Sunday, October 24, 2021

Behind the Monsters, on Shudder (Michael Myers, Candyman & Chucky)

Telling the life-story of a horror movie villain is a tricky business, because they always keep coming back from the dead—as long as their box-office grosses hold up. Sometimes genre fans might even lose track of their sequels and reboots. However, writer-directors Gabrielle Binkey & Anthony Uro give six horror icons the biography treatment (both on-screen and behind-the-scenes) in Behind the Monsters, which premieres this Wednesday on Shudder.

Logically, the series front-loads its most topical monsters, starting with Michael Myers, a.k.a. “The Shape,” who is currently appearing in the hit
Halloween Kills. Unlike many critics, the commentators Binkey & Uro assemble are quite forgiving of the pre-Halloween 2018 sequels, especially Halloween H2O. There were more of these than you might remember, thirteen total films including the Rob Zombie reboots, which makes the Michael Myers episode about fifteen minutes longer than the next two.

Frankly, Myers just doesn’t lend himself to the sort of archetypal analysis that other monsters do. (They might even over-think the significance of the character’s billing in the credits as “The Shape.”) However,
Halloween franchise fans should dig seeing Nick Castle (the original “Shape,” who made masked cameo appearances in 2018 and Kills) discussing his iconic role with James Jude Courtney, the most recent Michael Myers.

Even though it is shorter, the
Candyman episode digs deeper into the character’s folkloric roots and inspirations. The film was based on a Clive Barker story (who is absent from the episode), but screenwriter-director Bernard Rose radically re-conceived the bogeyman, making him a product of Southern racism. Rose and the original star of the franchise, Tony Todd, speak at length about the character’s development. Plus, his original co-star, Virginia Madsen, and reboot/sequel director Nia DaCosta add their perspectives. However, everyone is sure to miss Baywatch’s Donna D’Errico, who appeared in the straight-to-DVD Candyman: Day of the Dead, right?

, who just launched a new USA TV series, is a one-named phenomenon, sort of like Madonna and Liberace. In his previous, human-life, he was serial killer Charles Lee Ray, before he supernaturally transferred his consciousness into a 1980’s-style “Good Guy” doll in Tom Holland’s Child’s Play. This episode features some of the best behind-the-scenes stuff, because the Chucky puppetry really was cool, particularly for its time. We also hear from the great Brad Dourif, whose voice work truly brought the character to life.

Still, could everyone just ease up on the commentary bad-mouthing 1980’s commercialism? Seriously, everyone connected to the
Child’s Play/Chucky franchise should thank their lucky stars the eighties happened and it was such a golden age for horror movies.

Judging from the title,
Behind the Monsters was conceived as the horror movie equivalent of the old Behind the Music. It gives a good filmographic overview of its subjects and elicits some nice context and reminiscences from the franchises’ cast and crew. Next season, we would like to see them do Norman Bates and Dr. Phibes (who feels ripe for rebooting). Recommended as breezy fun for fans, Behind the Monsters starts streaming this Wednesday (10/27) on Shudder.