[31 Days of Horror Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan] Day 2 – Jason Goes to Hell (1993)

Director: Adam Marcus
Cast: John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Erin Gray, Allison Smith, Steven Culp, Steven Williams, Kane Hodder, Billy Green Bush
Screenplay: Jay Huguely, Dean Lorey
87 mins. Rated R for strong violence and gore, and for sexuality and language.

It’s October once again, so let’s dip back into the world of Jason Voorhees and discuss the most mind-boggling installment of the entire franchise (and no, we aren’t even talking about the space one). Imagine, for a moment, you are an executive at New Line Cinema in the early 1990s. Your studio has just acquired Jason Voorhees as an Intellectual Property, and you have to find the right franchise move to make to get maximum results from a box office and fan perspective. Why is it that the first movie that New Line puts out literally has “The Final Friday” in the title? We all know, of course, that the “Final” installment is rarely the actual finale to a series, especially in horror. In fact, Jason already had a “Final” installment in Part 4, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. He’s not the only one to have gone past the finale. Other franchises that have done this include:

All of this is a point to say that we, as horror fans, do not expect a final chapter to be a final chapter, but why would you aim for that with your first installment as a new owner of the property? Oh, we haven’t even started this review yet…

Some time after the events of Jason Takes Manhattan, the notorious Crystal Lake killer has returned home. There, he is beset upon by a trained government tactical team who kill him once and for all, or have they? Little do they know, Jason’s body is just a vessel, and his soul can transfer from person to person. Now, Jason (Kane Hodder, Daredevil, Room 9) could be anywhere as he searches for a way to return to his original form and continue his reign of terror once again.

There were a lot of ways you could continue the Friday the 13th franchise, and were I to guess the eventual direction, I would’ve guessed wrong. I don’t quite get how this idea got past the approval stage, but here we are, and hindsight is 20/20, so we can only really discuss the finished product, and I’m confused as to why this movie exists. From a story perspective, I don’t quite understand the need to add such an extravagant amount of mythology and exposition to the ninth installment of a franchise. Did we need an explanation for Jason’s survival from drowning or how he went from the boy who pulled Alice into the lake in Part I and grew to be gigantic by Part II? There’s a simpler way to deal with the plot holes of this franchise than devoting an entire movie to this ludicrous (even by this franchise’s standards) plot device of having Jason jumping from body to body.

How did Jason return after drowning? Any number of simple reasons ranging from washing ashore and living in the forest all these years to being brought back to life by his mother’s love. All of these reasons vary from okay to stupid, but we as fans have accepted that we don’t have that answer at this point and trying to shoehorn in mythology at this point to fix the error is unneeded. In fact, Freddy vs. Jason later explained Jason’s powers in a single line that fill in practically every one of the killer’s plot hole issues: he regenerates. Okay, good, moving on, right? It’s also interesting that this installment is working so hard to make sense of Jason throughout the entire franchise, and yet, there’s no explanation for how he’s back in Crystal Lake after the boat trip to Manhattan, and we don’t really need an explanation, and we, as fans, move on, so why can’t the team behind this movie?

What’s more frustrating is that this Jason, played by Kane Hodder in his third outing, is maybe my favorite Jason. I love the way Hodder plays Jason with this Jaws shark attitude of hunting his prey. It certainly would’ve matched Creighton Duke (Steven Williams, The Blues Brothers, Birds of Prey) and his very obvious Quint homage. Not only that, but this look of Jason is so disturbing to me that I wish we could’ve gotten him more in this movie. The idea that the mask has been on him for so long that it’s melded into his head, with Jason’s regenerative skin growing back around it, is sickening and grotesque, and I love it. I just wish he were in this movie more. Jason is Jason, and the body hopping just didn’t work because none of those actors felt like Jason.

Okay, so let’s actually talk about the movie, because I feel like I’ve been bashing the hell out of this thing, and it isn’t all terrible, so I would hate to spend all my time just beating a dead horse on the many problems of the movie because, if you’re reading this, you’re probably well aware at this point. Truth be told, though this is easily the worst Friday the 13th movie, I would still rather watch this one over Freddy’s Dead, Halloween: Resurrection, or Seed of Chucky. It’s bad, but like all car crashes, you can’t look away.

As a lead, John D. LeMay (Totally Blonde, Without a Map) is not bad as Steven Freeman, if you don’t include the really odd martial arts jump he performs about midway through the movie. A flawed protagonist with a bit of an edge, Steven is likable enough to lead and interesting enough for me to follow. I would have liked to see more of the dynamic between him and Jessica (Kari Keegan, Mind Games, The Prince of Pennsylvania). I like his dedication to making things right and course-correcting his fractured path in life. I like that he’s presented with an option to be a douchebag and chase some younger tail instead of making good on his promises, and he is rewarded for that (he isn’t horribly slaughtered like the random teens sneaking off to Camp Crystal Lake).

I also like the idea of Creighton Duke, especially with the charismatic and unusual performance from Steven Williams. I think Williams is doing the best he can, and again, I would have liked to see this character mean more in the finished narrative. In a lot of ways, the finished product of Creighton Duke bares little difference with Crazy Ralph. He warns of the death curse, brings the ambiance, and doesn’t stand of the way of Jason at all. Duke, like so much in this film, has the potential but not the deft hands behind the camera to put it all together. Duke’s inclusion is like the Necronomicon’s cameo in the film (can a book have a cameo, or is it a bookeo?). It’s a cool little wink that was apparently supposed to mean so much more, but it doesn’t really mean anything because there’s a disconnect between the creatives and the material, and a fundamental misunderstanding of mythology and story-building.

And that’s perhaps the ultimate sin of Jason Goes to Hell. I get the feeling, from the finished project, like Adam Marcus (Secret Santa, Conspiracy) just didn’t give a shit. Maybe he did, but looking at the movie and researching some of the more bonkers choices made gave me the sense that he wasn’t making a movie to satisfy an audience, and he didn’t understand his audience for this movie. There’s always an appreciation on my part for ambitious ideas in your storytelling, even if they don’t always work, but so much of the “ambitious” ideas in Jason Goes to Hell came about as throwaways. I’ll give another example. The ending stinger [SPOILER ALERT] that this film was most well-known for in the late 90s is that moment when all is good, Jason has gone to Hell, our heroes are walking off into the sunset, and we zoom in that Jason’s mask resting peacefully on the sand, and a very well known knife hand of Freddy Krueger comes flying out of the ground, grabs the Jason mask, and pulls it into the ground, telling us as viewers that Jason may return again (it’s also worth noting that Kane Hodder plays the Freddy hand in that scene, making him the only actor to play Freddy and Jason in the history of horror). That ending stinger seems to be setting up Freddy vs. Jason, an idea New Line had been playing with after finally getting their hands on the Jason character after years of stalled negotiations with Paramount for a crossover to please the audience hunger for it, but here’s the thing: there are multiple interviews where productions members have said that it was more of a fun little joke than anything being set up. Inside jokes like that work in films like Predator 2 (with the Alien Xenomorph skull on the ship), and in that case it actually led to a cinematic crossover, but having that be your ending stinger just because it’s neat is really poor execution as a storyteller.

Sure, part of that falls on the precarious situation that New Line was in with this movie. They couldn’t use the title Friday the 13th, so they had to come up with something catchy. They also couldn’t use Tommy Jarvis, the original lead of the film, because that character was still owned by Paramount Pictures. They had an ambitious 130-minute cut of the film that they felt needed to be trimmed into a more swiftly-moving narrative (an idea that, had Jason Goes to Hell been made today, would not have been as necessary). They also had a cut that was high on gore and needed to skirt the MPAA’s cutting hands. That’s why the Unrated cut of this movie is still the preferred cut here, if only slightly.

There’s a lot of stuff in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday that, ultimately, could have worked, but the finished product is an absolute mess of a film that feels sloggish even in its leaner run time. It’s a movie that mishandles Jason in an effort to give a much-unneeded booster shot to his mythology and narrative, and it fails to do so. There’s a way to examine and challenge established mythology in this franchise (show me Elias Voorhees!), but this isn’t how you do it. The movie’s got a worthy approach to its gore and mayhem, and I respect the more fair display of nudity and focus on returning to morals in slasher films in an updated way for the 90s (they got killed because they didn’t use a condom, get it?) but overall this is the toughest watch of the Friday the 13th series, which makes it all the more disappointing when you see the potential of these ideas had they been more polished.

1.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

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.
For my review of Rob Hedden’s Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, click here.
For my review of Rachel Talalay’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VII: The New Blood] Day 31 – Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

Director: Steve Miner

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams, Adam Hann-Byrd, Jodi Lynn O’Keefe, John Hartnett, L.L. Cool J, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Janet Leigh

Screenplay: Robert Zappia, Matt Greenberg

86 mins. Rated R for terror violence/gore and language.

 

I grew up on Halloween. To this day, it’s still my favorite horror film of all time. There’s a lot of emotional connection for me, as Halloween is also one of my mother’s favorite scary movies and we would jump in and watch it every time we’d come across it on TV. It was a staple in our home year round, but most specifically during October. We also were fans of the rest of the sequels as well, but there was something special about the 1998 film Halloween H20. We were finally going to see a return to the franchise for Jamie Lee Curtis (True Lies, Knives Out) as Laurie Strode, something that we didn’t expect to see every again after the character was unceremoniously killed offscreen between Halloween 2 and Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. All of a sudden, there was an excited fervor for me and my mother as we patiently awaited the new film. I think she deemed me too young to see it in the theater, but we caught it as soon as we could on home video, with our excitement at a fever pitch. The only question at that point would be whether or not the film would be worth the wait.

It’s been 20 years since Laurie Strode (Curtis) faced off against her brother Michael Myers on that fateful Halloween night. In that time, Strode has tried to move on with her life. She’s gone into hiding, adopted a new name and job (Keri Tate, the headmistress of Hillcrest Academy, a private boarding school), and aims to raise her son John (Josh Hartnett, Lucky Number Slevin, TV’s Die Hart) to be ready for the dangers of the world. John sees it a different way. He sees an overbearing mother living in the past unable to cope with the real world. John wants a normal life, and when he sees an opportunity to celebrate Halloween for the first time with his friends, he takes it. What neither Laurie nor John know is that Michael is still out there, and he’s finally found his sister. This Halloween night, he and Laurie are headed for a reunion and a confrontation that will test Strode to her very core.

There was and still is a lot of confusion surrounding the Halloween franchise, starting with the return of Laurie Strode in this film. Within the story of the franchise to this point, Laurie Strode died in a car crash sometime before the The Return of Michael Myers in 1988, and that story surrounded her daughter Jamie Lloyd. When we meet Laurie Strode in this film, there’s no mention of that daughter and we are instead introduced a son. Apparently, the reaction to The Curse of Michael Myers (the sixth film) and the introduction of a supernatural cult as a backstory for Michael Myers didn’t go over so well, and the idea of doing a straight sequel was trashed in favor of ignoring it altogether and refocusing on Laurie’s return to the franchise. An early draft of this film gave a secondary plot to Sarah (Jodi Lynn O’Keefe, She’s All That, TV’s Hit the Floor) who is fascinated by Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, digging into the history, learning of Jamie Lloyd and the previous events of the franchise, unaware that her school headmistress is Strode. This idea was deemed too convoluted and, I feel, also painted Laurie in a bad light considering the events that take place surrounding her daughter in the previous three films. We ended up with a film that neither retcons the previous entries nor references them outright, serving as a direct sequel to Halloween II. This would happen again to a larger degree with Halloween 2018.

H20 was definitely influenced by Scream and Dimension wanted to play off the success of a new franchise with Michael Myers, going so far as to throw out John Ottman’s score for the film and use chunks of Marco Beltrami’s Scream and Scream 2 score in H20. The result does lose a little bit of the tone that the Halloween franchise had cultivated to that point, but the direction from Steve Miner (Warlock, Private Valentine: Blonde & Dangerous), who at that point had already helmed two installments of the Friday the 13th franchise, and the story shepherding by Kevin Williamson help to bring Halloween into the modern realm of horror. The film feels fresh, biting, and dark without losing any steam, and the tight run time (the shortest of any Halloween film in the franchise) keeps the adrenaline pumping while covering a lot of ground. H20 also contains one of the most shocking finales of the franchise.

I also want to make a point of applauding Jamie Lee Curtis on her performance. Curtis created this character back in 1978, made it her own, and yet, she feels right at home slipping back into the role of Laurie. You can say that the character is essentially just Jamie because of how early in her career she first played the teenage babysitter, and you wouldn’t be wrong in that way. I see a lot of Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa as well. Jamie Lee Curtis and Laurie Strode are synonymous with each other in the same way that Harrison Ford is with both Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Still, there’s something really feral about the way Curtis plays Strode here, a woman who has been living in fear up to this point who elects not to take it anymore. She’s decides to stop running, stop hiding, and face her enemy on her own terms. It’s an excellent performance.

The rest of the cast does quite nicely here as well. I really like Adam Arkin (A Serious Man, TV’s Chicago Hope) as Will Brennan, Laurie’s love interest. Hartnett holds his own here as well in an early role, playing nicely off of Curtis. We also get early work from Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine, TV’s Fosse/Verdon) and a nice cameo appearance from Curtis’s mother, Janet Leigh (Psycho, The Manchurian Candidate). Hell, even L.L. Cool J (Deep Blue Sea, TV’s NCIS: Los Angeles) isn’t terrible as Ronny, the school’s security guard with a dream of being a writer.

Yeah, that’s great and everything, but is the film scary? Is it entertaining? Is it fun? I would say absolutely. Not to appear like I’m trying to be macho, I’m not usually scared much in movies anymore, but I find this installment of the Halloween franchise to be thrilling, exciting, unnerving (I specifically remember being terrified as child by something in the first ten minutes of the movie), and entertaining. That’s all this movie is aiming for, and I feel it succeeds.

I wish movies would stop ignoring their mythology. I hate seeing retcons and requels and all that, but when it is done well, I can certainly appreciate it. I don’t like that Halloween H20 decided to ignore several sequels, but hands down the film is entertaining, aided by the triumphant return of Jamie Lee Curtis to the role she made famous 20 years earlier, and directed finely by Steve Miner, who just doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a filmmaker (though he did make Soul Man, so maybe that’s on him). H20 was, simply put, the best film in the franchise since the original, and though I’m not sure it still is, I can commend it on being a thoroughly enjoyable little horror movie. This one is still worth your time.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

  • For my review of John Carpenter’s Halloween, click here.
  • For my review of Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II, click here.
  • For my review of Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch, click here.
  • For my review of Dwight H. Little’s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, click here.
  • For my review of Dominique Othenin-Girard’s Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, click here.
  • For my review of Joe Chappelle’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, 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 Steve Miner’s House, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VII: The New Blood] Day 22 – [Happy 10th Birthday!] Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Director: Tod Williams

Cast: Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat

Screenplay: Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon, Tom Pabst

91 mins. Rated R for some language and brief violent material.

 

The gimmick of found footage horror films discovered quite a resurgence in the late 2000s with the original Paranormal Activity, a film made on a shoestring budget sold as real footage, using unknown actors and a simple shooting style that gave the film an interesting visual aesthetic. That film was so incredibly successful (and how could it not, with a miniscule budget; almost any win is a huge win) that of course Paramount would push forward on a sequel. The studio, which hated its association with the Friday the 13th films back in the 80s, found a new franchise to add to its struggling catalogue, and a small time later, Paranormal Activity 2 was released. I liked Paranormal Activity, but I had no interest in a repeat of the events of the original with a new group of unsuspecting characters facing a new haunting. I was finally pushed into it by a friend and colleague who, while not a huge fan of horror, was blown away by it. It’s been ten years since I first saw Paranormal Activity 2, and its about time I shared my thoughts on it.

Paranormal Activity 2 is the story of the Rey family. The mother, Kristi (Sprague Grayden, Samir, TV’s Jericho) is actually the sister of Katie (Katie Featherston, Psychic Experiment, TV’s Solace for the Undead) from the first film, and we also learn that a bulk of the events from this sequel are actually set before the events of Paranormal Activity. After a suspected burglary at the home of Kristi and husband Daniel (Brian Boland, The Unborn, Surprise Me!), security cameras are set up to protect from future issues. What is captured on those cameras over a series of nights showcase a far different problem: strange and unexplained events are occurring at the Rey home. As the family struggles to understand what is happening to them, a localized presence within the home has set its sights on infant Hunter, and it is determined to have him.

Prequels are a tough nut to crack in storytelling. You have to find a way to make events interesting even when the audience knows all or part of what is going to happen. Paranormal Activity 2, being a prequel/sequel hybrid that focused more on the events before the original film, succeeds quite well at expanding the mythology, focusing on areas that we don’t have a lot of understanding, and driving the narrative ever-so-slightly forward (my biggest criticism of the story is that we don’t really learn much more about what happened after the original film ended). In bulking up the original film’s somewhat weak mythology with a lot of detail and interesting revelations, PA2 becomes a much better story in the process.

The acting of the main cast is neither memorable nor is it poor enough to drag one out of the film. The strongest performance comes from Molly Ephraim (The Front Runner, TV’s Last Man Standing) as Daniel’s daughter Ali, a character who I found to be quite annoying at the film’s beginning until she becomes a more accessible conduit for the emotional core of the audience. As the evil presence makes itself more known in the film, we begin to see her putting the pieces together and search for answers and try to save her family. Even the work of Featherston and Micah Sloat are a little less wooden this time around.

There’s also the effects work to consider. While the first film was done on a shoestring budget, this sequel gets a bit of a bump that goes to making the haunting a little bigger without forcing it. The idea that bigger is better in sequels or follow-ups is foolish and leads to a place where spectacle trumps story and character, but in this film I found that it was not overly bigger. There’s some great scares in the film that ride that line of jump scare aided by mood and tone, and it mostly works. I found myself jumping far more often this time around.

Paranormal Activity 2 does not reinvent the found footage wheel in the way that the first film did. It’s a similar film, but its also a better film, with a stronger story, more interesting characters, higher stakes, and a more captivating mythology. If you didn’t at least like the original film, I can’t see this pre-sequel doing much to sway you, but this one is a follow-up that makes the original better, improving on it in every possible way. It certainly won me over.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity, click here.

For my review of Christopher Landon’s Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VII: The New Blood] Day 2 – Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

Director: Rachel Talalay

Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Shon Greenblatt, Lezlie Deane, Yaphet Kotto

Screenplay: Michael De Luca

89 mins. Rated R for horror violence, and for language and drug content.

 

If you have ever seen Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, a lengthy documentary on the making of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, or its sister Crystal Lake Memories (the making of the Friday the 13th franchise), you will know how much work has gone into each of these films, even though the criticism by many of the uninitiated is that they are all the same. They believe that each installment is the exact same as the previous ones, a story repeated over and over until the box office receipts are too small to be worth the risk of doing it all again. In this assumption, they would be wrong. The sixth Nightmare on Elm Street film went through several drafts from several screenwriters, each trying to nail down a unique new direction to take the film. Today, let’s talk about the finished product and try to wrap our heads around how it all failed so spectacularly.

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare opens ten years in the future, presumably in the year 1999 or 2001. In the years since Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund, Nightworld: Door of Hell, The Midnight Man) began his otherworldly murder spree, he has claimed almost all of the children of Springwood, and the town itself has become a ghost, a shell of its former self. Now, he sets his sights on a young man with no memory of who he is. This John Doe (Shon Greenblatt, Newsies, Luster), as he is lovingly referred to, finds himself at a shelter for troubled teens and, with the help of Dr. Maggie Burroughs (Lisa Zane, The Nurse, Game Day), he follows a trail of clues leading back to Springwood, Fred Krueger, and a revelation that neither is prepared for.

Of the many varied attempts to nail down the story for a sixth film, director Peter Jackson had a take where kids were purposely drugging themselves in order to enter the dreamworld and beat up a weakened and aged Freddy Krueger, and there was also an idea to bring back Jacob Johnson (Alice’s son from the previous film) as a teenager, so it both shocked and disappointed me that we got a “finale” that feels so uninspired, cheap, and forgettable. There are flashes of a genius take on Freddy Krueger here, but they are lost under the weight of all the meaningless goofiness. The tone here suggests the director, Rachel Talalay (Tank Girl, On the Farm), believed that Freddy Krueger was at his best when he is comical, silly, almost chummy with the audience. The failure here (this failure is similar to what happened with Chucky as well) is misunderstanding that Freddy’s wit should be used only to lull the audience into a sense of fun before ratcheting up the horror elements again. A well-placed piece of dialogue can convince the viewers that it’s okay, we’re having a good time, and it calms the audience after a big scare before introducing another one. Here, the horror is almost used to remind the audience that it’s okay, we’re still watching a scary movie, even if you aren’t scared.

As I’ve said, there are elements to Freddy’s Dead that could have really worked in a better movie. One of those elements is the mythology building. Other horror franchises have taken a stab at building in supernatural mythology late in the franchise with films like Jason Goes to Hell or Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, but for Freddy’s Dead, being so heavily laced with supernatural elements from the get-go really helps it here. In the case of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, those franchises started out rather simple, with stories of serial killers that, however unlikely, “could have happened.” With the original Nightmare on Elm Street, we knew that Freddy was a monster, a demon, or something unholy from the very beginning, so the way that Springwood has been turned into a ghost town with people slowly going mad after the loss of all the children could really work. I’m also referring to the Dream Demons, a concept that seems to have some value to it in establishing Freddy’s supernatural powers without downright spoiling the mystery. Even the backstory of Freddy’s childhood, all things that could have worked in the proper context.

So what does work in the film? Well, as I said above, the origin story is an element that could have been better, but I felt it was still executed nicely in the finished product. There’s something to seeing the evil of this “Son of a Hundred Maniacs” at play from a very early period, and the sequence featuring a cameo by Alice Cooper as a foster father to Freddy is deliciously wicked and disturbing. I enjoyed the idea that Fred, as an adult, tried to suppress his darker deeds and eventually tried to hide them behind a traditional suburban façade, and I also really like his later monologue in the film where he expresses no remorse and takes no responsibility for his deeds.

There’s a standout sequence in this film featuring Carlos, one of the teenagers from the shelter who ends up in Springwood with Maggie and the John Doe, that is exemplary and stands out among the wreckage of the movie. I won’t get into specifics but the use of sound and sleight-of-hand calls back to more traditional Nightmare, with Freddy playing a supernatural cat-and-mouse game with his prey.

Bringing a real conclusion to Freddy Krueger’s tale had to be a daunting task for production, but sadly, the screenplay and plotting from Michael De Luca (In the Mouth of Madness) was seeming buried under a collection of poor ingredients. Most of the cameos in the film (besides Cooper’s) do not work. The inclusion of Roseanne and Tom Arnold as grieving parents doesn’t work as comedic or sad in a scene that should have been tragic (grieving parents going mad over their pain), and Johnny Depp appears in a dream, perhaps as himself or the still-suffering Glen from the original film, and being wasted as much as the original Ghostbusters actors who appeared in the reboot. The entire video-game/power-glove/Breckin Meyer-fights-his-father sequence is laughably Looney Tunes and out of place (this was his first role, and I can’t blame him for taking it).  The 3D finale almost seems like high-art compared to the previous hour, but again, it’s a gimmick that took precedence over the conclusion to one of the most iconic franchises in horror history.

I’m not mad that Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare is easily the weakest entry in the franchise by a mile. I’m just disappointed, and maybe that hurts more than anything else, really. Here we have an example of filmmakers and crew doing what they think is best but ultimately creating a film that doesn’t honor what the fans want. I’m a big defender of the filmmaker making their vision and screw trying to make the fans happy, but I’m not entirely sure who the team behind Freddy’s Dead is trying to please, because it certainly wasn’t me. There are some elements that work at play here, but they are far and few between. It pains me to say it, but I’m guessing Freddy’s hell is probably just rewatching this finale.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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’ A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, click here.

For my review of Rob Hedden’s Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, click here.

[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.

[Friday the 13th] Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

Director: John Carl Buechler

Cast: Lar Park Lincoln, Terry Kiser, Kevin Blair, Kane Hodder

Screenplay: Daryl Haney, Manuel Fidello

88 mins. Rated R.

 

You’d think people would just start avoiding Camp Crystal Lake on Friday the 13th by this point. I mean, it doesn’t happen that often, right?

Tina Shepherd (Lar Park Lincoln, From the Dark, TV’s Knot’s Landing) has bad memories of her lake home, which is located near Camp Crystal Lake. When she was younger, her father drowned in the lake, and Tina blames herself. Tina was born with mental gifts, and she’s returned to the lake home with her mother and Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser, Weekend at Bernie’s, The Kingsbury Run) in order to come to terms with her abilities and her guilt, and while there, she inadvertently awakens a sleeping Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder, Daredevil, An Accidental Zombie (Named Ted)), who is waiting at the bottom of the lake for his chance to return. Now, Jason is back and unleashed upon a group of youths that have congregated in a nearby cabin for their mutual friend’s birthday, and Tina may be the only one who can stop the hockey-masked killer.

Somewhere out there is an old VHS cassette tape that contains the unrated cut of The New Blood, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a version of this film from before the MPAA and the studio tore it to pieces, which is too bad because there’s a lot to love about this installment of the franchise. John Carl Buechler (Saurian, The Eden Formula) was an inspired choice as a director as he understood both how to use effects and how to create tension and shocking horror in his films. The idea of finding someone more on equal ground with Jason works pretty well, and though there’s been some calls for the silliness of a Carrie White-style character, I would argue that you’ve seen Jason drown as a child, almost decapitated, and rise from the dead due to a lightning bolt; if this is what loses you, that’s pretty strange.

Lar Park Lincoln doesn’t do so well as Tina, as she just kind of spazzes a lot and shakes. There’s not a lot of depth to the character, and the screenplay from Daryl Haney and Manuel Fidello doesn’t give her a lot to do outside of reacting. If anything, the most interesting character is Dr. Crews, played menacingly by Terry Kiser. Crews is a scumbag to end all scumbags, the prime example of a character you want to see mercilessly ripped to pieces by Voorhees.

Speaking of Jason Voorhees, this installment is the first appearance by the man who became synonymous with the machete-wielding psycho, Kane Hodder. Hodder would go on to play Jason three more times before he was unceremoniously tossed aside for being too big to play Jason Voorhees. Hodder’s Jason is the first time I remember feeling like Voorhees was an actual person at one point, and that he’s an actual character. He’s a presence on film with a performance, one that is not dissimilar to a hungry shark. There’s a hunter mentality to Jason here instead of a generic boogeyman. It’s the best Jason performance to date.

Alas, the studio had a bit too much hand in this one, as well as a producer who didn’t have a handle for what the film was aiming for and didn’t take time to work with the filmmaker on helping his vision, and The New Blood, for all its campy fun, struggles to reach the level of Jason Lives. It’s still one of the better installments, but most of its characters are not well-performed, well-written, or even likable. There’s also a building of expectation that we are headed towards an incredible and intense finale unlike anything we’ve seen before in the franchise, and what we get is a bit middling. Sure, it’s unique, but having studied the film, I can see the way it was supposed to end up in my head, and it’s not what we ended up getting.

The New Blood is good but it should have been incredible and jaw-dropping and a success in forever changing the landscape of Jason Voorhees and the Friday the 13th series, but director John Carl Buechler was almost set up to fail. As frustrating as that is, it features a solid performance from Terry Kiser and an incredibly nuanced Jason as played by Kane Hodder. This one will still please genre and franchise fans, but we’re left with the wonder of what could have been.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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.

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 28 – Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

Director: Alexander Witt

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, Thomas Kretschmann, Jared Harris, Mike Epps

Screenplay: Paul W.S. Anderson

94 mins. Rated R for non-stop violence, language and some nudity.

 

The Resident Evil games are beloved the world over. The movies, not so much. Especially the second film in the series, Apocalypse, which I feel gets a lot of negative attention. I just recently revisited the sequel, and I have a hot take: it’s the best one in the series.

Raccoon City is overrun with the undead. S.T.A.R.S. member Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory, Love Actually, TV’s Fortitude) attempts to find a way out of the city, and she comes across Alice (Milla Jovovich, The Fifth Element, Zoolander 2), last survivor of the Hive, a hidden facility owned and operated by the Umbrella Corporation, the company responsible for the T-Virus which is reanimating the dead. Together, they join Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr, The Mummy Returns, Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants) and others in an attempt to rescue the daughter of Umbrella researcher Dr. Charles Ashford (Jared Harris, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, TV’s The Terror), who claims he can get them out of the city before the Umbrella Corporation puts their quarantine into place.

Apocalypse looks very cheap. That’s the major criticism of the first two films in this series. They just feel very cheap at times. The aging CG has not helped. They’ve become akin to Syfy Original Movies in a lot of ways. The acting from a lot of the supporting cast isn’t up to par here. There’s also the necessity to fall back on video game references that lingers throughout the entire franchise. That being said, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is probably the closest to the feeling of the games that I’ve gotten without forcing it.

First of all, this one takes place during the time frame of the games. Whereas the first film was planned as kind of a prequel to the games and the third film onward kind of forge their own path, Apocalypse is in the meat of the games. Utilizing what I think is the best creature/villain of the franchise in Nemesis helps here, and taking the well-received lickers and zombie dogs from the first film really add to the enjoyment of the film. Apocalypse feels like a Resident Evil game.

There’s also some nice marketing that works as an in-film meta short commercial for an Umbrella product called Regenerate. The commercial was helmed by Marcus Nispel of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th fame. Watching the trailer all these years later still brings me back to the joy I felt in the theater watching it for the first time.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse is a B-horror movie, but it knows that it is. Much in the same way as The Fast and the Furious franchise, Apocalypse has learned not to take itself overly serious. The goal here is to have fun, just like the video games intend. Jovovich and Guillory are standouts here along with the incredible creature design for Nemesis. This is a simpler film in the franchise that expands the mythology to make way for the crazier shit we’ll see in future installments. I had so much fun watching this again, and I hope you do too.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 4 – The Final Destination (2009)

Director: David R. Ellis

Cast: Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Mykelti Williamson, Nick Zano, Krista Allen, Andrew Fiscella

Screenplay: Eric Bress

82 mins. Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language and a scene of sexuality.

 

Four films in and the Final Destination franchise appears to be going strong into their first 3D entry. I was excited, even though the fourth film welcomed back director David R. Ellis (Snakes on a Plane, Cellular), who I felt gave less than stellar work with the second film. I would have much rather had James Wong continue as director, but I still gave it a shot.

The Final Destination is the last in the final destination franchise (until this installment made enough money to trigger Final Destination 5 a few years later), and it features Bobby Campo (Sharing Christmas, My Christmas Love) as Nick, a nice youth who is sharing a day at the races with his friends when he has a premonition of a horrible accident about to take place that will kill all his friends and dozens of others at the track. Nick is able to save himself a several others from the tragedy, but now, the survivors are dying in really strange accidents. Nick’s premonitions are giving him clues to stop them, but only if he can solve the mystery in time.

The Final Destination follows the very same plot design that the previous installments worked well with, but this film’s tone is its biggest enemy. It’s sloppily put together with a notion that these unlikable characters are being picked off with a real fun attitude about it. We get it, the message is clear that these films are watched for the crazy Rube Goldberg-esque manner in which its characters are picked off, but there should be some level of care for them as human beings so that we actually hope for their survival. I didn’t like anyone in the film except for security guard George (Mykelti Williamson, Forrest Gump, Fences), and he’s still a little one-note.

Nick Zano (10 Years, TV’s Legends of Tomorrow) might be one of my most-hated characters in existence. It isn’t even a level of respectful hatred, like the one I have for Trent in the Friday the 13th remake. I didn’t want him getting out of the track at the beginning purely because he annoyed the hell out of me. Zano was given creativity with improvisation from director Ellis, one of the many issues that plagues this movie.

On the plus side, I do love the titles and how they pay homage to the franchise so far, especially considering that this was the last film originally. It was nice to see where we’d gone with the franchise, and it was one of the better elements of the 3D presentation.

Overall, I moderately enjoy parts of this film but as a whole, it’s a lengthy 82 minutes of piss poor filmmaking. This is the worst film of this franchise thus far and was thankfully saved by the fifth installment which would drop just a few years later.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wong’s Final Destination, click here.

For my review of David R. Ellis’s Final Destination 2, click here.

For my review of James Wong’s Final Destination 3, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Friday the 13th] Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986)

Director: Tom McLoughlin

Cast: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Renee Jones, Kerry Noonan, Darcy DeMoss, Tom Fridley

Screenplay: Tom McLoughlin

86 mins. Rated R.

 

How do you continue a slasher franchise when the killer was dead the entire previous installment. Well, you Frankenstein the hell out of him!

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI makes no question of whether or not Jason Voorhees is back. Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews, The Return of the Living Dead, The Peacemaker) killed Jason years ago as a child, and now, as part of his emotional recovery from the past, he returns to Jason’s grave to destroy Jason’s body forever. When he inadvertently causes the resurrection of the masked killer, he finds that no one believes him. Sheriff Garris (David Kagen, Getting Even with Dad, Boris and Natasha) has him arrested, believing him to be just as dangerous as the undead Jason. Thankfully, the sheriff’s attractive teenage daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke, Covenant, TV’s V) has her eyes on Tommy and believes him. Now, the newly renamed Camp Forest Green has opened, and the youthful campers have arrived at what could be a murderous buffet for Jason, and time is running out.

Writer/Director Tom McLoughlin (The Unsaid, At Risk) delivers the most meta and self-aware horror film of the Friday the 13th franchise and perhaps all of horror at that point. McLoughlin infuses his film with all the elements that this franchise needed. First of all, it made Jason a zombie, further explaining his unkillable force at work. He brought actual campers to the scene, a first for the series, adding a level of terror and suspense to the proceedings. The best element, though? He has fun with the material while never truly bastardizing the horror elements for a laugh. This is a tough line to walk, but McLoughlin walks it perfectly. Let’s face it. After six films, this formula would be wearing thin if not for a fresh flavor, and that’s what we get. Jason Lives is the best film in this franchise (there, I said it).

The performances here are serviceable at best, but that’s also something we’ve come to expect. The true star here is C.J. Graham’s Jason. Graham had never acted before, but his background in the military makes Jason an unstoppable killing machine. There’s a scene where Jason brutally murders some paintball-playing adults, and he stops for a moment to realize that he is more powerful than ever. Graham’s stoic performance is subtle enough to never fully steal the show, but he is a worthy addition to the long line of Jasons.

So there we have it. Six films in, and the franchise feels fresher than ever. The formula isn’t going to win a lot of new fans over, but this is a Friday the 13th for the die-hard fans, a celebration of the series. It’s fun while never being too funny, and it’s scary while never trying to over-complicate things. It’s just a fun film to watch, particularly in a large group. Check it out this Friday the 13th if you can.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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 more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 13 – [Friday the 13th] Friday the 13th (2009)

Director: Marcus Nispel

Cast: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Aaron Yoo, Amanda Righetti, Travis van Winkle, Derek Mears

Screenplay: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift

97 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence, some graphic sexual content, language and drug material.

 

Hey all, I figured that we could talk about the 2009 iteration of Friday the 13th today in honor of this holiday. I watched the entire Friday the 13th franchise several times this year and felt that I haven’t visited this reboot in some time, and no time better than the present.

Now, describing the film may be a spoiler in some ways, so I’m going to keep this thing real tight. A bunch of youths visit Camp Crystal Lake, the sight of a horrific killing spree that took place back in the 80s involving the mother of a boy who drowned in the lake. The youths are interested in drinking, drugs, and fornicating, as they should be. Then, Jason Voorhees (Derek Mears, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore) shows up and starts picking them off one by one as vengeance for the death of his mother. Who will survive, who will get laid, and who will get slayed?

I actually really like this reboot. I say reboot because this is, in the truest sense of the word, a restart to the franchise as it takes elements from the first four films and then forges a new path. I think Jared Padalecki (Phantom Boy, TV’s Supernatural) is a great lead with a motive and a likeable personality. I think Travis van Winkle (Bound & Babysitting, TV’s The Last Ship) is a monster-asshole and I prayed that he get his.

I think what Friday the 13th gets right is that it is a reboot of a franchise that pays homage to the entire series rather than just a carbon copy of replica of the original. This is something A Nightmare on Elm Street just couldn’t crack. Director Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Exeter) and screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (Baywatch) melded together a brand new layer or two to the mythology while respecting what came before. Fans were pissed at some of the decisions regarding this reboot to which I always point out that Godzilla has been rebooted numerous times, not always the same way, and fans rejoice at every opportunity for more.

The film faults when it takes its humor further than its frights, and it has some hiccups because of it. I would say 90% of Kyle Davis’s scenes should have been cut as well as some of the more disgusting humor that took me out of the experience as it just wasn’t funny.

I would tell you to give this film a try again. I think Friday the 13th is a pretty solid reboot to the franchise that we all know and love, and it saddens me that we are about to pass the longest waiting period for a new installment. Sadness. Please, Jason. Please.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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