Thursday, September 23, 2021

Yes, Daddy by Jonathan Parks-Ramage

* spoilers *

Jonah Keller is struggling to make it in New York with very little money or prospects for more than minimum wage pay. He dreams to be a playwright, but has no connections to the industry. His grand plan is to spend money on an exorbitantly expensive outfit and seduce rich, powerful, and successful playwright Richard Shriver. The plan works and after a little while, Jonah is invited to Richard's luxurious commune with other writers and artists. This should be his in to a career and being mentored by titans of the industry, but things don't turn out as planned.

Yes, Daddy starts out a bit like Joe from Caroline Klepnes' You with shallow, selfish Jonah essentially cyberstalking Richard Shriver and writing out topics for future conversations. He selfishly expects his mother to fund his expenses while he uses his own money to appear rich and ensnare his prey. I found him pretty insufferable, but intrigued at where the story was going. The romance goes as one would expect: instant connection and attraction with some ups and downs. 

The meat of the story comes in when they go to Richard's artist commune together. It's not all relaxing and extravagant dinners. At first, Richard's friends are hard to please and enjoy making Jonah feel like an outsider. Then, red flags start to present themselves with missing people, knowing references, and  The gothic novel element comes in with half remembered assaults and blackouts caused by excessive drinking and drugs in Richard's commune where he has complete control over everyone and everything. All the others act like everything is normal, but Jonah knows he's being gaslit even if he can't remember everything. This part of the novel is extremely well done, revealing Jonah's evangelical past and showing the dark underbelly of Richard's commune.

The book falls flat in the ending where Jonah finds solace in religion once again after being abused in both the evangelical church of his childhood and in another church after he escapes Richard's commune. It felt like a bait and switch and didn't really make sense to me after he had so many negative experiences with various branches of Christianity. Besides the ending, Yes, Daddy is a compelling twist on the gothic novel that kept my interest through every twist and turn.

My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins 

Friday, September 3, 2021

Franchise Marathon: Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985) and Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

 * Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)

* spoilers*

Tommy Jarvis has spent years in a mental institution dealing with the trauma of Jason Voorhees' murders. He finds himself transferred to Pinehurst Halfway House to live with more freedom among other troubled teens. They are hated by their neighbors, but Dr. Letter, the manager, seems to believe in rehabilitating his charges. One of the teens is murdered by another in a fit of rage, leading to more scrutiny and disapproval of the program. The murderer is arrested, but more murders follow with Jason's usual methods. 

A New Beginning starts out fresh with a different feeling from the other films. Troubled teens work and learn skills that will help them reacclimate to society. Sounds great until one of the charges kills another gruesomely and with no warning. That caught me completely off guard and I had no idea what to expect going forward. It felt a bit like Nightmare 3 with mismatched misfits that you can't help but like despite their flaws. They all suspect each other when the murders continue. Tommy is the unfortunate newcomer who hasn't had a chance to form attachments. He doesn't say much and continues his childhood love of monsters by creating his own incredibly detailed masks. I felt for him throughout the movie. 

I appreciate when a franchise tries to break away from its main character (like Halloween III), but it just doesn't work here. The rest of the movie after the initial kill is fairly familiar and formulaic. The ending isn't as fresh as its beginning and feels like a bad Scooby Doo episode with a tacked on ending, again making it seem like Tommy will hurt people. Perhaps it was an idea to have him continue as Jason, but it was obviously scrapped in the end. 

My rating: 2.5/5 fishmuffins

* Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

Tommy Jarvis is back and recently released from a mental institution after he killed Jason years ago. He finds Jason's body and accidentally resurrects the body when trying to destroy it. Now, he's frantically trying to warn the former Camp Crystal Lake (now Camp Forest Green) residents about Jason, but Sheriff Mike Garris dismisses it as hallucinations from a disturbed mind. Only his daughter Megan believes Tommy and of course falls in love with him. As the body count rises, Garris blames Tommy and Jason is dismissed as an urban legend, leaving him free to slaughter.

Jason Lives is a fun installment to the Friday the 13th franchise. It has everything: super cheesy acting, a sappy love story (based on a very short, shallow relationship), and fun kills. Tommy Jarvis has turned into the Nancy Thompson of the franchise, hellbent on defeating Jason once and for all while no one believes him. The writers had to retcon the end of the last movie to get him there and I think it was a good decision.

Jason is explicitly supernatural for the first time, resurrected by electricity like Frankenstein's monster and trapped by his home soil like a vampire. It took a while, but this installment finally puts Jason in his own category instead of being a cheap copy of another slasher killer. It's so fun to watch him slice and dice through unsuspecting corporate workers and other bystanders. This is the first time we see the camp actually functional and Jason only kills counselors, not the children. Overall, Jason Lives is heavier on the comedy side and just fun to watch. 

My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins