As you no doubt have noticed from the fancy title above, we’re kicking off 2019 with a brand new “In Review” series focusing on both the paranormal and supernatural within the horror genre. Obviously there are a lot of paranormal and supernatural themed movies out there, so to keep things as unison as possible, we’re going to walk that fine gray line of all things ghostly and demonicly. Believe it or not, Amityville II: The Possession is the perfect movie to start with as it too walks the line between paranormal hauntings and supernatural possessions. Plus its pretty twisted and stars Burt “Paulie” Young. So sit back and hang on as we explore one of the most insidiously fun movies 1982 ever spawned. Continue Reading
WELCOME friends to a new year of “In Review.” As you no doubt have guessed, this year we’re running the gauntlet with Slashers & Serial Killers. To say we’ve got our work cut out for us would be an understatement. Thus far the review count looks to be well over 150 different movie reviews all spread throughout 2018 with our usual break in observance of the holiest of horror holidays, Freight Fest. Why such a high review count? There’s the love of course…the utter romanticism of this particular horror sub-genre–knowing the killer in us all by living vicariously through onscreen murderers and villains. Beginning as early as Psycho in 1960 and continuing on all the way into 2018, slasher and serial killer movies are alive then as they are today with hundreds of different movies to choice from. To kick things off, my movie of choice may seem a bit odd…allow me to explain. Continue Reading
Diving deeper into the chambers of Universal Classic Monsters, today we bring to you a strange and unusual tale of a botanist who, while researching a mysterious flower in Tibet, is bitten by a cursed and lowly creature. Coming from last weeks dreadful The Mummy’s Hand, I’m pleased to once again find myself pulled into a movie with directors, producers, and actors that’ve taken a story so fantastic as the Werewolf of London and created something phenomenal. Much as many of the Universal classics, and unlike the famed 1941 The Wolfman, we are torn into a battle between the supernatural and the discoveries of modern science. A reoccurring theme, I think, especially among these earlier films. Fears of the things man dabbles in, and the repercussions of progress and so-called modernity. I found Werewolf of London a wonderful film and wish I’d seen it sooner. I’m a fan of werewolf tales, as much as our guest writer I think. With Werewolf of London, its interesting to see a take on the lore set within the confines of science. Very interesting. But enough of that. Let us see what our esteemed guest has to say!
Werewolf Of London
A look back at a Universal Classic
By: JR Park
Werewolves have always held a fascination for me. At the tender age of six I watched Michael Jackson scream “Go Away” to Ola Ray in the Thriller video as he transformed with excruciating detail into a monster. It terrified and excited me. Thirty years later and I have still not recovered.
Vampires, ghosts, zombies and undead serial killers have all provided me with horrific delights since I was bitten by the horror bug all those years ago, but no monster has held the same intrigue to me as the werewolf. The development of cinematic lycanthropes have certainly been a rapid one in the hundred years since they’ve appeared on film, and as we look back to their origins we find a creature oh so similar, and yet very different from the beast that stalks the moonlit world of the modern era.
Werewolf of London was Universal’s first werewolf film, released in 1935, six years before the much more successful and remembered Wolf Man. The critical reaction was unfavourable at the time, calling it out dated, and given unflattering comparatives to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a film that had been released only a few years before and became a hit.
The plot to Werewolf of London involves a British botanist venturing to Tibet in search of a flower that grows and blooms only under moonlight, known as the mariphasa. Keeping to the horror film standard for which we all know well today, the good botanist, Wilfred Glendon and his companion are warned against his quest. ‘Somethings are best not to bother with,’ is the vague caution they are offered, as they causally ignore the rumours of demons in the valley. It’s not long into their descent down said valley before they encounter the strange bloom. And it’s not long again after that that a snarling wolf-like beast attacks the doctor, leaving him wounded and scarred.
Back in London and Wilfred has managed to bring home a specimen of the plant, but is irritated that the fake moonlight he projects onto the bloom causes it no reaction. Then it’s a cut to a party scene with laboriously long dialogue that doesn’t seem to go anywhere until we meet fellow botanist Dr Yogami who seems to know an awful lot about werewolves.
From the knowledge of Dr Yogami, and Wilfred’s diligence research in text books, we encounter the mythos for this film’s lycanthrope sufferers, and the driving plot of the film: 1) a person bitten by a werewolf will turn into a werewolf themselves during the full moon, 2) the plant, mariphasa, is not a complete cure, but is an antidote to stop each transformation, 3) the werewolf must kill at least one person per night of the full moon or become permanently afflicted.
We got that so far? To make matters worse we are left with the lingering words from Dr Yogami, ‘The werewolf instinctively seeks to kill the thing it loves the best.’ Bummer.
Eventually the first transformation scene comes around, and let’s be honest, that’s the bit everyone’s waiting for in any werewolf movie. The scene is handled well with Wilfred stumbling through his laboratory passing pillars as he goes. Each pillar he passes, he comes out the other side more horrific. It’s nicely handled and a good piece of drama that doesn’t disappoint.
But what of the monster itself?
This is a very different design to the snarling, furry faced Lon Chaney Jr of the Wolf Man. Although both sets of makeup were created by the same man, Jack Pierce, his original design was toned down, the studio asking him to make it more human in appearance.
But it’s not just its physical form that makes the creature in this film more human that its savage successor. This monster has the decency to pick up its hat and coat before it begins prowling the dark streets of the city; and even manages to speak in the final act of its death throes.
The influence of Jekyll and Hyde is apparent in these scenes, and it’s interesting to think that this monster would only become popular when it shook free of the chains of another creation and fully relished in its own monstrous mythos.
But back to the plot: Wilfred, now as a werewolf runs to the plant, knowing it will cure him, but as he stands over the strange flower a memory of his wife pops into his head. The monster takes over, filling him with the desire to kill the thing he loves the most (remember the words from Dr Yogami?). This attack fails and so he satisfies his bloodlust with a random woman wondering the streets.
Ashamed of his actions, Wilfred rents a room in an Inn to hide away. This is the first time we get to see the wolf man as a tragic figure, something we’ll see a lot more of in the films that follow. But the four walls provide no prison and he’s back out again, killing, this time in a zoo. There’s a fun little twist in the movie that I won’t spoil, but ultimately the monster sets himself upon his wife before being shot. Mortally wounded, Wilfred rolls to face the policeman holding the gun and thanks him for the bullet, before apologising to his wife (how very British of him).
So is the film any good? The werewolf make up is okay, and the transformations are pretty effective; the first one handled well and the rest being made of dissolving stills, which is something us modern viewers would expect from a Universal werewolf movie. Its major problem is the long periods of dialogue, which in themselves would be okay if they were handled well, but sadly the acting is poor. To begin with I blamed the time period, but a shining light in the film not only gave me some much needed entertainment, but it also highlighted as a comparative, how starch-like stiff the other actors were.
During the scene where Wilfred looks to rent a room he enters a pub and meets two ladies with whom to rent from. These two characters had fast, snappy dialogue, were forever drunk or drinking, and played with a comic melodrama that stole the show. In fact the performance of these two were so strong that I’d recommend watching the movie just for these two, despite how fleeting their appearances are. Good acting is good acting, no matter which period the film is made; just as funny is always funny.
So Werewolf of London helped birth the cinematic werewolf we know of today. It had the changing by moonlight, the tragedy of the affliction and the fascination of the transformation. And although it in itself is not a great movie, it helped pave the way for something far, far better. To quote a line from the opening scenes of the film, ‘Without fools there would be no wisdom.’
And I got through the whole thing without mentioning Warren Zevon. Almost.
JR Park draws from the crazy worlds of exploitation cinema and pulp literature for his literary inspiration. His family are both equally proud and disturbed by his literary output, dragged from a mind they helped to cultivate. He resides on the outskirts of Bristol in the UK and hopes one day they’ll let him in. Mr. Park is the author of several twisted tales of morbid doom, includingUpon Waking and Terror Byte and Punch. He was also featured with a horrifyingly wonderful short in the horror anthology The Black Room Manuscripts. Besides giving his readers terrifying nightmares, Mr. Park is also one of the founding members of the up and coming UK Publishing team, The Sinister Horror Company, active in promoting other writers and attending numerous conventions.
Why the hell not? Everyone else seems to be putting together their lists of “best of’s” for 2015. Why not me? And besides, “its the first goddamn week of winter.” What better way to usher in the new year by reflecting on the old? And 2015 was certainly a year of boom and bust for movies, books, AND television. Mostly television (for me at least), as I moved away from my typically nightly catch-up to indulge instead on flicks, new and old. Most of which I had not previously seen. So…my list here will be generated from my own experiences and not necessarily a quote-unquote 2015 best of. These will be the “best of’s” of which I personally experienced. And, as suggested, this will also be a list of “busts” as well. The BEST of 2015 cannot exist without the WORST of 2015, for without the worse how can we define the best? Boom…meta… Anyhow. Lets get this end of year jam started, shall we? Also, note that I cannot discuss every single thing I’ve watched or read. The list would feel endless and I’d rather not bore you to tears here. This is meant to entertain as well as inform. So I’ll focus on my tops, and give you a few morsels from both best and worst. Okay?
Let’s kick this wagon off with the least watched medium, on my part. Television.
Best of 2015:
- South Park, without question this season (#19!!! if you can believe that!) is one of Trey and Parker’s best seasons…also their shortest with only ten or so episodes. But each episode is tailor made to fit within this larger story taking place. So, instead of a twenty or whatever season run, we get a longer, broken up movie. But not just that, we get the best in social commentary, from PC shenanigans to gun rights, Trump, and even Caitlyn Jenner, there’s a little bit of everything to offer for everyone.
- Gotham…while not technically over yet, and not typically horror, but certainly “dark fiction,” and we’re just at the mid-season final, still I have to say here how much fun it is to watch this show. I wasn’t a huge DC comic reader back in my childhood. I was more into Spawn and Marvel. But I did watch the hell out of some Batman: The Animated Series! And still to this day hold that particular show on the most highest pedestal. This is the second season for Gotham and the obvious focus this season has been on the “Rise of the Villains.” The star, I think, of this season is not the protagonist focus (Jim Gordon), but rather The Penguin, played by the very talented Robin Taylor. Not only is the show entertaining, but it is also unafraid to take risks, for there is no other group of people more willing to hate then the nerds.
- Ash vs. Evil Dead…disclaimer, I do not have cable. Nor am I typically willing to buy a season when I know good and gosh darn well that eventually it’ll release on Netflix or DVD for much cheaper. Honestly, with Ash, I’m having a hard time keeping to this rule. Though I have only watched the season opener, “El Jefe,” hot damn if this show doesn’t ring true to the original Evil Dead movies. Wow. I’m hoping to watch more of this and am tittering on just buying the damn season on demand, but so far it seems like Ash is his typically Army of Darkness self, but the mood of the show is less campy as Army was and more in pace with the actual Evil Dead cabin flicks.
- X-Files…say whatever you want about how old this show is and how it does not fit within a “best of 2015” bit, I do not care. With the upcoming resurgence of X-Files in 2016, I’ve been following (as best I can) with the Facebook X-files page who are doing a one episode a day thing till the return. And its been fun, to see fan made poster art for each episode and to revisit old haunts from my 1990s childhood. I’m currently on season 8 right now.
The so-so of 2015:
- Supernatural. I’ve been watching this show since day one and though I tend to think the longer a show airs the less punch it retains. It does surprise me how they keep going and come up with these “even badder” bad guys. This season its all about “The Darkness,” this entity that was around before God said, “Let there be light.” There is not much for me to complain about this time around. I’m glad to be done with the whole “mark of Cain” bit and back in the dynamic duo story. There’s still something missing, though. Typically, I was willing and ready to catch up on Hulu the day next, but for this season, I’m falling horribly behind.
- Hemlock Groove…man, this show was so awesome during season one. Season two was so-so…and here we are again. The story in this new and final season feels a tad more developed than season two, but still…I’m finding a hard time forcing myself to watch for watching sake.
- AHS: Freakshow… remember when I said I don’t have cable…? Well, I catch up on last seasons typically on Netflix or Hulu. You may also be surprised to find this show on my list of “so-so’s.” Well, truth be told, I actually enjoyed this season…but, I cannot forgive those musical numbers. Reading the synopsis, I was so ecstatic about a “freak show” season. The circus, as any fan of horror knows, is the roots of the macabre. You don’t go to the circus for the mundane, do you? NO! You go for the spectacle. And what better spectacle, both in truism and metaphor than the freak show? While I did enjoy the story and plot, despite some flattering moments, the reason for the casting away into the “hummock” pile, are the, as I said, musical numbers. I don’t mind musical numbers, mind you, what I don’t mind is the inclusion of modern music with a period piece. Freak Show was set in the late 1950s, right? Why the hell was crab boy singing Nirvana? Seriously! If you’re going to do a period piece, keep to the music of that era. It would have made the season sooooo much better… Ugh!
The BIG BUST of 2015:
- Sleepy Hollow…has bored me to tears… What the heck happened? Season one was soooooo good. I loved the concept. The retelling of the classic Ichabod Crane story was genius…and then Season Two came along, also promising, but then fell flat on its face. The story was so blundered, it felt like two different season endings. Don’t get me wrong. I like fast pace horror. But this made zero sense to me and the character motivations felts rushed and unbelievable. The aftertaste of season two has spoiled my keeping up with season 3 on Hulu. I may go back once its released on Netflix…maybe.
Moving on…cause if I don’t all be here all day! Next up are my favorite, the movies…
The BEST of’s:
- Krampus…yup… Of all the movies I went out to see in 2015, Krampus was one of the more entertaining ones…keeping to horror and dark science-fiction that is (sorry Star Wars!). My review for Krampus holds, both humorous and terrifying. But not just that, Krampus had a message for not just the holiday season, but for the yearlong. Krampus wants you to think about what you are spending your time with or on and to consider others than yourself.
- The Green Inferno…hell yes this movie made my “best of” list! It felt as if we were waiting forever to see this movie. The hype was a bit stretched for this one. And again, there’s a message with this movie about being intentional, but besides that, we get to watch a bunch of wannabe “save the forest” types get picked apart like a leftover Thanksgiving sandwich by the very people they were trying to “save.”
- Insidious Chapter 3. First off…get over yourself. Yes, I watched this movie…IN THEATERS!!! and…I LIKED IT!!! Sure, this isn’t the creme de la creme of horror movies. It was still entertaining as hell and fun to just unplug and watch. There was also character exploration and mourning and loss of loved ones. More going on then you’d probably expect. Plus, as any jump scare horror flick, the movie had a very lasting and satisfying sense of dread. Listen. I’m getting the feeling that horror is turning into one of of things, like wine drinkers or better yet, beers drinkers. Some people will only drink craft beer, and even still some will only drink a certain kind of craft beer. Others like pilsners, like Miller or Bud. And there are some who like both. The same, I think, could be said of horror. Some are, for lack of a better word, snobs when it comes to the lower end flicks, while others will drink anything sat in front of them, especially if its cheap or free. I like I’m more of a moderate. I enjoy craft beers, but would rather spend the night with a lower costs pilsner.
- The Omen (1976). And yes, I know this is a list of “best of’s 2015,” but so you remember when I said this would also be a list of my “first of’s” experiences for 2015 too? Well, now you know. As surprising as it may be, this was my first screening of the original Omen. I had for whatever reason thought the movie would be boring and drawn out, and certainly there were moments of just that, but the movie itself was fantastically grim and haunting. There’s something about these demonic stories that get under my skin! I think when the Nanny (Mrs. Baylock) bumps off mommy Throm in her hospital bed, it is a very chilling scene.
There are so many more “first of’s” for me to list, but again…I’m trying to keep this shortish!
The so-so’s of 2015:
- It Follows. While not entirely bad as some have come to review this flick, it certainly had a kind of hipster-esk vibe going on. The opening for the flick was haunting, but throughout the remainder of the film it kind of fell flat. Obvious commentaries of sex and adolescence. A few splashes of genuine horror, but otherwise…uh, whatever…you know? The hype for this movie was crazy. Only released to a few theaters and then a few more. I had to drive almost into downtown Houston just to watch this damn thing. On the other hand, sometimes its fun to get caught up in the hype, especially over a horror movie. Sure, we’re often disappointed in the end, but the ride to disappointment is enjoyable…right?
- Crimson Peak, while again, a fantastic and beautifully done movie, is (story wise) completely predictable. I went to see Crimson shortly after watching Inferno. It was nice to get back to a classic gothic story with superb acting, my favorite being Jim Beaver. The ghosts were haunting, but could have had more punch. In the end, the people were the ones you had to watch out for…which in itself if you think about it is kinda a nice change of pace. What soiled the movie for me was the very predictable story. I like to be entertained. My standards are not that high. But the one thing that will ruin a movie for me is predictability. Some predictability is okay, as is the ole Jewish saying, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Most of everything has already been done a few times over, but yet, as a writer, there’s a certain skill one must learn in keeping old motifs fresh and interesting. There has to be a surprise and there were no surprises in Crimson Peak.
- Late Phases, while technically a 2014 flick, this was a first screening for me in 2015. The movie had a lot going for it. Low budget. Choice actors. Great setting and mood. There was just something lacking with this return to werewolf classic. Most of which had to do with the practical effects. While my hat goes to the director and producers of the film for making that decision when it would have cost them less to go CGI, still… On one hand, the transformation scenes are actually quite good…but when we get a good look at the wolf…it looks absolutely campy. Had this been a horror comedy, sure okay. But no, this was a rather serious flick.
The BIG BUST of 2015:
- Deliver Us from Evil, man…I had some high hopes for this flick. I watched this one earlier in 2015. I think I rented it on Redbox or something. Jeez. Wish I would get my $1.50 back! This movie stunk to high heaven. What pisses me off most about this flick is how great the set up is. Soldiers discover or awaken something ancient and evil in Iraq and bring it home with them, but then the plot de-evolves into The Ralph Sarchie Show. Give me a break dude! Radar…jesus… To be fair, there were some horror-tastic moments. But I just couldn’t get past this dudes ego. It ruined the movie for me.
I have a feeling there are more “busts,” but for now, lets just keep it at one.
Next up. Last but not least, the books of 2015!
Best of 2015:
- Christine (1983). As one of many King books I read this past year, Christine was one of my favorites. It was short and sweet and had such a colorful cast of not just characters, but also of the town and music and mood. Man, it was a total time portal. The ride was very entertaining. And albeit tragic when it finally came to an end.
- The Stand (uncut). I was just going to list one King book, but it would be dishonest for me not to list The Stand (uncut). This book is so epic and vivid and realistic. There’s a lot to digest in this book and too many things to mention to keep my own modest post.
- Salvage, this was a indie book by a fantastic writer buddy of mine, but don’t let our friendship fool you, this book is freaking haunting and a fantastic use of the classic paranormal tale to talk about some rather difficult subjects, namely depression and the death of loved ones. and probably more importantly, facing our pasts.
- The Colour Out of Space, while technically a short story and not a book, still a amazing read. In 2015, I felt compelled toward the classics I’d ignored in my youth. A lot of these “classics” included a return to H.P. Lovecraft. Personally, in my own craft, I feel this resurgence to the fear of the cosmos, the unknowing and uncertainty of the future played in these grim little tales of madness and creatures from another dimension.
- And in the Endless Pause, There Comes the Sound of Bees is my first story with Mr. Jeffery X. his style is entertaining with a dash of literary prose. He is clearly not afraid with being cheeky nor is he afraid to go places most people wouldn’t even think about. Mr. X told me once he writes from what he dreams, and with this short tasty treat, I do not doubt that. It is a fantastic mythos created from the most mundane of life, the mobile community. Inside that mobile home, Mr. X explores themes of density and cultural dispositions. This short is included in The Black Room Manuscripts, released earlier this past summer.
And there are a ton more, mostly King…sorry and a few Clive’s.
Honorable mentions for best of 2015, mostly because I just started them in December, or because they are not technically out yet.
- Hunting Witches. The first story I read from Mr. Jeffery X, as mentioned above, was his fantastically strange bit in The Black Room Manuscripts, “And in the Endless Pause. There Comes the Sound of Bees.” Having such a long title itself is quite cheeky, but also creating a mythos from a mobile home community into a somewhat insectoid like culture is very very cheeky, and I love that. I had the pleasure of reading Hunting Witches as a beta. I feel honored Mr. X trusts me with his story in its most raw form. From what I saw, I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing the final product.
- Pale Highway. Nic Conley is a great guy and has read a lot of my own work. I’m happy to finally get the chance to read some of his. This is his second book, but it seems (even though I’ve just read thru chapter one thus far) this story is more personal for him.
And the so-so’s of 2015:
- Koko…jesus, will I ever make it thru this damn book? Maybe… Koko is not horrible, at all. In fact, the book is rather fantastic, its just so slowly paced, its really hard to keep reading. Most of the time it takes a backseat in place of some other more proactive story. Which is sad, cause I really want to read this one…some day.
- The Great and Secret Show. Okay, i’m taking a risk here from being clubbed to death by my fellow horror readers and writers. As this epic novel from Clive is said to be one of his best. Personally, I’m having the same issue as with Koko, its just too damn slow to keep my attention. It is beautifully written and the mythos Barker is creating is amazing…I just can’t keep it in my hands long enough to get thru it. Sorry guys!
And the BIG BUST for 2015:
- I’ve got nothing. Seriously. I’m trying to think of one. There were a few indie’s that, while maybe fitting into the “so-so” category, were certainly not a “bust.” There were certainly a few “so-so’s” from the bigger, well known names too. And to be honest, if a book is really that bad, I’m not going to force myself to read it.
And there you have it folks. My list for best and bust for 2015. Thus far, the year has been fantastic, both in the movie realm and also in the literary world. While for the “blockbuster” names I’ve kinda regressed into the older books I missed in my youth, most if not all of the new horror is coming from new and mostly (and sadly) unknown authors. New kids on the block willing to take risks with their work. To talk about uncomfortable things and an eagerness to contribute something of worth to the literary world. I have a feeling 2016 will hold many wonderful new works!
Let’s face facts here, people. The 1990s had some damn good horror movies! But what sets the ’90s apart from every other decade? It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyhow), every era has its own brand or style of horror. The classic silent pictures of the early 1910s with its German expressionism and tales of old legends and then moving on to the Universal Monsters, such as: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Mad Ghoul, The Leopard Man, Cat People, etc. etc showed us a new world, reconstructing itself from the maiming machines of the Great War. And then we had the “invaders” of the ’50s with its outlandish sci-fi horror-esk Cold War-esk flicks, like The Day The Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Invaders from Mars, Them!, The Blob, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Plan 9 From Outer Space, etc. etc. And then in the ’60s movies drew downward into psychological freights, with Psycho, Night of the Living Dead, Rosemary’s Baby, Black Sunday, Carnival of Souls, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, and so on and so on. And of course, who could forget the ’70s? The decade of Savage Cinema with terrifying flicks, such as The Exorcist, Dawn of the Dead, Alien, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Jaws, Carrie, The Omen, Shivers, The Brood, Deathdream, etc. etc. And of course moving into the big hair, more of everything, excess-excess of the 1980s, with films like: The Evil Dead, Re-Animator, Nightmare of Elm Street, The Thing, The Fly, Return of the Living Dead, The Stuff, Hellraiser, Poltergeist, American Werewolf in London, Videodrome, Creepshow, and so many more, not to mention the birth of the Friday the 13th series and the modern slasher.
Lets return to the above question. What could be said of the 1990s? The monsters, in retrospect, seem to be more internalized, almost spiritual or more supernatural in nature than in decades past. Before moving on to our movie in review, lets examine for a moment the occultioris sensus of some of these spiritual-supernatural horror flicks, which would include: In The Mouth of Madness, Candyman, Jacob’s Ladder, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Nightbreed, The Sixth Sense, Ravenous, Sleepy Hollow, Silence of the Lambs, Baby Blood, Lawnmower Man, Cronos, The People Under the Stairs, Misery, Cube, Ringu, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Event Horizon, etc. etc. And I know I’ve probably missed some, but still… Take a look! For the most part, pooling from a majority of movies, we can tell that horror withdrew from the overindulgence of gore and mayhem and, much like in the ’60s with the addition of supernaturalism, drew inward becoming a spiritual-supernatural psychological thriller.
When our beloved classics crossed over into the new era, they likewise transformed into the cerebral appetites of said decade. Consider Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, which was not heralded as a good Nightmare on Elm Street…why? Because its not a Nightmare on Elm Street movie. The ’80s are…game over man! Done! Gone. Hasta la vista baby! When long running series’ transition into a new decade, the judgement and critique of the film becomes…well, a tad bit unfair. When we hear Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th we expect what we watched in the 1980s, but its not the 1980s anymore. If we were to be reasonably rational, we must critique said movie for the era in which it was made… Of course, a really-really-really good critique will look at both, if the movie is from a running series. Does the movie honor the decade past while ushering in a new take in the new era? While Jason Goes to Hell has received some rather harsh criticism, my opinion on the matter is, yes, Jason Goes to Hell does honor the past while bringing in the new.
After being blown away by a team of FBI agents, Jason Voorhees (played by Kane Hodder) needs to find a way to overcome certain death. When his bloodied remains are sent to the morgue, his heart, still intact, is able to hypnotize a coroner and take over his body. After brutally dispatching a couple of FBI agents, he heads back to his favorite stomping grounds: Crystal Lake, and commences a quick massacre before heading into the town surrounding Crystal Lake. Jason swaps bodies has he continues his hunt for the Voorhees bloodline so that he may be reborn again. After a confrontation between Creighton Duke and Diana Kimble, Creighton warns Diana that Jason will come to get her and her daughter, Jessica Kimble, the only remaining relatives of Jason. Diana tells Jessica’s former boyfriend Steven Freeman to meet her at their house to discuss some issues in private. Come nightfall, Steven arrives at her house, hears Diana screaming, and goes to her aid to find her being assaulted by Josh, a fellow policeman who earlier, had been taken by the “coroner” and had Jason’s spirit transferred into his body, as illustrated by Creighton Duke. Jason then finally kills Diana.
Steven is falsely accused and arrested, meeting the mysterious person, Creighton Duke, in jail. Duke claims that only members of Jason’s bloodline can truly kill him for good. Therefore if he transfers the creature into a member of his family, he will be “reborn” back to his old form. Creighton goes on to tell Steven that the only living relatives of Jason are his half-sister Diana, her daughter Jessica, and her infant daughter Stephanie.
Unscrupulous news anchor Robert Campbell, who is dating Jessica, steals Diana’s body, planting it in the house for an upcoming investigative show to boost his ratings. Jason bursts in and possesses Robert before leaving with Steven in pursuit. Jessica, who is unaware that her boyfriend is the undead killer, is attacked by him so he can be reborn through her but is disrupted by Steven, who manages to stop him and get Jessica into a car. He runs over Jason and explains the situation, but Jessica does not believe him and throws him out of the car and goes to the police.
Steven turns himself into the police and arrives at the station as Jason does; he frees himself again to protect Jessica, who now realizes the truth. In the chaos, Creighton makes his escape. Steven and Jessica discover a note from Creighton, telling them that he has Stephanie and ordering Jessica to meet him at the Voorhees house alone.
Jessica meets Creighton at the Voorhees house. Creighton throws her a knife, and when she catches it, the knife turns into a mystical dagger. Jason tries to possess Stephanie, but Steven arrives and severs his neck with a machete. A creature crawls out of his neck, and makes its way to the basement, where Diana’s body was planted. Jason explodes through the floor in his original body.
As Jessica attempts to retrieve the dagger, the two men alternately fight with Jason. Duke is killed by Jason, and the fight between Jason and Steven ends up outside in the yard. As Jason prepares to finish him, Jessica jumps behind him and stabs him in the chest. This causes Jason to be dragged to Hell.
As a dog appears and unearths Jason’s mask, suddenly, a familiar claw-gloved hand suddenly emerges from the ground and drags the mask down into Hell with an evil heckle in the background (Friday the 13th Wiki).
Jason Goes to Hell brings back all kinds of 1990s nostalgia. For the life of me I cannot recall if I was able to see this one in theaters or not, however, I do remember watching it on VHS and thinking how different it was from the others (I even can recall the Fangoria issue with Jason Goes To Hell!!!), but not in a bad way, just a different way. With being a big fan of Friday the 13th, I’d read all the books (that’s right, there are books!) and was familiar with the concept of the supernatural element with Jason, that is, his spirit can live on in others. Voodoo type stuff. Think, Child’s Play. This was sort-of the concept for Part V but let’s not get into that right now…
Jason Goes to Hell had some drawbacks, sure. Fans were hoping for what they’ve come to love, teen-slasher-gore. But that’s simply not what this movie was about. I think to better understand Jason Goes to Hell we should look at it as its own stand-alone flick. If we can push away from the table of Great Expectations, we’d see the amazingness this Final Friday brings to the table. Much like New Nightmare was for Freddy. I know plenty who hate that movie, simply because it wasn’t like the others. Personally, I enjoyed both. Yes, they weren’t the slashers we remembered from the ’80s. But hey, the ’80s are over, man! In Jason Goes to Hell, the action was well paced. The acting was a hell of a lot better than in some of the Friday’s past. The cast was also solid. There was humor, specifically in all the Easter Eggs in the Voorhees house. The Uncut edition was chock full of gore and practical effects. It was brutal when it needed to be and it was supernatural when it needed to be. And the soundtrack was also very memorable. Overall, I thought Jason Goes to Hell was a fantastic addition to the franchise, taking the ’90s spiritual-supernaturalism back into the gore-fest mayhem of the ’80s, or vise-versa…? Oh, whatever, you know what I’m getting at!
My Rating: 4/5
Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character-driven stories of dark fiction. He resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter. He is published with The Sinister Horror Company’s horror anthology The Black Room Manuscripts. His debut novel, Reinheit, is published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein and Lanmò. His paranormal-thriller series, The Subdue Books, including Dwelling, Emerging, and Conceiving, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston-Clear Lake with a BA in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he does reviews on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can check out his work on the altar of Amazon here.
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The month of trick or treat is upon us, and, no doubt, folks have already started making plans for Halloween parties and horror movie marathons. For the non-deranged, horror movies might be something usually reserved for this particular month of macabre and everyone has their favorites they like to watch. But if you’re going to start somewhere, you ought to start with the classics. Reserve the newer additions of horror for later in the night and kick start you’re party (or month, if you’re one of us depraved individuals) with one of the classics. Obviously, being a fan of horror, there is absolutely no way I could select just one film as said classic; instead, i’ve selected a few films from several popular categories, such as: zombies, slashers, demonic/supernatural, creature features, satire/comedies (including musicals), and even family friendly sarcastics.
- Classic Universal Studios Pictures
If you’re going to start somewhere, why not begin the night (or month) with a classic black and white from Universal? Some of my personal favorites from this era include both Frankenstein (1931) and The Wolfman (1941). Excellent tales that explored the question: who is the monster? Another plus is watching the late great actor Boris Karloff in one of his best pictures. Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman is also enjoyable. Lawrence Talbot is just such a terribly tragic character and Chaney Jr. played him perfectly; he looked so sad, you really felt sorry for the guy. The Mummy (1932) is also good. Nosferatu (1922) & The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) are some of the best silent horror films from the German expressionist movement. Or, if you’re more on the artistic side, why not check out my personal favorite from this silent film era, The Phantom Of The Opera (1925) with Lon Chaney, senior.
If the Universal Studio Pictures monster movies doesn’t do it for you, then perhaps you might enjoy a classic zombie flick! Nothing says Halloween then walking, biting corpses shoveling across you’re yard, banging on the front door, looking to borrow some brown sugar. However, if you’re interest is peaked with said undead, why not start with one directed by the guy who started it all, George A. Romero? Any of his three original “dead” movies would suffice, which includes: Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), and Day of the Dead (1985). However, if you’re more into spoof zombie movies, the only recommendation I could honestly give, keeping a clear conscience, is Return of the Living Dead (1985). Just avoid the sequels, please…seriously, you’ve been warned! But what if none of the above zombie movies isn’t enough? Have you considered Re-Animator (1985)? Trust me, you will not be disappointed. Its serious, but not serious. There’s gore and dark humor a-plenty. Re-Animator has to be one of Jeffery Combs greatest movies, his level of wit and concentration are disturbingly funny!
One of the most popular horror genres among Halloween movie marathoners would probably be the slasher. And why not? Slasher movies have enjoyed a long lived and celebrated history as a horror trope. And lovers of this particular genre have plenty of classics to choose from. Seriously, there are more slashers out there than any other typography of horror. So, where does one start when selecting a slasher movie? You could go with the movie that defined John Carpenter’s legendary career, Halloween (1978) (a movie many horror historians consider the granddaddy of all slashers). You could also go with Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), every child’s favorite dream killer! There is also Friday the 13th (1980), Scream (1996), Child’s Play (1988), or even The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), though technically more savage cinema than slasher; iconic villain Leatherface has, for the most part, been considered a slasher-esk monster.
- Demonic & Supernatural
Okay, so maybe masked killers are a bit too kindergarten for you. Looking for something more dark or haunting? Well…have you given any thought to a demonic or supernatural inspired horror movie? There are almost as much of these as there are slashers. For the demonic inspired marathon, consider Clive Barker’s moody epic, Hellraiser (1987), following the tale of a man escaped from a sadomasochistic hell, chased by leather clad demons with hooks. Not you’re cup of tea? You can always watch this movie about a innocent young girl, sweet as can be, and possessed by a demon. The forever classic: The Exorcist (1973). Like ghost stories? Poltergeist (1982) is good haunt, Amityville Horror (1979) is decent enough to fill your dreams with nightmares about home ownership. Salem’s Lot (1979) is almost (almost) as good as the book. Sleepy Hallow (1997) is an interesting take on the Ichabod Crane legend. And Evil Dead II…well, you can’t really celebrate Halloween without watching this amazing movie at least once…or twice, whatever the case may be!
- Creature Feature
Alright, so Frank, Bub, Jason, and Ash aren’t doing it for you. What else is there…what else is there, are you kidding me? Plenty! I’m guessing you for the creature feature type, well…look no further my friend! Horror’s got plenty of nasty’s out there to help keep you’re party going! Dig shark flicks? Jaws (1975) would be my only recommendation, and as Spielberg’s dip in the horror pool, incredible cast and awesome music score, Jaws is an amazing picture worth watching with plenty of nauseating sequels to keep you feeling nervous about swimming in you’re parents pool at night. Feeling more extraterrestrial than killer fish? No prob! How about Ridley Scott’s legendary film, Alien (1979). Trust me, everyone at you’re party will know at least one particular dinner scene from the movie and if they don’t, well…then they really shouldn’t be at you’re party, right? Or, you could always skip Alien (blasphemy!) and go for James Cameron’s take on the series, Aliens (1986) and folks will the drunkenly laughing, “Game over man, its game over!” Okay, okay, so you’ve been there, done that. Well, if you’re going to watch anything with creepy aliens, John Carpenter’s, The Thing (1982), is really the only way to go (sorry Ridley). For me, what really makes The Thing one of the best are its (before their time) special effects and the overwhelming terror of not knowing which of the characters is who they say they are, and not a shape-shifting nightmare.
Not the serious horror movie type? Like to take you’re gore with a dash of wit? Then perhaps you’d be more interested in some “horror” satire instead. There are plenty of classics from this trope to choose from; you could even go all musical, if you’e brave enough. But how could one really go wrong with watching Tim Curry go full drag in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)? Trust me, if you’re party is a party worth showing up, there will be at least one person dressed as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. No? Okay…well, assuming there are actual people at you’re party, then you could always pop in Little Shop of Horrors (1986), or maybe Young Frankenstein (1974) with the distinguished Gene Wilder. Creepshow (1982) is worthwhile, especially for Stephen King and Romero fans. And last, but not least, the most recognizable horror satire, everyone ought to know, Ghostbusters (1984) should be watched at some point during the night (or month, whatever the case may be).
- Family Friendly
So maybe you’re party isn’t that kind of party. Maybe you’re hosting a family friendly event and before you can get you’re drink on, you need something for all the kiddos to watch. Don’t worry, we got you on this, and not really that surprising, there are lots of family friendly horror movies to choose from. Most of these will more than likely be playing on some channel on cable at some point during the month. There is the ever popular, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966). Or there’s, Casper (1995)…no comment. The Addams Family (1991) is another 90’s Christina Ricci film bearable enough for adults to enjoy. If you’re kids are a bit older, try my childhood favorite, The Monster Squad (1987). This PG-13, teenage friendly flick has all the classic Universal monsters, plus a group of Goonies-esk friends who work together to stop Dracula’s plot of, i’m assuming, world domination. Last but not least, you can sit you’re kids down for cable’s go-to-film, Hocus Pocus (1993), where after 300 years, three sister witches are resurrected in Salem, Massachusetts during Halloween night. Plus its got Bette Midler, how could you go wrong?!?
As I said before, there could really be no “one” horror movie to go with, but hopefully i’ve given you plenty of options to choose from; if you haven’t already decided. Halloween is an amazing holiday worth celebrating. Why? Because its fun, it doesn’t take itself too serious, unlike some other holidays (cough-cough, Christmas, cough). When it comes to horror movies, its hard to go wrong. It really just depends on you’re particular tastes and mood you want for you’re party. If you’re wondering which horror movie i’ll be starting my month with, and if you don’t count episodes of The Walking Dead (i’m catching up with season three), Carpenter’s masterpiece The Thing (1982) will be my choice of terror. I do not have a definitive favorite horror movie, I simply cannot pick just one, i’m too much of a fan of the genre; but, The Thing comes damn close!