Talking Movies [Friday the 13th]: Friday the 13th Part 3


Long considered to be an unlucky day due to superstitions involving the number thirteen and religious connotations, Friday the 13th is perhaps equally as well-known as being the title for a long-running series of slasher movies. As a result, this is clearly the best opportunity to take a look at the Friday the 13th (Various, 1980 to 2009) horror series and to commemorate this unlucky and dreaded date.


Talking Movies

Released: 13 August 1982
Director: Steve Miner
Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Budget:
$2.2 million
Stars:
Dana Kimmell, Paul Kratka, Tracie Savage, Larry Zerner, Gloria Charles, and Richard Brooker

The Plot:
Chris Higgins (Kimmell) and her colourful group of friends travel to her childhood home in Crystal Lake only to raise the ire of a local gang of bikers. This threat is quickly surpassed by the presence of nigh-superhuman killer Jason Voorhees (Brooker), who has taken refuge near the house after being wounded and is eager to continue his killing spree on a new crop of unsuspecting victims.

The Background:
After the release of John Carpenter’s Halloween (Carpenter, 1978), which essentially birthed the “slasher” genre, Friday the 13th (Cunningham, 1980) proved such a box office success (despite its many critics) that a sequel as pushed intro production, albeit without the involvement of producer/director Sean S. Cunningham. Although not as successful as the first film, the sequel’s domestic box office of over $21 million more than justified a third entry in the blood-soaked slasher franchise. Early drafts for the third film saw Ginny Field (Amy Steel) return, now confined to a mental hospital, and Petru Popescu was disappointed when casting for his characters became more about looks than actual talent. With 3D cameras and all the rage at the time, Paramount Pictures decided to capitalise and the experimental new technology meant even simple shots became a long, gruelling process more about hitting the camera than putting in a good performance. The script called for Jason to wear a mask and his now-iconic hockey mask was supplied by 3D effects supervisor Martin Sadoff; a Detroit Red Wings goaltender mask served as the basis for the face-covering, which would go on to become one of the most recognisable elements in all of horror. With a box office gross of over $36 million, Friday the 13th Part 3 managed to out-do its predecessor (while still falling short of matching the first film’s gross) but was met with the same mixed-to-negative critical response; the plot was considered derivative but the 3D effects were seen as an enjoyable inclusion that was sullied by the tiresome clichés. Despite its low critical impact and being planned as the series finale, the Friday the 13th Part 3 ’s box office success meant that a fourth film was pushed into production, one that absolutely, positively spelt the end for the franchise…for a time…

The Review:
Just as the last film began with a recap of the finale of the first film, so too does Friday the 13th Part 3 kick things off by presenting viewers with the final showdown between Ginny and Jason (then-played by Steve Dash) that saw her trick the bag-headed killer into submission by impersonating his deceased mother, Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), and leave him vulnerable to getting a machete stuck in his shoulder. We continue to get information regarding the events of the last film via a news report, which reveals that Ginny did survive but still leaves the fate of her boyfriend, Paul Holt (John Furey), unanswered. The third film properly begins with Jason pulling out the machete and heading out into the night once more, but now played by a different actor and stalking the nearby woods and area of Crystal Lake with his head exposed (though hidden from view, for the time being). Jason stalks with argumentative store owners Harold Hockett (Steve Susskind) and Edna (Cheri Maugans), an odd couple who receive a great deal of screen time considering they’re just there to get the body count started, throw some terrible 3D effects in our face, and establish how Jason acquires his new duds.

Chris returns to Higgins Haven, where bland ol’ Rick and some bad memories await.

Following this painfully long and pointless sequence (and some extremely funky title music courtesy of series composer Harry Manfredini and Michael Zager), we’re finally introduced to the new crop of twenty-somethings-posing-as-teenagers who will serve as our main characters this time around. Andy (Jeffrey Rogers) and his pregnant lover Debbie (Tracie Savage) are excited to be travelling down to Higgins Haven at Crystal Lake with their friend, Chris, a perky girl troubled by an incident at her family home two years ago but trying to not let the traumatic attack she endured ruin the weekend for her rambunctious friends. When the group get to Crystal Lake and Chris reunites with old flame Rick (Kratka, who seems way too old for her but who am I to judge?), we learn that, somehow, Chris was attacked by Jason (as he appears now) while wandering the woods near Higgins Haven. Horrified, she tried to escape and fight him off, only to black out and be found by her parents, who insisted that she must have imaging the entire thing. However, her memories are so vivid and her fear and disquiet at being back at Crystal Lake are so potent that it could only have been real, though it’s unclear as to why Jason spared her and the sexual implications of the attack are both unsettling and contrary to Jason’s usual characterisation.

Despite being an annoying prankster, Shelly shows some actual personality and forever impacted the series.

While Andy might be a bit of a generic, forgettable young man, his roommate and best friend, Shelly (Zerner), is memorable to the point of being an annoying pain in the ass. A born prankster and practical joker, Shelly suffers from an extreme lack of confidence in his looks and his body and makes up for it by wearing masks, playing pranks on his friends, and generally being an aggravating little shit. Unsurprisingly, his pranks and tomfoolery do little but annoy the others, who constantly berate his antics, and don’t exactly turn on his blind date, Vera Sanchez (Catherine Parks); however, he proves himself to be surprisingly brave and capable when he and Vera get on the wrong side of Fox (Charles) and her biker gang, and Vera warms towards him after seeing how much he loves his mother. While he might be one of the most divisive characters in the entire franchise (you literally either love him or hate him), he proves to be one of the most important characters as Jason acquires his iconic hockey mask after taking it from Shelly, forever cementing his significance to the series.

While the pot-heads don’t add much, the bikers make a big impression despite their limited screen time.

Chris and her friends are joined by a dope-smoking duo of hippies, Chuck Garth (David Katims) and Chili Jachson (Rachel Howard), who primarily exist just to be off their heads the entire time, added to the body count, and throw a few more screams and disparaging remarks towards Jason and Shelly, respectively, however, while shopping for supplies in town, Vera and Shelly run afoul of a mean gang of bikers: Fox, Ali (Nick Savage), and Loco (Kevin O’Brien), who harass them in the store and then smash up Rick’s car after Shelly accidentally knocks over their bikes. While this leads to a moment of bravery from Shelly after Ali pushes him too far, it comes back to bite the kids when the bikers track them down to Higgins Haven and drain the petrol from their van, thus limiting their escape options for the finale. Still, while they’re only onscreen for a short period of time, and despite being secondary antagonists, the three bikers actually showcase a surprising amount of personality; Fox expresses concern at Ali’s plan to burn down the Higgins barn to settle the score, and Ali actually proves to be a resilient and tenacious character as he somehow survives an attack by Jason to make an unexpected comeback for the finale that sees him getting his hand lopped off for his efforts.

The Nitty-Gritty:
Honestly, Friday the 13th Part 3 may have some of the weakest and most forgettable characters of the entire franchise; Shelly might be memorable for his boy-who-cried-wolf antics and the bikers might make an impression with their ripped denim and leather, but Chris is a disappointingly bland final girl. It doesn’t help much that Dana Kimmell really isn’t convincing as an actress here, but I find Chris’s meek personality makes her little more than a hysterical tart driven to the edge rather than a capable, independent young woman. Both Andy and Rick end up being unremarkable male leads; Shelly might be an annoying asshole, but at least he exhibits some personality and isn’t just a bland nice guy who you don’t even care about. Higgins Haven makes for an interesting change of scenery for the franchise as well; rather than the events taking place at an abandoned camp or the nearby town, much of the film is localised at Chris’s childhood home, which includes a massive barn full of hay and a quaint little house full of oddities and trinkets that allow the setting to be both unique and familiar at the same time. The gang do head into town, however, and we get to see a little more of the surrounding area, which is always nice as I find we rarely ever get a chance to explore the goings-on of Crystal Lake in these films.

The 3D effects are often awkward and blatant but of lead to a couple of awesome kills.

Of course, the big selling point of the movie is its inclusion of 3D effects; sadly, however, these are all egregious and pretty poorly realised and amount to shit like snakes, rats, baseball bats, popcorn, severed eyes, yo-yos, fists, and handles being thrust, waved, or shoved right in front of the camera lens in ; we get such “memorable” moments as a snake charging at the camera on a wire, a rat randomly crawling towards us on a plank of wood, a baseball bat held right in front of the camera lens in gratuitous and blatantly obvious shots designed to showcase the out-dated effect. It does, however, lead to two of the film’s more impressive kills when Jason fires a speargun at Vera and crushes Rick’s head, causing his eye to literally pop out of his skull! These prove to be two of the more over-the-top kills in the film as Friday the13th Part 3 opts for simple, brutal kills for the most part: Harold gets an axe to the chest, Edna a knitting needle through the back of the head, and Jason even scores a two-for-one deal when he recreates one of the most memorable kills of the first film and drives a knife through the pregnant Debbie’s chest. Andy is dispatched rather viciously when he gets skewered through the belly while walking upside down, and Shelly gets this throat slit offscreen, which is odd as even Chuck and Chili get onscreen deaths, with Chuck being tossed into an electrical box and the hysterical Chili being impaled by a hot poker.

Jason is a far more sexual and apathetic character and now imbued with superhuman strength.

Although the injuries he received in the second film don’t seem to have slowed him down or even crop up as a weak point here, Jason is clearly licking his wounds in the Higgins Haven barn; we catch fleeting glimpses of him standing in or near the barn, but no clear shots until he hides his grotesque face behind his signature hockey mask. The finale gets into full swing shortly after, meaning lingering shots of Jason’s hands or torso are replaced with full-body shots of him lumbering around with an almost bored swagger; sporting something of a hump and lacking even the wispy hair we saw in the last film, Jason has lost some of his sprightliness but gained the measured, near-superhuman brutality that has since become so synonymous with the character. We see a very different side of Jason this time around; there’s an odd sexual menace to him through the implication that he raped Chris, or at least messed with her in a way beyond simply physically harming her, and his pursuit of her seems to be both personal and sexually charged in a way we haven’t really seen from him before. He toys with her like all his final prey, but Chris is the only final girl that he willingly unmasks in front of; he even leers at her with a wink, showcasing a vindictive intelligence that was missing in the last film. While he grunts and even yells in pain this time around, Jason is now powerful enough to crush skulls with his bare hands and hoist himself up whilst being hung from the neck. Thanks to the timely intervention (and sacrifice) of Ali, Chris is finally able to get her shit together to actually fight back and defend herself,  burying an axe into Jason’s head and seemingly putting him down for good. However, in another homage to the first film, Chris is randomly attacked by the decomposing body of Pamela Voorhees in a dream sequence, and the entire experience seems to have driven her out of her mind.

The Summary:
It can’t be denied that the Friday the 13th formula was getting more than a little stale but this third entry; if you’ve seen the first two, you’ve basically seen everything this film has to offer with the exception of the largely terrible 3D effects. However, if you took away the blatantly weird camera shots and the wire-powered props, there still wouldn’t really be much new of offer in Friday the 13th Part 3. Ooh, it takes place in a barn, how exciting! It’s still the same thing of horny kids making dumb decisions, acting badly, and being picked off one by one by a relentless killer, and this third entry is honestly one of the weakest in the series for me. there are some good points to be found here: the speargun sequence and Rick’s head-crush are memorable (if ridiculous) kills, Shelly showcases more personality than all of the main characters combined, and the bikers are surprisingly charismatic characters who sadly don’t get enough screen time. If you’re a fan of Jason as a character, this isn’t too bad an entry either as he finally acquires his iconic hockey mask and Richard Brooker’s portrayal of Jason as a lumbering, sadistic, almost lackadaisical killer set the standard for others to follow, particularly during his time as a zombie. Still, funky soundtrack and enjoyable gore aside, Friday the 13th Part 3 remains a painfully unimpressive entry; Jason’s motivations are oddly tinged with a sexual menace, his face has taken a notable downgrade, and the overall quality of the performances has taken such a massive step back that it’s hard to really give a shit about anything that’s happening as the character’s we’re supposed to care about are so bland, hysterical, or poorly realised. This is one best rushed through, or skipped over, if you’re doing a Friday the 13th marathon.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think to Friday the 13th Part 3? How do you feel it holds up against its predecessors and its many sequels? Which of the new characters was your favourite and why, and what did think to Chris as the final girl? What did you think to the 3D effects used in the film and did you find they distracted from the kills? Which of the Friday the 13th movies is your favourite? Perhaps you prefer a different slasher film or franchise; if so, what is it? Do you consider Friday the 13th to be unlucky? Are you watching a Friday the 13th movie today? Whatever your thoughts on Friday the 13th (the movie, franchise, and day), sign up to tell me your thoughts below or leave a comment on my social media, and be sure to check in again for more horror content in the near future!

Talking Movies [Friday the 13th]: Friday the 13th Part 2


Long considered to be an unlucky day due to superstitions involving the number thirteen and religious connotations, Friday the 13th is perhaps equally as well-known as being the title for a long-running series of slasher movies. As a result, this is clearly the best opportunity to take a look at the Friday the 13th (Various, 1980 to 2009) horror series and to commemorate this unlucky and dreaded date.


Talking Movies

Released: 1 May 1981
Director: Steve Miner
Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Budget:
$1.25 million
Stars:
Amy Steel, John Furey, Stu Charno, and Steve Daskewisz

The Plot:
Five years after Pamela Voorhees’ (Betsy Palmer) murder spree, Paul Holt (Furey) and his assistant, Ginny Field (Steel), reopen Camp Crystal Lake and begin fixing the place up and training a new crop of camp counsellors. However, the camp’s “death curse” lives on as Pamela’s backwoods son, Jason (Daskewisz), stalks and relentlessly kills the counsellors one by one.

The Background:
Following the lead of John Carpenter’s Halloween (Carpenter, 1978), which basically gave birth to the “slasher” sub-genre of horror cinema, Friday the 13th (Cunningham, 1980) became a box office success despite many, myself included, criticising the film’s pace and narrative. Still, money talks and plans for a sequel were soon made; initially imagined as an anthology series, it was Paul Scuderi who saw a natural continuation of the first film’s story in the character of Jason Voorhees. After producer/director Sean S. Cunningham distanced himself from the sequel, directing duties fell to Steve Miner; special effects maestro Tom Savini was unable to contribute to the sequel and, while Friday the 13th star Adrienne King did return, an encounter with an obsessed fan saw her role reduced to a cameo and there were numerous accidents and injuries during filming. Though a final domestic box office of over $21 million meant that Friday the 13th Part 2 was a financial success, its gross didn’t quite match that of its predecessor and the film was met with largely negative reviews despite also being praised for its effects work and violence.

The Review:
If, for whatever reason, you’ve never seen Friday the 13th (and honestly I wouldn’t blame you as it’s pretty terrible outside of some fun kills and the shock ending), you don’t really need to worry when watching Friday the 13th Part 2 as the film starts an annoying trend of beginning with a detailed recap of the finale of the first film. This is related to the viewer through returning final girl Adrienne King (Alice Hardy), who is haunted by recurring nightmares of her confrontation with Pamela Voorhees. While this effectively glosses over whether or not Allice’s encounter with young Jason (Ari Lehman) was a dream or actually happened, we later get a pretty in-depth recap of the Voorhees legend courtesy of would-be head camp counsellor Paul Holt, who retcons Jason’s supposed demise to suggest that the boy actually survived drowning in Crystal Lake and has been living in the surrounding woods ever since. Anyway, while Alice does return in this film, her inclusion serves as little more than a glorified cameo and very much the same purpose as the miscellaneous camp counsellors killed by Pamela in the opening of the first film in that she’s there to a) catch us up with the events of the first film and b) serve as cannon fodder for the film’s newest unseen killer.

I found the new crop of victims to be far more likeable and interesting than their predecessors.

The film’s newest crop of unwitting victims is then introduced, with Alice’s death only adding to the terrifying mystique of Crystal Lake; undeterred by Crazy Ralph’s (Walt Gorney) horror stories of nearby “Camp Blood”, Paul has opened up a counsellor training facility with the intention of schooling a new crop of prospective counsellors alongside his girlfriend, Ginny Field. A stickler for health and safety, Paul is a tough but fair taskmaster; he tells the group about Jason straight-up to discourage any wild rumours and encourages them to have fun when not on the job as long as they follow strict rules of conduct when undergoing his training programme. The other prospective camp counsellors include loved-up couple Jeff Dunsberry (Bill Randolph) and Sandra Dier (Marta Kober), fun-loving goofball Ted Bowen (Charno), wheelchair-bound former athlete Mark Jarvis (Tom McBride), sweet and innocent Vickie Perry (Lauren-Marie Taylor), and horny flirts Scott Cheney (Russell Todd) and Terry McCarthy (Kirsten Baker). While each of them have had some experience with counselling before (Paul has also worked alongside Scott and Mark in the past), they are just as flamboyant with their responsibilities and Paul’s rules as their predecessors; despite Camp Crystal Lake being off-limits, Sandra encourages Jeff to investigate the site and Terry commits the ultimate cardinal sin by going skinny-dipping in the lake. Still, they’re a far more memorable bunch than the kids from the first film thanks to being much more laid-back and having far more interesting characteristics: Scott is a bit of a pervy creep but not to the extent that it’s really uncomfortable as in some of the later sequels, Terry has a cute little dog, Mark is determined to get out of his wheelchair at some point, and even Jeff has his harmonica.

With her captivating smile and adaptability, Ginny makes for a strong and impressive Final Girl.

It isn’t much, sure, but they’re far more likeable than any of the cast from the first film. Later Friday the 13th and slasher films made most of the characters such complete assholes that we were actively routing for the killer to bump them off, which was fun, sure, but definitely diminished the threat of the killer. That isn’t the case here, and it’s honestly a little upsetting to see some of them (like Vickie, who genuinely seemed attracted to Mark) go out in such brutal fashion. Nowhere is any of this better realised than in Ginny, who makes an immediate impression by being a far more charismatic leading lady than Alice; with a bright, captivating smile, she delights in winding Paul up and is enthralled by the legend of Jason, feeling an affinity and pity for the boy’s plight at having been bullied, left for dead, and forced to watch his mother be beheaded before his eyes. Interestingly, unlike most “Final Girls”, Ginny is largely absent for the vast majority of the film as she, Paul, and Ted are out with some of the other, inconsequential characters have a bit of a booze-up in town. While this is one of the main reasons she doesn’t get picked off like the others, her adaptability and perseverance also play a large part in her survival, too; where Paul tries to grapple with the killer, Ginny is smart enough to use what she knows of the camp’s legend (and her knowledge of child psychology) to momentarily subdue her pursuer, something that separates her from the vast majority of her successors.

Though hidden for most of the film, it’s pretty clear that Jason is our new killer.

Like the first film, the killer is left unseen for the vast majority of Friday the 13th Part 2. However, I would argue that it’s pretty well telegraphed early on that the killer is Pamela’s son, Jason, since Pam is clearly dead and Jason’s legend is retconned to say he didn’t actually drown in the lake. Though we don’t actually see Jason properly until the finale, we do get to see his grubby hands and his presence is constantly conveyed to us through the return of the iconic “Ki-ki-ki-ma-ma-ma” theme, and there’s a lingering sense of dread concerning him thanks to characters being acutely aware of him, specifically, rather than the obscure threat of a “death curse”. Jason’s modus operandi is practically identical to his mother’s in that he stalks his victims and strikes when they least expect it but he is far more physical and aggressive in his kills thanks to his near-superhuman strength. However, while he likes to leave dead bodies strewn all over the place like his mother, Jason also employs guerrilla tactics such as bear traps to ensnare his victims. Once he is revealed to the audience, though, he freely employs more direct methods such as bashing through doors and trying to stab Ginny through the roof of her car with a pitchfork!

The Nitty-Gritty:
One thing that really holds Friday the 13th Part 2 back is the simple, inarguable fact that it’s pretty much a carbon-copy of the first film; the entire execution is very much the same as its predecessor: a group of teens at a camp are stalked by an unseen killer and picked off one-by-one until the killer is revealed for the finale. Still, the film definitely benefits from a far better pace, presentation, and more likeable characters; thanks to the events of the first film adding to the urban legend of Crystal Lake, there’s much more meat on the bones here as we have the added element of Jason to help make the “Death Curse” a more tangible horror and there’s an interesting sense of mystery at work as characters openly speculate on Jason’s mindset in a way that was impossible in the first film since no-one really knew anything about the Voorhees’ until the last few minutes.

Of all the film’s brutal kills, Mark’s is easily my favourite for its sudden viciousness.

Like its predecessor and many of its successors, Friday the 13th Part 2 features an abundance of creative kills that were butchered to secure an R-rated; the film begins with a far more graphic kill than its predecessor as Alice is stabbed through the temple by Jason and special effects wizard Carl Fullerton does a commendable job filling in for Tom Savini with brutal kills such as Ralph being garrotted with a piece of wire, Scott having his throat slit, and Jeff and Sandra being impaled with a spear. When Jason’s shack is discovered by Deputy Winslow (Jack Marks), the cop gets a claw hammer to the back of his head for his troubles but by far my favourite kill of the film (and one of my favourites of the entire series) is Mark’s sudden and ferocious death as Jason whacks a machete into his face from just out of frame and leaves him lifelessly trundling down a flight of stairs.

Jason was a fantastic addition to the franchise who made an immediate impression in this film.

Because of this, it’s much more interesting seeing events unfold onscreen as we learn bits and pieces about Jason’s life in the woods without really seeing him up close or delving too deeply into it. He has a grotty little self-made shack with a disturbing shrine to his mother and his victims, which adds a lot of humanity to his character, and there’s a strong implication that he is actively killing because he sees everyone who enters his territory as being responsible for his mother’s death. When Jason is finally revealed, he’s a far cry from the hockey-masked maniac of the next film and beyond; instead; he’s garbed in a simple but incredibly effective burlap sack and shabby overalls that are very much befitting of a backwoods fiend. Jason is given a surprisingly amount of childlike, emotional gravitas when it is revealed that he keeps his mother’s decomposing head and tattered jumper in his shack; when Ginny assumes Pamela’s clothing, Jason immediately stops his rampage and listens to her every word, believing that his beloved mother has returned to life and, despite his face being obscured, his rage at the deception is as clear as day thanks to Daskewisz’s masterful physicality. When Jason’s face is finally revealed, it’s a monstrous sight that, again, serves as one final shock for the film after it appears as though he’s been defeated for good and we’re again left with a vaguely ambiguous ending that suggests Camp Crystal Lake’s nightmare is far from over.

The Summary:
Honestly, it had been a while since I last watched Friday the 13th Part 2 for this review and I went into it fully expecting to rate it as “Terrible” because I remembered it being little more than a redundant retread of the first film but I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed it, especially compared to the original. Yes, the basic story is the same (and would be for many of its successors) but the presentation and characters are far better this time around; I found myself actually interested in many of the prospective counsellors, who were much more charismatic and well-rounded despite their limited screen time and characterisation simply because I found them more interesting than any of the characters from the first film. The addition of Jason as the killer, while obvious from the get-go, really added to the film’s mystique; while his depiction is almost exactly the same as his mother’s and there’s still an element of mystery surrounding the killer, the fact that he looms over the camp and the entire film like an ominous shadow makes things much creepier, in my opinion, than a vague “death curse” and an unknown killer. Friday the 13th Part 2 takes everything that worked in its predecessor and enhances them in subtle, but noticeable, ways; while many of the beats are undoubtably the same, the pacing and presentation are a marked improvement, making for a film that’s just as chilling and foreboding but also far more brisk and entertaining rather than being a snooze-fest until the finale like in the first film.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think to Friday the 13th Part 2? How do you feel it holds up against the original and its many sequels? Which of the new characters was your favourite and why, and how do you think Ginny compares to Alice? Did you guess that Jason was the killer and what did you think to his backstory being retconned to allow for this? Which of the Friday the 13th movies is your favourite? Perhaps you prefer a different slasher film or franchise; if so, what is it? Do you consider Friday the 13th to be unlucky? Are you watching a Friday the 13th movie today? Whatever your thoughts on Friday the 13th (the movie, franchise, and day), go ahead and leave a comment down below and be sure to check in again for more horror content in the near future!

Talking Movies [Friday the 13th]: Friday the 13th (1980)


Long considered to be an unlucky day due to superstitions involving the number thirteen and religious connotations, Friday the 13th is perhaps equally as well-known as being the title for a long-running series of slasher movies. As a result, this is clearly the best opportunity to take a look at the Friday the 13th (Various, 1980 to 2009) horror series and to commemorate this unlucky and dreaded date.


Talking Movies

Released: 9 May 1980
Director:
Sean S. Cunningham
Distributor:
Paramount Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures
Budget:
$550,000
Stars:
Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Jeannine Taylor, Kevin Bacon, Peter Brouwer, and Betsy Palmer

The Plot:
Camp Crystal Lake is attempting a reopening some twenty-odd years after a series of grisly murders and unfortunate events. However, when the enthusiastic crop of would-be camp counsellors begin dying in gruesome ways, the few survivors are left at the mercy of a relentless serial killer out for revenge…and blood!

The Background:
Inspired by John Carpenter’s Halloween (Carpenter, 1978), which is generally regarded as giving birth to the “slasher” sub-genre of horror cinema, filmmaker Sean S. Cunningham desired to make his own slasher film, one that would be visually striking and brutal in its execution. Though Cunningham thought up the basic concept, the screenplay was completed by Victor Miller, who delighted in crafting the vicious and surprising twist for the film’s antagonist. Although Betsy Palmer famously only took this role to buy a new car and found the experience to be somewhat degrading and embarrassing, she later shared some interesting insights into the character’s psychology and motivation that would come to inform the film’s many sequels. Friday the 13th eventually made nearly $60 million at the box office, a financial success that was mired only by scathing reviews that attacked the plot, its derivative nature, and excessive violence. Over time, opinions haven’t really changed much but, regardless of this, the numbers spoke for themselves and Friday the 13th soon inspired one of the longest running and most iconic, influential, and successful slasher franchises in horror history thanks to the iconography of later antagonist, Jason Voorhees (Various), and the gruesome punishment of a slew of horny teenagers for engaging in debauchery.

The Review:
Friday the 13th begins in 1958 where an unseen killer stalks and brutally murders two camp counsellors right in the middle of having sex; the influence of Halloween can immediately be felt as Cunningham borrows wholeheartedly the first-person perspective used by Carpenter at the start of his film. However, while Carpenter did this to hide the fact that his killer was a young boy, Cunningham maintains the perspective throughout the majority of Friday the 13th’s kills. The mystery of the killer is maintained throughout the movie, with only brief glimpses given on the assailant’s hands; we never hear their voice or name and all we really know is that they’re at least the size of a full-grown adult and driven by a vicious obsession to punish all who dare try to reopen the camp.

Annie fails to be impressed by rumours of Camp Crystal Lake’s “death curse”.

This mystery permeates the film and lingers in the air like an ominous cloud when the story jumps ahead to then-present day; it helps that the film is stuffed with characters, many of whom are intentionally set up as red herrings and to fool us into thinking they are the killer, like “Crazy” Ralph (Walt Gorney), who desperately tries to warn the unsuspecting kids about the camp’s “death curse”. Indeed, the legend of Camp Crystal Lake is a horror story all unto itself; the townsfolk refer to the camp as “Camp Blood” and are largely distrustful and fearful of the site. Annie Phillips (Robbi Morgan) is told the tragic story of how a boy drowned in the lake in 1957 and how mysterious fires and poisonings have contributed to the camp’s notorious reputation.

Steve is a hard taskmaster with a killer moustache and a hands-on attitude.

However, the new crop of camp counsellors are, for the most part, oblivious to the camp’s storied history thanks to the owner, Steve Christy (Brouwer), attempting to maintain order around the camp by intentionally leaving out Camp Crystal Lake’s more gory details; a rugged, hands-on kind of man with one hell of a moustache, Steve is a hard taskmaster who is determined to get the camp refurbished and ready to go and to silence the naysayers from town. Despite this, he disappears for most of the film, leaving his new counsellors to fend for themselves, thus setting himself up as another potential suspect.

She might be one of the original “final girls” but Alice isn’t exactly the most interesting protagonist.

In Steve’s absence, the camp is kept ticking over by his, right-hand woman, Alice (King), an aspiring artist who seems to have a bit of an unresolved or troublesome relationship with Steve; Alice is just as hands-on as Steve and generally acts as his go-between, ferrying messages and jobs to the other counsellors. Despite being the default authority figure, Alice is no more prominent or outstanding than any of the other characters, who are actually slightly more interesting and dynamic thanks to their more memorable, if cliché, characteristics. They might be horny goofballs at times, with few complexities to them, but Alice is a comparatively bland and boring character by comparison; retroactively, of course, her more grounded and responsible nature make her the ideal “final girl” but, unlike some of her contemporaries and counterparts from around the same time, Alice still falls short for me and, even in the finale, is little more than a screaming wreck who gets lucky rather than being an adaptable and capable young woman.

Despite the presence of Kevin Bacon, the counsellors are all largely disposable victims.

To be fair, most of the counsellors are far more interested in mucking about setting the place up, flirting, and shagging; Ned (Mark Nelson) is especially interested in the prospect of hooking up while at camp, mainly because of how brazen and affectionate his friends, Marcie (Taylor) and Jack (Bacon) are. The teens, who are rounded out by Bill (Crosby) and Brenda (Laurie Bartram), quickly bond, finding plenty of time to sunbath, relax, and play lewd pranks on each other all while largely unaware that they’re being watched and stalked from the dense forest. You might think that, maybe, future star Kevin Bacon stands out from the pack but, to be honest, he simply blends in as another disposable victim for the film’s killer and only a die-hard Kevin Bacon fan would say any different. In the end, he like his peers, exists to get laid and then meet a hauntingly gruesome end.

The Nitty-Gritty:
Like any good horror film, Friday the 13th is bolstered by two things first and foremost: the brutality of the kills and the haunting nature of its soundtrack. Just as Carpenter’s iconic Halloween theme helped to increase its dread and horror, so too does Harry Manfredini’s memorable “ki-ki-ma-ma” chant help to personify and represent the largely-unseen killer and takes on additional significance once the killer’s identity and motives are revealed as it represents the desperate pleas of a wronged son for vengeance.

Gruesome special effects and gory deaths are the order of the day in Friday the 13th.

Of course, you can’t talk about any horror film, much less a Friday the 13th, without mentioning the special effects; born from the mind of effects maestro Tom Savini, Friday the 13th’s practical effects and horrific kills might be some of the more subdued in the franchise but they’re still an undeniable highlight of the film. Friday the 13th features such gruesome moments as Annie getting her throat slit (and Ned’s similarly mangled corpse), Marcie taking an axe right to the face, and, of course, the iconic visual of Kevin Bacon getting an arrow thrust through his throat from beneath his bed! Later, Alice is traumatised when she stumbles upon the bloodied and desecrated corpses of the counsellors (with Brenda’s body being launched through a window as she attempts to hide) and the film concludes with a pretty impressive, if now somewhat preposterous, decapitation effect.

Pamela was driven to a murderous rage after her son, Jason, apparently drowned in the lake.

Naturally, with the killer’s identity remaining a mystery throughout the film, the reveal of the killer for the film’s finale is probably one of the most memorable moments of Friday the 13th beyond the score and the gore. As I mentioned, many characters are set up as red herrings throughout the film but the killer is, eventually, revealed to be Pamela Voorhees (Palmer), an old friend of the Christy’s and the camp’s former cook. While this is a shock (mainly because it appeared as though the killer was a male, judging by the hands), it’s also pretty damn obvious that she’s the culprit as she appears literally out of nowhere right at the end of the film after everyone else but Alice has been brutally murdered, although this may still come as a shock to many newcomers or those ignorant to the franchise who believe that the more iconic Jason was the killer all along. Pamela, though, was the original killer of the franchise; driven to a murderous rage after her son, Jason (Ari Lehman), drowned in the lake years ago due to the negligence of the camp counsellors, Pamela is revealed to be the one behind all the killings and unfortunate events that have plagued Camp Crystal Lake ever since. Unlike Jason and Michael Myers/The Shape (Nick Castle/Various), Pamela is an articulate and deviously calculating villain, mimicking the cries of her child to lure Brenda to her death and initially fooling Alice with her affable nature. It doesn’t take long, though, for the extent of Pamela’s psychosis to be revealed and, much like the finale of Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960), she spells her motivations out as plain as day and pursues Alice with a crazed aggression. Luckily for Alice, Pamela becomes massively inept and far less efficient with her final victim, which ultimately leads to her grisly decapitation at Alice’s hands.

The Summary:
While Pamela’s eventual reveal makes for a frantic and exhilarating finale, it comes all-too late to really make up for the tedious monotony of the rest of the film; Friday the 13th does almost too good a job of building tension towards its dramatic conclusion as we’re forced to follow a group of largely uninteresting and dull characters through plodding scenes devoid of energy or intrigue. It’s one thing to establish a foreboding mood but it’s quite another to just be out-right boring and, with a surprisingly low body count and few instances of sex and debauchery, Friday the 13th is largely a chore to get through until Mrs. Voorhees enters the proceedings. The film then pulls a shock twist completely out of nowhere, purely because Carrie (De Palma, 1976) pulled a similar trick, by having Jason’s mangled and monstrous form attack Alice right at the end of the film…only for it to be revealed as a nightmare…or something. The Friday the 13th franchise is full of clunkers and poor efforts but, honestly, one of the weaker entries has to be this original film; while it’s memorable and influential for taking the concepts and troupes of Halloween and largely mapping out the template for slasher films for years (even decades) to come, it can’t be denied that it’s a bit of a slog to get through. Sadly, even for a someone who is as big of a fan of the franchise as myself, all the superbly gory special effects and crazed performances by Betsy Palmer in the world can’t change my aversion towards this first film which, while a classic to be sure, is more of a snooze-fest than anything else.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

How do you feel about Friday the 13th? Do you believe it to be a horror classic or do you agree that it’s largely unspectacular, especially now after the film’s many sequels? Which of the camp counsellors was your favourite and why, and do you think Alice made for a compelling character or would you have preferred to see someone else survive to the finale? Who did you think the killer was the first time around and what did you think to Mrs. Voorhees’ dramatic reveal? Were you even aware the she was the original killer or have I just spoiled the film for you? Which of the Friday the 13th movies is your favourite? Perhaps you prefer a different slasher film or franchise; if so, what is it? Do you consider Friday the 13th to be unlucky? Are you watching a Friday the 13th movie today? Whatever your thoughts on Friday the 13th (the movie, franchise, and day), go ahead and leave a comment down below and be sure to check in again for more horror content in the near future!

10 FTW: Surprisingly Good Horror Remakes

We’ve heard it all a thousand times by now: “when will Hollywood stop with the remakes!?”, “Why can’t Hollywood come up with new ideas!?”, “Remakes suxxorz1!!” Honestly, while some films should never be re-made and some remakes do baffle the mind, remakes aren’t the plague of cinema that a lot of people like to think they are. In fact, some are pretty damn good.

If you’re one of those bleeding heart Twitter people, though, who just like to decry remakes in general, maybe you should take a moment to consider this small list of horror remakes that are not only surprisingly good but, in some cases, actually surpass their originals:

Halloween
10 Halloween (Zombie, 2007)

We’re kicking things off with quite the controversial choice here. I’ll argue until the end of time that John Carpenter’s Halloween (Carpenter, 1978) is the forefather of all modern horror, particularly the slasher genre. It’s a subtle, atmospheric piece with a fantastic, mysterious antagonist and the truly frightening prospect that random unspeakable acts of horror can happen in a suburban environment. Rob Zombie’s take, however, is a loud, frenetic, uncomfortably gruesome take on the property. Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch/Tyler Mane) is an incredibly disturbed young boy from a violent and abusive family who becomes a remorseless, emotionless, unstoppable tank of a killing machine. Zombie delves right into his own take on Michael’s backstory, presenting in grotesque detail the exact events that turn Michael into a nigh-supernatural killer.

In many ways, the initial focus of the film acts as a kind of prequel to the events of Carpenter’s original, as the remainder of the film’s runtime is devoted to recreating Michael’s killing spree in Haddonfield, with the primary difference being that nearly the entirety of the film is told from Michael’s perspective. Sure, Malcolm McDowell, great as he is, cannot hope to compete with the fantastic Donald Pleasence but the film is bolstered by the incredibly cute Scout Taylor-Compton (who is arguably more attractive and relatable to modern audiences than Jamie Lee Curtis) and even appearances by Brad Dourif and Danielle Harris (and what an appearance hers is!) While it’s unlikely to be as iconic or influential as Carpenter’s benchmark film, for those who find the original and its sequels dated and slow, Rob Zombie’s remake is a much-needed kick up the ass that, for better or worse, dragged Halloween kicking and screaming out of obscurity.

Poltergeist
9 Poltergeist (Kenan, 2015)

I know, right? How could Hollywood ever even entertain the idea of remaking Tobe Hooper/Steven Spielberg’s 1982 horror classic? Well, they did, and don’t be mistaken; it’s not actually that bad. While it lacks probably my favourite scene from the original, where corpses rise from the Freeman’s unfinished swimming pool, the remake is just as terrifying and engaging as the original, with the added bonus of having a modern-day make-over that is far more accessible than the now-dated original. Don’t get me wrong, the original is still a classic, but Sam Rockwell and Kennedi Clements put in some great performances, easily on par with those of Craig T. Nelson and the late JoBeth Williams. Did Poltergeist necessarily need a remake? Probably not, and the fact that numerous haunted house stories since the original have all pulled from or mirrored Hooper’s seminal horror classic probably didn’t help to differentiate Kenan’s new take on the property, but I feel it’s a largely misrepresented film that is nowhere near as bad as some people think.

It
8 It (Muschietti, 2017)

Although I spoke about this film quite recently, it is deserving enough to make this list. Watching Tommy Lee Wallace’s 1990 miniseries, great as it is and as amazing as Tim Curry’s performance in that is, you can’t help but think that Stephen King’s novel deserved to be told without the restraints of a television miniseries. Focusing exclusively on the child side of King’s story, and bringing the events forward to the 1980s rather than the 1950s, Muschietti adheres closely to King’s text while still putting his own spin on events. Bill Skarsgård’s take on Pennywise is suitably unsettingly and otherworldly; what he lacks in Curry’s charisma he more than makes up for by being genuinely creepy and a fearsome menace. Muschietti also focuses on the friendship and troubles of his child protagonists incredibly well, anchoring them to the film’s central narrative and allowing King’s themes of childhood and loss of innocence to play out beautifully. With a lengthy runtime and concluding on a fantastic tease for a second chapter, this new version of It, while not without its issues (primarily regarding screen time for the many characters), did not disappoint in realising the gruesome potential that the miniseries could only hint at.

7 Dawn of the Dead (Snyder, 2004)

Released at the peak of Hollywood’s new-found fondness for zombie films in the early-to-mid-2000s, largely spearheaded by 28 Days Later (Boyle, 2002) and the God-awful Resident Evil (Anderson, 2002) and its decent-enough sequel, Resident Evil: Apocalypse (ibid, 2004), Zack Snyder’s remake of George A. Romero’s massively-influential 1978 film of the same name takes the general themes and premise of its source material and ramps them up with some incredible action, grotesque gore effects, and a much-needed modern day gloss. While zombie purists may lament the inclusion of the fast-moving, animalistic undead introduced in 28 Days Later, Snyder’s rapid editing and penchant for style over substance make the creatures more vicious and scary than in Romero’s original film. With some great supporting performances by the likes of Ving Rhames and Michael Kelly (and even a brief cameo by Ken Foree, repeating his iconic line from the original film), Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead is a non-stop masterpiece of zombie cinema that never slows down to the snail’s pace that Romero’s introspective original prefers to adopt.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre
6 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Nispel, 2003)

One of the primary reasons I was inspired to make this list, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Hooper, 1974) was a film that desperately needed this remake! Seriously, the original might have been shocking and gruesome at the time but, since then, it has not aged well; it’s a slow, dull piece of cinema that drags on way too long, with questionable acting and a lifeless soundtrack. The only redeeming quality comes from the maniacal Sawyer family, and even they are a hooting, loud bunch of camp. Produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes, which would go on to be responsible for a variety of horror remakes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is much better than it had any right to be. With an uncomfortable gradient, shocking soundtrack, and even some decent performances by Jessica Biel and Eric Balfour, Nispel’s remake downplays the cannibalistic nature of the franchise in favour of grotesque torture-porn levels of horror.

While the film reintroduces Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski), one of horror’s most iconic figures, and even suggests a tragic backstory for the character, Nispel’s Chainsaw brought us one of the most despicable and significant horror icons in years in the form of Sherriff Hoyt (masterfully embodied by the great R. Lee Ermey). Hoyt, a tobacco-chewing, foul-mouthed sadist, drives the plot of this remake, raises its quality to another level, and his popularity was arguably responsible for the equally-enjoyable prequel, The Texas Chain saw Massacre: The Beginning (Liebesman, 2006). On a side note, though, am I the only one shocked that, including remakes and reimaginings, the Chainsaw franchise is made up of eight separate movies? Crazy!

The Blob
5 The Blob (Russell, 1988)

Now we’re getting somewhere! Irvin Yeaworth’s original 1958 film, starring Steve McQueen, was a campy piece of B-movie mush that has come to resemble a comedy more than a science-fiction piece. Channelling the likes of David Cronenberg and John Carpenter, Chuck Russell’s reimagining, however, takes the story of the bulbous alien lifeform to far more grotesque levels. Incorporating some incredibly disgusting practical effects, the population of a small town is literally dissolved by the titular amoeba. Although some of the composite shots are obviously dated by today’s standards, an entirely CGI rendition of the Blob would probably have aged incredibly poorly by now. Instead, The Blob retains a level of camp in its premise but, with its gruesome effects and no-nonsense attitude, is a great example of how effective and impactful practical effects can be.

Friday the 13th
4 Friday the 13th (Nispel, 2009)

We’re back with Marcus Nispel and Platinum Dunes for this masterfully well-crafted remake of not only the original 1980 classic but, also, the first three sequels. Similar to Halloween, for those who find the original movies to be dated and cut-and-pasted, by-the-numbers slasher films with very little to differentiate them from each other until Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (Steinmann, 1985) then this is the film for you! In fact, I often encourage newcomers to the franchise to watch this film and then jump straight to Jason Lives! Friday the 13th Part VI (McLoughlin, 1986); not because the continuity would tie together but, by doing that, you watch one kick-ass film with loads of gratuitous mid-2000s sex (which is far more graphic, enjoyable, and realistic than sex scenes from the 1980s) and horror imagery that sums up the first four entries of the franchise incredibly well and then you can delve into the enjoyable nonsense of zombie Jason Voorhees.

Beginning with the brutal decapitation of Mrs. Voorhees (Nana Visitor) and detailing how Jason (Caleb Guss/Derek Mears) witnessed her murder and grew up alone in the wooded forests of Camp Crystal Lake, as well as detailing Jason’s transformation from the lesser-known burlap sack look to the now-iconic hockey mask, Friday the 13th is filled with some incredibly gruesome kills as Jason uses bear traps, snares, and other tricks to entrap and kill hapless teenagers all over the shop. Add to that some strong performances by Danielle Panabaker, Aaron Yoo, and Jared Padalecki and you have an intense, non-stop horror film that, like Jason, comes at you a mile a minute. Honestly, the only bad thing I have to say about this film is that, despite making $92.7 million on a budget of $19 million, we never saw a sequel; even Rob Zombie’s Halloween got a shitty sequel!

The Thing
3 John Carpenter’s The Thing (Carpenter, 1982) and The Thing (Heijningen Jr, 2011)

Here’s some more controversy for you: I actually liked Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s version of The Thing. It starred Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who I absolutely adore, and, while marketed as a remake, was actually, ingeniously, a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 horror/sci-fi classic. Based exclusively on a brief scene from Carpenter’s film, van Heijningen Jr’s The Thing details how a Norwegian research team unearth an extraterrestrial craft and unwittingly awaken a shape-changing, parasitic alien lifeform and concludes with the survivors attempting to hunt down and eliminate the creature’s final form, which leads directly into the beginning of Carpenter’s The Thing.

Drawing loosely from both Christian Nyby’s 1952 B-movie classic The Thing From Another World! and the story that inspired it, Who Goes There? (Campbell, 1938), John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of the quintessential examples of the effectiveness of practical special effects to the horror genre. Kurt Russell and Keith David lead the charge when their small Antarctic outpost is slowly assimilated by the titular alien creature, leaving the survivors to descend into distrust and anarchy as they struggle to fight off the ever-growing menace both outside and within their number. Carpenter’s film features some truly incredibly moments of practical effects wizardry, from a torso sprouting razor sharp teeth, to a severed head growing spider-like appendages and a dog literally splitting in two as tentacles blast out from its head; yet, while its similarly-impressive practical effects were tampered with in post-production, I never felt like Heijningen Jr’s The Thing was sub-par to Carpenter’s film. Instead, it works amazing well as a companion piece, allowing one to binge-watch both movies side-by-side and be suitably entertained.

Evil Dead
2 Evil Dead (Alvarez, 2013)

Similar to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Sam Raimi’s landmark 1981 horror film The Evil Dead was in desperate need of a remake. Sure, the stop-motion, puppetry, and practical effects were great considering the limited time and budget Raimi had available to him but, over time, neither they nor the acting have aged incredibly well. In fact, for me, Evil Dead II (Raimi, 1987), which retells the events of the original in its opening moments, already surpassed Raimi’s original film by leaps and bounds: Ash (epitomised by Bruce Campbell) is a far more capable, well-rounded character, the effects are much better, and the film adopts a quirky style of black comedy that was sorely missing in the original. Fast forward to 2013 and, rather than attempt to emulate Raimi’s black comedy style, Fede Alvarez approaches his remake with an intense seriousness.

The horror is brutal and horrendous to look at; there’s no laughing deer heads here. Instead, characters saw their arms off, are attacked by nail guns, get beaten by crowbars, and are forced to tear their arms off at the elbow in gruesome fashion. The plot is largely the same, with a group of largely likeable characters accidentally awakening an ancient evil, but the stakes are much higher; here, the evil seeks to take on a physical form and bring about the apocalypse whereas in Raimi’s original film it simply wanted to claim the souls of those trapped in the cabin. While it lacks a character as iconic as Ash, Evil Dead makes up for it with some truly difficult to watch moments that are both sickening and perversely entertaining; even Raimi’s controversial tree rape scene is included and utilised in a far more effective and plot-relevant way and that alone is reason enough to place this film over the original, in my view.

The Fly
1 The Fly (Cronenberg, 1986)

This is it, the quintessential argument that not all remakes are bad and that they can, in some cases, vastly surpass their originals. While Kurt Neumann’s 1958 film of the same name may be closer to the original story and is still a pretty decent piece of 1950s science-fiction, despite its now campy tone, Cronenberg took the idea of a man teleporting himself with a fly and took it to whole new levels. Before, the man bore the head and arm of the fly as a result of the accident and slowly deteriorated into madness; here, though, thanks largely to an absolutely stellar performance by the always-amazing Jeff Goldblum, Cronenberg details the physical and mental degradation of his main character, Seth Brundle, in painstakingly brutal detail. Brundle, a brilliant scientist, initially embraces his newfound physical attributes before realising that he has been stricken by an infection on a cellular level not unlike AIDS or cancer. Soon, his body deteriorates at an alarming rate, with top-notch special effects being employed to make Goldblum practically unrecognisable through heavy make-up and full-body prosthetics.

As he alienates those around him, Brundle’s mind also begins to depreciate; initially desperate to reverse the effects, he soon comes to believe that he was never a man to begin with and prepares a gruesome legacy for himself whereby he will merge his crippled body with that of his lover (a strong, heartwrenching performance by Geena Davis) and his unborn child. In the process, he not only dissolves his rival’s hand and foot with corrosive fly vomit but literally bursts out of the remains of his decrepit human skin to emerge as a grotesque fly-like creature, before finally, tragically, forcing his lover to end his torment. The Fly transcends boundaries; it is a horrific tale of science gone wrong, a body horror with terrifying consequences but, at its heart, it is also an extremely tragic love story. Cronenberg did what many fail to do with their remakes; he took the original concept and not only put his own spin on it but also transformed it into something entirely separate from the source material and yet vastly superior to it in many ways.

Arguably, remakes like A Nightmare on Elm Street (Bayer, 2010) (which attempted to put a unique spin on the franchise and ended up becoming a carbon-copy retelling of Wes Craven’s seminal 1984 original), Total Recall (Wiseman, 2012), RoboCop (Padilha, 2014) could really learn a thing or two from The Fly, and many of the remakes on this list. If you’re going to remake a movie, don’t just retread the same material as before; go back to the source, back to the text, and either produce a more faithful adaptation or extrapolate the core themes and general premise and produce a great movie, rather than a simple, insulting cash-grab.

10 FTW: Horror Movies Where Evil Triumphs in the End

These days, it’s probably one of the most clichéd elements of the horror movie genre to have the antagonistic force terrorising the protagonists rise again by the end of the last act. Yet, this staple of the genre can have a dramatic impact on the viewer, sometimes altering entire events that preceded it, salvaging a mediocre film at the last second, or (more often than not) setting up a sequel or even an entire franchise.

With that in mind, here are ten of the most memorable moments in horror movies where evil ultimately proved triumphant:

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10 Final Destination (Wong, 2000)

The definition of a mediocre horror picture, Final Destination follows a group of teens who evacuate a plane moments before it explodes in mid-flight, only to find themselves falling victim as death stalks them to rebalance the scales. Hardly a classic in terms of horror, the sequels eventually descended into near-slapstick parody in their efforts to set up increasing complex and contrived ways of killing the unfortunate protagonists. After deciphering “death’s plan” and escaping to Paris, Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) is saved from a gruesome fate by former bully-turned-friend Carter Horton (Kerr Smith). Just as the audience breathes a sigh of relief at seeing the protagonist pushed to safety, a massive neon sign comes hurtling towards Carter before the film changes to black and the credits run. While this ending became a hallmark of the franchise, in the first movie, the predictability that would befall the series had yet to be established and the ending was new, fresh, and somewhat unpredictable.

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9 The Last Exorcism: Part II (Gass-Donnelly, 2013)

Unlike its predecessor, which adopted the “found footage” approach, this sequel utilised more straight-forward techniques. Though these failed to make it any better than the film that preceded it, The Last Exorcism: Part II turned the events of the first film on its head by having its antagonistic demon be in love with the main character, Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell). In a surprising turn of events, at the brink of death, Nell opts to take the hand of the malevolent force that has been stalking her and allow it to possess her. She then kills a bunch of people, burns a house down, and drives off into the night as trees and vehicles combust around her, signalling the beginning of the apocalypse on Earth.

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8 Saw: The Final Chapter (Greutert, 2010)

Saw is a horror/thriller franchise where evil triumphant at the end of every movie since the first instalment; John “Jigsaw” Kramer’s (Tobin Bell) meticulous planning and attention to detail dictated that, even when his victims escaped alive from his death traps, they often did so only as part of his grander plan or fell victim to his successors. By the end of the seventh movie, Jigsaw’s goal to teach people to value their lives has been perverted and his successor, Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) as devolved into a serial killer looking to tie up the last of his loose ends and flee before he can be exposed. However, just as it looks as though he is about to get away with his murder spree, he is attacked and locked up in the disused bathroom from the first movie by none other than Doctor Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes). Flashbacks reveal that, after severing his foot and crawling to safety, Gordon also became one of Jigsaw’s helpers and that Jigsaw tasked him with protecting his estranged wife. With her dead at Hoffman’s hands, Gordon enacts Jigsaw’s final revenge and ensures that his legacy lives on.

7 Friday the 13th (Cunningham, 1980)

Although the first film, and many of its sequels, has not exactly aged too well, the original Friday the 13th inspired countless slasher knock-offs looking to capitalise on its success. In the first movie, Camp Crystal Lake is terrorised by an unknown killer who systematically kills off the counsellors looking to re-open the camp; it’s the uncanny practical effects and atmosphere that steal the show here more so than anything else, and its effective use of the unknown killer became a common motif in horror for years to come. After the killer, revealed to be Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) seeking revenge after her son drowned due to the negligence of the former counsellors, is finally dispatched by lone survivor Alice (Adrienne King), all seems calm and well. Alice collapses into a raft and drifts out onto Crystal Lake, only to suddenly be attacked by a rotting, disfigured boy (Ari Lehman) who emerges from the water and drags her under. Although the subsequent sequels made better use of Jason as an unstoppable, unkillable supernatural killer, without the original shot of Jason’s mangled form leaping from the lake we may never have had the opportunity to classify this as a cliché much less have had the multitude of sequels that followed.

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6 Drag Me to Hell (Raimi, 2009)

Sam Raimi returned to horror with a bang in 2009 with this surprisingly fun and gruesome tale of Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), a young, aspiring bank worker who finds herself placed under a gypsy curse whereby the demon Lamia will torment her for three days before taking her to Hell. What follows is a montage of terrifying imagery and events as Christine races against time and Raimi’s trademark semi-slapstick horror to salvage what’s left of her soul. After surviving these trials, Christine learns that she can pass her curse on to another and successfully passes it back onto the gypsy who placed it upon her. However, just as she is ready to celebrate her newfound life with her boyfriend, Professor Clayton Dalton (Justin Long), she realises that she made a mistake and that she is still carrying the curse upon her. Dalton can do nothing but watch in horror as Christine is set upon by demonic hands, which grasp at her from beneath the ground and pull her down into the hellish fiery pits.

Still, an eternity in Hell has got to be preferable than spending the rest of your life with Justin Long!

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5 The Grudge (Shimizu, 2004)

Now I’m sure this won’t win me any fans but I haven’t actually seen the original Japanese version of this film. Considering that the Americanised version is set in Japan, directed by the man behind the original Ju-on series, and includes numerous elements that are shot exactly as in their Japanese counterparts, though, I don’t really regret that. Plus, it’s a damn creepy, horrifying film in its own right. Although featuring a non-linear narrative, The Grudge primarily follows exchange student Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who finds herself haunted and tormented by a vengeful spirit that seeks to kill anyone who enters a cursed house. After her boyfriend goes to the house to look for her, Karen goes to rescue him, only to find him dead. Witnessing the violent events that led to the houses carrying its curse, Karen sets the houses ablaze but is prevented from escaping by Kayako Saeki (Takako Fuji), who contorts herself towards her, looking to claim her life too. However, Karen is rescued from the house and taken to a hospital where it appears as though she has miraculously survived the never-ending curse. There she learns not only that the fire was subdued and that the house is still intact but also that Kayako is right behind her, bringing the film to a dramatic close and proving that Japanese spirits just don’t know when to quit.

4 The Cabin in the Woods (Goddard, 2012)

I’m not going to lie: I consider this movie to be an absolute masterpiece. Not only does it subvert all expectations for a horror film, it’s also an extremely clever, incredibly enjoyable movie that pokes fun at the tropes of the genre and tells an incredibly original story. After a zombie family terrorises their friends and leaves them the sole survivors, Dana Polk (Kristen Connolly) and Marty Mikalski (Fran Kranz) stumble into a large underground facility where they discover that a covert organisation ritualistically sacrifices victims such as themselves to appease the malevolent Lovecraftian Ancient Ones. After defying the Director’s (Sigourney Weaver) urging that they complete the ritual through self-sacrifice and save humanity, they share one last joint as the facility is ripped apart by the awakening Ancient Ones as they emerge from beneath the Earth to doom humanity forever.

3 A Nightmare on Elm Street (Craven, 1984)

Wes Craven’s seminal horror film ensured that no ne was ever going to go to bed easily ever again as a group of teenagers are stalking in their dreams by a hideously burned killer sporting a glove adorned with razor blades. The idea that a vengeful spirit could cause you harm or even kill you simply through your dreams was a poignant, original, and terrifying idea and Craven created one of horrors most enduring, popular, and horrifying horror icons in Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). As her friends are killed one by one, sole survivor Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) learns that she can pull things out of her dreams. Fortifying her house with booby traps, she manages to bring Freddy into the real world in an attempt to kill him. However, after Freddy kills her mother, Nancy realises that she is still asleep and, understanding that her fear has been making Freddy more powerful, she denounces him and her fear of him, apparently dissipating his spirit. Nancy awakens to a new day that is overly bright and cheerful where all of her friends are alive and her mother is no longer a chronic alcoholic. However, just as she begins to drive away into a literal happy ending, Nancy realises that the car sports Freddy’s trademark red-and-green colours and that she is trapped inside. She then watches on as Freddy bursts through the little window in her front door, grabs her mother, and violently pulls her through the opening. Although a somewhat confusing and odd ending, this shocker set up the idea that Freddy’s threat can never truly end no matter what tactics his victims use, something that the later sequels would drive into the ground.

2 John Carpenter’s Halloween (Carpenter, 1978)

Before Friday the 13th there was Halloween, without a doubt the grandfather of the slasher genre. John Carpenter’s atmospheric, tension-filled masterpiece brings horror to the suburban homestead as the cold-hearted Michael Myers (Nick Castle and Tony Moran) returns fifteen years after killing his sister to stalk and kill a group of babysitters. Having worked his way through the neighbourhood, Myers closes in on the last girl standing, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) with his psychiatrist, Doctor Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) in hot pursuit. After shrugging off a coat-hanger to the eye and a knife attack, Myers looks ready to claim his final victim only to be shot by Loomis. Stumbling backwards, he falls from the balcony to the ground below, lifeless and prone. However, when Loomis looks again, Michael has vanished into the night and he stares into the darkness with a look of horror on his face as he knows not only that Michael is still out there but also that a number of mediocre sequels and remakes are still to come.

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1 The Omen (Donner, 1976)

Could it really have been any other film? Richard Donner’s horror classic takes the top spot simple because it depicted the birth and rise of the ultimate evil and then concluded with the threat that a little boy would grow up to bring humanity to its end. After his son dies during childbirth, US diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) agrees to adopt another without telling his wife, only for the child – Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens) – to actually be the son of the devil. Having uncovered the truth behind Damien’s blasphemous conception and his true destiny as the destructor of humanity, Thorn witnesses enough death and evidence to spirit Damien away to a church. Just as Thorn is about to drive seven sacred daggers into Damien before the alter of Christ, he is gunned down by policemen. At his father’s funeral, Damien smiles to the camera as he holds the hand of his newly adopted father – the President of the United States – leaving the audience with the knowledge that the Anti-Christ is perfectly positioned to usher in the end of humanity.