Friday, May 13, 2022

Worth Mentioning - Freaky Friday the 13th

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. 

A trio of slashers, and a couple Friday the 13th stars.


Click: The Calendar Girl Killer is a movie I wanted to see for years before I had the chance to check it out. I had heard that it was a terrible mess, but I couldn't be deterred: Susan Jennifer Sullivan of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood and Juliette Cummins of Running Hot, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, Psycho III, Slumber Party Massacre II, and Deadly Dreams are in the cast. I had to see it.

When I did watch it, I discovered that, yes, it is such a mess than it's nearly unwatchable. At the center of the story is photographer Jack Akerman (Ross Hagen), who gathers a bunch of models at a secluded property so he can shoot pictures for a calendar project that will feature beautiful women in violent situations. A lot of the movie's 87 minutes are dedicated to Akerman's photo shoots, minute after minute showing his models posing for his camera while vintage porn-quality music plays on the soundtrack. There are seemingly endless stretches of nothing going on in this movie, and some character drama involving model Cindy (Keely Sims) and her douchey boyfriend Johnny (Gregory Scott Cummins) that surely no one will care about.

After this movie has meandered for almost an hour, it finally turns into a slasher, with a man dressed up in nurse drag knocking off models while having flashbacks to being abused as a child by a female guardian in a nurse uniform. So you only get a few minutes of worthwhile material out of those 87 minutes, and some viewers won't even be able to watch one of the murder scenes because there's a strobe light flashing on and off through most of it. But if you stick with it long enough, you'll get to see that the killer is really into setting off explosions.

Hagen directed Click with John Stewart, and those two also contributed to the screenplay alongside David Reskin, David Chute, Carol Lynn, and Hoke Howell. Obviously none of the six had a clear vision for how to bring a decent story to the screen. The basic idea totally works for a slasher - models going to a secluded location and getting knocked off between photo shoots - but the execution here was dreadful.

And yet I'm still glad I watched it, because I got to see both Susan Jennifer Sullivan and Juliette Cummins in another movie, and even got to see them share the screen.

FREAKY (2020)

Director Christopher Landon brought us the fun time loop slashers Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2U, so when it was announced that he was going to be making a body swap slasher, I was hyped. Especially since the project originally had the working title Freaky Friday the 13th, simultaneously paying tribute to my favorite slasher franchise and the most popular body swap movie ever made. Of course, the title got trimmed down on the way to the screen so there wouldn't be any franchise confusion, but the story does still take place around Friday the 13th.

The film begins with a hulking, masked slasher called the Blissfield Butcher claiming his latest victims in a mansion that's full of ancient artifacts. On his way out, the Butcher (played by Vince Vaughn) steals an ancient dagger called La Dola. And when he attacks meek and nerdy high school student Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton) soon after, he stabs her with La Dola... inadvertently causing them to switch bodies. Now the mind of the Butcher is in Millie's body, and Millie's mind is in the body of a 6'5", middle-aged serial killer. And if Millie doesn't stab the Butcher with La Dola by midnight the following day, causing them to switch bodies again, this body swap will be permanent. They'll be trapped in each other's bodies forever.

While the Butcher uses Millie's body to continue his killing spree, Millie has to convince her pals Nyla (Celeste O'Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich), as well as her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton), that it's her in this man's body so they can help her get out of that body.

Just like Happy Death Day, Freaky is a highly entertaining slasher comedy - and this one is rated R, so there's some harsher language and more blood in this one than in the Happy Death Days. Landon wrote a really fun script with Michael Kennedy, and then assembled a great cast to play their characters. Vaughn and Newton as awesome as the body-swapped Butcher and Millie; Vaughn is hilarious acting like a teenage girl. He was very dedicated to this concept, and went further than I would have expected him to go for the sake of comedy. There's a comedic scene in a car that was so surprising to me, I remembered that more clearly than any of the slashing in the year between the two viewings I've had of the movie.

Enhancing my enjoyment of the film even further is the fact that Alan Ruck has a role as douchey teacher, Millie's mom is played by Katie Finneran of Night of the Living Dead 1990, and the movie was shot in Covington, Georgia. The same area where Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI was filmed. They even got some shots of the Covington clocktower that can be seen in Jason Lives.


Malignant is a movie I was interested in checking out because it was directed by James Wan, and I watch everything Wan makes. It also looked appealing to me because the trailers sold it as a trippy slasher of sorts; Wan has called the film his tribute to giallos and movies like Eyes of Laura Mars. It's one of those stories where the heroine can see through the eyes of a killer for some reason. So I thought I might enjoy Malignant... but I didn't expect to love it primarily because the movie is absolutely bugnuts insane.

Annabelle Wallis stars as Madison Lake, who is married to a scumbag who slams her head into the wall during her introductory scene. That night, someone comes into their house and brutally murders her husband. No loss there. The killer then attacks Madison, and I honestly have no idea how what happens in this moment is able to happen. But anyway, the murder of Madison's husband is just the beginning. Soon she's being stalked by a mysterious character who is able to manipulate electricity, speaks through radios, moves in a strange way, and claims to be Gabriel. A name from Madison's past. The imaginary friend she had as a child (Mckenna Grace plays the young Madison), a "friend" who got so terrifying that she began referring to him as the Devil. Now Gabriel is back, somehow alive, and murdering doctors who have a connection to the Simion Research Hospital. A hospital that is now abandoned, a towering waterside structure. The exterior of this place clearly was not a practical location.

As Gabriel murders these doctors, Madison witnesses them seemingly through a psychic connection. She sees them as if she were right there in the room with the killer and his victims. 

While Madison is being freaked out and tormented, her sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson) tries to figure out what's really going on, and to unearth the secrets of Gabriel. Her investigation even takes her to the abandoned Simion Research Hospital, where she shockingly finds exactly what she needs quickly and easily, even though this place is massive and there is no electricity.

Malignant gets crazier and crazier as it goes along, and the movie's a bit too long at 112 minutes, so there's plenty of time for Wan to increase the insanity factor. By the climax it has become, as said earlier, absolutely bugnuts. And the wackier this movie got, the more I enjoyed it. I love that Wan felt free to get as crazy with this movie as he did. It actually took some guts to be this looney. Malignant seems to have been rather divisive, as some viewers thought it was ridiculous. Well, it is! That's the beauty of it. I embraced the ridiculousness tightly. There are a lot of generic horror movies out there, but Malignant is not one of them. Wan and his co-writers Ingrid Bisu and Akela Cooper let their freak flags fly on this one, and I thank them for it.

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