31 Days of Halloween — Day 31: Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) — by Dr. Shock

31 Days of Halloween - Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast, Universal Monsters Cast and Land of the Creeps horror podcasts. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s, Disney made several valiant attempts to break free of its “kids only” persona by producing movies that would also appeal to adults (such as The Black Hole, Dragonslayer, and Tron, just to name a few). Based on a story by Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes continued that trend and combined elements of horror and fantasy to weave the fascinating tale of a small town in the early 20th century and the traveling carnival that visited it one October.

Green Town, Illinois, is a quiet place, the kind of community in which nothing interesting ever happens. That is, until the night that Mr. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival pulls into town. Best friends Will Hathaway (Vidal Peterson) and Jim Nightshade (Shawn Carson) hear the train coming and sneak out of their bedrooms to see what wonders Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce) and his associates have brought to their sleepy little town. What they discover instead is that the carnival and its enigmatic owner are not what they appear to be.

The next day, while everyone else is playing games and visiting Dark’s many sideshow attractions, Will and Jim are busy trying to convince Will’s father, local librarian Charles Hathaway (Jason Robards), that the good citizens of Green Town are in the greatest of danger. But with his ability to understand people’s desires, as well as their deepest fears, Mr. Dark has a distinct advantage over Mr. Hathaway and the boys, and defeating him will be no easy task.

Something Wicked This Way Comes starts innocently enough, with a depiction of small town America that looks as if it was lifted from a Norman Rockwell painting. There’s a barber shop run by Mr. Crosetti (Richard Davalos), a man hoping to one day find the woman of his dreams; and a saloon in which bartender Ed (James Stacy), a former high school football star whose arm and leg were amputated years ago, recounts his past glories. Not even the sudden appearance of derelict lightning rod salesman Tom Fury (Royal Dano) is enough to disrupt the daily routine.

But the moment that train arrives and Mr. Dark sets up shop, a feeling of dread sweeps over the entire community. From then on, we the audience are poised at the edge of our seats, watching as youngsters Will and Jim (portrayed by two talented child actors) uncover the many secrets lurking beneath the canopies of Mr. Dark’s Carnival (including a merry-go-round with very unique powers).

Jonathan Pryce is deliciously evil as the sinister Mr. Dark, and Jason Robards is both understated and effective as the aging Mr. Hathaway, who is troubled by a disturbing incident from his past. Also worth noting is Pam Grier, who is damn creepy as the mysterious fortune teller.

Much like The Lady in White and The Monster Squad, Something Wicked This Way Comes is a horror / thriller you can watch with the kids (some scenes will surely frighten the tykes, but there’s no gore or over-the-top violence). Well-realized and expertly paced, Something Wicked This Way Comes has me wishing that Disney turned out a few more films like this back in the day.

—Dr. Shock

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3 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 31: Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) — by Dr. Shock


    Day 31 – Halloween 2 (1981)

    I’ve spoken about this before, but 1978’s Halloween and the Halloween series has played a huge role in my movie fandom. It was catching Halloween on the USA Network one late October night that made me truly fall in love with horror movies as the closet scene scared me enough to turn the channel, but I was so interested that I had to switch back. After getting into horror, I began recording every horror movie I could get access to on television with Halloween 2 being one of the very first. To this day, I still claim Halloween 4 as my favorite movie of all time. It was the old official Halloween movies message board that was my very first exposure to interacting with others online, something that undoubtedly plays a part in my participation of this very website today. I own far more Halloween merchandise than any other movie series. One thing has remained true since this fandom began nearly twenty years ago – I don’t quite understand the praise 1981’s Halloween 2 receives.

    It’s not to say I’ve ever hated Halloween 2, but I’ve never understood why it’s ranked as highly as it is. Perhaps my natural biasness towards Halloween 4 plays a part in this fact as Halloween 2 is possibly the toughest competition Halloween 4 has its title as the best Halloween sequel. Halloween 2 often gets praised as being a direct continuation from Halloween. In fact, Halloween 2 kicks off with the ending to the original Halloween and carries on from there where I assume the majority of the film takes place technically on November 1st. Yet despite this continuation, it doesn’t feel like it’s the same movie. This is where a lot of my criticisms of the film comes from.

    To start with, Dick Warlock taking over the role of Michael Myers from Nick Castle (And about 500 other people who briefly played Myers in 78’s Halloween), is something I somewhat hate. Warlock changes Myers up, opting to behave more like a robot than an actual man. While you can certainly say that Myers was very methodical in the first film, he still walked like a normal human. There’s a moment late in the film where Myers decides to just walk through a glass door rather than just break the glass and walk in like what a normal person would do. Although the mask is the same one that Castle wore three years prior, it looks drastically different due to the neglect that it had been treated to in the time since it was first re-shaped from a William Shatner mask. While I realize that Halloween 2 was not some big budget film, the budget was drastically increased to a decent 2.5 million, making me wonder why the creators didn’t just simply create a new mask to resemble the original one, rather than try (And fail) to fix up the original damaged one.

    Laurie Strode in general frustrates me in this film. I’ll give Halloween 2 a pass on Strode’s awful wig since there’s not much that they could have done to improve on that. Strode in this film didn’t behave as she did in the original. She’s very docile and is in constant need of being saved like some damsel in distress. While Laurie in the original wasn’t the ultimate horror heroine, she didn’t simply cry out and run away. She knew when to fight, find random objects, and to give Myers a challenge if he wishes to kill her. Sure, she was foolish by always dropping weapons and she did ultimately need Dr. Loomis to survive the film, but she was not helpless. In Halloween 2, Dr. Loomis has to practically force her to take a gun at the end, rather than Laurie stepping up herself. Laurie’s story in this film in general isn’t all that interesting either. Strode spent the vast majority of the film just hanging out, typically asleep. It plays a role in the film feeling as if it’s nothing more than pure filler until Laurie and Michael can meet up again. Even then, since Dr. Loomis has to be there to save Laurie, it comes across as a rehash of the original Halloween rather than telling us a different overall story.

    The story we get instead, the one I’ve always felt like filler filled with fodder for Michael to kill, feels as if it’s closer to a Friday the 13th sequel rather than Halloween. We meet this hospital staff and it’s just a bunch of random characters. The only one that truly stands out to me is EMT, Bud, but that’s mostly because he has some great lines. Instead of focusing on one new character and allowing them to become the primary heroine of the film, we instead see a series of scenes featuring everyone. All of these new characters are given roughly the same amount of time where we get a decent understanding of what they’re doing on Halloween night at work before they’re killed off. Do I care about these characters? Not really. I don’t know anything noteworthy about them. In the original Halloween, the three main victims (Annie, Lynda, and Bob) are each given enough time to form some sort of opinion. We get to spend a lot of time with them and they each make an impression. I can easily remember their names, their general attitudes, and what they did on Halloween. The characters in Halloween 2? It’s far more generic with that one nurse who was dating Bud, that one nurse who struggled with the radio, the one nurse who was a bit bitchy, and that one nurse who wore loose shoes. Halloween 2 fell into the typical slasher series trap of increasing the body count rather than just focusing on the story.

    Thanks to the increase body count, we do get to see plenty of creative deaths. Rather than just using his knife, Michael uses needles, boiling hot water, a standard claw hammer, a cord, draining the blood out of a person’s body, ect. You may not care about the characters, but their deaths will interest you. The ones that really stand out for me were any of the eye based ones, including Michael using a needle to the temple of nurse Janet and the classic death of nurse Jill where Michael lifts her up with a scalpel in the back and her shoes fall off, creating a nice thud as they hit the floor. While we don’t actually get to see Michael attacking her, the aftermath of nurse Alves’ red blood in a giant puddle on the floor is a pretty great visual. While it’s not tied directly into any of the kills, the scenes where you can spot Michael roaming the halls on the surveillance videos are fantastic. It’s a pretty scary concept knowing that Michael is around, sometimes near another unsuspecting character, without the confrontation happening just yet.

    Naturally, one can not talk about Halloween 2 without bringing up the biggest legacy of the film – the revelation that Michael and Laurie are siblings. Even when watching the original Halloween, it’s difficult to imagine the pair not being siblings since it’s all I’ve ever known. Despite playing a crucial part to the overall story of the Halloween franchise, it initially comes off as a silly idea. If Michael and Laurie are siblings, look at what happened in the original Halloween. Michael killed Judith when Laurie was a baby. Flash forward to fifteen years and Laurie is now living with the Strodes, who just happen to be the realtor for the empty Myers house. Michael escapes and travels back to Haddonfield where he’s back in the Myers house for perhaps a mere couple of hours before Laurie showed up outside of the house to drop off the key for her father to later show the house off to a potential buyer. Michael, sees Laurie and decides to stalk her, despite not seeing Laurie since she was a baby. How similar can Laurie really look compared to Michael’s last time seeing her? On the anniversary of Michael killing Laurie’s older sister, he kills all of Laurie’s friends and comes close to killing Laurie herself. Forget about coincidences, this was some seriously bad luck for Laurie. The odds of all of this falling in place so perfectly is astronomical. Had Michael been smart, he would have found a bit of time to buy himself a lottery ticket because on October 31, 1978, he was the luckiest man on the planet. Despite this plot twist not making the most sense, it is still so crucial to the series that it’s best to just ignore it and move on. It’s retconning, but it’s the sort of retconning that at least incredibly important.

    Just because I can, I’m going to dive into a bit of a rant. Despite recording Halloween 2 off of the Sci-Fi channel way back in the day, I did quickly get the official VHS tape for Christmas one year. Chances are, it was potentially the final VHS tape I received as a gift as I switched over to DVD not long after that. Once I got my first DVD player, I bought Halloween 2 again, this time in order to watch it in that sweet, sweet digital quality. Some time passed and I eventually realized that I had never gotten around to buying Halloween 3 on DVD. Since the solo disc had become difficult to find, I instead opted to just buy the double feature of Halloween 2 and 3 on DVD. I believe I either gave my original copy of Halloween 2 DVD away to a friend or sold it in a garage sale. Finally, in 2011, it’s revealed that Halloween 2 will be coming on Blu-Ray AND it’s finally going to include the alternate ending and deleted scenes. Even though I wasn’t a big fan of the movie, I had to pre-order the Blu-Ray. Luckily, since I have the earliest copy of the Blu-Ray, it had that lovely edit of randomly and heartless removing Moustapha Akkad’s name from the opening titles. Although Universal were quick to print off a new series of discs with Akkad’s name back in the credits, I was stuck with the original version. Then, nearly one year exactly to the release of the Universal Halloween 2 Blu-Ray, Shout Factory released a beautiful Blu-Ray release loaded with extras AND being able to watch the full TV cut of the film, instead of merely watching the deleted scenes on its own. Had I known the film would have been released by Shout Factory, I certainly wouldn’t have bothered spending my money on the Universal disc. So not only do I own the lesser of the two Blu-Ray copies, but I own the lesser of the Universal copies! It’s pretty frustrating buying the same movie multiple times without gaining much due to Universal’s lack of interest in their two Halloween films. Bless those wonderful souls over at Shout Factory for actually caring about their movie releases.

    Overall, I won’t try claiming that Halloween 2 is a poor movie. It is highly important in terms of adding the sibling connection between Michael and Laurie. There’s some great suspenseful moments with some creative kills as well. Ultimately though, Halloween 2 feels as if not enough attention was devoted to it, instead just opting to just bring Michael Myers back to cash-in on the sudden popularity of the slasher sub-genre that Halloween helped create. Considering 1981 had some truly great horror movies (An American Werewolf in London, The Burning, Friday the 13th Part 2, ect), I can’t say Halloween 2 is a stand-out in terms of quality. Personally, I say if you’re interested in watching a great slasher sequel set in a hospital, check out the Norwegian film, Cold Prey 2 instead. Still, there’s enough positive moments in Halloween 2 to make it well worth the watch, even if I’m not as high on it as others.

    Rating: 6.5/10

  2. Day 31: Trick ’r Treat (2007)

    This is the best Halloween film because it captures the holiday so well. A few years ago I watched Trick ‘r Treat for the first time and then watched it again for about three nights in a row. Now, it’s an annual watch and this October I watched it twice. It’s a good reminder to revel in the Halloween spirit so no little demons mess with you. This film is all treats! 10/10

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