[18 July 2002]
PopMatters Film and TV Editor
The latest Michael Myers movie went through many “working titles” before its release this past Friday. Way back in 1999, hard on the heels of 1998’s Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, the 8th film in the series was called Halloween: Evil Never Dies and then, Halloween H2K (this, presumably, was the plan for a 2000 release date). In 2000, someone thought to combine the two, thusly: Halloween H2K: Evil Never Dies. By 2001, the “2K” was clearly out, and so, the name mutated again, from the rather perfunctory Hall8ween or Halloween 8, to Halloween: Homecoming or Halloween: The Homecoming, to Halloween: MichaelMyers.com. Now, at last, the title has been fixed and perhaps less importantly, the film is in theaters, for a minute anyway. And so you have it: Halloween: Resurrection.
After all that time and wrangling: resurrection? Please. Since when is that news in a slasher film? Maybe there’s something to be said for an unadorned, unclever, decidedly uncompelling promotional tactic. And what does it matter what it’s called, anyway? You know what you’re getting in this flick, whether you want it or not.
For one thing, you’re getting yet another appearance by Michael’s sister, Laurie Strode (played one more time by indefatigable Sprint pitchperson, Ms. Jamie Lee Curtis, suddenly looking very, very tired indeed). Lucky for her, she only has about 5 minutes to endure, as she’s locked up in an asylum following the discovery that, when she thought she decapitated her brother, she had actually wasted a paramedic, with conveniently crushed vocal chords so he couldn’t tell her who he was, as well as three kids. One nurse tells another this story, to occasion flashbacks to the previous film, and catch you up, in case you want to be caught up, with where the action begins here. And begin it does—cue John Carpenter’s theme music and stalker cam, a few shadowy shots of Michael (Brad Loree) in infamously ooky white-face mask, another few of the knife in silhouette and glinting in the light, and a few more of the surveillance monitors, or more specifically, the monitors in rooms where no one is watching. Michael has come to kill Laurie once and for all, which he does—big knife ripping right through her and a magnificent slo-mo face-up plummet from a roof to boot.
Her final gesture is a splendid one—she kisses Michael on his mask-mouth and growls, “See you in hell!” Tres nice exit. So, Laurie better hope against hope that no one comes up with a way to implant an alien baby in her so she’ll return as Laurie 8, or 9 or 10, with acid for blood and a hankering for basketball. Oh wait, wrong franchise.
Assuming that Laurie is, in fact, finally done with the whole Michael Myers business, you know that someone else will have to pick up the slack. Not just the nubile-young-bodies-ripe-for-slaughter slack, either. Someone has to be in charge, bring weight, and make you want Mike to get his in the end. And that someone is—get ready—Busta Rhymes.
Busta’s already proved he has chops, in the wildly gesticulating department, as well as the mesmerizing performance department (check Hype Williams’ video for “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See”) and in subtler drama (see Gus Van Sant’s Finding Forrester). And he essentially carries this movie—his every appearance on screen produces yelps of delight. When all is said and done, Busta does come out of this formula movie smelling fairly rose-like. There are reasons.
First off, the man is charisma on wheels. Whether selling Mountain Dew or dancing with digital elephants This despite his role as Freddy, a nefarious some-kinda-media producer, determined to cash in on the whole reality-tv-internet-cam thing. Toward that end, he papers a local college, to solicit a pack of Real World-er wannabes to spend Halloween night in Michael Myers’ childhood home, for a show he calls Dangertainment. Catchy. Their adventures will be aired live over the net via carefully placed cameras all over the house and mini-cameras placed on the kids heads, ` la MTV’s Fear, itself sort of derived/ripped off from 1999’s internet-advertising phenom, The Blair Witch Project. It’s all very skritchy, mobile-framey, and zig-zaggy: great when it comes time to confuse you about who’s where and when the next silhouette of a knife is going to be pointed at someone’s throat.
Second, Busta is a hard worker. He’s been promoting the bejesus out of this film, with appearances all over, and not only the usual 106th & Park, Leno, and MTV beach thingies guest shots, but also the more creative. The other night he showed up on WWF Smackdown, dueting with The Rock on “Under the Boardwalk.” Seems folks just love Bussa Bus, wherever he goes.
Third, Busta makes sure that his guy, no matter how gnarly he might appear at first, kicks ass. You see him early on watching kung fu movies on tv in his motel room, alone (he’s a serious trash-tv producer, not screwing the contestants), and he practices his moves while he watches, especially the eeiii-yahh screeches. Even if Freddy is an ambitious, reckless entrepreneur at first, when he learns the truth—that Michael is still living at home, in the basement, by eating live rats—he does the right thing, and saves that Last White Girl, for sure.
And fourth, Busta out-acts and out-spectacularizes Tyra Banks, who plays Freddy’s assistant, Nora. Okay, so the out-acting is no biggie. And okay, so she doesn’t have much time on screen: Nora and Freddy exchange a few knowing glances while shooting the kids’ intro-confessionals; toast one another with wine when, early on, it looks like the project is going well; and other than that, Nora/Tyra has only one more-than-30-seconds scene, in which she does not speak, but does slither-dance while making a whipped-cream-and-coffee, and elaborate bit of nonsense so that she doesn’t see her camera-guy being harpooned by Michael, on the very camera that camera dead-camera-boy has just that second carefully placed by the stairwell… well, la-dee-da! You know Miss Latte will be punished for this sexy display and self-indulgence. But you don’t even see her bloody horrible death scene, just the considerable blood slick she leaves on the floor, above which she dangles, so very pop-eyedly.
Of course, even without Nora’s slaughter, there are more than enough violences committed against young bodies—all locked in the house because they’ve signed their webcast contract. The group Freddy assembles and instructs to “search for clues” (and then endeavors to scare silly by planting various Michael paraphernalia, like aggressively marked up coloring books, a high chair with nasty leather restraints for baby Mike, skeletons in the basement wall, first dead sister’s hairbrush at her now-cobwebby dressing table, etc.) consists of the kind of fresh meat you’re used to seeing in slasher flicks—kids looking for a break, ready to do anything to be the next Johnny Depp or Josh Hartnett.
This crew consists of Last Girl Sara (Bianca Kajlich), tarty literature major/impalee Donna (Daisy McCrackin), bleached-blond-tv-star/decapitated girl Jen (Katee Sackhoff, who is actually charming, as far as she goes), boring-as-heck/throat-cut kid Bill (played by American Pie cast member Thomas Ian Nicholas, apparently still looking for that break), and gothic-affecting music major Jim (Luke Kirby)—I actually forget what happens to him, but he deserves it because he comes on to Donna by saying, “You’ve got great legs. What time do they open?”
The single character who seems sensible and un-irritating, and has seen enough of these movies to know how not to act, is Jen’s bong-smoking buddy Rudy (Sean Patrick Thomas, who also made Dracula 2000 before he blew up in Save the Last Dance, and is apparently part of this equally old project because the director Rick Rosenthal, aside from directing Sean Penn’s Bad Boys 19 years ago and Halloween 2 21 years ago, has recently done episodes for Thomas’s tv series, The District). Rudy works in the cafeteria down at the college, which suggests that, unlike the other kids, he knows a little something-something about the world. It also gives him a “hook,” which is that he’s into food and nutrition, going so far as to float the theory that Michael is murderous because of a poor diet. Plus, Rudy knows his way around a knife drawer, which comes in handy here, briefly, anyway.
You keep track of all these kiddies by way of Halloween: Resurrection‘s major gimmick, that is, the cameras on their heads, and the split-images on the computer screens, watched by a bunch of kids at a Halloween party, wearing costumes and laughing at the killings, because, like you (the presumed viewer of this film, they’ve seen way too many slasher flicks, and know how they all turn out. The one observer who takes the events seriously is Sara’s email-pal Myles (Ryan Merriman), who’s dressed like Vince Vega in Pulp Fiction: truly, a meaningful costume. Myles sends Sara helpful messages on her palm pilot like, “He’s on the stairs!” and “GO NOW!” She plays resourceful Last Girl just fine, slipping out half-open windows, kicking Michael in the head, and, importantly, getting interminably stuck under some debris just as the room is going up in flames and Michael’s sitting bolt upright from his deadlike splay on the floor—again.
All this takes place as multiple audiences watch—Freddy, the internet viewers, you. While Rhymes’ Freddy is most fun to watch (especially facing off against Michael) and makes a fine speech at the end about the evils of invasive cameras, the kid participants in Dangertainment surely have a sense of what’s at issue, long before Michael makes the scene. At first they think maybe they’ll just all stay together in one room, unmoving, for the night; Jen, who aspires to stardom, reminds them of their duty to a viewing “public.” They dutifully decide to “perform.”
The film sets up questions about responsibility even as it gives you what you paid for—splatter and gook. It makes a grim, grand metaphor out of reality tv and surveillance technologies (both encroaching on daily experience by the minute), which makes it timely and occasionally smart, almost in spite of itself. After several frazzling and frustrating moments, she takes off her head camera and points it at herself: “You watch,” she snarls, her face close and blurry in the frame. “You watch!” It is what you’ve come to do, after all.