Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Ghoul Versus Friday The 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter

Previously on Friday the 13th Part III...

We finally got the REAL Jason Voorhees on film, as he donned his iconic hockey mask for the first time and morphed into a fearless badass that didn't cower from chainsaws. Amped up by a rocking disco soundtrack, he hacked and slashed his way through the usual gang of idiots and into our hearts. Awww!

Hey, I'm back! Sorry about the hiatus, but zombie things came up. Being undead can get rather busy at times, and just an occurrence popped up the last couple of weeks. We're going to continue with the Friday the 13th franchise since that's been so much fun to review, continuing with the fourth film of the series: the so-called “final” chapter. This was the first movie to break the yearly release trend the series had become known for, as the studio wisely took 1983 off because the dreaded “genre fatigue” had finally set in around this time. It feels like in the early 1980s every 1.3 films released was a slasher movie, something audiences were finally getting sick of.

Steve Miner was done with the franchise at this point, so writer/director Joseph Zito was brought in to helm the new movie. Zito was fresh off the cult classic slasher the Prowler, which is most notable for featuring makeup effects by the Horror Lord and Saviour, Tom Savini. Luckily for all of us, Zito brought Savini along with him, giving him another chance to wreak havoc with the character he helped to create. At the time this was intended to truly be the swan song of Jason's story, so Savini wanted to send off our lovable slasher in style. With a quality team of filmmakers on-board and a year to build anticipation, the movie turned out to be a monster hit, grossing over $30 million dollars off a budget somewhere around two million. Critics once again hated it, but fans loved it to the point it's considered one of the best movies of the series. It even ended up outgrossing Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street, which was also released the same year. Let's find out why, so get ready to rise from the dead again because it's time for A Ghoul Versus Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Ghoul Versus Friday The 13th Part III (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

Shelly's mopefest is interrupted by the sound of a twig breaking in the woods, so he goes off to investigate. OH HELL YEAH! You see what that's all about! His search takes him to the barn, that beautiful, beautiful place where dreams come true. We... cut away?! What, NO! DON'T YOU DARE, MOVIE! Don't rob of us of this moment! BOOOO! So we cut away to Vera, who suddenly remembers she still has Shelly's wallet on her after the incident back at the shop. She drops it into the lake, for some reason going into the water to retrieve it. Who freaking cares?! She sees a giant burly man in a hockey mask walking towards her, naturally assuming it's Shelly despite the fact he's a chubby little punk.

Vera does wise up after a few seconds and realizes it's not that waste of oxygen, asking who he is. Jason responds by raising the spear gun he's carrying and SHOOTS HER THROUGH THE EYE. Boom, headshot! At 57 minutes in, we now have our first OFFICIAL Jason kill of the franchise, hockey mask and all. So what made them decide on a hockey mask for his new look? Like some of the most iconic images in pop culture, it was 100% pure random chance. They knew he was going to wear a mask in this one, but until shooting began still hadn't figured out what kind. Martin Jay Sadoff, who supervised the film's stunning 3D sequences, just happened to have a bag full of hockey gear on him since he was a hardcore fan and I guess that's what being a hardcore hockey fan entails. They created a new sculpt of the goalie's mask, giving us the instantly recognizable one that we all know and love.

Jason goes into the house to kill Andy and Debbie, who just got done having sex to sign their death warrant. Debbie's death has always been disturbing to me, which I alluded to earlier. She is pregnant, so Jason just killed her unborn child along with her. I just feel in a movie with this light of a tone something that dark was completely uncalled for, especially since they do nothing to add gravity to her being pregnant outside of that one throwaway line in the van. If this had been in the first film it would have been fine, since that film was very dark and almost completely devoid of comedy. Here, it just really stands out in what is a very lighthearted story, even with people getting butchered.

A Ghoul Versus Friday The 13th Part III (Part 1)

Previously on Friday The 13th Part II...

PLOT TWIST! Jason's been alive the entire time... somehow. And he's spent his entire life hiding from his beloved mother... for some reason. I don't know, I've been watching that movie on and off my entire life and I'm still no closer to figuring out the plot. The film detailed Jason killing a bunch of camp counselors... for no real reason besides he's crazy? Rhaargh, that freaking movie!

Before it was decided to make a straight sequel to the first Friday The 13th, the producers were flirting with making it an anthology series where each movie would be a completely unrelated horror story sharing only the fact they took place on the same date. With Part III, they were planning to make it the final part of Jason's story because there's NO WAY audiences were going to keep watching these things right?

Friday The 13th IV: The Final Chapter (1984) – made $30+ million
Friday The 13th V: A New Beginning (1985) – made $19+ million
Friday The 13th VI: Jason Lives (1986) – made $16+ million
Friday The 13th VII: The New Blood (1988) – made $16+ million
Friday The 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) – made $9+ million
Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993) – made $12+ million
Jason X (2001) – made $2+ million
Freddy Vs. Jason (2003) – made $90+ million
Friday The 13th (2009) – made $70+ million

With the exception of Jason X, which is fucking awesome and one of the finest love letters to Jason fans ever written, all of the movies made a decent to great profit. No matter how hackneyed and trite the movies got, no matter how much they ran out of ideas, people still showed up in droves to see Jason get his groove on. But, just to hedge their bets, the filmmakers decided the latest chapter better capitalize on the current trend at the time: 3D. Gah, just like the present. Are we just constantly doomed to suffer through Hollywood recycling everything over and over again? Answer: yes.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Ghoul Versus Friday The 13th Part II (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

Ginny and Paul return to camp, Ted staying behind to try his luck with a waitress. They find the aftermath of Jason's bloody rampage, but no bodies so they decide to go looking for everyone. They don't even make it out of the cabin when Jason attacks Paul in FULL SIGHT of Ginny, making this one of the most unique slasher films of ALL TIME. A killer who can run and doesn't pick people off one by one? MORE PLEASE! Paul doesn't stand a chance here, partially because Ginny just stands around doing nothing while Jason kills him. I guess she's racked with fear, but Alice sure as hell wouldn't have just STOOD THERE. She would have grabbed a fucking blunt instrument and started caving Jason's skull in... then ran without making sure he was dead. Still, my point remains.

Some nice shots of Ginny trying to escape the cabin while Jason keeps blocking her follow, leading up to a scene where she opens a closet only to have Ralph's body fall out that was in no way, shape, or form inspired by a similar one in Halloween, so shut up. She finally gets outside through a kitchen window and dashes to her car, which starts up just fine and let's her get aw- YEAH, FUCKING RIGHT. The movie gets this one though, as they properly established it ran like shit and had constant problems turning over. Jason starts stabbing through the roof of the car with a pitchfork so she bails, the killer running after her. She hides in a tree and waits for him to run by, jumping out and KICKING HIM IN THE NUTS! HAHAH! Ginny, you have wholeheartedly redeemed yourself in my eyes. She runs into an adjacent cabin where she hides under a bed while Jason enters and prowls around.

A Ghoul Versus Friday The 13th Part II (Part 1)

Is it Friday the 13th already?! I swear we just had one last month!”

Previously on Friday The 13th...

One of the most iconic horror franchise of all time was kicked off with a TOTAL DUD, giving us one of the most boring slasher films ever made. If it hadn't been for special effects genius Tom Savini, it's doubtful the movie would have gotten any attention and gone of to become the legendary piece of pop culture that it has. The story itself wasn't much, the mother of a child who died at a camp due to negligence comes back every time the camp is reopened to kill people as a twisted form of revenge. Eventually she kills everyone down to a Final Girl named Alice, who kicks her ass AND cuts her head off for good measure.

And that's it, how in the world can they drag a sequel out of THAT? The villain is dead and there is absolutely NO supernatural elements in this, so she ain't coming back. The main brains behind the film, director Sean S. Cunningham, screenplay writer Victor Miller, and Savini all shared this thought process and moved on to other projects. Steve Miner, who helped produce the first film, was promoted to director due to his knowledge of the inner workings of all things Friday the 13th. He brought back much of the film's original crew, including the cinematographer and editor to ensure it'd maintain the consistency already established.

The keeping it in the family tradition also extended to the sequel's new writer, Ron Kurz, who actually did some rewriting of Victor's script from Part 1. Phil Scuderi, one of the studio producers, assisted in the writing and is the one who came up with the idea of how to continue the story. The very, very, VERY confusing and nonsensical idea that to this day illustrates story was not the focus of the series. We're going to have some fun with this one as we try to figure out what the hell is going on, so pack your bags because it's time to return to Camp Crystal Lake in A Ghoul Versus Friday The 13th Part II!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Ghoul Versus The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Previously on the Hunger Games: Catching Fire...

Katniss' life continued to redefine suck. After barely surviving an arena battle to the death where she was hunted like sport, she returned home to her crapsack district to live with her newly developed case of PTSD. Peeta was no help as she broke his heart by revealing she never loved him and faked the whole thing for the cameras, so now she has that hanging over her head as well. The fun didn't stop there though, because President Snow has come to hold her personally responsible for the growing rebellion in his fragile dictatorship.

Utilizing one of the biggest “fuck yous” EVER, he threw her back into the next Hunger Games event so she'd finally be out of his epically white hair. Things didn't quite work out as he planned, because not only did she survive but she was rescued by a band of rebels. Even though he was able to prevent Peeta from escaping with her, this wasn't enough so he had District 12 bombed back into the Stone Age.

The Hunger Games novel, 374 pages. Adapted into a 142 minute film.
Catching Fire novel, 391 pages. Adapted into a 146 minute film.
Mockingjay novel, 390 pages. Adapted into TWO films, the first one being 123 minutes and the second likely to be at least that long.

YEP, even an extremely high quality franchise like the Hunger Games isn't immune to “Split the Final Book Into 2 Movies” syndrome. Harry Potter kicked off this madness back in 2010, and when it proved to be financially successful beyond anyone's dreams, the doors were kicked open for good. Twilight was soon to follow and it added a touch of innovation in the form of making the movies PADDED OUT AS HELL. I suppose one COULD make the case Harry Potter did this as well since the first film is basically an hour of the Power Trio camping, but that's a story for another day. The Hunger Games was next in line to adopt this free money trend, and DAYMN did it ever work as Mockingjay Part 1 became the highest grossing film of 2014, although it JUST lost that title to American Sniper and its 2015 staying power.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Ghoul Versus The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

Thanks to Cinna's latest efforts, Katniss and Peeta steal the show once again as their outfits burst into flame and THIS TIME they look hella real. You can tell Lionsgate really took the first film's special effects being ripped apart by the critics personally since they nearly doubled the budget for Catching Fire and does it EVER show. Post-parade, Haymitch introduces them to District's 11 tributes: Chaff and Seeder. Chaff greets Katniss by kissing her straight on the lips, the resulting look on her face being PRICELESS. One almost has to wonder if they told Jennifer Lawrence he was going to do that, or if she's just that great at acting.

We're not done with the hilarious introductions yet though, as one of the District 7 tributes, Johanna Mason, gets on the elevator with the District 12 crew as they're leaving. Johanna is played by Jena Malone, an excellent actress who never seems to get the spotlight she deserves. Johanna talks about how much she hates her stylist, throws some shade at Katniss, and then strips naked in front of everyone. Peeta and Haymitch are ALL SMILES while Katniss determinedly looks the other direction, probably making her hands bleed with how tight her hands must be balled up right now. Have I mentioned how much Jennifer Lawrence rules? I don't think I have. JENNIFER LAWRENCE RULES.

A Ghoul Versus The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Part 1)

Previously on the Hunger Games...

Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark won the 74th Annual Hunger Games, won an arena style battle to the death designed by a fascist government to keep all of its citizens in place by constantly reminding them how helpless they are. However, they did so in a defiant manner which drew the ire of President Snow, Chief Fascist and part time Santa Claus. There's no way he's going to let two uppity teenagers upset his balance of power, so get ready for an overly elaborate plan that could have easily been solved by JUST KILLING THEM.

Because really, when you think about it, none of this makes any sense. Snow outright says he doesn't want to kill Katniss because it'll just make her a martyr and inspire many others to take her place, but this is neglecting one key detail. The only districts that seem to have a problem with the Capitol are the outlying ones, the ones filled with dirt poor workers who suffer the most under Panem's jackbooted heels. HOW are they going to revolt? They have no real technology and no real way to get to the Capitol short of WALKING THERE, so there is no way to overthrow Snow that way.

Sure, they could just stop working and producing the supplies the Capitol needs, but they have small numbers and would be no match if Snow send his army of hovercraft and Stormtroopers over there to resolve the stoppage. And on THAT topic, what does a technologically advanced paradise like the Capitol need COAL for anyway? That physical holographic technology of theirs run off coal? In summary, Snow is a fucking idiot and is just begging to be the cause of his own undoing, giving Katniss every weapon she needs to do so.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Ghoul Versus The Hunger Games (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

Katniss watches the carnage unfold in a daze, as we see kids hacking and stabbing each other to death. It's done with no sound effects and only a muted score, making it all the more harrowing. She finally snaps back to reality and runs into the nearby forest, grabbing a backpack along the way. Twelve tributes die in the opening carnage, each death signaled by a blast from a cannon. With nothing better to do, Katniss ties herself high up in a tree and rests. This is where the movie is at its weakest, as in the book we got several chapters of Katniss trying to come up with a survival plan while she scavenged for food and water. It was very captivating stuff, as it really allowed us to get into her mind state and the desperation she was going through. Here, she just hangs out in a tree.

She gets woken up that night by some voices beneath her, as she sees a gang of career tributes has banded together to take out everyone else. They're comprised of two hulks named Cato and Marvel, two femme fatales named Glimmer and Clove, and... Peeta?! Oh snap! The next day Seneca, who is watching everything unfold via cameras hidden everywhere in the environment, summons up a batch of flames to move Katniss back into competition. She runs afoul of the pack, climbing a nearby tree to escape them. Cato tries to climb after her but lacks her nimbleness, so the group tries to shoot her down with arrows. However they all suck and miss her, leading Katniss to taunt them. Hahah, in the face of insurmountable odds she ain't backing down!

Peeta suggests they set up shop and wait til she's forced to come down, because she can't stay up there forever. The rest agree, and make camp for the night. Morning comes and Katniss finds Rue is in a tree across from her, gesturing at a gigantic wasp nest hanging in the branches above the pack. I'd make a snide comment about how convenient that is, but since we've seen Seneca can conjure things out of thin air to keep the game moving, I'm giving this one a pass. Caesar, doing commentary on the games along with the equally ridiculously dressed Claudius Templesmith, announces those just aren't ANY wasps but tracker jackers, lethal creations whose sting can cause hallucinations in small doses, death in larger ones.

A Ghoul Versus The Hunger Games (Part 1)

"May the odds ever be in your favour."

The Hunger Games kind of turned out to be a multimedia juggernaut, didn't it? Beginning as a red hot trilogy of books written by Suzanne Collins that are among some of the best sellers of all time, it's gone on to become a movie franchise that has grossed nearly two and a half billion dollars worldwide. Hell, even the soundtracks to the movies have ruled the sales charts. It also helped launch the career of Jennifer Lawrence into the stratosphere, to the point where she is arguably THE marquee actor in Hollywood today, male or female.

HOWEVER you can pretty much say nearly the exact same things about the Twilight Saga franchise, which was one of the darkest chapters in cinematic history, so the Hunger Games must just be more overly marketed tween garbage... right? Plot twist, no! The books and the movies are, for the most part, critically acclaimed due to how well written and developed they are. The protagonist of the books, Katniss Everdeen, has been hailed as one of the better strong female characters to come out in a long time, a positive role model who doesn't just sit around and pine for some sparkly chested boy to make her happy. She is basically the Anti-Bella, a character that isn't a vile and manipulative harpy that you want to see get eaten by the Loch Ness Monster. That's what Twilight was about, wasn't it?

I would describe myself as a fairly large fan of the franchise. I absolutely LOVE the books, as I found them to be one of the most realistic portrayals of what would actually happen to a character's psyche that went through a crazy ass, world changing series of violent adventures. Hint: it's not positive. We all have our favourite kind of stories, mine is where you can watch the gradual descent of a character into madness, and do those books ever deliver on that. I don't quite have the movies on that same level of quality, as the removal of Katniss' internal monologue and insight instantly hurts everything going on, BUT for Hollywood blockbuster films I do consider them among the best outside of the Daniel Craig James Bond series.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Ghoul Versus Pascal Laugier's The Tall Man

The Tall Man? Is that like the Slender Man's low budget cousin?”

The New French Extremity is a so-called movement used to describe certain French filmmakers that deal in, let's be honest here, some of the most fucked up films imaginable. Films hit with this label often specialize in a combination of EXTREME sexuality and violence, with a heavy learning towards the horror genre. I've yet to review any of the films associated with the movement, but have mentioned them on here before when discussing directors Xavier Gens and Alexandre Aja, as both have entries on the list with their films Frontier(s) and High Tension, respectively.

Of all the films I've seen, none affected me as much as 2008's Martyrs, written and directed by Pascal Laugier. Without spoiling anything, it concerns a young woman getting kidnapped by a cult the horrific experiences she has as their captive. It is probably the most uncomfortable move I've EVER watched in my entire life, but unlike torture porn schlock like the Hostel series, its over the top violence had a point. A massively powerful film that I still think about seven years later, which is more than I can say about the majority of movies I've seen since then. I was very anxious to see what else Laugier had done, disappointed to find out he had only made one other film: 2004's Saint Ange, which I've never been able to track down.

Very recently I discovered he made a third film with almost no fanfare whatsoever, 2012's the Tall Man. I vaguely remember seeing trailers for it, but the second I saw Jessica Biel was the star I dismissed it and never gave it a second thought. The film only got a limited theatrical release before being released on home video less than a month later, and it generally faded into the great realm of obscurity. Until today that is, where we're going to check it out and hope that Laugier isn't just a one hit filmmaker. Get ready to cross your fingers and pray he gets a watchable performance out of Jessica Biel, because it is now time for A Ghoul Versus The Tall Man!