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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.


Hell hath no fury

URBAN LEGENDS: BLOODY MARY

3.5 Stars  2005/15/90m

“Mary’s evil is beyond legend.”

Director: Mary Lambert / Writers: Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris / Cast:  Kate Mara, Robert Vito, Tina Lifford, Ed Marinaro, Lillith Fields, Michael Coe, Nancy Everhard, Audra Lea Keener, Nate Herd, Brandon Sacks.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “That’s not even a real urban legend. That’s just that movie Candyman.”


With tenuous links to the previous films in the series and very few urban legends left to kill off teenagers with, Bloody Mary is, to date, the last film of its name, although the planned fourth instalment (Ghosts of Goldfield) was un-linked to the Urban Legend banner (ho ho ho) as Sony wanted to explore furthering the franchise on their own terms. That was almost a decade ago.

In Salt Lake City, many miles from the campuses of Pendleton and Alpine Universities, high school journalist Samantha (Mara) and friends skip their Homecoming night festivities in favour of a slumber party where they share the local myth of Mary Banner, a teenage girl who disappeared in 1969 after an altercation with some high school jocks. Having run an expose on the football team at her school, Samantha isn’t presently in anyone’s good books. That night, she and her friends disappear from the house.

A few days later, Sam reappears, claiming she and her pals awoke in a basement far away and had to walk back to town. Although she has no proof, she and twin brother David accurately suspect a trio of jocks.

Soon after, said jocks – and a cheerleader – begin dying in strange circumstances: A vain guy is cooked alive on a tanning bed (before Final Destination 3 did it), the girl squeezes a spot which turns out to contain spider eggs that hatch countless arachnids from her face, resulting in her smashing into a mirror and filleting herself, and another takes a piss on an electric fence with sizzling results.

Meanwhile, Sam is being haunted by visions of Bloody Mary. She and David track down one of Mary’s friends, time-warped hippie Grace (Lifford), who thinks that finding and burying Mary’s remains will put an end to the carnage, though not before she’s done offing the responsible parties, who convolutedly all turn out to be the offspring of those involved in the ’69 incident. Grace tells them “the sins of the father are visited upon the son.”

Bloody Mary does nothing new within its confines, virtually everything that happens can be seen driving down a long straight lane towards us long before it arrives, headlights of full beam, honking the horn as it comes. There is one rather shocking turn that never seems to be processed correctly by the remaining characters, and the non-central roles aren’t really ironed out in any memorable way to make us care for the victims: They exist to be dry-roasted, electrocuted, and slashed to ribbons.

In spite of these shortcomings and a definitive drop in budgetary quality, UL3 is still plenty fun, with enough going on to keep you entertained for 90 minutes, a few more niche legends and a less obvious revelation as to the identity of ‘the final assailant’ would’ve helped but as it is, fun times for any slumber party.

Prequel Showdown

“We gotta get right back to where we started from…” so sang Maxine Nightingale, thus with all the sequels out of the way, we’re pushing the clock back, waaaay back to the before-land of prequel city…

A comparable rarity in slasher movies, but occasionally ideas have run so low, killers killed with such finality, that it’s all that’s left to do…

Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)

I’ve only ever seen this once, on cable, back in the 90s, so memories are hazy at best, but from the power of recall (and clips from YouTube), I can remember Norman Bates harking back to his formative years during a radio phone-in about matricide. Mrs Bates is played with unhinged gusto by Olivia Hussey, and Norm’s early forays into murder are examined. Hussey vs Vera Farmiga? Can’t possibly call it.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)

Platinum Dunes followed up their phenomenally successful 2003 TCM remake with this origin tale which, other than showing Leatherface’s birth n’ stuff, is pretty much a retread (pre-tread?) of the other film, with a quartet of teens stranded in Texas and captured by the Hewitt clan. Notably gorier demises all round, with a horrendous death for Matt Bomer, and a good turn as final girl from Jordana Brewster.

Cold Prey III (2010)

In 1986, twenty years before the events of Cold Preys I and II, seven Norwegian younguns go camping in the wilderness and cross paths with the deadly Fjellmannen. Little snow this time, but some excellent action scenes, though cynically speaking, there’s no real purpose to it other than to fill out a trilogy boxset someday.

Final Destination 5 (2011)

Another everyday guy has another premonition of another catastrophic accident – this time the impressive collapse of a suspension bridge – and saves a handful of shoulda-dieds. Brutal, bizarre accidents soon begin claiming them, Tony Todd says cryptic things, and it all turns out to have occurred in 1999, with the last couple boarding Flight 180, naively thinking they beat Death!

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings (2011)

Technically, the first of three prequels in the Wrong Turn canon, as two of the main trio of cannibals were done away with at the end of the original movie. Some months before those events, college kids wind up taking shelter in an abandoned asylum where guess who lives? Lots of sex, CGI-bloodletting, and cheap rubber masks ensue…

The Finalists

With so little to play with this time, it’s relatively easy to knock Wrong Turn and Psycho out of the ring, leaving three pretty evenly matched films in the running… Next, I booted Texas Chainsaw due to its practical remaking of a remake, and so it’s between the Fjellmannen and Death itself; Norway vs the USA.

In terms of intent to innovate (or at least surprise) and stamping all over the damp squibs of the previous, rubbish installment, the logical victor can only be…

The Winner

 

Right direction

WRONG TURN VI: LAST RESORT

3 Stars  2014/18/91m

Director: Valeri Milev / Writer: Frank H. Woodward / Cast: Anthony Ilott, Aqueela Zoll, Chris Jarvis, Sadie Katz, Billy Ashworth, Rollo Skinner, Roxanne Pallett, Joe Gaminara, Harry Belcher, Radoslav Parvanov, Danko Yordanov, Asen Asenov.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “Don’t you fret, lover, you’ll be in me one way or another.”


THREE STARS!? I know, right, but first, this:

Disclaimer: I was out sick the day I watched Wrong Turn VI, it’s plausible I was delirious.

The Wrong Turn franchise has become a de facto crown-snatcher of Friday the 13th: a sequel every one or two years, semi-naked teenagers, deformed backwoods killers stalking them… And, like Jason’s canon, the sixth movie here sees an improvement over the last few.

This could be due to long-time helmer Declan O’Brien stepping aside, but gone are the plywood sets and (most of) the juvenile humor that polluted Wrong Turn 5, replaced with richer production values and reducing the screentime allotted to the trio of cannibals. They’ve even changed to Roman numerals (on the film, if not the box), so perhaps they’re trying to claw back a little class?

Well, no. This is still very much a Wrong Turn flick. Again, shot in Bulgaria, and still set before the events of the 2003 original. At this rate prequels will outnumber sequels. Seven New Yorkers drive out to Virginia after failed Wall Street broker Danny (Ilott) discovers he has inherited a spa hotel, Hobb Springs, presently run by tactile brother and sister Jackson and Sally.

Danny soon becomes embroiled in their chatter about ancestry, roots, family blah blah blah, while his friends grimace at the rundown surroundings and are eventually killed off by Three Finger, Saw Tooth, and One Eye, all of whom look more like trick or treaters in dollar store Halloween masks. Elsewhere, the usual excesses of female only nudity (a fat guy’s ass does NOT count), grisly demises, and a predictable finale, are present and correct.

Moving with slightly less frenetic energy to get to the bloodletting and some gusto in nominal heroine Zoll, Last Resort at least appears to be trying something new, but how long can it go on?

  • When is this film set?
  • Where did Doug Bradley go?
  • What the fuck is all the cloaky Druid shit about???

The series might well write itself into a corner before too long, look how they had to pull the plug on Halloween as it descended down that Thorn/Druid corridor. Still, it’s better acted and more engaging than all of the installments since Dead End, which at least holds some hope out that the inevitable Wrong Turn VII might not completely suck either…

Seems since it’s release the film has gotten into a bit of bother by featuring a genuine missing persons picture of somebody who later turned up dead in Ireland!? Expect a re-cut and re-release down the line.

Blurb-of-interest: Parvanov was in Wrong Turn 4 as one of the other inbreds.

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