Archive for May, 2011

Friday the 13th (1980)

Directed By: Sean Cunningham

Starring: Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Kevin Bacon, Laurie Bartram, Mark Nelson, Jeannine Taylor, Betsy Palmer, Ari Lehman

Subgenre: Slasher

Synopsis: A group of camp counselors are working diligently to prepare for a new season of camp, but an unseen antagonist has other ideas and begins to kill off the counselors one by one.

Thoughts: There are a lot of good and important movies in the horror genre, but very few can be considered watershed films.  While not the first slasher to come out, Friday the 13th started a flood of countless slasher movies in the 80s, each trying to outdo body counts, inventive kills and insane plot twists.  It could be argued that none of them topped the original, but it sure did give us horror hounds something to watch and is surely a watershed movie in the horror genre.

Friday the 13th was itself a copy of Halloween, intended to cash in on the infant slasher genre craze, and cash in it did, bringing in almost 40 million dollars on a budget of $550,000.  Mulitiple sequels and countless copycats would soon follow.  While none of the sequels can quite stand up to the original, there are some pretty good slasher movies to be found in the series, along with some real duds.

Following up his success with Dawn of the Dead, Tom Savini was in charge of the special effects here and once again delivered the goods.  Like most of the Friday the 13th films, the MPAA required cuts to the death scenes, but the uncut version is finally available.  Savini’s work doesn’t quite hold up to todays standards, but for me, that is part of the charm.  Pioneers like Savini operated on a shoestring budget and created some amazing effects using latex, tubing and fake blood.  One of my favorite bloopers from the first Friday is when the killer gets decapitated at the end.  Take a look at the killer’s hands in the slow motion sequence.  They don’t quite match up to the killer

The cast is pretty standard for 80s slashers, consisting of fresh, young unknown faces to play the victims, with one exception; Kevin Bacon plays one of the counselors.  I wouldn’t say his acting was anything special, but it is always cool to see a young actor in a horror flick that goes on to be a pretty major star.  The movie also features Betsy Palmer, a veteran actress, as Pamela Voorhees, the distraught mother of poor drowned Jason.

Another iconic piece of the puzzle here is Henry Manfredini’s score.  I have no idea how many times the “ki ki ki, ma ma ma” riff has been used in pop culture, but I am sure it is a rather large number.  Manfredini would go on to score many of the Friday the 13th movies.

I can’t imagine many horror fans that have yet to see this movie, but if it has somehow slipped by you, this is a must see film, not only because of its importance to the genre, but because it is actually pretty damn good.

Favorite Death Scene (SPOILERS): Seeing as how they are often the focal point to the Friday the 13th movies, I figured I would point out my favorite death scene from each Friday the 13th movie.  For the original, it came down to two scenes.  The runner up was the last death of the movie, the decapitation of Mrs. Voorhees.  Not only was it a cool scene, but without it, we would probably have never had all the sequels. 

My favorite, which probably comes as no surprise, is Jack’s (Kevin Bacon) death.  Jack is kicking back in his bunk when he gets an arrow through the throat from underneath the bed.  At the time, the FX here were amazing.  Now, with high definition and gigantic home screens, you can see the makeup pretty clearly.  It is still pretty damn cool in my book.

Getting ready for a summer trip to Camp Crystal Lake on Cenobite Me. Stay tuned for more reviews.

Friday the 13th (2009)

Directed By: Marcus Nispel

Starring: Jared Padelecki, Danielle Panabaker, Travis Van Winkle, Amanda RIghetti, Aaron Yoo, America Olivo, Derrick Mears

Subgenre: Slasher

Synopsis: One of the most popular horror franchises gets the reboot treatment in this reintroduction to Jason Voorhees.  The basic storyline is a very familiar one for Camp Crystal Lake. Teens go camping. Teens drink, do drugs, and have sex. Teens die. There is a brief introduction with the first group of teens meeting a very cranky Jason while in search of a mythical marijuana field. We are soon introduced to a second group heading to a lake cabin for a weekend of debauchery and the requisite loner on a motorcycle looking for his sister that recently disappeared.

Thoughts: I admittedly have a soft spot for the F13 series. I know most of them are garbage, but I have a helluva good time watching them just about every time. I am generally leery of remakes, and the new version of Jason was no different. I failed to check it out in theatres, as the trailers never really did much for me, so I wasn’t expecting a lot going into the movie.

While I was not blown away, I did like some of the things they did. Jason was quicker and more cunning than in previous movies. He set traps and often outsmarted his victims instead of chasing them at a methodical pace waiting for them to fall down. His “look” was great as well and I thought that Derrick Mears did a fantastic job bringing Jason to life.  I would rank him as my 2nd favorite Jason, behind the work of Kane Hodder.

I also thought that the carnage was perfect.  The kills were well choreographed and were reminiscent of the earlier movies in their use of cutaways and execution.

I did think the pacing of the film was off a bit and it was too long. I did watch the extended version and need to check out the theatrical version to compare them, so maybe that will help a lot. In the extended version, the finale took way too long as they were running back and forth trying to get away from Jason.

Friday the 13th should satiate slasher fans, but in the end, it didn’t really bring anything new to the genre. It fits into the Friday the 13th pantheon well, and did an amicable job of rebooting the franchise, but the biggest question I have is when will we see Jason back in space?

Innocent Blood (1992)

Directed By: John Landis

Starring: Anne Parallaud, Anthony LaPaglia, Robert Loggia, Chazz Palminteri, Rocco Sisto, Don Rickles,

Subgenre: Vampires, Horror-Comedy

Synopsis: Marie is a vampire with a conscious; she only kills criminals to feed her bloodlust.  She also makes sure to finish off what she started, ensuring no new bloodsuckers are born.  She bites off more than she can chew when she targets Mob boss Salvatore “The Shark” Macelli and fails to kill him, creating a new vampire with no morals and a desire to create a new Mafia powered by Vampires.

Thoughts: While John Landis has given us some epic comedies such as Animal House and The Blues Brothers, he also made quite the mark on the horror genre with An American Werewolf in London, often considered one of the best Werewolf movies ever.  More than ten years after Werewolf, he returned to the horror genre with Innocent Blood. 

Innocent Blood has Landis’s fingerprints all over it.  It is suitably gory, yet humorous at the same time, but I think Landis pushed some of the comedy a little too far this time.  The addition of the stereotypical Italian Mobsters was too over the top most of the time.  I thought Loggia did an excellent job as The Shark, but the supporting cast was pretty cookie cutter.  I also wasn’t too fond of LaPaglia as the undercover cop and love interest to Marie.  His performance just seemed canned.

Now, Anne Parallaud, who played Marie the vampire, was incredible.  She is a film veteran, but probably unfamiliar to most of us here in the States.  The majority of her filmography is French.  Not only did I think her acting was well suited for the role, but she was beautiful.  She is easily one of the most attractive vampires ever to grace the screen (which may be something I need to research…).

The story is simple, yet well crafted.  Landis does a great job of integrating the romance angle as well, by playing on Marie’s need for sex as much as her need to feed.  I appreciate Landis behind the camera as well, he lets the scene unfold and his style isn’t very intrusive.  It works for him.

I think Innocent Blood is pretty underrated, probably because it skirts that area between horror and comedy without going for the full blown comic affect.    If you haven’t seen this, give it a spin, it’s worth your time.

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

Directed By: Don Coscarelli

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Bob Ivy, Larry Pennell, Reggie Bannister

Subgenre: Horror-Comedy, Undead

Synopsis: Elvis is alive and well, in a retirement home in East Texas.  Well, he is alive anyways.  He teams up with his friend, a black man that swears he is John F. Kennedy, to battle an ancient Egyptian Mummy that is feeding off the souls of the elderly.

Thoughts: The entire movie is ridiculous, which is what makes it great.  You have Elvis in the nursing home and his best friend John F Kennedy, who just happens to be black now, and has a bag of sand in his head.  He was stuck in the nursing home by Lyndon Johnson.   They discover a mummy, which arrives on the scene due to a botched museum robbery, is responsible for the deaths of other tenants at the nursing home.   The mummy, dressed in western garb, targets the elderly because they can’t outrun him and sucks their souls out through any available orifice.  Yes, he’s a shit sucker, as Elvis calls him.

How Elvis and the black JFK came to be in the same nursing home is actually a pretty clever story and I give author Joe Lansdale and director Don Coscarelli credit for making it seem somewhat plausible, except maybe the bit about skin dying and a bag of sand in JFKs head.  I have been meaning to seek out Lansdale’s original work for quite some time, but just never have gotten around to it.

I’m not sure that this movie could have worked with anyone other than Bruce Campbell playing Elvis, but with him in the movie, this was a fun time.  I am an admitted fanboy when it comes to Campbell.  I must have watched Evil Dead 2 hundreds of times in college, sometimes in lieu of going to class!  Campbell pulls off Elvis to a tee, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play the role again, maybe even in a more serious biopic.

The rest of the cast is great as well.  It was amazing that Coscarelli could get such an accomplished actor as Ossie Davis to play such a ridiculous role, but he managed it and Davis did a great job.  Reggie Bannister makes a notable cameo as well, which is no surprise as he has worked with Coscarelli numerous times as well.

Bubba Ho-Tep is a fun movie.  You can read into some of the social commentary on aging and how we treat the elderly, but I find it best to gloss over that aspect and enjoy the tour de force that is Bruce Campbell as Elvis.

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007)

Directed By: Jon Knautz

Starring: Trevor Matthews, Robert Englund, Rachel Skarsten, David Fox, Daniel Kash

Subgenre: Horror-Comedy, Creature Feature

Synopsis: When Dr. Crowley accidentally awakens an ancient evil, he begins to transform into a hideous monster.  It is up to Jack the plumber, who lost his family to a different monster at a young age, to defeat the evil and avenge his family.

Thoughts: Gotta be honest here.  I didn’t think I would like this at all.  I bought this quite some time ago in a cheap dump bin and it has sat on my shelf since then.  I finally decided to crack it open and give it a shot.  It was better than I expected, but still not all that great.

The production is pretty tight.  It doesn’t look like the B movie that it is, even the monsters look pretty decent.  I didn’t like the look of the Crowley monster at the end, but other than that, there were some pretty cool creatures throughout.

Trevor Matthews, who played the titular Jack, was over-the-top, but that had more to do with the character than the actor.  Jack suffers from an aggressive disorder and struggles with outburst of anger.  He eventually channels this anger to defeat the monsters, starting a career as a “Monster Slayer.”

One glowing positive for Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is the casting of Robert Englund as Dr. Crowley.  His part in the movie gives it more credence than it probably deserves, and while his role doesn’t blow you away, you have to admire this guy’s commitment to the horror genre.  He keeps showing up in small indie projects, some which become cult hits, like Leslie Vernon.

This had the feel of a movie you catch late at night on Showtime, probably after the skin flicks are over.  It’s like cheap pizza.  It’s cheesy, you’ve had better, but it is still pizza.  Not really worth your time, but there are worse movies out there.

Rodan (1956)

Posted: May 23, 2011 in Movie Review
Tags: , ,

Rodan (1956)
{Sora no Daikaijū Radon}

Directed By: Ishirō Honda

Starring: Kenji Sahara, Yumi Shirakawa

Subgenre: Kaiju

Synopsis: Miners are disappearing in a small village and it is soon discovered that giant prehistoric insects are to blame.  Shortly after Shigeru (Sahara) and his team eradicate the insects, they discover a gigantic egg.  The egg hatches to reveal a large flying reptile, called Rodan.  Rodan begins attacking humans and is soon joined by another Rodan and the two of them battle the military.

Thoughts: This is another seminal Kaiju movie, as it was the first appearance of Rodan and the first Kaiju film that Toho produced in color.  Rodan would go on to appear in several more Kaiju films including Ghidora, the Three-Headed Monster, Destroy all Monsters and Godzilla: Final Wars. 

Personally, this is not one of my favorites.  The story is a little choppy with the introduction of the insects to begin with, and it never seems like the pacing is right.  I find this to be true in a lot of the early Kaiju flicks.  My favorites tend to come a little later in the genre.

It should be noted that there are two distinct versions of this movie, as a lot of changes were made for its US release, most of which are editing decisions or the addition of stock footage.

This is a movie that Kaiju fans should check out, mostly because of its importance to the genre, but I find some of the later entries to be more fun.