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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Friday the 13th Part 5 (1985) review

With Part 4 representing a peak in the series' overall pop culture presence, but the producers not quite realizing it, they pushed another entry into production. Using left-over ideas from a early Part 3 script, they set the new movie in a half-way house with killer of Jason Tommy Jarvis as the main character. Presumably set some years into "the future", what with Tommy Jarvis now being played by an actor in his early 20's, Crystal Lake has now moved on from the Jason murders and is home to half-way house for, apparently, troubled teenagers. Besides Tommy Jarvis (who doesn't talk and has angry outbursts), there's a "slow" fat kid, a stutterer, a nymphomaniac couple, a goth, a sullen skinhead, and uhh, a rude redhead girl (other than doing some mean things, it's hard to figure out what she's doing here. To add to the festivities, there's also a redneck woman and her adult son, who are tired of the teenagers causing trouble, and also the child grandson of the place's cook (is this the best place to send your child out to for a "family" vacation?). The half-way house is run by a new-agey guy and a women who appears to be only about 8-10 years older than the "teenagers".

Tommy finds this place to be of little use in helping with his demons, as he frequently day-dreams about Jason and pops pills. Actor John Sheperd does a good job; too bad the same can't be said about most of the other actors. The acting is all over the place, with some actors being quite earnest (like the half-way house owner and Sheperd), and others being very wooden (like the Sherrif), or very campy (like the redneck family).

After the skinhead guy murders the fat kid, when the proprietors let skinhead guy handle an axe (!), another series of murders commences...But skinhead guy got hauled off by the cops, so who's doing the killing this time? Damaged Tommy? "Cremated" Jason? Another of the weirdos who inhabit Crystal Lake?

Folks, this one is a bumpy ride. The dark atmosphere of the first 4 films is gone, replaced by a more quirky and seedy vibe. Much of the time it doesn't even seem as if the movie is trying to be scary, with little effort made to generate suspense or establish the presence of danger (90% of the time, the killer appears out of nowhere and quickly murders victims). The production values are strange; the photography is generally quite good, but the costumes and locations are generally very cheap looking, stock b-grade Cormanesque stuff. Part 3, 4, and 5 were all filmed in California, but 3 and esp. 5 chose some very dubious locations that don't resemble the first two movies at all (and Part 5 has no lake at all!).

The identity of the killer is a groaner, and the attempt made at a "gotcha" ending is probably the 2nd worst in the series (nothing could we worse than the half-assed cliff hanger of part 2). Probably due to the sheer number of victims, and the sleazy vibe of the movie, the MPAA cut the movie to ribbons, with only Part 7 being more censored. Not that many of the special FX are that great, anyway. Drugs were evidently all over the set, with the director being quite "wired" himself. This one would open well but it quickly fell off, indicating that viewers were put off by the movie.

Overall rating: 5/10

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Friday the 13th Part 4 (1984) review.

With Part 3 being a major success, another movie was commissioned. Sensing the changing public tastes, with most 1982 and 1983 slasher movies being released to little financial success, and a growing moral backlash towards slasher movies, the producers figured that Part 4 might be the last. Thus, it's title: The Final Chapter. Naturally it made so much money that more films were made, but in a sense, it is the Final Chapter. How so? It's the last movie in the original run of F13 movies to feature a human Jason. It's the last movie to feature even the tiniest bit of Seventies influence (Part 4 was shot in late 1983). It's the last movie with FX by Tom Savini. It's the last movie to not bear any big influence from mainstream or MTV culture.

Not that we got that out of our system, onto the plot....Such as it is. Jason has been hauled away to the local morgue, apparently presumed dead. One crass morgue worker thinks there's no better time to make a pass at a nurse, who rejects his advances when the "corpse" of Jason lays a hand on the nurse. Several moments later, Jason butchers them both and hightails it out of the morgue (how he does this undetected is not revealed), from whence he decides to......Stalk ANOTHER group of teens, who happen to be near a single mom led family of three. You can imagine what happens next.....

With, AGAIN, practically the same plot as the earlier movies, how does this one fare? Pretty good, actually. It's shot in CA, again, but at least they chose better looking locations this time (plus they use an actual lake in this one). While I would argue that there's less suspense in this one than in the first three, Director Joe Zito still conjures a very dark mood and he got some very good performances from his actors. Among whom you have Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover, who are effortlessly watchable. The other actors aren't as notable, but they still do their jobs well. Due to the acting and writing, this entry has perhaps the best characterization of the original series. Really, think about it: it can't be easy to flesh out characters in a 90 minute movie where each character is usually going to be killed off at some point.

The MPAA went pretty easy on the movie's FX, maybe because Tom Savini blackmailed them (Part 2, 5, 6, and 7 each got hit pretty hard by the censors).

Overall score: 9/10

Friday the 13th part 3 (1982) review

With box office for part 2 a bit of a let-down, Paramount figured that the time was right to use the 3D gimmick for...Part 3, fittingly enough. Technically speaking, Paramount used a 3D system that was the precursor for modern3D, at great expense (Paramount spent lots of money outfitting theaters and maintaining the novel equipment..I believe the theaters themselves did pay the bills for much of this, though). To cut costs, the movie was shot in California, on a very not East Coast looking location. Oh well.

Steve Miner returns to direct, and while he still a has a good grasp of suspense, the technical issues with using novel 3D cameras did interfere with things. The actors complained of not getting much feedback about their performances, because Miner was busy with the technical issues.

Plot-wise, Jason is revealed to have crawled away at the end of Part 2, and then grabbed another set of clothes shortly thereafter. Thus the movie is an immediate continuation of part 2...Even though Jason's actor, and the film locations, are quite different.  Jason, with essentially no explanation, decides to stalk and then murder a group of young friends, and also a biker gang out to mess with the kids.

It's definitely weaker than Part 2, but still a pretty decent romp. It's still pretty spooky, and as usual the end of the movie is the highlight...The showdown between the last survivor and Jason.

Overall rating: 8/10

Friday the 13th part 2 (1981) review

The producers immediately got cracking on a sequel after the first movie was a hit. In fact, one of the producers decided to direct the sequel himself. Steve Miner proves to be a good director, luckily.

With the killer of the first movie dead, where do you go next? Why, just say that the child at the end of the first movie.....Didn't drown, or something. Well, point being, he did grow up to be a big guy out in the woods. Just try not to think too much about how he ended up that way. After a vague passage of time from the first movie, a new set of counselors is prepping for camp season on Crystal Lake. But Flannel and denim clad, and facially deformed, psycho killer Jason Vorhees won't let THIS camp open up, in keeping with family tradition.

Basically a re-make of the first movie, but without the whodunit element and with a faster pace. And better acting, writing, and editing, to boot. Although a weird cliffhanger type ending is a bit of a bummer, that leaves viewers more confused than frightened. For the gore seekers, it's a mixed bag: there are more on screen deaths this time, but most have been censored to some degree. It's clear that the director had to compromise his work, although he does his best to save the kill scenes even after the censorship. Thankfully the atmosphere is menacing enough that gobs of gore weren't necessary to sell the movie.

Rating: 9/10

Friday the 13th review

With Halloween coming up, here's my rundown of the greatest slasher series of all time:

Friday the 13th (1980)

Intended to ride the success of Halloween, Friday part one itself ended up inspiring dozens of rip-offs in it's own right. The movie out-grossed The Shining! Oddly, for self-described rip-off Friday part one has several distinguishing features:

1) An out-door setting that recalls other "backwoods" movies of the 70's (Deliverance etc.), as opposed to the sterile suburbia of Halloween.
2) A whodunit plot, more in line with 70's giallo films than Halloween.
3) Several outbursts of gore, which Halloween didn't have.

Friday one has a laid-back 70's style pacing, that doesn't really pick up until the last 20 or so minutes. Modern viewers might be a little put off. For more patient viewers, you'll enjoy the spooky and rustic atmosphere. The acting is adequate, with lead actress Adrienne King fortunately being the most personable actor and character. Though it developed a reputation as a crude gore-fest, suspense is crafted throughout the movie and some characters have off-screen deaths. For the low budget, the movie has pretty nice look. Some of the scenes will stick with you for a while, from a visual standpoint.

Overall rating: 8/10

Wednesday, September 12, 2018