17 March 2016

Bone Tomahawk

Bone Tomahawk is a Wonderfully Horrific Western Road Trip
by Kristin Battestella

For audiences that don't like westerns or straight, terse drama, the opening half of the 2015 genre bender Bone Tomahawk will be too slow. However, for viewers seeking gritty period pictures and horror films set in unique places, this is definite yes!

While tending to the crazed and wounded outlaw Purvis (David Arquette), Samantha O'Dwyer (Lili Simmons) is abducted by a mysterious, hear tell tribe of nameless, ruthless cave dwellers the local Native Americans fear and avoid. Nonetheless, Bright Hope Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell), his elderly deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins), and local gunslinger John Brooder (Matthew Fox) mount a rescue. However, foreman Arthur O'Dwyer (Patrick Wilson) is also determined to join the mission to save his wife despite a broken leg that has kept him off the work trail. It's a dangerous ride with raiders, injuries, and rough terrain testing the posse's prayers, convictions, and mettle – yet more primitive, gruesome, bone chilling horrors are in store...

Not Your Average Western

Flies buzzing” is the first caption of writer and director S. Craig Zahler's (The Incident) two hour and thirteen minute festival darling, and those words set the tone for the throat slicings, body crunching, and bleak western horrors viewers aren't supposed to see coming. This is just the lawless ways of the 1890s frontier – robberies and thieving never mind those skulls on torches and Indian burial grounds. The people in this era were gun belt wearing badasses, nothing more than the Wild West is supposed to be happening, right? Howling wolves and spooked horses invoke a western realism, and we expect to see this ironic but charming Old West gritty. The nearby Bright Hope pioneer town provides quaint Victorian interiors, polite men escorting women at night, and a laid back, boots up, playing checkers comfort. However, Bone Tomahawk has no rousing music and sweeping pans or thriving, progressive hustle and bustle to its town. Despite respectful and articulate mannerisms, there's a gruff to these voices. The empty edge of white civilization is relatively silent with no ritzy to its saloon and a drunken piano player in need of whiskey to finish his ten cent tunes. Although side actions are told rather than seen, that hearsay unreliability adds to the lack of knowing what really occurred, and excising this surplus action builds surprise for when abrupt shootouts and violent confrontations do happen. Suddenly, missing livestock, mysteriously empty jail cells, and torn up bodies add to this isolated town's crimes and scares.

Arrows in the dark and shadowy figures suggest Indian suspects to the frontier folk, but even friendly Native American scouts fear this no language, nameless troglodyte tribe with behaviors more beast-like than of men. Although everyone looks the part in Bone Tomahawk and we believe these rugged but civilized men forming a revenge posse can handle what's out there, these old fashioned heroes on white horses are facing some untold, cave dwelling ruthlessness. Bone Tomahawk is very well acted with quality players audiences may not expect would do this kind of seemingly smaller western or horror fair. Hopefully, one recognizes a good script when he sees it, for time is taken to get to know these excellent characters as individuals. Strong banter and a period sense of courage add dimension among the not so unblemished men before the primitive horrors add new terror to the traditional western rescue. Prayers about the campfire, dry humor, personality – viewers quickly come to like these boys, and we're rooting for them in a pursuit already struggling against the usual trail perils such as gangrene, raiders, and dead horses. There's a simmering, on edge at night when the posse bed downs. We don't know what's going to happen next any more than they know what awaits in the dark. Will such ongoing strain and the agony of travel get to one of them? The exhaustion and hopelessness add tension, arguing, pointing fingers – this is a terse, escalating journey whether the troglodyte horrors are ahead or not. Difficult group decisions must be made amid cynical thoughts and suspicions on what heavy tolls are inevitably happening to the captured. Of course, those horrors are worse than the rescuers of Bone Tomahawk could ever imagine. Survival is slim all around, yet they forge on to face the intense man versus man, man versus nature, and man versus himself battles.

Nail-biting pocket watch ticking and ominous horns blowing in the wind make the audience pay attention as Bone Tomahawk switches from bright tumbleweeds, dangerous expanse, and western perils to dark caves, trapped interiors, sudden sieges, otherworldly screeching, and harrowing wounds. Yes, there is an hour and a half onscreen before the film horrors arrive – that's the length of most quick horror productions. One could also argue there is no need for an entire movie's worth of western study ahead of such horror. Some viewers may want to see the western in itself alone without a horror finale or vice versa. There are several flaws in the final act regarding logistics and implausibilities as well, but the onscreen terrors in Bone Tomahawk forgive any contrivances. We appreciate the deaths, sacrifices, and final cigars before the goodbyes more because we are totally invested in seeing these characters through whatever comes at them in final forty minutes. All that has happened is summed up in few terrifying sentences – arousing all our fears of violation, injury, and desecration and leaving all the heroics we have previously seen for naught. The unpleasant nudity will not be soon forgotten by anyone who sees this movie, and a countdown of kills adds to the hopelessness. Who's next? The tedium of waiting is at times far worse, and silly discussions fill the interim between the unknown time when life and death is imminent. The horror and fantastics may be tough for the realistic western audiences to accept, however, Bone Tomahawk is a brilliant and complete before, during, and after emotional experience with rubber necking can't look away and a realistically cringe worthy not often seen in today's cinema.

A Fine Ensemble

Despite a calm exterior and seemingly quiet post, Sheriff Kurt Russell (Overboard) has the mustache to match the grit in Bone Tomahawk. Franklin Hunt is a wise, relaxed, old fashioned lawman who's good at his job but nonetheless indulges his old deputy when a stranger's manner is suspicious. Sheriff Hunt doesn't think there's much hope in rescuing those abducted, and his wife objects to the journey, too. However, he is going to see his mission through regardless. Hunt prepares as best possible – he knows they need to care for themselves, their horses, and keep their wits about them to trump any thieves or beasties and do what needs to be done. Polite even when the circumstances turn barbaric, Hunt also knows Arthur O'Dwyer shouldn't come on this rescue with a broken leg, yet he doesn't bother asking for the objection. Russell gives a wonderfully poignant performance, and it's bittersweet to see a man unchanged, doing what he sets out to do, and keeping his word whether the beholden are there to know his convictions or not. Likewise, Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring) has become a pleasing go to horror actor. Arthur's a strong foreman not used to being laid up at home thanks to injury – nor his doctor's assistant wife being on top in the bedroom. Arthur doesn't share his emotions well and has difficulty talking with her, but his love and tenderness are unquestionable. He rides on this mission, learning how to handle his broken leg and show his tears while on the move. Wilson brings to life Arthur's contradictory behaviors as the desperate husband comes to rely more on opium than prayer to go forward. How can he continue as his injury worsens? We may not think of such breaks, splints, and pain as being so difficult today, but in this wilderness, love is not enough to mount a rescue – or is it?

Arrogant and vain but no less witty and likable gunslinger Matthew Fox (Lost) is the suave, white suit wearing sophisticate of Bone Tomahawk. John Brooder says he's the most intelligent man there and this rescue needs his smarts, fast shot, and fancy gunnery. Though not always as right as he thinks he is, there is a grain of truth to his tactics when it comes to making camp or taking defensive positions. Unfortunately, his suspicions on outsiders, potential theft, and his shoot first, ask questions later mentality doesn't always help. Eventually, there are consequences to this quick draw attitude, and while he has good reason to hate certain Indians, Brooder gains sad respect for his horse and learns to trust his compatriots. By contrast, aged deputy Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under) is not on his game but Chicory will continue to do his duty nonetheless – even if he can't figure out something as simple as how to read a book in the bathtub without getting the paper wet. He talks too much, sometimes adding dry humor and reflection or philosophical speculation, but again, such seemingly random conversation helps fill the idle and take one's mind off the impending horrors. Chicory is slightly off his rocker yet remains the voice of reason and moral center of the group – a lovely audience anchor pondering what we too are thinking. Although their scenes may seem slightly out of place, humorous but ruthless and hands on killer David Arquette (Scream) and expert throat slitter Sid Haig (House of 1000 Corpses) have some warped fun to open Bone Tomahawk, and their offbeat charm bookends the horror.

Fine older white men though they are, Bone Tomahawk is unfortunately a picture populated with precious few women. Despite being a respectable wife and doctoring assistant named Sam, Lili Simmons (Banshee) is nude fifteen minutes into the movie and feels out of place compared to the more developed male characters. Broadly swinging the pendulum from tender wife to bitchy snob, Sean Young's (Blade Runner) uppity, domineering mayor's wife is addressed on the situation instead of her little husband. These frontier women are tough pioneers yet remain sickly or put in their place with sex from their man, and even with these injun abducting the womenfolk fears, the audience sees too little of them to feel a personal investment. Big shocker – the few African American stable hands and servants are killed early in Bone Tomahawk, and Mexican moments or brief Spanish words are treated with xenophobic suspicion. Horses are more important than questioning the death of foreigners, but there are onscreen arguments about whether such reactions are right or wrong, fortunately utilizing the ills of the time for layered social commentary. More importantly, Bone Tomahawk makes the distinction between its horror neanderthal savages and local Native Americans, recognizing this is not normal tribe behavior whilst also implying the Manifest Destiny trespassing of the so called Bright Hope should have left the area alone. Locals knew to steer clear, but did the supposedly smart and superior white man? Nope.

Must See Looks

Old fashioned suits, cowboy hats, and late Victorian décor add to the frontier town woodwork and simplicity in Bone Tomahawk. Proper beds and an oil lamp patina with quills, books, a magnify glass, and period ephemera create a would be civilized and golden interior. I almost wish this was a television series to revisit and explore! However, natural sounds, horses, creaking wood, and swinging saloon doors add a lawless atmosphere alongside the beautiful, but untamed outdoor scenery. Precious few weeping strings and fiddlery accent choice bittersweet moments and echoing gunshots. While animal action, well edited attacks, and on the move tracking shots do capture the restlessness when it happens, Bone Tomahawk is a simple tale simply shot with no need for the sweeping panoramas and whirlwind camerawork often seen in expansive westerns or period pieces going for scope rather than inward terror. Gruesome frontier surgeries, scalping, disemboweling or worse provide enough horror gore while the briefly see beastly men leave room for the audience to imagine more fears. Their natural camouflage, animal trophies, horned masks, and primal, swift moving resistance to bullet grazes completes the disorienting civilized versus uncivilized frights. Subtitles are necessary for any whispering, but the Bone Tomahawk blu-ray release also provides plenty of deleted scenes, featurettes, and film festival Q&As with cast and crew. Unfortunately, it is just baffling when finely crafted pictures such as this are overlooked by the major movie awards. Tsk tsk.

Though worth seeing for the uniqueness alone, this R/Unrated horror is not for everyone. Instead of a cheap slasher with teens in minimum Victorian dressings, this is a niche western brimming with scares we don't expect. Granted, Bone Tomahawk has many of the same flaws seen again and again with a one and the same writer/director who has no soundboard on what to do or not do. The lengthy run time could have been trimmed further and some scenes should have been more swiftly paced. Bone Tomahawk is also oddly structured as two halves of two different movies – leading with a western character study uninteresting to audiences expecting fast shootouts, boobs, and horror a minute. In fact, most viewers will be unaccustomed to having time dedicated to such full embodied and well developed characters. However, we should embrace this kind of ingenuity not bury it and push pictures like this to fringe audiences, and I would rather have a few slow scenes with extra time to achieve a cinematic vision than a butchered PG-13 picture sacrificing its meaty for maximum cinema screenings and more almighty millions. Despite a blink and you missed it limited box office release, Bone Tomahawk is currently available on several rental and streaming options. Go into Bone Tomahawk cold for full immersion into the fine performances, western drama, Deliverance effectiveness, and entertaining horror.

15 March 2016

Egyptian and Roman Epics!

Egypt and Rome, Beware the Ides!
By Kristin Battestella

Spoiler alert, somebody's going to get stabbed in the back, once, twice, maybe thrice in this list of classic, epic, historical, and dramatic tales bringing Egypt and Rome together again to party like its 44 B.C. Toga! Toga!

Caesar and Cleopatra – Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh make an unlikely comedy team in this 1945 British adaptation of the George Bernard Shaw play. Although some temple sets seem small scale cardboard now, the then expensive Technicolor headdresses, plumes, horses, sand, and centurions serve the ancient mood. Considering the wartime strapped production, this is a very fine looking film, and Steward Granger (Scaramouche) makes for a tan, dandy matinee idol, too. This is, however, a wordy picture – we don't see battles, just a lot of leftover standing around and talking in a slightly overlong two hours and change. Fortunately, the humorous arguing on which cousins are descended from gods and which mere mortals are descended from kings add forum self-awareness, a parody on the omnipresent chorus and chattering ladies who feel the need to put in their two cents – er, drachma. Raines (Casablanca) brings an immediate charm as a reflective, even doubtful Caesar more concerned with careful government than Cleopatra's me me me. The ridiculously delightful rug transit moments come after the witty conversations waxing on wrinkly old men, magic dreams, and rumors of Romans having tiger's blood. Caesar doesn't eat women – only girls and cats! And are those Roman sandal wedges he's wearing? Though not without some seriousness, the goofy cleverness of these two empire making titans is a pleasing change from the expected heavy to end all heavies. This Princess Cleo is learning how to rule and toughening up thanks to her mentor Caesar's tips. Yes, throw the obnoxious cry baby Ptolemy off that throne! Leigh's look is as gorgeous as ever, although it will be tough to separate our Gone with the Wind feelings since she still has a southern and shrill if fitting juvenile sound. Sadly, poor Flora Robson (The Sea Hawk) is basically in blackface with jokes about her Ftatateeta name alongside a stereotypical negro slave who is so scared of Caesar he runs away crying “Woe, alas!” Such racist and condescending humor is not a tone to enjoy, however such social layers make for an interesting study. This is Shaw's turn of the century commentary on ancient history remade in the shadow of World War II – Roman salutes recall then current Nazi threats while prophetic “Egypt for Egyptians!” crowds chant. The dated attitudes toe the line, but thankfully, the preposterous plot and not taking itself too seriously keep the fun scene chewing performances and star power bemusing.

Cleopatra – Am I the only one who thinks specifically of Elizabeth Taylor rolling out of the carpet when one mentions Cleopatra? Probably not thanks to this long 1963 Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve) spectacle co-starring off screen steamy with Richard Burton, the then most expensive studio bankrupting budget of the time, an emergency tracheotomy, a record amount of Oscar worthy costumes – oh, and Rex Harrison (My Fair Lady), Roddy McDowell (Planet of the Apes), Martin Landau (Mission: Impossible), and more. Award winning cinematography, vivid outdoor scenery, colorful temple motifs, lavish set dressings, and a lovely score can't always save the restored, four hour windblown when the constantly changing script lags. This should be a straightforward story, a finale with which the audience is ever familiar – crossword clue: three letter word for “Cleo's snake.” But break out the superlatives, hyperbole, and pompous, for the second half here falls prey to the Burton School of Overactingtm. Liz and Dick talk a cat and mouse (guess who is who) game, turning history into tawdry, back and forth, “You hang up. No you hang up first!” semantics. Despite the asp in the basket, the messy battles and increasingly empty scenes don't know when to end. Granted, reshoots and editing are more at fault than the talent – dialogue and characters don't make sense if you think too hard and the distant Todd-AO widescreen lacks emotional up close shots. Everything that could go wrong on a picture did go wrong here, so it's amazing this is so watchable at all. Fortunately, McDowell is in slick control as Octavian and Harrison grounds the superior first leg as a respectable, surprisingly kind but epileptic Caesar. He's going to listen and listen good, because Miss C says so no matter how misogynistic Romans are. It's a serious but charming battle of wills, and a much more palatable chemistry where the empirical politics don't feel superfluous. Risque fabrics, Dame Elizabeth lying pretty – that entrance is indeed epic in representing these egos going head to head in love and war. It's at once fifties old school with tense history and mid century melodrama yet breaking new ground off camera in then changing cinema times. Are there inaccuracies here that will delight or aggravate historians and cinephiles alike? Hells yeah. Nonetheless, this entertaining megalith is great for a toga party marathon and spot the trachea scar drinking game. 

Cleopatra – The slightly elusive bare bones DVD edition of this three hour 1999 ABC/Hallmark miniseries based on the Margaret George novel has no subtitles but lots of whispering low volume. Viewers can't expect much spectacle from a fifteen year old television production either, and the distant CGI landscapes, faux sphinx, small scale battles, and on the seas action are unnecessary distractions. Though, like other bibliophiles, I still mourn the Library of Alexandria, the nighttime scenery is too dark, and the slow starting pace remains uneven thanks to pointless dalliance and superfluous happenings. Ironically, this famous femme tale feels like a boy's club thanks to better male actors – even the lovable Irish centurion Daragh O'Malley (Sharpe) – and the unknown, pretty models look laughable in soap opera-esque costume party catfights. Whew! Fortunately, the opening scroll sets the scene for Egyptian exile, dynastic strife, and alliances with Rome alongside colorful statues, red capes, legion gear, familiar headdresses, and bustling temples. The slightly sheer robes and saucy sex romps are somewhat surprising for a Hallmark production, too – not to mention those Ptolemies intermarrying and all. Initially, Timothy Dalton (License to Kill) as Caesar is level headed and all business, educating Cleopatra in how to rule. His romantic scenes with Leonor Varela (Blade II) are awkward, however, their age gap and the historical culture clashing is also fitting. Maybe his feelings are genuine, but Rome will always come first for Caesar. Rather than responding shrewdly to her poor reception in Rome, this Cleo drops the baby scandal in public like a crazy clueless side chick. Sean Pertwee (Gotham) as Brutus gets his back stabbing moment halfway through, but Billy Zane's (Dead Calm) accent wavers once an unfortunately wimpy Marc Antony gets his Egyptian enchantment. The last hour looses steam by dropping much of Marc Antony in Egypt – including his children with Cleopatra – and dragging out the snake action finale too long. Told properly with more suave and trim finesse, this story could have been done in two hours and change. While not as epic or memorable as the 1963 telling, this update feels more palatable for today's audiences or condensed classroom showings. But where in the heck was Richard Armitage in this?

Actual History!

Empires: The Roman Empire in the First Century – Sigourney Weaver narrates this 2001 documentary overflowing with more than three hours of history detailing the final BC years of Caesar's love triangles, the Augustus establishment, and the unlikely Claudius before Caligula's madness, Nero's infamy, Vespasian's military might, and everyone in between. The two show legs are actually four episodes titled “Order from Chaos,” “Years of Trial,” “Winds of Change,” and “Years of Eruption” with further chapter breakdowns, maps, and onscreen notations wrangling the dense subject matter full of epic scandals and battlefield prowess versus political shrewd. The Italian locations, ruins, and frescoes make for a lovely video tour while today's scholars, historical sources, and Ovid poetry add a tangible anchor to the relatively quick, by Emperor chronological order peppered with a Roman who's who of Tiberius, Germanicus, Seneca, and Agrippina. The lack of sources on Roman women is discussed alongside at times emotional first hand accounts, social mobility, and the all importance of status in Rome. Turns out the struggles of the common people were not all that different from today, and the baths, feasting, frolicking, and chariot races shine thanks to ancient satire and gossips. The narrative touches upon Jesus, Christianity, Paul, and Josephus as well as strife from Egypt to Britannia changing Roman culture – and the ironic, so-called Roman Peace bought with warfare. Pompeii is a fitting place to conclude, however, the time lingers with a tacked on Domitian and too brief a discussion of slavery and freedmen in Rome before almost an afterthought on Trajan glory. Some saucy subject matter, naughty poetry, and erotic frescoes are addressed, and the Judeo-Christian themes are perhaps not for a secular classroom. Fortunately, the individual segments make it easy to skip any problematic moments for education viewings. From its rocky birth to the Colosseum, this is a pleasant and informative encapsulation of the Rome we know and love.

Burton Bonus!

The Robe – Delightful color, scenic detail, and perfectly B.C. splendor with a score to match anchor this 1953 biblical drama based upon the popular Lloyd C. Douglas novel. Distant matte backdrops are occasionally apparent, and a final half hour of sword fights, dungeon rescues, and chariot pursuits feel like fast, shoehorned in action in a largely quiet, introspective, and timeless tale. However, the debut Cinemascope technique captures all the foreground and background movement within the frame, making coming and going or asides and internal angst a much nicer visual treat for the eye than today's at the screen, in your face effects. Perhaps now this two hour and thirteen minute ode has become somewhat second tier compared to later biblical epics such as The Ten Commandments or Ben-Hur, but the crucifixion scenes are excellent, a harrowing and stormy montage that remain powerful, perennial viewing. Yes, Richard Burton is sometimes stiff in his scenes with the classy and ever lovely Jean Simmons (Guys and Dolls). He's overwrought at times, too – just a little – but Marcellus is the tribune being haunted by Christ's blood stained garment won in a bet beneath the Cross. If ever there was a time where some hysterical is okay, this would be it! Nevertheless, Burton is also surprisingly somber and subtle, making for some fine tender, reflective moments. The supporting ensemble is also reverent and wonderfully soft spoken, with convert catalyst Victor Mature (also of the sequel Demetrius and the Gladiators) on his own touching character arc. Of course, depending on the mood you're in, Jay Robinson (The Virgin Queen) as Caligula is either maniacally evil perfection or an annoying brat – but it is Caligula, what did you expect? Commentaries, Martin Scorsese analysis, Cinemascope conversations, Bible in Hollywood documentaries, and more lengthy behind the scenes features accent the Special Edition blu-ray release as well. There is a whiff of blacklist turmoil paralleling the tolerance onscreen, however such veiled statements are made without overtaking the picture. This well done story handles spiritual change with honestly rather than as something abstract or mystical, resulting in a seemingly simple but no less transformative picture brimming with redemption for spirited folk, church classrooms, and classic film fans of all ages.

07 March 2016

More Lady Horrors!

More Lady Horrors!
by Kristin Battestella

Be it Pregnancy and maternal dilemmas or adulterous affairs and marital discord, this quartet from decades past and present features some wonderful grand dames doing their best horror thrills, chills, and sexy kills.

The Butterfly Room – The ever classy Barbara Steele (Black Sunday) leads a slew of familiar horror faces including Ray Wise (Twin Peaks), P.J. Soles (Halloween), Adrienne King (Friday the 13th), Camille Keaton (I Spit on Your Grave), James Karen (Returning of the Living Dead), and Heather Langenkamp (Nightmare on Elm Street) for this 2012 American/Italian co-production. Blood in the bathtub and a rigid, abusive response to budding womanhood and left-handedness fester alongside morbid butterfly pinning, acidic supplies, dangerous elevators, moth balls in bulk, and bigger quarry. Struggling mothers, cute kids, and old lady neighbors should make for a quaint, endearing apartment tale – but viewers know better thanks to mirrors, hidden doors, and peephole points of view inspiring a through the wardrobe darkly mood. Classy dames up to no good, little girl hustlers, and grandmothers with sick hobbies warp the expected mother/daughter roles. Moms aren't supposed to hate their kids growing up yet we all love 'em as babies – and such conversations pass the Bechdel test, too! Judgments are cast on over protective mothering, women trapping men with pregnancy, prostitution fetishes, abortion, and a single mother thinking she needs to be rescued by a man, however these harsh attitudes help reveal the badly misplaced maternal instincts and deceiving appearances. Everyone dismisses it as imagination when a little girl speaks up amid the unauthorized renovation notices and calculated, sociopath décor, but the careful escalates into dirty cover up kills and quirky madness. The timeline shifts with sepia tints and interesting rewinding visuals, and while this unraveling over the ninety minutes intensifies some twists, the editing should have been tighter. Lookalike girls add to the confusion at times, big spoiler the black man dies first, and several relationships feel too superficial for such heavy topics. In some ways, this villain isn't wrong in wanting to protect little girls with bad moms. Unfortunately, these symbolic butterflies are plucked from grace too soon as a demented result. Whether it was her choice to take an acting sabbatical or a lack of quality lady horror scripts, I'm glad Barbara is back. She still has it, and truth be told, an older woman can carry a film all by herself. Oh, how shocking!

Dressed to Kill – Steamy showers, nudity, and lovely violin themes open this 1980 unrated thriller from writer and director Brian De Palma (Carrie) starring psychiatrist Michael Caine (The Dark Knight), classy mom looking for fulfillment Angie Dickinson (Police Woman), her nerdy son Keith Gordon (Christine), and Dennis Franz as New York cop, big surprise. Superb scene setting and slice of life voyeurism add to the silent seductions and museum artwork with an anticipating and tantalizing score to match – this is a dance, a ballet of will she or won't she crescendos. Whirlwind camera angles, splice editing, and slow pans parallel the saucy onscreen, but of course, the allure is not what it seems. There will be titular consequences, and a half hour in to the 105 minutes, the escalating elevator suspense and slasher violence undercut the risque with more shocking red on white and a witness to the crime. Granted, the killer transvestite cliché is old now, however the intriguing twists are given up front. Each character has a piece of the puzzle, but the audience is in on the taboo case via onscreen windows, partitions, mirrors, and De Palma's expected split focus or split screens as well as zooms on reading materials one isn't supposed to see, binoculars, and eavesdropping. A whiff of parody also layers the unlikely but shrewd amateur investigations, multi layered plots, and subway dangers with disbelieving police, scandalous talk show clips, all sex is sin shame shames, and gasping ninnies. It's nice to see that sassy, older, and edgy New York frankness, too. Unfortunately, that can't hide the obvious Psycho comparisons or similarities to De Palma's later Raising Cain. It's tough to see then Mrs. De Palma Nancy Allen (Robocop) as a high class prostitute, other characters are also thin, the logistics don't always work, and not everyone will like the ending. It's much better to go into this cold and then study the feature-laden Criterion blu-ray. Despite some obviousness, it's fun suspecting the killer and waiting to see the mystery come together in a wicked finale.

The NeighborCrocodile Dundee gal Linda Kozlowski joins warped OBGYN Rod Steiger (In the Heat of the Night) for this 1993 Oedipal thriller. It's a quaint 1943 start with a period Vermont patina, endearing sons, and babies on the way, but army widowhood and orphan resentment linger for the present day doppelgangers moving to this seemingly wonderful old house. Antiques and lovely woodwork maintain the past mood, and there aren't too many bad nineties looks – just giant phones, answering machines, and petty thieves stealing a tape deck, gasp! Of course, yuppie husband Ron Lea (The Strain) dismisses his wife's seemingly unfounded paranoia, for a doctor's poor bedside manner and old houses making noises are no reason for him to stop inviting the increasingly intrusive and obsessive doctor to dinner. Despite her past miscarriage, new pregnancy carefulness, and the cute dog beware, our aptly named Mary is on her own in admittedly contrived and surprisingly tame plot turns from Kurt Wimmer (also writer and director of the delightfully outside the box Equilibrium and Ultraviolet). A four months pregnant sick woman who has lost a previous baby at five months is going to climb into a tiny open window to snoop? I think not. Rather than the same old gross man and women on each other's side trite, perhaps the story would have been more interesting if the female doctor was the parasite with a maternal complex. Steiger is a twisted but devoted son praying before a Madonna-esque shrine with photos of his mother, however the up close camerawork and predictable editing hamper his icky and stall the pace. In 93 minutes, there's no time to insert extra reaction shots and break the awkward simmer or building suspense. Audiences can tell this is director Rodney Gibbons' (Slow Burn) debut, for the film style here looks like every other nineties thriller – but hey, retirement home road trip and microfilm montage appearance! Thanks to Steiger's nonchalant sneaking and jump scares, the doctor know how, patient compliance, and lengthy needles are horror uncomfortable. Heartbeats, ultrasounds, switched pills, and gross implications raise suspicions, and Mary isn't overreacting when her unborn baby is at risk. Though pedestrian at times, this offers some frightful moments, a pleasant cast, scary finale, and relatable fears for expectant mothers.

Season of the Witch – A spring thaw reflects the cold marriage and empty nest that drives housewife Jan White (Touch Me Not) to witchcraft in this 1973 feminist leaning thriller from George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead). Repressed dreams with through the peephole distortions, cages, and dual mirror reflections match subtle wedding ring moments and not so subtle slasher style violence. There's a lingering sexual guilt, a her fault, asking for it societal mentality festering because women weren't supposed to talk to or about their slap happy husbands much less get their kit off and question sense of worth after motherhood. These upscale housewives are trophies gussied up just to drink – but our Joan lets her hair down, goes for a tarot reading, admits her fears and sexual curiosities. Moans and naughty innuendo add to a sensuous, pretty in its own way seventies color with patterns, fringe fashions, and bright make up. The psychoanalysis is of the time, as are dated ladies gossip and erroneous witchcraft clichés – buy a how to book and a silver chalice and boom you have empowered yourself scandalous! Although some obnoxious acting and muddled meta conversation is poor, there is a teatime frankness on the emerging seventies lifestyles and well put occult discussions countering the stereotypes. It's an interesting culture clash when these still fifties-esque hypocrites want to be the seventies kids doing grass. If the MILF wants kicks and it's a joke to the stud, who is using whom? Neither the extreme repression or the escalating wanton is healthy, nor is replacing a crap marriage for the latest risque, dangerous vogue. Yes, this is a desperately bare production, and cheap editing leaves the ninety minute version looking more like leftovers than a polished film. Fortunately, the bizarre accents the changing women's attitudes and sexy, suspenseful encapsulation of the era. Instead of today's curious young thang, the realistic cast delivers some fine feminine nuggets here. But really, the character's name is “Joanie” Mitchell? Hehehe.

For more Lady Horror fun, read our "20 Feminine Horror Films" article at Horror Addicts.net -- an essay also featured in the Horror Addicts Guide to Life anthology! 

04 March 2016

Just Vamps V!

Just Vamps V!
By Kristin Battestella

Indulge your cravings with this batch of elusive or obscure, foreign, and somewhat rare but mostly bloody good vampire pictures from decades yore.

Blood and Roses – Mel Ferrer (Falcon Crest) leads this 1960 French/Italian Carmilla influenced production brimming with lovely outdoor locations and lookalike relatives mixing romance and Karnstein history. Though the currently gathered descendants scoff at vampire myths and stories of peasants taking stakes into their own hands centuries ago; familiar names, 500 year old Mircalla voiceovers, and a costume party in a ruined abbey add period piece mood to the modern suits, fifties frocks, and swanky cocktails for a slightly baroque blend. While not as lavish as the later Hammer pictures, this is indeed colorful thanks to quality titular motifs, white wedding dresses, and red fireworks. Peppering creepy words accent the smoke, crosses, tombs, heartbeats, and vampire spirits ready to possess anew. Mirrors, screams, and zooms make for some suspenseful moments – unseen vampire deceptions escalate over the discovery of bodies with neck wounds. However, there is a symbolic sensuality, implied saucy, and very Bava-esque pretty in the surreal, black and white dream sequence winking with water, sanitariums, naked mannequins, and nurses with bloody hands. It's a bittersweet, medieval feeling with all kinds of lesbian vampire shade, blonde versus brunette rivalries, and so close you want to be her Single White Female innuendo. Director Roger Vadim (Barbarella) certainly liked his statuesque blondes, and there are fine personality changes for his then wife Annette Stroyberg (also of Vadim's Les Liaisons dangereuses) as the bewitching, possessed Carmilla – she's minuet dancing, can't work the record player, and horses misbehave around her. Elsa Martinelli (Hatari!) is also divine in several portrait like stills paralleling Carmilla's feminine desire to be loved as much as her necessity for blood. Different edited or longer versions effect the plot here, but the dubbed 74 minute edition is currently available on Amazon Prime. While it won't be scary for modern audiences, this sophisticated and creepy but no less tender tale is impressive and worth seeing.

The Blood Drinkers – The full screen print of this dubbed 1966 Filipino production is somewhat flat, but the unique, cost cutting color schemes create a bizarre design of lavender and blue tints, red spotlights, and a silent film style patina. Smoke, funerary, capes, and crypts accent the time capsule East Indies architecture and style in an old world meets mid century macabre feeling. While the narration may seem dated or unnecessary now, the voiceover details the unique vampire myths and heart rituals assuring an undead return – thus helping in translation when the unpolished production values become confusing. The slightly annoying sci fi buzzing and hokey bat effects aren't too big a bother over the hour and a half, and hunchback servants, rapacious blood attacks, suggested nude victims, and predatory penetration create retro Gothic horror violence, twisted love, past scandals, and vampire pain. Evil old ladies, vampire brides, and eerie relatives coming back from the dead add to the open graves, parish assistance, religious relics, and an almost medieval Christian iconography. The action is well paced alongside rival suitors, vampire persuasions, and cemetery sieges, too. Sure, this is cheap and sappy at times, but the alternate Blood is the Color of Night title perhaps better represents the jealous vamp vixens, moral twists, and other now familiar vampire motifs – not to mention there's a fiery mob and chase finale!

Dan Curtis' Dracula – After a perpetual Netflix save only, I finally found the uncensored version of this 1973 telemovie produced and directed by the eponymous Dark Shadows creator on Hulu. Once billed as Bram Stoker's Dracula, the historical Tepes connections and reincarnated romance also found in Coppola's 1992 edition seem to have their impetus here alongside more than a whiff of Dark Shadows in Robert Cobert's score. Wolf howls and carriages accent the outdoor filming, 1897 village, and European locations – leading to a creepy Borgo Pass and monstrous vampire brides for solicitor Harker. Though heavy on the seventies zooms, ominous epistles and past portraits build suspense before quick Demeter action, Victorian trains, and the idyllic English coast. With only Arthur Holmwood and no Renfield, writer Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone) swiftly moves to Lucy sleepwalking, Dr. Van Helsing, garlic, blood, and stakings. Wolves are in this parlor with the spilling tea and fainting ladies! The big Civil War era gowns are earlier than truer turn of the century bustles, and though pretty, the English transition restarts the atmosphere, delaying away from Dracula. Despite Eastern European roots, Jack Palance (City Slickers) doesn't need any velcome talk thanks to his already deep, robust voice, and his chilling delivery of the familiar book lines adds to his suave facade. We know Dracula's lost love motivations, but thanks to Palance's hissing, rough desperation, the Count isn't too sympathetic. Whitby, Carfax, bites, crosses, boxes of earth – the investigation of such horrors escalates into a full on Transylvania pursuit. At times however, this does feel like a big budget Dark Shadows with the wrong cast of characters. It's not scary today and seems too derivative of other Dracula movies – perhaps because until recently, this version was somewhat sequestered while we watched all the others. Fortunately, the story moves fast, with superfluous players and book events excised for a straightforward Stoker summation. I'm glad this kind of Victorian Gothic is coming back into vogue, and the abbreviated plot, eerie atmosphere, and fine performances here are a great introduction to the genre.

Your Call!

The Vampire's Ghost – Writer Leigh Brackett (The Big Sleep) adapted this hour long 1945 black and white tale loosely from the Polidori source, however an unfortunate narration warning of a dark land of voodoo and jungle evils sets the scene with stereotypical forties film racism. Cliché tribal drums, primitive English speaketh, and a witch cult village are apparently worse than a restless 400-year-old vampire prowler because this superstitious, medieval tomfoolery is interfering with native worker output on the big white man's plantation. It's uncomfortable to see such subservient mentalities, for locals aren't allowed to solve their own village vampire problem and must follow the mistaken white doctor or minister – who's entire dialogue consists of Hayes Code souls and redemption shoehorn. Some may argue the dance scene is unnecessary as well, but Adele Mara (Wake of the Red Witch) is lovely and it is a good dance! Is the suave, sunglasses wearing, bar owner John Abbott (The Woman in White) our vampire? Of course he happens to have the same name as one of his Spanish Armada ancestors! There are some unique pieces of undead lore here, such as small boxes of home soil under the pillow and restorative moonlight properties. Though short and fast moving, seedy gambling scenes and barroom brawl action are also fun alongside would-be sympathetic vampire revelations. The villainy is good, as are the shadows, suspense, hypnosis, and seductive kills with dames caught in the middle. However, the mirrors, safari style, and weird innuendos are more bemusing than scary. The potential for a fun little hour is here, but it is tough to overlook the racist plot points when it feels like half the picture and most of the actual vampness are unfortunately absent.

01 March 2016

Friday the 13th The Series: Season One

Friday the 13th The Series Gets off to a Memorable Start
by Kristin Battestella

No, this 1987 television series has nothing to do with Jason Voorhees and the Friday the 13th film franchise. This Friday the 13th is an American/Canadian co-production that debuts with twenty-six episodes of curses, scares, creepy, and campy charm.

Distant cousins Micki Foster (singer Louise Robey) and Ryan Dallion (John D. LeMay) are bequeathed a mysterious antique store from their suspicious and relatively unknown late Uncle Lewis Vendredi (R. G. Armstrong). Unfortunately, this eclectic inventory isn't for sale, as the store's contents is comprised of cursed items from Uncle Lewis' deal with the devil. All previously sold and demonically indestructible merchandise – ranging from as small as a compact mirror to as big as an electric chair – must be reacquired and returned to the special vault beneath the Curious Goods store. With the help of occult researcher Jack Marshak (Chris Wiggins), Micki and Ryan must now pursue former customers who aren't always so willing to part with their antique's particular evil enchantment.

Yes, some of the antique retrieval plots are silly and dated, but Friday the 13th has many memorable episodes beginning with “The Inheritance” and its devilish retribution complete with flaming hoof prints on the stairs. The series premise is introduced alongside a killer doll, a little girl in peril, and playground dangers with creepy lullabies, thunderstorms, and howling winds. It's easy to get behind our trio in their evil object of the week quest, for the ravens, monastery, suspicious brotherhood, and quill that writes the deaths to come of “The Poison Pen” add an eerie medieval mood with hoods, candles, chanting, spiders, and guillotines. Despite some rad eighties moments, “A Cup of Time” has skeletons, murder, and deadly sips from an ordinary looking mug. Maybe old ladies fighting over teatime with a punk score is hokey, but the fountain of youth desperation remains wicked. Normally, it would be good business to have some fun dress up and magic tricks for “Hellowe’en,” however a crystal ball, good scares, and ominous smoke and mirrors assure this party at Curious Goods wasn't the best idea – especially when your guests fiddle with the merchandise. This spooky atmosphere, demonic rituals, and a race against the sunrise sets the tone for Friday the 13th perfectly while the autopsies, hospitals, morgue drawers, and elevator injuries accent the Jack the Ripper scalpel in “Doctor Jack.” What if an operation with an accursed objected wielded by a skilled surgeon with a superiority complex was your only chance at survival? The titular effects, camera works, and enchanted gloves of “Shadow Boxer” are no less preposterous yet Friday the 13th is again memorable with a green locker room patina, old school gym feelings, and a down on his luck sports fall from grace. There's humor, suspense, justice being taken into one's own hands, and they have to wait for the pictures to develop overnight. The horror! 

The crazy, rich old ladies and killer yardwork of “Root of All Evil” are slow at times, but we do get to know our characters' relationships and responsibilities better amid this intense, man-sized mulcher action. It's good to get away from the shop for the harvest struggles and rural farms of “Scarecrow,” too. Scythes and heads on the front porch create an off-kilter slasher tone before the David Cronenberg (Videodrome) directed “Faith Healer” and its rousing, fire and brimstone con man claims – and an ominous medieval white glove that does the trick. Is such power for good or ill when for every life it heals, it must take another? White, clean, pure suits quickly become sullied with back alleys, leprosy sores, and pestilence consequences as this glove literally burns itself onto the hand where its deeds and demands cannot be escaped. These impressive morality and faith debates give way to perhaps my most memorable Friday the 13th episode, “The Baron’s Bride.” A time traveling vampire fantasy may see like a big leap of faith – especially once the colorful gothic décor and capes switch to black and white carriages and angry mobs. However, the Stoker myths and traditional vampire lore hold up alongside fast action and a whiff of romance. Sunken treasures, stormy nights, and scary phone calls in “Bedazzled” make being alone at night at Curious Goods as spooky as you'd expect. This bottle show takes place almost entirely in the store with good old fashioned scares and invading crooks who don't stop once their cursed antique has been locked away in the vault. “Vanity’s Mirror” is another memorable Friday the 13th hour thanks to beauty obsessions and an innocuous little compact causing too much torment. Cruel teasing and ugly duckling relatable forgive any hello eighties high school motifs – in fact, the pitiful prom designs add to the creative deaths, quality gore, and alluring retribution.

I'm sorry doesn't cut it when you execute wrong man in “The Electrocutioner,” but grainy jailhouse footage sets the mood for this electronically charged dentist who's out for some shocking revenge. Unsympathetic kills and nitric oxide play into our medical fears with this wrongful sense of justice as do the trepanning techniques, draining spinal fluids, and simple but desperate patients in “Brain Drain.” Cool mad laboratory equipment and brains in tanks anchor the intelligence transfers, trephanator talk, and intangible, Flowers for Algernon sciences. Friday the 13th goes all out for the mid-season two-parter “The Quilt of Hathor (Part 1)” and “The Quilt of Hathor (Part 2): The Awakening” for a trip to a good old fashioned thee and thou religious community hiding the titular evil homespun and its sinful dreams brimming with red décor, forbidden fruits, and baroque frocks. Horse drawn carriages, snow, and culture clash suspicions accent the forbidden romance and religious fervor. Who knew being so penitent didn't mean you couldn't be any less nasty? Okay, the old speaketh arguing may make some chuckle, but the witchcraft finger pointing, fiery mobs, and comeuppance twists match the horror where we least suspect it superb. Likewise, flashbulbs, dark rooms, and a Geraldo-esque newscaster with best alibi ever develop “Double Exposure” alongside gory bubbling, doppelgangers, and machete killings. It's interesting to see this early commentary on scandalous crimes boosting nightly ratings when we have instant breaking news alerts everywhere today. Maybe this episode felt the need to go all out with crazy dreams, evil television motifs, and slasher slick after the slightly slower two-parter before it and Ryan having two loves of his life two episodes in a row is poor placement. However, the ticking clock twists here are memorable fun before the pregnancy fears and medical defects make for a warped sense of necessity in “What a Mother Wouldn’t Do.” No one wants to harm a baby, but an evil cradle can fix all that! The parental defense, Titanic history, and watery deaths give this Friday the 13th debut year a penultimate topper.

The middle of this season is very strong, however, with such a high episode number, Friday the 13th was bound to have a few clunkers. Ugly statues, honky tonk stalkers, seedy motels, and unlikable, obsessive frat boys ruin “Cupid’s Quiver,” and the lack of authorities illumes one of the series' ongoing impossibilities. Early on, our trio aren't very smooth investigators and think they have the right to break in all over a college campus because they're antique dealers! Magician secrets, beautiful assistants, fatal theatrics, and the cutthroat of magic show business don't save “The Great Montarro.” It's a pity since this is one of the few Jack centric episodes, but the sideshow tricks and Houdini wannabe divas are more laughable than ominous. “Tales of the Undead” has comic book shop nostalgia and an evil edition that kills you within its pages – a fantastic possibility ruined by a trash can looking monster costume. The 'Take on Me' music video from A-ha did it better! Though the poisonous insects and creepy crawlies will disturb some audiences,“Tattoo” is a cliché Chinatown crime plot with seemingly deliberate bad Kung Fu lip reading, submissive Asian prostitutes, and every other old Oriental stereotype crammed into one episode. Maybe the horror aspects aren't all bad, but these mediocre episodes are a letdown when following immediately after such memorable Friday the 13th hours. “The Pirate’s Promise” offers lighthouse quaint, eerie foghorns, and phantom boats that take modern babes in exchange for gold bullion. Unfortunately, the mutinous history can't help our cousins not bungle it up without Jack, and the Miami Vice wannabes, counterfeit money, and macho talk in “Badge of Honor” is likewise D.O.A.. The up close camera shots, day glo lighting, and jazzy score try for a jaded, gritty noir piece, but even with steamy Micki times, this one is embarrassingly dated and out of place. The Egyptian relics, trapped in the vault peril, and evil green effects make for a great framework for “Bottle of Dreams,” but sadly, this final episode of the season is largely a clip show that should have been the second to last airing instead. Sure, it's an overlong season, however we aren't going to forget all the good times that soon!

Billed as just Robey on Friday the 13th, our Micki is certainly beautiful – but my goodness that is big red hair! Some obvious extensions and then-vogue Jem styles make Micki always seem MTV ready, but her frilly tank tops, skirts, and uppity shoulder pads often make her appear more tiny compared to the baddies or disproportionate with her giant bobblehead hair. Initially doubtful, squeamish, and needing to be rescued, Micki's bad feelings about their situation increase over the course of the season. She accepts responsibility and wants to do the right thing – Micki isn't willing to leave anyone in danger and chooses this antiques recovery quest over her potential wedding. At times, she does regret giving up her old life for this so-called job but also gets pretentious in her righteousness. She's an antique dealer in a battle of good versus evil and that gives her a license to go anywhere and intrude on anyone – even going undercover as a boy! Micki gets in on the action more and comes to handle herself alone just fine – except when our intrepid team doesn't succeed or when the plot doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Both cousins still have parents, so why did they inherit the shop? Why do they all live at Curious Goods? Micki has some romance and visiting Friday the 13th old flames, however it's always played as too eighties steamy – and we're expected to believe she brings guys home when Ryan sleeps on the other side of a glass door? Micki's not herself in “The Baron's Bride,” but it's fun to see her personality changes and vamped persona because we already like and respect her moxie.

Ironically, watching Friday the 13th back in the day, I always thought John D. LeMay's (also of the unrelated Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday) Ryan Dallion had a crush on Micki, and the dialogue always makes sure to reiterate how through marriage or distantly related they are. They do have fun chemistry even when Ryan is a jerky Andrew McCarthy knock off to start. He thinks Curious Goods is cool and gets his information on the supernatural from his comic books. Ryan is self aware, however, and adds humor and realistic logic on how their simplest answer must be the correct one – which helps ground the audience when he enjoys playing the hero detective in a yuppie suit. Some of the eighties brat pack cool is kind of meh today, but Ryan fits right in undercover at high school! There are consequences to their collection, of course, and he is injured a few times, adding a sense of realism and not reset fantasy even though Friday the 13th has an evil of the week design. “Double Exposure” gives Ryan too many lady loves in a row, but his romance in “The Quilt of Hathor” makes the character grow up a little alongside the eerie colored smoke and his side of the family's dangerous business prospects in “Pipe Dream.” Though this plot is a little thin, the personal ties keep viewers interested. Will Ryan treat the cursed object and its consequences any different now that Uncle Lewis wasn't the only family member in on the devilish bargains? Ryan openly discusses the series premise, the evil behaviors, and moral turnarounds he's seen. By the end of this debut season, it isn't so cool, and Ryan develops a cynical edge with more than a few regrets.

Already experienced in the occult and its negative allure, Chris Wiggins (Babar) as Jack Marshak is a wonderful mentor for our young cousins – an Obi-wan Kenobi who acquired the antiques that Uncle Lewis cursed and re-released to the public who greatly regrets his unwitting part. Ever resourceful, Jack uses newspapers and tabloids to find curious stories that may lead to their quarry. At times, he only appears briefly in bemusing ways to help, but his quirky street connections add depth to the quest. Jack has a lot of exposition to quickly deliver early on Friday the 13th, but his knowledge of their evil manifest and gruff authority grounds the fantastic. Unfortunately, Jack doesn't appear in all the episodes, and the one-liners about him being off elsewhere on a retrieval mission are convenient but disappointing. Today, an older ex-occultist battling alone against evil objects around the globe sounds like a good series premise itself. The storylines with Jack present have just a bit more finesse, and he has his doubts about whether our young team is up to snuff. “Brain Drain” also offers a bittersweet rekindled romance for Jack, but he nonetheless dusts himself off and is there to save the day when things go wrong. But why does he have to sleep downstairs by the creepy vault? In antithesis to Jack, television veteran R.G. Armstrong (Pat Garret and Billy the Kid) also makes several guest appearances as Lewis Vendredi, that devil bargaining late uncle who sold his soul and spread evil all in a day's work. Just because he's dead doesn't mean he won't pop up now and again! Carrie Snodgrass (Diary of a Mad Housewife) should have stayed longer as Jack's love interest, however genre audiences will find maybe not necessarily name players but numerous recognizable character actors adding extra charm to Friday the 13th. Ray Walston from My Favorite Martian, Catherine Disher of Forever Knight, Sarah Polley from Avonlea – I swear Philip Akin brought some of the dojo sets from Highlander: The Series with him!

Whelp. This was 1987 and 88, so the shorts, sport coat, rolled up sleeves, and slim tie together or the big earrings, big belts, high waisted jeans, and giant shoulder pads eighties meets forties caricature fashion should go without saying as bad. Fortunately, Friday the 13th does have spooky, to the point opening credits complete with a creepy waving monkey to hit home the peeking through the keyhole ominous artifacts tone. Curious Goods is a neat and comforting shop in its own evil way. We never get to fully see the entire set brightly lit with the layout completely known, which works for on set logistics whilst adding the potential for mysterious nooks and crannies where anything can happen. Dusty interiors, record players, corded phones, and cassette tapes in the answering machine add period nostalgia in addition to the past curios and clutter alongside television static, adjusting the rabbit ears, two whole channels, and a giant flash on that camera. Where else could you use the line, “Let's go out to dinner – you, me, your camera – and see what develops.” *rimshot* Remember, on Friday the 13th they couldn't just Google their case. Our team goes to the library to make copies! Some special effects are hammy and poor while other gore designs are seamless enough to maintain the scary, desperate atmosphere despite dim lighting and a flat picture making it tough to see everything. The sound is also uneven at times, but stormy effects and recognizable, fitting theme music with whimsical tinkles and crystal chimes accent the shadows, silhouettes, flashlights, and lanterns. There are some jump scares on Friday the 13th, but the gags are admittedly humorous, adding campy appeal to the fast moving forty five minute episodes.

I'd like to skip over the clunkers and Friday the 13th has its fair share of dated, cheap faults in this debut season. Fortunately, most of the fond thoughts from watching the series then hold up now thanks to a not always cut and dry good versus evil. It wouldn't be any fun if it was easy to retrieve these cursed tchotchkes all wrapped in a pretty bow. Even my mom wanted to know what channel Friday the 13th was on – which surprisingly doesn't seem to be anywhere despite the increasing popularity of retro-themed channels and horror anthologies. DVD sets are available, however, as well as Amazon Prime streaming. Today Friday the 13th may seem like a relatively short-lived series, but this first year has more than enough memorable curses, evil, and eighties fun for paranormal audiences to revisit or enjoy anew.