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IMDb/Halloween

Halloween (1978)
Directed by John Carpenter  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Halloween DVD
 

Summary: The classic in horror

Simplicity, simplicity - that's both the essence and brillancy of 'Halloween'. John Carpenter created a nightmare which has spawned six sequels so far, while it easily succeeds these sequels in every possible aspect. None of the subsequent movies could come near to that, but I didn't expect that either. Simplicity excludes repetition, excludes resumption. Simplicity also is the essence of horror - horror is supposed to frighten, to excite, to move, to appeal to our innermost fears. With that, it has to be able to confront us each time it is enacted in a different way to really being able to frighten us. Once the scheme is known, the thrill is gone - horror becomes slasher. Halloween, though, still is horror - paralleled in its simplicity only by movies like Hitchcock's 'Psycho'.

Both Hitchcock and Carpenter never used one scheme twice - John Carpenter directed just this one movie of the Halloween series. He also contributed to subsequent parts, but not as a director. Equally, David Lynch never does the same, sole exception being Twin Peaks which, in contrast, is per definition designed to be a series. Horror is fear, fear is incited by the strange, by the unknown. What is known to us cannot frighten us, unless new, previously unknown aspects within should manifest themselves.

The essence of this fear created by 'Halloween' virtually manifests itself in the character of Michael Myers - plain evil, incarnated into human form, strange, mysterious, unlike anything else we might know. Michael Myers has no face, he wears a white Halloween mask, he has no fixed actor throughout the series, also his mask changes. In the first movie, his mask was the make-up mask used by William Shatner (as I read once in a magazine, but I cannot confirm the source; however, it surely looks like it could be true), but even the mask changes a bit throughout the films. His mission is to kill his sister, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), he himself being hunted by desperate Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance). Everything standing in Michael's way has to perish.

Loomis is the only one that really understands the essence of Michael's character, and he is on a desperate mission, on a desperate cause: No one will believe him unless the first victims appear. So Michael has virtually haunted his life, Loomis has become his primary victim. Loomis is obsessed with Michael, he is his antagonist - he is the one who stands between darkness and light. Apart from part three, Donald Pleasance portrays this character in all 'Halloween' movies except also the seventh, as he died before that. Apart from Michael, he's the only fixed cast member. Laurie Strode, unforgettable through Jamie Lee Curtis' portrayal, only appears in parts one, two and seven, and she is besides Loomis the second most important person to resist Michael. It is a nice piece of girl power to see her, though screaming and crying, defeat herself successfully against Michael.

A very important element of horror is atmosphere - something such films cannot live without. John Carpenter's musical theme for the film, for the series, is gripping and an instant classic, it has almost magical quality - and its basic element is, again, simplicity. The dark score, the dark setting, the despair, the Halloween time-frame, the small-town atmosphere, all of that contributes to this classic. The sequels adapted parts of that, never reaching the greatness of its origin, but still they all belong together, they all are based on a similar theme. Some things they did wrong, some things they did great, and it is not at all a lost cause to see them and compare them with their predecessor. They all work fine as stand-alone movies, however. And isn't it a complicated job to reach the potential of such a movie as 'Halloween'?

PJK
August 8th/9th, 1999







IMDb/Halloween II

Halloween II (1981)
Directed by Rick Rosenthal  ·  Rating: 6 of 10
6 of 10

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Halloween II DVD
 

Summary: Somewhat superfluous

'Halloween II' has to be called the only official sequel, and it is much more than that - it is a continuation of the storyline, exactly following the end of part one, leading to the hospital where Laurie has been taken to. But although all major characters are still aboard, although the storyline continues unhindered, the film is rather paying hommage to mediocrity than to its concept. Horror has become slasher.

It might be a tribute to simplicity to let this part to a large extent happen in a hospital, but this approach fails. There is no real suspense, Michael Myers has become a mere shadow of his previous self, he is not anymore the boogeyman, he's just Michael. Donald Pleasance, however, delivers a great performance, and we get a bit of a feeling of what this movie could have been like if Carpenter had directed it himself.

PJK
August 9th, 1999







IMDb/Halloween III

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace  ·  Rating: 6 of 10
6 of 10

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Halloween III DVD
 

Summary: Halloween conspiracy

To get to the obvious parts first: Where is Michael Myers? Where is the Halloween Theme? Where is Haddonfield? Where is Loomis? Where is Laurie Strode? - In fact, Michael can be seen in this film, in a brief moment when 'Halloween' is playing on a tv in the background, sort of a reminder, a joke - the producers telling us we're still watching the right show.

Apart from that, I mean, if you can get over with the fact that this sequel ignores the two previous movies completely in almost every aspect, it still is a good horror movie, and I would've rated it even higher than 'Halloween II' were it not for moments of cheesiness. You might now call me insane, very well. But I really somewhat liked it. It is daring, to say the least, to unleash such a sequel to the audience. But expectations aside, it starts with a great title sequence and has some buildup of suspense. This is somehow a horror film following the scheme used in the Bond movies, according to its dimensions and to some story aspects.

The scope of the movie is a bit bigger. That's also the problem - simplicity is not any more the key to it. But through its variation, through its change of the premise it actually is something new, something which can be frightening again. It is a sci-fi-horror thriller which, if standing alone, would be looking much better than as it does in the 'Halloween' series - which ignites the question of what it is doing in this series anyway - which but seems simple: It gets its story from the concept of the day of Halloween itself, and tries to make one thing clear: Halloween is not children going out for trick-and-treating, it is an ancient tradition being much nastier and bloodier. However silly some aspects of this movie might seem, it is about unleashing the forces of evil. Perhaps this could be a key to understanding Michael Myers nevertheless.

PJK
August 9th, 1999







IMDb/Halloween IV

Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Directed by Dwight H. Little  ·  Rating: 8 of 10
8 of 10

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Halloween IV DVD
 

Summary: Comes closer to the original

Sometimes, a title is also a promise. With this entry into the 'Halloween' series, Michael Myers indeed returns, and with him the second best of the sequels which I, somehow reluctantly, had to admit throughout watching the movie, as I was very skeptic about its realization. However, they really tried hard, and succeeded in making a (relatively) worthy successor. The movie has its great moments, a great soundtrack and some terrifying scenes. Among the best scenes of the film is the one showing the town's men patroling through the streets to find Michael. This is as intense as it should have been in the other sequels.

Donald Pleasance is at his best here, his mission being as complicated as never before. Still, the original concept is somewhat worn out, so this movie is far from being perfect. But it was the best they could possibly have done to stay within the frame of the series. Departing from the original concept seemed to have proven wrong in the previous part, so they returned to it, gaining relevance for the series while also losing the potential for something new.

PJK
August 9th, 1999







IMDb/Halloween V

Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard  ·  Rating: 4 of 10
4 of 10

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Halloween V DVD
 

Summary: The worst

The series has gained a low as deep as only possible with this one. The fourth sequel continues where the third one left us, resurrecting Michael and unleashing him again. But what worked in all the other parts doesn't work here: Of course it is tragic when people are being killed, but it is somewhat of a duty for a storyteller to give the victims faces and facets - Michael is circum-stabbing unknown or barely known characters, increasing the rate of kill but without a chill. There is no other reason for the audience to feel pity for the victims other than that they're being victimized, but here they've fallen victim mostly to the storytelling, not to Michael.

Part five tries to follow a concept without having understood the original depth in it - it doesn't try hard, and it has to fail. I've read that part six is supposed to be even worse, but I haven't seen that one yet, so this has to remain my favorite for the worst 'Halloween' - rip-off.

PJK
August 9th, 1999







IMDb/Halloween VI

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Directed by Joe Chappelle  ·  Rating: 9 of 10
9 of 10

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Halloween VI DVD
 

Summary: Unexpectedly good

I started approaching this movie by checking out some of the comments at the IMDb before actually having seen it, and so my motivation was at a really low point. After I had finally gotten myself to get the video, and then watch it some months later, my motivation having subsided again, it initially seemed like I had been right all along, the beginning really not being anything special. But then, the film started to gain momentum, and with every bit of it, started to capture my interest. How different this is than most other entries into the series, seems obvious - but difference needn't be bad. On the contrary - it can produce some great results, just like this sequel.

Unlike previous parts, the actors seem to be really interested in their roles, Donald Pleasance being the exception for he has always been great. But the cast is right, the acting not bad at all. The gore factor might be a bit annoying (yes, I know this is something the series is about, still I don't have to like it), but this movie has something most other sequels are missing: A story, plus an attempt at plausibility. And another, very crucial point is made by this movie: This being an explanation how part three is fitting into the series. So again we have ancient cults and mythology, unleashing the curse of evil unto a boy - Michael - to kill his family, an act of sacrifice, sacrificing one family instead of all the population, sacrificing it to appease the powers of evil. Halloween, again, is not the childish trick-and-treat (although that concept might be more peaceful and socially acceptable), it is rather a thorn in society than a blessing. So Michael isn't just a madman but something like a demon, possessed, cursed by pure evil; thus fitting into the mythology very well, expanding it, giving it a point beyond blodshed.

Part of the reason this movie was so badly received seems to be just this: an attempt to explain things. Either this was too strange a thing to be done, or expected, or the explanation didn't make any sense to some (although the rules of fiction would allow for some distortion of conventional reality). Latter point of course is kind of a valid discussion, everyone is allowed to have their opinion. The first, however, would seem a bit strange: Even a horror or slasher movie relying on gore and suspense needs to be (relatively) plausible to make it relevant for the audience. A madman is only threatening when his reasons for being a madman are plausible, people can only be affected by something which they believe possible: Even the remotest piece of science fiction, fantasy or horror has to have an element of familiarity, otherwise there'd be no reason for watching it. Horror can only work when its background is both sufficiently explained and concealed: The right mixture has to be found. For this, 'Halloween VI' serves the series well, remaining true to the "independent" feeling in photography, music and atmosphere, something completely disregarded by the awful H2O. Despite some little shortcomings, and despite its being severely underrated by most commentators, this seems to be the second best in the series.

PJK
February 18th, 2000







IMDb/Halloween H20

Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)
Directed by Steve Miner  ·  Rating: 5 of 10
5 of 10

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Halloween II DVD
 

Summary: Unexpectedly bad

No, this one is not an entirely bad sequel. I just ain't great either - it could and should have been so much better. But at least they tried a back-to-the-roots, reducing the mythology and doing some nasty kills. Jamie Lee Curtis is great, Josh Hartnett could have been better and Adam Arkin, as much as I like him in Chicago Hope, is not making any sense here. Featuring Tippy Hedreen is nice, but as cameos come, this cannot really improve the story. A high-school setting, well, that's really something original in the age of 'Scream' et al., but at least the characters are being introduced to let us care for them at least a bit.

H20 comes down to the basics: Gather some teens at Halloween, add Laurie Strode, unleash Michael - and let the bloodbath begin. With Donald Pleasance already dead, Dr. Loomis is missing in this part - which is indeed quite a loss, a loss which cannot be compensated for. But that's not the director's fault, how could it be. The movie itself starts somehow promisingly, and this is the only part of the series I had the possibility of watching in the theater, so it had a much different impact. Everything seemed bigger. So I was expecting even more. But when the credits started rolling over the screen, my first reaction to it was: That's it? - Simplicity was mostly understood as brevity in this one. The problem was being taken care of, there was a confrontation between Laurie and Michael, but almost everything was predictable. That's the first mistake. Never give the audience exactly what they want. Except, of course, a great movie.

John Ottman might have written a great horror soundtrack, and how he lets the Halloween Theme appear sounds great. But it isn't the right choice anyway - it defies everything we're used to hear within the series. Don't get me wrong, change might be something positive. But adapting the music to contemporary style was not the right choice at all and contributed to the second mistake: The loss of atmosphere. This movie felt like a more brutal version of 'Scream', it looked too tidy, too neat - this was being contrasted with quite a risen slasher factor, but also with strange niceties. It doesn't fit, it's like an attempt to assimilate what was unique in Carpenter's creation into the mainstream, without any quest for originality. If there is a next part, if there should be, they would have to resurrect Michael, but, well, he has died countless times now - and has made reappearances time and again; so if there be a next part, they should try to get John Carpenter back into the command chair. Otherwise the series might soon lose both its relevance and distinctiveness.

PJK
August 9th, 1999 / February 18th, 2000







IMDb/Hard Eight

Hard Eight (1996) [aka Sydney]
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Hard Eight DVD
 

Summary: Subtle and intense

Some movies are able to exert a certain fascination with the audience, to take the watcher in their grasp for seemingly no obvious reason. 'Hard Eight' is such a movie. Its story isn't terribly exciting, there is barely any music, there is little action, there are little visual effects. Yet it is such a delight watching it - such a thrilling and gripping experience despite the lack of all the usual bells and whistles.

The acting is marvellous. Philip Baker Hall plays his part with such an authenticity and devotion that it's almost as if he used a spell on the audience. The other characters, played by John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow - not as pale as usual - and Samuel L. Jackson, are strong too, but have to cede in the face of Hall's performance.

P.T. Anderson has created a beautiful and subtle movie, telling the story in such a human and intense way that you can hardly stop watching. The realism indeed becomes real and doesn't feel forced in any way. The shots of tables and the still life on them are unbelievably original, so is almost the entire camera work. Rarely do you get to see a piece like this one - this is cinema at its best.

PJK
November 17th, 2000







IMDb/Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Directed by Chris Columbus  ·  Rating: 3 of 10
3 of 10

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Harry Potter DVD
 

Summary: Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad!

A successful movie is not automatically a good movie. A movie based upon a highly acclaimed novel, or a series of novels, needn't automatically be a good movie. A highly acclaimed and much-praised movie isn't necessarily a good movie either. A movie highly cherished by fans of the book isn't necessarily a good movie. Nor needs it be brilliant, magical, whatever. A movie trustful to the novel it's based upon is rarely a good movie. A movie based upon a children's book isn't just beyond any comparison, neither is a movie mainly aimed at a younger audience; still there are some qualitative standards, some rules of storytelling and filmmaking; just because it's for kids cannot mean that a critical analysis should be inappropriate, ever. Good intentions are not everything, and hype is not quality.

First of all, the movie is simply too long. Of course, there are still pieces of the book missing in the movie. Fortunately. But, unfortunately, what's missing are the important parts, some subtler moments, some moments of actual character development and exposition. What we get instead, are lots of cute little niceties and tidbits, some vastly prolonged moments of playfulness which may have a place in a novel, but never, ever, should deserve such epic proportions in a movie. Movies are a visual medium, first and for all, they are motion pictures. Books are letters, words, sentences, printed on paper or whatever. They work more abstractly, depending largely on the audience's imagination. Still, that doesn't justify that every little detail would have to be figured pointlessly; bad storytelling is bad storytelling, wherever it occurs. Tautologies without a clear purpose have no place in art.

What is such a purpose? What's the point of storytelling, of making a movie, writing a novel, endulging in any kind of narrative art? The story narrates something, it develops around a conflict, and in the center of the conflict are the main characters. The conflict thus has to have an impact on the characters, and the characters' role in the conflict is the true focus of storytelling. Who are the characters, why are they the way they are, what is their motivation, their background? HOW DO THEY REACT to the things occurring around them, WHY DO THEY ACT, and most important of all, WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM through the conflict. Of course, there are main characters and side characters, and the focus of the story should be on the main characters; otherwise, the narration could become tedious, if you truly want to treat each and every character truthfully, you would need the epic proportions and the amount of time a television series offers, the best examples to date being Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Farscape, Babylon 5 and The Sopranos. Yet in a novel, and even more so in a movie, time is a crucial factor, you need to focus. You need believability, you need depth. A novel often can achieve depth just through mere length, yet the art of filmmaking lies in restricting yourself.

A movie made after a novel is always a strange creature. Some want it to be just like the novel, but you cannot do that. It's a different medium. It's something different than the book: The nature of a movie is different than the nature of a novel. Even if the basic story and the characters be the same, it's still a different beast, with different rules and opportunities. Movies are an art form just like novels, they have to be made according to the rules of film, not the rules of novels. Also, you cannot possibly presuppose everybody watching the movie to have read the book. That's not the way it works. Of course, somebody having read the book will understand the movie differently, no doubt. Yet the movie has to be able to stand for itself, to communicate its message independently from the book. The book must not be the user's manual to the movie.

Thus when we now turn our eyes to the first Harry Potter movie, what do we see? We see an experienced director of family films, Chris Columbus, whose carreer includes movies like 'Home Alone', 'Mrs. Doubtfire' and the vastly underrated 'Bicentennial Man'. Yet he is not given room to breathe, as the shadow of J.K. Rowling is said to have been loomimg threateningly over each and every detail of the production. A director needs artistic freedom, not chains. What else? We have Richard Harris, Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, and most of all, Alan Rickman. All this talent gets wasted, especially Rickman's. Coltrane's the only one to have appropriate screen time, but gets neither dimension no character development, though he's supposed to be one of the main characters. Zukovsky, his character in T.W.I.N.E., had much less screentime but was a lot better written, even though that was a Bond film, part of the most stereotypical of all film series. Alan Rickman just gets some chances to look mean, and to say some lines, that's all. Wasted talent. The kids? The only kid with acting worth mentioning is the girl, Hermione, played by Emma Watson. The lead, Daniel Radcliffe, is even worse than Episode One's Jake Lloyd (Anakin).

Moving from acting to character depth, there isn't much to say. There is none, except for Hermione. The rest are just not round characters, they are either narrative stereotypes whose motivation is just due to their position in the setup of good vs evil (Malfoy, Voldemort, Snape, uncle, aunt and cousin). But worst of all is that Harry Potter himself has no real dimension, though he is constantly introduced like the Second Coming, the little information delivered about him is just his personal background, not his personality, his nature; he has no development in the film, the only scene where something was developing, the chess game, came too late in the film, and lacked the depth it deserved.

The chess scene would have been the great moment in this charade of empty characters and empty places. This was the moment Harry indeed had to make a difficult decision, the very turning point for the character. But nothing really happens, the game is cut ridiculously, the effects are rushed and, by the way, does any one remember Battle Chess, the computer game? How comes Wizard's Chess looks just like a borrowed version of that game? Maybe I'm already too old to just overlook such a detail. Anyway, the end match, too, is too short. Why the sudden rush? Throughout the first ninety minutes we see endless and depthless exposition scenes, an endless playing with effects, a sports match painfully reminiscent of Episode One's Pod Racer game version of Ben Hur's wagon race, featuring the same kind of recycled intrigues and story devices. Yet in the end, there's suddenly no time any more to go into detail, to show what's happening, why it is happening, what the consequences are?

John Williams has written some of the greatest scores in film music history, especially all his 'Star Wars' and 'Indiana Jones' scores, but why does Harry Potter have to sound like Star Wars recycled all over again? The lack of originality of the soundtrack is tried to get rid of by repeating the same (though good) theme over and over again, thus totally devaluing it. Quality doesn't come from repetition. Ask Jerry Goldsmith. Though the score is not bad, on the contrary, it's rather good, it still is disappointing, given that the composer is John Williams.

The effects are solid, but never great, the picture often looks grainy (!) and badly exposed. There is too much playing around, the movie feels like a freak show, like the shopping window of a magic shoppe. Is this intentional? Bond-style product placement for fan articles? That, in fact, would be the only way for this movie to make sense: As a marketing enhancement for the Potter novels. That's the only way it works, it is fannish through and through, focussing on irrelevant details and indeed using the novels as user's manuals to the film. But that doesn't make a good film. It just makes for a pretty disappointing, tedious, boring and through and through stupid waste of time. The film has nevertheless gained a certain hype. But that doesn't matter in the terms of art. Look beyond the act, and the shallowness appears...

What's true for Episode One is true here also: The producers have spent a lot of money and will gain a lot of money, but money ain't an indicator for quality. Never was, never will be. Plot does matter, not mere size. Usually I would preach benevolence, but not with this film anymore.

PJK
November 22nd, 2001







IMDb/The Haunting

The Haunting (1963)
Directed by Robert Wise  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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The Haunting VHS
 

Summary: Spirited

DR. MARKWAY:
As a matter of fact, I don't think it is anything supernatural. [..] [It is] more likely to [belong] to the realm of praeter-natural, [..] something we don't have any natural explanation for right now, but probably will have some day. The praeter-natural of one generation becomes the natural of the next. You know, not so long ago scientists laughed at the idea of magnetic attraction. They couldn't explain it, so they refused to admit it existed. [..]
Unknown, that's the key word. Unknown. When we become involved in a supernatural event, we are scared out of wits just because it's unknown. The night cry of a child, a face on the wall, knockings, bangings, what's there to be afraid of? [..] When people believed the earth was flat, the idea of a round world scared them silly. Then they found out how the round world works. It's the same with the world of the supernatural. Until we know how it works, we'll continue to carry around this unneccessary burden of fear.
NELL:
Supposing it is in my imagination, the knocking, the voices, everything, every cursed bit of the haunting, supposed the haunting is all in my mind. [..] I could say all three of you are in my imagination, none of this is real.
DR. MARKWAY:
Sure, that's the easiest way to dismiss the supernatural, by pleading insanity or accusing others of it.
[time index approx. 1h30m]

Obviously lacking the visual effects extravaganza of the remake, the original 'Haunting' works on another level, more subtle, more introspective, also with a bit more ambiguity. The explanation of the events is not given, nor is there any kind of conclusion to the story of Hill House. Thus the remake then fulfills another function than just mimicking the original.

The film's premise is different from the remake, it is rather about approaching the supernatural, giving it a method, trying to tie it to science, trying to remove it from the realm of superstition and letting it be dealt with in a scientific way. To do that, of course, the existence of the supernatural would have to be believed in.

The film works perfectly in its cast and dialogue, and although there are (almost) no visible effects, the terror becomes real, the house comes to life.

PJK
March 24th, 2000







IMDb/The Haunting

The Haunting (1999)
Directed by Jan De Bont  ·  Rating: 9 of 10
9 of 10

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The Haunting DVD
 

Summary: Visually stunning and intense

What a setting - I couldn't believe my eyes. The love for detail in this movie is remarkable, and so are the visual effects. Some reviews said it wouldn't have been enough, that it wasn't frightening. But for me, and I've seen quite some horror movies, I almost had put on my jacket in the theater as the movie felt so chilly.

Another point of criticism I found was the acting - this I can't understand at all. It is usually the essence of a horror movie that the situation dwarfs the characters. The thrill comes either from an outside evil or from an unconscious and evenly strange and alien source. Both is the case in this one. And with the main character being portrayed by Lili Taylor, they couldn't have made a better choice. Catherine Zeta-Jones, too, fits perfectly in, adding a sense of humor to it, like in the scene in which she tells Eleanor about her bi-sexual adventures, thus scaring the hell out of her. Liam Neeson has a lot more to do and say in this film than in 'Episode One'; although his role could've been bigger.

Unlike the original, the film works less through dialoge and more through visuals, also missing are the detailed deliberations on the supernatural. But that may be due to the time gap between both films: Today, horror and sf are thriving more than ever in tv and cinema, the premise of the supernatural being not yet a serious matter but much more now than back then. So the film doesn't need an excuse for dealing with such a topic, it can let the story unfold. What the remake does is to bring the story to a conclusion. It surely is different from the original, but that's the entire point of remaking a great film: You take it into another direction. Jan de Bont succeeded with that marvelously, and as a stand-alone film, 'The Haunting' is great, and amongst other horror movies, quite outstanding.

PJK
October 22nd, 1999 / March 24th, 2000







IMDb/Hollow Man

Hollow Man (2000)
Directed by Paul Verhoeven  ·  Rating: 3 of 10
3 of 10

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Hollow Man DVD
 

Summary: Wasted material

Some movies start out to be incredibly promising, be it the premise, the cast, the composer, whatever. The premise of 'Hollow Man' may not be new, and movies about invisible men have already been made, but this time it was supposed to be different, as suggested by the trailers and also - partly - by the story. The cast featured Kevin Bacon - one of the finest actors in today's Hollywood, and his performance is worthwile indeed. The composer is Jerry Goldsmith - whom I consider to be the very best composer of all times - and the score he wrote is simply breathtaking. The main titles sequence is original and seems to provide a taste of things to come, the effects are great, the buildup is enticing - so that you could expect the story to really get going after all parameters are set, the mentally unstable main character having become invisible and thus given the gift he always wanted. This could have been the beginning of a great horror movie, holding the potential for a more or less in-depth analysis of the human psyche even. Could have been. Subjunctive II. In this case, irrealis.

*** SPOILER *** Instead, we see some attempts at horror, we have the Kevin Bacon character abusing his gift, but we don't really see a believable moral struggle or anything else. Furthermore, this is supposed to be a real egghead, an hyper-intelligent scientist who should know better than to just play these silly games and take the risk of getting caught. He is invisible - so why doesn't he just disappear? While it may be human - somehow - to stick to the people you know, this is so stupid on his part and will cost his life at the end. Also, he is doing it so sloppily that he leads his colleagues unto his track and lets them know what he's planning. He was supposed to lose his sense of morality - not his intelligence. This is so out-of-character that the entire movie becomes ridiculous.

More serious even is the predictability which starts to set in at the supposed climax. Up to a certain point, this had been a great horror film, but suddenly the story turned out to become something like a copy of a copy of the chase-the-creature-and-kill-it scheme. This is uninteresting, stupid and hurting the intelligence of the audience. Even more so, it is betraying the rest of the film. The death scene, by the way, reminds me of 'Alien3', but this is no hommage, it is just crap. *** END SPOILER ***

What could have been a serious horror film, turned out to be great material wasted completely. No music, no acting, no effects - which are superb, by the way - nothing of these can replace the need for a solid story, especially in a horror film. If you want to scare the audience, you have to be believable. What works in action much better - to have a silly and overall recycled story like in 'M:I-2' - and just focus on the effects etc., doesn't work in horror, only in the most primitive form of slasher flicks. If you just want to tickle the audience with some cheap frights, this may suffice. But when you really want to tap into their fear, to make them realize their vulnerability and mortality, this isn't enough, and it won't last. Was I really expecting too much in wanting to see a great movie from the director of 'Total Recall', 'Basic Instinct' and 'Starship Troopers'?

PJK
November 21st, 2000







IMDb/House on Haunted Hill

House on Haunted Hill (1999)
Directed by William Malone  ·  Rating: 7 of 10
7 of 10

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House on Haunted Hill DVD
 

Summary: Uneven

Judging from the beginning and the early middle part, this is a great and tough horror film. Judging from its irony and the look of some scenes, like the motorcade moving towards the house, it is excellent and inventive even. The performance isn't bad either, although Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen seem to be outdoing it a bit.

Everything changes at the climax. Decency! It is not a matter of chance that classic horror movies reveal as little as possible about the threat, they usually are psychological. But to show the monster, especially one with so abhorring effects work, that destroys everything, destroys the atmosphere, the sick joking around, the psychological brutality and - at the end - can only be ridiculous. To see a greatly commencing movie deteriorating that fast is almost a tale of horror in itself. What remains, is a serious attempt at horror gone astray. Yet one thing remains: The music is utterly fantastic, especially the first organ piece.

PJK
May 15th, 2000





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