Martin Scorsese, The Big Picture & Content Culture

Martin Scorsese, The Big Picture & Content Culture

Let’s get make one thing clear, though. Martin Scorsese shouldn’t have to defend his suggestion that contemporary superhero movies aren’t “art.” (They’re not. They’re entertainment.) The attacks on his status as a supposed senile guardian of cinema is patently absurd. He’s one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of cinema and one of the art form’s most sincere champions. But that doesn’t mean he wants to influence *your* taste in movies. He wants to make a point about how far the business has strayed. 

If you want a picture of where we are as a cinematic (content?) culture, read Martin Scorsese’s Opinion in the New York Times and the longer form analysis in Ben Fritz’s The Big Picture, which is equal parts hopeful and horrifying. Fritz uses the Sony email hack to take a peek behind the contemporary Hollywood decision-making process — which has more to do with potential profits from China and mass merchandising than it does with making good movies.

hollywood sign (made in china)

Hollywood — now built for China.

In highlighting the decline of the mid-budget movie in Hollywood, Ben Fritz stopped short of making one point that I thought was staring us in the face the whole time. Fritz described the failure of Sony’s mid-budget star vehicles that contributed to their decline as a profitable film studio. (Most of them starred Will Smith.) He didn’t pass any value judgments, however, and that speaks directly to something Scorsese said in his New York Times Opinion.

And if you’re going to tell me that it’s simply a matter of supply and demand and giving the people what they want, I’m going to disagree. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue. If people are given only one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing.

Audiences miss the boat on certain movies. They always have. Whether it’s poor marketing, poor release timing, poor titles — quality has never equalled box office performance. That said, I believe recent audiences have been conditioned by the decided lack of quality in these mid-budget studio offerings. Excellent mid-budget slickly-produced entertainment like Edge of Tomorrow (2014) and The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2016) failed to find their deserving audiences, but can you blame audiences from being wary of buying a ticket for After Earth (2013)? Consider the kinds of movies we were watching at the box office 30 years ago and ask yourself if these would ever get made today. 

If you didn’t see THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015) it might be because studios failed to adequately recognize the value of the product. Or you hate fun.

I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that as Hollywood has further distanced itself from a system of centralized artistic control — the producer or the director — it’s failed to deliver a consistent mid-budget product. Ben Fritz paints a picture of a system catering to the whims of its ego-driven stars rather than the filmmakers themselves. Fritz’s list of failures — with only a few exceptions — consists of objectively bad movies. It represents an industry that’s so afraid of short term losses it refuses to cede control to anyone but its biggest stars — as if Adam Sandler or Will Smith would carry the torch to a brighter future.

Between studio risk aversion and a crippling stream of abysmal star vehicles, fewer mid-budget movies were produced. The ones that did see the light of day drove the existing audience to TV and Netflix and Amazon Prime where they could find content driven by the kind of creative vision that once fueled a large portion of mainstream cinema. It’s an anti-communal version of the cinema Scorsese’s recalling with fondness and pure nostalgia. So when Martin Scorsese says he’s filled with “terrible sadness” about the state of our modern moviegoing culture, he’s not just posturing as a holier-than-thou artist. He’s looking back on his midnight trip to see Psycho and recognizing that that experience may have become extinct. 

Stranger Things Netflix

Watching STRANGER THINGS at home on your couch is nice, but are you going to remember that experience 60 years from now?

Scorsese goes out of his way to say Marvel movies just aren’t for him. Martin Scorsese also wants you to know that there’s other beautiful, imaginative, engaging cinema out there that has nothing to do with men in tights and/or capes — and those movies are in danger of disappearing from the mainstream entirely. That’s the crisis here — not that one of our greatest filmmakers doesn’t care about Captain America. 

I just needed to get that off my chest.

Eaten Alive (1976): 31 Days of Horror

Eaten Alive (1976): 31 Days of Horror

#13. Eaten Alive (1976)

eaten alive italian posterNature of Shame:
Unseen Tobe Hooper

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1970’s
There Must Always be a Tobe Hooper
Reptile rampage (tribute to Crawl)

Just rounding out my Tobe Hooper filmography with one I haven’t seen because, per Cinemonster’s rules, there must always be a Tobe Hooper. I knew nothing about this one except it featured an alligator or a crocodile or some such beast and it also, fortuitously, satisfied the “reptile rampage” requirement.

‘Eaten Alive’ Elevator Pitch

There’s this motel located deep in the south of Texas where guests check in, but they don’t always check out because some of them get fed to the gator by a wild-eyed Jack Elam-looking coot played by Neville Brand.

And the protagonist of your story?

The gator, obviously.

The man-eating alligator that lives off the porch is going to be your hero of the picture? You’re pulling my leg.

Not a bit. The girl you think is the main girl gets eaten. And then the next one gets eaten, too — also the dog — and so on and so forth until the sister of the one that gets eaten shows up and she becomes the focus of the story.

And the alligator?

You’ll just have to see, won’t ye?

Hold on. Did you say the dog gets eaten?

Eaten Alive's Starlight Motel, the epicenter of nefarious goings on.

Eaten Alive’s Starlight Motel, the epicenter of nefarious goings on.

No One Suspects the Starlight Motel

And I have to ask why. It looks like people have been murdered there, with regularity. Anyone stopping by thinking they’re in for a good night’s rest must have a seriously problematic home life. When the naive prostitute Clara gets evicted from her brothel for refusing Robert Englund “butt-stuff” she turns to the Starlight Motel for accommodations. I questioned her judgment.

She’s met immediately by the proprietor, the grizzled Judd, more cured meat with a woman’s wig than man, who attempts some sort of kooky blend of murder and #MeToo crime before hacking her to pieces with a scythe before — you guessed it — making her gator meat.

a bloody Roberta Collins in Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive (1976).

Clara Wood (Roberta Collins) getting prepped to be gator food in Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive (1976).

Put Eaten Alive’s so-called narrative on the back burner for just a second so we can take a look at how Tobe Hooper presented this wild (inept?) premise for public consumption. Eaten Alive has no definitive structure. Hooper’s cobbled together a series of murders by placing a madmen and his pet alligator at the center of a Southern Gothic nightmare. Whereas something like Texas Chainsaw Massacre felt rooted in a nightmare version of reality, Eaten Alive feels more like straight nightmare.

Low budget single-location set design shrouded in fog. Caustic, unnatural lighting techniques. Stilted dialogue and unnatural pauses. Dutch angles and numerous POV shots. While Tobe Hooper’s fingerprints remain all over the blood and morbidity, you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking that maybe David Lynch had a hand in this production as well.

Neville Brand handles a scythe in Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive

Jud (Neville Brand), the “mentally disturbed” proprietor at the Starlight Motel, keeps a scythe on hand for feeding time.

Surrealistic, Twilight World

Contemporaneous critics couldn’t help but compare this film to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and more often than not faulted Eaten Alive‘s hyperreality as the reason why it failed to live up to Hooper’s past precedent. I won’t go as far as to suggest that Eaten Alive is some overlooked classic because it’s too sloppy and shapeless to be a masterpiece, but it is indeed a special viewing experience and not the supposedly “inept” and worthlessly trashy horror flick. Scratch that last bit — it is definitely trashy.

Filmed entirely around an indoor pool on a sound stage at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, California, Hooper achieved his goal of creating a “surrealistic, twilight world” through the apparent artifice of the set-bound production. The story had been adapted by Texas Chainsaw Massacre co-scribe Kim Henkel and based loosely on the story of Joe Ball (known as the Bluebeard from South Texas or the Alligator Man). Ball owned a bar with a live alligator attraction during the 1930s and also murdered several women. Though rumors persisted that he disposed of their corpses by feeding them to the alligator, it was never proven.

Hooper perfectly captures the isolated eccentricities of a grisly and desperate carnival of weirdos parading through the Texas swampland. Eaten Alive provides a grotesque and singular hallucinatory grindhouse experience. To watch Eaten Alive is to bathe in a mosquito-infested pool of the trashy macabre. It’s leering and sticky and no amount of showering can wash it away.

Robert Englund plays one of those trashy weirdos tucked away in Tobe Hooper's freak show attraction.

Robert Englund looks and acts like gator bait.

Final ‘Eaten Alive’ Thoughts

But I do not believe, however, that Eaten Alive displayed narrative ineptitude. Narrative indifference, on the other hand, sounds far more likely. Hooper doesn’t even attempt to create a traditional cinematic story. In order for a narrative to be inept, one must exist. In many ways, Eaten Alive reflects cinematic horror influenced by the giallo through garish colors and a foregrounding of a distinct visual style over substance. The violent vignettes become substance in lieu of traditional narrative.

Since the film’s backloaded resolution comes together during the final fifteen minutes it’s fair to suggest the film would have been better served without it. I wouldn’t call it unnecessary, but the film crawls to a halt when it most closely resembles narrative.

Trashy, gruesome and hyper-stylized, Eaten Alive provides an unforgettable experience for gorehounds and fans of David Lynch’s otherworldly, artificial milieu. Tobe Hooper’s production challenges the viewer to submit to his scattered whims. I can see why some would be turned off by the bizarre construction and lack of character development but why struggle? Sit back, get sweaty and enjoy the feast. Eaten Alive‘s a mile short of being called a masterpiece, but at times I couldn’t keep the word from popping into my head.

 

 

Eaten Alive is available via and Arrow Films Blu-ray.eaten alive arrow blu-ray

2019 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

#1. Shocker (1989) // #2. Etoile (1989) // #3. The Phantom of the Opera (1989) // #4. Blacula (1972) // #5. Scream Blacula Scream (1973) // #6. Jaws: The Revenge (1987) // #7. Blood Bath (1966) // #8. Friday the 13th Part V (1985) // #9. Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) // #10. Friday the 13th Part VII (1988) // #11. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) // #12. Pet Sematary (1989) // #13. Eaten Alive

 

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add whatever this is to that list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Disclaimer: I earn rewards from DVD.Netflix.com, which has thousands of movies to choose from, many that you won’t find on streaming services. I do this because the availability of physical media is important. The popular streaming notion of “everything available all the time” is a myth. We are always our own best curators. #PhysicalMedia #DVDNation #ad

Pet Sematary: 31 Days of Horror

Pet Sematary: 31 Days of Horror

#12. Pet Sematary (1989)

pet sematary 1989 posterNature of Shame:
Unseen Stephen King adaptation from 1989. 

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s
Female Directed

Much anticipated first-time watch of a seemingly beloved Mary Lambert film. Scheduled for viewing in my concurrent #Watch1989 marathon, I’d held off on this screening for Hooptober reasons. I’d had it in my Netflix DVD queue all year, and it was finally time to move it to the top of the list.

pet sematary 1989 netflix dvd

‘Pet Sematary’ Elevator Pitch

A Chicago M.D. Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) and his family arrive at their new, rural Maine home. The local “coot” (Fred Gwynne) warns them about the “pet sematary” (sic) located behind their house. A newly dead jogger also warns the Doc about the cemetery (appearing in a dream) because the land has gone “sour.” Since that wasn’t enough warning, the guy goes and buries his daughter’s dead cat back there. When the cat comes back bad, he tries his luck a second time when his infant son is run over by a truck. This time it’ll work out for the best! Promise!

No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition Cats to Return From the Grave Evil

The horror genre often relies on ordinary people making bad decisions. They place themselves in bad situations, go down in that basement to check on the bump in the night, say Candyman five times, and have sex at Crystal Lake. In many ways the knowing that a character is making bad decisions intensifies the anxiety we might feel as that character’s situation grows increasingly more dire.

It’s natural to attribute bad decisions to spur-of-the-moment, stress-induced decision-making. Who thinks properly when being chased by a chainsaw-wielding madmen? Certainly not this guy. There’s a limit, however, to the number of bad decisions a viewer should tolerate from an otherwise sane human.

pet sematary pascow

I’d listen to this guy. I don’t know about you.

The effectiveness of the horror elements in Pet Sematary rely on the viewer to feel something for a dullard that knowingly buries a cat in a cursed graveyard because he can’t deal with breaking news of the cat’s death to his daughter. When the cat comes back “bad” that should have been a solid warning sign about the powers within the graveyard. But it wasn’t enough for Doc Lou.

He and his wife then — through total negligence — allow their toddler to wander out onto a busy road. The kid gets hit by a truck and so we begin the portion of the program that feels like Lou sticking his finger into a light socket to see if the result changes.

fred gwynne pet sematary

But Let’s Try Children Instead!

I haven’t read the book, and therefore I can’t comment on the efficacy of the Stephen King adaptation. I can only comment on the movie in front of me. Louis has ignored visceral warnings about the power of the cemetery and he’s witnessed the negative effects of reanimation on the cat. While I understand how the movie wants to treat the emotional aftermath of traumatic loss, I also can’t feel sympathy for a family as irresponsible as this. I don’t feel any kind of connection or proximity to their pain that would allow me to consider the steps taken to be rational ones. As Kenny Rogers once said, “You’ve got to know when to fold ’em / know when to walk away / know when to run the &#*$ away from the Pet Sematary.”

It’s possible that before I became a parent myself I might have thought differently. Now, however, as I’m older and wiser with a little gray in my beard and two daughters of my own I watch this movie and I feel nothing but annoyed with Lou. When the negligence of these two parents contributes to the death of their son, I’m unable to feel any more tension or suspense. That’s a distinct problem for a horror movie. Making bad decisions with a cat corpse is one thing, trying to convince me that Doc Lou would put his son in there is an entirely trickier matter.

cat pet sematary 1989

Final ‘Pet Sematary’ Thoughts

I’ve seen some bad movies this Hooptober season, but none that left me as cold and disappointed as Pet Sematary. I’d read and heard so much about how the movie handles grief that maybe I’d come to expect something else. When I should have been on the edge of my seat, I couldn’t muster anything but a time-check to see how much more of this I had to endure. Instead of just making a good movie, it seemed that Lambert over-sanctified the text. Do you know why The Shining is such a great movie? Stanley Kubrick didn’t give a damn about the book. He cared about telling a compelling story through potent imagery.

Prose offers so much more of the inner-life of a character, it may have provided enough context to lend Lou’s bad decisions some merit. Cinematic shorthand doesn’t allow the time to finesse these moments. Domestic horror films require a connection. I didn’t have it.

 

 

Pet Sematary is available on Blu-ray everywhere.

2019 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

#1. Shocker (1989) // #2. Etoile (1989) // #3. The Phantom of the Opera (1989) // #4. Blacula (1972) // #5. Scream Blacula Scream (1973) // #6. Jaws: The Revenge (1987) // #7. Blood Bath (1966) // #8. Friday the 13th Part V (1985) // #9. Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) // #10. Friday the 13th Part VII (1988) // #11. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) // 12. Pet Sematary (1989)

 

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add whatever this is to that list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Disclaimer: I earn rewards from DVD.Netflix.com, which has thousands of movies to choose from, many that you won’t find on streaming services. I do this because the availability of physical media is important. The popular streaming notion of “everything available all the time” is a myth. We are always our own best curators. #PhysicalMedia #DVDNation #ad

Dracula: Prince of Darkness: 31 Days of Horror

Dracula: Prince of Darkness: 31 Days of Horror

#11. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

Nature of Shame:
It’s been so long since I watched through the Hammer Dracula films that I can’t distinguish this one from any other. That sounds pretty shameful, but there’s so much out there I need to watch for the first time…

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1960’s
Year Ends with ‘6’

“There must always be some Hammer” is a motto fit for everyone’s Halloween viewing regimen. I re-watched Dracula last year so let’s pick up the Hammer vampire series rolling with the next appearance of Christopher Lee as the titular Count. I skipped a rewatch of the second movie in the series, The Brides of Dracula, because it didn’t feature Christopher Lee, but — who am I kidding? — I’ll probably just watch that one, too.

‘Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ Elevator Pitch

Set ten years after the death of Count Dracula at the hands of Van Helsing in Dracula, four English tourists (the Kents) arrive at a castle formerly belonging to the Count. The caretaker informs them that Dracula had requested that the castle remain open for passing travelers. The Kents think this sounds positively idyllic and settle in for some rest and relaxation.

dracula prince of darkness

No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition Dracula to Return From the Grave

Some genres and some narratives can feel so routine that they’re more akin to slapping an abrasive alarm clock and falling out of bed to blearily brush one’s teeth. I’m not equating watching Dracula: Prince of Darkness to the drudgery of routine hygiene, but there’s a certain amount of standard exposition required to propel a Dracula story forward. Since we last saw Dracula fall to Van Helsing in 1958, director Terrence Fisher and screenwriter Jimmy Sangster must brush their fangs before distinguishing Prince of Darkness from any other Dracula yarn.

I’m not prepared to the write the essay that connects Dracula films to 1980 slasher movies, but the genre boasts striking similarities to the routine stupidity that sets the table for Jason to slaughter a camp full of horny teens. Instead of naughty teenage girls and boys, Hammer trades in the demise of haughty aristocrats. The casual tempting of fate by ignoring the warnings of locals and indeed visiting that forbidden castle. I could call it The Bloody Ignorance of Wealth and Youth — if I were indeed writing it, but I’m not. This is all you’ll get from me.

dracula prince of darkness (1966)

Even once Dracula predictably returns, Dracula: Prince of Darkness takes on the role of Hammer Horror comfort food. As much as any of the other Hammer vampire movies it unfolds at a predictable pace backed by a precise gothic charm. In order to get a better sense of whether we’ve collectively become jaded over the last 53 years or if this alway felt routine, I consulted the contemporaneous critics.

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times called it just “another repetition of the standard tale of the vampire … There is nothing new or imaginative about it.” Since Bosley is a notorious crank, I dug a little deeper, but kept reading analysis that hops back and forth across the same fence. It’s either boring because of its similarities or its comfortable predictability makes for palatable viewing.

Also, how can it be routine and boring when Barbara Shelley’s all over your screen?

dracula prince of darkness (1966) barbara shelley

Christopher Draculee

Though the story feels routine, Christopher Lee’s performance warrants return engagements. He’s the perfect embodiment of menace and red-blooded sexuality. Other less successful Draculas manage the menace but fail to smolder. In a role that requires a certain amount of carnality, Lee’s every move suggests a man (and monster) that gets precisely what he desires and his victims in turn desire him. Without the believability of that animal attraction, Dracula’s just a stiff with pointy teeth.

dracula prince of darkness artwork

Final ‘Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ Thoughts

Hammer films often reside in this realm of comfort cinema. They look great and feature wonderful on-screen personalities and talent performing in films likely beneath their abilities. They’re predictably entertaining and even the lessers, provide a solid 80 minutes of distraction. The Christopher Lee vampire films blend together because they often hover around the same placid familiarity. While I applaud the series’ later efforts to break the mold, I’m good right here — with Christopher Lee wooing and enslaving aristocratic maidens.

 

 

Dracula: Prince of Darkness is currently available on a Scream! Factory Blu-ray

2019 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

#1. Shocker (1989) // #2. Etoile (1989) // #3. The Phantom of the Opera (1989) // #4. Blacula (1972) // #5. Scream Blacula Scream (1973) // #6. Jaws: The Revenge (1987) // #7. Blood Bath (1966) // #8. Friday the 13th Part V (1985) // #9. Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) / #10. Friday the 13th Part VII (1988) / #11. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

Friday the 13th Part VII – The New Blood: 31 Days of Horror

Friday the 13th Part VII – The New Blood: 31 Days of Horror

#10. Friday the 13th Part VII – The New Blood (1988)

friday the 13th part vii posterNature of Shame:
Trudging my way through the intermittent (and extremely relative) joys of the Friday the 13th series. Bring on Friday the 13th Part VII because it’s the next one and this time I’m actually looking forward to it!

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s
John Carl Buechler

For the first time in this Friday the 13th saga, I felt enthusiasm for viewing the next film in the series. How many times can anyone say that the 6th movie in a series made them a believer?

Seriously, though. Has anyone ever muddled through five films to enjoy the sixth? Police Academy? A Nightmare on Elm Street? I’m at a loss. This next entry arrived via Netflix DVD and here’s the little red envelope to prove it.

friday the 13th part VI netflix

‘Friday the 13th Part VII’ Elevator Pitch

A pscyhokinetic, guilt-ridden teenage girl named Tina inadvertently unshackles Jason from his water grave in Crystal Lake after a creep psychiatrist intentionally agitates her with the intention of somehow vaguely exploiting her psychic powers.

So how does he intend to exploit her? 

Uh. Well. He just intends, okay?

You have no idea.

Tina must then learn to harness her powers in order to subdue the rampaging supernatural prometheus before he kills and kills again.

friday the 13th part vii underwater jason

Maybe more of a Thursday?

At this point I’ve written more unnecessary words about the Friday the 13th series than just about anything else. I’m not part of the in-crowd; I prefer my slashers weird and Italian. And until just recently I wouldn’t have recommended any of the films in the series for anyone not already indoctrinated into the cult of Jason.

Since we’ve come this far, however, I’ve no qualms about saying if you tried Friday the 13th but gave up after a few entries, re-join the party with Part VI and Friday the 13th Part VII. Where VI aims for greater respectability and production value, Part VII feels indirectly inspired by the manic energy of Evil Dead II (1987).

Paramount Pictures had originally wanted Part VII to be a crossover with A Nightmare on Elm Street, bringing Freddy Krueger into the fold. The two sides failed to agree on terms, but screenwriter Daryl Haney instead came up with the idea of pitting Jason against a “Carrie” — a girl with telekinetic powers, apparently dead set on a monster vs. monster type crossover.

tina - friday the 13th part vii

Associate producer Barbara Sachs took this lazy premise, and according to Haney, aimed to win Academy Awards. Most unbelievably, the production team reportedly batted about candidates like Federico Fellini to direct Friday the 13th Part VII to show how serious they were about crafting high-minded schlock. When that Fellini thing fell through (shocker), Sachs had to settle for John Carl Buechler — who also had a unique vision for Jason, even if it wasn’t especially tied to certifiably insane goals like Academy Awards for Jason Voorhees.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The Ultra-Violent Terminator(?)

Despite Oscar intentions, Friday the 13th Part VII feels tonally schizophrenic from the very beginning, consisting of maybe a dozen partially-thawed frozen turkeys. There’s a bite from Jaws when Jason drags a skinny-dipper down underwater. The ghouly, maggoty Jason — especially after the removal of the mask — takes a page right out of the Evil Dead makeup effects. The Carrie elements and the shady psychiatrist (played by Terry Kiser aka Bernie Lomax) feel completely tacked onto the standard Jason-murders-a-houseful-of-horny-teens script. They just happen to live next door!

The teens that Jason rips through like a fun size package of Cheetos have no life or individual flavor. They’re balloons just waiting for the POP. There’s some sort of nerdy-girl She’s All That makeover, some unreal mean girling, and a whiny sci-fi author that makes George McFly look more Rudolph Valentino.

friday the 13th part vii

To top it all off, Tina uses her vague and amorphous psychokinetic powers to see the murders before they take place — but her visions are totally different than the actual deaths. I don’t have any special powers of foresight but I could have told her exactly which characters were going to be dead by the credit roll, too.

And then we get to the extended Jason vs. Carrie climax of the film. I mean Jason vs. random psychokinetic Tina and definitely not Carrie the Stephen King property. I mean Frankenstein’s Terminator vs. Firestarter Tina. Just toss it all in a bingo wheel and see what shakes out.

Final ‘Friday the 13th Part VII’ Thoughts

And this is where I take this bl-g post in an entirely different direction. Friday the 13th Part VII is a disasterfest of misguided ideas, but in as much as it gleefully flaunts the standard “rules” for a Friday the 13th movie I can’t help but be entertained by this disconnect.

friday the 13th part vii

The climax of the film where Jason takes on Tiny takes on a life of its own. It’s a self-contained showcase of practical effects and makeup. Jason loses his mask and the scarred, maggoty face remains on display. Kane Hodder, the stuntmant playing Jason in this entry, endures a then record-breaking 40-second burn. He’s engulfed in flames for so long, I was convinced it had to be some sort of animatronic trickery. In this finale the film gleefully flaunts its B-movie status. There’s no attempt at high-minded entertainment. This is wacky C-grade schlock begging you to be entertained.

Yes — it’s clear that the more extreme moments of violence were cut to appease the MPAA. It’s also clear that the filmmakers behind this movie actually had no handle on the kind of movie or homage or rip-off that they wanted to make. I compare Friday the 13th Part VII favorably to the similarly unfavorable Part V. Both are heinous messes, but part VII remembers to have fun with the format rather than just trying to push the exploitative elements to the extreme.

 

 

friday the 13th blu-rayFriday the 13th Part VII is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

2019 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

#1. Shocker (1989) // #2. Etoile (1989) // #3. The Phantom of the Opera (1989) // #4. Blacula (1972) // #5. Scream Blacula Scream (1973) // #6. Jaws: The Revenge (1987) // #7. Blood Bath (1966) // #8. Friday the 13th Part V (1985) // #9. Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) / #10. Friday the 13th Part VII (1988)

Friday the 13th Part VI – Jason Lives: 31 Days of Horror

Friday the 13th Part VI – Jason Lives: 31 Days of Horror

#9. Friday the 13th Part VI – Jason Lives (1986)

friday the 13th part VI jason lives posterNature of Shame:
Trudging my way through the intermittent (and extremely relative) joys of the Friday the 13th series. Bring on Friday the 13th Part VI because it’s the next one. 

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s
6th film in a franchise

Complacency had set in. After the disaster that was Friday the 13th Part V, I was just going through the motions at this point. I had to get through #6 to satisfy the Hooptober “6th film in a franchise” requirement and I had to get through Part VIII for #Watch1989 because that’s the other watch prompt I’ve got going on. I’d been told better things were on the Friday the 13th horizon. “Keep going,” Twitter said. “Ugh,” I said to no one in particular. I’d scavenged the entire series on DVD from Netflix and my library so I might as well get these things watched so I can get these back into the library system/Netflix circulation to torture others. And hopefully, eventually, watch the other movies on my Hooptober list.

Something happened very early in Friday the 13th Part VI that brought me back into the fold, however. After a generic Jason-rises-from-the-grave pre-title sequence (featuring Ron Palillo, aka Arnold Horshack!), we’re treated to this little nugget: Jason riffing on the James Bond opening gun barrel by walking into his own dilated pupil and slashing the screen.

I’m normally skeptical of non-espionage movies that riff on James Bond. Without going too far down this rabbit hole, I’ll summarize my feelings by saying they just don’t “get it.” They don’t get what makes these 007 rituals so important to Bond fans — but Friday the 13th, on the other hand, does? Like James Bond, Jason has become an immortal cinematic icon. He cannot be killed. He will return. And he really really likes women. So when Jason steps into pupil, turns, and not-so-gently nudge nudge wink winks James Bond; I finally witnessed the kind of self-awareness necessary to survive, as a viewer, six movies into this franchise.

‘Friday the 13th Part VI’ Elevator Pitch

So Jason wasn’t Jason in Friday the 13th Part V, but we’ve had enough of that nonsense. Stop being cute. Jason’s back, baby. Poor Tommy Jarvis, trying to end the hallucinations plaguing him since his last encounter with Jason, ventures to the graveyard with his friend Allen (Horshack!) to cremate Jason’s corpse. As he opens the casket, flashbacks strike Tommy and he panics, stabbing the rotting, maggoty corpse with a piece of metal fence. Lightning strikes the post, reanimating the corpse and bring Jason back from the dead. Jason punches a hole through Allen’s chest, Tommy flees, and Jason Lives!

friday the 13th part VI

The Best Friday?

I’ve not been shy about shrugging away the popularity of the Friday the 13th films. I watched the first one for a Cinema Shame podcast episode two years ago and I’ve been on a two-per-year diet. They occupy a particular place in horror film history and I’ll never deny the budget-conscious effectiveness of the original Friday the 13th construct. Despite some affection for Part II, it wasn’t until this entry, however, that I found the Friday the 13th that proved to be more than its very mechanical, lumbering parts. Part VI has a defined identity and a purposeful sense of humor about itself. Humor had been a component of the series, but it had always taken itself just a little too seriously. Even as the characters kept getting dumber and more deserving of a machete attack, the films as whole failed to embrace humor beyond lazy stereotyping and broad stabs at humor. (Get it? Stabs?)

So Tommy’s not a very good Tommy. We can get over that. John Shepherd, despite his reservations about the role, rendered Tommy as a fully-formed, Norman Bates-like scarred psyche. This Tommy (Thom Mathews) is just a Tommy. He’s dismissed as a quack and subsequently charged with the new Jason murders based on zero evidence. His supposed crimes provide more depth to the film. In order for Tommy to stop Jason, Tommy must also outwit Sheriff Mike Garris and his patrolmen. I didn’t suggest profundity, mind you — just an extra layer of conflict that also introduces Tommy’s love interest in the form of the Sheriff’s daughter Megan.

friday the 13th part VI

Friday the 13th Part VI: The Ultra-Violent Prometheus

Director Tom McLoughlin intended to deliver a different kind of Friday. The producers resisted his efforts. Unlike other Friday the 13th films in which editors had to remove graphic sex and violence to avoid an “X” rating, producers asked McLoughlin to add more. He also changed the momentum of the series heading into Part VII. The reborn Jason has now become an indomitable supernatural force — and in certain ways McLoughlin has rendered him as a modern Frankenstein’s monster. A scene early on depicts him discovering this power as he rips an arm off of a corporate paintballer. The resurrection via a bolt of lightning certainly inspires immediate comparisons to the birth of Mary Shelley’s creation.

friday the 13th part VI jason

I can’t say that the parallels continue beyond those few moments. This is still the sixth entry in a series of low-budget slasher movies, after all. Top to bottom, however, there’s just more interesting filmmaking decisions to pick apart. Add in a smattering of Alice Cooper tracks and Friday the 13th Part VI becomes its own thing — an oasis on this cruise through the endless hordes of routine slashing and stabbings.

Final ‘Friday the 13th Part VI’ Thoughts

It took me six tries, but we got there — the Friday the 13th movie that would make me a “fan” of the series. I just needed that one to put me over the top. There’s enough surprises and purposeful filmmaking decisions in Friday the 13th Part VI to make this something more than your average cavalcade of 80’s sex and carnage. I salute this new direction and hope that some of this carries over into Part VII.

 

 

friday the 13th blu-rayFriday the 13th Part VI is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

2019 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

#1. Shocker (1989) // #2. Etoile (1989) // #3. The Phantom of the Opera (1989) // #4. Blacula (1972) // #5. Scream Blacula Scream (1973) // #6. Jaws: The Revenge (1987) // #7. Blood Bath (1966) // #8. Friday the 13th Part V (1985) // #9. Friday the 13th Part VI (1986)