Tag Archives: Friday the 13th

31 Days of Spoooktacular: The Remade

Between 2007 and 2010, all three of the major slasher icons were featured in reboots of the old movies. Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers stalked the silver screen again in “fresh” “re-imaginings” of the old movies. Halloween came first, followed shortly by Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. The idea that this was even a profitable idea probably came from the success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, which grossed over $107 million dollars worldwide. And that’s in 2003 dollars!

Of the three remakes, Halloween is the only one that can be even remotely be called “good”, and I use that term loosely. It’s still a slasher movie; it’s extremely violent, has a fairly simple plot and the character development of water-logged cardboard. BUT, even though it’s the one remake that most closely followed the plot of its predecessor, it still brought a lot of new material and ideas to the table that helped to enhance, rather than detract, from the story of the character (the childhood of Michael Myers being the most notable addition). It has a lot of nice touches sprinkled throughout and has some of the best kid actors I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. In fact, the acting across the board is good, which is something you learn not to expect in a slasher movie. And, this is important here, it has some truly creepy moments.

Which cannot really be said of Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street. They were boring, did nothing to add anything new or original to the characters, except for stuff you really didn’t want added (Jason the pot farmer! Freddy the goofy man-child pedophile gardener!). They could never have been made and the world would never have noticed the difference. And it’s telling that while Halloween managed to do well enough to warrant a (truly terrible) sequel, the same cannot be said of the other two, though it’s only a matter of time. 

The problem with any remake or sequel, and this is more true for the horror genre than others, is that you will never be surprised or shocked. You will never be scared. You’ve seen this monster’s moves and you know what can kill it and you know how things will proceed. They never change a franchise enough to make it interesting, because if they do they risk losing money and fan ire (see Halloween III: Season of the Witch or Friday the 13th: A New Beginning).

They remake and sequel until the money runs out, but long before then, the scares have dried up. It’s detrimental to the genre and just drives away the fans in droves to try new things like Japanese horror and giallo.

Let them die, so we can be scared again.

-D-

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Hellraiser: A Review of Most of the Series

I’ve only watched six of the nine available Hellraiser movies and I’ve only seen them all once, so I don’t consider myself any kind of expert. But after watching four of these movies in a three day period, I figure I’ve earned the right to vent a little bit.

The first Hellraiser movie was a great horror movie. It brought a new mythos to the table and broke free of the more standard horror movies that were being pumped out during the ’80s. It took its time and built up an atmosphere. And then knocked you down with gutwrenchingly creepy visuals. It’s an unsettling movie and reason #552 why I hope I’m never left alone in the same room with Clive Barker.

And then they started pumping out sequels. In the second movie, our wily heroine ends up in Hell itself and we find out Pinhead’s backstory.

By the fourth movie, we find out where the puzzle box (or the Lament Configuration if we want to be nerdy about it) comes from and also take a trip into space with Pinhead.

Really, there’s not much more ground to cover in the mythos, but the Hellraiser series falls into the same trap as other horror franchises and drive everything into the ground. What started off as a unique and creepy story has now been dragged so far into the light that any sense of mystery has been completely eradicated. And this series, more than most others, did best when the audience was kept in the dark.

At its best, Hellraiser was heavily driven by its atmosphere and the mythology. The characters were secondary to the backdrop behind them. The Cenobites were shadowy figures that were skincrawlingly creepy. Hell was a combination of Escher and Bosch and was probably the best representation of what the inside of Lovecraft’s brain looked like.

But as the series went on, they traded mystery for more gore and creepy for shocking. By the time you have a Cenobite who ejected CDs into his victims (Hellraiser III), the series had jumped the shark and then jumped it again for good measure.

This devolving of the series is more disappointing than, say, Friday the 13th because Friday the 13th was always a second-rate Halloween knock-off designed to make money and throw some blood on the screen. Jason X isn’t really that big of a fall of grace for the series. But Hellraiser started off striving for some much more and ended up being no better than any of its slasher brothers.

Dylan Charles

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Slashed

Perhaps the most tasteless and least artistically driven of all horror films are slasher films (ignoring the new torture genre, because I refuse to acknowledge it). The very premise (killer kills people) is not the headiest point to start from, but there have been worthwhile whacks at the genre.

Psycho is a proto-slasher movie, the one who others follow, but only in rough forms. Slasher movies will never get better than this. Psycho isn’t just a good horror film, it’s a good movie, plain and simple. Well directed, well acted, well written; it’s everything most horror movies are not.

Black Christmas and Halloween are the next two movies worth watching and key to the evolution of the genre. Black Christmas is the quirkier of the two, featuring a killer who’s rarely seen on camera. His personality is revealed through a series of disturbing and unnerving phone calls. While Black Christmas came first, but Halloween was more popular and more of an impact in numerous ways: the preternaturally indestructible killer, the mask, the type of victim (nubile youth who are spent after hours of sex) and the heroine. It’s almost always a woman who dispatches the killer.

After Halloween came Friday the 13th, followed closely by A Nightmare on Elm Street. While Friday the 13th did everything it could to mimic its predecessors, A Nightmare On Elm Street broke the mold in a few ways. Freddy Krueger actually spoke, for starters, though his talking would become more annoying in later movies. His method of dispatching was also unique, delving into the dreams of his victims.

But, after twenty years, Michael Meyers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees all began to wear out their welcome with increasingly bad sequels that were less scary and more about over-the-top kills and unintentional humor. By the mid-nineties, Krueger and Voorhees took a vacation from the screen, only to return ten years later worse than ever.  Jason goes into space for god’s sake.

The last truly great slasher film, one that stands alongside Halloween and Black Christmas in quality, is Scream. Scream is a satirical stab at the genre, featuring often blatant references to past movies and the characters all but turn and wink at the camera. It’s a black comedic look at what the slasher film had become. The joke eventually turned sour as Scream was itself followed by two lackluster sequels, but that might have been Wes Craven’s attempt at metahumor.

With the recent Hollywood trend toward rebooting, all the old favorites had a chance to shine again and all failed. Rather than trying to tell new stories with new characters, they took the same old hack ‘n’ slash and just tried to make it more brutal, more violent. Violence alone isn’t what’s scary, especially if you don’t care about the characters. Blood and guts doesn’t scare. And old and familiar definitely doesn’t scare.

For the slasher film to truly be relevant again, Krueger needs to hang up his hat and Jason needs to put down the machete. Audiences need something new. And by new, I don’t mean two hours of tourists being tortured by psychos in the middle of Eastern Europe.

Dylan Charles

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The Man Behind the Mask

A blog is often a place for people to vent their secret shames. They can say what they want to say without fear, because the people reading it are, for the most part, complete strangers. It’s a way to unburden one’s self.

That’s not really true with my blog. My blog is more read by family and friends than by the anonymous public, but I feel like they’ll still accept me, no matter what my deep dark secrets are.

So, I’m going to admit here, before the world, that I like the Friday the 13th movies. And not in that pseudo-ironic sense either, where I pick something awful or embarrassing to like so I’ll seem like an indie hipster who refuses to conform to society’s rules, because that’s how we stick it to the man.

Nope, my tastes in movies is truly so bad as to allow the Friday the 13th movies safe passage.

What’s annoying is I can’t really explain it. They’re not scary. They’re mindless. They’re funny, but only unintentionally so.

But I can’t help the love I feel for that big mute lug and his giant knife and his penchant for killing obnoxious 1980’s teenagers. Maybe that’s it. Maybe I love Jason Voorhees and his psycho mother because they’re killing the ’80s, one hairsprayed, brightly colored teen at a time.

Whatever the reason, be sure to keep an eye out for a lengthy, absurd look at the Legend of Jason Voorhees. Because I didn’t quite embarrass myself with that in-depth analysis of Apollo Creed.

Dylan Charles

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A Rough Beast Slouches Toward October to Be Born

As Halloween draws ever closer, it becomes clearer to the people closest to me that I’m going completely and utterly insane. I’ll spend hours watching the Friday the 13th movies over and over again. I’ll leap from unlikely places and frighten old ladies. I’ll cover myself in red corn syrup and run through the streets giggling and brandishing a rubber knife.

This cannot be helped.

The best thing you can do during this time of year is to curl into the fetal position and hope I go away.

Or you can roll with it and tell yourself that it’s only once a year.

For those who go with the second option, you’re very much in luck: I will be spending the next few weeks writing blog entries to help everyone get into the proper Halloween spirit. Whether it’s lengthy diatribes about the current state of horror movies or me talking about the merits of certain horror authors or me dispatching yet another local ghost, you WILL be well suited to meet the Halloween season head on.

So stay tuned loyal, yet few, readers, because by the time October rolls around, you’re not going to even want to think about Halloween you’ll be so saturated.

Excitement!

Dylan Charles

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