Category Archives: Opinion
Four years after Batman’s debut in Detective Comics #27, Batman and Robin hit the big screen for the first time in a Columbia Pictures movie serial. The story is told in 15 chapters and is amusing to watch with 70 years distance. The plot concerns Batman (Lewis Wilson) and Robin (Douglas Croft) trying to foil a scheme by the evil Dr. Daka (J. Carrol Naish).
This movie serial came out at the height of World War II and there is quite a bit of propaganda and outright racism. Dr. Daka is a Japanese spy whose goal is to use a radium-powered ray gun to help overthrow the United States. Batman is employed by the U.S. government to stop Daka’s plan. This involves Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend Linda Paige (Shirley Patterson), her uncle, and zombies. Not risen-from-the-dead zombies but mind-controlled people controlled by Dr. Daka. Batman triumphs with the help of Robin and his butler Alfred Pennyworth (William Austin).
(Did I spoil that for you? I’m sorry. But in my defense, this is a 1943 movie serial aimed at kids and featuring a comic book superhero. This is 43 years before Frank Miller’s game-changing Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One stories where anything could–and does–happen).
Until I decided to do these essays, I’d never seen this version of Batman. I knew of it, of course, but hadn’t seen it. (Nor had I ever seen a movie serial). So my first viewing of this serial was as a 34-year-old adult.1 It must have been pretty cool, though, to be kid in 1943 and seeing these chapters. Yes, there are some changes from the comic book (Batman as government agent is but one) but it must have still be pretty nifty (or whatever the slang was back then) to see Batman and Robin fighting bad guys on the big screen. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
Lewis Wilson and Douglas Croft seem to work well together as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Dick Grayson/Robin. You get the sense that they’ve been working together a while. Wilson is pretty good as Bruce Wayne, giving him an arrogance that is almost mind-blowing at times. Croft gives Dick Grayson/Robin just enough boyish charm to appeal to the boys in the audience but is tough enough to hold his own. As a matter of fact, Robin tends to save Batman more often than the other way around in this serial.
William Austin as Alfred Pennyworth is also quite enjoyable, though not in a serious manner. Alfred is the comic relief of this story which is essentially about the Japanese taking over the United States, turning Americans into zombies.
Shirley Patterson as Linda Paige, Bruce Wayne’s oft-suffering girlfriend. Yes, she has moments of eye-rolling “I’m a woman and am therefore helpless” but she doesn’t hold back from putting Bruce Wayne in his place. Her uncle had just been released from prison and is kidnapped and she wants to look for him. When she asks Bruce for his help, he essentially tells her he can’t because he has some sort of inconsequential thing to do. She gets angry, tells him to buzz off, and then leaves. More on this later.
The action. Ranging from 26 minutes to 13-and-a-half, every chapter has at least one fist-fight, some have two. And because they comprise a serial and they wanted the kids to spend their dime next week, too, each chapter has a cliffhanger that puts Batman in some sort of jeopardy.
For modern audiences, this serial is an interesting look back on an artform that helped inspire what television series would become. It is also an interesting look at that time period and what entertainment was like. One of the charms of the serial is the low-budget feel. In one fight scene, Batman’s cape falls off in one shot and reappears on him in the next. In another chapter, Batman is climbing off a fire escape and some stuff falls out of his cape. After rewatching it multiple times I still don’t know what it is. This is low-budget, let’s get it done filmmaking.
Lewis Wilson may have been pretty good at getting Bruce Wayne’s “devil-may-care” attitude down, but he also plays Wayne/Batman as a jerk. This is not his fault, though, rather the writers Victor McLeod, Leslie Swabacker, and Harry L. Fraser, as well as the director’s (Lambert Hillyer). By the end of the first chapter (“The Electric Brain”), Batman and Robin have gotten their hands on Dr. Daka’s ray gun. In the second chapter (“The Bat’s Cave”), Bruce Wayne decides to scare Alfred, winks and nods at Dick Grayson, and then blasts something right near Alfred. The older man looks like he may have a heart attack while Bruce and Dick yuk it up. This kind of behavior happens throughout. Alfred is often the butt of the joke, or Linda is basically told she’s second fiddle to whatever plans Bruce has that day. Her uncle is missing and she keeps getting in trouble, but Bruce shrugs it all off so he can run off and be Batman. And as Batman, he’s kind of weak.
More than weak, Batman sort of sucks. While it must have been great to see the comic book character on the big screen for the first time, I wonder how the boys (and girls?) in the audience took to their hero being so ineffective. Batman is picked up by the bad guys and either thrown over the edge of something or nearly thrown over the edge of something in almost every chapter. In chapter 14 (“The Executioner Strikes”), Batman is trying to save Linda in an obvious trap (he knows it’s a trap) and the thugs walk in. One thug immediately walks up to Batman and hits him with the butt of his revolver, knocking Batman out, quicker than it took you to read this sentence. I understand this is a movie serial and putting the hero’s life in danger at the end of each chapter is supposed to get kids involved enough to want to come to next week’s show, but making your hero look no better than the average man goes against why you’d do a Batman story anyway.
The racism in this serial is mind-blowing, especially in the ultra-politically correct 21st century where one is offended by anything. The first chapter begins in a desolate part of Gotham City known as Little Tokyo. The narrator assures the audience that it’s safe because the “shifty-eye Japs” have all been “rounded up.” The narrator is referring to the Japanese-American determent camps that the U.S. government forced its own citizens to live in during WWII in case they decided to align with their former homeland. Of course, there were no German-American determent camps because it was harder to tell those of German ancestry than those of Japanese. Dr. Daka is played by a Caucasian man á la Warner Oland’s portrayal of Charlie Chan. His headquarters is hidden within a cave-of-horror funhouse-type ride that depicts wax Japanese people performing atrocities to White people. In chapter 8 (“Lured By Radium”), going out to the country, the thugs stop by a Native American on the side of the road selling “Indian Artifacts”. One thug says, “Hey, Sittin’ Bull,” before asking whatever question he needs to. Chalk that up to the thug being a bad guy and all. But when Bruce, Dick, Alfred, and Linda stop, the old Native American speaks in that Hollywood Indian dialect, “Me don’t know…Me this and Me that.”
Plot consistency. I know, this happens all the time (and will pop up throughout these essays) but they’re pretty bad here. At one point, one of Daka’s thugs say, “Hey, what if this Bruce Wayne is Batman!” Daka replies that Bruce Wayne couldn’t possibly be Batman because he’s too stupid and this and that. But by the 14th chapter, Daka says something about the possibility that Bruce Wayne may be Batman. Now, if this kept coming up, it wouldn’t have been a surprise, but it just came out of nowhere. Oh! And there’s the Radium ray guns plotline. After the small ray gun is confiscated by Batman, most of the serial is about Daka scoring more Radium to build a bigger, better ray gun to overthrow the United States. He eventually gets his Radium and has a ray rifle/cannon/thing. And then…. I couldn’t tell you what happens because it seems to be forgotten, either by me or by the filmmakers.
The fights. Oh, man, the fights. They are refreshingly not as slick as we’ve come to expect from Batman, but they are almost too realistic. If Batman is supposed to be one of America’s great secret agents, we’re in trouble. The fights are sloppy and usually end with Batman having his ass kicked so he can be saved by Robin in the next chapter.
Guns! Robin, the Boy Wonder, is given a gun at least twice in this serial. He usually fires into the air to scare the thugs working for Daka but in at least one chapter he holds the gun on them to keep them at bay. Now, it’s well-documented that Batman sometimes used guns in his early days, but by 1943 he hadn’t used a gun for 3 years, and Robin definitely wouldn’t have.
Speaking of guns, this is another thing I noted that can be placed in this section, the thugs only seem to have one pistol between them, and they use it to shoot only when Batman and Robin can find cover. There are several times in this serial when they have knocked out Batman (see above) and just leave him for whatever the cliffhanger will be. I know, I know, this happens all the time in movies and on TV, but considering their orders are to kill Batman, you’d think they might, well, kill Batman when they had the chance.
I found Batman to be rather enjoyable, though not for the reasons the filmmakers meant. It’s a slice of history and made me think about what going to the movies must have been like for my father’s generation. It’s apparent that Columbia made the serial to cash in on the comic book craze that was in its infancy but didn’t really care about the source material. There is no Commissioner Gordon, instead there’s a Captain Arnold. There are no villains from the comic books and Batman and Robin are government agents, not just crime fighters. There’s no Batmobile. Batman and Robin are actually chauffeured by Alfred most of the time (or drive around as Bruce and Dick and then change in the back seat). However, this serial introduced the Bat’s Cave, which we all know now as the Batcave. It may have even had Alfred in its planning stages before he appeared in comics and may be the reason Alfred was in the comics. If you’re a modern viewer who is easily offended by the mistakes of our forefathers in terms of race and ethnic portrayals, then this serial isn’t for you. But as a way to view Batman in a way you probably haven’t yet, check it out. The serial is available on DVD, though I watched it here. Just don’t expect to do so in one sitting. The entire serial is about 4 hours 15 minutes.
1 I originally wrote this essay a year before I did the Superman series of essays, so while the two Superman serials appeared on this blog over a year ago, it was two years ago that I watched this first Batman serial.
I’ve been working on these essays for two years. I began watching and writing about Batman on the silver screen back in 2012, around the time The Dark Knight Rises was to hit theaters. At that point, I’d only done this sort of thing once, for the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. The plan stalled as life got in the way. I re-posted revised versions of the Nightmare essays (which I cleverly titled A Nightmare in Gautham) and then did a series of essays about Superman on the silver screen (From Krypton to Gautham) for the release of 2013’s Man of Steel. That fall, we experienced a Friday in Gautham when I took on Jason Vorhees and the Friday the 13th movies. By now, there were two Batman essays.
This being the 75th anniversary of Bob Kane’s (and Bill Finger’s) creation, I decided to finally finish the series.
It was a daunting task. Batman, like Superman, has been in a lot of movies and TV shows. Luckily, even his most famous TV incarnations eventually made it to the movies.
That’s nearly 30 hours of Batman, which somehow still doesn’t feel like enough Batman. It’s been quite an experience.
So sit back and let’s go to Gotham City….
This will be my second time writing about Fred Rogers, the first was back in September 2011 when I was still attempting to write my ill-fated MediaBio blog. The reason I’m returning to the man the world knew as Mr. Rogers is because of his importance.
My wife and I have introduced Genevieve to TV. More precisely, our TV. I mean, the shows we watched as children. She’s been on a Muppet Show kick (which kind of sucks because the 3rd and, so far, last DVD set came in yesterday, and while the show had five seasons, only three have been released) and via Amazon Prime my wife introduced her to classic Sesame Street (being my daughter, she prefers The Muppet Show). Prime also has Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Now, I’ve known the power Fred Rogers had for a long time, but especially since the incident I related the last time I wrote about him:
It was 2005, somewhere between May and July, and things had been a little bleak. I’d been separated from my soon-to-be-ex-wife (we finalized our divorce in September 2005) and was working at a local bookstore, which I would’ve loved had they paid me what I deserved, treated me the way I deserved, and otherwise didn’t have their heads up their asses (not all of them, just those who were in charge). I sat down to eat my lunch around 11:30/noon, and I only had twenty cable channels. My choices were game shows, talk shows, or PBS. One PBS channel was running Sesame Street. Blech. Another was running Teletubbies. Barf! The last had on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I decided to leave it on. I quickly realized that I remembered the episode from my childhood. I sat watching this show that I hadn’t seen in twenty years, mesmerized. At the end, Mr. Rogers looked into the camera and said in that way he had, “Just remember that you are special. That there’s no one else in this world like you, and that you are important.”
I can’t explain it. I began weeping.
I remember that day nine years ago like it happened yesterday. It was exactly what I needed to hear at that time.
So now Genevieve will ask to watch it and she was sick for the last few days so we put it on. She’ll end up playing, but Pamela and I are good with that, because we’re really the ones watching. I’ve seen episodes from before I was born. I’ve seen episodes from long after I stopped watching. I don’t understand why I never had Courtney watch it. I’m ashamed of myself.
The thing I keep noticing is how actually good and kindhearted Fred Rogers was. His meticulousness is evident in the show and the fact that he kept it pretty much the same from 1968 through 2001 is astounding. While Sesame Street changes with the times, Mr. Rogers’s set didn’t change in all that time. Picture Picture didn’t suddenly become a flat screen TV. The Neighborhood of Make Believe never got more complicated puppets or 3D characters. Hell, the same actors worked with him throughout!
I’ve cried several times recently watching episodes. Here’s a for instance for you:
So today, we were working our way through his 5-episode arc about work called “Mister Rogers Talks About Work.” The next-to-last episode featured him going to Wagner’s Market to buy some groceries. We get to meet some neighbors and see how a grocery store worked in 1984. While walking down the cereal aisle, he comments on how when he was a little boy, he’d want to get one of everything in the aisle, and the rest of the store, but how his parents wouldn’t let him get one of everything and he learned that people couldn’t get everything they wanted.
After getting his items, which shows him being friendly to everyone, he returns “home” and puts everything away, explaining how as a parent, there were reasons he had to say no to his children and that children can’t get everything they want. Then he announced it was time for make-believe.
So Mr. Rogers goes over to the bench where he operates Trolley and there’s a top hat there, closed. He pops it open to show his Television Neighbor, and as he takes it off and sits down says, off-hand, “All kinds of things you can think about and do in this world.” And then he sits down and gets Trolley.
The main theme of this episode is that not everybody can have everything. That choices have to be made and it’s the grown-ups in a child’s life who makes the choice. Once the child grows up, s/he can make the choice. This isn’t said with a snarl, or a wagging finger, but with love and respect. And even though that should be enough, it was the off-hand comment made as he was sitting down, “All kinds of things you can think about and do in this world,” that got me.
And there are! You and I, as adults, don’t need Fred Rogers to tell us this…but we do! How often in the busy grind of our lives do we stop and really pay attention? How often do we let life beat us down? The human mind is nearly limitless with imagination yet we begin to kill it the moment a child goes to school and is told to stand in line. Lines are important, so is order, but, as Mr. Rogers states at the end of the episode, so is play.
Fred Rogers ended his show in 2001. In December 2002, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. On February 27th, 2003, he died.
There has been no one before his death or since that has been able to sit down and speak to a child through the television without talking down to him/her but still being the adult. Some critics say his message to children, that they special, is the wrong message to send. I disagree. We are all individuals, there is no one else like the person we know ourselves to be, yet Mr. Rogers also gave us a message of love, of helping one another, of tolerance. Of peace.
I feel, in this time when 24/7 news talking heads, Twitter and Facebook hate and shaming, and mass-violence and teenage suicide rates are through the roof, Mr. Rogers’s message is needed more than it ever has been before.
Thank you, Mr. Rogers, for the love you showed me. Thank you, Mr. Rogers, for what you taught me when I was five, 28, and now 36. Thank you, Mr. Rogers, for being you. There is no one like you.
Since I haven’t posted in awhile, and since it’s the holiday time of year, I decided to post something festive. Maybe it’s that I had both the teenager and the baby with me for the last few days and the baby is conscious of presents and fun. Maybe it’s that I’m getting older, but I seemed to have been craving Christmas music lately. So I decided to post my favorite holiday music for you. Keep in mind, this list is not set in stone and could change by tomorrow, but it’s mine and I love it.
10. Blue Christmas as sung by Bruce Springsteen
This is a recent addition to the list. By that I mean, it’s only a few years old. I’m not a huge Elvis Presley fan but one of my favorite songs of his is “Blue Christmas.” Back in 2010, Springsteen and the E Street Band played a show in Asbury Park, New Jersey that was taped. It was to promote his re-release of 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town and new album of previously unfinished and unreleased tracks from that era The Promise. The show featured only tracks that appeared on The Promise. Except for this song. I love the way Springsteen arranged it and the general atmosphere of the performance. Also of note, it would be the last “live” recording of Clarence Clemons with the band. He died the following June.
9. Happy Christmas (The War is Over) by John Lennon
Let’s call this one my Artsy Fartsy entry. I don’t know the words, it’s not on my iPod, but I still know it and like it. And it’s John Lennon. Come on.
8. Frosty the Snowman as sung by Jimmy Durante
I wouldn’t have even thought of this if not for a recent trip to the grocery store where this was playing. We grew up watching these specials and sometimes, the versions from those specials are what sticks. That’s the case here. Besides, it friggin’ Durante!
7. Jingle Bell Rock as performed by Hall and Oates
I love Hall and Oates. There. I said it. “Maneater.” “Your Kiss is on My List.” Egads, need I say more?! This song, along with its tongue-in-cheek hokey video, was a part of childhood I always loved. And I just like the song, too.
6. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Gene Autry
Look, if you grew up with parents who came from the 1950s or 1960s, you had this song played every Christmas. Growing up, the Gene Autry original was my least favorite version. Now, it’s the version. Well, maybe except for…
5. Silver Bells as performed by The Chipmunks
Christmas with the Chipmunks was the Christmas album in my household growing up. I loved it. “Rudolph” and “Frosty” and so many others were done in that madcap Chipmunks way with Dave Seville yelling constantly at poor Alvin. It was my life, only instead of Dave it was my parents and instead of Alvin, it was me. “Silver Bells” was a rare exception. It’s sung by Dave Seville and is a little sad. As a kid, I liked it but it was…well…quiet. Now, it’s the only version of “Silver Bells” I hear in my head.
4. Christmas in Hollis by Run D.M.C.
If you were growing up in the 1980s, and you were open to rap, you love this song. The video is even better. I remember my parents being…shocked? upset? amused?…that I liked this song and probably thought it was just a phase. Yeah, well, guess who rapped it to a 1-year-old the other day? That’s right. This guy!
3. Santa Claus is Coming to Town as performed by Bruce Springsteen
I love the song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” I loved the stop-motion animated special. I did not love the Springsteen version. Until recent years. The video shown is good, but the original recording from 1978 (I think, maybe ’81?) is where it’s at. The verse after the sax solo shows a reckless abandon and joy that is pure Springsteen and pure rock n roll. It’s a fun song, okay?
2. All I Want For Christmas is You by Mariah Carey
Yes, I love this song this much. I am not ashamed. It’s a damn good song. I like the music. I love Carey’s vocals. It’s a song that makes me happy. So there.
1. The Chipmunk Song by Alvin and the Chipmunks
This is Christmas to me. This is my favorite song on Christmas with the Chipmunks. It is my favorite Christmas song, period. It made me laugh when I was a kid. I could relate to it. It was just fun. And it still makes me smile. Love it!
Honorable mention goes to “Must Be Santa,” a song I never heard recorded but loved to sing in elementary school.
For me, Christmas isn’t a religious holiday. It’s a day (or time period) to spend with family and friends, to be together, perhaps exchange gifts, eat, and have fun. And enjoy some music. So have a happy Christmas, if you celebrate. If you don’t, go be with people you love, eat, and sing some songs anyway. We could all use a little more of that, right?
We survived this time. We went through twelve movies that had fairly bad reviews when they came out but captured the interest of many in the 1980s, 1990s, and into the 2000s. The character of Jason Voorhees is a part of American culture in the same way Karloff’s Frankenstein’s monster was in his day (and even now). Sure, he lacked the attitude and flash of Freddy Krueger, or the bizarreness of Pinhead, and he certainly wasn’t a cute as Chucky, but Jason held his own.
Looking back, I question whether it was a good idea to go down this road at all. Over twelve essays, I’ve hardly had anything nice to say about these movies. Fans of the series probably checked out a long time ago. What I want you to know is that when I decided, over a year ago now, to go watch these movies and write these essays, I did so in the hopes that they would surprise me. I wanted to see in Jason what his fans saw. I wanted to be able to say that, yeah, I got it.
But I don’t. I get why these movies made money, that’s not in doubt. But I don’t get how these movies are still revered. With the exception of the sixth movie, they’re not all that much fun, or clever. Jason is hardly ever scary. And you never really care about any of the victims.
Yet, their fame persists. I feel like I’ve been too critical–too grumpy, maybe–over these movies that were never designed to be good movies. Where I can make a rather funny argument that the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies are arguably the most important movies of the 1980s because of the socio-political commentaries (someday I may even tell you about that. It’s tongue-in-cheek but I think I have some actual good arguments), I have trouble finding any socio-political worth to the Friday the 13th movies. Except, maybe….
Jason represents Reagan era politics. Jason Voorhees is the conservative machine bent on killing the liberal 1960s and 1970s. The young people who die are lovemaking, pot-smoking kids (hippies) in the earliest movies and MTV kids in the later movies. Jason is a throwback to the conservative ideal that the good ol’ days were better. Once these kids started to experiment with free love and mind-altering substances, their morals and convictions went out the window. And even though Jason always dies at the end, it’s always by the girl (or the girl and guy) who is the cleanest cut of the group, the ones who will probably grow up to vote for the Conservative.
I totally pulled that out of my ass, but it reads well so I’m going to keep it.
Anyway, my favorite of these movies is Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. I think I’d actually own this and watch it again. That and Freddy vs. Jason, which I do own. But you know why. My favorite Jason is a toss-up between the Jasons in those two movies (C.J. Graham and Ken Kirzinger). Though I liked the Jason in the remake (Derek Mears), as well.
With the recent sale of the series back to Paramount, and their plans on doing another reboot, it’ll be interesting to see if they try to make an actual scary movie (if they even can) or just do more of the same. I guess we’ll see.
For now, though, we made it away from Crystal Lake (and New York, and Space) with most of our limbs intact. Thanks for making this journey with me.
I’ve said it here before. I’m not opposed to remakes. There have been some really good ones. Cronenberg’s The Fly, for instance. Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead is another. I even like the Peter Jackson King Kong. I think that if there’s good material at the base, or at least interesting material, and you get a good writer and director, you can make a damn good movie.
Platinum Dunes went for a while producing remakes of horror classics. The production company, led by Michael Bay, Brad Fuller, and Andrew Form, has been responsible for the remakes of classic movies that I grew up watching: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Amityville Horror (2005), The Hitcher (2007), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), and, of course Friday the 13th (2009).
Of that list, the only movie whose original I still haven’t seen is The Amityville Horror (1979). Of that list, the only other remakes I’ve sat through were The Amityville Horror (aka Ryan Reynolds Takes His Shirt Off Too Goddamn Much) and, well, you know. And now, of course, Friday the 13th.
So, what’s to say about the remake? Well….
The cast and acting aren’t terrible. Honestly, my only problem with it is that the cast is too damn pretty. The girls, the guys, everything is a little too slick, a little too polished looking. And in terms of characterization, it’s not terrible…for a Friday the 13th movie. It’s not my favorite cast, but it’s not a terrible one either.
The writing is also not terrible. With a story by Damian Shannon, Mark Swift, and Mark Wheaton, and a screenplay by Shannon and Swift (the duo who wrote Freddy vs. Jason), the script is fairly solid. Are there plotholes? Yeah. Are they major? Meh.
Jason Voorhees (Derek Mears) is returned to his roots as a really mean hulk of a man. He’s not just shambling around and appearing places. His body language is quick and vicious. He’s imposing and unsettling.
By now, call it a remake or a reboot or a re-imagining, it’s still Friday the 13th. The very premise of these movies is young people getting slaughtered in the woods. So whether you call it a remake/-boot/-imagining or call it Part XI, it’s pretty much the same. There’s nothing really new here. It’s a rehash and condensed version of the first four Friday the 13th movies retold for a modern audience. The characters are little more than stereotypes and the suspense is non-existent. Jason is as Jason does, and what he does is kill. The writers and director Marcus Nispel try to bring more pathos to the victims but it never really works.
A Quick Aside
I’m going to take a moment here to digress. I want to talk about the two Platinum Dune remakes that I’ve seen recently and know well: Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. I saw Amityville on a date and remember very little about it. One of my problems with the company that’s at least one-third Michael Bay is that, like most of Bay’s movies, they’re all flash and little substance. The idea that Bay, Fuller, and Form think they are rebooting and re-imagining these movies is troubling or silly, I can’t decide which one.
Their idea of re-imagining is giving us the same story, the same characters, and the same situations, and changing little things for the sake of changing them. In the case of Friday the 13th, it doesn’t matter much, but in the case of A Nightmare on Elm Street, their hubris and their unwillingness to acknowledge the good of the original hurt the material. I suspect their other remakes have the same problem. By taking these original tales and putting their own spin on them, they trivialize the classics the producers claim they love so much and turning them into modern messes.
Saturday the 14th
The thing with the remake of Friday the 13th–and I refuse to call the Platinum Doom (I meant, uh, Dune) movies reboots, they aren’t original enough to hold such a pretentious title–is that, unlike A Nightmare on Elm Street (and presumably their other remakes), it’s not actually much worse than the movies that inspired it. If anything, it’s more of the same. Taking a movie (or series of movies) that have a thin foundation to begin with and just doing the same damn thing isn’t going to be unfaithful to the original, it’s just going to be another one.
There was supposed to be a sequel but as recently as this past summer, news is that the sequel has been scrapped due to New Line Cinema selling Friday the 13th and Jason and the rest to…drumroll…Paramount. And guess what Paramount plans on doing?
Yeah. A reboot.
Look, I already wrote this essay, but this one is going to be a little different. When I originally wrote about Freddy vs. Jason, it was from the viewpoint of a Freddy Krueger fan who’d hardly seen any of the Friday the 13th movies. At this point, I’ve seen them all and feel a little more comfortable going into my thoughts on this movie in regards to Jason. If you haven’t already read my original (and I’ll say, for now, definitive) take on Freddy vs. Jason, click on the link and read it. It all still applies.
I like this version of Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger) probably more than any other. I know that Friday the 13th fans (those poor souls who will admit to it) were outraged that Kane Hodder was not cast as Jason in this movie, even after it had looked like he would be. I know there are still people upset by this. Get over it. Ken Kirzinger’s Jason actually performs in this movie. One gets a sense of vulnerability even though Jason is still the cold-blooded, mindless killer who has been through ten (should I even count Jason X?) movies. And his size is quite imposing.
The movie has a silly basis and is fun. There are a few creepy parts (belonging to Freddy) but it’s really not scary. It’s gory, silly fun. Anyone going into a movie called Freddy vs. Jason wouldn’t want it any other way. In this movie, Jason is his normal force to be reckoned with. He stabs, crushes, beheads, impales, and slashes his way through the victims in this movie in the way he always had. If anything, this movie’s silliness allows it to be the goriest of all the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street movies.
There’s an attempt by the screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, and director Ronny Yu, to give both characters a little more background, and make them more human. In this case, it’s mostly Jason who gets the real winning treatment. Because Freddy is portrayed as a manipulative monster who is more than willing to torture any- and everyone, it falls on cold-blooded, murdering, mindless Jason to be the more “sympathetic” one. In some ways, it actually works.
Katharine Isabelle. All right, I mentioned her in the first Freddy vs. Jason essay I wrote for A Nightmare in Gautham. I think she’s beautiful.
The silliness is a cliché and wouldn’t it have been interesting if the filmmakers actually tried to make a genuinely scary movie? With the brute freight-train of Jason, and the psychological menace that is Freddy, the filmmakers could’ve really gone for the jugular with a movie in which no one is safe anywhere and in the end, the monsters fight for more than just survival (or the audience’s amusement). Just a thought.
Jason’s wardrobe doesn’t match anything he’s worn before. That said, I like this outfit better than all the rest. Freddy’s wardrobe has also changed in its details, and that bothers me.
Jason is afraid of water. I understand that the filmmakers wanted to do something that would mess him up, to give Freddy an advantage over him, but a fear of water? This same character who has, time and again, walked willingly into Crystal Lake? Who boarded a ship going to New York City? Really? But…yeah…he’s afraid of water in this.
Saturday the 14th
As I said in the other essay, Freddy vs. Jason is really Freddy’s movie. Jason has about as much screen time (and way more kills) but it’s really Jason in Freddy’s world. The last act of the movie takes place at Crystal Lake, but by then, Jason has terrorized Springwood and all the locales Nightmare on Elm Street fans know. While Jason is placed in a fairly sympathetic light, Freddy owns the movie. Maybe it’s because this was done by New Line Cinema but I think it boils down to the Nightmare on Elm Street movies show far more imagination than the Friday the 13th movies. In 10 movies, nearly every story involves Jason coming back and butchering people in various ways and in various locales. In seven movies, Freddy Krueger doesn’t kill as many people, but the deaths are far more memorable, as are the victims. By using the dreams and secrets of the teenagers Freddy haunts, he gives them a life that their waking interactions don’t in the weakest of the movies. With Jason, it’s just killing. This movie highlights those differences.
A sequel was proposed as New Line Cinema was looking into acquiring the Evil Dead franchise. Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash would’ve had the stars of this movie square off against Ash, presumably played by Bruce Campbell. The deal with the Evil Dead people fell through and New Line decided that remakes would be the best thing to utilize these characters.
I’m not opposed to remakes in general, especially if really good filmmakers are behind it….
In 1991, New Line Cinema decided to kill Freddy Krueger with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. Around this time, they acquired the rights to Jason Voorhees and Friday the 13th and wanted to bring the two monsters together. However, when they asked Wes Craven if he wanted to be involved, he said no, but said he had an idea for a possible seventh installment. New Line jumped at the chance to have Craven back to helm a Nightmare film. Friday the 13th co-creator Sean S. Cunningham thought it would be a good idea to do with Jason what had been done with Freddy and officially kill him off, while also hinting at the long-desired team-up movie. New Line agreed and 1993 saw the release of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. You know this because I wrote about it in the last essay.
Jason Goes to Hell did all right at the box office but not as well as they’d hoped. New Line was eager to see what Wes Craven’s return to the dreamscape would do to revitalize interest in Freddy Krueger. Unfortunately, when Wes Craven’s New Nightmare was released in October 1994, it failed to live up to expectations. Interest in making the long-awaited team-up were put on the back-burner. At least until a different Wes Craven film, Scream, was a huge hit. Suddenly, New Line wanted a Freddy vs. Jason movie and even promised one for 1998. There was a major problem with that promise: They didn’t have a script.
Time passed and script after script was written, director after director was attached, and it kept falling apart. It seems that every year between 1994 and 2003, Robert Englund would tell an interviewer that they had a new script and there should be a movie within the following year. And each year would pass and nothing would happen.
Sean S. Cunningham didn’t like this. He was afraid that people would forget about Jason Voorhees. So he went to New Line head Michael De Luca and asked about a tenth Jason movie. Writer Todd Farmer pitched the idea that Jason goes to space and De Luca, he who co-penned the cinematic masterpiece Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, greenlit it.
Jason. In. Space.
Though the film was supposed to be released in 2000 or 2001, it was eventually released in April 2002. I didn’t see it then. Seeing now for this essay was one too many times.
David Cronenberg appears in cameo role. Until Jason (once again, Kane Hodder) kills him. It’s always a surprise to see a director that is considered very good make a cameo in a less-than-stellar movie, and here it’s downright shocking. To think that the man who directed one of the best horror films of the 1980s, The Fly, would appear in this horror (I use the term loosely) movie is shocking. But it’s fun for the What the FUCK?! factor.
The escape ship explosion was another nice touch. The set-up is typical horror movie stuff. A girl who is freaking out locks her friends out of their safehaven, in this case, the spaceship that will allow them to escape. Despite them banging on the door (or whathaveyou), she decides to leave the main spaceship without them. Typically, this is where Jason would suddenly appear to kill her. In this case, her own stupidity does her in and it actually surprised me. So did the spaceship’s crash into another safehaven, a space station, earlier in the movie.
The special effects are surprisingly good. I’ll give them credit. For a movie with a fairly small budget, the effects mostly came off.
Jason looks funny in this movie. His head isn’t malformed enough and he had a strange buzz-cut thing going on. His hockey mask is different. His clothes are different. And that’s before the Uber-Jason at the end. Uber-Jason is one of the worst monsters I’ve ever seen. The costume looks like something from a bad SyFy Channel movie. I understand that Jason has looked different in each movie, and there’s certainly a Who Gives a Shit? attitude about that, but this Jason just didn’t do it for me. I think there was too much of Kane Hodder present.
The acting is some of the worst in the series. But I can only blame them so much, because–
The story is ridiculous and full of clichés. I’ve read or heard somewhere that the movie was better before the studio watered down the script. Who knows? The very idea of putting Jason in space is stupid. At best it can only be a low-rent version of Alien. Add to that the most obvious one-liners and scripted dialogue, and we’re talking a disaster of a movie.
The Saturday After
Look, these have been some of the most negative essays I’ve written, and I know fans of the series are used to that sort of thing from non-fans. I almost feel bad about these essays, but I have to call it like I see it. Whether they made money or not, these movies just keep getting worse. The box office for Jason X was also lackluster.
But that was okay, because in 2002, news broke that horror nerds had been hearing for a looonnng time. And this time, it looked like it might actually happen….
With the lackluster performance of Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan in 1989, and with the urging of series co-creator Sean S. Cunningham, Paramount Pictures sold the franchise to New Line Cinema, whom they’d attempted to “rent” the Freddy Krueger character and situations from a few years prior. This would prove a major coup for New Line because now they could finally set up the Battle of the Ages: Freddy Krueger versus Jason Voorhees. The sale in the early 1990s came at just the right time because 1989 wasn’t a good year for Freddy, either. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, released a year after the highest-grossing Nightmare, earned the lowest amount for the franchise at that time. Hoping to cash in one last time, New Line released the final Nightmare movie, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, in 1991, and it made a good amount of money. The purchase of the Jason Voorhees character and Friday the 13th meant they now had the two most popular monsters of the 1980s and could finally put them together.
Robert Shaye knew Sean S. Cunningham would be on board since he’d been trying to get the Jason/Freddy project off the ground for years, but decided to ask Wes Craven if he had any ideas. As it turned out, Craven did have ideas…only not for a monster mash-up. Excited by any Craven involvement in a new Nightmare film, New Line Cinema went ahead with his idea for a seventh movie. This gave Cunningham and the studio the chance to do what the eighth Friday the 13th movie couldn’t do: Put an “end” to Jason and set up the eventual Freddy/Jason movie.
With a screenplay by Dean Lorey and Jay Huguley, from a story by Huguley and director Adam Marcus, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday was released on August 13th, 1993. I remember watching it when it came on Cinemax about a year later, when I was either a junior or senior in high school. I was interested in watching it in and of itself but the real reason I wanted to see it was because, by that point, Fangoria had reported the surprise ending….
The acting is slightly better in this movie than in the previous Friday movies. The script gives the actors a little more to work with. That said, the stand-out performance for me was Erin Gray’s. Now, it could just be the nerdboy in me talking, except that I never saw her in Buck Rogers (because I never saw the show, not because I couldn’t see her, that’s weird of you to think), I only knew her from Silver Spoons. But she brings real pathos to her role. John D. LeMay as Steve Freeman is also pretty good. He also starred in Friday the 13th: The Television Series, only he played a different character.
I know I write this often in these essays, but I feel like I’m often grasping at straws, so my apologies for repeating myself, but the fact that the screenwriters tried to move into a totally different direction with Jason (Kane Hodder) and the series needs to be applauded. They truly leave the idea of Jason terrorizing teenagers/young adults behind and take the movie into a new direction. Jason is now a known enemy to the United States and a task force has been employed to destroy him. Playing with horror as a genre, they reference the Evil Dead films and give a reason for Jason’s supernatural ability, as well as a way to destroy him. They also give him a larger family that changes the way he can be viewed.
If you’re into these movies for the gore, then you’re in luck. Whatever shenanigans that kept gore out of the eighth movie seems to have gone away for this one. It’s ridiculously gory. So if you’re into that, that would be a plus.
Freddy! Yeah, you must’ve known I was going there. At the end Jason is dragged into hell by monsters. There’s a close-up of his hockey mask. He’s dead. And then Freddy’s gloved arm shoots up, grabs the mask, and drags it into hell, with Freddy’s signature laugh. Of course, the arm looks strangely muscular (Kane Hodder provided the arm) and the blades of the glove bend when they hit the dirt, but it’s Freddy.
While the overall acting is slightly better in this movie, there are still some horrible performances. For me, the most surprising of these bad performances was given by Steven Williams as he played bounty hunter Creighton Duke. Williams has had a long, good career. I first knew him as the boss on Fox’s hit 21 Jump Street, which starred A Nightmare on Elm Street alum Johnny Depp. Williams was also a nerd favorite on The X Files as Mr. X. He’s a pretty good actor who is terrible in this movie. Maybe it’s not the right role for him. I don’t know, but it’s bad.
The story is real bad. That’s the problem with the Friday the 13th movies (or the Jason movies, as I guess they should be called for the next few essays), even if it’s the best written one, chances are likely that the movie is still shitty. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday is no exception. It begins with Jason stalking a young woman who turns out to be part of that federal task force I mentioned earlier and ends with him being dragged to hell by some of the silliest monsters I’ve ever seen (though less silly than the Dream Demons from Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, I’ll give Jason the point for that). And then a young family walks into the sunrise. What? Yeah, you read that correctly. There’s a baby in this movie, and family issues, and a love story, and stereotypical foul-mouthed fat ladies, and more plot holes than I have time to list. And, the biggest problem by far is–
Where’s Jason?! New Line Cinema acquires their biggest horror competitor. They want to do a Freddy vs. Jason movie. They’ve already killed off Freddy (and it won’t be an issue that he returns for Wes Craven’s new Nightmare movie, which will be released the following year). And here we go with killing off Jason and…we’re going to keep Jason out of most of the movie.
Jason appears at the beginning, as I mentioned, until the U.S. government blows him up. Then his remains spout some creature that then goes around possessing people. We’re told by the bounty hunter that Jason the person has long been dead, but the evil entity in him takes his evil essence and finds new hosts for him. The idea is that Jason has been different people all the time. Forget the fact that almost every Friday the 13th movie showed him return from the prior movie’s resting place. The only other time we see Jason until the very end when he finally returns (plot hole alert), is in the mirror whenever his hosts stand in front of one. Instead of seeing Jason kill, which is all his fans pay to see anyway, we’re given a variety of characters committing Jason-style violent deaths.
Which only highlights what I’ve been saying throughout these movies: the true reason for the horror of a horror movie isn’t even being attempted, not even for laughs. The movies have devolved into a slaughterfest meant to do nothing but make powerless adolescents laugh at gruesome, horrible deaths. The fact that this is the ninth movie of this is a horrific happening unto itself.
Oh, and let’s talk about Jason himself in this movie. He looks stupid. His head has somehow inflated to twice the normal size, he’s regrown hair, and he’s not even close to wearing what he wore in the last few movies. If this is because he’s in a new body, how did the head come to look like a watermelon-sized meatball? He’s lame.
The Saturday After
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday is a new day for Jason. New Line was able to make it more supernatural than the character (and story) had been but ultimately failed to do anything interesting with the movie. It’s essentially a 90-minute prologue to Freddy vs. Jason, which they hoped to make after the new Wes Craven Nightmare was released. As a teenager, I thought the movie was okay. As an adult, I’m shocked by how bad it is compared to my memory of it.
The movie did okay and it certainly promised fans what they’d been hoping for for nearly a decade. With all the pieces in place, what could possibly go wrong?
Though the box office for Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood wasn’t as high as some of the previous installments, it was still in the ballpark enough for Paramount to greenlight an eighth movie. This time around, longtime producer of the franchise Frank Mancuso, Jr., was out. Taking on writing and directing duties was Rob Hedden.
According to Hedden, he was one of the people who pitched for a Jason vs. Freddy Krueger crossover and was also a writer for the Mancuso, Jr.-produced Friday the 13th: The Television Series that ran on syndication at this point. The chance to write and direct the next film was something he couldn’t pass up.
Once again, Paramount gave permission to the writer/director to create a story in any way he wanted so he pitched taking Jason Voorhees out of Crystal Lake and bringing him to New York City. Paramount loved the idea and pre-production begun. However, even before production began, problems arose, mostly regarding budget.
This was, I believe, the second Friday the 13th movie I saw, again it was on Cinemax. My best guess was 1990 or 1991. I remember the teacher (Barbara Bingham) giving the star, Rennie (Jansen Daggett), a pen that she said she believed Stephen King used when he was a student. I also remember the boxer (V.C. Dupree) that Jason (once again, Kane Hodder) decapitates with a single punch to the head. There were other things I remembered faintly, too, that came back upon rewatching this movie.
Jansen Daggett as Rennie is attractive and likeable, though she’s not the best actress. She is also very 1980s. This is fun.
The attempt by Hedden to take the franchise to a new place, both metaphorically and literally, is to be applauded. He didn’t want to do yet another Jason-stalks-kids-in-the-woods movie. Taking Jason to New York is thrilling in many ways. First, just the What The Fuck? Factor of seeing Jason in Times Square is fun. And this is 1989 Times Square, so it’s not yet the full neon, crazed, carnival it is today. It still has a little of the old Times Square danger to it. Seeing Jason in back alleys and the like is also fun.
There’s a billboard in Times Square for 1989’s Batman, starring Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton. That’s fun to see. Now digital effects would have replaced the ad for the Warner Bros. film for a billboard for a Paramount movie, or maybe even something else entirely. Yeah, this has nothing to do with the story, I’m grasping at straws here.
All right, in the last essay I wrote that I wasn’t a fan of Jason’s makeup. Well, this movie’s is even worse. First off, it’s a step backward. Where Jason looked too withered and falling apart in The New Blood, in Jason Takes Manhattan, even though he’s been under water for however long between movies, his shirt has somehow come back together and some of his flesh seems to have regrown. Oh, and it’s changed color, too. And when they take the mask off, it’s the worst makeup of the series. Jason looks like a poorly drawn smiley face. And the mask, which had black fabric covering up the left eyehole through most of the series suddenly has both eyeholes covered, so no eyes remain. I always felt that seeing Jason’s eye(s) somehow made him scarier.
The acting is typically bad. The story has a bunch of teenagers going on a cruise from Crystal Lake to New York City for some school thing in biology class and there’s a hell of a lot more kids than it seems we ever get to know. And the ones we do get to know are the normal stereotypes that we never get the chance to care about. Even Jansen Daggett’s Rennie is little more than the typical quiet girl who will survive this horror movie through her cunning and innocence.
And while I applaud Hedder for attempting to take Friday the 13th in a new direction (how often have I written that or something like that in these essays?) it fails. Part of it isn’t his fault. Some of it was the budget. Some of it was, no doubt, the MPAA.
At $5 million, the budget for this movie was higher than any of the previous installments, but it still wasn’t enough. Apparently, the original script had most of the movie set in New York City, but Hedder was told that it was too expensive to shoot there. And even with shooting some of New York’s settings in Vancouver, time in the city (and on location) kept getting shorter and shorter. In the end, he had two days in actual New York and only the last third of the movie was set there.
The MPAA surely hurt the movie. By this point in the 1980s, Tipper Gore and other watchdog types were actively going after horror movies and heavy metal and anything that could seem too much for children. This is because R-rated adult entertainment is something that children regularly see. Well…maybe…but I digress. This movie is actually pretty tame compared to the previous movies (and those that follow). Most of the deaths happen offscreen. Jason comes into frame, lifts his arm, brings it down, and then we see the body at some point. There are exceptions to this, I already mentioned the fate of the young boxer on a rooftop. Compared to the crazy gore and gratuitous violence of, say A New Beginning, Jason Takes Manhattan is pretty tame. People don’t watch Friday the 13th movies for tame, though. They watch for over-the-top violence and gore.
Even with the constrictions brought on by budget and censorship, Hedder must take most of responsibility in the failure of this movie. From beginning to end, very little fits logically with the story within the franchise or even within the movie itself. Rennie sees the little boy of Jason throughout the movie, and he only slowly grows to look like how he did in the original. The way Jason is brought back to life is also odd. He’s electrified again, which isn’t so odd, by a giant electrical cable that runs under Crystal Lake, which gets frayed by a yacht. How does a yacht fit on this lake? Is it one of the Great Lakes? Or perhaps a great lake in its own right? Anyway, this cable–which is out in the open under the water–is frayed by the yacht’s anchor (which is light enough to be carried by the lake’s current but strong enough to break this huge cable) and the electricity goes up the cable to where Jason is under the broken dock from the last movie. It brings Jason back but not the girl’s father from the previous movie. His body isn’t even there. So not only do Jason’s clothes somehow repair themselves (as does his skin) but the father also disappears magically. At the end, Jason is essentially turned into the little boy, which is also weird and doesn’t make sense. His choices in direction aren’t always the greatest (the POV of the boxer’s severed head is stupid, because the boxer can’t see because he’s dead).
And let’s not forget how Jason suddenly appears in places. There have been jokes as long as these movies have been out how the killer will walk after his victims and always seem to get them. For Jason, the walking after victims really began in the fourth movie. In this movie, though, Jason begins to appear whenever needed. One example is on the cruise ship to New York. Jason is stalking a victim and the victim turns away, runs up some steps, only to be confronted by Jason, who somehow managed to get from the deck to the stairs without passing his victim. Now I can only assume that this was done because of Freddy Krueger. Freddy is known to do this trick throughout his film series, and this makes sense because he’s in a dream. Jason may now be supernatural, but he’s still in the real world and should adhere to at least some of the physics that we all live with. Yikes.
Saturday the 14th
What might have been a fun jaunt to the city with a popular monster is a lame movie. The attempts at humor fail. There’s nothing particularly creepy or scary in the movie. And the one thing that the Friday the 13th movies always did well–gory death scenes–are trimmed to the point of nearly being safe for network TV (of the time, anyway).
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan no doubt caused more eyerolls than anticipation when the trailers first hit theaters. The film did the least business than any of the other movies in the franchise, earning a measly $14.3 million dollars. Its release date didn’t help any. Released on July 28th, 1989, it was smack-dab in the middle of one of the biggest summers the movies had seen. Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lethal Weapon 2, and Ghostbusters II were all released that summer. Even the better-faring Freddy Krueger movie A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (released in August) failed to do the business its predecessor of the prior year did; $22 million compared to $49 million.
Between the poor audience reception, the fact that it was the eighth movie, and the fact that the horror bubble was beginning to collapse all around, Paramount decided that Jason’s trip to New York would be his last resurrection for awhile.
With the Friday the 13th movies still making money but straining a very thin premise, Paramount and producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. were looking for something new to do with the franchise. Sean S. Cunningham was also interested in possibly doing something new with the franchise, especially now that there was a new kid on the block. The block happened to be on Elm Street in a sleepy town called Springwood.
In 1984, the fledgling New Line Cinema released a film by Cunningham’s protégé Wes Craven called A Nightmare on Elm Street. The movie was scary and had become a sleeper hit. The villain of the film, Fred Krueger, portrayed by the classically trained Robert Englund, sliced his way to the top of people’s Favorite Villains list with a concept unlike any that had been done before. New Line went ahead with a sequel even though Craven refused and 1985 saw A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. While the critical and fan response to the second movie was much less favorable than its predecessor, the movie earned more than the first movie, securing another sequel. In 1986, filming was underway on A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. With the return of Wes Craven, along with his writing partner Bruce Wagner, on the story and script (along with Frank Darabont and director Chuck Russell), anticipation was high. Freddy Krueger was already being mentioned alongside Jason Voorhees as one of the best monsters of 1980s horror.
Cunningham saw this as an opportunity to revitalize the series he co-created and pitched the idea of putting the two maniacs together in the style of the old horror movies. So began talks between Paramount Pictures and New Line Cinema. Paramount wanted to “rent” the rights to Freddy Krueger, Elm Street, and the rest. Being an old movie studio, it was in a position of power. Except that New Line’s new horror villain was the “It” Monster at that moment. Freddy had a sense of humor, ran around, and got people in their dreams while Jason just shambled about. So New Line proposed “renting” Jason, et al. Neither party would budge and the deal fell through. Still, the movie was pretty close to happening.
So with the Jason and Freddy match-up off, Paramount and Mancuso, Jr., went ahead with plans for a seventh Friday the 13th. Still, the idea that Jason had a formidable opponent was forefront in their mind, so writers Manuel Fidello and Daryl Haney gave Jason a psychic/telekinetic teenage girl to fight. It reminds me of that famous quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “I asked for a car, I got a computer.” Paramount asked for Jason vs. Freddy, they got Jason vs. Carrie.
This was the first Friday the 13th I believe I saw since it came on HBO/Cinemax the year after its release and by that point I was officially into horror. I liked it well enough at the age of 12, I guess. It was interesting, at least, the girl using her mind to move things. Since this was before I began reading Stephen King and hadn’t seen the movie Carrie, I didn’t have that as a frame of reference. That probably helped me somewhat like the movie back then.
Jason (Kane Hodder) looks like a monster, which is cool. Between the third movie and the sixth, he could just as well have been Michael Myers of Halloween–a dude with a mask killing late-teenagers/young adults. Somewhere he even got a jumpsuit like Myers. With this movie, director John Carl Buechler decided to really have Jason look like he’s been through the wringer. While the previous movie zombified him, this movie went all out. He’d been in a lake for years and now looked it with his clothes in tatters and bones visible. It also made Jason different from the other famous monsters of the 1980s.
The attempt at something different should also be given a nod. It would have been real easy to just have the kids be at a camp all over again and Jason inexplicably come back to life and kill them one by one. This time, there’s a telekinetic teenage girl named Tina (Lar Park Lincoln). There was a hint of spousal abuse that could be brought up and a doctor (Terry Kiser) who seemed to be taking advantage of his patient for personal gain. Tina’s powers are a little silly at times (try not laughing when a TV flies through the air when she’s upset at the doctor and her mother) but the fights with Jason are almost interesting and somewhat entertaining.
Terry Kiser is good in this movie. His is a face you would recognize as he was in so much in the 1980s. I mean, he was Bernie in the Weekend at Bernie’s movies! He has a quality about him that’s just kind of slimy and he pulls off the Doctor-Up-To-No-Good thing so well.
The acting has gone back to being uninteresting at best. Some of it is horrible. Most of it is forgettable. Lar Park Lincoln does her best with the material but it just falls flat. I almost wonder if a better director, or better script, would have helped her. The rest of the cast fits into stereotypes, one way or another.
Though the look of Jason now distinguishes him fully from Michael Myers, I was distracted by the make-up effects for him. You can see his teeth and jaw exposed on the left side of his face and his ribs and spine on his back. Yet, they never feel like they’re in him, but rather on top of him, which they are. It was a valiant effort that ultimately fails and actually distracted me.
The beginning and ending are lame. The movie starts with young Tina running out of a house on Crystal Lake (where we see Jason floating beneath the surface, looking like he did in the previous movie). Young Tina climbs into a boat and rows away from the dock. We’ve heard the sound of her parents fighting and her father hitting her mother. Then Daddy comes out and chases Tina, saying he’s sorry and that he’ll never hit Mom again and all that shit. In a moment of anger, Tina uses the Force to destroy the dock, which means Daddy falls into Crystal Lake, to his doom. When she comes back for “therapy” years later, Tina goes to the dock and senses a presence underwater (I think…this is never really clear). Then she uses her telekinesis to bring Jason back, thinking it’s her father.
At the end, the way Jason is finally “killed” is lame because Tina, once again on the dock, her new boyfriend with her, is being attacked by Jason (who we thought was blown up with the house). Tina uses the Force again to feel a presence under the lake and WHAMMO! Daddy comes out of the water, through the dock, and brings Jason down with him. Unlike Jason, though, who decayed underwater for almost a decade, Daddy is a little dirty but is otherwise the same guy we saw in the prologue.
And while we’re talking about Daddy here, let’s talk about how fucked up this movie is when it comes to women. Now, I know that the Friday the 13th movies tend to objectify women, but there are some strongish women in most of the movies. Or at least I think they’re supposed to be strong, because it’s almost always a woman who defeats Jason, or helps defeat him. But bear with me here. So in the prologue, we hear the mother get slapped by the father, who, moments later, tells his little girl that he won’t do it again, even though it seems he’s made this promise before. So she kills him. Now, she comes back in her therapy (which is really just the doctor using her powers to make a name for himself) to the location where Daddy met his fate. She is distraught at the memory that she killed him. Her mother tries to assuage her grief. There’s a photo of Dad on the wall in the house. She killed her Dad, she killed her Dad…waaaah! And then she uses the same powers she used to bring Jason back to bring him back to save her. Has she forgotten the reason she killed him? Has she forgotten that he beat her mother? I know that a child may feel guilt at this, and that guilt might carry over the years, but how can Mom be so understanding? Or am I just reading too much into this subplot?
While the filmmakers attempted something different, they fail. By now, it’s beginning to feel like gimmicks are being thrown together. Not that the whole series is anything more than gimmicks. Jason in 3D! Jason dies! A new killer! Jason lives! Jason fights…um…er…you said we can’t use Freddy?….um…Jason fights…[sees Stephen King’s Carrie on the bookcase]…a telekinetic girl! Here’s the thing with the Friday the 13th movies and the character of Jason Voorhees as he’d been presented up to and including this point: You can’t do much with him. He is a zombie who doesn’t eat his victims, who has superhuman strength, and always manages to find a machete. He’s just a machine that kills. So you could have him fight a telekinetic girl, Freddy Krueger, or the Harlem Globetrotters but the fact remains that he’s just going to shamble around killing people.
Saturday the 14th
I realized while writing that last paragraph that it was becoming the wrap-up, so I’ll wrap it up. By the seventh movie in this franchise, Jason Voorhees is a bore. The sixth movie proved to be the exception that proves the rule. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood was made for $2.8 million and earned $19.2 million after its May, 1988 release. Compare that to A Nightmare on Elm Street IV: The Dream Master, which was released that August and cost $13 million (about $10 million more than the former) but made $49.3 million, more than any of the original Friday the 13th movies had ever made.
The only thing the filmmakers could do to keep him interesting was throw in different gimmicks. What would be next? Freddy was too successful on his own. Fight Michael Myers, whose own franchise had been rejuvenated based on the successes of Jason and Freddy? Have Jason fight Superman, whose movie career was over for a bit? Or maybe a change of scenery would be it. Something silly, like sending Jason to New York.
Yeah, right. Who would buy that?
After the mess that was Part V: A New Beginning, it’s a surprise that Paramount would’ve okayed a sixth film, except for one thing. Well, make that 22 million things. With a budget of just $2.2 million, the fifth movie earned back ten times the cost. The movie may have been a financial hit but it still met with a lukewarm reception at best. Critics, naturally, hated it. This was nothing new. However, the fans didn’t like it either, and that was a problem. With this in mind, Paramount and producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. decided to abandon the set-up at the end of the fifth movie, where it looked as though Tommy Jarvis would become the next killer of the series (which is what the fourth movie did, as well). As such, the decision was made to bring Jason back. They hired Tom McLoughlin to write and direct the movie.
Unlike my experiences with the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, I don’t have clear memories of the first time I saw most of these movies. I’m pretty sure I was between 12 and 15 and they were all showing on Cinemax. They never captured my interest as much as the Nightmares did, so watching these now is like watching them for the first time, only with odd flashbacks. So I can honestly say that Jason Lives surprised me.
I’m surprised, but happy, to say that the acting is pretty good. Now don’t get me wrong, no one was going to win any Oscars from this movie, but the actors were definitely better in this installment than in the previous few. Thom Mathews as the new Tommy Jarvis is pretty good. He’s much more charismatic than John Shepherd was in the role in the previous movie. Jennifer Crooke as Meghan is also pretty good, although straining at times. David Kagen as Sheriff Mike Garris also does a great job. And this movie features Future Serious Actor Tony Goldwyn, just four years before his memorable appearance with Patrick Swayze, Whoopi Goldberg, and Demi Moore Ghost (he can now be seen as the President of the United States in the TV series Scandal). This movie may have the best cast since the first movie.
The humor is a welcome change from what’s come before. This movie is actually funny in spots. Not that the Friday the 13th movies ever shied away from humor, but it was usually camp that was employed. McLoughlin’s script is actually pretty funny. This isn’t a comedy, not in the true sense of the word, but it’s got elements that would later be employed (more successfully) by Wes Craven’s Kevin Williamson’s-scripted Scream films.
There’s actual tension in this movie. Not much of it, but it’s there. Jason (C.J. Graham) has stopped running yet still manages to be unsettling. There’s a scene when someone catches him killing another person. He stops and looks at the voyeur. The shot is done so that we’ve become the voyeur so Jason has caught us. It’s a little thing, but it helps. So when Jason turns and begins walking quickly toward us, the reaction is purely, Oh, shit! Run! There are other scenes where this horror movie comes close to living up to the genre’s name, which is a welcome relief from the previous movies.
There’s an actual, true supernatural element to the movie. Prior to this, Jason gets his ass handed to him over and over again but is supposed to be some sort of man with a lot of strength. This movie opens up with Tommy Jarvis and a friend from the mental hospital (played by none other than Horshack himself, the late Ron Palillo) going to find Jason’s grave (skipping over the previous movie’s assertion that Jason was cremated) because Tommy doesn’t believe Jason’s really dead. They dig him up and upon seeing Jason’s decaying, worm- and maggot-ridden corpse, Tommy freaks out and grabs a piece of the wrought iron fence–which looks like a spear–and begins pounding it into Jason, screaming. Finally, back to his senses, he climbs out of the grave to get the gasoline to finally, truly cremate him. Lightning strikes the spear and brings Jason back to life. Jason is essentially a zombie from here on. It opens up a whole world of possible fun and actually gives the previous movies some help. Now Jason really did die as a child, but came back after his mother was killed. And that’s why no one is ever able to kill him, except Tommy in the fourth movie.
There’s thought that actually goes into this movie. If Tommy wasn’t obsessed with the idea of Jason not being dead, he wouldn’t have brought him back to life (even accidentally). I like that Tommy is the one who “killed” Jason before accidentally bringing him back. Also, the common thing is to have the main heroine of the movie be the sweet, innocent one. Not so in this movie. Meghan is the wild child who would normally be killed fairly early on in this kind of movie. The girl who is most like the typical heroine in these movies is the last of the camp counselors to die. There’s surprisingly very little in terms of plot holes in this particular story (though in the overall scheme of the franchise, there are plenty).
The ending is a little weak. Tommy puts Jason underwater with a chain around a rock and Meghan goes at him with the motor of a motorboat and he dies. Or does he? When the camera goes in for an extreme close-up of Jason’s eye, it’s no real surprise.
The sheriff’s deputy is played badly. He’s the typical horror movie cop and the rest of the material is beneath this.
Saturday the 14th
This movie surprised me. I liked it. More than I should’ve, probably. McLoughlin understands the material and does his best to make it fresh and it works. I don’t know if I saw the whole thing as a kid (I remember the opening in the graveyard from back then) but if I did, I certainly didn’t get the humor. Or maybe I thought it was lame. I don’t know, but I found myself quite entertained by Jason Lives. I daresay, it may be my favorite of the series. At least so far.
The movie made less than the previous movie at around $19.5 million, but still earned back a lot (its budget was $3 million). By now, though, Jason wasn’t the only monster on the block. Freddy Krueger slay his way through two movies with a third on the way in early 1987. And around schoolyards and school hallways, the inevitable question arose: Who would win in a fight…?
I know that at some point in my early teens I saw some of this movie, just as I saw some of the others. As I watched it more recently, though, I was surprised by just how little of it I remembered….
The movie begins with Corey Feldman returning as Tommy Jarvis. He witnesses two young men digging up a makeshift grave for Jason Voorhees. Jason comes alive and murders them both. Then he comes after Tommy, raises his machete, and Tommy (John Shepherd) awakes, a young man, in the back of a van. He is being brought to a halfway house after his release from a mental institution. He has had a hard time coping with killing Jason (as well, I assume, as the grisly murders that took place around and at his home). Of course, violent murders begin happening shortly after Tommy arrives leading to a final showdown with none other than Jason…or is it?
Claiming the fourth movie as The Final Chapter no doubt brought people into theaters, which no doubt decided the Paramount brass, as well as producer Frank Mancuso, Jr., to immediately resuscitate the franchise. So A New Beginning was devised and the world became a darker place for it.
Corey Feldman returns as Tommy Jarvis. Seeing him and the level at which he works is a great thing. It’s a shame that it all went downhill for him after Stand By Me, but here he kicks ass–again–as Tommy Jarvis. In the five minutes or so he is onscreen, mostly in close-ups, he brings emotion and pathos to the film.
While I’m mentioning Feldman, I’ll mention Shavar Ross, who plays Reggie. If you grew up in the early-1980s, then you’d recognize Ross from Diff’rent Strokes, where he played Arnold’s (Gary Coleman) best friend Dudley. Here, he gives the second best performance of the movie. I think the reason both he and Feldman are so good in these movies is that they are kids. They’re not adult actors who are aware of the kind of movie they’re making. They’re child actors who are probably thrilled to be in a Friday the 13th movie, or any movie. It’s one more step to a long, fruitful career for them. Ross isn’t as good as Feldman was in the prior movie, or in his five minutes in this one, but he’s the best thing in the rest of the movie despite the poor writing he’d given.
The nudity is the most in this series thus far. Now, I know it was a little funny the first time I mentioned this. And maybe still funny, a little, the second time. Now I look like a pervert. Well, allow me to defend myself: As I mentioned, the teenagers and young adults who paid for Friday the 13th flicks in the 1980s wanted only violence and sex. Let me go back and edit that. The teenagers and young adults who paid for many low-budget horror flicks in the 1980s wanted only violence and sex. Unless the horror flick was truly scary (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser) the only thing going for these kinds of movies were violent and sexual perversion. So, by that standard, this movie succeeds. The nudity is upped. There are lots of breasts in this movie. Not as many as some, perhaps, but better than others in this series.
The violence has been upped. Again, if you’re paying for this–and teenagers were–then the depravities onscreen are upped.
The writers try to go in a “new” direction. There’s a little more psychological suspense (a term I loathe) in this movie. When older Tommy Jarvis arrives on the scene, he sometimes sees Jason (Tom Morga). It’s apparent that it’s not the ghost of Jason but his own PTSD that’s fucking with him. Unfortunately, writers Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen, and Danny Steinmann and director Steinmann don’t really get into it. They try to keep Jason dead.
The acting is all around bad, except for Feldman and Ross. Again, I think they’re bad because they’re not given anything to work with. By the fifth movie, the template hadn’t just been set, it had become part of the DNA of a certain moviegoing audience. A small set-up at the beginning where we meet the characters, all stereotypes, and then 60 to 70 minutes of those people being murdered in especially grisly fashion, with tits thrown in for good measure. So the actors are there just to flesh out the stereotype and then react to the killer. And the actor who plays older Tommy, John Shepherd, is awful. He’s a goddamn zombie!
If I’m going to be base, then I have to say that the killings are lame. Because the writers decided to try something kinda-sorta new, we never see the killer until the very end, when it appears to be Jason. This means that, like the first movie, the filmmakers have to be clever and not show the killer doing the killings. While this worked for the first movie, it hinders this one. Maybe that’s because it comes after three where Jason Voorhees was seen in all his cardboard glory, I don’t know. But it falls flat.
The writing is horrible. Yeah, Mssrs. Kitrosser, Cohen, and Steinmann get a little kudos for trying to go in a new direction, but the rest of the movie just sucks. And if you’re going to try a new direction, try a new goddamn direction. Don’t do the same fucking thing but with someone else, unless it’s in a new place, under new circumstances, and breaks away from everything that’s come before. And if you want the Tommy Jarvis connection (and what about his sister?), why not bring him to a hospital in the city where he starts having hallucinations? I don’t know. Like Friday the 13th in New York? (See what I did there?). But they don’t. It’s in the woods, assumingly in Jersey, near Crystal Lake. It’s a halfway house this time, that way we can give the kids in the movie a reason for acting differently, and maybe get some built-in pathos straight away. The lines the actors are given are bad. The story is nearly nonexistent, and there’s no real structure. The “heroine” in this movie, Pam (Melanie Kinnaman) is boring. She looks like Amy Steel from Part II but isn’t given anything interesting to do. And considering she’s one of the people in charge, she makes some horrible choices. The Black characters are given bad lines, the White actors each have their own stereotypes to deal with (the slow fat kid, the angry kid, the horny guy, the horny girl, the sweet girl, the new wave girl, the super-sensitive guy, the guy running the show) and none move beyond that. And let’s not forget the ending, which takes place in a barn. Just like the third movie. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same barn. And the twist ending(s) of Jason not being Jason but rather an ambulance driver we see for 10 seconds at the beginning of the movie, after the first (actually, third, if you count the opening nightmare) murder who is upset because his son, the fat kid, is murdered by the angry kid. The other twist is that Tommy may suddenly be a killer. At least that’s what’s hinted at. Both leave the viewer feeling cheated. The former because there’s really so little evidence that it’d be the ambulance driver that no one could guess it, and the latter because if you want Tommy to be a killer, have him be the killer!
The direction is horrible. Again, comparing this one to the first one makes the first one almost seem like Casablanca. Sean S. Cunningham will never win an Oscar for directing (or for anything else) but at least he did a semi-professional job. Danny Steinmann points the camera. Done.
Lastly, the violence. I know that I listed the increased amount of violence in The Day section, but that was in terms of what is wanted by the boneheaded 1980s teenager/young adult who pays for (or sneaks into) a Friday the 13th movie. In actuality, the violence is appalling. I counted 10 grisly murders in the first half hour, and 12 by the 40 minute mark. There were twenty grisly murders in this movie before the killer is killed and there’s still another one in Tommy’s epilogue nightmare. I just looked it up and, up until this point (I’m not spoiling the rest of the movies for myself) it’s almost double the average, already-too-high number of deaths in these movies.
Now, folks, I’m not a squeamish person. I think Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door is a superb, heartwrenching novel and I liked the movie (much to the horrified chagrin of my lovely wife). I have watched the original I Spit On Your Grave several times (and have it on my Netflix instant streaming queue for another viewing). I’m not squeamish when it comes to film violence, but I want it to at least have a reason, and preferably an outcome that is more than just a body count. This is the kind of violence that gave the horror movies of the 1980s a bad name. Maybe as a teenager I would’ve thought it was cool, but I have definitely outgrown the target audience for these movies. It’s almost enough to make me abandon this series and move on to greener pastures.
Saturday the 14th
This movie is despicable. There is no redeeming value in it. According to Wikipedia, Cory Feldman was only available for the five minutes at the beginning of the movie because he was filming The Goonies. Good for him. This turkey is beneath him. Even though the fourth Friday the 13th lacked charm, at least there was some. This movie is a giant, steaming pile of shit. It’s only purpose that I can see is to remind us of how bad these movies could get.
The movie cost around $2.2 million. It made about $22 million. So you know what that meant….
With Friday the 13th‘s premiere in 1980, a sequel followed each year afterward for two years. Friday the 13th Part II came out in 1981 and Part 3 came out in 1982. The filmmakers, seeing how the film was repeating itself like a crazed hamster on its wheel, decided not to rush things for a fourth part. They also decided it was time to end things. This led to Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, which was released in 1984 and took the franchise into new territory with careful plotting, intelligent directing, and acting that blew away every other horror film that year.
All right, the only true part in the above paragraph are the titles and the dates, I made up the rest. The truth is, I have no idea why it took two years to make this movie except that, maybe, Paramount was ready to end the franchise with the third movie but figured, “Hey, why not? These things keep making money for us.” However, they may have also had enough of the Jason Voorhees character and may have decided this would be his last outing.
The Final Chapter begins much like the prior two sequels. The first five minutes show what has happened before. Unlike the prior two movies, though, it doesn’t replay the final scene. Instead, it takes “The Legend of Jason” story from Part II and illustrates it with some of the “Best of” the gory scenes, leading us into the end of Part 3. This movie picks up almost immediately after. Jason (Ted White) is on the floor of the barn we left him, ax removed from the head, but only recently. He’s taken to the hospital and turns out to be alive(!) and, well, does what Jason does.
There’s a little bit a new twist in this movie. There’s a family, Mom, daughter, and little boy living in the woods in a log house. They have a dog. There’s a house next door (the only house next door) where the “kids” who will become the main victims will stay, but there’s at least a family unit at play here. Joan Freeman plays Mrs. Jarvis in a fairly realistic way. Considering she’s not given much to do, she does a pretty good job. Kimberly Beck plays Trish Jarvis fairly well. Certainly not the best acting I’ve ever seen, but better than most heroines in this series (though I still think Amy Steel is the best so far). Her little brother, Tommy, is played by Corey Feldman, who turns in a star-making performance. He’s a little boy in this and cute-as-a-button, and he steals the show. This family gives what little heart The Final Chapter has. And it is only a little.
The hunter, Rob Dier, played by Erich Anderson, is also a nice twist to the movie. He’s the brother of a girl killed in Part II and is looking for Jason under the guise of hunting bear. His performance isn’t bad, though fairly thin.
Crispin Glover. Do I need to say more? I will. He’s as bad as everyone else in this movie but the fact that he’s in this movie, a year away from his big role as George McFly, is funny. He also displays some cool dance moves.
The gore is upped once again. Tom Savini returns to the series and the gore factor is raised from the prior movie. And while I’m writing about base entertainment, the nudity has returned, too. Woo!
Will I continue to knock the writing and directing in each of these essays? Probably. It struck me as I sat through this movie that I bet that somewhere, someone can write a good Friday the 13th. At this point, four movies in, I’m not sure. Here’s an interesting idea: Instead of making another Kids In the Woods Get Killed movie, focus on the family unit. The recently divorced Jarvis and her children who happen to be staying in the woods meet young Rob Dier, who’s “hunting bear” but is really looking for his sister’s killer, whom he believes is haunting the woods around Crystal Lake. Have the story unfold as Jason comes back and stalks them, maybe because Dier pesters him. Something like that. Spend time with the characters so the audience cares about them. Yes, yes, it’s breaking the formula, but why not? Instead, there’s a ton of characters that are barely written (though are better written in this movie than the last) and a killer who is somehow able to get around everywhere easily and without much effort. He can get from a kitchen to an eave near a window to a room downstairs to a room upstairs to the house next door to a basement in moments, and somehow finds time to arrange his victims for horrific display at just the right time. Jason is an artist. His canvas is the human body. His medium is fear. But physics don’t apply to him for some reason.
Should I mention the acting? I just did. I’ll leave it there.
The blatant disregard for life is another theme in these movies. Not just by the killer but also by the filmmakers. They just don’t give a damn about the horror of the violence they portray. I know, it sounds hypocritical of me to say this yet praise the gore, but it’s true. It’s scary how popular these films were (and still are) despite this. I’m not saying I’m above watching this shit, I’m obviously not, but I feel like I should mention it somewhere.
Saturday the 14th
The second movie introduced Jason as the killer. The third movie introduced the hockey mask. This movie makes Jason almost superhuman. He keeps getting lethal blows and coming back. Yet, the writers and such are still saying Jason is a man, a crazy man, true, but a man.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, according to Wikipedia, was a huge hit and spawned, of course, a fifth movie. I’ll also note that seven months later, the far superior A Nightmare on Elm Street was released. This would become very important for this franchise.
Like its predecessor, Friday the 13th Part 3 begins with the last five or so minutes of the previous movie. Unlike its predecessor, it reinvents the ending just a tad, which leads us to the third part of this ever-growing saga. Director Steve Miner returns to the franchise with his second–and final–effort. Being the third film in as many years, they had to pull out all the stops, so they made this movie in 3D! Makes sense, right? Part 3. Part 3D. Get it? Great, huh? And, because they wanted to really get the audience, they crafted the best script yet and hired the best actors the series had seen until this point.
All right, I’m lying. The extent of their efforts was in the 3D department. Oh! And the gore. This movie is gorier than its predecessors. Anyway, even though you can pretty much guess what I’m going to say by reading my last entry, let’s get into this.
I’ll give the filmmakers a little credit. They try a little to differentiate these movies. The first movie took place at Camp Crystal Lake. The second one happened at some other camp. This one takes place at a cabin/barn/house on the lake. The last two films featured blondes as the heroines, this one has a brunette. So at least it’s not happening at the same place…just the same lake. I’ll put this in the positive section, along with–
The gore. I know, this is base entertainment, at best, but like being happy with the nudity in the prior film, the gore in this one was upped. According to my sources (Wikipedia), most of the death scenes were edited down because they were too gory and the movie almost received an X-rating. Why the Blu-Ray I watched didn’t have it unedited is beyond me, but it didn’t.
The 3D shots. I had the option to watch the movie in 3D. I didn’t. Why? Because I thought it would be more fun watching the way things came at the screen for no real reason, and I was right. It’s silly and it’s fun. Handles to pitchforks, yo-yos, popcorn, prongs from pitchforks, and eyeballs all come toward the screen, along with other things. Whee! F-U-N!
The origin of the hockey mask is told here. According to my sources (again, Wikipedia) the hockey mask was used because it was around. They wanted to change Jason’s mask from a sack to a mask and 3D effect supervisor was a hockey fan who happened to have gear with him. The director loved it and they made masks for Jason. Little did they know that the hockey mask would become his iconic look.
Oh, and Jason (Richard Brooker) runs some more. That’s good. He’s almost scary.
This cast is the worst cast yet. There is so little distinction between the victims that it’s puzzling. There’s the girl who owns the house, the pregnant girl, her boyfriend–who walks on his hands, the hippie guy, his girlfriend, the fat kid with the Jewfro and a penchant for doing the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong time, the Latina girl, and the main girl’s boyfriend. There are other victims, too, including a three-person-biker gang: a tall, bald black guy, a black woman, and a white dude with a dagger earring and cigarette hanging from his maw. There might be more, I can’t remember. This movie killed too many brain cells. The extent of their characterizations is exactly what you just read. Nothing is followed up and no one really comes off the screen despite the 3D (see what I did there?). These people exist only to get killed. And unlike the second movie, which at least killed the original movie’s heroine within the first fifteen minutes, the second movie’s heroine is mentioned in a news report at the beginning of the movie as being transported to a local hospital. Which reminds me, there are two people who die in that scene–an inept shopkeeper and his shrieking-stereotyped wife. Ugh, the stereotypes.
The writers (I use the term loosely) provide a script that is not so much story as graphically violent scenes attached with minimal story. In true Friday the 13th fashion, things are left unexplained. We never know what happens to the camp in the second movie and the main heroine in this movie (played by Dana Kimmell) has survived a Jason attack two years earlier. He attacked her and she passed out, to wake up later in her bed, unharmed. Huh? Why? Who knows? In this world, loose ends abound and the filmmakers don’t care because they know their audience: kids out for a good time and a few laughs. There’s a hippie guy who seems to be too old to hang out with the others. Why? Because. Why doesn’t Jason replace his sack until he finds the hockey mask from Jewfro? Oh, who cares?
The nudity. Or, rather, the lack thereof. Maybe things were getting tough in 1982, but there’s so little nudity that it’s a step backward. Prudish Americans.
Jason. In Part II, Jason is almost scary. He’s dressed like a farmer with a sack on his head, but he runs and is kinda creepy. In this movie, he’s larger, he’s lost his hair, and he’s…well…less scary. Not that he was really scary in the second movie, but was almost scary. In this one, he still runs, he still feels pain, but he takes a much harder beating. The makeup is pretty terrible, too.
Saturday the 14th
By 1982, people knew what they were getting in a Friday the 13th movie: young people being picked off one by one by a killer with nearly supernatural strength. I imagine seeing it in the theater in 1982, with your friends, and wearing silly 3D glasses is the optimal way to watch this movie. Check brain at door and have fun. This third installment could’ve ended things and just let sleeping hockey-masked killers lie. But, of course, that wasn’t going to happen….
One of the things that’s great about sequels is that the premise has been set up so the action can begin at once. It’s one of the reasons why The Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight work so well. The characters are re-introduced in clever ways and we get right into the story. Friday the 13th Part II doesn’t even get that right. Released a year after its predecessor and featuring a new writer and director, the audience is given a recap of the previous movie in the first five minutes. It only gets moderately better from there.
I first saw the movie in my early-teens, I was probably around fourteen or fifteen when it showed up on Cinemax, and I was surprised by how different Jason Voorhees was to the monster I’d watched in later installments in the franchise, for this is the installment where Jason (Warrington Gillette) becomes the monster, which in itself is historic to horror geeks like me. Hell, Drew Barrymore died because she didn’t know this! Because you know the story, I’ll get right into my ten cents of opinions.
Amy Steel as Ginny. She’s likeable, pretty, and somewhat realistic. She’s got a strength about her that radiates from the screen. A few of the other campers are also not too badly drawn, and I’d mention their names except that I never learned them. And we’ll get to that later. But Steel is pretty good even though I wish she were onscreen even more.
The nudity. Let’s face it, there are two reasons to watch a Friday the 13th movie: sex and violence. The first movie was much tamer on both counts than what I remembered. This one ups the nudity. I know, it’s very base of me to say such a thing but let’s not beat around the bush (no pun intended), these movies are base and when I watch them, I want to see me some boobies. This movie delivers…at least a little bit.
Jason’s introduction is also not bad. As a matter of fact, he’s almost scary. Jason’s outfit in this movie is biballs, a flannel shirt, and a sack on his head. He’s not a supernatural entity here so much as a madman running through the woods. Running. Jason Voorhees runs in this movie. He chases people, and tackles them, and is generally quite energetic.
The music by Harry Manfredini is also really good. Better, I think, than the first movie’s music. He takes the whole Psycho-meets-Jaws thing to a new level.
Alice’s return. Adrienne King returns as Alice in the first ten minutes or so of the movie. She’s having nightmares about the events of the first flick (that helps the audience know what’s gone down until this point) and wakes up. Ms. King is likeable but she’s not a great actress. Her return is generally better than most of the lines she delivered in the first movie. And then she’s killed with an icepick. In her home. In the city. With an icepick. How come so many people die from icepicks in movies? I’ve never even seen an icepick in real life. But anyway, she’s killed and that’s the end of Alice. So, aside from her memories from the first movie that helps set the audience up for this one, what’s the point? According to the well of information known as Wikipedia, Adrienne King was stalked by an obsessed fan of the first movie and only agreed to make this movie if her time was short. Why appear at all? Besides money? Why have her at all? Anyway, it doesn’t work and it makes the ending of the first movie tragic.
Characterization. Get used to this being in my reviews of these movies, methinks. Who are these people? Why should we care about them? I’ll give that the filmmakers of both movies used likeable actors who did their best to give the characters some kind of personalities, but I never really cared about any of them. Not enough to remember their names anyway. There was the guy running the camp, his girlfriend (Ginny–who I looked up to get Amy Steel’s name), the weird guy with red hair and electronic games, the wheelchair guy, the girl-who-likes-wheelchair guy, the frizzy-haired-big-boobed girl, her boyfriend–the blond guy with the hat and the truck, the work-out girl with the dog (who gets nekkid), the smarmy lothario who’s trying to get her…and I think that’s it. These characters mean so much to the filmmakers that the weird guy with red hair actually disappears from the movie. Which leads to–
The story. This movie does not take place at Camp Crystal Lake but at another camp on the same lake, five years later. Two camps sharing a lake? Does that happen? Well, in this part of Jersey it does. I don’t remember the name of the camp and it doesn’t matter, any more than the names of the characters matter. The only purpose of the camp is to make it like the first movie but more believable (???). After all, what’re the chances that a serial killer would go to the same camp?
Not only does the story not make sense, but the direction and editing also has major flaws. After a night at a bar, Ginny and her boyfriend come back to the camp to find everyone dead. Jason attacks the boyfriend but chases Ginny. There’s some cool, intense moments hear, but then she gets away and runs through the woods. We dissolve to the full moon, dissolve back on Ginny running, then dissolve to the full moon. She seems to have run to Camp Crystal Lake, yet when Jason is in the place where she’s hiding, she comes up with the chainsaw she was using earlier in the movie to cut wood, which means she didn’t run out there. Which means…what? She was running in a circle? The boyfriend comes back in Jason’s little hut to help her “defeat” him. They go back to the camp to find the little doggie that we believed was dead because we saw the remains of the same kind of dog earlier (Shi-Tzus run rampant in the woods of Jersey). Then Jason, sans sack, crashes through the window and attacks Ginny. The camera holds the shot and fades out. Only to snap back to Ginny being loaded into the back of an ambulance, asking after her boyfriend. What happened? Why isn’t she dead? And in all of this, what happened to the weird guy with the red hair they left at the bar? Or the other campers at the bar, too? And why does the movie take place five years later? How come so many sequels take place five years later? Don’t filmmakers know that styles and technology change in five years?
There’s a lot that’s taken for granted in this movie, stuff the characters seem to know yet shouldn’t. At least, the audience wasn’t made aware of them in the first movie. The Legend of Jason, let’s call it. The legend went that Jason Voorhees didn’t really die in the Crystal Lake but lived in the woods surrounding it. When Mrs. Voorhees is killed, he witnesses it and decides to kill everyone because of it. We’re told this legend around the campfire, which is cool, except…how come no one in the first movie knew of the legend? How come the crazy old man on the bicycle didn’t mention it when he was telling those original campers about how Camp Crystal Lake would lead to their doom? And how come Pamela Voorhees didn’t know about the legend that featured her son? And if Jason loved his mother so much, how come he lived in the woods, hiding, and not with Mother?
Saturday the 14th
Overall, the movie is a fun popcorn slasher flick, but it’s little more than that. There are too many questions and holes in logic. More so than its predecessor, it feels like a very cynical movie. The cynicism of the filmmakers to give its audience what is essentially the same movie with different faces, the lack of attention to detail, or the lack of any real thought makes Friday the 13th Part II a basically forgettable movie. But it did well in 1981 and meant that a sequel would follow.
If you grew up in the 1980s, you know that horror was king. In the bookstores, the horror section featured many books with lurid covers that titillated and frightened those of us curious–and brave–enough to venture into the section. Late night TV was creeping with horror. And in the multiplex, a turf war was going on. Every child of the 1980s had a side. The horror wars had two major figures and you were usually fans of one or the other. These figures were Jason Vorhees and Freddy Krueger. I fell on Freddy’s side, of course. So it’s with great caution that I have decided to leave my nice home on Elm Street and venture into the woods at Camp Crystal Lake.
I knew of Jason just like everyone else, and over time have caught nearly all of the original movies (the Paramount movies, and the first New Line one). Unlike each A Nightmare on Elm Street movie (or as the lamebrains would call ’em, Freddy Movies), I don’t really remember much of watching the Friday the 13th movies (or the Jason Movies). I know I saw most of them on Cinemax in various marathons, but hardly recall much else, or at least not enough to write about. Even as a 10-to-14-year-old, the movies left me uninspired and unimpressed. Still, they are a part of an era so why not take a look at them in my own, special way?
Over the course of a year, I have watched all the Friday the 13th movies. Considering the final Friday the 13th will be in September, I decided this was the appropriate time to begin a series of essays about the movies. I’ve decided that between September 13th and October 31st, I will post these essays right here. Some of these essays will come twice a week.
For fans of the Friday the 13th franchise, please take it easy on me. This will be like a Boston Red Sox fan trying to write about the New York Yankees (or vice versa). Let’s be civil, shall we?
The deranged traditions of science fiction “fandom” are overwhelmingly attractive, particularly to those few boys and girls who are the outcasts of their high school classes because of wonky thought processes, a flair for the bizarre, and physical appearance that denies them the treasures of sorority membership or a position on the football team. For the pimply, the short, the weird and intelligent…for those to whom sex is frightening and to whom come odd dreams in the middle of study hall, the camaraderie of fandom is a gleaming, beckoning Erewhon; an extended family of other wimps, twinks, flakes and oddballs.
– Harlan Ellison
“All the Lies That Are My Life”
I have been a fan of comic books, science fiction, fantasy, and horror for a long, long time. Comic books began coming into the house at a very young age, as did superhero toys. Star Wars caught me quite young, as well, and opened up a lot of possibilities in both storytelling and the beginnings of science. Horror was huge in the 1980s, when I was a child, and by 1987, I was a full-fledged horror fan.
I’m not a stranger to fandom. Everywhere I look around my workspace I see something that indicates fandom. Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and literary figure action figures are to my right on a bookcase (that’s devoted almost entirely to Stephen King books). Freddy Krueger and superhero action figures are on the Harlan Ellison bookcase. There are other strange tchotchkes around my work area, too. Hell, this very blog has seen me geeking out, or being a fan many times.
After the last few weeks, though, I think I might have had my fill. I may be ready to turn in my geek card. I may be ready to walk away from fandom.
The first incidents that irked me came through the news two weeks ago. In one week, Todd McFarlane, Mark Millar, and Gene Conway essentially said that comic books have always been for guys and if a woman is interested in them, they just need to accept that. I’m paraphrasing, of course. But you can look it up.
As a parent of two daughters, one of whom is a 15-year-old who is discovering fandom, this gets me very angry. It leads to the bigger discussion that has been popping up in the last year or so about the mainstreaming of Geek Culture and, especially, Geek Girls.
The first idea is that Geek Culture exists because it is a safe haven for those whom Harlan Ellison so eloquently write about above, the kids like me, whose minds are faster, weirder, and more prone to flights of fancy that others in their peer groups. Kids to whom social interaction is a difficult thing. Kids to whom the idea of people with powers, or flying around time and space in a police box, or any number of other scenarios are more comforting than going to a party. Now, suddenly, people who were never considered geeks, or ever considered themselves geeks, are going to see the movies that feature these symbols of adolescent impotence and calling themselves geeks. They’re going to ComiCons and wearing tee shirts with the symbols of these fantasies on them. And, goddamnit, how dare they it belongs to US!
The second idea is far, far uglier. The second idea is that attractive young women aren’t allowed to call themselves geeks because they are attractive and girls. A fat, pimply, odd girl is acceptable because the Omega Moos know what it’s like to be ostracized because of their looks or their brains, but the pretty ones do not. How dare they wear superhero- or science fiction- or horror-themed tee shirts?! How dare they call themselves geeks?!
Both arguments are total bullshit, of course. The mainstreaming of geek culture means we won. It means that all those lonely nights working on whatever dreams we had are paying off. We’ve watched them and we’ve reported back on their lives and they’re giving us their money for it. The Geek Girl argument is just simple paranoia that builds when one has been bullied too much. It’s the thing that makes us not trust the pretty, the beautiful, the self-assured.
That’s the first piece of ugliness.
The second piece of ugliness is only 48 hours old. Thursday night, Warner Bros. announced that the actor chosen to play Batman in Zack Snyder’s follow-up to Man of Steel, joining Henry Cavill as Superman, would be Ben Affleck. I wrote about the decision here. I like it. I think Affleck is a fine actor, a very good director, and he will be fine in the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Well, it seems the fanboys/-girls don’t agree. Online petitions have been started trying to oust the actor from the project. Memes ridiculing the actor have gone viral. The sad thing is, these fuckers will be buying the goddamn action figure in droves in 2015 (as my friend RJ Sevin said). These numbskulls don’t remember the hoopla surrounding 1989’s Batman when it was announced that Jack Nicholson would be playing the Joker and Michael Keaton would be playing Batman. Nicholson sounded great, but Michael Keaton?! Mr. Mom?! Beetlefuckinjuice?!
I was too young to know the severity of it in Xeroxed fanzines and letter columns of various magazines, but I’ve heard stories. I remember the mainstream media was also shocked and dubious. No one thought Michael Keaton would make a good Batman. And yet…the fans were so very sad when it was announced that he would not be reprising the role in the third Batman movie, 1995’s Batman Forever. Even after the disastrous Batman & Robin (1997) fans held out hope that Keaton would return to the franchise. A few years back, these same fanboys were upset about the casting of pretty-boy Heath Ledger as the Joker, and look how that turned out!
The brouhaha over the casting of Ben Affleck would be amusing to me if it wasn’t so vicious and coming from the “professional” websites of the comic book industry. And on the coattails of the other two problems I wrote about above, it’s enough to make me think that maybe…maybe…I’ve had enough.
I mean, I don’t have to stop liking the stuff I like. Maybe I don’t even have to stop writing about the stuff, though I have to wonder if my essays on the Nightmare on Elm Street and Superman movies are a teeny, tiny part of the problem. I like to think that they’re not unnecessarily mean, but let’s face it, they’re written by a fan for a fan. But maybe it’s time to leave the reading about such things behind. Maybe it’s time to unfollow Newsrama, and the Batman sites, and the other sff sites that have this attitude. I’ve already decided that there will not be any more money given to Todd McFarlane (though I made that decision back when I found out how much of a liar and thief he actually is).
The problem is that the fans of these types of stories will talk at length about heroism and strength, of openness and inclusion, of progressive action and of harmony among all. And yet, when it has come time for them to act as the fictional heroes they worship, they have failed. Not all of them, but a vocal segment that seems to be, well, quite large.
Groucho Marx used to say that he wouldn’t want to be a part of any club that would have him. I’m thinking that this might now apply to me and fandom.
Prove me wrong.