Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Motel Management Recommends...

Fairuza Balk-ify Your Halloween!

Our Halloween themed recommendations continue with a group of films featuring one of the unofficial queens of Halloween, Miss Fairuza Balk. We've got two MUST-OWN Halloween films starring Fairuza, and two optionals, one of which still might be a Halloween-must for most of you, so let's get one with it! (Incidentally, no, Fairuza was never one of my crushes, don't bother asking). 

And, I'm going to begin with the main one, people, just because I'm eager to talk about it...

Yes, that's Tim Curry, so you know this is going to be entertaining to say the least. Look, a lot of folks have written blogs and done reviews about how weird this movie is. It's not that weird, really, it's just Harry Potter on a really low budget (and it came first, too!). Except, this school for witchcraft is an all girls school (unfortunately, none of them look like Hermione), and instead of the main character being treated as a prodigy/celebrity, she is the ugly duckling/Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer of the story. 

Basically, Mildred Hubble is the worst witch at Miss Cackle's school of witchcraft. She just can't seem to do anything right, and the bully girl loves that. However, Mildred does occasionally surprise everyone, even when she screws up, showing that she seems to have more powerful magic than anyone else. The story runs through Mildred's altercations with the school's Mean Girl, and we get to know her and the faculty as we see Mildred's various screw ups, but eventually we get to the buildup of a major event. It seems the Grand High Wizard will be paying Miss Cackle's school a visit this Halloween, so the girls are all eager to impress him in a major broomstick performance (as in, showing off their flying skills with formations and stuff). Look, I don't wanna give too much away, but the important thing to note is that Tim Curry shows up as the Grand High Wizard, and he does a song performance you will never forget, in part due to the early music video visuals; actually, it's like the sort of video you would make in one of those theme park "make your own music video" places from back in the day. The song itself is pretty unforgettable too. In fact, there are three songs in this film that are all pretty unforgettable, and not because they're good, ha. Another of those songs comes from the film's villains. Not the school bully, but a group of witches plotting to take over the school, for some reason. The leader is Miss Cackle's sister, who for some reason has a southern accent. 

The Worst Witch is, from what I've read or seen in video reviews, tough to watch for some because of the 80's, made for HBO visual effects. Frankly, to me, those just add to the charm of this very charming little film. More importantly, it is a Halloween special; a pre-CGI Halloween special with Fairuza Balk and Tim Curry, along with other familiar faces, and the cheesy effects and songs are just what I like in my live-action Halloween specials! And, let's face it, Halloween specials are still tough to come by. This movie is mostly entertaining because it is soooo cheesy, and it's important to know that, but if you love Halloween, you ought to LOVE the Worst Witch! I generally watch it at least twice in October; once early in the month, and again on Halloween itself. Good any time of the day or night, and a must on the day itself!

And now, our next recommendation...

Okay, "Return to Oz" is definitely among my favorite movies. I don't even remember if I got to see this one in theaters, but I do know that I have loved it for years! It is really an amazing film and a very good interpretation of the Oz books, even though I'm a huge fan of the MGM classic film, too (and, yeah, I'm reasonably psyched for the upcoming Disney Oz film also; this sort of thing is right up my alley). I just loved all the characters in this film: Tic-Tok, Jack, the Gump, Mombi, the Nome King, Ozma... Plus, when we do see the Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin-Man, they look straight out of a storybook, which is pretty amazing to see in live-action! Granted, the chicken can get on your nerves a bit, but it's still pretty cool to see Dorothy with a talking chicken instead of a dog, when Toto ends up being left at home this time around. 

The story is dark from the get-go, with Dorothy (Fairuza Balk in her biggest role probably) being taken by her aunt to an asylum of some sort to be treated with electro-shock therapy to cure her delusions about Oz. It's a creepy place, and a creepy bunch of scenes (that do incorporated Halloween, if only with a pumpkin and a mention, but it's enough since we also have Jack Pumpkinhead throughout the whole rest of the film). A storm comes up right on time to save Dorothy from some terrifying treatments though, and this of course whisks her back to the Land of Oz, which is a much more disturbing place than we remember. Wheelers, anyone? If you've seen it, you'll know what I'm talking about. Not to mention the room of heads and the deadly dessert. The nomes are pretty creepy here too, but I totally LOVE the lunchpail tree! Man, wish I had one of those! This movie is so chock full of great scenes (plus, that hottie from Young Sherlock Holmes is in it for just a little bit), but probably the most unforgettable is the big finale in the Nome King's Palace. The deadly guessing game is so amazing to watch, simple as it is, and how about those refreshments the Nome King served Dorothy? Didn't you just wanna try one of those limestone cakes so badly? And it was really lucky that she didn't drink that hot, melted silver! Excellent movie for anytime of year, but great for Halloween especially! 

Now, I gotta be honest, though I've seen "The Craft" A LOT, it's been a long time. This is that one I was talking about when I said many of you probably consider this a Halloween must-watch, even though for me it is optional (most horror films are, as I watch them all year anyway; it's HALLOWEEN stuff I get excited to watch in October). It's been pretty popular since it came out in theaters. I might feel it is a smidge overrated, but I can understand its popularity to some degree. I remember enjoying it, and I definitely wanna get it on Blu-Ray. I've never owned this one in any format YET. If you don't know, the plot revolves around a group of high school girls who begin practicing witch craft, but they get really powerful when they recruit a particularly talented girl to be a member of their coven. Unfortunately, their new found power goes to one of the girls' heads, and she ends up flipping out (yes, it's Fairuza as the very dangerous, crazed witch)! This movie, if I remember correctly, started a big surge of interest in Wicca when it came out. However, I still wish they'd come out with a horror film about the classic Halloween witch. You know, the kind that lives in an average neighborhood in that one house everyone whispers about, and who really looks like the Wicked Witch of the West behind closed doors, stealing latchkey kids to eat for her supper! This film is still very entertaining and fun to watch though. And, while I don't have many horror films on my Halloween must-watch list, I still enjoy watching them at random during October, and this IS one that seems a natural choice somehow. 

Okay, that poster creeps me out! This is the last Fairuza film I'm gonna talk about, even though, yes, I do enjoy "The Waterboy". This is "The Island of Dr Moreau", starring Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, and that really good actor who played Remus Lupin, and it is mocked a lot for one reason or other, but personally, I don't get it. This movie is awesome!

Released in 1996, same year as "The Craft", it's another version of the H.G. Wells story of the same name which tells of a castaway who finds himself on an island where a mad doctor is experimenting to make humans more like people! Reminds me of the island they find in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which was a wizard's experiment to do the very same thing (resulting, instead, in cartoon characters, ha). This movie is ugly and disturbing, and highly fascinating as far as I'm concerned. Fairuza Balk plays the girl who was once a cat and wins the affection of the otherwise terrified castaway. Brando plays the Dr. and Kilmer his doped out assistant. This film is scary as all get out, as the Dr.'s control over his experiments and everything else on his island gradually breaks down into a very dangerous situation. Mock it if you will, but in my opinion, this is a very good movie! Another I still need to add to my collection though, but I used to own it on VHS.

Okay, that's it for now, folks! See ya next time!



  1. OK this is a post I have a lot to say about, as I love these movies as well and Fairuza Balk is such a huge part of my childhood.

    Now you know "The Worst Witch" is definitely on my must-watch list as well every Halloween! I was so psyched when I first got it on VHS because I was only ever able to watch it on TV every year. Then of course I upgraded to DVD when that was released (though I think the extras are kinda disturbing lol). Anyway, I agree, the effects and songs are very cheesy but adds to the charm. I can see where you almost need to grow up watching this one for it to be a favorite, as it is quite dated, but I absolutely love it. Funny, when Harry Potter came out, I thought it was a rip off of this book series, and even the first movie had a similar feel to it, probably due to the British production values. I know there was a "Worst Witch" series that came out eventually, but I have yet to check it out yet. Would like to sometime, though I'm sure this will always hold a special place in my young heart. :)

    "Return To Oz" was one of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater. I was so excited because like all children, I was a big fan of the MGM classic "Wizard of Oz". I remember being so disturbed, but strangely fascinated by this movie. The head-swap scene is what really, really scared me the most though. I remember when I saw it air on TV sometime later they didn't show that part and I wondered if I had dreamed the whole thing up. I guess the networks felt it was too scary for TV too! Anyway, now I have 2 copies on DVD...the Disney release and the Starz/Anchor Bay release. I'm not sure if both have rights to this movie or what. I can't even remember noticing a difference in the versions, but I like the cover art for both, so the Disney one I put with my Disney DVDs and the other I put in my general collection of kids/fantasy/animation.

    Onto "The Craft", I have seen it many, many times and still enjoy it. I was a teenager when it came out, so it definitely reminds me of the 90s. As a Christian I wasn't intrigued by the Wiccan roots, but always see these things as more fantasy as it is still way too over the top to be realistic. It's all silly fun to me!

    Never saw "The Island of Dr. Moreau", so comments from me on that one!

    1. I suspect Wiccans would probably see "The Craft" as a fantasy movie too, ha. Not that I can say. I just remember the explosion of interest in it at the time, and that was probably annoying for Wiccans as well, because I think it was just a lot of kids wanting to emulate this movie.

      Anchor Bay, for whatever reason, was releasing certain Disney live-action films for a while. Those are all out of print now though, and most of them have been rereleased under the Disney name, so their deal with Anchor Bay must be over (unless they own Anchor Bay?). I had a handful of the Disney Anchor Bay titles, and I have replaced most with the official, Disney versions. But, some (including some I still need) have not been released as official Disney titles yet. I suppose I'd have to pay through the teeth to get any of those now, ha. I'm glad I have one or two. Anyway, I still need to replace my Anchor Bay Return to Oz with the Disney versions. Just never got around to it. But, as you say, it is basically the same thing. The Anchor Bay one has an interview with Fairuza though, I believe, as well as a very brief intro from her that is a little goofy when you are showing it to someone who has never heard of her or the movie, ha. I need to pull it out to watch this month, by the way. I still have more digging through my DVDs to do, even though I thought I'd done most of it already.

      I still need to check out that Worst Witch TV series too! As for the movie discussed here, I remember watching it on the Disney Channel mostly, but before that I THINK I might have caught it one Halloween afternoon on NBC or something. Not 100 percent sure though. And, yep, I had the VHS and then the DVD too, and you're right about the bonus features, ha ha.