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New Escapist Column! On Hollywood’s Next Franchising Trend, the “Requel”…

I published a new column at The Escapist today. The success of David Gordon Green’s Halloween and the announcement of his upcoming Exorcist trilogy seemed like a good time to discuss one of the more interesting modern trends in studio franchising: the rebooted sequel, or the “requel.” The idea is that if an original movie is iconic, but subsequent sequels have devalued the brand, the studio can just roll the franchise back to the earlier beloved film and effectively start franchising again from that point onwards.

It is a frustrating and unsettling trend that illustrates the cannibalistic feeding frenzy that is modern franchising. Hollywood has already franchised every viable property, but this approach allows studios a second (or third) bite of the apple by effectively erasing perceived mistakes and rolling the clock back to earlier and more nostalgia-friendly points in the shared continuity. It’s interesting to see this approach becoming increasingly mainstream.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Fear Street Part Two – 1978

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 sets itself a more modest goal than Fear Street Part One: 1994.

Part of that is simply the luxury of being the second part of a larger series. Fear Street Part Two: 1978 has appreciably less table-setting to do than Fear Street Part One: 1994, as the earlier film did a lot of the hard work in terms of establishing rules and building a framework for the trilogy’s internal mythology. While Fear Street Part Two: 1978 obviously builds on the foundations established by Fear Street Part One: 1994, it also has the luxury of working within an established template that saves it the bother of having to unload a lot of exposition very quickly while also serving as a self-contained slasher tribute.

Camp Fear.

Part of it is also because Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is referencing a much less ambitious and self-aware set of movies. Fear Street Part One: 1994 was drawing from a pool of self-aware nineties horror movies like Scream, Urban Legends and I Know What You Did Last Summer, movies made by filmmakers who had grown up watching classic slasher movies on video cassettes and wanted to put their own self-aware spin on the genre and its conventions. So Fear Street Part One: 1994 was a self-aware riff on self-aware riffs on the genre. In contrast, Fear Street Part Two: 1978 draws from a purer sort of slasher movie.

These two factors mean that Fear Street Part Two: 1978 feels a lot less busy and cluttered than Fear Street Part One: 1994, if appreciably less ambitious. More than that, with a lot of the mythology building out of the way, Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is able to use its own narrative real estate to deepen and develop the core themes of the trilogy, foregrounding its big ideas with a little more finesse than the previous entry. The result is a movie that is perhaps less energised and less dynamic than its predecessor, but also a lot more comfortable and assured in what it is doing.

Sister, sister.

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New Podcast! The Time is Now – Season 3, Episode 5 (“… Thirteen Years Later”)

Earlier in the year, I was thrilled to spend a lot of time on The Time is Now discussing the second season of Millennium. Since the podcast has moved on to the third season, I have taken something of a step back as a guest. That said, I was flattered to get an invitation to discuss … Thirteen Years Later with the fantastic Kurt North.

I am not as big a fan of the third season as I was of the second. This is particularly true of the opening stretch of the third season, which is chaotic and uneven at the best of times. … Thirteen Years Later is in some ways a prime illustration of the problems facing this relaunched version of the show. It’s a comedy episode released for Halloween, essentially offering a very tame Hollywood satire that feels like an awkward attempt to catch up with the Scream movies. Still, it’s a fun and broad discussion.

As ever, you can listen directly to the episode here, subscribe to the podcast here, or click the link below.

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New Escapist Video! On the True Horror of John Carpenter’s “Apocalypse” Trilogy…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with the Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film channel – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

With that in mind, here is last week’s episode. Because Halloween was coming up, we thought it would be fun to look at something horror-related. I’ve been watching a few John Carpenter films lately, and so I thought I’d delve a little bit into how Carpenter’s craft works and how it has aged so effectively and so hauntingly. In particular, Carpenter’s loose “Apocalypse” trilogy (The Thing, Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness) count among the most unsettling (and resonant) depictions of the end of the world in popular cinema.

 

206. se7en – Halloween 2020 (#20)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Doctor Bernice Murphy and Phil Bagnall, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This week and next week, we are taking a break from our Summer of Scorsese for a Halloween treat. David Fincher’s se7en.

Detective William Somerset is seven days away from retirement, and has just been partnered with a new arrival from outside the city. Detective David Mills has yet to fully adjust to the rules of the urban landscape. However, Somerset’s plans to retire are undercut after a pair of strange deaths point to something sinister simmering below the surface of the city.

At time of recording, it was ranked 20th on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the best movies of all-time.

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205. The Wicker Man – Halloween 2020 (-#73)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Doctor Bernice Murphy, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This week and next week, we are taking a break from our Summer of Scorsese for a Halloween treat. Neil La Bute’s The Wicker Man.

After a traumatic accident on a desert highway, highway patrolman Edward Malus is contacted by his old fiancée. She is living on a remote matriarchal community known as Summersisle, and her daughter has gone missing. Malus embarks on a journey to the island in the hopes of reuniting the lost child with her mother, only do discover something more sinister is at play.

At time of recording, it was ranked 73rd on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the worst movies of all-time.

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154. Exorcist II: The Heretic – Halloween 2019 (-#94)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with Doctor Bernice Murphy and Phil Bagnall, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, a Halloween treat. John Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic.

At time of recording, it was ranked 94th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Podcast! The Time is Now – Season 2, Episode 6 (“The Curse of Frank Black”)

Because it’s Halloween, The Time is Now has a special treat. I was flattered to talk about The Curse of Frank Black with the one and only Tony Black. A perfect piece of Halloween viewing, it is one of my favourite episodes of Millennium, and so was a huge honour to be asked to sit in on this one.

I’ve gone on record about this before. The second season of Millennium is one of my favourite twenty-odd-episode seasons of television ever produced. It is hard to pick a single favourite from a season that features episodes like Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense”, Owls and Roosters, and The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now. Nevertheless, The Curse of Frank Black is one of those episodes of television that has really stayed with me over the years. I have lost track of how many times I have watched it, and every time I still find something new. So this was a delight.

As ever, you can listen directly to the episode here, subscribe to the podcast here, or click the link below. I really hope you enjoy.

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #40!

It’s time for the latest Scannain podcast! A somewhat bumper edition this time.

This week, I join Grace Duffy, Luke Dunne from Film in Dublin and Phil Bagnall to discuss the week in film. As usual, we talk about the top ten and the new releases, as well as what we’ve watched this week. In this episode, we all debate Mandy, Grace discusses her rewatch of Arrival, Luke contemplates Bad Times at the El Royale and Phil ruminates upon Wonder Woman.

The bulk of this week’s news coverage is given over to Phil’s trip to the London Film Festival, and he discusses his highlights of the festival; his opinion on the headliners, his hidden gems and his disappointments. In other film news, we discuss the WANDA Feminist Film Festival in Belfast and the Galway Junior Film Fleadh.

The top ten:

  1. Kler (Clergy)
  2. Samson Et Dalila – Met Opera 2018 (Opera)
  3. Hunter Killer
  4. Venom
  5. First Man
  6. Johnny English Strikes Again
  7. Goosebumps II: Haunted Halloween
  8. Smallfoot
  9. Halloween
  10. A Star is Born

New releases:

  • Possum
  • The Guilty
  • Bad Reputation
  • An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn
  • The Hate You Give
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Katie

You can download the episode here, or listen to it below.

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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