61 Days of Halloween: Friday the 13th Part 6

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Friday the 13th Part 6

The deeper into a horror franchise you get the more your status as a die hard is tested. And while I will still testify that Friday the 13th stands second in the slasher trinity to Halloween, this film will likely solidify the fandom of many if the second film didn’t already.

While the auteur theory can sometimes backfire, meaning that having a writer/director is not always a good thing, this is a film that benefits from the concise vision that having one man in both of the most crucial positions on a motion picture.

The film begins without hesitation with a shocking, slightly startling musical strain. While the somewhat puzzling chronology, and odd trajectory of Tommy Jarvis’s character continues in this film; here he is suddenly hero and although there is reference to a mental facility, though he is no longer psychotic, which is a blank not filled in.

Regardless of that this film does many things that make it work. The first being that it addresses the unlikeliness that Jason is truly dead, and it has Tommy wanting to exhume the corpse and burn the body. If you can get past the Frankenstein-like resurrection, which I eventually did, you’ll enjoy this film a great deal.

There are many reasons why: Firstly, Tommy is recast, as long as there liberties being taken with chronology; why not? And it’s for the better. Second, this film has its sense of humor in the right place. For example, the gag about “some folks have a strange idea of entertainment,” with the lens being nearly spiked and someone referring to having seen enough horror movies to know they’re in trouble.

The list continues: the reference to Part 4, for backstory purposes, is audio not visual, so the reflexivity is strongest in jokes not in the narrative itself. The necessary annoying bit players are killed quickly, with impeccable timing and great comedic value.

Also, by having the Sheriff of the newly renamed Forest Green act as an alternate antagonist we can fully support Tommy and not feel quite so crass in taking some kind of perverse enjoyment in Jason’s successes, as it’s the sheriff’s fault his rampage has begun.

Perhaps the most effective part of the film is that the campers at the lake are young kids most no older than twelve, making them much more innocent than Jason’s usual potential victims who are fornicating eighteen-year-olds.

While the ending predictably enough opens the door for Part 7 at the very least they didn’t make the odds of survival or re-animation seemingly insurmountable like they did last time. Visually, narratively and structurally this is a much more accomplished piece of filmmaking than most of the other installments and is a good deal more enjoyable than many of the intervening titles since Jason’s introduction as villain.

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Book Review: Stephen King Goes to the Movies

On occasion when I read a book that links either tenuously or directly to film I will review it here.

When Stephen King Goes to the Movies was initially set to be published the impression that it gave was of a book that would be as much a memoir/behind-the-scenes as it would be a regurgitation of some of his better known tales. After it was published it became clear that a great majority of its 600-plus pages were just the tales reprinted. It seems as if it was a book churned out to meet with some contractual obligation (i.e. more the publisher’s idea than King’s), which is not to dismiss it entirely, but a writer so prolific releasing an anthology of previously published works is not that common.

Of course, anyone unfamiliar with The Mangler, Hearts in Atlantis: Low Men in Yellow Coats, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, 1408 and Children of the Corn this volume will be well worth checking out. Those of you who have read those tales it is suggested you merely take the book out on loan from the public library and read the brief introductions that accompany each tale in the book.

Not to say that there isn’t some entertainment value in these introductions. King remains, as always, humorous, humble, and at times, self-deprecating. While you do get very good insights in small doses it is nowhere near the amount of detail he could’ve provided say if he had profiled his story Trucks and subsequently his directing of the cinematic adaptation of it, Maximum Overdrive.

Perhaps the epitome of the lack of detail in the book is that in the table of contents you see a page designation for Stephen’s Ten Favorite Adaptations of his work. When you turn to the aforementioned page literally all you get is the 10 titles listed and no commentary as to why these stand out, except for the rare case of coincidence where one story was included in this collection and thus got an introduction.

Again there are things to be gleaned from it. Just reading through it very quickly created four pages worth of notes based on the facts and opinions learned. It’s just not worth dropping eight bucks for the paperback when libraries are still free. Even if it is just a glorified “New Foreword by the Author” edition of many of these stories give it a read and knowing exactly what to expect your opinion may thus be enhanced, there is some gold in dem darn pages just not as much as there could be.

Mini-Review Round-Up: October 2012

I had quite a review drought to end 2011 so I think the remedy for this kind of post would be to have the post be cumulative monthly. Therefore, after each qualifying film a short write-up will be added to the monthly post. The mini-reviews will be used to discuss Netflix and other home video screenings. Theatrical releases will get full reviews, or another kind of write-up as per my recent shift in focus.

For a guide to what scores mean go here.

9.79*

ESPN’s 30 for 30 is back, and I’m glad. More than ever it seems like the landscape of sports fandom and coverage is more reactionary and instantaneous. We’ve almost devolved to the point where we’re immune to revisionism because there is less and less focus on the past, history and progression of certain sports. Not to sound overly dire or pessimistic, but sometimes perception is reality. However, what the ESPN Films documentary series is goes back and finds milestones, overlooked stories and traces the trajectory of the events, themes and trends involved.

Therefore, 9.79* about Ben Johnson’s disqualification after winning gold with a record-shattering time in 1988 Seoul Olympics starts by tracking each of the finalists (some more than others) following the events that lead to that fateful day and the fall out since. It’s not a story told in precise chronology, there are jumps and clearly new interview footage will reflect the past, but it tracks the phenomenon of doping rather well, exposes the testing issues of the time and leaves a lot of great tidbits dangling for your interpretation. One of the more astounding one is ones that gets hinted at early then dropped like a hot potato until very late in the film. In a way, it makes the capping of the story even more potent. There are quite a few players in the game here. My interpretation is that it’s all a moral quagmire when in this era doping was rampant, harder to prove and everyone is seemingly guilty of something. It makes the situation fascinating almost like a “sports noir” tale. No one’s angel, but you fall on one side of the issue or another, and maybe even side with one camp or another on certain claims.

Not only is it an event that I wanted to be more informed about (and now I am) but Daniel Gordon does great work reconstructing the narrative from an impartial place and bringing forth all the opinions and information known and presenting it in a compelling and dramatic way.

9/10

Girl vs. Monster

For a review of Girl vs. Monster please go here.

Excision

What is most successful about Excision is that it is a study in character from the inside out. Which is to say that the fantasy/daydream segments in this film may be too numerous, but the purpose they do serve is to show how the inner-monologue of a disturbed, delusional character come to the fore and affect her everyday life. There are a few dichotomous splits in character: a struggle between adoration and mutilation (both their own versions of body worship), a fight against authority, a struggle between a libertine attitude and a theistic construct. Perhaps, what’s most intriguing about Excision is watching the journey, granted I did figure where the journey would end at some point, but it seems like a basic virginity plot with a very socially awkward lead, but as it progresses you see so much more is going on here. Through all the serious and horrific observations you make there are also some laughs to be had, and many great performances notably AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords, Roger Bart, Ariel Winter and Jeremy Sumpter.

8/10

Magic Silver and Magic Silver 2

Without going into a full rehash of recent guest post that I did, what I will say on a wider scale with relation to the Magic Silver films is that it’s prime example of what’s great about Netflix. Here you have two recent and rather popular Norwegian films that I had heretofore not heard of. Physical home video distribution of these titles in North America is a riskier, more expensive proposition so the streaming solution is perfect and brings these films to a wider audience.

As for the films, what drew me to the films at first was the 1980s-like illustrated approach to the artwork. Sure enough, the first film does have that feel, with some 21st Century technique thrown in. The film excels in virtually every level of production and maximizes the values it can get for whatever the budget is.

It’s a fantastical tale about how gnomes can control the weather and their life in a mountain. The sets of the inside of the mountain in the first film are simply but beautifully done and gives everyone just enough room. In the sequel the expanded space is not maximized. Similar to the costuming which in the first film is simple but effective, but in the second gets a bit more intricate and somehow doesn’t work as well. However, the art direction in both is quite good.

The story, however, again more so in the first film than the second, introduces the rules of this world wisely, as we hear it being told to the children of the village. It’s a thin but effective veil on the exposition, and some of the rules are really fascinating dramatically as they have intriguing consequences.

Both films are quite good, but the difference being that the first film has much higher stakes. Not only is the protagonist, Bluerose, coming to grips with overcoming her own fears, she must also learn the consequences of her actions, learn to assume responsibility, deal with mortality and try to do what is best for all concerned; a test of true leadership. Making this an even more intriguing dynamic is the fact that her struggles as princess are mirrored by a child king in the other clan of gnomes. There’s an innocent, subtly played romantic interest, but they both in working together learn how they can face up to their newfound responsibilties.

In these films I expected good escapist fun, what caught me most off guard about the first film was the gravitas of it, how involved and moved I would be by the narrative, and how compelling the performances of the entire cast especially Ane Viola Semb and Johan Tinus Lindgren. The best fantasy tales go to a very real place emotionally, when they are character-driven. When plot-drives a bit too much it’s harder to reach that heightened level. So a film like the former can be fun (read the sequel) but is ultimately disposable. Whereas, the film that finds universal truths in its fantastic settings, and also connects across cultural boundaries is truly special.

One more note about the follow-up film, it is fun and intriguing for randomly deciding to have four musical numbers. The first caught me totally by surprise but the next three are better, and the last one is a great Christmas-themed song that also highlights the climate change subtext of the story.

Very fun and different movies both that lend themselves to consecutive viewings like I had.

10/10 and 6/10

There’s No Place Like Home

ESPN’s 30 for 30 continued last week with There’s No Place Like Home. Here’s another case whereupon seeing the synopsis of the film I was not so interested, but after having viewed the film it’s more effective than anticipated.

The film tells the tale of Josh Swade, a lifelong Kansas Jayhawk fanatic, who organized a grassroots effort to try and win the original rules of basketball as written by James Naismith. When reading the narrative the piece I was missing, either from ignorance or faulty memory, was that Naismith shortly posting these rules in a Massachusetts YCMA took the game to Kansas and started the Basketball program at Kansas. He was at the University for four plus decades after that. So, yes, Kansas has, and had, a very rightful claim to ownership that I was unaware of.

Another moment of enlightenment was the underscoring of the fact was that basketball, as opposed to other sports which became formalized after years of play, was very much created fairly spontaneously. I was always a rules nerd as a kid, and gaining access to rule books was a big deal, and writing down rules to created games was something I’d partake in. Therefore, the provenance of the document also interested me.

However, that’s all information gleaned, which is valuable but not the be all and end all. What’s truly most interesting in this film is that it takes perhaps the most interesting avenue in telling the film. It takes the perspective of a superfan who has the unmatched, undying passion for his team and has him be the mouthpiece, the spokesman for what he knows is something right but hasn’t the means to accomplish: acquisition of the rules. Through sheer will and determination he does get in contact with those who have the connections and the financial means, and it is impressive to see the seemingly spontaneous outpouring of similar emotions from members of the KU family.

There are some occurrences that would’ve been great to see on camera (like the apparent defeat faced), but other portions that seem rather extraneous do come back into play. The film does feel like it could’ve been tightened a bit, however, it builds the personal connection well and gets a lot of tension and drama out of the auction day even though the outcome is somewhat foreseeable.

All in all, it’s a very good dramatic rendering of the situation, and I always like to see the bump where the filmmakers discuss the process, their inspiration, etc. and this one is perhaps the best I’ve seen.

8/10

Sexual Chronicles of a French Family

I discovered that this film existed through Instant Watcher, more specifically their Twitter. It is a website that it perhaps the best source for what’s new to stream on Netflix. I was not surprised to see that this film is a popular streaming choice. The title is designed to intrigue and get people watching. Based on the fact that it’s a French film, and the totality of the synopsis, I expected more scenes like the one between the matriarch of the household and the grandfather. So, my expectation of more of a chamber drama was mislaid, OK. I won’t, and can’t, penalize it for that. What I can penalize it for is that for as short as it is, the insightful, charming, touching, intelligent scenes are few and far between. Instead, you get many love scenes which are protracted and only add minimally, sometimes not at all, to the story. The intention of the film is one I understand and respect, and it is successful in a few of its attempts, but ultimately it left me wanting and a bit bored.

5/10

The Monitor

I will freely admit that Noomi Rapace along with the fact that this film is a subdued Swedish horror film were both selling points. I saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series in rapid succession and became quite an admirer of hers rather quickly. Sadly, elevating her global star status was just one of the many failings of Prometheus.

What is perhaps most surprising about The Monitor is not that it reveals twists, and character in wonderfully indirect, yet clear, ways; but that what would be the biggest twist in most films is one you become fairly certain of early on, and I was actively thinking and hoping that “There’s gotta be another one,” and sure enough there are plenty both big and small.

The Monitor is a very interestedly handled narrative that is a great character study not only of the protagonist but of her newfound friend Helge, played wonderfully by Kristoffer Joner.

I watched this on Amazon Prime, but any way you can watch this film would be good.

9/10

61 Days of Halloween: Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Friday the 13th, Part IV: The Final Chapter

As per usual, this installment started with scenes of the previous films spliced in, here, however, they finally get creative with it and have it be more montage style and less blatant exposition as it also shows several memorable kills right off the bat to get the audience’s appetite whetted for what’s to come.

The film also picks up immediately with the paramedics and police clearing the scene of the latest massacre. In a very nice touch, the film actually takes a breath once the camp is empty anew and lets us realize that this was just the scene of chaos and now it’s as if nothing happened, all we hear are the crickets. It’s perhaps the best of the few masterful strokes this film has. It’s a film that eventually trips itself but that was a great moment.

The dialogue throughout most of the film is nothing short of a train wreck. Couple that with much overacting and it’s difficult to have sympathy for many of the characters who Jason is about to slay.

There are too many characters in the equation in this film, especially considering how it ends. You meet the Jarvis family, then a group of teens going to a cabin in the woods (cue the score from Evil Dead: The Musical) and the twins they meet and then a Jason hunter. Now, I am well aware that this is a body count franchise but the time could’ve been alloted differently. Shorter teen & twins intro, shorter canoodling sequence, get them killed build the Jarvis family and the “Jason hunter” who will factor greatly in the film.

There are, in the end, too many balls in the air that don’t really have any bearing on the end of the film or the main thrust of the film. Again, these things can still happen but they were either too long or repetitive. There is some bad random 80s dancing, randomly found silent porn which is watched for too long, a lot of cattiness both of the male and the female variety that can all be avoided.

While the end with Jason being fooled by Tommy and Tommy’s turn are wonderful truly masterful strokes there is prior stupidity that undercuts its effectiveness. The main sticking point is this Trish is frantic when she finds out Jason’s loose and has to get home to protect Tommy. She returns home in a panic to confirm he’s fine. She is informed their mom is missing. Even though “The Hunter” insists she stays home while he finds her and Jason she insists on going…which leaves Tommy, who she was just so panicked about, alone again…come on man! It’s the simplest fix in the world and it wasn’t fixed and just took me out of the moment. Suspension of disbelief, gone.

The end does manage to be effective. If you like the series and are a completist definitely view it but it was hanging on by thread to liking it but that lapse in logic lost me.

61 Days of Halloween: Friday the 13th Part III

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Friday the 13th, Part III

One thing that is typically an interesting feature of the Friday the 13th series, at least in the early going, is that there is an attempt to keep some semblance of continuity. Images from past films will typically be spliced in at the beginning to remind viewers where we’ve been. This film shows more than the last but it is needed.
 
However, the one chance at clarification that exists isn’t taken. It glosses over the escape from the last film. This one starts with a typical band of teenagers on their way to the country all of whom are stoners, one of whom is pregnant.

There are some decent touches early on like a cop car with lights on that is not chasing them. Sadly, this film decides it needs a replacement lunatic doom-sayer even though that character was killed off in the last film, and absence of said character, makes the teens more unwitting victims. Unfortunately, the pranks and fake scares gone awry multiply in this edition.

Since the film was originally exhibited in 3D, it becomes painfully obvious that things were shot for that effect. A tremendous amount of the story is taken up with the rivalry by happenstance that occurs with a local gang of thugs. It does influence the end of the film but it takes up way too much screen time, becomes too much of a distraction and, in the end, it’s annoying. The one big positive is that it gives Jason kills you can unabashedly root for.

Another thing that gets in the way and in the end serves only one purpose is the character of Shelly (Larry Zerner). This character has the annoying habit of trying to freak out his fellow soon-to-be-victims which makes for a rather aggravating experience when you rarely get a real scare on the heels of a bogus one. The one purpose of his being annoying serves is that it sets up the most memorable kill in the movie as one of the girls thinks its still him when it is, in fact, Jason. The confusion is, of course, caused because Shelly was wearing a hockey mask which Jason steals and there you have that tidbit.

While the building of Jason’s character continues which is an interesting thing to see there are too many encumbrances that make this film nowhere near as enjoyable as the first two. While there is one sequence where a girl is running around screaming and amazingly you actually feel her fear, which is rare but too many of the characters are disposable and you don’t feel their loss and want it to an extent. For the first time in the series, some of the kills are very weak which, when you’ve been made to wait, is a very bad thing indeed. Some of the make-up work is also not passable.

Lastly, at the end Jason’s body is left alone there’s no paramedic or cop wheeling it off, forget the fact that in the story he has survived miraculously before, it’s a body why are you just leaving it around? It was a film that wasn’t far off from working, which is unfortunate.

5 Movies That Are Scarier When They’re Over

Recently, after having gone out with friends to see a very effective horror film (Sinister, which will feature here at some point soon) were exchanging anecdotes about our scariest horror viewing experiences. This concept came to me based on a comment left unsaid, and believe me this is a pure compliment, plain and simple. Nothing backhanded about it.

One of the films I was going to reference was Halloween, and the specific note I was to make on it was that not only is it a consistently, identifiably frightening film, but the end offers you no relief. In fact, the film is scarier after it’s over based on what occurs right before the end credits roll. I then proceeded to think about other similar films for this list.

The list may grow at some point in the future, but for now here are my five selections.

The Exorcist (1973)

This is the most visceral of the selections on this list. In every other selection the lingering effect has at least a little something to do with the way the story decides to resolve itself. With The Exorcist when the film is over, it’s over. The fact that there are sequels is a prime example of a studio meeting a demand that the story didn’t necessarily leave open. I understand that many horror films aspire, at least in a very small way, to leave the franchise opportunity out there. Being a horror “tentpole” is desirable, especially for studios who don’t have to spend much and get a massive return on hits, but the The Exorcist was over. Finished. What makes it such a lingering, troubling viewing experience is not only the steady intensity of the film that builds to a beautifully protracted, gutting, exhausting climax, but it’s a film that has you invest in all of its characters. All of them.

The Exorcist bravely eschews cutting to the chase in favor of character development. It could afford to do so, in part, because it was a new kind of tale at the time so you meet Reagan both before and after her possession; Chris, her mother; Father Merrin and Father Karras. The film raises the stakes for all those involved. All the characters have something to gain and lose in the final confrontation.

The film ends in a life-goes-on denouement, which other horror films have taught you not to trust, but why it really works is the overall power of the third act. The end is natural and makes sense, but you’re uneasy throughout due to all that transpired up to this point.

The Exorcist is the kind of film that wears on you and continues to do so long after it’s over.

Halloween (1978)

As previously stated, out of the three long-running slasher franchises that this one is the best overall. However, with regards to the first installment of the series, nothing in the subgenre comes close to Halloween. Few horror films are anywhere near it.

Halloween, like The Exorcist, is rather incessant, this time in the use of the stalking motif, some of the scenes leave you waiting and some of them lead to kills. That can be exhausting, but add to that how the film ends (You really should’ve seen it by now) that’s what makes it linger.

You have a rather lengthy, well-staged and fairly well-strategized final battle between Laurie and Michael. Then, finally, there’s no respite just escape.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Not dissimilar to the choice above, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has a similar effect of an ending. The major difference being there’s no mystery element about how does Leatherface get away. Our last remaining hero merely manages to get away by the skin of her teeth.

A fuller reaction to the film, specifically the end, can be read here.

Insidious (2010)

As a fan of the genre, you can start to become desensitized the more material you watch. That is not to say that a horror film can’t really affect you. Sometimes they manage too. The really good ones do. What’s fairly rare is to not really know how much.

After having seen it, when it was already late, suddenly some very creepy music was heard by both myself and my brother. Neither of us immediately figured out where it was coming from. After a second, we realized he’d left his laptop on with his iTunes playing. He and I both took it as an additional indicator that we saw something pretty good because that unnerved us so. More effective, in fact, than we realized.

Inferno (1980)

Inferno is the second, and perhaps most overlooked, film in Argento’s Three Mothers Films. Suspiria gets a lot of love and is deserved, Mother of Tears…to be kind I’ll say it’s divisive, but I’m fairly convinced I’m in a small minority of people who really like it. Anyway, the reason Inferno ends up here is because it quite literally ends on a jolt, on its highest point and then its followed by the entire theme blasting through the credits. What more could you want?

Rewind Review- Black Swan

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Black Swan

There is a lot to really like about Black Swan, not the least of which is that it is a film that openly delves into the psyche of its protagonist from the start, as it is about with a dancer dealing with the stress and pressure of dancing a dual-lead in Swan Lake, and it toys with reality with demented glee. Some things left me wanting but let me focus on the positives first.

There is, of course, the performance of the cast. Starting with Natalie Portman she is what people likely will first think of when they think of this film. It is true of any film but more true of others, that the equation of this film truly changes with anyone else in the lead. The scene-stealer in this film though is Barbara Hershey. I say this not only because it is so great to see her in a prominent role again, but also because she slowly and surely builds from a caring, over-bearing mother to a frightening entity in this film and she delivers most of the wallop.

Mila Kunis, best known either from That 70s Show or as Meg on Family Guy take your pick, does very well in this film, however, I feel her character is not quite the mental parasite that even Hershey’s is. For Hershey’s character made Nina’s (Portman) mind a fertile ground for paranoia.

This film is edited with great panache and stitched together with a robust score, it truly sets a tone and creates a self-regulating tempo. The story certainly accelerates at a palatable pace, it’s just that on occasion some of the jumps could be larger but that is truly not a big grudge.

What does create my only true issue with the film occurs in the third act, which is unfortunate because it sails through the most difficult portion of the film to navigate rather easily. In the third act a fractured chronology is created and reality is truly blurred to the extent that its difficult to know what’s real and what isn’t when you are watching it. Upon a re-viewing it would likely become clear and what the true chronology is will likely reveal itself. What I take issue with is the decision itself of how to end it and I will skirt it as best as possible but…spoiler alert.

What made this a truly a riveting watch for two-thirds of it was watching these characters, particularly Nina, in their own universe. Granted most, if not all of this tale is from Nina’s perspective but as a story I was watching something original that decides to turn itself in the into something derivative or at the very least something of a re-invention. Granted the bones were there but it seems like in many cases a reflexive allusion to another tale within your own is more effective, such as Pinocchio in A.I. or even Swan Lake itself in Billy Elliot

It’s jarring because around many of the corners in the tale you didn’t quite know what to expect then you’re hit with an ending and you’re like “Oh, that’s it?” It seems as if things are lining up for something much more earth-shattering than what is delivered and it’s just a bit of a let down, not that it taints the whole movie. This is a twist unlike that in Shutter Island. This is still a fine film that could’ve been even better than it is.

Without question Black Swan is a film that will benefit from a second viewing and it is the kind of film that will get people talking, however, I feel a miscalculation in the handling of the story cost it.

8/10

61 Days of Halloween: Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

NOTE: This post was written originally for the Site Which Shall Not Be Named. It was my 2nd Installment in the series. I have decided to preserve the text as originally written.

Friday the 13th, Part 2 (1980)

In selecting my second film for 61 Days of Halloween I wanted to select something a little safer than what I chose yesterday (The Prowler). I managed to succeed in that task by selecting, of all things, a sequel.

The sequel is Friday the 13th: Part 2 (1981). It is a film that succeeds in spite of how much of the original is quite literally rehashed at the start and spliced in. It’s a great piece of myth-building that without having to backpedal introduces a new villain into the franchise, eventually the face thereof. There’s a great scene where the counselors are at the bar and speculation starts about how he could’ve been spurned to kill based on what he’d been through.

These films took the time to develop their maniac and because we as an audience became ensconced in this knowledge the makers of the remake needed to eliminate things and rush to create their tale. Keep in mind that the hockey mask, with which he is so synonymous, isn’t in this film.

Unlike The Prowler this film catapults after its teaser and the teaser kill at the beginning is very important as it directly ties into the original. However, this group of people who are going to be in the vicinity of Camp Crystal Lake are drawn out and we do get to know them to at least an extent, so it never really quite becomes a body count film, in which you not only await the next kill but also want it to happen.

It is a film that also uses the false alarm scare very well because the timing is impeccable and on occasion when you think the danger’s gone…here it comes.

Some of the kills are rather brutal, and as became usual, Jason spices it up. This is the film that propelled the film into franchise mode because here’s where the frontman comes into play. As great a shock as the end of the original was you couldn’t build a franchise around Missus Vorhees but Jason fit perfectly into the prototype created by Halloween in 1978.

More scares are sure to abound. Hopefully good ones. Stick around for the upcoming days.

61 Days of Halloween: House of Long Shadows

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

House of Long Shadows

The House of Long Shadows does something that’s incredibly hard to do for a film in any genre, much less a horror film, and that is to feature four very prominent, iconic actors and give them each a substantial and worthy part to play. In a way, this is the antithesis of All-Star Cast Syndrome, as I like to call it. When you have a cast of thousands crammed with actors you like it’s very hard for the film to strike a necessary balance for it and one that pleases you, the fan, as well.

In this film you see the names of Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine and you think “Wow, that’s amazing!” I know I did, and then dread set in because in combinations these actors worked together many times, some more successful than others. Here they are all together and I got worried that one appearance would be cursory or insignificant, but none of it was.

Now, none of these legendary gentleman is the lead. That honor goes to Des Arnaz, Jr. whose character is designed to be a bit of a twerp and a spectator but he gives a bit too much of the former. Regardless, it works wonderfully each of the characters adds weight and intrigue to the film and they are all on point.

As for the narrative, there are many twists in the tale each seemingly more surprising than the last that totally make the slow burn of the film payoff. I will give you no details except to tall you that the set up is that a cocky young writer makes a substantial bet with his publisher that he can turn out an old style Gothic novel in 24 hours given the right atmosphere and solitude. He gets his locale and what unfolds is wild in its implications and it a really enjoyable film that is highly recommended.

If you’ve seen and enjoy this film, Warner Archive has just released a three-film Seven Keys to Baldpate set, which are films that pre-date this one based upon the same novel.