The Night He Came Home

Halloween is an independent horror classic from visionary director John Carpenter. Obviously, I mean the title is Halloween afterall. It was the movie that popularized the (masked) killer formula that we all know today. With a small budget no less. I’ve seen Halloween many times. It’s the kind of movie you watch traditionally every Halloween night. Halloween opens with an iconic POV shot of a clown masked shape killing a topless teen. The shape turns out to be a child named Michael Myers who’s just murdered his sister.

After 15 years in a mental hospital, Michael Myers escapes and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween day. The only man who knows of his evil is psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis. Played brilliantly by Donald Pleasence. Halloween also popularized the term final girl. Jamie Lee Curtis makes her “Scream Queen” debut as Laurie Strode. A teenage babysitter and virgin that Michael Myers stalks in particular. She’s one of the all time best even though she keeps dropping her weapon. There’s a fair amount of disturbing kills and a sense of tension that I imagine was really scary back then. Along with almost unheard of uses of sex and violence. Plus Halloween has what is easily the most memorable horror theme of all time composed by Carpenter himself.

Michael Myers is an iconic horror slasher. He traditionally wears a dark blue jumpsuit, a white mask, and is completely silent. Save for some heavy breathing. The mask is infamous for being a William Shatner mask that was painted white (now that’s terrifying). His weapon of choice is a long kitchen knife. Put that all together and you’ve got an unforgettable shape. He was also the first killer to be practically unkillable. Knock him down and he just sits right back up. SPOILER ALERT! After an unexpected face reveal, not even 6 shots to the chest are enough to kill him in the end. Halloween answers the question, “What is the Boogeyman?” And it’s Michael Myers from horror classic Halloween.

1. Halloween

Michael Myers looks down at Laurie

Followed by: Halloween II

Give Me the Pink Elephant!

Darkman is what you get when your unable to secure the rights to Batman or The Shadow. You get an original “superhero” from the mind of Sam Raimi. An R rated story about a man who gets horribly beaten by a gang of criminals, has a life changing operation, gets revenge on the criminals, and eventually confronts the evil businessman responsible. Oh wait that’s Robocop. Well Darkman still has its own unique style. Although it sounds just as dark as every other superhero movie that came out in the 90’s, the tone is actually very campy and darkly comedic. Similar to the Evil Dead movies it’s sandwiched between. In fact, the role was intended for Bruce Campbell, but it ended up going to Liam Neeson instead. Making this his first action role.

Darkman is about a scientist named Peyton Westlake who creates a synthetic second skin. A gang led by Durant leaves him horribly burned and disfigured. After which he gains superhuman strength and an immunity to pain, but he also loses his mind. Going on a gleeful quest for revenge that requires the use of his second skin to frame the criminals that wronged him. While at the same time trying to win back his girlfriend Julie.

His appearance is like a cross between The Phantom of the Opera and the Invisible Man. As he himself gradually becomes a monster. My parents were actually the ones who introduced me to the movie. They frequently quoted lines that they thought were funny. The most infamous one involving a pink elephant at a carnival. The most impressive action scene involves Darkman swinging from a helicopter. Really a lot of moments are similar to Raimi’s mainstream superhero flick Spider-Man. Darkman is just as underrated as it sounds.

Darkman

Darkman is ever vigilant

The Ghostface Killer

Scream 4 brought the Scream franchise back from the dead. Although it was intended to be a trilogy and 10 years past since Scream 3, there still needed to be a more satisfying conclusion. So Scream 4 ended up being a cross between a sequel and a remake. Since every famous horror movie got an unnecessary remake by this point. The opening first makes fun of never ending horror movie sequels. With multiple Stab sequels shown back-to-back starring famous actresses.

When we finally enter reality, it’s been 15 years since the first killings. Neve Campbell plays Sidney one last time. This time she returns to Woodsboro to promote her self-help book. Gale and Dewey have now been married as long as David Arquette and Courteney Cox. They’re the three untouchable characters. So the body count is left to a fresh young cast of teens obsessed with horror. Hayden Panettiere’s Kirby is the most interesting of the bunch. Together her friends discuss the rules of horror remakes: death scenes are extreme, expect the unexpected, virgins can die, modern technology is incorporated, there’s always an opening, respect the original, and be gay.

The violence is definitely more brutal, but not to the point of torture porn. While the 90’s flare of Ghostface can only work so well in the modern age. I mean everyone has a cellphone at this point. SPOILER ALERT! The killers are revealed to be Charlie and Jill. Two Sidney and Randy wannabes who crave instant fame. Charlie is a little obvious since he’s played by a Culkin, but Jill is a genuine surprise. Not only is she the first female killer to wear the costume, but she’s Sidney’s cousin as well. She’s also played by modern “Scream Queen” Emma Roberts. Scream 4 is a fitting send off for horror legend Wes Craven.

4. Scream 4

Ghostface breaks out the knife

Preceded by: Scream 3

The Making of Stab

Scream 3 became the very thing it sought to deconstruct. With a more successful parody released the same year, that’s pretty unfortunate. Especially considering Wes Craven continued to stay with the franchise. I guess even horror masters can make lousy sequels. As is the tradition, the opening of Scream 3 kills off a high profile star. Which spelled bad news for Liev Schreiber’s Cotton Weary. After getting so much character development in Scream 2, he’s murdered with very little thought.

Yet another new Ghostface starts a killing spree. This time targeting the cast of Stab 3 in Hollywood. A movie being made despite a distinct lack of material to work with. Gale and Dewey are consultants for the movie. By this point David Arquette and Courteney Cox were married. Neve Campbell obviously returns too, but Sidney is in hiding as a crisis counselor. Despite the notable handicap of being dead, Randy returns on video to deliver the rules of a trilogy: the killer is superhuman, the main character can die, and the past will come back to haunt you.

It’s no small feat to have a satire turn into a satire, but Scream 3 just makes too many dumb decisions. Like having Ghostface use a magical voice changer that can somehow clearly duplicate a person’s voice. Sidney also sees her mother’s ghost. Plus there’s a cameo from Jay and Silent Bob. All these bad decisions can be blamed on bad timing. Since real life violence forced them to lean into comedy. SPOILER ALERT! The sole killer is Sidney’s never before seen half brother Roman. The director of Stab 3 who retcons the first movie’s events to involve him. The final nail in the coffin. Scream 3 ends this intended trilogy on more of a whimper.

3. Scream 3

Ghostface hovers over his victim

Preceded by: Scream 2 & Followed by: Scream 4

The Woodsboro Murders

Scream 2 overcomes the horror movie sequel curse that it’s trying to satirize. Since everyone knows those tend to suck. Unlike with his Nightmare franchise, Wes Craven actually returned to direct. Meaning Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, and Jamie Kennedy would return too. Instead of having an entirely new cast of victims like most sequels do. Sidney and Randy are now in college where they try to move on from “The Woodsboro Murders.” Which is difficult considering Gale just wrote a book about it. Something that gets between her and a now disabled Deputy Dewey. There’s also a newly released movie based on the events called Stab.

Just like Scream, Scream 2 has a very chilling opening sequence. One question some viewers might of had about the first movie is, “Where are all the black people?” Well now there’s plenty, including Jada Pinkett-Smith whose killed in a theater packed with people dressed like Ghostface. Kind of in poor taste if you think about it. Well just like in real life, the previous murders inspire a copycat killer. This new Ghostface seems to be killing people in accordance with the names of the previous victims. Buffy herself Sarah Michelle Gellar is one of them.

Sidney is so on edge that she even suspects her new boyfriend might be the killer. He almost was but it was drastically altered due to a script leak. Newly exonerated Cotton Weary is also a suspect. According to Randy, the rules to a horror movie sequel are: the body count is bigger, the death scenes are more elaborate, and something about having a successful franchise. SPOILER ALERT! Random creep Mickey is the killer, but he’s not as important as Mrs. Loomis. Out to avenge her son’s death à la Mrs. Voorhees. With more creative kills and wit, Scream 2 is a sequel done fright.

2. Scream 2

Possible Ghostfaces

Preceded by: Scream & Followed by: Scream 3

Do You Like Scary Movies?

Scream wants to know, “Do you like scary movies?” If the answer is yes, then “What’s your favorite scary movie?” Well back in the early 90’s that would have been tough to say. Since genuine horror films were scarce at the time. So just as he did with New Nightmare, horror legend Wes Craven decided to turn the genre on its head. This time by making teenagers well aware of classic horror movies and clichés. I’ve certainly become an expert.

Scream has one of the most chilling horror movie openings of all time. Where a mysterious voice on a cellphone calls teenager Casey Becker played by Drew Barrymore. Who is of course the star of the movie… psych! The calls are flirty at first before becoming very sinister, and when she fails to answer horror movie trivia, she’s killed before the title even appears. The real “Scream Queen” is Neve Campbell who plays legendary final girl Sidney Prescott. Her quiet little town of Woodsboro is stalked by a knife wielding maniac. Ghostface is an instant icon wearing a tattered black robe and long white ghost mask. Halloween costumes where unavoidable growing up.

Police Deputy Dewey or desperate reporter Gale Weathers aren’t much help. Though romance did spark between David Arquette and Courteney Cox. Sidney is incessantly stalked by Ghostface. So if you want to survive you have to follow Randy’s 3 simple rules: you can never have sex, drink/do drugs, or say “I’ll be right back.” After killing principal Fonz and Ghostface namer Tatum, the killer is revealed to be (SPOILER ALERT!) Sidney’s boyfriend Billy Loomis and his shaggy friend Stu. All for the love of horror movies and an incident involving Sid’s mother. Despite it’s satirical tone, the kills are still effectively terrifying. Scream is the youthful breath of fresh scare that the horror genre needed.

1. Scream

Ghostface goes in for the kill

Followed by: Scream 2

Les Plaisirs Simples de la vie

Amélie is all about the little things. Like peeling off dry glue from your fingers or knocking over a set of dominos. Something that’s currently known as “oddly satisfying.” I’m personally partial to cracking my knuckles. Although they can be a bit tricky to watch at times, I still make an effort to watch foreign films every now and then. Amélie is a French film that reached a universal audience and received 5 Oscar nominations. Becoming so popular in the U.S. that I knew I had to check it out eventually. Amélie Poulain is a bright-eyed young waitress who enjoys life’s simple pleasures. Her pleasures include sticking her hand into bags of grain and cracking crème brûlée with a teaspoon.

When she discovers a 40 year old box full of childhood treasures, Amélie makes it her life’s mission to find whoever it belongs to. Which leads her down an even greater path towards improving the lives of everyone around her. From co-workers and neighbors to strangers on the street. What makes her so unique is that she’s not in it for the recognition. She leaves the people she’s helped without ever taking any recognition for it. Unfortunately that comes at a cost to her own happiness. Something she thankfully learns to fix. French actress Audrey Tautou perfectly captures Amélie’s imaginative spirit. Making Amélie a surreal romance that’s just as oddly satisfying as I hoped it would be.

4. A

Amélie enjoys cracking crème brûlée with a teaspoon

Exhibit A

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb takes the living museum concept and does something deeper with it. By exploring the origin behind the magical Egyptian tablet that brings everything to life. What more could they do? Battle of the Smithsonian literally brought all the most famous exhibits to life. After deciding to keep the American Museum of Natural History open overnight, everything seems to be going well for Ben Stiller’s Larry Daley. Until the power of the tablet starts to wear off.

So Larry takes Ahkmenrah, Theodore Roosevelt, Sacagawea, Attila the Hun, Jedidiah, Octavius, Dexter the monkey, and a caveman version of himself to the British Museum. Where Ahkmenrah’s parents can hopefully fix the problem with the tablet. Larry’s much older son Nick tags along as well. As far as comedians are concerned, Rebel Wilson is the only new one. Larry doesn’t have a love interest this time after being interested in both a fellow museum employee and a waxed version of Amelia Earhart. Instead Stiller’s caveman doppelgänger gets a comical love interest with Wilson’s British night guard.

Since there’s less of a focus on the exhibits, the only notable one is Sir Lancelot. He gets most of the funny scenes. Including one with unexpected cameos from Hugh Jackman and Alice Eve. The possible loss of the exhibits is surprisingly emotional. Though not as emotional as the real life loss of both Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams. Both of whom passed away before its release. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb isn’t the most imaginative installment, but it is a satisfying enough conclusion to this fun trip through history.

3. NATMSOTT

Larry and company ride the trolly

Preceded by: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Landmark Battle

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian takes the living museum concept and does something bigger with it. By taking all the action to the most famous collection of museums in the United States. The Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C. Since the events of Night at the Museum, Ben Stiller’s Larry Daley has left his night guard position to pursue his dream of being an inventor. All his success distracts him from the fact that all his friends at the American Museum of Natural History are being shipped off to the Smithsonian archives.

Specifically Sacagawea, Attila the Hun, Jedadiah, Octavius, and Dexter the monkey. Rexy and Theodore Roosevelt stay behind, but Robin Williams does show up again as a Teddy bust. The Egyptian tablet stays behind as well (or so they thought). Dexter swipes the tablet and it brings the entire Smithsonian to life. So it really helps to know a thing or two about history. And expect even more comedians. Like Bill Hader, Jonah Hill, or Hank Azaria. They’re hilarious, but some of them might have over improvised. Azaria plays Kahmunrah, evil brother of Ahkmenrah. He allies himself with famous historical villains Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Al Capone.

Meanwhile Larry first allies himself with General Custard. Then famed pilot Amelia Earhart. Amy Adams is the best new addition to the cast. Along the way they encounter famous exhibits like the Thinker, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air and Space Museum, and even paintings that they can walk into. All of it ends with a massive battle where Larry becomes a jedi night guard equipped with a flashlight saber. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian takes full advantage of its fun concept.

2. NATMBOTS

Abraham Lincoln lifts up Larry

Preceded by: Night at the Museum & Followed by: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

History Comes to Life

Night at the Museum brings history to life… literally! As it turns out, Night at the Museum is the first movie I went to see after my longest theater going drought ever. I usually see movies all year round, but 2006 was surprisingly scarce. I remember when Night at the Museum came out. It was part of three trailers that premiered on Nickelodeon. Deck the Halls, Eragon, and of course Night at the Museum. The latter being the only one I wanted to go see. It was also the only movie I ever saw on Christmas Day. I was drawn to the concept because of all the museums I went to and my knowledge of historical figures.

Ben Stiller plays newly appointed night guard Larry Daley. An ordinary guy thrust into the extraordinary world of a museum that comes to life every night. He was hired by three elderly guards played by legends Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cobbs, and Mickey Rooney. The American Museum of Natural History contains the skeleton of a T-Rex, stuffed animals (including a particularly rambunctious monkey named Dexter), waxed figures, miniatures, statues, and an Easter Island head. Of course the concept can be played for laughs. Which is why the cast is made up of comedians. Like Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, or Robin Williams.

Robin Williams is surprisingly perfect for President Theodore Roosevelt. Although Mickey Rooney gets the funniest lines. Other important historical figures include Sacagawea, Attila the Hun, and Christopher Columbus. Night one is pure chaos, night two goes well until something goes wrong, and night three is where the conflict comes in. All because of an ancient egyptian tablet. Night at the Museum is a historical lesson in fun.

1. NATM

Larry runs from Rexy

Followed by: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian