Halloweentown

Dakota Holbrough-6

Halloween town is a 1998 Disney film released straight to TV. For a while,Disney would air some of their classic cartoons or films during October on their channel. Until 1998,when…um….actually,I wasn’t able to find any information on this movie at all…..All I know for sure is that this was their first original halloween film released to TV,and it spawned a franchise of FOUR movies. (That’s a lot for such a low-budget film) I also know that Disney re-airs this film and it’s sequels every year. It has a really devoted fan base I suppose. It’s certainly not hard to see why though. The concept of Halloween town is a very appealing one to say the least, however this concept was perfected with Nightmare Before Christmas years prior. Even so,one has to admire the personality that was put into this film.

Halloweentown is a story about a girl named Marnie,who has recently just turned thirteen, who just wants to enjoy Halloween. Her mother forbids it,but won’t tell her kids why. Shortly after,Marnie’s grandmother (played by Debbie Reynolds) arrives for a visit. She shows the kids a book called “HalloweenTown” which strangely enough,features an image of Marnie inside was a witch. Soon Grandma’s true intentions are revealed. It is revealed that Halloween town is a real place,and a dark power is currently at work in the town.

The characters are….decent. Nothing we haven’t seen before in other holiday specials. There’s the strict parent,the fun loving grandparent,the nerdy kid,the youngest kid who practically screams “I’M THE CUTE ONE!” And the main rebellious character who turns out to be the chosen one. It’s been done countless times before,but I can’t really be too harsh on it for that. Why you may ask? The film was released straight to TV by disney.If this had gone to THEATERS,then I would have considered the familiar character types to be a problem. But here,it’s actually rather charming. The reason for this is because the film has a very “holiday special” feeling to it. It’s not very long, the effects are sub-par,but it still has heart. The best way to look at this movie (and it’s sequels) is through the eyes of a child. If was a kid watching this,I would probably watch it over and over again.

I think the film’s strongest aspect is it’s atmosphere. The movie really gets you in the halloween spirit while watching it. Everything from the colours,to the music (which is VERY good by the way. It captures the feeling of halloween so perfectly.) to the creature designs are just so halloween-ish, that it’s awesome!!! I think my favorite character would have to be Benny, the skeleton taxi driver. He’s basically just a failed comedian, But he ends up being a big help by showing our main characters the sights and highlights of Halloweentown via a taxi drive. He’s just a fun character,and I hope he’s in the other movies too.

Now the main thing I would like to talk about is how this film brought me back to being a kid on halloween. There’s just something charmingly sweet about this movie. It goes out of it’s way to let you know that it doesn’t take itself too seriously,yet it still manages to be creative and fun for children. so much so that it actually brought me back to my youth. Going out trick-or-treating. Coming home and emptying my bag and trading candy with my sister and friends,and then curling up on the couch to watch a halloween related special. it strikes a cord with me so effectively.

Halloweentown is definitely not the best Halloween related movie out there. Heck,it’s not even the best halloween related Disney movie out there. But it still manages to be a fun,creative,and enjoyable movie for kids,and older audiences who,like me,fondly look back on memories of the holiday. the special effects aren’t exactly stellar. The designs of the monsters range from cool,to just plan bonkers. But I think that’s part of the movies charm. It knows exactly what it is,and what it is,is a fun time. Recommended.

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The Twilight Zone

Dakota Holbrough-5

The Twilight Zone was one of the most influential and memorable shows of all time. It’s stories were clever,it’s production value was amazing for it’s time,and it had well developed characters as well. With so many stories to choose from,how do you pick just one to adapt into a film. The answer is you don’t. You make your yourself an anthology of four short stories showcasing the best (and unfortunately some of the worst) the series has to offer. The Twilight zone movie was released in 1983,and was helmed by four different directors ( John Landis,Steven Spielberg,Joe Dante and George Miller). Each director chose a story to tell in under twenty minutes. We are going to take a look at them each individually.

The first segment was directed by John Landis,and is called “Time out”. This is the only segment in the film that isn’t based on an episode of the original series. it focuses on a bitter and angry bigot named Whilliam Conner,who finds himself going back in time and treated the way he has treated others. It’s not the best segment of the film,but it still a decent story,and gives you a clear enough idea of just how the Twilight Zone works. Vic Morrow plays an interesting main character here, as you see him go from an unlikeable jerk,to a….less…unlikeable jerk. The camera work is great,and the time period set pieces are very well done. But unfortunately, it leaves you wishing for a little more development in the story department.

Now before I move on to the next segment,I need to address the elephant in the room. On july 23,1982, actor Victor Morrow and two children were filming the planned ending to this segment,which involved explosives and a helicopter on the set. Vic and the two children died in a tragic accident involving the pyrotechnics going out of control and the helicopter crashing. This was a horrible tragedy, and Victor and the children are deeply missed.

The second segment (Kick the Can),Directed by Steven Spielberg,is surprisingly,the WORST of the four segments. It just clashes with the tone of the rest of the film so badly. The plot centers around a group of seiner citizens,who just want to feel young and be children again. An eccentric man named Mr. Bloom (Scatman Crothers) Grants their wish,and……that’s it. That’s seriously it. Nothing scary happens,no fascinating twist happens, it’s not even that there’s anything wrong with this story, or the way it’s directed,it just doesn’t resemble the Twilight Zone. Originally, Steven wanted his segment to be based off of a classic Twilight Zone episode which involved invading aliens and supposedly took place of halloween. WHY. WAS. THAT. NOT. USED???? That sounds like a terrific concept!! And I still can’t believe that the film’s worst story was directed by Steven Spielberg. What went wrong!?!?

Thankfully, the third segment is where the film starts to truly shine. This segment is called “It’s a good life.” It’s about a kid named Anthony,who has supernatural powers,and can basically do whatever he wants. (Isn’t THAT every kid’s dream?) He befriends a woman named Helen,and invites her to his family’s house for dinner. But she soon learns that Anthony may not have ever heard the phrase “with great power,comes great responsibility”. This is a great segment. It’s directed by joe Dante,Who went on to direct Gremlins shortly after this movie. He really knows how to create some cool visuals,and he seems to understand what made the Twilight Zone the classic show that it was.

The final,and best segment,is Nightmare at 20,000 feet. Directed by George Miller, it’s a retelling of one of the most beloved Twilight Zone episodes, in which a man with a fear of flying witnesses a gremlin trying to tear apart a wing of the aircraft he is on. This segment has it all,the scares are great,the acting is top notch,the main character is incredibly easy to sympathize with,and it’s also the most enjoyable of the four segments of the film. I would go as far to say that this segment is even better then the episode it was inspired by!!!

The film’s original ending had all of the characters from the stories eventually meeting. It would of been a nice way to tie all the stories together,but sadly,the film just ends after the fourth segment. The film is also accompanied by a prologue and an epilogue,which sort of work as bookends for the film. Dan Akroyd and Albert brooks play two friends just taking a drive,as well as providing the film with some comic relief. Personally, I find these two segments very funny,and they set the tone of the film perfectly, as it doesn’t take itself too seriously,but still manages to be very smart and creative.

The Twilight Zone movie,to most, is a mixed bag. The first two segments aren’t exactly stellar,but the final two more then make up for it,and are the reasons why the film is one of my favorite halloween films. I recommend this film to Twilight Zone fans,and to people who are looking for something a little on the different side to watch in october.

The Village | M. Night

Dakota Holbrough-4

M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t been doing well these days,has he? Most people would agree that his early films were cleverly written,creatively shot,and well thought out. While his more recent films…..not so much. It seems like he went from producing hit after hit to dud after dud. The guy hasn’t made a good movie in ten years!!! And his last film, (After Earth) Was the worst one yet!!!! But that’s another story. For my third annual Halloween review,I decided to take a look at,what me and my dad believe to be, M. Night’s last truly great film. Ladies and Gentlemen,I give you…The Village.

Without giving too much of the plot away, (as M. nights films are famous for their twists) the film takes place in 1897 and centers around a small village that is living in a state of fear. the townsfolk are afraid of a group of creatures living in the forest,which they call “He who must not be name-” Whoops,my apologies. I mean “Those we do not speak of”. it’s explained the towns folk have made a truce with the creatures. As long as the humans don’t trespass into the woods,the monsters shall not enter the village. That’s all I’m going to say about the plot,but trust me,you’ll be glad you went into this flick knowing little about it when it’s done.

One of the things that M.Night’s movies get criticized for a lot is the acting. And while I agree that his most recent efforts are definitely guilty for their less then stellar acting, this movie thankfully gets it right. Bryce Dallas Howard plays The main character Ivy Walker,and does a tremendous job at making the audience feel for her. Her character is blind,and they really do some cool stuff with that aspect. Every time she is in peril,you feel as frightened as she does. Ivy carries the story terrifically. The rest of the cast does a wonderful job too,but unfortunately,I can;t talk about why their so wonderful,because that would mean giving away some MAJOR spoilers. I’ll leave it at this; Adrien Brody and Edward Walker completely steal the show.

The movie has a really intense yet strangely calm atmosphere that gets you invested right from the very first scene. It’s sort of like the show Lost,It raises many questions, but unlike Lost,leaves you feeling satisfied with the answers. There are several gorgeous shots of the forest and the village itself that make you feel familiar with the world that the film creates. The soundtrack alone is worth noting for it’s use of violins and cues that feel very classical. It sort of makes you feel like your watching an older movie,not one that was made in the past decade.

Originally,the movie was called “The woods”. It would have worked just fine, but another (and in some ways similar) film that had the same title was released a few months prior,so the name was changed to the Village,possibly to avoid a lawsuit. M.Night took the making of this film very seriously,and even went as far as to put the actors through a 19th century boot camp,so that they would have a good feel of the time period they were supposed to act in. Actor Sigourney Weaver reportedly had nightmares after reading the script for weeks! The creatures were originally deigned to walk on four legs,and looked like large lions. But when M. Night saw the finished design,he said that they looked too unbelievable and decided to completely re-design them to make them leaner, and more realistic looking.

I think the Village is sort of like a “last hurrah” for M. Night. I still hope that he will make another good film someday,but even if he doesn’t,I will always have great films like The Village to reminds us of how great of a filmmaker he can really be. Definitely Recommended!!!

Frankenstein

 

Dakota Holbrough-3

This movie..has one of the greatest opening sequence of any film I’ve ever seen. Right off the bat,it sets the tone and atmosphere perfectly. A man walks out of the curtain and warns the audience that what they are about to see “Will thrill them,shock them,and might even horrify them”. You have to remember that back in the 1930’s.they didn’t have very many horror films being made. Of course,with the exception of Dracula, Also made by Universal. So an introduction like this was rather brilliant for it’s time.

We all know the story by heart,so I won’t bother writing up a synopsis of the plot. All you really need to know is that Frankenstein is about a mad scientist who wants to create life,and because of this, Resorts to such desperate measures such as grave robbing,and sending his assistant Fritz (Or Igor as some call him) to steal brains. Dr Frankenstein is played by Colin Clive,and despite the fact that he has only appeared in two Frankenstein films,many people see him as the essential version of the character. (Although some consider Peter Cushing from the hammer films their favourite) I have to admit,whenever I think of the story,I immediately think of Clive in the roll.

The same can be said for Boris Karloff in the role of the monster himself. What can I say? He completely steals the show. He manages to make the monster sympathetic,but still gives you a sense that he’s not someone you would want to mess with. No where is that more evident then in the scene where The monster is playing with the little girl by the lake. As with Cavil,he is seen as the essential Frankenstein monster. All the other actors do a fine job as well. You really end up feeling sorry for May Clarke (Who plays Frankenstein’s fiancé Elizabeth) as she watches the scientist go more and more insane as the film goes on. And you know the cliché of an angry mob? This is the movie that started it all during the films epic climax at a burning windmill.

A few years after the film came out,many things had to be censored because of the production code. Frankenstein’s line, “Now I know what it feels like to be God!” for example, was cut. Along with many other shots and lines. In 1986,Universal FINALLY released the film the way it was meant to be seen,in it’s original format. One interesting thing I would like to note,is that the film has almost no musical score whatsoever. In most cases,I would be disappointed by this. But you know what? I didn’t even notice there was no music in the film when I first watched it! (which says a lot for me) The movie doesn’t even require music to show what a scene is trying to convey. The actors and visuals are just THAT good. It gives the film a somewhat realistic feeling as well. I have no doubt that the reason the movie has remained so timeless is partially due to the fact that it has no score. I never thought I would say this,but no soundtrack makes the movie,in my opinion, shine even more.

Frankenstein Is one of those films that is a must see for horror movie fans,monster movie fans,movie fans,and really,just ANYONE in general. It was the first film of it’s kind to start a franchise. (8 films in total!) The film still holds up to this day,and gives you that spine tingling feeling that you should be feeling in the month of october. I’d say check it out,but something tells me you already have.

the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra

Dakota Holbrough

the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra! Now I’m sure none of you have even HEARD of this movie before,so let me give you a little history. The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra was an independent project directed by Larry Blamire,who’s carrier prior to this was stage acting. Larry wanted to make his own love letter to the horror films of the 1940’s and 50’s,but he wanted to make it a self-aware parody. 
He assembled an incredibly talented cast who’s prime goal for this film was to turn themselves into bad actors,which is a lot harder then you may think! The film only took ten and a half days to shoot,and they even filmed scenes in Bronson Canyon!! A famous location that had been used in the past for films that Cadavra was parodying,not to mention the batcave from the live-action batman show of the 60’s.

The main characters of this film are two two scientists, (played by larry Blamire,and Fay Masterson) named Paul and Betty Armstrong,who are searching for a meteorite that contains a rare item called atmosphereum. These two provide a lot of exposition, and they help move the plot along nicely. Brian Howe plays one of the film’s antagonists, and he provides some of the funniest sequences in the movie. Any time him and the Skeleton bicker,your looking at the film’s comedy at it’s finest.

There are many other characters sprinkled all over the film,Such as two aliens and their pet mutant. A park ranger named Ranger Brad (You can call him Ranger Brad,most folks do) A bizarre seductive human/animal hybrid named Animala,and plenty more that come and go. But the best character,without a doubt,is the Skeleton himself. In any other movie,this character would be portrayed as the no nonsense antagonist who’s only there to scare you. But in this film….he’s an impatient,snarky,and hilarious villain who just wants to have a peaceful skeleton wedding.

The film’s atmosphere is what really makes this movie shine. everything from the sets to the music is just PERFECT. It almost feels as if the movie was really filmed in the 1950’s! the acting is very corny,but deliberately so. The special effects are also cheesy. (fun fact,the mutant’s eyes are actually toilet paper rolls……for real.) It’s clear that a lot of love went into the making of this movie.

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is one of me and my dad’s favorite movies of all time. It’s not for everyone however. The movie has a specific kind of humor that you’ll either love or hate. If your like me though, and love watching classic horror films from the 30’s to 50’s around the halloween season,I say give this one a watch. It’s a modern classic.