Saturday, January 23, 2021

Franchise Marathon: Friday the 13th Part III (1982) and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

 * Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

Jason Voorhees survives the previous installment to kill again. Unsuspecting Chris Higgins and her friends go on a weekend getaway to her family's old home on Crystal Lake. They have a confrontation with some bikers who end up following them to the house to get revenge. Of course, Jason goes on a killing spree and dons his iconic hockey mask for the first time in the franchise.

Friday the 13th Part III was released in 3D and many scenes take advantage of that. The film as a whole is formulaic and familiar. A group of friends is one by one picked off by Jason until a final girl emerges. The biker gang gives some change of dynamic and shows more characters of color, but they are mostly villainous, threatening our white protagonists and only serve to increase the body count. Shelly, a kind of incel joker, does provide some levity to the film. 

Overall, this installment is fine. The standout events are Jason donning the iconic hockey mask and the very end echoing the lake scene from the first film, but with Pamela Voorhees' rotting body. There are some fun kills and the way Jason is stopped is at least new. 

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

* Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

Jason Voorhees somehow survived the previous film to kill again. A group of teens goes to Camp Crystal Lake to party and happen to be next to Trish and her little brother Tommy. Murder, mayhem, and teen drama ensue.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is far from the actual final chapter and is the first movie to feature Tommy, a tragic figure that will fight Jason several times. A lot of the story is steeped in teen drama, but Tommy and his monster masks are a fun addition. The kills are unique with weapons ranging from shower tile to a corkscrew. Crispin Glover does a bizarre, hilarious dance. I didn't really get why Tommy shaved his head in the end (apparently to make Jason mistake him for his younger self) and I found the ending very weak and Tommy portrayed as evil for some reason, counter to later sequels.

Overall, it wasn't my favorite installment and didn't do much to set itself apart from other sequels. Tommy will be a fixture in the series and this story gives future insight into his character and his trauma. 

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Come Closer by Sara Gran

Amanda is a newly wed, a new homeowner, and a successful architect. Her happy life is just beginning. The trouble starts as a recurrent, annoying noise. An unexplained knocking in her house. Amanda doesn't know what to make of it and tries to ignore it. But it persists and gets worse along with new inner voice encouraging her to hurt those around her and cheat on her husband. A book she finds suggests she is possessed, but that's impossible so she goes on as she loses more and more time.

Come Closer got under my skin. I don't usually like demonic possession stories because of the overt reliance on flawed religions (specifically Catholicism). However, Sara Gran approaches it in a different way. We follow Amanda's point of view as she slowly, almost imperceptibly changes. These changes, like the unexplained and infuriating knocking in her home and sudden, odd mood swings, are explained away one way or another and adapted to as she loses pieces of herself little by little. She becomes casually cruel and violent, starting with the impulsive split decision to burn her husband with a cigarette and escalating far beyond. It's an absolutely chilling portrayal of losing oneself and I loved it. 

Amanda has some moments of fighting the possession, even ordering a book she doesn't remember about recognizing the signs of demonic possession. I love the literal checklist of symptoms and Amanda's attempts to thwart the possession. However, complacency and perceived normalcy win out. It's a compelling psychological portrayal for anyone ignoring a major problem in their life and how it's more comfortable to ignore it, explain it away, and keep going as normal.

The story moves quickly and we get just enough of a glimpse into this world. The novella length makes it easy to read in one or two sittings and the story grabs hold in the first chapter and doesn't let go. As with many stories like this, there's the question of mental illness or demonic possession, but it seems to land squarely in one camp by the end in my book. The ending is disjointed, distant, and perfect. Come Closer had been on my reading list for years and I'm so happy I bought by chance in a bookstore. (Thank you Barnes and Noble horror section.) It was truly the perfect Halloween read. 

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins