Tag Archives: Cinema Shame

80’s Flashback: The Lost Boys

Paul: Garlic don’t work boys.
Edgar Frog: Then try it with holy water deadbreath! 

the lost boys poster

The Lost Boys Elevator Pitch

One of the Coreys moves into fictional Santa Carla, California, which he soon learns has a vampire infestation. When his brother goes half vampire, Corey teams up with Corey and some other kid to break the curse. Lost Boys!

The Shame-Maker

Despite my love for all things 1980’s, I’d never seen Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys in its entirety. Chalk up another omission to the “I saw part of it on TV one day and… eh…” category. The Lost Boys also owns the distinction of being a film directed by Joel Schumacher, who, whether he knows it or not, has become my nemesis.

The feud began in 1990 (Flatliners), escalated in 1997 (Batman & Robin) and became a legitimate blood feud in 1998 (8mm) with many smaller transgressions in between.

I called a truce just long enough to face my Cinema Shame and order up The Lost Boys on Netflix DVD.

The 1987 Boys

If I had to pick the most 80’s year of the 1980’s, I would without hesitation choose 1987. If I were to pick the most 1987 movie from the year 1987, I might just pick The Lost Boys.

Joel Schumacher first worked in the fashion industry and broke into Hollywood as a costume designer. After writing a few successful screenplays he made his directorial debut on The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981). Schumacher directs like a fashion designer with foregrounded flash and spectacle and maybe something going on behind, but maybe not. Most likely not, but that’s irrelevant because LOOK AT THE FABULOUS LAPELS ON HIS LEATHER JACKET.

The Lost Boys Nostalgia

The Lost Boys looks and feels like a music video. A motorcycle chase scored my Lou Gramm’s (Foreigner) “Lost in the Shadows” gives the film its backbone. Elsewhere on the soundtrack find such clear-eyed aural vampire analogies like Echo and the Bunnymen’s “People are Strange” and Roger Daltrey’s version of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me.” These are not subtle cues.

the lost boys 1987

In turn, more narrative beats hit you through musical montage and wardrobe rather than dialogue and action. Schumacher ladles on superficial visceral thrills in place of downtime. The result is film as pop-culture. As a kinetic riff on 1987 popular culture, The Lost Boys would have felt hyper-stylized in the moment. Removed from the era of its manufacture, the film now feels reflective of our late 80’s nostalgia.

This is how we now remember 1987 — a compression of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” leather, bitchin’ power rock anthems, INXS, a little bit of neon, sunglasses, the Coreys, Hawaiian shirts as a fashion statement. Even the vampire mythology feels rooted in 1987. Pre-Anne Rice and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

The Lost Boys Flashback Verdict

None of these things prevents The Lost Boys from being a good movie. On the contrary, these jolts of processed pop culture nostalgia seem to have some of the most adamant fans. They stand out precisely for the reasons highlighted above.

Due to my pre-disposed negativity for Joel Schumacher I watched The Lost Boys and yelled BINGO! after seeing all my favorite Joel Schumacher flourishes grace the screen before the half-hour mark. As a director, Schumacher’s a magician, a practitioner of misdirection, and The Lost Boys probably remains his crowning achievement. But instead of smoke and mirrors, he’s using rock anthems and Kiefer Sutherland.

If you loved The Lost Boys back in 1987, I’d wager that you’re still very much attached to the film. As a lover of all things 80’s, I understand the allure completely; it hits you like a 10-ton blob of hair gel.

Having viewed this film for the first time as a 40-year old manchild, the tone’s far more childish than I’d anticipated. Safe scares for prepubuscent horror-fans-in-training with Jason Patric as your James Dean rebelling with a cause, an excellent cause by the name 1987’s Jami Gertz. Light on vampire gore, but high on humor, mild tension and beautiful people.

jami gertz the lost boys

There are worse reason to love a movie — but understand that presentation in The Lost Boys is everything and if you peek behind the gloss, it’s mostly undead.

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

Once Upon a Time in the West: Cinema Shame

Cinema Shame: Once Upon a Time in the West

Scratching an entry off my 2018 Shame Statement that also qualifies for the April Shame Prompt.

Seeing as how the April prompt concerned movies screened at this year’s Turner Classic Movies Film Festival in Hollywood April 26th-29th, I had a distinct advantage of attending the festival. So any movie I hadn’t already seen fulfilled the requirement. This year I first-watched 10 movies at TCMFF, but it seems only logical that I grapple (finally) with Once Upon a Time in the West — a movie I’ve owned on both DVD and Blu-ray for at least 10 years, but never watched.

There’s nothing easy about committing to a 175-minute movie. I even considered missing out on the chance to see Once Upon a Time in the West at the TCL Chinese Theatre. Which is pure insanity.  I blame “festival brain” which clouds rational thought. I should love everything about this movie. I just needed to place my posterior in the seat. So I did, at 9:15 am on Sunday with a big bag of popcorn and my Ray-Bans obscuring the sleep deprivation in my eyes.

At Once Upon a Time in the West at 9:15am on 4 1/2 hours sleep and feeling hungover without any alcohol..

From the opening minutes on the IMAX screen at the TCL Chinese Theatre, the sweeping vistas and vintage Leone closeups made me feel like I was experiencing the most cinematic thing ever committed to film.

The film’s opening is a nearly wordless 15-minute sequence in which three gunmen (Jack Elam, Woody Strode and Al Mulock) do nothing more than wait for the arrival of another character on a train platform in a remote frontier station. Before you express your disinterest, would you believe me if I told you it was my favorite 15 minutes of movie I’ve seen in recent memory?

John Sayles introduced Once Upon a Time in the West as one would ride a horse.

It is of course, for you Western fans, a reference to the opening of High Noon — where three malcontents similarly await a train’s arrival. John Sayles, in his introduction to our screening of Once Upon a Time in the West, described how Sergio Leone, Dario Argento an Bernardo Bertolucci cobbled the narrative out of bits and pieces of their favorite classic Westerns. In doing so, these three Italian auteurs may have made the final stand in the classic Western era. What more needed to be said after Once Upon a Time in the West?

The most remarkable aspect? In creating this tapestry, they’ve so masterfully woven the story and influences together that the viewer stops looking for the connective tissue and just basks in atmosphere and spectacle.

Leone reportedly wanted Once Upon a Time in the West to be a metatextual conclusion to the Dollars Trilogy. He’d wanted to cast Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach as the gunmen in this opening sequence. When Eastwood declined, Leone scrapped the notion and cast the veteran Western actors Elam, Strode and Mulock instead. Losing perhaps his connection to Dollars, but extending his reach further into the history of the genre, recalling films beyond his own.

Leone increases the tension through the use of sound (and the absence of) and anticipation. A squeaky door. A windmill in need of some oil. Ambient cooing of a bird in cage. Footsteps. Spurs on a wooden floor. The gunmen idle, awaiting that train that will carry their unknown target. Elam tracks a fly buzzing over his face. Strode stands beneath a drip and collects water in his hat. Mulock cracks his knuckles. Each action contributes to Leone’s isolated soundscape, meticulously crafted through post-production foley recording.

The audience brings their own expectations into the scene. The audience assumes that the men anticipate the arrival of Charles Bronson’s character, and the longer we wait the greater the anticipated payoff.

The train arrives just under 10 minutes into the film. The door to a freight car opens, causing Elam to flinch. An attendant tosses out a single box and then the train begins to depart.

The gunmen gather on the craggy platform, facing away from the train. Finally we hear a new sound — the first hints of a Morricone score — a harmonica. The ne’er-do-wells pause. Elam’s expressive eyes rise in acknowledgment of the music.

A distant figure appears on the far side of the tracks as the train vacates the station. Perspective dwarfs the shadowy figure in the background, but the specter of Bronson — the on-screen persona and the legend built by 12 minutes of anticipation — looms large.

once upon a time in the west bronson

I won’t spoil it for you when I say that the hero survives the first scene of a 3-hour film. Bronson dispatches the gunmen — in a classic Leone showdown — and then the movie begins.

once upon a time in the west

If it sounds like I’m gushing, it’s because I’m absolutely gushing. I could go on like this describing two or three more sequences from this film that similarly stir my cockles.

Once Upon a Time in the West depicts three conflicts that take place in and around the fictional town of Flagstone. There’s a financial tycoon Morton hires a cold-blooded blue-eyed assassin Frank (Henry Fonda) to eliminate the McBain family standing in the way of a potentially valuable piece of property — a narrative that’s become complicated by the arrival of a New Orleans prostitute (Claudia Cardinale) who claims to be McBain’s wife. Frank frames local bandit Cheyenne (Jason Robards) for the McBain family massacre.

henry fonda once upon a time in the west

Meanwhile, a mysterious outsider, the Bronson character (later dubbed Harmonica by Cheyenne) tracks Frank — with eyes on an uncertain vendetta to be paid. Harmonica and Cheyenne become unusual allies against Morton and perhaps reluctant defenders of McBain’s widow.

John Wayne in John Ford’s The Searchers, a film that’s also felt throughout Once Upon a Time in the West.

John Ford ectoplasm oozes all over this film — but we’re seeing John Ford through a disillusioned gaze. A look back at the old West filled with decay and lacking the proper delineation between hero and villain. There’s plenty of villain, but Leone dispatches the notion of a pure hero. Even the heroes in Once Upon a Time in the West are part scoundrel. They’ve taken on the role of hero because their interests align with the moral right as perceived by the audience.

Despite the 176-minute runtime, Once Upon a Time in the West never feels aimless. Leone allows the audience to dwell on the hardened faces of his characters just as he embraces the beauty and desolation of the natural landscape. Every frame feels pointed towards their inevitable fate — a fate that echoes that of the American old west and the Western genre. Assimilation or elimination by the progress brought about by industrialization and the spread of civilization.

In cinematic terms, the audience’s interest in the genre declined with the rise of the blockbuster. Galaxies far, far away opened up with the help of increasingly elaborate special effects.

The Western genre met a kind of end as the 1960’s came to a close. Once Upon a Time in the West represented a master’s final volley, the last word on the matter. In many ways the genre represented a uniquely American romanticism about the wide open spaces, a limitless potential — but also the dark underbelly that went along with it. A blank canvas for starkly moral fables about good and evil. After Once Upon a Time in the West, westerns began to more fully embrace the “anti-Western” trend that had been growing since the early 1950’s.

After the success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), the 1970’s saw a wave of Western Revisionism and uninhibited creative freedoms in films like Little Big Man, El Topo, McCabe & Mrs. Miller before the genre rode off into the sunset almost entirely at the start of the 80’s.

el topo (1970)
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s trippy revisionist Western El Topo (1970)

If this is the end of the Western genre proper, I can’t imagine a more fitting conclusion. After Once Upon a Time in the West there really wasn’t much more to say. Or at the very least it feels that way.

2018 Shame Statement Update:

(Bold/linked denotes watched)

Five Easy Pieces
Lifeboat
Stop Making Sense
The Black Pirate
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Paris, Texas
Wuthering Heights
Paper Moon
Sunrise
The Conversation
Victor/Victoria
Once Upon a Time in the West
Ikiru
Help!

Cinema Shame Monthly Prompts:

January Prompt: Shame Statement
February Prompt: An American In Paris
March Prompt: The Crimson Pirate
April Prompt: Once Upon a Time in the West

 

 

 

Stop Making Sense: Cinema Shame

Cinema Shame: Stop Making Sense

Scratching another entry off my 2018 Shame Statement.

I love experiencing live music — there’s so much more revealed about the band and the eccentricities of the music than what can be conveyed through a studio recording. A recording mutes personality, often diluting aural idiosyncrasy in favor of glossy palatability.

Concert films, meanwhile, have never been much more than a filmed concert for me. A concert on film is nice, but it’s not like you’re actually experiencing the live show. You’re watching a recording, just as you’re listening to a recording on an album. The music’s not too loud. The beer’s not too warm. The cat on the couch next to you is far less annoying than the drunken malaprop that’s singing all the wrong words to your favorite songs and invading your space.

So what I’m saying is that there’s benefit to a filmed concert — accessibility, convenience — but I’ve never seen a concert film that struck me as pure cinema. Until now.

But push this meditation on “the concert film” aside to consider why it’s absurd that I’ve never before watched Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense.

The damning evidence. My most spun vinyl record:

talking heads - stop making sense

If we’re gauging my musical tastes and allegiances based on the lists every music fan makes, Talking Heads would also appear in my Top 10 albums (Remain in Light), Top 5 favorite bands/artists, and log at least 3 or 4 tracks in my Top 100 favorite songs.

Hence my shame.

At some point I arbitrarily decided to wait to see Stop Making Sense until I could see it on the big screen. I made this determination because of my aforementioned thoughts on concert films. I wanted to feel present at the original venue. Unfortunately my repertory migrations never allowed such a thing to happen. Finally, I broke down and popped in the Blu-ray disc. The time had come to break the seal.

stop making sense title

After the credits (I have always loved this font) David Byrne steps up to the microphone. At best he saunters. All we see are his white sneakers and the cuff of the pants from his now famous grey suit. He sets a boombox down next to the microphone stand, presses play and starts strumming a low-key rendition of “Psycho Killer” along with the music emanating from the tape deck.

The boombox cannot, of course, project sound throughout a concert venue in this fashion. In this instance, it’s a Roland TR-808 drum machine, spilling through the venue’s speakers. The drum machine rat-a-tat echoes like gunshots — Byrne staggers. He envisioned this as an echo of the ending to Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless as Jean-Paul Belmondo has been ambushed by gunfire.

This is a visual cue, seemingly a comment on the nature of pre-recorded music in an new age — one marked by a shift towards consumerism and ownership. Even the music at a Talking Heads concert comes pre-recorded these days. My concerns about the cinematic nature of Stop Making Sense disappear.

Here’s the opening of the film:

Within the last few years, I’ve come to prefer to this version of “Psycho Killer” to the studio recording. The down-tempo pace and David Byrne’s foregrounded vocals over acoustic rhythm guitar and the drum machine change our emotional response. I’ve always admired Talking Heads’ ability to craft mid-tempo pop music. Songs that feel faster and more accessible than they really are. This highlights that phenomenon by taking arguably the band’s widely recognized track and rendering it a completely different beast. A minimal and more deliberate “Psycho Killer” feels like a dirge rather than a ditty.

As this opening set continues, more members of the band join Byrne on stage. First Tina Weymouth on “Heaven” then Christ Frantz on “Thank You For Sending Me an Angel” and finally Jerry Harrison on “Found a Job.” As the band grows, so too does the additional equipment and musicians that appear on stage.

The band finally reaches maximum capacity when it launches into “Burning Down the House.” (The original 1985 home video release has the band performing “Cities” first, however.) It’s a cathartic moment, a build to a euphoric release both for the listener and the band. After the incomplete band migrates through stripped down versions of the tracklist, everyone on stage lets loose in the complete ensemble. Wait for David Byrne to unleash fury during the extended finale and outtro.

Demme’s influence on the film becomes apparent during this sequence as well. He’s not focused on the music. Each band member’s personality becomes the most important aspect of the film. We all know “Burning Down the House” — and the music becomes something more like a score to a Jonathan Demme movie about a band called Talking Heads rather than our single reason for watching.

Not only is this the best seat in the house; you’re the only viewer. You are omniscient, standing on stage and witnessing musical genius at play through a macro lens. You might not care about Talking Heads’ music, but I find it hard to believe you could watch this film and not respect David Byrne’s and the band’s cerebral ability to command a stage. He’s some unique brand of buttoned-down mania.

Byrne’s wardrobe also provides a glimpse into his mental acuity when it comes to music and performance. His “big suit” grows larger as the concert progresses. The suit become an icon for the film — and even appeared on the movie poster. Eventually he comes back on stage engulfed by the suit. His comically tiny-looking head sticking out through the engorged jacket. He doesn’t call attention to the changes, he’s just shrinking as the concert rolls along.

david byrne's suit stop making sene

Byrne later explained his methodology: “I wanted my head to appear smaller and the easiest way to do that was to make my body bigger, because music is very physical and often the body understands it before the head.” He said he was inspired by Japanese theater — Noh, Kabuki and Banraku — when creating the costume. The manipulation of audience response through artificiality.

I’ve watched dozens of films as a result of this Cinema Shame exercise and I’ve ultimately loved a great many of them. Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense, however, just became the first film I can’t comprehend not having in my life. It’s almost like I hadn’t even really heard the soundtrack. The film’s opening and the gradual gathering of bandmates gives extra context to the sparse compositions that begin the album. I’ve heard so much more in the music now that I’ve seen the concert film.

That is something I never thought I’d say.

2018 Shame Statement Update:

(Bold/linked denotes watched)

Five Easy Pieces
Lifeboat
Stop Making Sense
The Black Pirate
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Paris, Texas
Wuthering Heights
Paper Moon
Sunrise
The Conversation
Victor/Victoria
Once Upon a Time in the West
Ikiru
Help!

Cinema Shame Monthly Prompts:

January Prompt: Shame Statement
February Prompt: An American In Paris
March Prompt: The Crimson Pirate

The Crimson Pirate: Swashbuckler Shame

crimson pirate

Swashbuckler Shame: The Crimson Pirate

For the Cinema Shame prompt for March, we settled on Swashbucklers and Pirate movies. Because Maarrrrrggch, obviously. Also, I’ve had the genre on my mind lately after introducing my daughters to Errol Flynn last month. While I’ve spent significant time with Errol, the genre outside of his contribution remained somewhat hazy. I’ve decided to entertain more plundering and pillaging in addition to the standard allotment swashing and buckling.

While I placed The Black Pirate (1928) on my Shame Statement for year, I inexplicably elected to watch The Crimson Pirate (1952) to satisfy the Maarrrrrgggch requirement. Burt Lancaster and early 1950’s Technicolor sounded rather essential, and I was still trying to wrangle a copy of The Black Pirate from the Pittsburgh public library system.

the crimson pirate

Having not done my homework on the film beforehand, I was struck by the “directed by Richard Siodmak” credit straightaway. Siodmak, known primarily for his B-movie and film noir output in the 1940’s, seemed an odd choice for a color-splashed Caribbean adventure film.

In his autobiography, Christopher Lee (who appears in The Crimson Pirate in a minor, thankless roll of one-note stoicism) said that Siodmak had been given a solemn script by screenwriter Waldo Salt, but that after reading the material the director refashioned the script into a comedy. The film’s producers may have feared association with Salt’s rumored communist ties, and though I’ve read nothing in my brief searches to suggest that the producers intervened in Siodmak’s creative process it seems likely that they also a hand in the rewrite and tonal shift.

Perhaps too long constrained by the grayscale genre limitations in Film Noir, Siodmak embraced the opportunity to direct this sprawling light adventure film with his The Killers star Burt Lancaster. While Lancaster fares well outside his comfort zone — 100-watt charisma plays, no matter the genre — a defter directorial touch might have better expedited the sluggish middle bits.

the crimson pirate

The film wastes no time in presenting itself as a lark, introducing itself with a Bye Bye Birdie-style sequence (or rather Bye Bye Birdie borrowed the Crimson Pirate opening) with Burt Lancaster introducing the film while swinging back and forth between ship masts, bare-chested and grinning ear to ear.

Siodmak’s film moves along at a steady clip, mixing elaborate slapstick choreography with double crossing and a side of swashbuckling. Casual glancers would presume the film to be a 1950’s MGM-brand musical based on costuming. color and boisterous puffery.

the crimson pirate

Burt Lancaster plays Captain Vallo, a famous scourge of the seven seas known as, of course, the Crimson Pirate. He and his crew capture a frigate belonging to the King carrying Baron Gruda, a special envoy on his way to crush a rebellion on the island of Cobra. Vallo suggests selling the frigate’s weapon’s cash to the rebel leader El Libre. Gruda humbly suggests there would be more money to be made by capturing El Libre and selling him to the King.

Vallo and his lieutenant, Ojo (Nick Cravat), meet the island’s rebels, lead by Pablo (Noel Purcell) and Consuelo (Eva Bartok), and learn that El Libre has been imprisoned on the island of San Pero. Thus begins the symphony of double- and triple-crossing that features prison breaks, Lancaster in drag, a crackpot scientist, mutiny and a bit of the old swordplay. The finale predicts the bloated epic comedies that graced the early 1960s.

the crimson pirate

Even when The Crimson Pirate sags in the middle as it navigates the hypeconvolute narrative, Lancaster and Nick Cravat anchor the film with infectious enthusiasm, preventing it from floating away entirely on its own hot air. (This makes more sense when you see the hot air balloon climax.) Lancaster even tried to resurrect the character for a sequel in the 1970’s.

The bookending spectacle set pieces, showcases for the athleticism of Lancaster and his circus-partner and career-long trainer Cravat, make for an entertaining matinee spectacle. The Technicolor-tailored costume design and screaming blue Caribbean landscape call for a Blu-ray treatment even though the material feels undercooked.

Entertaining spectacle. Lancaster essential. Technicolor beauty. Fun but non-essential piracy. The kind gentlefolk at Warner Archive saw fit to release this Technicolor marvel on DVD, and I thank them for that.

Friday the 13th Part 1 & 2

friday the 13th 1980 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature Shame:
Straight-up Shoulda Seen It Shame

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s

 


 

#10. Friday the 13th Part 1 (1980)

friday the 13th 1980 posterFriday the 13th appeared on my Cinema Shame Statement for 2017. I then took it off in favor of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. True to form, I waffled back over to Friday the 13th because I felt that this was the film and the franchise that I’d most inexplicably overlooked.

Cultural phenomenon. Horror icon. Omnipresent imagery. Yet I’d never bothered. I even played the old Friday the 13th Nintendo game.

The reasons? I’ll place blame on the desire to discover and watch more hidden gems. The American slasher genre exploded in the 1980’s. What was the fun in watching a movie everyone had already seen when there were hundreds of likeminded films with far lesser followings in need of a champion?

As I consumed mass amounts of horror in my high school years, I found myself drawn particularly to foreign horror. The Italian giallo films, especially. Where was the fun in calling up your friends in 1996 and saying “Guess what I just saw?! It was some little movie called Friday the 13th. Wanna come over and watch?”

This worked with Michele Soavi’s The Church. This worked with Lamberto Bava’s Demons. Peter Jackson’s Meet the Feebles. At the time many these films were not all that available and I used to order legal bootlegs from a company called Revok. (I think I still have my copy of Dellamorte Dellamore with Japanese subs laying around somewhere.)

meet the feebles poster
Obligatory inclusion of a Meet the Feebles poster in a bl-g post about Friday the 13th.

The cult of the *new* fueled my moviewatching. Truth be told — it still fuels my moviewatching habits. Hence the existence of Cinema Shame in the first place. Without Cinema Shame, I might continue to ignore these films and these franchises that everyone has seen.

And as a result of Friday the 13th‘s cultural omnipresence, I just felt like I’d seen this film a hundred times over in the hacks and imitators that sprung up in its wake. I watched a bunch of movies that were Friday the 13th in everything but name. At least now I’ve watched the “origin of the species” — and now I can talk about the film’s specific influence instead of waving my hand and saying something about all that “Jason stuff.”

This is progress. Thank you, Cinema Shame.

friday the 13th 1980

The Story

A bunch of kids go to Camp Crystal Lake to re-start a summer camp despite being warned by the lunatic locals that the damn place is cursed beyond all get out and they’re all going to die a grizzly death.

Just a bunch of kooky local flavor if you ask me. Except every five minutes or so another one of them does die so I guess the locals weren’t so kooky and playfully insane after all.

It’s the most basic of concepts — sexy teens, isolated location, rampaging killer — but it’s incredibly effective.

friday the 13th 31 days of horror

Despite my admiration for the film’s simplicity, my gut reaction remained “I’ve been here before.” I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen the evolution of this movie throughout the 1980’s and beyond. And I didn’t find Friday the 13th particularly scary. What I did find impressive, however, was film’s bravado when it came to showcasing cinematic bloodletting.

Straight out of the shoot, Friday the 13th executes two of its characters with abrupt and shocking scenes of practical gore. A slit throat. An arrow impalement. The camera unflinchingly frames these deaths front and center.

This is where the film excels. The practical gore effects and unsettling voyeurism. I found it lacking, however, in that the film makes such an effort to strike the horror chord so regularly, and so efficiently, that Friday the 13th feels like a spreadsheet. Every five minutes “the killer” punches his timecard, goes back on the clock, and a character is killed off or put in peril. As a direct result of this focus on horror elements, none of the characters ever really become known. They all remain faceless pawns in the film’s endgame.

I don’t expect a character study, but when relentless scenes of slashing bleed into each other that leaves no room for the characters to breathe and inhabit the screen as anything other than Slash-Test Dummies. We gain a measure of proximity to the “final girl” because she’s merely on-screen the longest.
friday the 13th 1980 31 days of horror

And in the end Friday the 13th isn’t doing anything wildly new. It’s repackaging a known commodity for a generation of teenagers that had become numb to big screen horrors anesthetized for their entertainment. Halloween updated tropes by bringing terror to suburban teenagers. And while John Carpenter’s film sold legitimate white-knuckle tension and masked most of the overt horror — Friday the 13th upped the ante. Minimal story, maximum horror.

Friday the 13th changed the way gore could be viewed at the mainstream cinema. Gore and practical effects would grow to be considered an art form. Low budget invention and creative workarounds. But it all depended upon your perspective. Back in 1980, Siskel and Ebert clearly disagreed. If nothing else I find this debate interesting. I respect and value their thoughts on the matter. While I think they’re missing the point, there’s plenty to think about here.

For the other side of this argument, the side that argues that there’s poetry in blood geysers, I present Chainsaw and Dave’s elaborate prank from Summer School. Maybe they’re not the best debaters, but they get their point across.

Final Thoughts:

My perspective on this film has been clouded. As a landmark even in film history, Friday the 13th occupies a place on the historical record. The film maintains the power to thrill — and even surprise. (Knowing the ending may have somewhat spoiled it for me.) If I’d seen the film in the 1980’s when it was still considered an elicit thrill, watching something parents had deemed verboten, I do not doubt that I would have been far more receptive to it’s dime-store pageantry of blood.

 

30Hz Movie Rating:

 


friday the 13th part 2 31 days of horror

Nature Shame:
Straight-up Shoulda Seen It Shame

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s
Franchise sequels

 


#10. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

 

I watched Part 1 so let’s keep this train rolling right on into Part 2, released just the next year to capitalize on the buzz.

Some weird part of me enjoys the deep dive into a succession of never ending sequels of generally decreasing value. After the origin story, you’re free to indulge in trash cinema in the name of completism! Whatever you call it — it’s just fun to watch a bunch of crap that doesn’t require much attention or thought sometimes.

There’s no better venue for such simple-minded moviewatching than 31 Days of Horror and the Hoop-tober Challenge. It’s basically homework. I’m doing this to complete my cinematic education.

Totally.

The Story

See above. No really.

Same camp:

friday the 13th 31 days of horror

 

New Kids on the Camp:

friday the 13th part 2

 

Their theme song:

FINE. So you don’t like the New Kids job intruding on your horror movies. FINE. BUT I LITERALLY DON’T HAVE ANYTHING NEW TO ADD TO THE STORY PART OF THIS BL-G POST. FINE. FINE.

In the interim year between Part 1 and Part 2, someone went and watched Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood, though. So we’ve got that going for us. First the double impalement scene in question from Friday the 13th Part 2:

friday the 13th double impalement

Now let’s take a look at the double impalement scene from Mario Bava’s early and highly formative giallo Bay of Blood:

bay of blood

I went from New Kids on the Block to Mario Bava in under 50 words.

top that

Right. So. I’ve heard tell of weirdos that kinda sorta enjoy Friday the 13th Part 2 more than Part 1. And I was like, “Whatever. They just want to say something weird to be different. Like those weirdos that try to tell me that Temple of Doom is better than Raiders of the Lost Ark. Pfft. Weirdos.

Part 2’s director Steve Miner clearly had a better handle on how to create tension than Sean S. Cunningham. Cunningham thought in high concepts. Test the boundaries of mainstream cinema, amplify the kill count, and foster constant dread every five minutes. Cunningham thought in nuts and bolts (which is why Cunningham likely excelled as a producer), whereas Steve Miner flashed a bit of on-screen directorial ability.

Steve Miner created dread in the gaps between kills so that by the time we’re down to our “final girl” Ginny (a rather terrific Amy Steele), the viewer has a sense that she’s an actual human and not a pawn in a someone’s low budget horror movie. Miner would go on to direct films I quite enjoy like House (1986) and Lake Placid (1999) whereas Sean S. Cunningham’s great post-Friday the 13th achievement would become The New Kids (1985), which I admit is an effective thriller starring Lori Laughlin.

I also admire how Friday the 13th Part 2 dares the audience to balk at its even greater transparency.

Sexy bits!

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Masked killer who only bothered to cut out one eyehole!

friday the 13th part 2

Decapitated heads on a table!

friday the 13th part 2

On the other hand, maybe it all just comes down to the fact that I had zero expectations for Friday the 13th Part 2 and I was pleasantly surprised at its competent (yet still rudimentary) retelling of virtually the same story. Or I just thought Amy Steele was pretty badass with a pitchfork.

friday the 13th part 2

Final Thoughts:

If you’re going to watch Friday the 13th, go deep. Hit that series and keep on going. These are by no means my favorite movies or even my favorite slashers but I’m in this for the Hoop-tober haul. Bring on Part 3. As soon as it arrives from Netflix.

30Hz Movie Rating:


 

Availability:  

friday the 13th dvd

I watched the good old fashioned DVD sent to me in the mail by Netflix DVD. Nothing seemed more 80’s than going to a movie store and renting a battered VHS tape from a low rack in the horror section. But we don’t have that opportunity nowadays, do we? The bastards took all our fun. So I settled for movie-by-mail and it lacks the same je ne sais quoi.


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2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982) / #7. Night of the Lepus (1972) / #8. The Black Cat (1934) / #9. The Raven (1935) / #10. Friday the 13th (1980) / #11. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) / #12. Body Snatcher (1945) / #13. Dismembered (1962) / #14. From Hell It Came (1957) / #15. Symptoms (1974)