TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE HORROR SHOW (1989)

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THE HORROR SHOW (1989)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

80s horror has Det. Lucas McCarthy (Lance Henriksen) finally catching vicious serial killer Max Jenke (Brion James). Jenke is sentenced to die in the electric chair, but doesn’t go down easily. McCarthy is continually plagued by nightmares of the killer’s exploits, but soon finds out that it may not be simply bad dreams, but Jenke himself haunting the detective and his family for revenge.

Flick is directed by James Isaac from a script by Leslie Bohem and Allyn Warner, the latter credited under the pseudonym of “Alan Smithee.” It’s a silly horror flick with a ridiculous plot, but entertaining, as the filmmakers were smart enough to play it quite straight. There is some gory violence and some intense scenes, but the plot gets sillier as, much like another dream demon, Freddy Krueger, McCarthy can only stop Jenke by bringing him back into the physical world and blowing him away. It’s ludicrous, but still amuses and the gore and FX are handled very effectively. There are some nasty dream sequences and the cast all play their parts well. There is an moody score by the legendary Harry Manfredini and some nice cinematography by Mac Ahlberg to ad atmosphere.

Lance Henriksen is always the pro and no matter how over-the-top things get, He gives McCarthy an intensity and strength, yet also makes it believable that Jenke scares him. As “Meat Clever Max” Jenke, Brion James is in Krueger territory being way over-the-top and having a good time with it. He makes Jenke a scary dude, even if his antics are familiar. Rita Taggart is good as Lucas’ caring and concerned wife, Donna. Dedee Pfeiffer (Vamp), in her second only horror flick, is sweet and sexy as their teen daughter, Bonnie. She’s a prime target of Jenke. Rounding out is Aron Eisenberg as her younger sibling, Scott. Unfortunately he’s a bit annoying. There is also a smaller role played by Day of the Dead’s Terry Alexander, as McCarthy’s ill-fated partner, Casey. A good cast that play the material straight and help it be far more effective than it has any right to be.

Overall, this is a silly flick in true 80s style that gets a lot of milage out of it’s ridiculous story by simply playing it straight. It has some nasty violence and manages to be effective, despite it’s silly and familiar premise. Not a classic, but an amusing example of 80s horror, especially in the later half of the decade where colorful and over-the-top was more the style.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) meat cleavers.

 

 

 

 

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HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY TO FRIDAY THE 13th!

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The woman that started it all, Jason’s mom, Mrs. Voorhees!

40 years ago today the original Friday the 13th was released in theaters and a horror classic, a legendary franchise and a horror icon were born! Sure, Jason didn’t come along as the killer till part 2, but this is the installment were his iconic character first came to life! HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY FRIDAY THE 13th!

-MonsterZero NJ

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE PROWLER and FRIDAY THE 13th:THE FINAL CHAPTER

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NYC born Joseph Zito

MonsterZero NJ’s Saturday Night Double Feature is back! This time our double feature consists of two 80s slasher classics from director Joseph Zito. Zito made three horror films in his career, including the 1980 Bloodrage, before leaving the genre to make action movies with the likes of Chuck Norris and Dolph Lundgren. Shame, these two are among the best examples of the slasher genre of the late 70s and early 80s.

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THE PROWLER (1981)

This 1981 slasher opens up in 1945 as soldiers are coming home from the war and we hear a young woman reading a ‘dear John’ break-up letter, intended for a boyfriend away on duty. We cut to Avalon Bay which is having it’s annual college graduation dance and a young couple leave the dance for a romantic walk. Their romance is cut short by someone dressed as a combat-ready soldier, who promptly runs the embracing couple through with a pitch fork, leaving a rose in the female victim’s hand. We then pick our story up in 1980 where the Avalon Bay Graduation Dance is being revived after having been halted 35 years earlier by the father of the murdered girl, Major Chatham (Lawrence Tierney). Someone is reviving another activity from that night, as a killer dressed in military gear descends on the partying co-eds with bayonet and pitchfork and starts leaving a bloody trail of bodies and roses behind. Can sweet Pam (Vicky Dawson) and her deputy boyfriend Mark (Christopher Goutman) stop this deranged killer, or will they join his list of victims?

Directed by Joseph Zito, who is mostly known for directing the fourth Friday The 13th flick and two of Chuck Norris’ biggest hits Missing In Action and Invasion U.S.A., this bloody slasher follows the 80s slasher format very well. We get a bunch of nubile young intended victims being stalked by an unbalanced killer with a grudge, who is dispatching them in gruesome and versatile fashion. We also get a pretty young heroine to serve as our ‘final girl’ and the doomed slutty girls who’ll show us their boobs! Zito also manages to serve up some suspense and some tension, too. He’s not the most stylish director, but his directing here is far less by-the-numbers than his Norris action flicks. And there is some decent cinematography from frequent Zito D.O.P. João Fernandes. The horror genre seems to suit Zito better than his generic action movies. The film has some atmosphere, a touch of Scooby-Doo-ish mystery and it is an entertaining 90 minutes of horror that represents the era well. It’s not perfect, we really aren’t given enough suspects, or red herrings, to make it really interesting, though when we do get the big reveal, it is still kind of a surprise. We never really get to know the victims all that well, so most of their deaths have little impact other than Tom Savini’s still effective gore FX.

The cast are fine, even though we only really get to know Pam and Mark. Actors Dawson and Goutman make them likable enough. The rest are generic horny college kids, who are there to be victims and they serve that purpose well. Vet Tierney doesn’t get to have any lines, despite the film implying he’s a suspect, so not sure why they even hired a name actor for the part.

In conclusion, The Prowler is still one of the better slashers of this era. Maybe not in the same league as Halloween, or the original Friday The 13th, but it is a solid enough slasher and is a fun and nostalgic sample of the type of film made in the early 80s before films like Evil Dead, ScannersRe-Animator and A Nightmare On Elm Street took horror in new directions. A fun, gory example of what made 80s slashers fun. Extra credit for filming in my home stomping ground of New Jersey!

Rated a solid 3 (out of 4) pitchforks!

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WARNING: this trailer does show a lot of plot elements…

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FRIDAY THE 13th: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984)

Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter is one of my favorites of the sequels and the one that comes closest to matching the original. The film saw not only a return to the more serious tone and atmosphere of the original film, but with the return of Tom Savini to the make-up FX duties, also brought back the more intense and graphic kills and gore.

This entry opens right where Part 3 left off with Jason (stuntman Ted White) and his victims carted off to the morgue from the Higgins place only to have Jason revive and escape, but not before gruesomely murdering two horny hospital employees. We then switch to two houses deep in the woods near Crystal Lake, one occupied by single mother Mrs. Jarvis (Joan Freeman) and her daughter Trish (Kimberly Beck) and young son Tommy (Corey Feldman), the other occupied by a group of partying youths on a make-out and drinking getaway. A certain someone has returned home to his stomping grounds and now has targeted both young partiers and innocent family alike. Will any of them survive his relentless rage?

This installment brought in The Prowler director Joseph Zito and he brings the suspense, atmosphere and intensity to the proceedings that made that 1981 slasher one of the more entertaining of the time period. He comes very close to providing an equal to the original Friday with what was supposed to be Jason’s final film. The kills are brutal, as well, and with Savini’s return, the make-up FX are quite inventive and gory. Zito leaves some of the lighter humor that appeared in Part 3 behind and it keeps the atmosphere taunt and foreboding, as it should be. The film also added an interesting plot element in the character of Rob (Erich Anderson), who at first seems like a hunter/camper, but turns out to be the vengeful brother of a girl murdered by Jason (Sandra played by Marta Kober from Part 2) and he is now stalking the lethal serial killer with the intent of ending his reign of terror. One of the film’s few faults is the confrontation between these two could have been a bit more epic. The character of young Tommy (Feldman) being a bit of a geek/make-up artist also adds a fun twist to the proceedings.

As for the rest of the characters, this bunch are a lot livelier then most of the generic victims and with the inclusion of Crispin Glover in one of his most ‘normal’ roles as a shy teen and 80s movie fixture Judy Aronson as a one of the babes, we get a nice group of likable, horny teens to fall under Jason’s varied weapons. It gives their deaths impact because we like them and the young cast give them life and personality. Also stars Hell Night’s Peter Barton as one of the party goers who meets Jason’s wrath and the score is one again by Harry Manfredini.

A really good entry in the series and by far the best of the sequels.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: There is a small mistake here in this installment. When driving past a graveyard, they spot Mrs. Voorhees’ tombstone which has her date of death being 1979. But, as we all know, she actually died on Friday June 13th, 1980 by having her head removed by final girl Alice in the original Friday The 13th.

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) hockey masks

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BARE BONES: ROCK PAPER SCISSORS (2017)

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ROCK PAPER SCISSORS (2017)

Flick is also known as Rock Paper Dead, but it’s real selling point is that it is the return of legendary horror director Tom Holland (the original Fright Night and Child’s Play) after a two decade absence. Story unfolds as serial killer Peter Harris (Luke Macfarlane) has been apprehended by police. He spends years in therapy and is finally released by Dr. Evelyn Bauer (Tatum O’Neal) as cured. Peter goes back to live in his family house where he is haunted by his past and pursued by both a pretty neighbor (Jennifer Titus) with her own agenda and a vengeful cop (Michael Madsen). Will Peter return to old habits, or will his past catch up with him first?

Holland directs from a mixed bag script by Kerry Fleming and Victor Miller and thus the film is a bit uneven, despite the director still having got it. There are some very disturbing moments in the film and some very creepy stuff. The flick has some gruesome gore and Holland gives the film atmosphere. There are also some borderline silly moments, too and the performances are uneven as the story. Lead Macfarlane plays his part well, as a disturbed man trying to fight off bad thoughts and habits, while Titus is quite uneven, especially when asked to go over-the-top, and Madsen is playing the same part he always plays. He’s phoning it in. Overall, this flick is worth a look and shows Holland still can make an effective and entertaining flick. He probably should have taken a crack at the script, as he wrote, or co-wrote, his two biggest classics. Curious why no noise was made about this flick with a heavy-hitter like Holland returning to the director’s chair? Also features a score by the legendary Harry Manfredini (the original Friday the 13th flicks).

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE HILLS HAVE EYES part 2 (1985)

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THE HILLS HAVE EYES part 2 (1985)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

One of Craven’s worst films, unnecessary sequel is most notable for being the first film released on VHS and into theaters on the same day. I myself was working at a Palmer Video at the time and remember it coming in for rent on the same day it opened at the Paramus Century Twin theater.

The story, written by Craven, takes place 8 years later with survivor Bobby (again Robert Houston) in a relationship with reformed cannibal clan member Ruby (a returning Janus Blythe) who is now called Rachel and the two have a motocross bike team and have invented a new fuel to race with. As fate would have it, there is a race they are participating in right in the area of Bobby’s ordeal with the cannibals. He refuses to go there, but Ruby takes the team on a bus and proceeds. It’s no surprise that they take a shortcut through the desert, the bus breaks down and now the bike team and Ruby/Rachel are trapped in an area stalked by the surviving Pluto (Michael Berryman) and his massive uncle Reaper (7’4″ actor John Bloom) who, one by one, slaughter the team and take their bodies into their underground slaughterhouse to make into happy meals.

Craven himself, is not proud of this film. It was a paycheck job and he was not given enough money to complete it and had to use a lot of flashbacks from the first film to get the film to feature length…and it is evident, especially in the first third. The film plays out more like a routine 80s slasher with Pluto and Reaper, one by one, killing off members of the biker team in various gory ways in an abandoned mining camp. The slasher vibe is strengthened by the presence of Harry Manfredini’s score which is very similar to his work on the Friday The 13th series. As for the proceedings, the story makes no sense, as Papa Jupiter’s father, in the first film, never mentions a second son, and why you would leave out a seven foot sibling in the telling, is silly. That and if Bobby is still traumatized by the events of the first flick, then why is he dating an ex-cannibal clan member? The film follows the generic slasher formula, quite closely and has little suspense, as it is obvious by the scene set-ups who’s getting it next. At least there is some effective gore when they do get it and if anything, the film moves quickly. Having a blind girl as our main heroine (Tamara Stafford) has little impact on the story, as her more acute hearing only works when the plot needs it to. The inclusion of Ruby doesn’t add much either, although she does have some fun fight scenes with her former clan members.

Cast are not really all that memorable aside for the iconic Berryman back as Pluto. At over seven feet, John Bloom certainly is physically impressive, but doesn’t really give Reaper the personality needed to put him anywhere near the slasher hall of fame. Tamara Stafford makes a fine enough heroine as Cass and she is pretty, likable and shows resilience like a good final girl should, especially with the character’s handicap. A returning Janus Blythe is almost unrecognizable as the now civilized Ruby, but she has some fun scenes with her former family members. They should have focused more on her physical scraps with Pluto and Reaper, as they were one of the more entertaining aspects of the film and one which they wasted overall, as Ruby becomes a second tier character behind Cass. Supporting players are fine as generic slaughter fodder and are just stereotypical characters in a slasher flick, nothing more.

This is a bad movie. There is some entertainment value from the slasher aspects, if you are a fan of 80s slashers, but overall, it is every bit the paycheck job it’s said to be. The Hills Have Eyes is a cult classic horror and it’s sequel is a sad example of what happens when a filmmaker makes a film he doesn’t want to, in order to pay the bills…and a film he was barely given the resources to finish. If you are a completest of either Craven, or 80s slashers, sure, give it a watch, but don’t expect much at all.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 1 and 1/2 (out of 4) Plutos.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)

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SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

British/American co-production is a routine and silly slasher flick that for some reason needed three writers and three directors (Mark Ezra, George Dugdale, Peter Litten) to churn out a reasonably forgettable horror with a very generic plot.

Flick has a gang of popular high schoolers led by Carol (British babe Caroline Munro) playing not one but two mean spirited pranks on awkward chemistry nerd Marty (Simon Scuddamore). The second leaves him horribly scarred and institutionalized. Ten years later the same gang is invited to a high school reunion, only to arrive and find their former school empty and abandoned. They investigate anyway and find it indeed set up for a celebration. The reunion may actually be a trap, though, as only the members of this clique were invited to this shindig. Now someone has locked them in on the eve of April Fool’s Day and is stalking and killing the popular crowd in cruel and bloody ways. Has Marty returned for revenge after all these years…or has someone else got a grudge against those who ruled the school back in the day?

This is a very boring and routine slasher that offers nothing new to the genre. It was filmed in England and cast with English actors, while trying to pass itself off as American. Epic Fail. The actors barely hide their accents, one doesn’t try to at all and the location has a very European look to it. The film is very jokey and silly for the most part but, then suddenly expects us to take it seriously when the murders start and the hunting down of the survivors begins by our jester-masked killer. It’s shocking this bland and style-less slasher took three people to script and direct, when it barely gives the impression that there was even one creative mind on-set. The accents aside, the acting is bad and most of the cast look like they’re pushing forty much less their late twenties. Munro was 36 at the time. There is some decent gore but, the killings are preposterous and would take a lot of work and money to set up the elaborate demises such as pumping acid into just the right plumbing and someone drinking just the right beer. There is a lot of convenient actions by our victims to ensure they are in the right place and time to meet their ends, too. Even in a silly flick like this, it’s just too hard to swallow. When the film tries to be a bit clever in it’s final scenes, it even blows that, too. Aside from a score by Friday The 13th composer Harry Manfredini, there is little to recommend here.

Quite obviously, I found little to like about this film even with buxom bird Caroline Munro as it’s lead. The story is routine and uninspired, it has a jokey tone to it and the British actors are wooden and doing a poor job of trying to pass themselves off as Yanks. There is some good gore but, most of the kills are a bit far-fetched and hard to believe that circumstances worked out so perfectly for them to occur. Characters seem to walk into their demises…as if scripted…and it took three people to write that unimaginative script. Definitely one of the lesser and forgettable 80s slashers. Not even the nostalgia factor could boost this one.

-MonsterZero NJ

1 and 1/2 jester killers.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: SWAMP THING and THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING

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This week’s double feature puts together two films based on DC Comics Swamp Thing character that were made during the 80s. One directed by horror legend Wes Craven and the other by prolific B-Movie director Jim Wynorski. So, head into the bayou for some comic book-style fun and action!…

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SWAMP THING (1982)

As a big fan of Wes Craven it is rare to hear me say the legendary director may not have been right for a project, but this might be one of the few cases. I saw this flick with friends at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. and wasn’t all that impressed with his take on one of the more bizarre comic book heroes. It’s not a bad film, but it seemed to take itself a bit too seriously and didn’t have the fun it needed to really win me over.

The movie written and directed by Craven tells the comic-based story of government agent Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) who is sent into the Louisiana swamps to work with brilliant scientist Alec Holland (Ray Wise). Holland is doing genetic research to find a way to combine plant and animal DNA to make hardier plants to grow food in harsher environments (Monsanto anyone?). His resulting formula is a volatile one, but appears to allow plants to grow wherever it touches. When his lab is attacked by the evil Dr. Arcane (Louis Jourdan) and his mercenary thugs, Holland is covered in his serum by accident and sent running into the swamp ablaze. Cable is the only one who escapes alive and is now being pursued by Arcane and his men for the notebook she has recovered. Unknown to her and Arcane, Holland has undergone a transformation, merging him with the fauna of the swamp, and now he seeks to rescue Cable and exact revenge against Arcane as the powerful but noble Swamp Thing (stuntman Dick Durock)!

There are two big issues with this flick that stand in it’s way of being a far more entertaining movie. First off is that Craven had yet to really hit his stride with A Nightmare On Elm Street and directs this with the heavy hand of one of his early horror flicks. True, the comic has a serious atmosphere, but his script and tone take things far too seriously and the film is humorless and has the very moderate pace of this era’s horror movies. Adding comic book-style wipes between scenes doesn’t a comic book-style film make and this is simply too morose to really be fun and the action scenes too by-the-numbers. The other problem is that the make-up/creature FX are terrible. I understand that the Swamp Thing costume was originally made for stuntman Bob Minor, who, for some reason, couldn’t do the film and there was no time or money to build a new suit, so it was ‘altered’ to fit Durock*. But even so, the costume is flat and rubbery and just looks awful. The creature costume for the transformed Arcane for the climactic fight is equally bad and when your main character is a man in a rubber suit, that suit needs to look good as he is on screen quite a lot. It kills the illusion that the costume is so bad looking. Also not helping is Harry Manfredini’s Friday The 13th-ish score witch adds to the horror film atmosphere instead of lightening things up a bit and adding a little energy to the proceedings. I get that this comic character certainly has horror film elements, but the film just takes itself far too seriously to be really fun. It looks good and has a good enough cast, but is too slow paced and just doesn’t have enough fun for even a horror-themed superhero like Swamp Thing.

As for that cast, Ray Wise is fine as Holland though he has little screen time to really solidify the character. Durock actually does a nice job emoting with his eyes behind all the rubber and does make a noble hero as the transformed Swamp Thing. Barbeau does her tough chick thing from Escape From New York again here, but it works OK and this was the legendary actress in her prime, so she does provide some eye-candy along with her hard-nosed heroine…who also has her damsel moments, too. Louis Jourdan seems to be the only one who realizes this flick needs a little over-the-top and chews up the scenery just right as the evil genius Anton Arcane. He makes a good villain surrounded by bland characters. Rounding out is Last House On The Left villain David Hess and Don’t Answer The Phone psycho Nicholas Worth as Arcane’s lead henchmen and they are adequate though unremarkable. Some livelier performances or more larger than life characters would have really perked this film up.

In conclusion, Swamp Thing is an OK flick, but one that would have been a lot better with a bit lighter touch and a far less down-to-earth approach. The flick needed a bit more over-the-top and some of the fun and energy that Wes Craven gave Scream many years later. It’s watchable, but takes itself far too seriously to really entertain and perhaps Craven was still too early in his career to stray from his dire horror film style and tone to really give this comic book-based flick the color and life of the swamps it was set in.

* I read this account of the Bob Minor/Dick Durock costume issue in either Fangoria or Starlog back in the 80s when the film was released.-MZNJ

2 and 1/2 Swamp Things

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THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING (1989)

Seven years after Craven’s film, the guardian of the swamps returned in a film that was a lot more fun and over-the-top…maybe a bit too much so, in comparison with the more serious tone of the comic, but it is silly good fun and B-Movie director Jim Wynorski (Chopping Mall) cranked up the camp and gave us a flick that is giddily comic book with a touch of James Bond…and we got a far more convincing suit for returning Dick Durock to wear.

Sequel has the villainous Dr. Arcane (Louis Jourdan) back in action and trying to hunt down Holland/Swamp Thing in order to use his genetics to help Arcane and his beautiful assistant Lana (Sarah Douglas) defeat the aging process. At the same time Arcane’s ditzy valley girl step-daughter Abigail (Heather Locklear) comes to visit to ask questions about her mother’s death and one of Arcane’s mutant experiments has escaped and is chowing-down on anyone who gets too close to the swamp. But, Abby’s DNA could also be a help to Arcane’s work and the young girl has captured Swamp Thing’s heart, guaranteeing a showdown between these two mortal enemies once more!

While, overall, Wynorski and writers Neil Cuthbert and Grant Morris may have taken this goofy, fun flick a little too far in the opposite direction of Craven’s dour version, but it is a unapologetic good time with it’s bombastic creature battles and explosion filled action scenes. Gone are the bland henchman and stiff scientists, now Arcane is surrounding by a bevy of armed beauties, including exploitation film fixture/Penthouse model Monique Gabrielle and campy mad scientists like Ace Mask’s Dr. Rochelle. The tone of the film is a mix of the 60s Batman TV show and a Roger Moore James Bond movie, complete with underground lair and  dozens of uniformed soldiers more than anxious to use their machine guns. Wynorski gives it a fast pace and a candy-colored production design aided by Zoran Hochstatter’s cinematography and the film’s cartoonish atmosphere is enhanced by Chuck Cirino’s lively electronic score. The film may be silly, but far more resembles the panels of a comic book than Craven’s far too grounded flick. The creature FX are far better than the first flick and Durock really looks like the embodiment of the comic character with the much improved suit. He has a couple of amusing monsters to battle, though, he could have used a far more lethal opponent at the climax than the transformed, but still asthmatic, Dr. Rochelle. Wynorski is a B-Movie director through and through and he films this flick with enough explosions, carnage and cleavage as the PG rating would hold and brings it in at a tight 88 minutes. The movie never overstays it’s welcome.

Acting-wise, the movie has little to brag about. Louis Jourdan is once again a fun villain who understands just how serious to play it and how much scenery to chew on. Durock again emotes very well under the rubber and, while I’m not sure if it was his voice used, overall creates a very noble and likable plant man/hero. Douglas is sexy and sinister as Arcane’s assistant Dr. Lana Zurrell and these three help keep things somewhat respectable in the performance dept. Not fairing so well are Loclkear who just mugs for the camera, though is a good sport considering her dialogue and having to romp in the swamp with a 7 foot plant man. The rest of the acting is shamelessly over-the-top such as Ace Mask’s Dr. Rochelle, Joey Sagal as security head Gunn and the lovely buxom Ms. Gabrielle…who was hired because she is lovely and buxom and not to perform Hamlet. Thanks to the giddy over-the-top tone, some of the bad acting fits right in.

I like this flick. It’s certainly an 80s guilty pleasure action flick and a fun movie if you cut it some slack and go with it’s outrageously cartoonish style. Sure some of the acting is pretty bad, but as it does resemble the 60s Batman series but with more of an 80s slant, it fits right in with the unabashedly goofy tone. It’s a lot of fun and best enjoyed with a few of your favorite brews.

This movie was followed in 1990 by a TV series that lasted for 3 seasons and not only saw Durock return to the role once more, but found a happy medium for it’s tone which was more serious than Wynorski’s flick, but not quite as droll as Craven’s movie. It also stared Kari Wurher as Abigail and Mark Lindsay Chapman taking over as Arcane.

3 Swamp Things!

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY (1993)

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JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY (1993)

NOTE: As stated at the end of my Part 8 review, Horror You Might Have Missed will cover the rest of my Friday The 13th retrospective as the series would pick up in the 90s and 2000s under New Line CInema who bought the rights after Takes Manhattan. I consider anything after 1990 as more current and doesn’t fall under my nostalgia classification. -MZNJ

New Line Cinema bought the rights to the Friday The 13th series after Paramount gave up after the awful Friday The 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan and I’m not sure what their intentions were, as this is subtitled The Final Friday yet, it’s goofy climax implies we may not have seen the last of Mr. Voorhees quite yet…though they all sort of imply that anyway. Whatever their game plan, New Line’s attempt at continuing or giving closure to the warn-out series, delivered an awful mess that clearly stands as the worst of this series and not only succeeds in being even more awful than Takes Manhattan, but completely rips off the 80s cult classic The Hidden as well.

The ‘story’, if I can call it that, opens with a beautiful young woman (Julie Michaels) arriving alone at a remote cabin at Crystal Lake. Soon she is besieged by hockey mask wearing serial killer Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) and the chase is on. Jason follows her into the woods where he is ambushed and literally blown apart by a SWAT team…how many years did it take to come up with this plan? At the morgue, Jason’s shredded remains are being examined by a coroner (Richard Grant) who becomes mesmerized as Jason’s heart begins to beat by itself and, under some kind of trance, he proceeds to eat the heart and embark on a murder spree, including a fellow coroner and two security guards (one amusingly also played by Kane Hodder). We find out through bounty hunter Creighton Duke (Steven Williams)…a character that exists solely to provide exposition…that Jason wants to be reborn and he can only do that…or be destroyed for that matter…through another Voorhees. Where Duke gets his information while the rest of the world scratches it’s head over Jason’s invulnerability is anyone’s guess. Luckily this flick not only invents a half-sister, Diana (Erin Gray) for Jason, but a granddaughter, Jessica (Kari Keegan) and a baby great-granddaughter. Now Jason goes from body to body in the form of a slimy serpent-like creature trying to track his kin down and slaying everyone who gets in the way, in gruesome fashion…still with me?…So, now it’s up to Jessica’s super annoying baby daddy Steven (John D. LeMay) to try to save his ex and their offspring and destroy Jason’s heart so he may never rise again…unless the monster succeeds in being reborn first.

I really appreciate co-writer (with Dean Lorey and Jay Haguely) and director Adam Marcus trying to take this series in a different direction, but this barely coherent mess is hardly a good start. The story seems to be making things up as it goes along especially when it comes to Duke’s insightful and extensive information about Jason, which might have saved dozens of lives had he spoken up about 10 years earlier. Obviously the story adds facts and characters when it needs them to serve the plot, such as Jason’s heart only being able to be destroyed by another Voorhees…and a special dagger…though it never explains why there is so much supernatural hocus-pocus surrounding the suddenly plentiful Voorhees family, or where this special blade came from. As mentioned, the whole body to body ability of Jason in slimy serpent form is directly lifted out of New Line’s own classic The Hidden,which had an alien outlaw doing that in L.A. The tone of the film is all over the place with some sequences being dead serious or viciously gory one minute and then silly and downright goofy the next (such as the duo who own the diner). With it’s wandering tone, it’s hard to connect with the flick as it can’t make up it’s mind what it wants to be. The film then comes to a really silly climax that looks like it came right out of an episode of Charmed complete with cheesy TV level animation FX. When the surprise last scene comes, it’s the coolest thing in the flick, but at that point we are too dazed by the previous 90 minutes of nonsense that we can’t even enjoy the implications.

Except for TV vet Erin Gray, whose character has far too little screen time, the cast make very little impression with LeMay being super annoying as Steven…this dude needed a punch in the face…and Williams trying to act badass for a character that basically doesn’t do much else than talk and tell other people they have to handle things. Again, his bounty hunter exists totally for exposition purposes and despite his ‘too cool’ act, he is as useful as a steak is to a vegan. At least the gore FX people did a good job and escape this garbage with their reputations intact. Despite the return of Harry Manfredini, the films has zero Friday The 13th feel which isn’t helped by the fact that Jason appears for about 5 minutes in the beginning and then about just as long in the end. It’s an awful mess of a movie that’s last few seconds lends the only clue as to why New Line even bothered to purchase the rights in the first place…and they couldn’t even use the authentic laugh in the cameo. Awful crap and one of the lowest grossing of the series!

1  hockey mask.

friday 13 p8 rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: FRIDAY THE 13th PART 6: JASON LIVES and FRIDAY THE 13th PART 7: THE NEW BLOOD

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My revisiting the Friday The 13th sequels continues.  The sixth and seventh installments fit nicely together as not only do they connect, as most of the Friday films do, but, both were efforts to breath new life into the series whose popularity was starting to wane. Part 6 brings back Jason, but has a lighter tone and a more supernatural edge to it and part 7 tries to shake things up by pitting the homicidal juggernaut against a Carrie-like telekinetic girl. While both wandered from the straight-forward horror tone of most of the previous entries, they did provide an entertainment factor of their own…

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FRIDAY THE 13th PART 6: JASON LIVES (1986)

Friday The 13th Part 6 set out to fix the wrong direction taken by Part 5 and brought back Jason to the series. But it also brought the lightest tone of the series so far with many scenes played for laughs and a more supernatural element, as Jason is now basically a zombie being brought back from the dead…and quite by accident. But despite the far less serious tone, Jason Lives is actually a fun entry that might disappoint hardcore fans, but was entertaining on it’s own.

The story picks up with Tommy Jarvis (now Thom Mathews) still haunted by Jason and deciding that destroying his corpse (which is interesting as Part 5 claimed he was cremated) would put his fear to rest. He journeys to the grave site with bud Allen (Welcome Back Kotter’s Ron Palillo) who helps him dig up the killer’s body. In an angry fit, Tommy rips off part of the fence and stabs the corpse repeatedly leaving the metal fence post in Jason’s heart. But, a storm is brewing and the post is struck by lightening and like Mary Shelley’s monster, Jason rises from the grave and murders Allen. Uh oh! Now having revived the very fiend he set out to destroy, Tommy runs to Sheriff Garris (David Kagen) of Forest Green…actually a renamed Crystal Lake trying to escape it’s infamy…to warn about Jason’s return and, is thrown in jail by the sheriff who thinks he’s crazy. The sheriff’s daughter Megan (an adorable Jennifer Cooke) takes a shine to Tommy and this brings good news and bad news for the distraught young man…the good news is Megan believes him and wants to help him, the bad news is, she is head counselor at the new Forest Green campsite and a certain revived someone is on his way home, leaving a trail of bodies as he goes. Can Tommy escape the hard-nosed sheriff and save the camp filled with nubile counselors who just welcomed a pack of young children?…or, will they all be lambs to the slaughter?

As written and directed by Tom McLoughlin, Jason Lives may not be the intense return to gory horror that this series began as, but is actually a lot of fun despite being fairly void of tension and scares. There are a lot of clever touches and McLoughlin adds a supernatural element as Tommy feels the only way to stop Jason is return his body to the watery grave he originally came from, not to mention that he was revived as a zombie by lightening right out of an old-fashioned horror flick. There are a lot of chases and while the kills are bloody, they are fairly tame compared to some of the earlier installments. Most of the proceedings are done with a humorous touch or for outright laughs, but it is never insulting, nor does it make a joke out of the material. McLoughlin is having fun and giving the series a lighter entry, which is welcome as it does freshen things up a bit, though surely disappointing the real hardcore fan base. The director still manages to have some intensity and excitement and, to be honest, it may not be the horror we wanted, but it is a good time.

The cast are especially lively and seem to be having a ball with their roles. Mathews plays it straight as the hero trying to convince others they are in danger from a boogeyman most think is an urban legend. Cooke is adorable and hot as the sexy but strong-willed sheriff’s daughter, who isn’t afraid to rebel against her dad and break a few laws herself to piss him off. Kagen overdoes it a bit as the jerk of a sheriff, but the character is a jerk, so it works. The supporting cast, including 80s film hottie Darcy DeMoss, all give the characters some spunk and liveliness which obviously helps you to like them and gives their fates impact. The added mix of having little kids in the camp this time also adds a new element to play with, as one little girl keeps seeing ‘a monster’ at her cabin window…and of course they all think it’s a figment of her imagination. Ha!… joke’s on them!

All in all, this is an entertaining entry that has fun with the traditions of the series and of the horror genre in general from it’s mock James Bond credits sequence featuring Jason, to poor Tommy taking the blame for the killer’s foul deeds and somehow trying to return Jason to wince he came. It’s not perfect, obviously the lighter tone keeps one from taking the proceedings too seriously and thus it neuters the threat and fear factor quite a bit and even with some new touches, we have seen most of it all before. But it is still a refreshingly fun entry and it has a good time with and not pokes fun at the series. It also made Friday The 13th feel like Friday The 13th again and even Harry Manfredini has a little fun adding touches of Berloiz’s Symphonie Fantastique to his classic score giving this colorful entry a slightly more gothic feel. A great horror?…no. A good time…definitely. I also like this entry a lot because it is the most ’80s’ of the series with a number of heavy metal songs on the soundtrack…including three by legendary rocker Alice Cooper…and the clothes and hairstyles were at the height of 80s ridiculousness. Fun!

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: Jason was actually played by two different people in this film. First by Dan Bradley, then when producers decided they didn’t quite like how he looked in the part, he was replaced by C.J. Graham. Scenes featuring both men are in the completed film. Also, director Tom McLoughlin got to ‘kill’ his own wife Nancy in the movie as she plays one of Jason’s first victims.

3 hockey masks

friday 13 original rating

 
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FRIDAY THE 13th PART 7: THE NEW BLOOD (1988)

With series box office and interest still on the decline, Friday The 13th Part 7  tried to shake things up, and in doing so, threw all attempts at keeping the series even remotely grounded out the window, by having Jason go up against a young girl with telekinetic powers. It was basically Jason v.s. Carrie and, to be honest, I liked the audacity of it and since Jason was already an invincible zombie, a psychically powerful, cute blonde wasn’t exactly going to make it any less far-fetched.

The story has troubled teen Tina Shepard (Lar Park Lincoln) returning to a house on Crystal Lake (or is it still Forrest Green?) with her mother (Susan Blu) and her shady psychiatrist (Terry Kiser). Tina has a telekinetic ability that arises when emotionally distressed and years earlier during an argument between her parents, she lashed out at her father who was drunk and hit her mother and causes the dock he’s on to collapse, drowning her dad in the depths of the lake. To this day she is traumatized by guilt, but it is her powerful mind that the scheming Dr. Crews (Kiser) is after, not a cure to her woes. Across from their house is another filled with rowdy teens, there for a surprise party, including handsome Nick (Kevin Spirtas) who takes a liking to Tina. But after one of her sessions with the doctor, a distraught Tina rushes to the docks and tries to raise her father from the depths, but unfortunately raises Mr. Voorhees instead, who is still chained at the lake bottom, put there by Tommy Jarvis in Part 6. Oops! Now freed from his watery grave Jason begins to stalk and kill the party goers and pursue Tina and the members of her house, but this final girl has some weapons of her own and the slaughter can only lead to a showdown pitting telekinetic powers against undying rage…and garden tools. Who will win…if anyone?

This was one of my favorites of the series when I first saw it, although I found it wasn’t quite as fun as I had remembered it upon my recent revisit. This entry is directed by make-up FX man John Carl Buechler (the original Troll) and while he does a competent job, this particular flick, with it’s outlandish premise, could have used a more lively and colorful touch such as graced the previous Friday flick. Buechler returns to a dead serious tone and takes the material equally serious, but this is a film about a zombie serial killer battling a telekinetic teenager after all and begged for someone to take the story and run with it, Roger Corman style. I appreciate Buechler trying to give the series some of it’s dramatic strength back, but the story just doesn’t really live up to it potential with the deadpan approach. The climactic showdown between Tina and Jason is the only time the film has a bit of fun with it’s premise, but even that could have been a bit more creative…though it does have a few amusingly absurd moments. Despite that Buechler’s team did the make-up FX, the kills are very routine and we, for the most part, only see the aftereffects of Jason’s handiwork. Also, Jason’s ability to find completely random power tools is getting out of hand at this point and also betrays the more serious tone of the film. That and the formula is just basically getting tiresome at this point, too, another reason they just should have had a good time with the story instead of trying to recapture past gory glory.

The cast are OK. Lincoln is a brooding and troubled teen and does that fine. Kizer is a bit hammy as her psychiatrist with a personal agenda, but as the secondary villain, it works well. At least Kizer got the tone of the material and had a little fun with it. Spirtas is a handsome and adequate hero, but doesn’t have a real strong presence to make him really endearing and the rest of the secondary characters/victims are equally attractive and adequate as Jason fodder. And speaking of our iconic killer, fan favorite Kane Hodder would make the first of four appearances as Jason and cement his status as the quintessential Jason performer and Buechler’s look would become the favorite of Jason’s incarnations with it’s thick chains around the fiend’s neck evoking the Frankenstein monster. I still like this entry to a good degree, but it just wasn’t quite as fun as it certainly could have been and not as much a good time as I remembered it. Still one of the better entries, but not as high on the list as it was in 1988 when I first saw it.

3 hockey masks

friday 13 original rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: FRIDAY THE 13th PART 5: A NEW BEGINNING (1985)

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FRIDAY THE 13th PART 5: A NEW BEGINNING (1985)

Despite the last installment being titled Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter, the series was back a year later heralding a New Beginning. This new start was one of the blandest and weakest chapters in the entire saga. The film opens with young Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) staring at Jason’s grave and witnessing in horror as he rises from it, slaughtering two would-be grave robbers and then coming for him. We realize it’s just a dream and the institutionalized Tommy (John Shepherd) is now full grown and still haunted by the nightmare of his encounter with Crystal Lake’s most infamous resident. As our story begins, Tommy is being sent to the Pinehurst Halfway House, a home for troubled youths where they are sent to be rehabilitated and returned to society. But Tommy’s dreams and hallucinations of Jason continue and when he witnesses the murder of one of the youths by another, it seems to be a trigger for a new killing spree by some unknown assailant who begins to slaughter the halfway house members and the locals, one by one in gruesome ways. Did seeing the death send the volatile Tommy over the edge?…is there a new killer out there?…or has Jason somehow returned from the grave as Tommy fears?

This uninspired 5th installment was directed by Danny Steinmann, who also directed the Linda Blair revenge flick Savage Streets and apparently got his start in porn. Either way he is a competent enough director, but nothing more, as the film is extremely generic and despite an abundant body count, the kills are all rather routine and there is little suspense or tension until the last few minutes…and even that has a ‘been there done that’ quality to it as it is set in a barn like the climax of Part 3. The film also completely lacks the feel of a Friday The 13th film despite still being scored by Harry Manfredini and following the formula very closely. Also, the tone is very uneven as one minute things are dead serious, then the next we get the antics of cartoonish characters to disrupt the atmosphere like an annoying redneck mother and son who have no impact on the plot. They are disruptive and there only for body count purposes and even their deaths make no sense upon learning the killer’s motives. In fact, a lot of characters deaths make no sense when the killer’s identity and motive are reveled. Was he simply bored?

The cast are fine enough with their generic characters with Shepherd giving us an adequately troubled and sympathetic Tommy, one we feel sorry for, but also suspect. Melanie Kinnaman is pretty and holds her own as Pam, who helps run the house…though you’d think a woman surrounded by delinquent teens would wear a bra, especially if it’s going to rain. Rounding out the leads is Shavar Ross who is lively and endearing as Reggie or ‘Reckless’, a young boy who takes a liking to Tommy and is there at the climax to help battle our mysterious villain…and while on that subject, once we get our big reveal it’s very ho-hum as is the explanation for the motive.

A weak entry it certainly is and proves that not everyone is fit to wear the hockey mask, as it was not all that well received by fans and started a decline in the series’ interest and box office. It was the last installment to gross over $20 million till Jason and Freddy threw down 18 years later. Very disappointing. For hard core fans only. The following film tried to get the series back on track, but interest continued to decline from here.

2 (out of 4) hockey masks

friday 13 p5 rating

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