Friday, December 13, 2013

Worth Mentioning - Deformed. Devious. Deadly.

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody glorifies Jasons and monsters.


Hosted by Tom Savini, this 90 minute look back at the Friday the 13th series aired on the Starz movie channel just in time to coincide with the release of the twelfth installment in the franchise, 2009's Friday the 13th. In fact, it first aired on the same day as that movie hit theatres, February 13, 2009.

Produced by folks who have also brought us documentaries on the Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream series, His Name Was Jason features interviews with multiple people who were involved with the films; writers, directors, actors, most of the heroes and heroines, and every primary performer to have worn the mask of Jason Voorhees - both the sack mask and the iconic hockey mask.

The doc also features a whole lot of comments from fans of the series, from horror bloggers to genre names like Wrong Turn 2 director Joe Lynch, Hatchet creator Adam Green, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter author Seth Grahame-Smith, Sleepaway Camp's Felissa Rose, actors Seth Green and James Roday, etc.

The expected subjects are covered - there are brief recaps of the movies, the characters of Jason and Pamela Voorhees are examined, MPAA-forced cuts are lamented, some locations are revisited, interviewees discuss Jason's mask, weapons, kills, dissect the formula, there's an overview of the marketing, the Jason performers and the heroes and heroines of the series get specific attention.

The documentary is a good time, but the sheer amount of fan interviews can sometimes be overwhelming. Some segments play out like a superficial "I love the F13s" chat and any information about the making of the films that comes through can sometimes feel incidental.

Fans of Friday the 13th probably aren't going to learn a whole lot by watching His Name Was Jason, but it is a very fun celebration of our beloved series and the hockey masked killing machine at its center. Jason Voorhees is a beloved pop culture icon at this point, he deserves some praise in the spotlight.

For those looking for a little something deeper than what the documentary itself offers, the two-disc special edition DVD release contains hours of extended interviews with the people who worked on the films; the Jason performers, the directors, the writers, the actors. There are featurettes with extended locations visits. And more.

The makers of His Name Was Jason weren't completely satisfied with how it came out, the amount of fan interviews in there was a mandate that was put on them, and they knew they could make something that dug deeper into the franchise, like Peter Bracke's coffee table book Crystal Lake Memories had. In fact, they went on to team up with Bracke to make a seven hour F13 documentary called Crystal Lake Memories, which was released on Blu-ray and DVD back in October, and which I will be talking about on the blog on a future Friday the 13th.


Based on a novel of the same name by Chuck Logan, Homefront comes to the screen via the direction of Gary Fleder, who has a solid filmography made up with the likes of Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, Kiss the Girls, and Don't Say a Word, and a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone. Stallone had considered starring in the movie himself but then, deciding that he was too old for the lead role, he passed the project over to his Expendables co-star Jason Statham.

Statham stars as Interpol agent turned undercover DEA agent Phil Broker, who retires after a drug bust goes wrong and ends with multiple casualties. Recently widowed when his wife lost her battle with cancer, Broker finds himself a single father to their nine-year-old daughter Maddy and sets out to fulfill his wife's wish of raising Maddy in the peace and quiet of her own small Louisiana hometown. The peace and quiet doesn't last long after Broker arrives.

The trouble begins with a simple schoolyard altercation. A bully named Teddy steals Maddy's hat, taunts her, tries to push her around... So Maddy uses the self defense skills her father has taught her to give Teddy a bloody nose. The situation is escalated when the parents are called in to the school and the bully's mouthy, ranting, meth addict mother Cassie urges her husband to beat Broker up... But he doesn't fare any better against Broker than his son did against Maddy.

Angry and humiliated, Cassie makes a visit to her brother, who's nicknamed Gator and who spends his days "cooking up that meth" and dreaming of expanding his business. All Cassie has in mind is some vengeance through intimidation, but when Gator digs up Broker's history he both sees a need to eliminate this potential threat to his meth operation and a way make himself a kingpin. Soon Broker and Maddy's lives are in danger, and what began as an issue between preteens ends in lethal acts of violence...

One of the most despicable things a person can do is hurt a child, or even threaten to, so by putting Maddy in the middle of the conflict the film immediately draws the line in the sand for the viewer - the bad guys are scum and we want to see Broker beat the hell out of them. And he does just that. The way the hits during the fist fights in this movie are presented, they come off as some of the hardest hits I've ever seen in a movie.

It's always great to watch Jason Statham kick some ass, and the beatings he deals out in this film are particular righteous. He's got a great supporting cast, with Under the Dome/The Caller's Rachelle Lefevre as a potential love interest who sort of disappears from the movie once the action plot comes into the forefront, Clancy Brown as the local sheriff, and little Izabela Vidovic making a fantastic debut as Maddy. Broker's adversaries include The Grey's Frank Grillo, Winona Ryder as a biker groupie, Kate Bosworth giving a great performance as the methed-out Cassie, and James Franco (Oz, the Great and Powerful) as Gator. I was concerned going in that Franco might give an eccentric or over-the-top performance in something like this, but he plays his redneck meth-maker in a very real, down-to-earth way. He does seem to have a certain glee in his eyes when he's acting directly opposite Jason Statham, but there's no hint of his experimental art project side here.

I didn't even watch a trailer for this movie before I went to see it, my ticket purchase was based entirely on the names Stallone and Statham. And they delivered. With a solid dramatic story wrapped around very engaging and satisfying bursts of action, Homefront is a great old fashioned thriller.

The only other people in the auditorium when I saw the movie were five middle aged to elderly women, 80% of whom were rocking silver hair. There were jumps and gasps and a good time was had by all.

HIDEOUS! (1997)

Written by Full Moon Features regular Benjamin Carr (a.k.a. Neal Marshall Stevens) and directed by the boss man himself Charles Band, Hideous! is another entry in Full Moon's vast library of "little terrors" offerings.

It all begins at the Pony Valley sewage treatment plant, where the shift supervisor is regaling a couple of new employees with stories of all the strange things that can wash up in the sewage. Why, he's even seen deformed fetuses in there. And what do you know, within seconds of him mentioning this, another such fetus pops up in the sewage. He scoops it out of the water, and from there we see just what he does when such a thing occurs - he takes the fetus and sells it to Belinda Yost at International Medical Specimens.

Miss Yost does some black market dealings on the side, selling various medical oddities to eccentric collectors, the main two of whom are Doctor Emilio Lorca and Napoleon Lazar. There is an intense rivalry between Lorca and Lazar, they have no respect for each other, both doubt the other's reasoning behind their collections - Lorca considers Lazar a gauche gourmand, in Lazar's opinion Lorca is just a dabbling dilettante. Lorca pays Miss Yost a retainer so he'll have first refusal for any of her sales, but when she disregards that to use the sewer worker's incredible find to make a deal with Lazar - he can have this new fetus for $650,000, but must first agree to make $250,000 worth of purchases from her every year for the next ten years - Lorca cannot let this stand.

Lorca's personal assistant is a woman named Sheila, who dresses only in a leather vest and leather hot pants and prefers to sit crosslegged on top of tables. In the film's most popular scene, a gun-wielding, gorilla mask-wearing, topless Sheila robs Lazar out in the snowy countryside, stealing his latest collector's piece and taking it to her boss's castle - which he had shipped from its original place on the Rhine to this Pennsylvania location. (The movie was actually filmed in Romania.) He had an acid bath placed beneath a trap door in his office as well, presumably because an acid bath is way better than a paper shredder.

Lorca places the jarred fetus with the three other deformed human fetuses he has in his collection, making for a nice matching set - he's got enough human fetuses to take up an entire shelf now. But his peaceful, although creepy, admiration of his collection is soon interrupted when Lazar arrives at his castle with Miss Yost, her dimwitted secretary, and a private investigator in tow.

Lorca's visitors demand that he return the fetus to Lazar... but soon everyone comes to realize that his collection of human fetuses have somehow come back to life and are now stalking the castle. The deformed little creatures are devious and deadly, and despite being fetuses they can form plans and understand English, though they can't write it very well. And keep in mind, they may be homicidal, strong, able to handle guns, one of them even has porcupine-like spines, but they're also still essentially just babies... so they will take an opportunity to attempt at breastfeeding...

This is one oddball movie, a wacked-out horror/comedy with over-the-top, ridiculous characters. The actors are all very entertaining their roles, from Michael Citriniti and Mel Johnson Jr. as Lorca and Lazar to Rhonda Griffin as the astoundingly stupid secretary Elvina Shaw. Many viewers find that Jacqueline Lovell as the scantily clad Sheila is the best part of the movie, and it's not just because of her topless scene; Lovell delivers a very fun performance.

The downside to the film is that its slimy little monsters don't really get up to all that much, they're definitely not on the level of most of Full Moon's killer dolls, this is certainly no Puppet Master. The goofiness of the potential victims is really more of a draw than the hideous fetus creatures. There's a reason why these little guys never got a sequel, but their movie is pretty fun.

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