As I sit down to write this with my orange flavored, only 10 calories, Rockstar by my side I know the fury of hate and rage that is going to be set upon me for the opinions I am about to share this morning. I urge everyone to remain calm and try to remember that these comments that are to follow are only my opinions. You are absolutely entitled to disagree with me. So please keep that in mind before you start hurling your verbal assaults at me, comparing me to Hitler or suggesting that I should move out of my parents basement before offering up my opinions to the masses and so on.
And, one last note I’d like to make before we dive in. It doesn’t matter how technically better the original may be. At the end of the day when it comes to deciding how much a like a film, what it really just comes down to is which film I enjoyed watching the most and would I want to watch again.
With that being said, let’s continue. First up on my list is...
Dawn of the Dead
Written and directed by the great George A. Romero. I am not about to say that Night of the Living Dead isn’t a classic and a must see movie. The film was ground breaking in many ways. I think Gone with the Wind and Dr. Zhivago are ground breaking and classics but both movies literally bored the hell out of me. I do mean “literally” because I no longer have any hell in me after seeing those movies.
Dawn of the Dead had some amazing special effects created by the amazing Tom Savini. It took the story created in the first film and added a sense of scale to it. It went bigger while still keeping the film about the characters. It’s didn’t have the same intense feeling of claustrophobia that the first film had. But, it was still claustrophobic feeling nonetheless. There, also was an overwhelming sense of dread knowing that the entire country was being effected by this plague. There too was all the beautiful gore and some pretty intense philosophical dialog thrown in as well. And, to be completely honest, I simply just enjoyed watching it more. The movie held me more than the original did and that’s why I have seen it several times and I have only watched the original maybe three times?
I think my last point is a key issue here. There are a great many movies out there that I consider to be groundbreaking or masterpieces. However, just because they are, doesn’t mean I want to sit down and watch them all the time. In many cases, seeing them just once was enough. I appreciate them, I respect them but sometimes you just don’t enjoy watching them as much. When it comes to any movie, it doesn’t matter how well made it is, if after seeing it, I feel content with it, I just don’t have a strong urge to see it again. For example, I thought Schindler’s List was brilliant. Everything about that movie was a damn near work of art and yet I have seen that movie exactly one time. It was more than 20 years ago when I first saw it and there hasn’t been a time since that I have I wanted to see it again. Well, to be honest, I have been thinking about watching it again lately. Yet, even if I did watch it again. It would only be the second time. If I decided again to watch Dawn of the Dead tomorrow, I couldn’t accurately tell you how many times I have seen that movie since first getting to see it in the early 80’s. If I had to make a guess it would be somewhere between a lot and not enough.
Next on the list is...
Aliens was written by James Cameron, David Giler and Walter Hill and directed by James Cameron was, in my opinion, far more entertaining than it’s predecessor. It has got to be one of the most suspenseful films every made. Again, I loved the original film, it is also a classic. However, it just didn’t do it for me.
When the Alien came out I was just a kid and couldn’t go see it. But, I remember my uncle Kim telling me and my parents about seeing it. He was blown away by it and said it was really frightening. I remember him trying to describe the aliens. It sounded so cool! I couldn’t wait to see it. A few years later, the world had VCR’s and video stores. I remember watching it once with my parents and I found it, at times to be a little boring. Kids don’t really get suspense. I kept wanting to see the aliens and all I got was a few quick glimpses. Didn’t do much for me. My parents didn’t care for it much at all. I mean we all liked it, but it wasn’t a favorite. Great suspense but we all found ourselves thinking, “Get on with it already!“
Now, Aliens on the other hand. The movie starts off a little slow, the first 20 minutes is not that exciting but wow does it ever pick up! I recall seeing it in the theater with my best friend at the time Shane. At one point I kept hearing a sloshy kind or rattling sound. Finally, I realize it’s Shane holding his Coke in his hand. He hadn’t noticed that he was actually shaking his hand causing the mushy ice to rattle in the cup. By the end of the film we were both nearly out of breath waiting for the film to end knowing on a subconscious level that we weren’t safe until that final fade to back. Simply a great, great action, sci-fi, horror movie.
Written by the great Tom Holland and directed by the late Richard Franklin who sadly passed way too young at the age of 58 on 2007. Psycho is brilliant on so many levels. I first saw the film on TV in the late 70’s. I was under 10 years old when I saw it, don’t recall my specific age, just that it was in the late 70’s when it appeared on TV. Again, I found it to be really, slow. Yes, there was a lot of suspense but too much of it was simply wasted on me. That being said, I don’t think there has been a time since seeing that movie that I haven’t double checked to make sure the bathroom door was locked before I dared step into the shower.
Psycho II has a heart to it. A compassion to it that has stuck with me since the first time I saw it on a date way back in the early 80’s as part of a double feature with Twilight Zone: The Movie. I had to be just 13 or so at the time. I remember watching it and feeling so sorry for Norman Bates. The guy that was responsible for me having to lock my bathroom door and I felt sorry for him. Even at that young age I could feel his sense of struggle trying to keep his sanity. I was fan of Vincent van Gogh’s work and fascinated by his life. That struggle to keep our demons at bay. Though I was so young I still identified with that one some level. And, when I saw Norman Bates struggling with his sanity, I was sucked into it. I was rooting for him to win the battle against those demons.
There are just so many things that made this film better than the original in my eyes. The sense of sadness and struggle Tom Holland managed to give to Norman Bates. The hate and bitterness that I found so believable in Lila Loomis played by Vera Miles and the vulnerability and sensitivity of Mary Loomis played by Meg Rayn, who, I’ve had a crush on ever since seeing the film. Psycho II really did give heart and kind of sense of understanding to one of films most epic serial killers. And, in some small way made us or at least me take a deeper look into mental illnesses and what it really means to suffer from them.
Final Destination 2
Written by J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress (screenplay) is another example of a sequel that is, in my opinion, better than the original. And again, I loved the original. I think the first thing that made me love this film was the opening sequence. I thought there was no way they could ever top the opening from the original. I was wrong. This new tragic series of events not only equaled the originals plane explosion, it by far surpassed it. I once pulled over to the side of the road when I saw a logging truck behind me. I am dead serious. To top things off I was listening to a AC/DC when I noticed the truck behind me. It wasn’t Highway to Hell but it didn’t really matter. I pulled the hell over because as I true horror fan, I will never be the guy that dies because he said or did something stupid, “let’s split up”, “I’ll be right back” or simply not pull over when seeing a logging truck on the road.
Though the original is great I still find myself being drawn to the sequel. Some of that is because of A.J. Cook’s acting. I just believed her. Every one of the main characters I found to be believable. The mother of the son who died. Her response to her son’s death, was brilliant. In fact they actually had to cut back on her performance a little because it was so real that it took you out of the horror fantasy and straight into, “Jesus Christ this woman just witnessed her son die for real.” But, the thing that I enjoyed most about it was the fact that the film didn’t dwell on people not believing what was going on like the first film did. Sure there were a few characters that didn’t want to believe what was happening to them but it wasn’t a distraction. They brought up logical reasons for not believing even though you could tell they were more trying to convince themselves than they were those they were speaking to. The whole film was just well done and even raised questions, that I wish were dealt with in the other installments, like, if you’re on deaths list, can you die out of order?
Last but not least...
Written by John Carpenter and the late Debra Hill who passed away at the young age of 54 in 2005. Directed by Rick Rosenthal. Yes, the original is a classic and I love it and will always love it. It does have some things in it that really, really bother me that the sequel fixed. And, those things really stood out when I showed Halloween to my daughter several years ago. She was actually getting pissed off at the film because Lori Strode was “so stupid” to quote her.
My daughter is pretty brilliant. She’s got my street smarts and her mother’s book smarts. She’s grow up to be a strong woman and back then she could not believe how many times Lori Strode would stab Michael Myers and then just walk away from him. Once was bad enough, the second time, my daughter began rooting for Michael.
Halloween II had very little of that type stupidity going on in it. Michael Myers ascended to a whole other level in this film. He went from something scary in the first film to scary and relentless in the sequel. He became an unstoppable force that could not be escaped. The kills were better, the suspense was better and Lori Strode was played with complete believably by Jamie Lee Curtis. I am not saying she wasn’t believable in the first film. I thought she was great in it. But, I too must agree with my daughter, Lori Strode did some really stupid things that she just didn’t do in the sequel.
Well, there you have it. If you haven’t seen any of these movies, give them a try. If you haven't seen any of the movies in the series, have fun and start from the beginning and happy binge watching…