January 31, 2017


These days, talk of made-for-TV genre films usually revolves around whatever dreck the Syfy Channel has shit out that month, but there was a time not too long ago that you could find some genuinely chilling stuff in the made-for-TV market. TRILOGY OF TERROR, DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW, SALEM'S LOT and WHEN MICHAEL CALLS are just a few examples of the really good ones. Hell, even the less than stellar stuff, like FROM THE DEAD OF NIGHT and GARGOYLES, put many of today's made-for-TV offerings to shame. Whether or not THE MIDNIGHT HOUR, an early effort from prolific TV director Jack Bender, belongs to the “great” or “less than stellar” category is definitely up for debate. In terms of chills and thrills, it barely registers. But criticizing it for its lack of traumatic shocks is to criticize it poorly. THE MIDNIGHT HOUR isn't out to scare you. It just wants you to love it.

Simply put, the film is a Halloween flavored gob of sugary goodness. Like NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, its main focus is on being entertaining, playing with tropes and cliches along the way. It tells the tale of a handful of high school kids (Phil, the preppy son of the town dentist, his love interest Mary, Mary's friend Melissa and her boyfriend Vinnie, and the school jock Mitch) who inadvertently raise the dead while prepping for a Halloween party. See, the town of Pitchford Cove has a long and troubled history with witches, chief among them the vampiric Lucinda, great, great, etc. grandmother of Melissa. Just before she was hanged by the town Witchfinder General (who is coincidentally Phil's great, great etc. grandfather), Lucinda put a curse on the town. When that curse is accidentally carried out by the kids, demons and zombies emerge from the cemetery, laying waste to the place.

Well, some of the zombies and demons lay waste to the place. The rest head on over to Melissa's house where they are mistaken for costumed party goers. As the zombies make out on the couches and demons slurp punch right from the bowl, Lucinda herself makes an appearance, slowly changing everyone in sight into vampires. Disappointed that Mary likes beefcake Rick more than she likes him, Phil takes off well before the carnage breaks out. He spots a lovely lass on the side of the road decked out in a cheerleader outfit. This is Sandy, a beautiful blonde who just so happens to be a zombie. Sandy has had a rough few hours. Not only did she crawl out of a grave, the malt shop, lookout point and even her old house are all gone, erased by the decades since she passed. Sandy and Phil hang out together, cruising around and flirting, before falling in love. Once the realization sets in about what is going on in town, Sandy and Phil rush to find a solution, even if putting things back to normal means that Sandy will be returned to her lonely grave.

So first thing's first: this movie is cornier than cow shit. From the ridiculous zombies, the half-assed werewolf that unconvincingly mauls a rent-a-cop, Sandy's constant use of the word “hep”, and an impromptu musical number that looks like it was planned as a cheap bit of MTV advertising, it's difficult to really take the film seriously. Again, if you want thrills and chills, definitely look elsewhere. But I'll be unconvincingly mauled by a half-assed werewolf if this film isn't charming as all hell. Watching our cast of good looking 20-somethings strolling through a patently fake graveyard while Wilson Pickett's The Midnight Hour plays on the soundtrack… it's just great stuff. It's the kind of stuff that just makes you wish tomorrow was Halloween and you, ya know, had friends to celebrate it with.

And then there's the Sandy and Phil Show. Heaven help me, I liked those characters. A lot. I liked their romance. I liked the fact that Sandy is pushy as hell despite her sweet demeanor. I liked that Phil is about as useless an asshole on your elbow. I liked their cutesy little flirtations. I liked literally everything about it, so much so that I wished there was more of Sandy and Phil just cruising around town and less of the whole vampire/zombie apocalypse thing. The dramatic push of the film, the fact that ridding the town of the curse means that Sandy will go with it, gives the film a much needed emotional boost. The climax is all kinds of sad as a result. And when was the last time you honestly felt moved by the climax of a made-for-TV genre movie? I know several times my bowels were moved by them, but I never felt genuinely bummed out by one before. Such is the power of likeable characters.

Oh, did I not mention the cast of this film? Shari Belafonte, LeVar Burton, Peter DeLuise, Lee Montgomery, Kevin McCarthy, Dick Van Patten, Kurtwood Smith, Dedee Pfeiffer and Cindy Morgan all in one film? Did I die and go to heaven? The soundtrack alone is worth the cost of admittance. The Smiths rubbing shoulders with Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs? Sign me up.

In summary, THE MIDNIGHT HOUR is indefensible as a straight-up horror movie. It just doesn't play that game at all. But if you're the kind of person that loves spending your evenings with a nice plate of cheese and corn, and definitely if you're the kind of person who sighs blissfully at the thought of tomorrow being the first of October, THE MIDNIGHT HOUR will likely tickle your happy places in all the right ways. It's dumb, wonderfully dumb, on top of being playful, fun and yes, even a bit sentimental. I personally think it's one of the made-for-TV greats.

January 25, 2017


KIDNAPPED GIRLS AGENCY might as well have been called TYING KNOTS: THE MOVIE. It is ostensibly a soft core porno with a BDSM bent. I don't know much about the BDSM scene. I prefer my sex like I prefer every other avenue of my life, pain free. I don't take much pleasure in watching people having pins shoved through their breasts or drooling from behind ball gags. I get that BDSM is quote-unquote safe sadism with a particular and emphatic emphasis on consent but… It's just not for me. Turns out, neither is this film.

It's not for anyone really. I can't imagine BDSM lovers getting much of a thrill out of it, especially when there are much better films out there that deal with that kind of thing. Given that we're living in the internet age, softcore porn itself is kind of pointless. Back when I was a kid, softcore porn was a godsend. These days it's like eating a bowl of cereal without the cereal. And what's a bowl of cereal without the cereal? It's just a goddamn bowl of milk. 

Now that analogy was awful, but so is this movie. Why is that important? It's not. I'm just trying to avoid writing this review.

The only reason this movie is worth watching is for Linnea Quigley and Michelle Bauer. In 1985, Quigley was fresh out of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT and Bauer was fresh out of porn. On any normal day, the presence of either Scream Queen would be enough to get my blood rushing, but KIDNAPPED GIRLS AGENCY is so irredeemably awful that neither actress can save it. Quigley plays Cathy, a college aged girl who is kidnapped by Vera, her ex-step mother, and held for ransom. Vera has a co-conspirator named Brett. The two deviants tie Cathy up in some rope and transport her to the Whip and Chains Club, a BDSM themed sex dungeon of sorts. They also kidnap Tina, Cathy's roommate, subjecting her to the same bondage and light whipping.

Cathy's father contacts the titular Kidnapped Girls Agency, a two person operation specializing in finding, you guessed it, kidnapped girls. As Vera and Brett wait for the ransom to come in, they flirt with the idea of selling the girls to sex traffickers. Luckily, the bumbling head of the KGA, played by the films writer/director, and his sexy assistant, played by Bauer, arrive just in the nick of time, sparing Tina from a rape via strap-on. Cathy is then rescued, shoots Brett dead and the film just ends. Viva la cinema.

This film is 60 minutes long. 40 of those 60 minutes is spent watching a man tie up a woman. Then they untie her, lightly flog her with a whip and then tie her up again. Then they do the same thing to another woman. And then they do it all over again. Like, I get it. This is a fetish movie and while I know for a fact that a lot of people like watching this sort of thing. I am not one of those people. By the 45 minute mark, I swore that if I watched one more person draw one more knot I would tie my own rope.

Around my neck.

But the thing is, this could have been sexy. Naked women usually are, especially when those naked woman include Linnea Quigley and Michelle Bauer. But this film is a shot on video, low effort affair.
It's difficult to find a scene sexually or emotionally arousing when you can see the director's hand clasping the side of the lens as the scene plays out. That's bad enough, but nearly every scene in this film is shot with actors in profile with little to no editing or movement of the camera. There's very little film in this film, just stationary camera work, shoddy audio and little in the way of anything other than tying goddamn knots for 40 minutes.

Things do perk up a bit in the finale when writer/director (and self proclaimed kung fu cinema guru) Ric Meyers, a man who has either the most celebratory Wikipedia page ever or, depending on who actually wrote it, the most masturbatory Wikipedia page ever, and Michelle Bauer enter the film in force. At that point, KIDNAPPED GIRLS AGENCY becomes a campy sex comedy, albeit one with wannabe white slave traders as lead villains. But it's all too little too late, I'm afraid, because even the inclusion of strap-on slapstick can't wash away the horrid taste of the proceeding 40 minutes of unappealing amateur fetish porn.

So again, I'm not quite sure who the hell I would ever recommend this film to. It certainly isn't fun or sexy. It most definitely isn't well made. And if you're into BDSM, there are much better films out there for you to watch. Just skip this one and rent MAITRESSE instead.

Although KIDNAPPED GIRLS AGENCY does have 100% less dicks being nailed to boards so… Take that into consideration when you choose between the two.

January 13, 2017


Given enough time, every movie franchise will collapse into self parody. In his role as writer/director, Tom McLoughlin decided to beat groaning irrelevancy to the punch and create JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VI. With the mean spirited and sour taste of the prior sequel still in everyone's mouth, McLoughlin decided to craft a film that is steeped in irony and self awareness, trading the callous misanthropy of the previous films for a more lighthearted, humorous tone.

It's a shift that could have easily caused the entire fabric of the franchise to unravel. These films were exercises in graphic, cruel T&A bloodletting, after all. Changing the emphasis would seem counter intuitive, if not wholly destructive. Turns out, the single most surprising thing about JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VI is just how well this new suit fits the bloated corpse of the franchise.

Like FRANKENSTEIN, the movie begins in an obviously fake graveyard. Into the scene comes two grave robbers, one of whom just so happens to be Tommy Jarvis, freshly released from whatever mental institution they stuck him in after the events of FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART V: A NEW BEGINNING. But Tommy and his friend are not here to steal a corpse. They're here to burn one and as a storm threatens to break out overhead, they begin digging up the grave of Jason Voorhees. Upon seeing the maggot-covered corpse of his tormentor, Tommy loses control, stabbing the wormy carcass repeatedly with a piece of metal ripped from a fence. Completing the FRANKENSTEIN homage, down comes the lightning, striking the monster, giving it life.

With Jason up and wandering around, Tommy turns to the local police. Unfortunately, they're assholes, especially Sheriff Garris, a trigger happy hard-ass with a hot daughter named Megan. As Jason cuts a bloody swath through the camp grounds, Tommy desperately tries to convince the police that his old nemesis has returned. For all his trouble, Tommy is sent packing, kicked out of town and warned not to return. Believing that the only way to stop Jason is to return him to the bottom of Crystal Lake, Tommy recruits Megan to help him bring an end to Jason's killing spree.

If anything, JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VI ups the tempo compared to previous entries. It most certainly ups the scope. In addition to the stalking and slashing bits necessary for the film to operate like a FRIDAY THE 13TH film, we have Tommy, an actual involved protagonist, to follow. We usually don't see a lead character in a slasher become involved in the narrative action until the final third of the film, once all the dead friends are found and the film becomes a mano a mano fight to the death. Here, Tommy is actively involved and as a result, we have something dramatic to pull the film forward instead of just an increasing body count tally. There's also the police, a group often neglected by slasher films. Garris begins the film incredulous of Tommy's story then becomes increasingly suspicious of Tommy's true motives once the first bodies are found. By the time the final third arrives, they're yet another group determined to stop the slaughter.

For a FRIDAY THE 13TH film, that's a very busy narrative and while it means that the staple stalk/slash set pieces are pushed to the side a bit, the net result is a film that feels far more satisfying and interesting than virtually any other entry in the franchise. Sure, the humor on display can get a bit cornball (an old man finishes off a bottle of whiskey by softly telling it that it “will be the death of me” before unceremoniously having said bottle shoved into his throat; a kid asks his friend ”what did you want to be when you grew up?' as they hide from Jason; we see a young girl lying in bed sleeping, a copy of Sartre's No Exit tucked under her arm) and as the film goes on the jokes tend to clash with the increasingly more serious tone, but the narrative moves so quickly and so assuredly that everything just falls into place. 

JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VI is a joy ride. It's a cartoon, albeit a bloody one. It winks at the camera, it revels in its own formula and tropes. It does the self aware, meta-horror thing better than most pretentious horror oddities and it does it all without ever really betraying the franchise it sprung from. And of course it has problems and shortcomings, and I could spend three paragraphs pointing them all out if I wanted to, but the film, much like JASON X, is so damn entertaining to watch that I honestly couldn't care less about a single one of them. After sitting through round after round of nasty, bitter destruction for the sake of nasty, bitter destruction, JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART IV is like a breath of fresh air.

January 12, 2017


FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD is a mixed bag. On one hand, you have the single most gnarly looking Jason in the entirety of the franchise, just a wonderful visual presentation of the character. On the other hand, you have everything else.

OK, OK, I'll admit that it is quite a bit of cheesy fun to watch telekinetic Tina psychically fling severed heads at Jason, but those moments come at the end of a long, hard slog of a film. Barring FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART V: A NEW BEGINNING, this was the entry hit hardest by the MPAA, so unfortunately all the sloppy, gooey gore effects were left on the cutting room floor. Maybe if the head crushing and entrail spilling were left intact, there would be something to recommend here. Alas, the absence of the gore makes the tedious first two thirds of the film into 60 solid minutes of torture.

The film begins with yet another recap of the entire franchise, as if anyone going to see FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VII would not have seen any of the previous films. Jason is still at the bottom of the lake, his neck wrapped in chains. That's where Tommy Jarvis left him in the previous film. But a quick look around at the camp reveals that this film is taking place well over a decade in the future, probably sometime in the early 2000s. I already complained about that in a previous review so I'll just turn a blind eye and move on to all the other things this movie does wrong.

There's a group of obnoxious college kids staying in a cabin, eagerly awaiting the arrival of their friend Michael. You have a sci-fi geek, a pot smoking dweeb, two token black characters, a couple of preppies and two bimbos. We only care about Nick, the good looking drop-out with a serious crush on Tina, the girl next door. Tina is spending time at her old home, a cabin just across the way, with her mother and her shrink, the casually cruel Dr. Crews. Tina has been in a mental asylum for quite some time, troubled since childhood. This is understandable as when Tina was a young girl, she accidentally killed her abusive father, drowning him in the lake after losing control of her latent psychic powers. Crews wants to keep Tina in an agitated state, all the better for recording on videotape the effects of Tina's telekinesis.

But that all backfires when Tina runs out to the pier one night, trying to miraculously resurrect her dead father from the lake (why his body would still be in the lake after a decade is anybody's guess). But lo and behold, Tina resurrects a sleeping Jason and off we go to the races.

The slow and painful races.

There's no need to belabor the point. This really isn't a good movie. It isn't even a good slasher movie. The most interesting bits of the film all have to do with Tina and Crews butting heads. There's a whole movie that could have been made about their relationship or the inherent danger of a psychically endowed, mentally troubled teen girl (in fact, they already made it; it's called CARRIE). Whenever the two of them are on screen together, the film manages to have some spark of life in it. But director/special effects artist John Carl Buechler desperately wants this film to be a special effects showcase. That's a problem though because the set pieces in the film (including the one in which a character gets all dolled up to impress a boy and then, for some unknown reason, heads off into the woods alone) are as weak as day old coffee. And the payoffs, as previously stated, are all missing. They're jokes without punchlines. Where's the fun in that?

The fact that the film is way over-lit and lacking in any atmosphere is another problem, as is its shrieking score that mixes Harry Manfredini's original soundtrack with hideous discordant noise. I suppose the acting is as good as you could expect in a film called FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD, but the characters are forgettable and largely unsympathetic. There just isn't enough film in this film to latch onto and every moment that goes by feels like an eternity.

But then you get to the finale, the throw down between Tina the Tight-Bodied Telekinetic Teen and Jason the Crystal Lake Slasher, and the mood brightens up a bit. The film barrels down the rabbit hole of nonsensical bullshit. There's a lot to enjoy about the final 20 or so minutes of the film, provided you like your cheese sliced a bit thick. Were it not for the truly insulting coup de grace, the final battle between Tina and Jason would have sent the film out on a high note. As it stands, it kind of makes up for the previous hour of godawful barf but just barely.

January 11, 2017


FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER is perhaps the single greatest example of the 1980s slasher film. That isn't to say that it's the best slasher film of the decade, or even that it's the best film in the franchise. It isn't either of those things. It is merely the FRIDAY THE 13TH train barreling forward at full speed. This is the slasher film formula at its peak efficiency, a taut, nasty exercise in audience manipulation and exploitation.

Describing the plot is almost pointless. Picking up right where FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART III ended, this so-called Final Chapter finds Jason reviving and killing his way out of the county morgue, eventually returning to Crystal lake to eviscerate and obliterate a handful of college age kids, and the remnants of a broken family living across the road. There's a minor subplot about a victim's brother roaming the woods looking for his sister's killer tossed in for a bit of variety, but the rest is pure slasher film, no different than anything you've seen before, just done here with a kind of ideological purity.

It's a no fuss, no muss film, one that never tries to apologize for its inconsistencies and ridiculousness. All the trademark elements of these films, the bits and pieces that were held up against them by the moral majority and the media watchdog groups… Well, those elements are what the film revels in the most. This film is rife with sex and death, revenge and terror. It contains a Jason at his most primal and presents us with some truly gruesome moments of bodily destruction (and censors be damned, the violence on display still has quite an impact). So it's with a bit of confusion that I have to type the following sentence: 

This film contains characters that are likeable, memorable, individualistic, realistically written and almost perfectly performed. 

Because that is NOT an element usually found in slasher films. For example, FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER contains one of the most tender and touching romances in the history of the slasher film. The budding romance between the virginal Sara and pretty boy Doug is surprisingly sweet. And as for the rest of the gang, they all feel like actual 20-somethings. They talk about sex, poke fun at one another, have petty jealousies and personal inadequacies. Hell, even Mrs. Jarvis, the divorced single mom raising her two kids in almost isolation, is given attention here. There's a moment when her children, the teenaged Trish and her little brother Tommy, meet the kids next door. The mother watches them from the window, slowly turning away in a kind of sad resignation, an understanding that, for the first time, she might be spending time all by herself at home as her kids go be kids.

Now don't get me wrong, the film never once treats these otherwise unique characters differently. They're still pummeled, stabbed, thrown from windows, axed and impaled with glee. In most teen films of the 1980s, young love is rewarded. Here, Romeo has his face crushed against the bathroom wall. That hasn't changed one bit, but a film like this is infinitely more terrifying and traumatic when we have actual characters to root for, not just a parade of well endowed, pretty bowling pins waiting to be knocked over.

And of course, this movie has its fair share of stupid shit like how an inflatable raft can stay inflated after a hockey masked killer sticks a knife through it. During the final chase, Trish opens the front door of the cabin only to find a dead body on the porch. Instead of jumping or merely walking over it, she backtracks through the entire house to climb out the kitchen window. The sequence of murders doesn't make sense either, with Jason killing one kid in the kitchen before climbing up the roof to throw one of the Doublemint Twins to her death, only to then return to the kitchen to get a knife. Even worse, Jason once again falls prey to the same kind of idiotic psychology tricks that got him cleaved through the collarbone less than 48 hours ago. As for the ending, not only could Tommy not have hit Jason in the face with the machete at that angle, I doubt he could have swung the blade with enough force to ever crack a skull in the first place.

But honesty, who cares? I nitpick because these films are as familiar to me as my own home. I have seen each of these films over and over again during my life. Hell, FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER was the first film in the franchise that I ever saw in theaters. I sat at the tender age of five years old with my mom and watched this film on the big screen. I didn't care about plot holes. I cared about the scares. Here I was watching a movie in which a kid (imagine that, finally a kid in a movie franchise that takes place at a Summer camp) was chased by Jason. That alone made my little brain go crazy. I was terrified by this movie. It really did a number on me.

But that was ages ago. I'm 38 years old now. These films don't work the same for me now as they did then. Familiarity has reduced them to nuts and bolts, and I see the seams and the plot holes and the nonsense and the cheap glue holding them together. I cannot go back to a time when these films were more than simplistic greed machines. They have lost their luster and their ability to frighten. And though I no longer have the same kind of appreciation for the FRIDAY THE 13TH films as I did when I was a teenager, I'm all for giving credit where credit is due. So allow me to conclude with the following statement:

FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER might not be a great film, but it is one hell of a slasher film.

January 10, 2017


FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN was dead on arrival. It had been gutted by Paramount before filming ever started, neutered by the MPAA once post-production completed and was greeted with very little fan enthusiasm upon release. It would be the last of the Paramount produced FRIDAY THE 13TH films, released nearly a decade after the original. For many fans, the series had run its course. What director Rob Hedden offered up in 1989 seemed like a less than satisfactory diversion after the Jason versus Carrie theatrics of FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD a year earlier. A more traditional sequel was simply not enough to attract much attention.

Even the promised romp through the streets of New York failed to raise eyebrows. For the few who were excited by the gimmick, watching the film was an exercise in frustration. Nearly two-thirds of the running time takes place on a boat. When we finally arrive in New York, we're confined to back alleys, nondescript abandoned buildings and sewer tunnels. The meager budget for the film simply would not allow for more than a handful of shots to be filmed in New York. Vancouver would be used instead and anyone with even a passing familiarity with New York City could see the seams. It was a pale imitation of a great city, much in same way that FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN was a pale imitation of a decent franchise entry.

The film looks cheap. The soundtrack is little more than reused cues and themes from the soon-to-be defunct Friday the 13th: The Series. Everything is bland and plastic. In an attempt to capture some of the visual imagination of the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise, awkward hallucination sequences pop up out of the blue, shredding any sense of reality this terrible film had to offer. Worse, it spit in the face of every franchise fan out there, offering up the single worst finale ever filmed for the franchise, a mind-bogglingly idiotic capper to a craptastic and tired exercise in audience exploitation.

Let's dig our fingers deeper into this turd, shall we?

The film begins like these films all begin. Jason is resurrected and offs a couple of unaware teenagers. From there, we meet Rennie and her English teacher, Mrs. Van Deusen. They have arrived at the pier, anxious to board the good ship Lazarus, a cruise vessel that will be carrying the entire graduating class of a local high school (all 15 or 16 of them) to New York City. Rennie is hassled a bit by her guardian, Charles, also a teacher at the high school. Charles didn't want Rennie coming along for the journey, anxious that her past trauma would be compounded by a trip on board a boat. You see, when Rennie was just a child, Charles pushed her overboard into the waters of Crystal Lake in an attempt to expedite her swimming lessons. Rennie was then pulled underwater by a young Jason and nearly drowned.

Rennie has a boyfriend named Sean, the son of the cruise ship captain, a man who acts like he's the captain of the goddamn Bismarck. Sean's dad wants him to grow up to be a captain, but Sean really just wants to mope about and awkwardly kiss his girlfriend. Other students aboard the ship include Tamara, a cocaine-sniffing prude, Wayne, the camcorder-carrying nerd, J.J., the hair metal wannabe, and Julius, the 90 pound boxer. Not that any of these characters really matter. The film does absolutely nothing with them, rarely having them interact with one another, let alone develop individual personalities.

They only exist so that Jason can have someone to kill when he stealthily creeps aboard the ship. As the Lazarus sails from Crystal Lake (don't ask me how it got into Crystal Lake to begin with) to New York, Jason starts wiping people out, eventually forcing a handful of survivors to abandon ship in the middle of a storm. With about 20 minutes left in the film, our heroes finally row their life boat to the New York City pier, unaware that Jason has apparently been swimming behind them the entire time.

Now, I would like to talk about a few very specific things.

First off, Rennie. Rennie is a very special character. I don't know else to put it. She might even be a mutant or something like that. I don't know how else to explain the fact that Rennie has managed to stay so young for so many years. I mean, Jason drowned in 1957 and it's child Jason that attempted to drown Rennie when she was about 10 years old. So clearly Rennie, who is 17 in this film, has been aging maybe one year for every three years she's been...

Nah, they just fucked up. And it's a pretty astounding fuck up that makes literally no sense. Is Jason supposed to be the same age as Rennie in this film's universe? That can't possibly be as the legend of Jason, told by one of the characters in the film, has him killing people for decades. So how is it that child Jason attacked her all those years back? And why does she seem to have psychic powers? She keeps having hallucinations of Jason, hallucinations that just so happen to start when Jason boards the ship and coincide with his killings. Was this an attempt at recapturing some of the old Tina magic from FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD? Or did Hedden catch a re-run of HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS on cable one night and think “what a great idea!”? 

Beats me. It makes zero sense. In fact, it almost makes as much sense as Jason does in this film. And that's my second point of conversation, the fact that Jason isn't just invincible in this film, he's goddamn magic. There's always been a point of contention between fans of slasher films and people who would prefer movies to operate under the real world laws of physics. Slasher movie villains seem to be able to walk without making a sound, are able to go unnoticed even if they're only standing a few feet away from a character, and, most importantly, are able to move great distances without running. This is a staple convention of the slasher movie, one born from nightmare logic. No matter how fast you run, you will never be able to get away from the monster chasing you.

But FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN goes wayyyy the fuck overboard with this idea. At one point in the film, a student named Eva finds herself trapped in a ballroom by Jason. She tries turning to the left, but he's standing in the doorway. She tries turning right, he's standing in the other doorway. She turns around, but he's right behind her. He's like a gooey, rotting Kurt Wagner in a hockey mask. It is profoundly absurd. Even worse is the horrible, terrible, dreadful, godawful look they gave him in this film. It's like he's soaked in K-Y Jelly. When Jason first boards the ship after being resurrected, the sound his hand makes when it grips the railing on the boat sounds like a wet fart. When he's finally unmasked, he has the appearance of a poorly carved Jack-o'-lantern. I can live with the fact that Hedden gave Jason a few overtly comedic moments in the film, but man oh man, this might just be the least threatening Jason in the entire franchise.

Lastly, let's talk about New York City. Or rather, this films version of New York City. In terms of cynical representation, this might very well be the single most caustic and poisonous representation of New York City ever captured on celluloid. It makes TAXI DRIVER look like a Saturday morning cartoon. Frank Zito would have been scared off by this place. The Big Apple of this film is an endless parade of filth, rats, drums full of sewage, hookers, druggies, gangs, muggers, flashers, pimps and pricks. Within five minutes of climbing up onto the pier, Rennie is kidnapped by gang members, forcefully injected with heroin and threatened with rape. When this film began its advertising campaign, one of the posters featured a bloody Jason bursting through the heart on one of those I <3 New York posters. The New York City Board of Tourism complained about the poster, thinking it was an inappropriate image. 

I wonder how they felt once they saw the movie?

This film is just loaded with stupid shit. Did they really think people would buy the idea that every night at midnight the sewers of New York City are flooded with toxic waste? Did they honestly think that people wouldn't be able to tell Vancouver from New York City? When Rennie and Co. run across a NYPD cop, he's the most obviously Canadian cop in all of New York City. Moreover, why the fuck would anyone need or want to take a cruise ship from New Jersey to New York? Not only would it be the shortest cruise of all time, but who is paying for that extravagance? You can drop 30 bucks on a Greyhound ticket and get there in less than an hour. When our hapless stooges decide to abandon ship, there's a good five minute chunk of the film in which our characters all act like they're starving and desperate. The air gets all foggy and the mood gets all dour, like we're watching a middle school theater rendition of VALHALLA RISING. Oh god, the struggle for survival, sitting in a lifeboat a half mile off shore. Will we ever make it?

Why didn't Jason just telefrag the lot of them right then and there? He could have just teleported next to them, tipped the boat and badda bing! End credits. But then we wouldn't get to see Jason being submerged in toxic waste, turning him back into a small, dead child. Yes, that happens here. That is the great, grand finale of this shit heap. I guess Ginny was right. Jason was just "a child trapped in a man's body”. And then finally, after we all get over the shock of that stupid ending, Sean and Rennie go wandering the streets of New York City at night. The screen goes dark and the credits begin to roll as a cheesy 80s rock track plays over the speakers. We all get up from our seats, heading back down the aisles and through the doors. We leave the theater and hop into our cars, driving home, safe in the knowledge that Rennie and Sean made it through the nightmare alive. 

Even though they were probably killed by drugged out gang members ten minutes later because Jesus Christ is New York City a scary son of a bitch.

January 9, 2017


I could compile a seriously long list of nitpicks and problems with the FRIDAY THE 13TH films, but no matter how long the list grew, “continuity” would always be the first item on that list. Simply put, there isn't any. Keep in mind that from 1980 on, there was a new franchise entry released nearly every single year. Only 1983 and 1987 went by without a new installment. But even though the franchise was just about yearly with their releases, the diegetic time line of the series runs for well over a decade. The original film takes place in 1979 (we know this because we see Pamela Voorhees' tombstone in Part 4). It's never explicitly stated, but we can assume Parts 2, 3 and 4 occur over a single weekend in 1980.

Now this is where things become a bit odd. Parts 4, 5 and 6 all follow a single character, Tommy Jarvis. Again, it's never explicitly stated how old Tommy is in any of these films, but we can assume he is at least 13 (Corey Feldman's actual age at the time of production) in Part 4, 17 in Part 5 and 25 in Part 6. That would mean that the events of FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VI: JASON LIVES are taking place (approximately) in 1993 with the later sequels pushing the time line up into the mid to late 90s. Yet all of these films appear to be taking place in the year of their production with props like cassette players and rotary phones all prominent, and the fashion on display is representative of mid 80s fashion trends.

I'm not saying that the producers of these films should have somehow anticipated the rise of grunge rock or compact discs, but the look and feel of these films is incongruous with the diegetic time line of the franchise. But that isn't really a continuity problem. That's just a bunch of lazy oversights. So why am I even bringing it up?

Because I like to complain, that's why.

However, if you're looking for a glaring, perhaps THE MOST glaring, continuity problem in the entire franchise, FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART III is the place to look. The film begins with a “Previously On FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART II segment. We see Ginny psyching out Jason in the rundown cabin. We see Paul and Jason tussle about. We see Ginny whack Jason with a machete. We see all of this. What we don't see is the stinger from the end of the film, that famous moment when an unmasked Jason, all scraggly haired and hideous, leaps through a cabin window to attack Ginny. And why don't we see that? It's because Jason is about to change dramatically.

If we're to treat FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART III as a direct continuation of the narrative of FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART II, we are expected to believe that Jason, a man who collapses in pain after being kicked in the nuts but can shrug off having his collarbone cleaved in half with a machete, changes not only his facial appearance but his size and weight in a matter of hours. We're expected to believe that Jason stopped off somewhere to shave his head and change his clothes. We see the new Jason within the first 15 minutes of the film, though only briefly. Anyone going to see this film in the theater had likely seen the previous entry too so I can imagine a few moviegoers were awfully confused by this metamorphosis. Worse, the film never once addresses it. Because it can't. It has no answer and no excuse to offer.

Truth is, the reason for this sudden change in appearance has nothing to do with the story. It has everything to do with returning director Steve Miner thinking that the look of old Jason wouldn't work in this film. So they changed it completely without regard for any kind of continuity. Fact is, these films are not telling a single, overarching story, no matter how much they pretend to be. They're just products, rushed into production if ticket tallies tickle the toes of the studio, and while there isn't really anything wrong with retconning bits of story here and there over a decade long franchise run, there is something a bit, shall we say, pathetically lazy about completely changing the look and design of the main villain less than a year after the previous film and hoping no one notices or cares.

A brief thought: maybe the killer in FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART III isn't really Jason? Maybe the real Jason crawled into a corner and died next to his mother's severed head after Ginny gave him what for with a machete? Maybe the killer in this film is someone completely different (he's never named in the film after all)? That would have been an odd but memorable series of events, eh? Just as Chris is about to bite it in the barn, in walks the real Jason to put the imposter down. That would have worked just as well as anything else in the film. But anyway, back to it.

So what exactly is this film about? Well, it's the same thing the previous film was about. We have a handful of characters, chief among them Chris Higgins, a pretty college-aged gal. She's returning to the family Summer home for a weekend with her friends. Chris is still a bit traumatized from an unfortunate series of events that happened a few years back. After having a fight with her parents, Chris ran into the woods. Later that night, she was attacked (and possibly raped; the film implies sexual assault but never flat out states it occurred) by Jason (sporting his new look, by the way, another continuity shattering moment). Returning to the Summer home is an attempt by Chris to gain some inner peace. Along for the weekend are two middle aged stoners, Andy and his pregnant girlfriend Debbie, and Shelly.

Let's talk about Shelly for a moment, shall we? Shelly is a bit of a fan favorite. It's clear that he's meant to be the comic relief of the film, but unfortunately for Shelly, the kind of humor he displays is a bit tone deaf. There's simply nothing funny about a guy who fakes his own murder, especially given the fact that less than 24 hours earlier, nearly a dozen people were butchered less than a few miles away. Shelly is paired up with Vera, a beautiful girl he has no chance with. When Chris and Co. pick up Vera, they meet her mother. Vera's mom emphatically tells Chris that Vera is “not going!” before slamming the door in her face.

This is another thing about these films that just bugs the shit out of me. People talk about the murders at Camp Crystal Lake as if they're urban legends. In FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART II, Paul tells a campfire story all about it. But the story he's telling happened just one fucking year ago and every single character sitting around that campfire reacts like it's the first time they've ever heard about it. I understand that we didn't have email and text messaging back in 1980, but come on now. A mass murder would make the news EVERYWHERE. It would be national news, not some kind of obscure event. All this film had to do was replace the “she's not going!” line with a “hey, you know that about a bazillion people were just killed at the Lake by an unidentified, still-at-large killer, right?”.

But nope, not a single character in this film has heard of the mass murder that just happened 24 hours earlier so on they go, giggling like idiots, to their destination. Even after having a disembodied eyeball thrust in their faces by some drunken doomsayer on the side of the road, our van full of dipshits just keeps on trucking. Nothing will stop them, mass murderers be damned. A short trip over Chekhov's Rickety Wooden Bridge later and our characters arrive at Higgins Haven, a beautiful house in the boonies. It has everything you could want in a Summer home. Except for a phone. And beds. And an indoor toilet. But hey, it has a barn for seemingly no reason and is right next to the lake, even though we never once see the lake, just a creek and what appears to be a muddy pond in the front yard.

It's here that we meet Rick, Chris' on-again, off-again boyfriend. Simply put, Rick is an asshole. He treats Chris like shit, looks to be about 15 years older than her, and is clearly meant to be an upper class yuppie even though he drives a beat-up old VW Bug. After getting settled in, Vera and Shelly take Rick's hunk of junk to a shop in town where they run afoul of three bikers, two of whom are black because this is a 1980s horror film so of course they are. After Shelly knocks over their bikes, the gang follows them home with the intention of setting the barn on fire. They're quickly taken apart by Jason, two by pitchfork, the other smacked around the head with a wrench just hard enough to incapacitate him until the final five minutes of the movie.

After Chris and Rick take off for some alone time, the rest of the group (aka the Slaughter Fodder) settle down for the night, only to be bumped off one by one in a completely illogical series of events that include: 

  • a character taking a shit but not wiping his ass after he's done,  
  • a character trudging through a creek that only comes up to her ankles, but was deep enough to conceal a pranking Shelly moments beforehand, 
  •  a bifurcation that doesn't leave behind a single drop of blood and is unheard by people literally 20 feet away,  
  • an electrocution via gently shoving someone into a circuit breaker box, and  
  • a stabbing that could have easily been avoided had Debbie not been born with severe peripheral vision deficiency.

I think the FRIDAY THE 13TH films (and slasher films in general) are often wrongly maligned by critics and naysayers. They like to throw out the words “sexist” and “misogynistic” with regards to these films. I don't share that perspective. The characters that have sex are almost always in relationships (but not marriages so… fucking whores, I guess). Very few characters indulge in the hard drug lifestyle that Conservative critics would have you believe these films are flaunting. The characters in the FRIDAY THE 13TH films aren't bad people or even grating stereotypes. They're just not very interesting. That's the single biggest complaint you can lodge against them. Very few are annoying, but almost all of them are dull.

Except for the Final Girls.

For as much as I dislike these films, the final 10 minutes of nearly every FRIDAY THE 13TH film are great and that is largely because of the Final Girls. We have Alice going hand to hand with Pamela Voorhees. Ginny stops running from Jason just so she can hide in a bush and kick him in the balls when he runs past. Trish leads Jason away so her little brother can escape. Pam grabs a chainsaw and bum-rushes Jason/Roy in Part 5. The Final Girls in these films (mostly) are not mere pushovers. Chris, more than any other Final Girl in the entire franchise, is my favorite and it is precisely because FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART III makes her into a character that actually has something to gain from surviving other than just her skin. There's a sense of finality in her showdown with Jason and a real sense of empowerment when she finally whacks him in the head with that axe.

I wish the film would have done the Jason reveal earlier. As it stands, Chris only realizes that the man in the hockey mask is her past tormentor with about five minutes to go in the film. It needed to come sooner, because that bit of the narrative is the single best thing this film has going for it and had the screenwriters played that angle better, we would have had a FRIDAY THE 13TH film with genuine dramatic oomph. What we have instead is a bit watered down, but it's nonetheless a satisfying conclusion to a film that is otherwise pretty dull overall.