Sunday, July 31, 2016

Football Fumblings

I'm hard-pressed to think of another activity in which I spent so much time having little to no clue about what I was doing than when I played football. Growing up, I played football in third and fourth grade and missed the next two years because I was over the allowable weight limit, and then I returned to the sport for grades 7-10.

I spent all that time on the line, offensive and defensive. When I started playing, I wanted to be a fullback. I wanted to run with the ball, knock people over, and score touchdowns. Instead, as a 95-pound 9-year-old, I played left guard. Toward the end of the season, I was made second-string tight end but used exclusively as a blocker. In the last game of the year, I asked the coach for an arrow pass, the one play I knew where the ball would go to me, and the coach called the play, but our quarterback got sacked.

In fourth grade, I felt I was ready for fullback. Since it was a third and fourth grade team, the starting fullback had moved up to fifth grade, and I believed the spot was mine. The problem was my weight. It was right on the cutoff mark. I trained and dieted, but even though I thought I did enough to stay down with my age group, I was moved up to the fifth and sixth grade team, where I played left guard again.

The next two years, I played soccer in the fall, as I did before I was old enough for football. In seventh grade, there was no weight limit, so I returned to football. Again, I wanted fullback. This time, I was made center, hiking the ball to the quarterback. The next four years, I was exclusively on the line, shuffling from center to tackle to guard, on both sides. On defense, which I played more infrequently, I played defensive tackle and never made a tackle, even the year my parents promised me a Nintendo GameCube if I recorded a sack. 

By the end of JV season, I hated football. I had few friends on the team, I didn't like the coaches, and I was miserable. It wasn't fun, we lost a lot, and frankly, I was bored, going through the motions. On JV, we hardly ever practiced on our own and were usually used as practice squads against the varsity players. We'd dress with them and watch them play on Friday and then have to get up early for own games on Saturday, games we were ill-prepared for. 

I got tossed out of practice once for mouthing off during conditioning. That wasn't the humiliating part. The humiliating part was why I mouthed off. We were doing conditioning. We were running the length of the football field, stopping to the drop our chests to the ground every five or ten yards. I fell behind by about 50-60 yards, so I wasn't even half way across when the rest of the team was done. My teammates started clapping and cheering for me, saying I can do. I felt pathetic. I mumbled under my breath that I didn't want to be cheered for. At least I thought it was under my breath.

An assistant coach screamed to stop. He got in my face, said he was sick of me being a "fucking smart ass," and sent me to the locker room. I admit I cried afterward. 

The night after the last game of the season, I knew I was done playing football. I was sick of it, so I never went back. That very night, it felt like a huge burden was off my back. I don't know how missed I was, if at all. My older brother liked to tease me and say the new head coach was calling for me, which wasn't true, but he knew it got under my skin. My brother was/is an expert at saying all the right things to hurt people.

To this day, I still don't know why I played football as long as I did. Except for the third grade season, I can't remember a single instance of fun or accomplishment.  Looking back, all I can recall is wanting practice to be over, the game to be done, and to be away from everyone. 

I'm not even sure I was especially good at it. I was big, kind of strong, but I always felt lost. When I stood on the offensive line, there would never be anyone directly across from me. If I was center, the other team was 4-3. If I was a guard, the other was team was 3-4. With no one in front of me, I was usually confused about what I was supposed to: double-team the guy in front of the guy next to me or run downfield and hit a linebacker? If it was a pass play, I'd stay put and often not hit anyone. 

What really threw me off was the blocking technique itself. My dad played college football in the late 60s/early 70s. When I started playing, he taught me how to block. He taught to use my forearm, to drive into my opponent's chest, stomach, sternum area and pump by legs. See, when he played, lineman weren't allowed to use their hands at all.

When I got to high school, the coaches taught us to use our hands, to grab the numbers of the jersey. It felt awkward. I never got much in the way leverage, and I don't think I ever drove anyone back. Even in practice, going up against the machine, I felt weak, uncoordinated. My hands just felt ... exposed, ready to be crushed among all the helmets and shoulder pads.

One time, during a game in seventh grade, my funny bone got caught between two sets of facemarks. My arm from the elbow down went numb. Nothing was broken, but I must have blacked out. The next thing I remember was being down in a three-point stance several yards down field, no idea where I was or how I got there. Those intervening minutes were a complete blackout. Worse, I was the center, my had gripping the football, and I didn't know what the cadence was. Of course, I got penalized for a false start by hiking too soon. No one asked me if anything was wrong when I got back to the sidelines.

The weird part is how in the last three years or so, I've gotten more into football. I follow the Browns, even though they've given me little reason to be optimistic, and I talk football with other people. I don't know why.  I can't explain it. Why do I give anymore time and attention to watch something that made me miserable and bitter when I participated in it myself?

Night Terrors

Night Terrors (1993) is most likely Tobe Hooper's worst movie. Considering he has the likes of The Mangler and Spontaneous Combustion on his resume, this is a frightening idea to consider.

It's not for a lack of trying. Night Terrors is way more ambitious than it has any hope of pulling off successfully, trying to incorporate elements of fantasy horror, erotic thriller, period piece, religious zealotry, sado-masochistic cults, gnostic druids, historical biography, and messing with the viewers' heads about dreams and reality, and not really succeeding at any of them. The plot makes no sense, the characters are mostly uninteresting, and just the overall craft in the movie is just cheap and third-rate.

Young Genie (Zoe Trilling) travels to Cairo to visit her archeologist father (William Finley). When he's called away to a dig site, she meets a local prostitute Sabina (Alona Kimhi), who introduces her to Paul Chevalier (Robert Englund), a direct descendent of the Marquis de Sade. People around Genie start getting murdered, including her father's housekeeper and her visiting best friend Beth, and before long, Genie learns Chevalier has twisted designs on her.

That plot summary doesn't sound too bad: an exotic location, Englund as the flamboyant villain, an innocent girl targeted by a cult. Well, I had to tear that description off the movie kicking and screaming. There's so much material and so little sense. Englund also plays de Sade in a series of scenes from a cell where he is tortured and/or ranting and raving to no one in particular. What these de Sade scenes have to do with anything else in the movie is anyone's guess. Nothing much is really done with the S&M aspect either; you'd think it play into some corruption of the innocent plot line regarding Genie, but you'd think wrong.

There's also a gnostic cult the housekeeper is a member of, but again, I don't know what their significance is or how they tie into the rest of the movie. The archeological dig is a completely pointless sidebar, and the seemingly only purpose of Genie's romance with the handsome Mahmoud (Juliano Mer) is to include a couple of soft-core sex scenes. The movie has no real focus.

At times, the movie looks like it was shot on video. Moments of would-be horror are pretty laughable. Early on, Sabina takes Genie to a wild party and drugs her drink, and so Genie begins hallucinating. A vision of her father ranting religious scriptures appears before her, and a belly dancer fellates a snake's head. Other moments are just baffling. While reading de Sade's book, Genie imagines Mahmoud riding a horse on a beach completely naked.

Robert Englund is the only interesting part about Night Terrors. As de Sade, he wears a fop wig and white makeup, looking completely ridiculous, but he camps it up. As Chevalier, he has some fun - referring to de Sade as the "old rascal" - but even he seems to not fully be committed. The rest of the performances involve a lot of blank looks, bad accents, and ethnic stereotyping.

Early on, de Sade torments a fellow prisoner into gouging out his own eyes. Anyone who sees Night Terrors will understand the sentiment.

Penny Dreadful: Season 1

The term "Penny Dreadful" comes from a specific type of literature produced in Great Britain during the 19th century. A penny dreadful was the cheap pulp fiction of its day, loaded with scandalous material: lurid murders, graphic violence, deranged killers, and supernatural beings. Scandalous and cheap, they were often in weekly serials that cost a penny each, hence the name.

So it's fitting that Showtime's supernatural, gothic horror drama set in Victorian London would be called Penny Dreadful. Created by John Logan, the show comes packed with all the lurid sensationalism its titled promise: bloody deaths, gory murders, inhuman monsters that would tear society apart, repressed passion leading to violent outbursts, whispers of the Devil's influence, corruption of the innocent, sexual deviance, buried secrets coming home to roost.

Curiously, unlike its namesake genre, Penny Dreadful the show can also be described as a handsome, classy production, one made with careful skill and talent. The combination of lovingly recreated period details, first-class performances, and scenes of blood, shock, and yes, dread make for a show at turns riveting, tragic, and thrilling. It's a bloody show, containing its fair share of depravity and gore, but the quality of the writing, acting, and directing elevate it to an artistic level beyond its literary inspirations.

London 1891, Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), an American performer in a traveling Wild West Show, is recruited by the mysterious Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) and nobleman/explorer Sir Malcom Murray (Timothy Dalton) for a job making use of his gunfighting skills. Murray's daughter Mina (Olivia Llewellyn), who was a childhood friend of Vanessa, has been abducted, and so Chandler begins his descent into the London's supernatural underworld.

Of course, Dracula fans will recognize the name Mina Murray. Also turning up to assist our main characters is Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), who is toiling away in his private lab to create life. Vanessa also meets and becomes infatuated with Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney), a charismatic hedonist with a love of portraits. The plot resembles, in concept, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in the way it unites several classic characters

Penny Dreadful is a busy show, loaded with subplots, flashbacks, and a few unexpected twists. Even if you're familiar with some of these characters in their original sources, don't expect to know what's going to happen because the show tinkers with some of the details. Sometimes the show feels like it's moving too slow, but the richness of the characters keeps it rewarding even when it feels like things are going off track. I particularly liked how Frankenstein's first creation (Rory Kinnear) gets a job as a stagehand at the Grand Guignol theatre; it's a nice touch that the owner of the theatre (Alun Armstrong) is probably the nicest and most jovial character. Also, keep your eyes peeled for David Warner in an all-too small part as Frankenstein's mentor, Dr. Abraham van Helsing.

There are several creepy moments, such as the group's descent into the basement of an opium lair where the vampires lurk; the place is overflowing with dead, mutilated bodies. Other moments are heartbreaking, like when Frankenstein's monster is driven to despair and wishes he had never been brought to life, and for the first time, the doctor feels pity toward his creation. Other moments are weird, like when Dorian Gray has sex with a prostitute (Billie Piper), even though she has tuberculosis and coughs up blood on him; he seems to like it. The prostitute, Brona Croft, becomes quite important to the plot because Chandler falls in love with her, and later, Dr. Frankenstein gets an idea when his monster demands a mate. There's also a seance at a society ball as well as an exorcism, and both of which are freaky, but more importantly, buried secrets are revealed during them.

Just about every character in the series has something from their past they wish would stay buried, but the past will not remain silent. It comes out in horrifying ways. Old shames, guilt, and regret have a way of manifesting and in some ways literally biting back. Creatures of all sorts turn up, including vampires, reanimated corpses, demonic entities, spirits of the dead, and a few other surprises. Each of the main characters carries with them a burden that comes to be represented by something supernatural.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Mad Max: Fury Road

Wow. Who knew that thirty years after the last entry in the series, a new Mad Max movie would be so good? Simultaneously a reboot and a sort-of sequel, Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) finds director George Miller returning to the post-apocalyptic wasteland, this time with Tom Hardy replacing Mel Gibson in the title role, and he offers plenty of fresh material alongside superlative vehicular carnage. As far as grand-scale action blockbusters go, Fury Road is the best in years.

While wandering the desert, still haunted by the deaths of those he failed to protect, Max is captured and taken to the Citadel, an oasis ruled over by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) who has set himself up as a god. When one of Joe's top lieutenant's, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), drives off in a heavily armored war rig to escape with his five wives, Joe sets off in pursuit with his army. Max is dragged in the chase, his healthy blood used by one of Joe's sick "War Boys," Nux (Nicholas Hoult), and before long, he joins Furiosa and the wives in their flight to freedom.

There's so much right about Fury Road, it's hard to know where to start. I know. Among Joe's armada is a heavy metal concert on wheels with massive drums and a guitarist who plays a flame-throwing guitar. Say what you will about Joe - and he is a total monster - but that is one of the coolest things I've ever seen.

Seriously, Miller continues the series tradition of combining first-rate, epic action scenes with depictions of the unique ways people have adapted to the fall of civilization. Miller, ever the visual storyteller, doesn't waste time with exposition or people standing around talking about how they live. He just shows them in action.

The society Immortan Joe has set up is fascinating and frightening. It's basically a massive cult with himself on top. The War Boys, sickly and dying from radiation poisoning, live only to fight and die for his approval; as adults, they charge heedlessly into battle, and as children, they work the industrial gears that operate the massive elevator of the Citadel, essentially human hamsters. He keeps his wives, the younger and healthier ones anyway, locked away in a vault filled with the finest luxuries while the older women are kept around as human cows, their breast milk harvested. Beneath Joe's tower lives the unwashed rabble who are totally dependent on him for water. Occasionally, he gives them some while lecturing them not to grow addicted to it lest they resent its absence.

As in previous entries, the costumes and other visual details are outstanding. Even the little throwaway elements suggest so much richness and hidden depth. Furiosa and Max lead the group through a deadly bog that is seemingly uninhabitable, but there are crows and mask-wearing people on impossibly long stilts who seem to live there. Also of note, the personalized steering wheels cherished by the War Boys; to have one, and by extension being chosen to drive a war machine, is treated as something of a right of passage or a mark of manhood.

The action scenes are ferocious, furious you might say. There are the expected crashes and explosions, and more so than the previous trilogy, Miller works in more gunfighting (the villainous Bullet Farmer is a memorable henchman of Joe), but he knows how to give them stakes and flavor.  At one point, the War Boys pole-vault from moving vehicles onto the rig to snatch the wives and even Max goes for a ride on one. Overall, the action scenes are bigger and more complex; Miller has seemingly spent the previous three decades coming up with wild and unique sequences and matching them with the best and latest in movie technology. The computer-generated effects are there, but they are incorporated well for the most part. The world still feels real and physical.

The movie is wall-to-wall with action and effects, although there are occasional quiet moments of talk and reflection. Max, a little more crazy than Gibson's (he hears voices and sees visions of the dead), becomes a little more trusting of people out of necessity. His big emotional moment occurs when he tearfully reveals his name to Furiosa, who emerges as the more complex character. She was taken from her home as a child and climb the social rungs from captive and who knows what else (the brand on her neck indicates her blood was valuable, too) to a military leader and finally a rebel. Plus, she's just as tough as Max and as determined to survive.

They're essentially dual protagonists, and they make a good pair. Even the loner Max seems to realize this. At one point, shooting a sniper rifle with a dwindling number of bullets, he hands the rifle off to her because her aim is better. He even lets her use his shoulder to steady the rifle. Also noteworthy is Nux who begins as a fanatical War Boy who gradually ends up assisting Max and Furiosa. For a movie with so much action, it has a richness of characterization one wouldn't expect.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

Max Rockatansky might find redemption in the third Mad Max movie, but Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) itself could have used some redeeming.

Thunderdome has a contested reputation among fans and critics. Some say it's the best in the series while others say it's the worst. I do think it's the worst, but I don't think that means it's a bad movie, just a step down in quality from the previous entries. While George Miller (now co-directing with George Ogilvie) expands the story and introduces more complexity and new fascinating elements, the movie comes off as disjointed. Worst of all, clear cut ruthlessness has been replaced with mainstream tameness.

After his vehicle is hijacked and his camels stolen, loner Max (Mel Gibson) ends up in Bartertown, a sprawling new society lorded over by Auntie Entity (Tina Turner). Energy for Bartertown is provided by methane produced from pigs, and the system is controlled by Master-Blaster, a dwarf and massive muscleman pair who are starting to throw their weight around. Auntie offers Max a deal: she'll resupply Max if he fights and kills Blaster in the Thunderdome, a gladiatorial arena used by Bartertown to settle disputes.

The movie is at its best when exploring this new society of Bartertown and illustrating how it runs. People are only allowed entrance to the city if they have something worth trading for, and then they must turn in their weapons. Water is checked with a Geiger counter. Prisoners are condemned to working underground, chained by the neck and shoveling pig shit, and the titular Thunderdome offers a unique philosophical position that underlies Bartertown. As explained by Dr. Dealgood, the arena's MC, "killing leads to warring," and that's what ruined the world in the first place. Thunderdome allows disputes to be settled without escalating, and it's also a bread and circuses for Auntie to keep her masses entertained.

Auntie is one of the most complex characters in the series. She's ruthless, calculating, and not above murder to get her way, but there's no denying the effectiveness of her means. She has rebuilt society and keeps it going without getting too violent. Trade is in place, and law has been restored. Granted, it's Auntie's law, but it keeps people in line. The apocalypse gave her an opportunity; before, she says, she was nothing, but now, she's large and in charge.

The gladiator fight between Max and Blaster is thrilling and inventive. They're strapped in to harnesses, and they rappel all over the cage, scrambling for weapons as the crowd roars. Max, having learned Blaster is vulnerable to high pitch noises, blows a shrill whistle and clobbers the giant with a mallet, bringing him down and knocking off his iron helmet.

Max then discovers the truth about Blaster. Physically strong, he has the mind of a child, only doing what Master ordered him to do with no understanding of any of it. Master pleads for mercy, Max refuses to kill him, and Auntie, furious the deal is broken, has Blaster killed and Max exiled into the desert. Max only survives when he's found by a lost tribe of children who mistake him for Captain Walker, a pilot who promised to return and take them to "Tomorrow-Morrow Land."

This is where the movie loses its way. The kids, who range in age from infants to teenagers if that tells you how long they've been on their own, are just too cutesy for the world Miller has created over three movies. They seem less like Lord of the Flies and more like the Lost Boys in Spielberg's Hook. Admittedly, some elements about the kids are cool, especially the way they use storytelling to remember the promise of Captain Walker and how they get the wrong ideas about relics of the Old World, but when they get involved in the action, the movie borders on slapstick. When Max and some of the kids are on a train being pursued Auntie's force, not only is it a watered-down rehash of the climax of The Road Warrior, but it plays out more like Home Alone on the Railroad. Instead of frightening psychos and violent crazies, Auntie's henchmen come off as goofy because they can't handle these kids.

This is the emotional climax of the trilogy. Max, the bitter loner scarred by the death of his wife and son, unselfishly becomes a protector of these lost children, and it is nice to see him get pulled out of his shell and rediscover his humanity. But the execution feels too tame, too neat and tidy. Max and the kids never feel like they're in real peril. It's not a struggle to restore faith in humanity but a crowd-pleasing set piece in a world that's not too scary or rough anymore.

The movie maintains a strong visual sense. The Thunderdome is an eye-catching creation as are the various machines and tools the characters have made to adapt. And after all he's been through, Max finally receives some much needed peace.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

If the original Mad Max was the raw, promising debut, then Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) is the polished masterpiece. Director George Miller and star Mel Gibson are back, and they give us one of the best pure action movies ever made and craft one of the bleakest and memorable looks at a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Civilization has crumbled. Nations collapsed as the world's supply of oil was used up, and the only ones who survive are "those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage." In this world, we find Max (Gibson), one day blurring into the next as he roams the desert, battling other scavengers for gas for his old police car. Max meets the Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence), who tells him about a working refinery. The refinery is under siege by the forces of the Lord Humungous (Kjell Nillson), and before long, the refiners hire Max to find a rig big enough to haul their tank of gas out of the wasteland.

Mad Max works as a pulpy piece of revenge drama. The Road Warrior, by contrast, is elevated to a mythic, epic level. The scope and scale are grander, and the action scenes and visuals are much more ambitious. The vehicles are more plentiful and diverse, the explosions are bigger, and the stunts are wilder. Instead of the grounded family man, Max is now similar to Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name character of those classic spaghetti westerns, the withdrawn loner who comes between two warring factions and gets involved in the conflict strictly out of self-interest. The general set-up - good guys in a fortress besieged by a ruthless enemy - is a siege scenario reminiscent of everything from The Iliad to the Alamo.

The Road Warrior strips away all but the most bare essential of dialogue. Miller is content to tell his story through visual details big and small and to reveal the nature of the characters through their actions. We know Max is a picky eater in this brave new world because he eats dog food, and we learn the overly muscular, hockey-mask and bondage-gear wearing Humungous has a soft side when he opens his pistol case, revealing a quick glimpse of presumably a family photo.

While the plot and characters are straightforward and basic, the details and little touches Miller loads the film are astounding, from the costumes to the vehicles and everything in between. It's cool seeing how these people have adapted to the post-apocalyptic world by modifying and salvaging everything they can. Football pads becomes armor, a bus becomes an armored gate, crossbows are the weapon of choice (even if you miss, you can recover the missile), and the Gyro Captain uses snakes as weapons and food. The Humungous has a penchant for strapping live prisoners to the front of his vehicle as bumpers, which freaks out the good guys.

As desolate and bleak of a story, The Road Warrior is in its own a beautiful film. The wide, sweeping shots of the desert are gorgeous, and the armada of war machines are truly epic and awe-inspiring. In the days before computer-generated special effects, the filmmakers really compiled dozens of cars, trucks, and motorcycles. The costumes and makeup give the film a flamboyant, colorful flavor, and the film has some touches of humor, like when the Toadie tries to catch a bladed boomerang and gets his fingers sliced off. The rest of the villains laugh at him. Spence as the Gyro Captain is hilarious in his relationship with Max, becoming his partner so to speak after getting the drop on him but failing to kill him; his funniest bit is what he says when he discovers Max's shotgun was empty the entire time.

The boomerang was thrown by the Feral Kid, one of the group at the refinery. He never speaks except in grunts and growls, but his admiration for Max provides the sliver of hope for the once loving family man. In a savage environment where people are fighting tooth and nail for gasoline, this is Max at his lowest, when his humanity is all but drained away, and he is no better than any of the other scavengers. Yet, he unwittingly inspires this kid, and in a key moment, Max protects him and aids the refinery people in their flight to a better life. Maybe there is something of a heroic streak left in Max.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Mad Max

Crude, simple, and melodramatic, Mad Max (1979) remains a raw, powerful, and kinetic debut for post-apocalyptic cinema's most enduring character. Directed by George Miller and starring Mel Gibson in the title role, Mad Max is a startlingly effective low-budget debut for both star and director.

Some years into the future and society's in decline. Armed gangs prowl the highways, and the police prove wildly ineffective against them. Only Max Rockatansky (Gibson) has any success against them, demonstrated in the opening chase when he kills the notorious Nightrider after all others failed. But Max is weary of the violent lifestyle, afraid of what it's doing to him, and he wants to retire to a quiet life with his wife and infant son. A tragic encounter with members of the Nightrider's old gang, led by the deranged Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and the cold Bubba Zanetti (Geoff Parry), sends Max down a dark, violent path to revenge.

Like George Lucas, George Miller draws on several classic characters, archetypes, and genres to craft his story. The desolate towns and lonely stretches of highway populated by assorted law enforcement and criminal types are not too far removed from the classic westerns, and the near future setting allows them to conduct their chases on motorcycles and high-powered interceptor cars instead of horses. Max himself is the noble lawman, trying to keep order in a world quickly slipping into chaos, and when the violence hits him close, the movie becomes a vigilante picture.

Miller also includes some humor, mostly of the gallows variety. When Max's wife Jessie (Joanne Samuel) is pursued by the Toecutter's gang, she drives off and in the process tears off a man's hand with the car; when the gang confronts her later, the Toecutter points out the shorthanded member and says, "Cundalini wants his hand back." These gang members are a wild and unpredictable, making you laugh at their odd, kooky behavior one minute and then shocking you with their cruelty the next.

The main draw of the film is its action scenes. Watching the movie, you get a sense of the speed and danger of the highway. Compared to most modern action movies and even its sequels, Mad Max is smaller scaled, but thankfully, Miller shoots the chases in a way that's easy to follow. Unlike the likes of Michael Bay, he doesn't try to hide the action beneath a flurry of quick cuts, jerky camera movements, or rapid-fire editing; Miller tracks the action and lets us see it clearly, one of the reasons the movie holds up so well. When a car smashes into something at high speed, we feel it, whether it's pulverizing steel or crushing flesh and bone.

Another reason the movie holds up so well is its human element. Sure, the lawman who wants to retire is an old trope, but the movie gives it great weight. The casting of Mel Gibson is central to Max's transformation. Gibson's reputation has slid in recent years because of personal demons, but here, he's believable as a loving every man devoted to his wife and child. Usually when you watch an action star with loved ones, like say a Schwarzenegger or a Stallone, they're so wound up and muscular, you're just waiting for them to start killing bad guys.

Gibson seems so normal, so down to earth and genuine that when he grabs his sawed-off shotgun and takes off after the outlaw gang, it's downright chilling. He becomes a shell of a man. Early on, his boss Fifi (Roger  Ward) tries to talk to him out of retirement, saying people don't believe in heroes anymore but the two of them will give them back their heroes. The tragedy of Max is not only that he loses everything but he loses his humanity and capability of being a hero.

This world Miller creates is cruel and merciless, and it plays no favorites. On the highway, everyone - cop, criminal, man, woman, child - is meat for the grinder, chewed up and spat out. The gangs are ruthless; they rape, pillage, and murder almost everyone they come across. The scary thing, as Max realizes, is survival means becoming just as brutal and desperate as the criminal scum he pursues. There's no room for heroes.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tales from the Hood

Executive produced by Spike Lee and directed by Rusty Cundieff, Tales from the Hood (1995) does what the best horror does: uses the fantastical monsters and scares to comment on real-world issues. Tales from the Hood is an anthology in the tradition of Tales from the Crypt told from an African American perspective. In addition to the expected zombies and ghosts, the movie presents all too-real horrors, including police brutality, domestic abuse, gangster life, and the legacy of slavery.

The film opens at the Simms Funeral Home where three teenage gang members show up to buy drugs the mortuary's strange owner (Clarence Williams III) claims to have. As he leads them through the building, he relates four tales about his most recent "customers." This sets up the stories that comprise the movie.

"Rogue Cop Revelation:" A black, rookie cop named Clarence (Anthony Griffith) witnesses three white officers beat, frame, and murder black city councilman Martin Moorehouse (Tom Wright) for going after crooked police officers who've been dealing drugs in the community. A year later, Clarence is a drunk and off the force when he begins hearing the voice of Moorehouse, who commands Clarence to bring the murderers to him.

"Boys Do Get Bruised:" Young Walter (Brandon Hammond) begins at a new school where his kindly teacher Mr. Garvy (Cundieff himself) notices bruises on the boy. When asked, Walter claims the monster in his house caused them. He even drew a picture of the monster, believing if he destroys the picture, he'll destroy the monster.

"KKK Comeuppance:" Gubernatorial candidate Duke Metger (Corbin Bernsen) sets up his campaign in a former plantation mansion where his ancestor murdered his slaves rather than free them. Metger, a former Klansman, ignores warnings that the souls of the murdered slaves now haunt the mansion in Hoodoo dolls, and they will not rest until they receive reparations.

"Hard-Core Convict:" Violent gang leader Crazy K (Lamont Bentley) survives being shot but is arrested and sentenced to life in prison. However, Dr. Cushing (Rosalind Cash) offers him freedom if he agrees to undergo behavior modification treatment. Plunged into darkness, he confronts the ghosts of the people he's killed.

Tales from the Hood is a thought-provoking film, and it's not hard to watch it and spot some uncanny parallels to the real world. The murder of Moorehouse in the first story reminds the viewer of the beating of Rodney King that occurred only a few years prior, and King's famous quote "Can't we all just get along?" is mocked by one of the cops, Strom (Wings Hauser), just before he pisses on the murdered man's grave. Man, Strom (as in Strom Thurmond) was just asking for it, wasn't he?

Meanwhile, Metger is undoubtedly a parody of real-life politician David Duke, a  former Grand Wizard of the KKK who did run for governor of Louisiana and lost, but he did win a majority of white votes. These white characters are openly racist, corrupt, self-serving, and in positions of power. The film is arguably more relevant today than it was 20 years ago, considering the number of recent high profile deaths of black individuals at the hands of police officers and the presidential candidate for the Republican party in 2016 can receive support from the real David Duke. In the movie at least, justice prevails; in the tradition of the best just desserts stories, the scales of justice weigh against the corrupt through supernatural means - i.e. the dead coming back to life - when human law fails and these villains exhibit no remorse, regret, or conscience toward their actions.

But Tales from the Hood is not a just a cathartic, revenge-against-whitey diatribe. The film turns its gaze onto the inner-city black community and points out the sins there. Clarence stood by and did nothing when Moorehouse was being murdered, the monster in Walter's house is not a boogeyman in the closet but his abusive stepfather Carl (David Alan Grier), and Crazy K is unrepentant and defiant to the end, unwilling to accept responsibility for his actions or break the chains of violence when given the chance. In prison, Crazy K rooms next to a white supremacist, who rightly points out that all the people Crazy K has killed have been black, and during his treatment, he sees images of gang violence side-by-side with lynchings and Klan murders. When we come back to the three youths with Mr. Simms, we learn these boys have literally damned themselves.

Heady subject matter aside, Tales from the Hood is a fun, stylish horror movie that mixes a variety of monsters to tell its stories, including the requisite zombie coming back for revenge and the tiny, terrorizing creatures without which no horror anthology is complete. The makeup effects are cool, and Cundieff keeps things moving at a brisk pace, and the performances are uniformly great, whether wonderfully hammy, subtly creepy, over-the-top despicable, or heart-breakingly sympathetic. The standouts are Williams, who is probably my favorite "host" for this type of movie and has to be seen to be believed; Grier, who is surprisingly menacing in a rare villain part; and Bernsen, who is go-for-broke sleazy.

The movie also suggests a possible solution to some of these social ills: art. In "Roge Cop Revelation," the final murderer is killed when Moorehouse uses flying heroin syringes to crucify him and trap him in a street mural; art spreads the truth, refusing to let a good man be remembered as a drug dealer and showing who the real criminal is. In "Boys Do Get Bruised," Walter's drawings have a power that he uses to stop his stepfather; art and by extension education give him a path out of a toxic environment. In "KKK Comeuppance," the dolls first appear in a mural that Metger vows to paint over but never gets the chance to; art keeps history alive, refusing to let it be whitewashed.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday the 13th (2009)

The problem with this most recent version of Friday the 13th (2009) isn't that it resembles the Friday the 13ths of yesteryear, but that it mostly resembles the remake of another horror classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

That's not surprising since both remakes have much of the same creative team, mainly director Marcus Nispel, producer Michael Bay, and cinematographer Daniel Pearl (who also shot the original Chainsaw). Both are graphically violent, both have a masked killer using various tools to gorily dispatch the teens who wander into their domain, and both have a slick, highly polished production. No doubt the last item makes for a well crafted film from a technical point of view, but does it make for a Friday the 13th movie? I don't think it does.

Friday the 13th has been referred to in some circles as the series' greatest hits, and it's easy to see why. Many plot elements from the previous films, notably the first four, return and are reshuffled. The film opens with Mama Voorhees at the end of her rampage and getting her head chopped off by the last surviving counselor. Decades later, a sack-headed Jason (Derek Mears, who certainly has an imposing physical presence), having witnessed his mother's death, slaughters a group of teens camping near the ruins of Camp Crystal Lake but keeps alive the girl (Amanda Righetti) who reminds him of his mother. Six weeks later, a new group of teens shows up for some partying as does Clay (Jared Padalecki), looking for his missing sister. Jason also gets his hockey mask. The final showdown is in a barn (3 again).

The expected slasher elements are there: the graphic violence, the gratuitous sex and nudity, the cheap jokes (mostly about pot), the weird hillbilly locals, and the archetypal characters such as the jock, the bimbo, the stoner, the black guy, and the nice girl. The setting is updated to the present, so the characters have cellphones, which of course don't work when they need them to, and the bimbo carries a digital camera around.

These teens aren't as innocent as the teens of the earlier movies. Sure, they all smoked pot, drank beer, and engaged in premarital sex, but these modern teens seem more jaded and cynical. They play beer pong, swear a lot more, plan to harvest a stash of marijuana and sell it for a lot of money, seem more surgically enhanced and engage in more outrageous behavior, like topless water skiing. During the sex scene, the girl records the act with her camera and plays it on the TV. Draw what conclusions you will about the continued decline of society.

The earlier, more serious Friday the 13th movies had a strong degree of naturalism, but Jason himself felt like something altogether different. He was less of a masked slasher and more of a force of a nature, a supernatural avenger who wrought punishment on these foolish people who have transgressed in some moral way. Note how his rampages were usually accompanied by thunderstorms and he seemed to appear of out nowhere.

Jason is presented more as a mere mortal. We see where we lives and all the tunnels he's built to get around the campgrounds. We see him select the hockey mask and even chasing after people at a run when the time calls for it. He also uses bear traps and sets up an early-warning system that rings a series of bells to alert him when someone is coming. This is more plausible than an undead behemoth, but it feels more like something Leatherface or the killers from Wrong Turn would do. This more realistic Jason loses some of the mystique that made him Jason.

While Jason is presented is realistic terms, the rest of the movie has all the bearings of a well-budgeted Hollywood film, which is what it is. The production values are top notch, but again, it doesn't feel like a Friday the 13th movie. The series often had something of a low-budget, seedy, sleazy atmosphere, a bit scruffy and rough around the edges, and that was part of the charm. It gave the movies something of a dangerous edge. The remake is too brightly lit, too clean, too safe.

And everyone's pretty. Even the geeks and stoners look like CW Network stars.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Freddy Krueger is a rare find among the breed of 1980s slasher killers. Not only was his mode of attack - killing people in their dreams and his patented finger-knife glove - unique, but unlike the masked Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, he could talk, and he really had personality, as demented, sick, and evil as it was. Much credit belongs to Robert Englund, who played Freddy in every Nightmare on Elm Street from the original through Freddy vs Jason

We accept different actors playing James Bond. We accept different actors as Batman. But for some roles, it's really difficult to accept anyone else when one particular actor becomes so associated with the part, and anyone else, no matter how talented, will be scrutinized and possibly rejected. For example, a number of actors essayed Inspector Clouseau, including Alan Arkin and Steve Martin, but for most people, the only Clouseau is Peter Sellers.

This brings me to the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. I have to ask myself: can I accept anyone else besides Robert England playing Freddy Krueger? To the remake's credit, it found the best person possible to don the fedora and claw: Jackie Earl Haley, a wonderful actor who, like Englund, might not be the most physically intimidating person but is more than capable of playing creepy, dark, and menacing.

Well, Haley does an admirable job, but he can't overcome a weak makeup job and a poor script that rehashes too much of the original. The movie is slickly produced and works overtime to avoid being campy. It tries to be scary and eschews the silliness of the later sequels, but overall, it's a generic teen slasher pic, lacking anything particularly memorable or iconic.  The remake also overcomplicates Freddy's character and has little of the thematic depth Wes Craven's original.

The plot is mostly the same, but some of the backstory has been changed. Instead of a child killer who got released on a vague technicality, Krueger is revealed to be a child molester (which he probably was in the original, too, but that was never brought up) at a preschool. The parents of the kids, instead of taking him to the police, burn him alive because they don't want to their children to have to testify on the stand (never mind there was plenty of other physical evidence that would have locked Krueger away for life), and years later, when those kids are in high school and have long repressed their memories, Freddy begins going after them in their sleep.

Initially, Nancy (Rooney Mara) and Quentin (Kyle Gallner) are convinced they must have lied about the accusations and that their parents (including Clancy Brown in essentially the John Saxon role as school principal) murdered an innocent man. This would explain why Freddy doesn't kill them right away when he has the chance. He prods them toward discovering the truth, but then it turns out, nope, they didn't lie. He really did molest the kids.

In the original, Freddy was just a sick, sick bastard who enjoyed killing kids. That was enough. He didn't care what they knew or didn't; he just wanted to hurt them. This Freddy, I don't what he was waiting for. Much of his personality is stripped away. He seems all business, less of a cackling demon and more of a grim, vengeful walking corpse. Instead of taunting the kids, he has more or less expository conversations with them, and the flat dialogue doesn't help. And the makeup is too stiff; he looks like one of the CGI vampires from I am Legend. I can't recall Freddy cracking a single smile, even when he makes an occasional joke.

Some of the scares and imagery of the original are repeated like the claw in the bath tub, the face in the wall, and Freddy's boiler room lair. The characters are lifeless, and the film has little of the surreal dream weirdness you'd expect it to have (though I did like the hallway floor that becomes a pool of blood that Nancy sinks into as she tries running away). Kids end up in the dream world, and Freddy comes after them. Where is the wonky dream logic and imaginative set pieces? Nothing compares to Johnny Depp getting sucked down into his bed or Freddy elongating his arms the length of an alleyway.

Wes Craven's New Nightmare

"Horror movies don't create fear. They release it." Wes Craven, the mastermind behind the original Nightmare on Elm Street, is credited with saying that. In plenty of interviews, Craven said horror movies are an outlet, a healthy experience that purges our anxieties in a controlled environment. Without an outlet, horror films or otherwise, those anxieties and fears can find a way out in a not so healthy manner.

This is the territory Craven explores in Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994), a horror movie within a horror movie about horror movies that brilliant re-conceptualizes the Freddy Krueger mythos, making him a figure of fear again.

Well, technically, it's not Freddy Krueger. As Craven himself explains in the movie, there's an entity, something that's had many different forms throughout history, a being that feeds on the death of innocence. Sometimes, it can be contained by storytellers, and for ten years, the Nightmare movies trapped it in the guise of Freddy. But now, the series killed off Freddy, so this entity, which has grown to enjoy being Krueger, is free to escape into the real world, and it goes after the family of Heather Langenkamp, the star of the original movie.

In a precursor to the Scream series, Craven takes the Nightmare series meta. Craven and Langenkamp plays fictionalized versions of themselves as do Robert Englund, John Saxon, New Line honcho Bob Shaye, and other cast and crew members associated with A Nightmare on Elm Street. The film blurs the line between real and fantasy. The LA Earthquake of 1994 plays a prominent part in the setting, and Heather Langenkamp contends with a stalker in the movie, just as she reportedly did in real life. Craven also reveals his inspiration for his scary movies: his own nightmares.

New Nightmare raises a couple of questions. What impact does making these kind of movies have on people and how do horror films affect the people who watch them, especially children? More importantly, what is the value of scary movies? Early on, Langenkamp reads her son Hanzel and Gretal, and she tries to stop before the ending, wondering why he enjoys such a violent story. Her son finishes the story because in the story at least, he knows evil can be defeated and the heroes make it home, safe and happy. Later, Heather follows her own trail of "breadcrumbs" (sleeping pills) down to Freddy's lair, where he has trapped her son. Horror movies are modern fairy tales.

If the original played on teen angst, this one plays on more adult fears. Langenkamp has a loving husband and a young son, but she's got that stalker, earthquakes are becoming frequent, and her son Dylan has been having issues, afraid of the bad man with claws coming out of his bed, even though she hasn't let him watch her movies. After her husband's relatively early departure from the movie, she's on her own and begins wondering if Dylan's going crazy, if she's losing her mind, or if a fictional character has come to life. When Dylan's condition worsens, well-meaning but condescending doctors are convinced his exposure to "those" movies have put him over the edge.

Craven acknowledges early on what we've long known: Freddy, over the course of the sequels, became a watered-down, parody of himself, going for lame jokes instead of scares. Langenkamp makes an appearance on a talk show early on with Englund in his Freddy regalia, and he's a costumed  mascot being greeted by a crowd of adoring fans, some of whom have their own claws that he high-fives.

Gradually, a newer, meaner Freddy comes into play, one who threatens young children and mentally and emotionally tortures his victims. The new Freddy has his glove, now bio-mechanical, and fedora, but he also wears a trench coat. His makeup resembles less of a burn victim and more of a literal demon. He's out of the boiler room, and his new lair is practically Hell. He gets the occasional quip, but for the most part, he's back in the shadows, a menacing figure, a disturbing voice on the phone, a glimpse of claw, a deep, echoing laugh that feels like he's right behind you.

New Nightmare is a strong effort, the best of the Nightmare sequels (if you can call it a sequel), though the script misses a couple of opportunities. I would have loved to have seen Craven confront his own creation, but he never meets Freddy. Also, Englund (the character), after a couple of scenes showing him as a nice guy in real life who is being affected by this new entity, vanishes from the movie. Did the new Freddy get him? Did he take him over? The movie's vague.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

I owe an apology to A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. I was too hard on it. I realize this after watching Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991), which does more to tarnish Freddy Krueger's legacy than any dog piss could ever do.

Where do I even begin? In his first appearance of the movie, Freddy (Robert England) is flying on a broomstick and wearing a witch's cowl and hat. He looks at a doomed teen through a window and says, "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little soul, too!" Freddy might as well be Bugs Bunny.

The plot ... I don't care. I just don't care. It's not worth the effort summarizing. None of the characters are interesting, none of the acting is good, none of the special effects are especially imaginative (even Freddy's burn makeup looks half-assed), and almost none of the jokes are funny. I admit I did laugh when the stoner watches the anti-drug commercial with Johnny Depp and Freddy turns up to smash Johnny Depp in the face with a frying pan. The only reason it's funny is because that really is Johnny Depp; I'm amazed he turned up for a cameo.

What else is there to talk about? Tom Arnold and Roseanne Barr show up for one scene, and Alice Cooper plays Freddy's abusive stepfather, again for one scene. Freddy drags a young Breckin Meyer into a video game and cracks a joke about using the Power Glove to control him; meanwhile, in the real world, Meyer bounces around the house and flies through walls, complete with cartoon, bouncing sound effects. Can you believe this is the same killer who dragged a girl across the ceiling and cut her to pieces in front of her boyfriend's horrified eyes? This goofy shit is just goofy shit.

We learn some more about Monsieur Krueger's backstory. As a kid, he was teased for being the bastard son of a hundred maniacs, enjoyed smashing gerbils with hammers, practiced self-mutiliation with a razor blade, and murdered his stepfather. Before he was caught, Freddy had a wife and young daughter. They lived in a nice little house with a nice green lawn and backyard fence, and then the wife had to go and ruin it by discovering her husband was a child killer. Spouses can be no intrusive.

Since this was touted as being the movie that would finally kill Freddy off for good, you'd think the filmmakers would have tried to build to something momentous, something that would really stand out. Instead, the continuity and characters from the previous entries are ignored, and Freddy is done in when his grown daughter (Lisa Zane) pulls him into the real world, stabs him with his own glove, and blows him up with dynamite.

Robert Englund deserved better.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

Ever hear how the even-number Star Trek movies are considered the good ones? It's the opposite for the Nightmare on Elm Street series; the odd-numbered entries are the best. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) might not reach the classic heights of the original, but it's a huge improvement over Part 4 and it finds the filmmakers mostly treating Freddy Krueger seriously again.

The Nightmare movies work best when they tap into teenage angsts and fears, mainly the divide between children and parents. Sure, your parents love you and mean well, but they can get you killed because they don't know any better. The Dream Child adds a new wrinkle to the theme: teen pregnancy.

Alice (Lisa Wilcox) and her boyfriend Dan (Danny Hassel), survivors of Freddy's last rampage, have graduated high school, but after some freaky dreams, Alice fears Krueger might be trying to come back. Soon, her fears are confirmed when Krueger kills Dan and begins going after her friends. But how? Lisa is pregnant, and Freddy is using her unborn baby's dreams to regain his power.

For the most part, Freddy (Robert Englund) is back in the shadows where he belongs, more of an omnipresent boogeyman rather than a macabre game show host, and the film, while sticking with the dream-world terror, adds an element of body horror. One victim is an aspiring model with the worst kind of stage mom, the kind who won't even let her have a lick of a lollipop and is always on her about her weight, so Freddy kills her by stuffing her full of food. Dan is killed when he falls asleep at the wheel, and in his dream, Freddy fuses him with the motorcycle he's riding, and it's a painful-looking transformation as pistons and wires jam into his flesh.

The pregnancy angle breaths new life into the plot. In the real world, Dan's parents try to pressure her into letting them adopt the baby, convinced a young and in their minds hysterical single mother is not fit to take care of a child. Alice learns Freddy is feeding the souls of his victims to her baby, trying to corrupt him and make him like him. It gives the story some more stakes than the usual try to survive the killer. In her dreams, Alice meets her son Jacob as a little boy, and because she's nervous and unsure about motherhood, Freddy exploits that, by trying to turn Jacob against her.

At one point, abortion is brought up. After all, no baby, no dreams, no Freddy. A treatise on Roe v. Wade the movie is not, but it's a serious topic the movie does not skirt or try to avoid. Ultimately, Alice decides against an abortion because the baby is all she has left of Dan, her informed and honest choice.

As bad as Part 4 is, the callbacks to it demonstrate some nice character touches. Alice's father was a one-dimensional violent drunk there, but here, he's sobered up and trying to be a good dad; he stands up for her, which I think is a first for any parent in the series. He doesn't scold Alice for the unplanned pregnancy; instead, he says it'll be nice to have another boy running around the house, a sad reminder of Alice's brother, who was killed in the previous movie. Alice herself has grown from the nervous wallflower to a mature, confident young woman and a protector.

As many strengths as Dream Child has, director Stephen Hopkins still can't resist indulging in the sillier aspects of Freddy. Freddy's at his best here when we can't see him and his presences is only suggested, like when Alice wanders through the empty corridors of the asylum; it's spooky, gothic, and unsettling.

When Freddy is present, he's the goofy jokester we've been getting tired of. Dan's death is effective visually, but in rapid succession, Freddy throws out three corny one-liners: "This kids feels the need for speed," "Time for fuel injection," and the worst, "Don't dream and drive." When Freddy kills the aspiring model, he wears a chef outfit. And horror of horrors, Freddy rides a skateboard.

Dream Child is one of the better sequels in the series. The central triangle involving Alice, Freddy, and the baby is strong enough to carry it through, and Hopkins crafts some strong images, especially in the opening when we learn about Freddy's conception and birth (poor Amanda Krueger, a nun, is accidentally left in the nuthouse with hundreds of violent psychopaths, and it's one of the creepiest sequences in the series). A little Freddy goes a long way, and in the second half, when he's up to his old tricks, the movie suffers.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Jason X

Here's a guideline for the Friday the 13th movies. If you're looking for scares, your best shot of finding them is early in the series. The longer the series went, the better entries tended to be the ones that didn't take themselves too seriously and poked fun at their conventions.

It's in that spirit we arrive at the tenth entry in the series, Jason X (2001). Is it a good movie? No, but as other reviews have noted, if you're watching this with anything resembling high expectations, it's your own damn fault for being disappointed. Jason X knows what kind of movie it is and delivers the goods as demonstrated by having David Cronenberg of all people turn up in a cameo to get skewered by Mr. Voorhees.

As you would expect, Jason Voorhees is back and stalking oversexed teenagers, but now, he's doing his work... IN OUTER SPACE. Alien this is not, despite the presence of a character named Dallas, a platoon of rough-and-ready marines with big, hi-tech guns, an android, and people creeping around the dark, cramped corridors of a spaceship. Other sci-fi elements include nano machines that can heal life-threatening injuries and re-attach limbs, cryogenics, and a reference to something call the Microsoft Conflict ("We were beating each other with our own severed limbs.").

Jason still uses his trusted machete, but the new environment gives him an opportunity to try some new and inventive methods of killing. After he's thawed out of a cryogenic chamber, Jason grabs a researcher and stuffs her head in a vat of liquid nitrogen. Once her face completely solidifies, he smashes it against the counter, shattering it to pieces. Jason also punches a hole in the ship's hull, resulting in the inevitable vacuum which pulls a teen through a tiny grate. "This sucks on so many levels," she protests just before she's pulverized.

Toward the end, Jason undergoes an upgrade. After the android blows him to pieces, the ship's computer automatically heals him, complete with cybernetic armor. He looks pretty bad ass, but seeing as how the movie's almost over when this occurs and Jason doesn't do anything he wouldn't have done in his normal garb, it is something of a letdown the filmmakers didn't do more with the idea of Cyborg Jason.

In a similar vein as Jason Lives! and Jason Goes to Hell, Jason X has a streak of self-aware humor. Down (Lexa Doig), who had the unfortunate fate of being frozen along with Jason, reveals there were several attempts to execute the hockey mask-wearing killer once he was captured but all of them failed. Jason steps into a virtual reality simulator, twice, and is puzzled when the guys he killed there are still alive when the simulation is turned off. The surviving teens also attempt to delay Jason by trapping him in a simulation of Crystal Lake where a couple of topless sims offer him some beer, pot, and premarital sex. Jason responds by killing them, repeating the sleeping bag murder from The New Blood

Jason X is a stupid movie, and apart from the gore, the special effects are mostly terrible, about on par with a cheap, latter-day episode of Star Trek. Still, can you really complain when it's Friday the 13th Part X? Compared to other slasher movies that flung their villains into space (Hellraiser 4, Leprechaun 4), it's not too bad. It's Jason formula all the way: graphic violence, gratuitous nudity, and some laughs at the absurdity of it all. What else would you expect?