Friday, April 25, 2014

Movie Review: Jason X

So, Sean S. Cunningham, still trying to go through many drafts of a unfinished Freddy Vs. Jason project, still wanted to keep the spirit of Jason fresh into the people's mind. So he recruited writer Todd Farmer and Son Noel Cunningham to conjure up some new ideas for yet another Friday The 13th. There had been many concepts such as Jason terrorizing would-be victims in a winter storm or Jason in a far away island, far much better conceptions than the one they eventually came up with.
My question with this is.....why? Why would they put the series in this direction. The films before this that put horror movie characters in space was considered horrible with the examples of Hellraiser: Bloodline and Leprechaun In Space. Again, why put Jason in this predicament?
So to go further into this, the film was a production mess and even had trouble getting distributed. Judging from the final product of the movie, I can see why. The acting is bad, the special effects are bad, the overall plot is bad, and the directing had some potential  but for the most part, I felt like a was watching a crappy Sci-Fi original movie. I also think that the filmmakers didn't care at this point. Why put Jason in space? It just doesn't fit well with the whole Jason mythology. Well, whatever the cause it was, the filmmakers didn't care how stupid the movie would turn out to be, as long as it was going to make money at the box office. Once I realize they trying to capitalize the series with such a shallow attempt, it's a testament of how New Line is putting this franchise way down in the gutter.

The Cast is.....questionable. Like I said with the filmmakers they just didn't care, including the actors. But at least they knew what movie they were in I guess. From what I gather, there were only three actors that gave decent enough performances.

Lexa Doig was actually good at what she was given but by the middle half of the movie, her character pretty much fades into the background and there's not much to say about her. However, her character is the basis of the plot, which is a somewhat interesting aspect of her. She is a scientist that works for a crystal lake  research facility. She tries to warn the government of how dangerous it is to keep the notorious serial killer Jason Voorhees under their watch, but project leader Dr. Whimmer (played by David Cronenberg) is so intent on doing research on the undead killer because he has the ability to regenerate(.....more on that later....). So of course, all hell breaks loose when Jason tears free from his chains and kills the science project group, along with Dr. Whimmer and a few soldiers. He chases Rowan to a freeze capsule, trapping them both, and wounding Rowan in the process. 455 lightyears later,  Rowan is found by a group of students going on a field trip led by an arrogant professor. They also unravel Jason....and a lot of bloody deaths ensue.

There's really not much of a plot for me to elaborate on really. The movie tries to set up Rowan as this Ripley-type but it never pays off. She's all brain but no brawn basically and pretty much the rest of the main characters are the ones that face Jason off. Which leads me to the real star of the movie:

The android Kay-Em Played wonderfully by Lisa Ryder. Lisa Ryder brings a blend of cute quirkiness and awesome badassery to the role. She is very charismatic and you want to root for her in the end. And let me remind you, you have Jason fighting against a robot. You gotta see it to believe it. It's so awesome:

Kay-Em is the one who pretty much receives the final girl status. And could totally see why ,even though  her head is the only body part she has at the end.

Sergeant Brodski played by Peter Mensah is another one of the three actors that take this movie seriously, even through the cheesy dialogue. Every time he is on screen, you actually feel that you're watching a much better Sci-Fi movie. Yes, he's that good of an actor.  It's quite fulfilling that he is in critically acclaimed TV shows and movies after this. Sergeant Brodski is so badass, in fact, that made the other characters useless by comparison. But hell, it's not like they were useless to begin with. It is him who ends up being the one defeating Jason at the end and he sacrifices his life by doing so. He is probably the best character in this movie.
Which leads me to the supporting characters, who I think are pointless and are just machete fodder.  They don't have any prominence like the aforementioned characters.

First, there's Tsunaron, who is a stereotypical fast-talking nerd who is very unfunny and annoying. But here's one side of the character that bothered me.

He is the one who build and programmed Kay-Em. The only reason, however, is because he wanted the perfect girlfriend. I don't know...something about this is just so....sexist. Kay-Em wasn't build to be an artificial intelligent or indestructible warrior, instead she was made to be someone's sex toy. This makes me dislike this Tsunaron character even more. And guess what? He lives! *sigh*

Then you have Janessa, who every fan claims to be a comic relief. I did not find this character funny or engaging for that matter. To be quite honest, I find her really annoying. I actually didn't care if she lived or died when she came on screen, mostly because the actress was terrible and the jokes she says always comes out at the wrong place at the wrong time, which didn't help either.

Then you have sexy couple, Stoney and Kinsa. From the very first scene they're in, they couldn't keep their hands off each other and once they finally have sex, it wakes up Jason for some reason, Cause Jason just hates pre-marital sex (I'll discuss later).

Once Stoney is killed off, We are left with Kinsa, who spends the movie, whining, screaming, and acting stupid. Then it all comes to this big ball of idiocy when she recklessly goes on a cargo ship, accidently presses the wrong button, and blow herself up, causing everybody to be trapped in the main ship. Wow. Just wow.

Lastly, we have Professor Lowe, who is the most arrogant and most unlikeable of the cast. He thinks he knows everything because he's the Professor and he pretty much belittles anyone above his logic. Plus there is a really weird sex scene between him and Janessa that made me want to throw up.
The rest of the characters aren't worth mentioning. The stoner is a stereotype, the electrician guy is a failed attempt at comic relief, and the armed soldiers are just as useless as the main supporting characters.

And now we come to this. The indestructible Jason Voorhees or Uber-Jason as a matter-of-fact. Kane Hodder again does what he does best, morphing into the Jason character splendidly. There is one thing that bothered me in the whole Jason mythology, is his "mysterious" powers. Now, let me go through three films using this so far. In Jason Takes Manhattan, He has the ability to teleport. In Jason Goes To Hell, He has the ability to body surf. Now in Jason X, He has the ability to regenerate. Regenerating? how stupid is that? But I guess it explains Jason never-ending immortality, so I'll just run with it or whatever. The other thing that bothered me was why didn't anybody pulled out weapons when danger was afoot. They're in fucking outer space for Pete's Sakes! They finally get a clue when they send out Kay-Em to fight off Jason. Whether or not why they would all just fight him themselves is beyond me but if she's a mechanical android it works right? So once they think Kay-Em has finally defeated Jason, dues ex machina find it's way into Jason's DNA and he becomes......

Uber Jason. Uber Jason? Really? What about Intergalactic Jason or Android Jason, why Uber Jason? it's just sounds so...lame. To be honest, I didn't mind the Uber Jason look and it did fit well into the movie's theme. It's less cheesy than expected is what I mean.
Now to the special effects and directing. The special effects are a mixed bag for me.

There are the good ones like Adrienne's death and the attack on the soldiers sequence as shown here:

Then there are the really bad ones like Jason floating in space and the dreadful holographic simulation scene in the climax. Speaking of which, let's talk about that.

What I don't like about this particular scene is how it is making a parody of itself. Believe it or not, the movie series wasn't about teens having sex, doing drugs, and general fucking around to be killed. It was about how the people at their upmost attempt to keep opening camp crystal lake and Jason, honoring his mother's legacy by stopping it also for people to keep off his damn property. I know Jason Goes To Hell did it with those three campers, but this scene is an insult to the whole series. The actors didn't take it seriously, the writers didn't take it seriously, and the producers didn't take it seriously. And the movie makes us the audience not take this seriously. They just want us to brush it off like some stupid slasher franchise, when it really could've been something more. The only person to be taking this movie and otherwise the franchise seriously, is the director. He really tried hard to capture the gritty, grimy feel of Aliens or Event Horizon but I guess the film execs were on another mindset. And here's another thing, New Line as a whole, doesn't give a shit about the Friday franchise and pretty much put a nail in the coffin in the series with the exception of Freddy Vs. Jason and The Remake.
Trivia Time! Lexa Doig and Lisa Ryder starred in the Sci-Fi TV series Andromeda which explains their spot-on performances.

Writer Todd Farmer has a cameo in this movie. Like I fucking care....
Now let's get to the real juice of trivia time shall we? The first draft of the script. I actually like the first draft of the script better than movie itself. The characters were less annoying, there was a much more coherent story and the main female character actually had something to do. I don't know why they choose the shooting script over this. I get the feeling that New Line had something to do with this.
The movie was a box office flop, making it the third lowest grossing Friday The 13th film. The blame was put on by the internet. The film was available for download before it's release in theaters and that's what hurt the film's box office sales. But you want to know the real truth? the fans had enough. Putting Jason in space was the last straw and they, including myself, knew it was a bad idea.
I guess I already said my thoughts on this film. Some people think that is a so bad, it's good flick but I just don't see that. I was rather bored. It picked somewhat in the first half but it became dull and uninteresting in the second. It was quite repetitive actually. It's a bunch of characters acting stupid and running away from a big scary monster. I have seen stuff like this before. Some people think this a step up from Jason Goes To Hell, which I do agree to some level, but on the other hand, this movie almost killed the franchise.
Again, this movie is a parody of itself and not in a good way. The sequel that did it better was Jason Lives because while it takes jabs at the slasher genre, it still took the formula seriously. Jason X is just a F-you to the Friday The 13th legacy and New Line just sat back and let it crumbled up into the train wreck that it is.
My last word: Please do yourself a favor and just watch Alien or Star Trek. If you want to watch something stupid, give it a roll.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Movie Review: Wes Craven's New Nightmare

After the disaster that was Freddy's Dead, Wes Craven was openly embarrassed of how the nightmare series has turned out. After six films and endless product placement, Freddy Krueger is now a total joke. So it was up to Mr. Craven to bring back the intelligence that the series needed. So he got the opportunity to produce a script he been working on for a decade. It was intended to be a third film but further negotiations went by and it later became Dream Warriors instead. A couple of sequels later and FINALLY, Wes Craven gets to turn the series around with his clever writing and ingenious directing. Some people may think Wes Craven isn't the greatest of directors. When he's bad, he's almost terrible. But when he's good, he's great. And I think this is one of his finest hours.
The plot follows actress Heather Lagenkamp and her family. As strange events occurs, including dreams that are almost too real and creepy phone calls. But things start to unravel, when the very movie role she tries to escape from come back to haunt her....literally. And beyond a suspense of disbelief, it seems that the character of Freddy Krueger is emerging into the real world to take over her life.....and her family.
While some people were confused by the psychological aspect of the story and garnered a mixed reaction, I thought  it was a big step up to the series and put it back into it's right place. It also made Freddy scary again. Although I don't find this movie terrifying, it has great suspense while being well-acted and well-structured.

 The cast is top-notch, even including Wes Craven who did an alright performance. You could actually feel a special connection between the cast fresh from working together again in a ten year reunion.

This is probably Heather Lagenkamp's  best performance. It is shown that over the years, she has grown into a more mature, competent actress. In the first movie, there were times where she was a little shaky but ultimately gave a decent performance. In the third movie, there were times where she did try to pull through but came off a bit stiff and bland. But in this movie, this is where she really comes into her own and giving a versatility and vulnerability to her character....which is herself. Once we are introduced to her, we see that she's not living a glamorous Hollywood mansion, she's actually has a humble, stable home life with her family and is pretty much uncomfortable by the fame she got from playing the role of Nancy. Most of her worries comes from her recently being harassed by a stalker who leaves creepy phone calls. She fears that her iconic role would ultimately consume her life as that is the only role that everybody knows her in, which is why she took a step down from doing any mainstream films. But then her life takes a tragic turn, once her husband is killed and her son, Dylan, begins to go into a strange psychosis.

Once she uncovers the mystery surrounding the strange events and her son's behavior, it all pieces the puzzle when after 6 films, the "real" Freddy Krueger is trying to step out of the real world. So in order to get back to the life she once had, she must, reluctantly, play Nancy one last time.....

Child Actor Miko Hughes is a bit hit or miss. He has his good moments and he has his really bad moments, especially in the scenes where he tries to act "creepy."

But there were moments between him and Heather Lagenkamp that was very heartfelt. It's always shocking in horror films when the monster tries to corrupt the child. I thought that was one of the more scarier aspects of the movie, which is even more scarier that Freddy Krueger was a child murderer. What Dylan represents is the terrified child in all of us, who would always check under the bed to see if there's a monster lurking. And I was definitely one of them.

Although we don't see much of Heather's husband Chase played by the very handsome David Newsom, though as much as we do see him, he is very sweet, charming, and is very protective of his family. Even though he gets killed early on, Wes Craven manages to make a likeable character out of Chase.

Which makes his death all the more sad, not only the fact that he's really sympathetic, but also being a devoted husband and father.

At first, I really didn't get why Julie, the babysitter was introduced into the story. At first, I thought she was a friend of Heather's, but she seems to be a normal college-aged woman who's only JUST the babysitter. In the early draft of the script, she was originally supposed to be a pawn of Freddy since she does, of course, have a mystery about her since we really don't know anything about the character at this point, but later this idea was scrapped and she becomes the hero of the movie by punching a few nurses or two.

But unfortunately, Julie is then killed by an invisible Freddy, which is a chilling replay of Tina's death:

It's good to see John Saxon again, this time playing himself as a true, honest friend to Heather. You can see that Heather sees him as a father figure and is much more understanding and meaningful than the character he plays.

And then there's good o'l Robert England playing well...his good o'l self. He is very normal, nice guy who seen to have embraced the character he created. But deep inside, it shows he is somewhat haunted by the monster he portrays on film. The scene where he is painting a horrifying portrait of Freddy surrounded by his collected souls, the look on his face tells how much he is frightened by the essence of Freddy, showing that he as well as Heather is trapped by the shadow of his infamous role. This is probably one of the more effective scenes in the movie.

Lastly, there is Wes Craven, in his first acting role, no less. He's pretty much there to give exposition, so I'm going to focus on Wes Craven the character, not Wes Craven the actor. Once he and the rest of the cast and crew becomes haunted by the presence of Freddy, he is mortified of what's happening and tries to do what's right by writing a script that's too real to comprehend. Now to be honest, I wish Wes Craven should've put more emotion into his role. I mean, he's a writer/director who's unfinished script is coming to life. he should be freaking out. But no. He sits nonchalantly in his lavish mansion, living like a king. The scene they should've shown was him in a darkened room, windows taped shut, paranoid and scared out of his mind. I think that would've been more effective and capture the fear of what's happening.

And now what you all been waiting for....Freddy Krueger. And he is just as scary as he was in the original. Most of the complaints from fans came from how Freddy didn't have enough screen time. And quite frankly, that's a GOOD thing. What was so great about the first movie was that even though Freddy isn't in most of the scenes, he still is this haunting presence that cripple his victims, emotionally and physically, Which happens a lot in this movie and is used very well. And this all works, having Freddy in the shadows and given less screen time. It makes him more scary and mysterious. Having him in the spotlight while being the star of his own show, will lose the effect and quality of the film. the fans can disagree all they want about his but I like it this way.

There is also a twist to the whole Freddy mythology. The catch is, it isn't really Freddy after all. It is ancient evil that manifests himself into the fictional character. It's better than it sounds. But I thought this was a cool concept and set the story in motion.

The look and design on Freddy might be a mix reaction for most of the fans but I really liked it. The makeup is definitely a step up from the last movie and also like the long coat along with the green hat, giving Freddy this sleek badass look.

Now to the special effects. They are done really well and still holds up to this day. But what really makes it effective is there is less much of it. What the sequels did wrong was that it was used too much of them, which made the films less scary. Wes Craven went back to basics on this one and focused on suspense, tension, and build-up, which is the key ingredients for a horror film.

Now most people might disagree with on this, but I thought the climax was pretty cool. Freddy's lair was structured brilliantly. It's sort of like going into his hell dimension, which was interesting. One of the elements that Wes Craven used was the Hansel and Gretel theme which work well into the story, giving the movie a dark fairy tale twist, adding on to the creepy ominous atmosphere.
Now for the trivia. As you know, the earthquake scenes are sort of a foreshadowing to the story. what's even more eerie, is that an earthquake actually happen in early 1994. You can see some of the damage in the scene where Heather is on her way to meet Wes Craven.

In the funeral scene, you can point out actor Jsu Garcia, (Who's looking sexier than ever I might add), who played Rod and the actress Tuesday Knight who played Kristen in Dream Master. Wes Craven wanted to ask Johnny Depp to do the funeral scene as well, but hesitated. It would be years later, where Johnny said he would've obliged. And that's very much true, since he did do a cameo in Freddy's Dead.....And that's a terrible movie.

The doctor who is a total bitch to Heather is actually based on Richard Hefner, the head of the MPAA, who was gung-ho about censoring horror films back in the 80's.

The snarky nurse, who is quite funny actually, is played by Wes Craven's daughter.

Heather Lagenkamp actually did have a stalker, which is pretty scary when you think about it.

Although certain fans and critics praised the film, it was a box office flop and I think at the time, horror fans wanted more than just a compelling story or maybe it was the fact people just got tired of Freddy, without knowing that it's not same wisecracking, annoying jokester in the sequels.
Yes! Finally took Wes Craven to save the series from it's falling grace. The movie blends in well with it's mix of horror and drama while also sending nods to other great horror films including the original. With it's investing characters, complex storyline, and suspenseful, hair-raising moments, Wes Craven's New Nightmare is definitely my #1 favorite nightmare sequel.
My last word: Go watch it. Right now.