JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

Directed by: Joe Roth
Starring: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Julie Gonzalo, M.Emmet Walsh, Cheech Marin

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2004 American festive comedy is directed by Joe Roth and stars Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Julie Gonzalo, M.Emmet Walsh, and Cheech Marin.

When young Blair Krank (Gonzalo) leaves for Peru in the Peace Corps after Thanksgiving, her parents Luther (Allen) and Nora (Curtis) agree to invest the thousands of dollars they usually spend in Christmas decorations, food and gifts to fund a luxury cruise; skipping Christmas in their local neighbourhood.

They start to become frowned upon by their neighbours, none more so than Vic Frohmeyer (Aykroyd), who takes charge in rallying everyone to decorate their houses to win the local prize for best decorations. Luther stands his ground after coming under pressure from Vic, community carol singers and even local children, all hoping for him to reconsider and keep the festive spirit alive.

But on Christmas Eve, hours before departing, Blair calls to reveal she is engaged and is en-route home with her new fiancé to spend Christmas at home once more. Nora is more than willing to drop the cruise and rally around for last-minute decorations, food and gifts to welcome her daughter home, but Luther will face more of a battle to convince others to help him before Blair arrives home to nothing…

Probably one of the few Christmas films that I think is ok every year before watching, but when I actually DO watch it I remember how poor it really is on the surface. It’s got everything you need for a basic, run-of-the-mill madcap seasonal film; the festive community, chaotic shopping sprees, decoration disasters, a picture-perfect happy ending with cranky neighbours and bitter families alongside slapstick chaos…but something about this film is done in a way that is more irritating and drab than others.

Most of the film spends time making you resent the community the Kranks life in, as the basis of the story revolves around how two parents, parted from their grown-up daughter, want to go away on a cruise for Christmas. Sounds nice. BUT we are introduced to cantankerous and creepy, stalker-ish neighbours, headed by a silly and wasted Dan Aykroyd, who spend a good portion of the time bullying, moaning and threatening the Kranks to make them stay around and decorate their home.

Basically, pushing them into something they have no right to participate in. The Kranks are a very irritating couple from the outset – frumpy Jamie Lee Curtis comes across as very screechy and very unstable. Tim Allen, who increasingly comes over like he is the King of Christmas Comedy (after his ‘Santa Clause Trilogy’), gurns, goofs and over-acts his way through this in a series of un-funny set pieces, dialogue exchanges and slapstick humour. 

With an irritating couple to start with, mixed with a creepy community, this doesn’t give you anything other than maybe a few chuckles as the mad-cap dash to escape Christmas ensues (it’s been done better), and then the finale of the film has it all reversed for a mad-cap dash to build Christmas (it’s been done better).

Very flat and clichéd supporting characters – the lazy cops, the grumpy old man, the cheeky children – give you something that is very un-memorable and rather un-funny unless you like your Christmas films to come over as very over-acted, very hammy and very tacky – festive films are usually a mix of all three, but there is usually a charm behind them. This has nothing like that.

REVIEW: Halloween (2018)

Year: 2018
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney, Nick
Castle

Written by Megan Williams 

Halloween is probably my favourite holiday. You get to dress up in scary costumes without anyone judging you, watch horror films with your friends, carve pumpkins, see a man in a William Shatner mask creep around the neighbourhood with a kitchen knife…

Hang on a minute…

Produced by Blumhouse and starring Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode, the latest entry in the iconic ‘Halloween’ franchise is here! Already grossing over $76 million in its opening weekend (from a $10 million budget), it’s earned the second highest October opening ever.

Set 40 years after the original, ‘Halloween’ centres on Laurie Strode, her granddaughter Allyson and Allyson’s parents as they fight against Michael Myers after he returns to Haddonfield to cause new mayhem and murder.

I love 1978 original and was, honestly, sceptical of this entry; the previous entries haven’t been great in my opinion (aside from ‘Season of the Witch’ which didn’t even feature the masked killer!).

And, after seeing it, I think it’s ok but a little flawed.

Jamie Lee Curtis is a delight to watch as she plays the survivor who’s sworn to kill Michael Myers, and she is one of the highlights of the film. While I say this, however, there wasn’t a bad performance in ‘Halloween’, and I did care for each character and wanted them to survive the night. This is a mindset I find rare in most horror films: this time, I’m not rooting for the villain.

Another highlight of ‘Halloween’ was the score, which was composed by John Carpenter (the composer of the original film). While the original theme did feature, the rest of the score was fantastic and elevated the film, giving it a tense and haunting atmosphere.

At times, ‘Halloween’ was suspenseful, making Michael Myers a creepy and silent killer. But it also brought in some humour, making this a fun slasher film that wouldn’t have looked out of place if it had been released 40 years earlier. There are a lot of references to the original film too; some are obvious, while others require a keen eye or knowledge of the overall franchise to spot. The constant reoccurring ‘Halloween’ theme, and an updated version, was a pleasure to hear!  

The film was visually gorgeous and, while most of it featured dark lighting and was set during the night, ‘Halloween’ still managed to appear vibrant, especially during the scenes in Haddonfield. The cinematography was great and the film featured a fair amount of one–take shots that sometimes didn’t focus on Michael while he was carrying out his murderous actions; it really emphasised that Michael is a silent killer who has no limits.

Unfortunately, the film was a little too long and was unevenly paced; it could’ve been around 20 minutes shorter. There’s even a certain plot point that I thought could’ve been removed completely as it goes nowhere. And, while it is suspenseful at times, it isn’t as scary as it’s predecessor.

Overall, ‘Halloween’ is an enjoyable, but average, entry into the franchise and, while I would recommend it, I wouldn’t rush out to the cinema to see it.

MEGAN’S VERDICT:

3

 

JUMPSCARECUT: Halloween (1978) – Evil Turns 40

Directed by: John Carpenter
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Tony Moran

Written by Michael Dean

40 years ago, John Carpenter unleashed an unstoppable evil in theaters that brought terror to the aisles and eventually proved to be a dominating force in the horror genre.  This was the birth of Michael Myers in Halloween.  This is a film that I remember quite well from my youth.  Though I could not catch the film in the theater, I recall sitting and watching with my sister and her friends on the television in our house, as Michael terrorized the babysitters in Haddonfield.  My sister and her friends were yelling at Laurie, “Don’t drop it!  Pick it up!  Pick it up!!  What are you doing?!  Run!!!”  Watching the film again recently, the film may not scare me as it did when I was younger but it is a marvel in its style and there is no denying the impact that this film had on theatergoers and the influence it had with other films that followed.

When thinking of a horror film like Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 slasher Psycho the one thing most clear is how well the film was made.  John Carpenter’s Halloween is as special as Psycho in that the way Carpenter composes the film helps it stands out over the slew of other films like it.  Long tracking shots are something that Carpenter utilized throughout and they were slow and smooth.  This is shown right from the opening credits as we are treated to a black screen with only a candlelit pumpkin in view on the left side and the camera slowly zooms in causing a bit of uneasiness to viewers as we creep ever so close to the evil grinning pumpkin.  Also, some shots are composed as if the audience is there with the characters and at times it can feel as if we are the killer which makes the audience become even more attached to the film.  Such as just after the title scene the camera drifts towards the Myers house, around some bushes and eventually inside the house where an arm reaches for a knife and a mask slips over the camera, the audience is now in the eyes of the killer.  The camera moves up the stairs where the young Michael murders his sister and there is nothing the audience can do to stop the knife plunging down over and over again.  Perhaps this is how it is for Michael being controlled by evil and there is nothing he can do to stop it.  

In the event you have been sleeping under a rock, Michael Myers is one the most iconic villains of horror.  He is silent, slowly stalks his prey with no reason, no method, and is seemingly invincible.  When watching the film in my youth I thought Michael was just a man, but it wasn’t until later when I realized he was something more, especially with the ending of the film where all we hear is his breathing and knowing he is still there.  It would have been best not to have the sequels and just leave Halloween as a standalone film because seeing Michael Myers, not as a man, but as some evil force that is still lurking out there is very frightening and we don’t need to know more than that. 

Throughout the film we are treated to Michael standing near bushes, standing across from the school, standing near some laundry and all are very effective shots of suspense.  However, what else Carpenter does very well is using foreground to build suspense.  For example in the scene where Laurie thinks she has killed Michael (again), she rests wearily on the floor with Michael’s body blurred in the background.  Suddenly Michael sits up and then Carpenters music kicks.  The scene is highly suspenseful and Carpenter excels in it.  In addition, Cinematographer Dean Cundey, who later went on to do more great things in such work as The Thing and Jurassic Park, made wonderful use of light in scenes to help bring suspense and terror.  This proved to be highly effective, particularly in my favorite scene, when Laurie stands against a wall next to a darkened doorway, Michaels white mask slowly appears through the darkness and it is terrifying!  This is a phenomenal use of light and dark and it is a shot people will remember.  Another element that makes Halloween so special is the lack of gore and blood.  It was a great choice to not have it as too much can become a distraction and take away from the suspense that the film so wonderfully builds up.

Aside from Michael Myers being a highlight in the film, another character to mention is Dr. Loomis, played by Donald Pleasence.  Dr. Loomis has always been as much a highlight to the Halloween franchise as Michael Myers and I love him in Halloween.  Just listening to him talk about Michael Myers is engaging because of the way Pleasence delivers the lines.

“I met him, 15 years ago; I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding in even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this… six-year-old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and… the blackest eyes – the Devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”   – Dr. Loomis  

Dr. Loomis can come off as a bit crazy with his talk of the danger in Haddonfield, and this is something that can be seen in later horror films as well with the crazy old man warning others of danger in the area.  My understanding is that Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were up for the role of Dr. Loomis, but they declined the offer.  As interesting as either actor may have been, I’m glad they did not take the offer as it is hard to imagine anyone other than Pleasence in the role.

The score for Halloween plays a large part in the success of the film and John Carpenter took it upon himself to write the score to save in hiring an actual composer as they had a limited budget.  This idea paid off in spades as the music has become one of the iconic scores for film.  It elevates the film by building suspense and pulls the viewer’s further into the story.  Like another classic horror film, Jaws, everyone who has seen the film can immediately connect the score to the film once it is heard.  When I was young, I ended up buying the Halloween soundtrack which I listened to on many Halloween nights and anytime I felt like creeping someone out during a drive on a darkened road.  

Halloween turned out to be a very influential film to horror films that would come after such as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street.  This would be through the various tropes such as the final girl and sexually active teenagers.  Like Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in Halloween, the final girl is the one who survives the encounter with the killer at the end of the film and is seen as the more innocent character.  From film to film she will usually share similar traits such as being a virgin, avoiding drug use and alcohol, essentially portraying a very clean image.  Though there are slasher films that came before Halloween, such as Black Christmas and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and contained a similar final girl, it was Halloween that paved the way for the final girl in horror films that followed.  As a matter of fact, films such as You’re Next, took the final girl to a new level and created a stronger character with more background and she is actually the highlight of the film.  This is in contrast to the character of Laurie Strode who is just an innocent character who managed to survive the night.

The film has spawned many sequels and reboots, and though none have been able to touch the original in terms of quality, just the very name of Halloween in the title and Michael Myers as the killer is enough to get people to the theater.  40 years later, Halloween has another sequel in the theaters, with Jamie Lee Curtis returning, and I can only imagine this is not the end.  Halloween is a film that will always remain as one of the best films of horror and like the ominous evil presence that is Michael Myers, it will never go away.

Michaels Verdict

4-5

New ‘Halloween’ Trailer Recaps Original Film In Faux Documentary

“Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role as Laurie Strode, who comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago. ”

Directed by: David Gordon Green

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Nick Castle, Judy Greer, Virginia Gardner

Release Date: October 19th, 2018

Michael Myers Is On The Hunt In New ‘Halloween’ Trailer

“Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role as Laurie Strode, who comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago. ”

Directed by: David Gordon Green

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Nick Castle, Judy Greer, Virginia Gardner

Release Date: October 19th, 2018

Michael Myers Returns In The First Trailer For ‘Halloween’

“Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.”

Directed by: David Gordon Green

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Nick Castle, Judy Greer, Virginia Gardner

Release Date: October 19th, 2018