Friday the 13th 2009

NOTE: This trailer is widescreen, so you will have to click through to see it in its proper aspect ratio. My Space posted the trailer for the new FRIDAY THE 13TH. Amusingly, they flag it with the description “Returning to the story that started it all,” even though the the remake is heavily influenced by the sequels, as evidenced by the trailer’s prominent display of the machete-wielding Jason in his familiar hockey-mask. Jason Voorhees barely appears in the original FRIDAY THE 13TH (his mom committed all the murders), and he did not put on the mask until Part III. Presumably, FRIDAY fans were in no mood to watch another movie about an unseen killer who turns out to be Mrs. Voorhees; they want to see Jason slicing and dicing his way through a cast of innocuous camp counselors.
One potential area for improvement would be for the new FRIDAY to sort out the contradiction that haunts the original franchise: In the first FRIDAY, Mrs. Voorhees was supposedly motivated by the drowning of her son, yet the subsequent sequels had Jason very much alive. So why, exactly, did his mother feel the need to avenge his “death.”
UPDATE: We have replaced the MySpace version of the trailer with one embedded from YouTube. The film comes out in February – on Friday the 13th, naturally.

Friday the 13th Part 3 – Cast & Crew Reunion

To help celebrate Cinefantastique’s new look, which allows us to feature videos on the home page, we are reposting a few videos. This one comes from last year’s ScreamFest horror film festival in Hollywood, which featured a question-and-answer session with several members of the cast and crew after a screening of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 IN 3-D.

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) – Horror Film Review

click to purchase I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMERThis movie is so absolutely godawful that it’s almost impossible to know where to begin listing its faults. Perhaps the best place would be its story, which is just an empty rehash of what came before. As bad as I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER was, at least the plot had a bit of an idea built in, with a group of characters haunted not just by a hook-wielding psycho-killer but by their own guilty complicity that has made them targets. Well, the ending of that film pretty much exonerated everyone involved: sure, they’d run somebody over and tried to hide the victim’s body and then tried to kill him when he turned out to be alive-but hey, he was a homicidal son-of-a-bitch even before all that, so what are they feeling guilty about? Continue reading “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) – Horror Film Review”

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) – Film Review

click to purchas I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER By Anthony Montesano

By the late 1980s, the slasher genre had run out of blood. It had its roots in Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO (1960) and really got going with the release of John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978) and FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980). But endless sequels and rip-offs (PROM NIGHT, APRIL FOOL’S DAY, etc) churned out all-too-familiar stories, offering nothing fresh or innovative. By the 1990s, the sub-genre had all but died and was regulated to direct-to-video trash. In 1996, director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson took a smart, tongue-in-cheek look at the form with SCREAM, which changed all that and gave the genre its first $100 million hit. Following on the heels of that crossover success, Williamson has teamed with director Jim Gillespie and mined a Lois Duncan novel to create I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. Continue reading “I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) – Film Review”

Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000) – Film Review

click to purchase URBAN LEGENDS: FINAL CUTWhen I first sat down at the old word processor and tried to write a review of this film, I found that I could barely recollect the details, even though I had attended a screening only a couple weeks previously. I could barely remember anything to say. Then I realized: even that says something about the film – like, maybe, it’s not very memorable.The basic impression I have now of URBAN LEGENDS: FINAL CUT is that it’s very much like the first one, which is to say: not very good. As in the original, the essential effectiveness of urban legends is subverted by the usual slasher movie conventions. It’s as if no one really thinks urban legends are good enough to form the basis of a movie, so they embellish them with typical shock tactics (e.g., the masked killer jumping into frame), and you’re left wondering, “If they don’t like the source material, then why even make the movie?” Continue reading “Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000) – Film Review”

Urban Legend (1998) – Film Review

click to purchase URBAN LEGENDSOne of the interesting things about Urban Legends is that, although people believe them, many do not hold up to scrutiny: simply examining the details will reveal that they are wildly improbable or outright impossible. This problem haunts URBAN LEGENDS, which asks us to believe in a serial killer who is modeling murders on such folk tales as the Killer in the Back of the Car. Left dangling are the same questions posed by the stories: how did the killer get back there, and why didn’t the driver notice? Compounding this is the script’s having the victims act in ways that conveniently set up the legend that the killer then carries out. Is screenwriter Silvio Horta implying some kind of complicity between killer and victim? (No, its just a lame plot device.) Finally, most urban legends don’t end with the death of their lead character – apparently, the killer is not adverse to rewriting popular folklore. Continue reading “Urban Legend (1998) – Film Review”

Bay of Blood (1971): DVD Review

BAY OF BLOOD is one of the least reputable films from the late Italian cult figure Mario Bava, a genre specialist best known for the black-and-white horror classic BLACK SUNDAY (1960). There is a tendency to compare Bava’s later horror films – which utilized colorful photography and lurid subject matter – unfavorably to his early masterpiece; this is perhaps nowhere more evident than with 1971’s BAY OF BLOOD – a film that wallows in as much gore and violence as the worst piece of exploitation trash cinema. Jeffrey Frentzen, reviewing the film (under one of its many alternate titles “Twitch of the Death Nerve”) for the Fall 1975 issue of Cinefantastique, wrote:

The latest Bava work available for American viewing is the director’s most complete failure to date, heaping graphic violence onto one of his more ridiculous scripts. If you were appalled by the gore and slaughter of BLOOD AND BLACK LACE, this latest film contains twice the murders, each one accomplished with an obnoxious eye for detail (faces split open in loving close-up, decapitation, and murder of the axe variety). The raw violence is only an excuse to propel a silly story reminiscent of an Edgar Wallace cloak-and-dagger mystery

It is easy to sympathize with Frentzen’s sentiments: BAY OF BLOOD does look garish and exploitative side-by-side with the moody BLACK SUNDAY, and in retrospect, the film is clearly the forerunner of “body count” movies like FRIDAY THE 13TH (there is even a group of dumb young guys and gals, two of whom are impaled while having sex, as in the later FRIDAY THE 13TH PART II).
However, Frentzen’s assessment puts the bath before the blood: the silly story is only an excuse to propel the violence. Bava, the consummate visual stylist, uses the scenario the way a virtuoso musician uses a simple chord progression as an accompaniment for an inspired solo: the script sets the overall structure and tempo, but within that structure, Bava can squeeze in as many notes as he likes, creating something worth watching. The complex harmonies that would come from a well-devised script are nowhere to be found, but the improvised melodies are more than enough to sustain interest.
To be fair, the contrived scenario is not completely without interest. Throwing away the traditional “rules” of the mystery genre, the script piles on improbably absurdities in a way that keep the story surprising, offering multiple murderers with differing agendas. The opening prologue perfectly sets the tone: a helpless old lady in a wheel-chair is strangled to death; less than a minute later, her murderer gets a knife in the back, dying before he ever had a chance to enjoy the titular bay that he hoped to inherit. The sick joke is that you need a scorecard to keep track of the motivations (the film offers a series of flashback at the end to clarify the plot points), but ultimately it doesn’t really matter because, with a very few exceptions, everyone is guilty or at least complicit.
Throughout the film, Bava cuts away to lovely location footage of sunsets, woods, and water, creating a visual contrast with the violence and depravity of humanity. People kill each other in horrible ways, but nature remains indifferent, beautiful (though not without death of its own sort, as illustrated by the fly that expires immediately after the opening credits, plopping into the bay like a pebble). The biggest threat that mankind represents is not to itself but to nature: the killings revolve around an attempt to aquire the bay and develop it, destroying the natural beauty in order to turn a profit. (The film’s Italian title Ecologia del Delitto translates as “Ecology of Murder”.) By the finale, you will find yourself cheering as the final murderers are abruptly terminated by an unexpected (and unintentional) avenger in what has to be absolutely the greatest surprise ending ever recorded on film – at once horrible and laugh-out-loud funny!
One other note: Bava was a cinematographer-turned-director. BAY OF BLOOD is the first film since 1962’s THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH for which he took credit in both capacities. Unfortunately, although the photography is brooding and atmospheric, it is not up to the visual qualities of his best work. Bava was most at home in the studio, where he had complete control. The location shooting here is good but a bit grainy; the use of available light, with little or no fill lighting, lends a slightly cheap look to the picture. Still, the interiors, especially during the long wordless opening sequence, show that he had not lost the ability to light a room with an atmospheric elegance that perfectly set the scene for murder.

DVD DETAILS

Image Entertainment released BAY OF BLOOD under the “Twitch of the Death Nerve” title in 2001. The disc featured a “Murder Menu” that would take you directly to the numerous atrocities; a psychedelic-looking trailer (using footage of the film that has been heavily re-processed), under another alternate title, “Carnage”; two radio spots, a Bava biography and filmography, and trailers for other Bava films. Unfortunately, although the video transfer was acceptable, the soundmix elicited screams of outrage from Bava fans, who complained that the audio was incompetently handled, with tinny sound that alternately dropped out and swelled up.
In October 2007, the title was re-issued as part of the Bava Box Set, Volume 2. This version retains the bonus features from the old DVD, improves the audio quality to satisfactory levels, and adds a commentary by Tim Lucas, author of the Bava biography All the Colours of the Dark. This is typically in-depth and informative, although not quite up to the standard the Lucas set with his commentaries for BLACK SUNDAY and BLOOD AND BLACK LACE. Unfortunately, this disc is not for sale separately, only as part of the box set (although some rental stores may make it availabe as a discrete title).
In the audio commentary, Lucas offers some insights that might escape typical American viewers (e.g., the first victim is played by an actress who was a well-known star in Italy at the time, making her abrupt death particularly shocking). Also, he gives a good run-down of how the film came to be made (it was a sort of response to CAT O’NINE TAILS, a horror-thriller from younger upstart director Dario Argento). We also learn that BAY OF BLOOD was not merely dubbed into English but actually was shot in two different versions: one in English, one in Italian. The non-dialogue scenes are identical in both; whenever characters speak, the two versions use different takes, with some differences in execution and performance.
What is missing from the commentary is an assessment of where BAY OF BLOOD ranks in Bava’s oeuvre. Lucas mentions that horror star Christopher Lee (who had worked with Bava on HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD and THE WHIP AND THE BODY) was disgusted by the violence when he saw the film at a festival, and Lucas acknowledges that BAY OF BLOOD is a forerunner of the later slasher films. However, Lucas never quite makes a fully articulate argument for why BAY OF BLOOD deserves to be regarded more highly than its disreputable off-spring.
We do hear little hints as Lucas points out clever details and well done shots (like the close-up that resembles a full moon until a rack focus reveals it to be an eye). Obviously, Lucas does not believe the film is Bava’s “most complete failure,” but what does he believe? Is it a triumph of style over substance, or does he think the screenplay has some value beyond being a jumping off point for Bava to stage gruesome murders? Perhaps the closest we come to an answer is when he points out a cutaway shot to a Dune buggy after one of the many violent deaths: the grill and the headlights seem to form a smiling face, and as the shot serves no narrative purpose, Lucas suggests it is Bava’s way of telling us not to take the film too seriously.
I would tend to agree. BAY OF BLOOD may not be as refined as Bava’s greatest work, but it certainly is fun to see the maestro at work with his hair down, going for the grue with gusto. The film’s power to shock may have been blunted by the decades of graphic gore that followed, but it still shows that a little artistry can go a long way toward elevating subject matter of even the lowest common denominator.
RELATED REVIEW: Twitch of the Death Nerve

Scary Movie (2000) – Film Review

After the SCREAM trilogy ran its course, this spoof was a way to keep the money rolling in at the box office. Since the SCREAM movies, contained a healthy dose of self-referential humor, SCARY MOVIE seemed a bit redundant (it’s easier to make fun of movies that take themselves too seriously), yet it turned out to be a colossal success, selling far more tickets than the film it parodies. Why it was so huge is hard to say, except that SCARY MOVIE works on the level of the Farrelly Brothers’ THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY: that is, it seems less interested in being amusing than in being outrageous – if by “outrageous” we mean offensive to those viewers who are not part of the target audience. The appeal seems to lie less in laughter than in respect for the filmmakers’ irreverence as viewers sit back and think, “I can’t believe they showed that!” Continue reading “Scary Movie (2000) – Film Review”

Hatchet on DVD

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click to purchase

The biggest cinematic crime of 2007 is that Adam Green’s retro-slasher masterpiece HATCHET was consigned to a low-profile stealth release on the same weekend that Rob Zombie’s misguided HALLOWEEN remake opened in thousands of theatres nationwide. The second biggest crime is that HATCHET was trimmed to earn an R-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. In effect, when the film landed in a handful of theatres, you barely had a chance to see it at all, and even if it was playing nearby, you couldn’t see the complete film, just the expurgated version. Well, thanks to the miracles of modern technology, you can now enjoy the real-deal on a DVD that is loaded with entertaining extras. In fact, this is one of the best DVD releases of the year, thanks to some behind-the-scenes bonus features that feel more like a true making-of documentary than the promotional puffery usually found on these discs. Continue reading “Hatchet on DVD”

Friday the 13th Part 3 – reunion video

After the 25th anniversary screening of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 at the Screamfest film festival in Hollywood last month, there was a question-and-answer sesssion with some of the cast and crew. Although the film itself is a bit of a sub-classic, the event was fun, and I posted excerpts of the Q&A. I just completed a video of the event. Even if you are not a big fan of the FRIDAY franchise, you may find a few of the behind-the-scenes stories amusing.