Thursday, February 27, 2014
FRIDAY NIGHT FRIGHTS
Via Wikipedia, here’s the answer...
“Once the film [Prom Night] was shot, Paramount expressed interest in distributing the movie. However, they only wanted to open it in 300 theaters whereas Avco Embassy Pictures offered to release it in 1200 theaters. Avco released Prom Night. Paramount released another independent slasher film, Friday the 13th.”
Friday the 13th beat Prom Night to movie theaters by approximately six weeks. Watching the movie in its entirety for the first time, I’m not surprised by this. It’s a terrible film and it screams quickie mediocrity in every scene.
Friday the 13th has the usual similarities with Halloween. A bad thing from the past spawns modern terror...and young people having sex are doomed to die.
The setting for the movie is Camp Crystal Lake. The bad thing from the past is the 1957 death by drowning of a boy left unattended bu horny camp counselors. A year later, two horny camp counselors are brutally murdered. The camp closes.
Come 1978, Camp Crystal Lake is to reopen and the grounds have been restocked with horny camp counselors on whom the killer can prey. A crazy old coot - hmm, maybe I should take up acting - warns the new kids that they are doomed, but, of course, they dismiss him as a crazy old coot. Been there, my brother coot.
Nothing in this movie - not the writing, directing, special murder effects, or acting - rises above the mediocre. The only memorable performance - and not in a good way - is Betsy Palmer’s crazy turn as Mrs. Voorhees, the murderous mother of the drowned boy Jason. When she finally appears to explain the plot of the movie to Alice, the only survivor of her bloody rampage, Palmer nearly consumes the entire forest with her scenery chewing. Alice and Mother Voorhees do battle all over the campground. They fight, they bite, they bite and fight and bite, bite, bite, bite, fight, fight, fight and then Alice decapitates Mom with an ax.
Near the end of the movie, having given Mom Voorhees the chop and taking shelter in a drifting canoe, the in-shock Alice is spotted by police officers. As they move to rescue her, she is pulled into the water by...Jason.
She wakes up in a hospital bed and learns that no one else saw the boy. They all think she imagined him. She softly says, “Then he’s still there.” I sense the movie-makers were hoping for a sequel, even at this early date.
Shown on a convention panel, Palmer states she thought the script was crap and that she only took the gig for the check. She never expected the movie to do more than disappear. Looking at the film, that was a reasonable expectation.
But Friday the 13th seems to have hit the big screen at the right time. The slasher-movie genre was exploding. The “horny teens in peril” bit resonated with young audiences. Despite it not being a good film, Friday the 13th made a lot of money.
Making Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) was a no-brainer. The sequel also did very well at the box office. Yet, even with the repeat success, I doubt anyone could have predicted the longevity of the franchise or that Jason Voorhees would rise to horror-movie icon.
I warned you yesterday that I am a B-movie junkie who doesn’t even hold himself to the relative high standard of only watching the “B” movies. Over the next few months, I’ll be watching all the movies in the Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises as well as way too many other films from the slasher-movie genre. If there’s even the slightest saving grace to my madness, it’s that I tend to avoid the modern gore-filled torture porn movies...and almost anything with zombies. If I want to watch mindless creatures who feed on humans without remorse, I’ll go watch Fox News.
Jason gets to do his own killing in Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) and he starts by dispatching the three actors who survived Friday the 13th. Two months after the first movie, Alice is living on her own while working her way through the horror of her experiences at camp. Ignoring all the warning signs that someone is in her house, she finds Betsy Palmer’s head in her refrigerator before she gets her throat cut by Jason.
Five years later, another dumb-ass decides to open up a camp very close to Crystal Lake. Jason takes exception to this. Do I really have to give you the details?
Within the first third of the movie, the crazy old coot and the cop from Friday the 13th are killed. Other victims follow until we’re down to Paul, the guy who trains the horny young camp counselors, and his girlfriend/assistant Ginny.
Ginny finds the makeshift shack in which Jason lives. In it, he’s created an altar with Betsy Palmer’s now-mummified head and a few bodies of his victims. Ginny puts on Momma Voorhees’ sweater and confuses Jason enough for Paul and her to distract the disfigured killer. Ginny grabs a machete and sinks it into Jason’s shoulder. Jason looks totally deceased to anyone who’s never watched a horror movie. Hold that thought for a moment.
Hmm...Machete Vs. Jason. I would pay to watch that movie.
Okay. Feeling all triumphant and all, Paul and Ginny take shelter in a nearby cabin. Jason bursts in. They fight, they bite...oh, I did that joke already. Ginny is knocked unconscious and wakes up as she’s being put into an ambulance. There’s no sign of Paul.
The final scene shows the head of Mrs. Voorhees on the altar. This ending - according to Wikipedia - is a matter of contention among Friday the 13th fans. Here’s what Wikipedia states:
The film's ending has been a source of confusion for fans. Writer Ron Kurz has stated that Jason's window jump [into the cabin at the end] was intended to be set in reality and that Paul was killed off-screen. However, the beginning of Part III, in replaying the end of Part 2, instead showed Jason pulling the machete out of his shoulder and crawling away as Ginny and Paul leave him for dead in the shack. This arguably retcons the scene of Jason's window jump into a dream. In addition, near the beginning of Part III, a news broadcast reports the body count at eight, thus excluding Paul from this count.
That final shot of Mama Voorhees’ mummified mug looked so odd that I played back the scene and paused on it. It looks to me like her face has been removed from her skull and placed on another, perhaps living skull/person. Did Jason take Paul prisoner and turn him into a fresher object of worship than his mother’s remains? That would have been an incredible creepy ending to the film.
Friday the 13th Part 2 is better than the first movie. The writing and acting are improved and, because of that, at least some of Jason’s victims are decently developed and more likeable than their doomed counterparts from the original. When they are killed, we can mourn their deaths. While the whole “promiscuous young people get slaughtered” cliche bores the crap out of me, I found this sequel easier to watch than the original and even moderately entertaining. Not enough to watch it a second time, but good enough that I didn’t wail in despair over the 87 minutes of my life that I would never get back. That’s another improvement over the original.
Keep reading my bloggy thing for more cheesy B-movie reviews. I’ll be back tomorrow with some other stuff.
© 2014 Tony Isabella
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I strongly recommend Australian biologist Liz Kingsley's reviews of the Friday the 13th franchise at her B-movie review site, And You Call Yourself a Scientist at http://aycyas.com/ Unfortunately, due to technical problems, many of her wonderful reviews aren't currently accessible (she's working on it), but I believe all the Friday the 13th film links are working.ReplyDelete
For that matter, you'd probably enjoy some of her fellow B-Masters reviews, linked to at the B-Masters Cabal at http://b-masters.com/
My Uncle Mike worked on Parts 3 (in SUPER 3-D!!) and 4. Although 3 is cheesy as hell, it will always have a warm spot in my heart-he gave me his vhs studio screener, and it was the first in the series that I ever watched.ReplyDelete
Also, I kept asking for Dana Kimmell for Christmas, but Insanity Clause never brought her. Apparently I didn't hang those fishnet stockings by the chimney with enough care.
Somewhat OT, metafilter had a long article yesterday about a couple of studios that compete with The Asylum in the "mockbuster" category - Video Brinquedo of Brazil, aka Toyland Video, and Spark Plug Entertainment. Lots of B-or lower in the alphabet-movie fun linked here: http://www.metafilter.com/136997/CG-MockbustersReplyDelete
"If I want to watch mindless creatures who feed on humans without remorse, I’ll go watch Fox News." Snap.ReplyDelete
Do you have any plans to watch any of the Full Moon movies or any of the USA Up All Night staples from Troma or New World?
Not John...I'm open to recommendations.ReplyDelete
Perhaps. Although, I probably shouldn't have been so specific with the production/distribution companies....Delete
'Both the Puppet Master and Demonic Toys series weren't so bad. I haven't seen the cross-over of 'Puppet Master v Demonic Toys' yet. Puppet master has a pretty good story. Murderous dolls created by a man played by the wonderful William Hickey. Full Moon also had its hand in the Subspecies series which has an interesting take on the vampire genre.
You've qualified with "Fright" and I'm not sure much of what Troma could offer would qualify as 'fright'. Troma specializes in grotesquely absurd sexploitation produced cheaply. The Toxic avenger series comes to mind immediately for something maybe worth the time. Troma is B-movie royalty ruling over a kingdom of fantastic and horrid trash.
If there is one movie that I would recommend wholeheartedly is Dolls. Dolls (1987) is great. A girl is on a trip with her cold and distant parents ending at a house with more than they bargained for. A childhood favorite that I found to be a heartwarming horror.