Cinema Dispatch: Terrifier 2, Halloween Ends, and The Munsters

Halloween may be in our rearview mirror, but I saw quite a few movies that I wanted to talk about! After all, if Christmas can start encroaching on the months leading up to it, why can’t Halloween bow out with a bit of fanfare? Was this a great year for spooky movies and frightful flicks, or was this crop of films as disappointing as getting a rock while Trick-or-Treating? Let’s find out!!


Terrifier 2

Terrifier 2 is owned by Bloody Disgusting

Directed by Damien Leone

One year after the horrific events of the first film, Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) is back and ready to turn another Halloween into an unfathomable blood bath. This time around, however, he’s accompanied by a young girl in clown makeup (Amelie McLain) who is egging him on further and seemingly in the direction of Sienna (Lauren LaVera) who’s having strangely prophetic dreams about the killer while her brother Jonathan (Elliott Fullam) is becoming obsessed with last year’s killings. With such a nightmarish and cheekily-obnoxious villain on the loose, will anyone survive this Halloween with their sanity, and organs, intact?

It’s the 2022 Little Indie Film That Could as everyone in horror circles started talking this one up throughout October, and for the most part the enthusiasm is warranted. For me, the first one suffered from a very straightforward and uninspired narrative that was only salvaged by the interesting new villain at the heart of it, Art the Clown; truly a monster for our time. What we have with this film is exactly the kind of thing you want from a sequel as it bolsters what worked about the original but is unafraid to take things in new directions. The rather one-note grungy aesthetic of the first film got old fast, even with the absurd escalation of violence, and thankfully they improved greatly on that with a new vibrant coat of paint that makes the set pieces far more interesting, and there’s a depth to storytelling that allows for more than just picking off victims one after the other. Art gets to have a bit more personality and we see more of his internal machinations between violent murders, and Thornton’s eerie performance that’s one part Pennywise and nine parts Reddit Troll keeps his scenes compelling without allowing the film to twist things too far to his perspective as I did genuinely root for the cast of characters here who were caught in the crosshairs. Where the movie will gain its infamy will be the gore scenes which are at least a little more tasteful than they were in the first one, but are still some of the bloodiest and nastiest kills we’ve seen in quite a while, and it certainly helps that there’s more context here that gives some weight to the kills. Where the first film’s pacing stopped dead at the halfway point, this one manages to keep things escalating all the way to the bitter end. The film is a huge improvement in terms of tone, cinematography, and ambition, but where it falls short is in its writing which, as I said is much improved with solid characters and more creative set pieces, but it also feels rather amateurish. It’s a testament to the value of good nuts and bolts writing when you don’t even notice the movie establishing its characters, rules, and boundaries, and this movie is in too much of a hurry to show off that it keeps contradicting itself or leaves very basic things far too ambiguous. You could argue that it’s another feature and not a bug, that the unfiltered imagination of its creator is far more interesting than any number of overly polished horror remakes. I can get somewhat behind that given how out-there the movie is and that it at least partially operates on dream logic, but abstraction and symbolism are not the antitheses of coherent narratives and there are mistakes here that feel more to do with inexperience or carelessness than ambition. Perhaps the example that stuck out the most for me was how the movie could never settle on the age for its main character; a seemingly inconsequential point, but one that sticks out like a sore thumb when you consider how few other movies stumble over such a question. With a better aesthetic, more varied locations to wreak havoc in, and an imaginative spirit that grows the narrative far outside the confines of the original, this is definitely a sequel that gives you more to chew on and I’d say that it’s worth your time if you’re looking for something outside of mainstream horror offerings. Still, I feel there’s a ways to go for this series to truly live up to its potential and I hope that the creators are using their time in the spotlight to grow as filmmakers.

3.5 out of 5


Halloween Ends

Halloween Ends is owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by David Gordon Green

Following the night that He came back for the second time, Haddonfield has managed to settle back into its usual routines as Michael Myers has completely disappeared and is presumed dead. However, his rampage was not the only tragedy to strike the town as a year later there was another horrific death on Halloween; albeit this one being accidental but no let devastating as Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell) failed about as badly at his babysitting job as you can imagine. With the town’s history of bad nights for babysitters, the situation left Corey as a pariah whose only tether left to the world is Allyson (Andi Matichak); Laurie Strode’s granddaughter who also went through a lot of grief in the last few years. Still, a chance encounter with the infamous killer leads Corey down a dark path that doesn’t escape the notice of Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) and she fears that history will repeat itself once again.

In hindsight, I really shouldn’t be surprised that the Nu-Halloween films just became another slasher series. Despite its pretensions of restoring the franchise and the coup of bringing in several big names from the original, it’s driven itself into the ground in a very expected, albeit accelerated, manner and the sequel was definitely the cannery in the coal mine for things going downhill fast. Still, one of the silver linings of a series in freefall is that things can get interesting as the studio tries to fix what went terribly wrong and start throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. Jason Takes Manhattan gave us Jason Goes to Hell, Freddy’s Dead cleared the slate for New Nightmare, and while this supposedly final entry in the Halloween franchise doesn’t reach those lofty heights, it at least gives us something to chew on after the disastrously dull and pointless Halloween Kills. Someone other than Laurie and Michael being the center of the story is an idea with some legs to it and the first half gets some decent mileage out of the concept which also allows the story to encompass the town itself in a way that Halloween Kills utterly failed to materialize. However, the fatal flaw here is a lack of consistency; something that was a little charming in Terrifier 2, but that had some fun whimsy to carry it along whereas this just keeps undercutting itself with bad humor, broad caricatures, and a convoluted plot that doesn’t seem to go anywhere which undercuts any tension it tries to build up. It’s not even particularly scary or nasty as a horror flick as all the typical Halloween elements feel as tired and worn out as Michael Myers himself who is almost a non-presence in this movie until he shows up for his big finale; yet another aspect of this movie that the filmmakers seem unsure of what to do with. I don’t loath this movie like I do Halloween Kills, and it at least shows a bit more imagination than the rather predictable 2018 film, but there’s just no escaping the fact that this is not a strong Halloween film and I think it’s fair to say that the trilogy should have ended with the first one.

2 out of 5


The Munsters

The Munsters is owned by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Directed by Rob Zombie

In the magical world of Transylvania, which is full of public domain and non-trademark infringing horror figures as far as the eye can see, there’s a melancholy vampire named Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie) who is looking for love but can’t find someone to send her un-beating heart a flutter; partially due to her overbearing father (Daniel Roebuck) who keeps trying to set her up with nice monsters who are about as fun as a head of spooky cabbage. It’s not until she sees a comedian/rock star monster named Herman (Jeff Daniel Phillips) that she finds someone with enough zest for un-life as her and they quickly fall headstone over heels for each other to the utter exasperation of Lily’s father. A fairytale romance isn’t complete without a wicked villain, however, and Lily’s werewolf brother Lester (Tomas Boykin) gets in some deep finical straits with Zoya Krupp (Catherine Schell) who has a grudge against his father, and the two of them scheme to use Lily’s new franken-boy-toy to take everything the old codger has.

As much as we associate Rob Zombie and his oeuvre with hardcore violence and nasty gore, his style has always been much broader than that. Kitsch, Americana, the ramshackle production of spooky-house scares, he’s as much a connoisseur of the goofy as the macabre; hence why his most famous song is a densely layered horror pastiche against some kick-ass heavy metal. He also called the song Dragula which is the name of the Munsters’ car, so it makes sense that he’d eventually helm an update for the classic sitcom. Now I’m not about to tell you that I wasn’t disappointed when the first trailer dropped and it was clear he was going as far into goofball land as possible with this at what seems to have been a shoestring budget. That trailer did not do the movie any favors and I personally would have preferred something that married his two divergent interests (perhaps a PG-13 version with a bit of blood and grit), but once you get past that and take it on its own terms, I did find myself enjoying this far more than I expected to. Granted, I am a sucker for this kind of corny shtick so I doubt the sitcom-level humor will appeal to everyone, but I found myself at least chuckling through most of the movie. Well, I say “movie” but the fact is that the narrative is nothing to write home about as the only intrigue involves a halfhearted housing dispute, and yet on a scene-by-scene basis it stays strong with humorous situations popping up every few minutes to throw a few more jokes at the wall to see what sticks. Performance wise I think everyone is on the right wavelength but no one is giving much more than what is required save for the eminent character actor Richard Brake who gets to play two roles in this movie and steals every scene that either one is in. I would have been happy if the movie focused even more on him as he kind of disappears by the halfway point, but the core trio manages to hold their own and bring a lot of kooky fun to the movie. If there’s anything that I would say didn’t work, even with the lowered expectations of this being a sitcom movie, is that the cinematography is rather inconsistent with some scenes taking advantage of the resources they have to craft some truly delightful set pieces and others feeling like they were slapped together at the last minute with nothing but an empty field and a smoke machine to work with. I also think the movie loses steam once it starts eying its way towards Mockingbird Lane as it feels like an afterthought and an obligation, not unlike Michael Myers in Halloween Ends, and the movie just doesn’t seem to have an idea of where to go from there so it just ends in an awkward and unsatisfying way. The movie has all the hallmarks of a passion project, but given who’s behind the camera I can see why people were confused as to how it turned out like this. Frankly, we should have gotten a better Munsters movie from this guy given what we’ve seen him do with fewer resources to work with. Still, I can’t say it’s an inauthentic cash grab and I can’t deny that I smiled through most of it, so if you can accept it for what it’s trying to do and not what it should have been, I think there’s enough here to make it worth a trip down memory lane.

2.5 out of 5

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s