Friday, October 23, 2015

Best Slasher Movies of 1985 - Part 2: Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

First Freddy, now Jason. Let's face it, the best Friday the 13th movies are the first four, just about anyone who's seen all 12 would agree. Everything after that is hit or miss, but Friday 5 holds a special place in my heart. I watched it for the first time as part of a double feature with Part 4 with my girlfriend in high school on New Years Eve.     

     It's often revered as one of the worst films in the entire series, and I will agree that it's definitely one of the cheesiest. There are SPOILERS in this blog, you've been warned. In Friday 5, we continue the story of Tommy Jarvis, the Corey Feldman character from part 4 as he struggles with his inner demons at a mental institution. Jason appears to be back from the dead and kills off just about everyone in the vicinity, but it turns out he's just an imposter dressing up like Jason and trying to avenge his murdered son. I gotta give the filmmakers props for at least trying the idea out. It was risky, but ultimately unsatisfying. Maybe Shane Black and Drew Pearce should've watched Friday 5 before they completely ruined Iron Man 3 with their awful "Mandarin twist." If you're doing a sequel in a series, don't mess with the villains, the conventions, or the mythology.     

     Friday 5 offers us some of the most annoying characters of the series. From the random greaseball dudes (the whiny one, and the dooshbag who's singing some kind of jazz scat), to the troll-like coke-head ambulance driver and his ditsy waitress girlfriend, and finally to the filthy screeching redneck Ethel and her braindead son. All of the scenes with Ethel and her son make me cringe. Luckily all of these awful characters are killed off relatively quickly, Friday 5 is a movie that believes in the One-Stab-And-You're-Dead-in-30-Seconds philosophy. Also the guy playing Tommy Jarvis looks like he's about 15 years older than Corey Feldman, not just one or two. I read once that Corey Feldman wanted to come back but was too busy filming the Goonies. I wonder how much better 5 would've been if they'd had him for the whole film and not just the opening scene.     

     So what's so good about this movie? It also has a few of the BEST characters in the series. You have the rare NOT annoying kid character Reggie the Reckless played by Shavar Ross. I find myself actually liking this kid and rooting for him. I also love his awesome girly shriek. We also have some of the hottest girls in the series. Debisue Voorhees (very ironic and awesome name for a Friday actor) is a busty beauty who seems to be addicted to sex. I sympathize with the homeless guy who watches her having sex out in the woods, then gets macheted in the gut for his peeping.     
Then there's Violet. Tiffany Helm plays Violet, a music addicted girl with 80's crimped blonde hair, a bad attitude, and weird robot dancing skills. The first time I saw this movie I thought, why is this girl not the main survivor girl? She's hot and she kicks ass! The character always stuck with me, and years later I based the main character Cyndi in my novel Kill River off of her. Taking an existing character and changing them up a bit, giving them a back story and a lot of insight is what really got me back into writing and I don't think I would've been able to do Kill River without the influence of Violet Friday 5. If I could've made Kill River as a movie back in 1983, I would've cast Tiffany Helm as Cyndi in a heartbeat. I highly recommend watching Friday 5, then reading my book to see what Cyndi is supposed to look like.

     Also this is the last Friday movie to be filmed in the summer. In the rest of them, the woods all have a bleak dead look, but in this one (like in parts 1-4) its lush, green, and clearly summertime. For me Jason movies have to be in the summer. I know there's been talk of a snowy Jason movie in the future, but meh...that's not really a selling point for me.    

     In addition to more Corey Feldman, I believe this would've been a much better movie with some of the story elements of part 6 mixed in. For the record, I hate part 6. It's comedic self-aware approach, the terrible corny joke-laden dialogue, and the clearly winter-trying-to-pass-off-as-summer setting was just plain awful. But if they had used more of the plot of 6 in part 5, I'll bet it would've rivaled part 4 as one of the best parts in the series.      

       There you have it: 1985, a guilty pleasure slasher movie year for me.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Best Slasher Movies of 1985 - Part 1: Nightmare on Elm Street 2

     It's that wonderful orange and black, spooky time of year again and I'm watching all my classic slasher movies. Since it's 2015, I'm focusing on two thirty year anniversary slasher movies: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, and Friday the 13th V: A New Beginning. Neither of these films are really considered to be the best entries in either series, but I love them both and feel like they get an undeserved bad rap. First off, let's talk about Nightmare 2.

     I saw Nightmare 2 as a double feature with the first one on TV one fall afternoon after raking leaves when I was 12 or 13. Even then I knew both movies were super cheesy and dated, but I couldn't turn the TV off. Throughout high school and college, I bought them on DVD at Media Play and probably watched the first, often accompanied by the second, Nightmare on Elm Street on a bi-monthly basis. So how I can explain how I like something so much when I acknowledge that it's not very good? If you haven't seen the movie, it's definitely worth the watch. In a nutshell, it's about a teenage boy who moves into the house on 1428 Elm St. and begins turning into a Were-Freddy at night and killing people. He even has a Werewolf-like transformation scene full of gross special effects where he literally transforms into Freddy Krueger. (By the way, I'm not going to talk about the homosexual subtextual themes in this movie, that's a whole other discussion for another day.)

     What did the movie get wrong? Well, to be honest, a lot. The filmmakers seem to have completely ignored the whole Freddy Kills People in Their Dreams concept that made the first movie so great and innovative. Instead, they just made yet another demonic possession horror movie. It's almost like the filmmakers hadn't even watched the first film before they made this one. Originally, they weren't even planning on bringing back Robert Englund to play Freddy, luckily they changed their minds or this film would've been a complete disaster. Hell, they even dropped the classic Charles Bernstein theme music. Also, a lot of the story makes no sense at all. Why does Jesse leave his house in the middle of the night and go into that weird ass new-wave gay bar? If Freddy just kills teenagers, then why does he kill the gym teacher, and furthermore why did the gym teacher bring him back to the school and make him run laps in the middle of the night? Or why does Freddy need to possess Jesse in the first place? It's not the most non-sensical Freddy movie (that award goes to either 4:Dream Master, 5:Dream Child, or 6:Freddy's Dead) but it's definitely up there.

     What did the movie get right? Personally, I think it is the only movie in the entire series to keep the feel of the original intact. First off, Freddy is still taken seriously as a frightening killer. In Part 3 we begin to see the goofy, pun making, un-scary side of Freddy, but not in this one. Freddy was still really freaky at this point in the series and not a joke like in all of the later films. Another reason could be because they used Jacques Haitkin, the director of photography for Part 1, again. His colorful red and green lighting particularly in the opening school bus scene, the party scene, and the boiler factory scene at the end is beautiful. I might even go out on a limb and say it's shot better than the first. He also shot the Wes Craven film Shocker which also has a very NOES feel to it. Also it's got that awesome Teenagers-In-The-Mid-80's feel. We see the characters in the halls of their school, in gym class, in the cafeteria, partying on Friday night. We hear their synth driven 80's New Wave music. We see their outfits, and their big hair, and everything that makes the 80's awesome. I look to this movie a lot when I'm trying to get that 80's feel right in my Kill River books. I even based a character in the upcoming Kill River 2 off of the character of Grady played by the badass and underrated Robert Rusler. Part 3, the Dream Warriors, was also good and got back to the original story, but it lost that mid-80's feel. It's not as fun and I don't like it nearly as much as I like 2. Both the first two Nightmare on Elm Streets are classic and fit well together as a double feature. You couldn't pair any of the other sequels up so nicely with the original as Part 2.

     So this Halloween, give Nightmare on Elm Street 2 a watch, or a re-watch, and enjoy one of the best Freddy Krueger movies in the series. Also check out the awesome New Wave Nightmare 2 soundtrack on Next entry, I'll talk about Friday the 13th Part 5.