Jason Lives: Friday the 13th, Part VI

NOT IN 3D

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th, Part VI
Director: Tom McLoughlin
Released: 1986
Starring: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen
Running time: 86 minutes
Genre: horror, slasher

Maybe “lives” isn’t really the best word. There is only one thing that Tommy Jarvis fears … Jason. Tommy convinces his Sweat Hog friend Hawes from the group home (he’s still there?) that he has to face that fear, Maury-style. They road trip to Jason’s burial site in the small, rural community of Forest Green (formerly Crystal Lake). Tommy, however, plans on doing more than just confronting his fear: He plans to murder it by torching Jason’s corpse. After digging up the grave, seeing Jason in the casket triggers one of Tommy’s violent episodes and he repeatedly stabs the body with an iron rod, reliving his boyhood trauma of killing Jason. After the cathartic stabby-stabby, he leaves the rod in Jason’s chest and goes for the can of gas, but a sudden blast of lightning strikes the iron pole, Number-5ing Jason back to a semblance of life. Hawes becomes the first of J’s post-life victims, but Tommy escapes, heading into town to warn the people of Crystal Lake Forest Green that Jason is back and more dangerous than ever!

Naturally, when the survivor of two previous mass murders in the area with a common MO bursts into the Crystal Lake Forest Green police station, screaming at the cops about a killer on the loose, back up is called and they investigate immediately. NOT! Sheriff Garris and his deputy (probably Holocaust deniers) dismiss Tommy as a nut, informing him that they changed the name of the town to put all that Jason crap behind them, and then they lock him up for the night. Meanwhile, Jason is killing the shit out of random people on his way back to the camp, which is just about to open for the season.

The next morning Megan Garris shows up at the station with her friends Sissy, Paula, and Cort to ask her dad to look for a couple counselors (dead, d-e-d dead) that never showed up when they were supposed to. Tommy, still in the cell, not being a complete idiot like the CLFGPD, connects the dots and tries to warn them about Jason.  Megan takes notice of how cute the psycho in the cell is, but her dad shoos her and her crew away. He and Deputy Cologne escort Tommy out of town and send him on his  way, warning him not to come back. But Jason is out there and the body count isgrowing. Kids are showing up at the camp. Megan’s friends (and a bunch of other people) are dying. Only Tommy believes. And only Tommy can stop Jason and save those lives, but the authorities are sure that Tommy himself is the killer and none of his books on the occult will help him if he’s locked in a cell or shot full of holes. “He picked the right day to pull this shit. Happy Friday the 13th.”

never a good idea

number 5’s alive!

this should be a tip off for what to expect

Some folks have a strange idea of entertainment. A crowning moment in the series, IV is arguably one of the very best Friday the 13ths. Production values are high, there’s talent on screen and off, and a charming self-awareness. Presaging the meta stylings of New Nightmare and Scream by nearly a decade, Jason Lives reinvigorated a series ailing from slasher ennui and the vitriolic reactions to A New Beginning. It also classes up the joint, sadly being the first Friday the 13th to not suffer cuts due to an X rating, and also being totally lacking in boobs. You win some, you lose some.

Bill: I wonder if any of the post-A New Beginning movies actually happened or if they’re just the increasingly bizarre nightmares of an insane Tommy Jarvis. That would actually explain a lot. The facts in Jason Lives aren’t consistent with the previous movies in the series. Jason is said to have killed Tommy’s mother and friends, but the people that Jason killed in The Final Chapter could hardly be called Tommy’s friends and there is no mention at all of his sister. Oddly, there’s no Mention of Roy-Jason either when Tommy’s history comes up.

Fisty: It basically retcons the end of ANB, dropping the idea that Tommy could be the new killer. And Tommy kind of implies that Jason really did drown way back in the long long ago and has always been supernatural, and not a baghead feral mountain man-child. Plus, they claimed Jason had been cremated in ANB.

Bill: The timing doesn’t add up either. Tommy has aged at least ten years, but Jason’s corpse doesn’t seem to have been in the ground for nearly that long. And, though the age difference between Tommy and Megan and her friends isn’t that great–handful of years, maybe–Megan acts as if the children of Crystal Lake Forest Green were raised believing that Jason was just a legend, despite the presence of an actual grave with a headstone marked “Jason Voorhees,” and the previous films showing TV coverage and newspaper stories about his killing spree(s). Jason Lives fits so poorly with what we know came before that Fisty was wondering whether Jason Livescould be classified as a reboot of the series. But I’m going with dream, not reboot.

lightning is striking again and again and again and again

do i offend?

trailer or carbonite?

Jason Lives starts out with what is essentially a fleshed out rehash of Tommy’s dream of Jason’s resurrection from ANB. What brings Jason back? Lightning. Does that make any sense? Not really. Does it matter? Not really. It was good enough for Frankenstein and Short Circuit, so it’s good enough for Friday the 13th. Undead Jason then starts doing some really amazing things, like punching his fist through torsos and tearing arms off, folding people in half backwards. I guess he was always strong, what with his being able to smoosh people’s heads (he does some more of that in this one, too) and pop their eyeballs out and whatnot, so maybe that isn’t that unusual for him. Dropping down out of the trees like a hockey ninja, however, is definitely new and very un-Jason-like. Oh, and that one kill that always bugs me: Jason smashes someone’s face into the wall of a motor home and, rather than nose breaking, lips pulping, teeth shattering inward, the victims face makes a perfectly intact face-shaped indentation in the metal of the vehicle. (Lightning resurrection? I’m all in, but my suspension of disbelief stops at face-molds.) But if this is all in Tommy’s head as he sits around in a straightjacket somewhere, drooling, then the non-smooshy face-smoosh doesn’t bother me so much.

Fisty: Okay, I’ll give you the Tommy’s Dream theory, which goes a long way toward explaining the rest of the franchise. Despite the presence of the supernatural, this is the last of the “natural” Friday the 13ths, and it very neatly nails shut the coffin of the Tommy Jarvis Trilogy as well as the Wild Child Jason Hexalogy, while opening the door to the Killing Machine Super Jason as Myth Pentalogy … though if we agree with Horace (“Five acts a play must have, nor more nor less.”) then the franchise is off-kilter. Most fans would blame A New Beginning due to it’s Jason-less status, but I would argue that F13 is rather two pentalogies linked by a standalone episode, that being Jason Lives. “What the fuck are you on, Fisty,” you ask? Hormones and classics, my friends. But really, taking a step back and examining this installment and the franchise as a whole from a distance provides some clarity.

F13P1 through P5 chart the development of Jason, and later Tommy Jarvis. It’s the story of how a lovable little mongo kid drowned, his mother took revenge by murdering those she held responsible, and when she in turn was killed, her wild child takes his turn at vengeance, only to be brought down by an intended victim, little Tommy Jarvis, who then himself suffers the consequences of violence and takes refuge in insanity, even possibly becoming a killer himself and continuing the cycle. Again, this is all very classical, with Jason’s saga recalling The Oresteia (I was always kind of pissed that SPOILER Orestes got away with it; Clytemnestra is a much more sympathetic character to my mind).

stroke for bloody stroke

a mask tells us more than a face

going mano a mano

Bill: Whoosh! Right over my head! I get what you’re saying about the linked pentalogies, but I don’t think you can really break the series down that way. For one, you can’t really consider Jason Lives a standalone movie. It would have to be part of the Killing Machine Super Jason cycle and that would throw off your numbers. Plus, wtf? You’re counting Jason X and Freddy Versus Jason? You can’t count those. Neither of them are by title Friday the 13th movies. Jason X is still great and sure the X can mean ten, but it’s still more of a spin off movie than truly part of the F13 series, a Laverne and Shirley to the Happy Days of F13. And lets just ignore FvJ. Seriously, Jason’s afraid of water now? Fuck that movie. That leaves us with nine movies. Traditionally,  they’re broken down into two bookend standalone flicks, Mother at one end and Parasite at the other, with three overlapping trilogies between them, being comprised of One Weekend (2-4), Tommy Jarvis (4-6), and Zombie Jason (6-8). That works, but, if you really wanted to simplify it, I think it makes more sense to break the franchise down into two tetralogies, an ascending tetralogy and a descending tetralogy linked by ANB as the apex movie.

Now, I don’t pick ANB as the standalone because it’s not really Jason, but because it comes between Jason’s death and rebirth, when he existed purely as legend, as a boogeyman to be mimicked, as a sort of Candyman to refer back to one of the captions from our review of ANB. The Ascending Cycle begins in a pre-Jason era with Pamela, has Jason taking the murder-reins from her, moving out into a wider world away from the lake in P3 (IN 3D!!!) and the beginning of The Final Chapter, then returning  to die and become true legend. Then, after A New Beginning, the series begins to move in reverse back to the beginning, although in a more exaggerated way. Jason returns to life, after a movie or so in the immediate area of the lake, goes back out into the world, returns to a child state, then a practically fetal state, and eventually passing into non-existence/Hell and leaving a Jason-less world. And Jason Lives, as the first movie of the Descending Cycle, perfectly signifies this switch into reverse, as it’s basically all of the previous movies played backwards: Tommy comes back to CLFG from Pinehurst, Jason starts off dead and unmasked, returns to life, remasks himself at the beginning of the movie, (Fisty: Notice also that he starts out by killing random folks, then moves on to counselors), the camp opens and Jason ends up in the lake. And, from what I read about what was removed from the script but left in the novelization, Jason’s parent, his father this time, would’ve appeared at the end of the movie.

Fisty: Sooo, Jason is Orpheus? (Bill: No, but he was an Argonaut! *ba-dum-tish*) And wait a minute, they don’t overlap as trilogies, only as tetralogies. Not by my reckoning of the franchise timeline. And even then it doesn’t come out even because you’re jettisoning Jason X. I count what I count! PLUS, FIVE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER. Damn it, math is hard. I have to move on because all these numbers are blowing my mind.

One thing that’s a bit puzzling is the presence of the Jason as Myth in Crystal Lake Forest Green. After all, 2 through 4 went down what, ten years ago? That’s a pretty short timespan for culling a murderous episode from a town’s history (how very NoES) to the point that no one believes it ever happened. How is it that all of the kids were raised on the Jason as Myth and Camp Blood Legend, yet don’t remember any of the news reports of that era? And how do they not even remember that the town was called Crystal Lake only a decade previous? I guess that could be more support for the Telekinetic Tommy Jarvis Dream Theory, since dreams have their own logic and that logic only needs to meet minimum requirements to keep the story rolling. Like how Jason’s grave is different in both ANB and Jason Lives–though I will grant you the former as clearly being a dream gravesite–and especially how Jason in Jason Lives is granted a plot in a fancypants cemetery, while Pamela Voorhees is relegated to a plot on the side of the road in The Final Chapter. Dream logic! Or gaping holes in continuity! You decide!

say, what?

he is risen

this book reads like stereo instructions

Bill: What? Of course the trilogies overlap. But don’t yell at me about them! That’s not my idea! I just mentioned them as  that’s how I’ve seen the series broken down by other people. I like my Ascending/Apex/Descending idea better, mostly because it gives ANB more of the respect and importance that it deserves in the franchise. Five is the magic number, as in PART 5!

I touched on the timing of that Jason as Myth thing a bit before.  It really doesn’t add up.

Fisty: No, it doesn’t. Let me put it to you like this: Jason as Myth is not the same as the Telekinetic Tommy Jarvis Dream Theory (or TTJDT), but is the STORY of Jason that emerges following the events of The Final Chapter, after Jason the Feral Murderous Man-Child is killed by Tommy Jarvis the Civilized Murderous Man-Child (Wait–is Jason Enkidu? Can we really afford another digression?). Once he”s dead, whether it’s his legend being used by Roy or his reanimated bad self slaughtering the innocents, it is Jason-as-Myth, the Jason of legend and folklore, from the mouths of babes. Ten years is not adequate time for Jason the Fact to be erased and replaced by the legend.

Bill: So, if I go by your Jason as Myth theory, does that mean everything from A New Beginning on are just Jason’s legend, stories told around the campfire? Are the further sequels just the increasingly exaggerated re-tellings of Paul’s campfire story from The Final Chapter from after the real Wild-Child Jason’s death? (Hey, whatever happened to Paul?) Wow. That’s like Frank Miller framing 300 as an oral, fireside tale so he can trick out the history however he chooses. And I think it works even better than my TTJDT (Telekinetic Tommy Jarvis Dream Theory).

Honestly, I don’t really think it was a dream or anything like that, just bad continuity. The series has always been pretty shitty at keeping the story straight. That doesn’t really bother me. This movie is probably the worst of the bunch in that regard and it’s full of silliness, like the face smoosh I mentioned earlier. I don’t care. I still adore it. It’s a good thing we spent so long talking about the franchise as a whole because really, I could never review Jason Lives with any kind of objectivity. My attachment to it is even greater than my attachment to The Final Chapter. This movie started getting heavy rotation on cable at just around the time I moved beyond needing someone to watch a scary movie with me. I had seen all the other movies in the series, but I’d watched them with my sisters or my mom or my brothers. I was finally old enough to sit and watch them by myself and BAM! Jason Lives is on every other night. So I watched it every other night. And it’s so damn fun. And so funny! This was also about the time I started buying Gorezone and Fangoria, a very special time in my life.

he’s everywhere you want to be

darling, it’s better down where it’s wetter

rising up to the challenge of his rivals

Fisty: I would love to take this all the way back to Paul. (What happened to him!?) But why do you keep shooting down your own crackpot theories?!

Bill: Because I keep having new ones! Just wait until I suss out my ideas on this new Crystal Lake as a Static Pool in the River of Time/Jason as Nexus of All Realities theory I’m developing.

Fisty: Well, I care not for other crackpot theories on the F13 timeline, and before we spend the entire review arguing over it (seriously, you cannot separate 1 from 2! CANNOT!), we need to move on.

Jason Lives is fun because it’s so self-aware. McLoughlin knows he’s making a movie for horror fans, and that they have certain expectations, so he lives up to them while playing with them. From nods to Universal horror, to breaking the fourth wall, to metareferences like Lizabeth’s “I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly,” the film is peppered with meta. Everyone–except perhaps the principals of Tommy, Megan, the Sheriff, and perhaps Jason–is aware of being in a slasher.

McLoughlin takes the humor over the top, bringing the film into parodic territory. The silly face smoosh you mentioned is just one of those ridiculous moments, like the smiley face kill. Personally, they take it a little too far; I don’t think kills have to be silly in order to be funny, and these are points against Jason Lives in my book. But McLoughlin recovers with the other jokes; I was especially fond of the campers themselves (is this the only F13 to actually feature kids at camp?). The comics and Sartre and No Future boys are probably my favorites. “What did you want to be when you grew up?” They’re no Reggies, but they’re cool little dudes.

we could’ve gone to camp north star, but no

reading material for the cool

reading material for the uncool

Bill: “I think we’re dead meat.” I love those two! And that comic the one sleeping kid has is actually an issue of Heroes for Hire featuring Power Man and Iron Fist, two of the coolest superheroes ever, inspired by Blaxploitation and Kung-Fu movies, respectively. The kids in this (and I think they are the first kids we’ve seen since the first movie) have better taste in reading material than the counselors do. Sissy is reading some lame Men at Play magazine? That’s not nearly as cool as Debbie and her issue of Fango from Part 3. Still, I like Sissy. I liked all of Megan’s group. Cort, especially, got some laughs out of me. Oh, and Nikki … there may not be any noodz in Jason Lives, not even during the sex scene, but a quick google titty search of Darcy DeMoss will be very rewarding. Sadly there’s nothing out there for Jennifer Cooke or Renée Jones. And I liked Farthead Martin, too, even if he isn’t quite as cool as Crazy Ralph.

I didn’t mind the smiley face kill. So the guy’s face just happened to land on a smiley face. So what? At least it didn’t leave a face-shaped impression in the tree. Stupid RV death, ugh. Besides, while there are a few silly kills, you do get some good ones, like the back-crack and a full-on, Zito-style window smash. (Two windows broken and two people defenestrated in Jason Lives, and one exploded door. Perhaps it should be titled Zito Lives?) And Lizabeth’s death (that’s the girl with the VW) is, I think, one of the most upsetting in the franchise. The way she futilely offers Jason her money and credit cards to spare her just makes me really sad. I did miss Jason’s creative body arrangements from the previous films. He did have the presence of mind to stick one head in a parked car, but that’s nothing compared to his old pop-up corpse shenanigans. Though, I suppose, in this movie, no body he left behind could be as gross and gnarly as his own. Ugh, there’s a scene in this sequel that might be, to me, the grossest thing in the franchise. Jason himself gets hit with a boat propeller and the result is that the water looks like bloody, chunky, rotten Jason stew and it always skeeves me out. I’m getting sick just thinking about it and I don’t get sick easily. Maybe I’m weird. Fisty, is that as gross to you? Anyway, I guess that makes up for the lack of gouged eyes and stacked bodies.

have a nice day

don’t leave home without it

does she or doesn’t she?

Fisty: All lakes are gross to me; I just don’t trust water that doesn’t flow. It’s the island girl in me, I guess.

I can’t believe you didn’t mention “The Man Behind the Mask,” though! For what, the first time ever a Friday the 13th movie has a decent soundtrack!? And it’s ALICE COOPER!? Hells to the yeah!

Jason Lives is one of the last hurrahs of the slasher genre before its final, inevitable decline. Though the peak was past, films like Jason Lives  and the same year’s April Fool’s Day played with the audience’s familiarity with the genre. Though its parodic elements may turn off some fans, its reputation as a fan favorite stems from the humor just as much as it does the slick direction and photography, and a talented cast, things that also made it one of the slashers most accessible to non-fans. The climax of an ailing franchise, Jason Lives effectively (though briefly) rejuvenated a dying genre. And it’s just plain fun. 

All the Colors of the Dark

how i learned to stop worrying and love satan

Tutti i colori del buio
aka All the Colors of the Dark
aka L’alliance invisible
aka They’re Coming to Get You
aka Toutes les couleurs du vice
aka Day of the Maniac
Director: Sergio Martino
Released: 1972
Starring: George Hilton, Edwige Fenech, Ivan Rassimov, Marina Malfatti, Susan Scott/Nieves Navarro
Running time: 88/94 min
Genre: giallo, occult/supernatural/Satanic thriller, paranoia thriller

Strange men have been following women since the Stone Age. The film opens on what should be a peaceful, bucolic scene, a placid river viewed through a light screen of trees in late afternoon light. But the silence, punctuated by only the faint cries of birds, and the curious darkness combine to unnerve. As the credits flash past, we realize that the scene has been slowly, subtly darkening, until it fades into blackness. Well, at least that’s over; now that the mood has been set, surely we’ll get some exposi–OH DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN, WHAT IS THAT THING?

A hideous cackling hag, dressed as a little girl down to the curly golden Tenniel locks, appears. A naked be-fro’d woman is strapped to a gurney in the lithotomy position. A shrieking nude woman in bed tries to defend herself. The hag-child slowly levitates across the vast black space. A man’s intensely blue eyes. Blood, a clock face, stabbing, screaming, staring. Images whirl past kaleidoscopically. Murder, death. All three women lie dead. A tree-lined road rushes past in negative, and the nightmare comes to a screeching halt, crashing into a tree. The nightmare is over.

And who was experiencing that hideous phantasm? Why, our beloved Edwige Fenech. Thank goodness that’s over, and now we can enjoy the delectable Edwige lolling about in bed. See Jane, see Jane loll. See Jane shower in a thin white shirt. Shower, Jane, shower! I’m sorry; where was I? Oh yes, Edwige is Jane, a young woman tormented by night terrors and frigidity (bummer for her fiancé  Richard [George Hilton]!) ever since a car accident last year that resulted in a miscarriage. In vain, Richard feeds her ominous blue vitamins, but nothing seems to help. Her sister counsels her to seek psychiatric care–which Richard rails against as quackery–and new chum neighbor Mary (Marina Malfatti) advises meeting her own helpful friends, who turn out to be a supercreepy and unattractive Satanic cult. See Jane drink Spot’s blood and participate in a Satanic orgy! See Jane make love to Richard once more! Fuck Jane, fuck! See, Jane, see! See the man with blue eyes stalking! Stalk, man, stalk! See Jane freak out. Funny, funny Jane.

Is the man with blue eyes real? Is he really killing people, and can Jane see the murders happen before they do? Is the Satanic cult real? Did Mary ever exist? Why is Richard adamant that Jane not seek help? Why is her sister adamant that she do? What exactly happened to Jane’s mother to start this whole mess?

i'd freak out i don't even

the bluest eye

the screaming mamas

When you’re hallucinating, having nightmares, and have Satanists chasing you, the only possible way to save yourself is to take your vitamins. In All the Colors of the Dark, Sergio Martino has crafted an fun and stylish hybrid occult giallo. Though clearly inspired by Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, it confidently stands on its own as a surrealist and expressionist thriller, one where the style is never at the expense of the substance, an excellent though not overtly comprehensible entry in the genre.

Bill: What’s with these homies dissin’ Martino? Why do they gotta front? Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key is a fantastically perverse bit of misogyny and sadism with awesome twists  that leave you questioning who and why you side with the people you do. Torso is just loads nasty, violent fun that also manages to also be tense and suspenseful. And All the Colors of the Dark is … Well, we’re about to tell you all about that. And all of these are sexy, boobie-filled, gems of cinema smut with plenty of bloody bleeding, tasty, tasty red herrings and even art! Yes, they are artful! Maybe not on the same level of an Argento movie, but, man, they do have style. Yet, some folks, so Fisty tells me, have been talking shit about my man, Martino. And the people that haven’t been talking shit about him, aren’t talking about him at all. What’s with the disrespect?

In All the Colors of the Dark, the man uses a sort of pre-Raimi Raimianistic style of shooting certain scenes, full of unconventional angles and twisty camera moves. He really goes to town with a spiral staircase with slowly spinning, descending shots and people stepping right over the camera as they run down the stairs. He makes the most of twisty shots meant to disorient and MY GOD, he knows how to shoot heights! There’s a neat scene of Jane looking out the window possibly getting her first real sense of the Satanic conspiracy around her as she watches Richard leave, sees Mary in another window watching as well, and Richard appearing to look knowingly at Mary. The camera turns and sweeps with her gaze and with the shifting perceptions in the scene and you kind of feel like you’re floating just outside of the building, watching this. But a rooftop struggle that takes place later is way less floaty. A Satanist pushes someone to the edge of the roof and they nearly go over while dude tries to get his strangle on. You feel the danger in that scene. It totally made my stomach lurch.

cultists over london

swirly whirly staircase

borrowing a hammer set

Fisty: Did you mean to get Weezer stuck in my head? Dick.

Though he might not be a genre maker a la Bava or Argento, Martino is certainly a genre master, and deserves acknowledgement of such. And lest we forget, Martino didn’t excel simply with gialli like The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh and The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail. His 2019: After the Fall of New York and Mannaja, A Man Called Blade are also movies to make the schlocklover’s heart sing with joy. Like Maestro Bava, Martinoplied his mad skillz across genres to great effect. His movies may not be High Art, but they’re fantastically entertaining and stylish genre films–and here at PB&G, we love those.

As you mentioned, Martino’s use of suspenseful architecture is significant to AtCotD, in the claustrophobic close-ups of interiors and wide frames of London exteriors, juxtaposing the two and underscoring Jane’s isolation in the midst of her urban surroundings by constantly filming from behind objects. (The Tube scene is especially nerve-wracking.) Then there are the jarring camera angles and smooth tracking shots, and occasional frenetic cuts. Those are some of the techniques he uses to make AtCotD such a surrealist nightmare, techniques that may seem rough or primitive forty years later, but are clear progenitors of those used for today’s contemporary mind-bending cinema. Martino toys with our expectations, constantly fluctuating between the liminal borderlands of fantasy and reality for both Jane and the audience, not only expressing but creating the very tenuous hold she has on reality. (Note of awesome: One of his cinematographers on AtCotD is frequent collaborator Giancarlo Ferrando, probably best known as the cinematographer of Troll 2.)

Speaking of toying with expectations, Martino sets most of the deaths either off-screen or in dreams; the only verifiable deaths seem to be the ones caused by Jane or Richard, making AtCotD not only ambiguous, but unusually bloodless for a giallo. Of course, here again we find ourselves in a borderland, as AtCotD is more a hybrid of the supernatural/Satanic thriller, paranoia thriller, and giallo–with a splash of inheritance thriller thrown in later on. I know you were amazed at how easily a giallo crosses the line into inheritance thriller, but really, what are the major motives? Sex/love, revenge, and money.

drinking tea is a social ritual we like, too

trust me. i am super trustworthy.

it's got electrolytes!

Bill: Oddly enough, I didn’t even notice the lack of gore. I’d say that’s another feather in Martino’s cap. AtCotD is entertaining enough that I never felt like I was cheated out of seeing all the graphic violence I crave.  I never even thought of this movie as being near bloodless until you mentioned it. Maybe it’s because the couple or so bloody scenes you do see are so effective. Jane’s dream (or vision or whatever you’d call it) of her mother’s death is pretty striking. It’s not that there’s any effects that are anything special. What you see of the stabbing is so close up that it doesn’t need fancy effects work. But there’s just something about the way the dagger slides in and out in slow motion, thick blood burbling out of the wound, while you hear the lullaby-ish la-la-la music that plays over the scene, that makes it kind of unnerving. The slow stroke of the blade in and out is almost too real for such a surreal scene. Then there’s the puppy murder. The killing of, then onscreen bleeding-out of an adorable puppy dog is pretty hardcore. I mean, even John Carpenter, when deciding to have The Shape kill a dog to really solidify his evil for the audience in Halloween, didn’t show you the poor bleeding doggy corpse afterward.

It’s also possible that I didn’t miss the blood because of all the succulent booby flesh. Did you see what Mary was wearing when she invited Jane for tea?! If Mary (Marina Malfatti from 7 Blood-Stained Orchids and The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave) was my neighbor, I would drink so much tea, SO MUCH TEA! Nieves Navarro, who plays Jane’s sister Barbara in this, has a nice boobies in the mirror scene as Barbara gets dressed and flaunts a bit for her sister’s man (like the untrustworthy slut she is). Navarro’s got a lot of nice credits under her belt as Susan Scott, including Emanuelle e Lolita and Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, so you know she’s a bit of a looker herself. [Fisty: She’s the contra-Edwige Fenech, taking practically every giallo role Edwige didn’t!] Jane’s dead mom is kinda hot, too. And then, of course, there’s Jane, sweet, sweet Jane … My beloved Edwige. Sigh. She has one of those great “showering in a sheer white top” moments that only seem to happen in movies like this and Toolbox Murders. If you want to destroy my sweater, hold this thread and I’ll go take a shower. I kinda feel like Richard, more than Jane, is the true victim in this movie. Imagine the Hell of Having Edwige Fenech as Your Girlfriend and Her Being Completely Frigid All the Time (Chinese have a lot of hells). I don’t really blame him for constantly shoving those blue roofies – I mean … vitamins – in her face. I’d give her the “vitamins,” too.

we don't understand it, but we'll watch you do it

richard's got the right idea

Fisty: There are a lot of familiar faces, both pretty and … not so pretty. Surely you recall Luciano Pigozzi as Angus in Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eyes, Cesar in Blood and Black Lace, and Losat in The Whip and the Bodythe guy is all over the genre. And Inspector Smith? That’s Tom Felleghy, whose face might be vaguely familiar in Nightmare City and Strip Nude for Your Killer. Vera Drudi (in Torso, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie), George Rigaud (Death Walks on High Heels, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, The Case of the Bloody Iris), Gianni Pulonne (TCotBI), Carla Mancini (7B-SO, What Have You Done to Solange?), etc. Practically every face in AtCotD (right down to the puppy, I’m sure) was in at least one other giallo, and likely a score of spaghetti Westerns, commedia sexy all’italiana, Decamerotico, poliziotteschi, cannibal films, and so on. And of course there are giants George Hilton and Ivan Rassimov to balance out the lovely ladies of the cast.

Unfortunately, Rassimov doesn’t have a whole lot to do other than lurk menacingly, occasionally grabbing at Jane, but he does just that till the cows come home. And Hilton’s Richard is just suavely creepy enough to create the perfect amount of ambiguity that makes both Jane and us uncertain of who he really is, just a cad or something more. Marina Malfatti is serenely yet poisonously lovely and mysterious, and not a little bit regretful as she subverts Jane, and Nieves Navarro coolly bitchy as only a sister can be. However well-supported she is by the rest of the cast, though, Edwige is truly the star of the show. As Jane, Edwige is absolutely convincing in her fright and vulnerability as Jane’s state of mind becomes ever more precarious and paranoid. Mia Farrow’s got nothing on her.

Bill:  Rosemary who?

who wouldn't trust that sweet face?

sister sister

Fisty: Now, speaking of Satanists, how about them Satanists? Diametrically opposed to Edwige, Marina, and Nieves in terms of hottness, our Satanists are a nasty crew of unkempt, uncouth, and unsavory figures. It’s pretty much the grossest orgy I have ever seen on film–not counting porn. Julián Ugarte’s JP McBrian is nasty from the tippy tips  of his brass claws to his amulet-clad sunken chest. Jane’s disgust is palpable as her eyes roll madly when he mauls her, devouring her face with his goatee, and as the pasty-faced coven members converge upon her, the juxtaposition of Mary and Jane’s beauty (and the latter’s boobies) with the unwashed masses at the Black Mass becomes downright maddening. Adding to the madness is Bruno Nicolai’s superb score (make sure you watch the Italian with English subtitles as the score gets all jacked up in the English dub), which takes an almost incongruously upbeat tenor in this scene, something groovily ominous–though notice that it appropriately builds in intensity as the orgy reaches its climax with Jane’s sublimination and release. As McBrian mounts Jane, blood-smeared teeth and all, her fear escalates until it crosses the threshold into desire, and we get our obligatory kaleidoscopic orgy whirly-vision. Fucking A.

jazzhands for ... SATAN

you've got caninus spiritus in your teeth

mary dispenses a judas kiss

Bill: McBrian actually looks an awful lot like my brother Joe, so, you know… That’s pretty disturbing for me.  One curious note, which is a bit of a spoiler, but I want your view of this, Fisty: In a sense, for Jane, the orgy actually works! Part of Jane’s problem is her frigidity. She fears she’s going to lose Richard, because she can’t bring herself to have sex again after her trauma. This fear of losing him, as much as the nightmares, is what’s driving her to seek help and the Satanists do it. At the height of her horror, in the middle of what is practically a gang rape, the scene shifts and she’s now enjoying herself. She’s back at home, in bed, getting a serious deep Richarding and loving it. She’s still a damaged, fractured, woman, as you see by the multiple reflection shot of her face in the bathroom mirror immediately after the sex, but, goddamn it, she’s got her swerve back.  I’m not sure what to think of that. You?

We’ve made reference to Rosemary’s Baby three times already in this review. It’s inevitable with this movie. Now, while Martino is great, he’s not the equal of Polanski and All the Colors of the Dark is not the equal of Polanski’s movie (except in sexy! Oh yeah!), but one thing is does just as well is show the isolation, paranoia, and loneliness of its star. Jane is apollo sad and Edwige plays her perfectly. You already mentioned how convincing she is, but I really want to drive home just how good she was. Even when she’s in a room with her doctor or Richard or having tea with Mary, walking with her, talking to them, she still seems completely closed off from everyone, desperate for anyone to grab onto, but unable to make a connection. In fact, the only times in the movie that Jane doesn’t seem completely sad and alone are when she’s in danger and terrified. When she  should be alone, you worry that she isn’t, that someone is really there to get her. Part of that is how convincingly terrified and confused Edwige plays it and partly it’s the way Martino films her. I don’t think he ever goes as far as to use a first person POV, but whenever Jane is by herself, the camera sort of stalks her, moving along side, hiding behind the railing on the staircase, watching her from above or below. The camera is a predator and she is always so alone, so vulnerable. And the last part of it is that, of course, usually, there really is someone there to get her. The sinister blue-eyed man is never far away. He’s actually more reliably present, more therefor her than anyone else seems to be and he’s trying to kill her. And you don’t know if he’s even real!

seriously, can i take it back?

goddamn satanists

the three faces of edwige

Fisty: I’m totally with you on the orgy situation, Bill. It’s important that it does work for Jane, helping her free herself, from her insecurities, from her thoughts, from her nightmares, from her moral code, so that she can simply BE with Richard, without fears shadowing every act. (And note that by the second orgy/Satanic ritual–yes, we must experience TWICE the High Octane Nightmare Fuel–Jane is no longer revolted, but an active participant.) Unfortunately, the freedom she gains is ephemeral, and Jane finds that all those colors can get a whole lot darker. She turns up a Time Life Book of the Occult and Supernatural among Richards things, Mary’s motives are revealed and she “disappears,” Richard and the blue-eyed man appear to be in cahoots … and when everything finally comes together, very little is what it seems. Though it makes a great deal of sense in its culmination, the finale and its ambiguity may leave some viewers cold.

I’ve heard complaints about AtCotD, namely the unlikeliness of the Satanic cult aspect, and that’s it’s not really a giallo. Okay, shut up. If I’ve learned anything from the trippy hippy dippy lit of the Seventies and Sarah Lyddon Morrison, it’s that folks were just as likely to drop into a Satanic orgy as they were to drop acid or macrame themselves a plant hanger. As for the giallo elements, AtCotD is just dripping with them. Granted, many of the overt visual signifiers may be missing (black-gloved killer, hello), many of the ultimate threads remain: murder, darkness, mystery, paranoia, eroticism, J&B. Especially in the figure of Jane, whose involvement all stems back to the most classic of giallo tropes, that of the eye-witness. Witnessing her mother’s murder is the fundamental inagural act of the entire plot. Juxtaposed with that, in AtCotD as in gialli in general, is the unreliability of our witnessing. How reliable is the witness? How much of what they saw is filtered through and warped by their personal perceptions? It is from those two cardinal concepts that every action in AtCotD stems, and which we find most conceptually important to the giallo.

can you spots the two giallo icons?

i thought writing on mirrors with make-up was a chick thing

they're coming to get you

Bill: They’re Coming to Get You was the title of the US dubbed version. Not as good a title as All The Colors of the Dark, i’d say, but worth mentioning, because of the awesome poster. It’s a bit misleading, what with those glowy-eyed zombie faces, but oh so freaking cool.

Fisty: Totally misleading.

AtCotD should appeal to both fans of gialli and Seventies occult suspense, though I wouldn’t make it a starting point in either genre. Though the plot wanders and cheats a bit, it’s still a visually striking, effective, and boundary-pushing entry in the giallo canon, and a genuinely suspenseful occult horror film. With oodles of boobies. It’s not his best work, but Martino has made an especially exciting giallo, one that actually maintains a steady pace, briskly forging ahead toward its equivocal conclusion. And the one thing we can be sure of ending up with is a damn good time.

Editing insight:

DoctorKittenYo: i really think we need to make a point about the significance of how that puppy is really cute
living0dead0punk: haha
DoctorKittenYo: hahaha
DoctorKittenYo: that was not the point I meant to make
DoctorKittenYo: but that puppy really IS cute

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

the faux jason cometh

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
aka Friday the 13th, Part 5: A New Beginning
Director: Danny Steinmann
Released: 1985
Starring: Melanie Kinnaman, John Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Richard Young, Marco St. John, Juliette Cummins, Miguel A. Núñez, Jr
Running time: 88 minutes
Genre: horror, slasher

When we said “final,” we didn’t mean “FINAL.”Little Tommy Jarvis ain’t so little any more. It’s been five years since his showdown with Jason Voorhees, and they haven’t been good years; Tommy’s been bounced from one psych facility to another, and all he’s gotten out of it are some freaky hallucinations, a hair-trigger temper, and a bad case of hormones that make him look twenty-five. At seventeen he’s on his own at Pinehurst, a bizarre halfway house that seems to run on the no-rules-at-all system. Even Trish is MIA, bummers. Upon moving into Pinehurst, Tommy makes a good impression on his new peers by going kung fu krazy on Eddie, and also meets Reggie, the coolest sassy little black dude since Webster. Neighboring deranged hillbillies Ethel and Junior show up to complain about teenagers sexing on their property (this is a problem?), and the day is capped by another resident, Vic, going apeshit and taking an axe to fat, laundry-hampered Joey. Arriving on the scene to clean up the forty whacks are paramedics, one of whom channels Rowdy Roddy Piper by chewing bubblegum and calling everyone “pussies,” but the other seems a mite … distraught.

vic gets ready for his forty whacks of fame

That same night, the killings begin, first with residents, and then hospital personnel. The next day, Tina and Eddie sneak away for some good ol’ sex in the bushes clean fun, and are horribly murdered for their pains. Though residents are disappearing right and left, Pam pshaws Dr Matt’s worries and takes Reggie and Tommy off to visit with Reggie’s totally cool brother Demon. (Who the hell is Pam, anyways, and what does she do at Pinehurst? Is she a counselor? Who knows?) Mental hillbilly Junior shows up again, freaking Tommy out and provoking another kung fu frenzy, and Tommy runs off while Junior tears ass on his ATV, for what reason I do not know. When Demon, his girl Anita, Ethel, and Junior all end up dead, it starts to seem like perhaps Tommy’s become what he fears: his nemesis Jason Voorhees. When Pam and Reggie return to Pinehurst, they find the remaining residents all butchered, and there’s a dude in a hockey mask who seems real happy to see them …

a high-toned sonofabitch

“Buncha pussies.” Vilified by the fanbase, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning continues Tommy Jarvis’ story–he being the first Final Kid to make it past the first few minutes of the next sequel without either dying or disappearing from the chronology forever. But that’s not what upset fans, the ones who came looking for a Jason Voorhees killing spree. The flashpoint for F13P5 was the shocking twist ending, which left many fans feeling betrayed and/or ripped off. Now, we’re going to discuss that twist ending, because it’s impossible not to, so if you don’t know what it is and don’t want it spoilered, get out now. Now, let’s see what all the hate is about, shall we?

Bill: Hey! Where’s my 6-minute recap/murder montage? How am I supposed to know what happened in the previous four movies? Was I supposed to remember all that? Who are these two guys and who are they digging up and why? Who is this kid and why is he watching? Why does he seem scared? OMG! That man isn’t dead and … He killed those men! Who are these people and WHAT IS GOING ON?!

This is the first of the Friday sequels that doesn’t start with a “Last week, on Friday the 13th” montage and I kind of miss it. Though, I guess, this being a New Beginning and all, I can understand the need to start fresh, to look forward instead of back. That’s why they begin with Tommy’s prescient dream of the beginning of Part 6! Seriously.  Two guys digging Jason up in the rain, the worms on his face, his resurrection … was this kid seeing the future or what? He foresaw the complete change in Jason’s MO!

they're playing pinochle in his snout

In the previous three movies, Jason was a sneak-and-stab guy, not an all-out hack-with-machete cat. He learned from watching his mama how to stalk and sneak and surprise and kill. Most of his murders had some of that to them. In Tommy’s dream, Jason comes out of the grave with that damn machete and just annihilates, then walks straight toward Tommy. No more sneaking, no surprise, just stare you down and cut you up. Apparently resurrected corpses have no need for stealth or cunning. In the next movie, that is exactly what he becomes! And he stays that way for the rest of the franchise.

Makes it kind of ironic, then, that A New Beginning gets shit on so much for having a faux Jason, considering the killer in this movie is far closer to the Jason of 2-4 than the post-death Jason of the latter films in the franchise, the very unstealthy, annihilating, murder-machine Jason of Tommy’s dreams.

Fisty: That is an interesting point, mon frere. Jason Lives is often singled out for its use of parody and comedy, but A New Beginning is really where that starts. Even to the twist ending, the unmasking of not-Jason, Steinmann et alia seem to be taking the piss out of the franchise, using the F13 tropes with abandon. It’s not surprising that with not only Steinmann at the helm, but also writing the script in the company of Martin Kitrosser and Danny Cohen (the former was responsible for the fiasco that is F13P3), the story often meanders in bizarre and meaningless ways. Characters traipse in and out of scenes, being introduced for the sole purpose of feeding the kill machine as ANB homes in on an astonishing twenty-two deaths. Sadly, thanks to a revamp of the R rating, most of those kills are quick-cut to death leaving only a few of the trademark highlight death scenes.

For the most part, those kills are in Jason’s traditional stalk-and-slash style; we get a lot of the POV lurking in the woods shots (thank goodness the producers didn’t do something silly like completely take Jason out of his wooded and isolated setting … can you imagine?) and cunning murders using items at hand. Canonically, could there be some connexion between Tommy’s dream and the later unstoppable force Jason? Is this some kind of Dark Halfscenario?

jason or george stark?

Bill: Like, an undead Jason powered by Tommy’s unrealized psychokinetic power and forced to behave according to Tommy’s subconscious mental image of Jason? Neat idea.

As for the kills in ANB, while, yes, they are cut to shit, at least they do give you a ton of variety. You get a melding of the under-the-raft murder and the through the bed murders from previous films. There’re two nice axings, slit throats, stabbings, a beheading and, more interestingly and memorably, a railroad spike to the head, road flare in the mouth (awesome!), and my two favorites in the film and two of my favs from the whole franchise. I am, of course, talking about the naked shears-though-the-eyes followed by sickening crunch as the shears are closed and the very inventive leather strap-around -the-head! That’s the good shit!

Fisty: Those were solid. And, lest we forget, this was a fairly boob-heavy entry in the series, even with the sex scene being cut down to ten seconds. No other sequel has as many, except maybe F13P4, despite the MPAA’s meddling.

as pretty a pile of victims as you'll ever see

Bill: Oh, yes! There’s really only three characters that show anything in this installment of the series: Tina, Robin, and Lana. Tina and Robin’s scenes are pretty great, from my POV, and Lana gives a nice little flash, perfect for her tiny role. I just wish Violet would’ve shown some flesh. Tiffany Helm is adorable. Easily, the third most fuckable female character in the entire series (1 & 2 being the twins from The Final Chapter) but sadly, she keeps her kit on until the end. There’s another nail in the coffin of that “No naughtiness = safe” myth.

Fisty: Much like F13P3, ANB’s storyline often makes no sense (I’m looking at you, Kitrosser). The halfway house idea, and the treatment/rehabilitation of Tommy, while it could have had some interesting subtext, is under-utilized, and when it is in use, it is often ridiculous. (“Let’s hand troubled teens an axe and see what happens!”) The whole concept seems to go right out the window about a half hour in, rarely to be mentioned again. Pinehurst’s residents are also less than compelling, with the exception of  Shavar Ross as Reggie, who fulfills the sequel’s need for a spunky little kid a la Tommy Jarvis of F13P4, and Melanie Kinnaman, who is largely memorable for her ability to frolic run from Jason in the rain in a sheer white top. Neither of them are actual residents/patients, however; the teens themselves are prosaic, although Tiffany Helm’s Violet has her fans. (Bill:ME!)

getting oedipal?

As for the non-residents, they can be reduced to simple Jason fodder. They wander onscreen, do something ridiculous, then die. The waitress Lana looks at her boobs in the mirror because I guess she likes them (and we like seeing them) and gets it, Nurse Billy the cokehead rambles to himself and bites it, Joey fetishizes chocolate bars and dies … and that’s how the entire movie goes. The installment is metronomic in structure, alternating jokes with jumps or kills with jokes with jumps or kills, contributing to the illogical structure. It’s hard to maintain a storyline under that sort of pressure. Combined with the editing done to appease the MPAA, the results are extremely disjointed, another reason for fan hate.

Bill: I think you’re being a little harsh. Yes, Pinehurst seems to be a whole string of accidents getting shoved into happening, but they did explain that it was an honor system and, up to Vic snapping, the worst problems they seemed to have had was some kids running off to fuck in the bushes. So, stupid as it seems to us, as viewers, I could see how a sudden murder was the last thing they’d expect. (It did happen after  Tommy showed up, too. More of his psychic influence?) As for the looney kids, I liked most of  ’em! I liked the scene with Jake admitting his attraction to Robin, then, snubbed, turning to Vi for solace, only to be brushed off again. Poor guy. Robin’s guilt, after, when she’s kicking herself for hurting his feelings is nice too. It’s endearing. And I really like the touch of Vi setting too many places at dinner after Joey and Vic are gone.

get away from her, you bitch!

The non-residents aren’t that bad either. Sure, they’re Jason fodder, but there’s fodder in all of these movies. There kind of has to be. At least they are mostly entertaining. Demon and his damn enchiladas are awesome.  Ethel and Junior are maybe a little crazy, but someone had to stand in for Crazy Ralph and God’s Eyeball Man as the town weirdos (and perhaps family members? Could Ethel be a widow?) Then there’s Billy, sweet Cokehead Billy. He’s like Nurse Axel from The Final Chapter, only much cooler. And all of those guys have scenes prior to or are mention prior to their murders. I will give you Pete and Vinnie  and The Hungry Handyman. They really were just pop-in roles and had no business even being in the movie. But, considering Steinmann was supposedly told to have a scare, shock or kill every seven to eight minutes, and he had to do this while setting up a new killer and peppering the movie with red herrings, I think he did an ok job. He does, at least, milk these mandatory add-ins for whatever he can get. With the exception of a couple wrong place/wrong time witnesses, he always either has the characters say something about the Pinehurst kids or having had some connection to them, or sticking in a clue, true or false, to the killer’s identity, making you question if Vic could be back or if it could be another Pinehurst resident.  Then, after each murder, he goes immediately to Tommy having visions of Jason, implicating him as the psycho.

which witch is which?

John Shepherd was fine as Tommy, but, you know, I really wish Thom Matthews had been Tommy in ANB, as well as Jason Lives. As a huge Return of the Living Dead fan, I would’ve loved to have Matthews in the same F13 with Mark ‘Suicide’ Venturini and Miguel ‘Spyder’ Núñez.

Fisty: I jizzed just thinking about that. I loves me some Miguel A. Núñez, Jr! And I’m not being harsh, I’m just being real. Let’s acknowledge the weaknesses while celebrating the umm, well, can we say it has strengths?

damn, enchiladas--you so fine!

The production values, for one, are MUCH better, especially in night scenes. This was a DREAM to screencap, just gorgeous and easy. Roy definitely had a way better Jason costume than Tommy did in The Final Chapter. (Notice how that blue marked mask is less menacing than the red, though?) And Steinman, though he was laboring under the joke/jump requirements, handles it well, Undoubtedly, his background in hardcore porn, which has a similar style, benefited him in this case. Though it is sometimes incoherent and the storyline weak, it is still par for the course of a standard F13 sequel. What do else do viewers expect? The problem is, they expected Jason, and instead they got everything else F13 is supposed to deliver–except that it wasn’t actually Jason acting all Jason-esque.

AND THAT’S OKAY. Repeat after me, kids: THAT IS OKAY.

Why wouldn’t it be? One can argue that a Jason who isn’t really Jason is a cheat, but it’s just as easily argued that the Jason of the later sequels is hardly Jason at all. He lacks the personality, the pizzazz of our beloved cunning Baghead Wild Child. He’s Jason, but he’s also not-Jason, if you catch my drift.

what is he, the fucking candyman?

There are really two eras of F13, and A New Beginning straddles them, as does Jason Lives. You have your early sequels, 2-4 which are a (somewhat) coherent narrative, mostly spanning a very short time period. The Tommy Jarvis trilogy awkwardly spans 4-6, and everything after 6 bears little relation to the earlier sequels. (There’s a nod in 7, but we’ll discuss that in its own time.) You could remove A New Beginning from the narrative entirely, and it really would not affect the clarity whatsoever, but there’s no reason to. It is a more than adequate entry in the franchise, hitting all of the tropes like clockwork, and there’s no reason for a fan to be offended.

Bill: The … (Fisty tells me “liminal” is the word I’m looking for)  nature of A New Beginningisn’t really through any fault of the movie itself. The original idea of ANB was to set up Tommy as the new Jason, which, if they’d have stuck with that idea, would’ve made this movie integral to the evolution of the franchise. The marginalization of Part 5 can be laid at the feet of the fans. It was the fan outcry against a new Jason that forced the producers to abandon their plans and bring Jason back in Part 6 (which I am pretty thankful for, honestly.) I just don’t understand why everyone hates Faux Jason. When ANB was made, Jason had only been the killer for 75% of the series of films and Roy/Jason’s motives for killing were way more in line with Pamela Voorhees’ original motive from the first movie. I have never even seen a Neo Jason/Roy action figure. They have figures for Mrs. Voorhees and Baghead Jason, but no love for Roy. Yeah, sure, the mask with the blue slashes isn’t as threatening or iconic, but surely SOMEONE would buy it.

i'd buy that for a dollar

And, yes, Fisty, I may tend to gloss over some of the faults of this sequel. I’m just so used to defending it against haters that it’s hard to turn around and be critical of it. I mean, I love Tommy Jarvis. I like this movie. I like that the killer’s motive hearkens back to the original movie. I love goofy Cokehead Billy. I like that there’s some mystery in the series again. I like all the titties and the inflated body count. I like the chainsaw vs. machete duel. There is a lot here to enjoy! However, I suppose it does have its issues.

One thing that really irks me in this flick is the repetition of certain bits of sound and dialog, especially during the final battle scene. Having a character repeat something is fine, but not having some different audio of it is not. It makes me think of automated operators repeating recurring digits in a phone number AND I HATE THAT! And Steinmann’s (I’m assuming, but it could’ve all been in the script) apparent ignorance of contemporary music and hatred of anything musical is not nearly as charming and entertaining as Joseph Zito’s hatred of glass. It seems like half of the victims in this meet their end either singing or listening to some usually woefully out of place music. There’re at least two ski-bop-a-loo-bopping characters in this movie, including a teenager. I can see this coming from Billy the Cokehead (though even he seems like he would be into something a little more modern) but Pete and Vinnie? They seemed straight out of the ’50s, out of The Outsiders. It’s 1985! I think they’d have been into slightly more contemporary music. Oh, and Lana with her sing-songy, “Iiiiiiiiiit’s SHOWTIME!” Then there’s Demon and his woman with their, “Hey baby. Oooh baby. Oooh baby. Hey baby. Hey baby. Oooh baby, etc…” ARGH! Even Violet, at one point, is listening to some bit of music that IN NO WAY MATCHES ANYTHING SHE SHOULD BE LISTENING TO. We’re not talking Lion in place of AC/DC either. It’s just the wrong fucking music for the character and scene. I think His Eyes by Pseudo Echo is the only bit of non-Manfredini musical-anything that actually fits with the film.

Fisty: A) You just asked for a word without telling me what exactly you were saying, and secondly, you stole my line. But like we said about ANB, it’s okay. Essentially, the experience with ANB can be summed up in Steinmann’s own words: “When you guys pick and choose that stuff, it demeans the work. What’s important was, there were people getting killed, and you saw some breasts.” F13 in a nutshell, kids. Roy is not undeserving of his own action figure!

Bill: Totally.

see ya, wouldn't want to be ya!

Important movie-related communique from Fisty:

“WHY

DO YOU HAVE TO ARGUE WITH ME OVER EVERYTHING?

ASS”

The Initiation of Sarah

the morgan the merrier

 The Initiation of Sarah
aka En lo más profundo de la mente
Director: Robert Day
Released: 1978
Starring:
Kay Lenz, Shelley Winters, Morgan Fairchild, Morgan Brittany, Tisa Farrow
Running time: 96 minutes
Genre: horror, thriller

Whenever you see the word “tact,” replace it with “bitchery.” Two lovely girls–sorry, one mousy girl and one stunning girl–kick it at the beach during what appears to be an eclipse (I have no idea how else to explain the simultaneous brightness and darkness in this scene [Bill: Day for night shooting and a blue filter on the camera? Fisty: All I know is it’s even worse than the opening scene of Dirty Harry.]), listening to some groovy tunes. It’s the last party of the summer, and the mousy blonde frets over going off to college on the morrow. A faceless dude comes up and offers to help our stunning brunette with her breaststroke, and they traipse off into the water, where he proceeds to grope and gnaw her, presumably leading to eventual rape in the ocean in full view of the party. Mousy girl watches in mingled fear and fury, before shrieking “Stop!” as Faceless Rapist falls on his ass into the water. While our stunner gets away, he can barely crawl out of the water. Wait, what just happened?

No matter. It’s the next day now, and our two girls are preparing to drive off to college on a beautiful day that glows in a way only days in the Seventies can. Mom dispenses some advice to the brunette beauty about impressing sorority bitches, gushing over what a wonderful time she wants her to have. “Oh, and you too, Sarah,” she adds. It’s now that we learn that the pair are the Goodwin sisters, half-sisters that is, somehow of the same age. They share a dad, so it’s a safe bet there were some shenanigans about eighteen years ago. The blonde is Sarah, a shy introvert, and the brunette is Patty, who has the world by its tail. That tail starts wagging as soon as the pair arrive at the picturesque liberal arts college campus of Waltham College, where Patty instantly enchants beautiful Bobbie Adams and OH MY GOD, IT’S MORGAN “TURKEY’S DONE” FAIRCHILD. Oh yes, there will be blood.

the turkey is done!

Bobbie reappears in the “freshman dorm” (apparently a quad inhabited by a dozen girls) to explain that tonight’s the big night: All the freshman girls get to go around and introduce themselves at the sorority houses. Once the girls are invited to join a house, they’ll make their choice of one, move in and go through a probationary period before a final Hell Week and initiation. It seems awfully early for that sort of thing–and why even have freshman dorms if practically everyone just moves right into sorority houses?–but I’m not complaining.

Outside the Alpha Nu Sigma house Patty hesitates, wondering whether maybe they shouldn’t forget the whole thing. Is it a sense of foreboding? Whatever, Sarah points out that they’ll just end up living in a dorm if they don’t check it out–oh, so they DO get lived in!–and they enter the Temple of Doom. Morgan Fairchild immediately introduces herself as “Jennifer Lawrence” (nice try!), and though Patty makes an effort to include Sarah, it’s clear that Jennifer is admiring only Patty’s good looks and antecedents. She bears Patty off to meet some actives while minion Kathy shepherds Sarah over to the refreshment table no-man’s-land and abandons her. Seeing Patty surrounded by the Chosen Ones, Sarah makes her way through the crowded room, a goldfish in a school of neon tetras, and awkwardly insinuates herself into the group. As Patty and Sarah excuse themselves, an ANS tactfully suggests they check out PED–Phi Epsilon Delta–a house Jennifer tactfully calls both very old and “intellectual,” then demonstrates yet more tact by “forgetting” Sarah’s name. Once the sisters leave, the ANS girls declare that they’ve got themselves a winner AND a loser. Ouch.

patty - 1, sarah - 0

Outside the PED house, the girls are suddenly menaced by a barking Doberman. While Patty cringes in abject terror, Sarah gives it a meaningful glare, accompanied by intense close ups of her eyes, and the confused canine runs off. The music reaches a crescendo, and we understand that Something has Happened. Inside PED, we find a much different scenario from that of ANS. Though the house is massive, there only seem to be three girls living there: twitchy Mouse, sardonic Allison, and orally-fixated Barbara. When Patty mentions this, Barbara declares that “rushing’s not [their] thing,” and that the others are all out … or busy … or something. Patty demonstrates some ANS-worthy tact by declaring the visit “interesting,” and drags Sarah out, but only after Mouse makes a meaningful connexion with Sarah.

As you might guess, Patty is invited to pledge three sororities, and chooses ANS, while Sarah’s lone invitation is to PED. Though until now Patty has made a determined effort to boost Sarah’s ego, the girls are on their own at this point, with everyone from Mrs Goodwin to ANS promoting the divide. Though Sarah finds real friends in PED, and makes nice with her Psych 101 TA, she’s also hurt by the way ANS forces Patty to disown her, even to announcing, “I will not associate with pigs, elephants, or dogs” right to Sarah’s face. Matters are complicated by Sarah’s growing awareness of her own powers and the involvement of crazy housemother Mrs Hunter, who encourages Sarah to strengthen them, but Sarah has her doubts. Tensions mount, with Sarah and Jennifer facing off publicly. When Sarah comes off the winner, she is motivated to encourage her PED sisters to really become a sorority again. But Jennifer plots to humiliate Sarah, and Patty is torn by her loyalty to her sister and her desire to remain pretty and popular. Mrs Hunter’s machinations, which may have killed a girl once twenty years before, bring this soup to a roiling boil of Mean Girl tact and downtrodden dork uprising with Satanism and witchcraft for some extra goodness.

the watcher on the stairs

An Imitation of Carrie? In the Seventies, you hardly had to see a movie in the theater, because sooner or later one of the networks would release a copycat right onto the airwaves for free. The Initiation of Sarah was ABC’s answer to Carrie, and remains a memorable example of that Seventies boom. Populated by pretty faces of the day (the dueling Morgans and Kay Lenz), featuring the late, great Shelley Winters, and helmed by capable director Robert Day, TIoS is a nifty little knock off that reminds you just how cool made for TV movies could be before Lifetime and Syfy cornered the market on them.

Bill: The Bermuda Depths, Don’t Go to Sleep, The Day After, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Satan’s School for Girls, The Initiation of Sarah… Man, the ’70s and ’80s kicked some made-for-TV ass. They used to pop out some fun little thrillers. The closest we get to quality TV flicks like those now are shitty TV remakes, whatever “mega reptile versus giant amphibian” movie Syfy can find a desperate enough has been to star in, and, of course, Lifetime movies starring Markie Post. I mean, I love the shitty Syfy originals and there’s occasionally something good that comes out around Halloween on, say, ABC Fam (who premiered the “reimagined” TIoS) but they are never quite as great as they used to be in pre-cable TV days.  It’s a shame, because I love the format. There’s just something so dramatically perfect about the music-cued fade to black followed by a fade in, book-ending the commercial breaks. Even without the commercials, they’re just perfect, like reaching the end of a chapter in a book and turning the page.

this is my scanner face

Fisty: And speaking of books, you left out Stranger in Our House, aka Summer of Fear, by the queen of Seventies/Eighties YA girl horror, Lois Duncan. (Note that Stranger was directed by Wes Craven and starred Linda Blair!) That’s a big fat FUCK YEAH because no one does scary for pre-teen girls like Duncan: Summer of Fear, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Stranger with My Face, Daughters of Eve, Killing Mr Griffin, Down a Dark Hall, the list just goes on and on. Seriously, you ought to check them out. Maybe it’s the adaptation of several of her suspense novels into tv movies, or maybe it’s just that overall spooky Seventies vibe, but TIoS has a distinctly Lois Duncan feel to me, which helps it to stand out as not just another piece of Carriesploitation.

Also great about made for TV movies are the familiar faces, from television stalwarts to new up and comers. In TIoS you’ll find Shelley Winters reprising her blowzy dame role as the creepy Mrs Hunter, the antithesis of cheerful tippler Mrs Mac in Black Christmas, blithely planning ritual sacrifices to SATAN. We’ve also got two of the most beautiful and famous faces of the Seventies, Morgan Fairchild and Brittany Morgan, the former demonstrating her usual porcelain bitch-goddess character, while the latter is just luminous as the has-it-all-yet-is-sensitive-too Patty. Also familiar are TV movie and show staples Talia Balsam and Nora Heflin, Airplane!‘s Robert Hays–oh! And did we mention TISA FUCKING FARROW? You know, Anne from Zombie?!

you got me on my knees, sarah

Farrow, by the way, is nearly unrecognizable as Mouse, whom she plays very twitchy and high-strung. And lest we forget, Sarah herself is played by Kay Lenz, who somehow buries her own usual radiant, if Gelfling-like beauty behind Sarah’s diffident loner mannerisms. Kay Lenz was absolutely a star in the television firmament, bringing home two Emmys and marrying the likes of David Cassidy (when he was all that and a bag of chips), not to mention her appearance in House. What does this all mean? In a nutshell, we’ve got an experienced cast who really sell their roles, every one of them, from the most silent ANS minion to the frat boy girl raters. It also means we’ve got some of the prettiest faces ever all collected in one neat package. I’d kill for Morgan Brittany’s hair. IT’S SO BOUNCY.

Bill: Robert Hays! He’s so great. It was nice that his character actually had a conscience, too. He totally faced that bitch Jennifer, and walked away rather than let her lead him around by the johnson.

"pinch hitting for pedro barbon..."

All I know about frats and sororities, I learned from watching movies. They can’t really be like that, can they? No one short of Joan Collins can bitch it up like Fairchild and she makes this Jennifer Lawrence person so cunty as to be near inhuman. Why would anyone want to be “sisters” with her?! Ugh. I’d much rather hang with the Omega Mu Phi Epsilon Delta girls, especially Barbara. Hellooooo, Barbara! Are TV movies supposed to be so obviously erotic? But, yes… Why would anyone want to be an ANS? Blah. Though, as we saw in the opening near-rape, Patty can be pretty naive. I mean, she all but climbed onto a pinball machine and did a Jodie Foster impersonation. If Sarah hadn’t been there … So, I suppose I can see her buying into Jennifer’s “charm.” It’s kind of funny that Sarah, who is supposed to be the socially awkward of the two, seems to have a much better idea of the nature of the people she meets than Patty. She even seems to try to shield Patty from the reality of how  snooty the ANS girls are, knowing that that sorority means a lot to her.

Fisty: See, what’s so great about La Fairchild as Jennifer Lawrence is that she actually DOES fake being human sometimes, like when she offers a pseudo-heartfelt apology to Sarah. Most movie sorority bitch stock characters wouldn’t bother, but she can and does. She knows that the only way to maintain a high level of bitchdom is to fake humanity. It’s easy to imagine her being super nice–as long as you’re not ugly and don’t cross her. That’s one of the nice things about what the writers for TIoS did with it, they really created solid characters from classic examplars of high school and college movies, from our beautiful mean girl Jennifer to rejected introvert Sarah. Day and Ingalls et alia focus on these strong characters and the atmosphere and story–without relying on clunky exposition, we never do quite get how the Goodwin family dynamic formed, and it’s only implied that Mrs Hunter is *ahem* more than she seems with respect to Sarah–rather than effects-driven scares, a strength that makes TIoS still a damn effective little movie thirty-odd years later.

solid character

Now, speaking of Carrie … though Brian de Palma’s film really laid out the foundations of the downtrodden-nerd-rises-up-and-has-revenge-with-possibly-tragic-consequences genre, none of the imitators have ever really come close. And not because it’s a perfect film (it’s not), but in part because of the intensity of the awfulness, the real tragedy of the story, they pale in comparison. That doesn’t mean they’re terrible (they’re not), and sometimes they’re much more, well, real in a weird way. In TIoS, Sarah isn’t really an outcast. Yes, she’s a shy loner, and her mother doesn’t really like her, but she isn’t the victim of unceasing torment and humiliations like little Carrie White. (Which, incidentally, cheapens the rip-off Carrie moment when Sarah is pelted with mud and garbage.) She’s not popular, but she does have friends in the PED girls, especially Mouse, but most importantly in Patti. Where TIoS is strongest is in the relationship between Patti and Sarah, a story as old as any in the Judeo-Christian world–after all, are not siblings born to squabble? With sisters, too, you always have the hot versus the not, the smart versus the dumb’; we love to dichotomize sisters (or brothers), to separate and pigeonhole into neat little categories. And it sometimes damages both individuals. Yet these two are close; Patti does her best to look out for Sarah and care for her, and if her love is tinged by pity, it is still love. And that Carrie White never, ever had.

sisters

TIoS is at its best when it’s about their relationship, which is tested by their entry into a foreign, adult world of college. And if Patti does something shameful, well, she isn’t alone in that. Who doesn’t have something for which they are ashamed? It’s an understandable mistake on her part, she wants to be accepted by her new ‘family,’ and by strangers, to prove her worth in the outside world, and Sarah is a vestige of her childhood. But in the end it comes back to the love between them. Sisterhood in general is central to TIoS, though. Sarah’s acceptance in PED, the way she ultimately strengthens their ties to one another, and the juxtaposition of their sorority to the toxic relations of ANS, the pretty hate machine all serve as the central motifs of Sarah’s story. And lest we forget, the longing glances shared between Mouse and Sarah speak of yet ANOTHER sisterhood.

Bill:Yes, it’s a damn effective little flick, but not perfect. I agree about the great way they handle the less-is-more style, like with the Goodwin-Hunter backstory you mentioned, and the is-Mouse-gay? subtext. (She is REALLY into Sarah, and that might explain her suicidal history. And there are a lot of longing glances getting thrown around between these girls.)

did somebody say, "subtext?"

But then there are a few silly moments of irrational behavior and general WTFness that could have an excitable person yelling at their screen. I refuse to believe anyone would actually let that creepy Mrs Hunter teach any class, let alone a class on Ritualistic Magic Among Primitive Peoples. Sometimes it seems like none of these people ever even go to classes. Or do any school work. I also doubt the guys hoisting a piano up on a string are going to be stupid enough to let people just wander around under it, much less loiter under there, looking like fucking Tanooki Mario pulling his statue routine. How retarded is Patty?! She just stands there with Damocles’ Piano hanging over her head, waiting on her sister to psychic that shit down on her. Everyone does that! They just stand still and wait as Sarah psycho-stares them in the face.  She’s not scanning them. No heads are going to explode. She’s not exactly Carrie, who didn’t have to stare at something for 5 minutes to get an effect, so anyone that knows about her power, like, say, HER SISTER, could just step out of the way when she’s aiming her psycho-glare. And why does no one except Mrs Hunter react to this girl’s power? You’d think Jennifer, having been forcefully knocked through the air by an invisible force after pissing Sarah off, would then cut her some slack rather than seek revenge and humiliate the girl that has deadly super mind powers.

what could possibly go wrong?

Fisty: Yeah, there’s definitely too much standing and waiting for those powers to get going. I love that piano gag, though, because it’s right up there with guys carrying an giant glass pane across a street: SOMEONE is going through that glass, just like SOMEONE’S gonna be under that piano. So dumb, but so funny. It’s not just people affected by Sarah, though, it’s Sarah too. Like when she’s getting humiliated outside the PED house–why doesn’t she just run back in? No, she just stands there screaming like a banshee. Nobody does that.

And the fresh meat playing backgammon in the first dorm scene? I have never in my life seen ANYONE play a game of fucking backgammon, nevermind any eighteen-year old girls on their first night at college. The whole college thing is pretty unrealistic–these writers were going on some aging Fifties memories, I’m guessing. I’m not sure how much of that is clumsiness, and how much is perhaps deliberate anachronism, with that peculiar love for the Fifties they had in the Seventies. But I won’t argue with with Mrs Hunter’s class, which I have totally seen in course catalogs. I’m just not sure why she’d be teaching it since she doesn’t even have a doctorate, unless it were Waltham Community College. Those are some pretty minor quibbles, though, and they even lend to a certain enjoyment of the film. (Bill: Amen. I only “quibbled” at all so that no humorless, stick-in-the-mud  can say we misrepresented the movie in our review.) I can revel in that sort of silliness, while also enjoying its good qualities. (Bill: “We,” Fisty, “We can revel in it!”) TIoS is really kind of a perfect nostalgia flick–even for a time I never experienced.

nostalgic ... for SATAN?!?

Unfortunately, due to the ephemeral nature of television commercials (trailers  for made for TV movies falling straight into that category), we’ve been unable to locate a trailer for The Initiation of Sarah. Rather than head into questionable territory by linking to scenes up on YouTube (they’re there if you look, or you can catch the whole thing on Netflix Watch Instantly), here are some authentic commercials from January 1978, just before TIoS premiered, to get you in the mood. You never saw cotton-reinforced crotches looking so good.