Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday the 13th Part VII - The New Blood

Released in 1988, Friday the 13th Part VII - The New Blood has a premise that involves a girl with psychic powers going up against the recently returned Voorhees (new blood, indeed).  It is often summarized by fans as being "Carrie vs. Jason," but that summary isn't really accurate, as the "VS" part of the movie is relegated to the final 10 minutes or so.  The rest of it is standard Friday fare, with a group of young people just looking to have a good time but instead getting murdered in various ways.

Until this week I had only seen Part VII of the Friday the 13th saga once, back about 20 years ago when I was watching the series for the first time.  In general I am much more familiar with the front half of the Friday franchise than with the back half, so this was fun revisiting a movie I hadn't seen since I was a teenager.  Unfortunately, this turns out to be my least favorite of the first seven Friday films.

The movie opens with a recap of Jason's history and a summary of the events of Part VI.  Basically it all serves to remind the viewer why Jason is chained to a big rock in the middle of Crystal Lake.  Notable in this opening is two things; the voiceover narration is provided by Walt Gorney, better known as Crazy Ralph from Friday Parts 1 and 2, and the recap montage uses footage from the Friday Part VI teaser trailer, specifically the shot of the graveyard and the tombstone exploding.

After the refresher and the credits roll, we get a scene set in the past, where a young girl named Tina witnesses her parents having an argument that leads to physical abuse.  This probably isn't something new to the family, as little Tina, upset and afraid, runs toward the lake and paddles out in a boat, her father running after her.

While on the water, and with her father standing on the dock, Tina's psychic telekinetic powers manifest and cause the dock to collapse into the lake, taking her father with it.  Little Tina is very sad and traumatized.

Flash forward 10 years later, much of which she spent in psychiatric care, and Tina (Lar Park-Lincoln) is now returning to that lake house, along with her mother (Susan Blu) and her psychiatrist Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser) for further treatment.

Her recovery has come along nicely, but Tina foolishly goes down to the lake and accidentally raises Jason out of his watery prison (she does this psychically, trying to raise her father up for some reason).

Jason then goes on his mandatory murder spree (as is his wont) before Tina, in the finale, confronts him and does battle with Jason WITH HER MIND!
Note about the timeline:  The events with young Tina happened in 1989, with the rest of the movie taking place 10 years later (1999).  So at this point, Jason has been in the lake for a couple years, as the events from Friday Part VI took place in 1997.
Note about the note:  I know and realize that the filmmakers behind these films gave little to no thought towards the continuity between films, but I find it really interesting that most of the sequels take place in the future relative to the year each film was released.  For example, Friday Part VII was released in 1988 but, when following the timeline established, the events must take place in 1999.  Weird, right?

Anyway, Friday the 13th Part VII - The New Blood is not a great movie, but I do appreciate that it was trying something different with the franchise.  I think there should've been more focus on Tina and her abilities and I would've liked to see her do more battle with Jason.  The very end of the movie feels rushed and a bit like an anti-climax, which is unfortunate.

What really sinks this one is the multiple cuts and trimmed scenes that the MPAA ratings board demanded be removed from the film to secure an R rating.  These extra gore scenes are available in a really rough form on the DVD/Blu releases and a couple of them are really fantastic and would've really improved the film and made it more exciting and interesting.  As it is though, unfortunately, I have to say, even though it has the intrinsic "funness" associated with Friday the 13th movies, Friday the 13th Part VII - The New Blood is one of the weaker entries in the series.  However, I don't think I'll wait another 20 years before watching it again.
It's a birthday bash.

Playing Jason for the first of what would be a record four times is stuntman/actor Kane Hodder.  This is perfect casting, seeing as how being underwater all those years really made Jason swell up to a Kane Hodder-like size.  It works!

Seriously though, Hodder puts in a solid performance as Jason, giving him a real hulking presence while remaining light on his feet (see: the part where he jumps through a window).  He also has this great scene where he's set on fire and at the time it was the longest onscreen burn ever done by an actor.  Very impressive.
Best kill in the movie is easily the sleeping bag kill.  In the version that was cut out, Jason gives her about six good wallops against that tree, which is great, but what we see in the final movie is just one good whack that kills her instantly.  It's less ridiculously brutal, but in its own way it still packs a punch.  It's one of the most iconic kills in the entire franchise.
As for the other kills in the movie, most of them are pretty standard stuff, which, once again, is a shame because some of the cut footage is really amazing, particularly this spectacular head crushing scene and the death of Dr. Crews, who gets a tree trimmer to the torso and his guts go everywhere.  These things are fine and all as they are in the finished movie, but they could've been so much more!
Also, there is a kill in the lake with a naked girl that is filmed partly beneath the water that is an obvious homage to the opening of Jaws.  I got nothing else to say about it; just something I noticed.
Jason's new look includes him wearing a chain, which is part punk rock, part hip-hop, and very chic.
During the finale when Tina is using her psychic powers against Jason she picks up a potted plant and throws it at him.  By itself this is uninteresting.  What does make it interesting/hilarious is that resting in the potted plant is the decapitated head of one of her friends.  Ha!

Tina's mom in this movie, Mrs. Shepard, played by Susan Blu, has some absolutely out of control 80s hair.  It's fantastic!  There are some really great mullets and things like that throughout the cast, but mom's hair is seriously the greatest thing.

Speaking of Mrs. Blu, her appearance here in Friday Part VII marks one of her rare onscreen roles, as she is mainly a voiceover actress, providing voices on TransformersJemDuckTales and a slew of other things over the years.

Director John Carl Buechler is a special effects expert, having provided work for many Charles Band productions, like TerrorVision (1986), Dolls (1987), and Prison (1987), which is where he met Kane Hodder.  Buechler got the job because of his work on Troll (1986), which is strange if you've actually seen Troll.

Buechler also did some effects work on Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, which came out the same year as his Friday Part VII, a few months later actually, and did more than twice as well at the box office.
This marks the first time that Harry Manfredini was not the sole composer on a Friday movie.  Fred Mollin would provide most of the score and would go on to be the composer for Friday Part VIII and the Friday the 13th television series as well.

Lar Park -Lincoln was in House II: The Second Story in 1987 and she also had a reoccurring role on Knots Landing starting around the same time.  I think she makes for a really interesting final girl and to her credit she does attempt to do something a little different with her portrayal of psychic abilities (she's not just ripping off Sissy Spacek in Carrie).

Kevin Spirtas (credited as Kevin Blair) is Nick, the secondary protagonist and love interest to Tina.  He's likable enough but doesn't really do much in the movie.  Spirtas was also in the wonderfully cheap and cheesy The Hills Have Eyes 2 (1984) along with Kane Hodder and would go on to star in a couple Subspecies movies and would have a long 10 year stint on Days of our Lives.

Terry Kiser, who plays the jerk Dr. Crews, would go on to play the titular character in Weekend at Bernie's (1989) and it's 1993 sequel, which is fairly awesome and there is nothing else to say about it.
Final Thought:  Not terrible and not great.  I can say this about it though:  How many Part VII's of movie franchises are there out there?  Not many.  And Friday the 13th Part VII is one of them.

This poster from Ghana is freaking CRAZY!!
Read the rest of my Friday reviews:
Friday the 13th
Friday Part II
Friday Part III
The Final Chapter
A New Beginning
Jason Lives

Happy Friday the 13th!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Trailer Park Tuesdays - Dangerous Men

Welcome to the Trailer Park.  This month, instead of a collection of four or five movie trailers we have just a single preview to share.  When it's a movie like this one though, one trailer is all you need.

Usually I only share trailers for new films, but this month is a little different, as we have a new trailer for an old film that is just now getting released.  This is a movie that took 26 years (!) to complete and, by all accounts, is a crazy piece of low budget action insanity that no true lover of B-movies, cinematic whatthefuckery, and/or outsider art could do without witnessing.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, DANGEROUS MEN!

Holy Smokes!  This has WTF written all over it!
This very much looks like something for a specific crowd and that that specific crowd will enjoy it very much!
I bet some tires squeal on dirt in this one!

Dangerous Men is making its way into select and special theaters courtesy of the fine folks at Drafthouse Films!  Check out their website HERE for more info and for showtimes NEAR YOU!

If you live in the Portland, Oregon area (like me!) you can witness Dangerous Men THIS WEEKEND, Nov. 13th and 14th, at the best theater in town, the fantastic Hollywood Theatre.  See you there!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

RIP, Gunnar Hansen

Another titan of terror has passed away.

Sadly, Gunnar Hansen, author and actor best known for his iconic portrayal of Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), died Saturday at his home in Maine.  It was pancreatic cancer.  He was 68 years old.
As any horror fan can tell you, Leatherface is one of the absolute best movie villains of all time, a terrifying hulk of a man wielding a chainsaw while wearing a mask of human skin.  He would be the grandfather of all masked killers to come.  Hansen played Leatherface not as a straight-up murderous psycho, but as this lumbering simpleton who was equally confused and confrontational.  It remains a tremendous achievement for the genre.
Hansen wouldn't return to the role for any of the sequels, but he did cameo in the most recent Chainsaw 3D (2013) as a different character.  He would follow the original Chain Saw with a film called The Demon Lover (1977) but shortly after he decided to give up acting and focus on becoming a writer.

Hansen would intermittently return to acting, starting with 1988's Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers.  He would also star in 1995's Mosquito and, honestly, those are the only other two of his films I've seen or heard of.  His filmography seems to be full of small films with low profiles, the kinds of things you act in if you believe in the project/filmmakers.
As author Hansen wrote a travelog, 1993's Islands at the Edge of Time about his time spent at America's Barrier Islands.  In 2013 he would publish Chain Saw Confidential, a making-of book covering the (rather grueling) production of Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  The book serves as a bit of a memoir and is essential reading for fans of the franchise.

I just rewatched Texas Chain Saw for about the 100th time a few weeks ago during October and it still maintains this power as a raw, terrifying series of events that just escalates into insanity.  By the time Sally is escaping and Leatherface is dancing with his chainsaw I've got chills, as the terror becomes almost unbearable and the madness is palpable.  It truly is the greatest horror film ever made, and Hansen is a big part of why it's so indelible.

If you happen to live in the Portland, Oregon area, there will be a screening of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre at the wonderful Hollywood Theatre with stars from the film, Edwin Neal, Teri McMinn, and John Dugan, in attendance on November 14th.  It's part of the Living Dead Horror Convention in town Nov. 13-15 (for more info on that, go here) and while it was for sure going to be a special screening before, it will most likely now take on a more somber and reverent tone with Hansen's passing.  For fans of the film, it might be an event to not miss.
I never got a chance to meet the man, but from his interview appearances and by accounts of those who knew and worked with him, Gunnar Hansen was a sweet, kind, intelligent, bear of a man, just a wonderful and thoughtful individual.  It's terrible that he's gone, and even though he might not have had as many contributions to the horror community and world as others, his singular portrayal of one of the most iconic killers in all of cinema is more than enough to earn his place in the annals of horror history.

Rest in Peace, Gunnar, and keep dancing.

drawing by Nathan Thomas Milliner
Hansen behind the scenes on The Demon Lover (1977)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

13 Great Horror Titles streaming on Netflix right Now! - October 2015

It's Halloween season which means that sometime in the next couple of days you'll be scrolling through Netflix looking for something to watch, which can be tricky because the Netflix horror section has a lot of garbage in it.  To be fair, there are some classics mixed in, like Re-Animator, Rosemary's Baby, Day of the Dead, Hellraiser I & II, The Omen, The Monster Squad, and even The Babadook (which you've seen and either you love or hate it).

But let's say you've seen all those (and good god, if you haven't, then by all means watch them!) and you're looking for something lesser known, new and/or different.

Well you're in luck!  Here's a list of 13 Great Horror Gems streaming on Netflix right Now, some great titles that'll spook, creep, and scare you this Halloween.  Check it out!

13.  Let the Right One In
Maybe you're familiar with the American remake, Let Me In, but let me tell you, the Swedish original is head and shoulders above that perfectly okay version of this story about a weird young boy who becomes obsessed with his neighbor, a young girl, who is a vampire.

So yeah, this being a foreign film means you have to be willing to read subtitles to enjoy this one, but c'mon, don't be a loser (to be read in Donald Trump voice)!  I consider Let the Right One In to be not only one of the best horror movies of the last 10 years, but also one of the greatest vampire movies ever made, and minus a wonky cat sequence, I think it is a flawless film.  It's beautifully photographed, it has some wonderful moments of violence, and it perfectly captures that lonely feeling that comes with being an outsider (and a vampire).  It's great, so put your reading glasses on and check it out!

12.   The American Scream

Documentary about "home haunters," people who dress up their homes in haunted house-like attractions during Halloween.  Set in Massachusetts, the movie follows three different sets of haunters, each more idiosyncratic than the next.  There are some surprisingly touching moments in here, and the final 20 minutes when Halloween finally arrives and the haunts get active is really fantastic stuff.  This is a really fun documentary from the director of Best Worst Movie (a doc about the cult following of Troll 2) and a must see for anybody obsessed with the spookiest of holidays.

11.   Black Death
This is a rare period piece horror film, specifically one dealing with the Black Plague during the 14th Century, which surprisingly is somewhat also rare for a horror movie.  A young monk travels with a group of soldiers who are in a quest to find a remote marshland village untouched by the plague and a necromancer rumored to be hiding out there.

A combination of Game of Thrones and The Wicker Man, with a dash of man-on-a-mission films thrown in there, this is a dark and grim historical horror flick.  Stars Sean Bean and Carice von Houten add to the GoT comparison, but the whole ensemble is good, including David Warner and Eddie Redmayne.  The story might be a bit predictable, but the action and gore is nice, and I appreciated the rather bleak ending.

10.  Jug Face

A very good film from first time director Chad Crawford Kinkle, this is a weird backwoods cult film about a strange rural society that worships a hole in the ground, a pit, that seems to house some sort of entity that requires sacrifices. . .yeah, this is a weird one, but I liked a lot of what is here:  the isolated rural setting, the way it explores social taboos, the great musical score, the fantastic lead performance by Lauren Ashley Carter, and excellent support by Sean Bridges, Larry Fessenden, and Sean Young(!!).

Jug Face:  silly title; good movie.

9.  Housebound

Horror/comedy out of New Zealand, a little ridiculous but never goofy.  The premise is solid: a troubled woman is ordered into house arrest and must go stay with her mother in the house she grew up in which may (or may not) be haunted.  The acting is good and there are some decent scares (and laughs) but . . . .

Personally I wasn't 100% onboard with every twist and turn this movie takes, but it is a good movie that a lot of people who are not me seem to really really love, so maybe you'll be one of them and really love this movie too.  It's good; see it.

8.  Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
This is one I consider to be a classic, but it seems general audiences aren't aware of it and new horror fans are ignoring it.  Maybe that's because it is totally bleak and brutal and isn't a funtime horror movie for regular people.  However, if you like things that get dark (like, really dark), then may I introduce you to Henry.

Played chillingly by Michael Rooker, Henry follows the story of a psycho cold killer as he weaves his way through various murders and violence, along with his creep, sicko buddy Otis (Tom Towles).  Based on real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, this is an unpleasant film, with a loose narrative that gives it this unnervingly realistic tone, but I find it to be a really strong, great film.  If you're looking to be disturbed by a movie, this is a good choice.

Also, all Walking Dead and Guardians of the Galaxy fans need to watch this and experience why Michael Rooker is truly someone you do not want to cross paths with.

7.  We Are What We Are

I thought Jorge Michel Grau's original 2010 film was a very good movie, but I really loved this remake from Jim Mickle, which takes the same basic premise and does something slightly different with it and gives it a different flavor.

What I loved and really responded to was just how depressing and bittersweet the film is.  The performances across the board are fantastic, there's so much longing and sadness amid the splashes of violence and the creepy religious tones, and it matches wonderfully with the dread that naturally comes with an isolated rural gothic setting.  It's the kind of stuff that sticks with you after the movie ends.

It's all very unpleasant and occasionally nasty, but how could a story about a family of cannibals not be?  I enjoyed it very much.

Bonus mention:  Another film from Jim Mickle, the very good vampire film Stakeland, which is like a zombie apocalypse movie if the zombies were vampires, is also available on Netflix.

6.  Ravenous

Another cannibal movie!  Another period piece!  I've always felt this one was underseen and under appreciated, which is a shame as it has a great cast with Guy Pearce, Robert Carlye, Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones, and David Arquette, not to mention an excellent soundtrack by Damon Albarn.  This isn't as bleak of a film as some others on this list, as it has this wry humorous tone to it, but it does provide plenty of action and bloodshed.


5.  Nightbreed (Director's Cut)

One of my favorites from when I was younger, Nightbreed has seen a resurgence with the recent release of Clive Barker's Director's Cut, which changes the film in many ways while keeping the main focus on a group of monsters who live in a community and how they're threatened by the outside world.

Still totally great, this movie is a real blast and is a must see for fans of cool monsters, Clive Barker, and David Cronenberg (who plays a major character in the film).

4.  The Taking of Deborah Logan
Found footage movies are generally tedious and lame, but this one is surprisingly effective and well made.  Set up like a documentary film for a medical school thesis project, the subject of the film is Alzheimer's and its affect on the individual afflicted and their family.  Deborah Logan is the one affected, but could she be suffering from something MORE than the disease?  Well, this is a horror movie. . .

Very creepy, spooky, and full of atmosphere, this movie keeps upping the tension while also upping the whatthefuckery.  The special effects are killer, especially a sequence towards the end that might haunt some viewer's nightmares..

Jill Larson stars as the title character and she is GREAT!  Apparently she never used a body double and did all of her own stunts, which is amazing because she really goes for it, which is fantastic for an actor of her age (or any age, really).  I was particularly fascinated with her performance because Larson played Opal on the long running daytime soap opera All My Children, which was my mother's favorite soap and I would see it all the time on sick days or during summer vacation while growing up.  I can't wait to recommend this movie to my mom!!

3.  I Saw The Devil

From South Korea (more subtitles!?!), this is a nasty fun revenge movie.  The South Koreans are on top of their game when it comes to genre cinema, specifically revenge films, and this one is a game of brutal one-upmanship between a serial killer and the fiancé of one of his victims, a detective who goes to great lengths to get his vengeance.

Brutal and occasionally insane outbursts of violence and mayhem, stunning photography and inventive camerawork, emotional devastation and transformation underscored by the great music, that pitch black Korean humor, I Saw The Devil is pretty much everything you can and should expect from South Koran genre cinema.  It's great!

2.  Starry Eyes
One of my favorite movies from last year, a fantastic lead performance by Alex Essoe, a GREAT synth score, a really unique and strong vision for a horror film, pulling from the wells of Cronenberg and Polanski, it is uncomfortable, disturbing, beautiful, and intensely violent, sometimes all within moments of one another.  Basically it's everything I look for in a great horror movie.

1.  Maniac
I am a huge fan of William Lustig's 1980 classic Maniac, so it came as a bit of a surprise to me that the 2012 remake was, not only good, but was excellent!  Elijah Wood, at first a seemingly odd choice for the lead role as the titular maniac, is really damn good.  He's not sweaty or heavy breathy like Joe Spinell, but he emotes well and fully commits to the role.

The violence is intense and graphic and might be off-putting to some, but fans of the original should expect that.  Unexpected might be that the movie has an interesting framework/gimmick with the entirety of the movie mostly shot in the maniac's POV, an idea that shouldn't' work but succeeds more often than not.  It even leads to a couple brilliantly shot sequences.

In addition, the LA setting makes for a much more clean and neon soaked local as compared to the scuzzy NYC vibe of the original, as the filmmakers seems much more interested in achieving Italian-giallo style visuals (which works for me).  The music is FANTASTIC, I've been listening to the soundtrack for months now.  It's a great dread soaked synth nightmare, just another great layer to an excellent horror film.  Check it out!

There you have it, 13 scary suggestions for your Halloween viewing pleasure!  Glad I could help!
Now go home and enjoy the scares!!