Tag Archives: Jason Voorhees

Trying New Things

I have never seen much of the Halloween series. I watched the first two or three and I’ve seen Rob Zombie’s attempts, but that’s about it. Considering it’s the movie that started the slasher genre, I’ve paid shockingly very little attention to it.

So I’m going to delve right in and watch all eight of the original movies, skipping the Rob Zombie remakes, mainly because I couldn’t stand the second one.

I don’t feel this will be particularly instructive or that I will gain great knowledge into slasher flicks, but goddamn if I can’t stand having this gap in my knowledge base. It’s the movie that helped to start it all and helped to define the genre for almost fifteen years, for better or for worse. There needs to be some respect paid. Also, considering how many times I’ve seen all of the Friday the 13th movies (including the abysmally dull remake), I feel like I owe our boy Michael Myers something.

Starting tomorrow: The Great Halloween Movie Marathon!

-D-

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Filed under Halloween: Rock and Shock, 31 Days of Spooktacular, Spoooky Beer Reviews and More

Rock and Shock 2013

I have to say that up until today, my Halloween spirit was lacking. I haven’t been watching scary movies. I haven’t been eating more than my usual share of fun sized Snickers bars. I haven’t been reveling in my usual Halloween activities. October has just been steadily and speedily been moving along and the whole damn month was about to slip on by without me doing a single thing about it.

Things had gone horribly awry somewhere.

But, today, something happened. something truly magical:

I went to Rock and Shock.

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For those that don’t know, Rock and Shock is a convention and concert series that is held every October in Worcester, Massachusetts. I haven’t really done anything with the rocking part of the equation. I’m there for the shocking. Last year was my first time there and I was impressed by the sheer number of vendors, celebrity guests and horror fans that were there.

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There is merchandise from every horror franchise you can think of: action figures, posters, beer koozies, coasters, shot glasses, post cards, lampshades, throw rugs, pillows, replicas, props, bootlegged DVDs showing the hit movie Jason versus Leatherface. If you’re looking for a piece of memorabilia from your favorite horror movie, this is the place to get it.

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And let’s say you don’t want things directly related to Jason or Freddy? They have things for you too. There are artists selling posters of their striking and macabre work. There are writers from small publishing houses and larger publishing houses. There are tattoo artists, taxidermists, animal shelters, jewelers and flask makers, make-up designers, mask makers; anything and anyone that might have something to do with those things that go bump in the night. They’re all there.

And then there are the celebrities. Kane Hodder, Gunnar Hansen, Robert Englund, Jason Mewes, Jack Ketchum; people directly related to the industry that keeps creating more scares.

I went from not feeling Halloween at all to feeling reinvigorated.

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Aside from the things I bought, the most important thing is that I got to wander around at will with a large group of people who share my niche interest. I got to talk to a local filmmaker about the movies they’re making, one of which was even banned in Germany. I chatted at an artist about Friday the 13th before walking off with a poster I hadn’t paid for. Gunnar Hansen quote Dylan Thomas at me. It reminded me about why I enjoy horror, Halloween and all this scary stuff. It’s about exciting, scary, terrifying art and the people who love to make it.  It’s about being able to connect with people who get it and love it as much as you do.

It’s about enjoying being scared.

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It’s also about Jason Voorhees action figures.

Tomorrow, I have something grand planned. I dunno if I’ll be able to pull it off, but I’m going to try. I’m going to try to do my damnedest to make up for the time I let slip by and give Halloween the attention it deserves in one big, bang.

See you tomorrow.

-D-

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31 Days of Spoooktacular: Masks

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Masks are scary. And not just masks of scary aliens or wolves or demons. I know for a fact that there are people who find the above mask creepy, even though there is nothing inherently creepy about it. There’s no blood or fangs. There’s nothing sinister about it. It represents no gender, race or deformity. It is a blank form.

And yet, this mask elicits uneasiness. If you don’t think this is scary, think about Michael Myer’s mask. It is a white, featureless face. Or think about Jason’s mask. It’s just a hockey mask. Before Friday the 13th Part III, people used to wear it as protective equipment. Now you can’t see that particular mask without immediately thinking of a machete wielding psychopath.

So many of our current monsters wear masks, from gas masks to hockey masks to ghostface masks. The blank, expressionless face is inherently frightening to us. I’m not going wax philosophical and psychological about why I think this is. It’s a gut feeling and gut feelings don’t need much analysis. It’s the return of that base fear, the one that drives all fears; our fear of the unknown.

We derive so much information from the face: age, gender, race, culture (piercings? tattoos? make-up?), emotions, illness. The face is our go-to point for knowing a person. The faceless mask, the one that’s not just a monster’s visage, is inherently creepy because it is still human, undeniably, incontrovertibly, but still so alien. There is no information to be gleaned. There is nothing to tell you about the person behind the face. Unlike a werewolf face, which just howls evil, the faceless mask could be…anything. It is up to the wearer to interpret how to portray this face.

If I did want to go deeper, and started laying some psychology on the table, I’d say that the faceless mask shows us what we already know: When we get down to it, a person’s face doesn’t tell us anything about who they, no matter how many times we comment on someone who has a kind face or has devilish features or a sinister countenance or a gentle look. A person does not wear their souls on their face, no matter how much we wish they did.

That mask, the blank one with no clues of the humanity beyond it, reminds us, all too much, of the fact that the stranger next door could be anyone behind that smile and that wave.

That they’re all masks.

-D-

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October 23, 2012 · 8:45 pm

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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The Rules of Horror

Horror movies exist primarily to do one thing: scare people. And, for the most part, horror movies fail in that one goal. They shock, they gross out, they startle, but they don’t truly scare. There’s nothing scary about Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. There’s nothing scary about torture porn like Hostel and the entire Saw series.

Modern horror filmmakers seem to have forgotten the fact that these movies are supposed to terrify us, not make us roll our eyes and gag. The formulaic and tired nature of slasher movies got so bad that Wes Craven wrote Scream to lambaste the tropes he helped to create. So it’s an irony that the Scream series has become a victim to the same rote formula like every other slasher series.

And the slew of viciously violent movies like Hostel and The Human Centipede are just more fuel for the fire that horror movies as a whole are culturally bereft of value and nothing more than cheap intellectual trash.

There was a point when horror movies were actually good, not just as scary movies but as films. Psycho, The Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Phantom of the Opera (the one with Mr. Chaney); these were well-made, well-written and actually scared the audiences at the time.

But after eighty years of scary movies, filmmakers seem to think that the only way to make a relevant scary movie is to get progressively more and more shocking, graphic and violent. And yet, there have been movies released in recent years that have scared the bejesus out of people with a minimum of blood and gore. Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch Project both used similar techniques which were effective in scaring audience members. And there have been other effective thrillers that have a similar reluctance to employ the wet stuff (The Vanishing is a prime example).

So, for all those aspiring filmmakers out there, here are a list of rules that I’ve compiled based on what genuinely scares me when I watch a movie. There are only four, so bear with me here.

1. Keep it Small Keep the cast small. Keep the location small. Keep all the strange happenings located to a house, a small town, a small patch of woods. This serves multiple purposes. If you only have a few characters, then the audience has more of a chance to become invested in the characters, and you want that. The more the audience is invested, the more they’ll care when you start killing the characters off one by one.

You also run less of a chance that the audience will become desensitized. Too much violence and they shut down and tune out. Anticipation of bad things can be as effective as the actual event. Tension is important for a good scary movie.

2. Isolation This is a rule commonly employed by horror movies, which is why so many movies are set around campsites or in that house by the lake or on some deserted stretch of highway. Cut your characters out from the herd and keep them away. Facing the abyss is scary, facing the abyss with no one to help them is terrifying.

Isolate them through geography (woods, island, desert). Isolate them with their own sanity (or lack thereof). Isolate them in the middle of a crowded city (stuck elevator, basement, sewers). Just get them alone so that no one can help them.

3. Minimize suspension of disbelief There are many, many ways to break the illusion. Audiences (generally) go into a movie to be entertained and they’re willing to suspend their disbelief to do it, but you have to help them out. It’s even more important in a horror movie, because scaring someone is about creating a mood and then sustaining it. To truly scare your audience, you can’t keep providing jump scares. You have to build dread. You have to make them fear every shadow and every movement in the corner of the character’s eye. It’s no good to provide an aura of foreboding if it’s immediately ruined by a boom mike in shot or cheesy special effects or an abrasive, obvious score.

Minimize special effects. If you don’t have the technology to pull of an effect, dial it down. Jaws was more effective when the shark was in the water. The alien in Alien and Aliens was most scary when it was in the shadows. Keep your monster in the shadows. And for the love of God, don’t use digital effects to replicate blood and gunshot wounds. Corn syrup and squibs work just fine.

Subtlety is the key here. A subtle soundtrack (or none at all), a monster who stays in the dark and a bare minimum of effects work.

4. Avoid the Tropes There are certain monsters and situations that are no longer scary. Vampires and werewolves stopped being truly scary ages years ago. They’re a fixture in pop-culture, not in the darkest recesses of your audience’s imagination. While I hesitate to say there’s no way to make them scary (Let the Right One In was creepy and unsettling as sin), it will be very hard to do since the audience will be prepared.

And you don’t want the audience to be prepared. You want them to be unsettled. You want them to be on the edge, uncertain about what’s going to happen next. You do not want them to know that silver and crosses can keep the monsters at bay.

Avoid the scary haunted mansion. Avoid the invincible slasher who can only be brought down by the plucky, perky and chaste teenage girl. Avoid the those same tired ways. We all fear the unknown. That is the one thing everyone shares in common: a fear of the lurking unknown that lives in the darkness.

Surprise us. Challenge us. Demand from us our attention. Keep us always guessing. Make us dread the next frame, for the simple reason that we don’t know what’s coming.

That is how to scare the audience. That’s the way to make a truly good horror movie.

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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