Thursday, 28 March 2019



Ah, the heady days of early eighties slasher idiocy, and their exponentially dafter sequels. More teens trek out to Camp Crystal Lake (oddly, neither the camp nor Jason himself are referred to as such this time out) and wind up on the business end of machetes, pitchforks. spearguns, cleavers and assorted other pointy things courtesy of an indestructible maniac while Harry Manfredini's string section shrieks along on the soundtrack. Again. If it works, do it again and the Friday The 13th series does work. They're trashy, dumb and disreputable, but that's kind of the idea: simplistic stabby horror movies with absolutely no intellectual meat to them but anything up to a baker's dozen of cheerfully bloody murders every time. Pass the popcorn.

Friday The 13th Part III is the one that was made in 3D in that brief 80s craze of threedeethreequels that also gave us Amityville 3D and Jaws 3D before we got tired of the annoying glasses which didn't work - how times change. In the case of the BluRay from the imported American boxset the other night I gave up on the 3D version as my red/green glasses (which didn't come with the disc) didn't separate the images properly and turned everything to brown mulch, and went with Normal-o-vision instead (I had already seen it in polarised 3D at a late show at my local cinema back in 1992). In fact the 3D is actually perfectly good, used pretty much exclusively for shamelessly jabbing things into the camera lens, whether it's a yoyo, jumping popcorn, a TV aerial, a detached eyeball or the buttocks of a bikini-clad young lady bending over.

This is also the one that introduced the iconic hockey mask that Jason and the occasional imitator would sport for the rest of the series. But that's about it for innovation and imagination: a bus load of stoners, hot chicks and studs and one schlubby prankster loser turn up at what used to be the summer camp, and Jason picks them off in amusing ways until there's one plucky girl left to fend him off and finally defeat him until the final shot teasing that he's not really dead after all. Er, that's it. Same time next year, guys?

It's hard to make any kind of claim that Friday The 13th Part III is any good at all, because it really isn't. It's silly, it's full of idiots and annoying characters (the trio of moronic biker punks, the sitcom bickering shop owners who have nothing to do with the rest of the movie and aren't even anywhere near Crystal Lake when they get offed in the second reel) and it has no surprises on offer. But I have a nostalgic soft spot for this sort of thing. It's still kind of fun and would probably be the definition of "guilty pleasure" if I felt any shred of guilt over watching it for the fourth time.


Sunday, 10 March 2019



Of all the recent horrors that might have engendered a sequel, Happy Death Day probably wouldn't have been high on the list. It was a decent enough comedy slasher with a Groundhog Day twist: a girl found herself living her eighteenth birthday over and over for no apparent reason, getting repeatedly murdered by a masked maniac again and again until she found the killer, bested them in the final reel and finally made it to Tuesday. And this followup initially appears to be following the exact same path: the sequel that's actually a remake - until it reveals its hand early on and suddenly leaps without any warning into head-spinning SF territory concerning quantum physics, alternate dimensions, parallel realities and a few moments that actually approach poignancy. And barring a few missteps, it's terrific.

Maybe it helped that I knew nothing about Happy Death Day 2U going in and didn't even rewatch the first one as revision; happily that didn't matter as I got up to speed very quickly. This time it appears to centre around science nerd Ryan, so minor a character from the first movie (eleventh billed) that I'd forgotten about him entirely, who finds himself in the same old time loop when the baby-masked killer leaps out of a cupboard at him. But his roommate's girlfriend is Tree, the oddly-named heroine of the first movie who immediately figures out what's going on, ties it up with Ryan's theoretical physics experiment and ends up repeating her death day again in a parallel dimension where everything isn't quite the same - can she survive her daily comedy suicides long enough to figure out a way back to her own world?

It's very smart, it's very funny (I laughed out loud in the cinema which is practically unheard of these last few years), and it's constantly throwing ingenious twists into proceedings and moving quickly enough to jump over any plot problems. I did wince a little when someone namedropped Back To The Future Part 2 and Inception, partly because it always annoys me when films try and justify borrowing an idea by mentioning it in dialogue so they can pass it off as affectionate homage (and neither reference is strictly accurate anyway). The main misstep comes with an unnecessary comedy heist sequence where they have to break into the Principal's office and they have to stage the most idiotic diversion that tips the film into knockabout farce. It doesn't work and it doesn't need to be there and seems to exist simply to give those actors their moment in the light. That aside (plus a needlessly cruel mid-credits stinger), it's a lot of fun, pushing the boundaries of modern disposable slasher cinema into much more interesting areas and mostly keeping it under control. Probably unlikely to make the Top Ten of the year, but it's entertaining throughout and way better than we had any right to expect. Strongly recommended.