Friday, March 13, 2009

Taking a break from the Wake on Friday the 13th

I like Zombie movies, Vampire films, Ghost stories, Asian “Extreme Cinema”. When I go to watch a film I don’t want “intellectual” or “arty” I want to be entertained. Gimme zombies, Kinski doing Vampires. Asian Ghost stories. Or surrealism. I don't like the new wave of gratuitous sadism (who needs plot, we have torture scenes) and don’t ask me to leave my brain at the door. Good horror films work as generic art. Some, like fairy tales, rise above themselves.

The great wave of late seventies early eighties “splatter films” arrived just as I was looking for somewhere warm to spend an afternoon when I couldn’t afford to heat my bed sit in Birmingham. A strange girl friend had introduced me to horror films and Half Price Mondays kept me from hypothermia and introduced me to Halloween, Suspiria, Halloween 2, The Fog, Dead and Buried, The Hills Have Eyes, Alien…and a host of horrible horrors that I have mercifully forgotten. In the days when I lived quite literally between a graveyard and a lunatic asylum, the test of how good the film was was how long it took me to turn off the light.

Never did like Friday the 13th. Cheap Halloween rip off. Halloween had everything it needed: mythic resonance, creepy camera angles and the best Last Girl Standing in Laurie Strode. She bright, she’s brave, she’s resourceful and she kills MM three times. (Even in H2o, which is a sad film, she goes hunting him.) It’s up there with Suspiria and Nosferatu as three films that escape themselves and go somewhere else.

Friday 13th was a crass rip off, lacking a plot, characters or even logic. Characters you couldn’t care about in a sequence of events that seemed a frail excuse to have teenagers stripping off to shower, have sex and then die.

So why we ask ourselves do they “remake” such films. The recent Halloween remake missed the point of the original. It looked pretty as a film with a huge budget could, but its desire to fill in the back story, to take what is suggested in the original and drive it into the ground meant it was instantly forgettable. The Fog remake lost Carpenter's claustrophobia and blew the ending.

So perhaps the new Friday 13th would do something with the idea that ten? sequels hadn't managed; perhaps we’d care about the characters, perhaps for once it wouldn’t be a bunch of forgettable or obnoxious sex crazed pretty things. Perhaps there’d be a plot that didn’t require you to leave your brain at the door.

Usual sacking and hacking. Usual screaming and running. Where was La Strode when we needed her. What happened to the aggressive fighting spirit that has made America despised in so many parts of the world?

Usual bunch of America’s finest teenagers: rich, selfish, spoilt, unlikable and utterly stupid. (Didn’t we meet in House of Wax/Jeepers Creepers/Texas Chainsaw Massacre…?) A Token Black (he’s supposed to be funny?) and Token Asian(he’s supposed to be a funny looser?) male characters. Two generic blondes who just wanna have fun: for the sacking and hacking. (Though one has the funniest death in any Friday the 13th film, it occurs just after the Jaws Shot. And the death of her partner, which is one of the genuine shocks of the film.)

If not screwing each other or trying to, our heroes drink, smoke dope and prepare to masturbate: the overlong sex scenes have no plot purpose. Heads fly off. The police arrive and are killed off. The hunky hero dude looks for his lost sister. Who is chained up underground. (Didn’t we meet in one of those Hills Have Eyes Remakes?)

What am I doing watching this? Well, I didn’t pay. And I’ve been reading Finnegans Wake so it was enjoyable to sit and watch utter nonsense unrolling in front of me. 95 minutes and none of it really over long. The violence still simple and restrained by modern standards (there is one gratuitous piece of sadism which is not in keeping with the usual F13 modus v and suggests a failure on the part of the script writers). For a moment I thought we might have the nice people escape which would have been a novel twist, but no: the one almost like able girl gets speared. (Which does break the usual "if you keep your clothes on you live" rule"..) The brother and sister team confront the bad dude, She kills the bad dude. Then they prove they are utterly utterly stupid and and… know what’s going to happen next…

No possibility of any “reading” which could elevate this above the intellectual level of a Big Dipper Ride. But even big dipper rides have their place.

Now back to The Wake.

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