Weekly Post-mortem 10/21 – 10/27

DISCLAIMER: The following week has been severely tainted by bouts of childhood nostalgia. You’ve all been officially warned, god dammit.

10/22/12 Argo (2012)

10/23/12 National Treasure (2004) 

10/25/12 Goosebumps Double Feature: The Haunted Mask (1995)

Televised mini-movies count too, alright?! Halloween is swiftly eclipsing Christmas as THE nostalgic season for pop culture. I mean how in the hell else do you explain watching this? I enjoy pretending I’m still in eighth grade and not 24 years old. To a lesser degree though, the combination of crappy slasher films and postseason baseball — namely Joe Buck’s soothing matter-of-fact vocals — crystallize into a perfect autumnal boner.

Hooooo what a rush on this one, and from the very first introduction by literary dungeon mole R.L. Stine. The Legend! The acting, fashion, effects, etc. are all (expectedly) dated. What holds up is how twisted this concept is for a children’s television show. Kathryn Long is nothing special as Carly Beth, but her masked persona goes to plenty of messed up places: threatening neighborhood MILFs, stealing toddlers’ candy, and choking bestie Sabrina. By the time Carly Beth realizes that mask probably ain’t coming off, she even brandishes a kitchen knife to encourage the loosening. Goosebumps tended to skirt away from effects-heavy storytelling when it could, but Haunted Mask‘s cheesy execution of floating the other masks through the night air is awkwardly eerie, a low budget iteration of Nosferatu’s arms or Freddy’s stretching. Long story short, appreciate your mother’s love and wear her hand-stitched duck costume, children. Otherwise… allegory!

The Haunted Mask II (1996)

And now to undo everything with a sequel. It would be completely ridiculous to recall the details of Stine’s sequel or the original in the young adult horror series, but did we really need this? Then again, the question of necessity likely wooshes over the head of the guy responsible for Monster Blood IV. This is just an educated guess, but I’m thinking the series got an uptick in its production budget for its second season. The film stock looks better, the effects aren’t as sucky, and the acting is less wooden — slightly. Its story however, which ports bully Steve in as the main character, is a rehash of everything we just watched, with the added detriment that we know all the rules and tricks to facial-hijacking now.

Carly Beth now operates as a wizened “last girl” of sorts, and I appreciated the half-assed mythology Mask II attempts to draw from. Where it falls flat is when the original mask takes control of mad scientist-Novelty Shop owner, running around town (often in full daylight) with a ridiculous hiss and sporting what looks to be the worst Darth Maul costume on the planet. The effort is akin to ‘big man’ 7-foot pro wrestlers attempting to break type and cutting terrible promos. In other words, he’s the ‘Kane’ of the children’s horror genre. (Ironically, Kane’s in-ring character became infinitely less compelling when he ditched the masked silence for a microphone.) Viewer beware, there’s… really not much there.

10/27/12 Hocus Pocus (1993)

Memory is most certainly selective, no more so than in Disney’s Hocus Pocus, released to theaters in July of 1993, for some reason. This does not hold up in the least bit. The lone exceptions here are Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and King of the Hill’s Kathy Najimy, so obviously having a blast as a trio of Salem witches intent on reclaiming their youth through the souls of children. Tonally, Hocus Pocus is all over the place, especially at the onset of a very, very successful string of Disney releases in the 90’s. Darting from black humor to slap stick to cheese to just plain blackness makes for an enervating 100 minutes. Dare I say you’d be better off with Ernest Scared Stupid? You’d be better off.


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