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Non-Review Review: Halloween (2018)

The Halloween franchise remains a strange beast, for a number of reasons.

Most notably, it is one of the relatively rare horror movie franchises that has actively and repeatedly refused the siren call of over-complication and entanglement. Michael Myers is an iconic horror character, on par with other seventies and eighties ghouls like the creature from Predator, the monster from Alien, Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th Franchise and even Freddie Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street. However, as the mythology of those characters has spiralled and intertwined, Michael Myers remains a very simple, straightforward concept.

The Shape of things to come.

The horror reboot is a fixture of the modern pop cultural landscape, and Michael Myers went through his own version of that. There’s an argument to be made that Myers came out much better than many of his contemporaries with Rob Zombie’s Halloween. However, even before that, the Halloween franchise seemed to emphasise its essential blankness. Halloween III did not feature Myers at all, which seems crazy in hindsight. Halloween: H20 effectively rewrote the franchise’s history so that only Halloween and Halloween II actually happened.

Of course, there were films in the series that indulged in all the standard horror movie tropes, which tried to develop and cultivate a mythology around the iconic masked killer. This is most obvious in the iterations of the franchise without Jamie Lee Curtis, particularly in the sixth film Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. However, it is telling that these sorts of complications and elaborations have frequently been brushed aside as detritus, understood in hindsight to diminish the power of the character and the franchise.

Facing up to him.

The latest iteration of Halloween understands that this inherent blankness, this resistance against the pull of over-complication or over-mythologisation, is the key to the franchise’s success. Like H20, Halloween is what might be termed a “deboot” in modern parlance, a direct reversal of an earlier change in direction. Indeed, it’s notable for the thoroughness of the debooting. In its opening five minutes, Halloween wipes away not only the Rob Zombie reboot, but also the earlier H20 deboot, and everything in the past forty years.

In the teaser, the audience is bluntly informed by a British true crime journalist that Michael Myers “for the past forty years, by all accounts, has not said a word.” That statement is more than just an important bit of continuity wrangling. It is an important statement of purpose for Halloween‘s understanding of its own franchise and its central character. Halloween very pointedly updates its storytelling mechanics and framework to reflect the forty years since the original film, but it also understands that part of the appeal of Michael Myers has always been his blankness.

Homecoming.

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Non-Review Review: This is the End

There’s a moment about half-way through This is the End when our bunch of celebrities are starting go stir-crazy, as they brave the apocalypse inside James Franco’s surprisingly fortified house. In the strange combination of idle boredom and growing madness, the group decide to improvise a trailer for the non-existent sequel to Pineapple Express. It is complete nonsense, but there’s a strange energy and a warm sense of humour to their “sweded” version of a Hollywood comedy, complete with remote-control car chases and homemade props.

It feels like something that only these actors would get – it’s just a bunch of people hanging out, fooling around, making the most of the materials available to them do something which feels incredibly niche. It’s a weird balance of something so experimental and so niche that it’s almost definitely a piece of post-modern art. (The movie even features an early scene of pretentious James Franco gleefully arguing that everything is art – even Jay Baruchel.) On the other hand, it’s accessible and fun, managing to seem – simultaneously – like an incredibly niche and charmingly broad piece of film.

It’s also pretty damn funny.

... and I feel fine...

… and I feel fine…

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Garth Ennis’ Run on Punisher MAX – Hardcover, Vol. I (Review)

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this month we’re going to take a look at Northern Irish writer Garth Ennis’ run on that iconic Marvel anti-hero, The Punisher. Check back every Friday and Wednesday for a review of a particular section.

It’s Omaha Beach. Wounded Knee. Rorke’s Drift, The Killing Fields, the first day on The Somme. World War Three in North Jersey. And only now, pouring automatic fire into a human wall — do I feel something like peace.”

– Frank Castle, In the Beginning

I don’t like The Punisher as a concept. It’s not some out-dated “heroes don’t kill” or “I need a good guy to be morally straightforward”, it’s more that the character is extraordinarily childish. This is the very embodiment of the nineties anti-hero explosion, the bubble in the mid-nineties which say Wolverine become even more outrageously (and inexplicably) popular, turned Ghost Rider into a major player in the Marvel Universe, and saw The Punisher hold down three (yes, three) monthly comic books. This is a guy who wears a skull on his T-shirt and kills criminals… that’s his schtick. And somehow, he became “uber-kewl”.

Armed and dangerous...

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Non-Review Review: 30 Minutes or Less

This movie was seen as part of Movie Fest, the rather wonderful film festival organised by Vincent and everybody else over at movies.ie. It was well worth attending, and I’m already looking forward to next year. Good job all.

It’s kinda strange to watch 30 Minutes or Less. It’s an entertaining enough farce that is carried mainly by its superb primary cast, but it feels strange because the viewer gets the sense that the film might have worked better as a quirky caper film instead of a flat-out comedy. I enjoyed the movie, even if it wasn’t really in the same ballpark as Ruben Fleischer’s early film, Zombieland. I spent most of the movie with a smile on my face, rather than laughing out loud.

Banking on another great comedy...

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My Knight With Danny McBride

After attending the premiere of Your Highness, I got a chance to grab a drink with actor and writer Danny McBride in The Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Dublin. “This place is older than my country,” Danny jokingly observes we take our seats. He promptly explains why we’re gathered in this rather casual faction. “We thought about doing the standard thing, the interview in the hotel room, but we figured it would be a bit awkward with the lights and everything, so we thought we’d just go out and have a drink instead.” And, if there’s one thing about Danny McBride, it’s that the comedian is never awkward. He seems surprisingly at home in this establishment, no sign that he’s been out touring the world promoting his new movie – this could just be a nice after work pint.

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Non-Review Review: Your Highness

Your Highness is crass, stupid, vulgar and fun. However, it’s endearingly aware of the fact. I found myself warming to the film quite a bit as I sat down to watch it, somewhat comfortable in the knowledge that Danny McBride’s latest will undoubtedly end up playing on the DVD players of countless college students into the wee hours of the morning for some years to come. It isn’t going to be a film for everyone, but I do think it will find an audience. It’s not perfect or classic, but then none of the films that it is attempting to emulate are. It does succeed in offering a constant and endearing stream of low-brow jokes for its runtime.

The best of the quest?

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Your Highness Trailer

I have to admit, I’m a sucker for eighties fantasy. Classics like Willow and Labyrinth were among the favourites of my childhood (although, I must confess, I have never actually seen all of Legend – Tim Curry gave me nightmares). So I’m actually really looking forward to Your Highness, which looks to be a sort of (vaguely) affectionate spoof of all those classic campy fantasy movies. Seriously, check out the appearance from a very Jim-Hensen-esque puppet at the end of the trailer. It’s written and starring Danny McBride, who you’ll probably be familiar with from great roles in some of the better comedies of the last few years (like Pineapple Express with co-star James Franco and Tropic Thunder). The movie filmed in Northern Ireland, and recently had students from around the US competing to host the world premiere, so it’s one to watch. By the way, check out that supporting cast – Damian Lewis, Charles Dance, Toby Jones and Justin Theroux (alongside leads McBride and Franco, Natalie Portman and Zooey Dreschanel).