The news that Tom Atkins (The Fog, Escape from New York and Night of the Creeps among others) has been cast in the upcoming remake of My Bloody Valentine has made my heart swell just a little.
I love Atkins and miss his once-regular presence on the genre scene. I don’t know what role he’s been cast for in MBV but I hope it’s more than just a glorified cameo (if this sticks close to the original, I'm guessing that he'll be the old bartender who tries to warn all the young kids about Harry Warden). Before this announcement, I had just assumed that Atkins had simply quietly retired from acting (after all, the guy is pushing 80 by now) but it’s great to find out otherwise.
My favorite Atkins role remains that of Dr. Dan Challis in Halloween III: Season of the Witch. As the only man on Earth with a chance to avert the mass slaughter of the nation's children on Halloween night, this divorced, drunken dad makes for a profoundly unlikely hero. I've never read any interviews with either Atkins, director Tommy Lee Wallace, or producer John Carpenter in which they discussed their thoughts behind this character but I love the fact that they thought that portraying Challis a womanizing, alcoholic coward was the way to go.
While the affable Atkins has no problem making Challis likeable regardless of his actions, the character is almost never shown rising above the level of slime. For starters, he really likes his booze. That's not a crime (thank God!) but it's just not the kind of thing we're used to seeing in horror movie heroes - especially when there's so much at stake. For another, Challis hits the road to sinsiter Santa Mira and the Silver Shamrock toy factory with Ellie, the barely legal daughter of a slain shop owner, in order to investigate her dad's mysterious death and once the door closes on their motel room, the nearly 50-year-old Challis shows no hesitation in getting Ellie (played by Stacey Nelkin) into bed. Atta boy, Challis!
Even better is that during the throes of passion, in the next motel room over a woman inadvertently causes a Silver Shamrock chip to fatally misfire in her face. Ellie immediately voices her alarm at the sudden sound ("What was that?") only to have a preoccupied Challis mumble into her breasts "...Who cares?".
And as soon as Challis and Ellie catch on to the fact that something seriously sketchy is up in Santa Mira, Challis' immediate response is not to figure out how to root out what's going on but to ask Ellie "You wanna leave?". Yep, that's definitely my kind of guy.
When push comes to shove, of course, Challis does do the right thing. And if he doesn't quite succeed in saving the day, well, you can't win 'em all. As long as he can get his ass to a bar stool, it's understood that Challis will find a way to get over it. To paraphrase Atkins' loutish Creepshow character, "That's why God made Happy Hour, babe."