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: THE THING 2011 and THE FLY II

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I thought it would be fun to do a sequel to my double feature of remakes The Thing and The Fly from a few weeks back by offering a double bill look at their perspective sequels…

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THE THING (2011)

John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my all time favorite movies. It’s a classic and arguably Carpenter’s masterpiece. So, I tried to put the audacity aside that someone would attempt a prequel and went in trying to view this film on it’s own merits as much as possible. Ultimately, since it’s trying to be part of that film’s story, you kinda have to compare and my mind constantly made comparisons all throughout. Overall, I wasn’t that impressed, but also didn’t hate it and over time, it has grown on me as a sort of amusing companion piece. Still, obviously far from a classic like it’s predecessor.

2011’s The Thing takes place in the Norwegian camp that is seen briefly in Carpenter’s film in smoldering ruins. It details their finding of the alien ship and it’s passenger in the ice and it’s subsequent escape and infiltration of the camp and assimilation of various members. The Norwegians are joined by some American’s including Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Paleontologist Kate Lloyd, Eric Christian Olsen as scientist Adam Finch and Joel Edgerton as helicopter pilot Sam. Aside from Ulrich Thompson as lead scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson, the rest are interchangeable and generic characters that serve mostly as body count. Only Winstead really tries to make Kate a more rounded character, but she isn’t given much to do but look concerned, or scared, or both, till the last act.

This is where The Thing fails to assimilate the 1982 perfectly as it’s title creature would. Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. fails to generate much suspense or create the kind of paranoia that fueled the 82 classic. He does create a bit of a sense of dread, but for the most part, he directs this “prequel” competently, but very by-the-numbers. There’s very little of the kind of tension Carpenter built during his film, even though the situation is basically the same. Even if he was trying to craft a film that was more it’s own “thing” he still doesn’t have the directing chops to really pull it off. The film has a nice visual style and there are some well done action sequences and they did do a good job of matching sets and events to link up with the film this is a prequel to, but it simply doesn’t come close to Thing ’82.

Heijningen doesn’t get that much help out of his actors either. Other than Winstead and Edgerton, most of them pretty much perform on ‘paycheck’ levels and there are none of the memorable characters like Carpenter’s eclectic bunch. Well, at least there should be some cool monster stuff, right? Not quite. All this talk of practical effects during production was nonsense, as 90% of what we see is CGI, or enhanced with CGI, and it’s only a few levels about your average SYFY channel movie. So even the monster evokes no emotion, because it looks like what it is, phony. And to be honest, the designs lack the impact of Rob Bottin’s now legendary work. Even at their weakest moments, Bottin’s creature transformations generated awe or disgust. You’d think they’d take advantage of almost 30 years of technological advancement in movie effects, yet the creatures have little impact. And, speaking of our alien star, we are never given much more information about the creature than we already know from Thing ’82. They totally blow the opportunity to add to the creature’s mythos.

I’ll admit, there were a few scenes I liked, especially toward the end where the camp is thrown into all out combat with our computer generated invader and there are some clever bits like one involving tooth fillings. I also liked Winstead’s Kate as our lead. I think Winstead is capable of strong roles and it’s too bad she’s wasn’t given stronger stuff till the last act here. She makes a credible heroine. The end credits nod to the Carpenter flick is the best stuff in the movie. At least the lead-in stuff worked very well and the film ends on a spooky note as we know what comes next…a far superior movie.

In conclusion, I didn’t hate this flick, but would only recommend it as an amusing curiosity or a mindless popcorn monster flick as long as you forget about it even trying to stack up to the Kurt Russell classic. The Thing 2011 did have almost impossible shoes to fill and while it falls far short of the mark, it’s also not the complete disaster it’s made out to be. Best “thing” about the movie is that it is a lead-in to Carpenter’s flick, so you can always watch that afterwards.

2 and 1/2 (out of 4) flame thrower wielding cuties!

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THE FLY II (1989) 

With The Fly being a critical and box office hit, a sequel was inevitable. While this Cronenberg-less follow-up is no classic, it’s actually a fun monster movie on it’s own. The story opens with Ronnie (played now by Geena Davis lookalike Saffron Henderson) giving birth at Bartok Industries to Seth Brundle’s child. She dies from shock as what appears to be a monstrosity is born, but it is actually a human baby sealed in a cocoon. Martin Brundel (Harley Cross as a child, Eric Stoltz as an adult) is far from a normal human, though, as he grows at an accelerated rate, has his father’s genius intelligence and is being intensely studied by a team of scientists. At 5 years old he is fully grown and his genius is put to work by Anton Bartok (Lee Richardson) on perfecting his father’s telepods that Bartok’s people can’t get to function properly. Bartok acts as a father figure, but is just using and studying Martin like a lab animal waiting for the inevitable. Despite never having been away from Bartok’s research labs, Martin has enough social skills to meet and woo pretty Beth (Daphne Zuniga), an employee from another division and soon starts to look into what really happened to his father and thus what might happen to him, leading him to seek out Stathis Borans (a returning John Getz) for answers. Like father like son, as the film’s tagline proclaims, Martin soon starts to transform and tries to figure out a cure as he begins to become an insectoid creature like his father. Will Martin share the same fate as his dad or can he free himself and find peace and love with Beth?

As directed by Fly FX man Chris Walas, Fly II is an entertaining monster movie with some cool action sequences, as well as, some gruesome ones. He doesn’t try to match Cronenberg’s gem for emotional intensity, though there are some effective dramatic scenes involving Martin trying to cope with who and what he is and a scene involving a lab dog he bonds with, that is especially moving and fuels his learning of Bartok’s true nature. The cast perform well with Stoltz making a charming and tragic hero and Zuniga a spunky girl next door heroine. Richardson and Chalk make contemptible villains and while they are fairly routine bad guys, we dislike them enough to look forward to their possible comeuppance. The FX are top notch for this pre-CGI time with animatronics and make-up being used to represent the various lab creatures and Martin’s progressive transformation. There is some really good gore, as it’s no surprise that the last act does turn into a full blown monster on-the-loose flick when Martin becomes an insect-like creature with a human intelligence stalking the halls of Bartok and getting revenge on those who mistreated him, while trying to save himself and Beth. Christopher Young gives the film a really strong score that is not quite Howard Shore’s, but very effective on it’s own and the cinematography by Robin Vidgeon makes good use of the Bartok interiors.

All in all, Fly II is an entertaining horror flick and while it is far from the near masterpiece of it’s predecessor, it wasn’t meant to be another classic. It is a fun popcorn monster flick that honors the film it’s a sequel to and makes for an entertaining viewing, after the intensity of the Cronenberg classic. If you haven’t seen it and like the 1986 flick, give it a go!

3 (out of 4) flys!

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