THE REVENANT (2015)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Best Picture – Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mary Parent and Keith Redmon
  • Best Actor – Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Best Supporting Actor – Tom Hardy
  • Best Cinematography – Emmanuel Lubezki
  • Best Costume Design – Jacqueline West
  • Best Director – Alejandro G. Iñárritu
  • Best Film Editing – Stephen Mirrione
  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini
  • Best Production Design – Jack Fisk (Production Design); Hamish Purdy (Set Decoration)
  • Best Sound Editing – Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender
  • Best Sound Mixing – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Chris Duesterdiek
  • Best Visual Effects – Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer

Elizabeth

A long time ago, I stopped pretending I didn’t want to see a movie just because Leonardo DiCaprio was in it. When you aren’t even 30 years old and you’ve managed to keep the same favorite actor for about 20 years, I think it’s okay to admit that that actor pulls enough weight to make you see any movie he’s in. But I’m lucky. Leo makes it really easy for me because he keeps putting out incredible performances in equally amazing movies, and his performance as Hugh Glass in The Revenant is no exception.

Overall, other than Leo’s performance, the thing that struck me the most about The Revenant was how director Iñárritu’s style made you feel like you were there, not watching a movie. When “there” is 19th century frozen, battle-ridden wilderness, that’s certainly saying a lot. Iñárritu favors long, winding shots that often give you a total 360 view of what’s going on. So instead of breaking up shots, the camera just moves around as if you yourself are looking around. There is also a decent amount of shots showing the camera almost being interacted with; both blood and breath end up on the camera lens. As someone who wears glasses, there are few things that subconsciously make me feel like I’m living the action as much as seeing a lens fog up.

But obviously, the cornerstone of The Revenant is Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance. For most of the movie, Leo carries all of his scenes entirely on his own. When there’s a movie with a lack of dialogue and actors and/or you’re mostly following one actor and their actions, I think a good way to determine how successful a performance was is by how compelling they were. I wanted to watch Leo trudge through the wilderness, figure out ways to survive. It was interesting, even if he didn’t have anyone to talk to. Watching his face shows that he doesn’t need anyone to act off of in order to act beautifully. I think the scene I was most impressed with was the now-infamous bear attack. Glass being attacked by a bear is the real inciting action for the whole story, so it’s important. The way it was shot was incredible and so tense; first, like Glass, you only see two bear cubs – with no mother. That never bodes well, and only after the camera pans around the forest do you realize, at the same time as Glass, that the mama bear is behind Glass, ready to attack. Now, I’m not an expert in acting, so I don’t know how you’re supposed to perform a scene where you’re mauled by a bear. We know Leo wasn’t really mauled by a bear, so what do you do – scream a lot? How much acting actually goes into a scene like that? If you’re Leo – a whole lot. In the hands of another actor, the scene would have looked fake or not that vicious. But when Leo screams, it’s from his gut, from his heart. Tears come out of his eyes the moment the bear claws at him, he grits his teeth as the bear throws him around, he tries to suppress his moans as his eyes bug out while the bear stands on him. When you have a bear attack scene where A.) You know the bear attack is not real and B.) You know the character must survive the attack given the context of the movie, and you still manage to make the scene horrific and terrifying, I think everyone involved has really done an incredible job.

And Tom Hardy was sort of perfect as Fitzgerald, a trapper that is dumb, smart, and dangerous all at once. I couldn’t help but think that he sounded exactly like a character from Kroll Show‘s “Pawnsylvania,” but other than that I was totally engaged with his performance. He was the perfect mix of being a bit of comic relief while also being the scariest character of all.

Obviously, if Leo does not win the Oscar for this it will be clear evidence of my long-suspected Don’t-Give-Leo-The-Oscar conspiracy, because he was incredible. And all in all, I really thought the whole movie was incredible and I highly recommend seeing it in theaters – especially if the theater is cold – so you get the full effect of feeling like you’re within the movie.

Christopher

It’s hard to go to a movie like this and not expect the best. It’s from a director that won an Oscar last year, actors that are always at least nominated for awards, and it sounds like it was almost impossible to film. Even knowing and thinking about all that, I still walked away from The Revenant loving it!

I think the biggest thing about the movie is it’s slow pace. However, it did not feel like it took forever to watch the movie. I think the way the movie used time and nature to really demonstrate how hopeless humans can be in nature really made the story compelling. Apart from the bear attack and issues with Tom Hardy, the way the camera used nature to dwarf the characters in this film was very impressive. It never felt like anyone had an upper hand in this long revenge plot. Like Birdman with people walking through doors, the shot we continued to see in The Revenant was looking up at trees as well as people walking with giant mountains behind them. I really like those shots though because each time the trees or mountains were slightly different. It seems weird but it was a nice small way that kept my interest in the film and help make the time really fly by when watching.

I remember too well being really into 21 Grams; I really love that Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu is still in Hollywood’s limelight. After seeing Birdman and now The Revenant, I really want to go back and watch his earlier work.

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DARKMAN (1990)

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Christopher

I think this was the third time I’ve seen this movie. It’s a film that has adult themes but is in such an unrealistic universe it feels like a kid’s movie. But I feel like that’s all part of the charm of the film. Nothing makes sense, so anything can happen. I don’t feel like it’s a movie that requires a viewing but I really like that it exists. It just feels too weird and is its own thing that it still makes a mark in my mind.

The movie follows a scientist who is trying to develop skin via SCIENCE. He is then blown up and is forced into the shadows due to his disfigured/burned body. The conflict comes from the villains being intertwined with his girlfriend/fiancé. There is not a lot of superhero work going on. It’s a bunch of comic book ideas all jumbled together. It’s difficult to understand time in this film. It’s something where everyone is just where the writer wants them to be.

I feel like this review is all over the place but that really represents the film. I have more fun watching something like this than Michael Bay!

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

Often I’ve wondered to myself, “Why isn’t there a thriller/superhero movie based entirely around an office memo?” I feel like such a fool now because that movie has existed since 1990 in the form of Darkman!

Because yes, the plot of the movie revolves around the discovery/attempted recovery of the majestic darkman-macguffin. A fucking memo, for real. But let me back up.

Liam Neeson plays Peyton Westlake, a scientist developing synthetic skin for burn victims that doesn’t really work yet. His girlfriend is Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand), district attorney. Julie stumbles upon a memo that, for some reason, details all of the bribes her client has made to zoning commissioners. Because I know when someone at my company bribes anyone, a memo with every detail is sent out! Turns out some mobsters want this magical memo, too, to the point where they break into Peyton’s lab, murder his assistant, fuck him uuuuuuup thoroughly by putting his face in acid, then blows up the lab. Good thing his whole career revolves around making fake skin, because he makes nearly flawless Liam Neeson masks for himself to cover up his fucked up face while he gets revenge on everyone who caused it. He tries to get back together with Julie, who thought he was dead when his lab blew up with him in it (usually a safe assumption), but despite her declaring she loves him no matter what, Peyton determines his weirdness and anger is too much and in the end they just go their separate ways.

I didn’t get much from Darkman. The villains were so over-the-top that they seemed like goofy comic book characters instead of a real threat. It was fun seeing a young, cute Liam Neeson . . . until he got all fucked up. I was just kinda ready for this movie to be over.

That memo was pretty great, though.

 

 

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

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Elizabeth (spoilers!)

I’ll preface this post with the same preface I give whenever I talk about Star Wars, especially the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens: I’m a casual Star Wars fan. By that I mean I’ve seen all the movies, loved the original three, thought the prequels were okay, and I don’t really know more about this franchise than any other that I’ve seen. I prefer to look at the Star Wars movies as just that: movies.

The more Star Wars movies they make, the more important I think it is that the movies stand alone. The first time I saw the original three, those were the only Star Wars movies that existed. With those, you went into it knowing it was a trilogy, so I thought the three should be viewed more as a whole, rather than three individual movies. But now there are three prequels that come before it. And now one sequel that comes after with apparently more to come. So it’s not a trilogy anymore, but an open-ended film series that is closer to the James Bond franchise than something like The Lord of the Rings. So at this point, if any Star Wars movie is unable to stand on its own, I tend to think it’s more of a failure than a success.

Based on that, I would say Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a failure. Every defense I’ve heard of the movie is centered around the idea that it’s a “set up” movie for future Star Wars movies. That would make sense if Star Wars: The Force Awakens was not the seventh goddamn Star Wars movie. But it is, so I thoroughly disagree with that bullshit argument.

But there were many things I didn’t like about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. My immediate complaint was from the beginning, I thought it was insanely boring. I fought to stay awake for the entire first hour. It moved so fast that it didn’t let you get a feel for really anything or anyone in that first hour (and it doesn’t get that much better after that). After that, it was the tone I had a huge problem with. It was way too cheeky, way too self-referential. Even aside from the character of Finn (John Boyega), a reformed stormtrooper, the movie seemed to go to great lengths to humanize stormtroopers. It was funny, yes, when two stormtroopers turned away and walked in the other direction to avoid Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)’s hissy fit. But who cares about stormtroopers being funny? Was stormtrooper humor something that was really missing from previous Star Wars movies? That, plus a mind-numbingly high number of Han Solo smirks and things like a thinly-veiled reference to the modern phrase “nigga please,” made me cringe so hard I felt like this movie was an old person’s attempt to attract teenagers – which I’m guessing is exactly what it is.

Another big problem I had: Adam Driver as the son of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. Now, do I think all actors who play the son of other actors need to look like each other? No, of course not. But when you have goddamn Harrison fucking Ford say “I know you see him when you look at me,” the “him” at least better be good looking. Instead we got:

Actor Adam Driver attends the Season 2 premiere of the television series "Girls" in New York January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT HEADSHOT) - RTR3C9GF

Who is somehow supposed to remind Leia of:

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Gonna have to call bullshit on that one.

Speaking of, with as little I had invested into the Star Wars universe I still managed to feel betrayed by Ben Solo/Kylo Ren murdering Han Solo. The first time I saw the original trilogy, I was in love with Han Solo and the biggest stressor in all three movies was not knowing if Han Solo was going to live or not. We all made it through that, only for Han to get murdered 2/3 of the way through Star Wars: The Force Awakens? NO THANK YOU.

I had all kinds of other issues with this movie. Like everyone literally saying “Remember the Death Star? Now we have this other thing to deal with, that’s the Death Star but bigger,” and Han Solo suggesting the plan that blew up the original Death Star with “It worked before.” Yes, we know it worked before because we’ve seen the goddamn movie and yet, we get to sit through it again. And R2D2 acting as the absolute definition of a deus ex machina. And Finn being the most happy go-lucky guy after going rogue from a Nazi-like party that stemmed from battlefield trauma. And Leia looking like she got a Brazil facelift.

This is the kind of movie where I don’t think individual opinions even matter at this point. If you want to see it, you should see it and you’re going to see it. If you don’t want to see it, you’re not missing anything.

Christopher

I did not grow up loving Star Wars. My dad watched Star Trek and ever since I was a child that has been my favorite of the two. In high school and college I definitely got into the habit of trying to shit talk Star Wars just because so many people love it. So knowing that, I did not go into Star Wars hoping to relive some vivid childhood memories. However, I was hoping for a good movie. And unfortunately I don’t think I got that.

The issue I have with this movie is how boring it ended up. They briefly touch on so much but we don’t learn about any of it. It is very similar to the older movie but that’s not even what I disliked the most about it. What I really didn’t like it how it ends with no real direction for the next film. At this point it seems like it could go so many directions. Because of this, I really don’t care when the next part of the trilogy comes out. I will watch it, but I did not leave the theater anxious to see any of the characters again

I really wish the film had been focused more on Rey. I wish the whole story line with Kylo Ren had more behind it before the whole catwalk scene. Overall I just felt like the movie was for everyone so it was kind of for no one? If that makes sense. I really hope the next two in the trilogy are good. Either way, I don’t think I have a big interest in seeing The Force Awakens again.

THE MUSE (1999)

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Christopher

I had never heard of this movie until Elizabeth mentioned it one day. I was surprised how many well-known actors were in it but I think that, along with it being a childhood favorite of Elizabeth’s, is what had me interested in watching.

I enjoyed the film. I think the plot was enjoyable and interesting idea, but I do also think it is a movie people would easily forget about. However, one thing about this film that I think is unforgettable is Jeff Bridges, who is a successful screenwriter and friend of Albert Brooks. It’s a role very similar to Philip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly. Okay movie, but incredible performance. There is one scene where Bridges and Brooks are talking about stuff, yada yada yada, and during the whole thing, Bridges is trying to serve in tennis. However, he just can’t make it over the net. The gag plays for quite a while but it’s so great. Totally worth seeing just for that I think!

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

The Muse is one of those movies that I love but literally no one I ever ask about it has ever even heard of it, much less seen it. When it first came out, I thought it was going to be huge because of everyone in it, but instead it came and went and was forgotten. But goddammit I love this movie.

The Muse follows Steven Philips (Albert Brooks), a screenwriter who loses his deal with a movie studio after his latest script is panned by pretty much everyone who comes across it. Steven turns to his best friend, Jack (Jeff Bridges), a fellow screenwriter of around the same age who has known nothing but success. Jack cautiously tells Steven his secret – a muse. This muse, though, is for real – a Greek goddess that inspires art. Once Steven believes him, he immediately wants in and Jack sets up an appointment to meet Sarah (Sharon Stone), the muse. When he meets her, she tells him she will take him on as a client, which means Steven will be taking on all of Sarah’s living expenses. Being a goddess, Sarah only accepts lodging at a suite at the Four Seasons, meals at fancy restaurants, and doesn’t drive.

Steven decides to not tell his wife, Laura (Andie MacDowell) – until Jack tells Steven he has to bring Sarah a gift from Tiffany’s and while there is caught buying something for a woman other than Laura by one of her friends, and Laura forces it out of him over fears that he’s cheating. Once Laura sees all the inane shit that Sarah puts Steven through, however, she fully accepts Steven’s story and the fact that he’s not cheating. Sarah then wants to meet Laura, who is nervous about the meeting, only for Sarah and Laura to become inseparable friends.

During all of this, Sarah gives Steven little nuggets of inspiration. She takes him to an aquarium where he starts outlining a summer comedy starring Jim Carey to take place in an aquarium. Sarah is also constantly visited by past clients who need help here and there, including Jack, James Cameron, and Martin Scorsese. As Sarah and Laura grow closer, Sarah starts to encourage Laura to follow her dream of opening a cookie business. Steven fluctuates between love and frustration with Sarah as he fears she’s spending too much energy inspiring others, including Laura, who doesn’t pause in her business venture for a second despite Steven being a baby about it.

Eventually, as Steven nears the end of his screenplay and Laura’s business only grows more successful, Steven and Laura are visited by two doctors from an Ohio mental hospital who tell the Philips that Sarah is their patient, has multiple personality disorder, and has run away from the hospital. They go to Sarah’s room (throughout the movie she moves closer and closer to the Philips, eventually taking over their bedroom) and find a bedsheet rope leading out the window. Despite that, Steven finishes his script and it is loved by everyone who reads it. When he brings the script back to the original executive that fired him, he tells Steven that Steven’s script was already in production at another studio by Rob Reiner (another former client of Sarah’s). With that, Steven assumes that Sarah is fake and ruined his career.

Some time later, Steven is working at Laura’s cookie store when his agent calls and tells him the Rob Reiner picture is off and the studio wants to make his movie again. He rushes over to the studio to find out the executive who fired him no longer works there and his replacement is none other than Sarah, who has since changed her name, occupation, and hair color, and she ushers him away in excitement.

The whole reason that The Muse even came up with Chris and me is that The Muse was my first introduction to Martin Scorsese before I had any idea who Martin Scorsese was. He’s only in one scene, when Steven comes home to find him banging incessantly on Sarah’s door. They talk briefly, and when I first saw it all I could think of was “Who the hell is this troll?” His character seemed so insane that I thought for sure he was going to come back and be important, because I had no idea he was a guy playing himself. It wasn’t until some time later that I saw what Martin Scorsese looked like and realized it had been that dude.

Jack is a total stand-out character. He’s very Dude-like and calm, but also sort of really stupid. There’s an amazing scene of Jack and Steven playing tennis while they talk, except Jack keeps serving and hits the net every single time:

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Watching The Muse now, I love how Laura brushes off Steven’s concerns about her business. His sexism comes out in flying colors once she brings up the idea of owning her own business, like his annoyance at Laura for not making lunch instead of baking. Despite that, Laura doesn’t stop for a second until she’s more successful than Steven. If Laura had been meek, that whole subplot would have been horrible and annoying. But it’s clear she loves Steven, but doesn’t give a shit what he thinks about her abilities to start her business.

On top of everything else, The Muse is full of great lines, has a shit ton of people in it, and is just one of those pleasant movies that sort of makes you feel good. No one gets raped or murdered, and it all takes place on this Curb Your Enthusiasm-type of plane where everyone is just super rich, which isn’t distracting, it just makes everything easier and make more sense.

The Muse might not change your life, and it’s not the easiest movie to find now, but it’s absolutely worth watching.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING (1985)

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Elizabeth

By the fifth Friday the 13th movie, I think the filmmakers realized they really couldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) have the plot be: teenagers move to Camp Crystal Lake as camp counselors, Jason kills teenagers, Jason pretends to die. Making the filmmakers change things up reallyyyyyyyy shows what we we’re working with.

So now we’re following a teenage Tommy (John Shepherd), who, back in Friday the 13th Part IV, presumably killed Jason when he was a kid. Killing Jason had some not-great psychological effects on Tommy, who we find as he’s being moved to a halfway house for teenagers. Except this is by far the most fucked up halfway house ever conceived. It’s literally a bunch of attractive, scantily-clad teenagers that mostly seem to have no mental issues living in a house off Crystal Lake. So the filmmakers thought, “We definitely CAN’T have the teenagers be counselors at a summer camp,” along with, “We definitely CAN have the teenagers live in a halfway house that is essentially a summer camp.” The teenagers act exactly the same way as in the other movies, sex and drugs and all.

To the filmmakers’ credit, they stick to the halfway house thing a little. There is one teenager, Vic, who is not frolicking with the rest and makes you think maybe he actually has some issues. When another teenager, Joey, hounds him over and over again as Vic chops wood (a good activity for a teenager in a halfway house with anger issues), Vic straight up murders him with the ax. But like, weren’t the people in charge sort of expecting that? Maybe not ax murder, but some kind of violence? They also leave Joey’s fucked up corpse on the lawn of the halfway house, in full view of the teenagers, until the paramedics arrive.

Then random people start getting murdered and everyone suspects it’s Jason, even though he’s supposedly dead. As far as the audience can tell, it is Jason because he goes around murdering every teenager he finds while wearing a hockey mask. Eventually, Tommy kills Jason again and it’s revealed that the killer wasn’t Jason, but instead one of the paramedics who was actually Joey’s father. BECAUSE THAT’S SATISFYING AND MAKES SENSE!

Ugh. These movies will continue to be boring and uninteresting until the killer either makes sense or we get any kind of context on the killer. Otherwise, he’s just picking off naked teenagers over and over again.

Christopher

This was the first Friday the 13th that really took a right turn. There is still murder but it’s more of a mystery because we do not know if the real Jason is doing all this or if it’s another murderer. The story of this film is how Tommy, the kid who killed Jason at the end of Part IV, is now an adult and crazy from that traumatic night. It seems like that up to this point he has been in and out of foster/mental homes and is now on the way to some child recovery farm. Basically it seems to be a place where young adults with drug or mental issues go there right before they are ready to be released back into the world, I guess? So basically it’s the perfect place for people to die, and they do, immediately, without a killer!

Now the story is still weak but at least it’s different! I enjoyed watching this one, same stuff but different context.

 

BEAUTY SHOP (2005)

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Christopher

I barely remember watching this. I can’t say that there is a lot to take away from this. Hrmmm, yea, I can’t even remember what the story was really. It must have been fantastic!!!!!!!

Elizabeth

You should check out Beauty Shop if you’re interested in a movie that is racist, sexist, homophobic, and boring. Want to see Kevin Bacon try and fail to play a gay hair stylist with any humor or subtlety? Here it is!  Want to see rapper Birdman play what we can only presume is a pimp with a heart of gold? Here it is! There’s also a character that everyone makes fun of and assumes is gay because he’s a man working in a beauty salon (braiding hair, that’s it), until we learn he’s not and suddenly he’s a catch. A.) Nothing about him came off as gay, especially his flirting with women and B.) Is he going to be dying to go out with women that not only assumed he was gay, but ridiculed him for it?

Watch this movie if you want to be sad.

HALLOWEEN II (1981)

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Elizabeth

I didn’t like Halloween and after now watching Halloween II I don’t really understand why there were two movies. Halloween was boring and only picks up in action toward the very end. Luckily, Halloween II literally picks up right where Halloween left off, so it at least started off much less boring than Halloween.

Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is taken to the hospital to treat the injuries Michael Myers gave her in Halloween. So the action moves from a neighborhood to the hospital, where the events are pretty similar to Halloween. Michael wants to kill Laurie, but instead just one-by-one kills people who don’t even know they’re being stalked. We find out that Laurie is actually Michael’s younger sister, which sheds light as to why he’s targeting her, but still doesn’t help explain why Michael has always been hell-bent on murdering his sisters. Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) essentially says he thinks Michael is this immortal, pure evil beast after Michael survived being shot six times and falling off a second floor balcony. So . . . is he a pure evil beast? He does keep surviving fatal attacks, after all. Or is he just a deranged human killer who can just take a lot of shit? We’re never told, and at this point it feels like it’s because the filmmakers don’t know, either.

This was less boring than Halloween because there was more action, but it still just feel into the category of a slasher movie with no real motivation.

Christopher

Obviously Elizabeth and I have been focusing on the Friday the 13th series, but Halloween is still a series I would like to watch through as well. As I think I mentioned before, Michael Myers scared the shit out of me when I first learned about him. I was fairly old, probably like middle school? But someone had the Michael mask at a sleepover birthday party I went to and I have a very vivid memory sitting up with fear that whole night. I can still smell the mask. Actually, I just bought that Gorilla Tape and it had the exact plastically smell. It was a weird feeling smelling it when I opened it up. It was one of those things where I have been looking for that smell again but have not come across it again until now. Anyway, Halloween, the idea, scared me and made me want to never see any of these movies.

When Elizabeth and I watched Halloween in theaters last year, I was so disappointed by how not scary it really was. The actual movie was nowhere near as horrifying as the movie I created in my head.

But I also kind of love that. Now that I’m adult I can look at this film in a whole new perspective and an idea that I thought would murder me in my sleep, is now something I can make fun of with Elizabeth.

Halloween II I do think is more interesting than the first one. I thought it kept my interest way more than the first movie. I also like that they got right into the action. In this movie it’s basically just Michael going around a hospital killing people. It’s really clear why more people don’t realize he’s there and go to stop him, but logic never seems to be a factor in these kinds of movies. I think what does get me about this franchise though is the music. I do really love that and it gets me excited to see what’s to come. Too bad the movies couldn’t create a more interesting villain than Michael Myers. Yes, he’s a “monster” but can’t we get more about the person than a doctor running around the whole time screaming he’s not human?

I can only assume the movies get worse and more mystical from here.