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Friday The 13th, Part 3 (1982)

Oh, 3D.  You are the current bane of my cinematic existence.  Back in the 1980s, there was a short run of 3D horror movies trying to revive this quick cash grab gimmick, and they all sucked – Amityville 3D, Jaws 3D, and Friday The 13th, Part 3: 3D.  Straight up, this film is a prime example of leaning heavily on the 3D sight gag gimmicks to provide entertainment value instead of actually making a good film.  Even in current times, this is still done, but my disdain for 3D is the fact that it’s never worked right for me despite me having no visual impairments.  It detracts and distracts from the theatre going experience instead of enhancing it.  I have never seen this film in a 3D presentation, and so, there will be no assessment on it.  Still, it does factor into the lightweight quality of the film.

F13, Part 3 begins where Part 2 left off where Jason Voorhees has been wounded, but is able to slip away into the woods and the night.  He wanders to a small market in Crystal Lake, and while he kills the cranky couple which own it, he grabs himself a new set of clothes (and apparently a shave as well).  Meanwhile, a sizeable group of teens set out on a weekend at Crystal Lake at Higgins Haven, the woodland retreat for Chris Higgins (Dana Kimmell) and her family.  Also, tagging along is the uptight Rick (Paul Kratka), and the jokey Shelly (Larry Zerner) along with a pair of old stoners.  Chris is very weary of returning to the area because of an attack by a freakish man in the woods two years prior, but Rick does what little he can to comfort her.  In the meantime, Shelly and one of the teenage girls take a ride to a convenience store where a trio of bikers cause them a bit of trouble, but Shelly leaves them a bit humiliated.  This provokes the trio to follow them back to Higgins Haven, but their snooping around the barn costs them a great deal more than they bargained for.  Jason gradually kills off each and every person in the area – as per usual – until the climactic confrontation with the heroine.

This is the first misstep in the franchise for me. After a great outing with Friday The 13th, Part 2, I’m rather disappointed in how uneven and disjointed the direction and story are here.  Not to mention the quality of the cast and characters fall down one big notch, and the makeup effects aren’t anything to note.  Steve Miner does return as director, but it just feels a little lazy.  I think the problems mainly boil down to a flimsy script and the irritating and stupid 3D sight gags. Co-writer Martin Kitrosser also co-wrote Friday The 13th, Part V: A New Beginning, an even worse entry in the series, and so, you can easily judge his lower grade talents by that.  Aside from a few sparse screenwriting credits, Kitrosser essentially only works as a script supervisor since this film.  That means he just maintains a film’s internal continuity during production and records the daily filming progress.  The other co-writer, Carol Watson, has extremely little on her filmography.  So, it really doesn’t inspire confidence looking back on everything.  Ron Kurz, writer of Part 2, also has very little on his résumé, but he wrote a solid and coherent script that worked and flowed well.  The same cannot be said for this movie.

Whereas Part 2 had some vibrant performances, this falls into flat stereotypical characters.  These screenwriters attempted to bring some emotional depth to Chris Higgins with her previous frightening encounter with Jason, but it falls flat because of the actress in the role.  Amy Steel and Adrienne King were head and shoulders above Dana Kimmell.  Her performance is a little too one dimensional to fill the character out, but even then, it’s written with nothing but vulnerability.  The best female heroes of the series have always been ones that had a strength to pull on to fight back in the end despite their emotionally vulnerable sides.  Chris Higgins really is just an increasingly hysterical would-be victim.  Her uptight boyfriend Rick does not inspire strength or confidence, either.  Larry Zerner’s Shelly is a loveable misfit that pulls too many cheap practical jokes, and ends up pissing everyone off – unlike Stu Charno’s Ted from the previous film who was a master of practical jokes, and everyone still had a good laugh afterwards.  The difference?  Ted was everyone’s friend.  Nobody seems to really like Shelly even though he is supposed to be, at least, someone’s friend in this group.  They treat him like a lame annoyance, and I can’t disagree with that sentiment.  His only redeeming act is that he provides Jason with his very first hockey mask.

And instead of tight pacing, too much time is dragged out to indulge in those atrocious 3D sight gags.  Beyond that, the screenwriters throw in a lot of extraneous characters who eat up screentime for the sole purpose of increasing the body count.  They really add little to the entertainment value.  Other films later did this, but they would be more to the point and the characters usually would have something to do with the plot.  The three bikers are okay, but it just feels like a frivolous side plot which amounts to little.  It’s just another blah element piled into this film that further disjoints the story’s flow.  Not surprisingly, I have many of the same issues with A New Beginning.

And really?  A disco theme?  This movie was released in 1982.  Disco was deader than Jason’s mother by then.  Thankfully, this horrid opening credits tune is the extent of this bad 70s flashback.  Still, Harry Manfredini and Michael Zager should be ashamed of this.  It also horribly dates the film as older than it actually is because disco was long gone by the time of release.  The hippy stoners don’t help either.  In 1982, the big hit songs were Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky III along with tracks from John Cougar Mellenkamp, Hall & Oates, Foreigner, The Cars, Journey, J. Geils Band, Tommy Tutone, Rick Springfield, Soft Cell, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, the Steve Miller Band, and Fleetwood Mac.  All solid pop, rock, or new wave songs.  Manfredini and Zager could’ve gone for something more contemporary, and made it fit into the musical landscape of the time.  Instead, they drudge up disco for no good reason.  The theme hardly sets a good tone for the movie seeming more akin to a parody than an actual straight horror film.  Beyond that, the score is not too memorable.  When the worst part of it is what you remember the most, that’s an ill sign.

The only real highlight of this movie is Richard Brooker’s performance as the now hockey masked Jason Voorhees.  It’s a more nonchalant, confident performance that exudes a menacing quality.  He’s more calculating and focused in his slaughter.  The body language is very strong and deliberate.  He takes his time and wastes no motion.  He doesn’t need to rush his actions, he can stalk with patience, and strike at his leisure.  What Brooker does also adds to the blankness of the character.  He shows no panic, no rage, no urgency.  He is without conscience or contempt.  He merely kills because he’s imitating what his mother did, but possibly also due to a territorial mentality that these are his woods and anyone who enters is a trespasser.

The kills are still good, but the make-up effects fall down in quality a little more.  I just know that little from this film has stuck with me in a good way.  The climax is pretty good starting to show off more of Jason’s tolerance for pain and ability to survive injuries that would kill anyone else.  Brooker just gives Jason a lot of consistent personality here, and the climax is boosted by his talent and physical ability.

I wish there was more to delve into with this sequel, but it’s just too thin and shallow.  The tension is not very taut, and the storytelling is quite lax.  There’s no real urgency or looming suspense to maintain interest for me.  I just groan at the flat stereotypes that populate the screenplay – the stoners, the hysterical heroine, the heroine’s comforting boyfriend, the sexy girls, and so on.  It comes off like a lesser grade film compared to its predecessors with less talent in front of and behind the camera, aside from Richard Brooker.  No one was really trying to make a good horror film, they were just riding on the gimmickry of 3D to pull in the bucks, and of course, it worked.  This out-grossed both of the previous films in the series with just over $36 million.  However, bad movies that use 3D still top the box office today, and it makes me sick.  Yes, I still hate you Jim Cameron.  As for Friday The 13th, Part 3, I know there are people out there that do like this film, and so be it.  That’s your opinion, and this is mine.  I don’t like it very much because it pales in comparison to the far more tightly structured, more lively, and more intelligent Part 2.  There won’t be another Friday The 13th film that I 100% enjoy until Jason is struck by lightning and rises from the grave.  Let that act as a cliffhanger for my inevitable, almost entirely positive review of The Final Chapter.

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Friday The 13th (1980)

Sometimes, the first film in a franchise is the best and all sequels are just watered down retreads.  Other times, the first film is merely a rugged blueprint for future installments to build upon to create better films.  I believe the original Friday The 13th fits into the latter category.  That is not to say it doesn’t have admirable qualities, but the formula and execution is not as refined as some of the other films in the franchise later became.  There are numerous elements that downgrade this even in comparison to the first sequel, and the difference in who the killer is does not factor into my opinion here.

Camp Crystal Lake used to be an idyllic summer camp for kids, but for over twenty years, it has had a supposed death curse upon it.  Camp counselors found dead, the water gone bad, and various accidents of sorts have plagued it.  Even the local prophet of doom, Crazy Ralph, tries to warn all comers to the danger ahead.  However, Steve Christie is determined to re-open the camp and mend its reputation.  The teenage counselors feel safe and comfortable in the deep woods, but soon, on this Friday the 13th, an unseen killer stalks them all intent on seeing their bloody corpses litter the campgrounds.

First off, the positives.  You can never deny the high quality talents of Tom Savini.  He’s a master make-up effects artist, and he had honed his skills most notably on George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead prior to this film.  Here, he created some of the best gore effects and special make-up of the series.  They are seamless, and that only enhances the surprise elements of the movie.  I believe the success of this Friday The 13th owes a lot to what Savini accomplished as it raised the bar for gore very high, and that gave it something different than the more atmosphere-driven Halloween.  This film really started the bloody slasher film craze, and it is due to the effectiveness of these physical effects.

The score by Harry Manfredini has always been a divided issue for me.  In some ways, it is suspenseful, but in others, it is just wild strings shrieking on the soundtrack with no sense of tension or rhythm at all.  However, it rarely feels like a Friday The 13th movie without his signature style, but there are exceptions.  For what Manfredini offers, his first foray with the franchise is a solid effort.  It creates a good atmosphere that services the film’s style of horror.

The acting from our two leads is very admirable in a subgenre known for a lot of cringable performances, to say the least.  Adrienne King is a fresh faced, likable talent here, and reflects a lot of vulnerability and sympathy.  Yet, she is able to demonstrate some strong will in the more intense fight-for-your-life sequences.  The other talent I mention is who portrays the killer, and that acting talent really elevates the film above its unrefined shortcomings.

What truly detracts from this movie are two things.  The first is the pace.  Even by my patient standards, the film drags along at a very slow pace.  By modern cinematic standards, it’s terribly sluggish.  This is mainly due to the fact that very little occurs in the story.  People slowly arrive in town, and it goes along like a slow, calming weekend until the killings really pick up the pace.  That doesn’t start happening until about halfway through the movie.  The characters don’t offer up much personality or charisma to maintain interest or momentum in the first half of the movie.  By the time the film really gets a good stride going, it’s almost over.

The second issue is that Sean Cunningham is not a very inventive or dynamic filmmaker.  There is nothing outright bad about what he does, but there’s also nothing exceptional or impressive about it either.  The incessant use of the killer’s point of view shots tend to take away from the tension and mystery since you always know where the killer is, and who the killer is stalking.  Some sequels would lay off of this idea, and create suspense and tension through more clever methods.  Here, it works for a little while, but ultimately, it overstays its welcome by wearing thin quickly.  It’s almost as if Cunningham saw the opening scene of Halloween, and wanted to recapture that idea and feeling for this entire film.  I don’t feel it works to that extent.  Hiding the killer’s identity was key to the story, but better filmmakers later demonstrated a more diverse approach to maintaining that idea.

If, by chance, you have not had the identity of the film’s killer revealed to you by now, I won’t be the spoiler.  Let’s just say, it is an unexpected twist in the story that is probably the most intelligent part of the screenwriting and casting.  This is before Jason Voorhees began his killing spree under a burlap sack or a hockey mask.  So, it has a different sort of ending as we get a killer with dialogue who can showcase their madness without a mask.  There is a further twist ending beyond this that captivated and terrified audiences in 1980, and gave the franchise a jumping off point to actually become a franchise.  It truly is nightmarish.

Friday The 13th does deliver some good scares that remain effective to this day, and again, Savini’s work has been key to maintaining that effectiveness.  However, there’s little beyond that to hold the film together through its run time, and even then, the scares are not spread out enough to keep that heightened tension going for the majority of the film.  It was not a film written with compelling characters, and not vastly cast with charismatic acting talents.  So, it shouldn’t have been plotted out where the performances or characters needed to carry the movie for a hefty distance before the horror aspects took over.  Again, this works as a template for future installments to build upon to make more well balanced and tighter films.  The Friday The 13th franchise is my favorite slasher film series, and just because Jason is not the killer in this film does not affect my opinion of it.  At one time, I had hoped that a remake could take this film, and re-manufacture it into a more evenly paced and tighter movie.  Bring it up to the more intense and entertaining levels of the better sequels.  Sadly, the 2009 remake from Platinum Dunes was an utter failure, and like many horror remakes, put a death nail in the franchise.  I will give credit that this 1980 film was a horror milestone, and it launched the entire slasher subgenre that ran rampant through most of the decade.  However, it was not the best of the genre, and there are better films within the franchise than Sean Cunningham’s original.


The Prophecy (1995)

I have been a major fan of this film for fifteen years for many reasons, the foremost of which is the blockbuster performance of Christopher Walken as the Archangel Gabriel.  Performed with sadistic malice, a fine mix of humor, and overall electrifying delivery, Walken created a memorable, classic character that would help to bring fans back for two sequels.  The film is filled with great themes and a solid mix of acting talent that is surprising, but never disappointing.

The Prophecy begins with a somber monologue by Simon (Eric Stoltz), a redheaded angel.  He speaks of his fear and sorrow that a second war has broken out in Heaven.  Simon has come to Earth to head off the plans of ‘the other side’ who wish to claim the blackest human soul on Earth to fight for them in Heaven.  Our protagonist here is Thomas Daggett (Elias Koteas).  Once set to become an ordained priest in the Catholic church, but a violent and bloody vision of Heaven, complete with the sight of slain angels, tests his faith.  A test which he fails.  He is now a police detective that has long lost his faith, but has just met an angel.  Simon to be exact.  Simon tells Thomas that he was in the church that day when he got his brief glimpse of a war torn Heaven, and certainly leaves him with much to think about.  However, when Simon returns to his rented out apartment, he is attacked by another angel: Uziel (pronounced ‘Oo-cie’), but Simon dispatches of him, leaving quite a mess for the police to clean up with Daggett now on the case.  Unfortunately, for Simon, because Uziel is now dead, Gabriel (Christopher Walken) soon comes to succeed where his underling failed.

Meanwhile, Daggett and coroner Joseph (Steve Hytner) examine Uziel’s corpse.  Many bizarre revelations are discovered, but for Thomas, it’s the discovery of possibly the oldest Bible in existence which contains extra chapters that shouldn’t exist.  They speak of the aforementioned second war in Heaven, a war over us, humans.  As Gabriel arrives at the empty crime scene, Simon has already found the aforementioned soul within the recently deceased Colonel Hawthorne in a small southwestern town, and Gabriel is soon to follow.  In this small town, we meet school teacher Catherine (Virginia Madsen) and a little Native American girl named Mary (Moriah Shining Dove Snyder).  Simon encounters them both while he attempts to hide this black soul from Gabriel, but the Archangel is hot on his trail along with Thomas.  While Gabriel tracks down the soul and Simon himself, Thomas attempts to unravel this mystery before him, and ultimately, discover what is ‘faith’.

Gregory Widen once brought us the screenplay for the original Highlander showcasing a blend of adventure, romance, love, pain, and epic action.  Here, in 1995, he wrote and directed this film, and brings that same level of depth and quality to The Prophecy.  He created an engaging, compelling world filled with fascinating and entertaining characters that are brilliantly realized throughout the cast.  His directing skills are not at all in question as he obviously knows what he wants with crystal clarity.  He knows the world he created well, and handles the various elements of drama, fantasy, humor, and action with ease and grace.  Everything flows together exceptionally well making this a must-see film.

As I said, Christopher Walken delivers a performance unlike any before seen, and demonstrates many sides of his acting abilities throughout.  It’s mesmerizing watching him work each and every scene.  How he can go from quiet calm to vilely sadistic and evil, even heated and angered.  It’s an intense portrayal that will gravitate you towards watching this film many times over because you just can’t get enough of it.  It’s all there, and it’s juicy stuff.  Elias Koteas has always done fantastic work in the few roles I’ve seen him in from the guilty pleasure of Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to his psychotic role as Edgar Reese, opposite Denzel Washington, in Fallen.  Elias does solid work no matter the character, and becomes very much a chameleon as an actor.  He continues that here as a man who has his faith in God, broken and tested throughout the film.  He beautifully portrays the depth of Thomas Daggett on a journey, not only in hopes of restoring such faith, but understanding just what it means to have faith.  Eric Stoltz is an actor I really haven’t seen any other work from, but if this performance is any indication, he does some fine work.  He brings a simple warmth, heart, and charm to Simon.  You truly do care for him, and what he chooses to sacrifice in order to protect that which HE believes in.  Whether he’s sharing a scene with Koteas, Walken, or the little Moriah Snyder, his heart and warmth remain strong.  It’s a truly human performance, especially considering he’s portraying an angel.

Virginia Madsen (Candyman) brings us another strong, consistent performance here.  She holds her ground, even when Walken pulls out his truly dark side as Gabriel.  Also, her character is well connected to the Native Americans of the land, and conducts the church choir.  Her faith is intact, but as the true underlying theme here continues to be the testing of one’s faith, she confronts her own perceptions of it all.  Moriah Snyder is not one of those kids in a horror film that gets on your nerves every second they’re in a scene.  She is clearly a highly talent young lady, and I’m sure that talent has continued to develop over the years since this film.  Here, there’s much here for her to work with, more than I’ll elude to in this review, but trust in that she has a significant role in this film that she handles quite well.

And then, you have two smaller, yet significant, and certainly memorable roles.  The first is that portrayed by Steve Hytner (Kenny Bania from Seinfeld).  He portrays the coroner Joseph with a light-hearted charm, but with a professional manner.  It’s just the sort of character to slightly lighten the mood when Daggett is talking about wars in Heaven over human souls, and dead angels sitting in Joseph’s morgue.  It’s a quite needed and welcomed character that Hytner plays perfectly.  He doesn’t go remotely over-the-top with it, and keeps a nice balance between the mild humor and the professional mind of the character.  It was nice to see his character carried over into the following two sequels.  Of course, the real juice comes with the appearance of The Lord of the Rings’ Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer.  Viggo portrays the Prince of Darkness himself with as much character as Walken does with Gabriel.  Mortensen brings a genuine disturbing and sadistic sense that just oozes from his being.  The role is small, but Viggo makes it no less significant than any other main character.  He brings to Lucifer a casual, evil manner.  He speaks of the most vile and sadistic acts with the casualness of us talking about the weather.  He needn’t be theatrical or overly dramatic to sell it.  His chilling presence is felt the instant he enters the scene, and remains even after he leaves.  When he and Walken do briefly meet, the two just eat it up.  It’s devilishly delicious (no pun intended).  The two with their hot breath and cold blood just makes such a scene so rich with character, and it’s only a shame Viggo didn’t return for The Prophecy II when Lucifer makes a brief, shadowy appearance near the beginning.  The role may have been expanded upon if he had.

I also really have to hand it to the cinematographer Richard Clabaugh.  This is one beautifully shot film between the lighting, angles, and the subtle camera movements.  He does all he can to give the picture a strong cinematic sense capturing both the epic and introspective qualities of its dramatic stories.  The 2.35:1 aspect ratio frame holds a lot of weight with much religious iconography, and captures some beautiful vistas in the American southwest.  A gorgeously shot film through and through.

All in all, this is one fantastic film that I strongly encourage everyone to see.  It’s a gem of a thriller that touches on many different levels with superb acting with a rock solid cast.  Gregory Widen, for his directorial debut, put together an array of fantastic talent in front of and behind the camera.  This is a beautiful and fantastically talented production.  The Prophecy brings you a great film on so many levels, and is a MUST for any Christopher Walken fan.  I strongly recommend this film.  It gets my highest praise with a solid 10 out of 10 rating.