Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood – Horror Film Review

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New BloodFRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES had pushed the old slasher franchise into a new direction, resurrecting Jason Voorhees as a living dead zombie from hell. and take notice. Now, along comes PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD, and it really wants to do something different. “Different,” in this case, means gene-splicing elements from another film into the familiar formula, and the result – about a face-off between the hulking masked maniac and a troubled teen with telekinesis – is fondly if not quite respectfully called “Carrie Meets Jason.”  You cannot really take the results seriously, but they are fun, offering both an interesting subplot and a chance to see something never really shown in a FRIDAY film before: Jason getting his ass handed to him on a platter. “Purists” (a funny word in the contest of exploitation trash) might object to seeing their favorite anti-hero dissed so badly, but anyone looking for a good time should be able to get at least a few chuckles out of seeing Jason meet his match.
The story begins with a prologue in which Tina, as a tiny tot throwing a temper tantrum, telekinetically – albeit not quite intentionally – sends Dad to the bottom of Crystal Lake. About a decade later,* Tina  is brought back to the location by her mother and a psychiatrist named Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser), allegedly so that the troubled teen can confront her unresolved guilt over daddy’s demise. However, it quickly becomes apparent that Crews views Tina as a lab rat, the study of whose unusual abilities will somehow make him rich and/or famous, and he is doing everything he can not to help her control her telekinesis but to amp it up. An unfortunate side effect of this is that when Tina wishes for her drowned father to return from the bottom of the lake, her psychic powers inadvertently resurrect Jason (who has been slumbering there since Tommy Jarvis dragged him to the bottom in the aforementioned PART VI).
This is a pretty good set-up, but the screenwriters do not quite know what to do with it. Once Jason is back in action, their main problems seems to have been how to delay the inevitable confrontation until the third act. This involves introducing another bunch of dumb, sexed up teenagers, who wander off into the woods and get killed at regular intervals.
Okay, you expect that kind of thing in a FRIDAY film. What hurts is that the main trio of Tin, her mother, and Dr. Crews are involved in something like a legitimate story that provides motivation for them to do something more than wander around in the woods like idiots, and yet they too often end up wandering around in the woods like idiots. (The real reason for this is to keep them busy while other characters are being killed.)
What this means is that, despite its best intentions, THE NEW BLOOD feels for most of its length too much like a typical entry in the series – and not a particularly distinguished one at that. We get the usual gang of idiots dying the usual deaths, and even if the scenes are not exact copies they do feel awfully familiar. (There is even a spring-loaded cat – a cheap scare device previously used in PART 2.)
By this time, it was more or less obligatory for the MPAA to demand cuts before handing out an R-rating, making it hard for the sequel to compete with the original in terms of on-screen mayhem. The irony is that, for the first time, a FRIDAY film is directed by an exerpt in makeup and special effects, but John Carl Buechler is not allowed to strut his stuff. With the shock value seriously diminished, he tries to turn THE NEW BLOOD into more of an old-fashioned monster movie, but he is no more successful than Tom McLoughlin was in JASON LIVES, and he lacks McLoughlin’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.
There is also a certain flatness to his work. The scene of Jason first emerging from beneath the lake was obviously supposed to be a show-stopping moment, but the image is prosaically captured, forcing the editor to overlap multiple takes with dissolves in order to let the audience know this is supposed to be frickin’ awesome. (Hint to filmmakers: when something really is awesome, you don’t need to elbow the audience in the ribs; they will figure it out for themselves.)
Fortunately, one Tina becomes the Final Girl, the film delivers the goods. Her knock-down, drag-out smack-down of Jason Voorhees is just about everything you could wish for, as she pulls electrical wires down on him hurls furniture at him, strangles him with the strap on his own hockey mask, and more. Some fans and critics have complained that Tina’s psychi power diminishes the suspense because it relieves her from grappling hand to hand with an antagonist much stronger than she.
This misses the point entirely. The FRIDAY films have never been about conventional cinematic virtues like suspense, drama, and characterization. They are dumb-hoot movies whose only reason for existence is to provide an excuse for outrageous action. Denied by the MPAA from offering up the gore that made the franchise famous, THE NEW BLOOD goes over the top in a completely different way, and it’s so much fun watching Jason get what he deserves that you would have to be a malcontent to complain.
The other highlight of the film is the debut of stuntman Kane Hodder in the role of Jason. Jason was never much of a character, nor even a particularly memorable figure, in the earlier films; if not for the hockey mask, he would be just a generic lurking figure (which is exactly how he appears during the first half of PART 3). Although it would be an exaggeration to say that Hodder can convey much characterization from behind the mask, he does provide Jason with some recognizable traits that hint at a vestige of personality, particularly the purposeful stride, with head down and slightly forward, suggesting the focused concentration of a hunter pursuing its prey.
Hodder also deserves points for registering stupified shock when Tina first turns the tables on him, sending roots shooting up from beneath the ground to enwrap his feet and trip him into a puddle (which she will shortly electrify, courtesy of nearby powerlines). It’s not the kind of in-depth emotional performance that will win any Oscars, but it is a priceless moment that helps erase memories of the film’s many weaknesses.
Bottom line: THE NEW BLOOD, like JASON LIVES, is a film that deserves points for trying to be different, even though the attempt is only partially successful and tends to neutralize the exploitation element that is the franchise’s main appeal. Gorehounds may be disappointed by the relatively bloodless kills, and only timid viewers will really find the proceedings frightening. But if you’re a general horror movie fan or someone only interested in checking a FRIDAY film out of curiosity, you could do worse.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD(1988). Directed by John Carl Buechler. Written by Manuel Fidello, Daryl Haney (based on character creatd by Victor Miller, uncredited). Cast: Kane Hodder, Lar Park-Lincoln, Terry Kiser, Susan Blu, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, Kevin Spirtas, Heidi Kozak, Elizabeth Kaitan.
FOOTNOTE:

  • This ten year jump creates some problems for the continuity timeline. 1980’s FRIDAY THE 13TH took place in 1979. 1981’s PART II takes place five years later, meaning it was set in 1984, which is also the year for the two subsequent films. Both A NEW BEGINNING and JASON LIVES depict Tommy Jarvis (who killed Jason in THE FINAL CHAPTER) as having aged into an adult – about ten years, which would put those films in the mid-1990s. Tina’s prologue in THE NEW BLOOD seems to take place after the end of JASON LIVES, so the main action, ten years later, must take place in the first decade of the new millennium. Strangely, the hair styles and clothing are all vintage 1988, the year the film was actually made.

Evil Cat (1987) – A Retrospective Review

Hardly dull but not necessarily good.

This is a typically outrageous, action-packed flick from Hong Kong, in which characterization and coherence play second fiddle to throwing anything up on the screen that comes into the writer’s mind. With so much going on, the film is hardly ever dull, but that does not necessarily mean it is good. The violence and gore safely pushes the story into horror film territory, but the whole thing is too silly to take seriously, so no real thrills emerge. The cast of characters is rather generic, and the obligatory twist ending is so perfunctory it barely has any impact at all.

The film begins with a construction site where some kind of burial tomb is accidentally unearthed, unleashing a mysterious form of energy. A flashback reveals that fifty years ago, a swordsman fought and defeated a cat-demon (basically a man in makeup left over from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical, Cats) at the location. Now his son Master Cheung (Chia-Liang Liu) must re-fight the demon. He enlists the aid of the pretty much useless Long (Mark Cheng), who falls for Cheung’s beautiful daughter, a reporter named Siu-Cheun (Lai-Ying Tang). The cat demon possesses Long’s boss and, after the boss is dispatched, moves on to the body of the boss’s mistress. After the Evil Cat kills off a pop recording star, the heroes, along with cowardly Inspector Wu (played by the film’s writer, Jing Wong) confront the demon for a final showdown in a police station.
As is often the case with Hong Kong cinema, the story is an excuse to string together the action scenes – which is fine if the action is brilliant, but in this case, it is often merely adequate, when it is not completely ridiculous. For example, when the Evil Cat first manifests in an office building, one of its victims ends up running around holding on his severed hand – and asking someone else to hold it for him! An extended sequence in which Long tries to kill his possessed boss with a car plays out like a TERMINATOR-wannabe, as does the finale in the police station, undermining the supernatural horror with more conventional action cliches. Probably the film’s only genuinely scary moment occurs when the Evil Cat’s current human host awakens on an operating table and wipes out the surgical team.
The acting features the usual Hong Kong posturing (the Evil Cat, in whatever body) scowls and points emphatically with two fingers extended). The male lead is far from heroic, being more of a joker accidentally roped into the proceedings. As if this were not enough, Inspector Wu is even more of a joker (it’s impossible to believe he’s in a position of authority).

The titular Evil Cat reveals its true appearance (Meow!)
The titular Evil Cat reveals its true appearance ("Meow!")

The manifestations of the Evil Cat are disappointing. There are two brief glimpses of it in spiritual form (accomplished with animation), and at the beginning and the end we see its human hosts transformed into catlike beings, courtesy of makeup that is, to put it politely, comical in its impact. The rest of the time, the host are required to mimic cat-like movements, which they accomplish with all the skill of an acting student performing an exercise in a first-year acting class.

The film also demonstrates some odd sexist moments. We first meet Long in the company of a woman he calls a prostitute (although we never see any evidence of this). When he gives lift to Master Cheung, they decided to get rid of the woman by tying her up to a street lamp! When Long’s boss is possessed, it takes place mostly off-screen, but when the Evil Cat’s spirit passes on to the boss’s mistress, there is an extended special effects sequence clearly designed to suggest that she is being raped (the animated energy beams focus on her pelvis while she writes on a bed). Finally, the script rather cavalierly dismisses the leading lady at the climax, just to provide a last-minute surprise (along with an “it’s over – but it’s not” twist at the end). The result undermines any good will the audience had left for the film.

For fans of Hong Kong cinema, these blemishes may simply be part of the film’s charm, but EVIL CAT never reaches the giddy heights of the best Tsui Hark productions (e.g., A CHINESE GHOST STORY). It is unusual enough to merit some interest, but that interest is hardly rewarded when the filmmakers cannot be bothered to wrap their story up in a dramatically satisfying way. You may enjoy the ride, but you will regret the destination.

TRIVIA

When Master Cheung explains the story behind the Evil Cat, his skeptical daughter Siu-Cheun remarks that it sounds like something written by “Wisely.” Wisely is a recurring character in Chinese literature and film, an author who writes about his weird adventures encountering unusual phenomena. The character can be seen in the 1990 film THE CAT (“Lao Mao”), which is about some alien warriors on Earth, including a super-powered cat who gets into a kung fu fight with a dog!

EVIL CAT (“Xiang Mao,” 1987). Directed by Dennis Yu, Written by Jing Wong. Cast: Mark Cheng, Gallen Law, Chia-Lang Liu, Yiu Fung Si, Lai-Ying tang, Suk Woon Tsui, Jing Wong, Sai-Kit Yung.
RELATED ARTICLES: Read Hollywood Gothique’s Caturday Blogging entry on this title, which features more images from the film.
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Evil Dead 2 (1987) – Film & DVD Review

[EDITOR’S NOTE: EVIL DEAD 2 makes another appearance on home video today, this time in the Blu-ray format, so we took this opportunity to post a retrospective-review of the film, including an interview with director Sam Raimi.
Hands down absolutely one of the greatest achievements in the horror genre—ever. This is literally one of those films that have to be seen to be believed—it’s outrageous, over-the-top, and beyond what you could possibly imagine, if you haven’t already seen it. It’s a high-octane visual assault on the senses that starts fast and keeps accelerating, slowing down only enough to change gears from scene to scene. If you’re one of those people hung up on literary values like characterization and narrative coherence (and by the way, why are you even reading this?), then this film is not for you; if, however, you really appreciate good cinema—filmmaking pushed to the limits of what can be achieved with camera techniques and editing—then you’re guaranteed to enjoy this mind-blowing roller-coaster ride. Read More