Killer Workout (1987)

When I decided to watch all the films of the Prior brothers – director David A and actor Ted – I was a bit worried that, after a delightfully incompetent surreal slasher (1983’s “Sledgehammer”) they’d get normal and boring, but it looks like we’re good for many years of curiosity. They’re so excited to be making movies they keep forgetting to explain the twists!

I’d lay good money on this having been “inspired” by the John Travolta / Jamie Lee Curtis movie “Perfect”, which came out in 1985 – this was made in 1986, not released til 87. One can tell because it seems like they told the aerobics dancers / extras to just recreate all of Travolta’s moves, every hip-thrusting, lycra-clad second – still, it’s fun to remember the time when this sort of thing swept the nation. Well, I say fun.

After an opening where an unseen woman is burned in a gigantic sunbed (built by co-star Fritz Matthews, apparently) we’re right into the world of Rhonda’s Workout, a gym with a crudely fashioned sign out front, in what looks like a strip-mall. Rhonda is Marcia Karr, a regular with us here at the ISCFC despite a career that ended in 1990 – she was in “Maniac Cop”, “Death Blow: A Cry For Justice” and “Night Of The Kickfighters”, three more different cheesy 80s movies you couldn’t imagine. Anyway, there’s background hotties, a couple of women who have “cannon fodder” stamped on their foreheads, and guys so sleazy they really deserve to be in jail. Matthews is Jimmy Hallik, who hits on Rhonda with an intensity you don’t see outside of sexual assault movies, and Richard Bravo as Tom…actually looks really similar to Jimmy, so it’s quite difficult to tell them apart when you’re watching on a nice fuzzy VHS. He keeps trying to unzip the front of the main instructor’s lycra outfit and I’m not glad about many things, but I am glad that movies have changed to make this sort of crap unacceptable in 2017.

There’s really no need to get bogged down in detail, though, as this movie is nice and simple. People start getting killed and there are tons of red herrings. Is it one of the two pieces of human garbage, or is it the new employee, Chuck (Ted Prior, whose puzzled expression is hopefully about the weird parts his brother keeps giving him)? What about the extremely angry cop, Detective Morgan (David Campbell, the villain from “Killzone”)?

Chuck has been at work maybe ten minutes when he drops the garbage he’s carrying, has the first of two hilariously incompetent fist-fights with Jimmy, and then just goes for a drive with one of the gym-bunnies? I guess you know he’s a good guy because he just drinks Diet Pepsi and asks her for information about the place rather than hitting on her – she throws herself at him a few minutes later though, and he’s only human.

The murders are mostly done with a giant safety pin, for some completely unknown reason. In the grand tradition of crappy slasher movies, no-one fights back when they’re grabbed by the killer, they just go “oh well, such is fate” and wait for the final blow to land. I felt sorry for Diane, who just wanted to make a human connection, but ended up getting murdered (the cop, for some reason, is hammering on her door at that exact moment, but rather than immediately identifying himself, he just shouts “open up! Come on, let me in!” for a few minutes first.

One interesting thing is how “Killer Workout” tried out alternate titles for itself, inside the movie. A couple of graffiti kids decide to tag the front of the building with this:

“Aerobicide” is its original title, probably dropped when the aerobics trend passed its high water mark, and “Death Spa” was actually used as the title of a rather similar-sounding horror movie from 1988.

This leads us on to perhaps the most curious thing in this movie full of curious things. By the hour mark, 7 people have been murdered in or around the gym. Yet this doesn’t affect the attendance there at all? We keep seeing full classes of gyrating flesh, despite (in one scene) them literally putting a corpse into a body bag in the next room, as the class is going on. My notes have, several times, “GO SOMEWHERE ELSE TO EXERCISE”, and in fact I’d have opened another gym in that town with the sole selling point “You Are Much Less Likely To Be Murdered Here”.

You have the standard thing of the killer being a stealth-ninja able to break into properties and murder at will, and someone taking a garden rake to the leg but still being able to climb fences and run at a fairly decent speed; with this one, though, you can also ponder why all those sleazy guys hung around the gym from the second it opened to when it closed – they certainly don’t work there.

Technically it’s fine – I mean, it’s cheap as hell, but what do you expect? The acting is mostly okay, even if Marcia Karr as Rhonda is a bit grimace-y and OTT, the effects are fine, it’s shot okay (despite, apparently, the DP being extremely difficult to work with, according to David A)…no real issues on any of those scores, and nothing much to mock either.

The twist is strange, and the final twist is perhaps even stranger; I’m not sure how long I can continue to blame Prior being new the filmmaking game, and fear this is just what we’re going to get from here on out. While it’s full of stuff that makes no sense, and isn’t gory or titilating in the slightest, it’s weird enough to be of enjoyment to bad movie enthusiasts. I love how Ted Prior is shown as being a crap fighter in all of his brother’s movies to this point – I’d have maybe read the script and gone “can I not win just one? Please?”

Add in a soundtrack full of songs written specifically for the movie, synth-cheese at its finest, and you’ve got yourself an entertaining, if thoroughly bizarre, movie. Bring on “Mankillers”, and let’s have some more fun.

Rating: thumbs up

Youtube Film Club: Dreamaniac (1986)

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After “I’ve Been Watching You”, because I’m a glutton for punishment and because I hope you – dear reader – enjoy reading about bad movies more than good ones, I decided to really get into the filmography of David DeCoteau. You might be flicking through the listings of your streaming service of choice one night, happen upon DeCoteau, and come to me for advice (metaphorically speaking, but if you know me, feel free to just give me a call and ask).

We’ve talked about him before, and mentioned his career arc – by the way, did you know he directed the recent meme-bait “A Talking Cat?!?” – so feel free to read our old reviews. Click these words right here to go to a list of our DeCoteau writing! Or carry on reading, right now, to find out about his first ever non-porn directing job. Yes, after “Boys Just Wanna Have Sex” and “Never Big Enough” (sorry, I do love a good porno title), he was offered his first directing job by Charles Band and his pre-Full Moon “Empire Pictures”.

 

From the opening credits on, this reminded me of a slightly sanitised version of early Donald Farmer – the B-movie horror legend who gave us “Demon Queen”, “Cannibal Hookers” and “Vampire Cop”, among many many others. Exhibit A is the opening credits, which go on for about 5 minutes (of an 80 minute movie), and just list the cast and crew, pausing for an excruciating length of time on each one. I love a good “get it to feature length by any means necessary!” trick.

 

Adam (Thomas Bern, in his only ever role) is a professional heavy metal lyric writer (huh?), although he has a poster for punk musician Jello Biafra on his wall, and the t-shirt he wears at the beginning is of Def Leppard, not exactly the most metal-y of bands (the soundtrack has nothing approaching metal on it, either, presumably the whole thing was due to some satanic music panic being in the news the week they made it). He’s having trouble sleeping, dreaming of a woman in a bathtub full of blood, but he does have a lovely and supportive girlfriend, Pat (Kim McKamy).

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McKamy has the drill

ASIDE: As every other review of this movie has mentioned, McKamy, under the name Ashlyn Gere, would go on to a long career in porn, winning a number of awards while still doing bits of mainstream acting (she’d appear in a few episodes of “The X Files”, for instance). Evidently, there are people who watch porn the same way I watch old horror movies, as there’s a lot of interest in this because it was filmed before McKamy had breast implants. I feel vaguely sleazy just from knowing that information, but there you go – in case you were wondering DeCoteau, even at the beginning of his career, was far more interested in the male form than the female.

 

Back to Adam! He summons a demon quite easily, needing nothing but a few candles and a book of incantations, and it’s the same woman he’s been dreaming about, named Lily (Sylvia Summers). I guess there’s a religious thing here, with Adam and Lily / Lilith (Lilith being the name of Adam’s first wife in some very early Jewish texts), but if it is, it’s completely undeveloped. Now this is where the extremely poor sound quality of the VHS rip on Youtube become annoying, because according to the promotional literature, Lilith gives him irresistibility to women, on the proviso she can kill them afterwards, but this doesn’t make the slightest sense when it comes to what actually happens. In fact, I’ve really got no idea why Adam summoned her at all – he seemed to have a decent life, with a big house and a beautiful girlfriend? He is a very very dull character, though, a wet blanket much like the star of “I’ve Been Watching You”, so I’m glad the movie doesn’t focus too much on him.

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What the movie does focus on is the party that is thrown in his house, because Pat’s sister Jodi needs to get into a sorority and decides a sparsely-attended party in the home of a virtual stranger is a good idea, and because this movie was shot in 10 days and it’s a lot easier to film entirely in one location. So we get an assortment of characters – the bitchy sorority leader Frances (Cynthia Crass); the gay guy; and the…undistinguished mass of humanity! I’m seriously struggling to remember any of them, and it was only on a few hours ago. The way it goes is, we see a bit of a party, then Lily murders someone in an escalatingly gruesome fashion; then we get either a view of a naked male ass, or a shot from the front of a chap in very tight white underwear. It’s good to know his interests were front-and-centre (so to speak) from the very beginning, and it makes a refreshing change from most horror cinema.

 

There’s sort of a subtext here, and it’s unhappiness. No-one is happy – the women are all unsatisfied with their men, Adam is just miserable, Jodi seems disgusted at the world she wants to be part of and just gets drunk all the time, in fact the only people who seem remotely satisfied with their lot are the camp guy whose name I don’t remember and Lily herself, and she gets to murder tons of people for no reason whatsoever.

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I almost forgot that a few people come back as zombies later on (another thing it has in common with early Donald Farmer), seemingly picked at random and easily dispatched back to death. And someone gets their head removed with a drill, which is pretty impressive when you think about it. Or stupid, I can’t decide which – okay, it’s stupid. It’s quite nice to see such an unvarnished set of slasher film responses to situations, with pre-marital sex all over the place and cast members having an almost pathological desire to wander off on their own and get killed.

 

There’s one good thread to “Dreamaniac”, the interaction between Jodi and Adam. They don’t spend a ton of time on screen together, but when they do there’s an easy rapport and the nugget of a half-decent film. But that’s literally it when it comes to stuff I enjoyed.

 

First up, it’s called “Dreamaniac”. The first and only dream sequence in the movie is done with by the five minute mark! Best I can guess is, the cover talks about “A Nightmare On Elm Street” and they knew they needed at least one dream sequence to not be sued for false advertising? Talking of the box, there’s the caption “too gory for the silver screen!” on there, indicating its proud straight-to-video status (back when that was pretty unusual), or perhaps they just misspelled “rubbish”. Then, finally, there’s Adam’s motivation. What does he get out of the deal with the demon? She has sex with him a few times, but after that all she does is murder a bunch of people in his house.

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SPOILERS AHOY! No excuse, really, the video is right there at the top of the page to watch. It turns out the entire movie was…a pulp novel that a guy played by the same actor as Adam had written! We see him finishing reading it out to someone over the phone. Screw you, movie! That this other Adam then gets killed by the same demon, the implication being he summoned it with the stuff in the book, is the garbage cherry on the dirt pie.

 

“Dreamaniac” is relentlessly awful. Made solely for the purpose of wringing a few $$$ out of video shop customers, with not a thought given for its quality (although I guess it’s sort of impressive that they made this for an estimated $60,000) or coherence, it’s to be avoided at all costs and I’m now regretting starting down this path. None of the bravura oddness of Donald Farmer, but all the flaws and then some.

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Rating: thumbs down

Prom Night 4: Deliver Us From Evil (1992)

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Well, they saved the worst for last. Part 3 is a genuinely brilliant comedy-horror, full of great performances and an interesting twist on the supernatural killer genre; then, the producers decided people who’d work cheap were better than people who’d work good, and picked up Canadian TV director Clay Borris (“Highlander”, “Forever Knight”, “Rin Tin Tin: K-9 Cop”) and writer Richard Beattie (who, since 2012, has become Steven Seagal’s pet scriptwriter, it would seem) to produce something that would be nice and cheap and sort of look like a horror movie. Well, I bet they just bought the script off the shelf and made the absolute minimum number of tweaks to turn it into a Prom Night film, but you get the idea.

Mary Lou was obviously living happily in Hell with Alex, so she’s out of the series. And prom? Well, it’s expensive to hire all those extras and a gym for them to dance in, so there’s no prom in it! Four teenagers (Mark and Megan, one couple, and Laura and Jeff, the other) get dressed up as if they’re going, but get the limo to take them to Mark’s parents’ summer house, extremely remote and secluded, for a party. This is a spam-in-a-can movie!

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We are actually getting ahead of ourselves a little, as the identity of the killer is revealed pretty much straight away, thus reducing the tension. The movie starts in 1957, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, and we see a priest – Father Jonas – brutally murder a young couple having sex in their car outside the prom, then sets fire to their car.

Father Jonas was abused by a priest as a child, and this has given him some severe psychological issues (obviously). The entire movie is a very strong indictment of the Catholic Church, to the point I wonder if it was financed by one of the other main religions, but this isn’t even the worst of it – rather than making sure he’s arrested, the local Church leaders spirit him away from the scene and lock him in a cellar for the next 35 years, keeping him drugged and tied to a bed. Remember this. 35 years, spent entirely tied to a bed.

In the present day, Jonas’ watcher / prison warden is getting old, so they hire a new Priest to take over. This guy, rather than do as he’s told, decides to stop giving Jonas his medication, plus he shaves off his beard and tries communicating with him. You might sort of expect this new Priest to be central to the denouement, but after the minimum possible wait, Jonas has busted out, getting right back to the killing. This new priest lasts a few minutes but nowhere near as long as you’d expect.

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So, Jonas not only has the strength to murder people with his bare hands, after suffering no ill effects whatsoever from his incarceration, but also…hasn’t aged a day. What? If you’re going to not bother to such an extent, why have the first scene be from 1957? Why not have it be 6-7 years previously, like the first “Prom Night”? Bloody stupid. So, Jonas decides to go back to the church building he was first incarcerated in, which is unfortunately the same house our four partying teens are in. He gets pretty good with his hands later, too, building a couple of crosses strong enough to support full-sized burning humans (to preserve a vague sense of suspense, I won’t tell you which two).

Hopefully I’ve sketched a picture for you, and I’d like to add some colour. I need to assemble the paints, though (I’m already bored of this analogy, don’t worry) – the house itself, the time of year, and the stuff inside the house. So, Mark’s parents have bought a summer house, which is actually an enormous building (having once held dozens of monks, one assumes). How big is their actual house if they can afford something this enormous just to use in the summer? Talking of summer, snow is seen falling several times and there’s snow on the ground…prom traditionally happens around May or June, and I’m willing to bet there’s not a single place in the USA where snow falls then. It’s like they weren’t even trying! Mark even says “my family have locked it up for the season” – that season, presumably, being winter, the one they’re not in. Then there’s the stuff in the house – as they arrive, they find some stuff has been stolen, like the TV, the freezer, and other useful items (it’s not Jonas doing the stealing, as he arrives after our party-goers). They take the freezer but leave the huge pile of meat from inside it, which I’m willing to bet would be worth far more. They take a huge, heavy freezer, but leave the dozens of works of art on the walls, at least some of which must be worth something; and they also ignore the wine cellar full of what could be incredibly valuable bottles. Doesn’t make a lick of sense to me. Of course, as the teens aren’t supposed to be there, they decide not to phone the police to report the thefts.

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What we’re left with for the last 75% of the movie is four “teens” getting killed by someone we know, thus removing the sort of tension that your average slasher movie relies on (there’s even a scene where the killer’s face is obscured, as if the cinematographer forgot that everyone knew who he was). You’ve got people behaving in dumb ways, like when the couple splits up despite the woman being in imminent danger – the bloke just saves himself (they don’t play it like he’s doing anything weird though).

As the movie goes out of its way to be anti-Catholic, it would have probably made more sense for Father Jonas to go after the church leaders who allowed his rapist to get away unpunished, and who were far more “sinful” than the mild-partying teens occupying his old house. But that would deviate from the slasher formula, and you can be damn certain that “Prom Night 4” does not deviate from that formula for one second. We just get yet another tediously conservative, anti-sex movie, where the only people who are punished are kids guilty of nothing more than giving in to their raging hormones.

The most famous face is Nicole deBoer as Megan, the Final Girl (“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, “The Dead Zone”); she’s also the sole interesting character, as her internal debate about whether to give up her virginity, and questioning her faith, is the only thing written with any care. She also has my favourite scene, where she does the dive-away-from-explosion thing, from an explosion which is a really long way away (still fun though). The two boyfriends are completely interchangeable, and even look alike, so when they’re both searching the house in the semi-darkness I genuinely had no idea who was who and where they were.

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It’s not so much that it’s terrible, although it is, it’s the massive drop-off in quality. The first three “Prom Night” movies were at least interesting, and often great, with part 3 being one of my favourite horror-comedies ever; part 4 feels like a TV-movie version of a slasher, with not a bit of thought put in. Best avoided altogether.

Rating: thumbs down

The Turnpike Killer (2009)

small_5877This is another movie from the excellent Wild Eye Releasing. They’ve helped some gems like “They Will Outlive Us All” get distribution, and they’ve got real love for independent horror. So drop some money on their stuff, because they’re doing great work and deserve our support.

 

But, unfortunately, you shouldn’t spend any of that money on this one. The DVD cover says it’s been “compared to William Lustig’s ‘Maniac’” and I suppose that’s true, because saying “Maniac was really good and the Turnpike Murders wasn’t” is a comparison of a sort. Bear in mind, if your tastes run to the more nihilistic and gore-drenched, then…why are you reading a light-hearted feminist left-wing movie review site like this?…and also, you may well have a very different view to me, so feel free to take everything I say with a pinch of salt.

 

Right from the first scene, I knew the next 86 minutes were going to be rough. We open in a murder cellar, with bodies all over the place and a couple of screaming women in the corner. It’s always brutalising women, isn’t it? The appropriately named Jon Beest (Bill McLaughlin, a not-terrible performance) is hacking, slashing, and screaming “shut the fuck up” a lot – it’s definitely his favourite line, and indicates he wasn’t given any dialogue for these scenes –  all while a dull middle-European monotone goes on about cleaning the streets, or whores, or whatever the hell it was. Who cares? The box handily indicates this is a voice in his head, although he barely seems to respond to it, answer it back, or anything of that sort.

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The first half of the movie just idly follows him round, as he talks to his one friend, agrees to do some work, and kills a few more women. One of them comes after he meets a nice woman in a park and chats pleasantly to her for a bit; she turns him down, he immediately calls her a whore and then tracks her down, killing her and her boyfriend. They give a lot of character and screen time to someone who’s just victim no.3 in a long series.

 

Eventually, a cop shows up, who has problems of his own, what with his wife leaving him and him getting boned in the divorce proceedings. To say he investigates the murders is perhaps overstating it, as he more just picks up the dead bodies that Beest dumps off the turnpike, before lucking into his location right before the end. This doesn’t sound like a lot to fill an 86 minute movie, does it? We can thank our lucky stars that the DVD’s listed running time – 106 minutes – was wrong, because I don’t think I could have lasted 20 more minutes of this.

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As I said above, you might just want to see a large monster of a man kill women for 90 minutes. That is your right as a paying customer, and writer/directors Evan Makrogiannis and Brian Weaver have given you that opportunity. However, if you’re bothered enough about whether it’s any good to read a review, then I ought to break down why I think it fails. Most importantly is the structure of it. If you’re going to have a cop character and expect people to care about him tracking down the killer, then bringing him in at the beginning would be a good idea. The woman who gets her tongue ripped out has more screen time than the cop! The dialogue is all woodenly delivered and everyone sounds the same, with the lame quips and swearing, too. And the dutch angles! If I saw one more dutch angle, I was going to turn the TV on its side by 30 degrees.

 

Then there’s the behaviour of the lead character. He seems indifferent to covering his tracks, leaving crime scenes covered in fingerprints, abducting women from public, showing up in places that have cameras, standing outside the house of women he’s stalking, in broad daylight, and so on. He drops a head off the turnpike, and despite the cops knowing about this MO, he doesn’t even wait for a car to pass before doing it. I’d suggest this is more incompetence on the part of the filmmakers than it is a choice – it was their first movie and perhaps they were more focussed on making it as gory as possible than they were on telling a coherent story.

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And then there’s the twist. Spoiler alert, but I can’t really discuss it without spoiling things, so feel free to skip to the rating at the bottom. It turns out that the voice in his head…isn’t in his head at all, but is the dialogue of his father/teacher, who raised him from childhood and taught him to kill the all the filthy women. Now, there are a few scenes where this voice pops up while other people are in the room, so why doesn’t one of them go “er, excuse me old man, but can you stop this nutter from chopping me to pieces?” Not only does it make no sense, it also ensures a good old fashioned pointlessly dark-for-darkness-sake ending.

 

While the promotional blurb tries to position this with the best grindhouse movies of the past, it feels like the product of someone who watched all of them and whose sole takeaway was that chopping up women was good entertainment.  There’s no development, no arc, no remotely interesting characters, nothing but mostly naked women being butchered, with a budget so low they kept having to cut away from the killing blows so it barely even works on that level. There’s an attempt to make it look like a grindhouse film, fetishizing the presentation which of course wasn’t deliberate in those old movies, but all it really does is look a bit out of focus all the time.

 

Further proof of the ISCFC maxim “not everyone who’s able to make a film, should”.

 

Rating: thumbs down

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

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If you wanted evidence that the Friday the 13th franchise was horrible, cynical, money-grabbing garbage from its early days, look no further than this. Part 3 was intended as the end to the series – Jason has an axe in his forehead, the lake is calm, it’s all over. Of course, that one made enough money that the producers decided part 4 was the way to go, and this time they’d definitely call it “the final chapter” to entice people who wanted to see the end of Jason, for real (after thinking they’d seen the end of him before). Of course, we know how well that stuck, and they decided on the same trick for part 9, subtitled “The Final Friday”; there were only two more movies after that, I suppose.

 

So what’s the second of the franchise’s three endings like? Well, the first character we meet is a morgue attendant who make a few too many jokes about being a necrophile; luckily he’s found a nurse who’s as big a freak as he is, so they have sex next to the freshly delivered corpse of Jason Voorhees. Now, IMDB says in their plot summary that he “spontaneously revives” (literally no-one could be bothered to think of a reason, it seems) but I think it was the illicit sex. He’s got a “people having fun” detector, and it’s so strong it can bring him back from death! Anyway, there’s a couple of well-done deaths, and Jason is on his way to…Crystal Lake, probably?…to do his thing one more time.

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This would be the strongest movie of the series, if only for its cast. As a car full of people in their early 20s drives up to a rented house for a weekend of partying, we see in the back seat having a debate about women, Lawrence Monoson and Crispin Glover. Glover is an oddball superstar, with roles in “Back To The Future”, “Hot Tub Time Machine” and some of the weirdest chat show appearances of all time; Monoson was the star of the bleakest teen raunch film ever, “The Last American Virgin”. Plus, when they get to the house, living in the place across the road is Corey Feldman! Of course, being 13, you know he’s going to survive, but it’s still fun to see him.

 

We get lots of nudity, thanks to a bit of middle-of-the-afternoon skinny-dipping; and if you’re keeping track of the number of fake-outs and jump scares there are in this one, you’ll need some sort of five-bar gate system, because there’s loads (I got bored and stopped counting at 10). Those two things and a psychotic killer are pretty much all you need for a slasher movie, right?

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The mind wanders in the middle of these movies, so I’d like to talk about the hitch-hiker. While driving to the house, they pass a woman holding up a sign for “Canada and Love”. They drive past, Monoson loudly mocks her, and she flips round the sign to reveal “Fuck You”. Jason, on his way to the same place, kills her a few seconds later and she’s now part of bad movie history. But look at the road they’re on. Not a turn for miles, no houses anywhere nearby, absolutely the middle of nowhere. What scumbag dropped her off there? She doesn’t look like the sort of woman who’d already walked 20 miles that day. Tell you what, see for yourself.

So, the slutty girls and asshole guys get killed, but it all seems a little more fun than the previous chapters. Only a little. It’s not particularly bloody, but Jason does love posing a corpse, being sure to leave them in places designed to scare the crap out of the survivors. He’s also a super-ninja, as despite being a hefty guy he’s never heard sneaking up on someone, ever, and manages to virtually teleport himself from place to place (he kills a guy in the bathroom, then evidently hops out of a window to get himself round to the front door to kill the person he’s accurately predicted will be going there next).

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It looks a lot nicer than parts 2 and 3, so congrats to the technical people, and with the fun actor choices, it’s easily the best of the series so far (not a ringing endorsement). The use of Corey Feldman at the end is a surprisingly bold choice too…and Jason is definitely, honest, no fooling, dead this time. One story about the filming makes me unusually well-disposed to it, though. Judie Aronson filmed a scene on the lake in the middle of a freezing cold December night, and was so cold she started crying. The scumbag director didn’t care, naturally, but Ted White, the guy playing Jason, threatened to quit on the spot if she wasn’t given breaks from the extreme cold (she actually caught hypothermia). Good work Mr White! And look at that face above, she’d clearly stopped caring by that point.

 

Rating: thumbs in the middle

Friday The 13th Part 3 (1982)

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3D! 3D! 3D!

I’m firmly of the opinion that modern “3D” is every bit as much a money-grabbing gimmick as the red-n-green glasses of years gone by, but none of them, not even the old 50s ones like “Creature from the Black Lagoon”, treated it as blatantly as this movie does. A good 5 minutes or so of screentime is devoted to people just pointing stuff at the camera (baseball bats, juggling balls, yo-yos) and a substantial portion more is devoted to the implements our friend Jason Voorhees shoves through various nubile teenagers, with an assist from occasional body parts flying at us.

Does anyone care about the plot? And I’m definitely including the people who made this film in that question. To rub our noses in how little they care, we’re given a recap of the climax of part 2, where we see the dumb survivor swing a machete into Jason’s neck. He’s done, right? Of course not – in footage presumably filmed at the same time specifically for this sequel, we see Jason pull the machete out of his neck and crawl away. To handily illustrate it’s very soon afterwards, a redneck couple (we’re still in New Jersey, right?) are watching the news about the slaughter at the lake, and Jason, passing through, offs them for perhaps very important reasons, just ones he chooses not to share with the audience.

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That’s all preamble, though! Why am I using exclamation marks, this movie is dull as hell! In an opening half-hour that’s impossible to take seriously once you’ve seen “Cabin In The Woods”, we meet part 3’s cannon fodder, who are…some asshole stereotypes. This movie is so old that the stoner in it still dresses like a Cheech and Chong style hippie (and appears a decade older than anyone else in the cast). There’s a super-annoying chubby nebbish, a two couples I couldn’t tell apart, and the main girl with her boyfriend, who seems a bit older and is constantly trying to cajole her into sex. It’s definitely portrayed like we’re supposed to be cheering him on, but put him, completely unchanged, in a 2015 movie and he’d come across creepy, like most of the way to being a date-rapist.

As they go for their holiday in the lovely community of Spree Kill, New Jersey, we meet perhaps the greatest “you’re all going to die!” guy of all time, just asleep in the middle of the road, and a small multi-ethnic biker gang who get into a feud with the campers before being impaled on things. Jason’s progress through the cast is grim, relentless and pointless. The sole point of interest anywhere in this movie is giving Jason his most iconic prop – the hockey mask. Sort of surprising to discover that Jason isn’t fully Jason until an hour into part 3 of the franchise, but he’s never far from it from this moment on.

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With some franchises (“Halloween” being the prime example) you can tell how they started off very strong, but quickly went into the gutter. With “Friday The 13th”, they started off as garbage and stayed there. Even with such a low standard to live up to, this movie still fails though, managing the impressive feat of being the worst of the first three. Am I asking too much for there to be a reason Jason’s killing people? Any reason would do, to be honest. He’s just wandering along, passes the farmhouse and goes “eh, I *just* killed another bunch of teenagers, but…”  Apparently, a number of cuts were made to the deaths to avoid an X rating, leaving the gore (surely the sole reason people went to see this rubbish) curiously absent at times.

Like vampires and zombies have been used to represent all sorts of dark fears (vampires = AIDS; zombies = the risen working class; and so on) I sometimes wonder what slashers are supposed to represent. The only thing I can think of is the right-wing fear of having fun, so kids die for having sex, partying, taking drugs, or whatever. Slasher movies are incredibly conservative movies, for the most part. The problem with that line of thinking, related to “Friday The 13th Part 3”, is that everyone dies, apart from one girl who appears driven irredeemably mad by it all. There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it.

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This was intended as an end to the series, back when a trilogy had some sort of meaning. But it made a bunch of money and here we are, nine more movies, some books and comics, and a TV show, later, with the 6-year gap since the last movie indicating we’re probably a few years away from yet another franchise reboot. Hurrah!

Rating: thumbs down

Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981)

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This is perhaps the most generic slasher movie of all time. The genre had been around a few years by this point, long enough to establish the rules that “Scream” parodied, and this one sticks to them all. You could, should you be in a rush to do something more interesting, watch the first 15 minutes and accurately guess everything that follows.

However, during those movies that play out 100% as you expect them to, your mind tends to wander, and questions can be asked. What did Jason get up to in the 5 years between the end of the first film and the beginning of this? How did he turn from a kid of around 10 (despite being born over 20 years previously) to a full grown, rather large adult in those years? Wouldn’t the police have taken Mrs Voorhees’ head with them before? Is a place full of muddy paths really wheelchair-safe?

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After summarily dispatching the Final Girl from part 1 (I think it’s great that Jason, having never had a moment’s schooling and having lived in the forest entirely alone for the majority of his life, was able to find out the identity of the person he failed to kill before, track her down, finish the job then go back to the camp) we’re back at the same lake, although different camp, for part 2. It’s a counsellor training centre, which strikes me as a baffling concept – where are they being trained for? I thought the whole point of camp counsellors was that they were bored / broke high school students, not trained professionals? See, those questions keep coming.

And really, that’s it. Jason, who everyone mockingly remembers wasn’t even the villain in part 1, is here dressed up as a carbon copy (deliberate, apparently) of the baddie from 1976’s “The Town That Dreaded Sundown”, no hockey mask yet. The first half of the movie is setup, the second half is payoff, with Jason grimly plowing his way through the teens. No rhyme or reason to this lot of killing, though, as the rain falls on the just and unjust alike (Bible quotes! It’s edu-tainment here at the ISCFC). The car full of people who get the drunkest survive, and the super-nice guy in the wheelchair gets a machete to the face, for example.

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Part 1 treated women fairly, for a slasher movie. Part 2, on the other hand, gets em out of their clothes as quickly as possible, so there’s multiple bikini scenes, undressing scenes, and the odd bit of full frontal nudity – but even with all that, there was an example edited out, featuring actress Marta Kober who was underage at the time (and obviously so, it was a little creepy even seeing her in a bikini).

This is a thoroughly rotten film. First up, no reason is given for why Jason is killing this group of teens. Think of the other great slasher villains – Freddy Krueger, at least for the first three or four movies, is getting revenge on the people (or the children of the people) who killed him; Michael Myers sort of goes after his relatives; Pinhead only messes with you if you’ve sought him out in the first place; Angela (“Sleepaway Camp”) has a moral code, of sorts. Jason Voorhees is just very, very interested in summer camp safety? If there’s no reason for any of it, then it’s hard to cheer for or against anyone, or to view this movie as anything other than a particularly joyless murder delivery system.

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Secondly is the way it’s filmed. We’re treated to multiple POV shots, and the heavy implication is this is Jason’s view…only sometimes the POV camera is just a style and there’s no-one there, sometimes it’s a horny guy sneaking up on his girlfriend (seriously, dumbasses, how about picking a different way to go a-courting when the murders start?), and it’s only Jason about half the time. It’s a boring trick and once the movie’s fooled us the first time, there’s no sense of drama about times 2 to 10. We also get a heck of a lot of shots of Jason’s boots, as the movie spends the first 1:10 hiding Jason’s appearance from us. Now, given the murder of the woman at the beginning only makes sense if this is Jason, finishing off his Mum’s work, hiding his identity from us seems pretty pointless, and not something a film as relentlessly dumb as this would be able to pull off.

This movie is right down there – competently made, I suppose, but manages to avoid even the modest artistry the first movie gave us, but does not avoid being relentlessly boring. If you really, really like seeing teenagers get murdered in a variety of different ways…and I mean a lot…then there’s still better choices. Absolutely worthless in every way.

Rating: thumbs down

Christmas Movies: Silent Night (2012)

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The interesting thing – I can’t believe I’m going to say about this – about the first two “Silent Night, Deadly Night” movies was they were largely from the perspective of the slasher. I’m sure there are others, but anyone who calls themselves a “slasher movie expert” ought to reconsider their life choices, and those are two of the only ones I can think of.

Anyway, the rest of the series was a weird mixed bag, but none of them were really what you’d call a traditional slasher movie. And that’s what this one is, without a doubt – with all the stupidity and poor character choices that entails. It sort of spins off the plotline of part 1 – where a guy in a Santa suit kills those people he’s deemed “naughty” – and features recreations of a few scenes (most well-done, the one where a fornicating woman’s impaled on antlers, but her younger sister is left alone, because she’s innocent) plus at least one in-joke, where a deputy taking out the trash goes “what is this, garbage day?”

The perspective character in this is Deputy Aubrey Bradimore (Jaime King), whose husband died last Christmas. She’s debating whether she’s got the stomach to be a police officer, but she’s got a boss who needs her there on Christmas Eve to police some Santa Festival the town has. That boss is Sheriff Malcolm McDowell, whose performance is so magnificently bizarre – on purpose, I’m sure – that he almost elevates the film single-handedly. Then there’s a bunch of characters who exist solely to be red herrings (including a great turn from Donal Logue), with the sheer number of them perhaps being a throwback to part 5.

What you get in this is a disappointingly 80s view of slasher film women, as they exist solely to be titillating or brutally murdered, most notably one scene where a topless girl runs through a motel’s grounds, then a Christmas tree lot, before being fed into a wood chipper. The gore is really, really gory too – people’s heads get split open, limbs get hacked off, their faces get beaten in, and so on, and we see all of it. Not my cup of tea, to be honest, but it’s certainly well done.

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I thought for a moment that the movie was going to end without telling us who the killer was, which would have certainly been an unusual move, but in the end it’s just some guy whose Dad got killed in front of him after trying to murder a load of people dressed in a Santa outfit, so then he became a chimney repair-man so he could go into peoples’ homes, find out if they’d been naughty or nice and kill them. Or maybe the chimney repair thing was a Christmas joke. Who knows? Perhaps the lack of sensible motivation is a joke too. He does kill several people in a motel room with no chimney, who are from out of town, so he’d have absolutely no idea they were there, though. When was the last time you had your chimney repaired? If you’re in that very small sub-group of “sinners with faulty home heating systems” then you’re doomed, other than that, do what the hell you like!

Where’s he cleaning his outfit? Santa gets his beard drenched in blood at least twice, but by the next scene it’s always pristine white again. And it’s not a cheap off-the-shelf one, either. These are the sorts of things people think about when the movie is too stupid to hold their attention.

If you really like mostly naked women being murdered in graphic, excruciating detail, then pop this film on. If you happen to like films with arcs and interesting plots and where the filmmakers gave a damn, it might be best to look elsewhere. Oh, a really annoying pre-teen gets cattle-prodded to death! Sorry, I forgot about that bit. If it had carried on from there, I might have liked it more!

Rating: thumbs down

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