Saturday, January 18, 2014

Movie Review: Friday the 13th: The New Blood

This has got to be one of my favorite Friday sequels. I just like how they would take a risk like this and still make it work. I mean you have my favorite movies: Friday the 13th and Carrie, merged together. That is like the perfect combination!
It's one of the most innovative and creative of the series. I know that's saying a lot since this got mixed reviews from many of the fans but I think this ranks high on my list. In this, it's pretty much back to basics but still has likeable characters (at least some of them), a now indestructible killer, and a compelling sympathetic female lead in the character of Tina Shepard.
So they did something that was totally different from any other slasher film of the 80's. And it was easy competition because A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: Dream Master was coming it's way at the box office as well. This was also Kane Hodder's first role as Jason, which he will continue playing the character for the next three sequels, making him the most well-know actor In the role.
I remembered first seeing this when I was 11 or 12 years old, and boy, was I entranced. Once this movie played on, I knew I was in for an interesting rollercoaster ride.
Here's the story: Still harboring the guilt over her father's death, young Tina Shepherd is shifted off to Camp Crystal Lake along with her mom to meet Dr. Cruise who is analyzing her psychosis. But there is something special about Tina, something beyond her control. This special gift is telekinesis, a power that tragically killed her father during an angry confrontation. Now, trying to face her past and trying to deal with the demeaning Dr. Cruise, who is exploiting her powers, Tina must battle a new evil once she accidently unleashes the indestructible force that is Jason Voorhees, All the while, a bunch of teens are vacationing next door. Tina must stop this undead killer before he gets some more fresh blood to spill.

Although most of the cast are described as one-note or less developed, but they are still very likeable despite the usual slasher movie stereotyping (the virgin, the mean girl, the nerd, the stoner, etc.).

Tina Shepherd is the most memorable, the most well-developed, and probably the most badass final girls of the Friday the 13th series. She usually contributes the usual tropes of the final girl but in a different way. She is based on the character of Carrie: A bit shy, a bit of a loner, and trying have a basic need of a normal life, despite having an extraordinary and dangerous power.

Our sympathies are with her when she tries to overcome the death of her father, dealing with the ruthless Dr. Cruise and the jealous, vindictive Melissa, and unfortunately the death of her mother. So she takes all this emotion and ends up giving Jason the beating of a lifetime. It's a knock-out drag-out battle and it's glorious. Tina is wonderfully played by the gorgeous and talented Lar Park Lincoln, bringing in a emotional range and vulnerability that was needed for the role. It would've been great if she continued acting, she really did a great performance.

And then we have Nick, played by the very sexy Kevin Spirtas (Blair). There isn't much to say about Nick honestly, But I can say that he is one of the best horror movie heroes. I there were times where Tina had to save him but it's his persistence and fearlessness that makes him note-worthy.

  And overall, he's a pretty swell guy, almost too perfect actually. But he does tell Tina about his past as a troubled youth and how he comes to terms of it, by changing his life and going to school. It actually made him a more well-rounded character and he's probably the most likeable of the other teens. I thought Kevin Spirtas was really great in the role, not to mention having classically handsome looks. I did heard that Kevin and Lar Park didn't get along on the set and that she didn't feel the chemistry between them. Well, in my opinion, I thought they had good chemistry, it's either that or they ARE really good actors.
Again, although the cast are somewhat stereotypical and one-note, there are still are an engaging brand of characters with interesting little subplots.

First, we have the yuppie couple. I call them the yuppie couple because they are almost personification of one. The guy is a sort uptight, waspy type and the girl is a perky, California valley girl type. It's a match made in heaven.

unfortunately, they get killed off rather quickly for us to be invested in.

Then you have the two female best friends with opposite personalities. You have Maddy, the nerdy one and Robin, the more attractive, vivacious one with fiery red hair.

They're competing over the affections of this guy, a stoner named David. Yeah, he's cute and all, but his personality sucks.

The one who wins, eventually, is Robin. Because she has more....character, I guess. Soon all three of them gets the sharp end of the ax.

First, Maddy gets it. It's sad because she is the more innocent of the two. In a deleted scene, it kind of explains why Jason is so pissed at her but it still kind of shows how Jason is no hold barred.

Of course, Robin and David gets the death by sex treatment along with evil old pot smoking. Eh, typical.

Then you have a minority couple, Ben and Kate. Kate seems to be pissed at Ben, but we don't know about. Though in the end, we really don't care because they get back together anyway.

And soon, Jason interrupts their makeup sex, of course.

Then there is the nerd, Eddie, who is rather cute but very stereotypical of that sort of character. All there is to say about him is that he is obsessed with science fiction and has a huge crush on the beautiful but bicthy Melissa. So once Melissa rejects him, in favor of Nick, he has a little pity party.

Until Jason crashes the party with a quiet force.

Finally, we have Michael, Nick's cousin and his girlfriend.

But by the first five to ten minutes, they are both killed off just as they're introduced. But beyond death, Nick is the driving force of the subplot mostly because the reason the teens are at Crystal lake is that they are preparing his birthday party.

I rarely focus on unlikeable characters in horror films but since these two are memorable in the film, why not?

So here's Melissa, she's basically the stereotypical popular rich bitch who vies for the affection of Nick, who constantly rejects her, in favor of girl next door Tina. It's not anything out of place for High School Drama, really.

So finally, Jason comes in the last minute and embeds an ax on her pretty little face.

But the worst character by far is Dr. Cruise. My god, he's awful! Not only does he exploit Tina and berating her into using her powers, he plays with her emotions and twists the things she says, while she is still coping with the death of her father.  He's an emotional manipulative asshole and he knows it.

But this is by far the worse offense that he's done. He uses Tina's mom as a human shield just when Jason is about to attack them.

And to add this little note, I felt bad when Tina's mom got killed because in the beginning, before her husband's death, she was just a woman trying to save her marriage at the time, despite her husband being an alcoholic and trying to help her fragile teenage daughter. just a shame.

Oh yeah, Lets get back to Dr. Jerk....

So to please all the fans, The Doctor gets it. The special tool is a weed whacker in the intestines.

And this where we to Jason. Boy, is there so much to say about Jason. He is now a rotted corpse with supernatural powers.

He is the full embodiment of the movie monster similar to The Creature From the Black Lagoon. He's faster, stronger, and is very capable of using his hands as a weapon. Kane Hodder really molded the personality of Jason, giving the notion to fans that he is truly a force to be reckoned with.

And one final note, the makeup effect on Jason is awesome, although it's a bit of a mixed reaction from fans. But in my opinion, it's very detailed, structured, and probably the best Jason design.
Boy, the special effects are pretty spectacular. Some of death scenes were cut down because the MPAA were very severe on the blood and gore in horror films back in 1988. But much of what you do see is still effective.

Especially the sleeping bag scene. Kane Hodder reportedly did at least 10 takes before getting the right shot. And it was that one whack against the tree that made the scene classic.

But the biggest effects for me was when they blew up the house and surely it was turning from a small independent slasher to a big budget action flick.
Now, lets get to the trivia, and boy, do I have a lot to tell you.
Director John Carl Buechler also worked on the special effects on A Nightmare On Elm Street: Dream Master, a movie that was again, a stiff competition at the box office. This was slated to be a Freddy Vs. Jason movie but distribution rights got in the way, so instead it was Jason Vs. the telekinetic Tina and Freddy Vs. the dream master Alice. Bill Butler alongside Lar Park Lincoln, Jeff Bennett, and also Tiffany Helm (Violet, A New Beginning) starred in Freddy's Nightmares. Bill Butler also starred in the 1990 move Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 co-starring Jennifer Banko who plays the younger Tina in the prologue opening.
Now, let's get to the real topic at hand. This is what many people called Frigay the 13th(no wonder this is my favorite) and there is a reason why.

Jeff Bennett

Craig Thomas

Bill Butler

And the very hot Kevin Spirtas are all gay. Not to mention they are all quite attractive as well. :)
And here's a little note, Bill Butler and Jeff Bennett did hook up at a party once. Can I say HOT!
This movie was number 1# at the box office.......for a while. A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 4: Dream Master was one of the highest grossing slasher film in the 1980's, knocking off The New Blood out of it's running spot. I guess Freddy wins this round. But this movie is without it's fan base, including myself of course.

I just find this new concept of the Friday The 13th mythology so refreshing. It still has the usual ingredients of a good slasher film but with a new twist. Again, this is the best Friday in the series, which is opening the doors to the supernatural side of Camp Crystal Lake.
My Last Word: An interesting, inventive must-see

Monday, January 6, 2014

Nightmare/Friday: The TV Series

To add more discussion on the Friday The 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street Franchise. Let's move over to the TV Series.

First you have the Friday the 13th TV series (1987-1990). At first, I was a bit thrown off since it had the same namesake of the movie series but didn't have Jason. I know, I was one of those people but I was a kid at the time. It wasn't until years later, that  I gave it a watch or two, and I was surprised at how good it was and it's much more similar to the show The X-Files.

Even the female lead is a redhead
And I'm thinking this was it's inspiration of that show. It was also the most-watched and more critically-acclaimed than the movie series. So it's highly recommended.

And then there's Freddy's Nightmares (1988-1990). While the Friday The 13th Series was serious in tone, Freddy's Nightmares was unfortunately not. I heard a lot of buzz from this and so I watched a couple of episodes. There was one episode I remembered, That starred Lar Park Lincoln (Friday The 13th Part 7), Nancy Mcloughlin (Friday The 13th Part 6) and a pre-Hedwig And The Angry Inch John Cameron Mitchell. When I first saw this episode, it was like I was in an acid trip. I mean I see what they were doing, having this experimental feel that other television shows didn't do at around those years. But at the same time, it was too much going on for me to understand the basis of that episode. It was too confusing and it was sort of like the movie Inception but not in a good way.

I do give it points for aspiring shows like Tales From The Crypt as Freddy has the same appeal as the Crypt Keeper.
On the down side though, It has a very campy vibe and it was hard for me to take it seriously because of how cheap the production values are. The only reason the show was popular in the first place because of the many guest stars on the show like Brad Pitt, Mariska Hargitay, Lori Petty,etc. And this is the period where Freddy was selling himself short with the one liners and gimmicks which was done to death.
So the final verdict is: Friday The 13th The TV series of course! It has better production values, a better story, and an interesting cast of characters. Most of the story is coherent and it keeps us engaged.
Where as Freddy's Nightmares was only interesting for it's late night shock value.
So there you have it. Two shows who gained cult status from two successful film franchises until some asshole protested against it because of the violence, having it abruptly canceled in 1990, the same year shows like Twin Peaks were on air.
Although the shows didn't last long, They will always be remembered. For good or for bad....

Friday, January 3, 2014

Movie Review: A Nightmare On Elm Street: Dream Warriors

This is, hands down, the best nightmare on elm street sequel. Good story, great characters, and awesome special effects. This is the most distinctive, true sequel to the nightmare franchise and it's also the start of the dream saga, with the two sequels after it. What the filmmakers did right this time was bring back elements that made the first movie for what it was: Heather Langenkamp, John Saxton, and most definitely Wes Craven, though this time around, as a writer. The dreams are more surreal and visceral, adding a more twisted fantasyland to the atmosphere. The most interesting aspect of the movie is how they use suicide as a metaphor. It's a deep dark subject for many teens and to use that in a horror film is pretty ballsy. But this is when the series transitioned towards fantasy instead of psychological. Not that it's a bad thing but by the second half, it felt like I was watching Justice League or something. Though, I still do think this is the best and memorable of the sequels.
Here's the story: Kristen Parker has been having really bad dreams. She tries to reach out to her mother for comfort but to no avail. Once her dreams get much more vivid, it gets worse. The man that his haunting her dreams is, none other than, Freddy Krueger, a vengeful ghost who haunts upon elm street. Freddy attacks her, resulting a cut on her wrists, making it look like an attempted suicide. So Kristen's mom sends her to a westin hills, a mental institution where kids her age seems to be suffering from the same problem. They all seem to be plagued by Freddy Krueger. So with the help of Nancy Thompson, who was a former victim of Freddy and who is now a counselor, the kids come to stop Freddy from taking their lives and mostly, their souls.

The acting was very good. You really get a sense that the cast had a genuine connection with each other. Especially to their characters, who are able to fleshed them out more, making them real people who we care about.

Patricia Arquette was just supreme. She really tapped into the emotional state of the character and brought a  bit of sadness and yearning just by the look in her eyes. There was something more that Patricia brought into the role, that we immediately cared about the character and her struggles.

Kristen is special , much different than Nancy or Lisa. You see, she has a special power where she pulls people into her dreams, which is a pretty interesting concept for a Final Girl. Like many heroines in the Nightmare Movies, she comes from a broken home. Her parents are divorced and she is under the care of her neglectful, selfish bitch of a mother( which I'll comment on later). She has the same tragedies as Tina, feeling vulnerable and alone where she has no where to turn to. This is easy prey for Freddy, who uses his victims' fears as weakness. Once Nancy comes in as a savior, she is the sister or mother she never had, so this prevents Freddy from striking any further. And by the help of her new allies, she is no longer weak. She is able to fight back and not hold back by her fears. Kristen is an interesting and profound addition to the nightmare final girls.

Which leads us to the first and original of the nightmare final girls, Nancy Thompson. Unfortunately, just like Tommy Jarvis in Jason Lives, Nancy isn't particularly the best written character in this. She just so underused and so.....boring. Nancy is supposedly in her twenties, but they try to make her look older, which doesn't work. I wish They wouldn't have been afraid to make her more hip and relatable. In the script, Nancy was more abrasive, more rebellious, and was willing to take risks to save these kids' lives. Unfortunately due to rewrites, her character comes off bland.

Heather Lagenkamp is good in this but there was other times where she comes off a bit stiff. I wish she would've put more emotion into the role. Even Heather Lagenkamp said in an interview that she felt she didn't quite connect to the character like she use to. Although, she is not the main aurora of the movie, she is still the driving force none the less.

The character of Neil is the most remembered in this movie. At first, he's a bit skeptical like most of these adults are In the series, but you genuinely see that he cares about the kids and once he gets into the action, he ends up being the movie's primary hero.

Along for the ride is Donald Thompson, who seems to be an important part in the series and the one who created Freddy. In this one, he is a bitter drunk who seem to have lost it all, still suffering from the mental scars that Freddy has planted.

And just to squeeze this in here, Elaine Parker is one of the most flawed and unsympathetic of the adults. She is frequently ignoring her daughter then after she finds Kristen slitting her wrists, she thinks she's doing it for attention. By far the most loathed character on my list. And did I mention she is a whore?
And here are the dream warriors but first let's get to my favorites, shall we?

Taryn is probably one of my favorite characters of the movie. it dwells deep into her struggles, going through detox, getting her life together, and fighting off Freddy Krueger. She also has one of the best lines of the movie.

"I dream that I'm Beautiful and Bad." Along with a classic 80's punk look.

Unfortunately, Taryn gets the sharp end of Freddy's finger knifes or should I say heroin needles. It's kind of sad and shocking to see her go because she is by far the best character in the movie.

Will may not be memorable as Taryn but he is still a sympathetic character, who has one of the coolest moments of the film when he turns into a Harry Potter clone before when Harry Potter was even around. I guess this is where J.K. Rowling got her inspiration.

Sadly though, his mystical powers are no match for the dream demon Freddy.

Kincaid is sort of a love or hate it character. He can be a bit obnoxious at first but he becomes a major badass in the end.

And again, he has one of the best lines in the movie.

Then there is Joey, the mute boy who Freddy holds as prisoner later in the film. There's not much to say about Joey, only that he has a crush on the hot young nurse, which is ultimately how Freddy captures him.

And can I say that he is such a cutie?

Oh my gosh, the special effects are just amazing. First, there is the Freddy worm, The roasted pig, and Freddy's hell world.

But the most memorable is Phillip's demise. When I first saw this, it totally freaked me out. I mean you have somebody's veins pulled up like marionette strings.

It's really gruesome.

But the one that totally scared me was Jennifer's death.

It was just so unexpected and sudden and it was still at the time where I was scared shitless of Freddy Krueger.

Speaking of, He has a lot more personality than in the first two films. He also seems to have more screen time. Whether that's good thing or a bad thing, It's debatable. But on top of this, Freddy probably has one of the best lines, including this:

But just to be clear, the appeal of Freddy was not to turn him into a comedian like he will eventually turn out to be, though the point of it was to not laugh at the joke or punch line. Freddy is known for his sick sense of humor and sometimes it's more uncomfortable than funny. This where it works. It's a balance of terrifying and funny. There is also a backstory to explain why he is the way he is. And the result of it all, is much more horrible than you can imagine.
This was possibly the biggest box office opener of the Nightmare franchise, though not until the next film, that the franchise will gain even more momentum at the box office.
Now on to the trivia. The movie went through at least three different script re-writes before the shooting script. Wes Craven's original idea for the third movie was to bring back the cast of the first Nightmare and based the script on real life, while the cast is being haunted by Freddy. Which will later turn into New Nightmare.
This was the most grueling and exhausting of the sequels the cast and crew had to work on with all the special effects and claustrophobic of the overpowering sets.
The movie was banned in Queensland, Australia because of the drug references and also the scene where Freddy kills one of the victims by pumping various heroin shots on his fingers and into her.
This was slated to be the last sequel, which, in my opinion, would've been a decent finale for the series. But since this was going to kick start a franchise, another sequel was in the works.
This is one of my all-time favorite sequels of the Nightmare franchise. Along with a great story,  a great cast, and a great soundtrack, this is one of the best.
My last word: A fun rollercoaster ride of thrills and chills.