Category Archives: Face off

Final Face-Off: Final Nightmare vs Final Friday

Happy Star Wars day! But let’s turn our attention to a couple of less boring franchises…

jayfred-2.0Before Freddy vs Jason, New Line had officially killed both of their bad guys off in a pair of, at best, divisive ‘final’ instalments…

Disappointing box office returns for both of the 1989 sequels (Jason Takes Manhattan and The Dream Child – $14 and $22million respectively) were the writing on the wall for cinemas biggest slasher names (Michael Myers was faring even less well at the time) and so New Line purchased the rights on Jason from Paramount and decided to lay both to rest over a couple of years.

Goodbye 80s, hello 90s: Nobody wanted a masked maniac or a quippy dream stalker on the screen anymore. Well, not for a few years anyway.

First on the chopping block was Freddy. It’s worth noting that the film was released in the UK in early 1992, a matter of weeks after Queen frontman Freddy Mercury died, so his passing was unfortunately paired with a string of TV commercials bellowing “Freddy’s dead!”

FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE

2.5 Stars 1991/18/85m

“They saved the best for last.”

A.k.a. A Nightmare on Elm Street 6

Director: Rachel Talalay / Writer: Michael De Luca / Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Lezlie Deane, Yaphet Kotto, Shon Greenblatt, Breckin Meyer, Ricky Dean Logan.

Body Count: 5


Ten years after the events of The Dream Child, Springwood is a childless burg after the relentless spate of weird deaths and ‘suicides’. Only one teenager remains, and he’s being tormented in his sleep by dreams of Freddy Krueger, who seems just a little reluctant to seal the deal and slay him.

Said teen wakes up beyond the city limits and is picked up by cops and dumped at a city juvie hall where in-house shrink-cum-social worker Maggie (Zane) works. New teen has amnesia, no I.D., and is sleep deprived. From the contents of his pockets, Maggie thinks it’s a good idea to drive him back to Springwood to jog the olde memory. It’s not a good idea at all, Maggie. It’s a bad idea.

With three juvie hall stowaways onboard, the group soon find out how weird Springwood is: Roseanne and Tom Arnold live there! Everyone else has gone loopy, there’s not a child or teenager in sight, and before long, the group are being stalked and done in by Freddy, who hitches a ride in Maggie’s subconscious (or some other unexplained shit) to escape the town where he can stalk and kill anew. ‘Inventive’ demises include a deaf kid’s head blown up when Freddy tinkers with his hearing aid and makes a lotta noise, and another is sucked into a Nintendo.

How does he do this? Well, Maggie is his daughter! Gasp! This alleged twist can be seen coming miles off, as John Doe soon suspects he is Krueger Jr., but no sooner than Maggie is introduced are her issues and ‘dreams’ are brought up. It’s pretty damn obvious it’s going to be her.

Anyway, with this knowledge, she is able to enter Freddy’s head – in 3D! –  pull him out like Nancy did all those years ago, and finish him off. Freddy is dead.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey…

*

JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY

3 Stars 1993/18/87m

“Evil has finally found a home.”

A.k.a. Friday the 13th Part IX

Director/Writer: Adam Marcus / Writers: Jay Hugeley & Dean Lorey / Cast: John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Steven Williams, Steven Culp, Erin Gray, Kane Hodder, Allison Smith, Billy Green Bush, Kipp Marcus, Rusty Schwimmer, Richard Gant, Leslie Jordan, Julie Michaels.

Body Count: approx 23

Laughter Lines:  “Looking to smoke some dope, have a little pre-marital sex and get slaughtered?”


A SWAT team take out Jason Voorhees, blowing him into numerous pieces. However, during the postmortem examination of his remains, his still-beating heart possesses the coroner, who takes a big bite out of it and becomes a vessel for Jason to use. Death for almost everyone else follows.

Meanwhile, Crystal Lake is celebrating the demise of their most notable resident, although news of the murders at the morgue and several others on a trail back to town worries local waitress Diana, who turns out to be Jason’s lil sister. Her daughter, Jessica, and infant granddaughter, are due to visit soon, but Diana fears the worst and contacts the baby’s oblivious father, Steven, to tell him all.

Sadly for Diana, “Jason” gets to her first, now bodyhopping at will. Steven is found with blood on his hands and arrested for the murder. In jail, he meets bounty hunter and Voorhees-expert Creighton Duke, who tells him that Jason can only be stopped by one of his bloodline and needs said family member to regain his usual form. Save Jessica and the baby, save the world. Well, Crystal Lake anyway.

Jason hops into the body of Jessica’s TV anchor boyfriend, killing half the cops in town, rampaging through a restaurant, before switching again for the big confrontation at the Voorhees house. Needless to say, Jessica is successful in killing her uncle and he is sucked into hell for good.

* * *

Both films are objectively bad, more so within their respective franchises. One the one hand, Freddy is presented in an even more watered down, high-comedy, low-scare way, with more jokes than kills, some cringey quips, and a whole lotta scattergun efforts to pad out his swan song.

Jason’s treatment is a severe retconning of what began as a B-movie about an axe murderer, now there’s not only the body-jumping mini-demon, but all manner of lore, magical daggers, and a sub-Evil Dead How to Kill Jason book in the mix. It’s barely a Friday the 13th film at all.

Next to one another – and I watched both over two days – Jason’s adventure is that tiny bit more enjoyable, BUT solely down to a couple of very good scenes, the rest is an undeniable suckfest. Freddy, on the other hand, has a good first ten or twenty minutes and some interesting origin tale stuff (undermined by the dismal 3D dream creature things), but it all seems so forced in. And at least The Final Friday doesn’t shy away from pushing it’s R-rating to the hilt, although some of it is too gooey.

Peter Jackson wrote one of the many scripts considered for The Final Nightmare, but the production team steered away from darker themes – possibly having been stung with their ill-conceived attempt to make The Dream Child a back-to-basics affair – and opt for a lighter route, which resulted in a very dry, low-body count film, where the chintzy 3D final ten minutes or so were pushed heavily in the TV spots, but ultimately are inconsequential and cheap looking. Freddy had ceased being scary after Dream Warriors, as his series outperformed the competition in bounds, but the bizarrely adopted concept of an undead child molester and killer had just become too big for its boots and no power in heaven or earth would ever make it scary again.

The film has a few cameos: Johnny Depp appears on TV frying an egg, and Alice Cooper is drafted in as Fred’s foster-dad. Breckin Meyer also marked his big screen debut here, and possibly regrets it. But if you’re going to end a film with a Greatest Hits compilation of highlights from the previous instalments, it’s going to make said movie look rubbish in comparison.

The Final Friday was shot in 1992 and shelved for almost a year, originally clocked in at two-and-a-half hours, and didn’t feature the best scene: This is, of course, the teen-campers aside. Test audiences complained there were no teenagers, so the genial little sidebar tale of two girls and a boy camping at Crystal Lake was added. All three are summarily slashed up (see this earlier Icky Way to Go), but it – as well as the opening seven or eight minutes – really recaptures the stalk n’ slash ambience of the 80s movies. After that, it’s downhill fast, although during this re-watch, I noticed the subtle (and not so) homoerotic nuances lurking beneath a few scenes; Adam Marcus allegedly ‘made up’ for the girls-only nudity rule of the previous eight movies with more naked guys and the very obscure shaving scene. Maybe Jason is gay?

jgth-1.2Of course, both characters were revived to duke it out ten years later in the phenomenally successful Freddy vs Jason, mercifully putting this pair of duds in the shadows, and both have since seen remakes that all but halted the franchises again.

I wouldn’t choose to watch either of these, and probably won’t for another decade or so, by which time I hope both will have seen at least one new film each.

Blurbs-of-interest: Beyond his Krueger role, Robert Englund was also in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie VernonHatchetHeartstopperThe Phantom of the Opera, and Urban Legend; Breckin Meyer was in Stag Night; Kane Hodder played Jason in Parts VIIX and was also in Behind the MaskChildren of the Corn V, all three Hatchet movies, and Hack!; Leslie Jordan was in Madhouse; Steven Culp had a cameo in Scream Queens; Adam Marcus later co-wrote Texas Chainsaw 3D.


Daily Double: Hayride vs. Hazard Jack

Merry Christmas you people! As I spent the day recuperating from the previous night’s work party and its 3am finish, while I wrapped up gifts and sipped alka-seltzer, I caught up on a couple of slasher films from my stack of to-be-watched.

My “gift” to you, therefore, is a double review of these undisputed classics*

Happy holidays!

*I dispute this

HAYRIDE

2 Stars  2012/18/90m

“Southern fried horror.”

A.k.a. Halloween Haunting (UK DVD); The Pitchfork Murders

Director/Writer: Terron R. Parsons / Cast: Richard Tyson, Jeremy D. Ivy, Sherri Eakin, Jeremy Sande, Corlandos Scott, Randy Hicks, Shannon Box.

Body Count: 23


“Sometimes something can happen that is so traumatic that it becomes a legend,” says Captain Morgan (Richard Tyson) around a campfire concerning the local legend of a crazed farmer who went ape and killed a load of people in the unending search for his runaway daughter…

Morgan runs the popular annual Haunted Hayride attraction at his farm in Alabama, where college boy Steven returns along with girlfriend Amanda to help out. Meanwhile, a recently apprehended serial killer has escaped from police custody a few miles away and appears to be axing, impaling, and pitchforking his way through randoms and the police who accost him.

Of course, we all know things will culminate on Halloween night when the hayride goes into action, Morgan’s extensive cast of actors and crew will provide ample fodder, and Steven and Amanda will be thrust into the center of things.

Well, this all happens in the usual way, although most of the killings are knife-in-the-back affairs or off camera completely, resulting in little bloodletting. When it is on screen, it’s a bit sloppy and amateurish to witness; a testament to Hayride as a whole unfortunately.

While the film is a bit of a dud in terms of production quality or originality, there are a couple of good scenes, namely when the killer attacks the hapless tourists with a chainsaw as they’re sat in the trailer, and a good performance from Ivy as Steven, channeling a youthful sounding (and looking) Matthew McConaughey (who is a Texan, I know).

<<< UK browsers be forewarned of the misleading artwork (check out that font!), this hockey masked chap is not the killer. Although, the maniac’s choice of face-wear is a burlap sack, so not entirely unworthy of Jason…

Hayride finally unleashes a twist that, while I didn’t predict, isn’t so out of the blue to throw you off. It’s ultimately too little too late, but handled well enough to elevate the overall experience a notch. Though, once the killer is reprimanded, the survivors share a kiss and a joke (!) and are ambushed by another survivor who’s freaking out over the seventeen murders that have just occurred. They’re response: “Calm down, we know.”

I don’t quite remember the “two dozen murders” the deputy announces (several of the 23 noted occur in a flashback), but Pitchfork dude was quite handy at snapping necks and skewering cops, it’s totally possible. Hayride 2 has since followed.

 

* * *

HAZARD JACK

   1.5 Stars  2013/15/80m

“Fear has a new name.”

Director: David Worth / Writers: David Worth & Doug Vandegrift / Cast: Amanda Maddox, Kevin Sporman, Alison Lani, Macauley Gray, Jason O’Neil Hudson, Aimee Bello, Zachary Meyer, Deanna Meske/Mandy Lane, Josh Jacques, Jeremy Ebenstein, Ashley Walsh, Daniel Rivera, Quincy Taylor, Will Harris.

Body Count: 10


Pretty much every Stock Background Character there ever was crops up in this cheapo quickie, in which an unlikely group of college friends descend on an abandoned hospital for a game of paintball.

Residing there already is a hulking veteran with PTSD who is susceptible to violent outbursts (of course, this occurs in slasherdom after all, where all mental illnesses are fatal to those around said individuals), loses his job in construction, and delights in torturing a woman he’s abducted.

The young folk come, banter, strip off (yawn), pick teams in anticipation of a midnight kick-off, and so spend the remaining hours having sex with each other and getting murdered by Hazard Jack. So no paintball at all.

Victims include two chesty blonde chicks (Barbie and Muffy!), two jock jerks, a gay couple who repeatedly mention they’re respectively Latino and Jewish, the black guy who wants to be a director and Asian girlfriend who wants to be his starlet, the normal (dull) couple, a dweeby voiced geek, and his new friend, suspect-lezzer, Stella. Somewhat surprisingly, the booby, sexy, jerky ones who disrobed are done in first: Nailgunned, cleavered, drilled, but in spite of the declaration on the box, it’s not that gory. In fact, I don’t remember this even happening:

The film begins pandering towards the non-PC: the Latino gay chap is burned alive in a church, the lesbian is ‘cured’ by sex with a man, and is thus allowed to survive intact. The message is depressingly clear: Lesbianism isn’t real and can be undone; gay men should be gruesomely slain.

Things wrap up all too quickly and nearly, leaving a whopping four survivors – the only ones afforded any semblance of depth, whereas their friends are just obsessed with sex (bar the gays, they remain fully clothed at all times). A bit of gusto as they fight back at the end comes too late to save it.

I normally hate quippy killers in slasher films, but this could’ve done with a few witty military puns from the loon as he dispatched the victims. As he is, masked, slow, and invincible in a sub-Jason manner, there’s just not that much-needed hook.

* * *

Not the merriest Christmas by any stretch, but where Hayride might lack the claret and nudity of Hazard Jack, the latter is just a litany of lazy, annoying cliches. Still, I plan on never watching either again, so it doesn’t matter.

Merry Christmas! xoxoxo

More almost but not-quite slasher flicks

Another handful of horrors that hang out by the dance floor where all the slasher flicks are partying and flirt with them, trying to blend even though they don’t really fit in… See the last lot here.

DEAD SILENCE 2007

“From the makers of Saw” came this seriously underrated and unsuccessful scare flick, in which young couple Ryan Kwanten (later in True Blood) and Laura Regan (from My Little Eye) receive a creepy ventriloquist’s doll in the mail that somehow kills her, sending him back to their hometown of Raven’s Faire, a town apparently cursed by the ghost of Mary Shaw, subject of an Elm Street-like nursery rhyme that states if you encounter her in your dreams, don’t scream or you’ll lose your tongue, just as Regan did.

Kwanten’s investigations, hampered by greasy detective – and ex-New Kid on the Block – Donnie Wahlberg, seem to generate a fresh wave of creepy deaths and there’s one helluva twist at the end that I was totally blind to!

Why it’s not a slasher flick really: it’s a ghost story with a body count really, shades of Darkness Falls as well as Krueger-town (there was an additional murder in the deleted scenes) creep in, but not enough to swap sub-genres and they’re not likely to make a sequel…

DONKEY PUNCH 2008

Three northern gals holidaying in Mallorca hook up with a quartet of private school guys crewing on a luxury yacht and decide to party on the boat. Sex and drugs dominate and one of the guys decides to test a sexual urban legend – the Donkey Punch – which backfires, killing one of the girls. The boys vote to throw her overboard and say she fell and when the girls refuse to go along with it, a series of intensified confronations and misunderstandings lead to a second accidental death, then escalate to murder…

Why it’s not a slasher flick really: most of the deaths are accidents (including a neat outboard demise) and one person commits suicide. There’s a final girl of sorts but this is totally a Brit-grit situation flick.

HOUSE OF 9 2005

Another UK export; in this cut-price Battle Royale, nine strangers are abducted and wake up in a locked down house and informed that when only one remains alive, they will exit with £5million. Dennis Hopper is an Irish priest with a dodgy accent, Kelly Brook a shy dancer, Chardonnay from Footballer’s Wives a socialite, a rapper, an American detective, married couple and so on…

They argue about the situation until it leads to accidental death and murder, whittling down numbers until only one remains and exits. Cue semi-clever twist.

Why it’s not a slasher flick really: as with Donkey Punch, it’s all situational, there’s no one killer offing everybody one by one.

THE LAMP 1987

I love this cheesecake 80s horror film about a killer genie – or Djinn – which inhabits ye olde lamp that dim-witted, dungaree-wearing heroine Alex rubs when it arrives at her father’s museum. A field trip, a dumb teen idea to spend the night there (in a fucking museum…), Djinn-possession and the teens, some staff members and a couple of meathead racists find themselves done in in a variety of proto-Final Destination ways, some of which are suitably gruesome and clever, let down only by bargain basement effects work and a Djinn that looks like a Kinder Egg toy.

Why it’s not a slasher flick really: it’s a close one: there’s a lot in common with the likes of The Initiation and any number of collegiate prank slasher flicks but in the end it varies itself out of the equation.

THE UGLY 1997

A defence psychologist appointed to reassess a murderer, who proceeds to fill her in on his traumatic childhood and the slayings that followed. Despite warnings from the creepy institution doctor the shrink is soon sucked into his tragic tale of a nasty mother, school bullies and his one friend. All the blood on show is like black motor oil from a bunch of extras who are slashed up with a straight razor. Things go all Se7en with a downbeat twist ending, but it’s typically arty in the Australasian way.

Why it’s not a slasher flick really: a serial killer flick with grisly murders peppered throughout; no busloads of dense teenangers here.

You can’t always get what you want

As Depeche Mode once sang, I just can’t get enough. 500 plus slasher films and I’m still unsatisfied and probably forever will be until some of the films-within-films are made a reality… Do any of them exist? Did they ever? Will they ever? No.

Anyway, in case you can’t get enough either, here are some of the slasher films that will never be. And never were.

Regardé:

GARDEN TOOL MASSACRE (1988) from The Blob

I really love this one… Girl on left: “Did you know a horrible murder happened in this house ten years ago tonight?” Girl on right: “No way!”

Camp Counsellor: “Isn’t it a bit late to be trimming the bushes?” Then: “Wait…hockey season ended months ago!”

In just two clips amounting to about forty seconds, Garden Tool Massacre looked like it would’ve been proper amazing! Shame The Blob ruined it by killing the audience.

Probable star-rating if it was real and as good as this all the way to the end: 4 Stars

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HOT BLOODED (1988) from Cut

starring: Vanessa Turnbill, Brad the Stuntman

The title card from the unfinished, cursed Australian slasher film directed by Kylie Minogue’s tyrannical director, who is offed by one of the cast members…

The film’s trademark psycho, Scarman, becomes imprisoned by the cumulative creative energy put into the production blah, blah… Actually, they didn’t have a better idea to explain away the lack of the killer’s identity. But Cut is still awesome.

Probable star-rating if it was real and as good as this all the way to the end: 2.5 Stars

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STAB (1998) from Scream 2

starring: Tori Spelling, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Jolie, Heather Graham, Luke Wilson

The movie based on the book The Woodsboro Murders by Gale Weathers premiered to a gruesome murder at the beginning of Scream 2 – but it was only Jada Pinkett so no biggie.

Wes Craven said that the he intended to show how Scream would look in the hands of a talentless hack, which, arguably, he showed us himself a few years later in Cursed.

Stab is one of the few film-within-a-film slashers to have generated its own franchise: Stab 2 based on the events that occur in Scream 2 and then a fictional second follow up that was plagued by the murders in Scream 3, Stab 3: Return to Woodsboro…

Probable star-rating if it was real and as good as this all the way to the end: 3.5 Stars

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And the others I couldn’t/didn’t get screencaps for…

MURDER CAMP from Matinee

About the only exciting moment from this dull mystery flick is the virtual shot-for-shot recreation of Kevin Bacon’s demise from Friday the 13th.

Probable star-rating if it was real and as good as this all the way to the end: 3 Stars

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SLEEPOVER CAMP MASSACRE XIV from Bloody Murder

These fakies really have a thing for the summer camp subset – and if there were fourteen frickin’ Sleepover Camp Massacre movies I’d so be there! However, for this lame little in-joke, they actually played clips from the dismal Fever Lake instead…

Probable star-rating if it was real and as good as this all the way to the end: 2 Stars

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CHUCKY GOES PSYCHO from Seed of Chucky

Jason Flemyng is a Santa who gets a belly full of Chucky’s (and Tiffany’s) knife in a quick scene shown in the last Chucky movie for the time being. Now, had the dream sequence at the beginning of the film been a part of it, it would’ve been a whole lot better.

Probable star-rating if it was real and as good as this all the way to the end: 3 Stars

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THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE FACTOR PART III: DEATH STRIKES THRICE from Kolobos

Another largely forgettable flick made better by this amusing little in-joke about the self-absorbed actress and the crappy slasher franchise she stars in. Apparently someone is killed with a tennis racket.

Probable star-rating if it was real and as good as this all the way to the end: 1 Stars

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CO-ED FRENZY (1981) from Blow Out

John Travolta is the sound-man looking for a better scream for this lazy looking sorority hack n’ slash affair where the shower victim whimpered like she was on the world’s tamest rollercoaster. Weirdly, it plays almost exactly like Fatal Pulse

Probable star-rating if it was real and as good as this all the way to the end: 1.5 Stars

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RANDOM MAN-WITH-SICKLE FILM (1980) from He Knows You’re Alone

starring Russell Todd!!

The old couple-making-out-in-the-car opener is thwarted by a pantyhose-masked loon with a sickle who hangs Russell Todd from Friday the 13th Part 2 from an overhanging tree and chases his shrieky girlfriend to a barn.

However, all is ruined when a young woman watching in the audience is knifed in the back by the sweaty-browed guy in the row behind.

Probable star-rating if it was real and as good as this all the way to the end: 2 Stars

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And one I wish existed in any form…

Someone sent this E-Card to me at Halloween – I don’t know who made it or where it came from but it rules! How awesome would Math Camp be? Calculus, fractions, all bound together by a psycho on the loose. Want!

Most wanted: Math Camp Massacre Part XXII notwithstanding, it’s got to be Garden Tool Massacre.

Ipso Facto – Documentaries of the Slasher Realm

Way back when I first experienced that wee-hours viewing of Friday the 13th in my folks’ lounge and became enchanted with the idea of ski-masked madmen slaying promiscuous teenagers, there were only a couple of academic texts around; no almanacs, film guides or documentaries. The only mention of slasher films in the books I had for my Film Theory degree was that they were “hate-women films!” (exclamation mark included).

After Scream and the contemporaries that were washed up in the tide it created, the genre became accessible once again and in our age of curiosity about things of yore that pre-dated the behind-the-curtain-ness of DVD, it wasn’t long before all the people who grew up on the golden age were old enough to write and even film their own love letters to the genre. That’s what Vegan Voorhees is about.

So, books beget DVD featurettes and eventually came the retrospective documentary features, released on anniversaries of eve’s of high profile “remakes” (that word again!!) here are four of the five I have. The fifth? It was a Channel 4 Mark Kermode thing that didn’t venture beyond the big franchises or have much to say about them…

goingtopieces1GOING TO PIECES: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE SLASHER FILM

2006/18/88m

Field Director: Jeff McQueen

The only one to have started life as a book, Adam Rockoff’s overview of the genre up until 1986 was never available in the UK so I can only judge by what’s on the screen, which, for all we know is advantageous because it’s a great hour and a half retrospective, chronicling the humble beginnings of human fascination with voyeurism of suffering, quickly on to Psycho, the Italian films of Bava et al, and going in-depth for Halloween, Friday the 13th, Prom Night and A Nightmare on Elm Street, whilst giving nods to The Prowler (including at-the-time unavailable footage from the uncut version), Graduation Day, Happy Birthday to Me, Terror Train, The Slumber Party Massacre and Sleepaway Camp – at which point I would like to add that Felissa Rose is not only beautiful but makes good counterpoints when the legendary parental backlash over the Silent Night, Deadly Night commercials is explored.

Later chapters look at the late 80s/early 90s decline and then re-emergence with key cast members and directors dropping anecdotes and theorizing about the genre they contributed to. And it must also be said that while I can’t call myself a fan of Rob Zombie’s output, I quite like the man himself; he’s well-versed, articulate and, like Felissa, presents a good argument for horror in general. Amy Holden Jones also has a lot to say about unfounded criticism of the films by the Siskell and Ebert crowd – their unintentionally amusing TV diatribe is covered: “these movies hate the independence of women!”

Going to Pieces is best appreciated from a nostalgic point of view – it is genuinely nice to hear what some of the directors have to say, given that it’s a common myth that they only did it for the money or as a stepping stone to greater things, unaware that (for many of them) they were making the most notable films of their respective careers.

Betsy is still flabbergasted at the success of the film she thought was a piece of shit.

Betsy is still flabbergasted at the success of the film she thought was a piece of shit

Who else turns up: Armand Mastroianni, Paul Lynch, Herb Freed (“It was good – but it’s good that it was”), Lilyan Chauvin, Fred Walton.

Triv: some poor TV movie actress got ditched shortly before Prom Night began shooting when Simcom secured Jamie Lee Curtis. Bet there’s a few darts in that poster on someone’s wall somewhere… Elsewhere, Tom Savini states that he sees The Prowler‘s effects as his best work.

HALLOWEEN: 25 YEARS OF TERRORhalloween251

2006/18/84m

Director: Stefan Hutchison / Writers: Stefan Hutchison & Anthony Masi

On to the big boys we go with the first icon-centric love-in, filmed around the titular covention that celebrated a quarter-of-a-century since the (screen)birth of one Michael Myers in – more importantly the year of my birth – 1978.

Despite covering my second favourite franchise, I was less impressed with this one that I was with the documentaries for Friday the 13th and Elm Street. Possibly because it came first, there’s little sense of structure or – dare I say it – effort that went into the other two and also Going to Pieces.

PJ Soles narrates, which is great, and there’s some convention-set talking heads with Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell amongst others but it feels a bit fleeting, like a local TV news crew dropped in to grab a quick word. Meanwhile, Jamie Lee Curtis appears only in archive interview footage. Late series mainstay Mustapha Akkad takes the reigns from John Carpenter and Debra Hill after Halloween III is all but apologised for and, in turn, makes public his regret that Halloween 5 was rushed into production too soon.

There’s some insight and box office blah, interviews with some fairly unhinged fans (one of whom goes so far as to ape Soles’ “see anything you like?” moment for the camera – and then wins a contest to appear in what was then known as Halloween 9) and Marianne Hagan laments the troubles that plagued Halloween 6 but it all stops short of Rob Zombie’s redux, which would have made for some interesting insights from fans and series alumni alike.

Attention-holding enough for what felt more like a few DVD featurettes strung together to flog that thousandth reissue of the original, which was included in the 2-disc pack.

pjsolesWho else turns up: Brian Andrews, Tom Atkins, J.C. Brandy, Jeff Burr, John Carl Buechler, Jason Paul Collum, Charles Cyphers, Chris Durand, Gloria Gifford, Sasha Jenson, Nancy Loomis, Brad Loree, Kim Newman, Rick Rosenthal, Don Shanks, Beau Starr, Tommy Lee Wallace, George P. Wilbur.

Triv: Rick Rosenthal says he shot the hot-tub murder scene from Halloween II in a thong! Marianne Hagan talks about the test screenings for Halloween 6, where an ‘articulate 14-year-old’s’ opinion that “the ending sucked” ensured re-shoots for two thirds of the film! Rob Zombie goes on to detest the process, commenting that when he was 14 nobody gave a shit what he thought about re-editing Jaws! Danielle Harris had a creepy stalker. There were multiple masks used in H20 as various big-wigs cyclically disapproved of them.

hisnamewasjasonHIS NAME WAS JASON: 30 YEARS OF FRIDAY THE 13TH

2009/90m

Director: Daniel Farrands / Writers: Anthony Masi & Thommy Hutson

Released to cash-in on the impending Friday the 13th “reboot” and shown on TV in the US – and strangely released in the UK in April 2010 – like, thanks now

There’s more in common with Going to Pieces than the Halloween doc, as Tom Savini presents a segmented skate through the merry history of Camp Crystal Lake, starting with a superfast overview of films 1-11, appreciating Jason’s greatest hits, the score, the mask, pretty much everything you learnt from Peter Bracke’s Crystal Lake Memories book with a little less cast interaction, although Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King and (swoon) Amy Steel appear so who cares about the rest? The lovely Felissa appears once again out of mutual respect for a fellow summer camp slayer and everyone attempts to replicate the ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma sound with varying degrees of accuracy.

Several horror bloggers get screentime to admire the best of Big J but there’s even less technical information here than in the Halloween doc, as if the whole project was dumbed down to suck in airheaded fanboys who only care about the method by which various teenagers are disposed of.

The ever-beautiful Kevin Spirtas appears...

The ever-beautiful Kevin Spirtas appears…

That said, Friday is the brand I champion the most. It’s organically the classic slasher series, despite its commercial and critical failures throughout the years, it’s like the kid you love just a little more than your other two, who might be smarter and better turned out, but Friday the 13th needs only to don that puppy dog expression and I’m sold.

The second disc includes extended interviews, fan films and the like. Was VeVo asked to contribute? No. *sulks*

...And Stu Charno even beginning to resemble Jason from Part 2

Who else turns up: Diane Almeida, Erich Anderson, Judie Aronson, Diana Barrows, Richard Brooker, John Carl Buechler, Chuck Campbell, Gloria Charles, Jensen Daggett, Steve Dash, Darcy DeMoss, Todd Farmer, John Furey, Warrington Gillette, CJ Graham, Seth Green (!), Kane Hodder, James Isaac, David Kagen, Elizabeth Kaitan, Ken Kirzinger, Paul Kratka, Adam Marcus, Tom McLoughlin, Lawrence Monoson, Camilla & Carey More, Lar Park Lincoln, Catherine Parks, Amanda Righetti, Shavar Ross, John Shepherd, Danny Steinmann, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Russell Todd, Debisue Voorhees, Ted White, Larry Zerner.

Triv: Darcy DeMoss’ murder scene was actually filmed underwater.

neversleepagainNEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY

2010/239m

Directors: Daniel Farrands & Andrew Kasch / Writer: Thommy Hutson

Back in the 80s, Roger Ebert said in his review of Elm Street 3 that the Krueger franchise was like a high-rent version of the Friday the 13th saga… Never more is that represented than here in this staggering FOUR HOUR retrospective of the eight Freddy films prior to the 2010 remake.

Narrated by the wonderful Heather Langenkampenschultzenburger and punctuated by stop-motion interludes, each and every film, plus that horrendous TV series, is explored to maximum effect, uniting nearly all the principal cast members who reflect on their time on set, what they thought of the films and the appeal of Freddy himself. Plus the riddle of Elm Street 2‘s notorious gay subtext is finally resolved – yes, it was intended to be a low-key theme, although it seemed most of those involved did not notice at the time.

Wes Craven and Robert Shaye talk freely about their dispute over the sequel rights and, on the second disc, the present cast members regurgitate memorable lines that recreates the saga from beginning to end and there’s a set visit which takes us to 1428 Elm Street, Nancy’s school and Tina’s house amongst others as well as extended interviews that cast a grim shadow over the then-incoming remake.

Comparatively, this grandiose slab of nostalgia wins hands down for sheer effort to please the fans, but could you watch it more than once? It took me three sittings just to get through it.

Ain't gonna sleep no more, no more

Ain’t gonna sleep no more, no more

Who else turns up: It would actually be easier to say who didn’t participate – almost every main cast member is interviewed, the only obvious exception to me being Ronee Blakely, who avoided it all by getting good and loaded.

Triv: For Jennifer’s TV-nightmare in Dream Warriors, Dick Cavett was allowed to choose his interviewee and so picked Zsa Zsa Gabor, citing her as the dumbest person he’d ever met, who he’d never have on his show and who he’d gleefully see slashed by Freddy.

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All this shows that we are much indebted to Daniel Farrands, Thommy Hutson and Anthony Masi for all they’ve put into three out of four of these documentaries and Jeff Katz for appearing in, quite possibly, all of them, symbolic of their love and respect for a genre most people couldn’t have cared less about. We love you.

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