5 May 2003 | Carlo Houtkamp
If This Is Merely Entertainment (Then Make It So!)
"They don't make 'em like that anymore," friends of the horror genre often remark on their web sites in reference to killer films from the late 1970s and 1980s era. They are right.
It's not just that sentiments of nostalgia have turned those films into little treasures in our memories. It's because current horror films stink. Not all of them, but plenty or more anyway.
Ever since Dwight H. Little last captured the right Halloween spirit and atmosphere in 1988's Halloween 4, the series deteriorated into a ridiculous, messy and pathetic show. I don't care how many fans of the series curse part 3, it was a pleasant watch compared to what came after part 4. Halloween 5 was a complete prank and lacked any sense of storytelling (compliments to Danielle Harris, who managed to perform extremely well under the circumstances). Part 6, well, let's not waste any words on that one. H20 had its moments and decent acting by Jamie Lee Curtis, but a Southern California private school seemed like a poor replacement for Haddonfield. The producers dedicated it to Donald Pleasance, ignoring the fact that his last name was Pleasence (with an E) and had been spelled correctly on all earlier installments that involved his acting. So much for Moustapha Akkad's commitment to the project!
Halloween Resurrection had a nice opening scene. A 1960s home movie at the Myers house, with the sounds of Johnny Angel performed by Shelley Fabares. It was cut. Of course, the Akkads in their infinite wisdom must have thought, why bother young people with an old song from someone they have never even heard of! Let's keep the film simple (and let's take a popular hip hop artist as the lead actor).
But, thank God, Rick Rosenthal filmed one other decent scene. It involves Jamie Lee Curtis's character hospitalized in a mental institution. This actually is quite a nice scene, with the actress performing wonderfully. It provides a satisfactory and surprisingly original bridge between the events at the end of H20 and the current state of affairs in "Resurrection", with Laurie Strode at the end of her wits and a killer still on the loose.
And after this? We might as well have left. After the promising Jamie Lee Curtis opening scene there seemed no budget, and more important: no inspiration left to come up with something, anything. It's a bore. It's a drag. The prospect of a replica of the original Myers house showing up is a joke. We're allowed one glimpse, and even on that one occasion it is very unsatisfactory: a big car is parked in front and taking the view, as the camera briefly glances up from a low, moving position. It beats me why they even bothered rebuilding it. The interior scenes can be ignored in this sense: it may have been any old house that Busta Rhymes's character Freddie Harris decided to do his online reality show in. And about these characters: have they ever been this flat in ANY Halloween sequel? NO! The characters in Halloween 5 or 6 were drawn brilliantly compared to what is presented to us here! Okay I realize this is actually pretty much of an achievement. Credit to Larry Brand and Sean Hood. It's amazing. The unimpressive cast (I'm not counting Curtis) is highlighted by 'stars' Busta Rhymes (pop artist who is kindly given the chance to act) and Tyra Banks (model who is kindly given the chance to act). Let's suffice by saying that in this case the actors have been given the roles they deserve.
Enough said. Or... We often are told one should not apply the same criteria to a horror film as the ones that apply to drama or classics. But why on earth not? I admire more than one horror movie, but that does not mean I feel I should appreciate the crappy ones by the grace of the good ones. I can see when a film is made with no heart, no spirit and Resurrection is the key example of that. Furthermore, if these films -as we are told so often by people like Moustapha Akkad- are made for entertainment (read: cashing in) purposes only and not for quality acting, complex storytelling or great photography then why, why, why do they so vigorously renounce that one basic goal, the goal of being entertaining???