Watchin’ Stuff #50 XL SPOOKUMS Edition

A movie that’s flawed to a debatable extent, yet is still probably the best thing I’ve seen in the last few weeks. I suppose this isn’t quite a horror movie, although in the typical Jeremy Saulnier fashion it’s so dark and brutal that it comes extremely close. Unfortunately, I think this is his weakest movie so far. It’s not a bad film, the cast, look, and feel of the movie are all excellent, but it has some serious issues with pacing and coherence. I can’t really get more specific than that without spoiling things, but there are way too many unanswered questions left hanging in the end.

I’ve done a little research on the book this was based on and after thinking on it a while I could see certain hints about the motivations of certain characters that partially explain things, which made me appreciate it a little more, but there’s still so much left completely unexplained that it’s not fully satisfying. Oddly, the more I think about it and look into it, the more interested I seem to become after the fact though.

If you’re annoyed by highly ambiguous stories, you might want to take a pass on this one.

Time to watch all the Friday the 13th movies again! Naturally, it all begins with the original. I still think this is one of the weakest entries in the series though. It’s a pretty generic slasher movie that doesn’t have any particularly impressive effects or imaginative kills. The characters are pretty bland too (even a young Kevin Bacon). Honestly, you might as well skip this one unless you’re a diehard Friday the 13th fan. They give you a recap at the beginning of the next one anyway, so you’re not really gonna miss anything.

Jason trivia: Jason wasn’t even the killer yet in this one, it was his mom (also part of what made this one so underwhelming).

Things begin to pick up in Part 2 when Jason finally enters the picture. The characters have more personality and the effects and kills are greatly improved. Jason is certainly a lot more menacing than his elderly mother was too.

Jason trivia: In this one, Jason just has a sack with one eye hole on it as a mask. He doesn’t actually get his famous goalie mask until Part 3. 

Jason finally gets his famous mask here and with it, he almost seems to gain a new confidence, as his kills start becoming more audacious and outlandish. This is where the Jason everyone knows and loves really starts to appear. There are some ridiculous parts, mostly the ones where you can see them trying to show off their fancy 3D technology in some really pathetically mundane ways, but overall it’s still an enjoyable slasher.

Part 4 continues the escalation of violence and gore effects in another solid entry to the series, featuring an odd performance by a very young Corey Feldman. It’s another fun Friday the 13th movie, but you can see that things are starting to get a little repetitive and formulaic, which is probably why they decided to make this “The Final Chapter”. Not that this was the last one, of course, they just decided to kill off Jason in the end here.

Jason trivia: This was the first time that Jason actually died. Many people (and even some of the later movies) don’t realize (and I had forgotten about it myself) that Jason wasn’t originally an invincible undead monster. He was actually just a big dumb deformed guy who had been living out in the woods since his childhood (as explained back in his first real appearance in Part 2) and had a crazy serial killer for a mother. While he seems to be killed in the end of Part 3, it turns out that he was really only wounded and knocked out, and doesn’t really fully die until the end of this one. It isn’t until Part 6 that he comes back as an unstoppable undead thing.

You can tell this one’s going to be a winner when they couldn’t even put the right mask on the cover. This is one of the blackest sheep of the franchise, and not just because Jason isn’t even in the damn movie. The New Beginning tries to get clever by introducing a grown up Tommy Jarvis, the kid who killed Jason in the last movie, and pulling a murder mystery type of deal where a copycat killer is pretending to be Jason. The movie badly wants you to think that Tommy is the killer, though he very obviously isn’t, and lo and behold it turns out it’s not, it’s some random dude that was on screen for about 30 seconds in the beginning. It’s a story that we’ve all seen a million times before, but that’s not even what makes it so bad.

The main problem is the characters. Tommy, arguably the main character, barely speaks throughout the whole movie, and most of the rest are lazy troubled teen stereotypes with painfully bad dialogue and no charisma whatsoever. The only thing more annoying than the whiny teens are the godawful crazy hick neighbors. It’s just a dire mess of a movie. One of the lowest points in the franchise, so much so that the next movie completely ignores it, and I’d advise you to do the same.

Things get back on track with Jason Lives, which starts with Tommy Jarvis all over again, except he’s now played by a different actor and apparently the events of A New Beginning never happened. Jason comes back to life because his corpse is struck by lightning and that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Where the previous movies all played things dead serious, with all the funny parts being entirely unintentional, this one takes a more goofy approach and is kind of half-comedy.

It’s not a full-on horror-comedy like Jason X, but there are a lot of little jokes slipped in there, including many self-aware digs at the ridiculous nature of the slasher genre. It’s silly, but it’s one of the better movies in the series, despite the fact that so many of the kill scenes cut away at the last second, presumably to save money on gore effects.

Probably the last decent classic Friday the 13th movie, The New Blood answers the question “so what do we even do now that we made Jason basically completely invincible and immune to even death?” by introducing a protagonist with strange psionic powers. Unfortunately, the two don’t directly confront each other until near the end of the movie, and the path leading to that final battle is made up of pretty standard Friday the 13th elements. It’s a decent movie, but I wish they would have done more with the Jason vs. psionic girl premise.

I seem to remember this being the worst in the series, and I was not wrong. Jason Takes Manhattan just plain sucks. It’s a shoddy production in every way. Terrible actors, characters, dialogue, and effects. Even the music and sound suck. It all feels like a bad TV movie production. Hell, they couldn’t even get the iconic Jason sound right (you know the one).

The writing is pretty unbelievable (even for this kind of movie) at some points. Whoever wrote this had some pretty crazy ideas of what New York was like, especially the part where the good guys hide in a sewer near the end and some maintenance worker appears to explain to them that they need to get out of there quick because every night at midnight there’s a toxic waste flood? There are also just open buckets of toxic waste lying around down there to be conveniently thrown in Jason’s face, because I guess New York is just exploding with toxic waste for some reason.

Let’s look at some other examples of ineptitude. Take a look at this fight scene where a guy decides to bareknuckle box Jason for an uncomfortably long time, never seeming to realize or care that he’s smashing his bare fists against a solid mask on a guy who he just watched gunshots have no effect on. In particular, look at the final part of this scene where you’ll see one of the absolute shittiest looking deaths ever seen in a movie:

Let’s take a look at this little comparison too. On the left is Jason’s face from The New Blood, on the right is Jason’s face from Jason Takes Manhattan:

Just awful. I advise skipping this one too.

Even the ridiculous Jason Goes To Hell seems almost like a good movie compared to the last one. They seem to just say “fuck it” here and completely re-write Jason’s origins and history, turning him into some kind of demonic parasite that can now jump into different bodies at will, but can only find a “permanent” new host in the body of a relative. You’d think this, and the fact that he has multiple living relatives, would have come up before now, but I guess they’re relying on the fact that his body was never really FULLY destroyed until the beginning of this one (except…for when it was fully destroyed in the end of the last movie, but sure, whatever).

It’s a weird concept that doesn’t even seem to be able to follow its own rules within this single movie, and it doesn’t even really feel like a proper Friday the 13th movie, since Jason isn’t even in his own typical body for most of the movie, and yet it still ends up being mildly entertaining because the production quality and gore effects looked amazing compared to the last one.

This is a decent follow up to last year’s fun found footage horror (which is a pretty rare thing these days). Something about it doesn’t quite measure up to the original, partly because it’s in the same place with largely the same things happening all over again and also because they try to cram more plot into this one, even going so far as to pave the way for a third movie. It has its weak parts, but it does still have some pretty good creepy bits in there too. Not amazing, but decent.

Well, I didn’t quite make it all the way through all the Friday the 13th’s this time, but I’ll finish them soon and continue on with many more timely SPOOKUMS!

7 comments on “Watchin’ Stuff #50 XL SPOOKUMS Edition

  1. raistlin0903 says:

    Well, you already know my thoughts on Hold the Dark😊
    It was fun to see you revisit all the friday the 13 th movies (well almost all of them, so look forward to the continuation of them😊). It’s one of those truly guilty pleasures that every once in a while I revisit myself too. There is this great book about the entire franchise called Crystal Lake Memories. It’s well worth checking out as it contains an amazing amount of background info on all the films. Great and fun post to read this one! 😊

  2. ignitedmoth says:

    Awesome post! And I love the tile “XL Spookums Edition”. 😛
    That was a great breakdown of the Friday the 13th movies.
    I’m hoping to squeeze in more horror movies this weekend.

  3. Peter Saturday says:

    I rewatched Jason goes to Hell recently, hadn’t seen it since it was in theaters! I actually really enjoyed it, great fx and a different type of story altogether…I think that one gets ripped on too much!

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