Tag Archives: suck it

FRIDAY THE 13TH – UNCUT

friday_the_thirteenthFRIDAY THE 13TH

5 Stars  1980/18/92m

“They were warned… They are doomed… And on Friday the 13th, nothing will save them.”

Director: Sean S. Cunningham / Writer: Victor Miller / Cast: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Jeannine Taylor, Kevin Bacon, Robbi Morgan, Mark Nelson, Peter Brouwer.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “You’re doomed if you stay here! Go… Go!


Marvel at the unrivalled fab-ness of this film, in both pictorial (an adequate 13 screenshots) and rant form for the Final Girl film club!

Many have laughed heartily at my declaration that Friday the 13th is my Citizen Kane. Har-de-har-har they go, you’re kidding, you’re stupid, don’t you know anything about film etc… As it happens, I have a degree in film. We watched all sorts of arty French stuff. And still after three years of credibility, mise-en-scene, cinema verite, depth, focus, the disolve, Tarkovsky, Bergman and a whole host of -isms, a half million dollar slasher flick from New Jersey, 1980, still means more to me than nearly all that other stuff combined.

f13-1a

Everyone should know the story of Friday the 13th: Camp Crystal Lake, shut since a double murder back in ’58, finally re-opens with a gaggle of teen counsellors and, on June 13th, a Friday, they find themselves picked off one by one by a mysterious killer, who uses a variety of cutting implements to slash, slit and skewer said counsellors until only one nice girl remains to face off with the shady maniac.

f13-2a

f13-3a

So there it is, simple and straightforward. A direct cash-in on Halloween, gored-up and downgraded into an organic product of on-location filmmaking and yet it was immeasurably successful at the box office, enough to generate ten fuckin’ sequels, a TV series and enough hype to spark its 2009 remake, the quality of which remains to be seen this February 13th.

"You're two steps from Pacific Avenue and Skin City!"

“You’re two steps from Pacific Avenue and Skin City!”

Here in the UK, we’ve been lucky to have the unedited version on DVD for a while now as well as all manner of bootleg VHS copies floating around since the 80s. I first saw the original cut at a late night showing circa 1997. That seldom seen X-rated certificate appeared on screen and then 92 minutes of textbook teen terror. What was cut out is comparatively minimal, four scenes to be exact: the first present-day kill – a drippy throat slashing – is shown for longer, as is a pre-fame Kevin Bacon’s infamous spike-through-the-neck, the axe-to-the-face and the decapitation finale.

f13-5a

f13-7a

Hoards of horror aficionados have overlooked Friday the 13th. The accusations of its innate cheapness cannot be denied, but compared to any made-for-video or DVD film of the post-Scream era, it’s a production masterpiece, with competent photography that nicely telegraphs foreclosing doom, a cabin-thrashing rainstorm and characters just a little too simple-minded to figure out that they perhaps shouldn’t go and find out what that weird noise is…

f13-6

f13-8a

Of course, in this day and age, everything  going on at Camp Crystal Lake looks dated and riddled with cliches – but Friday the 13th fuckin’ wrote those cliches! So Halloween came first, but you’ll find more of the subsequent slasher films copied Fridays homework and changed it to suit their own story.

f13-9a

f13-11a

Everything about this film is perfect to me, trumped only by the increased professionalism of Part 2 (which also benefitted from a kick-ass final girl in Amy Steel), from the minute unease of seeing the creaky door to the bathrooms open and a booted foot stepping in, to the creeping shot of Marcie at the row of sinks, and Alice’s neverending attempts to escape from the clutches of one of cinema’s most surprising villains.

f13-101a

f13-12a

Thank you, Friday the 13th, you truly have been life altering. I’d marry you if I could and father lots of baby 13ths!

f13-13a

Blurbs-of-interest: Adrienne King and Betsy Palmer returned for brief cameos in the sequel and Palmer also appeared in The Fear: Resurrection; Kevin Bacon turned from victim to killer in sci-fi slasher Hollow Man twenty years later; producer Steve Miner directed Parts 2 & 3 and Halloween H20.

URBAN LEGEND

URBAN LEGEND

5 Stars  1998/18/96m

“Just because it didn’t happen, doesn’t mean it can’t.”

Director: Jamie Blanks / Writer: Silvio Horta / Cast: Alicia Witt, Jared Leto, Rebecca Gayheart, Joshua Jackson, Loretta Devine, Robert Englund, Tara Reid, Michael Rosenbaum, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Danielle Harris, John Neville, Julian Richings.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “It’s like someone out there’s taking all these stories and making them reality.”


Urban Legend, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… Damn, there are too many, I’ll just type it all out.

February 2009 will mark the ten year anniversary of my first of six cinema viewings of UL, my hands-down favourite ‘post modern’ slasher pic. You don’t read a lot of praise for this little gem; it’s often cited as being nowt more than a second-rate Scream wannabe. While it’s undeniably in heavy debt to that film, UL goes to all the places I wanted Scream to go to but didn’t. Like what, you say?

ul1a

Well, it starts with, like, the coolest murder set-up. Natasha Gregson Wagner (what happened to her?) is driving along a lonely stretch of highway when she runs outta gas. She pulls up in this dank little filling station where a stammering Brad Dourif entices her out of her SUV and attacks her. Or does he? Tasha gets away and speeds off, leaving Brad’s call of “someone’s in the backseat!” to be swallowed by the wind. Half a click down the road, a shady figure emerges from said backseat and swipes of her head with a funky axe!

Yes, it’s a slasher film about those stories, the ones you tell around campfires, in the school playground or when you’re slacking off work and want to talk about something other than the X Factor. Conveniently, the group of college kids at the centre of the ensuing terror are taking a class in urban legends, taught at Pendleton University by Robert Englund, which should be enough to make anyone think twice about signing up…

ul2a

We meet our teens-of-terror. There’s campus journo-wannabe Paul (Leto), who’s super-ambitious. Ambitious enough to commit murder though? He’s our Gale Weathers stand-in. Brenda’s got the hots for Paul and says a lot of neo-bimbo things to get his attention. Damon (Jackson) is the peroxidified-prankster who’ll do anything for a gag or a shag… Parker and Sasha are the oversexed couple; he’s an aging frat boy and she runs a call-in radio show about sex things. Then there’s Natalie, our final girl elect, played by the fab ginger princess who is Alicia Witt. Natalie is conscientious and smart, she can look after herself and she’s an unconventional heroine, none of this ‘woe is me’ crap…although she does have a few secrets that might be relevant…

ul3a

ul4a

The murders continue with good pace, each of them revolving around Natalie in some way: her date, her goth roommate (Danielle Harris – nice to see her ten years on from Halloweens 4 & 5). Natalie is the only one to suspect that the Parka-coated killer is twisting urban legends into the murders, but everyone she goes to with her suspicions thinks up a reason to disuade her: suicide, prank, suspect already in custody yaddah yaddah…

Even Pam Grier-loving campus cop Reese (Loretta Devine, our Dewey stand-in) is sceptical… What’s a girl to do? Natalie part-convinces Paul to look into it, as it appears that the University’s own campus legend about a dorm massacre a quarter of a century earlier may also be more than just a myth…

ul5a

Grisly murders continue, all of them satisfying in their creativity without being excessively grotesque… There’s the psycho-under-the-car one, the Pop Rocks and soda one, another about flashing your headlights to cars driving around without theirs on and the wet dog in the microwave thing…

ul6a

Answers start to unfold eventually as Natalie confides her guilty secret to Brenda, that she knew the first victim and that they’d done something bad a few years earlier. Wouldn’t it just be so convenient if the reason that Natalie is always around for each killing is that it’s something to do with the ‘accident’ she was involved in? Hmm…time to assemble Fred, Daphne and Velma.

ul7a

In the final third, Blanks ups the ante on cliches-what-work. Now, most people moan and whinge about cliches, but that’s why we love these films, right? We’d be upset if the slutty girl didn’t die. Parker’s fraternity throws a costume party to commemorate the is-it-or-isn’t-it-true campus legend and Parka-man comes with an axe to grind. There’s a great chase scene when Sasha finally comes face to face with the killer with some nifty mini-stunts and great near misses, akin to the film’s production cuz I Know What You Did Last Summer, where Sarah Michelle Gellar – who incidentally was the first choice to play Sasha! – was accosted to the death by the psycho fisherman. It’s a great scene, let down like its contemporary by refusing to show the kill, but all is forgiven because everything’s so much fun!

ul8a

Action moves into the woods for a short while so that Natalie can discover a few things, cross a few suspects from her list, all the time jockeyed into position by a luckier-than-lucky killer, who’s surely got psychic abilities to be able to turn up in the right place at the right time every time!

We’re dragged back to campus for the finale, at which point the killer’s identity is revealed and this is the part where most people who didn’t like the film probably groaned aloud. Yes, it’s stupid and campy. No, the assailant probably couldn’t have possibly done most of the things they did. My God, that motive is cheesy! But hey, hell hath no fury, right? And that should spell out who it is if nothing else does!

ul10a

Ugly Betty scribe Horta adds enough humour to offset all the slashin’ and killin’, while Aussie helmer Blanks makes the best of the ultra-pristine university setting, even if he has too strong a penchant for strobe work and jump-cuts. It wouldn’t be easy to make a film like Urban Legend work; stringing together separate stories and making them all connect to the same group of people, perpetrated by one person is neo-impossible, hence the abject ridiculousness of it all.

I love the outcome, I love the killer’s soliliquy and I love the production quality. As it functions as a mystery, most people make their final judgement based on how satisfying the answers to their questions are. Somebody told me who the killer was before I saw the film so I was not let down by anything, if anything it set things up to make a majorly positive impression because it checked all my favourite boxes. Most of these things are down to the choice of Witt as Natalie, who wields a great scream, convinces as a college girl and makes the best face ever when it comes to facing off with the killer…

ul9a

Love. It. I want an ‘I Heart Urban LegendT-shirt. I’d wear it with pride alongside my Voorhees hockey top and Camp Crystal Lake Counselor shirt. The world might well be a better place if we all loved Urban Legend. No, really, it might!

Blurbs-of-interest: Loretta Devine was the only cast member to return for the largely-unrelated sequel, Final Cut, and the third film was all but an island, but still good. Rumours of a fourth come and go, it’d be nice if they did a ‘Return to Pendleton’ flick..! Gayheart and Jackson both make small appearances in Scream 2; Danielle Harris later turned up in Rob Zombie’s Halloween and its sequel and also Hatchet II, Blood Night, and ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2. Julian Richings (the creepy caretaker) was Three-Finger in Wrong Turn, and of course Englund and Dourif turn up all over the place in cameos and stuff. Jamie Blanks turned out Valentine three years later to even less positive reviews and a couple of other horror films more recently.

Whodunit? No, really, who???

RIPPER: LETTER FROM HELL

4 Stars  2001/18/110m

“Jack’s back…”

Director: John E. Eyres / Writers: John Curtis, Evan Tylor & Pat Bermel / Cast: A.J. Cook, Bruce Payne, Ryan Northcott, Claire Keim, Jurgen Prochnow, Derek Hamilton, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Daniella Evangellista, Kelly Brook, Courtenay J. Stevens.

Body Count: 12

Dire-logue: “For the second time in a few years, people are being murdered around you and you don’t think there’s a connection?”


Looking at the DVD cover for Ripper, it’s plain to see where it’s got some of its ideas from. That old triangle formation of pretty cast members up for the chop from another merciless killer. Mwa-ha-ha-haaaa…

Brit Director Eyres gave us the pitiful Goodnight, God Bless back in ’87 but his eye for what makes a decent body count flick has doubtlessly improved in the 14 year gap between that tripe and this impressive looking Canadian export, which owes as much to Urban Legend as it does to the story of Jack the Ripper.

We begin with a blonde girl running through the rain, finding her friends dead – nailed to trees; covered in a mountain of soil (!?) – and watch her swim to a nearby yacht where more bodies are found and one unlucky gal gets sucked into the propeller (pictured). Ouch.

ripper-victim

Blonde girl – Molly – ultimately survives and we leap five years into the future and rejoin her, now a red-head and full of attitude, at a college where she is studying criminology under Professor Marshall Kane (Bruce Payne), currently learning about serial killers. During a lecture we get to the meet the meat in the form of Molly’s student colleagues. There’s prissy French girl Chantelle, wannabe-lothario Eddie, stuttering, frowny Aaron, and a few less interesting ones. Then there’s Kelly Brook as the (who knew) oversexed chick with in a short skirt, Marisa.

At a costume party-slash-rave in some delapidated city building, Marisa is chased and murdered before being flung through a window for all to see. Eyres makes the most of this debut murder (excluding the stuff at the beginning), as it occurs quite some way into the film. Marisa is first suspended upside down out of a window several stories from the ground and then hoisted back in by the killer who proceeds to knife her to death while her blood drips on to a starlet dancing on the floor below. We also get a few of those cool screaming-face-reflected-in-the-blade shots.

ripper-kellybrook

Back at school, everyone’s talking about what happened at the party. Which is to be expected, I suppose. Some of the students in Molly’s study group want to investigate on their own despite her preference to steer clear. It’s already been established that Molly is a bit of a cow. She’s pretty damn aggressive, doing a goth-chick thing that slowly dissipates over the course of the film. Her attitude is one of Rippers shortcomings, evidently an attempt to give things a ‘gritty’ feel by having her wear dogtags and reside in a graffiti-walled shithole. One must wonder what she’s doing at such a pompous university with all her inoffensive, pastel-wearing classmates. A.J. Cook later played the psychic girl who predicted the freeway crash in Final Destination 2, so we know she can be a nice girl too.

When another of the group is murdered in a stylish road-rage manner, Molly connects the dots and puts it to the Professor (and the class and Jurgen Prochnow’s apple-chomping detective) that the killer is copying Jack the Ripper’s M.O., right down to the number and location of stab and slash wounds on the victims.

ripper-molly

Stupidness soon ensues after a third murder (coupled with some weird hallucinations) and the remaining four teens feel it’s wise to go, with the Professor, to his cabin in the middle of the woods where there is no phone reception or shortage of cutting implements to hand. It must be noted at this point nobody has proposed why their particular study group is being targeted…

The inevitable soon unravels and nasty ends await Eddie, Chantelle and Aaron (who has followed them). The latter two endure falling into a logging conveyor which drags them into enough deadly saw blades to make Leatherface squeamish. So it’s between Molly, her love interest Jason and Professor Kane. Having worked out that the initials of the group correspond to those of the Ripper victims, they’re all concerned that they may be next.

ripper-maryanne

Ripper suddenly stalls once the remaining characters enter the rain-soaked woods. The identity of the killer – and whoever slaughtered Molly’s friends five years before – is revealed, and then unrevealed, and then sort of revealed again. In short, there are maybe three twists that overlap in the last few minutes, each negating the previous one. According to the commentary, Eyres didn’t get the end he wanted, so it’s debatable whether the close we’re left with is a comment on The Ripper’s true identity, something that will remain cloaked in mystery forever.

Ultimately Ripper is a handsome, engaging film that sadly loses its way in the last ten minutes. It runs too long and takes itself too seriously but is leagues ahead of the usual straight-to-DVD shelf filler in terms of its production values and core ideas alone. The gore is plentiful and, watching it yesterday, I noticed for the first time a fleeting shot of the poor sod’s head meeting with the saw blades during the gruesome logging mill scene. I wasn’t keen on all the violence against women stuff that came through good n’ strong, it’s something I still find a bit uncomfortable, not helped in this case by one of the least likeable final girl’s going. There’s also the killer’s copy-the-killer schtick that Molly latches on to – did Jack the Ripper use a jeep to mow down any of the Whitechapel hookers? Hmm… Not sure he had access to a saw mill either. It’s a slightly pretentious, wannabe slasher par intelligentsia, followed by a really rubbish sequel a couple of years later.

ripper-group

Blurbs-of-interest: Three of the actresses – Cook, Vaugier and Evangellista – appeared in various Wishmaster sequels. Vaugier crops up in The Fear: Resurrection too. Chantelle’s accent is actually real, contrary to what some IMDb critics assumed. Derek Hamilton was in Taboo. If you’re feeling masochistic, check out the more-or-less unrelated sequel.

1 2 3 4