Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The B-List Stars Align for Piranha 3DD

Since Piranha 3DD entered pre-production, almost every new announcement makes me more excited about it. We know from PBF’s review of the first that Piranha is not a watershed moment in cinema history, although I can’t say I’ve seen a 3D penis get eaten in any other movie.

Yesterday, it was announced that the resident batshit crazy man Gary Busey was joining the cast of the next chapter in the Piranha saga. He joins an already rounded cast including Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies), David Koechner (Anchorman), and Clu Gulager (it’s fucking Clu Gulager!). Let’s hope this is more a Feast reunion as opposed to a Feast 2 reunion with director John Gulager and writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton.

The one thing I am disappointed of is the release date: November 23, 2011. The piranha are back only this time at a water park. I am sure there will still be buckets of blood and gore and ample nudity but why release this at Thanksgiving? I understand the need not to rush things but this is a late summer type of movie through and through. Oh well. If they can squeeze in a Elizabeth Shue cameo, all will be forgiven.

Random Movie: The King’s Speech (2010)

When the 2010 Oscars were held, I had seen only two of the ten movies nominated. I did significantly better this year seeing nine before the ceremony. The one I didn’t get to: this year’s Titanic Effect victim, The King’s Speech. Early on it became abundantly clear that this film would sweep the award shows, potentially even in categories it wasn’t nominated for or ones that don’t exist yet. I figured I would let the dust settle and wait for DVD to see if I was watching The World’s Bestest Picture Ever!

The King’s Speech is the type of movie that I would normally never watch. I don’t understand the fascination with monarchy and period settings always tend to add another layer of dullness to an already suffering movie. I figured though, I should probably shoot for all ten movies this year since Precious and An Education are still unchecked from last year’s nominees. Not surprisingly, I found the movie good and certainly “uplifting” as many others have said countless times before. But best picture? No way.

Based on a true story, The King’s Speech focuses on Prince Albert (Colin Firth), the Duke of York, whose debilitating stutter causes much grief for himself and his father, King George V. After a number of failed treatments, his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) turns to Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian with an unconventional but effective method of treatment. Along the way, King George V dies and due to a scandal with his older brother, the Duke assumes the moniker of King George VI just as the rise of Hitler begins to give the world pause. That’s a skimpy summary but you can read the rest in a history book … or on Wikipedia.

Vanity Fair pointed out that The King’s Speech is not a very original movie, although the comparison to Karate Kid actually makes it a bit more tolerable. At the core, this type of film should be a slam-dunk: it’s a underdog story with Bertie (I like this better than the Duke of York) having to overcome great obstacles while trying to live up to his father’s expectations yet stuck in the shadows of his older brother. Actually, that reminds me a bit of another movie that year. Yet, it is hard to feel sympathy for a character who is born into royalty and ultimately is kind of a dick. His interactions with Lionel see-saw between cordial to asshole-ish as he pulls rank on the common man or yells about treason.

Sure, the acting is good. Firth plays Bertie with a good combination of meek and regal and has some wonderful exchanges, especially when heated about something (that happens quite frequently). Bonham Carter is background for a lot of the film but she typifies the caring and understanding wife who just so happens to be next in line for the title of Queen. I loved Geoffrey Rush though. Lionel was smart, sarcastic, witty, and just came off really well as grounded in reality. Of course, he was the main cast member without a throne but that is beside the point. The production was well done and effectively conveyed a sense of grandeur in the early twentieth century.

Overall, director Tom Hooper did an admirable job of getting me involved in a story that does not interest me in the least. While some of his choices of shot composition were questionable, the film looks and feels and sounds just like an Oscar winning picture should. Above all though, I would have been highly upset if the score by Alexandre Desplat had won an award as it was okay, yet totally generic like it was plucked from a $3 CD from the classical section of Barnes & Noble.

It might seem like I have a bias against this movie. The truth is I do. This is not a bad film in the slightest and one that is an important tale, not only for historical drama, but as a testament to anyone who has overcome a deficiency. But this was tailor-made for the Oscar gold and almost comes off as a paint-by-numbers pretentious WWII-ish film. Next time, get Geoffrey Rush in Inception Part 2: Ariande’s Revenge and I’ll be more willing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Discussion: So Fast Five is Actually Good?

It isn’t often that the fifth film in a series is well received by a far amount of respectable critics. It is even less often when that series is at best a popcorn movie geared towards adolescent boys, street racers, and the six or seven fans of Paul Walker. But shockingly, I’ve heard a lot of buzz about Fast Five and that … well, it is actually pretty good. As in currently holding as 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes good.

Admittedly, this may be a bit premature as currently there are only a few dozen reviews tallied up. But considering the harsh critical reaction to the previous four movies (52%, 36%, 35%, and 27% respectively), it looks pretty safe that Fast Five could end up on the “fresh” side of the fence. But why?

I did not see the third or fourth movies strictly because they looked like car porn wrapped around a poor excuse for a plot with bad acting throughout. In fairness, the first two were as well. This film reportedly centers around the team including Vin Diesel and Walker who are battling “the man” as well as a drug dealer in Rio. It also adds The Rock (no, not Alcatraz) as the pursuing FBI agent and a shitload of action scenes with a gooey heist-y center.

Alas, the trailer below seems split between a real action movie and one filled with wall-to-wall car chases that would not appeal to me by itself. But, if this positive word of mouth keeps up, I may attempt one more time to forgive Walker for that damn Skulls movie.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Random Movie: Friday the 13th (2009)

Written by: PBF

Unlike the previous reviews, I will not be giving you a recap of the finale of Freddy vs. Jason. Only because it has nothing to do with the continuity of the Friday the 13th. For this is a re-something involving several of the early films.

During the credit sequence of this film we see Pamela Voorhees chasing a a young girl. It is June, 13, 1980. She tells the girl that she must pay for letting her son Jason drown. Unfortunately for her, the young girl chops her damn head off. After the credits end, we transplanted to “present day,” which is 20 years later according to some dialogue. A group of young people are hiking, and stop near Camp Crystal Lake to find some marijuana that they heard was being grown in the woods. As tradition dictates, there is an obligatory camp scene and the legend of Jason is told. The same poor choices are made; some have sex, some wander off and find Camp Crystal Lake. Jason kills everyone except for Whitney. He keeps her. Flash forward several weeks later, Whitney’s brother Clay comes to town with missing person flyers, hoping to find her. Also arriving are a random group of more young people, going to Trent’s father’s cabin (Trent is a rich dick, thus we immediately hate him). Then the death. Oh my goodness, the death.

Most of the issues with this film are the same as the Nightmare remake. It is unclear what kind of “re” this is supposed to be. We never go further back than the original film. In fact, this version only shows us the decapitation of Pamela Voorhees during the credits, then moves on. Jason was never in the original film (present day), and his mother was the murderer. In this film, after the credits are over and we are in present day, Jason is the killer, wearing a sack on his head, which was in part 2. At some point in this film, Jason finds a hockey mask, which did not happen until part 3.

Also, what’s with the timeline? This time around, Jason’s mother is killed in 1980 and then we flash forward 20 years. The original timeline separates the first two films by 5 years. So at this point, I peg 2009 F13 to be in the year 2000, 2 years before Freddy vs. Jason. Platinum Dunes seems to purposely mix already established storyline with “new” storyline (or stealing, but changing certain things). So, are you rebooting, re-imaging, consolidating or what?

The first 23 minutes of the film (if you can view this ignoring the other films) is awesome. Brutal deaths. Frightening scenes. Jason runs quite fast as opposed to slowly chasing you and magically appearing someplace else. There is very little comedy and it is just a dark film during this time. This was more than likely done to quickly establish a back story so that the rest of the film could linger establishing stereotypes and pretending it was like the rest of the franchise. Guess what? Uneven!

However, Jason was quite sinister in this. He does not waste time, nor does he seem to have spent time thinking of humorous ways to kill people. In fact, Jason seems very human. He has traps and a sort of alarm system set up in the woods to let him know when potential victims are present. This was quite enjoyable.

This film’s downfall is its constant references (stealing) from multiple earlier films, but insistence on also having original material. It is not at the same level as the Nightmare remake was, but it is in the same vein.

If you are going to update a classic (which at this point the original was) that’s fine. If you want to remake it, great. If you even want to re -imagine it, I don’t care. But, pick one. And stick to that.

Favorite kill: Jason seals up Amanda in her sleeping bag, then hovers her over the campfire and she burns.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Random Movie: Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Written by: PBF

We are going to travel back in time, but first, a briefing of what happened to Jason in Jason X, which chronologically(thus far) was his final adventure. He awakens on a space vessel in 2455 after being frozen years earlier. He begins to murder the folks aboard and actually almost is destroyed, but is rebuilt in to Super Jason. He has some kind of Cobra Commander looking new metal mask and is now a cyborg. Jason ends up literally “in” space floating at a very high speed about to collide with the survivors, but Sgt. Brodsky flies towards him and they both start heading toward Earth II where they are sucked in to the atmosphere. Thankfully, lakes exist on Earth II and we see two young people at one as they watch a shooting star fall in to the lake.  It’s Jason’s mask! Wooooo! What will happen next? Oh, yeah, we go back in time and visit another troubled town.

If you recall, at the end of Goes to Hell, Jason was defeated and in fact sent to hell. Suddenly, Freddy Kruger’s arm pulls Jason’s hockey mask down as well. Freddy vs. Jason picks up after that, in a crossover that fans had been anticipating for years.

Freddy is trapped in hell. He is no longer able to kill people in their dreams, because no one fears him anymore, thus he has no power. Anyone who has been tormented by Freddy is locked in an institution, and given medication to prevent them from dreaming. The rest of the residents of Springwood don’t even know who he is, or is keeping him a secret in order to prevent him from coming back. To remedy this, Freddy disguises himself as Jason’s mother and wakes him up. He tells Jason to go to Elm Street because the kids that live there have been bad. Jason first visits Lori’s (Halloween reference?) house where some kids are partying. Lori happens to live in the same house that Nancy Thompson did. Jason quickly, and quite brutally murders one of them. Because of the house involved,  Freddy’s name is quickly thrown around as a possible suspect. Not quite powerful enough to kill yet, Freddy lets Jason take care of some more kids, but this just complicates matters as Jason starts killing all of Freddy’s victims. This causes the titular “versus.”

It may be because of the extremely poor quality of the last few Jason films, but Freddy vs. Jason is not as terrible as I remember. Yes, the plot of the film is a bit of a stretch and all Freddy does it repeat or alter most of his catch phrases from his films. But there’s some interesting things going on here.

While Robert Englund reprises his role as Freddy, Kane Hodder does not return as Jason. This time he is played by Ken Kirzinger. His Jason is rather frightening, as his eyes are vacant as opposed to menacing. He seems like a lifeless killing machine just following orders rather than seeking out victims. This makes sense as he is killing Freddy’s victims and not camp counselors or family members.

Also interesting was the combination of people being dispatched both in dreams and real life. It caused a sort of humorous debate of which psychopath was worse and which one should be afraid of more. Unfortunately, this also caused an unavoidable uncomfortable spilling of exposition as the survivors magically pieced together what happened and then formulated a plan to stop them both.

What wasn’t good? The films drags terribly for a while. Even with Jason killing people, there are some very long spots of things uninteresting. Freddy was too “funny.” Especially when directly compared to Jason. The mood of the film was quite dark when Freddy wasn’t present. I would have preferred an overall darker film.

Overall this was a better Friday sequel than a Nightmare sequel. It was also very mediocre. It was not very redemptive of the hype and anticipation invested in it. It was also very isolated from both franchises in feeling, despite the inclusion of music from both and obviously the two main characters. This film escapes the “crap” category, but barely.

Favorite kill: Have to go with Trey. He is repeatedly stabbed in bed, then as if it were a roll-away, Jason folds the bed with Trey in it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mini Scum: Skyline (2010)

It normally would be a problem when the biggest stars of your alien invasion flick are the guy from Scrubs or the generic guy from some cancelled TV shows. Yes, it’s somewhat bland and predictable but, like Battle: Los Angeles, I enjoyed Skyline in spite of its huge, gaping flaws as a movie. The effects were terrific, the ending is original, if baffling, and the film is much smarter than it has any right to be, even if the characters are not. The Strause Brothers took a moderate amount of money and churned out an entertaining, if somewhat forgettable, tale.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Random Movie: Maniac Cop (1988)

My first exposure to Maniac Cop was from a poorly edited TV version recorded on VHS many years ago. I didn’t know it at the time but there was quite a lot of talent involved in the film. Written by Larry Cohen, directed by William Lustig, and starring the dynamic duo of Tom Atkins and Bruce Campbell, this movie had no excuse to either be entertainingly bad or just plain awesome. I must have been much more forgiving in my younger years since Maniac Cop is clever at times and somewhat insulting at others.

Given the production year of the movie, I am fairly confident in saying that it was inspired in part by the ongoing Friday the 13th series. The titular maniac is a large, brutal man dressed up in a police uniform. He kills random people as they are walking home or driving. He can’t be killed by bullets. He kills for revenge at a past injustice. This all seems familiar, doesn’t it? As the bodies of innocent New York City citizens start piling up, Detective Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins) believes the murderer is a cop to the chagrin of Commissioner Pike (Shaft!). The police believe Officer Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell) to be the killer even though McCrae has doubts and instead investigates a former cop believed to be dead. Maniac Cop has a nice ring to it but Zombie Cop … that’s even better.

Maniac Cop is not a good movie. It reeks of 80s cheese attempting to capitalize on the slasher trend featured in the F13 or Halloween series. But since this isn’t a horror movie (at least it doesn’t come off as one), the undead-ish killer breaking necks or drowning them in cement surrounded in lower budget action scenes is odd. Given that the setting is the shithole of late 80s NYC, there perhaps is some commentary intended about police society or the willingness of people to trust a cop but if it’s there, it is very latent.

Given that this movie was a low budget affair, I can almost forgive some of the bland scenery and wax-on/wax-off facial scarring of the maniac, but there is no excuse to waste both Tom Atkins and Bruce Campbell, one who doesn’t show up until twenty minutes in and the other who is gone around the halfway point. The plot itself does not make much sense. The Maniac Cop kills random people but is really targeting the Commissioner and attempts to frame Forrest, yet still kills when he is imprisoned. And he stabs a cop yet apparently takes a coffee break and then decides to attack the woman handcuffed to the cop. And he is undead but not really … which wouldn’t explain how he can take a bullet with ease.

The acting ranges from pretty good (Atkins and Campbell) to pretty horrible (the crippled woman) almost effortlessly. The music by Jay Chattaway is really good with a haunting, yet simple, theme that would prevail in the following movies. And since horror is a non-issue (although that would help with the ridiculous plot holes), at least the action in the movie is pretty good with gunfights and car chases that you wouldn’t otherwise see in an uninspired slasher flick. There’s always the next one to make up for it. Oh wait …

Leatherface Coming At Ya!

If Bloody Disgusting is to be believed (and who would make up crap like this?), then Lionsgate is looking to continue the roller-coaster-of-quality ride that is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. And this time, they are making it in 3D! Which I assume means that Leatherface and the rest of the Hewitt/Voorhees/whatever family will be awkwardly jutting things into the camera to make you less pissed that you paid $14 for another crap sequel.

In talks for the directorial duties is John Luessenhop, who you might remember from … wait, did anyone actually see Takers? I guess we can presume if Platinum Dunes is involved it will feature sweaty “teen” stars from various WB TV shows who breakdown in the middle of Texas and get slaughtered in another attempt to further destroy the legacy of the original film. There were also rumors of a cult being involved. Does this sound like a good idea to anyone?

Update: Apparently not to PBF who has previously expressed his outrage over this property saying: “What’s alarming is the Leatherface 3D film that is planned for 2013. Besides the decision to continue the story, the fact that it will be in 3D, just infuriates me. This just needs to stop.”

Random Movie: Maniac Cop (1988)

My first exposure to Maniac Cop was from a poorly edited TV version recorded on VHS many years ago. I didn’t know it at the time but there was quite a lot of talent involved in the film. Written by Larry Cohen, directed by William Lustig, and starring the dynamic duo of Tom Atkins and Bruce Campbell, this movie had no excuse to either be entertainingly bad or just plain awesome. I must have been much more forgiving in my younger years since Maniac Cop is clever at times and somewhat insulting at others.

Given the production year of the movie, I am fairly confident in saying that it was inspired in part by the ongoing Friday the 13th series. The titular maniac is a large, brutal man dressed up in a police uniform. He kills random people as they are walking home or driving. He can’t be killed by bullets. He kills for revenge at a past injustice. This all seems familiar, doesn’t it? As the bodies of innocent New York City citizens start piling up, Detective Frank McCrae (Atkins) believes the murderer is a cop to the chagrin of Commissioner Pike (Shaft!). The police believe Officer Jack Forrest (Campbell) to be the killer even though McCrae has doubts and instead investigates a former cop believed to be dead. Maniac Cop has a nice ring to it but Zombie Cop … that’s even better.

Maniac Cop is not a good movie. It reeks of 80s cheese attempting to capitalize on the slasher trend featured in the F13 or Halloween series. But since this isn’t a horror movie (at least it doesn’t come off as one), the undead-ish killer breaking necks or drowning them in cement surrounded in lower budget action scenes is odd. Given that the setting is the shithole of late 80s NYC, there perhaps is some commentary intended about police society or the willingness of people to trust a cop but if it’s there, it is very latent.

Given that this movie was a low budget affair, I can almost forgive some of the bland scenery and wax-on/wax-off facial scarring of the maniac, but there is no excuse to waste both Tom Atkins and Bruce Campbell, one who doesn’t show up until twenty minutes in and the other who is gone around the halfway point. The plot itself does not make much sense. The Maniac Cop kills random people but is really targeting the Commissioner and attempts to frame Forrest, yet still kills when he is imprisoned. And he stabs a cop yet apparently takes a coffee break and then decides to attack the woman handcuffed to the cop. And he is undead but not really … which wouldn’t explain how he can take a bullet with ease.

The acting ranges from pretty good (Atkins and Campbell) to pretty horrible (the crippled woman) almost effortlessly. The music by Jay Chattaway is really good with a haunting, yet simple, theme that would prevail in the following movies. And since horror is a non-issue (although that would help with the ridiculous plot holes), at least the action in the movie is pretty good with gunfights and car chases that you wouldn’t otherwise see in an uninspired slasher flick. There’s always the next one to make up for it. Oh wait …

Random Movie: Jason X (2001)

Written by: PBF

Holy shit! Did you see what happened at the end of Jason Goes to Hell (if you managed to sit through the whole thing)?! Freddy Kruger’s arm came out of the ground and took Jason’s mask to…hell? Wait, is Freddy in hell? I guess that makes sense. I mean he certainly would not be in heaven. But how does Freddy know about Jason? Is there news in dreamworld or hell? Did one of his victims get wind of the Crystal Lake murders and dream about it? How am I expected to keep track of all of this?! At least Jason X will answer these questions. Oh, wait. No it won’t. See, Freddy pulled Jason in to development hell. Somehow he managed to escape long enough to travel in to the future and appear in Jason X.

But what happened last episode? Well, Jason killed his half sister Diana. He tried his damnedest to posses his niece Jessica so he could be reborn, but could not. Instead, his heart, morphed in to some weird baby looking creature crawled in to dead Diana’s vagina. Reborn! Then he was quickly killed by Jessica who stabbed him with a mystical dagger supplied by a bounty hunter who somehow knows all about Jason yet failed to show up in 8 previous films. All the souls of the dead people he killed fly up to the sky and Jason is pulled to hell. At the very end, Freddy Kruger’s clawed arm grabs his hockey mask, and a Freddy cackle is heard as it disappears (presumably to hell). Did they become friends? Enemies? Well I assume all was hunky dory for Jason, since there is a Jason X, which takes place hundreds of years after. Kind of a spoiler for Freddy vs. Jason, huh?

Have I used the word “fuckery” in this series of reviews yet? I can honestly say that this is perhaps the dumbest movie I have ever seen. And I have seen Flesh Freaks. I formally announce my apology to A New Beginning for claiming it is the worst film in this franchise. It clearly is not.

It is now 2008. Jason is alive, and being held at the Crystal Lake Research Facility. Right, because there is sooooo much to research there besides Jason. A Dr. Wimmer (David Cronenberg, wtf?) wants to move him to the Scranton facility (again, wtf? how much is there to research at this camp?) much to the dismay of Rowan. Wimmer wants to study Jason’s ability to regenerate (well that stupidly answers some questions), while Rowan just wants to put Jason in a cryogenic suspension. Jason somehow breaks free of his restraints, lays waste to the place, but Rowan avoids his clutches. She manages to get him into a cryogenic chamber, bit he stabs her through the door (nice machete) and they both get frozen. Then, it is the year 2455. Some students on a field trip to Earth (which is no longer inhabitable, but don’t worry, there is an Earth II) visit the research facility. They find Jason and Rowan, but (of course) no one has any clue who Jason is. They are just fascinated by his hockey mask, what with hockey being outlawed in 2044. They take the bodies to their spaceship (typing that made me puke) to examine. They are able to reanimate Rowan, but not Jason. Professor Lowe, who apparently owes someone some space money, realizes that he has a valuable commodity; Jason Voorhees. Therefore, once Jason comes back to life, Lowe does not want him dead. A manhunt then ensues for Jason. Then death, death, death.

I don’t think I have enough cleverness in me to adequately make fun of this film. It is just piss poor. There is nothing Friday the Thirteenth about it, it is poorly acted, the special effects suck. There is nothing worthwhile in the film, possibly excluding my favorite kill.

Part of the reason why I like this franchise is because of the story. Indeed, the Jason story is quite interesting and even the ideas for most of the sequels are, despite the quality of their execution. But Jason X just fucking blows. The story is not further improved by this chapter in any way, in fact it is quite insulted. There is just no reason for this film to exist. And Cunningham should have billed himself as Smithee.

Favorite kill: Same as everyone else’s; Jason puts Adrienne’s head in liquid nitrogen (hey how did he know that’s what that was?) thus freezing it, and smashes it.

Random Movie: Scream 4 (2011)

The thing I most worried about upon seeing Scream 4 was that my giddy anticipation for the film would render any objectivity null and void. Thus, while I gather my thoughts to obtain my truly valid response to the film, let me give you some quick thoughts on it.

Some of the nagging issues I had with the previous sequels have been corrected with a cast that is much more fleshed out and relatable than the Ghostface fodder of before. This time, the characters are ΓΌber-aware of horror films, both new and old, which results in interesting conversations but causes some of the surprise to dampen as even the characters are aware of what is to come.

The script is not as tight as the first and feels more intent on poking fun at the remake/reboot trend as well as the previous films in the series than breaking any new ground. There are some clever call backs to the original film as it tries to be a combination of continuation and reboot at the same time.

The returning cast of Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courteney Cox are decent enough as they fall into old roles and relationships. Some of the newcomers, especially Jill Roberts and Hayden Panettiere, are strong in their roles and performances even if they are shafted some by the somewhat non-consequential presence of the returning leads.

The movie potentially comes off the rails in the third act; it is this that I am stuck on the most. The reveal of the killer is shocking but the motivation is not very good and smacks of insignificant whining like the end of the 3rd. Regardless, mostly it is fun and energetic (helped greatly by the expansion of the cast for once) and I can say for certain that it is far better than Scream 3 and at worst on par with Scream 2 which is not a bad consolation for a third sequel.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Random Movie: Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

Written by: PBF

Jason Takes Manhattan just filled my head with all sorts of new questions. The most obvious one being, “Why does this film exist?” But also, did I really just watch Rennie get chased by two Jasons? Rennie, the main protagonist of part VIII (or not) had never been able to swim. When she was a young girl, her uncle took her out in a boat on Crystal Lake many times to try and teach hear, but she was always too afraid (of swimming, but I guess she was fine with the Jason legend that she was floating on top of). During one of these attempts, her uncle pushes her in the water to force her to learn. A young (and surprisingly clean looking) Jason tries to pull her under and drown her, but she survives. Unless it was in her mind. Which it may have been becausee the body of Jason was never recovered. So why would he still be in the lake? Either way, she is plagued by visions of the young boy that tried to drown her while on the trip to Manhattan. Then the real Jason shows up (whom she obviously does not recognize, him being a decomposed adult now) and chases her in the the sewers of New York. As luck would have it, the sewers flood with toxic waste every night at midnight. Jason drowns (!) in this waste, and as it washes away, we see that he has turned back in to the young boy of Rennie’s visions. Unless that was in her mind. Which it may have been.

Congratulations, Jason Goes to Hell. You have just replaced A New Beginning as the worst Jason film (so far). This is ironic, because it addresses almost every complaint or concern I have mentioned about the previous films. But you went too far, movie.

So, the film opens with a woman driving to Crystal Lake to her cabin. There is no group of teenagers or counselors, just this young woman. We have a couple of jump scares and she gets naked, ready for a bath. Another jump scare or two and suddenly she is being chased by Jason. As they are running, dozens of lights are turned on and dozen of armed FBI agents have Jason surrounded. This will be the scene of his “death” (much like Brenda’s in part 1). He is first shot right in the head (yes! zombie theory about to be proven!), then just unloaded on (fuck you!). He is shot hundreds of times and eventually blown to pieces, his heart even blown out of his chest. He is gathered up and taken to the Federal Morgue in Ohio. As the coroner is performing the autopsy, Jason’s heart starts beating. Then the coroner eats it. Yeah, that’s right. I would say that it came out of nowhere, but there were about two seconds of “acting” that I assume was supposed to suggest the heart spoke to or hypnotized the coroner. The coroner, now possessed by Jason, escapes, killing some folks before leaving. The TV show American Casefiles then reports that a string of “Jason-like” murders from Ohio going toward Crystal Lake (which is apparently in New Jersey) are occurring. A bounty hunter, Creighton Duke (Steven Williams) is convinced that Jason is in fact alive, and furthermore, claims that he is the only one to know how to stop him. Jason can only be born through a Voorhees and can only be killed by a Voorhees. We learn that Jason is on his way back to Crystal Lake to pay some folks (that we never knew about) a visit: his half-sister Diana, her daughter and Jason’s niece Jessica, and Jessica’s new baby Stephanie. That is so 1988. Because Jason cannot survive in non Voorhees host bodies long, he must jump from one body to another. This is accomplished by his heart taking the form of a snake and sliding into the orifice of another person. And there you have it: the ninth Jason picture.

So the Crystal Lake killings finally get federal attention. And only 37 years after the first camp counselors were killed (this film supposedly takes place in 1995)! This is great! Oh, wait. On American Casefiles, the host says that for years the mention of Jason’s name would send shivers up people’s spines. Oh really? In what fucking sequel did that take place?! Because there sure was a lot of talking about Jason, but no one had any problems fucking at the site of his death! Also on American Casefiles, Duke makes an appearance on the episode that the host reports the deaths of two guards and a coroner where Jason’s body was taken. When Duke arrives at Crystal Lake to warn them, everyone knows who he is. YET NO ONE BELIEVES JASON IS ALIVE. Help me understand this. Any person who doubted his existence was surely proven wrong after the FBI blew him up for murdering a confirmed 83 people. Then, “Jason-esque murders” start occurring, beginning at the Federal Morgue and moving on down a Family Circus like dotted path to Crystal Lake. And they see this on TV. THIS IS A NATIONAL NEWS STORY. THERE IS NO EXCUSE WHY ANYONE IN ANY JASON FILM DOES NOT BELIEVE HE WOULD BE ALIVE ANYMORE. Oh, but then where would the conflict be? Well I will tell you, and you almost got it right. As much as I hate the jumping from body to body plot line, it’s a great device. Even if people believed that Jason was out there again, no one would see him coming because he is constantly in host bodies. So why not just let everyone believe he exists and kill that plot hole please? People could even try to get out of town (but let’s be honest, they wouldn’t) and be killed by their friends because everyone is trying to avoid a killer in a hockey mask.

So, most of my demands were delivered with this sequel. We definitely had characters with stronger connections to Jason and Crystal Lake. It sure was more different than say, just a locale change. Finally, as contradictory as it is this late in the franchise, the killings get national attention. But what a garbage way to deliver it. This film is repulsive. It turned a half decent story about a drowned little boy and his vengeful mother into a supernatural continuity error. That reminds me of something…

Favorite kill: Truth be told, Jason’s death was bad ass. The one at the beginning, not that stupid one at the end.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Random Movie: Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

Written by: PBF

Dr. Crews was a bit of a douche bag, wasn’t he? I mean, he wanted to exploit Tina’s powers, he gets her mother killed. I was quite happy when he died. But that was pretty exciting. Tina did a pretty good job fighting Jason. I mean, not before a dozen people were killed. But it was exciting to see him get set on fire, electrocuted, fall into a basement, have a roof collapse on him. All of this does nothing of course because JASON IS A ZOMBIE AND NEEDS TO BE SHOT IN THE HEAD. Despite of this, Tina does what she meant to do at the beginning of the oddly titled sequel and uses her powers to raise her dad from the lake, who pulls Jason back under, which again, according to some book Tommy read in part VI, is the only way to kill him (as long as there are no blondes walking around firing off telekinesis all willy nilly). Then our heroes wake up in the morning and are carted off by an ambulance. Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t fathom that Jason can come back after all of that. No, sir. Trapped by the lake. He has been subdued twice by that lake (oddly enough after he was dead, and not when he was alive). What could possibly happen next?

Jason Takes Manhattan opens a year after the New Blood (1994). Jim and Suzi are part of the graduating class of Lakeview High. They are taking a boat out for a nice romantic romp on Camp Blood itself. It amazes me, the pull that Crystal Lake has on visitors. The boat’s anchor snags a power line, which happens to be right near Jason. Once again, Jason is brought back to “life” via electricity. While this is happening, Jim tells Suzi the “legend” of Jason. Now, I don’t mean to keep harping on this, but I don’t care how many years have gone by, this story cannot be a legend to anyone. Even if you don’t believe it’s Jason, there are too many dead people (that have been reported on the news!) for anyone to logically think it is a good idea to go within 100 fucking miles of this place. I mean, how do you refute that? “Jason isn’t real!” “Yeah but what about all those dead people?” “Uh, the plague? Yeah, we won’t get that, we’re safe.” Regardless, Jim and Suzi want to fornicate on a boat, so I guess this was their only choice. Unfortunately for them, they die. The next morning, the rest of the seniors (about a handful) and 2 teachers board the Lazarus, a creepy old ship, for a class trip to New York. Having incredible foresight, or serendipitous laziness, Jason is still under the lake and climbs aboard the Lazarus. One of the students, Rennie, seems to be having hallucinations of a drowning boy who tries to “kill” her. Jason picks off everyone but 3 students (Rennie being one of them) and the 2 teachers. They manage to get in to a rowboat and make it to New York City. Jason, who loves to toy with people, pops out of the water, seconds after they dock, having walked the whole way underwater (zombie!). Then, a hilarious fish out of water (but in New York, no one will notice!) comedy ensues! No, but seriously, a pretty lame and insulting Jason film wanders to a close on the streets of New York.

This is a terrible film. It pains me to say that, because Kane Hodder’s Jason is so angry and vengeful. Though you can not see his eyes, you can read the hate in his face. It makes him seem less supernatural (zombie!) and more like a real live psychopath. He even chooses not to kill a small gang of street kids, because he would rather chase down Rennie. He is really great in this chapter.

At this point, the franchise’s biggest problem, is the ever weakening connection each sequel has to the overall story. For example, when Jason was “dead” we continued with Tommy, who had a direct connection to the storyline. But suddenly that was abandoned and have some largely uninteresting (and conveniently never before mentioned) story lines with characters that really don’t have a connection with Jason at all (comparatively). Rennie’s connection is really weak. Why even bother making that part of it anymore? On top of that, there seems to be a “new” element where the same old formula is used, in an effort to be different. This one is in New York, part VII was about telekinesis, part 5 had a different killer. This is understandable, in the sense that the viewer may get bored seeing the exact same thing over and over again, but where was this logic during the first 4 films?

These films are feeling less and less like Jason films. They just seem like random slasher films with an F13 story line shoehorned in. Perhaps the 90′s will be kinder to the Jason legacy.

Favorite kill: One punch. Head flies off, lands in a dumpster.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Random Movie: Scream 3 (2000)

To my recollection, Scream 3 was the first R-rated movie I “legally” saw in theaters once I was of age. Perhaps that is why I had so many fond memories of it even though the troubled production and distinct lack of the main character had given others a critical leg to stand on. I figured I would like Scream 2 more this time around but the end result was about the same. Would my Scream 3 memories fare any better?

Well, yes and no. By 1999, writer Kevin Williamson had been involved with several Scream-ish productions as well as launching the pinnacle of teen angst, Dawson’s Creek. Thus he was either too busy to return or was burnt out from young adult affairs. Likewise, Neve Campbell was reportedly difficult to nail down for this installment, agreeing to it only with a reduced schedule (and thus reduced screentime). Since the rest of the important cast and crew returned, we have what seems to be a Scream movie, but doesn’t really feel like a Scream movie.

The first lampooned horror movies in general while the second targeted sequels, remakes, and “Based On” movies. Scream 3 focuses on Hollywood as a whole to uneven results. The main crux of the film is based on the production of Stab 3, the second sequel to the film based on the events of the first featured in the second. If you haven’t seen these movies, this won’t make sense. Given that what we saw of Stab was so laughably bad and overacted, it figures that Stab 3 would be full of dull, uninteresting characters who, coincidentally, are on similar trajectories as the characters here.

Writer Ehren Kruger seems to be as aware of the Scream formula as any of the fans. We have the obligatory celebrity death scene up front, then reconnecting with characters we care about, then learning about those we don’t. In the process are some death scenes and some meta-commentary (this time on rewrites and the prospect of being an actor in a horror movie) before a big finale. But instead of injecting some fresh blood into the series, Kruger copies the previous movie, faults and all. Remember that cumbersome cast that no one could really stand out from in the last? It’s back again. Even though there are some decent performances from the likes of Matt Keeslar or Deon Richmond, there are as many completely useless characters that might as well have died in their first frame.

Much to any fan’s enjoyment, Randy (Jamie Kennedy) returns to give the final rules for a trilogy on the reasoning that the film’s random backstory throws the sequel rules out. Considering none of the “concluding horror trilogy” rules apply and they appear in a badly written scene (a random girl can wander on and off a movie set with no one noticing?), his appearance is neat but it doesn’t fit the story at all other than to point out how Kruger can kind of write like Williamson. As evidenced by the sort of cool, yet totally out of place scene when Sidney is dreaming about her dead mother, Kruger is a decent writer but apparently not the right guy for this series.


The ending is a total mess. Not only is it “inspired” from several other scenes from the series thus far, but the reveal of the killer to be Roman illustrates what is wrong with the movie. Given that Campbell was MIA for much of the movie, she hadn’t previously interacted with Roman. He has to introduce himself be revealing that he orchestrated Billy and Stu from the first and was her half-brother. Yikes. And we thought the motives for the last two were sketchy. At least you could kind of understand where the anger, or just craziness, of Billy and Stu or Micky and Mrs. Loomis were coming from. Roman here just comes off as a little bitch, whining that he didn’t get his way.


Aside from the asinine final act, the mostly comedic tale has its positives, especially from the likes of the manic Parker Posey as the wannabe Gale Weathers or the sarcastic detective played by Josh Pais. Of course, David Arquette and Courteney Cox return and they mostly take center stage while Sidney is in hiding. Patrick Dempsey as the detective in charge is one of the few sympathetic new characters and one that you actually hope might make it. After the near perfection from the last film, director Wes Craven takes a more restrained approach with nothing incredibly bad but nothing really standing out like the last. There were a few jumps and chase scenes that were done well but given the lackluster script, he might have decided not to give a damn.

It is funny that this review is longer than the previous two because I keep going back and forth on this movie. On one hand, it’s entertaining which is pretty much all that I can hope for on some level. As a random horror film, it is okay but riddled with the contrivances, plot holes, and teleporting killers that you might see in Friday the 13th Part VIII. As a Scream film though, it is a poor copy of the largely better films, even the one rushed into production.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Random Movie: Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

Written by: PBF

Hooray, Jason’s back! In Jason lives, the Forest Green (formerly Crystal Lake) Sheriff was convinced that Tommy was killing people to fabricate a story that Jason was alive. Little did he know that he was alive. I am sure he was convinced of this when Jason folded him in half like he was closing a suitcase. So now that Jason is the undead, how could Tommy and his new lady friend Megan, stop him? Shoot him in the head? Nope. Chop him up as he has done to others so many times? No. During the massacre, Tommy had time to buy, or check out from the local library, some books on the occult. From these, he gleans that the solution is to return Jason to the site of his death; the lake. They do this (thankfully before Jason kills any of the little children campers) and chain him to a boulder so that he is stuck under water. Jason “drowns” and the kids are saved! Hooray! At the very end, as we see Jason floating underwater, he opens his eyes and glares at us right before the credits roll. In the world of film, this is called “open door for a sequel.”

The New Blood (what?) starts with a flashback. A little girl named Tina and her parents are at Crystal Lake sometime after the events of Jason Lives (fucking idiots!). Tina’s parents are fighting and her father hits her mother. Tina runs to the lake and gets in a boat. He father and mother chase her and Tina yells to her father that she wishes he was dead. Tina becomes so emotional that her telekinesis (oh yeah, she has that) takes over and the pier that her father is on collapses and he falls in to the lake and drowns. Many years later (which apparently puts us in 1993), Tina, her mother, and Doctor Crews (Terry Kiser) all meet at Crystal Lake (I guess they changed the name back?), where her father died. Tina has been in a mental hospital due to the extreme guilt she feels having killed her father. As far as Tina and her mother know, the plan is to try and rehabilitate Tina, and convince her that her father’s death was not her fault. The truth, is that Bernie, I mean Dr. Crews, just wants to exploit Tina’s abilities. Of course, there is a gaggle of teenagers next door, partying like there is no Jason legend. I guess I can excuse that this time, since Jason has been at the bottom of the lake for 5 or so years. On second thought, no I can’t. BURN THE PLACE TO THE GROUND YOU FUCKING MORONS. Sorry. Tina, upset after a session with Dr. Crews, runs out of the cabin to the pier. In an attempt to bring her father back, she wakes up Jason, who I guess, fell back asleep after the end of Jason Lives. Then kids get killed, blah blah blah.

So, what the hell happened to Tommy? Who knows. This film disregards or does not pay any attention to any previous film except for the newspaper clippings that someone has. Autonomously, I guess this film is okay. For some reason, The New Blood does not continue with the new comedy approach that Jason Lives did. It does have a much more sinister tone reminiscent of part 2. This may or may not be due to Kane Hodder, who makes his first appearance playing Jason here. Hodder is easily the best Jason and incidentally, Adam Green’s reason for masturbating.

I really have no complaints about this film. It is unique (besides stealing from Stephen King) but it’s downfall is trying to employ the same formula that it already made fun of itself for. Because of this sequel’s weak connection to the franchise, even as good as it is, it doesn’t matter. Sorry.

Favorite kill: Jason zips up Judy in her sleeping bag and slams her against a tree. Awesome.

Random Movie: Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

Written by: PBF

Wow, what a mind fuck that last picture was! It wasn’t Jason at all! In case you skipped that one (as you should), allow me to fill you in on the events of A New Beginning. As Tommy is “recovering” at Pinehurst, a halfway house type place that employs a similar set of rules as Pablo Escobar’s self built prison, the townsfolk are being murdered by an unknown killer. The killer makes his way to Pinehurst to kill all the people there as well. We finally get to see who it is, and it’s Jason! Right? No? Well, let’s see. He is wearing a hockey mask like Jason. But it has blue on it rather than red. Did he get a new one from a sporting good store? He certainly has the same M.O. as Jason. Killing everyone and having a special distaste for teenagers. But alas, it is not Jason. Tommy gets the better of him and kills him. His mask comes off and we see that it is Roy, one of the ambulance guys. Quite a shock, as every time Roy was on camera, he had the goofy facial expressions, and mysterious music played. Turns out Roy is the father of the kid that was axed to death at the beginning of the film. Whew! At least Jason is still dead. Right?

Jason Lives opens with Tommy (who now is a dead ringer for Michael Dudikoff circa American Ninja) and his friend determined to make sure. They have escaped from a mental institution and are headed to Jason’s grave. Tommy wants to cremate his body and send him to hell (be patient Tommy; you’re 3 sequels away from that). They get to his grave and open his coffin. By now, Jason is a badly decomposed corpse and a multi-family dwelling for worms and the like. Tommy, who is batshit crazy, stabs him numerous times with a metal rod, leaving the rod in his chest. A couple of lighting strikes and Jason is awake. Or is reanimated into a zombie. Whichever, he kills Tommy’s friend and Tommy drives to Crystal Lake to warn everyone that he is alive. Crystal Lake has been renamed Forest Green in an effort to separate the Jason legend from the town. Tommy goes to the Sheriff’s office and starts rambling about how he dug up Jason’s body and how he is coming after him and is immediately locked up to prevent him scaring the townsfolk. This would hardly be a proper sequel if there weren’t some camp counselors coming in to town to re open the camp. This time, however, it opens, and a bus load of kids actually make it to the camp (Nice job, parents. I don’t care if it does have a new name, there were still countless murders there). Jason walks his way back to the camp killing everyone in his path until he arrives.

Puck says that this is his favorite. While it is not mine, it is a pretty good installment. Jason Lives takes a different approach (not being crap). It realizes that the franchise has basically become a parody of itself, and runs with it. There is some genuinely good comedy in this, and it is well placed. The film is still “horror” when appropriate and the story is fairly interesting. Consistent with it’s predecessors, the acting is sub-par to mediocre, but it fits. This film strikes me as a product of a fan of the series that made a sequel with the intention of making it fun. It works.

I still say that it is retarded that people still inhabit this town let alone patronize the camp. I mean holy shit, there is a group of executive office workers playing paintball in the woods at Camp Blood. Really? And I don’t know about you, but I have a kid, and if I even remotely suspect that something dangerous might happen by letting her do something, she ain’t doing it. Why would any parent send their child to this camp?

Favorite kill: Folding the Sheriff in half. Although Nikki getting her face smashed in to the bathroom wall so hard you can see an impression of her face from the other side is a close second.

Also, Jason is a zombie. He may have been brought back to “life” by lightning, but he is shot several times (not in the brain!) and survives.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Random Movie: Catfish (2010)

Written by: PBF

Catfish caught a lot of flack for being a fake documentary, an allegation the filmmakers deny. Whether or not it is real, is irrelevant. If it is, great. If not, then it was an excellent choice by the filmmakers to shoot it in the style of a documentary.

Brothers Nev and Ariel Schulman, as well as Henry Joost share an office in New York. They are photographers and filmmakers (Henry and Ariel directed this film). One of Nev’s photographs is published and he then receives a painting of it from Abby, an 8 year old girl from Michigan. This leads to a “friendship” via Facebook. Eventually, Rev also becomes Facebook friends with her mother Angela and father Vince, as well as her sister Megan and brother Alex. Soon he speaks to Angela and Megan on the phone and begins a sort of romantic relationship with Megan. She sends him songs, they exchange messages and phone calls. An out of town assignment (and some chicanery) lead the 3 to travel to Michigan to pay visit Megan and her family. More information than this will completely ruin the experience of watching this film. In fact, the less you know about it, the better it will be.

This film is a bit remarkable. What should be (and I feared it was going to be for a second) a rather boring tale unravels into a very interesting, perfectly assembled and intriguing story, true or not. It has poignancy, humor, sadness that will invade you and yet make a smile creep to the corner of your mouth as you sit in that sadness. What’s even more impressive is you don’t even see it coming. Even if you may know the specifics of the “plot,” you cannot resist the humanity.

There are scenes in this film that cannot possibly be fake. Again, the story may be fabricated, and the film may use actual footage or interviews not relating to the story, but there are some very real, very touching moments. There is a scene (and really not that important of a scene at all) where Rev is talking to Abby in her room. There is nothing special at all in this scene, but watching Abby is fascinating. It is a very short scene, but watching her just do what little kids do (jumping on a mattress, speaking like an 8 year old) adds an exponential amount of heaviness to the ever surprising story. There are other scenes like this that evoke a significant emotional investment as the film concludes.

Because this is a documentary, we know as much as the filmmakers do, and never more. This makes the mundane seem almost exciting, as they try to piece together a mystery that would bore the shit out of the CSI crowd.

Very unassuming film. I wouldn’t call it genius, but I can tell you, there was not one thing in it that I didn’t care for. It is just good.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Random Movie: Scream 2 (1997)

It is notable that for the duration of the Saw series, production company Lionsgate was able to keep banging out a new movie in the series less than a year apart with only two major duds out of seven. After the success of the first Scream, Dimension Films surely was quick to retain writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven for a follow-up that incidentally is set two years after the first. If real time had followed the story time, Scream 2 potentially could have been the best of the series but it comes off feeling rushed.

Scream 2 does have the distinction of being one of a select few movies where the sequel mostly measures up to the first, albeit in different ways. In fact, some notable people (either Siskel or Ebert*) found this movie more likable than the first. The first film of course was packed with references to horror films throughout but Williamson takes the story of the survivors from the last story and interjects it with clever reminders of why this movie should be pretty bad: it is a sequel to a horror movie after all.

From the almost grandiose opening scene featuring Jada Pinkett Smith as an unlucky movie-goer and the obligatory sequel “rules” from Randy, it is easy to tell that Scream 2 strives to be bigger, meaner, and weightier in its commentary on the talking points from the first: horror films and their effect on the viewing populace. Unfortunately, bigger does not always mean better, especially when the original benefited from a tight cast of characters, a rock solid story and some level of restraint in the proceedings. Now, the sequel suffers from the classic detriments of sequels before and after, namely an excess of everything.

Almost all the issues I had with the film would have been corrected by a bit more editing, either on the script or the movie itself. The main problem is that there are too many characters to deal with. Of course we have the returning survivors Sidney, Gale, Dewey, and Randy but there are also far too many new characters vying for limited screentime from Sid’s new boyfriend Derek (Jerry O’Connell), her roommate Hailee, Randy-esque movie geek Mickey (the even then awesome Timothy Olymphant), and on and on. Even the bit part Cotton Weary (Liev Schrieber) has an expanded role that is effective but still extraneous other than as a potential suspect.

While I enjoyed that the character dynamics were essentially reset from the first with a new group (Randy, Gale, or Dewey could easily be involved this time), it also throws more potential poorly established “suspects” in the mix. And due to the larger cast (even though I enjoyed Sarah Michelle Gellar in her brief role), the reveal of the responsible individual(s) seem very random and haphazardly chosen among the available characters. The killer(s) from the previous film worked so well because they were easily suspected and dismissed several times during the film.

Even though the story is a bit lacking, almost everything else is near perfect. The shots are beautiful, the editing is snappy, and the scenes themselves play out with ease, even if the script tries to undermine that. The overstuffed cast had no bearing on the actors who shined with their somewhat limited roles. Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, and Jamie Kennedy all click back into their respective roles. Even though she struggled in some places like previously, Campbell plays Sidney as strong, yet broken as she attempts to deal with tragedy around her which leads to an excess of guilt and self-doubt.

I read a review that said Wes Craven directed the hell out of this movie and I couldn’t agree more. I would probably have ranked the production of Scream a solid 7 or 8 but this one gets a full 10. You needn’t look any further than some of the incredibly tense scenes such as Cici in the sorority house or Gale in the recording studio at the end. I have seen this movie countless times and I was on edge during some of these moments. Composer Marco Beltrami returns as well with a sometimes traditional, yet sometimes odd score to accompany the similarly bifurcated tone of the movie. Even Hans Zimmer’s Broken Arrow theme emerges in a distracting but still awesome motif for Dewey.

For most, it seems to be a pretty close race between Scream and Scream 2 for superiority in the franchise thus far. The original sits at an 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes while the sequel is at 81%. Clearly, it is not as steep of a drop in quality such as Nightmare on Elm Street 2 or Hatchet 2. While there was a lot of potential in the follow up, it did not gel for me as much as the first.

*I would verify which but the site for archived Siskel & Ebert videos has apparently been taken down.

Random Movie: Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)

Written by: PBF

Wow. That last film was exciting, wasn’t it? We got to see Crispin Glover dance. We met the Jarvis family, who live in Crystal Lake. I guess the Jarvis family is like the really old couple from disaster films that refuse to leave their town no matter what danger might threaten them. We met Rob, the hunk that breezed into town to avenge his sister’s death. Most importantly, we saw twelve-year-old Tommy Jarvis give himself an incredibly bad haircut and then hack Jason up with a machete. At the end of the film, as he embraces his sister, he looks at the camera and give us a look that may imply that he is now mentally disturbed, and may possibly hack someone else up. Although I don’t think Tommy would snap that quickly after the events of the film, I did like the cliffhanger implication that Tommy might kill as well. Also, Jason must be dead. He has to be. I mean, Tommy was like Vince with that Slap-Chop, minus that headset. I think I did hear Tommy say, “You’re gonna love my nuts,” while killing Jason, though.

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning opens with Tommy, who is apparently now 15 (which would make it now 1987), having a dream about Jason. The dream startles him awake and we find him in the back of a van. He is taken to Pinehurst which quite possibly is the best mental health facility/halfway house on the planet. For you see, it is in the woods (an excuse to be in familiar scenery without being in Crystal Lake) and operates on the honor system. There are no locked doors, no staff of people to prevent you from leaving or acting out. There is only Pam, the assistant director, Dr. Matthew Letter who runs the joint, and a cook. All the “patients” help out by doing work like laundry and chopping wood. This is the precise setting you would want a troubled boy who killed someone in self defense to be taken to heal. It is unclear why any of the other residents are there. It is also unclear where exactly this place is. Right away, one of the residents kills another with an axe which does not do much for Tommy’s problems. He is haunted by dreams and both aural and visual hallucinations of Jason. After this murder, the townspeople start getting murdered, also. Eventually, the unknown assailant makes his way to Pinehurst and begins taking care of business there. Who is this mysterious murder? Jason? Tommy? Some other dickhead? How long must we be in the dark?!

This movie is a piece of crap. First of all, no. No. A facility like this cannot, nay, must not exist. Secondly, this movie feels weirdly detached from the entire rest of the franchise thus far. Which is funny because all the same elements are there; in the woods, cars that die, rain, naked teenagers. But even with all that and the inclusion of Tommy, it is just not the same as the rest.

I gripe about this film all the time, but honestly I do like some things. I like the attempt to keep the series going, but with Tommy, even though it wasn’t the way I though it would go after the end of part 4. That was a bold decision to make, and a challenge. I just think it was too ambitious for the filmmakers assigned to the task.

This film also did an interesting thing where we would meet certain characters and we were sort of led to believe that they may have a motive to be the killer. However at some point, this was abandoned. All those people just became the same as anyone else; we barely get to know much about them and they are killed off before we ever give a shit about them.

Possibly the most hilarious thing in this film are the deaths toward the end of the film. As per usual, we are walked through a number violent deaths. As the film draws to a close, the bodies of the rest of the characters are either hurled on screen or found at random spots as the surviving characters are trying to escape. It’s sort of like, “Oh by the way, for continuity or body count sake, here are all these other cadavers. Please take note.”

So, yes, it gets the crap category. It cannot be helped. The film is a giant fail and lacks any tension, decent acting, horror and even at some points writing that even makes sense. Favorite kill: decapitation while riding a motorcycle. Partly because of the awesomeness and partly because of the death of a fucking annoying character.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Random Movie: Scream (1996)

When I first saw Scream in theaters with my dad almost fifteen years ago, I did not care for it. I can’t really say why but the first viewing did nothing for me; I didn’t hate it but I was mostly just ambivalent towards it. Later that year, Digger had a copy on VHS which I watched again and fell in love. Here was a horror movie that was not afraid to pull punches, was not bogged down in some ridiculous backstory (see the Halloween entry from the prior year), and had a sharp wit to it. Since then, Scream has been in constant rotation of the movies I randomly watch.

Mainstream horror in the mid-90s was not in a very good state. I’m sure there were plenty of indie or straight-to-video releases of whatever installment the Hellraiser or Puppet Master series were on but all of the big franchises were either completely finished or creatively drained. Scream came along to fill the void in a way that is still astonishing that it hadn’t been done before (at least not to the same degree of success). Featuring the script which started a bidding war in Hollywood by a new-comer and directed by a veteran (of mixed success) to the genre, Scream very well could have been quickly swept under the rug and died before registering with movie goers of all kinds. According to Box Office Mojo that almost was the case before positive word of mouth actually increased the box office take in its second week, a rare feat for any movie, let alone a horror film.

It is commendable that writer Kevin Williamson is able to create such a rich story on the backs of horror movie staples that predate the film by decades. Helped tremendously by the legendary Wes Craven as director, Scream elevates itself as something more than “just a slasher film.” On the surface, Scream is just another slasher film and the glut of teenage-based horror movies in its wake probably did the film no favors. But Scream stands out with just one mention of its trump card: The Rules. Effectively deconstructing every previous slasher movie, horror nerd Randy lays out the key to survival in these movies in just three simple declarations. No sex, no drugs or alcohol, and no announcing your imminent return. Of course no one pays any attention but no one ever does in these movies.

Considering that this was the first movie (that I ever saw anyway) that featured horror movie characters who are, for the most part, completely aware that they are horror movie characters, it was a big success considering that it made over $100 million. A movie series like Friday the 13th almost depends on the interchangeable killer fodder that appear on screen. The virginal final girl Sidney has some family trauma which keeps her distant from her kind of creepy boyfriend. Her father is absent. Her friends are mostly self-absorbed. In a typical slasher, that is basically the extent of any character development. Even if I don’t always care for the underlying story, Williamson has always been able to create characters that are fully fleshed out and even sympathetic to a point.

Another big part of Scream’s success was the way it is able to handle the awkward pairing of horror and comedy. It helps that the backbone of the film is satirical which lends itself to poking fun at not only other movies but also itself. Even some of the non-horror elements are written and delivered so perfectly such as the requisite bitch Gale Weathers berating her cameraman or the subtle sarcastic remarks muttered off-screen about the absurdity of the events. The actors too are easily able to handle the Sorkin-lite verbiage about youth, life, and horror movies (most of the time at least).

Neve Campbell as Sidney starts off rather meek and reserved but transforms into a full-fledged heroine with seemingly minimal effort, even though she had the most bumpiest of the performances. Everyone else played wonderfully but especially the typecast-shedding Courteney Cox, the goofy gumshoe David Arquette, and the nerdy everyman Jamie Kennedy. Of course, these are the characters who not only lived the longest but had the most support from fans. Also of note is the score from Marco Beltrami who is not as regarded as say John Williams but can manage effective music to fit every scene with perfection (except those random parts of Halloween H20).

Just as I mentioned in an early episode, Scream is a comfort movie for me. Everything fits together so well and the characters are so genuine that you can’t help but be sad when the film draws to a close.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Random Movie: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

Written by: PBF

The last chapter in our bloody journey ended rather poorly. Chris, who had come back to her father’s cabin 2 years after being attacked in the woods, had survived the latest bloodbath. After seeing Jason’s face, she realized the he was the one that attacked her. Chris not only hung the now hockey mask wearing murderer, but put an axe in his head. In an obvious dream sequence homage to the ending of part 1, Mrs. Voorhees jumps out of the lake and attacks Chris (I say obvious as Mrs. Voorhees had her head cut off, yet it is attached to her body here). We then see Chris, laughing hysterically, obviously now mentally disturbed, being taken away by the cops, who for some reason refuse to slash and burn the entire Crystal Lake area to prevent future killings.

The Final Chapter opens with the police cleaning up the carnage from part III. Jason’s body is taken to the morgue. Now, as I mentioned above, Jason was hung and then had an axe hit him, and stuck, in the head. For some reason, he wakes up in the morgue. No explanation. No voodoo curse, no George Romero (are George Romero and Stan Lee brothers?) set visit, no weird bloodline Danielle Harris excuse, he just wakes up. He quickly dispatches the nearest (and apparently only) hospital workers and returns to Crystal Lake. Now, I can sort of buy the fact that a new group of teenagers may want to visit Crystal Lake this time, as the news reports that the killer is dead. What I don’t buy is why anyone who lives remotely near the area, like the Jarvis family, would not move the fuck out after 3 movies worth of killings have happened. I also do not understand why they do not speak of the previous events until Rob, a random hitchhiker arrives, to avenge his sister Sandra’s (from part 2) death. I realize that Facebook and Twitter do not exist yet, but does anyone own a radio or TV? More importantly, would they not have heard the helicopters, police cars and ambulances that routinely run through that area?

Anyway here is the “plot” of the “final” chapter. The Jarvis family consists of Trish and her brother Tommy (Corey Feldman) and their mother. They live in the same neighborhood as Camp Blood. The cabin next door has been rented by some kids. Most notably, Jimmy (Crispin Glover) who is possibly the best dancer on the planet. Trish and Tommy run into Rob, who fixes their car and as repayment, give him a ride, expecting never to see him again. So there you go. Kids party, get naked, angry brother seeks to kill his sister’s killer.

This film is fucking retarded. In lieu of a critique, I have a list of questions for this film, and the franchise in general:

1. Why does Tommy say “You can’t be hunting for bear,” especially after the bear warning from part 2?

2. Where do all the harpoons come from?

3. Why does it rain all the time?

4. Where did the rain come from in this chapter (out of nowhere is my guess)?

5. How does Jason corkscrew Crispin Glover to death one minute, and then then suddenly throw Tina out of a second story window the next?

6. Really? Do we still need the calling of the names convention? “Ted? Is that you?” It’s the fourth film, come on.

7. I saw that Jason had black fingernails, was he in The Children?

8. Did Jason lift weights? He is quite diesel. I assume no gym would take him, as he probably stinks and is rather unsightly, so he must have exercised at home.

9. Why would Trish and Rob leave Tommy at the house now that they know Jason is loose?

10. Why is there a slow motion shot of Gordon (the Jarvis dog) jumping out the window?

11. Why does Tommy cut his hair? And further, why does his bald head hypnotize Jason?

12. Why does Trish rush back home and lock the door after seeing the dead kids? Is that really the safest place? Run somewhere for Christ’s sake?!

Also, I saw Jason breathing when he was laying down. Fuck this movie. Despite Feldman and Glover.

Random Movie: Insidious (2010)

I was not able to attend the midnight showing of Insidious on its opening weekend like I had planned so instead I watched the veritable classic, Poltergeist. The comparison between the two films is obvious. Both involve a middle-class family with kids in a house where one child goes “missing” and random, weird happenings occur which a middle-aged blonde woman is called in to investigate. Both attempt to be scary as hell also. The difference is that Poltergeist was scary to the 80s crowd where it seems tame nowadays. Insidious is expertly made and harsh enough to make a seasoned horror fan like myself sit up, pay attention, and think about cowering behind the empty theater seat beside me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Random Movie: Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

Written by: PBF

Previously at Crystal Lake, eight people had been killed in highly entertaining ways by a man wearing a sack on his head with one eye hole in it. It is clear that this person is Jason, the boy who everyone thought had drowned. Now he is all grown up. In trying to escape, Ginny runs across Jason’s shack in the woods. Inside, she finds the head of Mrs. Voorhees, surrounded by candles, as well as the body of Alice. There is a scuffle between her, Jason and Paul and Jason takes a machete to the shoulder (the obvious place you would chop someone if you wanted to kill them. I mean fuck, there is a severed head in the room, did that not give you any ideas?). As Paul and Ginny are back at the cabin recovering from the attack, an unmasked Jason leaps through the window and grabs Ginny. His hair is wild and unfettered. His face is deformed. He is quite ghastly. The next scene is during the day and Ginny is being placed in the back of an ambulance. This scene leaves us unsure as to what happened during the last scene (if it even happened at all; it is ambiguous just like the end of the first one) and what happened to Paul.

Friday the 13th Part III takes place the day after Part 2 (so we are still in 1984). And right there is the first thing that is wrong with this sequel. Why in the FUCK does it switch to Roman numerals? That, to me, is more disturbing than the machete to the crotch one of the kids gets whilst walking on his hands. But I digress.

Chris and a bunch of her friends are going to her father’s cabin, Higgins Haven. Guess where it happens to be near? If you guessed Elm Street, you are dead wrong. Two years ago (1982) Chris and her family were at the cabin and had a fight. After her mother slapped her, she ran in to the woods. Seeking shelter from the pouring rain, she sat under a tree (!) and fell asleep. A disfigured man startles her awake and attacks her. She hands us some flimsy story about having blacked out and waking up in her own bed and not remembering how she survived. She is returning to Higgins Haven to prove to herself that she is strong.

Or fucking retarded. At this point, there are more than a dozen corpses from just the first two films alone before anyone dies in this one. There is a legend of a killer, the camp down the road is nicknamed Camp Blood and you were attacked. How many more warning signs do you need? How about a weird old guy laying in the road who found a human eyeball? No? Well, then fuck it, go get you and your friends killed.

This film is also in 3-D (and Paramount’s first film produced in 3-D since 1954) which would normally bother me, but it was 1982 and 3-D was all the rage back then (I guess. I was 6). There were a lot of 3-D gags, but eventually they become less frequent. Although the harpoon flying at the screen was entertaining.

This film is vastly inferior to the previous installment, which both were directed by Steve Miner. I guess it’s really not his fault, per se. At this point the formula has started to become tiresome. The “legend” aspect of it is interesting, as we see Jason progress. For example, this is the film where he gets his trademark hockey mask. But this chapter is rife with way too many false scares, and it also begins the whole “wouldn’t Jason have died after that?” thing. Not to spoil the ending of a film that is almost 30 years old, but I declare that Jason is officially a zombie after this film. It is assumed that he survived his drowning (by the fact that he is an adult). Therefore he has to be dead at the end of this film based on what happens to him.

The previous two films had scenes at the end where the survivor is “attacked” and then suddenly wakes up or a new scene happens. As the viewer we are left to wonder if the attack scene was real. In part III, the attack scene is clearly a dream and ruins what was a neat little device to cap each film off.

So, this is where the series begins to unravel. It is not a complete mess yet, but it is getting there. Favorite kill of part III: Andy is walking on his hands (cause that’s what the cool kids do) to get a beer. He looks up and sees Jason. BAM! Machete right to the crotch. Nicely done, sir.

Random Movie: Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

Written by: PBF

So in the last installment, we saw everyone but Alice get killed by an unknown murderer. Alice runs outside and finds a woman who identifies herself as Mrs. Voorhees, an old friend of the Christys. Alice feverishly informs her of how everyone is dead. Mrs. Voorhees says that she is not afraid and goes in to investigate. After seeing one of the bodies, she tells the story of how Jason drowned due to the negligence of the counselors. Mrs. Voorhees was in fact working that day as a cook. She then drops the bomb; Jason was her son. Her niceness then morphs into psychosis as she repeats, “Kill her, Mommy!” and exclaims that Alice let her only son drown. At this point, it is obvious that she has been killing everyone. There is a chase and some biting, and they both end up at the lake. Alice cuts Mrs. Voorhees’s head off with a machete. She gets in a canoe, rows out to the middle of the lake and falls asleep. In the morning, the police find her and as they are calling her from shore, what appears to be a deformed youngster leaps out of the water, and pulls Alice under. She wakes in the hospital and the police inform her that all of her friends are dead. She asks about the boy, Jason. The police have no idea what she is talking about, stating that they did not find a boy. Alice is then convinced that Jason never drowned and is still alive (kind of a poor bit of number crunching; he died in ’57 and is still a child in ’80? Unless the dream was just a general premonition).

Two months later brings us to Part 2. Alice is at home sleeping dreaming about the above events (presented to us in flashback). She wakes startled, takes an annoying phone call from her mother, has a shower. She opens the fridge and Mrs. Voorhees’s head is inside. Naturally Alice panics, and is immediately stabbed in the head with an ice pick by an unseen assailant.

Five years later (which makes it now 1984), a new group of teenagers arrive at a counseling training center, which is located near the now shut down Camp Crystal Lake. On the first night, the head counselor Paul, tells the story of Jason and what happened on Friday the 13th. Part of the story of that night is that Jason actually saw his mother beheaded, and now lives in the woods, waiting to kill anyone who arrives. After scaring the fuck out of everyone, he then maintains that it is only a legend, and that Jason surely drowned. So the teenagers are free to fornicate and tell bad jokes ’til summer’s end, without fear of being slaughtered. And these kids make the last ones look like Mormons. They are drunk, naked or having sex every fucking second they can be. However, much like the last kids, this makes them completely oblivious to the fact that their peers are being offed one and sometimes two at a time, this time by a psychopath in a flannel shirt and a sack on his or her head.

Part two is better than part one. This is because since there are more people, the killings are closer together and the film moves at a pretty brisk pace. Again, we are not seeing cinematic genius, but it is actually not a bad flick. Still no over the top stereotypes, and the killings are all fantastic. So many great deaths. Spear through two people at once. There is a counselor that is wheelchair bound, and he gets a machete in the face, and rolls backwards down a huge flight of stairs. That is my favorite kill in this one.

Every time I found myself getting irritated at the horror film formula (i.e. “Hello” Is that you?” or a cat jumping in the room creating a false scare) I had to remind myself how old this film is, and that it practically invented those devices. That being said, this honestly is a completely enjoyable chapter in this story. It is more dark and brutal than the first and definitely an excellent follow up.

I will end this review by saying that Friday the 13th Part 2 punches A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 right in the fucking balls.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Random Movie: Friday the 13th (1980)

Written by: PBF

As a child of the 80’s, the Friday the 13th franchise is quite special to me. Most likely, the first time I ever saw a naked breast was in a Jason film. I became quite enchanted with the concept of summer camp: The sex. The drinking. The skinny dipping. Kevin Bacon. Not so much the machete-wielding psychopaths. Inspired by Halloween, director Sean S. Cunningham gave us the first of twelve Friday films, Freddy vs. Jason included. I am already starting to dread my trip back down this series of films because in comparison to the original, most of the latter sequels are complete garbage. This does not bode well as the first one is mediocre at best.

Don’t get me wrong, this film does what it is basically supposed to do; make you laugh, perhaps a bit uncomfortable, maybe even disturb you at times. However, considering its legacy and the genre it helped popularize, it is less sensational than the sensationalism. If this film had been released in say, the late 90′s or early 2000′s it would have been lost in a sea of run of the mill slasher films that most horror fans only see once, if at all. It simply does not have the aesthetic stab as a Halloween or Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Yet, it does have a charm, and that, coupled with instant nostalgia make for a pleasant viewing at any time.

So here we are at the beginning. Camp Crystal Lake is cursed. It has a death curse according to crazy Ralph, the town lunatic. In fact, the townspeople refer to it as Camp Blood. Charming, no? Basically, here are the events that led up to the camp being dubbed as such, not necessarily revealed to us in this order:

In 1957, a young boy named Jason Voorhees drowns in the lake, while the camp counselors that were supposed to be watching him were having sex. In 1958, two counselors are murdered after they leave a rousing campfire sing a long to have sex. There are some mysterious fires at the camp, and in 1962, during an attempted reopening, the water is found to be bad, so it never opens.

Back to present day (1979), and specifically, Friday the 13th. Steve Christy, the camp’s present owner, along with the help of some attractive, oversexed counselors are fixing up the camp so they can open it yet again. Annie, who is backpacking through town, comes across a diner. After failing to obtain directions to the camp from a dog outside, she wanders inside the diner and asks the patrons inside. They all give her the “what the fuck?” look and after one of them calls it Camp Blood, a man offers to drive her half way there (I assume this is either due to country hospitality, or his desire to see if she will live). During the drive, Annie tells the driver that she is going to be a counselor there, and his response is to give her the horrible legend of Crystal Lake. Apparently neither his story, a warning from crazy Ralph, or the disturbed looks on the diners’ faces will deter her. She will counsel some kids, goddammit.

Exposition now complete, we are introduced to the camp counselors: Ned, Jack (Kevin Bacon), Bill, Marcie, Brenda and Alice. They are call cool and rad and every other 80′s slang term for being hip, and love having a good time. Whether it be swimming, having sex, drinking or playing strip Monopoly, these kids are all about hedonism. As we watch them having incredibly boring conversations and meander around the campground doing equally as boring activities (even the sex was a bit mechanical), they start getting picked off, one by one, either off camera, or in Tom Savini awesomeness. This basically is the constant state of events until the film’s end.

Somewhere in the middle of this film, I realized I was wanting the kids to die. Not because they were bad people (they weren’t) or what they were supposed to represent to their dispatcher, but because they were insanely boring people stuck in long stretches of tensionless scenes. Yes, the only tension to be found is seconds before someone dies. There is never any build up. I could sort of see this tactic being used to simulate us, the viewer, also being hunted, but the constant use of the killer’s POV would negate that.

One thing to appreciate about this film is the lack of over the top character stereotypes. Unlike the later films, there is not 1 geek, 1 snobby girl, 1 hot guy that snobby girl likes but he cannot stand, a lone minority, etc. They were all just kids having a good time (you know, until say, an axe to the head). Also, while the acting was not terrible it was just good enough for us to believe how laid back, silly and sometimes clueless to their surroundings they all were.

The on-screen killings are pretty entertaining. You can see the beginnings of the outlandish deaths yet to come in the franchise. I am torn between two in this installment for my favorite. It’s a toss up between the completely out of nowhere spear through the neck or the straight up brutality of the axe to the face.

Friday the 13th is good in spite of itself. While it never goes below tolerable, I find that it is not the cinematic masterpiece most folk remember it to be. However, it has my adoration, and rightfully so. It sparked my love of horror and the franchise remains my favorite, and not just because Terry Kiser was in Part VII. The series doesn’t span nearly 3 decades for no reason.