[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 8 – Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

Director: Rob Hedden

Cast: Jensen Daggett, Scott Reeves, Peter Mark Richman, Kane Hodder

Screenplay: Rob Hedden

100 mins. Rated R.

 

When the eighth Friday the 13th film was announced, the first poster was released depicting the “I Love NY” slogan with Jason Voorhees busting through it. The New York Tourism board sued to get the poster taken down. There are probably some rare prints of these posters out there, so if anyone’s looking for an early Christmas gift for me, just saying…

Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder, Daredevil, Victor Crowley) is still out there in Crystal Lake, still alive, waiting for his chance to return to the surface, and when two young lovers get their boat anchor caught in the lake, it lets Jason loose. Now unleashed, Jason hitches a ride on a boat headed for New York City, and along the way, he’ll spend his time doing his favorite thing: killing attractive teens.

Let’s address the elephant in the room: Jason doesn’t take a lot of Manhattan in this film. He takes a boat for about an hour of the film’s runtime, and he takes Manhattan, which is mostly Vancouver, for the final third. I think the expectations of a film subtitled Jason Takes Manhattan conjures up images of Jason slaying his way across the city. Now, without a doubt, the shot of Jason Voorhees in Times Square is pretty impressive, but it’s the only moment that feels like Jason Takes Manhattan.

None of the teens in this film are very memorable, and that includes Rennie (Jensen Daggett, Major League: Back to the Minors, Telling You), the lead. She’s a very relaxed and unremarkable lead character without much to root for. The rest of the cast is filled with machete fodder, with the exception of the always fun-to-watch character actor Peter Mark Richman (Agent for H.A.R.M., After the Wizard) as Rennie’s Uncle Charles, who also happens to be a teacher chaperoning the boat trip. Richman plays the unlikable Uncle Charles to pretty solid results.

But hey, at least the final product is incredible, right? No, it’s not. Not really, but it isn’t a colossal failure either, and maybe that’s a lot of the problem. There’s just no soul to this movie. It should be full of weird flavor and enjoyable sequences, but it’s very hollow. Think about it. Jason in Manhattan should be so much fun, but it doesn’t have any tone at all. It just is…and that’s a problem.

Jason Takes Manhattan is neither the best nor the worst of the Friday the 13th franchise. It’s just kind of forgettable. Outside of the one true moment of Jason Voorhees standing in Times Square (and, to be fair, Kane Hodder’s return as Jason should be all the more celebrated because he’s just damn good), there’s just nothing special flowing through the veins of this movie. It’s an empty shell, and that’s a damn shame.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, click here.

For my review of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part III, click here.

For my review of Joseph Zito’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, click here.

For my review of Jack Sholder’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, click here.

For my review of Danny Steinmann’s Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, click here.

For my review of Chuck Russell’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, click here.

For my review of Tom McLoughlin’s Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, click here.

For my review of Renny Harlin’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, click here.

For my review of John Carl Buechler’s Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, click here.

For my review of Stephen Hopkins’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, click here.

Oculus (2013)

Oculus

Director: Mike Flanagan.

Cast: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Rory Cochrane, Katee Sackhoff.

Screenplay: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard.

103 mins. Rated R for terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language.

 

I was pretty excited to see Oculus recently. I truly enjoyed director Mike Flanagan’s previous work in Absentia (I saw the premiere at the Fargo Film Festival back in 2011), and I wanted to see where he take us next when he had a bigger budget and more room to play. Unfortunately, I spent most of Oculus arguing with myself over whether I was enjoying myself or not. Not ever a really good sign. It felt to me like a film that was trying to confuse its audience so they wouldn’t see all the ridiculous plot points for what they really were.

Oculus tells the story of Kaylie Russell (Karen Gillan, TV’s Doctor Who), who is trying to prove to her brother, Tim (Brenton Thwaites), that the reason their parents went insane several years ago was because of a haunted mirror. Initially, thoughts went through my head about the previous horror film Mirrors, a decent effort from director Alexandre Aja. Sadly, this film falls flat even after a pretty fantastic opening setup.

The film plays out in two timelines simultaneous, one with Kaylie and Tim as children, the other years later as adults. Playing them against each other proves pretty interesting, except at the end when the timelines devolve into a confusing, jumbled and ultimately, disappointingly predictable finale.

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Oculus does a great job setting the events of the film into motion. We are given a solid premise and even rules to govern the journey we are going on as Kaylie describes exactly how she plans on proving the mirror’s intentions of evil and how she planned on destroying it. Soon after, however, the film departs from these rules and chooses to never reference them again.

I also had a problem with the mirror’s motivations. Okay, I get it, that sounds silly, but in any horror film, you have to get what the killer or monster’s motivations are or what the hell does it matter? Michael Myers was trying to kill all his relatives. Jason Voorhees was the closest thing to birth control for Crystal Lake, hacking and slashing his way through teens as vengeance for his dead mother. Freddy Krueger was also all about revenge, and Chucky the killer doll just wanted out of his plastic body. Oculus’ mirror, however, plays tricks on people. Some of them are meant to maim or kill, but other times, it plays out like a violent joke. One such scene, where the mirror leads Kaylie to believe that she has bitten into a light bulb gets us to see that it was only an apple. Why would a mirror do that? Wouldn’t the opposite be much more terrifying and gruesome?

This’ll sound funny as well, but I didn’t feel like the mirror was a well-built character. It didn’t have enough presence in the film. For all we know, it could’ve been a haunted oven or house or pretty much anything. It didn’t really use its reflection to terrorize. There was nothing to tell us the mirror was really behind anything. Its backstory kind of disappointed as well. If this becomes a franchise, I would like to see it explored much more.

The performances were fine, especially from Gillan and Annalise Basso (Bedtime Stories) who play adult and young Kaylie, respectively. Katee Sackhoff (TV’s Battlestar Galactica, Riddick) and Rory Cochrane (Argo, Parkland) do respectable work as Russell parents Marie and Alan.

Oculus-Katee-Sackoff

I’ve heard a lot of reports that Oculus may be looking at becoming a franchise, and if so, it has some digging to do before it reaches a status worthy of yearly trips to the movie theater.  I see potential, and there were a few great moments about this film, but all in all, I drove home from the movie not angry, but disappointed, and in the end, isn’t that worse?

Have you seen Oculus? What did you think? Comment below.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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