Tag Archives: crystal lake

HORROR NERD OF THE MONTH — Eddie!

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I was originally going to start this piece, “Eddie McCarlo is a poor writer’s idea of a nerd if there ever was one.” Within this one character exists too many clashing ideologies, I thought. He makes fun of a girl for ‘being crazy’, he likes to get high with the sleazebag character — all while purporting to be this big sci-fi and fantasy geek. It just didn’t seem to jibe. However, the more I looked at the character and thought about his actions the more I realized: not only is he an amalgamation of different nerds but, as it turns out, I’ve known many Eddie McCarlos in my life. In a way, Eddie McCarlo is a Super Nerd. Continue reading HORROR NERD OF THE MONTH — Eddie!

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Psycho vs. Psychic, Kane Hodder, & Jason at Sea!

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I miss being a little kid and watching a horror movie I’d never seen through unjaded eyes. Just turning off my mind, pressing play, and absorbing the wonder.

As an adult now, I sometimes catch myself being clinical and obsessive about non-issues when watching a horror flick…and I hate that. The weird thing is, I only do it when watching a recently released movie I haven’t seen. The older ones, they get a pass. It’s like respecting your elders or somethin’. I haven’t thought long enough on it to explain it better.

That being said, when I was a kid and I saw a zombie Jason facing off against a girl with psychokinetic powers – in a series that was once grounded in some sort of reality – I didn’t even bat an eyelash. Instead, I was like, “This is great!” I mean, it was.

Friday the 13th: Jason Lives was released to little fanfare – the critics actually appreciated its intelligence, but the fans weren’t feeling the meta, self-referential humor that was peppered throughout. That was two strikes in a row for the series (after the abysmal but now cult status Friday the 13th: A New Beginning), so Paramount was pretty much ready to abandon the series. This is where the initial idea of pitting Jason against Freddy Krueger started to be toyed with. But when Paramount and New Line Cinema couldn’t come to an agreement, the project was discarded. In a last ditch effort to revitalize the series, screenwriter Daryl Haney submitted a throw away idea he had: Jason versus a girl with telekinetic powers. The Associate Producer, Barbara Sachs, loved the idea: Carrie versus Jason…That’s an interesting idea.” And so it was. Continue reading Psycho vs. Psychic, Kane Hodder, & Jason at Sea!

Shemps, Tommy Jarvis, & the Modern Prometheus!

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Welcome back! I was just about to start talking about the headscratcher that was Friday the 13th: A New Beginning. Hope your nails are trimmed.

For all intents and purposes, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was meant to be the last movie in the series. After all, Jason took a pretty good machete whack to the temple in the third act. Then bald little Tommy Jarvis thought he’d hack away at Jason while he was down until nothing was left but a pile of Hamburger Helper. I mean, it wasn’t subtitled The Final Chapter for no reason. This was it, people! But director Joe Zito, being the good sport that he was, left the film open-ended: as the final bit of music starts to swell, the camera pans in on an emotional Tommy Jarvis hugging his sister Trish – they’re the only survivors. Suddenly, boom, Tommy’s face goes slack and his eyes blast open, and he stares, dead-eyed, into the camera. Into our souls. Does this mean Tommy Jarvis would spiritually inherit the unstoppable urge to kill from Jason Voorhees, the man he’d just murdered?

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Kinda. Not really, though.

See, producers and writers of A New Beginning were convinced that Jason was actually dead, they just needed an idea of where to take the series from there. Certainly, bringing Jason back from the dead was too ludicrous of an idea to even consider. Zombie Jason? That’s just crazy. Perhaps they hadn’t thought about the fact that Jason had apparently drowned as a child and was therefore already…

Anyway, they didn’t think Jason could come back. To be fair, Friday the 13th Part 2, Friday the 13th Part 3, and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter are all supposed to take place over the same weekend, if you follow the timeline correctly. So there wasn’t anything necessarily other-wordly about Jason at this point. He was just a killer who took some massive abuse during the course of one week, and was finally stopped by Tommy Jarvis.

It’s important to note that at this point, the ‘undead killer’ trope hadn’t become a thing yet. It was 1985: Michael Myers was officially dead in a hospital fire; Leatherface was still a year away from a sequel – as far as anyone knew, he was still dancing and spinning out on some desolate Texas road; Freddy had just made his debut the year before, and his sequel wouldn’t be released until 8 months after A New Beginning. There was no Chucky. No Jigsaw. No Candyman. So in 1985 dead was dead. And Jason? He was dead.

But instead of following the Tommy Jarvis-as-Jason storyline, they decided to do two things:

  • first, revisit that mental hospital script they rejected for Friday the 13th Part 3. Fine, solid idea.
  • The second thing they did, however, left fans with a bad taste in their mouths and caused some of the lowest ticket sales in the series at that point.

So what did they do that was so offensive? They used a fake Jason. Like how The Three Stooges used a fake Shemp to fill in for some of the scenes after the real Shemp died. Not cool, Paramount.

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Halloween III: Season of the Witch doesn’t feature Michael Myers, but at least they didn’t have some guy walking around in a white William Shatner mask, only to pull it off in the final act and go, “Ha! I’m not Michael Myers!” – which is exactly what happened in A New Beginning. So you can understand fans feeling a little cheated.

The opening to Halloween: Resurrection (that’s “Part 8” for those keepin’ track) did try a similar stunt: Jamie Lee Curtis thinks she decapitates Michael Myers at the end of the previous film (effectively permanently ending the series), but wait a second! Turns out the real Michael Myers had crushed some poor schmuck’s voicebox and slapped that familiar mask on him instead. So Jamie Lee just ended up killing some random dude. It was an utterly implausible move, even for a series where the bad guy had been shot, stabbed, burned, buried, and somehow still kept coming back for more. I mean, we the audience can only suspend our disbelief so much.

Even A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge hopped on the ‘surrogate killer’ train, almost immediately – with young protagonist Jesse committing all of the murders, with Freddy only occasionally popping up towards the end of the film.

Hell, now that I’m thinking about it, three of the Friday the 13th films don’t feature Jason as the primary killer: the original, this one, and Jason Goes to Hell! What the hell is going on?!

What A New Beginning lacked in a Jason it made up for in sex and violence. The late director Danny Steinmann had gotten his start in porno; apparently the sex and nudity in A New Beginning had to be toned down — but the censors saying your horror film has too much nudity, it’s like telling Willy Wonka his factory has too much chocolate.  And a new precedent had been handed down to Steinmann: there must be a kill every 8 minutes. And it shows. There are random characters popping up out of nowhere, only to be killed off in the same exact scene they first appear. Like two greasers, one of who is dressed like Marlon Brando from The Wild One:

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There’s a lot wrong with the flick – it feels the most unsure of itself and definitely felt like the first time the studio and money providers had interfered too much. But I suppose they did the best the could with the script that had. Who knows, man.

Mark Venturini and Miguel A. Núñez, Jr. appear briefly in the film (Núñez, Jr. has one of the most memorable scenes I’ve ever seen in a horror film; a scene I quote – or sing, rather – still today.) Núñez, Jr. and Venturini would appear together later the same year in the immortal Return of the Living Dead, alongside Thom Matthews who would go on to play Tommy Jarvis in Friday the 13th: Jason Lives. Hey, speaking of!

So the fans weren’t having the fake Jason thing. And the film ended on a similar note as the previous one – Tommy Jarvis could still potentially turn into a Jasonesque killer with the next sequel.

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But thankfully, Paramount came to their sense and told Jason Lives director Tom McLoughlin, “Bring back Jason.” Jason Lives would be the first time in the series where Jason was accepted to be a fully resurrected dead guy (aka “zombie”.)

The Halloween series had to change its course due to a similar fan backlash. Viewers flocked to the theater for Halloween III and left asking, “Hey, where was Michael?” And so, with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Michael…well, he returned. And he’s been the focal point since.

McLoughlin, in my opinion, was a good choice to revitalize the Friday series. And even though this film was the first one that didn’t break the $20M mark, I still feel his approach brought a freshness and a self-awareness to the series, something it desperately needed.  In fact, Kevin Williamson (writer of Scream) not only admitted Jason Lives was a huge influence on Scream and its style of referential horror humor, but McLoughlin was initially offered to direct the film (Wes Craven would eventually take the position.)

One of the many references the film makes is comparing Jason to the story of “Frankenstein”.

  • Jason is brought to life via lightning rod/electricity (as was Frankenstein’s monster)
  • This was the first (and only) Friday the 13th film to feature children at the camp (and we know how the monster treats little kids [especially little girls who play by the lake])
  • Tommy Jarvis initially tries to burn Jason’s corpse at the start of the film, and again at the end of the film (Frankenstein’s monster hates fire)
  • There is a gas station in the film named “Karloff’s”

There are plenty of other in-jokes and references, and they only add to the film. And A New Beginning may have had its Shemp, but Jason Lives has a triple decapitation that would make Moe Howard proud.

But as mentioned above, despite being an intelligent, fun, revitalizing entry in the series (and actually enjoyed by the critics) the film failed to make an impact on audiences, as is usually the case with films that are ahead of their time (just look at April Fool’s Day.)

McLoughlin was forced to leave the film open-ended, just in case Paramount wanted to bring Jason back for another one. And they would. And they did.

Join me for tomorrow’s article, “Psycho vs. Psychic, Kane Hodder, & Jason at Sea”, which covers both Friday the 13th VII: A New Blood and Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan!

Killer Moms, Sequelitis, & Bagheads!

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I remember hearing that story when I was younger, the one about the mom who was filled with such maternal adrenaline after witnessing her kid get trapped under a car, that she was able to lift the car off her kid all on her own. Apparently, a mother’s love for her child is a powerful and scary thing – so best of luck to you if you happen to put their child in harm’s way…or worse.

During the mid and late-70s, there was sort of a boom when it came to psychotic-and-overprotetctive-moms in film. It started overseas with the Italian giallo film Deep Red (1975) (this is interesting because the giallo movement would be a direct influence on the American slasher craze, especially the early Friday the 13th films. Deep Red and Friday the 13th share another random bit of trivia: at the end of Friday, after Mrs. Voorhees gets a little taken off the top, we see her hands ball up into fists; these are actually special effects assistant Taso Stavrakis’s hands. Conversely, the closeup shots of the female killer’s hands in Deep Red, clad in black leather gloves, were performed by director Dario Argento.)

The killer mom trend continued with Carrie (1976), The Brood (1979), and Mother’s Day (1980).

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All of these films saw the mother either:

  • being driven to kill because someone had wronged their child
  • being driven to kill because their child had wronged them
  • birthing hideous, tumor-like growths that develop into little murderous albino kids (that’s The Brood)

Then in 1980, Friday the 13th was released – a little low-budget film that was intended to cash in on the success of the ultimate low-budget slasher, Halloween. For those of you visiting from another planet, the film is about a mother who avenges her child’s death by killing off the counselors at the camp he drowned many years before.

But as for a sequel? There weren’t plans. The film was meant as a stand-alone. Here’s what Friday writer Victor Miller had to say about the film:

“I took motherhood and turned it on its head and I think that was great fun. Mrs. Voorhees was the mother I’d always wanted—a mother who would have killed for her kids.” Miller was unhappy about the filmmakers’ decision to make Jason Voorhees the killer in the sequels. “Jason was dead from the very beginning. He was a victim, not a villain.”

In addition to Deep Red and Halloween, Friday the 13th ripped an idea from another infamous horror flick, Carrie. No, not the pig’s blood. I’m talking about the final dream sequence. In fact, the idea of Jason appearing at the end of the film was initially not used in the original script, and was actually suggested by makeup designer Tom Savini:

“The whole reason for the cliffhanger at the end was I had just seen Carrie, so I thought that we need a ‘chair jumper’ like that, and I said, ‘let’s bring in Jason.'”

The final scene from Carrie was actually inspired by the final scene in Deliverance, but alas that’s how the world of horror goes: reduce, reuse, recycle.

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 According to Victor Miller, Jason was only meant as a plot device and not intended to continue on his mother’s grisly work. But then sequelitis struck, and well, we all know how that goes.

The initial ideas for a sequel involved the Friday the 13th title being used for a series of films, released once a year, that would not have direct continuity with each other, but be a separate “scary movie” of their own right. If that sounds familiar to you horrorhounds, it’s because Halloween (the film Friday was originally trying to emulate) was toying with the same concept. This is what Tommy Lee Wallace, director of Halloween III, said about the Halloween sequel and future of the series:

“It is our intention to create an anthology out of the series, sort of along the lines of Night Gallery, or The Twilight Zone, only on a much larger scale.”

Friday producers insisted that the sequel have Jason Voorhees, even though his appearance in the original film was only meant to be a joke. And so, in 1981, Friday the 13th Part 2 was released. Halloween II was released just five months later.

Like the dead teens from the first film, the proposed sequel was already busy creating another heap of casualties: the entire team that had created the original. No one came back – not director Sean Cunningham, not writer Victor Miller, nor special effects maestro Tom Savini. Director Steve Miner came on board to take over, with Ron Kurz writing (Kurz had done uncredited writing on Friday the 13th.)

For Jason’s big screen debut, the production team decided to model his character after the killer from The Town That Dreaded Sundown by throwing a burlap sack over his head.

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This ‘baghead’ look actually became popularized back in 1957, in the first episode of Perry Mason, “The Case of the Restless Redhead”. Coincidentally, 1957 is the same year of young Jason Voorhee’s supposed drowning.

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Since the release of Friday the 13th Part 2, the look would become synonymous with scary villain and would pop up in horror films like The Strangers, Triangle, and even westerns like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

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The look was even the basis for the semi-parody mumblecore film, Baghead, starring indie darling Great Gerwig.

Friday the 13th Part 2 would ‘borrow’ from the giallo movement once again. Two of the more memorable scenes – one including a machete to the face, the other seeing two lovers speared simultaneously – were lifted directly from Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood.

This was the first and last time Jason Voorhees had any sort of motivation for his killings, and therefore the last time he’d be portrayed as an empathetic character. The series began tragically – a boy drowning, his mother avenging his death, and then that same boy later avenging her death. But as with most franchises (especially A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween), the future sequels lose sight of what the characters original motivations were. But when your villain is 8 or 10 sequels deep, you’re bound to muddy the waters a bit.

Join me for my next installment where I visit the next two Friday the 13th sequels, with “Hockey Masks, the 3D Boom, & Final Chapters”!