Thursday 8 December 2011

So slay we all

It's an iron law of film franchises that they never end on a high note. Business logic dictates that studios must keep cranking out sequels until, inevitably, they produce an installment so critically reviled and commercially unsucessful that public disgust forces them to lay the series to rest. One can imagine a world in which artistic vision alone determines the lifespan of film series: but to get there we'd need to overthrow the social conditions that give rise to films like Resurrection.

Halloween: Resurrection (2002) killed the Halloween franchise for good: it was simply so bad that Dimension Films had to stop flogging the dead horse and let Michael Myers die at last. A few years later, series producer Moustapha Akkad - a great man, after a fashion - was blown to kingdom come by a suicide bomber in Jordan, and thus ended one of the great slasher franchises, in fire and blood - until the 2007 remake, anyway.

We open with credits, presented in a grossly terrible font before a dark background, and then we hear Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) recite a fauxlosophic speech about the door to hell etc. Laurie has been confined to a psychiatric institution after accidentally killing an innocent man on Halloween night, 1998, according to exposition spouted by a senior nurse (the late Lorena Gale) for the benefit of her colleague (Marisa Rudiak). Both Gale and Rudiak are deeply terrible in this scene, incidentally; and since Gale at least was excellent as Elosha on Battlestar Galactica, I'll hold the script responsible.

It appears that at the end of H20 Michael Myers crushed a paramedic's larynx and switched clothes and mask with the unconscious man, and it was this poor devil that Laurie killed. I don't need to tell you this makes no sense, and I honestly wish the writers had just brought Michael back by fiat. Why not claim a wizard did it? It's not like they hadn't gone there before. Anyway, it quickly emerges that Laurie is only pretending to be catatonic: in fact, she's waiting for Michael to turn up and finish the job. Curtis, incidentally, is much worse than she was in H20: I believe she was contractually obliged to appear, but it's clear that just like everyone else in the whole world, she was sick to death of this series.

Michael comes for Laurie, murdering security guards along the way. There follows a pretty good fight-chase scene between Laurie and Michael, at the end of which she lures him onto the roof and catches him in a snare (as he attempts to hack his way out, his knife makes comically overdone slashing noises). Just as she's about to finish him, though, she hesitates, fearing she may kill the wrong man again; Michael exploits this to throw her over the edge. She kisses the mask, hisses 'I'll see you in hell!' and falls to her death. This is every bit as underwhelming to watch as it is to read about, incidentally. As Michael walks out, he hands his knife to an inmate obsessed with serial killers - handle first, of course: wouldn't want anyone to get hurt.

With Laurie dead, the mantle of final Myers scion should theoretically pass to her son John; but Josh Hartnett being out of Resurrection's budget in the wake of Pearl Harbor, we instead get a cast of random unknowns. Our obvious Final Girl this time around is Sara (Bianca Kajlich, of Dawson's Creek). The film introduces us to her in a lecture on the Jungian concept of the shadow, which is apparently 'a figment of ourselves that even the collective unconscious denies... Inside all of us there lurks a dark, malevolent figure, a kind of bogeyman, if you will'. That may sound ominous, but it's so much nonsense: in analytic psychology, the shadow is a complex uniting the 'socially undesirable aspects of the maturing personality' (Anthony Stevens, Jung: A Very Short Introduction, p. 64). Am I wasting my breath here?

Sara and her friends Rudy (Sean Patrick Thomas), an enthusiastic cook, and Jen (Katee Sackhoff - no, really) have just been chosen for a new internet reality format thought up by Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes). 'Dangertainment' will see a group of contestants spend Halloween night in the old Myers house in Haddonfield, supposedly to find out what drove Michael to kill; the teens have cameras strapped to their heads and viewers can choose their own angle. Of course, Freddie and his assistant Nora (Tyra Banks) have secretly loaded the house with knives, fake corpses, spooky toys and the like, hoping for more entertainment value.

Beside Sara, Rudy and Jen, the contestants include Donna (Daisy McCrackin), who spouts what the screenwriters believe is high-falutin' college talk; Jim (Luke Kirby), a music student who wants to get into Donna's knickers; and Bill (Thomas Ian Nicholas), who dies very quickly. Of all these people, Katee Sackhoff is probably the most dispiriting: evincing none of the brilliance she displayed as Battlestar Galactica's Starbuck, she is very bad here, and it makes me feel a little embarrassed. It is, in general, a loathsome bunch of meat - although on the plus side, we have three named black characters, a series record and quite possibly an all-time high in the slasher genre.

Obviously, Michael turns up and begins murdering everyone. The kills are pretty rank, gory but unoriginal; and if you were to ask me when the old 'killer kills with people in the next room none the wiser' trope got really stale, I'd have to say it was around the time of Halloween II, back in 1981. We're treated to the worst head prop I've seen in a very long time during Jen's death scene, and there's one fake-out of a seemingly dead character returning to life, because in the Halloween series multiple stab wounds lead to either (1) instant death, (2) brief loss of consciousness, after which you carry on as if nothing ever happened. Michael is played without distinction by Brad Loree, and let me issue my familiar complaint that the mask looks different again: the eyeholes are smaller now and have black rims.

In Resurrection, we see everything that makes a slasher bad coalesce. Its screenplay, penned by Larry Brand and Sean Hood, is truly lousy, leading to a film so braindead it makes The Curse of Michael Myers seem downright ambitious. The performances are terrible and, worst of all, it's unimaginably ugly. The 'choose your own perspective' gimmick means that a lot of what we see is low-quality, grainy webcam footage, and the innumerable POV shots make for a miserable viewing experience (there's a reason why POV is used sparingly in film). Director Rick Rosenthal's return to the franchise sees it at its nadir, and Rosenthal has no luck making any of what happens less confusing. It's a miserable little film that escaped direct-to-video hell only because of the franchise's prestige and Akkad's clout, and thus it's a good showcase of the slasher as a whole c. 2002.

In this series: Halloween (1978) | Halloween II (1981) | Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1988) | Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) | Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) | Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) | Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998) | Halloween: Resurrection (2002) | Halloween (2007) | Halloween II (2009)

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