Tag Archives: Slasher film

Midnight Masked Maniac Movies: “Friday the 13th” (2009)

A classier poster than the film deserves…

Who ordered a glossy “Friday the 13th” movie?

The 2009 re-make of the classic 1980 slasher flick has production values roughly 224% higher than the just-above-grind house standards of Sean S. Cunningham‘s original movie, a development which we can presumably attribute to the presence behind the cameras of Michael Bay‘s Platinum Dunes production outfit.

If the producing presence of the “Transformers” director doesn’t fill you with foreboding, the actual bloke calling the shots should do just that – Marcus Nispel is the guy that you can hold responsible for making the least scary, most annoying and generally most pointless slasher flick rehash that I’ve seen since “Prom Night“.  You may remember him from such earlier, equally useless time-wasters as “Pathfinder” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and his IMDB listing indicates that he proposes to film Tim Seeley‘s superior comic “Hack/Slash” in the near future.  I can’t confess to being happy at the prospect, although it would be delightful if he could erase my cynicism by directing a film which doesn’t make me want to head to the nearest memory erasure parlour, a-la “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind“.

When it comes down to it, I hated this remake for the same reason that most people gravitate towards the slasher genre – the disposable teen killer fodder.  It would be an act of profound eccentricity to suppose that any movie of this ilk will do more than the bare minimum to distinguish whatever interchangeable  ex-CW/Disney Channel replicants are headlining the film from the other gaggles of identikit cuties doing hard time in mid-budget, jump-scare laden schlock, but one lives in hope.

Right from the get-go this remake rubbed me up the wrong way, chiefly by contriving to introduce a cast of machete-ready kids so obnoxious that its difficult to imagine any context in which their survival is acceptable – archetypes all, and barely possessed of a distinguishing characteristic worthy of the term.  What’s more galling is that their manner of dispatch is wholly at odds with the spirit of the series – the creative, lunatic gore and hilariously elaborate kills that you know and fear Jason Voorhees for are completely missing from this remake, which has decided to push the button marked ‘torture-porn pseudo-realism’ and make every character dispatch a fumbled, ‘blink and miss it’ farrago.

And that shower of inanity merely covers the pre-titles sequence.  The movie proper doesn’t start until ANOTHER gaggle of eminently despicable, upper middle class college kids show up near Crystal Lake for a weekend of nit-wit fumbling and Jason-baiting at Daddy’s house.  It’s saying something when you would forego the stalk-and-slash staging which the hallmark of this horror sub-genre so that the teen protagonists could be wiped out in one fell swoop by simply handing Mr Voorhees a 50 cal machine gun and letting him go all “Rambo” on their butts.

Showing up in Crystal Lake at the same time as the soon-t0-be-deceased kids is “Supernatural” heart-throb Jared Padalecki, whose likeable presence allows you to hope at least one person survives the teenage apocalypse unscathed – he’s fetched up to track down his sister, who disappeared during the pre-credits sort-of-bloodbath (you remember – the one that was staged badly and edited in such a way as to obscure how/if/when the characters were bumped off) and his efforts to track her down are met with police shoulder shrugging and side-long glances from the hick locals.

Cute, non-threatening people in trouble – Jared Padalecki and Amanda Righetti in “Friday the 13” (2009).

There are no real positives to take away from this remake.  The changes to the series formula that “Friday the 13th” does manage to make nudges it closer to the “Saw”/”Hostel” school of CG-assisted injury porn and bone-headed torture than the (by comparison) almost nostalgic practical effects and gross effects make-up of the 80’s slasher genre.  And as I’d sooner see my breakfast again than watch a “Saw” movie, that’s not a recommendation to me.

It’s probably absurd to hope for an end product that’s any better than this movie ends up being given the talent behind the camera, but this totally scare-free, visually incoherent, narratively inert slab of latter-day horror still manages to bore more than slasher flick should ever do.   If this slice of neo-slasher filmic flatulence actually scares its target audience, I despair for today’s nascent horror audience – I’ve been more scared by what I would find when flipping the cushions on my sofa than I was during this piss-poor slice of hack-work.

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Midnight Masked Maniac Movies: “Laid to Rest”

Yep, it’s a slasher movie alright…

As it’s almost Halloween, it must be time to talk horror flicks, masked maniacs, supernatural weirdness and things which go “Wooaarrgghh!!” in the night.  With that in mind, I’ve taken the plunge back into the icy, bone-chilling waters of the slasher flick – a horror sub-genre which is near and dear to my heart – with the 2009 feature by Robert Hall, “Laid to Rest“.

Set in the sleepy back roads of Texas, “LtR” ignores the torture porn antics of Jigsaw and co and goes back to basics, pitting implacable, Chrome skull mask-wearing villain Chrome Skull against The Girl (Bobbi Sue Luther) in a pitched battle for survival during one hellish night.   And as far as plot goes, that really is the crux of it – faceless mass murderer hunts down Final Girl and slices, dices and pummels anybody who has the misfortune to stand between him and his quarry.

There’s nothing particularly ironic about this entry in the genre – in fact, after a decade or so of horror movies more than eager to point out their grasp of genre tropes, the lunk-headed, rough-around-the-edges, low-budget style of this flick seems like, if not a breath of fresh air, a somewhat welcome change from post-modern horror treatises just dying to share their fancy book learning with you.

“Laid to Rest” has not a brain in its head and wouldn’t know originality if it brandished a ludicrous knife and chased after it for a few hours – this is horror of the kind that flourished in the 1980’s when low-budget scares were all the rage and laserdisc was the viewing media of choice for the discerning nerd and when fright flicks first got my attention.   This is very much the kind of stalking, slashing fare that you’d expect to see late night on cable – minimal locations, actors who you might know from other stuff, low-key synth soundtrack and claret by the score.

The small cast of characters in this story behave like absolute cretins because that gives the make-up department a chance to go crazy with the gore effects when the boogeyman catches up with them and administers the proper punishment for their lack of smarts, because that’s what the maniacs in this kind of movie do – act as a kind of roving Darwin Awards inspector, removing the terminally dim-witted from the gene pool so that their stupidity can’t be passed onto the next generation of cannon fodder…horror movie protagonists.

The performances are…variable?  Kevin Gage, who you might remember from his role as Waingro in Michael Mann’s “Heat”, plays a teddy bear truck driver who goes on the lam with Luther’s somewhat blank heroine when she escapes Chrome Skull’s grasp.  He’s the best thing in the movie, for my money – a likeable archetype who you do root for despite the fact that he’s in the company of characters so bereft of wit that you fear for them safely making breakfast of a morning, let alone escaping the machinations of a movie serial killer.

The likes of Thomas Dekker, Jonathan Schaech and Lena Headey also turn up in cameos and meet the kind of fate which one might reasonably expect from appearing in a film titled “Laid to Rest” (don’t expect to see any of them in the sequel).  As a Klingon warrior might say – ‘They died with honour (and a great big knife sticking out of their noggin)’.

Can I recommend this movie?  Probably not – if you’re a student of horror, this is going to seem awfully familiar, and only the presence of some familiar faces distinguishes it from ten dozen similar gore fests doing hard time on the shelves of your local video store.  If you don’t really dig the hard stuff, this is one gory horror flick – director Hall started out as a make-up specialist and his expertise in creating very convincing and credibly repugnant effects is likely to gross you out for the next couple of weeks.

I don’t have a rating system, but let’s say that this one is more “Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddie’s Revenge” than John Carpenter‘s “Halloween”, but it’s not without…charm isn’t the word.  It’s not unenjoyable.  “Laid to Rest” is low-fi, slash-em-up action for the spooky season – just be aware that the gore might make your pumpkin candy return unexpectedly…

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