Yet ANOTHER TV Terrors Episode everyone!!!

Yes Dear HorrorFiends! The very first review of an Are You Afraid of the Dark Episode…and NO! it is not that damn clown episode.

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HIDDEN HORROR – Carrie (2002)

carrie-2002-posterWe all know the horrific coming-of-age story of the shy teenage outcast Carrie, from the classic 1977 Brian De Palma adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel, to the 2013 loved-it-or-hated-it remake. But what most cinephiles may have missed is David Carson’s 2002 made-for-TV film of the same title.

What De Palma purists and King lovers may find intriguing about the film is that Bryan Fuller’s teleplay is probably the closest adaptation to the source material, although a few scenes deviate from the novel, most notably the shocking shower scene that kicks the story off.

The direction and cinematography may be some of the weakest attributes to the production, but there are some strong performances throughout, most notably from Angela Bettis (May, Masters of Horror: Sick Girl) as the isolated Carrie, Patricia Clarkson (Wendigo, Shutter Island) as the God-fearing mother Margaret, and Canadian scream queen Katharine Isabelle (American Mary, Ginger Snaps) as Tina Blake.

Although many of the teenagers’ performances are sometimes impaired by silly dialogue, one can bet it was due to the fact that Fuller was playing catch-up with the witty, silver-tongued teenage horror films of the late 1990s like Scream and Final Destination.

All criticism aside, horror fans should check this one out, just to see a new approach to a world they already know and love.

~ Matthew McPhee

UNDERRATED SEQUEL – When a Stranger Calls Back

When a Stranger Calls Back posterWhen filmmaker Fred Walton (April Fool’s Day, 1986) originally set out to make a horror film, he created one of the most terrifying short films called The Sitter.

After the success of Halloween, he set his sights on turning the short into a feature length film, cashing in on the then fresh, but quickly escalating, “lonely babysitter being pursued by a psychopathic stalker” sub-genre. The outcome was a terrifying 20-minute opening sequence (the original short, based on the phone call came from within the house urban legend), followed by a drab 67 minutes of filler called When a Stranger Calls.

Fast-forward 24 years to the made-for-TV (and far superior) sequel, When a Stranger Calls Back.

It begins in the tradition of the original film, where an isolated babysitter named Julia (scream queen Jill Schoelen, The Stepfather, 1987) is being harassed by a stranger through her employers’ front door. In what unfolds to a truly horrific experience, Julia lives through the incident, but is scarred for life.

A few years later, Julia is enrolled in college, but knows that the stranger has been frequenting her apartment, playing games by infiltrating her home and moving objects while Julia is absent or sleeping.

After seeking help from the police, who merely laugh at the idea, Jill and John (Carol Kane and Charles Durning reprising their roles from the first film) come to Julia’s aid to catch the stranger and help her nightmare end. The pursuit eventually unfolds into one paralyzing moment after another, and it all leads up to one of the strangest and most realistically terrifying scenes ever put to film.

When a Stranger Calls Back is an atmospheric film through it’s use of lighting and camera techniques. It sets the scene and makes viewers feel very uncomfortable through long shots and plenty of dark spaces throughout.

The disturbing realism is reminiscent of other psychological thrillers that swept through the early 90s, unfortunately leaving this one over-shadowed. Films like The Silence of the Lambs, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Cape Fear and so on, but When a Stranger Calls Back deserves to be a top contender amongst them all.

It is one of the few films that has a realistically haunting climax that has stuck in my head since first viewing over twenty years ago. I was lucky enough to find this film in one of the last remaining video stores’ VHS bins to re-live it recently, and it’s undoubtedly the same copy I rented way back when.

~ Matthew McPhee

 

UNDERRATED SEQUEL FOR HALLOWEEN – Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

By the end of the eighties, people believed the American slasher was dead.

Originality and fright-factor had been gutted from the subgenre thanks to countless sequels and their antagonists, who had evolved into cartoon-like anti-heroes. Horror fans tended to root for these caricatures, who were no longer garnering screams, but harvesting cheers.

That is until 1996, when Scream rebooted the slasher genre, in a brilliant deconstruction of the slice-and-dice subject matter. But was Ghostface really that terrifying in a film that almost parodied the slasher?

Rewind one year to the release of a truly terrifying slasher that spent five years in development hell. Through countless rewrites, a multitude of on-board directors and one big legal battle, the follow up to 1989’s Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers finally saw the light of day.

The Curse of Michael Myers was intended to answer many questions about Myers’ past and counter the ambiguous ending of its predecessor.

It’s also the most panned Halloween film (with Michael Myers) of them all, by fans and critics alike. Not to mention the best sequel in the Halloween franchise.

After the traumatic events of the original Halloween, Tommy Doyle (a young Paul Rudd in his film debut) has spent his entire life as an introvert, researching Myers on his sweet-ass Commodore 64 while waiting for him to return home to Haddonfield.

When Tommy tunes in to a radio show on Devil’s Night, that just so happens to be broadcasting a Michael Myers special, he listens in on a call made by Jamie Lloyd, who tells the shock-jock that her uncle Michael is back and he is coming to get her.

After Tommy’s investigation into the strange call he finds Jamie’s baby, who she had stashed away before meeting her demise, and Tommy takes the infant on as his charge.

The next day, Tommy and Dr. Sam Loomis reunite for the first time in over fifteen years, and they begin to anticipate the Shape’s return.

Meanwhile, Laurie’s adoptive father’s brother John Strode (Bradford English), of Strode Real Estate, has recently moved his family into the old Myers’ house after years of being on the market and being unsuccessful to sell (one wonders why).

Without giving too much of the plot away, let’s just say there’s a new child contingent on taking on the mantle of the Boogeyman, after a much thought out plan and some information on why Michael is the way he is. But everybody who has viewed Halloween H20: 20 Years Later or Halloween: Resurrection knows how that turns out.

Not only is Curse one of the most forgotten films of the franchise, but it’s also the third film that H20 forgot about by not including the story arc of Jamie Lloyd in each film’s recapitulation (including Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers).

Sadly, Curse is also Donald Pleasence’s last turn as Dr. Loomis, as the brilliant actor had passed away months before the film’s release, causing filmmakers to alter the ending (a “Producer’s Cut” of Curse has been circulating around the Internet for many years before getting a much approved – by Halloween enthusiasts – “liberation” in the latest box set release).

The film has much going for it including a joke about Michael Myers in space (before Jason Voorhees and the Leprechaun did it), a rock n roll twist on the original score (as if Randy Rhodes laid some licks over top of John Carpenter’s original score), and a throwback to the ridiculous amount of white bed sheets people owned in 1980’s slasher flicks (and happened to wash them all on the same day).

The greatest thing about the death of the slasher film was the booming psychological thrillers that captivated audiences throughout the nineties (The Silence of the Lambs was the first horror film to win an Oscar). But keep in mind that there were still a few worthwhile horror films out there that buoyed the slasher subgenre throughout the grunge era, and most have yet to be seen by the laymen (that is, non-horror fiends) or have been brushed off since first viewing. So take a piece of that Halloween nostalgia everybody feels this time of year, and revisit Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. You may come out with a totally different perspective, or just be entertained as much as the first viewing – like me.

~ Mad Matthew McPhee