Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) movie poster

director Steve Miner
viewed: 06/26/2013

The body count doth continue indeed, per the movie poster line.  It picks up where Friday the 13th (1980) left off.  In fact, it picks up with a television-esque recap of the previous movie before getting around to killing off the survivor of the first film, Adrienne King.

For some reason, as a kid, I thought that this was the best movie of the group.  It’s not bad, but it isn’t quite as good as the original film.

It picks up five movie years since the prior slayings at “Camp Blood” though only one year in real time since the first film hit the screens.  This time it is Jason Voorhees doing the killing, and not his mom.  He still has yet to don his hockeymask, which he does finally in Friday the 13th Part III (1982), which I’m thinking I may need to queue up to at least follow the series to that significant moment.  In this one, he’s just got a burlap sack over his misshapen head.  We eventually see that misshapen head as well at the film’s end.

This group of camp counselors go down in quick succession.  They don’t include notables like Kevin Bacon, but this is the one with the guy in the wheelchair.  It also features Stu Charno, a lanky, red-haired character actor who showed up in several films back in the day.  And this is the one where “Crazy Ralph” gets his.

Still a cut above the average.

Monsters University (2013)

Monsters University (2013) movie poster

director Dan Scanlon
viewed: 06/23/2013 at CineArts at the Empire Theater, SF, CA

It’s far too early to be sounding the death knell of quality films from Pixar, but it’s well worth noting an overall downward trend in their output since their purchase by Disney in 2006.  The first sequel they released, Toy Story 2, (1999) had an interesting evolution from a “straight to video” film recognized to be really good enough to be a feature film.  When your own knock-off product is that good, you’ve really got a studio kicking some ass.  The eventual Toy Story 3 (2010) was always planned as a theatrical film and was actually quite good, itself.

Cars (2006) was the studio’s first true dud, in my opinion.  Cars 2 (2011), was the first Pixar film that I actually didn’t bother seeing.  Quality hasn’t stopped the Cars franchise from expanding to theme park rides, oodles of toys and branding, and an incredibly dubious-looking film coming out this summer from Disney called Planes (2013), which rips off (expands on) the world of Cars while not being a Pixar production.  I’ve heard that Cars is a touchy subject at the studio, a pet project of head honcho John Lasseter, though not one commonly appreciated by the rest of the animators.

It is in the wake of the Cars franchise that the studio offers its first prequel, Monsters University, the first revisit to the charming characters and universe of 2001’s Monsters Inc.  Soon too be followed in 2015 by Finding Dory, sequel to Finding Nemo (2003).  The studio has been pumping out a film a year since 2006, seeming to need to keep producing product every year rather than gestating their best ideas only.

They’ve certainly produced some fine films in this time, including Ratatouille (2007), WALL-E (2008), Up (2009) and the aforementioned Toy Story 3.  As I said, I don’t come to bury Pixar, or to praise or not praise them, but to try to keep honest tabs on a venerable studio and its evolution.

That said, Monsters University is rather uninspired.  I think that Monsters Inc. was one of the studio’s top 3 films, great characters, great world, wonderful story.  As for prequels or sequels, I don’t mind seeing Sully (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) again.  Putting them in college, riffing on the 1980’s “college movie” like Animal House (1978) or Revenge of the Nerds (1984), et al., isn’t necessarily inspired but seemed to have possibilities.

The film, as all Pixar films are in constant progression, is beautifully designed and rendered.  Unlike the water in Finding Nemo or the curls of Princess Merida in Brave (2012), evolution in computer design and technology isn’t as glaringly advanced.  It certainly seems like the animators and creators had a blast creating more and more of the monsters that comprise the world of the film.  They are legion and part of the package.

The story isn’t overly fascinating.  Mike Wazowski is a small nerd of a monster, not considered scary enough to be a “scarer”, the elite job and college at Monsters University, to which many a monster aspires.  He’s up against Sully this time as a rival, a naturally talented scarer who is has no work ethic.  They end up joining a loser frat house and competing in a scare games competition.  The story’s heart is where Mike and Sully make friends, realizing that they both had been “jerks” and accepting their shortcomings.

It’s diverting enough and moves along at a reasonable pace, but what really struck me while I was watching it was that I didn’t laugh once.  I didn’t find myself smiling throughout, amused by whatever gags or whatever.  For all its designs, inventions, and creativity, it’s just not all that compelling.  And I guess it’s not particularly funny either.

After Clara and I saw Monsters Inc late last year, she was really excited about the characters and the film.  She liked the new one, but by no means as much.  This is not to say it’s a dud exactly.  It’s not Cars or its offspring.  There most certainly are animated feature films that I will avoid if I can and I wouldn’t call Monsters University something to avoid.  It’s just not great.  And for Pixar, that is a real shame.  They’ve established their brand by consistent quality films and the inventiveness, character development, humor, storytelling, filmmaking all are less here than in others.  Last year, I think I wound up liking Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph (2012) more than Pixar’s Brave.  They are not necessarily the digital animation studio elite as they once utterly were.  I sense a trend evolving here, though I would gladly be proven wrong about it.

Time After Time (1979)

Time After Time (1979) movie poster

director Nicholas Meyer
viewed: 06/22/2013

In Time After Time, H.G. Wells has to hunt for Jack the Ripper in then modern day San Francisco after Jack steals Wells’ actual time machine to escape from police.  It’s really quite the clever movie concept from writer/director Nicholas Meyer, and it features Malcolm McDowell as Wells, David Warner as Jack, and a young, very pretty Mary Steenburgen as the love interest.  It also features a lot of wonderful location shots of late 1970’s San Francisco, which to a long-time local, is character enough to add oodles of charm to a sweet-natured, though actually not very well made movie.

It was Meyer’s first directorial effort, and while he never went on to major prominence, he did manage to direct the best of the original Star Trek movies, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).  As a directorial effort, though, it’s really quite weak, really.  But for some reason, perhaps mostly through the stars and the clever concept, this film was a favorite of my mother’s and myself back in the day.  I had all but forgotten it before I started really challenging my brain for movies that the kids might like.

And they did like it.

The special effects, coming post-Star Wars (1977), are quite hilariously cheap.  Prisms, solarization, the effects look something one might see on television of the day.

But the best effect, for a San Franciscan, is the city, captured in earnest.  Because the modern day time machine is on loan from a London museum, it sits in the old California Academy of Sciences building, something that is no more, and that’s where the action starts.  Wells tromps all over town trying to locate Jack, mostly downtown in the Financial District, and he chases him through the Embarcadero Centre in one of the more extended sequences.  The funny thing about San Francisco is that it hasn’t changed all that dramatically in all of those places.  The Embarcadero freeway was destroyed in the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but otherwise much of the vistas, including Justin Herman Plaza and the Palace of Fine Arts are still as they otherwise were.  I guess I find this particularly interesting because of my focus on 1970’s New York City in film, which has actually gone through a major series of changes since its time.  It’s not that San Francisco hasn’t changed, it’s just that the parts that they show are a lot more the same than others.

A lot of the film’s intended humor comes from the Victorian Wells encountering the late 1970’s post-Summer of Love/decadent-ish culture.  Steenburgen, who I think I took to liking back when I first saw this film, actually plays a bit of an airhead.  She’s a “modern woman” but not a very bright one.  She drops a few oddities into her speech but she isn’t as clever and intelligent a character as you would assume would attract the erudite Wells.  Clara was shocked that they wound up “going to bed” with one another after having only known each other a day.

McDowell is very good, Warner good as a bad guy who finds the modern era, which Wells assumed would be a perfected Utopia by then, a world of violence and chaos in which Jack the Ripper is but an “amateur” by comparison.  It’s funny because really the film is not that great.  It suffers some plot holes, a weakly rendered ending, and other sort of shoddy constructs, but it’s still a very likable movie.  I can see why we liked it back then.  And I liked it now, though perhaps in very different ways.  I actually think that this would be a film very ripe for a re-make, if done by someone with earnest intent.  Not something that would rely on major special effects or action sequences, just something that relied on the idea of these Victorian-era intellects in pursuit of one another across time and reflecting on the modern world.  Maybe it is better not to hope for such a thing.

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel (2013) movie poster

director Zack Snyder
viewed: 06/17/2013 at Platinum Theaters Dinuba 6, Dinuba, CA

Ah, Superman Returns…  Oh wait, he did that already in 2006 in Superman Returns.  But he’s back again in Man of Steel, taking a nod from The Dark Knight (2008) and its director/writer Christopher Nolan (who produced here and contributed to the story), this Superman reboot takes its title from one of the many epithets of the son of Krypton.  And it’s director Zack Snyder (300 (2007). Watchmen (2009), tries to bring it Nolan-style to the franchise reboot.

Of course, Snyder is no Nolan.  And Superman is no Batman.  Meaning Snyder, who is known for glorified digital effects action films can’t quite deliver on the more sombre and serious narrative.  And Superman, who has never borne the Dark Knight’s darkness, is a character of American 20th Century, shakily trying to find a way of meaning something to the 21st.

The film does have Russell Crowe going for it.  He plays Jor-El, Superman’s father, not simply in flashbacks but in convenient digital afterlife as a computer presence with his consciousness uploaded and responsive.  After seeing Crowe in The Man with the Iron Fists (2012), I’m now convinced that he classes up movies quite a bit when he shows up in smaller roles.  As villain General Zod, Michael Shannon is probably the most promising thing the movie has going for it, a really interesting and crazy-eyed bad guy.  The film also features Kevin Costner as Clark Kent’s adoptive dad, a good-hearted all-American farmer who thinks the world isn’t ready for a superhero.  And Diane Lane, still very beautiful, as Mama Kent.

I went with Felix and some family members, all males of varying ages.  The overall response was a fairly apathetic “meh” from all.

Snyder swings for the fences with shots of flashbacky sentiment of the childhood of the young Clark Kent, including one where he plays around in blue jeans, t-shirt, and a red cape.  Who is he supposed to be pretending to be here?  But not only does the emotional depth prove shallow but the action scenes, Snyder’s usual strength, fall into trap of two (or more) CG guys punching the beejeezus out of each other.  Moving at hyperspeed that makes the reality even less real, Snyder loses out on the fact that he has real people, not in need of FX, who can fight here without the need to computers.  It’s stunningly disappointing.  And the finale, in which they destroy New York City (I’m sorry,…Metropolis), they do so in serious earnest though with an amazing lack of loss of life.  Whole buildings crash to the ground and then people just pop up from behind cars, going, “Phew, that was close!”

The film is a proper reboot, retelling the origin story again, this time with Henry Cavill instead of Brandan Routh.  That was a tad less tedious than I imagined it would be.  A tad.

Frankly, I hardly recall a thing about Superman Returns, Bryan Singer’s attempt to bring Superman to the silver screen for the new millenium.  And I would almost be predicting a similar fate for this film if I didn’t already know that a sequel has been greenlit.

It is what it is, as DC Comics tries to follow in the trail that Marvel Studios has blazed with its many franchises that led up to its The Avengers (2012), leading up to its own version of the same thing, a Justice League film sometime in the relative future.  At this point, it still looks like Marvel is the favorite in this heavyweight matchup.

Mama (2013)

Mama (2013) movie poster

director Andy Muschietti
viewed: 06/11/2013

It’s one thing to make a movie with a beautiful actress like Jessica Chastain and make her look unattractive, but it’s much more egregious to make a movie with an actress like Jessica Chastain and make her look like a bad actress. Both feats achieved here in Mama from director Andy Muscheietti and producer Guillermo del Toro.

In Mama, Chastain plays a punkish rocker chick, married to the uncle of some very unfortunate children.  In an opening scene, two young blond girls are taken by their disconsolate father to a cabin in the woods after he has slain their mother in part of a murder-suicide situation in which he plans to kill them as well.  Only, before he can do it, he’s caught by some otherworldly figure.  Flashing forward four years or so, the girls are discovered living like wild creatures in the cabin, given psychological evaluations and handed to their aunt and uncle.  Even worse, they have a malevolent new “Mama”, this evil spirit that has been protecting them for the last long while.

The older girl has a bit more cognizance, being older when this even happened.  The younger one is much more at sway by Mama.  The psychologist doesn’t seem to think to share any of his analysis and historical research with the family.  And Chastain’s rocker self is hardly overly mothering in her nature.  Why exactly would the state have handed these at risk children over to this couple?  Why does this couple have such a nice house?

Frankly, everything rings false in this film.  And while it’s not a blood-splattered affair, it’s a heavily The Ring ()-influenced, Japanese style horror with creepy suggested images crawling around the edge of scenes.  It’s its own kind of cribbing cliches.  It’s not praise-worthy.  It’s terrible.

Chastain, in her dark bob wig and poorly-defined character, is a far cry from the actress who has both looked beautiful and has seemed quite keen in films like Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and Lawless (2012).  Any actor or actress is at the mercy of any film that they’re in for good and bad.  This case is definitely bad.

I can see the elements of this film that intrigued.  They intrigued me.  I almost saw it in the theater.  The idea of feral children with a malevolent spirit around them?  That is kind of a new twist.  It’s just feral children are usually cared for by professionals, not people with no parenting experience.  Who also have very ill-defined character back stories.

I’ve said it before about del Toro, that the best scripts he has he usually directs himself.

The Iron Giant (1999)

The Iron Giant (1999) movie poster

director Brad Bird
viewed: 06/08/2013

Director Brad Bird’s first feature film is, like his other three features, The Incredibles (2004), Ratatouille (2007), and Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011), terrific.  Unlike any of the other films, it’s primarily a traditional cel animated featured, just as richly designed and rendered as his later Pixar films.  Certainly, a great movie in traditional animation, a dying breed, and quite arguably a true classic, seen here 14 years on.

When it came out, a nephew of mine was quite rapt by it, and I’d seen numerous bits and pieces to the point that I’d really felt I’d seen all but the whole thing, knowing that I never did in fact ever see the whole thing.  But some time back, I found a cheap copy on DVD and bought it for the kids, though we never got around to watching it together.

Adapted from British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes short novel The Iron Man, Bird places the action back even further in time, the 1950’s, amid the Cold War, the Space Race, xenophobia and obsession with outer space.  An object falls from space off the coast of a small Maine village.  The object is a giant robot, slightly damaged in its fall.  The robot needs to eat metal and goes on a destructive rampage until he meets a young boy, Hogarth, who befriends him and teaches him to speak.  Government agents seek out this unknown fallen object, aiming to destroy what they don’t know because it could have come from the Russians or some other malevolent side, right?

The robot finds that when faced with weaponry (even a toy laser gun) that he reacts with devastating lethal effect in a litany of high-powered, extreme technological devastation.  The robot, who has taken on sentiment and cognition, wonders if he is himself just a giant weapon, sent on some forgotten mission to destroy.  When the G-men mobilize and attack, it brings about a terrible response and it’s only in the final showdown that the robot’s true self is revealed.

Bird handles character and narrative like the deft pro that he has proved himself to be.  It’s quite a traditional story and classic narrative style, but accomplished with rare skill and emotion that truly effects the narrative arc.  What’s more remarkable is that this film is perhaps less well known than it should be.  And that I can only really say that I’ve finally seen it all the way through.

Those in the know have long held The Iron Giant as one of the greatanimated feature films of recent years.  Now the kids and I can be counted among that lot.  Clara in particular, who had not seen the film before, was very effected by it.  And Felix, who had seen it before at some time, found himself equally deeply engaged.

As much as Twilight Zone: the Movie (1983) was a swing and a miss, The Iron Giant was grand slam.

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Twilight Zone: the Movie (1983) movie poster

directors John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, George Miller
viewed: 06/08/2013

The Twilight Zone was one of my formative favorite television shows.  I caught it on PBS on Saturdays as a kid and developed a number of favorite episodes.  I’ve come to think that it has led to my penchant for outdated science fiction.  Not to say that the show didn’t have its relevance in the 1980’s, just that it was a great image of its time and its creator Rod Serling.

When Twilight Zone: the Movie came out in 1983, I was well-aware of the tragedy that happened on-set with the crash of the helicopter and the deaths of actor Vic Morrow and two young children.  That sad fact still haunts the film.  And worse yet, it haunts the film’s worst segment, and is in a sense what pulls the film down from any potential greatness.  I felt it at the time when I first saw it, and I’d say that it’s still true now, three decades later.

The anthology film has moments as a type of film, perhaps, but is almost inevitably challenged by the variance in quality of its segments.  Directors John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller each imparted something to the film, but it has to play as a whole, or at least it was meant to play as a whole, with far less narration opening and closing each sequence.  The film’s heart is in the right place, trying for the spirit of the show, but somehow only Dante and Miller deliver on it and Miller delivers the only sequence of greatness.  It’s arguable that Spielberg’s segment is among the worst of his career.

Focusing on the positive, Joe Dante’s redo of “It’s a Good Life” channels Serling and Richard Matheson via Looney Tunes.  After watching his Gremlins 2 (1988) recently, his taste for the anarchic antics of early animation seems deeply embedded if not beautifully realized.  It’s about a creepy boy with the power to make anything happen and the people who absolutely fear him.  Billy Mumy played the boy in the original and it’s one of the true classics of the show.  It’s pretty good here, too.

But Miller’s version of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, also originally from Richard Matheson actually maybe improves upon the classic episode that starred a young William Shatner.  It’s a acrophobic guy on the plane who is losing his mind, thinking the engines are being sabotaged by a gremlin.  The Shatner version is pretty great, though the gremlin left a bit to be desired.  The Miller version has an amazing John Lithgow in the Shatner role, a much creepier, cooler gremlin, and a perfectly paced and executed paranoia thrill ride of a run.  It’s the film’s most redeeming sequence.  The highlight without a doubt.  It’s been speculated that Spielberg realized the quality of the episodes and put them in order to improve.

It still doesn’t rescue the film.

The kids weren’t too into it.  The opening sequence with Vic Morrow as a racist facing being in Nazi Germany as a Jew, the deep South as an African American, in Vietnam as a VC, who knows what it would have been had nothing happened. It’s weak and a bit of a cluster.

They liked the “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” part.  But they weren’t overly impressed.  Oddly enough, of the 3 episodes of the show that they’d seen,”Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” was one of them.  This was the biggest flop I’ve played for them in a long while.

The Other F Word (2011)

The Other F Word (2011) movie poster

director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins
viewed: 06/03/2013

Punk and parenting.  Two terms that aren’t so often thought of together.  In this case, it’s specifically the perspective of fatherhood.  And it’s something that piqued my interest, because as little as I may look it on the outside, I still consider a significant aspect of who I am as punk, or influenced by associated ethos.  And, of course, I’m a father.

I guess this is where I thought this documentary could be very interesting.  Maybe the focus would then be more on “alt-parenting” or something.  For a lot of my friends who have become parents were ones who maintained lives outside of mainstream culture and balked at having parenthood shift them anywhere back into it.  It plays out in kids growing up shunning corporate entities, especially fast food.  People shun the icons of the toddler track: the Barneys and Doras, Barbie, all the plastic junk, television ad nauseum…  That said, parenting ends up being one of life’s great equalizers.  You suddenly find that you have more in common with the family that just had a baby a week after yours rather than your friends with whom you’ve been close for years.

It’s not a bad documentary, not a great one either.  It has the style of a television show, with some shots speeded up as it cross-cuts certain sequences.  It does manage a story arc with one dad telling the story of losing his son in a tragic traffic accident and another quitting his band to focus on being a parent.

The thing is that some of these guys are more punk than others, some more rock star than others.  There is a reasonable variance, covering smaller bands versus some of the bigger ones, and also covering Ron Reyes, former singing for Black Flag who hasn’t been in music the same way in decades.  The heart of the film focuses on Pennywise singer Jim Lindberg, who apparently has been documenting his life as a punk rock dad in writing.  He’s a good guy, articulate, family-focused.  I never listened to Pennywise, so I don’t know what else to say.

Director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins also speaks with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Mark Hoppus of blink-182.  Lindberg and Pennywise spend months and months on the road, playing pretty big venues around the world, not necessarily a rock star, but not exactly punk rock either.  The life of a musician is harder and different now with digital music.  It means that the way to make money is to play shows, not record albums, and so it is worth acknowledging the hardship.  But I was definitely struck by the fact that it’s less about being a punk and much more about being a musician, a touring professional musician, rock star or no.

I was thinking how it would be more interesting to interview the punks who aren’t musicians about parenting.  You certainly don’t need to sing or play guitar to find yourself in some strange places as an adult with a little one.  And also I am sure that some of the original punks have fully adult children by now and that too would have been an interesting angle.  And in going for the “f word” of fatherhood, focusing on the male experience seems limiting too.

It’s not to say that I didn’t find it kind of interesting.  I realized that I have met a couple of these people back in the day.  But being a parent has been a whole world of difference and it’s certainly interesting to hear how others have come to rationalize and realize the trappings of punk rock adulthood.

Mighty Joe Young (1949)

Mighty Joe Young (1949) movie poster

director Ernest B. Schoedsack
viewed: 06/01/2013

A kinder, gentler, smaller King Kong (1933) knock-off, made by the people who brought King Kong, and for that matter The Son of Kong (1933), to the screen, Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, and even star Robert Armstrong.  Mighty Joe Young is more the kiddie film, with Joe a baby gorilla raised by a young woman.  Their relationship is in no ways sexualized as Kong’s was with Fay Wray. And he’s already a good guy, never really a bad guy, and even gets to be the hero and survive the movie.

But the real reason we watched Mighty Joe Young on this night was in tribute to the man who animated the gorilla, Ray Harryhausen, who passed away May 7 this year at the age of 92.  I grew up a fan of Harryhausen’s, perhaps one of the few people I knew who even knew who he was.  I was lucky enough to be invited to an in-person tribute to him in the 1990’s in Marin, which it was great to actually have seen him in person even if I never got to meet him (I’m actually not big on meeting famous people).  The kids and I have watched a good deal of his work over the years and this was one of the few that we hadn’t gotten to.

I always liked Mighty Joe Young, myself.  The best sequence is in the nightclub when he plays tug of war with the ten colorful strongmen, beating them handily.  Actually the nightclub itself is quite a thing.  I actually really like dated kitschy designs.  If the theme of the club had been Tiki instead of “darkest Africa”, I suppose that it would be less problematic to appreciate in full.  But it is a richly developed multi-level affair with performers and servers with bones through their noses and a crazy mid-century American take on the charms of the world of the jungle.  Politically correct, it is not.

Felix was tired and slept through the whole thing so it was just Clara and me.  She liked the baby Joe, a real baby gorilla, and thought that the big, stop-motion animated Joe was not so cute.  I begged to differ.  Harryhausen, working with and for his inspiration Willis O’Brien who had animated the two Kong films mentioned above, truly develops Joe as a character, getting some of his best “acting” in little moments of his petty annoyance, like spitting at their pursuers from the back of a truck in the film’s final segment.

Sure, it’s flawed, kitschy, and corny.  But that is part of what makes it great.  I’ve never seen the 1990’s digital re-make, nor do I have an iota of a desire to either.  Long live Ray Harryhausen!  Through the wonderful cinema he has left us to enjoy and share ever more.

Friday the 13th (1980)

Friday the 13th (1980) movie poster

director Sean S. Cunningham
viewed: 05/31/2013

Funny thing about Friday the 13th, which went from slasher movie to slasher movie franchise by releasing nearly a movie per year throughout the 1980’s, is that though it also spawned an iconic image of the “slasher” (hockey mask and all), it doesn’t begin to feature a hockey mask and in this film, the eventual icon, Jason Voorhees, isn’t even the killer.  It’s his mom, all along.

Oh right, spoiler alert.

Actually, I think that when I first saw Friday the 13th whenever it was, on cable no doubt, the twist at the end was quite surprising.  Now it’s just a bit of a funny quirk.  Though the movie’s soundtrack, by Harry Manfredini, yanks a number of screeching violins from Bernard Herrmann’s classic and influential Psycho (1960), which with the reverse of the mommy killing for the son, sort of makes sense.  Manfredini added in the “ch-ch-ch-ch” element, which earned its own level of creepiness for those about to be skewered.

It’s quite a decent film, actually.

A few weeks ago, I got tipped over into going back and watching “the slasher film”, by stumbling onto My Bloody Valentine (1981) and I’ve decided to venture down into the genre in a more earnest way.  Initially, I was going to try to go chronologically, which is why I queued up Bob Clarke’s Black Christmas (1974), but for some reason, I decided to jump ahead to Friday the 13th.  I think as a teen, I thought that the first two were pretty good.  We’ll see because I’ve queued up Part 2 for a coming showing.

Camp Crystal Lake in the film isn’t actually the Camp Crystal Lake of my childhood.  The film was shot in New Jersey, not Florida.  This is a well-embedded misperception perhaps engendered in an outright lack of information.

It does indeed feature a very young Kevin Bacon, who gets a very sharp arrow through his throat.

It’s a film that probably helped define the genre, not yet doomed to cliche and lack of imagination.  It’s a key thing, I think, that these first, influential films were actually quite good and somewhat original.  I recall a sense of cynicism in myself by 1982 when the third film was released in 3-D, thinking that it was a sign of the waning imagination of the series.  Third films seemed to be coming out in 3-D, like Jaws 3-D (1983).  I didn’t know the term “jumping the shark” back then but it’s sort of the kind of thought I would have considered.  But indeed, it started as a quite effective thriller, efficient, surprising, and well-crafted.  Not what a lot of critics said at the time.