Halloween Scene: Friday The 13th Part VI Jason Lives (1986)

As faithful readers might remember from my review of Friday The 13th Part VII, I’d never seen Part VI even though I’d seen the next two and the previous installments. I can’t really account for this occurrence aside from guessing that my local Family Video didn’t have all the movies (I’ve also never seen Jason Goes To Hell, but that’s on the Netflix list for when I finish what’s in the box set).

Anyway, I remedied this embarrassing oversight last night after realizing the copy of Near Dark I got from Netflix was cracked (it looked like someone hit it with a ball peen hammer) and Battle Royale only came with subtitles (I can’t write and read a movie at the same time, so back it went). I really dug this installment in the F13 franchise. It starts off with TV’s Horshack which is already a step in the right direction (Welcome Back Kotter is one of my all time favorite sitcoms). We then get a series of kills that don’t really matter because they’re just random people who happen to be hanging out in the woods for the most part, many of which take place during the day which is kind of a nice change of pace.

Story wise, we’re back at Crystal Lake, though it’s been renamed to try and put the Camp Blood era in the past. There’s a lot of people hanging around without fear. Jason’s been dead for a while, but the timing for these movies has always been really wonky, so I’m not sure exactly how long it’s been. Horshack and Tommy Jarvis head to the graveyard to make sure Jason is dead and inadvertently bring him back to life (which is kind of a classic part of a hero’s journey). Jarvis spends the rest of the movie trying to warn the cops who don’t take him seriously (you’d think they would considering the kid has put Jason down more times than anyone else). The plot revolves around the newly opened camp (not a good idea) and the counselors there trying to make things work even though the bosses haven’t shown up (Jason killed them in an awesome scene early on). For the most part, they’re a very likable group who doesn’t completely treat the campers (yes, there’s actually campers in this one) like a disease. I especially like Cort, a dude who’s never without his walkman and ripped jeans (unless he’s having sex in a camper–the vehicle). His explanation of Native American tracking methods is hilarious. Sure he’s vapid and stupid, but in a likable way.

Though I dug the movie overall, I guess it could have been more violent. I read that there were some more violent scenes filmed but not put into the movie (or at least the box set version I have). Does anyone know if the latest Jason Lives DVD has those scenes added back in? That could make an already solid slasher even better.

Halloween Scene: Piranha (1978)

While watching the excellent new version of Piranha from Shout Factory’s Roger Corman’s Cult Classics series, I was pretty excited. I had never seen the movie before, though it started feeling familiar at a certain point which is when I remembered seeing what I thought was the original on TV a few years back and it turned out to be a 90s TV version. Luckily I quit watching that one so my viewing of the original turned out to be a 97% original experience.

Here’s what the movie’s about. A couple 20 somethings go hiking and find what looks like a water treatment place and go swimming. They die. A reporter comes out to find out what happened to them and comes across a local recluse and the pair of them discover that the government had been experimenting on weaponizing piranhas to take out enemies in the Vietnam jungles years ago. They’re trying to warn everyone, especially as the mutant piranhas head to both the recluse’s daughter’s summer camp and a lake where tons of teenagers hang out and have drunken fun (it’s like two horror movies in one!).

Going in, I was worried that the flick would wind up just being a lame Jaws rip-off (to be fair, I think that of any movie about monsters in the water), but they reference Jaws so hilariously in the beginning with the use of a video game that I had already given the movie a pass it didn’t need because, as far as I’m concerned, the difference in plot and execution separated this film enough from the classic, which probably isn’t too surprising when you realize this was one of Joe Dante’s earliest films (Gremlins is awesome). Sure it’s got a vacation spot ruled by a guy in a goody suit (played by the awesome Dick Miller (Walter from Corman’s amazing Bucket of Blood and Murray Futterman from Gremlins) in danger of being put on hold thanks to rabid sea creatures, but there’s so much else going on before it gets to that part that it doesn’t matter (at least to me).

The effects, which let’s be honest is the reason a lot of people will check a movie like this out, are pretty great too. There’s a weird scene with a land-walking fish creature in the lab that doesn’t really play much of a roll in the film but looks pretty good (he’s composed using stop motion) and the kills look pretty good (though it’s hard to do the ol’ “water and blood bubbling up from the water” trick wrong). The crappy inserts of fish painted on a background zooming around only seem to add character to the movie even though they look pretty lame.

My favorite scene in the movie is when the dude is skiing behind the boat with a girl driving and another one spotting (watching the skier to see if he falls or wants to go faster, slower or stop). Now, I grew up on a lake and learned how to ski at a pretty young age and I’ve done my fair of both slaloming and spotting and I can tell you that the scariest part of the movie was how inattentive the spotter was and how ridiculously fast the driver was going. That guy was getting yanked around like crazy and then the spotter chick tells the driver to go faster when the skier makes wild hand gestures. For the record, as I learned it, the universal symbols while skiing are thumbs up for faster, thumbs down for slower and flat hand across the neck for cut it (like a pirate threatening to cut your head off). We also devised a signal where you tap the top of your head and then your back for “head back.” Had this guy gone over the signals before going out and not been randomly pointing in the air (or not gone with a pair of women who clearly have no value for his life) maybe they wouldn’t have cut the engine in the middle of lake only to offer a tantalizing treat to the piranhas. Thus ends the skier safety portion of the blog post.

I haven’t gone through all the extra features on the DVD yet, though thanks to my new found love of the flick, I’m sure I will, so the rewatch value here’s pretty good. Plus, if nothing else, this movie feels like a really good primer for Piranha 3D which I’m super duper excited about (I keep telling myself I will absolutely positively go see this 3D flick in the theater after missing My Bloody Valentine). So, do yourself a favor and check out this new presentation of the movie out, I think you’ll dig it.

Halloween Scene: Going To Pieces (2006)

Are you guys psyched? It’s almost October and you know what that means? Hundreds and hundreds of horror movie reviews on blogs just like this one. After a brief sabbatical from horror, I’m back in the game myself as any regular reader might have noticed. So much so, that I’ve actually got a list on my computer with all the backed-up reviews I want to do. One such movie is Going To Pieces: The Rise And Fall Of The Slasher Film (note to NetBox users, it’s missing the “Going To Pieces” title in the beginning, but, as far as I know, it’s still on there). Holy crap, this is a great movie.

I haven’t seen too many documentaries about horror, in fact, I haven’t seen too many docs on the whole, but that’s for another day. What I loved about this movie is that it doesn’t just cover the obvious like Halloween and Friday the 13th. You also get fairly long segments from the likes of Jeff Katz (a dude I got to interview before being bounced from Wizard, who was rad) and the girl who starred in Sleepaway Camp on movies like Sleepaway Camp and Slumber Party Massacre. These are the weird slasher flicks that I cut my horror teeth on back at the Family Video in Toledo and it’s cool to see other people talking about them with such gusto.

You also get a look at horror luminaries like John Carpenter and Wes Craven today, which is interesting. One problem I had with the movie is that they didn’t show who each person was on a regular basis. So, seeing as how I was working on the computer part of the time and have a generally crappy memory, I had no idea who the tall man sporting sunglasses and long white hair was until the very end, and it turned out to be Carpenter.

Like I said, though, I loved this movie and it is an absolute must for slasher fans. I was even jazzed to find out that movies I have only seen recently like Graduation Day, The Burning, April Fool’s Day & My Bloody Valentine. It’s also a great way to check out new movies to add to your “to see” list, though beware of spoilers. Now I gotta check out Happy Birthday To Me! Thanks Going To Pieces!

Halloween Scene: Friday the 13th Part III (1982) & The Final Chapter (1984)

2008-11-04
7:56:28 pm

As I mentioned before F13 is a weird series. Not until Part 3 do we get the world famous hockey mask, picked off the body of a dead jokester, no less! Three also doesn’t take place on a camp (nor does 4, but they’re all around Crystal Lake still).

As many of you probably know, part 3 was originally shown in 3-D, which makes me totally jealous that I haven’t gotten to see a horror movie in 3-D (I can’t wait for My Bloody Valentine 3-D!). I also wish they would have released the DVD in 3-D because it’s very clearly shot with the 3-D audience in mind (the yo-yo dropping down towards the camera, TWO eye balls jumping out at you and countless ends of farming tools sticking out at the audience). The shots just look kind of strange without being in 3-D.

The basic idea is that a group of friends go to a cabin the day after the events of F13 Part 2. They run afoul of a trio of bikers and Jason and start getting killed off one by one. There’s a few interesting characters. One of which is the main girl who had a run in with Jason in the woods a few years ago when she and her parents still lived in the house. She ran away from home and fell asleep in the woods only to be dragged away by Jason and end up in her own bed (?). Not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but it was kinda cool to see Jason post Part 1 and pre 2. There’s also the fat kid with low self esteem who keeps playing tricks on people to get a scare and (hopefully) a laugh. He’s really freaking annoying. We’ve all known people like this in real life. And not only is his character annoying, but his antics and the fake-out scares that come along with them get real old real quick. And why the heck does he have a working harpoon gun? Or a hockey mask? Oh well, his one positive contribution is that hockey mask. So I guess that’s cool.

The kills are fun, and the creative team really had fun with the kills, especially everything that happened in the barn. There’s a scene towards the end where the main girl gets the upper hand and actually hangs Jason. She thinks everything is cool and opens the door to see Jason hanging just inches off the ground. He seems dead at first, but then he pulls himself up (and shows off his mutilated face) and continues to attack her. Great stuff.

It even looks like Jason might be done for as he’s lying there at the end and the beginning of Part 4. Of course that doesn’t last as he wakes up in the morgue as a dude’s trying to make out with a girl. Creepy. From there we move to another group of kids renting a house, but with this flick we also get a mother and her two kids (one of which is horror mask and computer obsessed Corey Feldman) AND a hunter/woodsman who turns out to be avenging his sister who died in Part 2. Oh and a pair of twins who just happen to show up in the woods.

One of the soon-to-be-murdered kids is a young Crispen Glover! I love playing spot the future star in horror movies. And you get TWO in this one, which kind of makes up for the lack of big names in 2 and 3. Instead of the low self esteem guy you get the over confident smooth guy who never gets the girl. In this flick he ends up watching a stag film for the last 20 minutes of the movie while his friends get killed throughout the house. Until, of course, he dies.

What I like about this one is that you’re not really sure who’s going to survive. There’s about three candidates towards the end and one of the potential survivors doesn’t make which kind of surprised me (even though this is the F13 flick I remember most clearly, probably because it was the last one that Rickey and I watched when we lived together). The actual ending’s pretty crazy as Corey Feldman’s sister keeps running back and forth between her house the other one while Corey’s up in his bathroom shaving his head (which he must have done at super speed) all in an attempt to distract Jason by dressing up like a young Jason. Make sense? I guess the inhuman killing machine is actually pretty dumb (he got tricked by a girl who put on his dead mother’s sweater and pushed her hair behind her ears in 2). Anyway, it works for just enough time so that sis can stab Jason in his maskless (and gross) face with a machete which he then falls forward on and we see it carve through his face. Whew, glad that’s over. BUT WAIT, his finger twitches and Corey goes bizonkers smashing him in the head with the machete. Awesome, thanks again to Tom Savini.

As you can probably tell from the title this was supposed to be the last flick in the Jason storyline, but they do end it with a weird freeze frame focusing on Corey as he looks creepily at the camera. I’m not sure what the plan was supposed to be for him, but I do remember the character comes back in a later flick. Oh, also, sidenote, no more kids in horror movies named Tommy please. I’m psyched to watch the rest of this box set. Yeah!

Halloween Scene: Friday the 13th 1 (1980) and 2 (1981)

2008-11-02
6:26:01 am

I know, I know, Halloween was yesterday (or two days ago, technically, I guess by now), but I’m not done with my favorite holiday. In fact, I’ll probably keep the Halloween Scene reviews coming all year. I’m also thinking about giving November a “What I’m Thankful For” theme, but we’ll get there when we get there.

For now, I’m gonna talk about the first two Friday the 13th movies, which I’ve been watching over the past few days. I’ve found that I’m able to stay up less late every night, so it actually took me three freaking days to watch Part 2. It’s embarrassing. Anyway, F13 is, I think Rickey’s favorite slasher series partly because of his love of camp movies. Halloween’s still my personal favorite but that doesn’t mean I don’t love me some Jason. In fact, this year I picked up the F13 box set used on Amazon on a lark. So let’s get into it.

As Scream should have taught those of you who didn’t already know, Jason’s mom Pamela Voorhees is the killer. What really blows me away about the F13 series is that the creators really just set out to make one kind of movie and then it morphed into this completely different thing. The original has a mom killing slutty camp instructors because her son died due to irresponsible counselors years before. It’s not a good reason by any means, but it makes sense. There’s not even any mystical stuff until the very end when Jason comes leaping out of the water looking like a too-cooked hot dog. And from there they ran with it. Two’s got a Jason who still seems like a regular dude, just a real angry one. Heck, he doesn’t even have the hockey mask until 3. How crazy is that? Think about it, it’d be like Michael Myers not getting the Shatner mask until part 3…er 4 I guess.

So, again, Part 1 features a young dude trying to restart Camp Crystal Lake, or Camp Blood as some people refer to it. As usual, we’re not dealing with camps full of kids, but only older counselors getting things ready ahead of time (cause it would just be weird of those Voorhees folks were killing under agers). Mrs. V is killing people at the very camp that her son Jason died at many years ago because…um…she’s not a fan of forgiving and forgetting. Anyway, the only counselor of note is one Kevin Bacon who dies a pretty rad death thanks to Dawn of the Dead effects master Tom Savini (a personal favorite of mine). Tom’s deft hand offers up good looking death scenes all around.

What really gets me about F13 is the idea of this old broad being the killer. Who’d think of that now? I mean, it’s fairly implausible as she takes down a number of young, nubile teenagers. Good show Ms. Voorhees.

Part 2 doesn’t have any famous faces (outside of the horror world at least), but it does feature Jason as an adult. It’s interesting because this one takes place five years after the original which really came out one year apart. I’m guessing they did it that way so that Jason could be a teenager by now and ready to kill people on his own. And how does he start out? By hunting down the one that got away from the original and icing her in her house. But, like I mentioned above, this isn’t the Jason you’ve come to know and love as he sports a pair of overalls, a blue checkered shirt and a bag over his head with only one eyehole cut out. Come on Jason, I bet you’d be able to aim that pitchfork a little better if you cut yourself a second.

This time around the story revolves around a guy setting up a camp on Crystal Lake, but not in the exact same spot as the infamous Camp Blood. But, hey, that’s Jason’s hood (no pun intended), so he’s not too happy about it and starts killing teenagers. This time, instead of the campers sneaking off to go make out and what not (which still happens), they get split up as half go into town to a bar and the other half stay the camp. The ones at the camp buy it first and then the ones who come home. It’s a nice way to split things up and at least it doesn’t completely mimic the first one. The kills are pretty good in this one too.

Man, I really do love these old school horror franchises. As you know I had a problem with the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakeTexas Chainsaw Massacre remake, but kind of liked it’s sequel. But what really bugs me about the remakes is that they cut off the possibilities for future sequels. I’m actually excited about the F13 remake or reboot or whatever they’re calling it, but I’m bummed that I won’t get a F13 part 11 in the same old continuity. Sure, some of the movies start to suck, but there’s something cool about being in a long line of movies. It’s probably the comic book fan in me that just loves continuity and all that. Ah well, I’m still excited about the remake rolling the first three movies into one and making Jason more of a fast outdoorsman. And, let’s be adult about this, I can always go back and watch the originals. I’m not one of these people who considers my childhood movies sacred. Get over yourselves. Just because they made a Lost Boys 2 or an Indiana Jones sequel you didn’t like, doesn’t do anything to the other movies you love. You can always go back and enjoy the originals no matter what anyone does to the franchises down the road, that’s why we’ve got DVD players folks.

Labor Day Movie Marathon

2008-09-04
6:54:23 pm

Yeah, I know it’s been a few days since Labor Day, but I’m still recovering. After a weekend filled with playing LEGO Indiana Jones with Em, going to craft fairs (yech), going to a rad Octoberfest and having an impromptu get together at our place (oh, and a lot of beer), I needed to relax. So, while Emily, her friend Vicki and Rickey’s girlfriend Sam went to the Ren Fair, Rickey and I watched roughly 8 hours of horror movies (4.25 in all).

So, without getting into too too much detail, here’s what we watched and my thoughts on each:

MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)

I gotta say, we picked a good one to start with. Neither of us had seen this one before and I think we were both impressed. The basic story is that there’s this mining town called Valentine Bluffs in Nova Scotia where they used to have this annual Valentine’s Day dance. Twenty years ago, a bunch of miners were really anxious to get to the party so they did something wrong and the mine blew up. Now there’s a tall tale that says Harry Warden threatened to kill anyone who went to the Valentine’s Day dance, so they canceled it…until NOW! So, of course, someone dressed up in a pretty rad mining/dominatrix combo outfit starts killing people, cutting out their hears and putting them in heart shaped boxes. The dance gets canceled, so the genius miners decide to have their party at the mine. Craziness and death ensues.

Wow, that was a lot more in depth than I intended to go, but it’s probably because I really dug this movie. One thing that Rickey and I started wondering towards the end of the movie was whether we were supposed to assume the killer really was escaped mental patient Harry Warden or someone else. Think about it, this flick came out in ’81, the slasher film hadn’t been around for too long, so anything was possible. I neglected to mention that there is a main character named TJ (hells yeah!) who moved away from Valentine Bluffs and came back. His girlfriend is dating a guy so they become the main two characters (and thus suspects). Spoiler, it is one of them, but you’re really not sure which as they switch off in the final scene which actually takes place down in the mine.

The killings themselves aren’t all that spectacular and mostly off camera, but the killer does stuff an old lady into a drier in a laundromat, which the cop finds the next day. Also, I’m not sure if Canadian laundromats work differently than the ones here, but one drier kept drying all night long and never shut off. Come on Canada, how dry do you need your clothes? Another interesting note about Canadians? They drive like maniacs, whether it’s the miners leaving the movie in the beginning of the movie (each driving a car from a different decade, seriously, check it out) or, uh, driving away from the mine later after the killer strikes in the craziest swervy driving I’ve ever seen. I get being scared, but keep your sh!t together miners.

Okay, so that stuff was a little ridiculous, but like I said, I really liked this movie. You got the mystery of who the killer is, pretty great character development without getting too much into unnecessary back story. The killer looks awesome. The climax in the actual mine (the part is in the facility on the surface until some geniuses head down before realizing there’s a killer on the loose) is pretty creepy, mixing fears of claustrophobia and getting a pick axe in the head, especially in the scene where the killer smashes a series of lightbulbs hanging on a string, darkening the shaft with each pop of shattered glass. Really good stuff. If you haven’t seen it and your a slasher/horror fan definitely check it out.

APRIL FOOL’s DAY (1986)

Without much effort (we flipped the double disc over) and watched this flick. I had pretty high hopes because of how surprised and impressed I was by My Bloody Valentine. I wasn’t all that surprised or impressed with April Fool’s Day, mostly because of the ending which I will spoil shortly. The story’s somewhat poorly construed to the audience (neither Rickey nor myself really knew why these kids were meeting on a fairy boat or whether they all knew each other), but the basic premise is that a bunch of kids including Biff from Back to the Future and the main girl from Friday the 13th Part 2 (Amy Steel), are going to stay with their friend Muffy in her big old house on an island. It seems that Muffy likes to pull pranks and has the whole house rigged up. There’s also a few weird things in the rooms like bondage gear, a heroin kit and a tape of a baby crying. Then, as you would expect, the kids start disappearing one by ones, presumably getting killed. The couple that ends up being the last man and woman standing discover that Muffy’s gone crazy and then later that it’s her twin Buffy and then they find out in the end that…it was all a set up. It seems that Muffy was trying out a plan for turning the big old house into a murder mystery getaway.

Now, I’m not a big fan of stories in which the end of the movie completely wipes out the emotions you just felt. Also, I’d be pretty pissed if someone put me through all this crap just to test something out on me. What a jerk! But the movie’s not all bad, and to be honest, I knew something was coming up because I’m a doofus and started reading the IMDB trivia in the beginning which said the body count is 0. So, with that in mind I noticed that none of the killings were on screen and was just waiting for the explanation at the end. I really did like the cast, you might not have known why they all got together in the beginning, but you get the feeling as it goes on that these kids are pretty good friends. Even the goofy pranks display character traits instead of just being annoying.

One thing that really didn’t sit well with me though involved one of those weirder pranks I mentioned above. Throughout the movie the kids aren’t in on the gag until after they “die.” Remember that part where I mentioned a tape of a baby crying? Well it turns out that Muffy used personal information to really mess with her friends’ heads and that girl with the crying baby tape in her room actually had an abortion. It’s mentioned later by one of the other characters and then that girl “dies” and we don’t see her again until the big reveal seen at the end where she’s sitting there pretty unimpressed with the whole thing. What a d!ck move, am I right? But everything’s cool until she sneaks into Muffy’s bedroom and fake slits her throat. I’ll be honest, I kind of wanted Muffy to bite it in the end (which was apparently how an alternate version of the movie was supposed to end) because she really is the villain of the piece and she makes out like a bandit. Where’s the justice?!

Quick side, note, I love this movie poster. I remember seeing it at the video store when I was kid and being scared and later really intrigued.

SCARECROWS (1988)

Scarecrows was the last movie that Rickey brought up with him to watch. Before jumping in we went up to Arby’s and grabbed some grub. We sat back down and watched while we ate and soon realized that this movie kinda sucks and turned it off. It’s about these robbers, one of which pulls a DB Cooper and jumps out of the plane with the loot. He lands in farmland and goes on the run as his cohorts chase him down. Oh yeah, and the scarecrows in the field come to life and kill him. I’m probably gonna finish watching this sometime this week or next, so keep your eyes peeled for another review.

SCANNERS (1981)

So, with the disillusionment that was Scarecrows we went up to Blockbuster and got Scanners, which I had seen, but Rickey hadn’t. I’ve enjoyed all of David Cronenberg’s horror/sci-fi movies that I’ve seen (especially the super-weird Shivers), plus the head explosion scene and final battle between Vale and Revok kicks ass. I had completely forgotten how long and intricate the plot is though. You see, Scanners are basically psychics and telekinetics who are cropping up in the world. Vale’s the good guy, employed by a doctor who turns out to be his dad to infiltrate Revok’s crew, the bad guy who turns out to be his brother. Rickey and I both fell asleep intermittently throughout the movie, but the slow, deliberate pacing actually made it easy to keep up with the story.

I’m definitely not going to really get into the plot here because it’s very intricate, though I basically spoiled the ending above. Heh, woops. But it’s definitely a cerebral journey that shows just how good Cronenberg used to be at bringing out the weirder aspects of humanity in these crazy surreal situations. Highly recommended, along with Shivers, eXistenZ, The Fly, though I can’t pass that same recommendation along for Eastern Promises which just seemed very “been there, done that.”

THE BURNING (1981)

So, after getting rested up we were ready to close things out with a good old fashioned camp slasher movie. Five years ago a camp prank went wrong and the creepy groundskeeper Cropsy gets burned close to death, but not all the way (“The skin grafts didn’t take” an orderly tells him as they roll him out of the hospital.). Now, someone’s killing kids at a different camp. That’s about it as far as the plot goes.

The big draw for me for this flick was the cast, specifically young Jason Alexander and Fisher Stevens who I didn’t really recognize until he spoke in that ribbity voice he has. Jason Alexander looks and sounds pretty much the same as you think he would, just less portly and more ripped. He plays a nice guy jock. There’s also a creepy kid played by Brian Backer (Mark ‘Rat’ Ratner of Fast Times fame) who spies on girls in the shower and just kind of stares creepily at people.

Like I said, the plot isn’t all that intricate. Some campers get killed at the main camp and then a group of them goes on a trip up stream. That’s where the killer really gets to let loose, killing an entire log raft of kids at one point in a pretty cool scene. There’s even a chase between the main killer, the weird kid and the main guy who turns out to be one of the kids who played a prank on Cropsy five years ago in some kind of huge ruined structure in the middle of the woods. I have no idea what the structure was, but it looked pretty rad.

I can recommend this one again for slasher fans as Cropsy runs around with some huge shears cutting off fingers and stabbing throats. It’s also great for camp movie fans like Rickey.

After this we were pretty horror movied out, so we watched an episode of Clean House, a show I find myself strangely drawn to. Good times!