In the late ’70s, the face of horror and overall cultural landscape of American films as we knew it was changed forever when co-screenwriters John Carpenter and Debra Hill unleashed Michael Myers upon an unsuspecting world via the original Halloween, effectively launching a seemingly never-ending franchise and media machine.
Directed by Carpenter and released on October 25, 1978, the film centers around the aforementioned Myers (played primarily by Nick Castle in this entry), who stalked and killed his older sister Judith (Sandy Johnson) on Halloween night 1963. Fast forward to 1978, when after serving fifteen years in a mental facility under the care of Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence), he suddenly makes a break for it, just in time to return to his home town of Haddonfield, IL on (you guessed it), Halloween.
It’s there he encounters three unsuspecting babysitters whose fates will all be drastically changed; Annie (Nancy Loomis), Linda (P.J. Soles), and of course, the lone survivor (and epitome of heroines), Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Meanwhile Loomis enlists the help of local sheriff Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers) to track down and prevent Myers from seeing through his devious acts.
Rewind It’s (l to r) Jacob, Jesse, and Brooke Striewski with actress P.J. Soles – who portrayed Lynda Van Der Klok in the original Halloween – at Fantasm in Orlando, FL on 10-3-21.
With a budget of larger than $325,000, the film quickly became one of the most successful independent films of all time after earning over $70 million at the box office, and is considered groundbreaking horror, and the go-to example to the slasher genre. Every last detail from its isolated, dark suburban setting, to the simplistic yet eerie music score by Carpenter, struck a lifelong nerve with audiences and non-horror fans alike.
Of course one can no longer talk about Halloween without mentioning its various sequels, remakes, and overall retreads. While 1981’s Halloween II directly followed the first film (and admirably at that), few that came after were able to re-capture that same “feel” as the original. 1982’s stand alone Halloween III: Season of the Witch (which I’ve mentioned before in previous articles was my introduction to the Halloween films, and still my personal favorite of them all to this day) saw filmmakers attempting to try something different, yet audiences were not ready for such drastic changes at the time.
After 1988’s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, the series began declining considerably, with many of the entries released since being nearly unwatchable (most notably the latest “requels” that began in 2018 and concluded with last year’s notorious Halloween Ends). Yet whatever rehashes that have come and gone since, nothing can ever take away from the original “night he came home.”
Many moons ago, long before Facebook had taken over as the social media giants they would soon become, there was this little site people connected on called Myspace. At the time, I was new to navigating it, and just starting to feel my way around the world of journalism. Looking to score my first interview piece for the magazine I was writing for at the same time, one of the first celebrities I ever followed and reached out to was one I had always been a fan of growing up; Courtney Gains of The‘Burbs and Children of the Corn fame.
I cannot recall if I ever did hear back regarding my interview inquiry back then or not, but for whatever reason, the moment was simply not meant to be. Fast forward to 2023, where after a solid fifteen years of writing about entertainment for various media outlets has lead to a number of interview opportunities actually presenting themselves to my desktop on nearly a daily basis. One of those recently being none other than Gains, who admittedly I did not realize until fairly recently was also an accomplished musician with a new studio release on the way at the time (in addition to still being a talented actor).
So I jumped at the chance to finally speak with Gains one-on-one, and after finally settling on a mutual day and time, sat down for a phone conversation with him. With a body of work in film that stretches all the way back to the early ’80s, I decided to start off with his music endeavors first, and asked just how long he had been playing for, and what instrument he originally started off with. He told me; “I started taking (guitar) lessons when I was thirteen years old. I’ve been in bands in LA for a number of years, probably from about the time I was eighteen. So it’s always been my side hustle/hobby; it wasn’t how I was making a living (back then), but I was always pursuing it. But this time around I’m really doing my own project as opposed to being in ‘a band.’ The last project that I had before this current one was a band called Ripple Street, and the last album we put out was just a straight break-up record. I played guitar and sang with them, but in this band I really wanted a better guitar player, so I actually play bass and sing, which has been an interesting process for me.”
I decided to dive right into his new EP, Safe Haven, which he had just started officially promoting the week prior to our conversation. Regarding it he informed me; “It’s a six-song EP, all rock ‘n roll and blues, and all things I want to talk about that I think are a little whacked out. For example, I have a song called “The Healer” that’s the point of view of an egotistical plastic surgeon (Laughs). Then there’s songs like “Bills in Space” about the billionaire space race, stuff like that.”
He continued his point regarding the latter song; “I think it’s funny some of the ‘greater minds’ spend all this money so they can go out into space…how about solve some of the problems right here first? (Laughs). What I’ve learned though is you just never know the impact something’s going to have on someone. By talking about/promoting this and getting it out there, there might be at least one person that it effects. If you just put yourself out there, you just never know the impact it’s going to make.”
I wanted to know if he had a personal favorite track from the record, to which he said; “Someone else recently asked me a similar question, and I had to go with “Good Times;” I’ve been playing that song for over twenty years. Three of the songs on the record are songs I’ve had around for awhile, and they all appeared in a movie called Benny Bliss and the Disciples of Greatness from 2009 that I produced and starred in that had an anti-technology message, so there’s definitely a theme there of things that I’m not too keen on (Laughs). But that song has been around forever and is the type of song that just gets people up on their feet, so it’s good to finally get that one out there.”
Gains informed me; “We’ve been really gigging for the last eight or nine months, and it’s all been gearing up for hitting the road next year to really promote the record, that’s what this has all been really heading towards. It also ties in with Children of the Corn’s 40th anniversary next year, so it will definitely be a big convention year for me in 2024. I’ve been doing horror conventions for fifteen years or so now, and it’s been a good run. But I’m getting kind of tired of the traveling and jumping on plans and all that, so I think I’m going to call it and go out on a big note.”
Gains continued; “But it’s good timing-wise, because I can also promote the music during this same run. We’re even talking about doing some 35mm print screenings of the film with some Q&A’s and the band playing.” And as far as if this might make it to Florida, he told me; “We’re going to start coordinating all that soon. I don’t know for sure if there’s any art houses or places in Florida that want to screen it yet, but if they do, we’ll show up!”
As far as landing the role of Malachai in Children… all those years ago, Gains enlightened me of the process; “I had to audition, which I still often do. There was this casting director named Linda Francis who had seen me in a showcase, which were just starting to happen in LA. They would invite agents and casting directors down and you’d present a scene, and if they liked you they might take your picture or whatever. And she took a liking to me and was really the first person to become a ‘fan.’ She cast me in this one film that ended up not happening, but she was the one that kept pushing for me, and really made a big difference in my life.”
He continued further; “But the famous story goes that in the first reading for Children…, I pulled a fake knife on the reader, who didn’t know that it was fake and about wet himself! He’s since gone on to be a huge casting director, and to this day will use that moment as an example at his lectures and tell people to never do that…which I agree, but at the time I was just young and hungry, although that’s a good way to never get called back again (Laughs)! Then the second audition was with John Franklin who played Issac, and I was grabbing/lifting him up by his lapels, and he said I was by far the scariest one in the room, and the rest is history! That was both his and mine’s first film, and we’re still tight and do conventions together to this day.”
I was also curious if Gains had been a Stephen King fan prior to appearing in a film based off of the writer’s work. He told me; “I didn’t really realize how big he was (or was going to be) at the time, but thank God for that, we’ve been riding Stephen King’s coat tails for almost forty years now (Laughs).” And as far as the numerous entries in the franchise that have come since? Gains told me; I saw the sixth one which John (Franklin) returned for, and I did see the Sy Fy reboot that the producer of the original one, Don Borchers, also returned for – and that was alright. I was supposed to actually do a cameo for that, but I wasn’t able to do it because I was actually at a con in Florida at the time, and the weather didn’t permit, so it didn’t end up happening.”
I asked about his follow up to Children…, the 1984 sex comedy Hardbodies, and what that was like filming, and Gains joked; “It was terrible! I got to hang out on the beach all day with hot girls, so it was just absolutely brutal! (Laughs). But I got that part because I would go to this class that the director (Mark Griffiths) would have on Sunday nights, and he took a real liking to me. So when he got greenlit to do that film, he more or less tailored made that role for me, which was basically mine to not blow.”
As far as that sweet checkered hat he wore in the film and hanging out with the all-female rock group Vixen at the time, he informed me; “I put that whole outfit together, and remember actually getting in a fight with the wardrobe lady (Laughs). She was living closer to the south beach areas and what was going on with the kids down there, but I was going for more of a skateboarder vibe. I’d say a good seventy percent of that wardrobe was all stuff of mine, and I had that checkered hat for a number of years afterwards, but I’m not sure whatever happened to it. I do remember the first day driving in Malibu like that though and people were just laughing. But hey, it was already getting a reaction, so I must’ve been on to something! (Laughs).”
And when it came to seeing a pre-famous Vixen on the set; “I was walking from a trailer down this alleyway in Venice Beach, and I heard them as they were actually in the garage rehearsing (just like the scene they appear in the movie), and I thought they’re pretty cool! Then I remember a few years later seeing their poster up somewhere and being blown away by how huge they had become. I thought they were just a band they had put together for the movie (Laughs).”
The following year Gains appeared in the film that would kick off one of the biggest trilogies of all time, 1985’s Back to the Future. Although his role was brief, I asked how it felt to be a part of such a blockbuster series. He explained; “To be associated with that franchise in anyway is a pretty mind-blowing, amazing thing. My character had already been dropped one time, and if you’re doing a movie they can only drop you one time, and if they bring you back they can’t drop you again. So they had already dropped me once in the middle of all the chaos of re-shooting everything after dropping Eric Stoltz in the lead role and replacing him with Michael J. Fox. Still to this day, one of the top residual checks I get is from Back to the Future, so it’s been a financial blessing in my life.”
Ironically Gains would go on to co-star with Stoltz after all in the somewhat forgotten classic, 1990’s Memphis Belle. I asked his thoughts on the film today; “The timing was bad because it came out right when the first Iraqi war broke out, and no one wanted to go see a war movie at the time. But still a very good film with some top-notch people involved with it.”
Of course one cannot forget his role as the nerdy best friend to Patrick Dempsey in 1987’s Can’tBuy Me Love. Regarding the film he stated; “Well, it’s definitely had an impact. It was a just the second film for this little indie company called Apollo Pictures which I had already done another movie for. It was originally this low budget film called Boy Meets Girl, and then Disney picked it up with their new division called Touchstone Pictures, and they dumped some more money into it to do some re-shoots and take all of the bad jokes out of it (Laughs). And then they bought the rights to (The Beatles song) “Can’t Buy Me Love” – which was not cheap – and then they made that the title, which really took it to the next level. But that movie was like the the number three movie that summer, and really launched Patrick Dempsey’s career.”
But perhaps the most memorable role of Gains’ career to this day (aside from Malachai) will always be Hans Klopek, creepy neighbor to Tom Hanks in 1989’s The ‘Burbs. Gains stated; “That’s the one that I think is really the most underrated. While we were shooting it, Big had just come out, which was just a huge hit for Tom Hanks. Comparatively they were disappointed, but thanks to home video and all that it really kept getting out there, and it wasn’t until I started doing conventions years later that I realized that there was a whole like dedicated, underground, ‘Burbs community out there (Laughs). There’s people that tell me stories that this was the movie they used to watch with their parents, and now watch with their own kids. It seems to be the movie the whole family agrees on, and I even had a guy tell me it’s the movie his mom watches when she gets depressed! You can never underestimate the impact that a movie can have on people. It’s pretty cool.”
He continued his thoughts on the film; “I had a good time working on it, though. Joe Dante was a nice guy to work for, and Tom Hanks was the most down-to-Earth A-lister you’re ever going to meet. I was (and still am) a huge Bruce Dern fan, so for him to recognize my work at all meant the world to me (and still does). And ironically there was a writer’s strike going on at the time (which we have one going on right now), and it was just us and Fletch Lives shooting on the entire Universal lot, and we got those movies in right before the strike.”
Bruce Dern puts Gains in a chokehold in a still shot from The ‘Burbs (1989).
He then briefly stayed on the topic of the current writer’s strike; “I’ve been seeing the writing on the wall for this coming for a long time now. I was very aware that the residual checks had been becoming less and less and the industry was getting worse for awhile. That’s why I moved out to the southeast, it’s more live-able and also opened me up to the whole east market including, New York. Last year I did a movie in New Jersey called The Wrath of Becky, and that was a great role, and I’m pretty happy with it.”
With Halloween just around the corner, I also wanted to know Gains’ thoughts on his cameo appearance in Rob Zombie’s 2007 version of Halloween. He stated; “It’s pretty crazy how many times they’ve re-booted the movies at this point! But I think that Rob knows his horror, and does try to make a point to bring people from the genre into his films, so I was happy to be a part of that. I had a friend of mine who had worked with Rob before that gave me a really great piece of advice, which was to be prepared that Rob might just completely go off script if he doesn’t like the way something is going. And that turned out to be the greatest advice, because what Rob’s trying to find is the truth of a scene, and I really appreciate that. A lot of times directors get so caught up in the process of moving things along, they don’t stay in the process and try to make something good out of it.”
He went into greater detail; “So what was supposed to be one day’s worth of work turned into another because we kept working it and adding stuff to it. It was such a nasty, disturbing scene though that nobody wanted to hang around the monitor to watch it, and I’ve never seen that before. But I like the way Rob works, and he has a great sense of the vibe and design of a scene. He knows what he likes and what his audience likes, and has a very great sense of all that.
This very weekend (which happens to kick off with a Friday the 13th!) is primed to be a busy one for Gains, as he informed me; “There’s a haunted house out in the woods in North Carolina called the Haunted Pyramids, and my band will be playing two nights there on the 14th and 15th. So we’ll be playing for a bunch of horror fans out there. All the rest of the bands are going to be metal except ours, but we’re going to go out there and rock their asses off anyway! (Laughs).”
And with Halloween just around the corner, the last thing I wanted to know was whether or not Gains had any sort of personal annual traditions for the holiday at all (it should be noted, in addition to all of the films previously mentioned, Gains has also appeared in the likes of more recent seasonal films such as 2015’s The Funhouse Massacre and 2019’s Candy Corn). He told me; “I’m the worst (laughs), because like, what do I do for a living? I get dressed up in costumes! And I’m usually doing conventions around this time, so Halloween is usually my day off! (Laughs).”
Unlike the majority of fans, my introduction to the Halloween franchise actually came long before I even knew the first thing about Michael Myers. I was rounding near ten years old, and my family had just finally upgraded to cable television for the first time ever when I was searching through the channels late one October evening to discover Halloween III: Season of the Witch.
It was probably playing on USA Network or one of those other channels like it at the time, and it was well into three quarters of the movie already. My very first impression of a Halloween movie actually had nothing to do with Michael Myers, but was of Tom Atkins stalking around a dark, desolate town, with a creepy synth-driven score from John Carpenter and Alan Howarth accentuating the overall eerie scene. I was hooked, and having no prior frame of reference, it did not matter to me who was or was not in the film, or the previous entries that came before it.
When Halloween III: Season of the Witch, directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, first dropped in theaters on October 22, 1982, it was meant to be the first of numerous anthology films centered around Halloween itself, rather than just a monster with a knife. But audiences were not quite prepared for such a drastic change at the time, despite the endless possibilities this concept could have brought (the film was a modest box office success, earning just over $14 million on a $2.5 million budget).
Atkins stars as Dr. Dan Challis, a middle -aged, divorced, drunken physician who gets drawn into a web of evil and destruction after a man dies on his watch at the hospital, clutching a mysterious Halloween mask manufactured by a company called Silver Shamrock. When the deceased man’s sexy young daughter (Stacey Nelkin) starts looking for answers, Challis is more than willing to assist her with the task (and then some).
The two soon uncover that Silver Shamrock is the work of Conal Cochran (Daniel O’Herlihy), a Pagan warlock hell-bent on unleashing unspeakable evil across the world via the masks on Halloween night. It quickly becomes a race against time to prevent the madman from seeing his destructive plot through and causing harm to an untold number of innocent lives.
While it’s taken some time, Halloween III: Season of the Witch has finally reached a level of cult status it rightfully deserved. Last year at the Fantasm horror convention Orlando, FL, there was not only countless amounts of merchandise from the film for the eye to see, but I was lucky enough to meet Atkins himself (see photo below).
When asked why he thought the film has seen such a resurgence in popularity in recent times, Atkins simply said; “I don’t know why people love it so much, but it just seems to be becoming more popular every year!” His reply might have been modest, but I can easily point to the number of reasons why it’s not only my favorite Halloween film, but also one of my favorite horror movies of all time. Not only does it hold a special place for me for being my introduction to the series, it beautifully emobodied everything about the creepiest day of the year on a level that very few films in the genre have managed to capture before or since.
So, Halloween finally ends, huh? For me, it was over twenty years ago when Michael Myers offed Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in 2002’s Resurrection, but that’s just me. Last year’s atrocious Halloween Kills had to be my least favorite of all the films in the franchise (next to only the Rob Zombie entries), but what can really be said about this latest installment that hasn’t already been said, and without giving away too much?
On the surface, it could just be considered an experiment gone terribly, terribly wrong. But there’s much to unpack here. And in the five days since its release, audiences have almost universally panned the film for the direction it takes. It starts out a basic origin story, highlighting the torment and eventual descent into madness of the bullied Corey Cunnigham (Rohan Campbell). The problem that exists – other than the fact that this takes away from the Michael vs. Laurie showdown that everyone was hoping for – is who is this character, and why in the hell should we even care about him?
The ensuing love story aspect between Cunnigham and Laurie’s adorable granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) actually works in its own weird way, but feels better suited for another film entirely. But that aside, the rest of what is left is a heaping pile of metaphorical mess, clumped together by Director David Gordon Green’s would-be unique vision. Even the “kills” feel forced and largely unnecessary, if one can actually believe that.
Speaking of unnecessary, this entire newer trilogy that began in 2018 could have honestly just never happened and the world would not have missed a single beat. In fact, the best thing to even comes out of these films in my opinion has simply been the well-crafted John and Cody Carpenter (and Daniel Davies) composed music score, which was indeed the highlight of Ends (throwing in the Dead Kennedys’ “Halloween” during a party scene was a nice touch as well).
But you know where the music and storylines were even better? The original films. I’d much rather go back and re-watch Halloween III: Season of the Witch (my personal favorite, and yes that’s right, the one without Michael Myers) any day of the week. With that being said, keep an eye out for an upcoming 40th anniversary piece on the latter, dropping at the end of the week on Rewind It Magazine!
Charles Dickens’s 1843 novella A Christmas Carol is as familiar as the holiday itself. As a quintessential story of redemption, it’s hard to imagine a world before Ebenezer Scrooge. Roughly a hundred years later, director Frank Capra delivered a similar redemptive tale with the Jimmy Stewart classic It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).
Both stories had elements of darkness within their exploration of humanity, but neither delved into the murder and mayhem of the Christmas slasher films that followed. It was only a matter of time before Santa Clause became a serial killer, which audiences would get their first glimpse of on screen in the brief “And All Through the House” segment in the 1972 film Tales From the Crypt.
The1970s and 80s introduced a decidedly macabre take on the holiday genre. Nonetheless, these films exhibited a certain charm amid their profitable nihilism. It was a special time and place, where young filmmakers thrived in merging horror tropes with the holidays, long before Tim Burton arrived on the scene. One of the earliest examples of this twisted trend began with the aptly titled Black Christmas, a horror film that remains frightening to this day.
Black Christmas (1974)
Director Bob Clark played a pivotal role in launching the slasher genre with this tense, atmospheric film that entirely lives up to its reputation. Initially dismissed by critics, the movie has since gained a deeper appreciation for its artful cinematography, serious themes, and stark horror. Clark helped shape the prototype slasher film with a level of quality not often associated with the genre. There have been two worthless “name only” remakes, largely unrelated to the original plot.
The story involves a group of sorority girls being harassed by an unseen psycho who may or may not be known by them. Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, and Kier Dullea round out the talented cast, with some other familiar faces in the mix. As the murders continue unabated, we never learn the identity of the killer, which was something rarely, if ever, seen before. Black Christmas heavily inspired John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), which led to the slasher boom of the 80s. Not content with one genre, Bob Clark later went on to direct the cherished holiday classic, A Christmas Story (1983).
Ralphie’s childhood quest for a Red Ryder BB gun is quite different than anything seen in Black Christmas, and it’s a testament to Clark’s versatility. Writer Jean Shepherd’s humorous, semi-fictional accounts of growing up in the 1950s is about as far from a slasher film one could get. Both films, in my opinion, can be appreciated on different levels. Clark cemented two equally enjoyable holiday classics for generations to come.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (Part I-V)
The abundance of slasher films throughout the 80s weren’t without controversy. Bloody, elaborate special effects were often removed, following a merciless MPAA crackdown. In short, fans were left with tedious buildups to off-screen kills, amid other frustrations.
These films were seen as an affront to decency by parents and religious leaders alike, and maybe they were right. But nothing angers gore-loving teenagers more than censorship. I can attest to that. One movie, Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), earned special derision from critic Roger Ebert, who called the profits from the film “blood money” in his heated review. He may have had a point as well. Horror movies, in general, are driven by profit. Violence sells, especially when it’s holiday themed.
Silent Night, Deadly Night continued the psychological tropes first introduced in Christmas Evil (1980). In both cases, traumatized, disturbed men unleashed their fury on society, dressed as Santa Clause. I’m still amazed that Silent Night, DeadlyNight garnered five sequels, rendered unrecognizable by the fifth installment. The first film remains the best one, and the lengths they went to extend the series are a riot.
The initial outing tells the story of Billy Chapman (Robert Brian Wilson), who witnessed his parents’ murder at the hands of a Santa Clause-costumed killer. Chapman’s subsequent attempts at a “normal life” are derailed when he takes a job as a mall Santa and predictably snaps. It’s a straight-forward slasher that contains a certain depth to its portrayal of an orphaned child, doomed to the failures of the system.
The movie was pulled from theaters, following an outrage campaign in response to its commercials portraying an ax-wielding maniac dressed as Santa Clause. Simpler times, indeed. The shameless sequel presents forty minutes of footage from the original film through flashbacks recited by the brother of the original killer.
Ricky Caldwell (Eric Freeman), our demented lead, supposedly remembers everything about his brother’s descent, even though he was an infant at the time. All of this was intentional. Due to the first movie being pulled so quickly from theaters, the producers didn’t think anyone would notice if they “reassembled” the first film into a sequel. In the end, we were given an enjoyably bizarre suburban rampage, containing the brief but immortal “Garbage Day” segment. The movie is trash, but earnestly tries to breathe life into a pointless endeavor.
Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out (1989) is an anemic straight-to-video concoction, featuring a girl with psychic powers inexplicably linked to the killer, ala Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988). Back then, plenty of films shamelessly stole from the Brian De Palma’s masterful Stephen King adaptation Carrie (1976). It’s a movie so dull and boring, that it completely earns Ebert’s ire from the first installment.
The best thing that could be said about Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990) is that it tries to be something completely different, even while copying Rosemary’s Baby (1969). It’s a cult movie, directed by the talented Brian Yuzna and starring the legendary Clint Howard. A young, ambitious reporter gets intertwined with a deadly witch cult. There’s plenty of mystery and intrigue that’s as enjoyable as a fourth entry can be. I appreciate their attempts to change things up, even if it has nothing to do with the original. It does take place during Christmas, allowing the cynical holiday tie-in to continue.
They weren’t even trying for consistency by the time Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991) rolled around. This bizarre entry features a deranged toy maker, as promised, portrayed by Mickey Rooney. My explanation of the plot wouldn’t do it justice, but it’s worth seeing out of morbid curiosity. In retrospect, I give it even more credit for shifting away from the source material. It’s the most ridiculous Christmas-themed movie you could see outside of Santa Clause Conquers the Martians (1964). One thing is for certain, Silent Night, Deadly Night films are less disturbing than the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, which still ranks as the most traumatic viewing experience of all time.
Since then, there has been an explosion of sorts of modern Christmas horror films, including a loose Silent Night, Deadly Night remake simply titled Silent Night (2012), as well as Krampus (2015), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), and Red Christmas (2016), among others. Each of these tried to put their own unique spins on the holiday horror genre, and all with varying results. But the above-named earlier films will always remain the go-to’s for anyone searching for true fright during the Christmas season.
I can’t honestly say I was impressed at all with the last Halloween film released in 2018; not only was it derivative and borrowed heavily from previous entries that it supposedly ignores (it was essentially a redux of 1998’s H2O), it asked us to accept far too many idiotic and implausible situations and concepts; from giving Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) a daughter other than Jamie Llyod from parts 4-6, to the fact we’re supposed to believe that Michael Myers is somehow remembered as a great notorious figure (sure, we know who he is as an audience, but if we’re supposed to ignore the events from all of the sequels actually happened, wouldn’t he just be some guy who killed a few people decades ago, and not as revered of a murderer?). And then there was that ridiculous plot twist with the doctor assuming the role of Michael Myers for a second (don’t even get me started on that).
For a brief moment, I was actually intrigued and lost within the onset of Halloween Kills; the flashback sequences tackling aspects from that fateful Halloween in 1978 were admittedly interesting at first. If the whole film could have just somehow stayed in that reality, maybe something could have been salvaged here. But things quickly become a joke, and the updated treatment of the late Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis in these flashbacks are some of the most insulting scenes ever put on screen.
And despite having the returning Curtis paired with other series alumni from earlier films such as Charles Cyphers as Leigh Brackett, Nancy Stephens as Marion Chambers, and Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace, it does zero to add to this dying series. Even having Anthony Michael Hall portray the character of Tommy Doyle from the first film was as out of place as it gets, and by the time it gets to the point of him leading an angry lynch mob through a hospital, chanting “Evil dies tonight,” it felt as though I was watching a parody of the Halloween films, similar to the likes of Sharknado. There’s no drama left for any of the characters to have, just mean-spirited intentions spewing awful dialogue.
The worst is how certain elements are treated; Myers is now an even more ruthless killing machine than ever, torturing his victims mercilessly in some of the most brutal fashions imaginable (at one point he repeatedly stabs a victim with multiple knives even after killing them). Any sense of suspense is taken away in place of more blood and gore in hopes of appealing to the lowest common denominator (and yet that’s somehow supposed to be better for us to see on screen than the gratuitous nudity once so prevalent in these films that has been replaced by by mindless bloodshed?!). The reason The Shape was so menacing to begin with in the original films was not because of the quantity of outrageous kills on the screen, but the motivation behind it.
But judging by the audience reaction on opening night, small details like these are trivial matters to them at best, and do not matter to them one bit. Where there should be screams during kills, there was plenty of hootin’ and hollerin’ instead. Even the most mundane situations were enough to invoke unfounded laughter (a woman picks up a wine bottle to defend herself?! What a hilarious concept!). But it quickly became clear I’m very much alone in not accepting these trashy new dumbed down incarnations.
The flimmakers could have actually done something different with the material here. Hell, it would have been better had they even took the route of 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch (the best film in the entire series in my opinion, yes, even more than the original) and introduced an entirely new concept, instead of beating this dead horse of a storyline into the ground for so long. But director David Gordon Green has taken this franchise into unforgivable territory ALMOST as atrocious as the Rob Zombie remake films. But until we stop embracing regurgitated garbage being spoon feed to us like this, they will continue churning out soulless entries as long as we continue accepting them. We deserve better than this. Yes, evil really should die, along with this entire franchise (and yet, we still have at least one more film to endure next year).
By all accounts, actress Dee Wallace should need little to no introduction. In the world of horror films, she’s regarded as one of all-time top scream queens, appearing in such classics as The Howling (1981), Cujo (1983), and Critters (1986). But of her nearly two-hundred acting credits, she will perhaps forever best be known for her role in the 1982 Steven Speilberg blockbuster E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Last week, I had the chance to speak with Dee over the phone from her California home, where I was honored to ask her about many of said previous films, as well as her more recent, inspiring work in the self-help field.
And I was lucky enough to catch her just at the right time; at the very start of our conversation, Wallace informs me with glee; “I’m heading out to do a film, so you’re my very last, good little thing I get to do before I hop on a plane!” I also wanted Dee to know how much I had learned about her prior to our interview while doing background research, to which she delightfully chuckled before proclaiming, “That’s funny, everybody says that! Well thank you for doing your research!”
One of the first things I wanted to know was what made Wallace decide to step into the world of motivational speaking. She tells me; “Well, when you’re called, you have to answer that call! That’s the best way I can put it. Really when I look back on my entire life, it’s all lead up to this. I used to get messages when I was a little girl – which a lot of kids do. Then later in life when I met Christopher (Stone, Dee’s late husband), he and I got involved in a philosophy called conceptology, and we studied that for a couple of years. Cut to later in life; when he died, I basically dropped to my knees and said, ‘I don’t want to be a victim or angry.’ And the first message I got literally within seconds was to ‘use the light within you to heal yourself.'”
She continues; “So I’ve kind of been expanding on that ever since. I had the largest acting studio in LA at the time, and I would start getting downloads about stuff, and they were always right-on. So then families began wanting to work with me once they saw my students lives’ were changing, and now here I am 30 years later with clients all over the world. I’m quite an oxymoron, actually; half my life I do horror films, the other half I try to teach people how to deal with fear (laughs)! But it’s pretty empowering work, I can tell you that. It’s definitely changed my life!” Dee also hosts a worldwide radio call-in show discussing many of these subjects, which airs online every Sunday at 9am PST.
By now I felt like it was as good a time as any to finally segue into her film career, and I wanted to know if the horror genre was something Wallace had pursued personally, or if it had more or less ‘found’ her. She tells me; “It definitely found me! That genre is one of the easier ones to get started in when you’re beginning your acting career. Ironically, the first film I ever did was a religious one called Allthe King’s Men – and then I booked The Hills Have Eyes – which again, it sort of explains the dichotomy of Dee, here! (laughs). But I love doing emotional work, and the horror genre gives you the opportunity to do that better than many others. It found me, and then I found out that I loved it!”
I was curious what it was like stepping back into the Critters film series last year when Dee appeared in the fifth entry, Critters Attack! (her first time returning since the 1986 original). She informs me; “It was a lot of fun. My first question for them was ‘are you doing the Critters CGI?,’ because if they were I wouldn’t have done it, and I think the fans would have been disappointed. But I read the script and met with the director, and I got to go to Cape Town, South Africa, so how bad could it be?!” (Laughs). I was also curious if Dee had kept up much with the various other sequels in the series, as well as the other long-standing horror franchise she had kicked off the original with (The Howling). She says; “Yeah, I was kind of like, been there, done that (laughs). Especially with The Howling series, they just had a different quality that didn’t really fit with who I am.”
I also wondered if it was odd for her at all to step into the role of a villain for the 1996 film The Frighteners. She says; “Oh God, I had so much fun doing that! I love to explore all of the different sides of me, and the psyche, and I just loved that arc of going from the little victim, to becoming the killer towards the end!”
Dee has also done a number of films with director Rob Zombie (who, coincidentally, I had also interviewed when I first got into journalism), and I always wondered how that relationship had originally developed. She explains; Well, “Rob loves to work with older, established, actors. He came after me for Halloween, and then he wrote the part of Sonny for me in Lords of Salem. And more recently he wanted to know if I would do this tough gal-type for 3 From Hell. He just always brings me interesting things, and doesn’t lock me into the same cubby holes a lot of people want to put me in.”
Knowing by now Wallace has probably been asked every question under the sun about her legendary role in E.T., I wanted to ask her something that perhaps she hadn’t heard before. So, I simply inquired what it was like to re-visit such a classic film all these years later. She tells me honestly; “I still cry, I still laugh. As we all know it’s just a magical movie, and has become a part of our consciousness. I never get tired of it, or talking about it – and I can’t say that about all of my movies (laughs). It opens hearts and reminds people of what’s really important, and we just need a lot more of that these days.”
And lastly, with Halloween just around the corner, I wanted to know if Dee considered E.T. a ‘Halloween’ movie. She replied; “It’s an everyday movie! It crosses all of the years, and all of the holidays, no matter what time of year it is!” Oh, and as far as that movie Dee was setting off to film? She leaves us with a cliffhanger; “I wish I could tell you what it is, but I can say it’s part of a franchise that hasn’t been visited in awhile, and I think fans are going to be very excited!” I can however say to check out the short film Stay Home, which Dee produced during the quarantine (check it out on BloodyDisgusting‘s website today!).