Halloween Ends with a knife to the heart of the franchise. The trailers promised a violent final showdown between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, but what we got is a manipulative bait & switch. Halloween Ends tricks the audience into focusing on a killer who isn’t Michael Myers for almost the entire movie! I haven’t felt this betrayed since Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning or A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. I didn’t like Halloween Kills, but at least Michael Myers actually killed people beginning to end. I feel like David Gordon Green and Danny McBride wanted fans to hate the movie.
There’s less comedy, but way too much melodrama. I knew I was in trouble the moment I saw the opening with Rohan Campbell as a babysitter named Corey. They make it seem like Michael will return Halloween 2019, but it’s Corey who accidentally commits murder. 4 years later in present day 2022, Laurie is trying to be normal while raising her orphaned granddaughter Allyson. Jamie Lee Curtis tries her best, but she deserves better than this. The misguided focus on victims of Haddonfield hysteria has gotten even more annoying at this point.
I couldn’t care less about some random nobody killing people because a town bullied him. I just want Michael Myers, but what little we get is a pathetic old man living in the sewer with an embarassing 3 victim body count. All of the gruesome kills are done by a character nobody asked for. There’s also an unnecessary Bonnie & Clyde style romance where Allyson feels completely out of character. It’s so insulting that I barely cared about Michael and Laurie finally having their last minute confrontation. Michael’s final fate doesn’t feel earned when you waste everyone’s time with a subplot that goes nowhere. Halloween Ends is one of the worst films in a franchise that should’ve died years ago.
Michael Myers vs. Laurie Strode
Preceded by: Halloween Kills
Halloween Kills killed the franchise for me. Halloween (2018) was a surprising return to form after so many sequels, remakes, and ignorquels. Like either Halloween II, Halloween Kills picks up on the same long Halloween night. There’s an impressive flashback showing how Michael was arrested that recreates the look of the 1978 film and brings Dr. Loomis back to life. The not quite dead Deputy Hawkins feels guilty about letting him live. I liked the brutal rivalry between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode in the last film, but any minor problems I had are much worse in the sequel.
Jamie Lee Curtis is once again trapped in a hospital for the entire movie. Leaving Judy Greer and Andi Matichak with a more active role as her daughter Karen and granddaughter Allyson. Michael escapes from Laurie’s burning house and kills more people than he ever has before. Some kills are creative and others are over-the-top gruesome. Any tension is ruined by David Gordon Green and Danny McBride leaning into comedy way too much. Characters don’t even feel believable. Victims include an interracial elderly couple playing with a drone, a role reversed black couple, and a stereotypical gay couple.
An angry mob consisting of survivors from Haddonfield aren’t much better. Though Paul Rudd played him in The Curse of Michael Myers, Anthony Michael Hall plays an aggressively unhinged Tommy Doyle constantly chanting “Evil Dies Tonight!” Lindsey, Sheriff Leigh Brackett, and the nurse Marion all return with their original actors. Most of them make dumb decisions like going after a mental patient who clearly isn’t Michael Myers. Michael is confronted by the mob, but at this point nothing can kill the bogeyman. Halloween Kills is a mostly pointless detour that’s often hard to take seriously.
Michael Myers emerges from the fire
Preceded by: Halloween (2019) & Followed by: Halloween Ends
Texas Chainsaw Massacre is yet another confusing edition to the perpetually sloppy franchise. At this point, all the movies are barely canon to the original 1978 classic. Texas Chainsaw Massacre once again ignores sequels just to blatantly rip-off Halloween (2018). Original final girl Sally Hardesty is now an elderly gun-toting Texas Ranger who spent her whole life hunting Leatherface. Unlike the equally terrible Texas Chainsaw 3D, Gunnar Hansen and Marilyn Burns couldn’t return since they both past away. Making the entire subplot feel forced.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre is mostly focused on a fresh batch of annoying millennial victims. The most cringe-worthy moment is a bus full of millennials trying to get Leatherface cancelled. They want to gentrify an abandoned Texas town in a subplot that I couldn’t care less about. After finishing Eighth Grade, Elsie Fisher became the newest final girl Lila. She’s a school shooting survivor who came with her sister Melody. Texas Chainsaw Massacre isn’t equipped to handle a storyline like that since it’s so focused on killing.
Leatherface was never my favorite slasher, but his increasingly bizarre families were a major part of his character. Texas Chainsaw Massacre abandons the family element after Leatherface loses a woman who ran his orphanage. Leatherface now has a sad new face, but his original chainsaw. The actual massacre is so gory and disgusting, I had to look away. Leatherface kills so many people that I was counting the moments before he killed his final “surprise” victim. Despite the very short runtime and easy Netflix access, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is torture to get through.
Leatherface pulls out the chainsaw
Preceded by: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Scream (2022) worked out better than it should have. Scream has always felt more special than other slasher franchises, because it kept the same director and cast of survivors in every installment. There was talk of a Scream 5 for years, but Wes Craven passed away before he could see it happen. It felt wrong to do a sequel without him, but Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett honor his legacy. I just wish they didn’t call the movie Scream again. In the 11 years since Scream 4, horror movies have gone through noticable changes. Scream (2022) has clever meta commentary on elevated horror movies like The Babadook, Hereditary, The VVitch, and my personal favorite It Follows.
The classic Ghostface phone call opening uses modern technology, but it’s surprisingly not a problem. We even see Ghostface talking with the voice modulator under their mask. For the first time in the franchise, the opening victim isn’t killed. In fact, it takes awhile for Ghostface to kill anyone. Jenna Ortega is Tara who somehow survives several stab wounds. Melissa Barrera is her sister Sam Carpenter who ends up being the daughter of Billy Loomis that we never knew about. Skeet Ulrich returns as a hallucination, but we all expect to see Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette again. Cox and Arquette may have divorced, but luckily they’re still good friends. A successful Gale and broken down Dewey are also divorced. Sidney mostly stays out of the action until the end. Though they’re not as safe as I was hoping they’d be.
Leaving a new cast of teenagers who are also related to legacy characters. Since Scream (2022) is a definite requel, the new rules are: never trust the love interest, the killer is connected to the past, and the killer is part of the first victim’s circle of friends. Horror mainstay Dylan Minnette pays tribute to Wes Craven by being named after him. Mindy and Chad are the children of Randy’s sister who appeared in Scream 3. They keep things very meta until the killers are revealed. SPOILER ALERT! Mikey Madison and Jack Quaid are revealed to be crazy obsessed Stab fans Amber and Richie respectively. They hate movies like Stab 8 directed by Rian Johnson, because it messed with their beloved franchise. It’s so meta that Dead Meat YouTuber James A. Janisse and his wife Chelsea make cameos. Scream (2022) is basically the first movie with enough fresh ideas to keep the blood pumping.
Ghostface in the hospital
Preceded by: Scream 4
Orphan: First Kill is the most unexpected way to continue the story of Esther. Orphan is one of my favorite underrated horror movies. Since it’s a cult film that only so many people saw, I never expected a sequel. Turns out a similar real life orphan is responsible for the renewed attention. Orphan: First Kill is a prequel since Esther’s mysterious past was only touched on. The unexpected twist and Isabelle Fuhrman’s career making child acting performance was a big reason why I liked the original so much. Somehow they found a way to include both without losing its appeal.
25 year old Fuhrman returns to play the 9 year old Esther. If you already know the twist, then the unorthodox casting decision sort of makes sense. It’s just a little obvious with the lack of digital de-aging and forced perspective. Esther is shown in the Estonian institute where she learned to paint and kill without remorse. First Kill wastes no time reiterating the twist that I prefer not to give away. Esther poses as the long lost daughter of the family whose house she sets on fire.
Julia Stiles is the new suspicious mother Tricia Albright. Matthew Finlan is the new teenage brother Gunner who doesn’t accept Esther. Rossif Sutherland is the new father who introduces Esther to black light painting. “Glory of Love” is another expected callback to the first movie. I wasn’t expecting a completely different twist where Tricia discovers Esther’s secret early on. Orphan had its campy moments, but First Kill fully embraces its absurdity. Although I still prefer the child driven original film, Orphan: First Kill is first-rate horror.
Esther in the institution
Followed by: Orphan
Firestarter (2022) should be thrown in the fire. Stephen King remakes have become more common in recent memory. It was successful, but Carrie (2013) and Pet Semetery (2019) failed. Firestarter (1984) is already one of the weaker Stephen King movies. It was mostly a Drew Barrymore starring vehicle that didn’t have enough firestarting. A Blumhouse remake sounded promising, but somehow it ended up worse with a pathetic 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. My brother and I avoided seeing it in theaters.
Firestarter (2022) spends more time with the pyrokinetic Charlie, her telepathic father Andy, and telekinetic mother Vicky before she dies. Ryan Kiera Armstrong looks like a young Drew Barrymore, but she’s too emotionless. I know Zac Efron is in his 30’s, but I just don’t buy him as a father figure. Sydney Lemmon doesn’t leave much of an impression. Kurtwood Smith is barely in the movie as the doctor who started the Lot-6 superhuman program.
Gloria Reuben plays a gender-swapped Captain Hollister, but that doesn’t make her anymore interesting. John Beasley is a little too rough as the farmer who gives Charlie and Andy shelter. The only character who feels like a slight improvement is Michael Greyeyes as bounty hunter John Rainbird since the actor is actually Indigenous. Charlie’s firestarting is more frequent and chaotic, but it’s ruined by cringy one-liners. Somehow Charlie burning Lot-6 to the ground feels empty and pointless. Firestarter (2022) should never have been green-lit.
Charlie starts fires
Remake of: Firestarter (1984)
The Mist is more than a simple monster movie. Based on the novella by Stephen King, director Frank Darabont intended to adapt it in the 80’s. He even wanted it shot in black & white. When that didn’t work out, Darabont adapted the very different The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile instead. The Mist is more supernatural, but it is similar for showing the dark side of human nature. When a mysterious mist engulfs a small Maine town, residents are driven to their breaking point in a supermarket. CGI creates horrific Lovecraftian creatures that include toothy tentacles, giant locusts, and acidic spiders.
Though some paranoid performances are questionable, Darabont manages to make the situation feel real with documentary style camera work. Most of the survivors went on to star in The Walking Dead. Thomas Jane plays painter David Drayton who tries to protect his 8 year old son Billy. Laurie Harden comforts Billy as new teacher Amanda. Andre Braugher and William Sadler play skeptics, while Jeffrey DeMunn and Frances Sternhagen play allies. Sam Witwer plays a despondent soldier keeping a secret about the mist. Toby Jones stands out as the unassuming Ollie who has shooting experience.
Though the most memorable survivor is Marcia Gay Harden as religious fanatic Mrs. Carmody. As a Christian, I’m never crazy about Stephen King’s religious commentary, but Mrs. Carmody is easily one of the most hateable villains in movie history. Her misguided Old Testament preaching sways the crowd into human sacrifices. David manages to escape with a handful of survivors, but the ending is much darker than even Stephen King could come up with. The Mist is a devastating examination of paranoia and despair.
Frank and the survivors run through the mist
Maximum Overdrive is the first and thankfully only movie ever directed by Stephen King. The King of Horror should seriously stick to writing after this Razzie nominated stinker. Maximum Overdrive is based on King’s short story “Trucks” from the Night Shift collection. Admittedly the concept of technology becoming sentient and attacking humans has promise, but King goes for a bizarrely campy tone. Maximum Overdrive isn’t the least bit scary and the AC⚡DC soundtrack doesn’t help.
King only hired the band because he was a fan. Since the writer was either on drugs or drunk at the time, he vowed never to direct again. All of Earth’s machines come to life thanks to a comet that may or may not be caused by aliens. King himself cameos as a man that an ATM calls an a**hole. Pop machines, lawn mowers, arcades, and a ton of trucks all terrorize rednecks in a small town. Emilio Estevez plays the would-be hero Bill and Laura Harrington plays his hitchhiking love interest Brett.
Pat Hingle is the obnoxious truck stop owner Bubba. There’s also a little league player, a pair of newlyweds, and the usual overly hypocritical religious character. Pre-Lisa Simpson Yeardley Smith is particularly annoying with a Southern accent. Most of the trucks have no personality apart from a toy truck with a prominent Green Goblin head on it. Seeing the Spider-Man villain acknowledged in a 1986 horror movie is strange to say the least. Even stranger are the trucks deciding not to kill when they’re being fuelled up. Maximum Overdrive reaches maximum levels of stupidity.
The Green Goblin truck
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken gave Don Knotts his first major role since The Andy Griffith Show. The Incredible Mr. Limpet was made during a hiatus, but anything since was made after he left the show. Although I haven’t watched The Andy Griffith Show, I am familiar with Knotts’ charming goofiness. My mom thought I’d enjoy The Ghost and Mr. Chicken since it’s another unconventional horror comedy. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is not at all what I was expecting.
I was expecting a supernatural buddy comedy where Knotts is haunted by a mischievous ghost, but that isn’t the case at all. Knotts actually plays local laughing stock Luther Heggs. Luther is a typesetter who wants to prove himself as a serious reporter. He gets his chance when asked to stay one night in a haunted house on the anniversary of a murder-suicide. Luther is an entertaining chicken who gets into all sorts of frightened antics.
The haunting is spooky, but the upbeat music keeps things fun. Though it seems like the ghost is real, most of the movie is about Luther trying to prove his story to a courtroom and superstitious citizens of Rachel City, Kansas. There’s also a cute love story between Luther and Joan Staley as his above average love interest Alma. The funniest running gag involves a random off-screen voice shouting “Attaboy, Luther!” every few minutes. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken scares up more than a few laughs.
Luther Heggs gets scared
Arsenic and Old Lace is Frank Capra’s Halloween equivalent of It’s a Wonderful Life (released 2 years later). Although I was familiar with the title, it was mostly my mom who recommended it as an unconventional Halloween movie. Arsenic and Old Lace takes place on one eventful Halloween night in a creepy old house. Much like the 1941 Joseph Kesselring play that it’s based on. Though the story is black comedy, Arsenic and Old Lace is true Frank Capra with the nervous protagonist to match. This was the youngest I’ve seen Cary Grant who puts his physical comedy skills to good use.
Mortimer Brewster writes against marriage, but gets married himself to the lovely Elaine played by Priscilla Lane. Their nuptials are almost inconsequential when we’re introduced to the entire Brewster family. Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha seem like sweet old ladies, but they’ve secretly been poisoning 12 lonely men in an act of mercy killing. Mortimer’s insane brother who thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt has been burying them in the basement. It’s both shocking and hilarious when he learns the truth. Josephine Hull, Jean Adair, and John Alexander are the only returning cast members from the play.
Boris Karloff is the most famous face who couldn’t leave the play. Instead Raymond Massey plays Mortimer’s maniac brother Jonathan who arrives with his own dead body. Peter Lorre unsurprisingly plays his creepy doctor Einstein who made him resemble Karloff. Jack Carson is oblivious as one of the bumbling police officers, but John Ridgely is the more strait-laced officer who arrests Jonathan. Edward Everett Horton is the head of the mental institution who has everyone else committed. Arsenic and Old Lace is criminally insane and criminally underrated.
Jonathan and Dr. Einstein tie up Mortimer