Friday, August 6, 2010

The Complete 'Friday the 13th' Series: Eviscerate it with someone you love


Friday the 13th (1980) 
93 min., rated R.


From the killer first striking in a P.O.V. pre-credit sequence, "Friday the 13th" is certainly a rip-off of 1978's untouched "Halloween," and yet it's still lifted above most others of the disreputable genre. Skillfully made and influential, but skin-deep and unspectacular, this low-budget slasher flick from director Sean S. Cunningham became such a box-office hit that it went on to spawn ten, yes, ten sequels and innumerable clones. 

For plot, six sex-crazed, grass-smoking camp counselors are hunted and slaughtered by a vengeful killer at the woodsy Camp Crystal Lake, cursed with murders from 22 years earlier. The final 20 minutes is a long time coming and pretty protracted, but it's where the killer's identity is revealed, the Final Girl stumbles upon all her friends' dead bodies and does a lot of running (A LOT of running), and never finishes off the psycho in one sitting (do they ever?). 

Makeup artist Tom Savini's realistic effects and various set pieces of gory novelty (the axe-in-the-head and arrow-through-the-throat murders being the most noteworthy) are a highlight and somewhat tide one over until then. However, none of the kills are especially inventive and some are even left off-screen. 

Harry Manfredini's eerie, overwrought "Psycho"-esque music score (“ki-ki-ma-ma”) has a lasting value, and the shock finale in the canoe is a steal from Brian De Palma but remains one of the more memorable endings in horror cinema history. Betsy Palmer—who reportedly signed on for a quick payday to buy herself a car—puts in a campy, sinister climactic appearance as Pamela Voorhees (remember this for movie trivia), Adrienne King as camper Alice has what it takes to scream, and look for a young, post-"Animal House" Kevin Bacon as the counselor who shows his buttocks and gets speared through the throat. 

"Friday the 13th" is no classic, but has enough splattery sweet spots for horror junkies.

Grade: B -





Friday the 13th (2009) 
97 min., rated R.

Reinvention, reboot, retooling, re-imagining, or whatever kids are calling it now to dust off and refashion an alleged classic, "Friday the 13th" is no longer immune. Sean S. Cunningham's 1980 original was merely a by-the-numbers but skillful body-count flick, inferior to "Halloween" but influential for slasher pics that followed in the '80s, not to mention its own ten sequels. Slickly constructed, rapidly moving, but mostly dull, this umpteenth rehash of the long-running stalk-and-slash, boobs-and-blood franchise is what it is: a slasher movie that gets down to business, on the grounds of gratuitous nudity and gore...not that we'd expect anything more. 

From the classic ki-ki-ki-ma-ma-ma sounds, the film starts with a flickering opening reel that economically sums up the first movie's resolution and it's off with Mrs. Voorhees' head. Then, feeling like old times, a fun, compact 20-minute pre-title appetizer has five campers searching for a marijuana crop, having tent sex, and being dispatched by a pissed-off, sack-hooded Jason (Derek Mears), who is no longer a lumbering zombie but can bound like a track and field star. Finally cutting to the title card is the entree, a month later, with a bunch of dumb, horny, stereotypical college kids shacking up at a cabin on Crystal Lake for the weekend. Not long after does Jason show up on his old stomping grounds and starts hacking away. If you expected more plot, stay home. 


Director Marcus Nispel (the 2003 "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake) and writers Damian Shannon and Mark Shift run with the slasher clich├ęs and recap the first four movies, but suck out the playful fun typified with the silly Jason movies. Also, it's shot in the germane style of big-budget producer Michael Bay's “Stylish Horror Remake” suit, Platinum Dunes—gritty, glossy, murky, tightly framed, and so much shaky-cam—that it's more suffocating than visceral. 


"Friday the 13th" should satisfy fans who easily get their scares and giggles out of your standard order of good-looking, biodegradable fodder getting sliced into bloody hamburger helper. You got your token sluts that party hardy and waterski topless, the token black guy that makes self-aware black jokes, and the rich jerk who screams like a girl that everyone wants to see get his. 


The acting is passable at best. Jared Padalecki is serviceable as a broad-shouldered stud named Clay out to find his missing sister (Amanda Righetti), who actually isn't dead but being held captive in Jason's rat-infested lair underneath the camp (!). Danielle Panabaker is sympathetic as the movie's nice virgin Jenna, as is Arlen Escarpeta as said token black dude Lawerence, who has a funny scene with a box of tissues and a Sears catalog. And for nudity's sake, Willa Ford and Julianna Guill do what they're asked to do and do it anatomically well. 


As for the money-shot kills (one of the reasons fans pay to see these movies anyway), Jason does go to town in the tool shed, of course not without his trusty machete, making them hard, bloody, and brutal without lingering too much. A quick, nasty, jolting kill underneath a dock is a slasher fan's delight, however, likable Asian stoner Chewie's (Aaron Yoo) death is especially grisly and punishing. Finally as all these movies have ended with, the obligatory jump scare final frame preps for a sequel, but do we really need an unlucky 13th movie? 


We've seen worse Jason sequels, it beats the curve between the good ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre") and bad (2007's "Halloween") horror remakes, and it just might make a perfect drinking game with friends at best. Horror buffs will eat it up with a spoon, but rest assured, this 12th "Friday" brings nothing new to the camp. 

Grade: C +

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) 
87 min., rated R.

"Friday the 13th Part 2" is a hackneyed sequel—which sped into production after its predecessor hit a surprising box-office jackpot—that's pretty much a remake of "Friday the 13th," verbatim: more blood and more teen exploitation. 

The last film's Final Girl and sole survivor, Alice (Adrienne King), is offed in the early-going after being plagued by too many flashback dreams (of course) of the teen slaughtering by Mrs. Voorhees at Camp Crystal Lake. But wait, there's another camp across the way from "Camp Blood" with a fresh batch of dumb, sexually active counselors (with Amy Steel as the new Final Girl, Ginny) who, again, won't listen to local Crazy Ralph and end up S.O.L. with an axe in the head or a spear through the chest while having intercourse. 


This time, the thought-dead Jason Voorhees (wearing a potato sack over his head) is doing all the killings, but why is he back? Where was he all this time? And why did his mother take revenge on all those stupid teens if her deformed son was still alive? And how the hell did he know where the solely surviving girl lived; did he get directions from Mommy's severed head? Don't count all the plot holes or you'll miss the point of why slasher flicks are made. 


Aside from Steve Miner's skillful direction with a few good kills, charmingly cheesy '80s effects and a fairly exciting climactic chase, it's nothing special, pure and simple.

Grade:


Friday the 13th Part 3: 3-D (1982) 
96 min., rated R.

Another set of cluelessly nubile bodies spend the weekend at a cabin near Crystal Lake, only to run into the hockey-masked maniac Jason Voorhees, who apparently wasn't killed at the end of Part 2. Those damn teens just don't know any better than the camp counselors from the first two films: premarital sex equals death. 


Not much better or worse than Part 1 or 2, this third stalk-and-slash retread boasts the first-time appearance of Mr. Voorhees' hockey mask and machete, but lacks the first two films' blatant gore and bare breasts. As a two-dimensional slasher pic, it has its moments, and director Steve Miner (who also directed the last flick) gives us some cheesy visual gimmicks—a yo-yo, a gouged-out eye, and a pitchfork pop out at you from the screen—and a 3-D credit sequence with a funky, disco-like music score. 


Funny how the first three films of this undying slasher series bear the same shock ending—where the undead killer jumps out of the water or crashes through a window to attack the sole survivor! 


Grade: C +



Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) 
90 min., rated R.

Final Chapter? Think again. "Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter" sounds like it would be the final nail in the coffin, but it's not unwatchable as slasher movies go. After obligatory flashbacks, where Part 3 left off, Jason is taken to the morgue, only for him to break out and go on another killing spree when stumbling upon a house on Crystal Lake full of partying, sex-starved teen bodies. 


You get everything you expect in this gory, same-old same-old fourth entry, like boobs and blood, with Tom Savini's makeup effects returning and being the best thing going for it. Though amateur in terms of writing or acting, Joseph Zito brings some competence to "The Final Chapter." There isn't much suspense—as everyone you think will die does and it's just a matter of waiting around for a cleaver to the face or a saw to the throat. There's even a murder in a shower that naturally seems borrowed from "Psycho." 


It's kind of fun seeing Crispin Glover (who would go on to play George McFly) as a nerdy teen scamming on chicks, and child star Corey Feldman figures into the movie as monster mask-wearing, computer geek youngster Tommy Jarvis. Question: did Jason throw the dog out the window, or was the poor mutt smart enough to turn suicidal? Guess we will never know . . . 


There are worse ways to spend a sleepover.


Grade:


Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985) 
92 min., rated R.

The "Friday the 13th" franchise really goes downhill with "Friday the 13th: A New Beginning," an ultimately pointless, inconsistent fifth chapter with a higher body count and more gratuitous nudity. There is no truly new beginning here, just a contradictory title, even after the last sequel, dubbed "The Final Chapter," was a lie. 


Natch, Jason is back as a walking zombie with machete in tow to grind some more hamburgers out of a halfway house for troubled teens, including an older Tommy Jarvis (John Shepherd, taking over for Corey Feldman). 


The writing is predictable and the acting on a direct-to-video level, as is mostly the same for the previous four movies, but hey, who's counting? The rules for dying are simple: if you snort cocaine, you're dead; if you flash your breasts, you're dead; and if you spy on a couple of kids having sex in the woods, you're dead. 


This might be one of the worst entries, with stupid, obnoxious characters (particularly the chicken-chopping yokels) and a very non-"Friday the 13th" twist (spoiler alert for those who give a darn tootin'!) where one of the halfway kids' fathers does Jason's light work out of revenge. The kills are inventively gruesome: a flare in the mouth, shrub clippers to the eyes, and a belt strapped around a man's head and a tree. 


No value here, though Jason seems to be a good contraceptive for sex-craving teenagers. "Friday the 13th: When Teens Don't Keep it in Their Pants," anyone?


Grade:



Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) 
87 min., rated R.

This franchise was calling for some jokey camp, so "Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives" is that sequel. Maggot head Jason Voorhees is jolted back to life with a bolt of lightning after Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews, taking over for Corey Feldman and John Shepherd) digs him up from the cemetery. Picking up his hockey mask, Jason goes back to doing what he does best at Camp Crystal Lake-turned-Camp Forest Green, full of counselors and children (it's about time these camps actually have children!). 


For what it's worth, and it's never striving for high art, this is one of the better sequels in the increasingly mediocre but fan-based "Friday the 13th" series, alleviating the every-five-minute slashes and lots of crimson with black humor. The self-referential sense of humor is made clear from the word go, as Jason tosses a machete at the camera in a spoofy, James Bond-like opening credits. Gore is held back a bit, thanks to cuts by the MPAA, and there is no gratuitous nudity to speak of. 


This is the sixth movie, but writer-director Tom McLoughlin does make progress with the less-serious tone and some cool kills (i.e. three heads decapitated at once, a cop broken in half, etc.) that'll be fun for any undemanding horror fan. 


Grade: B -



Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) 
90 min., rated R.

In case you skipped the first six movies, don't worry this seventh entry (yes, they made a seventh) in the come-on-give-up-already "Friday the 13th" series backtracks on all of that! With flashbacks and narration! 


Telekinetic teen Tina (Lar Park Lincoln) returns to her summer house by Crystal Lake-turned-Forest Green-turned-back-to-Crystal Lake with her mother and shrink. When Tina has a fit, trying to resurrect her dead father who died in the lake, hockey-masked zombie Jason Voorhees (who's been chained up at the bottom) comes back instead. Lucky for him, there's a house full of horny teens next door who might as well have “Dead Meat” written on all their foreheads. (If campers stopped going into the woods, Mr. Voorhees would indeed be out of work). 


Remembered by fans as “Carrie Vs. Jason,” this silly sequel is decent for exploitation trash ... what a hell of a compliment, right? Kills are abundant (i.e. a woman in a sleeping bag gets belted at a tree, someone has a party horn lodged into their ear), but John Carl Buechler directs them with no suspense; we know when Jason will strike at every moment and there's barely any gore for fans of that stuff. 


Check out Jason's visible bones and rotten flesh, kind of like the progressively rotten quality of this franchise itself.


Grade:



Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) 
96 min., rated R.

Bye, bye Camp Crystal Lake ... hello New York! After being resurrected by an electric shock to the lake bottom, this eighth "Friday the 13th" entry (giving the awful "Police Academy" franchise a run for its money) has hulking, slimy, undying Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder), still donning his formal hock wear, as a stowaway on a cruise ship full of teens bound for New York City. 


Technically, the title is disingenuous, because it's not until the final twenty minutes that Jason actually makes it to the City That Never Sleeps. That aside, this is one of the better sequels the tired, endless series—damned praise that is. 


Jensen Daggett as heroine Renny is probably one of the more likable and smarter “final girls” in these movies, as the rest of the kids are more stereotypical sheep for the machete (i.e. bitchy cokehead, technical nerd, cocky jock). Rob Hedden's direction and writing are decent, and there are some flashbacks of little Jason drowning that actually make mention of the first film's lore. 


Less gore and nudity than usual, but it's pretty entertaining enough for a gruesome slasher film. Amusingly, Jason defies the rules of time and space, seemingly teleporting from the top of the stairs to the bottom to the ship deck to the top of a ladder within milliseconds. 


Grade: C + 



Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) 
88 min., rated R.

In "Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday," the opening is a classic distillation of the series, as Jason Voorhees chases a half-naked girl in a seemingly stapled-on towel (who apparently has never seen a slasher movie to save her life). Then Big Bad Jason is blown to smithereens in an ambush with a SWAT team. But we know how this franchise works; this isn't the Final Chapter or Friday, even if Jason supposedly goes to H-E-double hockey sticks. 


What a fun start, until the rest of the story continues into a imbecilic body-swap movie. Following his supposed demise, the hockey-masked slasher possesses innocent bystanders' bodies to get to his unmentioned sister (Erin Gray) and her infant—it all starts with the coroner (disgustingly) devouring Mr. Voorhees' bloody, still-beating heart. There's also some business with a bounty hunter, Creighton Duke (Steven Williams), who explains that Jason can only be killed by his sibling, using a Jason-lethal dagger. 


This illogically plotted and grotesquely mean-spirited ninth entry should get marks for ignoring the "plots" of all eight films before it and attempting a new lease on life on the worthless, ongoing series, even if Jason barely appears. Between a lot of mystical twaddle, moronic dialogue, and other filmmaking ineptitudes, director Adam Marcus doesn't take it too seriously and was trying for tongue-in-cheekiness and self-parody, as when a horny teen goes to Camp Crystal Lake to "do drugs, have premarital sex, and get slaughtered." 


Harry Manfredini's iconic “ki-ki-ma-ma” music score has been reduced to an awfully over-the-top spoof. Fans will enjoy the requisite T&A, nasty gore, and gruesome death scenes, the pinnacle having a girl in the middle of having sex who's impaled with a pole and then split in half, and a silly finale that gives expectation for "Freddy vs. Jason." 


As bad as "A New Beginning," "Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday" is just hell to watch. 


Grade:


Jason X (2002) 
98 min., rated R.

Jason Voorhees as The Terminator? Where's Ah-nuld Schwarzenegger when you need him? Forget that the last film in the seemingly never-ending "Friday the 13th" series was inaccurately titled "Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday" because Hell, Jason never reached, and Final Friday it sure as hell wasn't. 

In what could have been titled “Jason In Space,” this sci-fi horror crap has a sexy scientist (Lexa Doig) and machete-hacking Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) being brought back to life from cryogenic suspension by a team of students (who actually aren't familiar with a hockey mask) on a spacecraft in the year 2455. You know the rest: they all drop like flies. 

The filmmakers of this stupid, jerry-rigged sequel—the tenth to be on point, hence the 'X' in the title—didn't have to waste their time in throwing together another threadbare script, as it's basically the same old slice-and-dice, only difference being in space. 

Cheesily entertaining for a few bad laughs, notably with the ship's android Kay-Em 14 (Lisa Ryder), who's transformed into a butt-kicking robo babe, and an amusing scene where Jason is lured into a virtual reality of his old stomping grounds, Camp Crystal Lake, where two holographic, joint-smoking giggly sluts drop their tops. 

Even though director Jim Isaac goes for a campier approach than the other sequels, it's still a gory slashfest, where everyone you think will get killed does. 

Grade: D +



Freddy vs. Jason (2003) 
98 min., rated R.

The crossover concept of "Freddy vs. Jason" has been off and on in development for fifteen years. And now, the wait is over for Fred heads and Jason fans, so place your bets to see your men rumble in "Freddy vs. Jason," a horror fan's long-incubating wet dream. Sure, both Freddy and Jason have been wiped out as many times as Kenny on “South Park," and yeah, both slasher icons' franchises, "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Friday the 13th," have always been more about the slicing and dicing than plot or characters. But to much surprise, this high-concept summer mishmash finds a way to combine both series with a surprisingly clever story setup. 

Pizza-faced dream stalker Freddy Krueger (the one, the only, Robert England) is desperate to hack up some more children on Elm Street, so he manipulates ice hockey's most pissed-off goalie, big, dumb Jason Voorhees (stuntman Ken Kirzinger) through his dreams to wake up from the ground and dispatch blonde teen Lori (Monica Keena) and her nubile friends (Kelly Rowland, Katharine Isabelle). Meanwhile, Lori's long-lost friend Will (Jason Ritter) busts out of the mental instituion with his friend Mark (Brendan Fletcher) to warn everybody that Freddy is back to kill in their dreams. But when Freddy realizes Jason is stealing all his kills, the kids find themselves stuck in the middle of the two killers squaring off. 

Ironically, "Freddy vs. Jason" overcompensates with too much pass-the-time plot, but under Hong Kong martial-arts guru Ronny Yu's slick, lively direction (so slick it's a surprise Michael Bay had no part in the production), the big-budget effects are more than efficient and pace breakneck, and delivers the bloody horror goods for the devoted. A cornfield rave party is a highlight. First-time writers Mark Swift and Damian Shannon's overplotted script interweaves both Freddy and Jason's mythologies with a deft hand and has some wickedly tongue-in-cheek wit. 

Also, the teens are more appealing and developed than the basic stereotypes usually on the chopping block in these movies, although there are some that you can't wait to meet Jason's machete. Destiny's Child starlet Rowland, especially, is a hoot as Lori's sassy, looks-obsessed friend Kia. 

"Freddy vs. Jason" is certainly a slash above most of the countless sequels in either franchise, and yet fans (only fans will be paying to see this) will have to wade through an hour or more for the cheesy, WWE-style monster-mash duel set on the grounds of Camp Crystal Lake. Fans should get a kick out of the winky "Apocalypse Now"-inspired ending for sure. It's not really scary but a lot more fun than most.

Grade: 

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