04 October 2015

October 4th

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) directed by Joseph Zito
Ted White as Jason
13 Apr 1984
Freddy vs. Jason, Part IV: Jason's Dead
Jason feels quite a bit different in this movie compared to the prior two. He's far, far stronger than he's ever been before. Previously, he was clearly just a big human in a mask who could be fought with and sometimes knocked out. In this one, he is supernaturally unstoppable. He's able to -- with just one hand -- crush a guy's skull. He bursts through wooden doors like they were made of wet paper. He picks up and throws a man, who must weigh around 200 pounds, a dozen feet through a window. He throws an ax through a wooden door to kill a girl. Frankly, I'm starting to think he really did die at the end of 3 and this is the first zombie Jason movie.

Not that I mind. This is an excellent Jason movie... maybe even my favorite (I need to watch 6 and 7 again). It boils everything down to pure audience titillation, which, you have to admit, is why we're watching these things in the first place. There's more nudity than ever before. Fully half of the plot is simply teenagers trying to get laid. There's skinny-dipping, and shower sex, and pot-smoking, and beer bongs, and goofy dancing. Hell, they even show an old stag film at one point.

The violence is brutal. Jason isn't merely walking around dispatching people like in 3; he's angry as hell and wants to make sure the kids know this. One of the kids gets crucified (!) in a doorway. Later, when Jason needs to use that door, he rips the kid off the nails (as Zito gives us a close-up of the hand tearing away). When Jason kills the hiker Rob, he does not merely slit the guy's throat. Nope, he repeatedly gouges him with a random tool as Rob screams and screams. Like I said: brutal. Plus, the gore still holds up today: Jason's split hand, the machete through his head, and the head-crushing in the shower all work as well now as they did then. You can certainly tell Tom Savini came back to the series.

If this was going to really be the final Jason movie, it was a helluva way to go.

Favorite Character
Axel (Bruce Mahler): the impossibly horny, jerk of a hospital morgue attendant who gets cock-blocked by Jason's dead arm.

Favorite Sin
Watching an aerobics show in a morgue next to Jason's body without any intention of actually doing aerobics.

Favorite Kill
Rob (Erich Anderson), whose half-disturbing, half-hilarious screams of "You're killing me! You're killing me!" when Jason begins tearing him up with a random tool from a toolbox makes for a uniquely memorable kill.

Jason's Mood
Pissed off.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) directed by Wes Craven
Robert Englund as Freddy
9 Nov 1984
Freddy vs. Jason, Part V: Revenge of the Dream Demon
Horror movie gold. A Nightmare on Elm Street sits up there with Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Exorcist, and The Thing as examples of horror at its very best. As a character, Freddy, I suspect, will last the ages, standing aside Dracula and Frankenstein. He is certainly my favorite monster by a long shot. Some thoughts on this first film during this latest re-watch:

Freddy's characterization in this one is far, far scarier than in any of the other films. He is completely batshit insane here. A horribly disfigured guy cutting off his own fingers ("watch this!") and then cackling about it is absolutely terrifying. That this same guy is in control of your dreams... good God. I wish this Freddy had stuck around or returned at some point (though New Nightmare Freddy is fairly close).

I think the dreams in this film are the most dreamlike of the series. It's the little things. I like the lamb in Tina's first dream ("like lambs to the slaughter"). I like how Freddy is not bound by physics or rationality: he'll pop up where ever is scary, stretch his arms out to encompass a whole street, and sometimes appear in two places at once. I like that after seeing news footage of Tina in a bodybag, that image invades Nancy's dreams repeatedly (a very normal thing to happen after a tragedy). I like how the kid in English class switches from Julius Caesar to an utterly appropriate Hamlet quote ("O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space -- were it not that I have bad dreams.") when Nancy nods off. The imagery of the bathtub scene is incredibly nightmareish to me (the worst dream I ever had was losing hold of my daughter in the middle of lake and watching her fall down, down, down into the darkness below). All credit goes to Wes Craven for his understanding of the human mind, I would say.

Conspiracy theory: is the entire movie Nancy's dream? She seems to think so. Towards the end, when Freddy emerges from her mother's bed, she says to him:
It's too late, Krueger. I know the secret now. This is just a dream. You're not alive. This whole thing is just a dream. I want my mother and friends again.
You could write this off as wishful thinking; a response to the trauma of four people dying that she cares about. But, there seems to be little hints here and there that she's actually correct. The biggest hint, obviously, is that she walks directly from this nighttime scene into a daytime scene in another location where her mother and friends really are still alive. That kind of random scene changing is very dreamlike. In fact, the editing of the movie is similarly dreamlike. Craven often uses soft fade-to-blacks to quickly transition to new scenes. I'm guessing this was intentionally mimicking the feeling of nodding off; of our eyes slowly closing, then snapping open again.

Earlier in the movie, though, we see a few other things. When Rod and Tina settle into bed shortly before Tina's murder, they pull up a inner blanket that is red- and green-striped. That same night, supposedly in the real world, we see Freddy stretch out the wall above Nancy's bed. When Nancy almost drowns in the bathtub, we never see her wake up. She simply swims back to the surface and hangs onto the edge. Shortly before Freddy gets him, Glen naps in a red- and green-striped chair in Nancy's room. Freddy seems to easily influence the "real" world. I suspect that the entire film is the slow mental torture of the daughter of the woman who kept Freddy's glove after burning him alive. Naturally, the sequels ignore all of this and take the film too literally, but, it's interesting to think about if this were a stand-alone movie.

Favorite Character
Nancy (Heather Langenkamp): the person we would all hope to be in a similar situation. Nancy quickly figures out the bizarre fact that a man is killing her friends in their dreams, devises several experiments to test the limits of this man's power, and then uses that info to execute a plan of attack. There's a reason why Nancy is one of the all-time great final girls in horror.

Favorite Sin
Using sex as a way to forget your nightmares.

Favorite Kill
Tina (Amanda Wyss), who is first tormented by Freddy in a nightmare, and then so viciously attacked that she's dragged up onto the ceiling. Still one of the most intense kills in all of slasher history.

Freddy's Mood
Maliciously insane.


  1. I don't know if The Final Chapter is my favorite of the series but it may very well be the best made of the series. The gore is great, the shooting is actually kind of atmospheric (something Zito was good at), and as you pointed out, there's a sense of brutality to the film that elevates it above the others. Plus Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover in this are some of the few Friday the 13th characters I actually like or care about.

    Interesting observations about Elm Street. I've never noticed the prevalence of red/green colors throughout the film. The entire movie being a dream would certainly explain the non-sequitur of an ending.

    Mostly what struck me about this movie upon my last re-watch is how it's really about the sins of the parents. What about that scene where Nancy's mom has bars on her windows, literally imprisoning her to her death? Most of what happens is the fault of the parents and their refusal to believe their children leads to them dying. It's something Craven touches upon in so many of his films, ineffective if not outright abusive parents dooming their children.

    And of course, there's that suburban setting. Springwood seems fairly pleasant in this first film. But there's Freddy, lurking beneath, in the sub-conscious, where all the other things we neither like to talk nor think about hide. That the film can be seen from so many different angles proves that it truly is a very intelligent picture.

  2. The general consensus is that IV or VI are the best F13. I tend to lean towards VI myself, but I like the little humorous, self-aware bits there that can grate on some other folks. What is indisputable, in my mind, is that IV has the best Jason "death" sequence (something VI sorely lacks). This is what is great/terrible about the F13 movies. Most of the installments have something perfect about them, but no individual one is perfect...

    When I last rewatched Nightmare, what struck me is how much terror Freddy inspires through self-mutilation (you get at that with the whole slicing off the fingers piece, but there's more than that there). What makes Freddy so great is that, unlike other slasher icons, he actually has a personality. A sadistic, mean personality, to be sure, and one that none of the sequels really captured so well, but this movie is enough.

    Plus, it's got the premise that is perhaps the purest distillation of horror ever committed to film. A monster that can get you in your dreams. Inescapable, implacable, terrifying. I will be rewatching this year as well...