‘Halloween: Resurrection’ – You Think ‘Halloween Ends’ is Bad? Check This One Out!

As I write this, “Halloween Ends” has earned a box office gross of over $40 million in its opening weekend. Those are great numbers, and yet many fans have been rebelling against this installment with an everlasting passion. Listening to them makes me wonder if they have seen the other sequels because, when it comes down to it, “Halloween Ends” is way better than “Halloween: Resurrection” which I actually took the time to watch over the weekend out of morbid interest. If it were not for “movie ever. While certain entries in this series may age like a fine wine, this one never will.

This ill-begotten mess begins three years after the events depicted in “Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later” which ended with Laurie Strode (Jamie-Lee Curtis) decapitating Michael Myers once and for all. But, thanks to an ironclad clause in Moustapha Akkad’s contract, Michael cannot ever be truly killed off, and it turns out the man whose head Laurie chopped off with true precision was not Michael, but instead a paramedic whom Michael attacked, crushed his larynx so he couldn’t talk, and then took his uniform to walk away from the crime scene with relative ease. Keep in mind, this development was written for “Halloween H20,” but Curtis refused to do the film if this ending was featured in the final cut.

While I knew this ending was invented to make “Halloween: Resurrection” a reality, I can’t help but wonder what was going through Michael’s mind when he took out that paramedic. I imagine he was thinking, “Okay, maybe this isn’t the time to kill my sister. Perhaps another time in the near future. In the meantime, I am getting out of town for a bit. I have a timeshare waiting for me.” Michael was so close to killing Laurie, and yet he sensed things were not going to work out for him this time around. But how did he know what asylum Laurie was going to be residing in three years later? Oh wait, you don’t ask those questions in a movie like this.

As we all know by now, Laurie gets killed by Michael even though she has the upper hand. Laurie leads him into a trap, but she still needs to look under his mask to make sure she has the right guy this time around. A knife in her belly is all the proof she needs, and her lifeless body falls to the ground. This was to be Curtis’ last time playing Laurie as she did not want to make any more “Halloween” movies, but we all know how that turned out. The promise of anything final in a horror franchise always has us rolling our eyes and laughing uncontrollably, and this one is no exception.

We then move to a year later when we arrive at the campus of Haddonfield University, and we meet the students who have just won a competition to appear on an internet reality show entitled “Dangertainment” which is operated by Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes) and Nora Winston (Tyra Banks). They include Sara Moyer (Bianca Kajlich) who proves to be the Laurie Strode of the group as she plays with her hair in the same way Laurie did, Jennifer ‘Jen’ Danzig (Katee Sackhoff) who, like Lucy Van Pelt, keeps signing her classmates up for events they never expected to participate in, Jim Morgan (Luke Kirby) who is looking to get laid on or off camera, Rudy Grimes (Sean Patrick Thomas) who quickly proves to be quite the cook, and Bill Woodlake (Thomas Ian Nicholas of “American Pie” fame) who is looking to score even though the ladies are understandably quick to reject him. Their mission, spend a night in Michael Myer’s childhood home and determine what led him to kill so many people.

Now the key thing to keep in mind about “Halloween: Resurrection” is that these participants are being equipped with head-cameras so we can see what they see as they walk through Michael’s childhood home, and this threatens to make this sequel more promising than it has any right to be. While this one came after “The Blair Witch Project,” it came before the glut of reality shows and found footage movies like “Survivor” and “Paranormal Activity” which Hollywood burned through before the profits ran dry. Still, while this installment could have done a number of clever things with these genres, it instead devolves into the same old thing to where nothing on display feels the least bit surprising.

The one thing which got me excited about “Halloween: Resurrection” was that it was directed by Rick Rosenthal. This is the same man who directed 1981’s “Halloween II,” a sequel I came to appreciate because I first saw it years after its initial release. I thought Rosenthal deserved more credit than he was given at the time and having a veteran “Halloween” director at the helm of this installment seemed like a really smart idea.

Right from the start, however, Rosenthal quickly fumbles the ball as the art of subtlety is completely lost on him here. With his previous venture in this franchise, he knew how to keep the action and characters grounded in a reality we all knew and understood, just like with the 1978 classic. But here, the volume is turned up way too loud to where the suspense is all but neutered, and the characters are unable to speak quietly if at all. Like a certain character Will Ferrell played on “Saturday Night Live” who had vocal modulation issues, these ones make you want to turn the volume all the way down. Okay, maybe that’s pushing things a bit, but these characters got annoying ever so quickly.

The one actor I feel bad for here is Katee Sackhoff who did this film long before she broke through into our collective consciousness on SyFy’s rebooted “Battlestar Galactica.” This is not Sackhoff at her best and, like Stacy Nelkin in “Halloween III: Season of the Witch,” she has to play her last scene without a head.

I should add there is also a subplot involving a college freshman named Myles “Deckard” Barton (Ryan Merriman) who has been communicating online with Sara Moyer for months. While at a college party, he watches this virtual reality series play over the internet and invites other students to watch it with him. This could have led to some interesting moments as the characters try to disseminate what is real and what is fiction, but the performances by everyone here are too broad to where we mock these foolish characters instead of relating to them.

And there is Busta Rhymes who is the first thing anyone thinks about when it comes to “Halloween: Resurrection.” For what it’s worth, he is an entertaining presence as reality show entrepreneur Freddie Harris, but he also takes this sequel into “Batman & Robin” territory as he turns the proceedings into a complete joke, the kind which makes you wince more than laugh. Seeing him trying to take Michael Myers out via martial arts made my eyes roll, and seeing him end things by speaking to television reporters about violence in the media is insulting and a bitch slap to everything we just watched.

When it comes to the recent “Halloween” movies like “Halloween Ends,” they were made by filmmakers who wanted to try something a little different while giving fans some of the things they came to expect. “Halloween: Resurrection,” however, was made by a committee which was designed to take this installment through a number of test screenings in an effort to hopefully give audiences what they wanted and get a return on their investment in the process. If Rosenthal has any artistic aspirations with this sequel, they are all but snuffed out as soon as we realize how cheap the opening credit titles look.

It’s no wonder the Akkad family went out of there way to reboot this franchise yet again after this misbegotten entry. Sure, Michael’s eyes open wide before the screen goes to black, but who gives a shit?

* out of * * * *

‘The Rules of Attraction’ Invites You to Look Beneath Its Seedy Surface

I was flipping through what was available to watch on cable one day. I rarely go there unless there is a television show involved. There were no good horror movies on, and I was hoping there would be, but then I came across one called “The Rules of Attraction.” Based on the novel of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis, it was written for the screen and directed by Roger Avary, the same filmmaker who directed a kick ass heist movie named “Killing Zoe.” While this one is not quite as good as “Killing Zoe,” it has a number of memorable moments and takes a lot of risks which many films don’t often bother to.

“The Rules of Attraction” ensnares the audience in a world of spoiled rotten brats who have been handed everything to them on a silver platter. Witness their insane antics as they spend their time getting high and hopelessly inebriated at endless parties which take place at their preppy New England college. Obviously, they don’t seem to realize they are not superhuman, nor do they care about what will happen to their shallow souls assuming they ever survive their infinite decadence. These selfish and spoiled characters are a common fixture of the Ellis’ work, and he has since proclaimed this film to be the best adaptation of any of his novels.

While I want to despise these characters for what they do to others and themselves, both Ellis and Avery show their inescapable humanity and consciousness which lies not all that far beneath the surface, and each of them desperately wants to open themselves up to another they cannot stop thinking about. It’s this humanity which gives “The Rules of Attraction” another dimension, and it kept me from being completely repelled by all the characters’ shenanigans. As much as you want to see these young adults get their just desserts, none of them really deserve the severe consequences they end up receiving.

This film certainly offered many young actors a much-desired opportunity to shed their nice or squeaky-clean images for something completely opposite. We have actors here from “Dawson’s Creek” and “7th Heaven” who are clearly desperate to break from the shackles of their all-too-polite characters before they end up becoming permanently inseparable from them. It is not surprise they want to be seen as more adult than their ages would suggest as no one ever acts their age. Then again, who wants to?

I do, however, have to be honest and say Fred Savage, who plays a junkie named Marc, feels a bit out of place here. Please don’t get me wrong; he has a great cameo here, but the image of him as Kevin Arnold from “The Wonder Years” is impossible to wipe from my conscious mind. While watching him inject something lethal into his veins, all I could think of was him getting back together with Winnie Cooper. Still, Savage is always welcome to prove to me there is far more to him than that classic show in the future.  

For me, the biggest surprise of “The Rules of Attraction” was James Van Der Beek who plays Sean Bateman, a drug dealer and distant relative of Patrick Bateman from “American Psycho.” Like the other characters, Sean is selfish, greedy and more worried about his own problems than anyone else’s. Throughout, Sean presents himself as an opportunist who preys on the weaknesses of others, but Van Der Beek makes you see him as someone desperately longing for something pure and someone to connect with in a world where everyone seems more content living in their own tiny bubble.

Van Der Beek was very believable in this role to me, and there was nothing of Dawson to be found throughout. Looking back, I bet he was just dying to play a character like this so he could shatter the image which could have forever defined him to millions.

I imagine this was the same case with Jessica Biel of “7th Heaven” fame. She has more than shed whatever nice girl image she had from that show, and I bet this film was her first real opportunity to do so. Biel plays Lara Holleran, roommate to Lauren Hynde (Shannyn Sossaman) whom shares a lot of experiences with, including snorting cocaine until their noses bleed (“rusty pipes!”). Lara comes off as the most shamelessly selfish character in this film as she manipulates both the men and women around her to get what she wants. Her comeuppance near the end was richly deserved and almost had me cheering in my apartment.

Shannyn Sossaman portrays perhaps the purest character in all of “The Rules of Attraction” in Lauren Hynde. Lauren is a virgin, and we see her constantly looking through a book with pictures of venereal diseases perhaps to protect herself by reminding herself of the consequences which could befall her if she does not play it safe. Sossaman is a beauty to behold but her beauty is toned down here to make her seem a bit more ordinary, and it works effectively in her performance.

And then there is also Paul Denton, played by Ian Somerhalder, a gay man more concerned about a date he has, or thinks he does, with Sean to where a gay friend overdosing on drugs is more of annoyance than a genuine concern for him. Paul thinks he knows how Sean feels about him, and he cannot get him out of his mind. But as selfish as Paul may be, to see him get his heart broken in two is very sad, and Somerhalder makes his heartbreak all the more vivid.

When it comes down to it, “The Rules of Attraction” is essentially a love triangle of obsession as we watch several characters desperately pine for another, and yet the one they are pinning is instead more interested in someone else. In an atmosphere filled with shallow pursuits, all of them want something purer, more honest and real than why they have already been given, and there is something about this which I cannot help but relate to. That they may end up never getting what they want, and I found myself terrified by this realization. In the end, they may have to reevaluate where they are in their lives where they can go from here.

If this film proves anything the most strongly, it is this: Unrequited love is a bitch! When you are young, those painful emotions can feel far too epic.

Avary hides no taboos here as there are drugs, drinking, sex, date rape, suicide, attempted suicide, etc. He uses a lot of split screens which are effective in separating different moods in the same scene. One moment has him bringing the split screens for Sean Bateman and Lauren Hynde together, and it is brilliantly seamless to where I would love to know how the filmmakers accomplished it.

I also have to say “The Rules of Attraction” contains one of the most emotionally devastating suicide scenes I have ever witnessed in a motion picture. As a result, I will never listen to the Harry Nilsson song “Without You” ever again without thinking of this scene. Seriously, it proves to be as scaring a scene as watching that horse drown in “The Neverending Story.”

The one thing Avary ends up overdoing here is the time reversal effect. He rewinds the film at given moments to get to another point or character in the same setting, and these moments end up going on for too long. After a while, part of me was saying, “ALRIGHT! WE GET THE POINT ALREADY!”

“The Rules of Attraction” received mostly mixed reviews upon its release back in 2002, and I can certainly understand why. People reacted negatively to the characters here, and it is true many of them have few, if any, redeeming values. Then again, do characters need to be likable in order for a film to work effectively? I think not. At the very least, we come to understand their desperate yearnings to where we cannot help but see ourselves in them. That’s why I think the movie works as it never supplies us with one-dimensional characters, but instead with ones we find ourselves relating to even if we are not quick to do so. Seriously, I can sum up the frustrations of the characters with the title of a Nine Inch Nails song, “I just want something I can never have. “

If I have made “The Rules of Attraction” sound like the average Lars Von Trier depression extravaganza, I apologize. While this is essentially a black comedy with some very funny moments, it does contain some very serious scenes which have burned into my memory. Granted, the scene with the two gay men dancing on the bed to George Michael’s “Faith” is a big highlight as well as the restaurant scene which follows it, but this movie is an acquired taste and is not about to appeal to a mainstream audience. But if you have the stomach for it and are into the black comedy, you cannot avoid or easily dismiss this particular motion picture.

It’s interesting to watch this movie after having watched “The Sopranos” series finale. Like that last episode, this movie comes to an abrupt stop. We will never know what happens to these characters when, and if, they ever leave college. Then again, what more is there to say?

* * * out of * * * *