Saturday, October 31, 2020

What's All This Then? | Friday the 13th (2009)

These movies had effectively quit being a series when New Line took over from Paramount around the time of Jason Goes to Hell. It even lost the Friday the 13th name starting with that movie, which makes Jason X a strange wink of a title, because it was the tenth movie in a series whose banner it no longer carried. But as I've said, I wanted all ten of those movies to work together even if I had to make up my own connecting stories. With the 2009 remake, that was no longer a temptation.

I came into this new Friday the 13th expecting an updated version of the 1980 movie. I guess I realized on some level that it would bring in Jason instead of the no-longer-a-twist ending of the killer being his mom, but most of my anticipation about it had to do with better effects, looser restrictions around gore, and possible influence by torture movies like Saw and Hostel. In other words, I figured it would be a more graphic, disturbing version of the same basic plot from the first movie, but with Jason instead of his mom. Happily, it's way cooler than that.

I love how the reboot opens with the final scene from the 1980 film and actually has it set in 1980. For a brief second, I even wondered if I could make this fit somehow into the continuity of the other eleven films. But there's no doing that and as the movie unfolded, I didn't even want to. I enjoyed it as its own thing. 

It quickly jumps ahead to the present day with adult Jason in a sack mask like in Part 2, murdering a bunch of campers who wander too close to his territory. Redheaded Amanda Righetti (whom I loved as Grace on The Mentalist) had all the marks of the Final Girl and I wondered if this was actually a remake of Part 2 with Righetti playing essentially Ginny. 

But then she's attacked by Jason and there's another time jump - six weeks this time - to Jared Padalecki on a motorcycle searching for his missing sister. Of course his sister turns out to be Righetti's character and I was reminded of Rob from The Final Chapter. During the events of the movie, Jason's sack mask is torn off and he replaces it with an old hockey mask that he finds in a barn full of similar antiques. It's a much better explanation for the mask than the silly one from Part 3 where he stole it from a victim who had no business wearing it in the first place.

The reboot turns out to be a condensed version of the events of the first four Friday the 13th movies with professional actors and a great script. Since the filmmakers are no longer making the story up as they go along over the course of a few different films, everything ties together tightly and even the geography around the lake makes more sense. 

The one thing I don't love is the ending. It feels like it has to go for that final, gotcha moment of Jason coming back up from the lake to get someone we all thought was safe. It's cheap and undercuts the relative realism of the rest of the movie and its villain. Rather than the lumbering, mindless killing machine that Jason was even before he became a zombie, this version moves and thinks like a real person. I love that he's fast. He doesn't just crash through the woods like the Terminator, he chases his victims. And while he's clearly deranged and we never fully understand him, there are hints about how he lives and sustains himself. That's all great, so it's too bad that at literally the last second the movie decides to suggest that he's supernatural.

As much as I enjoyed this though, I'm glad we never got any more of these. If I kind of reimagine that last shock as a dream or something, it's a perfect little horror film. I don't know where you take it from here without going down the same path that the series did with a copycat killer or an unkillable Zombie Jason. Those were fun and fine the first time around, but I really like this grounded, mortal Jason and sort of just want this to be all that there is.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Hellbent for Letterbox Hitchin' Post | Curse of the Undead (1959)

In this special Halloween Hitchin' Post episode (meaning we just talk about the movie without any of the usual, full-episode segments), Pax and I stake our claim on the Universal horror western, Curse of the Undead, about a vampire gunfighter.

What's All This Then? | Jason X (2001)

And so we're done. 

Not really, completely. I'm going to watch the 2009 remake movie, too. But Jason X wraps up the original series by sending Jason not only into the way distant future, but also into space itself where he's probably floating still unless some unlucky ship happens by to pick him up. But we'll probably never see that movie, nor do I want to.

Jason X continues the tradition of the New Line movies of not really trying to have even a shaky continuity, opening with Jason already captured and in the hands of a facility that's just going to freeze him forever since all efforts to destroy him have failed. The movie doesn't care how Jason was captured, but as we saw in Jason Goes to Hell, it's not hard to catch him if you throw enough resources at the project. It's having him stay caught that always proves challenging.

But it's fine. Even though the later movies don't connect to each other, there are enough of them by that point that it's easy to imagine your own connecting story. And I like the audacity of sending Jason into a scifi setting where he can replace xenomorphs in an Alien ripoff. As scifi horror, Jason X is very much B-movie quality, but it's also self-aware, funny, and enjoyably cheesy. I'm glad I watched it, just like I'm glad I watched this whole, crazy series. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

What's All This Then? | Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Wait a minute, Mike! Haven't you skipped Jason X?

Yep! But I'm coming back to it.

My plan was always to tackle these movies in the order they were released, but I watched about five minutes of Jason X before realizing that a) most of it was going to take place in the far off future, and b) that it was totally ignoring the events of Jason Goes to Hell

I've finally accepted that these movies are no longer an actual series chronicling a sloppy epic. As far as the filmmakers are concerned, this might as well be an anthology series with each part being standalone. But dammit I started this project looking for an epic and Jason is going to have to cut my hands off with a machete to make me let go of that idea. 

Since Jason Goes to Hell ended with Freddy Kreuger's reaching up from Hell to grab Jason's mask, I hoped that Freddy vs Jason would follow up on that at least better than Jason X did. And it does. 

It's a great premise for a crossover. I'm not up on the later Nightmare on Elm Street movies, so I don't know how closely Freddy vs Jason ties into those, but what's going on is that Freddy is trapped in Hell because the people of Springwood have figured out that if they can keep people from talking or even thinking about him, he'll have no power over anyone. In order to change that, Freddy somehow orchestrates events in Hell to send Jason back to the physical world where he can start killing folks in Springwood. Freddy knows that this will start whispers about Freddy again, allowing him to regain more and more power the more Jason kills and the louder the whispers get. 

Too bad for Freddy though, Jason has his own notoriety and people start to figure out that it's him doing the killing and not Freddy. But by then Freddy has accumulated enough power to manifest himself and he jealously tries to take out Jason before re-embarking on his own murder spree. It makes total sense from a story perspective and the battles between the two horror icons are excellent (outside of a silly, but brief moment suggesting that Jason is afraid of water because he almost drowned as a kid).

The kids in the movie are all pretty great, too. Monica Keena (Bill Pullman's sister in While You Were Sleeping) is the main character and Jason Ritter plays her boyfriend. Kelly Rowland is fun best friend character and I really liked the character of Freeburg, a stoner with my favorite line in the entire Friday the 13th series: "Dude, that goalie was pissed about something."

The movie ends with Jason more or less victorious and free to run around and get captured offscreen in time for Jason X. So I really like this one and it makes me not want to wait until next Halloween to finally catch up on the Nightmare series. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Seriously Felicity | The Last Stand

Kristi and I crash Felicity's counselor appointment to talk about overbearing parents, killer roommates, and admissions essays.

What's All This Then? | Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

I'm not doing a lot of behind-the-scenes research on these movies, because my curiosity is more about how well they hold together as opposed to the challenges that make that hard. But Jason Goes to Hell so blatantly disregards then end of Jason Takes Manhattan that I got to wondering what was up. Without going into a lot of detail (mostly because I imagine everyone already knows the details way better than I do), Paramount gave up on the series and let New Line take over, but without the Friday the 13th name. Part of getting New Line involved was also about a potential crossover between Jason and New Line's Nightmare on Elm Street series, which of course eventually happened, but I don't wanna get too far ahead of myself.

Jason Goes to Hell makes no mention of Jason's toxic death at the end of Manhattan and instead opens with him back in the woods around Crystal Lake. His entrapment and destruction by a military unit is a great scene that made me wonder why no one had thought of it before. I don't hold that against the previous films; it's just the mark of an excellent idea.

The movie quickly reveals that Jason has been possessed by some kind of demonic spirit (presumably in Jason Lives) which has the ability to jump from body to body, remaking them in Jason's image. And though the film never claims it, it's possible to imagine that this happened in New York and that the Jason who's destroyed at the beginning of this film isn't the same physical body that was disintegrated in Manhattan. That raises some extra questions, but it's the closest I can get to explaining the contradiction. 

The reason it raises questions is because Jason Goes to Hell says that these new host bodies aren't able to hold the spirit for long. The spirit wears them out and needs someone related to the original host (ie, Jason), which means that it requires another Voorhees to inhabit. Fortunately, Jason Goes to Hell provides a few. 

We find out that Jason has a sister (played, I was happy to see, by Erin Gray) who also has a daughter and grand-daughter. The plot of this film is just the spirit jumping from body to body (and murdering lots of people along the way) in its quest to possess one these relatives. 

With these being the rules, my explanation about the spirit's changing bodies between Manhattan and Hell kind of breaks down. The only way I can make it still make sense is if there was another Voorhees that the spirit was able to inhabit after Manhattan and that's who we saw destroyed at the beginning of Hell. It's a crazy stretch, but no less crazy than anything else about these movies.

In spite of these story gymnastics (or maybe because of them), I quite enjoyed Jason Goes to Hell. In addition to the new Voorhees characters (and getting to see the Voorhees' home), there are some other fun, new characters. The father of Erin Gray's grand-daughter is a guy named Steven who looks like a nerd, but ends up being totally badass. I like him much more than Creighton Duke, the bounty hunter he temporarily teams up with. 

Duke looks and acts cool, but in a super one-dimensional way. He's a caricature of a movie tough guy and conveniently knows everything anyone needs to know about defeating Jason, with no explanation of how he learned any of it. But he's not in the movie a whole lot. Steven and his girlfriend Jessica get the most attention and that's good. 

The film ends with Jason's being magically dragged to Hell. I assume that some demonic force is reclaiming the spirit that's been possessing Jason and these other folks. None of that is explained in the movie, but maybe we'll get some answers in one of the next installments. This one wraps up with a surprising cameo by Freddy Kreuger's hand, which I wasn't prepared for since we have one more movie between this one and Freddy vs. Jason. I have no idea what to expect from Jason X except that it somehow involves his going into space. I'm curious if this Hell mythology will be explored there or delayed until the Freddy meet-up or just ignored and left for viewers to make up on their own. By this point, I mostly suspect it's that last option.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Interview | The Sample Chapter Podcast

Jason Meuschke is a Hellbent for Letterbox listener who has a great podcast of his own. It's called The Sample Chapter Podcast and it's all about the process and business of writing. Each episode, Jason interviews a different author about their writing life and then invites them to read a sample chapter from their work. Jason's a great, fun host and I had a blast talking with him. And then I had a blast reading from Kill All Monsters, describing panels, doing sound effects, and generally just being a giant goof.

Take a listen and then check out Jason's archives for interviews with Lou Diamond Phillips and Diane Franklin (aka Monique from Better Off Dead).

What's All This Then? | Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

As much as I enjoy the movies that get back to the summer camp setting around Crystal Lake, I also like how Jason Takes Manhattan shakes things up with a couple of new locations. After a quick prelude in the traditional forest, the movie moves to a ship carrying high school seniors to New York City for a graduation trip. Having victims confined on a finite ship with Jason is a fun idea, but so is his ultimately stalking them through the urban streets and alleys of Manhattan. (And I really dig that the ship isn't an actual cruise ship, but a freighter that's been converted into a charter vessel for parties. Seems like the kind of business that might legitimately spring up in a small, rural community near the ocean.)

Something I noticed in the prelude though is that the town around the lake still doesn't know what to do with the camp property. It was a functioning camp at the end of Jason Lives, but had been turned into private vacation cabins by the time of New Blood. Now, in Jason Takes Manhattan, there's a Camp Crystal Lake sign back up when a couple of the high school seniors are out for a private cruise on a small yacht. The community also went through a whole name change in Jason Lives that didn't stick. None of this is a problem though. It makes total sense that a community with this much tragedy in its history would have a hard time knowing what to do with itself.

Another thing revealed in the first part of the movie is that Crystal Lake somehow connects with the Atlantic Ocean (assuming that the lake is in New Jersey as suggested in the first film). When I first saw the yacht, I thought that it must stayed moored on the lake somewhere. But after Jason kills the two kids, he steers the yacht to the dock where the cruise ship is leaving from. So there must be a river that connects the lake with the ocean.

What I don't really understand about all of this is how Jason knows to go to the cruise ship. Maybe there's something on board the yacht that tells him, but why would Jason leave his familiar woods just to kill a bunch of kids on a boat? I don't know, maybe that's a dumb question and the answer is just "to kill a bunch of kids." Maybe Jason's just finally gotten tired of the forest. He's the walking dead at this point, so his thoughts are not our thoughts. It's not really a problem.

An actual problem (though still not a big one, I don't think) is all the time jumps in the series. Each movie takes place around the time that it was released, so from one point of view it's only been about nine years since Mrs Voorhees killed Kevin Bacon and friends in revenge for Jason's supposed drowning. But we've also seen Tommy grow up between Final Chapter and New Beginning, meaning that about 10-15 years passed between those movies. And Tina grew up during the events of New Blood, which have to take place after Jason Lives, because Jason is already in the water when she's a young girl. So that's another 10-15 years of movie time right there. Which means that if the first movie takes place in 1980, the main events of New Blood should take place around 2008 or so, not 1989.

The reason this isn't a big deal for me is because I grew up with Marvel Comics' retconning its historical references all the time. Whether it's Tony Stark's originally creating the Iron Man armor during the Vietnam War or classic Spider-Man's joking about Johnny Carson, I'm used to overlooking references that date particular stories in a long-running series. So Jason Takes Manhattan can take place in 1989 and we just push the first movie back to the late 50s, even though the characters and technology all clearly exist in the late '70s or early '80s. Works for me.

What doesn't work as well is Manhattan's attempt to fool around with Jason's origin story by emphasizing the Kid in the Lake legend. It's fine for Rennie's childhood trauma to be centered on the story of Jason's drowning, because that's what everyone believed for years. Maybe that's the only part of the legend she'd heard. But there's this weird suggestion at the end of the movie that maybe Jason reverts to his boyhood self as a result of being covered in toxic waste? That's just weird.

Toxic waste was a mysterious, magical substance in the '80s, so a nostalgic part of me likes the idea of it's having this weird effect on Jason, but it really doesn't make any sense if we take it literally. Fortunately, the Friday the 13th movies have a long history of figurative endings, starting with Alice's hallucination at the end of the first one. After I complained about how Jason Lives ignored the ending of New Beginning, a buddy pointed out to me that Tommy's attempt to murder Pam may have just been a nightmare he was having. So it's very possible - and I'm going with it as fact - that Rennie simply imagines seeing young Jason at the end, when in fact he's been dissolved by toxic sludge and (one assumes) sent to hell.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Hellbent for Letterbox | Bandidas (2006)

Pax and I definitely wanted to watch Penélope Cruz, Salma Hayek, Steve Zahn, Dwight Yoakam, and Sam Shepard in Bandidas. Pax also reads the graphic novel Calamity Jane: The Calamitous Life of Martha Jane Cannary by Christian Perrissin and Matthieu Blanchin. And I get in the Halloween spirit with Curse of the Undead.

What's All This Then? | Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

Tommy isn't around anymore and after the watered down version of him in Jason Lives, I'm not sorry. I hope he found a good life and lived it. Meanwhile, the series replaces him with basically its version of Stephen King's Carrie and I'm not sorry about that either.

It's especially cool to me that "new blood" Tina is played by Lar Park-Lincoln, whom I formed an enormous crush on the year before in House II: The Second Story. If I'd known she was in New Blood, I would have hurried to see it sooner. 

Not that she's an amazing actor in New Blood, but she's got a great look and is at least as good as anyone else in a Friday the 13th movie outside of Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover. Terry Kiser might give her a run for her money as Tina's psychiatrist, but I'm importing a lot of fondness for him from his performance as Bernie in Weekend at Bernies

The story goes that Tina's psychic powers manifested themselves during a summer trip to Crystal Lake when her father got drunk and hit her mom. From the accusations and apologies, that apparently wasn't the first time and Tina wished her father dead. Unfortunately for her, her wish came true when the covered dock he was standing on collapsed, seemingly in response to her emotional outburst. Now, years later, she and her mom have returned to the cabin with Tina's doctor to face her demons in the next step of her guilt-ridden recovery. At least, that's what Dr Crews claims. His motives become less clear and pure as the story unfolds.

And of course there's a neighboring cabin with a bunch of young people gathering for a birthday bash.

Jason is still chained to the lake bottom after the last movie and it's apparently not as voluntary as I speculated at the end of that story. I guess those chains are more strong and tight than they look. He's accidentally freed by Tina though after a particularly harrowing session with Dr Crews and Tina also begins having premonitions of various people's deaths.

I mostly enjoyed New Blood thanks to Park-Lincoln and Kiser and just the addition of a supernatural opponent for Jason. The party neighbors are all generic stereotypes though and Jason's activity is pretty uninspired. But there's some good stuff in his final showdown with the last few survivors, especially once Tina gets some control over her powers and starts using them. 

Sadly, Jason's ultimate defeat is lame, with Tina animating the corpse of her dead father to recapture Jason and chain him again to the bottom of the lake. That sounds awesome on paper and it might have been if Tina's dad was as decayed and zombie-like as he should have been. I'm imagining a longer battle between two zombies, one of whom is controlled by Tina. I would have loved that. But Dad looks like he's been in the water for about twenty seconds and the showdown is over almost as soon as it starts. 

I suspect that this is the last we'll see of Tina, but if that's true it's too bad. She goes on the list with Ginny, Trish, and Pam as Jason survivors I'd love to see in some kind of monster hunting secret society.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

What's All This Then? | Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

I'm a bit ticked off at Jason Lives for how much it ignores the continuity of Final Chapter and New Beginning. It continues using the character of Tommy Jasper, but completely ignores the fact that New Beginning ended with Tommy's about to murder his halfway house mom, Pam. Pam is never even mentioned, nor is Tommy's sister Trish (though to be fair, New Beginning never brought her up either). And just as frustrating is the change in Tommy's personality. He was super traumatized in New Beginning and I felt horrible for him. In Jason Lives, he's basically Dr Loomis from Halloween: a little unhinged and very ranty about the dangerous killer on the loose, but otherwise functional, even to the point where he can grin and banter with the female lead.

Part of me wants to come up with my own explanation for what happened at the end of New Beginning. Tommy clearly did not kill Pam since the sheriff in Jason Lives knows who Tommy is and doesn't have a murder warrant for him. So maybe Tommy's putting on Jason's mask and picking up a knife in New Beginning was just one last bit of trauma working itself through him, but he realized what he was doing and stopped it before Pam even noticed. Who knows? I don't really care, because obviously the film series doesn't. But it's disappointing.

I like that Jason Lives gets back to the summer camp setting and especially that it ups the stakes by having actual children campers present. I think it kind of cheats in dealing with the kids, but at least it shakes up the scenario some. As much as I like that though (and the counselors Sissy and Paula are likable), I never really got into the rest of the movie. It's impossible to take seriously with its wacky paintball combatants or the cartoony relationship between the sheriff and his daughter. 

And then there's the weird, Frankenstein way that Jason is brought back to life. I buy that Tommy wants to dig him up and cremate him to stop the nightmares. But there has to be more to Jason's resurrection than just a lightning strike. We need some magic or demonic possession or something. I'm curious to see if future installments try to explain any of that or if we're just supposed to be so happy that Jason's back that we don't need a cause for it. If the series doesn't offer anything in the next movie or two, I'll come up with something on my own. Probably involving Pam and Trish, because where are they?!

Finally, there's the ending in which Tommy decides that the only way to permanently destroy Jason is to return him to the bottom of the lake where he was thought to have drowned as a kid. Because why? It's a rubbish theory born of desperation and makes Tommy look even more ridiculous than he already does. 

To the movie's credit, it doesn't even suggest that the theory works. Tommy gets Jason into the water, but Jason is explicitly shown to still be alert and active down there. His hands are free and there's only a loose chain around his neck holding him to the lake bottom. I don't know how much time passes between Jason Lives and the next movie, but if it's more than ten seconds it's only because Jason's voluntarily taking a little break.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

What's All This Then? | Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)

With Jason apparently really, finally dead at the end of Final Chapter, Paramount had to figure out a new way to continue the series. A New Beginning is a shaky start to the next phase of the Friday the 13th saga, but it works for me for a couple of reasons.

I like that it jumps forward in time to put Corey Feldman's character Tommy in his twenties, still traumatized by the events of Final Chapter. There's no mention of where his older sister has ended up, but Tommy has been in a psychiatric hospital and is now being transferred to a halfway house. He's haunted by dreams of Jason's coming back to life though and is generally withdrawn and skittish.

When people start being brutally murdered at the halfway house (it's in the woods, presumably in the Crystal Lake area, but I don't remember that that's ever specified), New Beginning leaves the identity of the Jason copycat killer a secret until the very end. The film throws a lot of suspicion at Tommy, making sure that he's absent when the murders take place, but I enjoyed stubbornly refusing to believe that it was him. I had no idea who else it might be though, with my totally illogical guess being that maybe it was the guy who ran the halfway house, because he disappears halfway through the film and only turns up again towards the end when someone discovers his murdered corpse. Unfortunately, the actual identity of the killer is out of nowhere and underwhelming. It makes sense, it's just not revealed in any interesting way. But I still like that there's so much focus on the mystery of the killer's identity like in the first film.

That was my overall experience with New Beginning. I like about as much as I don't like. And that includes the pool of potential victims. The halfway house's cook and his grandson Reggie are both super charming and cool. I also really like Violet, who's into New Wave music and dances a great Robot. I would have so had a crush on her in 1985. The couple who run the house are great, too, and I mostly like the resident Jake up until his awkward scene trying to get another resident to have sex with him. I also really, really like Tommy and don't want to believe he's hacking people up.

On the other hand, sex-crazed Tina and Eddie are obnoxiously one-dimensional as are the house's hillbilly stereotype neighbors. The final resident Robin is just bland. So New Beginning has some characters and elements that I like and a bunch of stuff that I don't. And also in the negative column is the cliffhanger revelation that thanks to the combination of Final Chapter and New Beginning, Tommy actually has finally been traumatized to the point that he's ready to pick up the mask and machete himself to be the series' new villain.

Knowing that the title of the next movie is Jason Lives and not Tommy Attacks, I'm hopeful that it retcons this development, but by now in the series I'm ready for anything.

Friday, October 23, 2020

What's All This Then? | Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

The series not only gets back on track with the misnamed fourth film; it ramps up in a big way with a pretty great story and a more expensive production that includes actual actors. I kept blinking during the opening credits as one recognizable name after another popped on the screen like Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover, and Erich Anderson (whom I know as Felicity Porter's dad on the TV show Felicity).

All the actors - even the one's I didn't already know - are much better than the casts in the previous films. Glover is especially watchable as the spazzy Jimmy (his dancing scene alone is worth whatever you pay to watch the movie) and Gremlins-era Feldman is a charming, nerdy kid who also feels like a real person. 

It helps a lot that all of these characters are pretty well defined and don't just fall into archetype buckets the way the Part 3 cast especially did. The plot is mostly driven by the old trope of having a bunch of young people vacation in the forest, but this time it's got characters I actually like. For example, all the Friday the 13th movies have an obnoxious "wild and crazy" guy who's super overt about how horny he always is, but Final Chapter's Ted is also revealed to be extremely lonely, precisely because he turns people off. I feel sorry for him even though he brings his misery on himself.

The established couples in the group also have their own dramas instead of being cookie-cutter hook-ups. Samantha and Paul have been together long enough that they're possibly too comfortable with each other and Paul messes things up by becoming interested in one of a couple of twins the group meets up with. The other couple, Sara and Doug are at the beginning of their relationship and sweetly realizing how much they actually like each other. Seriously, I could watch a straight-up murderless drama about all of these characters working through a weekend together.

(Incidentally, I thought Doug looked familiar, but didn't recognize actor Peter Barton as the guy from The Powers of Matthew Star. It's been too long since I watched any Matthew Star and I'd also completely forgotten that it also starred Amy Steel, who was Ginny in Friday the 13th, Part 2. Funny world.)

Final Chapter also adds another layer by having the group's rental house be next door to a home owned by a single mom and her two kids, Trish and Tommy (Feldman). So there's all this going on even before Jason arrives. 

Not that the movie waits that long to show Jason. After all, he was supposedly dead at the end of Part 3, so Final Chapter picks up immediately after with all of the corpses from the previous movie being taken to the morgue. It turns out that Jason isn't quite dead yet though, so once he dispatches a couple of hospital workers, he's back into the forest in search of more victims. 

That axe in Jason's head looked pretty bad at the end of Part 3, but my suspension of disbelief is high enough to let me buy that he was only mostly dead. The dude doesn't have a lot of higher thinking anyway, he's pretty much just a murder machine at this point. So if you tell me that Chris' axe was able to put him into deep shock for a while without actually killing him, sure, I'll bite. I'm not a brain doctor.

Another cool element in Final Chapter is Erich Anderson as a mysterious woodsman named Rob. I feel like we're supposed to be worried that he might be another killer for a while, but that doesn't make any sense and I never believed it. And there's enough secrecy around him to make him a compelling character even if I'm not afraid he's going to use that machete on Trish and Tommy. As it turns out, Rob is the brother of a character who was murdered in Part 2, so he's actually out looking for Jason to take revenge. I love that addition of a monster-hunter character and that the movie's paying attention to continuity with the rest of the series.

Since Final Chapter isn't set at a camp, but just in the woods surrounding Crystal Lake, it makes me retroactively more comfortable with Part 3's also abandoning the camp setting. With these last two movies, the setting has opened up a bit and I'm okay with that. Part of what bothered me about Part 3 was that the water on the property looked more like a creek than a lake, but I guess it could have been a tributary of Crystal Lake or just a little arm of it or something. I don't know. I still don't like Part 3, but being able to move past it to Final Chapter makes me feel a little more generous towards it.

I learned that Part 3 was originally supposed to be the final film to create a trilogy ending in Jason's death, but I'm not shocked at all that Paramount decided to make another one. What's shocking is that they expected anyone to believe that the fourth one was actually the final chapter. I remember even in 1984 and as a total outsider to the series thinking, "Yeah, right." 

And boy do they ever want to suggest a sequel. Jason may be dead (or maybe not, I don't know how this goes), but it took Tommy's making himself look like Young Jason to confuse Adult Jason long enough for Tommy to get close and do some hacking. That physical transformation combined with the trauma of the evening apparently does a number on Tommy's psyche, so when he's hugging his sister at the end, he's got a super creepy expression. The question the movie is asking is clearly, "Is Tommy going to become a new Jason?"

I know just enough about the lore of the following films to suspect that that's not the case (I mean, it's Jason's name, not Tommy's, in the titles of future installments), but I've got no idea what really happens. I'm super into the series now and understand why it's so popular. Really enjoying this.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

What's All This Then? | Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

Well that went downhill quickly.

Part 3 opens by reshowing a big chunk of the end of Part 2, but actually has almost nothing to do with the previous movie. A character watches TV and sees Ginny put into the ambulance, but the report is all about how there's a homicidal maniac on the loose (fair enough) and doesn't mention whether or not Paul survived. That's too bad, but I guess it leaves me free to create my own ending to Part 2 and say that Paul survived and chased Jason off. It seems unlikely, but it's also probably the best way to explain Ginny's surviving.

What Part 3 is interested in (outside of super dumb, comin-at-ya 3D effects complete with popping popcorn and a yo-yo) is just having Jason roam the countryside murdering people in overlong sequences before settling into clearing out a bunch of young people on vacation at a farmhouse. 

One of them has some history with Jason, though it's nothing from either of the previous films and she remembers very little of it. It's most interesting to me as an explanation that Jason has been active in the area before the events of Part 2. But it's weird, because all the woman remembers is being captured by Jason and dragged off. She blacked out after that. She obviously wasn't murdered, but there's also no mention of her being raped or any other horrible thing that Jason could have done to her. So that supports my theory that even though he's been around all these years, he maybe didn't get a taste for murder until he took his revenge on Alice at the beginning of Part 2.

The other important element in this movie - just from a legend-building standpoint - is that it's the origin of the iconic hockey mask. It's a lame prop used by one of the vacationers to draw attention to himself, so when Jason kills the kid, he takes the mask to replace the sack that got pulled off him in Part 2

And that's almost all the interest I have in Part 3. The acting is horrible, the dialogue is worse, and I care about none of the characters. It has nothing to do with a summer camp. It's just a random incident with disposable victims. The only other thing worth mentioning is that Jason is apparently killed at the end, so Part 4 will have some explaining to do to undo that.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

What's All This Then? | Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

After the first movie with Mrs Voorhees as the killer, I speculated that the sequel would introduce her son in some kind of supernatural way. The end of the first one leans hard in that direction (although out of nowhere, in contrast with the relatively mundane murder mystery of the rest of the film), so I imagined that Mrs Voorhees' deep, emotional connection with her dead son would cause him to be resurrected in some way. But I couldn't figure out how he'd go from being a small, teenage boy to the hulking monster needed to drive the rest of the series.

Part 2 answers that question by rejecting any supernatural premise at all. Jason's potential resurrection was all in Alice's imagination. The truth is more grounded, if no less unlikely. Since Jason's body was never recovered from the lake, legends persist that he never actually drowned at all, but now roams the woods around Crystal Lake as an adult. And that turns out to be the actual case.

It doesn't make a lot of sense at first thought. Mrs Voorhees goes on a murder spree because she thinks her son drowned. She wanders those woods a lot, so how come she never encountered her son alive before? Part 2 reveals that he clearly knows about her, but he's never approached her? 

There's a possible explanation though, which is that she does know that he's still alive, but is no less angry about the negligence of the camp counselors who almost caused his death. And then there's the fact of Jason's deformity as revealed at the end of the film (he spends most of the movie with a sack over his head; not yet the iconic hockey mask). Was Jason deformed before he drowned and that's part of why his counselors wanted nothing to do with him? Or was his deformity somehow the result of drowning and being abandoned in the woods for so long? What affect do both of those options have on Mrs Voorhees' insanity? Was she already pretty close to snapping before the "drowning" and it didn't take Jason's actual death to push her over the edge? So many questions. But I don't need clear answers to enjoy the movie. There are possible answers, even if they're muddy, so I can move on and let the story unfold.

After Jason tracks Alice home and takes revenge for her killing his mom, he returns to Crystal Lake and goes quiet again for a while. But that only lasts until camp season opens and another summer camp starts training counselors near the site of the previous one. 

The other camp seems to be already established, but maybe I missed something and it is in fact brand new. It doesn't really matter. Even if it's been around for a while, there's an explanation for why Jason hasn't bothered it before. Local legends aside, we don't have any evidence that Jason ever killed a human being before taking revenge on Alice. Maybe that awakens something in him that compels him when he sees activity at the new camp.

The new camp is run by a guy named Paul and his assistant Ginny, who's also his girlfriend. He's not building his camp from scratch the way Steve was in the first film, so rather than cleaning, hammering, and painting, Paul has gathered his counselors for a training session in first aid and wilderness survival. And there are a lot of counselors. I was shocked by how many potential victims the movie introduces right away and couldn't figure out how I was supposed to keep that many straight in my head.

But then the movie surprises me again by having most of the staff go off to town for a last hurrah before the serious training begins the following day. A handful of counselors stay behind and there's our real victim pool for the movie. And while Paul and Ginny initially go to town with the other celebrants, they come back early to discover what Jason has wrought and to face him themselves.

It's a cool, different take because rather than just having a Final Girl, Part 2 gives us a Final Couple. Even though Paul is dating an employee, he's not super creepy about it. I don't love the guy, but I like him just fine. He's clearly trying to find the balance in his relationship with Ginny, but their fondness for each other overshadows any issues around power or authority.

None of the actors in Part 2 are very good and that includes Amy Steel as Ginny, but I like her a lot anyway. She's super pretty, so maybe that's why, but I also like that she's a grad student in psychology. That ends up being just a way to throw in some theories about why Jason might be doing what he's doing, but it's still cool that Ginny is smart and holds her own next to Paul (including beating him in chess). If they defeat Jason, they do it as a team.

The movie is ambiguous about whether Jason is defeated at the end. In another surprising move, it fades to black as Ginny goes unconscious while Jason and Paul are still fighting. Ginny wakes up on a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance and neither she nor we the audience know what happened between Jason and Paul. Is Paul okay and still in the cabin? Is he dead and Jason has disappeared again into the woods? Hopefully Part 3 will give me those answers.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

What's All This Then? | Friday the 13th (1980)

I'm not a slasher movie fan. I prefer my horror to be creepy and spooky and subtle. I love living in the tension of what might happen. Gore doesn't scare me, it just grosses me out. 

But I do love world-building and epic stories and I'm fascinated by the idea of slasher sagas like the Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th films. They scratch the same itch that corporate superhero comics do. The business is propelling the story machine so that it has to keep rolling, so how do the storytellers accomplish that? It's often clunky, but equally as often interesting to me as a writing exercise. 

I already looked at the Halloween saga a long time ago and got started on (but never finished due to my lack of access to the movies at the time, not lack of interest) the Nightmare on Elm Street series. I need to go back and wrap up Nightmare at some point, but in the meantime, this year I want to finally see all of the Friday the 13th movies and how they connect to each other. 


I've seen the original Friday the 13th two or three times before, but I always forget how good it is. It's super cheap and none of the actors are very professional (only Kevin Bacon would go on to have any kind of career), but the characters are believable, the story is extremely well paced, and it wisely keeps its killer's motives a mystery until the very end. It doesn't rely on jump scares and the gore is minimal. It spends a lot of time letting the killer stalk the victims. The murders also start right towards the beginning of the film and since the whole story takes place in a single afternoon and evening, it breezes through like summer wind through a stuffy cabin. That and all the red herrings around the murderer's identity keep me super engaged for the whole run time.

It's a common criticism of teen slasher flicks to say that they specifically punish sexual promiscuity and reward the purity of the Final Girl, but that's not always true and it's not for Friday the 13h. Jack and Marcie are the only characters to actually have sex. Ned is obsessed with it, but he's every bit as virginal as Final Girl Alice, who's right in there playing strip Monopoly with Brenda and Bill. And the film's first victim is Annie, who doesn't have time to do any kind of messing around with sex or substances. 

All that helps keep the movie fresh for me. These are young people alone in the woods doing things you might expect unchaperoned young people to do, but it's an overstatement to say that their fates are tied to their actions. That might be more true in the sequels or other slasher films, but I think it's cool that it's not in this one, which is arguably the prototype for the genre even more than Halloween is.

I've gone back and forth on how I feel about the ending and the killer's revelation of herself. On the one hand, it's awfully convenient for exposition's sake that she show herself and explain her motives to Alice. The audience needs to get that information somehow, but this seems like an inelegant way to do it until I realize that as insane as she is, Mrs Voorhees does have incentive for wanting someone to know why she's killed all of those people. She sees it as retribution/justice for the death of her child, but part of justice is having someone know that justice has been carried out. Mrs Voorhees obviously can't have everyone knowing that it was her or why she did it, but when she's down to her last victim and is about to safely get away with it all, I understand why she goes for it. (Speaking of her motives and insanity, I also love the reversal of Psycho with the mother creating a homicidal alternate personality of her dead son.)

Outside of the general cheapness of the production (the motorcycle cop is especially hard to believe), my only complaint about Friday the 13th is its wanting to leave open the question about whether or not Mrs Voorhees' son Jason is still a threat there at the bottom of the lake. The dream sequence with him attacking Alice in the canoe is fine, because it's a dream and it feels like the kind of thing she might be afraid of after the night she's had. And I don't care too much about her vocalized fear that "he's still there." She's in shock and it doesn't have to mean anything. 

Except that the movie clearly wants it to mean something with its focusing on the surface of the lake right after her declaration. It's clearly setting up a possible sequel, but there's no rational reason to believe that Jason is anything but a resting corpse at the bottom of the lake. Up to then, this has been a straightforward mystery about a mass murderer. It's only at the very end, after the climax, that it decides to introduce a potentially supernatural element. I don't like that.

I don't actually remember if I've ever seen Part 2 before, so if I have, I definitely don't remember how it handles Jason's resurrection or how much it explains. But I can imagine a scenario in which Mrs Voorhees' deep connection to her dead son would allow her spirit to possess his corpse and bring it back to murderous life. I can also imagine an explanation in which she never really created his alternate personality on her own, but was actually possessed by him. But that's not as cool to me.

Of course, Mrs Voorhees' possessing her son's corpse would only give her a teenaged body to run around in and that's not very threatening, so I expect something completely different for the next movie. I'm looking forward to seeing what that is.

Monday, October 19, 2020

AfterLUNCH | Hocus Pocus (1993)

There are a few classic Halloween family films that I've missed over the years and one of them is 1993's Hocus Pocus starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, and Thora Birch. So when Kay brought it up on a recent AfterLUNCH episode and Rob revealed that he hasn't seen it either, it felt like a natural thing to finally cross off our lists. Kay returns to help us debrief over the experience: what works, what doesn't, and how many times does a movie need to say the word "virgin"?

Sunday, October 18, 2020

15 Favorite Horror Movies: The Wind (2018)

Being a fan of both Westerns and certain kinds of horror movie, I'd hoped to enjoy The Wind. But I was shocked by how good it is. It uses the isolation of pioneer life to create a scary, atmospheric, Western gothic. It's beautifully shot, it's psychological, and above all it's super spooky. 

I also love the title, because a huge part of the film is about using wind as a symbol of something dark and sinister. You know the old horror trope of someone getting spooked by a noise and someone else trying to reassure them by saying, "Don't worry. It's only the wind." What happens when it really is the wind, but that's not a good or comforting thing?

Saturday, October 17, 2020

15 Favorite Horror Movies: Marrowbone (2017)

Marrowbone is an excellent gothic chiller that further proves that Anya Taylor-Joy knows how to pick horror films.

It takes place in the 1960s as a woman brings her four children back to her childhood home in an attempt to escape something horrible that's recently happened to them. When she grows sick and dies, the kids (two of whom are played by Mia Goth and Stranger Things' Charlie Heaton) have to try to carry on as normal so that they're not split up by foster care, all the while working through and fighting against something deadly from their past.

Taylor-Joy plays a local woman whom the oldest sibling meets in town and falls for, dividing his attention and weakening his commitment to his sister and brothers. Their house is super creepy, the mystery is great, and it all works together in an exciting, satisfying way. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Seriously Felicity | Pilot

Kristi and I dig into the pilot episode to talk about Felicity's decision to follow a boy to college, her awkward openness, her crush on Ben, her dreamy RA Noel, her new friend Julie, and her extremely concerned parents.

15 Favorite Horror Movies: A Cure for Wellness (2016)

Gore Verbinski's A Cure for Wellness felt like the best Hammer horror movie in 40 years. I was initially interested just on the strength of his Pirates of the Caribbean films, although I also love his version of The Ring (and The Mexican is a pretty great crime adventure/comedy). I'm also fond of Dane DeHaan and Jason Isaacs. 

But I wasn't prepared for how weird and gothic A Cure for Wellness is. It's about a young man (DeHaan) who tries to find his missing boss at a mysterious spa run by Isaacs' character. And if you told me it was a remake of a Roger Corman flick with Isaacs playing a role originated by Vincent Price, I'd believe you. It was also my introduction to Mia Goth (as another patient/client at the spa), for which I'm very grateful. 

I don't feel like anyone talks about this film, and maybe I'm the only one who likes it, but I love it with a passion.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Hellbent for Letterbox | Little Big Man (1970)

Pax and I turn on the tape recorder and talk about the 1970 dramatic comedy Little Big Man starring Dustin Hoffman, Chief Dan George, Faye Dunaway, and Richard Mulligan.

But Halloween-related, I also get spooky with High Plains Drifter while Pax finds a Western treat in his plastic pumpkin with James D Horan's The Authentic Wild West: The Gunfighters.

15 Favorite Horror Movies: The Orphanage (2007)

The Spanish-language El Orfanato was directed by JA Bayona, but it was executive producer Guillermo del Toro's name who sold it to viewers in the United States. It was also helpful that it came out almost exactly a year after the also Spanish-language Pan's Labyrinth. I remember hoping at the time that del Toro would make it an annual habit to curate and present additional Spanish horror films.

I actually like The Orphanage a bit better even than Pan's Labyrinth. The creepy building, the kid in the scarecrow mask, the gripping mystery, and the generally spooky, gothic atmosphere are all my brand of poison. And then there's the powerful conclusion that puts everything together in a gut-wrenching, but satisfying way.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

15 Favorite Horror Movies: The Others (2001)

No matter how many times I watch The Others, the revelation of the mystery still punches me hard in the heart. That's because the power of The Others isn't just in it's surprising answers, but the human emotions involved and the way the answers affect the characters. 

A huge part of why it works so well is the excellent performances, especially by Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, and the two kids: Alakina Mann and James Bentley. Christopher Eccleston also has a small, important role, but he's not quite as memorable as the main characters.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

15 Favorite Horror Movies: Tremors (1990)

I remember watching this low-budget cheesefest shortly after it came out and being blown away by how fun and exciting it is. I never kept up with the sequels, not wanting to taint that original experience. 

I shared it with my son last year and am I ever glad it holds up. The effects have aged, but the cast is still great and the characters are hilarious. Especially the ones played by Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross, and Reba McEntire.

I'm curious if anyone reading this is a fan of the sequels. Are they worth watching?

Monday, October 12, 2020

Mystery Movie Night | Halloween (1978), Brazil (1985), and Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

Erik, Evan, Dave, and I start the holiday season with movies about babysitters, bureaucracy, and Bacon-racing. And some other secret connection that we're going to try to guess.

00:02:09 - Review of Halloween (1978)
00:16:29 - Review of Brazil (1985)
00:29:26 - Review of Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
00:52:33 - Guessing the Connection

Sunday, October 11, 2020

15 Favorite Horror Movies: The Company of Wolves (1984)

This must have been on the shelves in the video store I worked in as a teenager, because I remember seeing it dozens of times in the '80s. I was so in love with the gothic aesthetic and the fairy tale and the werewolves and just the sheer weirdness of the plot. And maybe a little bit with Sarah Patterson, the actor who plays Red Riding Hood.

It was directed by avant-garde filmmaker Neil Jordan (his second film) and it feels deeply personal. Jordan worked with novelist Angela Carter to adapt her short story by the same name. The structure is cool and strange with Patterson playing a modern girl named Rosaleen who's sleeping and dreaming about her and her family in medieval times. In the dream, her older sister (whom she doesn't get along with in the real world) is killed by wolves, sending the forest village into a panic. David Warner plays her dad, Swedish actor Tusse Silberg plays her mother, and Angela Lansbury is her grandmother who of course lives deep in the woods by herself.

Inspired by the local interest in wolves, Grandmother tells Rosaleen lots of stories about wolves (which always turn out to be werewolves) and these are enacted on screen as well. So there are all of these stories within a dream, turning The Company of Wolves into sort of an anthology film. There's a werewolf transformation in every one and they're all different from each other and original. I don't think I've seen anything like them before or since.

The locations and sets in the film are wonderfully atmospheric and captivating, both the modern day manor and the medieval forest village. And Jordan does a great job depicting the wolves as both frighteningly deadly and alluringly social creatures, usually at the same time. Some films seem like they were made specifically with you in mind. This is one of mine.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

15 Favorite Horror Movies: The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)

This is easily my favorite version of this story, and that includes both the classic 1932 Island of Lost Souls with Bela Lugosi as well as HG Wells' original novel. I saw the '77 version as a kid and there are images and feelings that have stuck with me ever since. The makeup work on the animal men is top notch and the film handles the themes sincerely and provocatively.

Burt Lancaster is a relatable, but unapologetic Moreau. Nigel Davenport strikes a great balance between being resigned to and haunted by the choices he's made. Barbara Carrera is shockingly beautiful as well as fragile (a long way from the role I know her best for in Never Say Never Again). And Michael York is the perfect saboteur of the whole operation: weak in power, but strong in morality.

I wasn't sure I liked the "Oh Crap Did I Just See What I Think I Saw" ending, but I can't think of a better, more effective way of closing the story. I'm gonna roll with it and call it perfect.

Friday, October 09, 2020

15 Favorite Horror Movies: The Innocents (1961)

I wrote in detail about The Innocents a few months ago, so this is a modified version of that earlier review. 

Henry James' The Turn of the Screw has been adapted a lot, but this is the definitive, classic, film version of it. I've watched it three times this year, because like the novel it's based on, it haunts me. I can't stop thinking about it, wondering what and how much it's trying to say and what I need to do with what it doesn't say. 

It's about a governess who moves to a remote mansion in the English countryside to take care of a couple of children, but she starts seeing what she believes are the ghosts of former workers at the estate. Are the ghosts real? Is the governess insane? Even though I came to some answers to those questions where the novel is concerned, those same answers don't necessarily have to apply to director Jack Clayton's adaptation of it.

Clayton's adaptation, based on a script that was touched by a few people, including Truman Capote and Clayton himself, keeps the basic premise and setting of the novel, but also makes some notable changes. It raises the age of the main character (Deborah Kerr), which is significant, and it muddies her mental state by removing scenes from the book and having the governess react differently to some things.

A big example is how it casts ambiguity on the existence of the ghosts by almost always showing the governess' reaction to the ghosts before seeing the ghosts themselves. When we see them, are we only seeing them through her eyes? The film also adds a scene where the governess sees a photo of a deceased groundskeeper before she sees his ghost. How much has her vision of his spirit been influenced by the photograph? She never sees a photo of the former governess, but when she sees that ghost it's always at a distance and with unclear features.

There are a couple of other big changes, but they're spoilery, so I won't go into detail. What's clear though is that Clayton wanted to leave viewers options in interpreting the film. Even the title can be taken a couple of different ways. Does it apply to the entire household (including the governess) or just the kids? If it's just the children, does the title claim that they're truly innocent as the mansion's housekeeper Mrs Grose insists? If that's true, it makes the governess' paranoid treatment of them even more tragic. Or is the title ironic and the children have already been somehow corrupted by the deceased groundskeeper and former governess?

However we interpret it, as pure film-making, The Innocents is superb and deserves its status as a classic. When Truman Capote took a run at the script, he added a lot of symbolism about death and decay: wilting roses everywhere and bugs crawling out of statues' mouths. And Clayton and cinematographer Freddie Francis create a creepy, haunting atmosphere that makes The Innocents as much an icon of gothic cinema as James' story is of gothic literature.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

15 Favorite Horror Movies: Psycho (1960)

Psycho is a nearly perfect film. The way it builds tension and mystery and keeps first time viewers guessing not only about the plot, but even about what genre the film is and who the main characters are. It's so bold. 

But it's great for repeat viewing, too. That iconic, creepy house and the almost as creepy motel at its foot. Anthony Perkins' sympathetic (at least at first) portrayal of Norman Bates. The cat and mouse of Lila and Sam's trying to learn what happened to Marion and Norman trying to keep his secrets. And of course the shocking murders and the discovery in the cellar. 

The only thing that drags about it is the psychologist's long info-dump at the end, but by then we're pretty much done anyway and I'm already waiting for that last shot of Norman with his voiceover.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

15 Favorite Horror Movies: Gojira (1954)

Some friends of ours knew that my son David is a huge Godzilla fan, but don't know anything about the King of Monsters themselves, so they invited us over for lunch and an introduction. We showed them the original, 1954 Japanese version and in hindsight, I don't know if Gojira is the best way for everyone to meet the world's most famous kaiju. There are some substantial barriers to entry, depending on how you feel about black-and-white film and subtitles. But we couldn't bring ourselves to show them the English version with Raymond Burr.

I don't know if it's accurate to say that our friends "enjoyed" it. The word "interesting" was used and I never take that as high praise. But we spent some time at the end talking about the movie in its historical and cultural context, which is what I love about the film. 

There's some goofy stuff, but there's also truly horrific and powerful imagery. I think the best horror movies are ones that turn some real, cultural fear into a metaphorical monster. That's certainly the case with Gojira, which makes it an impressive insight to Japan's feelings around the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki less than ten years before. And around atomic energy in general. It's a powerful document and I'm always touched by the film's discussion of science and how it's applied.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

15 Favorite Horror Movies: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

I was going to try to limit myself to one Universal Monster movie for this list, but when I was looking at '40s horror movies, Universal dominated my favorites the same way they did with the '30s. Just for a different reason.

Universal monster movies in the 1930s were still trying to be genuinely scary and that carried over a bit into the '40s. But by the middle of the decade, they were getting pretty goofy. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. I like both the serious and the silly versions of these characters.

The epitome of the silly side of Universal horror is Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. It's such a funny film, but not at the monsters' expense. It keeps me hooked by treating Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Wolf Man as actual, scary beings and not objects of parody. It even continues Larry Talbot's tragic quest to end his curse in a way that jives with everything that's come before. The humor is all in Abbott and Costello's (especially Costello's) reactions to them, as well as just some very funny jokes ("Hey, you're gonna have to get your dog away from the phone. I can't hear a word you're saying.").

And of course, though the three most popular Universal monsters had already appeared together in House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, this was the only time that Bela Lugosi got to join in the team-up, finally reprising the role that made him famous. The only way it could have been better would have been if Boris Karloff had played Frankenstein's Monster, but I also like Glenn Strange (who'd been in the two House of movies) quite a bit. No complaints there.

Monday, October 05, 2020

AfterLUNCH | The Expendables of Horror (Undead Edition)

Last October, the Fourth Chair Army Invasion created an Expendables of Horror movie featuring only living actors. This year on AfterLUNCH, Joanna from Bloody Popcorn, Evan Hanson, Rob Graham, and I resurrect our favorite dead actors to create our all-star cast. We pick the actors, discuss the types of roles they'd play, and Evan writes a plot. Listen and imagine The Evil Hunters... IF YOU DARE!

Download or listen to the episode here.


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