Once again director Christopher Landon proves his mark in the realm of teen slasher horror. Whilst Happy Death Day had its faults, Landon struck a vibe with the new generation of horror fans by taking a classic comedy film ala Groundhog Day and adding a slasher twist. The success proved such a success in collaboration with Blumhouse, a production company that have excelled in recent years tapping into the horror genre with great success, that would go on to produce an equally profitable sequel. Proving that the formula works to reinvent family-friendly comedies of yester-year, Landon hits his stride with the twist on body swap sub-genre and the Freaky Friday film, this time around seeing teen protagonist Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton – Supernatural) switching bodies with a serial killer, The Blissfield Butcher (a surprisingly good Vince Vaughn).
Landon’s language on screen has also come into his own as he projects great energy with his admittedly one-dimensional characters, (if there is one criticism to be held, it’s definitely here) but it’s the way Landon plays with these characters within his realm with the number one aim to have fun with it. I can not stress how much Freaky owns the comedy element, knocking around familiar concepts in the genre with some cracking nods along the way, notably Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises respectively and sure fire proof that Landon knows his craft.
What surprised me about this film was how the ‘camp’ elements played in favour of its narrative, which so easily could have bent in the wrong direction, tipping into painful territory, but manages to keep that balance in check. This also allows for some decent heartfelt moments especially for Vaughn to chew his teeth into and adding some nice beats in the more quiet moments in the film.
There are also some cracking gore moments to keep the horror enthusiasts thirst for on-screen blood satiated. It may not go dark enough to some, but to do so would be detrimental to the humour component that Landon was striving for.
This is a fun, enjoyable ride that does exactly what it says on the tin.
Landon excels in this environment, playing with the genre concepts with glee and producing a cracker movie filled with great energy and plenty of gore whilst keeping his finger on the pulse.
100 years ago the Roaring Twenties came into effect with a social and economic boom that pushed the boundaries of experimentation and exploration dubbing it the crazy years.
Cinema has evolved greatly during this time and spawned Robert Miene’s silent horror in German Expressionism, which is still considered a classic among some critics.
While the tides have shifted and the boundaries of what is classified as horror has twisted through the years, moving numerous debates and discussions along the way, we come to a time when originality can be hard to come by, or perhaps the audience has become too critical and our perceptions have changed.
Can the films of today cause a deeper development in the genre that we’ve come to love and like the films that were born a century ago stir the insanity again and break new ground in the process?
Let’s look at what 2020 has in store and see if indeed it will deliver.
This film has led some early reports to compare it to Alien but in the ocean deep instead of the far reaches of space. It does boast Kristen Stewart in the cast who may divide audiences and has been a bit hit and miss of late in her film choices but she is supported in this instance by Vincent Cassel, who is known for choosing experimental films. Does this then mean that this team of underwater researchers will uncover not only a few beasties but also break new ground in the process?
Prediction: Neither sink or swim. A drifter that will entertain some but not cast anything new into the cinematic landscape.
Jan 24 – The Turning
Based on Henry James novel, The Turn of the Screw and produced by Steven Spielberg, it stars Mackenzie Davis (Terminator: Dark Fate) and Finn “Can my hair grow any longer?” Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and bears close scrutiny as director Mike Flanagan (Doctor Sleep) is set to release an interpretation of the novel in Netflix series, The Haunting of Bly Manor, his follow up to the successful The Haunting of Hill House.
Prediction: Director Floria Sigismondi will no doubt bring some artistic visual flair that is evidence from her music videos, but could possibly fall foul of “popcorn syndrome” – Light, fluffy with a bit of crunch and serves the masses, but ultimately has no substance.
Initially I was really excited about this release, being a fan of the Ju On franchise, plus Nicolas Pesce’s work with The Eyes of My Mother, and Piercing. Both movies have pushed the boundaries of comfort and shot in stylistic fashion that I was keen to see where Pesce would take The Grudge. Early reports haven’t been favourable however, so it could be another disappointment in the first month of the new decade.
Prediction: Could be another franchise instalment too many. The name alone will pull in the numbers, yet may not hit the mark on the scare front.
Jan 31 – Gretel and Hansel
It’s been over 200 years since The Brothers Grimm fashioned the fairy tale about a cannibalistic witch that kidnaps two children roaming in the woods. The fact that it is still resonates today is a testament to the strength of the storytelling and it will be interesting to see the story told from the perspective of Gretel played by Sophia Lillis (IT) who has already proved compelling as the young Beverly Marsh.
Prediction: Better than your average fair without necessarily offering anything new or compelling with the horror genre.
Some may argue its place in this list, but it is billed as a psychological horror and director Robert Eggers has already made a name for himself in the artistic expressionism world within the genre with his debut feature, The VVitch, a film that also divided audiences. American audiences have already seen the movie too as it was released there last year, but as yet Australian audiences are still to see Eggers’ sophomore outing which pits Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson against one another in a battle of wills and sanity in a remote and confined island.
Prediction: Will wow audiences looking for the alternative and alienate those more into the mainstream. Either way, both audiences will applaud the performances and Eggers and cinematographer Jarin Blaschke will paint a stunningly beautiful canvas.
Feb 13 – Fantasy Island
Blumhouse Productions are about to shake things up again by breathing new life into a cult 70s tv series. With a star-studded cast – Michael Pena (Crash), Maggie Q (Nikita), Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars), and Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer). On an island where your fantasies come true, only to turn into nightmares and the guests must figure out its mystery in order to survive.
Prediction: Another success for Jason Blum and the team which will connect with the cinema-going public. If it’s played right, it could offer a fresh take using a blend of fantasy and horror that could also spark a franchise
Feb 21 – Brahms: The Boy ll
This one is a bit of an oddity. Whilst its predecessor was a middle of the road affair and proved to be better than expected. It did feel like a one-off movie that didn’t necessarily warrant any further journey into the world of Brahms. A sequel is here though and will pick up with the doll being discovered by another family.
Prediction: A flop that will fall by the wayside and may not even make a blip on the radar.
Feb 27 – The Invisible Man
Another Blumhouse movie, this time in collaboration with Universal to resurrect their monsters franchise after the abysmal Tom Cruise vehicle from a few years ago. In what is potentially a ripe and current topic being explored in domestic violence as its central theme The Invisible Man boasts a cracking cast with Elisabeth Moss taking lead duties. It’s also in great hands with director Leigh Whannel steering the ship following his successful movie Upgrade from last year, plus Whannel is a storyteller, so expect a decent script to boot.
Prediction: The first big success of the year bringing the Universal monsters franchise back on track and paving the way for future projects with The Bride, Renfeld, The Invisible Woman, and Frankenstein.
Mar 20 – A Quiet Place Part 2
The question is whether director John Krasiniski can repeat the winning formula from the first movie. This War of the Worlds style feature with an audio twist is more sci-fi than horror, but with the family in plight scenario held a strong connection with the audience. How will this translate now that there is an absent father?
Prediction: Cillian Murphy will provide some much needed gravitas to the narrative which will be strong enough to lift the audience through with some decent ups and downs to wrench up the tension.
Apr 3 – The New Mutants
Since Disney took over Marvel operations, The New Mutants has been stuck in production, deemed a little dark for the House of Mouse questioning how to distribute it. The feature comes across as The Dream Warriors crossed with the X-Men and centres on 5 young mutants held in a secret facility against their will. It also boasts a cracking cast with Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Anya Taylor-Joy (The VVitch, Split), and Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things).
Prediction: Despite several delays I feel that this film is gonna connect in a big way and pull in a lot of people. It just depends on how dark Disney are willing to go with it.
Apr 17 – Antlers
Little is known about this movie other than it is based on a short story by Nick Antosca the creative mind behind the Channel Zero anthology series. The screenplay must have some potential to have caught the eye of Guillermo Del Toro and put his name down as producer.
Prediction: With Keri Russell in the cast to provide the fantasy elements in reality, this could well be the surprise hit of the year.
May 15 – Saw reboot
Currently titled The Organ Donor starring Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson and Max Minghella this reboot of the Saw franchise will see the return of the Jigsaw Killer, but without Tobin Bell… I think? With director Darren Lynn Bousman at the helm once more following his turn overseeing parts 2-4, he is no stranger to the world.
Prediction: Will put bums on seats for the shock gore factor alone, but will the buddy cop drama approach pay off? Time will tell.
Jun 11 – Candyman
This is gonna be a tough one to watch for me as I am such a huge fan of the original movie and like Freddy, Candyman would haunt my dreams for a long time after viewing. A lot of that has to do with the strength of Clive Barker’s short story coupled with Tony Todd’s personification of the titular character. Part of me is willing for this to be a success though as I can see room for the movie to be delivered to a modern audience using folklore and mythology at its core, and the storyline itself can transcend easily through the ages. It will be interesting to see a female perspective in director Nia DaCosta to follow Helen’s journalistic investigations.
Prediction: Jordan Peele has attached his name to this project and is clearly passionate about the story, but one can’t help but feel this is one step too far in rekindling the old flame that resides within the Candyman story.
Jul 2 – Ghostbuster: Afterlife
I know it’s technically not a horror film, but I’m including this in the mix for its nostalgic value in me the original movie paved the love of horror that I have and opened the door to many more glorious visions in the genre ever since. The original team will return in some shape or form, but primarily the film centres around a mother and her two children who set up on a farm only to discover something paranormal lurking in the town.
Prediction: Another film that will be resting on the merits of the first film, and while it’s great to see Jason Reitman take on the franchise following in his father’s footsteps, one can only hope that there will be enough comedy, horror and sci-fi to capture that old magic, but I think it will just be a glimmer rather than that sparkle.
Jul 10 – The Purge 5
Supposedly returning for the final instalment the 12 hour no holds-barred, crimefest ignited something in the movie-going audience. It has seen five feature length instalments and 2 seasons.
Prediction: More of the same, so if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll love it. I for one think the films are fun and enjoyable and it will be interesting to see how James DiMonaco will conclude things.
Jul 30 – Morbius
Sony has promised to take the Marvel universe into dark territory before with Venom and here they intend to do so again with Morbius, the Living Vampire. Jared Leto will no doubt bring the goods for the titular role and is in good company with Matt Smith, Jared Leto, and Tyrese Gibson.
Prediction: Director Daniel Espinosa provides great entertaining and solid movies, such as Safe House and Life, and I see no change here to his formula, but still question if they can go dark enough to make it compelling for horror fans.
Sep 11 – The Conjuring 3 aka The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
The Conjuring universe has progressed in leaps and bounds since its initial release in 2013. There has been the odd blips, but essentially the films continue to entertain and scare audiences. This latest film will once again see the Warrens at the centre of proceedings, this time with one of their most publicised cases that bore witness to Arne Cheyenne Johnson claiming that he was possessed when he murdered.
Prediction: Solid acting, tight storyline, but may fall down with its delivery and exposition. Unfortunately Director Michael Chaves didn’t deliver with The Curse of La Llorona, so I fear that this may end up in a similar way, but am still willing to give it a chance.
Sep 17 – Last Night In Soho
Not much known about this one, but Edgar Wright has a knack for tapping the pulse of classic films and adapting their essence for a modern audience. This time around the psychological horror is inspired by Don’t Look Now and Polanski’s Repulsion both high in my all-time favourite lists
Prediction: A killer cast in Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Diana Rigg, and Terence Stamp, this could be the ‘big hit’ of the year.
Oct 15 – Halloween Kills
In 2018, David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and Jason Blum attempted the impossible, the resurrection of Michael Myers that would connect both fans of the original and connect with a new audience. By delving into the subject of trauma and the impact that this has on its victims, Myers became both topical and harrowing. His sheer brutality and the force in which he attacks his victims made his carnage all the more disturbing.
Prediction: The name and sheer presence of Myers will bring the audience to the screens, but can they still make him relevant? They can’t rest on the nostalgic nods this time around. It’s a fine line to walk on, for if they get it wrong, they could find their final instalment, Halloween Ends a tricky sell.
TBC – Army of the Dead
For sheer shits and giggles, and action-pumped mayhem from visual storyteller Zack Snyder, about a group of mercenaries who decide to rob a casino during a zombie outbreak, this film concludes our list.
Prediction: Starring Dave Bautista, Army of the Dead will be entertaining if nothing else. A perfect answer for those just wanting to get their kicks and not have to think too deeply.
Here at the Surgeons School of Horror there
are some key elements that make up a good sequel.
It stays faithful to what was
set up in (the spirit of) the original.
It offers something new that
adds to the original. It needs to feel right and makes you say, “Yeah, that
fits!” without contradicting it.
And the tipping point in
shifting from a great sequel into an awesome one is that it must stand on its
own as an individual film.
Highlander 2 for example completely ignored the rules as to why they were immortal in Highlander 1 = Bad movie.
From LA is a literal rehash of Escape From New York = Bad movie.
Where as Aliens explored and expanded the mythology of the xenomorph whilst
making a film that stands alone, which is fantastic and feels like it sits
comfortably within the universe that Ridley Scott set up = Great movie.
So, where does Happy Death 2U fit into this equation? Well, lets take a quick snapshot of our original review from its predecessor:
Murdered on her birthday, college student
wakes up to find that she is stuck in a time loop in true Groundhog Day style and must relive the day all over again and can
only break out of this vortex by finding her murderer.
It was a cool premise with some black
comedy thrown in to boot to keep the viewer connected. Sure it had its flaws,
particularly with continuity left, right, and centre. At the time I found it
hard to connect with and treated it as a fairly middle of the road movie but it
resonated with the younger generation who understood the humour and the college
satire that was injected into the lead protagonist, Tree’s plight.
So with a successful first outing, Director
Christopher Landon and producer Jason Blum felt that there was enough material
there to warrant a second trip into the time loop with a sequel.
So going back to our rules for what makes a
successful sequel how does it fair.
Does it stay faithful to the original? Yes and no. Yes, because it does keep up with the rules applied with Tree finding herself, trapped in a time loop again and it amps up the comedy element this time around more successfully I felt. No, because it loses the horror element and steps firmly into sci-fi territory which may lose some of the original fans… but having said that and to use our Alien / Aliens analogy again, the original movie was a sci-fi horror, where as the sequel was more of a sci-fi action movie, so there’s no reason that you can’t shift genre and still make it successful.
Does it add anything to the original that feels right? Hell yes! And this is HDD2U’s trump card. Where fans of the original maybe disappointed with the shift in genre, the writers stay within the boundaries of believability by throwing in the McGuffin of Carter’s roommate Ryan, who has invented a reactor that sucks Tree into said time loop with the added parallel universe jump to he mix. Tree still has to hunt down a killer, but this time around is faced with a few complex life choices.
So, does it stand on its own as a stand-alone movie? Not really, as it heavily relies on the original to tie things together.
The name of the game is fun in this movie. Whilst it steers away from the horror element, there is enough humour and drama in the mix to make this an incredibly entertaining feature that not only supports the original, but may even surpass it in some people’s eyes. Oh and stick around for a mid credits scene that potentially opens up the universe even further.
It’s been a long time coming. Since 1978 fans of Michael Myers have endured the ups and downs of their favourite slasher as he carved his way through the residents of Haddonfield, but never has captured the hearts and imagination of John Carpenter’s original vision.
We’ve seen Myers omitted from the franchise only to be brought back to stalk his niece, then inflicted with an ancient curse, played the part of a reality TV series, and then reimagined by director Rob Zombie with conflicting results.
It seemed that Myers was dead and buried, but when ‘hotter than hot right now’, production team Blumhouse started to taut the idea of bring him back to the screens once more, a new-found interest began to surface once again.
There were certain things that began to fall into place, such as the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode (albeit with slight reservation as they had done this before), which was rewarded further with the approval of Carpenter himself, plus part of his agreement was that he would provide the score. Hell yeah!
It might be a small thing but with the casting of Nick Castle to the Shape back to Myers cemented things for their storyline, which would be set 40 years after the original events transpired. The catch, none of the other movies in the franchise would exist. The producers would be picking up the baton without the sequels to muddy the water.
The other slight snag is that director David Gordon Green and his writing collaborator Danny McBride, normally associated with comedy were attached to steer this new direction. The screenplay they presented had the approval of those around them, but could they pull off a horror slasher and one that comes with so much expectation?
As the pre-credits began to roll, you suddenly felt that they had got the tone just right, ranging from the familiar score charging up the emotions and the image of the pumpkin rebuilding itself with a giant metaphor for the franchise. Halloween is back and they’re going to make it as damn good as they can, whilst keeping in tone of the original movie.
As the film unfolds it soon becomes apparent that what Green and McBride are telling isn’t just a typical horror film, but one of the trauma and the suffering that one faces when they have gone through a massive ordeal such as the one Laurie Strode faced all those years ago. What does that do to the psyche? What would happen to someone like Laurie and how would she cope back once faced with the reality of her situation? The choice was to place her as a survivor of sorts who is still fighting her demons, as she has become a modern day doomsday prepper, although in her case, Laurie isn’t preparing for the end of the world, but her inevitable last encounter with Michael Myers.
Jamie Lee Curtis does an amazing job of portraying Laurie and the impact that her character has had on her family. I’m not sure if I can recall her ever showing such raw emotion on screen, but she is able to deliver a full range of vulnerability, compassion, strength, and empowerment and with it she harnesses the other characters with her to produce a well-accomplished, solid movie. Laurie Strode is now a symbol of the effect that trauma has on those who’ve lived it or experienced it. In one scene, Jamie Lee Curtis is so broken in her portrayal that you can see the pain etched across her face as her whole body folds in on itself. It truly is a wonderful performance and a fitting one as we move in a time of change and recognition of the suffering that women have had to endure over the years, forced to bury their emotions in a world that didn’t or refused to understand.
On Laurie’s journey of torment is her daughter, Karen, (who has had to bear the suffering of a childhood trapped in fear) and her Granddaughter, Allyson (a symbol of hope and understanding). Allyson almost represents the overall message here for the Halloween franchise. We have to bypass a whole generation in order to rebuild for the future. Our hands rest in the youth of tomorrow and if anyone is going to tap into that generation, it’s Blumhouse.
That’s no to say that Halloween doesn’t ignore the people that have had to tolerate each new chapter, if anything the movie wears it on its sleeve with plenty of nods and references along the way. It’s a fine line to tread, but Green manages to keep a perfect balance of old and new, whilst still offering something fresh and serving decent bouts of nostalgia to please all and sundry.
There are some stints of humour along the way though. It’s not all doom and gloom. Green is a comedy director first and foremost but he doesn’t saturate the film with light-hearted moments, instead he delivers when the beats serve it and it lifts the film all the more, especially with the scene in which Julian is being babysat for by Allyson’s friend, Vicky. It’s a great little exchange between the two of them that you know will just go sour as soon as Michael enters the scene.
As for our beloved psychopath, Michael, he hasn’t gone without his own set of changes. Having been incarcerated for 40 years, he too has bottled up his emotions, stifled from a system that refuses to let him indulge in his passion for killing. So when he does break free from prison bus transportation, he unleashes with such brutality that hasn’t been present in the franchise before. This suppressed Michael will stop at nothing to go on his killing rampage, selectively picking his victims at will, before coming face to face with his nemesis Laurie again.
The climax of the movie also hits some great strides and rewards with the choices that the characters take to meet the conclusion and puts you through the wringer whilst leaving you pleasantly satisfied with the result.
“Welcome back Michael Myers.
David Gordon Green and Danny McBride have successfully resurrected new life into a much-loved franchise and delivered a movie that will delight both old and new generations alike.
Congratulations to the Blumhouse team. You’ve produced the best Halloween film in 40 years.”