Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The best is the rest: The Friday the 13th reboot is the best one

at 6:05 PM
This has absolutely no intro or structure because it was supposed to be an email, but it's never gonna get published if I set it aside for editing, so fuck it!

The whole thing is almost exactly one third PART 2 (Jason's house), one third PART 3 (barnhouse battle), and one third PART IV (creepy "hunky" guy looking for missing sister charms final girl), obviously stitched together by the common "party kids" framework of all of them. This being a reboot and all I actually like that they reworked setpieces - it makes the references feel organic rather than like winking. The Part IV bit brings attention to just how lazy the reboot writing is though - at least the original allowed the audience to believe (however unlikely this would've been) that heroguy might actually be the murderer. The omission of that "tension" spares the insult to our intelligence and lets the movie gush with the afore-described Jason action, so I'm glad for it, but it doesn't exactly explain what that guy does for the movie. They coulda just had the final girl save the basement girl and die escaping or escape together or w/e - it's not like the final girl fakeout was effective in any capacity.

It occurred to me the reason I liked this one best: it's an action movie. Compound bow and all, this Jason is basically Rambo. He's on screen for what seems like two or three times as long as the franchise average - whether this is actually the case or whether it's that his scenes aren't all wasted on mannequin poses, the effect is that you feel the strain he's going through and the skill and cunning necessary to pull it off. From the PTSD freak-out after finding traces of intruders in his house to the calculated monitoring of the girl stranded in the lake (to make sure she drowns), Jason feels logical, unstable, and badass. It reaches the same end as the magic realism of the rest of the series - that he so far outclasses his targets that survival is utterly hopeless - but does so using action [movie techniques]. For the same reason, that's still not enough to make him scary - that would require the kind of stakes that you can't have in such a rigidly formulaic structure, let alone one established with such lazy "you don't care so we don't care" writing. And - yeah - I used too many dashes in this paragraph, but it went past the 10 second edit rule, and even if were publishing this I'd still make a "joke" here instead of fixing it. [editor's note: mission accomplished!]

There's also a TCM effect where most of the kills happen in quick bursts - it's not nearly as dramatic as everyone dying in a 10-minute span in the middle of the movie, but you're still getting kill sequences rather than individual picking off. In fact I can't think of a single kill that doesn't directly lead from or into another one - the intro blasts through four, the boating setup has a pair, and the home invasion is pretty methodical in drawing out each victim with the last, until the point where the mean guy breaks for it and gets chased down. This too feels like What Would Rambo Do.

Jason's backstory is very weird and incomplete and I almost want to say that works as a plus. He lives around the lake and kills literally everyone that comes near? Obviously people know about it - that old lady warns the kids (about her dog???). How do people live there then? It's not like Jason "protects" the lake from outsiders - he kills that hick too. And what the hell is going on with that marijuana crop? I would've turned off the movie had that been brought up again. And the kidnapping thing is pretty unacceptably stupid. Based on everything we know about Jason even in this movie I could buy at most that he'd let a girl go if she looked like his mom. Keeping her in his basement is like, what, was he bringing her Pepperidge Farm Sandwich-in-a-Box sandwiches every evening?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday the 13th Power Rankings

at 7:57 PM
What is a power ranking? I know I've heard that term but I don't know what it means. Anyway, this is just the normal kind of ranking. Sorry power ranking fans! Sorry!

I have agonized for many sleepless nights what to do on the subject of writing up the Friday the 13th film franchise. Having spawned this rancid project with an ill-considered July the 4th marathon and proceeding to labor through all the films (over years worth of movie nights hosted on Fridays the 13th), I feel compelled to turn my PTSD into something creative. I really don't think it's possible to say anything intelligent about these movies - any intelligent man would've chosen not to watch them. So we'll have to settle for the least creative of all written forms: the countdown article.

You know I read the other day that blogging is a form of white privilege. Fax me if you can figure out that one!

Even counting down proves a difficult task when dealing with such unintelligibly abysmal quality as lies before us; at its best the series barely grasps so-bad-it's-good, at its worst it aggressively colonizes so-bad-it-causes-long-term-depression. Perhaps the only way to save face would be to count down to the most terrible, the most unwatchable and painful of these terrible, wildly unwatchable and painful movies. So here are the ten original Friday the 13th movies ranked from "tolerable" to "apocalyptically bad".

Friday the 13th movies that I enjoyed with beer and friends

It's not safe to go alone or whatever. If you were doing an in-depth head-to-toe documentary on the entire series you could just watch these.

10.) Friday the 13th Part 3: 3D

Well, here it is. The best one. If you HAVE to watch a Friday the 13th, perhaps as part of a college major on sanitary disposal protocols or Sorority Hell Week, this is the one to go to. It goes without saying that you aren't missing anything by jumping to PART 3 - in fact, this is the first one with the real franchise recipe: Jason teleporting around in a hockey mask. I don't want to heap too much praise on a basic idea, but that hockey mask is possibly the most successful and enduring single idea of any horror franchise in American pop culture. It is creepy without being contrived; emotionless yet menacing. Maybe it's derivative of Leatherface and Michael Myers, but the simplicity of Jason's makeshift mask puts it above its costume store forerunners. Hockey masks are a real thing that you can see in non-slasher contexts. You can't leave this monster behind! (actually hockey masks don't look like Jason anymore but don't tell that to my old boy Casey Jones).

The "teleporting around" aspect is more important than it seems. Jason, as the American people know him, does not chase after people like he does in PART 2. He is lazy in the stealthiest way possible. Or stealthy in the laziest way possible. We rarely see him change locations at all - he's just there when it's time for someone to die. This is what makes him feel like a force of nature and a very low-budget to film. He's got more in common with Mr. Final Destination than with Mr. Texas Chain Saw - he's not a maniac killer, he's the presence of death. You don't run away from Jason (unless you're the last girl, in which cast the rules completely change).

The movie itself is just a regular slasher. There are enough good kills (the handstand "split" being the classic) and the "haunted house" section (that thing where Jason hides the bodies to later be discovered by the survivor lady) is finally blown into a full act by this point. It is fairly impressive in its impracticality.

3 also frees up Jason from the always uncomfortable moralistic bent of slasher tradition. I don't know about the '80s because I wasn't old enough then, but teens getting killed for doing sex and marijuana cigarettes feels simultaneously goose-steppingly right-wing and awkwardly tepid (the idea of being outraged at such pedestrian activities suggests a willful facade of naivete/ignorance). So Jason's new degree of not caring who he kills or where or when (e.g. bikers, the muscley "hero", Woody Allen's disowned fat son) is relieving. He's just killing people. I can appreciate nihilism a lot better than misanthropic social politics (though you better believe I tune in to "Psycho Dad" every Thursday at 7PM EST).

09.) Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (aka Part IV)

This one has a really memorable cast of victims and somehow that's good enough. You've got Crispin Glover playing an autist who gets hella laid... BY TWINS!. You've got some weird stoner kid who pretends he's a calculator that computes what women like (genius sartrean irony: he's the only one who doesn't do sex!). You've got hot twins. You've got Corey Feldspar. There's a dog. Really, what's not to like? I enjoyed watching all of these people be oblivious to the fact that they were about to die. 

Actually I was highly disappointed that Corey "The Feld" doesn't die. Watching horror movies kill kids is always depressing (ugh CHILD'S PLAY), but this kid was a serious fuck. If I met him in real life I would punch him in the head as hard as I could, and I'm 27, which is considered much too old to be punching a 10-year-old. I get the feeling I'm supposed to relate to him because he's a horror nerd and I just don't. Zaxxon isn't even a good game. That is a game of losers and chumps. Grow some testicles and play fuckin Gradius. I don't care if it wasn't released for another 2 years. Stop pandering to me you fucks.

I lengthily debated whether this one or PART 3 should be on top, because they're the only two I enjoy even remotely. I eventually went with 3 because it's a better Jason movie. PART IV is more a Crispin Glover affair. Even the most memorable kill (the corkscrew stab) derives 50% of its enjoyability from the reaction of BACK TO THE FUTURE's favorite teen dad. The way the movie is split between plots is smart but also weird. It kinda works, in the sense that teenagers partying is not interesting to watch for 80 minutes (PART 2 I'm looking at you), but the "A" plot of Corey Feldjunior the dweeb solving mysteries doesn't feel like it's from this series. In fact it doesn't feel like it has anything to do with anything except some Mary Suing bullshit.

The way Jason is defeated (he sees a kid made up to look like him!) is a dumb payoff, and the lame to-be-continued setup of Cordog as the new killer is moronic. I kinda hate the entire ending. Luckily the subsequent two movies are spun off from it!

Friday the 13th movies that leave me with a dead, lifeless feeling

If you were locked in a theater and one of these was being projected in, I would not recommend killing yourself. I would recommend intoxication by whatever means possible, even if it means boiling your shoe and inhaling semi-deadly rubber fumes.

08.) Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

This one is mostly saved by its placement in the series. After THE "FINAL" CHAPTER, things mostly got really fucking stupid as the filmmakers tried to fiddle with the formula (or more likely just stopped bothering to rewrite their borrowed scripts as Friday the 13th movies). Despite the gimmicky title, JASON TAKES MANHATTAN is a brief moment of respite from all the shitfucking we'll get to later.

It mostly gets by on a scant few s.b.-it's-g. moments, really the last time the franchise would witness that peculiar phenomenon. There is a guitar-based kill and the classic Jason punching someone's head off (of a building). There is a hot chick who draws her digestive tract on her stomach in the weirdest seduction ever. Jason is "cleansed" by drowning in sewage (yeah, yuck, kinda way too much sewage in this movie. Whatever '80s guy is responsible for toxic waste and sewage becoming a thing in movies, fuck that guy. Who wants to see that ever?).

Also it's pretty fucking strange in a hilarious way that the entire graduating class of some high school are having a party cruise on someone's dad's oil tanker which is sailing from Crystal Lake to the New York Harbor, as if any single aspect of that makes even the slightest shred of sense. "Entire graduating class" is a little misleading though, as this is either the smallest high school or the lowest graduation rate in the U.S., with only about 15 "teens" onboard. Complain about the fake-out title all you like, at least this movie has sets. The oil tanker (with disco dance floor) and back alleys and sewers and Times Square look unique from one another, and after 7 movies of straight forest/cabin/forest it's almost an embarrassment of riches.

To call these movies ill-paced would be putting things lightly, so it's good that we've come to the point where Jason is in full prowler-mode by the 20 minute mark. Back in the early days you got the cold open and then by the time Jason found a second victim the next movie was already hitting theaters. The final act transition to NYC also keeps things moving.

This is not a good movie. When we are this low on the quality totem pole, it would be insane to expect characters or attractive cinematography or continuity or plot logic or even spatial logic. All I ask is not to be bored. The greater part of this series lets me down in that regard, so I can appreciate that JASON TAKES MANHATTAN, for all its squandered potential and nonsensicality, at least goes 80 minutes without incessantly repeating itself.

07.) Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

Fans call JASON LIVES the satirical one, but I don't totally see that. The franchise always borders so close to self-parody that you'd have to go a lot farther than Jason stalking a team-building paintball camp for me to see it as earnest comedy. Although come to think of it that is pretty funny. But that's the first scene, and the only other funny sequence I can think of is when Jason just stands in the middle of the road and menaces an oncoming car to death (though, again, it is quite funny). To be completely honest I got more laughs from PART VIII.

Uhhhm, it's cool that Jason is back and is a zombie now. He was clearly a zombie all along so I'm glad now I don't have to listen to Ebert complaining about it being unrealistic. As we've established, absolutely the only worthwhile thing about Friday the 13th is the nihilistic godliness of Jason being Jason, and VI, being an even-numbered entry (Star Trek rules), provides this.

06.) Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

Ah yes, the one where Jason is actually just a guy pretending to be Jason. Considering it's technically not til PART VI that Jason becomes magic, that's not as insane a premise as it seems. Unfortunately it's not a cool premise either. Also most of the characters are like part-braindead or something? That's not a joke, that's the premise. So that feels sad. The main guy is supposedly Corey Felding's grown up from the previous movie, but it sure as shit doesn't feel like that, especially because now his trademark is that he doesn't talk and he does karate. That is not the same as making monster masks and playing computers, I don't care how many years it's been. Hence we have the first example (so far as I can tell) of a clearly-not-Friday-the-13th script being "adapted" into a Friday the 13th movie. It is weird that at this point we're following a protagonist and not Jason. Weird and stupid. And the fact that Jason gets defeated by karate, even if it is Fake Jason, is pretty unacceptable. 

Possibly the worst thing about this one, even worse than the karate, is that it pretends to be a Clue-style murder mystery. Horror movies and mysteries usually don't mix. In fact anything and mystery usually don't mix, because mystery tends to be very very boring. Introducing Fake Jason just so you can go back to having suspense in your slasher franchise in the fifth installment is kinda a slap in the face to fans, although I guess it makes sense if you're calling the movie A NEW BEGINNING. But titles don't come before scripts so fuck that. The fact that the mystery is terrible doesn't help. If you actually believed the main character, whom the movie heavy-handedly hints is the killer, actually would be the killer, congratulations. Stick around for dinner - we're having cheese souffles and freshly filleted herb-marinated red herring. If you guessed in the first five minutes that the killer was the paramedic introduced for no reason but to be suspiciously angry, also congratulations. You and me should form a Scooby Doo team.

Wait weird note apropos of nothing: Tommy, the 10-year-old from PART IV, is clearly in his 20s in this movie. So that means 10-20 story years have passed, when only 2 years passed between the release of the films. Is this science fiction?

Friday the 13th movies that make me reconsider my choices in life

It would be better for you to destroy one of these than to let someone watch it, even if it's like your dead mom's treasured VHS copy that she left to you in her will or something. 

05.) Friday the 13th Part 2

This one introduces Jason, which is good. Unfortunately this incarnation of Jason is stupid and a bad mishmash of Leatherface and the Elephant Man (? yeah). This is the main time that Jason feels genuinely mentally challenged, even if all of the movies are genuinely retarded :] sorry mom :[. This movie is mainly just party times with teenagers hanging out at summer camp or something. This is a good time to point out that at no point in any of these movies does any character feel like a teenager, so when they do something "reckless" like going to drink at a bar, it not only fails to be morally threatening, it fails to be something I notice. I am watching a bunch of 25-year-old actors go drink at a bar because that's how teenagers are cast. Maybe Hollywood can stop making movies with teenagers? That would probably be the best thing ever. I mean come on, even when you're a teenager do you want to see teenage characters in movies? What a stupid period of life.

I guess it's kinda cool when a guy in a wheelchair gets thrown down some stairs to his death. That's for being a different kind of disabled! Bold film-making! Unfortunately that's the only thing that happens in the entire movie. Seriously this is like watching a jokeless MEATBALLS where Bill Murray dies at the end.

04.) Jason X

Now, THIS is science fiction! Hahaha. That joke worked better when I had the movies in a different order. After the mind-killer that is JASON GOES TO HELL (see below), there was really no way for me to ever recover interest in the series. Friday was dead to me. Spason (Space+Jason), a once kinda chuckle-worthy concept, now felt depressing to even consider. Jason on the International Space Station would be one thing, but Jason in the future I think was one bridge over the river kwai. Here we have a confluence of the major missteps in the series: structural variation, trying to have heroes, it not being the '80s anymore, and shitty gore. And worst of all: being way, way, way too self-referential. If JASON LIVES is supposed to be satire, JASON X is a honking party clown.

The science fiction setting generates a whole bunch of storytelling dross that I ultimately tuned out. PART VIII was on a boat; even if it was a lie, that premise took 5 seconds to establish. They show you a boat. JASON X has to explain nanobots, regular bots, space professors, Earth 2.0, blah blah I wasn't listening, and space marines or something. There were probably jokes and a dire quantity of Matrix references inserted in there that I just couldn't care about, because none of it had to do with Jason.

Even when this takes place as "action", shit like "this is how future medicine work!" is just I don't even care enough to finish the sentence. For me to wake from my nap long enough to see Jason wiping out a totally trained team of space marines, or something, I need a lot more work than them looking like STARGATE extras. It is a funny idea that space marines are this movie's dumb teenagers, but not a funny reality. It doesn't help that they blast through it in a single lame ALIENS ripoff scene.

The acting has reached that level of self-aware imitation camp that dominates SyFy made-for-TV movies, something I really can't stand. Just be awful. Don't wink at each other and high-five the cameraman in between being awful, because now I know you're actors and it just seems sad. At least with the '80s kids they felt like genuine idiots. And CGI gore is, like, inherently garbage. Really. No blood is better than post-production blood.

In fairness, I watched this movie with like ten other people, and they all loved it. Even Golem said it was far and away the best F13, and he's been on-board this sinking ship since PART 3. Idk. Maybe I'm a Sour Patch Kid. In some way I wish the franchise had ended with #9, which left me feeling pissed and exasperated. Because that gave me some sense of righteousness, not like some great piece of art had been ruined, but like there actually was a way for things to get worse that we had actively been avoiding. JASON X is so late to the party that it feels like it's picking on the kid that nobody likes, and I don't like that kid either, so I'm not going to stand up for him, but it's still painful to watch idiots bully idiots.

Friday the 13th movies that signal the coming downfall of the human race

WARNING: You are willfully damaging your brain by choosing to even read about the remaining movies. Please, save your genes while you still can.

03.) Friday the 13th

You may have noticed that the movies I "like" are the ones that stick to the formula. Oddly enough, that does not include the original. While certainly a formulaic slasher, FRIDAY THE 13TH is missing the quality ingredients that lead to a tasty stew: a good-looking (and scantily clad) cast, depressingly bad acting, a cool-looking monster with an impressive arsenal, and wildly contrived violence. Instead we get: a boring looking (and heavily clad) cast (unless you're into Kevin Bacon), boring acting (unless you're into Kevin Bacon), an annoying whiny crazy lady, and tepid, mostly practical violence. The clothes hangar through the neck is the only one I can even remember, and everyone knows about that one already anyway. Plus it's more a cringe than a "cool, that's something I could do at home!". The whole thing is just so painfully boring that the only shocking moment is realizing it got a sequel. This franchise is only justified by excess. The core is totally rotten tedious soul-crushing badness. So stripping it down to the core leads to totally rotten tedious soul-crushing badness of a movie.

Sorry for the short write-ups of parts 1 and 2. I watched them years ago and wiki-p didn't remind me of much worth saying. But keep in mind it's been exactly as long since I saw 3 and 4 and I remember them perfectly well. ("One July 4th. Three Friday 13ths. Five men enter. No man leave." Actually shit it was 3-4-5 we watched that night, so it must've been a few weeks earlier that I watched 1 and 2.) 

02.) Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

I can't fucking deal with this movie. A girl with daddy issues (she killed her dad) comes to term with latent psychic abilities while her therapist is rude to her and her mom is a totally useless shitbag. NOTHING ABOUT THAT IS A MOVIE I WANT TO WATCH. Don't fucking trick me into watching it by calling it Friday the 13th you fucking asshole! By sheer coincidence, this whole stupid ordeal from a bad '70s anthology show is happening on the shores of... Crystal Lake! So Jason has to be completely not at all involved except that he kills other unrelated people until the very end, when he gets put in his place by Little Miss Psychic. We are 7 parts into this franchise. Have the filmmakers not discovered that Jason is the hero and that no one is rooting for pending soap opera actress #87?

I blame THE FINAL CHAPTER for what's going on here plot-wise and that's primarily why it can't ever rank as the least awful. There's a big difference between Last Girls and Girls with One Contrived Flaw They Need to Overcome to Defeat Jason, and the switcheroo happened right around the time ol' Corey Danielson showed up in the role. Splitting screen time between "party co-eds die" and "tacky-as-shit drama" is a cheap route to simplified scripting and auto-pilot pacing. Just go back and forth and it writes itself! Problem being that most of the movies dependent on this gimmick feel like half-movies. Only one plot ever gets any effort (/budget), which means, in for instance the case of NEW BLOOD, the memorable half of the movie is the half that doesn't have Jason.

NEW BLOOD gets extra negative points for shitting up the franchise after the "prime" run of parts 3 to 6. As you can read on the poster above, "Clearly the last thing this series needed was NEW BLOOD". Aside from my birth, 1988 didn't bring the world much good ideas. The conclusion of Ronald Reagan marked the death of the '80s dream of hyper-consumerism and hyper-futurism and reminded everybody that we're all just at war in the desert forever, and oh yeah, the evil communist empire we were fighting was fake and so America is now just this hollow thing with no scapegoat for hardship. Which, uh, is to say that the period from 1988-1992 is a weird stylistic wreck where the worst excesses of the '80s try to stick around while clearly no one is taking them seriously.

Just for completion's sake I should mention that the "NEW BLOOD" in the title is also a little in-joke about the new actor playing Jason, Kane Hodder. Shoddy Hoddy would play Jason for the rest of the series and I gotta say he very nearly ruins it for me. This is insanely nitpicky, but all this series has to enjoy are nits, so it kinda matters. He is (or at least appears on film to be) short and stout and has a really wide head (wider than his mask!) that makes Jason look far more avuncular than otherworldly. His heavy-breather approach is clearly meant to humanize Jason and I've said already that is the exact opposite of what works for the character. I've read horror fans love him and he's a nice guy; I haven't read why that makes a good Jason.

01.) Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (Part IX)

Tragedy. Atrocity. Human rights violation. Holocaust. Starving Ethiopian children. These are some of the words that come to mind when considering JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY. No murder, nor compilation of murders committed by Jason even begins to approach the severity of crime that the making of this film was. I would rather arrive in a theater and have anthrax powder dumped on my head than see this abomination projected on the screen in front of me. Unleashing this filth on the American public should be a crime punishable by death, and I don't see why 22 years later we should have forgiven those responsible. I am fully advocating hunting down and murdering every writer, actor, and crew member that participated in this assault on public health and sanity (except Steven Williams, who totally redeemed himself as a true artist by going on to play Mr. X).

At the end of this movie I had the feeling of waking up in a pool of my own vomit. I knew what had happened and that it was my fault, but the mess was so permeating that I couldn't begin to formulate how I was meant to clean it up. It is inane. It is pointless. It is cynical. It has no pace. It is full of subplots and mysticism. And most of all... it doesn't include Jason! Not even a lookalike!

That's right, all of the murdering in this movie is done by some random newscaster guy that reminded me of Chris Hansen. Why? Well, of course, because he's been taken over by the iconic madman that's really been drawing fans back to theaters: the insect parasite formerly lodged in Jason's brain! No one could've been ready for how literal that poster is. We're made to believe the guy was a dick to start with, but watching him senselessly murder babies in an attempt to steal his own baby is just unpleasantly cruel. As I said at the top, Jason is so relateable because he's a force of nature. He takes no pleasure in his killings - that's how the viewer is distanced from the violence. Just having an angry looking dude in a suit sadistically hold a man's face in a deep frier is gross.

Aside from the tone of the violence being totally off, there is not a single decent "sexy" scene in this movie. I know lewd misogyny is not everyone's cup of tea, but in for a penny, in for a pounder. The "inject Friday the 13th camping scene into non-Friday-the-13th script" scene has some brief nudity and sex and that's it. No one else is even so much as attractive. The main character is a guy, for pathetic script's sake! 

And a real douchebag at that. He is channeling Crispin Glover's autistic weirdo from PART IV and yet wearing a letterman jacket that tells me he's supposed to be cool and popular. The main woman is bitch incarnate (basically a different kind of misogyny); on top of lying about her baby and dating a sleazy TV host she keeps leaving the hero to die when all he's trying to do is save her and the baby she won't tell him is his. Ironically, the rest of the characters are likeable by Friday standards... making it all the more painful that they're brutally murdered because the two main fuckheads can't get their shit together.

The only good thing about this movie is that it is so far removed from what actually defines Friday the 13th that I don't even see it that way in my head. But I still had to watch it. And now, so do you. That's right, this has all been an elaborate trick to trade my place in Hell for anyone daring to read on past the warnings. Now each and every one of your souls will know the pain of having watched JASON GOES TO HELL like 2 years ago and the everlasting torment it implies. See you in hell!

Oh wait, no I won't! >:^]