To the Victor Go the Spoils (Victor Crawley, 2017)

 

Victor_Crowley_PosterBack in 2006, Adam Green made a splash within the horror genre with a throwback to 80’s slasher films called Hatchet.  The story of a group of folks on a Louisiana swamp tour who run afoul of the local legend Victor Crawley.

The legend went that the poor young deformed Victor lived with his father.  One night a group of kids tried to scare Victor, only to set the house on fire.  While trying to save Victor, his father accidentally kills him with an axe. Years later, after a series of deaths, that part of the swamp was declared unfit to visit. The tour group discover that Victor is more than a legend…he is an “unkillable” murder machine.

The first hatchet got a positive enough response for Green to make two sequels, which garnered a cult fanbase.  And really, it is a fun franchise.  The violence is far to ridiculous to be judged seriously.  Green filled the films with horror royalty like Robert Englund and Tony Todd. The films relied on traditional practical effects and buckets of blood.  Like, an absurd amount.  Green always approached the films with a sense of humor.  And using the most famous Jason, Kane Hodder, he managed to create a pretty memorable bad guy.  The first film also had a really memorable teaser trailer:

Green ended the franchise with Hatchet 3 in 2013. And Victor Crawley was laid to rest.  Late last year, fans were invited to an anniversary showing of Hatchet.  Except, when Adam Green stepped before the audience, he informed them that instead, they were about to watch a brand new fourth film in the franchise, simply titled Victor Crawley.

The film has a bit of a shaky start with a brief flashback of a couple who meet a terrible fate.  The film picks up with Andrew (Parry Shen), the lone survivor of the third film who has written a book about his experience with Crawley. Chloe, an aspiring horror director is hoping to get Andrew to join her and her film crew (well, her boyfriend and friend) in making a film about his meeting with Crawley.  Meanwhile, he is talked into joining a television crew for an interview in the old Crawley stomping grounds.

Chloe and her friends are trying to figure out the voodoo incantation that made Crawley into the terrible monster he became by looking it up on YouTube. When they are distracted by the sound of a plane crash, they forget the phone and the incantation plays over and over. As to be expected, the survivors of the crash and the filmmakers must try and survive the night with Crawley.

Green tries something a bit different hear.  In prior films, the characters roam the swamp, this time around they stay inside the wrecked plane most of the film as Victor tries to draw them out to creatively murder them.

Like the previous films, this one relies on outrageous practical effect gags and copious amounts of fake blood splashed everywhere. The humor of the films is still there, with Parry Shen (who has appeared in all four films as three different characters), Laura Ortiz and Dave Sheridan are all quite entertaining and Sleepaway Camp’s Felissa Rose provides some good laughs as Andrew’s brash and loud agent. And Kane Hodder returns to play Victor Crawley once more, giving the series a pleasant consistency with it’s villain.

Victor Crawley is not reinventing slashers, but it is a pretty fun ride with a sense of humor about itself.

The Blu-Ray contains a couple commentaries and a behind the scenes featurette. There is also a nice little interview with Green where he opens up about why he returned to a franchise he thought he was done with.  Green talks about a serious bout of depression (brought on by the death of a close friend, his marriage ending and his TV being canceled when the network was shut down by a merger) and how George Romero helped point the way out of his spiral.

If you like the Hatchet franchise, I doubt you will be disappointed by Victor Crowley.  And if you are a fan of over the top 80’s slashers, you should check out the film (if you are not already familiar with the franchise).

Damn Toxic Waste (Love in the Time of Monsters, 2015)

Love-in-the-time-of-monstersLet’s be real honest.  The movie Love in the Time of Monsters could have been terrible.  it has some qualities that could totally ruin it.  Especially the effects.  the monsters never look that great.  The bigfoot monster looks like the original Planet of the Apes (with log luxurious hair).  There is a mutant monster moose that looks entirely unfinished.

And yet?

The movie is a lot of fun.  The story, while not some grand twist, has a lot of fun.  It is the story of two sisters, Carla and Marla who are going to visit her boyfriend who works at a family campground with a Bigfoot theme.  Her boyfriend Johnny works as one of the Bigfoots.  People go on walks and he shows up in a cheesey costume.

During the Bigfoot Staff Meeting (really), one of the guys goes off to get high.  He drops his joint in the lake and falls in trying to retrieve it.  His co-Workers hear him screaming, and the run off to find him floating in the water.  The guys start telling their superior Lou (Kane Hodder) to report it, but he does not want to get in trouble…a struggle ensues and the fall in the lake.

Here is the thing.  The lake is full of a mutating toxin.  So the guys mutate into actual monsters that terrorize the camp.  The sisters unite the remaining camp employees in an attempt to get rid of the monsters and survive the night.

The film is fun and goofy, which works to it’s advantage.  It is fun to see guys known for their work under masks getting to play roles with their own faces.  Hodder has fun with his role, but Doug Jones shines as DJ Lincoln.  Considering this is one of the earliest works of both the Director Matt Jackson and Writer Michael Skvarla, and it appears to have been made on a budget, the film works with what it has at it’s disposal.

I had a lot of fun watching the film in spite of some of the shortcomings, and it made for a good silly Halloween offering.

Dig Deep (Digging Up the Marrow, 2015)

Ahhhh…the mock documentary.  A branch of the horror found footage genre that seems to have an endless supply.  On rare occasion, more familiar names from the industry get the itch to make them.

digging-up-the-marrow_altAnd so, Adam Green (Frozen, the Hatchet franchise) assembled Digging Up the Marrow.

The film follows Green as he and his cameraman Will Barratt prepare to make a documentary on real monsters hiding in our world.  They are inspired on the journey by a letter from a fan named William Dekker (Ray Wise) who claims to know that monsters are real and how to see them.

The film opens with a montage of convention footage and people Tony Todd, Mick Garris, Don Coscarelli and a whose who of horror talking about monsters.  Adam’s wife Rileah (playing herself, as everyone except Ray Wise is doing in the film) is concerned that Dekker is a crazed fan.

Upon finally sitting down for an interview, Green wonders if he is not dealing with a guy who has lost touch with reality.  And their early forays of sitting out overnight results in rather bland footage, in spite of Dekker claiming to see things.

Then one night, as they are watching claims the monster is directly in front of their hiding spot, when Will turns on his camera light, they are startles (and startle) a creature.  Dekker is upset about turning on the light, worried that the creatures will seal up and leave the area.

The deeper they go into exploring the Marrow (this is what Dekker calls the home of the monsters) the more confused Adam and Will become about what they have seen.  Adams other endeavors (such as his show Holliston) start to suffer as he becomes more obsessed with the stories of Dekker (and who Dekker really is).

Adam becomes disillusioned a bit when Mick Garris and Tom Holland inform him that he is not the only horror director Dekker approached.  He was under the impression he was unique, only to discover he was one of the last, and the first to bite.

When they dig deeper into who Dekker is, it becomes truly dangerous.  There is something creepy about him, and Adam and Will decide to check out the Marrow without Dekker.

Ray Wise is very good in the film, and Adam Green plays Adam Green convincingly.  The film is pretty effective and uses the fake documentary to entertaining effect.  When it comes down to it, I really did enjoy this one.  Green walks the fine line of showing just enough, but effectively using darkness obscure what we are seeing.  The mystery of Dekker is intriguing.

The only real criticism I have is that the very end sequence is kind of confusing.  It is unclear if it is to imply Green just got a terrifying wake up to a reality he should not have toyed with or if it is meant to imply he disappeared.  I had to listen to the audio commentary on the Blu-Ray to be sure.

Into the Mire (Muck, 2015)

Muck_posterMuck opens with a group of friends who just survived an attack on St. Patrick’s Day in a marsh.  They apparently got separated in the chaos, but they came together again and hole up and a random vacation home.  Once there characters go off for help, others stay and wait.  They discover they are not alone, and the carnage begins.

The film is only about an hour and a half, and yet, it feels much longer.  It is slow moving, and has to many false starts to potential scares.  The camera focuses on, say, a doorknob on a half open door, closing in on it with “scary music” playing.  Then the scene ends.  There is a long and drawn out scene at a bar where the guy who ran for help runs into a bunch of people and nothing happens.  He does not call the police or anything.  The bigger question is…if it was that easy to get to the bar?  Why didn’t everyone just go walking off with him?

Most of the women in the film seem to be there for how they look in push-up bras or even topless.  There is one character who just wanders through the swamps topless…we never see her face and in the final indignity in the credits?  The actress is unnamed.  They show her (cutting her head from the frame) and block out her name.

The film tries to be meta and clever.  They are in the town of Wes Craven.  When the friends get to the house one of the guys goes on in a speech explaining how this is a text book horror movie.  none of this is done well.

The real carnage is in the story.  It is not a problem to start in the middle as the film does.  But you have to offer clues and fill in the blanks.  If you don’t you just leave the viewer confused.  It is unclear the connection between the creatures attacking the friends and Kane Hodder’s Grawesome Crutal.  They look similar, but that appears to be lazy design.  They are all caked in a white make-up with some scar designs.

The monsters of the film do not seem to have a specific goal or purpose, at least not one the film hints at.  Is the setting on St. Patrick’s Day Significant?  It does not appear to be.  Kane Hodder’s character is lacking any definition.  It is as if they hired Hodder on the promise of an iconic Jason type role…and then never actually thought about what they wanted him to be.  Leaving Hodder with little to work with beyond being big and imposing.

The timeline is confusing and messy.  It is never clear when the time is jumping back.  It is a clear attempt to show us something and then see it from a new perspective.  But instead of being illuminating?  It just leaves it it feeling more confused than before.  The film’s lighting works against the film.  The lighting is often muddled and resulting in hard to understand pictures.  The only time there ever seems to be any attention to lighting is to make sure you can see when the girls  are posing.

The film wants to be an eighties throw back, but they seem to think that mainly means “lots of Boobs.”  Practically every single actress appears topless or naked.  I personally think that is setting the bar low.  But when you have Kane Hodder in your horror film and give second billing to a Playboy Playmate who is in about ten minutes of the film?  Clearly your film has problems.  I realize that horror films in the 80’s actually did that all the time (hyping centerfolds appearing in the film)…but here it just feels like the filmmakers miss the point of “throwback”.  80’s horror tends to have at least a minimal plot.

Muck has somehow garnered a sequel for 2016 called Muck: Feast of St. Patrick.  Will it answer the questions?  If it does?  Probably very badly.

Lets Go Camping Part 10 (Jason X, 2001)

jasonxPretty much ignoring Jason Goes to Hell, Jim Isaac (director) and Todd Farmer (writer) give us Jason’s first (and to date only) trip to space.  Eat your heart out Neil Armstrong.

Granted, both the Leprechaun and Pinhead (from the Hellraiser films) had already gone into space about five years before, so it is not a wholly original idea.

The film begins with a top secret military base below Camp Crystal Lake (!) where Jason is being held until he can be transported by movie director David Cronenberg (!) and a bunch of military guys.  This goes badly, and Jason ends up trapped in cryogenic sleep along with a young woman named Rowan (Lexa Doig) who was trying to prevent his escape.

Decades later they are found by students on a field trip to a now barren earth.  The students bring them back to their ship and their teacher thinks he can get a lot of money for Jason.  They revive Rowan, then Jason wakes up and mayhem ensues.

The film has middling effects, the practical stuff looks good, but the digital looks very, well, digital.  The story is out there and includes all sorts of odd things like a girl android in love with her creator, Jason getting a chrome makeover, killing holographic campers, soldiers hanging out on the spaceship, terrible “Future Clothing Fashion”…there is a ridiculously high body count in this film.  It is full of stock characters (the stoner, the smart kid, the jock, the greedy guy, etc) who never amount to much.

This film never worries about explaining why Jason is not in hell.  It never worries about explaining much, actually.  Needless to say, this helped the studio push forward with a Freddy and Jason movie to wash the taste of this one out of fans mouths.

Let’s Go Camping Part 8 (Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan, 1989)

friday13th8Yep. Jason Takes Manhattan. Again, Kane Hodder makes Jason very entertaining to watch. Anyways, the movie starts on the Streets of Manhattan where a voice talks about the gritty city…eventually, after the credits are over we get to Crystal Lake and a small houseboat on which two high school seniors are getting it on. The anchor drags along the bottom and picks up a powerline. Juice jumps to the body of Jason, who is chained to the bottom of the lake, yet again. The boyfriend hears a noise. He leaves the girl, and she starts to get predictably nervous. Suddenly a guy in a hockey mask pops in and stabs her! Oh wait, it’s just a retractable knife. She gets so mad at him that they get back into bed to have sex. I gotta remember that…making a woman think you are a mass murder and she could have been your next victim is a turn on to the ladies. Of course, if you are paying any attention when you popped the disc in the player, you know Jason is on the boat and ready to kill, kill, kill. And so he walks in grabs the hockey mask and a spear gun. The girl sees him, freaks out causing her boyfriend to turn a few shades of white as he turns around. Jason shows the tried and true aim of a Stormtrooper from Star Wars and misses the two kids that he is five feet away from. Don’t worry, he remedies the situation and manages to kill them both.

The next morning we meet the senior class of Crystal Lake High…all fifteen of them. Just like any high school class there are your basic stereotypes. The Jock and his friends. The friendly Black Jock. The Hot, Self Absorbed Blonde and her follower (in most movies she has more than one, in this film it is just Kelly Hu). The video nerd. The rocker chick. The nice geek. The nice teacher. The creepy principal and then there is the Troubled Heroine and her dog. She is scare of the water. And is getting on a big boat. She has waking nightmares about a young boy calling for help. Sometimes? Its a young boy with a full head of hair. Other times, its a deformed boy who looks like young Jason. They are both supposed to be Jason though. Go figure. Jason grabs onto the side of the boat. Then there is the ominous deck hand who keeps saying everyone is going to die. Every ship should have one of those. Maybe the Titanic would not have sunk.

Jason wanders the boat, killing just about everyone. For some reason, he thinks it’s better to kill the captain and it’s crew first, ensuring that the ship start to have technical difficulties forcing the survivors to jump ship in a life raft. Real smart Jason. So the Nice Geek, Nice Teacher, the Friendly Black Jock, the Creepy Principal and the Troubled Heroine (without her dog) all float along until they reach New York. But Jason gets there as well. And lucky for Jason, people are not faced by walking corpses wearing Hockey Masks in New York, so he is not phased.

Some druggie gang members kidnap the Troubled Heroine and shoot her up as they get ready to rape her. Her friends all split up to try and find cops. Well, before the gang members can rape her, Jason steps in to save the day. Jason isn’t so bad after all, right? So, our now high and Troubled Heroine runs away and meets up with the Nice Geek. They go looking for everyone else. The Friendly Black Jock turns a corner and meets Jason, well, that’s not good! Being a minority is bad news in a Friday the 13th film. If you want to live. He runs from Jason and climbs a fire escape. But apparently, Jason is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. The Friendly Black Jock starts punching Jason. Jason just stands there until the Friendly Black Jock is so tired he is missing Jason (who is one foot away-I did not say he was a Friendly Black TALENTED ATHLETE Jock).. Then, all tired out he says to Jason one of the stupidest things you can say to an undead serial killer. “Go ahead…take your best shot”. So, with one punch, Jason knocks his block off. Literally.

In the meantime, the other four have met back up and found a cop. He makes them get into the back seat. When he opens his door the dome light reveals the head of the Friendly Black Jock on the dashboard. Everyone screams and the cops starts calling for help…rather in vain as Jason grabs him and drags him away. The Troubled Heroine jumps to the front seat, apparently, the cop cars in NY have no screen dividing the front and back seats. She speeds the car down the alley and Jason steps in front of the car. Suddenly she sees little deformed Jason soaking wet…and she runs him over and crashes the car…everyone but Friendly Teacher get out before the car explodes. Suddenly, the Troubled Heroine has a flashback to the Creepy Principal (her uncle, did I forget to mention that?) pushing her out of a boat to force her to swim, where she gets pulled under water by deformed young Jason. Seven and eight really mess with the Chronology of the series with these flash backs, but if you don’t try and make a logical timeline you will be okay.

So the Nice Geek and the Troubled Heroine run away from Creepy Prinipal. Jason wakes up and starts chasing him. The Creepy Principal runs into a building. It’s here that Jason displays his ability to teleport as suddenly the Creepy Principal flies from the second floor window. Jason looks at him and disappears from the window. Suddenly he is on ground level and grabs the Creepy Principal, carries him over to a barrel full of grungy looking rain water and drowns him in it.

Jason goes after the last two survivors. They duck into the subways and he follows. Oddly people are more annoyed by the kids pulling an emergency break on the Subway than the Homicidal Maniac in the Hockey Mask. Jason appears to get electrocuted by the train tracks. This allows the Nice Geek and Troubled Heroine to say, “It’s all over!” Its not of course…and They see Jason in the middle of Times Square. They run through the streets. Jason passes some punk rockers listening to rap. Apparently, Jason doesn’t “feel” hip hop, as he KICKS their boom box in stride. They of course start to make threats. Jason stops, turns around and lifts his mask and the punks have a change of heart. Jason lets them live and walks away. Best gag in the entire film.  He follows the two remaining kids into the sewers.

But the Troubled Heroine throws a bucket of toxic waste in Jason’s face. And it burns. But Jason does not give up. He stumbles down the Sewer. Well, the Trouble Heroine and the Nice Geek hit a dead end, but there is a ladder. They climb to the grate at the top, but it won’t budge. They are stuck as Jason reaches the ladder. OH SHIT! WHAT WILL THEY DO?! Did you know that at midnight, NY floods the sewers with Deadly Toxic Waste? Me neither, but according to the movie, they do. You would think they would not want us to hear about that. The NY Film Commission is just stupid. Or maybe they are just greedy. I don’t know.

So, anyways, the deadly toxic waste floods the hall. Jason sees it and starts vomiting water as the wall of toxic waste tumbles towards him. Not sure why. It’s just what Jason does. The toxic wastes hits Jason and he starts to disintegrate. Luckily, the toxic waste is odor and fume free, so our two survivors are not at risk of being knocked out by the fumes and falling into the waste. Then the toxic waste recedes. Leaving a normal, non-Jason looking little boy lying dead in his swimming suit. They killed Jason’s true spirit…or something like that. The two survivors find a way out and walk onto the streets at sunrise. Now they can say “It’s all over”. As they hug, something catches the Troubled Heroine’s eye. Whoa, is it Jason? Nope. It’s her dog, who we last saw on the boat. What a relief!!!! And then the credits role.

This is not a good film.  The story is muddled, the characters are light sketches even by slasher movie standards.

You might think Jason going to Manhattan is as an absurd concept as a franchise can get. Just remember…Jason has been to space.

Let’s Go Camping Part 7 (Friday the 13th: New Blood, 1988)

friday_13th_7_poster_01There was only one year the entire decade without a Friday the 13th movie released.  1987.  But 1988 sure fixed that problem!  Well, I gotta give them points for trying something a little different. Instead of a bunch of teen victims with nothing to help them, we get a girl with telekinetic powers.

The story opens with a backstory, in case this is your first Friday. And old man tells us that Jason is still down there…waiting. Then we meet a little girl whose parents are fighting. According to what we hear, daddy hits mommy. The little girl runs to her family’s doc and jumps into a boat with dad running out after her. He gets to the end of the dock, making all the apologies abusive dads do. But the little girl will have none of it and her super powers kick in…see, she makes water bubble…and that bubbling trail is deadly…it goes back the fancy dock. It starts to shake and then collapses, taking Daddy with it. He sinks to the bottom and dies.

Fast forward to when the girl (Tina) is older and apparently suffering from years of therapy. Her mother is driving her back to Crystal Lake, to confront her demons with the help of her psychiatrist. The actor playing the psychiatrist is none other than Bernie of the weekend of Bernie films. It’s pretty obvious early on he has sinister intentions, the film makes no attempts to hide that. Really,it would have been far more interesting if he was a good and caring doctor. Next door are a bunch of partying teens. Thankfully, we get a realistic portrayal of a group of teens this time around. Everyone knows that in each group of friends you have one rich, hot, bitchy girl. You have one geek. One dope smoking fiend. One or two “plain girls” who compete for one guy. And at least one really horny couple (this film gives us two glory hallelujeh!). And finally, you have the one guy who does not really like the others, a bit of a rebel, but with a heart of gold.

When Tina’s luggage bursts open, the rebel tries to help her, and she rudely brushes himself off. The obvious reaction is to be intrigued and assume it was your fault she was rude to you…and that’s exactly what he does. She ignores his attempts to give a shirt back to her, storming off into her house. So he WASHES it and gives it back to her. And invites her to the birthday party they are all there to celebrate. So she goes. Of course, hot, rich bitchy girl humiliates her and she runs outside. She stands on the dock, crying about her abusive dad. Wishing she had not killed him. She concentrates on the water and frees Jason. That makes two movies where Jason is set upon the world by the people who stop him. Good going.

She faints, Jason looks around, decides killing unconscious people is not very fun and goes off to kill awake people. We have death by fist, tree, tent spike, tree pruner, axe and the old fashioned head crush. There is even an homage to Jaws…which the director makes all about the T&A. This film actually has some of the most offensive “victims see Jason and wait for him to kill them” moments. This homage is the worst of them. Because when Jason bursts from the water about ten feet away, the girl’s response is to scream and tread wildly. Pretty soon Tina and her love interest, the Rebel with a Heart of Gold are all that’s left. But supergirl Tina and the Rebel with a heart of gold fight back. Well, supergirl Tina fights back, the Rebel with a Heart of Gold just gets thrown around…a lot. Finally, supergirl Tina makes the house blow up (will, it’s a bit more nuanced than that, but I don’t feel like giving a blow by blow account) with Jason inside. But Jason is not so easily dispatched and walks from the burning rubble out onto the dock where supergirl Tina and the Rebel with a Heart of Gold are resting up. Jason tosses him aside-yet again-and Tina starts to panic…suddenly something bursts from the dock and grabs Jason. Apparently, nobody thought it was a good idea to removed the body of her dead father all those years ago, and he actually looks quite good. He wraps chains around Jason and pulls him into the deep. The firemen and paramedics come along and everyone is safe. I love a happy ending.

There is a lot of fun in the fact that Tina is able to fight Jason, and there is a nice juxtaposition with her powers being mind based and Jason being a pure physical force.  The special effects are quite strong for their time.  This is not terribly surprising since Director John Carl Beuchler came from an effects background.  This is one of the more energized films in the franchise.

This is Kane Hodder’s first time as Jason and he brings a lot of presence and physical character.  His run in the Franchise is one of the high points.

BTW, Seven is the first film where the titles do not literally explode onto the screen. 1-6 all featured the words “Friday the 13th” which were then obliterated by the subtitle flying up from behind.

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