HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS PART II (2020)

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IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS PART II (2020)

In Search of Darkness was a four hour documentary about 80s horror films from producer/creator Robin Block and writer/director David A. Weiner and you’d think after that lengthy runtime, they’d have said all there was to say about horror of that era…you’d be delightfully wrong. The 80s was a prolific time for horror and filmmaker David A. Weiner and his parade of interviewees are back for another four plus hours of in-depth coverage and this time, profiles some of the more obscure films, as well as, some of the classics that got left out in the last documentary.

Sequel documentary follows the format of the first one, covering each year of the decade and some of the films made during that that year. Weiner and his illustrious guests also cover sub-genres of 80s horror, such as nature run amok, Italian horror, Hong Kong horror, horror/comedy, kid centric horror and even acting techniques, while discussing another host of classics, cult classics and hilarious misfires, from the most prolific decade in horror. They even cover horror video games! Once again we get scenes from a vast number of films, including some of the more lesser known flicks like The Boogens, The Being, Alone in the Dark and even Don Dohler’s Nightbeast. A lot of the interview subjects return from the previous part, such as Robert Englund, Barbara Crampton, Kane Hodder and Fangoria Editor in Chief Phil Nobile Jr, but we also get some new perspectives like those of actors Robert Rusler, Gedde Watanabe, Clancy Brown, Nancy Allen, director Jackie Kong and rocker/wrestler Chris Jericho, for example. Actors, directors, FX legends, along with contemporary horror critics and bloggers, all provide their own point of view. As with the last installment, the mix of 80s personalities with some of the new generation horror fans, who have embraced the horror films of this decade, makes for a nice variety of perspectives. The stories from filmmakers and actors of the time are a lot of fun and informative, as are the tales of discovery and analysis from the new generation of horror lovers, such as Daily Dead’s Managing Editor Heather Wixson. The documentary even covers some more controversial subjects, such as the proliferation of gore and violence, nudity, sex and the extensive use of rape scenes as plot devices in numerous films. No tombstone goes uncovered. It’s a wonderful retrospective that really does not feel as long as it is and is delightfully uncensored in both scenes shown and commentary made by it’s multitude of guests.

As with the last In Search of Darkness, four and 1/2 hours sounds like a daunting sit to do all at once…not that you have to…but if you are a fan of these movies, or someone who is old enough to have been in a theater seat during this awesome decade of horror, then it is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening. This second chapter…and yes, we’d sit through a third!… is almost more interesting and involving, as it covers some of the more obscure titles and foreign films, so even the most hardcore horror fanatic might see footage, or hear of a title, for the first time. A must watch for horror fans of any age and a sequel that is an equal in some ways and surpasses it’s predecessor in others. As said before, bring on In Search of Darkness part III!

Both documentaries are available on Blu-ray for a brief time at https://80shorrordoc.com/ and the first documentary can be watched on Shudder.

MZNJ PERSONAL NOTE: Being old enough to have been in a theater for a lot of these flicks, not only did this documentary sequel, once again, take me back to my favorite era of movies, but actually brought to my attention a couple of flicks I missed. Bravo Robin Block and David A. Weiner!

-MonsterZero NJ

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

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: UNDER SIEGE (1992)

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UNDER SIEGE (1992)

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

Flick finds Navy SEAL Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal) serving as a cook on the battleship USS Missouri for disciplinary reasons. It’s the captain’s birthday and a big celebration is planned. Rogue Navy officer Commander Peter Krill (Gary Busey) uses the celebration as a cover to bring in terrorist William Strannix (Tommy Lee Jones), an ex-CIA operative, to take over the ship with his men. Now it’s up to cook Casey and a stripper hired for the party (Erika Eleniak) to outwit Strannix and his thugs and take back the Missouri and save the crew.

Arguably Steven Seagal’s best film, Under Siege is directed by Andrew Davis (Code of Silence, The Fugitive) from a fun script by J. F. Lawton. Davis takes the now classic Die Hard scenario and milks it for all it’s worth in his battleship setting. There is a lot of action, some taunt suspense and some nice humor mixed in with Seagal’s trademark martial arts. He gets one of the liveliest performances out of the usually stoic action star and some very strong but entertaining villains in Busey and Jones. The film used a real battleship as it’s setting, the USS Alabama, and the cat and mouse chase between Strannix and Ryback works really well in the claustrophobic setting. Just so it doesn’t wear out it’s welcome, the filmmakers find a few reasons to get the action outside and on deck now and again. There is a generous amount of violence and bloodletting, as Seagal’s style of hand to hand combat and weapons handling gives him plenty of opportunities to stab, shoot and break numerous bones, when not blowing up bad guys with booby traps. It’s a lot of fun and very fast paced, though does take enough time to establish it’s characters which are colorful.

As for those characters the film has a top notch cast. This might be one of Seagal’s best performances, as the action star gives Casey a bit more of a sense of humor and heart than his usual straight-faced tough guys. He has some nice charm and can act a bit. One of the reasons he gets to do this is being paired with Erika Eleniak’s terrified and out of place Jordan. The Baywatch star, at first, is just scared out of her wits, but the character grows from a frightened young woman to a fighter and solid part of the resistance, when she and Casey go on the offensive. The script gives the two some nice scenes together and the actors have a good chemistry between them. Busey and Jones make very good bad guys. Both go just over-the-top enough to be fun, but not enough to make a joke out of the proceedings, or lose their threat factor. They are both dangerous men. Rounding out is a great Colm Meaney as one of the lead henchmen, Nick Mancuso as a sleazy CIA operative, real-life Marine war vet Dale Dye as a navy officer, Andy Romano as Admiral Bates, along with Bernie Casey, Dennis (Retribution) Lipscomb and even Kane “Jason Voorhees” Hodder. A great cast, both main and supporting.

A classic action flick and depending on what you look for in one of his films, Steven Seagal’s best flick and performance. There is plenty of action, strong suspense and tension and some great characters, who interact wonderfully. You get the traditional elements from both a Steven Seagal movie and a Die Hard-esque thriller, yet Under Siege has it’s own heartbeat. Solid directing from veteran Andrew Davis and a tight, fun script from J.F. Lawton and you have pretty much all you could want from an action flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) cooks who moonlight as SEALs.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS (2019)

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IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS (2019)

In Search of Darkness is a four hour documentary about 80s horror films from writer/director David A. Weiner and producer/creator Robin Block. It might be one of the most comprehensive documentaries there is about one of the most prolific decades in horror film history. Weiner covers each year of the decade and some of the films that best represent that year. He also covers the main franchises that are now legendary and some other subjects such as scoring, FX and sound design. He accomplishes this, not only with scenes from a vast number of films, but with some impressive interview subjects from both the era itself, along with some contemporary talents and experts, too. We get legendary filmmakers such as John Carpenter, Joe Dante, Tom Holland and Sean S. Cunningham. Actors like Doug Bradley, Heather Langenkamp, Kane Hodder, Kelli Maroney and even Paranormal Activity’s Katie Featherston. There is also commentary from horror aficionados such as Dead Meat’s James A. Janisse, the legendary Joe Bob Briggs and Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson along with former Fangoria Editor in Chief Michael Gingold and current Fangoria Editor in Chief Phil Nobile Jr, to name a few. It creates a vast amount of knowledge and experience to share, as well as, some really interesting anecdotes and stories from the talent who where part of this great era. Perfect examples of this are Kane Hodder’s gleeful recounting of almost being killed by a fire stunt in his first outing as Jason and John Carpenter’s apparent dislike of 80s hair fashion. Who knew? It’s a lot of fun and for the uninitiated, offers a large selection of movies to catch up with and is a virtual history lesson of this great time in horror.

The documentary’s flaws are minor and few. While never boring, four hours is a long haul, but if you can sit still for such a period of time, it is well worth it. The documentary only covers the mainstream titles, so if you were there during the era or well versed in the flicks of the time, there is nothing obscure or surprising for you. There was also a little too much commentary from the host/creator of Youtube’s Dead Meat, James A. Janisse. While one can appreciate the enthusiasm for films of this era from someone who doesn’t look old enough to have even been alive during the 80s, his over-animated delivery starts to get grating after a while and by the third and fourth hour, you wish he’d take it down a notch. The amount of footage of him used also seems uneven compared to the contributions from the other interviewees. Other than that, if you have a healthy attention span and love this era of horror filmmaking, this is definitely a recommended watch.

Take it from one who was there in the 80s and saw most of the films discussed, in a theater, this was a wonderful trip back to a favorite decade for horror films. It was great to hear stories and facts from the filmmakers and personalities involved and heartwarming to see some of the new generation horror fans embracing the style and films of the time. Four hours well spent returning to a treasured time and many a favorite classic. A must for horror fans of any age.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

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

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: CHARLIE’S FARM (2014)

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CHARLIE’S FARM (2014)

If writer/director Chris Sun’s Boar was a homage to the nature run amok horrors inspired by Jaws than Charlie’s Farm is the Australian filmmaker’s nod to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and that which it inspired. Flick has four friends (Tara Reid, Allira Jaques, Dean Kirkright and Sam Coward) heading into rural country to find the supposedly haunted “Charlie’s Farm”. Local legends say that in the 1980s area townsfolk brought lethal justice to the murderous, cannibalistic Wilson family…all but their young, deranged son Charlie. Now he is said to “haunt” the area surrounding the farm, dispatching anyone who dares venture near. The four friends unfortunately find out there is some truth behind urban legends.

Flick is not perfect, but is a fun throwback/homage with former WWE Superstar Nathan Jones making an imposing Charlie along with some very gruesome kills. As Chris Sun is paying homage to flicks of this kind, don’t expect anything too original, but he seems to know his influences well enough. The rest of the cast are fine here with standouts being Sam Coward as fun, lovable lug “Donkey” and pretty Aussie Allira Jaques as spunky Melanie, who IMO would have been a better final girl than the by-the-numbers Reid. The violence can be brutal and while it isn’t much in the suspense department, the farm setting is creepy and effective and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at only 88 minutes. Film also stars horror legends Bill Mosley, who is channeling “Otis” in flashbacks as cannibal patriarch John WIlson and Kane Hodder, as a friend who comes looking for the ill-fated campers and finds trouble himself. An amusing enough slasher.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: BORN and COMPLIANCE

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BORN (2007)

Unintentionally hilarious horror stars Alison Brie (Sleeping WIth Other People) as a virginal young woman who is impregnated by a demon at her mother’s funeral…don’t ask. Now as she falls under her unborn child’s evil influence, she goes on a killing spree to supply six victims for it’s birthing ritual.

Low budget horror is as stupid as it sounds and as filled with clichés as you’d expect and gets more and more ridiculous as it goes on. Star Brie recites some side split-tingly awful dialog and goes completely over the top in scenes that are meant to be shocking and scary, but provide rib-tickling laughs instead. The sex scene is worth watching this for alone… you’ll laugh till you cry…as is the scene where her water breaks and it looks like green dishwashing liquid! And the whole thing is meant to be serious! Epic fail for them!…Win, win for us!

Also starring Denise Crosby and genre favorite Kane Hodder who actually looks embarrassed to be in this. Crack open your favorite brew and enjoy this schlock-fest.

Oh…and for those watching for the charming Alison Brie, there’s good and bad news…the Community star does get to kiss another girl and talk hilariously dirty during a sex scene, but sadly uses an obvious body double for the brief nude scenes. Below rating is purely for ‘so bad it’s good’ entertainment value.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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COMPLIANCE (2012)

A disturbing thriller based on supposedly true events about a mean spirited prank pulled on the employees of a fast food restaurant. A caller (Pat Healy), claiming to be a police officer, tells manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) that one of her employees, Becky (Dreama Walker) has committed a theft and needs to be searched and detained. The caller asks Sandra and her staff to do increasingly humiliating things to Becky all under the guise that it is part of a criminal investigation and none of them seem to have the courage to question the increasingly depraved acts until it’s too late.

Compliance is a tough movie to sit through and it would be hard to believe that people could be stupid enough to go along with such a horrible prank for as long as they did, except for the fact that it is all taken from a case in 2004 at a Mc Donald’s in Fort Washington, Kentucky. Craig Zobel writes and directs the story fairly straightforward and he gets good performances out of his cast and the result is a disturbing movie that is tough to sit through…even more so, because it actually happened. Not a great film. The aftermath seems rushed after the film took it’s time portraying the events, but it is still effective and fairly well made.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DIGGING UP THE MARROW (2014)

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DIGGING UP THE MARROW (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Adam (Hatchet) Green wrote, directed and stars as himself in this faux documentary about a man named William Dekker (a terrific Ray Wise), an ex-cop who contacts the filmmaker about documenting his discovery…that monsters are real. Dekker claims that not only are monsters real, but he has found where they live, in a subterranean ‘metropolis’ he calls The Marrow. Green and his cameraman Will (Will Barratt) interview Dekker and follow him to the graveyard entrance to this underground world to try to catch footage of one of these alleged creatures. While they have every reason to doubt Dekker and his sanity, they may also have good reason to believe him, too.

Green’s flick is entertaining enough, but never really grabs hold of you even in the last act when things finally start to ‘surface’. The interview footage is fun, due to a really great performance by Ray Wise as Dekker and Green himself has a good time as the filmmaker gets drawn into Dekker’s story while everyone around him has doubts. And while I do consider this somewhat of a vanity piece, obviously for Adam Green playing Adam Green, at least he has the humility to amusingly poke fun at himself by being the absolute last of a long list of famous horror directors that Dekker has attempted to contact. The film, which evokes Nightbreed in spots, does get a little spooky as we follow the three into the cemetery and start monster hunting. We do get to see some well-designed critters by Alex Pardee, once things finally get rolling, though, far too few than expected from the build-up. There are also some fun cameos such as Kane Hodder and Tom Holland, but I just felt that the film really doesn’t make optimum use of it’s premise and could have been far spookier than it goes for. The ending in particular is intriguing, but could have been far more effective and it also leaves some plot points open…such as the implications that Dekker has a personal interest in what may live inside The Marrow. Oh…and if Dekker does have a personal attachment to something that lurks there, why threaten to expose it by having a renown filmmaker document it’s existence at all? Such questions leave one a bit unsatisfied once the credits roll.

Overall, I’d say the film is certainly worth a look and definitely is fun. It just never really gets going enough to completely draw us in and the spooky stuff is few and far between. We do get a few interesting monsters, but not enough considering what the build up implied we might discover. Not a great flick, but an amusing 90 minutes, though, in my opinion, another example of how Green’s love for movies far surpasses how effectively that love translates to screen in his own projects. He has yet to really grab me with one of his films.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 potentially crazy, old spinsters.

digging up the marrow rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: JASON X and FREDDY vs. JASON

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My Friday The 13th film retrospective is back with a vengeance with the final two films in the original series before the 2009 reboot…which we will cover soon…these two are certainly the most over the top of the series as one brings Jason into not only the future, but outer space and the last pits him against the Springwood Slasher himself, Freddy Krueger…

 

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JASON X (2001)

With the awful Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday not making that much of an impact, despite trying something a bit new with the franchise and being yet another entry boasting it was the series’ last, it was eight years before New Line tried to get the series going again in anticipation for their plans for Freddy v.s. Jason which was in development at this point, but not ready for production. Not sure why they chose this completely over-the-top approach to get Jason back in action, but the 10th Friday The 13th flick finds Jason not only in the future, but in space and turned into a cyborg as well.

The film starts out in 2010 where Crystal Lake apparently has a research facility and Jason is imprisoned there as the subject of government research into why they can’t kill him and why he can regenerate his body tissue so quickly…though from what I gather he is still a zombie at this point, so not sure how he is regenerating anything if he is dead. The arrogant Dr. Whimmer (legendary director David Cronenberg in a cameo) wants him studied, while Research Director Rowan (Lexa Doig) wants him cryogenically frozen after repeated attempts to destroy him have all failed. During an attempt to transfer Jason elsewhere, he escapes and kills everyone before Rowan tricks him into the cryogenic freeze chamber, but not before being wounded and frozen herself. We then cut to 2455 where earth is uninhabitable and a research ship filled with students, who are not unlike the nubile camp counselors and partying teens in previous installments, find Jason and Rowan and bring them back to their ship with intents of returning to Earth 2 with their find. Rowan is revived and healed and warns the crew to destroy the frozen Jason. A greedy professor (Jonathan Potts), however, sees dollar signs in making the infamous serial killer an exhibit and has no interest in seeing him destroyed. Jason has his own agenda and despite being thought dead, thaws out and returns to his old habits and starts slaughtering the crew…including their well-armed security force. Can Rowan and the remaining crew fend off the revived killer, or will their ship become a floating tomb?

This installment at least is smart enough to try to have a good time with actor/writer Todd (Drive Angry) Farmer’s silly script and makes no pretense in trying to be a serious horror flick. As directed by James Issac…a Visual FX Supervisor who did FX work for both David Cronenberg and Sean S. Cunningham, which explains Cronenberg’s cameo and being hired to direct this flick…the film makes a solid effort to have a fun with the outlandish premise and yet deliver at least some of the familiar elements that F13 fans look for. Unfortunately, Issac’s minimal experience as a director doesn’t give the film the vitality and faster pace it needed to really make effective use of the Sci-Fi imbued story. His directing is very by-the-numbers and the film only really livens up in the last act when Jason goes up against a female android, the KM 14 (Lisa Ryder) who goes all Ripley on the Crystal Lake juggernaut. This leads to a computer malfunction repairing Jason and turning him into an even more lethal cyborg. It’s these moments when the film really takes off and has a good time with taking the iconic character into space. It’s a little too late to really turn the film into a B-movie treat, but it saves it from being a little more then a head scratching curiosity. Issac at least knew his material was silly and it’s too bad he couldn’t have given it a little more spark till these scenes. Not that some of what came before isn’t entertaining, it just isn’t outrageous or fun enough to match the premise. Again…by the numbers. Issac’s approach is competent but very straight-forward and if you’re going to take Jason Voorhees into space, go with it and have a blast. Maybe…and I’m just guessing here…it’s simply because Issac’s experience is more technical and that’s how he approached directing it. The film needed someone with a more passionate touch. The gore FX are, at least, well done and there is enough to please fans.

The cast are fine. Lexa Doig makes a decent enough heroine as Rowan, but she really doesn’t become that endearing. Lisa Ryder steals the show as the spunky, sexy android KM 14 and the film could have used more of her. Peter Mensah makes a good impression as tough-as-nails and resilient Sergeant Brodski who bonds with Rowan, and Jonathan Potts is appropriately slimy as Professor Lowe. Kane Hodder returns for his fourth and final…at least for now…appearance as Jason and gives the character his needed presence and menace.

Overall, it is not the weakest entry, but certainly not one of the better flicks. I was moderately entertained and only wished there was more fun had with the premise like we were treated to in the last act. The film was not the success New Line hoped for, considering the 14 million investment they made on it and it barely made it’s money back. But Freddy v.s. Jason was on the horizon and that would become the highest grossing film containing Mrs. Vorhees’ baby boy thus far. Worth a look if you are a fan of this series and haven’t seen it.

2 and 1/2 hockey masks.

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FREDDY vs. JASON (2003)

After quite some time in development, New Line Cinema finally brought two of modern horror’s most infamous icons together for a throw-down…and in my opinion it is a bloody blast of gory fun. The clever plot has Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) finally outwitted by the people of Springwood. His memory has been wiped almost clean from the townsfolk by a diligent policy of never discussing the nightmare demon and institutionalizing and medicating anyone who dreams about him. He’s powerless in his dream realm and quite unhappy about it. Not to be outwitted, Freddy has a nefarious plot to get back in action. He needs someone in the physical world to return to Elm St. and start killing again. The murders will obviously be attributed to him and once he is in the minds of the townsfolk and they begin to fear him again, his power will be restored. The monster he’s chosen for the job is a certain Crystal Lake resident. Freddy revives Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger) and sends him to Elm St. to start a killing spree to which he will gleefully take credit. Jason picks the original Elm St. house to start his carnage, which is occupied now by a troubled girl named Lori (Monica Keena) and her widowed father (Tom Butler). Jason thus interrupts a get-together between Lori and some friends in gruesome fashion and Freddy’s plan is set in motion as troubled locals and the authorities think the Springwood Slasher is back. Freddy’s plan seems to be working fine except for two things he didn’t expect….One, Lori is a smart and resilient girl who figures things out a lot quicker than Freddy anticipated and rallies her friends to stop him. Secondly, Jason may have a kill-switch but not an off-switch and if he kills all the beleaguered Elm St. teens, Freddy will be back to square one with no one to fear/empower him. Now the dream demon has to not only foil Lori and friends from stopping him, but must now destroy the very fiend he set in motion. It’s monster vs. monster with Lori and her decreasing number of friends caught in the middle. Who will win?

As directed by Honk Kong filmmaker Ronny Yu, Freddy vs Jason is a lot of gory fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously, or expect it to be the least bit scary. The movie moves very quickly and Yu’s visual style is colorful, as with his Chinese films, but it is when these two modern horror icons finally lock horns that Yu’s HK filmmaking style really kicks in. The final battle is vicious and ridiculously gory like a Tom and Jerry cartoon by way of George Romero. When the smoke clears, you’ve had a bloody good time.

Yu also has a good cast with gorgeous Monica Keena making a sexy and smart final girl. The lively supporting cast features fan favorite Katharine Isabelle, as tough but cute Gibb, Kelly Rowland as smart-ass Kia, Jason Ritter as Lori’s ex Will, who has escaped from being hospitalized and drugged to prevent his dreams from evoking Freddy, with Brendan Fletcher as Will’s oddball bud and fellow hospital inmate, Mark. The supporting characters are all fun and likable and the cast members give them some nice personality to make it all the more effective when either Freddy or Jason take one of them down. The movie works very well because the cast of characters are endearing and our fiends are at their best. Obviously, Englund is at the top of his game as Freddy and he is given some fun dialogue and bits to chew on and serves as the main villain of the piece with Jason ending up being a sort of anti-hero or lesser of two evils. As Jason, big Ken Kirzinger gives him presence and menace and he holds his own against Mr. Krueger.

Sure some of the hardcore fan base may have been hoping for a more serious attempt at a legitimate horror with these two, but at this point, both characters have become more like anti-heroes and it would have been hard to take the bringing together of these two icons all that seriously. Yu chose an approach which never makes a joke out of it, but has a good time with the possibilities as does Damian Shannon and Mark Swift’s script which provides some clever touches such as Freddy discovering Jason’s only ‘fear’. The flick gets a lot of mileage and fun out of the legacy of both characters and the bringing them together for a fight. It’s a very energetic movie and is a blast of fun and works very well for what it is. The characters still have some threat and there is plenty of the red stuff spurted about as their paths cross and the make-up effects portraying the carnage is top notch. The production as a whole is very slick and and makes good use of it’s healthy budget. A really entertaining flick that deserved, but sadly never got a rematch. A fun blast to end the original series for both Freddy and Jason.

3 and 1/2 hockey masks.

friday 13 1980 rating

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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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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: FRIDAY THE 13th PART 8: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989)

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FRIDAY THE 13th PART 8: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989)

Jason Takes Manhattan tried to shake things up even more in this slowly fading series by taking Jason out of Crystal Lake, but, as they say, you can take the serial killer out of the woods, but you can’t take the woods out of the serial killer. This is one of the worst of the series in my book and definitely the worst of the original Paramount series before New Line took over in 1993. The film opens with two horny teens in a boat on Crystal Lake. While they do what horny teens do, their anchor pulls and rips an underwater electrical cable which, when striking the chained and submerged Jason (from Part 7), revives him once again. After slaughtering the two teens, he apparently pilots the craft (quite a skilled zombie, isn’t he?) to what appears to be Nova Scotia or someplace and relocates himself on a larger party cruise ship filled with teens on a graduation trip to NYC. Obviously, Jason starts slaughtering the youths as the ship sails through a massive storm…didn’t the organizers of this trip check the weather reports?…and then pursues the survivors into Manhattan for the last act. Yes, Jason only takes Manhattan in the last half hour of the movie. Will they escape from the hockey mask wearing killer or will Jason finally get to live his dream of appearing on Broadway?… do we care anymore?

As written and directed by Rob Hedden (who?) this is simply an awful movie and as one of the longest in the series, a chore to sit through. The tone of the film is deadly serious and taking Jason out of his usual setting works against it, removing the series feel rather than freshening it up. The kills are bit more vicious, but since the characters are really dull and lifeless, you really don’t care about their fates. The plot is riddled with far more holes then acceptable in this kinda film. Jason not only seems to have intimate knowledge of the layout and working of a ship he’s never seen or been on before, but also seems to have the power to appear anywhere he wants at will…even in Manhattan. He always appears where the characters run to, despite never having been far from Crystal Lake all his life.

The cast are especially bland too. Leading lady Jensen Daggett as Rennie is cute, but doesn’t endear to us and her character’s fear of water is given a connection to Jason that makes no sense and ultimately has no bearing on the plot. Scott Reeves is lifeless as the son of the boat captain and Rennie’s love interest and the characters have no chemistry and it doesn’t click. Renown TV actor Peter Mark Richman is one of the chaperones and Rennie’s jerk of an uncle and his character is completely generic as the stereotypical ‘adult jerk’ and the actor does the best he can with a thinly written role, but to no avail. Jason is again portrayed by Kane Hodder who is doing this heavy breathing thing which makes no sense, as, at this point, Jason has been dead for sometime and has no need to breath…especially not like he has asthma. Is being away from Crystal Lake causing a panic attack? The rest of the cast, including a young Kelly Hu, are totally bland and forgettable. The most interesting of Jason’s victims is guitar playing metal chick, J.J. (Saffron Henderson), but she is the first to go. Good move.

Add to all this a ridiculously cartoonish…and as a Jersey boy who loves his NYC, a bit offensive…portrayal of New York City as a dirty cesspool filled with degenerates, drug addicts, gang members and toxic waste, and the film is a dull, lifeless affair that makes boring use out of it’s only new touch, which is setting a Friday The 13th movie on a boat and then Manhattan…which doesn’t work anyway. Why would Jason voluntarily leave the familiarity of the only place he knows as home? The segment in Manhattan just seems made up as it goes along…did we need to stop the film dead for an attempted rape of Rennie by stereotypical drug addict/gang members?…and even the ending is just plain dumb and if it had remained the last film, would have been a completely unsatisfying way to put the iconic Jason to rest. A really awful and dull entry with very little to recommend even to hard core fans of the series. Jason would stay at rest until 4 years later when New Line Cinema would purchase the rights and try their hand at breathing new life into a dead series. The series hit rock bottom with this one.

NOTE: as the following entries in the series would be made and released in the 90s and 2000s, the remaining Friday The 13th films will be covered under the Horror You Might Have Missed banner as, at least at this point, my cut-off for classifying things as nostalgia is the 80s.

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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