Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Well, here's the demarcation point for the Nightmare on Elm Street series, the point at which Freddy Krueger began changing from legitimately scary boogeyman to a one-liner spouting M.C. and his kills went from brutal to ironic.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), following the uneasy change of direction in Part 2, finds the series back in the dream territory and proves to be a stronger entry, and unlike Part 2, it actually feels a continuation of the plot threads and themes of the original. Wes Craven is back in the fold as a producer and one of four credited writers. The other writers include director Chuck Russell and Frank The Shawshank Redemption Darabont.

Freddy (Robert Englund of course) is stalking teens in their dreams and killing them horrible ways, and the last of Elm Street children are locked up in the nuthouse by the adults and psychiatrists who are convinced their dreams of a boogeyman are a shared delusion. Fortunately, Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), the one person to defeat Freddy, works at the clinic and knows what they're up against. Plus, Kristen (Patricia Arquette) has the power to pull others into her dreams, and the group hatches a plan to gang up on Freddy.

This is arguably one of the more interesting casts of the series. John Saxon turns up as Lt. Donald Thompson, the sheriff who led the vigilantes against Freddy in the first place. Laurence Fishburne plays a sympathetic orderly who chalks up the dreams to LSD. Craig Wasson is a doctor who wants to help but isn't sure he can believe the idea of Kruger. Dick Cavett and Zsa Zsa Gabor turn up as themselves .... Wait! What?

See, one of the victims, Jennifer, announces her intention to become an actress and TV star. One night, she's watching television, which features the aforementioned Cavett and Gabor. Cavett turns into Freddy, slashes at Zsa Zsa (after asking her, "Who gives a fuck what you think?" which is probably the nicest thing Freddy has ever done), emerges from the TV set, grabs Jennifer, yells "Welcome to prime time, Bitch," and pulls her headfirst through the screen, killing her. Funny? In a dark, sick sense, sure. Scary? Not really.

This becomes the template for Freddy going forward. The movie introduces a character with an obvious trait or quirk for Kruger to exploit and follow with a pun-filled one-liner. Strapping down a mute boy with a bunch of tongues, Freddy taunts him with, "What's the matter? Tongue-tied?" He chases after the paralyzed kid with a monstrous wheelchair.

To be fair, at least in Part 3, some of these kills are rather inventive and exploit the nightmarish quality of the story marvelously. Poor Philip crafts puppets, so Freddy transforms him into a human marionette, leading him up the bell tower by the veins in his arms and legs to throw him to his death. When Freddy confronts Taryn (Jennifer Rubin), a recovering junkie, his fingers turn into syringes, and the needle tracks on her arms become gaping mouths, calling for a fix.

There's other imagery one expects from nightmares that the movie conveys well: the twisting maze-like hallways, the floors that becomes muck. In Kristen's first encounter with Freddy, she tries to rescue a little girl who becomes a skeleton in her arms, and she finds herself in a room filled with the hanging corpses of Freddy's victims. Spooky. We return to the boiler room and the old Elm Street house and get a few glimpses of Hell along the way. Freddy also turns into a giant snake and tries to eat Kristen, and in a really cool hall of mirrors scene, Freddy attacks from multiple mirrors to grab each kid separately.

The problem is we start seeing and hearing too much of Freddy. England's great as always, but Freddy's officially out of the shadows, and we get some nice long looks at him. Out in the open, he's not as menacing or as mysterious. Watching him fight a dorky kid in a wizard robe or a tough biker chick in a faux-hawk or getting beat up by the gymnastic skills of Kristen, and it's hard to believe this is the same guy who sucked Johnny Depp down into a bed and barfed him up in a geyser of guts or held up his claw and declared, "This is God." He can make you laugh, but he won't make your blood run cold.

The movie proceeds from one fantastical set piece to another. When we're in the dream world, it's easy to get lost in the movie and not become distracted by what's become of Freddy. The waking world is boring. Most of the adult authority figures are useless and stupid, and these scenes where they insist Freddy is a delusion just bog the movie down.

Monday, May 30, 2016

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

I have not been 14 years old in a quite a while, so when I describe A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) as "gay," I'm not using the term to mean lame or bad. When I say the movie is gay, I mean it has a strong, strong homosexual angle. Forget subtext, this isn't sub-anything. If this movie were any gayer, it'd have an account on Grindr.

The original Nightmare on Elm Street was a sleeper hit (see what I did there?), and looking at it's first sequel, it's apparent New Line Cinema had little idea of what they had on hand. Wes Craven is gone, and the subsequent film really doesn't seem to fit with its predecessor or any of the other entries in the series. I strongly suspect that director Jack Sholder and writer David Chaskin wanted to make an entirely different movie but somehow had to make it fit under the Elm Street umbrella.

Instead of haunting the dreams of several teenagers to kill them, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund of course) instead invades the dreams of one teenager, Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton), so he can take over his body and resume his murderous ways. Or as Freddy commands Jesse, "Kill for me." The question I have is why. This didn't seem to be an issue for Freddy in the original. He seemed able to enter dreams as he wished and to kill the dreamers. Why is it suddenly a plot point that Freddy, who was exposed and vulnerable when brought into the real world previously, wants to enter the real world to wreak havoc?

Craven's movie was very much about the sins of the father, how the crimes of the older generation will have drastic consequences on the children of the future. Craven also explored how the suppression of the truth can be harmful and how reality must be faced.

By contrast, Sholder's film re-envisions Freddy as a heavy-handed metaphor for homosexual panic, leading to a lot of innuendo heavy dialogue from Jesse about how, "He's inside of me, and he wants to take me again." When Jesse and his girlfriend Lisa (Kim Myers) finally begin having sex, Jesse finds himself unable to perform as Freddy takes over, so he races to the room of his buff, briefs-clad friend Grady (Robert Cusler) in a panic and asks to stay with him.

"Something's trying to get inside of me," Jesse stammers. Grady replies, "Yeah, she's female...and you'd rather sleep with me!"

Let's not even get into all the phallic imagery; or how after every encounter with Krueger, Jesse wakes up in his underwear all hot and bothered, covered with sweat; or how Jesse encounters his gym teacher (Marshall Bell) late at night in a gay bar, the coach forces him to run laps at the gym, and Freddy kills the teacher by pelting him with tennis balls and basketballs, ties him up with a jump rope, strips him naked, and whips his bare ass with a towel before killing him.

As a horror film, the movie is a disappointment. The rubber reality terror generated by Craven is sorely missed, replaced by half-baked imagery that is supposed to be frightening but isn't, like the dogs with human faces, the exploding parakeet, and the pool party massacre that involves electrified fences and boiling water. Freddy's powers are so ill-defined, poorly established, and inconsistent, it's hard to care. The only standout sequence is when Freddy emerges by bursting through Jesse's chest and peeling off the skin of his arm to reveal the finger knives.

The strength of the movie is Englund as Krueger. He's not yet the game show host of later entries. This one keeps him in the shadows, the burn makeup is well done, and he's not cracking corny jokes just yet. He's still just a mean, nasty, sick bastard who enjoys killing people and scaring them before he kills them. Of course, this only makes me wonder why he wants Jesse to do his dirty works for him.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Invaders from Mars (1986)

There are two types of people in the world: those who are amused by the notion of watching Nurse Ratched getting eaten by a giant alien Pac-Man and those who aren't. Well, if you're a member of the former camp, I have good news for you because you get to see Louise Fletcher getting swallowed by such a creature in Tobe Hooper's 1986 remake of Invaders from Mars. You also get the added bonus of seeing Louise Fletcher eat a frog.

A remake of the 1953 version, Invaders from Mars (written by Dan O'Dannon and Don Jakoby) is broader, campier, and busier. A lot of money went into making these nasty Martians and their weird technology, and they're rendered in such an exaggerated, over-the-top, bug-eyed manner, the movie is practically a live-action cartoon. It's probably not scary if you're over the age of 12 and maybe it's too weird and lightweight if you're an adult, but in its own way, it's kind of endearing.

The plot's identical, except for a few details. A young boy, David Gardner (Hunter Carson), wakes up one night to see a UFO land in the backyard. Before long, his parents (Timothy Bottoms and Laraine Newman) are taken over by invading Martians, as are the police and his classmates. David recruits school nurse Linda Magnuson (Carson's real-life mother Karen Black) to his cause, and they go to Marine General "Mad Dog" Wilson (James Karen) for help.

Plot-wise, the biggest change is the inclusion of Mrs. McKeltch, played by Nurse Ratched herself, Louise Fletcher. She's the teacher who has it in for David, even before the Martians take her over, and never lets him get a word in edgewise when she accuses of another transgression. She basically plays the respectable, public face of the Martian invaders (though the back of her van suggests she might be Leatherface's more intellectual aunt). She always addresses David by his first and last name and is fond of calling him a bad boy and saying she'll get him.

The paranoia of the original is present here, but it's played more for laughs. After the parents are taken over, they engage in behavior that's a parody of normal, happy family life. Dad pours a bottle of saccharine tablets in his coffee and drinks the scalding liquid in one gulp while Mom serves bacon burnt to a crisp and eats raw hamburger meat. All the while, they speak in stilted, emotionless diction like "This is my wife. This is my son."

Hooper retains some of the exaggerated surrealism of the original (the scary adults loom over David), but he augments them with big-budget special effects and wild, crazy lighting. Inside the Martian spaceship, colors are flashing all over the place, and the aliens, no longer actors in fuzzy green costumes, are elaborate, over-sized drones with lots of sharp teeth (Stan Winston designed the creatures and John Dykstra did the special effects). They're slimy, ugly, and in no way realistic.  There's no way those aliens could be piloting that ship, but the work and detail that went into creating these elaborate, colorful sets is nothing short of astounding. The Supreme Martian Intelligence, basically a giant brain on the end of a  tentacle, has a cool entrance when it descends from a portal in the ceiling.

The movie contains cute references to the original. Jimmy Hunt, the little boy in the original, shows up as a police officer who goes over the hill and remarks, "I haven't been up here since I was a kid." The school is named after the original's director William Cameron Menzies, and the original Martian leader prop turns up in the background. The Marines have some funny quips. "Marines have no qualms about killing Martians," General Wilson assures David.

The movie's main failing is David. Jimmy Hunt had a charming, gee-whiz presence that suited the original's time period. Carson, in the movie's vernacular, is too "spaced" (he also has a weird way of running that's just distracting), and he doesn't seem scared enough to give the movie any sense of menace. At least the adult cast around him has fun.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Village of the Damned (1995)

Village of the Damned (1995) is a mystery to me. On paper, it sounds like a home run. John Carpenter did wonders with his version of The Thing, and you'd think letting him tackle another remake of a 1950s sci fi classic would produce the same magic. Unfortunately, while not an outright dud and actually better than I remember, Village of the Damned is a disappointment.

The small town of Midwich, population 2,000, is one of those happy, little post-card towns, where life is simple and the pressures of the big city are far away. One day, at precisely 10 a.m., every man, woman, child, and animal within the village blacks out, and six hours later, they all wake up, seemingly no worse for wear (except for the guy who passed out on the grill and the car crash victim). Then, it becomes apparent ten of the women are pregnant, and nine months laters, they give birth. But something is ... off about the children. They are cold, emotionless, and all have the same platinum hair. Oh, and they have telekinesis, which they use to make adults kills themselves.

Based on the sci fi novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham and the 1960 movie directed by Wolf Rilla, also called Village of the Damned, Carpenter's take has a lot going for it. The original movie was condemned as blasphemous by the Catholic Church for suggesting a virgin birth, and the word "pregnant" could not be said because of rating standards of the time. Carpenter and his screenwriters can bring that stuff more out into the open and even depict the childbirth sequence. The idea of abortion is brought up.

The cast is nothing if not noteworthy. Christopher Reeve plays the town doctor whose daughter Mara (Lindsey Haun) becomes the leader of the children. Kirstie Alley is a mysterious, chain-smoking government scientist who knows more than she lets on. Linda Kozlowski is the school principal whose son David (Thomas Dekker) develops emotions. Mark Hamill is the town pastor, and Carpenter regulars Peter Jason and George Buck Flower turn up in supporting roles.

But strangely, the movie feels incomplete, as if important scenes were never filmed or were filmed but got cut. The first 35 minutes or so, which deals with the blackout and its fallout, work reasonably well, building a spooky atmosphere and intriguing mystery, but once the kids arrive, things go awry. Years progress in the narrative, but only the children seem to age, and characters and subplots that were introduced in the first act are dropped or rushed in the second act with little fanfare.

Certain things are presented without context. We're told the town is dying and people are leaving, that the children seem to respect Reeve's character, that Reeve was part of the science project studying the children but left, and that the children don't fit in regular school, but little of this is shown. Most characters, like Flower's drunk janitor, exist mostly to antagonize the kids so they'll kill them. There are intriguing narrative, character, and thematic angles that could have been exploited marvelously, but the movie seems uninterested in doing so, content to go from shock killing to shocking killing.

That might be less of a complaint if the scares were done better, but for a Carpenter film, some are shockingly hokey. A doctor accidentally burns one of the children during an exam, and the children make her blind herself by pouring chemicals into her eyes. The whole scene is weak, contrived, and poorly acted. Another man is forced to drive his truck into a gas tank, which is located right at the end of the road. Alley informs Reeve the government has destroyed all the other towns where similar children have been born and plans to do the same to Midwich, and this development is never mentioned again.

The movie picks up some energy and excitement in the final 15 minutes or so. The Army and police mount an assault against the children, and the children control them into annihilating each other. The final confrontation between Reeve and the children, when he created a mental image of brick wall to keep them from reading his thoughts, is the best scene in the movie, with the kids' alien nature coming more to forefront as they try harder to peer inside his mind. The camera slams repeatedly into the brick wall, which begins crumbling under the mental assault.

Performances are mostly fine. Reeve does well in his last big role before a horseback riding accident paralyzed him, and Kozlowski is sympathetic as the mother, but Alley is completely lost in a vague, miscast part. The child actors are pretty good for the most part, convincingly alien and at times rather creepy, but they aren't helped by a dye job that makes them look like they're wearing bad Beatles wigs.

Freddy vs Jason

It took them a decade, but they finally gave us Freddy vs Jason (2003) after teasing it at the end of Jason Goes to Hell. That was with both series having another entry each, Jason X and Wes Craven's New Nightmare. By now, slashers were old hat, only having a brief resurgence with Scream and other post-modern titles. Looking back, it's hard to gauge just how much hype there was for this.

I guess the real question now is: is it any good? Kind of. It ain't scary. It ain't funny. It's arrived at least 15 years too late, and thus, it feels like it's trying to merge the nostalgia of the old series with modern sensibilities. I can't say it's pulled off entirely successful, but after all these years, it is neat to finally see these two iconic boogeyman lock horns.

Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is angry. He's in Hell, and the adult authorities of Springwood have conspired to make people forget about him. If the children don't know about him, they can't be afraid of him, and if they aren't afraid of him, he can't invade their dreams. Fortunately for Freddy, there's another violent soul in Hell with him: Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger). Posing as Mrs. Voorhees, Freddy orders Jason to Elm Street to kill some teenagers, assured that will get people talking about Freddy again. This little business relationship goes awry when Jason keeps killing the children Freddy has laid claim to.

This setup is actually fairly clever and demonstrates the filmmakers have a firm grasp of who Jason and Freddy are. Jason is a physical force of nature, a blank, emotionless killing machine, devoted to his mother, who kills because he knows nothing else. His background is tragic, and one can't help but feel sorry for him.

Freddy is a remorseless monster, a killer who enjoys instilling fear in his targets and causing pain. Jason goes after promiscuous teens who should know better while Freddy, even before his transformation into the dream demon, terrorizes and murders young children. We can understand to a degree why Jason does what he does, but Freddy is simply a sick, evil man.

The two compliment each other well. Jason is big, brawny, the strong, silent type. He lives in the middle of the woods, away from civilization. Freddy is verbal and talkative, always cracking one-liners; his haunting grounds are in the heart of suburbia. Jason hides his disfigurement behind a mask; Freddy shows off his burn wounds. They have two fights: one in the dream world and one at Camp Crystal Lake. They're wild and over the top, knocking each other all over the places, cutting each other up, and just beating the crap out of each other. It's practically a gorified action movie.

Freddy and Jason both look great. The makeup is top notch, but we see so much of them, they aren't scary anymore. Freddy's not cracking as many jokes, which is admirable, but he doesn't get as much to do, only killing one person, and his dream world effects are computer generated and not as memorable or surreal as in earlier Nightmare entries. When Jason attacks people, he throws them around like rag dolls, and the effect is kind of cartoony.

Freddy vs Jason unfortunately spends too much time away from Freddy and Jason. The human characters are boring, and they spend way too much time explaining everything we in the audience already know. That's what happens when you open your movie by having Freddy explain what he's all about.

Still, this is Englund's swan song as Freddy, and he's as good as ever. It had been a long time since any of us had seen these reliable old slashers slicing up the screen when this came out. It was nice to see them one last time before the inevitable wave of reboots, remakes, and re-imaginings all but diluted the characters of everything we loved about them. The movie is a fun, little reminder of a bygone era of horror cinema, the last hurrah of the slasher genre.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

After Jason Takes Manhattan, Paramount, the studio who produced all the Friday the 13th movies previously, sold their property to New Line Cinema, the House that Freddy built. With New Line owning both Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees, it seemed inevitable the two would eventually clash. Unfortunately, by this point, the slasher boom was over, and audiences had moved on. Fans would have to wait a while.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) seems intended to set up that eventual versus movie. It ends with Freddy's gloved hand snatching Jason's hockey mask, which is a cool visual. The movie leading up to that final shot is a gory, raunchy, self-aware romp that packs plenty of violent kills, gratuitous sex and nudity, and gags that demonstrate the movie is not taking itself too seriously. It moves quickly and is never boring, and yet, it doesn't feel like a genuine Friday the 13th movie.

In a series known for disregarding continuity, Jason Goes to Hell is especially egregious. Jason is now reimagined as a demonic slug that possesses people. They go on rampages, take freakish amounts of damage, and then move around. This rips off another movie, The Hidden, to a T. Without question. Jason even moves from body to body the same way: mouth to mouth.

The movie also introduces us to other members of the Voorhees family, namely Jason's sister, the sister's daughter, and the daughter's baby. Apparently, they're important now because only through a Voorhees can Jason be re-born and only a Voorhees can kill him once and for all. A Voorhees must drive a magic dagger into Jason's heart to summon a horde of demons who will drag him straight to Hell. It's as hokey as it sounds.

Purists of the series will be appalled. Jason in his hockey mask form is only around for a little bit at the beginning and the end (plus a brief reflection in the mirror). If you enjoy the series and want to see Jason, you're going to be disappointed.

Yet, I can't deny the movie is entertaining. It packs a lot of schlocky elements to keep things moving. KNB Effects Group provide the effects, and they're a little more comic book style, but they are memorable and graphic. People have their heads lopped off, torsos split in half, and faces smashed in. One shot appears to be an homage to The Thing as Jason's demon slug slithers out of a neck stump as the head hangs by a thread of skin.

The movie is self aware. Steven (John D. LeMay), one of the main characters, picks up three hitchhikers, and when he finds out they're going to Camp Crystal Lake, he say to them, "Going to smoke some dope, have some premarital sex, get slaughtered?" A diner in Crystal Lake capitalizes on the notoriety by selling Voorhees burgers and Jason fries. There are also cute references to the Myers house and the Necronomicon turns up. The crate that appeared in Creepshow winds up in the Voorhees basement.

Then, there's Creighton Duke (Steve Williams), a bounty hunter with knowledge of Jason and his true nature. This guy is the weirdest character in the series. He and Steven end up in jail together. Duke is willing to share info about Jason but for a price. What price? Money? Nope. Steven has to let Duke break his fingers. Duke also has the weirdest line of dialogue in the series. A sleazy TV newsman (Robert Culp) asks him to say the first thing that comes to mind when he hears the name, Jason Voorhees.

"Well, that makes me think of a little girl in a pink dress, sticking a hot dog through a donut."

The movie also proves to me that Jason has something of a repressed, kinky streak. He captures a sheriff's deputy, strips off the deputy's clothes, straps him down with leather restraints to a table, and shaves off the guy's mustache before passing on the demon slug through mouth to mouth. All those years of going after horny teens makes me think Jason doth protest too much.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

The title of Friday the 13 Part VII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) suggests the film will adopt the comedic, self-aware style of Part VI, but other than moving the action away from Camp Crystal Lake, this is mostly a by-the-numbers entry that takes way too long to get to the titular city, doesn't have as much fun with the idea as it could have, and shoehorns in a lot of nonsense.

The graduating class at Camp Crystal Lake is taking a cruise ship to New York. Jason's revived again, natch, and stows aboard where he makes mincemeat out of the kids. Everyone left standing ends up in New York City, leading to a final showdown in the sewers.

For a movie with Manhattan in the title, very little action takes place in New York City. Most of the movie occurs on the cruise ship, and most of it's a chore to sit through. The characters aren't very fun or memorable, and the killings are nothing special. The one neat variation is how the characters become aware relatively early that someone is stalking them, so they get weapons and decide to hunt him down. It leads to the usual let's-split-up-and-get-killed-gang routine, but it's a nice touch.

Admittedly, the movie picks up once the story reaches New York. Jason pursues his targets through the subway, and hilariously, he kicks over a boom box out of the blue. One character, a boxer, tries to fight Jason and unleashes a barrage of fists that Jason casually shrugs off. The boxer tells Jason to take his best shot, and Jason knocks his head off with one punch. The decapitated head goes flying (the camera spins from its point of view) and lands in a dumpster, the lid slamming shut like the dot of an exclamation point.

Kane Hodder is back as Jason, and he still rocks. Jason looks as intimidating as ever, and he does more killing with his hands this time around. I like how he's always soaking wet, and after he kicks over the boom box, the punks listening to it threaten him with switchblades. Jason, demonstrating a sense of humor for the first time, calmly removes his mask and scares them off with his ugly mug. Funny, even if I do wonder why he didn't just kill them.

There's a lot of nonsense. The lead girl keeps seeing visions of Jason as a child for some reason never explained. New York City really doesn't look like New York City except for a few shots, and the movie would have us believe its sewers are flooded every night with toxic waste. This leads to Jason's demise when, after getting caught in the toxic flood, he reverts back to a little boy in swim trucks.

All I can say is: what the hell?

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

Well, the Tommy Jarvis saga concluded in the previous entry. Now we enter the really wacky, out-there stretch of Friday the 13th movies. New blood indeed.

To be fair, Part 6 opened the door to the more supernatural elements that would become prominent from this point on, reviving a walking corpse version of Jason with lightning as if he were Frankenstein's Monster. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988), perhaps in a dry run for a fight against another supernatural slasher, pits Jason against Carrie White.

Ok, it's not Carrie. It's a girl named Tina (Lar Park Lincoln), who as a little girl, watched her father hit her mother, so she used her psychic power to kill him at their Crystal Lake home. Years later, Tina and her mother (Susan Blu) return to the house with her psychiatrist Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser) to confront the site of the original trauma. Crews really wants to exploit her powers, and before long, Tina accidentally revives Jason who, appreciative of another new lease on life, decides to open up a flower shop and drink hot cocoa.

I'm kidding. Of course, he goes on another rampage. Of course, there are more gormless teens nearby just waiting to be slaughtered. I mean, what did you expect?

The New Blood is a historic entry. This marks the first time Kane Hodder donned the hockey mask. Hodder, the fan favorite Jason, is the only actor to play Jason more than once (four times), and he looks great. Jason's a bit waterlogged, and we can see his spine sticking out of his back. For all intents and purposes, Jason is now a lumbering zombie with a penchant for gardening tools. When his mask comes off, he looks really gnarled and messed up.

The humor of Part 6 is mostly gone. It's back to serious business for the most part. I did laugh loudly when Jason killed the girl who tried hiding in the sleeping bag. I mean, he picks her up and slams her into a tree. I don't where else I can see something like that (I think Jason X repeats it). Otherwise, the movie drags for the first hour, boring talking bits with the occasional Jason murder

The final act of the movie is when it really takes off. Tina and Jason square off, and Tina uses her powers to hold him at bay, and to give credit where credit is due, it's a pretty bad ass fight. Tina uses her mind to throw everything at Jason: tree branches, electrical lines, nails, her dead dad. It's pretty sweet. It's just a slog to sit through the rest of the movie to get to it.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives!

Allow me to illustrate the tone of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives! (1986). In the pre-credits sequence, Tommy Jarvis (now played by Thom Matthews) digs up the corpse of Jason Voorhees, so he can cremate him and be rid of the nightmares he's suffered since first encountering Jason as a child. Unfortunately, a lightning bolt reanimates the now rotting slasher. Jason reclaims his hockey mask and poses for the camera. The camera cuts in close to Jason's eyeball when Jason, in full form, strides across the frame, turns and slashes the screen, a gorified parody of James Bond.

Jason Voorhees is back of course, and while it hews closely to the formula of its predecessors, Jason Lives! adopts a comedic tone, one that's practically self-parody. It's just as well. By this point, the series was bled dry of scares, so if they can't terrify the audience, they might as well as entertain us, and all things considered, Part VI does a pretty good job. Many fans regard it as the best in the series.

After that hilarious and gory opening (Jason rips out the heart Ron "Arnold Horseshack" Palillo), Jason resumes his reign of terror, slaughtering anyone who comes across his path. Meanwhile, Tommy tries to convince the sheriff (David Kagen) that Jason is back, but he doesn't believe him, convinced Tommy is really the killer. The sheriff's daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke) is the only one who believes him.

Wow, that's a lot more plot than one would expect from a Friday the 13th movie. It reminds me a bit of what they might have been trying to do with A New Beginning, but they don't make the mistake of having an imposter Jason. Right from the start, we know he's back and doing his thing while Tommy desperately tries to stop him and finally finish Jason off once and for all.

Jason's kill are still violent and bloody but not as much as the others in the series (reportedly the MPAA cracked down hard on this one); the most horrific stuff occurs off screen. By now, the movie is self aware and kind poking fun at itself. Tony Goldwyn and his girlfriend are driving through the woods when they see Jason standing in the road, and the girlfriend immediately hits the reverse. "I've seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly," she says. Jason pulls a counselor through the window, and it's so quick and suddenly, he yanks her right out of her fuzzy slippers.

For once, there are actual kids at camp. A couple of them amusingly say to each other, "We're dead meat," when the bodies start piling up. One of them even asks the other, "So, what were you going to be when you grew up?"

The movie also has fun showing more of Jason, instead of just having him leap out of nowhere. By now, we know what he looks like, so why keep him in the shadows? This adds to the humor. In one scene, a counselor assures a scared camper there's no monster, and behind her, in the window, we see Jason watching her.

Alice Cooper contributes some songs, but be warned: it's 80s hair metal Alice Cooper.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Invaders from Mars

Invaders from Mars (1953) plays like a collection of childhood fears, physical and psychological: needles, big scary adults, loving parents replaced by cold monsters, not being believed when you try to ask someone for help, nightmares, thunderstorms, getting sucked down in sand. What? Don't look at me like that. Don't tell me getting sucked down in the sand wasn't something you were afraid of when you went to the beach as a kid.

Made at the height of all those 1950s sci-fi movies that used aliens as a metaphor for creeping Communism, Invaders from Mars is just as cheesy and dated as any of them, but it does a develop a genuine sense of paranoia and alienation. When it works, it's because it chooses to tell the story from a child's perspective.

The story is easy to sum up. A kid wakes up, looks out the window, and sees a UFO land. He tells his Dad. Dad investigates and comes back taken over by the aliens. Soon, the aliens have taken over Mom, the chief of police, and others as they go about plans to threaten the Earth.

It's tempting to call the movie dated. Sure, the effects are hokey, but that's part of the charm. When we see the aliens, most of them are actors in unconvincing green body suits, but I can't really hold that against the movie. The Supreme Martian Leader is actually a pretty neat visual, basically a head in a jar with tentacles, and while you can tell they accomplished it by sticking an actor's head inside the glass, it's looks cool in a cheap sci-fi way. The movie is firmly entrenched in the 1950s. The boy, David (Jimmy Hunt), even says, "Gee whiz" a couple of times. The whole movie has that kind of dopey, naive innocent tone, where the Army will mobilize against a Martian threat based on the word of a young boy.

Director William Cameron Menzies uses a number of exaggerated sets and frames David to look very small: long hallways, twisting tunnels, and high ceilings. This gives the movie a distorted texture, that this seemingly normal world of mowed lawns, picket fences, and nuclear families is off kilter and warped. The movie is admirably restrained, waiting until near the end to reveal the aliens themselves.

The movie taps into a common fear in children: that for whatever reason, their parents will turn against them and try to harm them. Whether it's because of alcohol, mental illness, or even Martian invaders, it's terrifying to have parents change from protectors and providers to something with unsavory designs. When the police try to return David to his parents, who by now are both under alien influence, his reaction is not unlike those of kids being forced to return to abusive families.

Invaders from Mars is cheaply put together at times. Most of the footage of the Army mobilizing consists of stock footage, and it goes on for a long time and keeps getting reused, which I suspect is to pad the movie out. The film is less than 80 minutes long, even when they reuse the same shots of aliens running through the tunnel. Plus, it's packed with a lot of hokum that went with the territory of the genre at the time, and the movie spends too much away from David and his predicament in the second half.

Still, at its best, the movie plays on those childhood fears, so maybe the best time to see it is as a little kid when you're not going to care about fake costumes or recycled documentary footage. Tobe Hooper would go on to remake this in 1986 with a lot more money for special effects, but oddly enough, that one turned out to be even campier than this.

Escape from New York

Someone once suggested to me that Escape from New York and Raiders of the Lost Ark are two sides of the same coin. Both were released in 1981, made by filmmakers really hitting their stride, and influenced heavily by earlier films, but that's were the similarities end. Raiders is set in the past, gives a square-jawed, All-American action hero, clearly defined good and evil, a noble cause, and is a globe-trotting adventure. It's inspired by the cheery action serials of the 1930s.

By contrast, Escape from New York takes place in the future, and boy, what a future. This is a dark, pessimistic future, one cynical about the government and the nation. America is no longer a shining democracy but a totalitarian police state, the protagonist is a disillusioned war hero turned criminal who cares only for himself, and it takes place not in a far-off exotic country but in a decayed, derelict American city now used as an open prison. This movie takes its influence from Spaghetti Westerns and the urban crime genres, where the world is a hellhole and everyone's a scumbag.

Of course, Steven Spielberg made Raiders and John Carpenter made Escape, and this wouldn't be the last time they released movies about similar subject with completely disparate tones. Spielberg tends to be warm and nostalgic. Carpenter is grim and dark, but he also loads the movie with a sly sense of humor and just an overwhelming sense of cool.

Escape from New York takes place in the far off distant future of 1997. Crime has gotten so bad that Manhattan has been walled off and turned into a maximum security prison where the inmates have free reign of the island, but no one gets in or out. En route to a peace summit with China and the Soviet Union, Air Force One is hijacked and crashed into the city, where the President (Donald Pleasance) is captured by the convicts. Police Commission Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) makes an offer to Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), a former Special Forces soldier about to be imprisoned: go in, rescue the president, and receive a full pardon. As an added incentive, Hauk injects Snake with a bomb that will kill him if he doesn't return in 24 hours.

Compared to modern action movies, Escape from New York might seem slow and less flashy. It's more a suspense thriller with an occasional bit of action. New York is a dark, scary place (more so than usual). Cannibalistic crazies live in the sewer, gangs control the streets, and the place looks apocalyptic. The visions of New York without electricity, and the image of the blackened city skyline is striking. Snake infiltrates New York on glider, and it's a cool sequence as he soars among the derelict buildings.

The film also has a humorous streak, and the film has fun sending up New York. Broadway shows are still going on in, now put on by convicts in drag, and Ernest Borgnine turns up as Cabbie, a cab driver who's been driving the streets for 30 years and knows which neighborhoods to avoid. Snake at one point has to fight a death match against wrestler Ox Baker in what I guess is meant to be Madison Square Garden. The President is also made to be an enormous wimp and useless, a quivering coward. And Snake has a dry sense of humor, and he just does not give a shit about anything; told the President has been taken captive, Snake replies, "The president of what?"

Snake is an iconic bad ass. The world has gone to Hell, and he only cares about himself, but he does have his own code of honor. We don't learn why he became a criminal, but we know something went wrong in the world and America to drive him away. Kurt Russell gives what's arguably his best performance. He snarls and grimaces like Clint Eastwood, a sci-fi outlaw.

Russell's helped by a great cast. Van Cleef, Borgnine, Isaac Hayes as the Duke of New York who rules the criminal population, Harry Dean Stanton as an old cohort of Snake's, Adrienne Barbeau as Stanton's tough "squeeze," and there's even bit parts for Carpenter regulars Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers, and Frank Doubleday, memorable as Romero, the Duke's creepy, cackling toady.

I'll be honest. I didn't care much for Escape from New York the first time I saw it. I saw after its sequel Escape from LA, which recycles the same plot and has a bigger budget to pump up the action sequences. But the more I see the original, the more it grows on me. In retrospect, LA has its moments but rehashes too much and the tone is more cartoonish. Escape from New York is just ... cool.

Creepshow 2

Creepshow had three horror talents at the top of their game: writer Stephen King, director George Romero, and special makeup effects artist Tom Savini. The resulting movie was fun and scary, filled with sharp wit, a droll sense of humor, and a wonderfully crafted comic book aesthetic.

Creepshow 2 (1987) reunites those three talents, kind of. Savini plays the Creep, the Crypt Keeper like host who introduces each segment in this anthology (though his voice is dubbed), leaving the makeup effects mostly to his proteges Howard Burger and Greg Nicotero. Romero provides the script, adapting three stories by King. His longtime cinematographer Michael Gornick steps into the director's chair, and well, he ain't Romero.

I don't blame Gornick for all the film's failings. Occasionally, he throws in a cool image, like when Old Chief Wood'head goes after the final hood. Gornick does what he can, but Romero's script is by-the-numbers and lacks much beyond the usual just desserts morality tales, and it's loaded with filler and just drags and drags and drags. More destructively, the film appears done on the cheap, leaving the whole enterprise just feeling hokey. There are animated bits between the stories, and they are terribly done. The colorful, exaggerated aesthetic of the original is sorely missed.

On with the stories. In the first, a Cigar Store Indian comes to life in "Old Chief Wood'head" and seeks revenge against the young hoods who murdered a kindly, old couple who own a store. "The Raft" concerns a group of teens who become trapped by a blob-like monster on a lake in the middle of nowhere. Lastly, an undead hitchhiker haunts the adulterous woman who killed him with her car and drove off.

The original Creepshow had five tales of differing tones, but they moved with a brisk pace and had a pitch perfect sense of black humor. Creepshow 2 has only three stories (apparently two more were scripted but were cut before filming), and maybe if they were shorter, they could have had more snap.  Here, they're told too slowly, the points being made are obvious and repetitive, and the impact is muted. The gleeful humor has also been stripped away, and the result is these stories are overlong, not very much fun, and kind of mean-spirited.

The characters are one-note shticks: the lovable old couple, the horny teens, the fat guy who's always eating, etc. True, the original Creepshow had character that were types, but it was enlivened by a great cast that brought them to life. Except for George Kennedy as the store owner and Tom Wright as the hitchhiker, this cast is pretty much lifeless. The lead hood thinks he'll make it in Hollywood because of his long, flowing hair. That click you heard is the sound of my eyes rolling.

All that said, Creepshow 2 has its moments. Old Chief Wood'nhead, the titular cigar store Indian, is a pretty cool creation (I like how he creaks with each movement). "The Raft" is probably the best tale here, a decent, straightforward bit that actually generates some tension, even if the monster looks like an over-sized garbage bag; what happens to the teens is disgusting and a fate worse than death (basically being digested alive). And the ghostly hitchhiker, each time looking worse for wear, is fun with his catcalling refrain of "Thanks for the ride, lady!"

Overall, Creepshow 2 is weak, but it's not terrible. I know: what a ringing endorsement. There's some fun to be had if you're predisposed to like the genre and have some patience. Otherwise, give it a pass. Creepshow felt like a bunch of horror masters having a ball as they scared us. This feels like a cheap knockoff.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985) is regarded as the nadir of the series, mainly because Jason is not in it. Oh, there's a hockey mask-wearing killer on the loose, but he's an imposter. That revelation comes out of left field, makes absolutely no sense, and is completely forgotten about by the time we move on to Part 6. I wouldn't say the preceding sequels were great movies, but they still packed the occasional chill and moment of fright. A New Beginning is when the series passed over into so-bad-it's-good territory.

After opening with a dream sequence where Corey Feldman briefly reprises his role as Tommy Jarvis, the movie begins with a now grown Tommy (John Shepard), traumatized by his encounter with Jason, being sent to a halfway house in the middle of the woods with other "weird" teenagers. One of the disturbed teens kills a fat, annoying resident and is taken away, and before long, it looks like Jason is back and up to his old tricks.

The characters are stupid and annoying for the most apart, especially "Reggie the Reckless" (Shavar Ross), a kid who spends most of the movie wearing a red track suit, acting tough, and getting on everyone's nerves. Characters are introduced only to be killed soon after, and the supporting cast is filled with one-note schtick, including a couple of greasers and a redneck mother and son who never stop yelling. Even the kills aren't particularly interesting this time around.

Plot-wise, the movie tries something different, at least when it's not the formulaic business of a killer hacking up teenagers. Tommy is scarred from the previous movie, and he seems to be losing his mind. At times, he sees Jason when he really isn't there (like in the mirror behind him), and occasionally, Tommy has an outburst against someone who says or does the wrong thing. The movie pushes toward Tommy taking up the mantle, er, the mask of Jason and becoming the killer himself, which he seemingly does in the final scene (this development is also ignored in the next movie). Better vetted, this might have made for a fascinating psychological transformation for a horror movie.

But of course, we got to have the killer hacking up teens plot eating up most of the running time. The movie kind of, sort of, not really tries to build intrigue by suggesting Jason is still alive or Tommy himself might be the killer. When the killer is unmasked, the movie acts like it's a mind-blowing revelation, but most people watching for the first time are going to wonder who the hell this wiggler is.

It's Roy the Paramedic, a bit character shown near the beginning of the movie responding to that first murder. Good luck remembering his face. Turns out that fat, annoying resident was his son, and seeing him dead just drove Roy insane that he decided to impersonate Jason and kill everyone he could. Good thing the sheriff is around at the end to explain all that.

As bad as the movie is, it's not boring. It's packed with a lot of goofy, cheesy nonsense. The murder of the fat kid comes out of nowhere and is funny for it; the kid is so annoying, his death is welcomed.  Tommy, for a guy who spent the last several being treated for mental and emotional issues, beats up people like a trained MMA fighter. A rocker chick dances the Robot to a New Wave song just before getting killed. Supposed scares are unintentionally funny, and the whole inclusion of Roy and the explanation for who he is and why he does what he does is just so hilariously miscalculated.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)excuse me while I laugh uncontrollably...

I'm back. Sorry about that. Because as we all know, this was indeed the very last Friday the 13th movie, and they never made another ever again from then until the end of time.

I'll stop. I think you get the point. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was intended, or at least advertised, as the last movie to feature Jason Voorhees. They even brought back Tom Savini to do the makeup effects, hyping him as the man who created Jason and who would now be the one to kill him off for good. Obviously, Jason returned, many times.

Regarded by many fans as one of the better entries, The Final Chapter marks the beginning of the Tommy Jarvis saga. If the first three movies centered on Jason's relationship with his mother, the next three concentrated on Jason's impact on the life of young Tommy Jarvis, here a young boy played by Corey Feldman.

After recapping the first three movies (because I guess we'd have forgotten otherwise), the movie begins with Jason escaping the morgue and resuming his killing ways. I know big shock. Tommy Jarvis, a horror movie fan, lives near Crystal Lake with his divorced Mom (Joan Freeman) and older sister Trish (Kimberly Beck), and soon, another group of teens (including Crispin Glover) shows up to have sex, drink beer, party, smoke dope, and be killed by Jason.

The formula has become hard as a rock by this point, but director Joseph Zito, veteran of a few Chuck Norris movies, keeps things moving at a quick pace and packs in all the elements we've come to expect from a Friday the 13th movie. There's a lot of skinny dipping and/or shower scenes, there's even some laughs (wait until you see Crispin Glover dancing), and the acting is better than usual for this type of movie, especially by Feldman who, his well documented personal problems aside, was a fine child actor, playing kooky, slightly spaced out kids.

Tom Savini's gore effects are more plentiful and better than the job he did in the original. They're nasty and bloody. A pervy morgue attendant takes a bone saw to the throat early on, and when Jason goes down for the count, Feldman delivers the coup de grace with a machete, which becomes imbedded in Jason's face, and he slides down the blade when he falls to the floor. Sick!

Of course, Jason is still moving even after that, so Tommy takes the machete again and goes to town. We're supposed to think Corey Feldman is deranged now because he takes a machete to Jason's head repeatedly and doesn't stop until his skull is pulp. Considering Jason has come back from being hung, stabbed, impaled, and an ax and machete imbedded in his throat and skull at various points, Corey Feldman likely does the smartest and sanest thing ever done in a Friday the 13th movie. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday the 13th Part 3-D

All right! Jason finally gets his hockey mask! It's a shame the iconic image occurs in an otherwise lame, by-the-numbers entry in the series, but hey, it's in 3-D!.

Friday the 13 Part 3-D (1982) picks up immediately after Part 2, with the authorities responding to Jason's rampage at Camp Crystal Lake, but Jason somehow gives them the slip and resumes his killing ways. Meanwhile, another group of teens shows up, going to a cabin in the woods nearby, including Chris (Dana Kimmell) who two years prior had an encounter with Jason and was traumatized by it. Of course, Jason shows up and starts cutting through them until it's down to him and Chris for a rematch.

Steve Miner returns to the director's chair, but his handling here is not as assured as it was in Part 2. The 3-D is a totally tacked-on gimmick, and while there's an occasional fun gag (a spear gun fired at the screen, an eyeball that shoots straight at the viewer), the effect is mostly wasted on stupid shit: a yo-yo, juggled fruit, and a snake being manipulated by a wire we're not supposed to see. The shock moments, when Jason strikes, are rather predictable and pedestrian with only a few memorable images (like when the biker discovers his friend impaled against the wall by a pitchfork or when the guy walking on his hands gets it).

The characters are one-dimensional and obvious types: the stoners who are always smoking pot, the bikers who exist only to cause trouble, the nagging housewife with hair curls, etc. Even Chris, the final girl, is weak. The moment where she explains to her boyfriend about her past history with Jason is nothing short of narm. Even by the standards of the series, the acting is mostly poor.

There is a prankster, Shelley (Larry Zerner), who is a jerk, but surprisingly, he gets a some depth and is the most memorable character as a result. "Better to be a jerk than nothing," he moans to the girl he likes, admitting his pranks are for attention. It's Shelley who provides Jason with his hockey mask. When he's really killed by Jason, of course no one believe him.

Still, when Jason gets his hockey mask, the pace picks up, the killings occur faster, and Jason looks like the beast we all know and love. There's still a lot of gore: victims are impaled with hot pokers, cut in half with machetes, and have their skulls crushed by Jason's bare hands. But by this point, we've seen the same movie three times in a row, and the only variation has been the type of killings.

Friday the 13th Part 2

To think I quibbled about the continuity of the Planet of the Apes movies. Mrs. Voorhies went nuts and started killing people because her son Jason drowned. Now, Jason is killing because his mother died in the first movie? Jason was a boy, but now he's grown? And this one begins by recapping the end of the original. I am so confused.

Once we get past that little continuity snafu, the plot of Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) more or less rehashes the plot of the original, only now with Jason doing the killings instead of his mother. Teens smoke dope, engage in premarital sex, and get slaughtered one by one. Even Harry Manfredini's iconic score is reused (not that I blame them. It's one worth reusing.).

This isn't quite the Jason we know and love yet. He doesn't have his hockey mask, and we don't see him for much of the movie. Director Steve Miner limits him to glances of his feet and hands before revealing his full form near the end, and Jason is wearing sack as a mask. We also see his deformed face, and it's suitably ugly, and he's big and imposing enough.

The film also tries to plumb some psychological motivation for Jason, explaining him as a Mama's boy, totally reliant on her and with no concept of death. This is helpfully provided by final girl Ginny (Amy Steele), who's studying child psychology. When her boyfriend Paul (John Furey) and Jason scuffle, Amy not so helpfully stands, watches, and quietly says Paul's name instead of doing anything useful.

Part 2 packs in more counselors, and most don't make much of an impression. It rehashes the let's-reopen-the-camp stuff, punctuated by an occasional bit of Jason mayhem. It's kind of tedious, although Jason's killings are more varied and brutal than his mother's. He uses a machete, a hammer, a spear, and memorably goes after Ginny with a pitchfork. One victim, a guy in a wheelchair, takes a machete to the head and careens down a long flight of stairs in the rain. Jason even kills Crazy Ralph, ripping out his throat with some metal wire.

The movie picks up in the final third, unlike its predecessor. Jason in person is scarier than Mama Voorhees, and the sustained chase is more suspenseful and exciting. The sack may not be as iconic, but it's still a cool, creepy look (if only Jason got to use that chainsaw). Ginny also uses that child psychology to her benefit by putting on Mrs. Voorhees' sweater and pretending to be her, a chance of pace from the usual dragged out, knock-em down fight. It makes up for Ginny pissing herself while hiding from Jason because she saw a mouse.

Overall, Part 2 has its moments and memorable death scenes. It's not as good as the original, but it's better than a lot of what follows.

Friday the 13th

I've had a curious history with the Friday the 13th series. I remember coming home from trick-or-treating to find at least one of the movies on TV, but I was afraid of horror movies, so I tried to avoid watching them. When I got older and fell in love with horror, I regarded the series and other 80s slashers as everything wrong with the genre, artless exploitation that gave critics all the ammunition they needed to peg fans as dumb, easily amused perverts only interested in tits and gore.

In recent years, I've mellowed out my stance. Jason Voorhees, the varying quality of his movies aside, is a horror icon, and when one of his flicks are on, I catch myself watching at least some of it and enjoying it. Maybe it's because so much of today's horror fare has become rather tame, watered down, and corporate, the Friday the 13th movies hearken back to something a little more raw, a little more sleazy, and more unapologetically drive-in fair. You can't hate them for being what they are.

This is where it all started, Friday the 13th (1980), directed by Sean Cunningham, a former producing  partner of Wes Craven. I think even non-fans of the series are aware Jason is not the killer in this one. Oh he's important, but he's the back story, the motivation for the vengeful Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), angered at the counselors of Campy Crystal Lake for letting her son drown. This is all revealed in the climactic revelation. Before that, it's a bunch of teenagers working to reopen the camp, indulging in all sorts of vices, and getting picked off one by one by an unseen assailant.

Yeah, plot not especially a strong point for this one or any slasher really. Tom Savini provides a a few of his iconic gore moments (notably when Kevin Bacon gets an arrow in the throat), and the film has a strong, creepy atmosphere. Camp Crystal Lake is suitably isolated and wooded. It looks they really filmed this in the middle of nowhere, far away from civilization, and Cunningham uses a lot of POV shots to suggest these counselors are being watched and stalked. The music by Harry Manfredini is perfect for the film and goes a long way toward making things scary. No one can forget the ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma. or the frantic string pieces. And more so than in the sequels, the counselors are somewhat likable for a bunch of dopey teenagers.

The last third doesn't work for me once we meet Mrs. Voorhees, who's nowhere near as intimidating in person as Jason is. The fights between her and final girl Alice (Adrienne King) aren't the most convincing, and the final blow, delivered in slow-mo, is kind of funny in an overwrought way. The film is also packed with slasher conventions and cliches, or at least tropes that have really been overdone since then that they're hard to look at with fresh eyes.

Is Friday the 13th a classic? I don't know. It's certainly a must-see for horror fans. I think this material was done better by the likes of John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and Tobe Hooper, but its impact on the genre can't be denied, and it still has some effective power and scares. I can't help but feel nostalgic about it. A simple setup - teens in the woods with a killer - that was made in the right place at the right time, free of the post-modern cynicism or jokey tone we've seen since the likes of Scream. The special effects are practical, the locations aren't on a blue screen, and the actors don't all like photoshopped Hollywood models. It's a relic of a bygone era.