09 October 2010

Slasher Films and Nostalgia Pieces

Slasher Mayhem and Feeling Nostalgia Flicks
By Kristin Battestella

Jaws (30th Anniversary Edition)Yes, we’re not talking total Oscar worthy material. Yet we’re still watching some of these seventies and eighties umpteenth slasher sequels, pseudo period pieces, vamps, and teeny horror romps. Here are a few old but decent pictures for a fun horror movie marathon and a few recent bad ones for a drinking game.

Must See

Jaws – Okay, if you’ve seen the Mythbusters episode where they spoil and disprove some of the theatrics in this 1975 Steven Spielberg thriller, you probably won’t be scared here.  Likewise, every horror film since has copied and used a lot of the camera scares and startling set ups.  However, Roy Schneider (SeaQuest), Robert Shaw (From Russia with Love) and Richard Dreyfuss (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) are serious, emotional, and crazy great all around.  The shark still looks dang dynamite, and the deadly seascapes cast the perfect fear, seventies mood, and explosive atmosphere.  It’s all here.  Though inferior, not as well directed, and focused more on teens in peril, Jaws 2 is an entertaining creature feature follow-up as well. 

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy – This 4-hour retrospective documentary gives you everyfrickinthing you ever wanted to know about the Nightmare on Elm Street series, and it is glorious! The good, the bad, and the ugly of every film in the franchise has their time in the spotlight with frank talk from creator Wes Craven, stars Robert Englund and Heather Langenkamp, producer Bob Shaye, and more.  Of course, Johnny Depp and Patricia Arquette are too big for memories on Elm Street, but that’s a small hiccup for this otherwise fine behind the scenes treat. 

Play Misty for Me – While not horror per se, this 1971 thriller directed by star Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River) was Fatal Attraction before Fatal even dreamt of dead rabbits. The idyllic Monterey scenery mixes wonderfully with the creepy retro vibes, haunting ‘Misty’ music and possessive radio caller Jessica Walter (Arrested Development).  The killer ending sequence still has some moments to make you jump.  Eastwood keeps things mature, intelligent, and oh so smooth for innocent Donna Mills (Knots Landing), too.  I have to say, however, I hate Roberta Flack’s overblown and long-winded ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’! Finish the sentence already, lady!

Not Classics, but worthy

Stephen King's Cat's EyeCat’s Eye – I used to love this 1985 spooky and bizarre Stephen King trilogy as a kid.  James Woods (Once Upon A Time in America, John Carpenter’s Vampires), Drew Barrymore (Never Been Kissed, Charlie’s Angels), Robert Hays (Airplane!) and that cute but pesky cat capture the story and suspense wonderfully.  However, some of the effects here are a little too dated, silly, and small scale.  What used to be so scary then is now merely ironic and just a little too unintentionally comical.  Then again, the troll can still seriously scare the youngins, so if you’re into that, go for it!

Friday the 13th Part 3 – Jason gets the mask, people! In light of all our new fancy 3D technology, the primitive 3D hijinks here are amusing and add a few more fun startling moments.  This installment, however, is actually kind of tame in the sex and nudity department, even if the gore and deaths are juicy.  Otherwise, this 1982 sequel continues the same old never-ending cycle of stupid teens.  And what does it take to kill Jason my goodness?!  The series gets a little silly from here on out.

A Perfected Getaway – Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil) and Steve Zahn (Joyride) are relatively big names for just any old spooky thriller. Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood) is a little too Billy Zane-esque and Chris Hemsworth (CASH) is too obviously creepy.  Thankfully, this focus on the cast and not gore keeps the intelligence and entertainment a little better than usual.  Director David Twohy (Pitch Black) plays with visuals, editing, and cuts in a nice attempt to twist the viewer on his ear, but can you really fool any audience today? I have to say with a careful viewing, you can see the supposed big twist coming. There’s too much internal talk of movies and red herrings, deflections, suggestions, and twists. Hint hint we get it.  Of course, we always have cell phones and reception issues in the plot nowadays and after awhile that’s just annoying, too.  The Hawaiian scenery, however, is worth all ills and a repeat viewing is nice to piece the puzzle together. 

Sometimes They Come Back – No one notices sixties styled greaser ghosts are transferring into the local high school?  Some parts from this 1991 Stephen King TV movie are a little preposterous and unbelievable- let’s admit it.  If you put those viewer leaps aside, both the early nineties and hot rod nostalgic storylines are a lot of fun.  Tim Matheson (Animal House, A Very Brady Sequel) largely handles the film on his own, and his slow breakdown and emotional upheavals are delightful to watch- again even if some of it is a little far fetched. Director Tom McLoughlin (Date with an Angel) captures the innocence of a childhood lost with the disturbing paranormal at hand.  I don’t know how they came up with the ridiculously titled sequels though.  Sometimes They Come Back….Again and Sometimes They Come Back… for More- how old are we, really?

Vampires - Los MuertosVampires: Los Muertos – No, it’s not the original and it should have been called Bon Jovi, Vampire Hunter.  Having said that, this 2002 sequel to John Carpenter’s Vampires written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III: Season of the Witch) is close to a okay. The story and western action aren’t the problem, but the dialogue is somewhat weak and the supporting cast is less than stellar.   Natasha Gregson Wagner (The 4400) and Cristian de la Fuenta (What did this guy do to be on Dancing with the Stars?) are 110% wooden, and Arly Jover (Blade) as lead vamp Una wasn’t as alluring as expected, either. Jon Bon Jovi (Moonlight and Valentino) isn’t a stellar actor either, but he’s pretty cool as a badass vampire hunter for hire, who knew?

Avoid like the plague

Friday the 13th Part 4 – Final chapter my foot! This 1984 sequel has lots more nudity than its immediate predecessor does, and the cast is stronger than usual. Sadly, Corey Feldman (The Lost Boys) and Crispin Glover (Back to the Future) can’t save this one from the same old same old that’s by this point is getting really old in this franchise. How many times will a sequel begin immediately after the last one only to have another group of boobilicious teens return to Crystal Lake?   The deaths in this installment aren’t as creative either, and again how many times can the dead Jason not really die?

Shutter IslandShutter Island – Perhaps I’m the only person on the planet who didn’t like this Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Departed) and Leonardo DeCaprio (Titanic) psychological yarn.  The performances, fifties styles, isolating island atmosphere, latent political commentary, and World War II trauma are all wonderful.  These stylized visuals are however, merely entertaining filler. There’s no intelligence here- everything is obvious from the beginning.  From the band-aid on Leo’s forehead to the dreamlike jump cuts and distorted filming angles- we don’t need a long two and a half hours for the weak ending to tell us what we already know.  I’m tired of watching films like this where the protagonist is not so subtlety our unreliable narrator and I don’t think one needs a second viewing to fill in all the blanks here. Though it’s different in many respects, the entire time I kept thinking, ‘Memento did it better.’

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