Tag Archives: Friday the 13th

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

4 Stars  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  3 Stars

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

3.5 Stars  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  4 Stars

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.


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.

*Gasp!* It’s you!

Thanks to my unexplained fixation with the TV series Fame, not so long ago I posted a picture of Larry Zerner – Shelly from Friday the 13th Part III – and, lo and behold, a later 1983 episode ‘Love is the Question’ revealed his buddy and star of the very same film. It’s Dana Kimmell!

danafameHere she is as Melanie, performing a strange move with Leroy in the background. Melanie twists her ankle about 30 seconds later and hobbles off, shares a bit of dialogue with Danny and Jimmy Osmond (!) as a vocal prodigy with special needs (!!). She returns at the end to do some dodgy ballet and that’s it. Guess she flunked dance…

Valley of the Cheapjack Franchises: BLOODY MURDER

Another cheapjacker that jacks Friday the 13th for its material: Bloody Murder and its sequel and spin-off are probably the most blatant photocopies of Jason’s adventures at camp going, so much so that there’s even a backstory concerning a hockey-masked psycho killer…

bm1BLOODY MURDER

1.5 Stars  1999/15/84m

A.k.a. Scream Bloody Murder (UK)

“They thought it was just a game.”

Director: Ralph Portillo / Writer: John R. Stevenson / Cast: Jessica Morris, Christelle Ford, Patrick Cavanaugh, Michael Stone, Peter Guillemette, Justin Martin, Dale Smigelski, Tracy Pacheco, Lindsey Leigh, William Winter, Michael Proshaka.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “If it comes down to it, I’m willing to be with you carnally.”


Teenage counsellors fixing up Camp Placid Pines hear the legends of Trevor Moorhouse, a hockey-masked, chainsaw-for-an-arm maniac who likes to disembowel the local population. Nevertheless, they decide to play a bizarre game of hide n’ seek (called Bloody Murder) and shortly after some of them – I stress some – start disappearing, thus giving rebirth to the legends and allowing drippy heroine Julie to do a bit of detective work.

Some really shameless elements are lobbed into the mix with a so-called red-herring suspect that a toddler could figure out, and a Randy clone who makes the group watch Sleepover Camp Massacre XIV (actually clips from the just-as-crummy Fever Lake) and goes so far as to comment on the prolonged running time of the movie being “unusual for films of this genre.” The prime suspect happens to be named Jason. How much groaning can you exhibit during 84 minutes?

Julie – whose dad went to the camp years earlier – uses her laptop to figure out the mystery but the killer turns out to be someone else who we didn’t really pay much attention to… Up to this point, the film offers up clues to keep you looking the other way, but the whole production is juvenile, almost goreless, and lazy, with the worst news coming in the form of a dumb twist that virtually promises a sequel.

One good line: “My older sister swears she knows someone whose brother disappeared up here years ago…” And that, my friends, is how rumours get started.

bloodymurder2BLOODY MURDER 2: CLOSING CAMP

2002/15/82m  2.5 Stars

A.k.a. Halloween Camp

“The second cut is the deepest.”

Director: Rob Spera / Writer: John Stevenson / Cast: Katy Woodruff, Amanda Magarian, Kelly Gunning, Arthur Benjamin, Tiffany Shepis, Ray Smith, Tom Mullen, Lane Anderson.

Body Count: 8


Extraordinarily, Bloody Murder did something right to generate this decent follow up, easily the best of its ropey franchise, which takes us back to Camp Placid Pines five years after the previous incident (and ironically the same number of years that separate the events of the first two Friday the 13th films).

This time, the teen counsellors have made it through the summer, bid farewell to the campers and are now locking down the place for the off-season. Amongst the group is Tracy, whose brother Jason disappeared first time round, a fact she feels the need to remind everybody of to the point ad nauseam. Stories of Trevor Moorhouse circulate and are dismissed as sub-standard summer camp myths by the know-all who becomes the first victim of a masked, machete-favouring killer in a ghoulish plastic mask.

It should have been easy to avoid the potholes the first film continually buckled its wheels into, and Closing Camp starts out sticking to the genre rules like flypaper with the standard teens having sex, wandering off and getting slaughtered amidst repeated nods to ‘the rules’ of horror movies, yet again featuring the black guy who bemoans that he won’t last long.

This all entertains for the most part but the after-school theatrics of Tracy’s detective work mar the payoff as similar turns did in the first film and as the film moves into the third day with several deaths and disappearances, you wonder why the remaining kids aren’t just put up in a local hotel instead of hanging around the death camp and – unbelievably – splitting up to look for clues!

Once this season’s killer is revealed and the motive spurted like Betsy Palmer’s outtakes, it’s followed by almost exactly the same twist as first time around! Strangely, the film elects a sort of secondary final girl who survives along with Tracy and, as was the case in #1, there is only one female fatality. What is this, BM, pro-feminist slashing?

Merit for half-succeeding in getting it right…if only they’d continued with the same enthusiastic outlook.

graveyardTHE GRAVEYARD

1.5 Stars  2006/84m

A.k.a. Bloody Murder 3

“Fear is buried here.”

Director: Michael Feifer / Writer: Michael Hurst / Cast: Lindsay Ballew, Markus Potter, Patrick Scott Lewis, Lief Lillehaugen, Erin Michelle, Trish Coren, Chris Stewart, Eva Derrek, Natalie Denise Sperl, Sam Bologna, Mark Salling.

Body Count: 8


Another teen prank goes fatally wrong in this sequelly-spin-off instalment of the “series”. Puck from Glee is the victim after a fake scare in a cemetery, which ends with him impaling himself.

Several years later, his six friends reunite at Camp Placid Pines, where a masked killer who holds them equally responsible begins the olde eliminado game. Good girl Michelle tries to keep things together and re-acclimate Bobby – who took all the blame and spent five years inside – to the rest of the group, while ringleader Jack seems more interested in reigniting his failed relationship with Allie, even after his new girlfriend goes missing (read: is murdered in the shower).

Cue red-herrings tossed in at every given opportunity, although it’s pretty damn obvious who the killer is before long and it seems physically impossible for them to have flit between murders and group searches for missing buddies. Other characters appear only to be killed off minutes later and, of course, no modern DTV slasher flick would be complete without T&A and a butch lesbian. There’s also a crap Sheriff who prioritises a burglary over an alleged murder and is credited for saving the day at the end!

Any credibility gained in the so-so Bloody Murder 2 is tossed into the campfire, thanks to dire plotting and god-awful dialogue, which rarely strays beyond “quit screwing around” mentality but casually throws a “maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon…” into the mix as things go from bad to worse for the viewer of this rubbish. I never thought I’d miss Trevor Moorhouse…

Overall-blurbs-of-interest: genre regular Tiffany Shepis was also in Dead Scared, Home Sick and Scarecrow as well as a blink cameo in Detour; Mark ‘Puck’ Salling was also in Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering.

halloweencamp2

Bloody Murder 2 was re-titled Halloween Camp for UK DVD and was ‘followed’ by Adam & Evil under the bizarro name of Halloween Camp 2: Scream if You Wanna Die Faster! ‘Trevor vs. Jason’ indeed…

Icky ways to go: Folding Bed Back Break

From the camp-tastic Freddy vs. Jason, A-holey boyfriend Trey, ahem, “finishes” with his g/f Gibb and immediately dispatches her to the shower: “Babe! You know I don’t like to be touched afterwards!” Usually, it’s the chick in the shower who is doomed but in this instance, Jason rightly chooses to teach nasty Trey an interesting lesson about having sex in your girlfriend’s best friend’s dad’s bed…

fvjIndicative of the tone the film adopts, it’s a new one for the J-man, who, incidentally, kills almost all of the cast, leaving Freddy just one slaying.

“I’ve seen enough horror movies to know that any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly.”

f13-6FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES

 4 Stars  1986/18/83m

“Nothing this evil ever dies.”

Director/Writer: Tom McLoughlin / Cast: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Kerry Noonan, Renee Jones, Tom Fridley, Darcy DeMoss, CJ Graham, Vincent Guastaferro, Ron Palillo.

Body Count: 18

Dire-logue: “Don’t piss me off, Junior, or I will repaint this office with your brains!”


The general rule of sequels – not least horror sequels – is that they get progressively worse. Although, it’s also worth pointing out that the more you make, the more likely it is that as quality spirals, there’ll be a pleasant bump along the way. Of course, loving slasher films means that I don’t subscribe to either of these theories and will watch any Revenge of, Return of, Rise of, Re-Return of sequel going, no matter what numerical suffix it has.

Friday the 13th Part VI is a case in point of the multi-sequel that takes its rinse-and-repeat formula and manages to make familiar territory interesting, thanks to director/scribe Tom McLoughlin’s energetic script, which was intended to feature an apt thirteen murders (extended to accommodate studio wishes and probably pad out the running time – it’s the shortest Friday).

jason1Sometime after the events of A New Beginning, Tommy Jarvis (this time played by Thom Mathews), drives to Crystal Lake, now re-named Forest Green, to incinerate Jason’s corpse in an attempt to gain closure on his awful past. His nervous friend Hawes tags along to offer words of discouragement as a familiar storm blows in. In a fit of fury, Tommy jabs Jason’s corpse (strangely un-cremated as we were told in Part V) with a steel pole that is subsequently struck by lightning, reanimating the J-man yet again!

With his buddy becoming Jason’s first victim in X number of years, Tommy races into town to alert the cops and instantly makes an enemy of no-shit Sheriff Garris, who locks him away, assuming the boy is just acting out on his traumatic psychosis. Meanwhile, Jason takes out a few more people, including some dorky paintballing execs and the head counsellors of the recently re-opened Camp Crystal Lake, I mean, Camp Forest Green.

jason2Yep, camp is back on and this time there are even kids about! This is one element that richly enhances the likeability of Jason Lives. While Parts 1 and 2 were set at camp, neither were operating and, summer camp is what Friday the 13th is all about. Trees, cabins, pontoons and open fires – it’s all here.

It just so happens that one of the four remaining counsellors is the Sheriff’s daughter Megan, who, unlike pop, takes an instant liking to Tommy, who is released and flees back to the cemetery to try and prove that Jason has risen, only to find the grave covered up, albeit now containing Tommy’s friend Hawes. Garris ejects Tommy from town and warns him to stay away permanently while Jason collects additional victims on his way back to the camp.

jason3jason8

The murders are discovered and blamed on Tommy, who joins forces with Megan to entrap Jason and send him back to the bottom of Crystal Lake where he belongs. Once Jay finally encounters some horny teenagers, things kick in to gear. There are some creative murders and back to basics stalking sequences and, although the bloodletting is comic-styled and of reduced effect (despite still being cut down), the film plays well to its simplified approach.

friday the 13th part vi jason lives darcy demoss nikkiCase in point is with the murders of counsellors Sissy and Paula. Jason is lurking around camp, scaring some of the little kids who inadvertently wake up and see him. We know he’s there. They’re paranoid that something’s up… They play a card game called ‘Camp Blood’… After Sissy disappears (snatched out of the window and beheaded), one of the campers discovers a bloody machete and brings it to Paula, who escorts her back to bed and returns to her own cabin to find that the machete has vanished and the phone is out… Then the door swings open…

It’s an excellently directed scene featuring a sympathetic character versus the boogeyman.

Obviously, Tommy and Megan return to save the kids and fight Jason, the Sheriff learns the truth and an Alice Cooper rocker plays out over the credits: He’s back! The man behind the mask! One of several Cooper songs to feature on the soundtrack.

Jason Lives is the (intentionally) funniest film of the series; wisely avoiding out and out parody – save for the ‘Jason does James Bond’ opening – and opting for a classic gothic feel to its horror opus: floating mists, the lightning storm, the creepy cemetery and the shadowy trees. Oddly, it’s about the one entry to feature no nudity but you’d hardly notice, even during the requisite sex scene. The characters are drawn much more sharply than other instalments, where they exist only to die gruesomely. McLoughlin largely avoids stereotypes, squeezing nice attributes out of even the bit-parters, although Cooke’s heroine isn’t ultimately successful in her role.

My third favourite of the series after the original two, things went serious again for The New Blood as theatrical grosses dipped further. But this one is 80’s slasher perfection: big hair, pop metal, and a horror icon.

jason9

Blurbs-of-interest: Tom Fridley was in Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge; Darcy DeMoss was in Return to Horror High; Renée Jones was in Deadly Lessons.

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