Monday 19 November 2018

Film of the Week: Halloween

Cert: 18; Now showing ★★★★

Jamie Lee Curtis is traumatised again as Michael Myers resurfaces
Jamie Lee Curtis is traumatised again as Michael Myers resurfaces

At the screening in Dublin, Jamie Lee Curtis described how during the filming of a small but important scene of this film, the entire crew wore badges saying "We Are Laurie Strode". It was a nod to #MeToo and an important part of David Gordon Green's sequel to the original Halloween film. A sequel that ignores and bypasses all the others to take up Laurie's story 40 years on from the events of the first film.

Laurie (Curtis) has been living with the trauma of the babysitter murders, alone and terrified, she has untreated PTSD and knows no rest while Michael Myers (Nick Castle) is still alive. He has been incarcerated since 1978 and is about to be transferred to another institution. Two English journalists want to revisit the story, conveniently recapping for anyone who doesn't know the original, exemplifying what Myers is capable of and giving him back that famous mask. For escape Myers does, on Halloween, and goes back to doing his thing, killing babysitters. But he is really looking for the one who got away.

Everyone thinks Laurie is mad, she is so damaged she has alienated her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and to a lesser extent her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) but with Myers out, granny will get a chance to kick ass.

The film opens with the same pumpkin credit sequence and John Carpenter's music. There are plenty of nods to the horror maestro but this is much less scary than the first film and although the death count is higher, many die off camera, it is far from gore-free. It also has lots of laughs to break up the tension so it's not strictly horror. But it is clever, funny and enjoyable, and Curtis is great living her personal Armageddon.

Aine O'Connor

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

Cert: PG; Now showing ★★★★

Want to make a fortune? Write a series of children’s horror novels where both you and the books themselves are part of the core mythology. That’s what RL Stine did back in 1992. Following zillions of sales, as well as forays into TV, film, merchandise, etc, the Goosebumps brand is now a hulking monster in itself. 

Watching this second feature-film outing for the franchise, you start to see why Stine’s creations have acted like catnip to a whole generation of young imaginations. The recipe in Ari Sandel’s film, for example, is so simple that it can’t really go wrong — high school drama, surprisingly sharp humour, and wild thrills served up with giddy abandon by those Gothic horror staples we know and love.

A buoyant, spirited young cast is led by Madison Iseman as highschooler and aspiring writer Sarah. Brother Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and his pal Sam (Caleel Harris) discover a ventriloquist’s dummy and a locked manuscript in a creepy old house and take them home. Lo and behold, the dummy turns out to be supremely mischievous and interferes with the siblings’ lives for good and bad. But with Halloween night approaching, bigger plans are afoot for the pesky puppet who wants to bring monster mayhem to the small suburban town.

Spooky fun with a side-order of Gremlins-esque nostalgic charm is let loose by this effective slab of entertainment for younger (but not too young) viewers. Job well done.

Hilary A White

Dogman

Cert: 15A; Selected cinemas  ★★★

In a grim, decaying coastal resort on the outskirts of Rome, Marcello (Marcello Fonte) runs a dog-grooming parlour next to a handful of other lowly businesses clinging on for dear life. While not much of a physical specimen, he has a knack for handling large and formidable canines and deals cocaine on the side so that he can lavish his young daughter with nice vacations.

One of Marcello’s clients is Simoncino (Edoardo Pesce), a violent local scumbag who torments the whole neighbourhood. Marcello finds a weird kind of security in the company of this thug and becomes embroiled in criminal activity that he is too weak to extricate himself from.

Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah, Tale of Tales) is a leading light of a new wave of Italian ‘neorealists’, and while imperfect, Dogman shows why.

The neighbourhood where we see Marcello’s life spiral out of control is a transfixing presence throughout, part wild-west dust bowl, part post-apocalyptic ghost town. Everything is frayed and jaundiced, including the characters themselves, and there is a slight feeling that while starkly mundane in some ways, stranger things are at work in these wretched lives, something clownish and blackly absurd.

Dogman is scattered with moments of brilliance from both Garrone and his core cast but concludes with something of a dull thud. The whole doesn’t feel quite as great as the sum of its parts, as if its narrative circle is not fully closed.

Hilary A White

The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid

Cert: 12A; Now showing ★★★★

David and Goliath stories are always good. This one is especially timely because it’s about valuing business interests over human interests. It is in some ways like a companion piece to the wonderful Rosie.

Feargal Ward’s documentary is shot in a way as to look almost timeless and the man at the centre of it, Thomas Reid, looks somewhat timeless too. He lives alone in the same Kildare farmhouse that his family have lived in for generations; it’s untended and messy, full of memories and hoarded things. The house and 72 acre farm were deemed by the IDA to be the most suitable land for industrial development. Reid was offered a large sum of money but didn’t want it, he wanted to stay on his farm and in his home. So, for the first time, the IDA used its power of compulsory purchase. And Thomas Reid fought back.

Through Reid, radio extracts and re-enactments the documentary paints a good picture of the life he is defending, of the foes he fought and how. And it raises issues about values that need to be discussed now more than ever.

Aine O'Connor

Sunday Independent

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