Project Defiant: The Hill, Command and Conquer, and Dark Glimmer: A Look at Three Star Trek Fan Films

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

Cover

Fan films (or any sort of fan fiction) are a mixed bag. Some of them are awful, some are good, others have low budgets and others are made with actors who previously starred in official productions lending their support. This mixed bag can lead a lot of people to simply scoff at the entire practice and assume all of it is poorly acted, terribly written tripe. This is a bit unfair since a lot of talented people occasionally take a hand at producing fan films and could arguably evolve into a more lucrative career in filmmaking in their future. Whether it is a well-produced short film or a labour of love filmed in the backyard these types of films are a controversial subject. And there is, of course, the whole debate about copywrite and other legal matters aside. There is also many arguments against fan films as an unworthy activity for those with talent who should, in the eyes of the critic, be making more original content of their own. I must confess that I often have expressed this latter view; however, I cannot knock a group of guys and gals for having a ton of fun. And in the end for a lot of these people that is all that matters. They had fun.

The films I am reviewing here are three productions made by a few friends of mine. Promising them a fair and honest critique of their work I am putting forward this review as both an internet blogger and a fan of Star Trek.

This particular trilogy is set in the Mirror Universe and so each of these characters are playing Mirror Universe counterparts to the ones they play in their usual fan film productions. I must confess that I have not watched any of their productions aside from these three so any criticism I offer should be taken with due consideration of my ignorance of this series.

The first film is called The Hill and is probably the weakest of the three shorts. The low production value is negligible since fan films should not be judged on that merit anyway, but I had a few qualms with the writing and editing of this film which made it less enjoyable than the other two.
It is extremely extremely difficult to follow for one thing, but I think this largely due to my not having followed the other shorts in this series. The film is shot entirely in a wooded park on and off a path which I think was one of the mistakes this production made. I think the setting would have been less obvious if it was shot in a more open area or at least shot away from the path which immediately exposes the set as a park. Also being away from an indoor set and using low budget equipment the film suffers from poor lighting and cinematography which makes some scenes hard to make out. There is a character who has green hair who falls in some grass and due to the lighting and the fact that she is too close to where the camera’s line of vision ends at the top of the screen that she is hard to make out. This and other technical flaws are what stand out the most about some of the issues that The Hill has that the other two films do not.
The Hill opens with two characters running along a path. One is our main lead, Captain Minard and the other is a woman wearing a black outfit and the green hair. I did not pick up on what her name was and sadly I struggled with this with the other characters as well. As I noted it is very hard to follow and it took me too long to figure out that Minard was in fact chasing the woman rather than running with her which I initially thought.
Minard eventually captures her and another guy and tries to coerce them into finding some quadlithium he is searching for. He kills the guy, but the Green Haired Woman he leaves alive on the condition she remains loyal to him. She is trying to protect her son and agrees to help him for his sake. Who her son is, where he is, and why he might be in danger is not clearly stated in this short and it is possible I missed it in some quick dialogue or something. A lot of the dialogue compresses the plot and backstory and combining that with not seeing the previous films this film quickly becomes inscrutible. The motivations of the characters is never clear to me and why they act the way they do is never properly explained. Also the Mirror Universe element to their behaviour is not done well in my opinion and often feels like I am watching a bunch of really sweet and kind people who are not used to being rough trying to hard to sound tough which is not natural to them. There is a character named Yara who is probably the strongest example of this. Her character’s rudeness and abrasiveness is so ingenuine and hammed up that I am more than certain that the actress playing her is probably nothing like this character at all and is probably a very easy person to get along with in real life. It is clear to me that these actors were told to be “mean as you can be” without any clearer direction than that.

Later in the short Yara warns the Green Haired Woman that Minard is not to be trusted and that his mind and humanity has been warped and mutated by a crystal he has in his possession. What this crystal is is another element not cohesively explained and I found myself lost whenever it was brought up. The confrontation between Yara and Green Hair is written in a rather jumbled fashion and it made me think Yara is a piss poor negotiator. Before warning her of Minard’s transformation Yara greets her with “hello, freak” which would indicate that she was more intent on threatening her than warning her about Minard. In fact nothing Yara does in this short makes a lot of sense. At the end she destroys the quadlithium with her hand phaser which angers Minard who starts attacking and threatening her. He rants a bit about his plan to take over and gain power before finally ending his speech with a “who’s with me” ultimatum. Green Hair joins him explaining that given how feared he is by his enemies he must be able to protect her son. This is illogical to me considering that I would I prefer to keep my kid thousands of miles away from someone with a lot of enemies no matter how powerful they may or may not be. I don’t think anyone under constant threat of attack would be a safe choice of protecting anybody and her logic here is questionable. Yara also changes her mind and joins him and the transition from opponent to ally is so quick and jarring that I struggled to buy it as a viewer. The actions, dialogue, and motivations of many of the characters make little sense and this is likely due to contraints on the film’s runtime. Perhaps if CBS’s draconian policies about fan films allowed longer productions perhaps the plot holes, compressed dialogue, choppy editing, and illogical character behaviour would only be dents that could hammered out with more time available. Alas this is not to be.
I am good friends with two of the people involved in the making of this film and I say this with love as a friend and honesty as a reviewer that The Hill is messy and in need of improvement. The writing is often jumbled, hard to follow, and illogical; and the story is nearly impossible to follow or comprehend. The transition from wide angle to close up shots is not well edited and often leads to sudden dips in picture quality which is jarring to a viewer.
The acting is not stellar by any means, but I think there is a certain charm to some of them. Especially in the case with Minard and Yara. While I do not buy their respective actor’s performances as genuine you can tell they are having fun with the roles and you can’t help but smile at the clear love and attention these filmmakers put into the project despite the low budget, poor writing, and often wooden acting. The other actors in the film are much more wooden and hardly emote anything at all and a lot of times when they are onscreen and speaking I feel like I am watching a local used car commercial
I think The Hill is a clear case of talented filmmakers who will get better with practice and time. My advice for the future is compress less dialogue and film in a more open area. I didn’t hate the film, but it is admittedly the weakest of the three movies.
The second film is called Command and Conquer and it is my favourite of the three. Taking place onboard a TOS era star ship and featuring music from the original series this film has a very strong Star Trek vibe that The Hill lacked. The acting is no better, but the camera work and production value is improved upon significantly.
I think this movie’s strongest point is that it knows precisely what it is. While The Hill took itself a bit too seriously at times this movie is frequently tongue in cheek with its humour and plays out more as if it is fully aware that it is a fan film. There is a very funny moment in which two conspiring officers are talking on a three-way channel with their commanding officer and one of them, not knowing about the third party, blurts out details of their plot leaving the second man awkwardly evading their captain’s suspicious accusations. The writers of this took the Machiavellian tactics of the Mirror Universe characters and shaped it into something darkly comic and it works perfectly. I really enjoyed the scene and it was the highlight I think of all three of these productions.
On the down side this film once again lost me on some plot details and after watching this and the third film I am still unclear on what exactly is going on. I concede that I may be missing backstory from other films, but as a whole these three films by themselves are difficult to follow and I would not recommend watching them without some context known first.
Command and Conquer also has some slight editing issues, but not as many as The Hill did. There is one awkward moment in which Minard teases a captain about a planned romp with his “captain’s woman” and when he ends the transmission the shot lingers a few seconds too long on Minard’s expression which makes the scene move from humourous to just awkward.
I accept that these sort of technical issues are standard fair of fan films and if I was dared to do better I am sure I would make something a lot worse, but I felt for the sake of fairness that these issues be mentioned at least in passing. All in all I really enjoyed Command and Conquer. It’s tone was right for its type of production. It did not take itself seriously and you could tell that these filmmakers knew that this movie has the production values of a local used car ad and had fun anyway. You can see the fun in everyone’s eyes and demeanour. This is cosplay at its finest. With a script and camera added it becomes a fun little project to enjoy privately or share with friends. It’s obviously nothing like Gods and Men or Axanar, let alone any of CBS’s official productions, but the fun and fandom is very much alive and I daresay it is more alive here than it is in the J. J. Abrams movies which were made with a clearly low opinion of Star Trek in mind.
The third and final film, Dark Glimmer, is also its shortest. It is literally just Minard betraying an officer and murdering her before beaming himself and his captives away from the bridge. The opening shot is a CG effect of their ship’s nacelle in the foreground and a damaged vessel in the far background running derelict. While this is a cheap computer effect it is well shot in a cinematographic standpoint and shows a solid aesthetic vision on the part of the director. Dark Glimmer still suffers from the same deadpan delivery of lines, but it is less confusing than the first two and this was as much fun to watch as it was to make I bet. Vance Major, who plays Minard, enjoys this role. You can tell he does. Many of the other actors carry the same vibe and its makes one almost wish they could be on set while these films are made just to see them have fun.

I cannot say in all honesty that I think these films are well-made or even very good, but I did enjoy them. What I think I enjoyed most was how much the actors enjoyed being in them. If a viewer approached these without taking the subject matter seriously and instead looked at it as a large group of friends young and old making a passion project together you can’t help but be affected positively by their enthusiasm and love for what they are doing. They can’t act. Their cinematography is a work in progress. The editing is choppy. The fight scenes are badly choreographed. And the production design has a very transparent shoestring budget. And yet for all of that there is a clearer and stronger love for Star Trek latent in these filmmaker’s projects than in Star Trek Into Darkness or even Discovery. Those projects are blatantly taking the Star Trek brand and modernising it to the point that hardcore Treksperts often feel alienated by the mainstream demographic these productions are clearly trying to attract. The Hill, Command and Conquer, and Dark Glimmer are made by Star Trek fans who love Star Trek, live and breathe Star Trek, and furthermore understand and appreciate Star Trek. The creators of the J. J. Abrams films and Discovery have lost a bit of their Star Trek-yness (it’s a word because I made it up) while these fan films haven’t.
The time and budget constraints have obviously diminished their quality and there are some things they need to work on and improve. But all in all I think these three movies are fun, mildly entertaining, exercises in hardcore fandom that anyone who enjoys cameraderie among friends can get in on, appreciate, and give a smile and nod at. Despite my own criticism I find myself wishing I lived closer to where these films were made just so I could talk a few of my friends involved into giving me a walk on role. I am no actor, but neither are they and that didn’t stop their passion. They had fun and it was fun seeing them have fun.

 

These three films were shot at Starbase Studios and produced by Vance Major Films.

Here are links to all three films which can be found on Youtube:

The Hill

Command and Conquer

Dark Glimmer

 

Advertisements

Friday the 13th (2009)

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

Friday-13th-Remake-Jason-Immortality

Well today is Halloween and it is time to review the twelfth and final movie in the Friday the 13th series.

To be honest I have mixed feelings toward the 2009 remake of Friday the 13th. On one hand it is the most competently made and purest Jason movie since the mid-eighties. But, on the other hand this movie makes a lot of unnecessary and idiotic choices that bring what could have been an excellent remake down several notches.

What the movie gets right it does very well. But some of the dumb things have a bad habit of lingering in my memory more than the good things and that leaves my attitude toward the movie less than positive.

The main character is a guy named Clay who is searching for his sister, Whitney, who is missing. A girl named Jenna decides to help him out, but her douchebag boyfriend, Trent, feels insecure and threatened by Clay and insults him at every turn even though the man is obviously just looking for his sister whom he is concerned about. Trent gets his revenge on Jenna by immediately cheating on her after she leaves with Clay.
This is a common trope of modern slasher movies that I really never cared for which is filling the movie with implausibly dickheaded characters that only exist so you can root for the killer to get rid of them. They are manufactured targets that the writers conceive as stereotypical bullies and assholes that become instant fodder for the slasher in the movie. Problem is I have met very few people like these characters in real life and yet these movies seem to want to tell us that they are everywhere and hard to miss. I have met plenty of assholes before, but rarely to the extreme degree these movies take them. It just makes the movie torturous to sit through every time these pricks are onscreen.
One interesting tidbit, however, is that Trent in this movie is played by Travis Van Winkle who was also in Michael Bay’s Transformers movies playing a similarly douchey character whose name is also Trent. Top that off with the fact that this remake was produced by Bay and it makes you wonder if this is the same character and somehow the Transformers movie universe includes the Friday the 13th remake universe as well. This would indicate that it is this remake which tells us the ultimate fate of Trent when he gets killed by Jason. I highly doubt this is a coincidence and this is just another thing I can add to the list of things I dislike about this movie. I don’t want to think that a few thousand miles away from Crystal Lake giant robots are fighting it out. That would be liking finding out that Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru takes place in the same universe as Ponyo.

Some other odd choices are featured in this film that make me scratch my head even more. For example the movie’s pre-title credit sequence is nearly 20 minutes long. Before the title we see a brief scene in which Pamela Voorhees is killed before fast-fowarding years later in which we see a bunch of horny and drunk campers get killed by Jason wearing a burlap sack. Later on in the movie Jason gets his iconic hockey mask in a garage which all in all makes this movie an odd combination of the first three original entries in the series in which the first two form a 20 minute backstory. Unfortunately this doesn’t really work in the movie’s favour and a lot of those first few scenes are not even needed to comprehend the plot. It just makes the movie very jarring when the title you completely forgot was gonna come anyway flashes on the screen.

But, the movie’s worst, stupidest, and most idiotic flaw is none of those things above. The Friday the 13th remake attempts to explain how Jason travels so fast. If you remember in the previous entries Jason was always lumbering and slow and yet always seemed to appear close by when someone tried to escape from him. Now while I admit that that is a bit illogical it was acceptable given the sort of movie we were watching. I really don’t care if the way Jason gets around made no sense. It’s a slasher flick. It doesn’t need to. However, the remake begs to differ. Here we are given an explanation and it is the dumbest thing imaginable. Jason Voorhees gets around by using tunnels. I am not making this shit up. Jason Voorhees stalks his victims by using an underground tunnel system beneath Crystal Lake that he pops up out of. That is so offensively stupid that I am almost ready to forgive Jason for being connected to the Evil Dead movies like in Jason Goes to Hell. Not quite ready, but close.

Eventually Clay does find Whitney and like Ginny from Part 2 she poses as Jason’s mother to distract him before she stabs him with his own machete. Shortly after dumping his body into the lake the movie ends with Jason suddenly jumping out of the water and dragging Whitney under.

All in all I can appreciate what this movie tried to do. It took the purest elements of the Friday the 13th films: the camp setting, Jason in ragged clothes with a machete and hockey mask, some story cues from the first three films, and, of course, the usual dose of sex, drugs, and alcohol; and combined them into a standard Jason flick with a higher budget than normal. Like Parts IV and VI this movie perfectly typifies a Jason movie. The problem is that the few things it tries to do differently to keep the movie fresh are all idiotic choices. The tunnels explanation is retarded, having Trent from Transformers be there is just as bad as having the Necronomicon from Evil Dead in Jason Goes to Hell, and the way the backstory was edited felt jarring and stitched on. Another issue is that this movie actual went overboard with the nudity. I know nudity is a common staple of the series, but this movie overdoes it. The sex dialogue is juvenile and the nudity is so frequent that it breaks the movie’s main plot at times. It feels almost as if this movie was made by a thirteen your old boy who is inexperienced with sex, but is hormonal enough to know how he feels about boobs and how often he wants to see them. In other words, Michael Bay produced this movie. And it really shows.

The things this movie does right we have already seen before in previous entries that were much better, lower budget or not. This unfortunately, with all of its flaws thrown in, makes this movie a merely passably entry that qualifies for a standard Jason flick, but is still pretty skippable.

I hope you all have a Happy Halloween and I will see you all next year when I review the A Nightmare on Elm Street series.

Jason X

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

image-w1280

Rule 34 is that if anything exists then there is a porn version of it out there. I wonder what rule number is the one about movie franchises ending up in space if they last long enough. I mean look at how frequently this happens. Leprechaun 4 was in space. Hellraiser: Bloodline was in space. The upcoming Machete movie will be in space. And going in the opposite direction, the Alien franchise took place entirely on earth in the Alien vs Predator movies.
And Jason X not only takes Jason into space, but it also gives him an upgrade too. Halfway through the movie he is turned into “Uber-Jason” with cybernetic parts. And if that sounds really stupid it’s only because it is.

The movie opens with Jason being cryogenically frozen by the government and waking up in the year 2455. Thankfully he is about 500 years too early to terrorise New New York and the Planet Express, but the poor sobs who unfreeze him have a hell of a time dealing with him.
He wakes up in their space ship and begins killing them off almost instantly. And this ship looks awful, by the way. The CGI here is terrible and looks more like the sort of special effects seen in a sci-fi porn parody than a mainstream production.

Like Jason Takes Manhattan this movie proposes to put Jason in a unique locale and entertain viewers with how he reacts to it. However, unlike Part VIII they actually succeed this time. We don’t see Jason on board a shuttlecraft for 40 minutes before making it to the spaceship. The majority of the film is actually on this ship and to the movie’s credit they deliver what they promise.
As far as unique environments go the one that stands out the most to me is this ship’s version of the holodeck. They don’t recreate any Sherlock Holmes adventures like they do on Star Trek, but we do see a recreation of Camp Crystal Lake which is used by the crew to confuse Jason to ease their escape.
And there are other ripoffs of sci-fi movies throughout Jason X. The plot centres around a woman from 2008 who was accidentally frozen with Jason who tries to warn the crew how dangerous Jason is. This is reminiscent of the Alien sequels where Ellen Ripley continues to oppose the government not taking the xenomorphs seriously. In fact, the majority of this movie stylistically and in tone resembles Alien: Resurrection in a lot of ways. It has the same sort of setting, atmosphere, poorly timed and unfunny humour, and laughably ridiculous gore scenes. There is even a scene where a character gets blown out a damaged window.
Jason is eventually damaged by a powerful blaster, but is revived by the ship’s medical technology which uses nanites to regenerate missing limbs and other damaged parts. Jason is converted to Uber-Jason,  but is finally defeating by a military officer who uses an evac suit to push both him and Jason into the atmosphere of planet Earth Two (someone’s been reading too much DC) incinerating them both.

As bad as this movie is it is still more entertaining than Jason Goes to Hell. It’s stupid, yes, but here we see Jason as Jason and the film’s runtime gives us no less than what it promises. It takes Jason into space and he kills people for about 90 minutes. We are not teased with 40 minutes of bullshit, there is no twist at the end revealing Jason was not Jason, and we observe Jason in his normal form and not taking the bodies of other people. And even when he is converted into Uber-Jason he is still a hulking brute with a mask on.
Stuntman Kane Hodder has proven that no matter how crappy the movie he is in he puts in a stellar and intimidating performance as Jason Voorhees. Sadly, this was Hodder’s last time in the role as it was decided to use a different stunt actor for Freddy vs. Jason.

While I do not think highly of this movie (in fact I still kinda like Parts V and VIII a little better) I am never bored by it. It entertains me even though it really really sucks.
The continuity of the movie does pose some minor concerns since in the last film we saw Jason plummeting into the depths of Hell. And yet this movie opens in 2008 and Jason is alive and well before being frozen for nearly 500 years. I imagine this jarred fans back in 2001, however, with the release of Freddy vs. Jason this really isn’t an issue anymore. The ending of Freddy vs. Jason left it open for Jason to roam the world for awhile before being captured by the government. The only real issue is that Jason X takes place after Freddy vs. Jason despite coming out 2 years before it.

Now for those of you wondering I am not reviewing Freddy vs. Jason this year. I am going to save that for next year’s Horror Review-athon when I tackle the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. My reasons for this is that that movie takes place mostly in Springwood and is introduced from Freddy’s perspective and Freddy is also treated as the main antagonist of the movie. While it is technically both, it is more a Freddy movie than it is a Jason one.

We have just one more review to go. On Halloween I will review the Friday the 13th remake and then I will see you all next year.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

8721_1

The Friday the 13th series is probably the only film franchise in history to have two supposed “final” entries. And like Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Jason Goes to Hell spawned sequels despite its eponymous claims.
Jason Goes to Hell also has the unique distinction of being, in my opinion, the absolute worst Friday the 13th movie ever made. People shit on Jason X all the time; and while I agree that that movie is atrocious at least it was mildly entertaining. Jason Goes to Hell is just 90 minutes of footage that no fan ever wanted to see. When I watch a Jason movie it is my expectation to see Jason in it. And, yeah yeah, I know parts I and V didn’t have Jason either, but they had excuses. One was a first entry that set the foundation for later entries and the other movie at least featured a Jason Voorhees outfit which tricked its audience into believing they were seeing Jason in the fucking movie.

Here the entire plot of the movie is Jason transferring his soul into the bodies of random people so they will do his killing for him. Unlike in the last movie, this out-of-left-field lore is given an explanation, but unfortunately it is stupid and satisfies no one.

The movie opens with Jason back in Crystal Lake. How he got there is unclear since last time we saw him he was in a New York sewer and also a little boy. I guess he got better and walked back. It’s probably equal to the explanation as to how he got to Alice’s apartment at the beginning of part two. And at least he is not lugging a severed head of his mother with him this time.

Anyway, this movie opens with a SWAT team ambushing Jason and blowing him to bits. When you see how easy they accomplish this it leaves you wondering why Jason was such a problem in the six previous movies he was in. They must have been specially trained by Tommy Jarvis or something.

Anyway, the coroner is attending to Jason’s remains in the morgue. Now if I thought the coroner in part IV sleeping with nurses and watching bizarre exercise porn was kinda weird this guy is way worse. He becomes hypnotised by Jason’s heart which is still beating and starts to eat it. Consequently Jason’s soul is transferred to him and he leaves the hospital to begin slaughtering people.

Meanwhile the rest of the town is celebrating the supposed demise of Jason Voorhees. To celebrate a local diner is selling a menu featuring hamburgers shaped like Jason’s hockey mask and items called “Jason fries” and so on and so forth. Now for fans of the Friday the 13th series we would probably love it if a local diner here in our towns did this. However, it should be noted in this film’s world Jason was a real murderer. In this world such a menu would be in horribly bad taste. That would be like a diner in Sedgwick County, Kansas selling “BTK fries” or “Dennis Rader burgers” shortly after he was incarcerated. Real people died there because of him and I doubt they would appreciate such a tasteless way to celebrate the end of a terrible ordeal. However, not a single character behaves as if this sort of conduct is out of whack.

A mysterious character named Creighton Duke is telling the main character that she is secretly Jason’s niece and that the only way to defeat Jason is for a living relative to stab him with a mystic knife. How the hell he even knows this is beyond me. For the longest time Jason was just a very very strong pain and injury-absorbing retard. But he was still mortal. In part VI he became a sort of zombie after being resurrected by lightning, but the only supernatural element was not introduced until Part VIII and that came and went with no explanation. Now all of a sudden we are to believe that Pamela Voorhees was some sort of occultist who kept a Necronomicon and a ceremonial blade from The Evil Dead movies in her house. I am calling bullshit!
Anyway the majority of the movie is Jason moving from body to body slaughtering people and his niece and ex-boyfriend disbelieving Duke’s crazy theories. In the end the two become believers, Jason is revived magically into his original form, and he is ultimately stabbed in the heart with the Evil Dead knife. Groovy.

Jason is then literally dragged into hell leaving nothing but his hockey mask in the sand. The movie’s last shot is Freddy’s Krueger’s glove coming out of the ground and dragging the mask into the ground. This, of course, is setting up Freddy vs. Jason which was not released until nearly 10 years later. Meanwhile this final scene remains the best and only good part of the movie.

The rest of Jason Goes to Hell is abysmal. It’s boring, idiotic, disappointing, and ultimately insulting to fans who paid good money to see a Jason movie. The idea that Pamela had the Necronomicon, Jason had living relatives, and Jason can transfer his soul to other people makes no sense and violates everything we knew about Jason’s backstory.
I don’t get who they were trying to please with this movie. Horror fans know what they are getting when they go see these kinds of movies and their expectations are low. Fucking that up reveals profound incompetence. While the formula of Jason slashing people for 90 minutes did get a little tired after a decade of movies I still think changing up the formula should be done in the spirit of the franchise. Part VIII and V, despite their badness, still did this. Whether the identity of the killer or the locale of the killer are changed it stands to reason that the rest should remain the same. This movie is a failure pure and simple. I have forgiven Part V and Part VIII for their shortcomings. I have not forgiven this one. Jason Goes to Hell is my absolutely least favourite of the entire series. Even sending Jason into space did not top the badness. And, oh joy, we are gonna be getting to that one very soon.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

Part8image-1

The title of Jason Goes to Manhattan is false advertising. Jason does not take Manhattan in this movie; in fact, he is barely in the fucking city at all. The majority of the movie’s runtime is shot on a cruise ship that doesn’t make it to New York until nearly 40 minutes in. And most of the New York scenes were actually shot in Vancouver since the film’s budget could not afford shooting in the Big Apple. Perhaps Jason should have stayed in the more affordable Crystal Lake, New Jersey where he belongs.

Aside from the fact that Jason is at the bottom of the lake nothing from the previous film carries over to this one as far as continuity goes. In fact this movie takes little cues from the continuity established in the previous films at all. It does not outright contradict it per se, but it does take its direction in such independent avenues that you really don’t need the previous movies to comprehend it at all. In fact, this was the first Jason movie I had ever seen. It was on TV late at night when my folks were asleep and I snuck in the living room to watch it on mute. Even on mute this stupid fucking movie was easy to comprehend. Jason goes to New York after nearly 40 minutes of tedious scenes of him on a boat with plenty of murders interspersed in between. It’s just another slasher movie.
By the way I never told my folks that story so, mom, if you are reading this consider this review my confession.

After two horny teenagers by themselves on a boat drop anchor over the lake to have sex the anchor cuts a power line that electrocutes Jason’s body. This, of course, revives him and not showing any gratitude for his resurrection he climbs aboard and kills the two teens.

He then, later on, sneaks aboard a cruise ship carrying students to NYC who just graduated from high school. On board is our heroine, Rennie, who has a severe phobia of water and is forced to face her fear onboard the cruise ship. Also on board is her uncle, one of the teachers, who is the cause of her fear when he pushed her into Crystal Lake as a girl to teach her to swim. She starts having strange visions of Jason as a little boy drowning when she is alone in her cabin. These visions of Jason as a child crop up every once and awhile in the movie and each time the boy Jason starts looking more and more deformed. This is never really explained in the movie because, aside from his resurrections by electricity, there have not been any previous supernatural elements to Jason’s backstory. This odd plotline has no proper introduction and is not resolved with any satisfactory conclusion.

When most of the crew and students wind up dead from Jason’s periodic slicing and dicing the remaining survivors, including Rennie, her uncle, and her boyfriend; escape in rafts to New York City. There things start going horribly wrong from the start. They are accosted by two drug pushers who try to rape and inject Rennie with heroine, but unfortunately for them Jason shows up and kills the thugs and continues his stalking of the survivors of the ship.

After killing some more the survivors boil down to Rennie and her boyfriend who are chased down into a sewage tunnel. Rennie eventually splashes a barrel of toxic waste into Jason’s face which surprisingly hurts Jason. I say surprisingly because Jason has hitherto survived without slowing down multiple bullet wounds, electrocutions, drownings, hanging, and a host of other things. But apparently toxic waste is enough to not only stop Jason in his tracks, but even leave him screaming in agony. He pulls his mask off revealing his hideously deformed face and staggers after Rennie. Rennie and her boyfriend climb up the drainage hole, but Jason doesn’t make it in time and is overwhelmed when the tunnel floods with toxic waste.
This is followed by a very bizarre moment in which Jason’s body transforms into the body of a young boy similar to the one Rennie saw in her visions. No real explanation is offered and none of the sequels explain why this happened to Jason.

This movie fails too much in so many places to be a good Jason movie, but I do find moments in it that are entertaining. Most of the stuff with Jason in New York are a lot of fun. Probably my favourite scene in the movie is when Jason kicks a boom box some street thugs are listening to. For those of you who have already seen the movie you already know what I am talking about and for those of you who haven’t I will not spoil how it plays out. Suffice it say, it is pretty fucking hilarious.

Unfortunately funny moments like these are too few and far between and the majority of the film is spent aboard the cruise ship which is not that entertaining. The movie is a massive disappointment to anyone who went into it expecting 90 minutes of Jason in New York and with the addition of the weird visions subplot which comes out of nowhere and goes nowhere for the rest of the series the movie inevitably becomes a confusing mess that is not worth the sit through. Skip to the part where they reach New York and just enjoy it as a Jason Voorhees’ short film. You will be happier for it.

 

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

f3-10-1024x447

In Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood Jason Voorhees gets resurrected accidentally by a psychic. If that isn’t jumping the shark for the Jason series then that is only because we haven’t reached the ones where he goes to Manhattan, goes to outer space, and has his soul possess other people’s bodies yet. The New Blood starts the trend of taking the Friday the 13th series to ridiculous lengths without any deference to logic, continuity, or reason.

The main character is a girl named Tina Shepherd who has psychic powers including the ability to move objects. She accidentally murdered her father by knocking him into Crystal Lake when she was a little girl and now, as a teenager, she and her mother have moved back into their old house on the lake.
In a fit of stress she accidentally exerts her psychic ability into the lake and revives Jason from the dead. His corpse, more zombie like than ever, rises from the water and begins slaughtering teenagers who are having a party next door. They are having a birthday bash for a friend of theirs who never shows up because Jason killed him on his way there.

One of the party guests is a guy named Nick whom Tina befriends despite the misgivings of some of his friends. One bitch in particular named Melissa gets jealous of the friendship and openly mocks Tina’s emotional problems and history with psychiatric treatment. Tina gets pissed and accidentally destroys Melissa’s pearl necklace with her mind. I would suppose this is preferable to burning down a town and killing all of your classmates while covered in pig’s blood, but the incident leaves Tina distraught all the same.

As with any standard Jason flick the killer murders the majority of the film’s cast leaving only one or two survivors; in this case, Tina and Nick. The last character to die is Melissa who gets an axe in her pretty little empty blonde head right before he starts chasing Nick and Tina upstairs.
Tina uses her psychic powers on Jason which succeed in ripping his mask off and smashing a hanging light onto his head. The showdown eventually leads into the basement where Tina telekinetically shoots nails at Jason and then she starts a fire which blows the house up.
Our two heroes and Jason escape thankfully and Tina takes Jason down by using her psychic powers to send him back into the lake where he belongs.

We never see Tina in any sequels after this and so we never know what her life was like and what she did with her psychic abilities afterward. We’ll never know. Jason’s story, on the other hand, has not quite reached its end yet sadly. Jason still has to take Manhattan, go to Hell, go to space, fight Freddy Krueger, and then get rebooted before he finally bites the dust.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood is not a good movie. It’s absurd, illogical, and virtually no thought was put into it. It’s just a lame attempt to revive Jason because the last film was popular. And like its predecessor it made a decent enough profit at the box office to produce another sequel. Horror fans are a loyal bunch and a lot of these movies will find an audience no matter how shitty they are. Just look at the Amityville series if you don’t believe me.

The New Blood is the last of the original Jason movies to really feel like a Friday the 13th movie. Starting with Part VIII the locations start either changing or the character of Jason gets fucked with in bizarre ways. The majority of Part VIII is spent away from Crystal Lake, Jason Goes to Hell has Jason’s spirit inhabit bodies of other people, Jason X takes him to space, and Freddy vs. Jason takes place mostly in Springwood. It’s not until the remake that the series returns to its roots and even that movie has problems which I will talk about when I come to it. All in all, The New Blood is the last film in the original series to feature Jason in his natural habitat as himself killing people. The New Blood is not the worst of the Jason series, but it is the point where the series starts to spiral downward in quality. On a positive note, though, this is the first Jason movie to feature Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees. Hodder has played the character more times than any other actor and he is a frequent fan favourite at horror conventions and interviews.

Speaking of conventions, horror fans are what really keep genre films like horror flicks, sci-fi movies, and cult obscurities alive. There is a fun cult-esque sense of belonging in the fandom communities that makes films like this worth while. Critics may scoff, but for many people these obscure actors and filmmakers are icons and horror is a way of life for them. And critics need to give films like the Friday the 13th series a second glance anyway. The low-rent exploitation vibes aside a lot of these flicks were way more progressive in their sexual politics than many action movies of the time. Characters like Nancy and Alice from the Freddy movies, Laurie from Halloween, and Tina from Friday the 13th Part VII were not common in other types of movies at the time. While the action flicks had bulky man-dudes rescuing the female leads these critically panned slasher flicks had their women surviving on their own. Nick barely does shit in this film and it is Tina who does most of the work contending with Jason Voorhees. What mainstream Hollywood is just barely catching up with nowadays, films like Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood were doing long beforehand. Bad or not I give credit where credit is due.

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

f3-10-1024x447

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is my favourite of all of the Jason movies. It does everything required and expected of a Jason movie and it does it all so perfectly. Everything from the pacing, Jason’s amount of screen time, humour, story, and kills are done competently and effectively. Jason Lives epitomises and defines the perfect Friday the 13th movie. If someone you know has never seen the films and wants to know what they are about show them Friday the 13th Part VI. It is the perfect essence of what a Jason movie is.

Jason Lives is the third and final entry in the “Tommy Jarvis” trilogy, a story arc that began in the so-called Final Chapter of the series. Tommy has now fully recovered from his PTSD from the last film and no mention is made of his psychotic breakdown at the end of Part V. While this may raise some jarring continuity issues I think it is for the best that the events of Part V be acknowledged as passively as possible.
Tommy, in an attempt to find closure from Jason Voorhee’s traumatic role in his life, heads over with a friend to Jason’s grave in the middle of a rainstorm. They dig up Jason’s body and Tommy intends to burn it along with his machete and hockey mask. However, after seeing the corpse Tommy has a meltdown and begins pummeling the cadaver with a shovel and a metal pole. He sticks the pole in Jason’s chest which proves to be a terrible idea when lightning strikes the pole and resurrects Jason a la Frankenstein. They should have called this movie Friday the 13th Part VI: It’s Alive!

Jason kills Tommy’s friend by punching a hole in his chest and takes back his mask and machete. Thanks a lot Tommy! You just resurrected and armed Jason Voorhees!

Tommy flees the scene and tries to warn the local authorities that Jason is alive and well and back to his old slashing habits. Of course, none of them believe him and when he gets riled up they lock him in the drunk tank. Fortunately, Tommy manages to charm the sheriff’s daughter who helps him escape. Bring Your Daughter to Work Day probably shouldn’t be practised if you are a cop.

While on his rampage Jason manages to find Camp Crystal Lake again and begins stalking and killing the counselors. This time the camp is actually up and running and there are kids already staying in the cabins. This marks the first time in history that Jason is too late and fails to keep the camp from opening. His mom is gonna be pissed!
Jason doesn’t kill any of the kids strangely enough. I am guessing he is above that sort of thing. Adults, teenagers, and dogs maybe. But killing kids is going too far for Jason Voorhees! No wonder he hated Freddy so much.

Eventually we reach a climactic showdown between Tommy and Jason on the lake itself. Tommy, while inside a small boat, uses gasoline to light the lake on fire and during their fight he succeeds in using a rock and chain to hold Jason underwater and drown him. Tommy goes home with his new girlfriend and probably feels like a badass for killing Jason Voorhees twice and surviving all the movies he is in. Tommy Jarvis is awesome. Put him and Ash Williams together in a slasher movie and it would be over in two minutes.

One of the standout qualities of Jason Lives is that you like all of the characters. Slasher movies have a habit of making all their characters be unlikable douchebags that you can’t wait to see slaughtered by the killer. This trait only got worse in the 90’s. But here all of the main characters, camp counselors, and the kids in the cabins are all likable, funny, and you root for them. Like Laurie Strode from Halloween or Nancy Thompson from A Nightmate on Elm Street Tommy Jarvis is a recurring hero who has a personal vendetta against the antagonist that you want to see succeed and you cheer when he does.
While Part V is a pretty piss poor entry in the series the Tommy Jarvis trilogy as a whole makes for the best of the Jason series. They took the series in a new direction in which the characters were more than just gore fodder for Jason to kill in the movie’s 90 minute runtime. You like them and you want to see where their stories go.

The funny moments in the movie are well-balanced and do not render the movie into a comedy like Army of Darkness did. The humour is well placed and makes the movie light yet still appropriate. There is a funny moment when a woman tries to bribe Jason with a Mastercard to make him leave her alone. It doesn’t work of course, but in retrospect Jason should have taken her offer. He could have used the money since trips to Manhattan aren’t cheap.
One of my favourite scenes is when a couple of young boys in the camp are hiding under the beds and one asks the other, “So, what were you gonna be when you grew up?”

This movie is also surprisingly absent of nudity. There is only one sex scene and the actors have their shirts on for the entirety of it. That makes this the cleanest of the Jason movies and it shows a lot to the film’s credit since most of the Jason movies were low rent slasher flicks with strong exploitation vibes to them. The nudity was an essential part of drawing in paying audiences. They were “geek shows” showcasing sex and violence for an hour and a half. Jason Lives is confident enough in its own quality that it doesn’t rely on nudity at all and shows none. It’s almost as if the movie knows it is the best of the entire series.

Sadly this is also the last of the “good” movies in the Friday the 13th series. Jumping the shark became common for the series after this with a bevy of psychics, trips to New York, and space adventures bringing the series to an all time low. Many of those movies are fun and campy if you approach them in the right mood, but for me the best of the bunch is Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. It’s the definitive Jason flick.