Monday, 25 March 2019

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

Despite its ungodly length Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan moves like a film on fast-forward. Writer-director Rob Hedden's high concept pitch is to lift Jason out of his backwater stomping ground then set him loose on the Big Apple. The masked killer accomplishes this seemingly impossible feat by stowing away on a passenger ship full of teenagers celebrating after graduating their senior year. Simple really. This pleasure cruise is basically a mini-movie unto itself with Jason teleporting around the various decks, slaughtering kids and Captains alike.

Manhattan's murders are especially cruel. Characters and relationships are barely even established before Jason has waded in, picking people off with whatever weighty lump comes to hand. Instead of the short, sharp shocks of previous entries, Part VIII actually delights in the sheer powerlessness of its victims. There is much more screaming and begging than usual. Jason, typically depicted as a sexless troll, is allowed to luxuriate in the physical domination he represents. His actions are slow and deliberate, mocking even. Its clear he's savouring the moment. So while the killings may be largely bloodless (thanks to the MPAA) they still register as acutely uncomfortable. This abruptness actually works for the film though, who wants to sit through romantic subplots that wouldn't go anywhere anyway?

This curtness plays corrective, Hedden attempting to move Jason away from an ironic audience surrogate and make him loathsome again. The clues are all there. His insatiable appetite for bodily destruction denies viewers the languid, pick 'em off pace they're used to while the anaemic deaths themselves needle the audience with a sense of a pain and terror rather than the usual satisfying splurt. The psychic connection Voorhees shares with Jensen Daggett's aquaphobic Rennie further establishes a weak, tragic core in the masked killer - a quivering child concealed in a shell of oozing, toxic musculature. Is that who you identify with? A violent brat tantruming for attention? Jason Takes Manhattan doesn't just implicate its slathering audience, it attacks them. Punishing fans whose main point of connection with the series is the delight they feel seeing an invincible madman pulverising the teens popular enough to be having sex.

Modern English - I Melt With You

Megatron by Josh Perez

Monday, 18 March 2019

Friday the 13th Part VII - The New Blood

For the vast majority of its runtime Friday the 13th Part VII - The New Blood is a slog, mixing a thoroughly unlikable take on teenage life with boring, perfunctory murders. John Carl Buechler's film, written by Manuel Fidello and Daryl Haney, drips venom, particularly when considering the female cast. Diana Barrows' Maddy is punished for daring to put herself out there while Susan Jennifer Sullivan's Melissa is an out-and-out bully, teasing boys for their sexual inexperience and directing straitjacket skits at shy love rivals. Melissa Is cruel and manipulative in a way that feels incongruous for a series built around horny, slightly stoned kids. It does mean that Jason gets to intrude on a fresh emotional stage though - the rotting slasher arriving just in time to puncture the kind of atmosphere that settles on a party when a vocal brat hasn't gotten their own way.

Fortunately The New Blood kicks up about twelve gears for its finale. Lar Park Lincoln's Tina has Stephen King powers, able to break and twist inanimate objects with her mind. Tina unlocks these telekinetic capabilites through trauma, discovering them as a child fleeing from her boozed up, abusive Dad. Years later, saddled with a creepy father figure who's more interested in Tina as a money-making opportunity, she attempts to resurrect the imperfect man she buried under a jetty, unwittingly freeing the sunken Jason instead. Tina's ability to endure, facing Voorhees in her collapsing childhood home, has a knock-on effect for Jason. The mouldering, pointedly virginal murderer is realigned with the towering, terrifying heads of household who relish stomping around their space, using the suggestion of violence to silence their women. Buechler is even brave enough to distort Jason during this finale by taking away his cool, emotionless mask. Without it the killer is rendered ugly and unappealing, a crumbling prehistoric face frozen in a perpetual honk.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Devil May Cry 5 - CROSS-UP

Devil May Cry 5's Dante controls like a dream. I wouldn't say this was necessarily an underrated quality in a video game but it's strange (comparatively speaking) how often players are content to simply steer their onscreen character. DMC5 doesn't just juggle inputs on inputs, it translates them into blazing cracks and crunches. Dante's charging stab, The Stinger, doesn't ask much of the player - lock on, push towards whatever you want to hit and press a face button - but the resulting attack is a treat every single time. Satisfying both as audiovisual expression and as a key tool in your damage output. It's Devil May Cry's Dragon Punch.

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

Jason's back! He only missed one instalment and the copycat killer who subbed for him did his level best to perfectly simulate Mr Voorhees - even down to a complete indifference to ruinous pain - but who cares? Jason's back! Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives can't get enough of The Big Man, portraying him as a stomping menace to be watched and adored. The long-running concept of the masked murderer as a floating, omniscient presence constantly circling our heroes is replaced here by a centre frame predator thundering through the woods, jealously guarding his Camp Blood territory. Nobody's safe this time, the rotting mutoid expanding his portfolio of pulverisation to include drippy executives frowning their way through corporate team-building activities.

Writer-director Tom McLoughlin steers away from Friday the 13th: A New Beginning's insinuation that scarred survivor Tommy Jarvis has assumed the Jason mantle, repurposing the character as a handsome teen suffering under the terrible knowledge that not only is Jason not an urban legend, as everyone seems to believe here, but his desire to impotently stab at the psycho's maggot-ridden corpse has actually resulted in his resurrection. Lightning is known for its life-giving properties after all - well, as far as monsters are concerned anyway. Jarvis is joined by Jennifer Cooke's Megan Garris, a fearless Sheriff's daughter who humours Jarvis' ravings not just because she thinks he's hot but also because the prospect of driving around really fast in a sports car sounds much more fun than babysitting children.

This brattiness extends to the visual and mechanical language of Jason Lives. Not only does the film have competing plots and arcs, it also finds time for humorous edits and genuinely funny sight gags. Six films deep into a franchise that has, at best, a scattershot approach to even basic continuity, McLoughlin has decided to worry less about the mystique of Jason The Invincible Murderer and more about how he can still be milked for entertainment. A basic correction like placing Jason in-front of rather than behind (or maybe more accurately inside) the camera allows the figure to register as a curiousity. We even get to see Voorhees in a private moment, mindlessly hacking away at the body of somebody he's already killed. When he notices he's being watched Jason pauses, abashed, before reality realigns and he realises social embarrassment holds no power over him.

MF Doom and RZA - Books of War

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

So what does a fresh start mean for the Friday the 13th series? While director / co-writer Danny Steinmann doesn't deviate too heavily from the burly-man-tortures-sex-mad-teens format, long time fans might be impressed with how Friday the 13th: A New Beginning plays with established formula. First of all this sequel (mercifully) doesn't make us sit through a recap of the previous film. It was always a strange choice anyway - more often reminding the audience precisely how these episodes fail to knit together. The dream sequence that typically concludes an instalment is used upfront as well, allowing the film to hit the ground running with an accelerated clip of pure, incomprehensible chaos. Shame the rest of the piece isn't so manic.

Jason's apparent death during Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter means we're in need of a new killer, some fresh blood to spice up proceedings. Unfortunately, even divorced from Jason Voorhees the person, the filmmakers cannot summon up the courage to leave behind his methodology. New Beginning offers up a copycat, with the same hockey mask / boilersuit fashion sense, working through their damage by slaughtering pretty much anyone they come into contact with. The murderer can teleport about just like Voorhees too, arriving at destinations mere seconds after his sprinting quarry, despite the monster's languid, mocking gait.

It's a shame the film doesn't lean more heavily into the idea that this isn't Jason, it's someone fallible and human attempting to emulate him. New Beginning's killer shouldn't be so silent and invincible, it only serves to underline the con of producing a sequel without the one character everyone wants to see. A spluttering, screeching madman pushing himself through the sort of injuries a movie murderer can't help but pick up would at least add a note of newness. One thing that New Beginning does get right though is how it permits certain characters to fight back. Melanie Kinnaman's Pam, an assistant director at the mental health treatment facility at the centre of the story, is allowed to pick up a chainsaw and assume the role of the cornered lioness denied to Joan Freeman in the previous film.

Emil Rottmayer - Farout

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter comes on strong by pitching itself as a summation of the previous films, an instalment confident enough to chart its own path to a conclusion. For the first time in the series we get to see the authorities reacting to Jason as an ongoing concern instead of just showing up late to dreamily sift through his wreckage. Final Chapter proposes an idea of scale. There's a hospital, adults with jobs who can provide a perspective outside the knickers and knives bubble. It begs the question, will we finally get to see Jason unleashed? Of course not. Despite the tease, Final Chapter quickly reverts back to the shapeless meandering that has defined the franchise.

Jason slowly and methodically terrorises a herd of witless teenagers too stupored to gang up and retaliate. Given that barely anyone survives these episodes, not to mention that the intended audience has long since latched onto Jason as the only constant, the filmmakers have ceased trying to make anybody pointedly likeable. The teenagers behave as crude archetypes, self-absorbed wastrels who track naturally, and rapidly, from sex to death. Too shallow to truly identify with. For the most part the film asks the audience to simply drift around in the space surrounding these murders, omnipresent observers lucky enough to catch (most of) the feature slayings.

There's one significant blip. Upon returning home to her powerless cabin, Joan Freeman's Mrs. Jarvis peers cautiously up her stairs, catching sight of a window lashed by rain. The shot stands out because the film has briefly asked us to assume the perspective of prey. Mrs Jarvis isn't a strung out teenager though, she's a middle-aged divorcee with two children who runs her house like a boot camp. Has Jason finally met his match? A good, wholesome all-American materfamilias who can stand in opposition to the whispers of Jason's own, unhinged mother? Again the answer is no. Don't delude yourself. This isn't a work that examines familial abuse and the insidious legacies they inspire, director Joseph Zito is much more interested in muscle men hurling attractive women through first floor windows.

BluntOne - Recogneyes

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered - FLAT SHARE

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered is free this month with PS Plus meaning lots of lots of new players who have no idea what's going on. While not quite on the nuclear streak level, I'm happy with these 15 consecutive kills, especially since (compared to Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII at least) Modern Warfare's multiplayer maps have chaotic layouts, tricky sightlines and fragile player characters.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Friday the 13th Part III

For a series so pointedly disinterested in either plot or continuity, the Friday the 13th films sure do love to gobble up screentime replaying events from the previous chapter. Friday the 13th Part III doesn't even bother to accelerate its recap of Part 2, forcing us to sit through minutes on minutes of the last instalment's conclusion. Perhaps the footage holds some clue as to the direction of this new film? Ginny Field (Amy Steel)'s quick thinking, not to mention a willingness to pull on mouldering, dead lady clothing, allowed her to trick Jason into believing she was his mother, resurrected through some scattershot ritual.

Unfortunately, Field's psychological subordination of Jason doesn't even enter into this film. The hirsute monster man that later dragged her kicking and screaming through a broken window is absent too, disappearing down the same narrative sinkhole as the muddy mutant child that thrashed around at the end of the first film. Part III's Jason is an alopecic muscle man, a thick-necker able to pick teens up with his bare hands then squeeze their heads until their eyeballs are blasted out of their skull and directly into camera. III largely dispenses with the idea of Jason as a prowling menace too - there's not much watching and waiting here - he's straight in, mangling the umpteen teens inexplicably drawn to mosquito country. Why do they come to these holiday camps? Don't they care there's a madman constantly on the loose? Part III's best moments then come during a finale where, thanks to actress Dana Kimmell's harassed interpretation of the uncanny, the film works up an agreeable sense of delirium.

Hotel Pools & Eagle Eyed Tiger - Cruise

BVSMV - Parallels

Monday, 4 March 2019

Friday the 13th Part 2

A mechanical follow-up to a stranger film, Friday the 13th Part 2 isn't so much going through the motions as abandoning all narrative meat to focus on the simulation of activity. We have teenagers and a wheezing slasher but neither get to do much. Even collisions between the two parties amount to very little. Deaths in Part 2 are communicated as brief jolts of electricity, designed to shock in the moment rather than thicken the stew. They don't puncture or enhance the atmosphere either, arriving simply as the forgone, lethal, uses of the various sharp props littered about the camp. Entire trainee counsellors disappear without notice too, lost to authorial indifference instead of a robotic mass murderer.

Director Steve Miner follows Part 1's lead, using the camera to propose the unbroken gaze of a hidden prowler while also allowing the hornier elements in the audience to get a good look at the female cast. There's zero sense that Jason takes any great delight in the observation though, frenzied grunts and wheezes are absent on the soundtrack. Both boys and girls are gobbled up with a consistent indifference; a pronounced sexlessness that registers as even more bizarre in a film where the killer uses a spear to lance a post-coital couple. Jason isn't jealous or impotent as an entity within the film but he is being used as a kind of avatar for frustrated, nascent urges within the viewers. Part 2 seems pitched purely at adolescents who cannot possess the older teens they find themselves attracted to. A strange kind of grot that has decided that women are toys and if you can't physically hold them yourself then you might as well watch someone else break them.

Crazy Riggs by Jack Teagle