature effects were incredible, its sense of humour was the exception rather than the rule and it gained a large following, and for good reason. These days, sacrilegious though it may be to say it, Gremlins suffers from the same problem as Child’s Play in that it spends too long revealing what we already know. Whereas the sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, kicks off the action fairly early into the film, the original spends a lot of time faffing around with the rules, letting us get to know Gizmo and only revealing the monsters at the end of the second act.

Chainsaw versus baseball bat. Hmm

What’s more, moments that would have been hilarious at the time are merely smile-inducing these days, with the exception of the fun bar scene in which the Gremlins smoke a lot of cigarettes and generally take over the place.

If you’ve never seen it and have somehow managed to avoid the whole integration of its ‘three rules’ in popular culture then Gremlins is worth a watch because it’s still a fun movie, albeit one whose structure has been mimicked and refined many times by other films over the years. Otherwise, if you already know the deal with the Gremlins and you don’t want to spend the first 50 minutes waiting for the other characters to catch up with you, it might be worth skipping straight to the sequel first.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

Director: Jalmari Helander

Starring: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila, Tommi Korpela, Rauno Juvonen

“The real Santa was totally different. The Coca-Cola Santa was just a hoax.” (Pietari, Rare Exports)

In some Scandinavian cultures, Santa Claus wasn’t always the cheery chappy he’s known as these days. Back in the bad old days, he was known as Joulupukki (the Yule Goat) andaccording to some versions of the legend he would torture and kill any little children who were naughty. Why give you this rather grim history lesson? Because this evil Scandinavian Santa is the subject of Rare Exports, a Finnish horror film with a dark sense of humour.

He sees you when you're sleeping, he... actually, that's a bit creepy

The film starts a month before Christmas, with a group of excavators about to create a huge hole in a Finnish mountain in order to find some top-secret cargo frozen in its depths. Unbeknown to the excavators, young Pietari and his friend are spying on them to see what’s going on. Realising the workers are about to use dynamite, Pietari and chum leg it and return home, escaping through the hole they cut in the fence to reach the off-limits excavation site.

It was the biggest fox they had ever seen on any hunting trip

Fast-forward to the day before Christmas and Pietari’s dad discovers that all their reindeer have been slaughtered, losing them thousands of pounds. Noticing the hole in the fence, Pietari’s dad thinks the excavators have done it so he goes to the dig site to confront them but instead finds an old man frozen. After Pietari’s dad takes him back to his workshop the old man comes back to life and starts going mad, attacking everyone. Could this be the evil Santa, back to life and ready to kill any bad children he finds? Pietari certainly thinks so, but all is not as it seems…

Rare Exports is a very pretty film. The scenery is impressive, and the scenes in which snow is constantly falling snow are hypnotic at times. This is one well-shot film. It gets even better during the final half-hour, where the true Santa is revealed and the surprisingly decent CGI kicks in.

"You've got to get me out of here. I wrote that naughty list for innocent reasons"

The main letdown in the film is the finale. After building up to a potential encounter with a huge, dormant beast, the way in which it’s dealt with is too convenient and seems like it was done that way to avoid more difficult CGI work. As a result the big moment the whole film seems like it’s building up to never really happens. Add to that a silly final scene and you’ve got a generally disappointing conclusion.

That aside, Rare Exports is a great little film. While it never really gets as tense or scary as it threatens to, it still tells a fun and slightly silly story that makes it worth a watch over the festive period.

Rare Exports is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on 7 November so you can pre-order the DVD for £9.99 by clicking here or pre-order the Blu-ray for… um, £9.99 for some reason, by clicking here.