31 Days to Scare ~ The Lost Boys

The Facts:

Synopsis: After moving to a small town in Northern California with their divorced mother, two brothers discover the area is a haven for vampires.

Stars: Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Kiefer Sutherland, Dianne Wiest, Jami Gertz, Corey Feldman, Barnard Hughes, Edward Herrmann

Director: Joel Schumacher

Rated: R

Running Length: 97 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review:  If I think real hard and squeeze my eyes shut I can picture myself as a seven year old in the summer of 1987.  Likely wearing a blue and red (okay pink) tie-dyed shirt from Disney World paired with above-the-knee khaki shorts and tube socks topped off with slip-on black loafers I wasn’t exactly the epitome of cool so seeing the movie poster for The Lost Boys at our local mall and subsequent TV ads made me do a double take.  What was this movie featuring vampires and young kids dressed like they hadn’t picked out their clothes the night before about and when would I ever be old enough to see it?  It would be several years later when The Lost Boys VHS finally came home with me and by then I’d learned a thing or two about proper attire.  I also knew a good vampire movie when I saw one.

Brothers Michael (Jason Patric, Sleepers) and Sam (Corey Haim, Lucas) move with their mother (Dianne Wiest, Parenthood) to the seaside town of Santa Carla, California to live with their grandfather (Barnard Hughes, Doc Hollywood).  Leaving their friends and father behind wasn’t an easy step and the boys take some adjustment to the raucous beach town that’s quiet during the day and a party city in the evenings.  Teens flock to the boardwalk to play video games, hear bands, or just hang out and summer is in full swing by the time the boys arrive.  There’s also been an influx of strange disappearances lately but it’s mostly going unnoticed due to the large number of people that pass through nightly.  A few of Sam’s new friends (one played by Corey Feldman, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter) suspect vampires are behind the unexplained vanishings and educate him on how to spot a creature of the night.

With Sam preoccupied hunting down vampires and his mother spending more time with a local businessman (Edward Hermann, Overboard), Michael falls for Star (Jami Gertz, Sixteen Candles) a mystery girl who runs with a crowd of punks led by David (Kiefer Sutherland, Flatliners).  For Michael to get to know Star better and be included with David and his troupe, he goes through an initiation that starts to change his sleeping habits as well as his reflection in mirrors.  Now Michael has more than just being the new kid on the block to worry about and when he attempts to quell his burgeoning taste for blood with the help of his brother it only makes David come on stronger…but is David the only big bad vampire in Santa Carla Michael and Sam need to worry about?

Over the years there have been countless movies about vampires young and old but none have truly captured a time and place quite like Joel Schumacher did with The Lost Boys.  Though watching it now it’s clearly a film that’s starting to crystalize in amber, it doesn’t yet feel stale in the least and improves with each watch.  There’s a music video style to the film that keeps it energized from the chilling opening to a surprising finale that throws a few curveballs at the audience courtesy of a clever, tuned-in script from Jeffrey Boam (The Dead Zone), Jan Fischer, & James Jeremias.  There’s an ample amount of comedy as well, with the screenwriters making good use of the talents of both Coreys to go for the teenybopper crowd while leaving the more serious business for Patric and Sutherland.

Like what he did when elevating the John Hughes genre film with the more adult St. Elmo’s Fire, Schumacher takes what could have been a run-of-the-mill bloodsucker flick and turned it into an enduring modern classic horror film.  Featuring a roster of attractive talent right on the cusp of breaking big in Hollywood, Schumacher was never quite as on the money as he was with The Lost Boys.  The soundtrack is great, the pacing is on the money, and the practical special effects add suspense on top of the moderate blood and gore.  It works like a charm and remains an entertaining popcorn blockbuster even if you’ve seen it dozens of times.

31 Days to Scare ~ Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th

The Facts:

Synopsis: A chronicle of the history of the Friday the 13th franchise.

Stars: Kane Hodder, Monica Keena, Greg Nicotero, Wes Craven, Robert Englund, Betsy Palmer, Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King, Kirsten Baker, Stuart Charno, Warrington Gillette, Jensen Daggett, Scott Reeves, Kelly Hu, Todd Caldecott, Tiffany Paulsen, John Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Melanie Kinnaman, Richard Young, Marco St. John, Juliette Cummins, Lar Park-Lincoln, Susan Blu, Terry Kiser, Kevin Spirtas, Elizabeth Kaitan, Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Vincent Guastaferro, Renée Jones, Kerry Noonan, Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover, Lawrence Monoson, Lisa Freeman, Kimberly Beck, Peter Barton, Kane Hodder, John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Steven Williams, Steven Culp, Erin Gray, Dana Kimmell, Richard Brooker, Catherine Parks, Paul Kratka, Jeffrey Rogers, Larry Zerner, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Kevin Bacon, Harry Crosby

Director: Daniel Farrands

Rated: NR

Running Length: 400 minutes

TMMM Score: (10/10)

Review: There are documentaries on the making of films and then there’s Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th. Based off the excellent coffee table book published in 2005, this documentary from 2009 is the Holy Grail for fans of the Friday the 13th series and all its many, many…many sequels. Though I had already pored over the book several times and knew many of the behind-the-scenes info about the making of the films, the documentary brings these and so much more to life in a watchable format that you’ll be hard-pressed not to devour in one sitting. The first time I watched it I actually had to stop myself from taking in all 6 hours and 40 minutes at once, opting to break it into three segments and extend the fun.

Each movie gets its own chapter and so does the short-lived TV series, all put in chronological order. Often the discussions of the individual films are supported by events going on in the world at the time they were made and released so it’s helpful to watch this in order without skipping around too much. What surprised me was while the first film obviously gets a little more time spent on its genesis and production, the subsequent sequels are exceedingly well-represented by cast members and the different filmmakers that were involved. Often these specific types of genre documentaries are padded with nerds (ahem, fans) that fill in many of the gaps but here there are enough of the key players involved that the fan representation is blessedly kept to a minimum.

Another positive is that there’s little to no sugarcoating the discussion of the films and the logic gaps each new entry brought. Bad acting, tepid scripts, and production difficulties are put out there for public consumption and everyone seems to own their part of the good and the bad. It’s all largely kept light and airy; so while there are some instances where you can tell there’s more to the story, the point is not to do a deep dive into the wrongs of the series but instead to keep the focus on how the franchise was a miracle money monster of its own.

Usually around this time of year I get the urge to throw this one in again and revisit some of the segments that may not be as fresh in my mind or to follow-up after watching one of the sequels to get more insider info. For horror fans, this a must watch, if not an outright must own. Filled with great extras and deleted scenes that didn’t make the final cut, it’s a whopper of a documentary and worth having in your collection.

Check out my reviews of Friday the 13th, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, and Jason Lives: Friday the 13h Part VI!

31 Days to Scare ~ Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

The Facts:

Synopsis: After being mortally wounded and taken to the morgue, murderer Jason Voorhees spontaneously revives and embarks on a killing spree as he makes his way back to his home at Camp Crystal Lake.

Stars: Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover, Lawrence Monoson, E. Erich Anderson,  Judi Aronson, Joan Freeman, Barbara Howard, Clyde Hayes, Camilla More, Carey More, Ted White, Lisa Freeman, Kimberly Beck, Peter Barton

Director: Joseph Zito

Rated: R

Running Length: 91 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review: It’s laughable now to think that upon its release in April of 1984 this was actually intended to be the swan song for masked maniac Jason Voorhees. I mean, the old guy still had six sequels, a spin-off with Freddy Krueger, and a remake yet to go before hanging up his machete…for now, at least. Remember, this was an era when multiple sequels were all but unheard of so for the Friday the 13th series to survive up until the fourth chapter was a bit of a miracle. Remarkably, instead of immediately seeing years into the future and the possible profits to be made, the producers made the conscious decision to close up shop and give the audience the finale they were owed.

After Friday the 13th became such an unexpected hit and spawned a quickie sequel followed by an otherwise lame-o 3D threequel, there didn’t seem to be much more to do with the story of a deformed killer offing nubile teens that are unlucky enough to enter his woods. So to tie up the loose ends, Joseph Zito was brought in as a new director and original make-up maestro Tom Savini was enlisted to make the film’s kills and their aftermath extra ooey and gooey. Zito had already directed the similarly themed The Prowler (check that one out, it’s a cult favorite) so he knew his way around the stalk and slash genre. Often called the father of Jason, Savini brought his superlative A-game to the screen, making some realistic effects jump off the screen with bloody delight.

Picking up right after the events of Friday the 13th Part 3, The Final Chapter takes its time in setting its star loose. First he’s brought to the morgue where he doesn’t stay on the slab for long and then he cuts his way back to his beloved Crystal Lake. Standing in his way is a house full of partying teens (including a young Crispin Glover and former Double Mint twins Camilla and Carey More) and a mother with two children, once of which will play a part in several of the sequels. It’s never explained why he targets this group, there’s no reference to the Camp Crystal Lake Jason called home nor do any of the characters have any relation to previous installments.

At 91 minutes, there’s not much time for character development and what little there is revolves around which guy is hornier and which girl is easiest. It has a relatively reserved pacing in the first act that gives way to multiple vignettes where victims find themselves alone and horrifically killed by the hockey-masked hellion. Though the movie was significantly cut to avoid an X rating, Savini leaves little to the imagination, culminating in a finale that ups the ante for gross out gore. Fans of the series that had been waiting for Jason to get his due must have gotten a total thrill out of seeing him hacked and whacked.

Previous entries of the franchise came off as retreads of the original or copies of other famous horror films but The Final Chapter felt like it strove to be better than the rest. With its effort to, ahem, flesh out its characters and take its time getting to the good stuff, there’s a reason why this one is held in high regard by fans. The success of this one at the box office meant there was an much reviled fifth installment greenlit and released barely a year after The Final Chapter but the series would get back into a fun groove with Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI before careening downward fast again. Anytime I’m doing a Friday the 13th marathon I’ll watch the first four and, depending on my mood, throw on the sixth one for fun. Also a positive thing about The Final Chapter is that if you’ve never seen any previous film you could watch this without being too lost.

Down From the Shelf ~ The Goonies

goonies

The Facts:

Synopsis: In order to save their home from foreclosure, a group of misfits set out to find a pirate’s ancient treasure.

Stars: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Martha Plimpton, Corey Feldman, Jeff Cohen, Kerri Green, Ke Huy Quan, Anne Ramsey, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano

Director: Richard Donner

Rated: PG

Running Length: 114 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review: I was still a tad too young to catch The Goonies during its first run in theaters during the summer of 1985 but boy do I wish I had.  Though I’ve seen it countless times since then on television, at sleepovers, and at any number of midnight screenings I would have loved to have been there on its June opening weekend.

Released in that magical early to mid-‘80s time when Steven Spielberg had his hand in everything, The Goonies is, like 1982’s Poltergeist, one of the few films that Spielberg either wrote or provided the storyline for and its themes of friendship, family, and love of home is classic Spielberg.  Focusing on a group of friends that hunt for a fabled pirate’s treasure as a way to help their families fight off land hungry developers, it may be turning 30 years old in 2015 but it’s held up remarkably well.

That’s partly due to the fact that the film isn’t a splashy effects driven kind of summer fare that were starting to become de rigueur in the ‘80s.  It’s filled with mostly practical effects as the gang of Goonies outwit escaped gangsters (the marvelously droll trio of Anne Ramsey, Robert Davi, and Joe Pantoliano) and maneuver past a series of dangerous booby traps as they track down the hidden fortune.  Because it’s so centered on the friends themselves and not popular culture of the day, it works as both a time capsule of teen-friendly entertainment and a timeless exercise in big thinking adventure.

There’s a lot of ground to cover in two hours and watching it again recently I marveled at how fast it gets going.  Director Richard Donner (Ladyhawke) had a lot of plot points and characters to juggle and he manages (with the help of Chris Columbus’s slick script) to give each actor their own time to shine.  It helps that the young cast is quite engaging, and it was no shocker that most went on to successful careers as adults.  Sean Astin (Rudy) makes for a splendid every-boy kinda lead, young enough to not be a hormonal threat to tween girls and old enough for boys his same age to want to be like him.  Future Oscar nominee Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice) is his understanding older brother while Corey Feldman, Ke Huy Quan, and Jeff Cohen are his partners in goofball crime.  Martha Plimpton and Kerri Green prove themselves to be more than the token sassy girl/pretty girl (respectively) because Columbus treats them as equals to the boys.

If I’m being honest the movie starts to lose steam in the last fifteen minutes, right when it starts to really count.  I’ve been known to watch the first 90 minutes before either conking out or switching to a different channel because the dénouement and wrap-up have always felt like a let-down after all that had come before it.  Even so, the film is downright hilarious at times (mostly thanks to Cohen’s uproarious performance as a roly-poly mini used car salesman of a character) and still sucks me in to the Goonies adventure of a lifetime almost from the get-go.

Rumors abound that a long-awaited sequel (or stage musical!) are in the planning stages and I’d like to respectfully request that neither come to fruition.  I don’t think the film needed a sequel in the first place and if a second installment was ever in the works that should have been taken care of in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s.  And a musical?  Yeesh…though a Ballad of One-Eyed Willie might become the new Defying Gravity if they play their cards right…