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Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Monday, June 29, 2020

Fatal Games (1984)

The further I go down this Slasher movie rabbit hole the more oddball flicks I find. Fatal Games certainly falls into that category. In this one we are introduced to a batch of Olympic hopefuls trying to qualify for nationals, the first step to reaching the games. They are all students at the Falcon Academy of Athletics and get specialized training from the faculty. It is also hinted that they are getting some pharmaceutical assistance as well. This becomes important later on when it is hinted that at least one of the potential suspects might have anger issues because of the “medicine”.

Now that the setting is established let’s take a look at the story. Someone clearly doesn’t like these kids as a mysterious killer shows up and starts to bump them off. The interesting twist to the killer is that they do all their damage with a javelin! I guess that keeps with the Olympic theme of the movie since it is one of the items we see being used by the track and field students. After giving us some suspects, the cast is whittled down until we finally get the reveal. Who is the killer and why are they murdering the heck out of these kids? You aren’t going to get any spoilers from me!

Fatal Games is a solid effort, but not a great one. They have the formula down with the kills spaced evenly throughout the duration if you include the near misses. This is interesting because they setup the kills only to pull back a couple of times. It adds a “is it going to happen this time” vibe to the proceedings that is unusual for the slasher subgenre. They also toss in a lot of nudity which is important to this kind of movie. There are expectations that were established by eighty-four and the filmmakers deliver the goods. I felt the need to highlight this as the movie does stick to the formula.

Sadly, these expectations are also key to the biggest failing of Fatal Games. While we get a unique killer with an odd weapon of choice, the javelin, the kills suffer because of it. How many ways can you kill someone with a giant pointy stick? We get five kills, not including the ultimate demise of our antagonist, and all of them are variations of someone getting run thru. This limits their creativity in most of the kills and it gets boring after the first couple. The most memorable and overly complicated kill involves the swimming pool and a scuba suit. Even then the payoff is the same javelin sticking out of the victim gag we have seen over and over again.

They could have maybe made up for this with some good gore, but the effects work is tame. We see the javelin flying in the air and then a character run thru. There aren’t any onscreen hits or much blood at all. There is very little blood and the gags are forgettable. Again, by eighty-four the bar was set much higher than this. Between the lack of creativity and explicit kills I found this part of Fatal Games to be very disappointing.

As I’ve already stated this is a solid movie. I do like the setup of the athletes training for the Olympics. There aren’t any slow spots to the movie, and they do a great job with the stalking scenes. I also haven’t mentioned the big twist at the end, which I rather enjoyed. Though the reveal is a bit abrupt and feels forced it is a cool gag. Sorry I can’t go into more detail without some serious spoilers. The kills and lack of gore though are a big issue. Better effects work might have made this a must watch. As it is, I’d say this is worth checking out if you can find it on the cheap and keep expectations reasonable.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Friday, June 26, 2020

Chopping Mall (1986)

Today I thought I’d take a look at what I think is one of the best low budget movies of the eighties. Yes, I’m talking about Jim Wynorski’s Chopping Mall. The story is straightforward and easy to follow. A mall has just installed some fancy new robots to defend the mall and all of the valuable items contained within. There is a malfunction and the robots go homicidal not acknowledging those with proper IDs and killing rather than disabling. Some “teenagers” are trapped in the mall when their party at a furniture store goes long and they are locked in with the robots who decide they need to die.

This is basically a slasher movie with three robots doing the killing instead of a backwoods hillbilly or undead angry mutant. I feel confident saying this because it follows that formula. You get a bunch of attractive kids that show some skin as they do naughty things and then proceed to pick them off one at a time. Heck the last girl is even the virginal one who does nothing that, according to the formula, would mean she has to die. Again, if you switched out the robots with a jilted boyfriend or victim of a prank gone wrong you would have a slasher flick.

Now as far as the execution of the movie goes it is perfect. Things kick off quickly and gets to the good stuff right away. We get just enough character development to identify the roles each will play and begin to get attached enough to root for them. Hell, they keep the nicest characters around the longest so that we will be more invested in their eventual demise. This seems like a simple thing to do but trust me so many of these flicks fail to do so. Wynorski serves not only as the director but also the co-writer of the script so I give him a lot of credit for understanding what makes a movie like this work and then bringing it to the screen.

The cast is excellent. Being a big Roger Corman fan Wynorski works in some cameos from regulars like Dick Miller, Paul Bartel, and Mary Woronov. Miller is playing a character named after the one from his starring role in A Bucket of Blood while Bartel and Woronov are reprising their roles from Eating Raoul. I love both of those movies and these actors, so my inner movie nerd was very happy with this. The main cast is filled with some familiar faces with the lovely Kelli Maroney and Barbara Crampton headlining. Hell, we even get a Gerrit Graham sighting in a small role as a technician. All of these actors get to shine and none of them feel like they are there for a paycheck. This goes back to the excellent writing which again I want to give Wynorski and his co-writer Steve Mitchell credit for.

God Bless Jim Wynorski!
Since this is basically a slasher flick, we need to talk about kills. Here the movie shows its low budget. There are throat slashes and some laser blasting, but for the most part it is tame. That said there is one spectacular special effect that everyone who has ever seen the movie remembers. We get one of the best exploding heads that I’ve seen on screen. Honestly in my opinion it rivals even that of Scanners. So that is a highlight. Other kills include a gasoline induced torching, getting tossed off an escalator, and an electrocution while mopping.

Excellent exploding head.
While the kills are a bit tame the design of the robots aka. killbots are outstanding. They apparently made five of them with everything they do on screen short of lasers being handled with practical effects work. Not once do they look awkward or flimsy, which is amazing. They get a lot of screen time and are seen rolling all over the place so that is more than a little important. This makes the movie feel like it had a much larger budget then it really did. This might be the most impressive part of an already well made and fun flick.

Clearly, I dig Chopping Mall. It has everything that I want from an ‘80s horror flick. At least one memorable kill, a fun story, great cast, and is generally a good time. If you haven’t watched this movie yet, please correct that. I highly recommend this one.

Ó Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Cutting Class (1989)

It is getting to the point where I’m having to dig pretty deep to find non franchise slasher movies to cover. Cutting Class is a pretty deep dive that is only notable in that it stars a very young Brad Pitt as well as Roddy McDowall. I hadn’t seen this one in years before dusting off my DVD copy (literally!) for this review.

The plot to Cutting Class is pretty straightforward. You have the popular girl, played by Jill Schoelen of Stepfather/Popcorn fame, who is torn between her volatile boyfriend and the weird guy who was just released from a mental institution. The boyfriend, played by Brad Pitt, has anger issues and loses his temper many times. The weird guy was locked up for killing his father, so he has a history of violence.

The plot gets rolling as we see Scholen’s character, Paula, sending her lawyer father off on a hunting trip. He heads into the woods and is shot with an arrow by an unseen killer. Don’t worry though as he doesn’t die and serves as comic relief popping up now and then as he struggles to make it out of the woods. Other characters are dispatched by the killer as the movie keeps trying to make you guess who the murderer is. This leads to quite a bit of stalking and killing until everything is explained.

By the late eighties the formula for slasher movies was well established and honestly played out. You were almost in a no-win situation because there weren’t that many things you could do with the genre. Of course, Scream would reinvent things and give these movies a kick in the butt a few years later, but all we get with Cutting Class are a bunch of recycled ideas that aren’t executed that well. Be warned that there are spoilers coming, so if you don’t like that sort of thing stop reading. You have been warned.

The movie tries very hard to be clever in hiding the identity of the killer. Right from the start the movie gives you the kid just out of the mental asylum as an obvious choice, but then spends much of the movie showing how much of a jerk the boyfriend is. So of course, it must be him. The problem is they make it so obvious that the boyfriend is a red herring that clearly the overly nice “formerly” disturbed kid must be the killer. I know what you are saying, “But John you have already seen this movie…” I remember watching this one the first time and immediately seeing thru it. Plus, everyone that I’ve shown Cutting Class to has made a comment or muttered something to the effect the same sentiment. The writing isn’t good enough to fool us which is kind of important with a story like this.

At least we get some Roddy McDowall!
I’ve also always been bugged by the odd tone that the movie takes. We have some decently disturbing scenes with Pitt’s character losing his temper, you could already see he was going to be a great actor, tossed in with some poorly written silly teenage shenanigans. We also get an inexplicably pervy principal, played by McDowall whom they waste here. The character serves no purpose and sort of disappears part way thru. They must have only had him for a day or two. Finally, there is this odd bit with Paula’s father. I’ve already mentioned that shows up at different parts of the movie struggling and pratfalling with an arrow in his chest. I’m guessing that this was meant as comedic relief as they cast Martin Mull in the role. But it doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie. I’m really not sure what they were thinking.

The last thing I wanted to talk about are the kills. Even by the standards of the late eighties after the censors had completely neutered the slasher movie Cutting Class is tame. We only get seven kills with much of the best stuff off screen. Some of what we do get on screen is played for laughs, like the photocopier kill. The only interesting kills are the gym teacher impaled on a flagpole and the axe to the math teacher. Though the latter is punctuated with a quip that ruins it. All in all, there isn’t much to see here.

Cutting Class is a generic by the numbers late entry into the initial wave of slasher flicks. It is likely to have been forgotten like most of the later efforts if Brad Pitt hadn’t become a big star. This is another of those cases where they were able to stick someone’s face on the box and sell a bunch of copies. I think that there are much better things to spend both your money and time on. Not recommended.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Monday, June 22, 2020

Student Bodies (1981)

This horror comedy has maybe the best opening of any genre mashup that I’ve ever watched. The following text pops up on the screen. “This motion picture is based on an actual incident. Last year twenty-six horror films were released… None of them lost money.” Now that is how you get right to the point and let the audience know what they are about to watch. This seems like an excellent spot to start my plot synopsis.

Lamab High is having all their big events on the same day due to budget cuts. This means a parade, the big game, prom, and that sort of thing. Included are the funerals for the two students that we saw get murdered right after the opening credits. Because this is a parody of slasher flicks a couple a horn-dog teenagers get offed at that very same funeral. It is here we are introduced to our final girl, Toby, who is both virginal as well as somehow a suspect in the killings. The rest of the movie is a series of jokes being cracked while the killer does his work. I’m not glossing over anything here as that is how thin the plot is. Then again as long as the movie is funny that should be okay.

This is where I have an issue with Student Bodies. There are a lot of funny things in the movie. The running gag with the horse head bookend is decent. I was also amused with the actor playing Malvert the Janitor. His ability to do physical comedy is a nice addition to the movie. Other funny bits involve an obscene phone call and a phone that “finishes”, a farting corpse (have to work in a fart joke!), a meowing dog, and a blind guy named Charles Ray. Though for me the biggest laugh is the visual gag of Toby wearing a button that says No on her jacket that has a matching one on each garment that is more firmly saying stop. I did mention she was the virginal type. They put a lot of effort into throwing as much comedy at the audience as possible, which I appreciate.

Sadly, the movie can’t sustain the laughs and keeps going back to things that were previously funny again and again until they aren’t. The best example of this for me is when Toby has to go undercover and uses a couple of balloons to add to her “assets” and throw off those looking for her. There is a goofy sound of them rubbing on each other that wears thin. The ending is also an issue for me. Initially I was fairly happy with the reveal of the killer and the twist involved. But then they add on a Wizard of Oz like ending where it was all a dream… but was it? Because after that second ending there is another where there is a killer and it is a totally different person. And then after that there is another Carrie like ending at a funeral. I guess they thought this would be funny, but it really isn’t.

This is one of the running gags that is funny.
Since this is the slasher movie marathon, I suppose I should mention the kills. There are either thirteen, zero, or one kill depending on which ending you want to go with. Regardless which one you choose there isn’t any gore in this movie. All the kills are played for laughs and are off screen. In fact, most of the boys killed are just tied up in a garbage bag because that is supposed to be a thing the killer does. I had very low expectations for what we were going to get in this movie, but they managed to still disappoint.

I don’t hate Student Bodies. It has some really funny moments that had me laughing. That said I still want a somewhat cohesive story and characters that I can either relate to or at least root for. I get that this one is leaning heavily into the comedy, but it still needs substance, which it doesn’t have. If you want to kill some time, maybe giggle here and there, and then immediately forget what you just watched then this is the flick for you.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Blood Lake (1987)

The slasher marathon has me digging deep again for movies to review. Blood Lake is one of those flicks that I had been hearing about for a few years. The VHS copy was hard to locate and expensive when you did find it. This was also a shot on video production, so it had even more of a unique eighties’ vibe to it. Recently a DVD was released, and I picked it up at a convention as an impulse purchase. I suppose the big question here is did I spend my money wisely?

The story kicks off with a large man walking up and killing a gardener by stabbing him to death. Then we meet up with some teenagers headed off for a summer vacation at the lake. They arrive, talk about “scoring”, drink some beer, go water skiing, and play quarters while drinking even more beer. That is the next fifty minutes of the movie as nothing else happens. It really does feel like somebody’s vacation video and we all know how interesting those are. Eventually the killer from the first five minutes returns and starts to kill off the cast until he is stopped. That is about all we have going on with Blood Lake.

I’m not a fan. I don’t mind the awkward acting as that is a staple of low budget movies. I love the character of ‘Lil Tony, who I think steals every scene he is in and the kid can’t deliver a line to save his life. Shooting on VHS doesn’t bother me much either. I love Cannibal Camp Out and the Video Dead, so the limitations of the technology aren’t a deal breaker. Blood Lake has the same struggles that most shot on VHS movies do when it comes to night shots and lighting, but I expect that so no big deal. For me it all boils down to one huge flaw that was killing me the entire time I was watching.

If you have ever read any of my reviews of low budget (Blood Lake was made for around six thousand dollars) movies you know that I have one rule that I adhere to. You must have a script. This is the one thing that a lack of money doesn’t limit a filmmaker as you can take your time and write around your resources. This movie doesn’t have enough material to be a feature length production. Honestly you might be pushing it to cut together half an hour once the unneeded and pace killing scenes are removed. There are several examples of padding but the most obvious and familiar one to the fans of this flick, and yes, they do exist, is water skiing. We get to see each freaking character getting pulled around the lake… all six of them! This includes on younger girl who had never skied before and was taught how to do it… on camera! There is more time spent on teaching someone to water ski than there is on the killer. What the hell man!

Hey kids lets learn to water ski!
Since I mentioned the killer, we find out that he is murdering people because he didn’t get paid for the house he sold, which is the same one the kids are staying in. I guess it was easier to murder a ton of people than it was to just repossess the thing. I mean I’m not a real estate mogul but that seems wrong. Speaking of kills they are mostly back loaded into the last third of the running time and aren’t that thrilling. We get a bunch of stabbings and slashings that are mostly off-screen. There are a couple of inserts that they clearly added later that are just a bit more graphic but even accounting for their minimal budget I was disappointed.

To sum it up Blood Lake is a slasher movie that has very little slashing until the end. Lame special effects work are coupled with a killer that has no motivation and is not in the majority of the flick. Instead we get endless tutorials on water skiing and inane conversations. This isn’t a good movie. This isn’t a so bad it’s good movie. This is just a lousy movie that is miserable to try and sit thru. Unless you want to be suckered into watching someone’s late eighties vacation video while paying good money for the privilege to do so I’d pass on Blood Lake.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Iced (1988)

I’ve been doing a slasher movie marathon here at the site for the last four years. I knew that eventually I’d run out of movies to cover but hadn’t given much thought that if I was to be thorough then I’d end up sitting thru a lot of bad ones before I got there. With an opening like that I’m sure you can see where my review of Iced is headed.

Some friends are hanging out at a ski lodge doing eighties things like dancing, admiring their mullets, and of course fighting over the affections of a girl. The fellas, Corey and Jeff, end up having a ski race to determine who gets the girl. I guess she is okay with that since she doesn’t say anything about it. Though I think she is sweet on Corey and isn’t sad when he wins. This causes Jeff to ski angry, which I suppose you shouldn’t do. Things get naughty between Corey and Trina, played by Debra De Liso of Slumber Party Massacre fame, and then things jump ahead four years later.

Thru some exposition of them riding in a car and talking endlessly on their way to a free ski trip we discover that Corey and Trina are married, and that Jeff died when he went off to ski angry. Then we see other couples driving to the lodge for the free trip and they talk about their problems and stuff. There is a lot of talking in this movie… a lot of talking. They eventually all get to the cabin and well God Damn it they talk some more. There are also some scenes of one of the ladies, Jeanette, being naked in a bathtub with one of the guys. I think this is a flashback because it doesn’t fit what is happening with them sitting around talking. Did I mention they talk a lot? Oh, and since I’m talking about things that were confusing Iced is guilty of the worst thing a slasher can do. The killer is someone whom has no motive and is at best peripherally involved with our main characters. We get a thirty second flashback at the end to explain why they want to kill everyone. That is lousy storytelling.

We get one killing early on and then have to sit thru an hour of this nonsense before the killer gets back to business. I’d like to say that things pick up at this point, but it really doesn’t. The stalking and slashing are uninspired and poorly executed. There is zero tension built and not a single scare is to be had. The filmmakers even decide to show us the killer setting up a trap for one of the people he lures out of the house and into the woods. Where is the fun in that? It has been a long time since I’ve been this bored this badly by a movie. Nothing of any interest happens for the entire ninety-minutes!

It cuts away before the good stuff!
The kills are as mediocre as you can get in a slasher flick. I get that this late in the game not only had we seen it all, but the censors had neutered the sub-genre so badly that no one was pushing their luck. Even by those standards Iced has nothing to offer when it comes to kills and gore. You see a single gag with a ski pole coming out of the front of a neck and that is it. We have death by electrocution, an icicle thru the eye (off-screen), a front loader running over another victim (also off-screen), and that is about it. All of this is back loaded in the last half hour and wasn’t at all satisfying.

When poking around doing research on Iced I discovered that it has one big claim to fame. Jeanette, the girl who gets naked a lot and pretty much shows it all, is played by Lisa Loring. You might not recognize the name, but I promise most of you have seen her on television before. She was Wednesday in the old Adams Family television show. I actually found some pretty creepy advertisements trying to sell this one to video stores capitalizing on this fact. I’m happy that I didn’t make the connection until I started preparing for this review, though I do still feel a bit scummy.

Don’t waste your time on Iced. Even if you are a diehard fan of the slasher genre this is scraping the bottom of the barrel and not at all worth the effort tracking down a copy and sitting thru it. This is a terrible movie going thru the motions of what it thinks we as an audience want and doing so in the most lazy way possible. It is a total waste of time.

note: If you must watch, and I know some of you do, I've linked a copy of the movie that is currently available on YouTube to this review instead of the trailer. 

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Monday, June 15, 2020

Madhouse (1981)

I’m not going to lie that after three summers of slasher marathons I’m beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel a bit. Madhouse is one that had escaped me until recently but with running out of other entries into the genre it was time to rectify that.

It is mere days before Julia’s birthday and her uncle, who is also a priest, convinces her to see her twin sister, Mary. We find out that Julia had been tormented by her sister for years and had cut all ties with her. But Mary is sick, so she is convinced to go and visit her at the hospital, which I think is also a mental hospital. They don’t make it obvious but since she breaks out later, I believe she was either jailed or committed there. Regardless the visit goes poorly and as I’ve already mentioned Mary breaks out and moves into the basement of Julia’s apartment building. Then the killings kick off and the body count begins. If you are thinking this is too straight forward don’t worry because we also get a weird out of left field twist towards the end that makes very little sense but is fun.

I’m going to switch up my normal routine and talk about the kills first. Since this is a slasher movie this is an important measuring stick. We get a respectable eight kills in this movie, though they are tame and repetitive. There are a couple stabbings and a couple deaths by dog. Yeah you heard that last one right, death by dog. The killer in this movie has a trained rottweiler that does some of the killing on command. This means some throats get torn out and eventually the dog gets a drill to the noggin’ by one of our heroes. This is executed by cutting footage of the dog “attacking” the actor into a hand puppet chewing on their neck. It looks silly, but I give them credit for the design of the kill. I mean death by dog… I don’t remember seeing that sort of thing in a slasher movie before or since. At least not by the killer. We do get on really great kill and that is the last one where an axe gets buried in the back. Again, it is pretty tame stuff, but I give them an “A” for creativity.

Madhouse is a strange movie. It has that by the numbers feel of a normal slasher with the killer’s identity and motivation known from the beginning. The impending victims are lined up neatly and as expected knocked off one at a time. Without spoiling anything there is one unexpected victim where this movie crossed a line that, especially this early in eighties, not many movies did. There is also an unexpected reveal about the killer that is a huge surprise. Again, I’m trying to keep this as spoiler free as possible. The main reason for that is because while the movie has a familiar feel and the story has a couple mind boggling silly turns, I still sort of liked it. Maybe it is because I’ve seen so many slashers, but I appreciate the new take on the familiar formula.

If you are looking for something different, I can recommend Madhouse as an interesting diversion. Though unlike the classics of the genre I don’t ever see myself revisiting it. I can’t recommend purchasing the movie and would say your best bet is to find it streaming somewhere. I watched it on Shudder and if it is still on that service, I’d say that would be the way to go.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Friday, June 12, 2020

Everyone Must Die (2012)

One of my favorite independent filmmakers working today is Steve Rudzinski. He has made some great movies and when I saw Everyone Must Die on his table at Grossfest and found out it was a Slasher flick I knew I had to cover it for this summer’s marathon.

Things open with a masked killer chasing a woman who he catches and kills. This is important because it is the sister of another character that shows up later. We then see some campers setting up camp before pairing off for some sexy time, but with an unexpected and funny twist. The killer from before shows up and murders happen. Now we meet up with our primary cast who are at a party when they are trapped inside by the killer. One by one they are killed off in funny ways until there is the final girl. I can’t go any further without spoilers, but this doesn’t end as you might expect it to.

This is a very low budget movie, so I’ll get somethings out of the way at the start. The acting isn’t always great, but it is far better than I’ve seen in some independent movies. Though if you aren’t well versed in them it might bug you. The kills lean heavily into old school tricks with a lot of the good stuff happening off screen or delegated to some CGI. Again, given the limited resources that the director had to work with this doesn’t bother me at all. What it sometimes lacks in quality it more than makes up for in quantity as we see sixteen characters die on screen. The highlights are death by lawn mower, a skewering thru a seat, and a decent stabbing. I’m actually amazed at how much fun Everyone Must Die is when considering the miniscule budget of thirty-five hundred dollars.

The next question is why does this movie work for me when others with a similar budget challenges don’t. The answer is easy and that is the writing. Rudzinski doesn’t just direct, fund, and shoot his movies. He is also responsible for writing them as well, in this instance with a co-writer. His talent as a writer is what makes his movies stand apart from so many other inferior efforts. This shows up not only in the excellent and sometimes hilarious dialogue, but in other ways as well.

The opening bit with the campers both gives what you would expect with young people going off in the woods to fool around, but he tweaks it a bit. Messing with expectations like that is a cool way to play with the formula. Plus, it also allows him to make a wildly funny and memorable character along the way… R.I.P. MC Pink! Tying in both of my points there is a bit in the movie where the killer pulls a gun. You don’t see that in a Slasher flick and Rudzinski has one of the characters make note of it with some dialogue. It goes something like this. “Why does he have a gun?” To which another character replies “To shoot people with.” This shows the tweaking of the formula as well as the excellent dialogue. Are you beginning to see why I like his movies so much?

If you are looking for an effects heavy Slasher movie to watch with explicit and intricate kills, then this isn’t the one for you. But If you are looking for a change of pace and want to check out a great independent filmmaker then I can highly recommend Everyone Must Die. If you dig this then you must check out CarousHell too.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Friday the 13th part VII: The New Blood (1988)

My trek thru the Friday franchise continues with one of my least favorites. Affectionately known as Jason vs. Carrie this movie does boast some decent characters and inventive kills, which is better than the next couple can say. But the franchise was starting to show its age.

Tina is first seen as a little girl running away from her parent’s fighting. Her dad follows her out to the dock where we first see that Tina has some powers and can move things with her mind. She ends up killing him and the action moves to the teenage Tina who is wracked with guilt over what she did. Her doctor, played by Teri “Weekend at Bernie’s” Kiser, takes her and her mother back to the lake house to work out her issues. Of course, that just so happens to be the same lake Jason is in… Tina freaks out after a nightmare and some tough therapy resulting in her powers accidentally waking Jason up.

Right next door is a house full of teenagers partying, doing drugs, and premarital sex stuff. Add Jason to that mix and you get a body count. This goes on in typical fashion until Jason kills the wrong person and ends up feeling Tina’s wrath as she goes angry telekinetic teenage girl on his ass! See where I got the Jason vs. Carrie?

Still not a fan of part VII but I will say it is better than I remembered it being. We get a lot of kills, fifteen in all. While most of them are off screen or heavily censored there are some fun gags left in the movie. You get a girl stuck to a tree, an axe to the face, one of those plastic party horns jammed into an eye socket, and Jason punches thru a guy’s chest. The movie also gives us the requisite amount of nudity and sex to fulfill the formula. This movie also features the first performance of Kane Hodder as Jason. He has always given what I consider to be the best performance under the makeup, so that is a positive. There is also a lot of Jason unmasked which is a nice design. At its core the movie isn’t too bad. But I still have some issues with it.

Even though we all know what is coming all of the Friday’s up to this point at least tried to toss in some jump scares. The closest we get here is a cat jumping out of a closet. Seriously they did the old toss a cat at a cast member gag! All of the kills are telegraphed as we see Jason right before the deed gets done. We know it’s coming and where from before the action is on screen. It is cool to occasionally see the killer sneaking up on the soon to be victim, but not every time.

The makeup for Jason unmasked is stellar!
I’m also not a fan of them giving the girl supernatural powers because by the time it is down to her being chased by Jason it turns into her kicking his ass. I don’t want to see a teenager girl throwing a television at him with her mind powers. There was no concern or fear for her because she was more than a match for Jason. The reason people watch Friday the 13th flicks is because Jason is a murder machine that you barely survive. They kind of make him a joke here as he clearly loses to the girl who also for the first time manages to save her love interest too. I get wanting to do something different, but this was a bit too far for my tastes.

I’m a completest and will continue to revisit this one every few years. Not because I like to but mostly just because I throw mini marathons on Friday the 13th and like to mix in an odd one. I’m still not thrilled with this movie, but Kane Hodder is good and there are some decent gags. I will recommend checking it out if you haven’t seen it or haven’t seen it in a while. But there are much better entries to this franchise.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Friday the 13th part V: A New Beginning (1985)

Time to kick off the summer of 2020 Slasher movie marathon. This has been a tradition here at the website since I launched four years ago. Honestly it is getting harder to avoid the franchises and dig up one off Slasher movies. With that in mind I thought I’d kick things off with a couple entries from the biggest of all the Slasher series.

I’ve had a complicated relationship with this movie. When I first saw it I hated Friday part V. It was so different from the other movies to that point that it annoyed me. As I’ve gotten older, I come to appreciate the movie due to both understanding it was supposed to be a new beginning as well as having had a chance to see some of the sequels that followed. Really guys Jason vs. Carrie? Such a terrible idea. More on that next time for now it is time to check out director Danny Steinmann’s take on Jason Vorhees.

For those in the know you will remember that in the previous entry to the Friday the 13th franchise we clearly saw a young Tommy Jarvis, played by Corey Feldman, kill Jason. I mean the dude slid down a machete face first. This movie picks up years later as an adult Tommy is being released to a halfway house for those with mental issues. Seems he was screwed up by the events of the last movie and has been medicated and shocked back to health. Or at least we are meant to believe so. They establish right from the start that he has some anger control issues and without his medication keeps seeing Jason.

After we are introduced to the quirky characters, including the neighbors Ethel and Junior, the killing starts. Though the first one is perpetrated by one of the other patients who snaps and chops up a kid named Joey. After that bit of onscreen violence Jason shows up and starts picking people off one by one. But how is that possible? I mean we saw Jason die, so is it Tommy who has snapped? Could it be one of the other patients who lost it after seeing Joey killed? Remember now this is before “zombie” Jason showed up in the franchise, so this is very confusing. No worries as all is explained by the end.

The plot of this movie seems to be fairly straightforward as the characters are setup and then knocked off in a familiar pattern. But there is more going on here as the filmmakers try to both explain how the killings can continue as well as giving us the best twist since the original Friday the 13th. I’ve gone back and forth about spoiling the movie but have decided against it. Just in case you have forgotten the ending or somehow have managed to have never seen this one. What I will say is that the surprise twist reveal was great and well thought out. There are some obvious clues that upon a second watch are pretty obvious tells that most audience members totally miss. This is a very clever movie that doesn’t try and beat you over the head with how clever it is.

This movie might also have some of the best characters in the history of the franchise. Oddly enough I found this version of Tommy Jarvis, he returns in part VI recast with Thom Matthews in the role, to be the least interesting character. The best characters by far are Ethel and Junior, the angry neighbors that torture and complain constantly about the residents of the halfway house. Honestly the dialogue written for Ethel is genius and the delivery from actress Carol Locatell is brilliant. We even get a Miguel A. Nunez sighting in a supporting role.

I’ve gone on long enough about the plot and characters now we need to get to the good stuff. The gore and nudity… hey man this is a Slasher movie so it is very important. Without sounding too creepy the appropriately named Deborah Voorhees has some of the best “assets” to ever appear in a horror flick. That alone meets the requirements that is expected from the Slasher genre. But what about the gore? There are twenty kills in this movie. Let that sink in for a minute. We get all sorts of fun with axes, metal spears, flares, and meat cleavers. Heads get both lopped off and squeezed with leather straps. One unfortunate lady meets her end with shears to the eyes. None of the kills are as explicit as some of those from earlier in the decade but given how harsh the censors were by the mid-eighties this is some damn fine work.

This is a great movie. I do remember what really bugged me about the movie in the past, but I can’t really talk about it without some serious spoilers. Again, I don’t want to do that so all I can say is that I’ve changed my mind. I really dig what they did to try and relaunch the franchise. As much as I enjoy the unstoppable zombie Jason killing machine that we would soon be seeing, it is a bummer that they never pursued what was an interesting idea that they were clearly setting up with the ending of this movie. It is well worth checking out and comes with the highest of recommendations from me.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer