Sunday, December 13, 2020

Franchise Marathon: Friday the 13th (1980) and Friday the 13th Part II (1981)

 * spoiler warning *

* Friday the 13th (1980)

After years of being closed and abandoned, Camp Crystal Lake is set to open or new campers in 1980. Crazy Ralph tries to warn people away, but everyone ignores him and Unfortunately, an unseen killer keeps killing the counselors before the camp even opens. Will any of the them survive?

Friday the 13th is honestly my least favorite of the big 4 horror franchises, but I realized that I've only seen a few of the movies and may be judging it too harshly. Thus this exploration through the whole series. Alice is an excellent final girl with sense and a practical nature. However, the road the finale was arduous. After the initial exposition dump, the movie plods along and even the kills aren't that interesting until Pamela Voorhees shows up. Her mania and love for her son truly shine through as she's revealed to be the killer. She's one of the most iconic cinematic female serial killers and Betsy Palmer delivers an amazing, campy performance. The ending on the lake haunts me from childhood and rings a bit melancholy, knowing that Jason was a neglected, innocent little boy.

The first film didn't wow me and the pace made the relatively short runtime feel much too long. Pamela Voorhees and final girl Alice set themselves apart in this mostly forgettable start. The music feels underdeveloped, but the main themes (reused many many times) are iconic. Overall, it's a disappointing experience with some bright spots.  

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins


* Friday the 13th Part II (1981)


Five years after the Camp Crystal Lake Massacre, a group of counselors hold a training camp near the defunct, notorious crime site, where they mostly get into typical shenanigans like trespassing on Camp Crystal Lake, drinking, having sex, and doing drugs. This doesn't sit well with Jason, who sets out to kill all the camp counselors and punish them for their immoral behavior in honor of his mother.

Friday the 13th Part II is a vast improvement over the first which dragged and had no suspense up until the end with Mrs. Voorhees. The mythology for the whole series is kind of wonky. Jason appears as he is most known, a hulking silent beast of a man. Instead of his signature hockey mask, he wears a bag over his head with only one hole to see out of. He dispatches teens with knives, a garrote, and his signature machete. The kills are decent and the the lead-up can be suspenseful. It was made with the awareness that the audience knows when kills are coming and still surprises at times. Most of the teens are interchangeable, but I was disappointed when Mark died. He seemed decent and was largely dismissed by everyone else because of his disability when he had big dreams and aspirations.

Ginny, the final girl, is the best character in the whole movie. First, she's a student in college studying child psychology. Unlike most final girls, Ginny has a boyfriend and it's implied that they have sex. She also drinks at a bar. It's interesting that this portrayal is more progressive than Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 even though it was made 5 years later. Anyway, her psychology training gives her insight to Jason's mental state and it ends up saving her in the end. She puts on Mrs. Voorhees' sweater and pretends to be his mother, which buys her and her boyfriend much needed time.

Friday the 13th Part 2 is a decent sequel and much better than the first. Jason isn't my favorite slasher villain by far, but the movie was enjoyable. The ending has some inconsistencies that make me want to see the next movie if Ginny is in it. I doubt she is and I doubt they'll say what happened to Paul, but I can always hope. 

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

Marcos' life is in shambles. His wife left him and he works on a farm that processes human meat, now legal because of a disease affecting all animals and rendering them inedible. He sees the most horrific things every day and has to do business with the worst sort who want to buy the head (as in head of cattle) for hunting, experimentation, or consumption. Then he receives a female head as an unwanted but valuable gift and has to decide what to do with it.

Tender is the Flesh is an absolutely chilling dystopia. Due to an incurable virus, animals can no longer be consumed or be around humans at all. There also no pets allowed, leading to a mass slaughter of them for human safety. The government has decided to allow the raising and killing of humans for food, opening up a huge market of other things previously illegal: medical experimentation (even the most inhumane procedures), hunting people, organ harvesting, and an expansion of illegal human trafficking. Bodies can't be buried for fear of being dug up and eaten. The less fortunate or less protected could be kidnapped and murdered for meat. Scavengers roam the countryside, violent and wild, looking for flesh.

Marcos's job is stomach churning but highly paid. The head can't speak due to their vocal chords being removed and lack of any sort of education. They are never acknowledged or referred to as human, always kept naked, and treated exactly as cattle.  Marcos carefully chooses who works there because the job attracts some unsavory characters. The goal is to find someone who needs the money and can desensitize themselves (as he has) to the violence. The general public calls it "special" meat and carries on as usually, blissfully ignorant of the realities of how they get their food. There is some outrage, but it seems more are willing to sacrifice others to go one with business as usual.

Tender is the Flesh kept surprising me with how depraved things could get. When I thought it couldn't be any worse, it went further. Whether it's a critique of the meat industry or the callousness of modern society, it works. Marcos seems to be the moral center of the book, even as he participates in the killing and processing of people for food, which makes the ending feel like such a slap in the face. I read this in a couple days. I couldn't put it down and it got under my skin. Definitely in my top books of the year.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Movie Mini-Reviews: Memories of Murder (2003) and Nightcrawler (2014)

* Memories of Murder (2003)

A serial rapist and murderer terrorizes a rural South Korean town in the late 80's while rural cops struggle to make headway in the case. They opt to blame the most vulnerable people in their community and use abusive methods to extract false confessions. Their supervisor tries to reign them in, but they seem committed to undermining the investigation at every turn.

Memories of Murder is a Bong Joon Ho film that portrays problems with law enforcement that persist today, especially in the US. Kang Sang Ho plays Detective Park Doo-man, a seemingly well meaning police officer trying to find the murderer/rapist. He is so affable and understandable that his behavior gets quite extreme before I doubted his intentions. He genuinely wants to catch this killer, but he relies on looking into the person's eyes to sense if they are guilty instead of preserving evidence or going off of anything more concrete than rumors. His partner's penchant for jump kicking suspects starts out as a slapstick, funny thing and then turns out to be a hinderance and indicative of an out of control temper. Both sabotage their own investigation on top of things out of their control such as a small, rural operation.

I'm sure plenty of corrupt police don't see themselves as such in the present day and they justify their horrific actions with working towards justice. With very few to hold them accountable and the pressure to support their co-workers whether or not they did something wrong, it's easy to see how good intentions simply aren't enough and how corruption can go unchecked. As with all Bong Joon Ho films, the conclusion left me emotional and broken with its reveal. 

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

* Nightcrawler (2014)

Louis Bloom is looking for ways to make money. When he happens upon a car accident and sees a film crew swoop in to document it, his interest is piqued. He sells stolen scrap metal to buy a cheap camcorder and a police scanner to throw himself into the nightcrawler life, filming accidents, police stops, and bungling it until he learns what news stations will pay for. Louis will do anything to keep a steady flow of footage for his chosen news station and will take out anyone in his way.

I had always heard good things about Nightcrawler and I found that Jake Gyllenhaal can play an incredibly convincing creeper. Louis Bloom doesn't have any lines he won't cross. He expects everyone to acquiesce and when they don't, he finds a way around them. The man is chilling in his singlemindedness and ability use information to his own advantage. I felt sorry for those around him, a means to an end or disposable. Near the end, I was on the edge of my seat because he decided to insert himself into the stories he films. When he arrives at a home where people are still being killed and robbed, I was just waiting for him to get caught or killed. He has no boundaries and finds nothing wrong with tailgating police on a chase or sacrificing others to get a good shot.

Nightcrawler took me on a wild ride. The ending is pretty unrealistic, but the whole ending sequence had me in complete suspense. The storytelling is amazing and shows how confident, unscrupulous person can get far by exploiting others. It's also a critique of what the public finds newsworthy (white families being attacked and car accidents). This thrilling film really hit me and went unexpected places. 

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins