Halloween Movie Franchises: John Carpenter’s Halloween

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 23rd October 2012.

On October 25 1978, a low budget slasher film made its debut in US cinemas. John Carpenter’s Halloween was produced for a paltry sum of US$325,000 and eventually grossed $55 million at the box office worldwide. Introducing masked serial killer Michael Myers to popular culture, no babysitter was safe in this classic horror flick.

Halloween starred a young Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, Michael’s sister and the object of his (murderous) intentions. On the killer’s trail was Donald Pleasance as psychiatrist Dr Sam Loomis. Complete with a spooky piano melody, composed by Carpenter himself, the movie is genuinely creepy and still provides “watch through your fingers” scares decades later.

The original Halloween spun off seven sequels, and was rebooted in 2007 by musician turned film director Rob Zombie, which in turn spawned a sequel. To date, the franchise has generated over $366 million worldwide. Not bad for a series of films featuring a lead character wearing a Captain Kirk rubber mask sprayed with white spray paint.

Each entry of the Halloween story was released on or around, not surprisingly, Halloween, thus beginning not one, but two traditions: scary movie franchises released at Halloween; and scary movie franchises released at Halloween with diminishing returns.

Three years after the original, Michael Myers returned in Halloween II. Picking up immediately after the events of the first film, Myers survived six bullets from Dr Loomis’ gun to continue stalking Laurie.  The following October, Halloween III: Season of the Witch was unleashed on unsuspecting fans. Intended to shift the franchise into an anthology of unrelated horror films, the film features a plot to kill thousands of children at Halloween with deadly latex skeleton, witch and jack-o’-lantern masks. How are the masks deadly? They have evil powers because they are each embedded with a tiny chip of Stonehenge. Insert your own sound of crickets chirping here.

Unsurprisingly, Myers was resurrected in 1988 for Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Unfortunately, this and the next two sequels all hail from the late eighties, a period that was not kind to horror franchises. With box office returns shrinking, desperate film companies churned out substandard, low budget Freddy, Jason, Jaws, Chucky and Halloween flicks.

In 1998 the series peaked again as Jamie Lee Curtis returned for Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later. With an original star onboard, the film picks up the Laurie Strode storyline again, finding her hiding from her now infamous brother at a posh private school. Of course, Myers tracks her down and mayhem ensues, but at least the storyline had some weight due to Curtis’ presence, unlike the cast of unknown victims from the previous sequels.

Four years later, the original Halloween canon concluded with a disappointing whimper, as Myers returns to his childhood home to find it the subject of a Big Brother-like television show. After so many brushes with death, serial killer Michael Myers is finally sent to hell by the incredibly terrible acting of rapper turned “actor” Busta Rhymes.

I’m not a big fan of the Rob Zombie reboot so I won’t discuss it here. I have no interest in back story or motivation when it comes to my movie killers. Call me old fashioned.

For a real Halloween treat this, er, Halloween, grab a copy of the original, er, Halloween on blu-ray and relive the mother of all slasher films in high definition. Next week, I’ll discuss more recent movie franchises to also capitalise on Halloween releases. Boo!

Published in: on October 23, 2012 at 11:11  Leave a Comment  
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Dubious Celebrity Endorsements

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 8th May 2012.

If you’ve been anywhere in the proximity of a television or newspaper lately, you’ll be aware that Coles have relaunched their flybuys program. With just a swipe of a loyalty card, millions of customers can swap their valuable spending habit information for points. These points can be exchanged for flights and other rewards, apparently. I’ve been a member since the program was launched and I’m yet to fly anywhere. I must need to buy more before I can fly.

The face of the relaunched loyalty program is Dawn French of The Vicar of Dibley and French and Saunders fame. That’s right, British actress, writer and comedienne Dawn French. When you think about it, she’s a great choice. She’s funny, personable and a self-declared chocoholic. The only problem is that she’s British actress, writer and comedienne Dawn French.

At the time of writing this column, there’s 22,897,609 people living in Australia and according to Coles, none of them are suitable to advertise an Australian supermarket chain. Has Dawn French even set foot in a Coles store?  Why should she care that I can pick five discounted products? By the way, I chose fish heads, iSnack 2.0, Bindeez Beads, Pikachu and One Direction CDs. Perhaps Nelson Mandela was not available to front the campaign?

Speaking of ridiculous celebrity endorsements, way back in the early nineties, Channel Nine was “still the one.” Every January, the network would launch its new season with an extended promo featuring the contracted stars of the channel making fools of themselves. The 1990 season launch was no different and features Ray Martin tap dancing, Daryl and Ossie and the gang from Hey Hey It’s Saturday in prison, Peter Graves and the Mission Impossible team singing and Don Burke mowing words into a lawn. Inexplicably there’s also some dodgy dancing by a couple dressed in fluoro lycra bike pants.

The whole shebang is set to the Johnny O’Keefe song Shout, performed on a sailing boat by its captain, Jermaine Jackson. You read it, Jermaine Jackson, member of The Jackson 5, brother of The King of Pop, Michael Jackson and well known Australian television viewer.  What is her doing on a boat singing the virtues of watching an Australian television station? Only his accountant knows.

The Beach Boys are back. To celebrate fifty years as a band, well, actually make that thirty years as a band and twenty years of legal disputes, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks have reunited for a new album and worldwide tour. I can’t wait for them to hit our shores. Finger crossed for an Aussie tour.

Sometime in the early nineties, the Beach Boys, in their Love / Jardine / Johnston incarnation, were convinced to participate in a TV commercial for Manly Wharf. They re-recorded their iconic song Do It Again, with the altered lyrics “Let’s get back to the wharf and do it again.” How many times do you think the Beach Boys have been to Manly Wharf? My guess is just the once, to film the commercial. Obviously little deuce coupes are expensive and the royalties from Kokomo had run out.

I had planned to cite Tina Turner’s rugby league promos as the most ridiculous Aussie celebrity endorsement but it turns out that she actually is a big fan, supports Parramatta and can be found on the hill at every home game eating hot dogs.

‘Cause you gotta buy Faith

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 4th January 2011.

This year will see the re-release of George Michael’s iconic solo debut Faith. Originally released way back in 1987 to critical and popular acclaim, the album spawned many memorable hit singles such as Faith, I Want Your Sex, Father Figure, Monkey and Kissing a Fool. With sales in Australia exceeding 350000 copies (that’s five times platinum) and twenty million copies shipped worldwide, there are plenty of us out there who might be nostalgic enough to replace our worn out cassette and vinyl editions with the remastered and repackaged CD editions.

Faith was a truly solo effort from the former Wham! frontman. Not only did he write and produce every track bar one on the album, he also played almost every instrument. Amusingly, this probably wasn’t much different to his Wham! days as it is alleged Michael’s partner in crime and “guitarist”, Andrew Ridgeley, usually had his instrument turned right down, Linda McCartney style, during live performances. I guess at the time, we also thought he was singing about women, but that’s a different story.

To help George earn back all of the money he spent on his extended Australian holiday after his tour of Perth, Sydney and Melbourne last year (Grindr must be expensive), you’ll have the choice of the standard remastered 2 disc edition, the 2 disc plus DVD deluxe edition and for the ultimate fan, the super deluxe collectible edition, complete with a vinyl copy of the album, sleeve notes, rare pictures, replica tour pass and a hardcover book.

I’m not entirely certain why, with the exception of financial reasons, Sony or George Michael would choose to celebrate Faith’s twenty fourth anniversary and not wait another year for the quarter century. With this dubious timeframe, let’s have a look at some other albums that are also celebrating their pewter anniversary (there is no symbol for the twenty fourth so I made one up) and also deserve the remastered super mega deluxe and a cherry on top edition treatment.

INXS’s Kick is easily their best recording to date. Fusing their previous rock sound with a dance groove, they used the power of the music video to sell millions of albums on the back of such strong singles as Need You Tonight, Devil Inside, New Sensation and Never Tear Us Apart. Now sadly languishing around the nostalgia scene with multiple best of compilations on the market as well as a dodgy reinterpretations album, INXS have become their own cover band. A deluxe double disc edition of Kick was released in 2004 to celebrate its (drum roll please) seventeenth anniversary.

John Mellencamp, then John Cougar Mellencamp, also released The Lonesome Jubilee in 1987. A rock, folk and country hybrid, it produced the hit singles Cherry Bomb and Paper in Fire. With steel guitars, accordions and violins featured, this album pioneered the country rock sound that led the way for Shania Twain, Taylor Swift and Cameron Daddo. A remastered edition of The Lonesome Jubilee with a whole one extra song was released in 2005 (its eighteen anniversary).

Midnight Oil’s Diesel and Dust was ranked by Rolling Stone as the thirteenth best album of the eighties. With a strong environmental theme and a focus on the plight of the Aboriginal communities, this concept album was spearheaded by the singles Put Down That Weapon and Beds Are Burning. On its twenty first anniversary in 2008, a remastered edition of the album was released with a bonus documentary DVD. Personally, I think the Oils should follow George Michael’s example and celebrate its twenty fourth anniversary with a deluxe edition including some actual diesel and dust, plus a bonus insulation bat.

The demise of the vinyl album also saw the death of the gatefold sleeve and all the pictures, notes and goodies that came with it. There’s not much you can say in a CD booklet. Great albums deserve to be celebrated and polished up for re-release but perhaps only at significant milestones. Deluxe editions allow collectors and fans to access B sides, demo versions and memorabilia (at a price) but don’t wish too hard, 2011 sees the tenth anniversary of Nikki Webster’s Follow Your Heart album.

Published in: on January 4, 2011 at 19:34  Comments (1)  
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