Charles Cyphers

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Halloween (1978) Review


Excellent
Considered by many to be a modern horror classic, Halloween succeeds through simplicity. This thriller -- a veritable kickoff for 25-plus years of slasher films -- works because director John Carpenter keeps the story neat and the presentation basic. It's an approach that gives Halloween an easy, no-frills realism, and a likable indie style that shines through even today. Carpenter and co-writer/producer Debra Hill turn a few suburban streets into a house of horrors for some unsuspecting teenagers -- with no special effects and very few cheap thrills.

A 19-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis makes her film debut as Laurie Strode, a bookish, anti-social highschooler unaware that while she babysits on Halloween night, a psychotic maniac lurks in the neighborhood. The strong, silent type, this hulking being quietly walks the town in which he killed his sister 15 years earlier, back for more after a hospital escape. Meanwhile, his horrified doctor (the ominous Donald Pleasance) waits, as single-mindedly obsessed as the killer he's chasing.

Continue reading: Halloween (1978) Review

Assault On Precinct 13 (1976) Review


Very Good
John Carpenter's third movie (2 years before Halloween), and one of his best, in a career that's filled with mostly downs. This low-budget shoot-em-up has L.A. gang-bangers taking a blood oath to kill a guy secreted inside a nearly vacant police station, and watching the people within resist the siege for 90 minutes is an awful lot of fun. Reportedly a remake of Rio Bravo. DVD features commentary by Carpenter.

Halloween II Review


Weak
It took three years to get it to screen, but Halloween #2 picks up immediately where Halloween #1 left off. Michael Myers chases Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) through the hospital where she has been recently interred, while Donald Pleasence grumbles about druids. Absolutely awful, with no trace of the original's terror. (Side note: Curtis, playing a teenager, is 23 years old at the time.)

Roots Review


Excellent
When you think of epic mini-series, what comes to mind? Rich Man, Poor Man? Shogun? More likely than not, it's Roots, the based-on-a-true story tale that spooled over 12 hours and six nights, the story of "an American family," albeit one that began captured in Africa in 1750, then sold into slavery in the U.S. colonies.

Roots begins with Kunta Kinte, emerging from childhood and undergoing warrior training in his tribal homeland. The slavers arrive soon enough, and after a harrowing three-month ride back across the Atlantic, Kunta is sold, becomes Toby under his new master, attempts repeated escapes, and eventually accepts his fate as he settles down with a wife and child. The Revolutionary War comes and goes, and Toby's daughter Kizzy is sold, becoming the mother of her new master's son, known as Chicken George. Chicken George in turn is sent to England to pay off a gambling debt. When he returns home after 14 years, he is a free man. The Civil War arrives, and the rest of the slaves are freed. Soon enough the family faces the perils of vehement racism and the KKK, and Chicken George finally leads his family to safety in a new settlement.

Continue reading: Roots Review

The Fog (1980) Review


Very Good
Pretty brilliant notion from John Carpenter: Combine scream queens Adrienne Barbeau and Jamie Lee Curtis with old-school actors like John Houseman and Hal Holbrook. Here they come together in a story about a fog that invades a seaside town, carrying with it hooded killers. Excellent mixture of genuine frights, misdirection, and old-fashioned bloodshed. One of Carpenter's best.

Halloween Review


Excellent
Considered by many to be a modern horror classic, Halloween succeeds through simplicity. This thriller -- a veritable kickoff for 25-plus years of slasher films -- works because director John Carpenter keeps the story neat and the presentation basic. It's an approach that gives Halloween an easy, no-frills realism, and a likable indie style that shines through even today. Carpenter and co-writer/producer Debra Hill turn a few suburban streets into a house of horrors for some unsuspecting teenagers -- with no special effects and very few cheap thrills.

A 19-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis makes her film debut as Laurie Strode, a bookish, anti-social highschooler unaware that while she babysits on Halloween night, a psychotic maniac lurks in the neighborhood. The strong, silent type, this hulking being quietly walks the town in which he killed his sister 15 years earlier, back for more after a hospital escape. Meanwhile, his horrified doctor (the ominous Donald Pleasance) waits, as single-mindedly obsessed as the killer he's chasing.

Continue reading: Halloween Review

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