Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Scream Bloody Murder (1972)

My favourite video store used to have an amazing deal that allowed you to rent all the movies you could watch for one month for a low, low price (maybe $9.95, or $12.95, I can’t quite recall). You could rent three movies at a time, and exchange them as often as you like. Some a-holes would pay for the deal, take out three movies and just keep them for a month. I guess it was a cheaper way to “own” movies that had price tags like $199.95 (which basically meant they weren’t for sale – but if you wanted to pay that price, I guess they would have taken it). One year I decided to spend the final month of summer watching all the movies I could put my hands on. I figured it was a good way to try out a bunch of weird and iffy looking movies that I wasn’t so sure about. It was also a good way to relax before heading back school in September.

Unfortunately, I got an unexpected offer to assistant stage manage a play that was going up in September, which meant rehearsing the last three weeks of August. Like a fool, I said yes. This meant that I was in rehearsals for several hours each day – hours that I had planned to spend sitting in front of a TV watching outrageous cinematic atrocities. I had already paid for the all-you-can watch movie deal, so I didn’t want to waste it. I felt that on principle I had to watch a minimum of three movies a day. And since I was in rehearsal until 10:00 PM most days, this meant that had to watch movies all night to make up for it.

VHA box for Scream Bloody Murder (1972)I remember the sun was coming up as I finished watching a beat up looking VHS tape of an obscure old movie called Scream Bloody Murder (1972). The box had been taunting me, and tempting me, from the shelves of Movie Village for a while now, but I’d never been able to convince myself to rent it. It just looked so cheap – it had to be terrible. Perhaps I had flashbacks to renting Garden of the Dead (1972) with my friends a few years ago. Scream Bloody Murder just couldn’t live up to it’s own hyperbole: “The First Motion Picture to be Called GORE-NOGRAPHY!!!” Gore-nography? That screamed ‘rent me!’ and yet I still didn’t trust it. The box looked so… nasty – is that the word for it? Just take a look at it (on the right). Something about it creeped me out in a way that no other horror film ever had.

I’d been a big fan of horror films since I was a kid. I loved movies like Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980), not to mention The Amityville Horror (1979) and Poltergeist. (1982). I’d even seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and The Toolbox Murders (1978) – and those ones had probably given me similar vibes to Scream Bloody Murder, but both Texas… and Toolbox… were famous movies. Steven King even endorsed Toolbox… on the front cover. So, l I knew those movies had to be of a certain level of quality. But Scream Bloody Murder… it was more like finding something creepy buried in your back yard and going “what the hell is this?”

So, it took an all-you-can-watch movie deal, and an all night movie marathon, to finally convince me to slide this tape into the player. It was the final film of the night, and I was probably half asleep when it started – but pretty soon I was wide awake. It starts with a bang – or perhaps I should say a senseless killing. A young boy runs over his father with a tractor. Was it an accident? or some kind of twisted murder? It’s not really clear to me. But the boy jumps out of the moving farm vehicle and manages to get his arm run over. There is some blood and gore, and the whole thing has an air of unpleasantness to it. I was completely riveted.

The kid, Matthew, has his mangled hand replaced by a hook, or claw, and is stuck in a mental hospital until he is eighteen. Now played by Fred Holbert, he is released and he returns to the farm to discover that his mother has a new man in her life. Suffice it to say that Matthew has deep, deep troubles with his mother, and the murders soon begin (again).

This is just the beginning, and Scream Bloody Murder is soon winding it’s way through unexpected plot turns, and delivering some truly awesome moments of madness. By the time the final scene was playing out on my TV screen (as the sun was coming up through the window behind me) I felt disturbed, and just a little bit dirty.

Yes, dirty. The movie seemed so scuzzy to me (and I’m not even sure how to define that), that I almost felt a need to take a shower when it was done (as one critic once predicted that people would feel after watching a play I wrote – but that’s another story). Don’t get me wrong, I had enjoyed the movie – particularly the first half or so. There were moments of unintentional hilarity, as well as truly suspenseful scenes. I even found myself wondering, at one point, if Steven King had seen this movie and been inspired by it when he wrote Misery. Probably not, but there are certain similarities.

In the last act, the movie spirals down to a nightmarish conclusion. Something about the low budget production values, the bad film print, and the worn out VHS tape – coupled with the dark, disturbing ending – left me feeling thoroughly shaken, and somehow less clean than when I had started. Perhaps lack of sleep on my part was also a factor, I don’t know. But I never forgot Scream Bloody Murder, and I later picked up a half-decent print on DVD.

Watching it last week, I didn’t get that same feeling of disturbed uncleanliness. I’ve seen so many other movies over the years that are just as cheap and scuzzy – if not more so – that it really seems kind of quaint and classy to me now. It still entertained me in all the same places. And it was great to see Angus Scrimm in an early appearance, credited as Rory Guy. There are moments in Scream Bloody Murder (1972) that I think are absolutely brilliant, and overall it’s a fairly unpredictable story. I would call it a minor #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic, and recommend it to anyone with a taste for low, low budget horrors of the early 1970s. I know I will always be happy to see it turn up on any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Cult (2007)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

DVD cover art for Cult (2007)Cult (2007) by #JoeKnee

w/ #TarynManning #RachelMiner

While researching a local cult, four college students uncover the existence of a supernatural power that may take their lives…and their souls.

“Once You’re In, There’s No Getting Out!”

#Horror

#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

I picked up a DVD of Cult (2007) in a bargain bin somewhere, and I must have watched it, but… coming across it on my shelf, I had no memory of it whatsoever. So, even though it’s a little more recent than a lot of the movies I choose for this honour, I decided to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

I could try to describe the plot, but that would only give me a headache. Basically, a bunch of students decide to do a project about a weird cult that had a big murder suicide incident a few years back in their home town. Their professor seems a bit concerned about this, and says “Let me know if you find anything like…”

“Like what?” the head girl, Mindy, says.

“Just let me know if you find anything.”

Well, what are the odds that this project is going to unearth some weird secrets, perhaps having to do with this very student, Mindy’s past? And what are the odds that this attractive female professor is going to turn out to be seeing Mindy’s father – and therefore have inside information about this student’s past? And why is this student so determined to keep digging into this cult, even after one of her friends, and fellow students,  is mysteriously murdered in the shower (one of the faint highlights of this movie, by the way) -and that her death was seemingly somehow predicted by a book that this Mindy is reading?

Confused? I know I am. And I watched the movie (twice, apparently).

So what’s the verdict?

Cult (2007) is Trash. There was no terror, in my opinion. Perhaps somebody, somewhere would have found this movie scary or suspenseful, but not me. There is a bit of gore. Several of the female cult members (and maybe people who are possessed by cult members? Or maybe just controlled by the cult leader?) stab themselves in the eyes as a tribute to Kwan Yin, who was blinded and murdered by her father many years ago in China (or something like that).

Cult seems like a movie with trashy sleaze potential, especially when a bunch of female cult members, wearing some kind of funky white lingerie, gather around to performa a ritual of some sort, but sadly, it’s all just foreplay for eye-stabbing. And if you stare at this movie long enough, you might just be tempted to join in.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Monster on the Campus (1958)

Quite some time ago, I wrote about a TV show that I discovered when I was young. It aired late on Saturday nights and was called Not Quite Classic Theatre. As I said back then, “perhaps ‘show’ isn’t the right word for it. It was a time slot during which the TV station would air old B-movies.” I wrote that “watching those old monster movies inspired and excited me in a way that no other movies had. I loved them, and I loved that they gave me ideas and made me want to write.” Basically, watching movies on Not Quite Classic Theatre helped to make me into the person that I am today (for better or for worse).

I had already grown up watching back and white classics like Frankenstein (1931) and Dracula (1931) – and I loved them. But the movies on Not Quite Classic Theatre were different. They were black and white, and they were (mostly) monster movies, but they tended to be less famous and respected. many of them were from the late fifties and early sixties (so a whole other era of horror and sci-fi movies). These included the giant bug movies – some of which I’d heard of, but never seen (like Tarantula (1955)) – as well as some lesser known sequels involving classic monsters like the Wolfman (don’t ask me which ones, because it’s all a bit of a blur now).

Promotional Still from Monster on the Campus (1958)The very first movie that I ever watched on Not Quite Classic Theatre was Monster on the Campus (1958). I had never heard of it, but I loved it. Over the years I would remember it fondly, but I never knew what it was called. I mean, I’m sure I saw the title that first time I watched it on Not Quite Classic Theatre, but I had quickly forgotten it. And somehow I never saw it again, or read about it, or saw any mention of it in articles talking about old monster movies. It was like I was the only one on the planet who remembered this thing. Somehow, that made it seem even more special to me. Many years later, I finally saw it again – and it was pretty much as I remembered. When Universalreleased The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection I was thrilled to see that it included Monster on the Campus and nine other awesome movies (if you buy Volumes 1 & 2) from the same era. I knew I had to have it.

The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection on DVDThinking about it later, I realized that these 10 movies were likely part of the package that Not Quite Classic Theatre had licensed for broadcast all those years ago. So, in a way, it’s like I just bought season one of Not Quite Classic Theatre. How cool is that?

What can I say about Monster on the Campus that hasn’t been implied by everything I’ve already written? It’s still a lot of fun, and I still love it (nostalgia may play a role in that, what can I do?). It’s not a giant bug movie, but it feels pretty much at home among those movies. It involves a prehistoric fish, so that’s almost as good. 

That fish is probably the clearest image that I remember from watching the movie back in the 1980s. I thought it was pretty cool and creepy (and maybe just a little bit campy – although I had no idea what that word meant back then). It’s still a highlight of the movie in my opinion.

It’s safe to say that Monster on the Campus (1958) was a seminal viewing experience for me. As far as I am concerned, it is a #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic. I can never truly repeat the experience of watching it for the first time (either with this movie or any other). But that doesn’t mean I won’t continue to try on many a future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Garden of the Dead (1972)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

Poster art for Garden of the Dead (1972)Garden of the Dead (1972) by #JohnHayes

Formaldehyde sniffing prisoners are killed during a breakout. After burial, the inmates return from the dead to exact revenge on the prison guards who killed them.

“filmed in DEAD color”

#Horror #SciFi #Zombies

#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

Some friends and I rented Garden of the Dead (1972) back in high school. The poster, which was featured on the VHS box, looked so damn amazing that we were convinced that we were about to watch the greatest zombie movie since Dawn of the Dead (1978). A mere fifteen minutes into the movie, everyone in the room wanted to stop the tape and move on to something else. I, already a completist at such a young age, argued for continuing to watch “in case it gets better.” My friends allowed it to keep playing until about 30 minutes in and then they ejected that tape as fast they could and smashed it into a million pieces (okay, I may be exaggerating slightly – but they wanted to smash it, believe me).

Garden of the Dead was, without a doubt, the cheapest and shoddiest looking movie that any of us had ever seen at that point in our lives. For years it was legendary among our gang. We would reference it from time to time, whenever we needed a measuring stick for badness. “Oh it’s bad, but it’s not Garden of the Dead bad,” would be something we might have said. Even so, I always felt a little guilty about not finishing the movie…

More than ten years later, a friend who worked for a video distribution company gave me a bag of DVDs that he thought I might appreciate. They were mostly “bad” movies, he said, but perhaps they were “bad” in an enjoyable way. I was surprised and intrigued to see that Garden of the Dead was one of them.

Watching it again, as an adult (and finishing it for the first time), I was surprised by how much better it was than I remembered. It no longer looked as cheap and shoddy to me – as I had seen much cheaper and shoddier movies by that point in my life. It wasn’t exactly good, but it seemed on par with many of the drive-in type movies that I enjoy to watch on a Friday night. So, much to my surprise, I put the Garden of the Dead DVD onto my shelf where it has remained for almost twenty years now. I was a bit nervous that one of my high school friends would see it there and accuse me of betraying the old gang, but… I was prepared to tell them that it was better than we had thought. Still, I never got around to watching it again. So, I figured it was time to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

The front gate of the "prison" in Garden of the Dead (1972)

The front gate of the “prison” in Garden of the Dead (1972)

Garden of the Dead is bad. I think my expectations were so low when I first re-watched it as an adult, that I was pleasantly surprised by it. It’s still not as cheap and shoddy as it had seemed back in high school, but it’s pretty cheap and shoddy. The “prison” consists of a few old shacks in the middle of a desert-like area, surrounded by a fence made out of barb wire and plywood. It would not effectively keep anyone from leaving.

The warden wears a suit, as if he’s attending a board meeting in a corporate head office, but he’s in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of prisoners and guards. Why would he bother to dress up?

The prisoners get high by sniffing formaldehyde (not sure if that’s a thing), and I guess that’s why they return from the dead (they’re pre-embalmed?).The movie clocks in, mercifully, at just under an hour. If we had known that back in high school, maybe we would have kept watching – but I doubt it.

So what’s the verdict?

Garden of the Dead (1972) is Trash. It has a few moments of inadvertent humour, which might make it watchable for die hard aficionados of bad movies. I don’t think that there are any moments of legitimate terror or suspense. And it’s not really trashy enough to be a truly fun watch.

Oddly enough, the DVD is introduced by Son of Ghoul (a horror host), and he says that it’s the kind of movie that makes you want to smash the TV after watching it. Not a bad description – and if that makes you want to watch Garden of the Dead, then you probably should. I, having already seen it three (well, two and half) times in my life, will not be joining you.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Black Magic (1975)

As I may have mentioned before, I saw a few crazy Hong Kong martial arts films when I was a kid. Most of them are long forgotten now. I couldn’t even tell you what their names were. I am, however, pretty sure that Black Magic (1975) was not one of them. For one thing, it’s not a martial arts film. It’s more of a weird horror film, with sorcery and… black magic.

Poster for Black Magic (1975)The description that I quoted on twitter is not completely accurate. It’s not about an evil magician making a living by casting deadly spells on people’s objects of desire. More correctly, it’s about an evil magician making a living by casting love spells on people’s objects of desire. That makes more sense, doesn’t it? He does also cast deadly spells, but those tend to be on people’s enemies, not their objects of desire.

Like I said, I had never seen this movie, and I really didn’t know much about it. So, I had no previous relationship with it. I had no feelings of nostalgia. I went in completely neutral. And…

…I liked it. Quite a lot, actually. I found it to be completely bonkers in that thoroughly entertaining way. It made me want to see the sequel, as well as other movies of its ilk. One of my Twitter friends recommended something called The Boxer’s Omen (1983). I know nothing about that movie, but I am adding it to my watch list.

I was going to spend some time talking about my early experiences watching Hong Kong and other Asian horror films, but due to some unforeseen difficulties at the home drive-in, I’m going to have to keep this one short. I shall have to save those stories for some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Until then, I recommend Black Magic (1975) to anyone who has a taste for Hong Kong horror, with a touch of #NotQuiteClassicCinema madness, that really delivers the fun.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Final Stab (2001)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

DVD case for Final Stab (2001)Final Stab (2001) by #DavidDeCoteau

w/#JamieGannon #MelissaReneéMartin #ErinnHayes #BradleyStryker

A game with fake blood and knives becomes a nightmare when someone starts slaughtering teenagers.

“The Reality of this Game… is Murder”

#Horror #Slasher

#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

Final Stab (2001) was made by David DeCoteau, who used to live right across the river from me. I know this because my friend Ian happened to live in the same building. And when I say right across the river, I mean in winter time I could walk across the ice and make it from my apartment door to Ian’s in under five minutes. When the river wasn’t frozen, I had to use the nearest bridge, so it took more like ten or twelve minutes. I went there to visit Ian one day, and as I  buzzed his apartment number, I noticed another name on the directory: D. DeCoteau. I wouldn’t have thought anything about it, except that I had heard that David DeCoteau had recently moved to Winnipeg after making The Brotherhood III: Young Demons (2003) here.  Could D. DeCoteau be David DeCoteau, I wondered?

VHS box for Robot NinjaA while later, I listened to the commentary track on the The Brotherhood III DVD and, from what DeCoteau said, I could tell that he was, in fact, living in my buddy Ian’s building. How cool was that?

I first read about DeCoteau when read J.R. Bookwalter’s B-Movies in the ’90s and Beyond. At the time, DeCoteau was working in Hollywood for Full Moon Pictures, and also making and distributing movies under his Cinema Home Video label. He produced movies like Bookwalter’s classic Robot Ninja (1989). In those days, I found reading about guys like Bookwalter and DeCoteau to be inspirational. 

And now one of them was living across the river from me!

Alas, he moved to Montreal a couple of years later. And my buddy Ian moved to a place that was a 35 minute walk away. Nothing gold can stay, I guess…

But why am I not talking about Final Stab (2001)? 

Possibly because it’s not that interesting (sorry, Dave). It was apparently made as a fake sequel to Scream (1996). It was supposed to be titled Final Scream, but Dimension Films threatened to sue, so they changed the title to Final Stab (which was a reference to the fictional movie Stab in the Scream movies). As low budget Scream rip-offs go, it’s actually not bad. It has enough interesting twists and turns to keep me interested, but ultimately I’d rather just watch Scream (or one of the official sequels).

Poster for Dr AlienSo, what’s the verdict?

Final Stab (2001) is a very mild Terror, with a few hints of Trash. I enjoyed it more the first time I saw it, 15 or 20 years ago, but it was interesting to see it again now. I think twice, however, is probably enough.

It should be noted that I have enjoyed other David DeCoteau movies much more. Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988) i and Dr. Alien (1989) for instance. And Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991) is one of the best films in the series, in my opinion. Those ones will be staying in collection. Final Stab? Not so much. 

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Female Bunch (1971)

I’ve been a fan of Al Adamson for a long, long time. So long that I’m not sure how my minor obsession began all those years ago. It might have been when I first saw Satan’s Sadists (1969). I was considering writing a biker musical as a follow up to Bad GIrls Jailhouse, so I was watching every biker movie that I could put my hands on. Satan’s Sadists blew me away and became one my favourites. At some point I started buying any and every bargain bin VHS tape that had Al Adamson’s name on it. Some of them were horrendously bad, some of them were surprisingly good – but they were always entertaining. The Female Bunch (1971) was not one of the movies I bought, or rented on VHS. I think I had read of its existence in some book or magazine, but it seemed to be a fairly elusive movie (at least to me). 

VHS box for The Female Bunch (1971)I had visions of The Female Bunch being a companion piece to Satan’s Sadists (1969). After all, The Female Bunch was made two years after Satan’s Sadists and it had Russ Tamblyn in it again. It was about a group of female outlaws, and I imagined that they might be bikers, like the guys in Satan’s Sadists. Unfortunately, that was all wishful thinking on my part. 

The Female Bunch is more of a weird, modern day Western. The outlaw women ride horses, not motorcycles, and hang out on a ranch somewhere in the desert. They are all women who hate men. They’ve all been screwed over by men in some way (this actually makes it closer to Bad GIrls Jailhouse than any biker musical I might have written), and they have  formed a secret, outlaw society as a response to their bad times with bad dudes. There are no men allowed on the ranch – except for an old and decrepit alcoholic stuntman played by Lon Chaney Jr.. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like Chaney is having to stretch very far to play this character. According to some of the other actors who were in the film, he had to be supplied with one bottle of vodka per day to keep him going. And anytime that the production ran low, they had to send someone out to buy more booze. This was a task made more complicated by the fact that they were shooting in Utah, which was a dry state (or at least their part of it was). Thankfully, they had a plane which figured into their story about drug smuggling, and when not being filmed it could be re-purposed to smuggle booze. 

Behind-the-scenes stories like that one could be more interesting than the film itself. Roger Ebert, who had been an early champion of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969), was somewhat less enthusiastic about Al Adamson’s The Female Bunch. Ebert wrote: “There’s no level at which “The Female Bunch” is any good…” I suspect that most of the critics – and audience members – felt that way back in 1971. As a connoisseur of Al Adamson’s oeuvre, I can say that I don’t entirely agree.

Poster for Satan's Sadists (1969)Honestly, The Female Bunch is no Satan’s Sadists. It’s closer to some of Al’s lesser films, although it does have some standout moments. Russ Tamblyn, as a man who makes the mistake of thinking he can sneak onto the ranch to have sex with one of the outlaw women, is excellent. The beginning of the film works well enough, as we follow a new recruit into this wild and crazy world. The final act also more or less works. The film really starts to sprawl in the middle, as there is very little forward movement in the story and not quite enough sleazy goodness (or should I say, sleazy badness?) to make up for it. Still, there is some sleazy goodness, and some inadvertent humour, so it’s not a total loss, either. 

Al Adamson is true master of #NotQuiteClassicCinema, and perhaps one of the genre’s greatest auteurs. Ed Wood gets a lot of credit for his efforts to further the art form – and deservedly so – but a guy like Al Adamson deserves just as much recognition for his accomplishments. The Female Bunch (1971) is not one of his greatest works, but that’s okay. I’m glad that I finally have a copy in my Al Adamson collection, and it certainly is essential viewing for anyone who has a taste for Al’s particular brand of cinematic madness. Perhaps, like some of his other films, The Female Bunch will only get better the next time it’s screened on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: The Vineyard (1989)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

Poster art for The Vineyard (1989)The Vineyard (1989) by #JamesHong & #WilliamRice

w/ #JamesHong #KarenLorre #MichaelWong

A world famous winemaker invites several actors to his estate to audition for a movie he’s financing.

“An island of death fueled by the blood of its victims.”

#Horror

#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

The Vineyard (1989) is not a movie that I saw back in the ’80s or ’90s. I had never even heard of it, to the best of my knowledge. I found the DVD for a reasonable price back in 2001 and decided to give it a shot. As I recall, I enjoyed it quite a bit, even though it was clearly a “bad movie”. Looking it up in my review books certainly confirmed this, as it was pretty universally panned. One and a half stars in Terror On Tape by James O’Neill: “A bad hybrid of the mad doctor and stalker subgenres…”. Still, it entertained me so I added it to my personal library…

…and then I never watched it again. So, last week I realized that it was time to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

I’m going to keep this short. The Vineyard (1989) is a minor trashterpiece, and James Hong is the man to blame/congratulate. He co-wrote, co-directed and starred in it. I could be wrong about this, but it almost feels like Hong was trying to capture some of the same over-the-top energy as Stuart Gordon’s brilliant films Re-Animator (1985) and From Beyond (1986). The Vineyard is nowhere near as good as that, but it makes me think of those films. On the other hand, it also seems to channel something much sleazier, like some of Al Adamson’s work, or perhaps SCTV’s brilliant parodies Dr Tongue’s 3D House Of Stewardesses, and Dr Tongue’s 3D House Of Slave Chicks. One of my twitter friends (hello grendelvaldez) referred to The Vineyard as “1 of the Greatest Sleaze Turkeys Ever” – and I think he’s right.

So, what’s the verdict?

The Vineyard (1989) is somehow both Trash and Terror. It’s a whole lot of fun, and more than deserving of a place in my permanent collection. I hope to watch it again before the next twenty years blows past.

Friday The 13th At The Home Drive-In: Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)

I was annoyed when Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985) came out. I had thought that Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) had been a fitting ending for the series, as I may have mentioned in a previous blog post. Still, when a friend and I were looking for something cool to rent on a Saturday night, we decided to give Friday the 13th Part V a shot. Part 5? That in itself was unheard of and ridiculous to us. Most sequels petered out by Part 3 in those days. The idea of endless sequels would soon become fodder for satire in movies like  Back to the Future Part II (1989), which featured a movie poster for Jaws 19.

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning Beta tapeMy friend and I brought the Friday the 13th: A New Beginning tape back to his house and popped it in the Betamax. As the movie began with a couple of assholes digging up Jason Voorhees’ grave, I started to get worried. When they removed the lid of his coffin and Jason was lying inside, looking fairly intact, I started to get angry. He had been chopped up into a million pieces at the end of Part 4, hadn’t he?

When Jason woke up and started killing the two assholes, I completely lost it.

“What is this bullshit?!” I yelled at the screen. “He’s been lying in his coffin, alive, waiting for someone to come along and dig him up?” My friend couldn’t explain it any better than I could. The Friday the 13th series had not exactly been realistic up to this point – and Jason certainly seemed to get killed two or three times in each of the previous movies, only to get back up and start massacring teenagers again – but he was chopped up into little pieces at the end of Part 4! The whole point had been to make sure that he would never be able to get back up again. That’s why they called it The Final Chapter.

If they were going to bring Jason back to life, I would have at least expected them to have some sort of explanation – like a mad scientist sewing all the body parts back together. Simply opening a coffin and having him sit up was not good enough for me. I was in the midst of expressing my great displeasure when suddenly the TV screen went all fuzzy. Something had gone wrong with the tape. My friend stopped and started it a couple of times, and tried to adjust the tracking, but the screen remained fuzzy. Not even ejecting and reloading the tape made any difference. We looked at the clock and it was too late to even return the tape to the store and complain. We would not be finishing Friday the 13th: A New Beginning on that might.

Of course, it wouldn’t have done much good even if we could have returned the tape to the store. This was before the big chains started stocking thirty copies of every new release and guaranteeing that you would be able to get hold of it. Hell, this was before the big chains even existed (at least in my home town). Our only hope might have been that the guy at the video store would have known how to fix the tape, but that wasn’t too likely, either.

We did not watch the rest of movie that night, or the next day. I think my friend maybe got a store credit for a future rental. I hated the first five minutes of Friday the 13th Part V so much that I was no big hurry to ever rent it again. Why would I want to watch the rest of it, when I thought it was complete bullshit? I complained loudly to all of my other friends about it. Several months later, one of them took me aside.

“Hey, I just watched Friday the 13th Part V,” he said, “and that scene at the beginning… the one you hated so much… it’s a dream.”

What?

“It’s a dream. Jason doesn’t come back to life, it’s just a dream!”

Oh.

So, I rented Friday the 13th: A New Beginning and gave it another shot. I still didn’t like it. My big problem was that the killer was not Jason Voorhees. It was a guy pretending to be Jason Voorhees, but he seemed to be just as indestructible as Jason Voorhees. As much as I had complaints about Jason’s unrealistic ability to survive being stabbed, hung, hit in the head with an axe, etc., I had ultimately accepted the fact that he was in some way supernatural. He had possibly downed as a kid, after all, and somehow come back to life. Although, I tended to believe that he hadn’t drowned, but rather had somehow survived and grew up in the woods. Still, he was clearly some sort of indestructible, supernatural being. Simply putting on a hockey mask and pretending to be Jason Voorhees should not give you superpowers.

Apparently I was not alone in my dislike of Friday the 13th Part V. However, it seems that most people didn’t like it simply because the killer wasn’t Jason. So, the next movie was Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986). I refused to see that one for years. as I still believed that Jason had been permanently destroyed at the end of Part 4. So, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning became the end for the series or me, at least for a while.

Eventually I watched the rest of the films, and I watched Friday the 13th Part V a second time. Knowing what to expect, I enjoyed it much more than the first time. It’s grown on me more and more with each subsequent viewing. In some ways, it’s the most unique movie of the series. It has characters that I actually like and care about. It has a sense of humour. It continues the story of Tommy from Part 4, although he has somehow aged 12 or 13 years between 1984 and 1985. But there’s a new kid in this movie, “Reggie The Reckless” played by Shavar Ross (perhaps best known as Dudley from Diff’rent Strokes (1978-1986). Reggie is a great character, and helps to make this movie more than just a typical slasher movie sequel. The presence of troubled adult Tommy also gives the movie a different spin. Possible SPOILER ALERT: much has been made of the “final girl” trope in golden age slasher films, but this movie has a final trio.

While some people do cite the movie as their personal favourite, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985) is probably the most maligned entry in the series, and thus a perfect example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema. I can honestly say that I love it now, which I would have never predicted when first watching it on Beta back in 1985. It is a most welcome addition to any #FridayThe13thAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Dead 7 (2000)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes comes…

DVD box art for Dead 7 (2000)Dead 7 (2000) by #GarrettClancy

w/ #JanetTracyKeijser #TanyaDempsey

A group of friends are killed one by one after discovering numerous dead bodies of drug dealers while out on a hike.

“Your Ultimate Fear Has A New Number!”

#Horror #Thriller

#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

I think that the only reason why I kept this DVD in my collection is that it was released by Brain Damage Films, which according to Wikipedia “distributes a variety of horror and shock exploitation movies in many formats, including DVD, Blu-ray, and cable, satellite, and Internet video on demand.” They were a fairly new company when I bought this movie, and I was curious to see what kind of films they were making/distributing. I’m pretty sure that Dead 7 (2000) did not particularly impress me, but it was kind of okay, and I felt like it might be worth keeping as an example of a Brain Damage Films movie. Perhaps I thought that other Brain Damage Films movies might be better, and I would decide to collect their entire catalogue. I’m not sure. Needless to say, I never became a Brain Damage Films collector, and I’ve only seen a handful of their movies over the years – and none of them have become personal favourites. 

So, why is Dead 7 taking up valuable space on my movie library shelf? That is the question I asked myself, right before putting it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

The description of the movie is inaccurate. It’s not about a group of friends who stumble upon some drug dealers bodies and then get killed off for knowing too much. This is about a couple of drug dealers killing some guys (who cheated them in some way) and dumping their bodies into a hole. Meanwhile, coincidentally and unknown to them, their girlfriends are wandering around the same wooded area looking for some leaves for a school art project (or something like that). Also in the area is another girl from school, and her mute brother. The drug dealing assholes toss the mute brother into the hole with the dead bodies because he may have seen them. Since the poor guy can’t speak or make a sound, he can’t call for help and let anyone know that he’s down there.

Fast forward several months (?!)

Someone starts killing the asshole drug dealers and their girlfriends. SPOILER ALERT: It’s the dead mute kid who’s been rotting in that hole for months.

Dead 7 is not much of a horror film. It plays like a cheapjack crime film for the first two thirds. The “horror” really only starts happening in the final act – and it’s pretty tame. 

So what’s the verdict?

Dead 7 (2000) is trash – and not the good kind that delivers laughs, gore and sleazy entertainment. There are a couple of slightly sleazy scenes involving the drug dealers and their girlfriends, and some rather unremarkable gore – but all of this stuff happens in the final 20-30 minutes of the movie. You have to sit through a lot of nothing in order to get there. All in all, I’m not sure how I allowed myself to sit through this movie twice – but I won’t be doing it again. Perhaps someone, somewhere, likes this movie more than me. They can have it.