Thursday, October 4, 2012
October Horror 2012 - Chapter #1
Blue Sunshine (1978 - Jeff Lieberman) - Let's be honest, the reason to watch Blue Sunshine is for the scenes of crazed bald maniacs freaking out and laying smack downs on whoever might be within reach of their wild flailing arms. In and of itself, that should really be enough shouldn't it? The film somehow manages, though, to both deliver more and less than that at the same time..."More" in that there are additional scenes that entertain with knowing winks (the marionettes, oh, the marionettes) and sometimes without. "Less" in that there's very little horror - certainly not much tension. The film has some good sequences, but they always seem to be let down by a poor ending to the build-up, a piece of terrible dialogue, odd acting choices or simply the dumbest central character I've seen in awhile. If he had, just once, tried using his words to explain even the smallest detial, so much of this could have been avoided...His name is Zipling and after witnessing a friend of his turn into a berserk bald man (entire heads of hair can come off all in one fell swoop when the affliction kicks in), he goes on the run after killing him in self defense. Desperate to find out why this happened to his buddy, he manages to link it and a few other occurrences to the words "blue sunshine" and a drug that they all took about a decade previous. The plot is of little importance though - you're simply waiting for the next person to snap. It has its moments as mentioned, but sometimes it just loses its bearings. My favourite scene has to be when Zipling's girlfriend is pleading with him not to keep searching without her, but as he gets on an escalator she suddenly stops following him - seemingly stymied by those moving stairs (she even kicks it in frustration). Fun, but not a must-see.
Damien: Omen II (1978 - Don Taylor) - Seven years after his parents' death, Damien is just around the corner from his 13th birthday and the passage into adulthood. While in military school with his cousin he learns the truth about himself and tries to better understand who he really is. That all sounds like most teenagers until you realize that his parentage is a wee bit unusual. To help him cope with being the spawn of the devil, he has guidance from a new sergeant and an executive at his uncle's company who seem to have his interests at heart. Along the way, a variety of people get in the way of the grand plan and meet rather unseemly ends. It all moves at a pretty decent clip and brings effective tension to several scenes by cross-cutting and stretching out their resolution. Not all of it works (the ominous heavy choir gets a little tiring and one particular death scene is actually quite funny - which I suppose adds to the entertainment value), but overall this was a solid 70s mainstream horror. Along with William-freaking-Holden as Damien's uncle and guardian, there's a hell of a great cast of supporting players - Robert Foxworth, Sylvia Sydney, Lew Ayres, Nicholas Pryor, Lance Henriksen, Allan Arbus. Two final thoughts: 1) William Holden even looks bad ass on a snowmobile; 2) Don't ever wear anything red - just don't.
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981 - Steve Miner) - As soon as I saw Amy Steel on screen (playing the obvious candidate for "Final Girl" right from the get go), I felt like maybe I had actually seen this before...Maybe it's just the familiarity of Steel's fresh face (you'd recognize her from a variety of TV shows and other work in the 80s) or perhaps the laundry list of slasher cliches (e.g. cat through window!), but there certainly was some deja vu. Of course, that's not a horrible thing - familiarity may breed contempt, but it also brings comfort. And I have to say I settled in nicely to the pace and inevitable carnage that was to follow. To say that the film is based on cliches is not necessarily fair either - 1981 was still in the early days of the slasher films, so even if this was riffing off previous templates (both old and new), it's more likely that it influenced more films than it borrowed from. Part 2 picks up only a couple of months after the end of the first film with the sole survivor of Camp Crystal Lake bringing us up to speed via images from her dream. The snippets we see come from the first film (and it does get a little humourous going back and forth between film clip and her in a restless sleep - complete with wobbly dissolve to a new clip every time) except for one final additional one that was newly shot for Part 2 to explain why she's actually still alive. Never you mind though, she's "dealt with" quickly anyway. Cut to 5 years later when Crystal Lake is still shut down, but a nearby facility for training camp counselors is opening up. This bunch is equally horny as any other group and the predictable happens - but most of it is done pretty creatively and by taking the time to build suspense. Better than expected (though many people apparently think this is the best of the series).
Friday The 13th Part 3 (1982 - Steve Miner) - I daresay that the gleeful abandon applied to the many absolute shameless old-school 3D effects thrown in to Part 3 adds a great deal of fun to what is otherwise a fairly inert, pieced-together slasher. Ranging from red hot pokers, flying arrows and hacking axes to yo-yos, popcorn and juggled fruit, the film has no qualms with poking you in the eye with anything lying around. Even in 2D (which is how I saw it) it's more amusing than most actual 3D movies out today. Jason picks up his hockey mask in this episode and starts getting more creative with his killing methods (favouring things with long handles that just happen to protrude from his victims into the camera), but otherwise it's pretty much the same as part 2 only less so. The script and characters (never strong points in these movies anyway) feel like complete after-thoughts. That's not to say I'm surprised by that, but I'm always a bit disappointed when that happens. At least they don't even really pretend to care about them - in this case they even threw in extra fodder by adding a small local motorcycle gang just so Jason could increase his death count. There's some typical moralizing happening - the stoner couple and the pre-marital sex couple (who they strangely also make as expectant parents, but rarely address that any further) both run into, uh, trouble - but they also take it out on the geeky guy who plays too many practical jokes, the slightly-bitchy-but-not-really girl who was set up with the geek and the somewhat dickish boyfriend of the Final Girl (who actually looks old enough to be her Dad - it's kinda creepy). In some ways they changed things up a bit, but in reality I think it's because it just wasn't thought out overly well.