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Monday, February 13, 2017

Filmland - Halloween: Resurrection

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As I write this, the entertainment news circuit is momentarily preoccupied with two major discussions: the announcement of a new Halloween remake film and the performance of Busta Rhymes at this year’s Grammies.  Clearly, there will never be a better time to discuss the bizarre curiosity that is 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection.  For the uninformed, Resurrection was the final Halloween film made before Rob Zombie’s remakes, and it is incredibly, stupidly, bizarre.  It’s a mixed up and ill-informed attempt to prolong a franchise that never had that much gas in the tank well beyond its mileage. 

Yes, 1 year after the ignominious Jason X more or less killed the Slasher genre Halloween Resurrection moved in to make extra sure that the genre was dead.  How dead on arrival was this film?  Well, the story is about a reality TV show being filmed at the old Myers house when Michael sets upon the various contestants, and their only hope is the show’s two producers: Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes. 

Okay, I’m actually making Halloween Resurrection sound a lot more exciting than it really is.  Much like Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to actually understand Resurrection it’s more about the back-story than anything found in the film itself.  The changing of a decade is always an incredibly messy time for film genres but especially so for horror.  Sometimes it can be a gateway into the bold new world that’s coming, like at the end of the ‘70s when Halloween came out alongside fellow visionary Alien. 

Alternatively, you get stuff like the change over from the ‘90s to the 2000s.  This particular transitional period was made all the starker by the 9/11 attack, the point at which the ‘90s well and truly ended even though usually, you see throwback works well into the 3rd year of a new decade.  Now, Halloween Resurrection came out in 2002, but that means that its entire production cycle took place over the incredibly bizarre and murky era that was 1998-2001. 

In 1998 Scream 3 came out and basically ended any goodwill the ‘90s had built up towards the horror genre.  It may not have been an out and proud flop, but it was a cultural failure and coupled with the failure of I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend to find a lasting fan base signaled an end to the dominance of costumed killer films as the horror style of choice.  This left the horror genre in a rather aimless state from 1998-2001, not helped by how much the ‘90s really lacked for white societal anxiety. 

As such, no one really knew what horror would or could look like going forward into the 2000s.  The actual trends of the 2000s wouldn’t end up in place till 2003-2004, when the double punch of Saw and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake cemented torture porn and re-dos as the cash cows of the 2010s.  So that little window of directionless weirdness and experimentation is right where Halloween Resurrection lives. 

That’s the core of the film’s big “clever” idea of reality TV and making Busta Rhymes its savior, more on that in a bit.  When Halloween Resurrection came out, reality shows were just starting to really come into vogue in the US.  We’d had MTV’s The Real World throughout the ‘90s, but it wasn’t till 2001-2002 that Survivor and American Idol landed as major hits and transformed the TV landscape.  Halloween Resurrection clearly wanted to ride that particular wave and, under different circumstances, they might’ve succeeded. 

Making a legitimate horror film using reality TV as a grab bag of influences could conceivably work but Resurrection is still trying to crib from Scream’s playbook, with comedy and big name stars, and the two approaches never really mesh.  For context’s sake, this was 2 years after Scary Movie came out in 2000 and pretty much ended the horror-comedy wave Scream started.  

At the same time, I get the sense Resurrection was trying to capitalize on the runaway popularity of hip-hop at the time, which had translated into a string of ‘90s black fronted horror movies like Vampire in Brooklyn and Tales from the Hood.  LL Cool J had already appeared in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, the preceding film, and coupled with the desire to get name stars it made sense to pull in Busta Rhymes as arguably the film’s biggest star. 

As for the movie itself, Jaimie Lee Curtis is actually in the movie though it’s really just an extended cameo.  The film acts as a direct sequel to Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, which was itself a direct sequel to Halloween 2, dropping all the continuity from the so-called ‘Thorn Trilogy’ of Halloween 4-6.  Even though Halloween Resurrection is following up H20 there’s almost no connective tissue- the movie opens with a rewrite of H20’s ending, Jaimie Lee Curtis dies almost immediately, and her character’s son from H20 is completely forgotten. 

The actual main character is one Sara Moyer, played by Bianca Kajilich.  Sara’s a college student with an Internet boyfriend who auditions for and gets a part in the reality show at Michael Myer’s house.  The show is being produced by Busta Rhymes, as Freddie Harris, and Tyra Banks, as Nora Winston. 

From there, the plot is pretty basic- the contestants meander around Myers’ house doing dopey reality show stuff while Banks and Busta watch and Myers sneaks throughout the stage killing people.  That’s honestly the film’s biggest problem, despite its knockout premise its version of “the goods” is thoroughly lacking.  Far too much of the movie is made of bland kills and annoying fake reality show stuff instead of Busta Rhymes interacting with a masked serial killer. 

There is a great moment where Busta encounters Michael Myers and mistakes him for an extra on the show and just tells him off.  The two titans do eventually clash, with Busta deploying an amazing karate attack that totally beats Myers.  Busta even manages to get the killing blow against Myers when he knocks him into some electrical wiring and he fries. 

I’m not really sure I can recommend the film on the basis of the Busta moments alone, however.  He’s certainly funny and having a blast with the part, but the film badly needs more of him.  What’s more, despite actually being pretty good in the sitcom Terms of Engagement, the main girl Bianca Kajilich is a bit of a drag, though near the end of the film she ends up on complete autopilot during a chainsaw battle that’s pretty amusing.  Probably the most surprising part of the film is that Tyra Banks is so vacant from the production. 

This was right around the time she was becoming a junk TV fixture but she mostly tunes out for this movie before getting killed off screen.  Ultimately, Halloween Resurrection ends up a bizarre look at the horror trends that could’ve been.  Presumably, in some alternate reality there’s a whole genre of topical horror-comedies starring hip-hop and rap artists of the day but for us there is only this one, precious film. 

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