Archives for October 2009 | Varied Celluloid - Page 2

Archive for October, 2009

Friday the 13th Part II

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 22 - 2009

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The Plot: Moving just up the road from camp Crystal Lake, our story focuses on a counselor training camp for young people. Having many who have served as counselor’s before, the team is a tight knit group of young people looking to party down. As is the case with almost every Friday film. However, things get spooky once the teens find out about the myth of Jason Voorhees, who was never found after the incidents of the first film and Ralph the drunk shows up once again to tell everyone that they are indeed DOOMED! On a night meant for partying down and getting loose, the mysterious presence in the woods who has been keeping an eye on the young counselors decides to strike out against them! Who will survive this massacre?

The Review: I guess if you were going to pin down one thing that ultimately helped kill the Friday the 13th series, it wouldn’t just be how elaborate the later series got or how strange they started to become. I think the simplest answer would be that after so many films, new filmmakers just abandoned the whole concept of keeping up with the continuity of the series. The sense that these movies had to remain connected was lost and the idea then became “how do we keep these ideas fresh”; and what came back was the simple answer of changing the backstory or changing the environment. From there on out the series would continue to shell out misfire after misfire. With this second entry into the Friday series, it proved to be one of the few times that the series tried to keep continuity firmly in check. They tried to actually continue the story that was built upon in the first film and kept the logic that building on what had already been done wasn’t such a bad thing. For this reason, among many, it has always been one of my favorites from the series. From the introduction we are taken directly to what happened after the credits closed on that first Friday the 13th. Although the sequence may be long and take up a considerable amount of time in such a short movie, it’s perfect for adding a sense of closure to that first film and continuing the feel of one continued story.

We start with Alice, who was the lead in the original, as we get the direct continuation of her story. This sequence takes place around two months after the events of the first film if the timeline is exact. The rest of the movie is based around five years after the last incident at Camp Crystal Lake. Setting aside the first ten minutes of the running time in order to add closure to the original running narrative really does make for a great start, when they could have just as easily started our movie off with the new camp counselors arriving. There’s a lot of tension as we follow Alice around her apartment. She’s still keeping up with her artwork as it was alluded to in the original film (a VERY subtle reference that most audiences probably wouldn’t get) and a Hitchcock-ian shower sequence that throws the audience off completely. Speaking of other very subtle references to the first film, the first death scene taking place in modern time also features the same fade to white as was seen in the neck slashing in the first movie! Very subtle, but it shows the devotion and belief in the first film. Unfortunately, as the series would go along that same respect and appreciation for the work done on previous entries in the series would be lost.

The great thing about the continuity not being ignored this go around is that it uses the first film as a foundation in order to set up many new additions to the series. It’s an incredibly crucial sequel within, which is no doubt the reason so many of us enjoy it. As many new additions as there are to scare the audience, Friday the 13th Part 2 works so well because in some ways we as an audience know what to expect. I know that sounds about like the opposite of what you would expect to enjoy from a film, but knowing what to expect doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily GET what we expect. The movie opens a whole slew of new doors for us to explore. While keeping a similar tone as the original Friday, it essentially defines what the entire series would soon go on to become. The combination of similarities and new blocks to build on makes for one of the best films in the series. It has has been said about the first film, that it set the tone by starting off with very minimal violence and slowly escalating the bloodletting in order to keep the film shocking all the way until it’s conclusion. For example, the first two deaths in Friday the 13th were all but without blood. A couple of screams and teens falling over. However, here with this second film we have new and different expectations as a viewer. So in this second Friday, needless to say, it starts off with a bang!… or, more appropriately, a stab! In a knifing very similar to the screw driver to the head in Dawn of the Dead, we are welcome to an entirely new appreciation for onscreen violence within the Slasher genre.

Although the film brings back a lot of familiar ideas and motifs, from the original as well as other slasher pictures of the era, it does feature a good number of “Firsts” for this series that would later go on to be replicated in many of the sequels. Friday the 13th Part II is the first film in the series to actually refer to Camp Crystal Lake as “Camp Blood”. A title that would go on to stick around for many years. It is also the first in the series to feature the glorious “skinny dipping” scene that would go on to be repeated so very often, most notably in Friday Part 4 where Crispin Glover stole the show with his “We have no suits!” line. Although not the first film to feature characters that were pretty clear archetypes, this one helped define a lot of similar characters that we would come to love or hate later on in the series. For instance there’s Ted the red headed practical joker, the comic relief character that became customary in most of the Friday films that would follow. There always has to be that one character who doesn’t get to hook up with any girls (the chubby kid with the hockey mask in Part III) or instead serves as comic relief (Glover in Part IV). Unfortunately, much the same as the rest of the series (aside from Glover), Ted really isn’t all that funny.

Changing the scenery to another campground a little up the road from the original Camp Crystal Lake was definitely one of the better ideas of the series. As things would go along and teens would show up to the camp where hundreds had been slaughtered off, it seems only obvious to move Jason a little out of his way and it’s unfortunate so many entries into the series would have rather asked us to suspend disbelief. Even though the camp has changed, we’re still treated to familiar territory as the night turns into a rainy mess while counselors turn up brutalized in various ways. Although, believe it or not there’s actually a little artistry at work in this sequel. Including a few long takes and some very fluid camera movement. Amazing set decorations from the sprawling campgrounds to our killer’s lair, which has become another visual staple of the series. Pitch perfect in design, this “lair” with it’s ground littered with dirt, the walls peeling and falling apart encapsulates the mood of the killer perfectly. There are also some really great uses of silhouette visuals to show the killer’s constant watching over of these kids. So believe it or not there’s still a little tension to the kills here, although at this point we know it’s just a waiting game. When are these characters going to die becomes the only really valid question.

Amongst the classic scenes we’re introduced to in Friday the 13th Part 2 we have the camp fire sequence. The scene, which is nothing more than a rehashing of the Jason Voorhees mythos, has become legendary due to its subsequent usage in other films within the series and the reinterpretation of it in future slashers that would attempt to emulate its momentum. Although it might be a bit contrived, it works extremely well in the context of the movie and actually adds a bit of spookiness in the midst of the story. Now, I don’t think I should go out and say whether or not Jason is the killer here, as we the viewer don’t really know for sure who the killer is until the finale, but the allusion is that the killer is indeed the drowned young man. With the killer not being shown as a physical presence on screen until the sixty five minute mark, leaving us with only twenty minutes left in the film, I figure it’s best if I just avoid spoiling anything for newer fans. For those who haven’t seen this entry though, I will say don’t go expecting hockey masks and machetes. The killer here wears a burlap sack over his head for nearly the entire length that he is onscreen. At this point the killer in the Friday films still remains offscreen until the final moments, just as in the first movie. Taking a very Jaws-esque approach to the situation, we may get the body count started but we won’t know who’s doing the actual killing until the final moments. With just a little over eighty minutes of run-time in the film, the pace is extremely brisk so it’s almost not even a wait.

With just nine deaths (plus at least one dog), it may not have a much larger bodycount than the original but the deaths are certainly more dramatic and violent. With that, the performance and visual representation of our killer amongst many other things, this second Friday may be my favorite of the entire series. It’s certainly not perfect, after all it is a slasher movie, but for what it is it’s one of the best. I have to give it a five out of five. We have a great cast full of interesting characters, many epic scenes that essentially redefined the American slasher, a chase sequence that is as tense as any “final survivor” has ever had in a Friday film and some impressive brutality. Everything you could want from a Friday the 13th movie – this one has. Absolutely a must see for every horror fan.



VCinema Presents Deathrace 2000 This Sunday!

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 22 - 2009

Just a little reminder for everyone, this coming Sunday VCinema will be bringing you all a viewing of the immortal Death Race 2000. Coffin Jon will be running hosting duties as per usual, with a couple of reviews beforehand, maybe some music then we’ll all join in the chat while watching the film. If you’re free this Sunday, then you owe it to yourself to show up.

Death Race 2000


Film: Death Race 2000
Date: Sunday, October 25th
Time: 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern
Where: VCinema Livestream Channel




Don’t miss all the excitement! Most of us from the boards show up and many others, it’s just an outright blast for all involved!

Halloween Horror: Salem’s Lot Review

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 18 - 2009

Halloween Horror is back! I’ll be doing my best this month to try and pack in as many horror reviews as I possibly can. I’m thinking that from now on I’ll make Halloween Horror a festival of less obscure fare. More obvious classics that I normally wouldn’t review, due to my tremendous respect for them and their popularity. Although the film reviewed today doesn’t seem as popular today as it once was, I hope I can remind a few how amazing a film it really is. For those who have yet to see Salem’s Lot? You’d better track this one down pronto! Perfect for Halloween!

The Plot: In the small Maine town of Salem’s Lot two strangers have recently arrived. Straker, who has moved into the large mansion on the outside of town and moved his small antiquities store on main street and Ben Mears (played by David Soul) who is a successful writer originally from Salem’s Lot who has been drawn back to the town by The Marsten House the very mansion that Straker has moved into. This house acts as a magnet for evil men, due to it’s own innate evil presence. Although he’s the only one who believes this at first, it becomes clear soon enough that Straker isn’t exactly what he claims to be. His partner “Barlow”, who has supposedly been on vacation the entire time that Straker has been in Salem’s lot still hasn’t made an appearance and now small children are beginning to come up missing. These actions replicate an incident that happened at the mansion years ago and from where it got it’s reputation. Unknown to the townspeople, but Mr. Barlow is a vampire lord and they are doomed to become his feast. Will this town succumb to the evil or Barlow or will there be anyone left to fight back?



CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

Salem’s Lot

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 18 - 2009
The Plot: In the small Maine town of Salem’s Lot two strangers have recently arrived. Straker, who has moved into the large mansion on the outside of town and moved his small antiquities store on main street and Ben Mears (played by David Soul) who is a successful writer originally from Salem’s Lot who has been drawn back to the town by The Marsten House the very mansion that Straker has moved into. This house acts as a magnet for evil men, due to it’s own innate evil presence. Although he’s the only one who believes this at first, it becomes clear soon enough that Straker isn’t exactly what he claims to be. His partner “Barlow”, who has supposedly been on vacation the entire time that Straker has been in Salem’s lot still hasn’t made an appearance and now small children are beginning to come up missing. These actions replicate an incident that happened at the mansion years ago and from where it got it’s reputation. Unknown to the townspeople, but Mr. Barlow is a vampire lord and they are doomed to become his feast. Will this town succumb to the evil or Barlow or will there be anyone left to fight back?


The Review: I find myself sometimes in the middle of debates with other horror fans, about the worth of modern horror versus that of the classical taste. There are some out there who feel the need to hang onto the belief that horror in cinema is actually dead and this disturbs me to no end. When there are so many interesting films out there being made, I just can’t put my mind into such a frameset. The game has changed in a lot of ways, but in a lot of ways it has changed for the better. After watching Salem’s Lot again to get in the mood for Halloween (October 2009 currently) I do have to concede that ‘creepy’ horror actually might be dead at this moment. That probably seems like a mouthful when you have stuff like “Shutter” or “Mirrors” hitting either DVD shelves or theaters every other week. These are films that really should be the direct continuum of flicks like The Omen, The Excorcist or the movie I’m talking about today: Salem’s Lot. However, something has been lost. Something is gone from the cinematic equilibrium in terms of creating intensely creepy atmosphere and moments that are visually frightening. Hollywood as well as we the audience have come to the banquet of horror cinema with the mindset of an action movie. We expect shocks a minute at this point and if we don’t get at least one grotesque scene then we actually leave disappointed.

We come for that cat that jumps out from behind the curtain. We come for that spike in the soundtrack that causes us to jump from our nerves. We watch these movies no longer with fears of leaving with nightmares or that feeling of needing to hide when we turn the lights out to go to sleep. Some of us confuse those feelings as something simply from our childhood, but after watching Salem’s Lot one more time I know that’s not the case alone. There’s a general presence with Salem’s Lot as well as those previously mentioned picture. It’s that inspired form of terror that you just don’t get today. There are movies out there that take those chances that could come off as being phony or come off as being silly, but build the audience up so much and have them so invested in the story that there’s no need to even bother with suspending disbelief. We are there in the movie with our characters and we’re there about to douse our undergarments. Those moments are so few and far in between that some of us don’t believe they even exist, but it is true but it takes a patient audience member and it’s unfortunate that most of us these days simply are not.

Although I am quite familiar with Stephen King’s writing, having read thirty or so of his novels, I have not yet read the original Salem’s Lot so I don’t have that background information to judge the film on that layer (of it being true to the original novel or not) but I have to say it certainly keeps the feel of a Stephen King book. The length and span of the movie gives it a literary feeling, by that I mean immediately after you feel as if you’ve read a novel. The details of this small town are driven into such detailed accounts that it does have that feeling of something written. This leads to possible the only one complaint I could imagine anyone having with Salem’s Lot and that would be the length of it. The fact is, it’s a made for TV movie that simply wasn’t meant to be watched in one viewing. However, at three hours in length it certainly is do-able but it takes an audience member really putting forth an effort. It’s really a shame that with all of the excess, there’s isn’t a theatrical cut out on DVD along with the original version. Really, it’s just a shame that there isn’t any kind of fully realized special edition out at this point. It makes me feel as if this is some sort of lost masterpiece, despite it already having a fairly bare bones DVD release as well as airing on television fairly often. It certainly deserves a remaster at the very least though.

Salem’s Lot is a film that horror fans might look past, due to it’s length and “made for TV” statute, but I guarantee this doesn’t feel like your run of the mill made for TV movie. With blood, truly atmospheric horror and some of the spookiest (as well as artistic) bits of gothic horror ever photographed. Chances are, if you’re not familiar with this version of the story, you’ve at least seen a few cinematic moments that were obviously inspired by it. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to many other takes on these iconic creatures of the night, Salem’s Lot can be felt in so many other vampire films from then to now. Moments such as the ones featuring the two brothers who fly to different windows in order to lure their way inside of the homes of potential victims. Not only are these moments iconic, gothic and intense in their delivery – but they’re simply terrifying. It is everything you feared as a kid whilst looking outside the window at night and the way these scenes are shot, they’re simply nightmarish to say the least. Suspenseful and frightening, Salem’s Lot defines what horror could be.

Salem’s Lot really was THE film to show just frightening vampires actually could be. It’s really something amazing to see. With such a limited budget, it creates this dreadful atmosphere. If you were going to be jaded while watching I guess you could say that the effects work is rather simple. The corpses are bleach white with dark rings around their eyes and they wear contacts. What’s so scary about that? Let me tell you, it’s everything. The combination of the music, so dense and dark with the otherworldly performances from the standout cast it creates a completely believable world where all the horrible things we imagine in life could very well happen. Those contacts I mentioned? Some of the best and most effective prosthetic effects in any horror film. How they glow in the dark, I am not sure. I have to imagine it’s a visual effect, possibly animated, but the time period that it was made in makes you second guess everything. Regardless of how the effect was made, it is simply so effective in making these creatures more than simply actors whispering their lines. That also leads me back to the facetious comment I made in the opening paragraph. The actors actually committed to their roles here. The problem I think with modern society is simply how obtuse we have all become at the prospect of being scared by the whims of a movie. The performances here, from characters who have been changed into vampires, are so devoted to scaring the audience. They are not played over the top or as smooth talking Anne Rice vampires, the performances are subtle and relaxed. A mix between a zombie and a demon, they speak in whispers or hisses.

It’s such a creepy movie monster and leads us as the audience to really dread what might come of these innocent people that are fed to these beasts. The cinematography is owed a debt in the creation of this Salem’s Lot atmosphere. Even watched on a full screen, with no wide angles, the camera catches all and paints so many magnificent images. Small things like Straker sitting in his antique store with a skull in the foreground, while he sits back and unintentionally mimics the positioning of said skull. A really beautiful shot that is there for no other reason than a bit of artistic flourish and mood. There’s another shot where one of the vampires is found sitting in a rocking chair, eyes glowing in the dark, with most of it’s body lit from the light coming from the doorway that our character came from when stumbling upon this monster. This scene is one of the most memorable and frightening moments of the entire picture for me as it takes another one of those horrible things you know will never happen, but explores that doorway of what would happen if you opened a bedroom door only to find a creature behind it. Then, the creature doesn’t jump at you. He doesn’t attack. He simply stares at you and starts to whisper evil things. A terrifying concept! Put to the screen perfectly.

It has problems, there’s no getting past it. The TV format length does create some issues for the audience. However, no matter how you watch it (either in one night or over two), the experience remains the same. It is for my money everything I love about horror. The pacing is slow, but the characters are so well built by the time we’re full steam ahead into the vampire war that is waged later on that we feel like we know these people and we know this town. We know that what people show us on the exterior isn’t always what their real motivation is. I can’t recommend Salem’s Lot enough. If i had my way, it would be listed on every horror fan’s top ten. Like Spielberg’s Jaws, it just seems like the kind of movie that gets everything right while making us wait patiently for the delivery. If you haven’t had the experience yet, add this one to netflix, go rent it, buy it or do whatever but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by having it in your collection.



Halloween Horror: Friday the 13th Review

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 16 - 2009

I’m throwing this together from out of my rear end, but realizing that we’ve actually entered October through to the halfway point I came to the conclusion that I absolutely HAVE to make with the horror! I did a Halloween Horror special a couple of years back and I want to bring it back even it it’s only a minuscule version this year. With this concept in mind, hopefully this year will mark the final return of A Very Kung Fu Christmas. It’s about time! My first horror flick of the month is a literal classic. Friday the 13th. I want to do my best to actually review the entire series for the site here, since if I’m going to commit to one I might as well commit to the series. So, I hope everyone enjoys and keep checking back!

The Plot: In 1957 at a north eastern day camp for young boys and girls called Camp Crystal Lake, a young boy named Jason drowned while swimming. This caused much outrage and anger within the community, as it was the fault of the camp counselors who were off making love while the young boy met his doom. One year later however, two camp counselors were found brutally murdered in a cabin where they had wandered off to in order to make out. This caused the camp to close permanently and seemed to spell the doom for Camp Crystal Lake. Several years later however, Steve Christy has bought the camp and soon plans to re-open it. Along with Alice, the two have been renovating the camp in order to make it safe and have invited several other young people along to act as counsellors in the no doubt soon to be bustling camp. However, as everyone is getting unpacked on this Friday the 13th, strange things start to happen. As the rainy night begins to lumber along, slowly people start to come up missing. There’s a killer on the loose, but who could it be?



CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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