“Hello, girls. Now what’s all this about a ear?”
Who the fuck needs Michael Meyers when we got John Hadley (Richard A. Buswell)? Well, everybody. This is not a very good movie. But if all the discs rot and HALLOWEEN gets erased from The Cloud and we as a society need to remember what it was like, I guess we could watch this knockoff and hope it would jog our memories.
The childhood prologue is different from original HALLOWEEN, it’s a little more like remake HALLOWEEN because John is a victim of bullying and abusive parents, though he does not wear a Kiss t-shirt. He doesn’t talk, and he’s good at checkers. But the neighborhood shitstains ride up on their bikes to taunt him, shame him into walking on the edge of a well, frighten him into falling in and then run away like bitches. 10 years later he’s a disfigured zombie in an asylum who they say literally chewed his mom to death.
From that point OFFERINGS is so specific about ripping off HALLOWEEN that it almost seems like it’s designed as a control group to show you how good John Carpenter’s direction is. Composer Russell D. Allen (BLOOD LAKE) provides sort of an off-brand version of the keyboard score, they have John get up and walk out of the asylum, they have a guy who knows his background (in this case a college professor [Jerry Brewer]) who’s warned by a sheriff (G. Michael Smith) and then they figure that he’s going back to the scene of the childhood trauma and trace his path there by finding bodies. Instead of eating a dog though he eats some ducks, so it’s totally different.
The teenage victims (the kids who picked on him, I believe, although they don’t make too big a deal out of that) aren’t babysitters. The main girl Gretchen (Loretta Leigh Bowman), who was the only one that was nice to him as a kid, has her friend Kacy (Elizabeth Greene) sleep over while her parents are out of town. Like Laurie Strode she gets a mysterious nobody-there phone call followed by a call from her friend. And then she goes to class and gets dropped off by her friend and walks around in the suburban neighborhood and almost sees him watching her but then he’s gone when she looks.
The neighborhood is very reminiscent of HALLOWEEN’s California-as-Illinois suburbs, but it takes place and is filmed in Oklahoma. Only the accents and college sweatshirts are really different, otherwise it’s the same lifestyle.
I guess the titleistical offerings are the gimmick that they thought would make it stand on its own. John apparently likes Gretchen and must think he can woo her by leaving her body parts. He starts with a finger on the doorstep, but the dog eats it before she spots it. Later she gets an ear, a nose, etc.
She does call the sheriff, and it’s not one of those NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET the-adults-don’t-believe-us situations. He immediately understands what’s going on. He’s actually the most likable character, even though he looks like he’s not used to walking around with that holster on. He’s just a likable, easygoing guy. Too easygoing, I have to admit. He and the girls too are remarkably calm about it all. When he takes the ear in to make sure it’s real he also takes the leftovers from their pizza, making his suspicions about it clear by saying “that don’t look like sausage to me.” Hats off to these girls for not freaking out and instead waiting to hear back from the lab that yes, they are cannibals now.
I think the sheriff makes one dumb mistake: he has determined that an escaped, insane murderer is currently on a killing spree and specifically focusing on this girl and this house and repeatedly returning to leave body parts there. But then he leaves and only provides 1 (one) comic relief jackass deputy outside in a car. Just a bad law enforcement strategy in my opinion. But I guess hindsight is 20/20.
Another part that’s like HALLOWEEN is a scene where the Loomis-like character goes to the cemetery and talks to a weird guy and finds out a grave was desecrated. In this one his guide is a crazy morbid nerd guy who’s interning to become a mortician. The actor seems to have studied how Edwin Neal talked as the hitchhiker in TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE.
More uniquely there’s a goofy scene where the sheriff checks out the abandoned house Johnny grew up in and discovers a nerdy kid (Chase Hampton) listening to headphones and looking at porn magazines. The kid doesn’t seem to be jerking off or anything but he’s managed to develop a serious habit because he has a huge box full of them. He tells the sheriff his name is “Ben Dover” and after he’s let go he gives him a hilariously dorky middle finger and runs off. It would be cool if the rest of the movie was about the sheriff’s department chasing that kid down, tracking him with dogs, trapping him somewhere in the woods, and at the very least tasing him. If not shooting him in self defense when he lunges. Just an idea for Hollywood, you know, these are the types of ideas that people are looking to be entertained by. Just my two cents.
Anyway, I like that the sheriff and professor aren’t assholes. But I noticed mothers are always grouchy assholes in this. John’s abusive mother, who apparently survived a throat-slitting from his father and constantly tells him he’s gonna turn out the same way, is introduced with curlers in her hair shaking cigarette ashes into the eggs she’s cooking for him. Gretchen’s mom isn’t that bad, but her two scenes are 1) gratingly yelling for her to wake up and have breakfast and 2) calling home from Hawaii at a dangerous time and snapping at her daughter because she doesn’t understand the seriousness of the situation. The first victim also has a mom who’s a total nag bitching at him and then leaving town right before he gets tortured to death.
There’s one scene that’s what you call a “good kill,” one of the elaborate murders you hope to see in a good (or even bad, I guess) slasher movie. Boyfriend David (Tobe Sexton, who later got to play teen Freddy in the flashback scenes of FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE), going to bed early because his stomach doesn’t feel so good after eating human flesh, hears a tap on his window. He goes and looks out and John, who turns out to be standing on the roof above, throws a lasso around his neck and pulls him out the window. He dangles and chokes to death and we see his legs violently kicking outside the window, unnoticed by his parents.
Of course, I am not entirely sold on this scenario of the parents sitting at a table eating cake and laughing uproariously at unspecified “cartoons.” That just seems unnatural and makes it a little hard to take the whole thing seriously.
There are scenes that sort of predict future horror trends. I’m sure there were a ton of movies that did this before, but the scene where they watch a horror movie and complain about it is very SCREAM-esque in that they specifically criticize the characters for not going to a neighbor’s house and then moments later make the same mistake themselves. (Besides, haven’t they seen HALLOWEEN? The neighbors will turn off the lights and pretend not to be home.)
More impressive is how much the first murder resembles the future sub-genre of so-called torture porn. He puts this guy’s head in a vise and then hovers over him with various power tools, trying to decide which one to use. At one point he tries to use a drill but he can’t get it to work. Finally he raises up a hammer and you think he’s gonna hammer his head… but it’s worse. He hammers the handle on the vise to squeeze it tighter until the guy’s head explodes. (No fancy latex effects, for the record. They use the ol’ EVIL DEAD 2 shadow-on-wall-gets-blood-splattered-on-it technique.)
Unlike HALLOWEEN there’s no implication that he might be supernatural. But they still gotta do the “it seems like he’s dead but he’s not dead” part, so she shoots him six times in the chest and he lays down and then gets up and seems completely unharmed except for a bloody shirt and then the sheriff shoots him too (step aside, honey, let a man take care of this?) and then he’s dead.
Well, first he says “love” and produces a single tear.
So that part was pretty good.
Writer/director Christopher Reynolds only did one other movie, something called LETHAL JUSTICE (1991). He was a “production associate” on POLTERGEIST, though.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.