Friday, January 1, 2016

Worth Mentioning - I'll Show You Crazy

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.

This week, Sean S. Cunningham brings thrills and a slasher parody provides laughs.


Despite how big of a fan I am of the Friday the 13th franchise, I haven't delved too deeply into the career of the director who kicked off the series in 1980, Sean S. Cunningham. Of his '80s directorial output, the only movie I had seen other than F13 was 1989's DeepStar Six, but since my Remake Comparison collaborator Priscilla is also a major fan of Friday the 13th movies (we have written about the original film and part 7 together), I decided to fix our lack of Cunningham knowledge by taking a couple of his other movies with me when I went to visit her in Brazil last month.

One of the movies was The New Kids, which Cunningham directed from a screenplay by Stephen Gyllenhaal, father of Jake and Maggie. In my opinion, it was one of the most entertaining movies we watched during this visit.

The New Kids starts with a fake-out, introducing us to Tom Atkins as a career military man John "Mac" MacWilliams. When Atkins shows up in a movie by a genre filmmaker, you can typically expect him to have a strong presence in it, like in John Carpenter's The Fog, Tommy Lee Wallace's Halloween III: Season of the Witch, William Lustig's Maniac Cop, Patrick Lussier's Drive Angry and My Bloody Valentine remake, or even the wraparound segments in George A. Romero's Creepshow. Here, he's only around long enough to make some inappropriate comments to his teenage son Loren (Shannon Presby) and daughter Abby (Lori Loughlin) - he wakes Loren up with a reference to masturbation and his morning conversation with Abby includes him saying she has a sexy body - before putting them through an exercise routine during the title sequence. Then Mac and his wife leave their children home alone as they head off to attend a ceremony where he's presented with a Presidential commendation for valor.

Loren and Abby's parents never return from that ceremony, dying in a car accident on their way home. Atkins has left the picture.

The teens are taken in by their misfit uncle Charlie, who at first seems to be a rather questionable character. He gives them a bedroom not inside his house but in an old shed, he handles their money while having a cash flow problem of his own, and puts them to work fixing up his old, rundown, Christmas-themed tourist attraction, Santa's Funland. But anything unsavory you might expect from Charlie is quickly overshadowed by the antics of a group of young men Loren and Abby run into when they start attending the local high school.

Abby is the focus of attention for these young men, a quintet of redneck cretins called Dutra, Gid, Moonie, JoeBob, and Gordo. They take an instant interest in her beauty and the body her father admired so much and make a bet among themselves over who is most likely to end up scoring with her. These guys think they're real smooth, but they can't hide the sexism and violence brewing just under the surface.

Dutra and Gid both try to ask Abby out, trying to woo her off to one of the three Ds - a dance, the drive-in, or a dogfight (Dutra is training a dog to be a fighter) - but as soon as she shows the slightest bit of hesitation, they snap and get threatening. Once she has shot down their attempts, they switch gears and decide to devote their lives to making the lives of her and her family a living hell.

From that point on, the film is a back and forth of escalating violence between Dutra's boys and the MacWilliams siblings, with Loren doing his best to fend the local toughs off and them refusing to back down.

The New Kids is a very different sort of movie than Friday the 13th, but an enthralling and entertaining one. There are solid performances from the cast all around, but the shining star amongst them is James Spader as Dutra. Spader employs a bleached hair-do and his best southern gent accent to bring the gun-toting, dogfighting drug dealer to the screen, and it is a joy to watch. He looks really silly, but he's way into his own appearance, so much so that he even has a picture of himself striking a pose on his bedroom wall. Spader's accent is awful, but that just adds to the charm. The way he says the word "bullshit" in one scene has caused that line to be quoted numerous times throughout my stay in Brazil.

The New Kids is a great thriller that deserves to have gotten a lot more attention over the last thirty years. I highly recommend checking it out, as we had a lot of fun with it.


Nursing a broken heart over a break-up with her boyfriend, who she suspects was cheating on her, teenage Lucy seeks solace at an intimate get-together being hosted at the home of her friend Eva, whose parents are out of town for the week. In attendance are Lucy's BFF Margot, the extremely promiscuous Ashley, and party girl Beth, fresh from a stint in rehab but still up for a party. In fact, Beth uses rehab not as a way to quit drugs, but simply as a way to rest up for a serious bender.

Eva expects this to be a quiet night, but unfortunately for the girls the get-together is not only crashed by some boys invited over by Ashley and ruined by the revelation that Lucy's boyfriend was indeed cheating on her with almost everyone at this little gathering, but also crashed and ruined by the arrival of a violent murderer who begins knocking them, and numerous pizza delivery guys, off one-by-one.

The description may sound somewhat typical, but writer/director Brandon Bassham did not make just another average slasher with this movie. The Slashening is a parody of the slasher genre, and one without a serious bone in its body. Everything about it is absurd and over-the-top, and it's filled to the brim with ridiculous scenarios, characters, and dialogue.

The dialogue is the film's greatest strength, and it's perfectly delivered by the cast Bassham assembled. Some of the casting may have been inappropriate for a serious slasher, but a parody can get away with anything, and for this movie and these characters the roles were cast just right.

I wasn't familiar with any of the actresses in The Slashening before watching the movie, but I'm hoping to see them do more work in the comedy genre. It has been announced that at least some of them will be returning for Bassham's next movie, The Ghostening, and based on how much I enjoyed The Slashening I will definitely be checking out the filmmaker's take on the haunted house sub-genre as soon as possible.

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