Halloween Scene: Friday The 13th (2009) & Jason Goes To Hell (1993)

friday the 13th poster 2009 For the most part, when it comes to remakes of prominent 80s slasher films from the past decade or so, I’m not a fan. I really disliked Rob Zombie’s Halloween and wasn’t a fan of the Platinum Dunes version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (though I kind of liked TCM: Beginning, so go figure). It’s not so much that I can’t believe my beloved crazy murderers are getting updated or changed, it’s that there should be certain parameters that get addressed and ideas hit in any given property or franchise otherwise you’re dealing with a completely different thing. I fully understand that that’s exactly what an old fuddy duddy would say, so I guess that’s where I’m at.

Even with all that said, I actually liked the 2009 reboot of Jason Voorheese in Friday The 13th. The movie acted as more of a remake of the first three films from the original series with nods to Mrs. Voorheese being a maniac, Jason killing while wearing some funky headgear and him finally grabbing the hockey mask. The film doesn’t actually involve any campers which is a bit of a bummer, but this holds with reality better than the original films when you think about it. Who’s going to keep opening camps on a lake where a madman has created his own private hunting grounds? Those elements were still in the film, though, in the form of the abandoned camp.

It’s buildings like these where Jason has made his home. He’s basically been living in the woods for 20 years on his own, killing and maiming as he sees fit. His warped mind is reflected in the home he’s made for himself which looks like what you’d expect from a hulking man with the emotional capacity of an 8 year old (who also happens to murder people).

And boy, does he murder a lot of people. There are actually two sets of victims in this film, the first is basically pre-credits fodder who show the audience what Jason is capable of and then the second that’s staying at a rich asshole’s parents’ cabin near Crystal Lake. Meanwhile, Jared Padalecki’s traveling around trying to find his sister who was one of the women from the first batch. As you’d expect, they run afoul of Jason and he starts picking them off one by one, utilizing his trademark machete as well as a bow and arrow and a few other tools he finds nearby.

The movie’s nowhere near perfect, though. It definitely follows that late 80s slasher trend that was continued throughout most of these 00s remakes where the soon-to-be victims are all either complete asshats or, at the very least, unlikeable caricatures of stereotypes. This movie’s got the drug obsessed potheads, the jerky rich guys, the girl who sleeps with the guy as soon as his girlfriend leaves the room and the unfortunate nice girl who gets swept up in all this madness. The general idea behind creating characters like this is that audiences won’t mind seeing jerks get iced. There’s a bit of truth to that, but many horror fans would argue that it’s far more interesting to see characters we like in danger than ones we could care less about.

Still, this is a slick looking horror film with a super-intimidating actor under the Jason mask plus a story that mostly makes sense within its own rules. Some characters make wildly stupid decisions, but that’s to be expected when they’re drunk, post-coital, high or on the run from a maniac the size of a redwood. While the movie doesn’t necessarily add anything but slickness to the Friday the 13th franchise, I also don’t think it detracts like the Halloween remake did.

I would like to pose a question to my fellow Jason fans that gets into spoiler territory for this film as well as the original, so if you haven’t seen them you might want to move on. What did you think of the very end where Jason pops out of the water to grab the survivors? Personally, I’m on the fence. On one hand, I like the homage to the original, but it also felt really forced. We spent this whole time dealing with what seemed like a very human villain and then he comes back with this supernatural craziness? If they wanted to go with this kind of ending, maybe it would have been wise to avoid a wood chipper as a means of stopping him. How does he come back from that with his head intact? If it’s a dream, like some of the other water pop-outs, it’s not my bag.

jason_goes_to_hell In the process of watching all the F13 films, I of course returned to the one I liked the least, Jason Goes To Hell. This is one of those cases where I remembered not liking the film and read my old review which was overly negative, but couldn’t remember any specifics aside from the fact that they got rid of Jason and used a worm-thing to transfer evil from one body to the next.

Maybe I’m in a much different place mentally these days or maybe a complete lack of expectations made for a better viewing experience, but I like this movie more this time around. I mean, it’s not great (or even all the way good), but it’s not as terrible as my memory told me it was. There are three main problems with this film: it shouldn’t be a Jason movie, the directing is wonky and the casting was bad.

If this was simply a supernatural slasher movie about an evil transported from body to body in search of a perfect specimen, it’d actually be pretty cool. But when you take one of the most iconic killers of all time and remove him from all but two big chunks of the film, you’re not really making a new Friday the 13th movie.

As far as the directing goes, I don’t think this needs much explanation. Some elements of this film are just dumb. But, even if they weren’t there are some supremely strange choices. Jessica returns to her house to find her mom’s co-worker (and a childhood friend, possibly) cleaning her dead mom’s blood out of the carpet. This scene isn’t necessarily acted poorly, but it is staged in a supremely strange manner. These two old friends start catching up (not weird) about five yards from the gigantic blood stain (weird). Oh, also, the friend doesn’t know about Jessica’s baby even though she spent a lot of time with the kid’s grandma AND knows the father. That just doesn’t make sense.

It’s not easy separating the acting choices with the directing ones in this film. Everyone related to Ma, the diner owner, is awful. They’re poorly constructed characters performed in this ridiculous, over-the-top manner that made me bristle. On the other hand, you’ve got Steven Williams as the bounty hunter who somehow knows EVERYTHING about Jason and yet has never killed the maniac himself. This guy thinks he’s so Eastwood it’s annoying. You don’t need to growl everything to let us know you’re a badass.

And yet, I can’t completely write this movie off. Like I said, it’s an interesting story. Plus, the special effects are pretty great at times. The part where that guy basically melts was pretty gross and that little Jason monster made me cringe.  At the end of the day, this could have been a better movie with a few changes or maybe another pass or two in the editing/writing phase.

Halloween Scene: The Ward (2010)

Hey Halloween Scenesters, sorry about the lack of posts since Wednesday. I was down in the big bad city covering the New York Comic Con for CBR. I thought about watching some horror flicks either on my laptop or my phone, but after a long day hoofing it around the con floor and the mean streets of NYC, I just wanted to hang back. I did start reading Joe Hill’s Heart Shaped Box and will hopefully finish up by the end of the month, though I’m not putting any money on that. Anyway, I kind of made up for the lack of posts today by watching three horror movies, starting off with The Ward.

Before today, I had not heard of The Ward. I didn’t know it starred UM favorite Amber Heard (she’s gotten me hundreds, maybe thousands of hits just for mentioning her in Never Back Down) and I especially didn’t know that it was directed by John Carpenter. Essentially, I knew zilch about the movie. And, to be honest, I was a little nervous. I’ve probably only seen about half of Carpenter’s filmography and love the greats like Halloween and The Thing, but after watching The Fog again last week and knowing that many horror directors lose their steam as they age (not a hard and fast rule, but pretty common), I wasn’t sure if it would be any good.

Thankfully, it was. For the most part. The movie’s impossible to talk about without getting into spoilers, so I’ll say now that it’s worth looking at. Okay, SPOILER TERRITORY AHOY! The movie starts off with Heard burning down a house and going to an insane asylum. We’re not sure what happened or why she’s there, which is kind of refreshing. It’s impossible not to think about Sucker Punch while watching this film as it’s also about a bunch of girls in an asylum not set in modern times involving some shady goings on. Of course Ward doesn’t have a pointless, confusing story and giant robot action scenes. Well, thanks to the twist at the end, it might be a bit confusing. It does have a ghost trying to kill off Heard’s fellow patients in the ward, which appears out of nowhere as often as it should and in just the right moments to cause a sufficient amount of scares. Had I been watching this alone at night, I think I’d have been a lot more creeped out.

So you’ve got a spooky flick with scares where a ghost/zombie thing is brutally murdering mentally unstable young women and then you get to the twist ending, See, the reveal here is that all of the characters we’ve seen are representatives of a woman with multiple personalities. The woman is named Alice and she’s the ghost Heard was hunting for. The idea is that Alice was held captive in the house she burned down and developed different personalities to deal with her situation. The doctor at the mental hospital — played by Mad Men‘s Jared Harris — has been doing some radical therapy with Alice to essentially murder the other personalities and make Alice whole again. At first I didn’t like the ending. I hate those finales where it’s like “everything you saw is fake!” except when it makes sense and matters, like The Usual Suspects. The more I thought about The Ward, though, the more I felt like the movie did make sense and does matter because the aspects being knocked off, while seeming good to us from the perspective we were shown, were actually hurting Alice. It only seems like it doesn’t matter on the surface because of the way you watch the film the first time around, but I bet, like Suspects, it makes a whole different kind of sense when you watch the movie a second time. I do look forward to that one day.

Okay, SPOILERS ARE OVER. I do have one general complaint/query about the movie, though. I’m not sure why it was set in the past (early 60s, I think, making Harris’ involvement more meta than intended). What was gained? The threat of electroshock therapy, possibly? Wouldn’t it be believable that an older, modern establishment might still have a facility like that? A mysterious threat like that could have added another layer, like kids being worried about monsters in the dark. Also, while the costumers did a good job of making the characters look like they were set when they were supposed to be, I think everything looked a little too slick or maybe the girls looked a little too modern to really sell the period piece aspect.

Anyway, I’m glad that Carpenter didn’t disappoint. The scares were solid and I was invested in the story. Even if the period wasn’t convincing, the movie looked good and had a style to it. The monster looked great. I cringed several times during kills/attacks. Plus, it’s got an ending that not only made me think about the movie, but also makes me want to watch it again. I’d call that a pretty big success. It was, by far, the best flick I watched today.

Halloween Scene: The Crazies (2010)

I don’t remember much about the original The Crazies by George A. Romero. I watched it a year or two back and just didn’t get that into it. All I remember about the low budget flick is that something happens and it turns a bunch of people into zombie like rage beasts and the government gets involved. Since I didn’t review it on the blog here, I can’t expand any further. Back when I heard about the remake, I was kinda sorta interested in a “I’ll watch it eventually” kind of way, but also not insulted in a “how could they remake this classic!” way.

Frankly, I think this new version is one of the better remakes around. I mentioned that on Twitter and a few friends brought up Carpenter’s Thing and Cape Fear, which I agree with and haven’t seen respectively. In this case, I think they took a story/movie that was fun and interesting and really expanded on it using more money and advanced special effects. The basic story is the same this time around revolving around a small town sheriff and his wife the doctor trying to stay alive as an accident has unleashed this plague that turns normal people into the aforementioned rage beasts. Unlike tradition zombies, these people don’t seem to want to consume human flesh, just murder the crap out of people using anything from guns to rope and even fire.

The rest of this paragraph will get into plot details pretty heavily, so let’s throw up the SPOILER warning. It turns out that what turns out to be a biotoxin is attacking these people because a plane crashed in a nearby swamp that feeds into the town’s water supply which quickly spreads it throughout the town. The crazies start coming out and soon enough the military has started rounding people up in an attempt to quarantine them. The sheriff and the doctor wind up escaping along with the deputy and from there it’s a survival movie of them trying to evade the military, the crazies and any other dangers they might encounter.

And, man, some of these scenes are freaking intense. I won’t give too much away here, but there’s one in a nearby farmhouse that takes place in a nursery that had me cringing from beginning to end. Such a great way to put the whole experience together. There’s also a bit in a morgue that, even though you were expecting it to be creepy, really delivered. Heck, the movie also has the scariest car wash that I’ve ever seen in film. There’s also the scene of the sheriff and deputy in a boat realizing they’re right on top of the downed plane. I have a very strange fear of encountering anything underwater that’s not supposed to be there, so this gave me the willies.

In addition to the scares, I thought the movie was really, really well paced. It started off dropping you right in the middle of the goings on of the small town thanks to a baseball and then smacks you in the face with the impending threat, though they think it’s just a guy being drunk. From there, the threat builds as does the realization that the military is around keeping tabs on the situation. And then it explodes into almost a whole different kind of movie, but in a great way.

There’s also a scope to the movie that you don’t see in a lot of horror films without losing sight of the lead characters. It reminded me a lot of Cloverfield in that way as the characters start off experiencing this all on their own, but then encounter the larger forces at work. A lot of the credit for that goes towards a good script, solid director and enough money to make the whole thing feel and look great.

If you haven’t seen The Crazies because you don’t think you need to see yet another horror movie remake, I recommend giving it a watch (it’s on Netflix Instant, so there’s not much of a barrier there). There’s a great story, good acting, great effects and some really frightening moments. Give it a look!