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Posts tagged “exploitation

Silent Night, Deadly Night w/ Chad Clark

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Not unlike me, while slasher movies weren’t invented in the eighties, the eighties was when slasher movies became great. See what I did there? In all seriousness, though, ask anyone to name a slasher movie and chances are, most people will name one of the big three, Friday The 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street or Halloween, all of which have been remade over the past ten years or so. And all of them really took root in the consciousness of our culture in the eighties. Still, there were a number of other examples that rose out of this period and jumped on the bandwagon. Many of them were standalone films, or simply lacked the power of the majors, but there are still some good ones in there. For me, coming across these movies at the time, at the age I was, it made a huge transition in my life. I had loved movies up until that point, but it was more for the fantasy of it, the spectacle and the majesty.

This was the first time that a movie scared the shit out of me.

I never considered that film could have such a powerful, emotional effect. For the first time, I didn’t really feel safe in the theater, or on the couch. And it was from there that my love for dark fiction was born. Not because I thought the carnage was cool (although often it was) but because I loved that experience and the impact that images and words could have.

One last thing I will say in general before we get to the heart of this is one important aspect of slasher movies in the eighties. And that would be the sex. I don’t mean this in a titillating way, although at a young age, this was some of my first exposures to sex and the female anatomy. What I’m talking about is the function that sex played in the story.

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In the eighties especially, sex was like the redshirt for horror movies (sorry if you don’t get the reference here but Google is only a click away). Characters who had sex on film were almost certain to meet their grisly demise shortly after. It wasn’t unusual for someone to actually meet their end mid-coitus. The message often seen in these films was pretty plain to see.

Sex equals death.

We’re going to come back to this point so hold on to it, okay? Put a pin in it.

That brings us to the movie of the hour. Silent Night, Deadly Night.

The movie starts out with the main character as a child. After visiting his grandfather in a nursing home, Billy is forced to witness his parents murdered in front of him by a man dressed in a Santa suit. His emotional damage is furthered while living in a foster home under the supervision of a tyrannical nun, Mother Superior.

As an adult, Billy is talked into dressing up as Santa Claus for the store he works at. At some point during the night, he witnesses an act of sexual violence between two coworkers and he is triggered into launching a killing spree in the town.

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This film was the embodiment of the idea of sex leading to death. As a child, Billy is battered with Mother Superior’s influence that immoral people have sex and should be punished. This clearly has an impact on Billy as he ends up killing several people either immediately after or in the act of having sex. He literally becomes a kind of uber-violent puritanical, acting out his hatred for those who choose to engage in the sins of the flesh.

And I suppose for being naughty?

He is Santa Claus, after all.

This film was pretty controversial when it first came out, even though it was hardly the first of its kind. I think that a large issue with the public was the fact that the film was actually released during the holiday season. Also, the promotional material for the film placed a heavy emphasis on the fact that the killer was dressed as Santa Claus.

The moral outrage evidently became so outspoken that Gene Siskel actually took time out of their program to call out members of the crew by name, just so he could point his finger and say, “Shame on you.” As a result of public pressures, TriStar Pictures did end up pulling the film from theaters. It would be re-released early the next year by a smaller studio, exploiting the controversy around the film in order to promote it.

Say what you will about the movie, there was enough of a following to justify four sequels and a loose remake that came out in 2012. Interesting trivia note – the Silent Night remake featured one Malcolm McDowell, who starred in another classic horror reboot, Rob Zombie’s Halloween in 2007.

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I honestly can’t say if Silent Night, Deadly Night is that great of a film. It certainly is exploitative, loaded full of nudity and sex and graphic violence. The story is a bit on the cheesy, trope-heavy side, the innocent child drove into becoming an insane murderer by the cold, overbearing nun in the foster home. The killer who sees himself as a kind of moral avenging angel. At moments, it has the feel of an over-the-top after-school special in that it tries a little too hard to be earnest and isn’t particularly subtle.

But being honest, I don’t think that you should reasonably expect anything else from a movie like this. It would be like complaining that you got heartburn from the taquito you got at the twenty-four hours greasy taco truck. It’s a fun movie and I think that should be taken into consideration when evaluating it. If you enjoy the gore of horror movies and watch it for the kills, you’ll probably like this one.

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For me, this film is more important in relation to the point in my life in which I crossed paths with it. It was one of many films lying around in the stack of VHS tapes at home and it was when I was in grade school that I first saw it. It was scary, but there was also that thrill of watching something you weren’t supposed to see, the taboo of the thing that made it exciting. I have made a point to not rewatch this over the years, choosing to preserve my fading memories of the film as opposed to reconfiguring my viewpoint by watching it now.

Silent Night, Deadly Night will always be locked away in a memory box for me. It was a time when I was first introduced to the irreverent potential of storytelling, the emotional impact that movies could have as well as the realization that there was a whole new world out there, just waiting to be discovered on the back of a good video store membership.

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Chad Clark is a frequent flyer here on Machine Mean. He has reviewed for us before with commentary on House of Dracula (1945) and House of 1000 Corpses. Mr. Clark is a midwestern author of horror and science fiction. His artistic roots can be traced back to the golden era of horror literature, Stephen King, and Robert McCammon being large influences. His love for horror began as well in the classic horror franchises of the eighties. He resides in Iowa with his wife and two sons. Clark’s debut novel, Borrowed Time, was published in 2014. His second novel, A Shade for Every Season was released in 2015, and in 2016 Clark published Behind Our Walls, a dark look at the human condition set in a post-apocalyptic world. His latest book, Down the Beaten Path, released in September 2016. You can keep up with all of Mr. Clark’s works by following him on Amazon here.

And you do not want to miss this box set from dark fiction author Thomas S. Flowers. Still on SALE for $0.99!!!

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Friday the 13th Complete Blu-ray Collection: in Review

Coming September 13th, 2013 (which so happens to be our next calender Friday the 13th) the Friday the 13th series will be released on blu-ray in one mass collection. Finally, right?!? Finally we’re given what we’ve been asking for ever since blu-ray format movies began coming out in droves. Ever since random Friday blu-rays have eked out into the market. Finally, we have the definitive collection. Or do we? From amateur to hard fans alike, Friday the 13th has been an amazing storyline worth watching over and over. Among other notable historic figures, Jason Voorhees will be remembered as the pinnacle bad guy among the many slasher antagonists of the 1980’s. Jason may not have started the modern slasher (credit for that should go to Myers), but he most certainly defined it. And yes, i’m placing this hockey mask wearing mama’s boy up on the pedestal he so rightly deserves, because with Jason there are no confusing story arches that you have to work to follow. He’s pissed his mom was killed. He’s pissed those morally questionable camp counselors let him drown as a boy and if you walk up into his Crystal Lake territory…well, adios compadre. Jason doesn’t stand on ceremony; he’s driven by revenge without the James Bond supervillain monologue. But I digress, let us get back to this “definitive” blu-ray release!

If you asked me to express in one word what I thought of this blu-ray Friday the 13th collection, my word would be: Exploited. Plain and simple, newcomers and old fans alike are being exploited against this most beloved horror series. Why? Well, lets take this point for point.

  • Tin Case- this might seem mundane to some, but for me this just feels like some cheap (but expensive retail price of $130) metal box. A “definitive” collective should be in something worth the title of “Complete Collection.” And we haven’t even mentioned the art work on the cover yet. What is this? Some generic picture from Jason goes to Hell? Warner could have done something much — much — much more cooler and something worth the mantle of a Friday the 13th collection. Did the wow factor get drowned in the lake? There are so many iconic images to this franchise than some cheap copy and paste.
  • Theatrical releases- each and everyone (except for perhaps the reboot film) of the FINALLY blu-ray release are not uncut…but simply a format transfer/repackaging of what we already have on DVD. If this was going to be the DEFINITIVE collection, every single disc should have included an uncut version with all the added blood the MPAA forced producers to leave out in theaters and the original DVD releases. 99% (1 % being the recent reboot included in this “collection”) of these features are recycled from previous deluxe editions. If i’m going the shell out $130, this had better be it, the very last collection you’ll ever need, or at least until the next video format comes out. But again, we end up coming back to the word — exploited.
  • Friday the 13th part 3 and 3D- The blu-ray part 3 with this “collection” is simply the standard analygraph 3D format, not the actual modern 3D built in today’s HDTV’s. This is less of a big deal for me, but only because I haven’t jumped on the whole home theater 3D experience yet. But again, if you’re going to market a blu-ray collection for $130, shouldn’t it be legit? Why not bring this awesome original 3D movie into the new format? Laziness and greed…
  • Special features- Nothing new here that hasn’t already been released at one point or another on one of the many DVD collections. The only thing new is the bonus “killer disc” full of supposedly never before seen footage on the making of this famous franchise; however, chances are those very same “never before seen” moments will be included in the upcoming release of a new Friday documentary called, Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th.

Friday the 13th is a longstanding series. There have been many collection releases as the franchise rights have continually changed hands. Understandable, each producer is going to want to put out their collection, but when it comes to a blu-ray $130 box set, is it too much to ask for it to be worth the cost? As of now, blu-ray is king, shouldn’t a blu-ray collection be better than the already released DVD collections? Makes sense to me; makes sense to a lot of fans out there that have already commented on the pending release. Apparently not so much for Warner Bros. Check it out for yourselves, here is what will be included in the blu-ray collection:

  • Disc 1 – Friday the 13th (1980)
  • Disc 2 – Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
  • Disc 3 – Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3D (1982)
  • Disc 4 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) NEW TO BLU-RAY
  • Disc 5 – Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985) / Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) NEW TO BLU-RAY
  • Disc 6 – Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) / Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) NEW TO BLU- RAY
  • Disc 7 – Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) / Jason X (2002) NEW TO BLU-RAY
  • Disc 8 – Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
  • Disc 9 – Friday the 13th (2009) (Theatrical Version and “Killer Cut” Extended Version)
  • Disc 10 – Killer Bonus DVD Disc

Bottom line: though intentionally excited to hear of the upcoming release of a blu-ray collection of my most beloved  80’s slasher, after looking up and reading through the above mentioned features and also seeing the marked up price, well…its not worth the cost, not yet anyhow. I know a lot of hard core fans and folks who don’t really care for uncut enough to deny themselves and will thus be purchasing this collection. Some will be grumpy; others will actually smile as they hand over their hard earned funds. But not me. This release is the same release I already own on DVD; $130 isn’t worth a few extra pixels. Warner Bros. could have done Jason and Friday the 13th right by honoring it with a collection worthy to be on a blu-ray format, but apparently the only thing their interested in is money through the exploitation of endearing fans of the series. This is a very sad Friday indeed.