CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

FRIDAY THE 13th - THE FINAL CHAPTER

1984. Directed by Joseph Zito

All these years on you can't help but feel conned when this movie was coined as the final chapter and yet 8 more movies (at the time of writing) were to follow on, all in the same tradition, all searching (and in the main failing) for originality.

After catching up with a few scenes from the previous movies, which led to our murderer Jason Vorhees being fatally wounded, we see our crazed killer taken to a local hospital and locked in the morgue. Unsurprisingly Jason comes back to life and after killing a couple of nurses makes his way to his home of  Camp Crystal Lake. There we find another batch of sexed up teens stopping in a local cabin, some local residents, Mrs Jarvis (Joan Freeman) and her son and daughter Tommy (Corey Feldman) and Trish (Kimberly Beck) and also dubious hiker Rob (Erich Anderson) whom Trish seems to develop a crush for and whom has a secret reason for being in the area. From here Jason goes about his business and carries out a series of grisly murders with the main plot being almost a sideline.

At this stage the franchise seems to have run out of gas but of course there was a whole lot more to come. This one does have one or two decent scares, a flash of nudity for the desperate and some gruesome killings for the perverse but despite this being the 26th highest grossing movie for its year I find it quite lame and lacking any depth whatsoever.

   

FRIDAY THE 13th - A NEW BEGINNING

1985. Directed by Danny Steinmann

Well, what can one say, on we go with Jason Vorhees seemingly an indestructible entity that has only one desire in life, to kill and kill again for the sheer bloody hell of it.

A flashback - A young Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) sees two ghouls open Jason's grave and duly get themselves killed. Jason rises and approaches the onlooker, the machete is raised...Years later and we are back with Tommy (now played by John Shepard) who is taken to a tucked away Mental Institution to hopefully make progress and get back into society after years of therapy and medication. Suddenly deaths begin to occur in all manner of ways with residents and nearby neighbours all getting the treatment from the hands of our masked menace. Tommy begins to doubt his sanity and wonder if Jason has risen from the dead and only, by sticking though the entirety of this film, will you find out too. The twist fails to tie up the initial thread and leaves a somewhat confused end sensation that of course may be deliberate and open the gateway for part 6 - bah.

The highest body count, drug use, mindless killings and some real crap acting this one still has a watchability factor that, for some unknown reason, raises it above the lowly levels set by part 4. Despite doing well at the box office this is by no means a classic and do not be fooled by the ambiguous tag of 'cult', it is only set to deceive. Overall another unstuffed turkey that has a few moments to intrigue and many to forget.
   

SAW

2004. Directed by James Wan

A heavy duty psychological study in the desire for life is played out in the most brutal of way during 99 minutes of twisting and draining horror - not one for those of a nervous disposition for definite.

2 men, Adam (Leigh Whannel) a photographer and Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) an oncologist find themselves chained up at the opposite sides of a spacious dilapidated bathroom, between them is a dead man who has seemingly blown his brains out. Discussions and flashbacks reveal how the two men came to be part of an elaborate game set up by a mysterious madman whom, it seems, has a very disturbing rulebook indeed. The sub-plot involves a detective David Tapp (Danny Glover) and Steven Sing (Ken Leung) who have a special desire to close this case and get the maniac well and truly nailed. As the film progresses the mental tension, convolutions and all round cerebral horror all culminate in a fast paced finale that weaves itself dizzy around a central pole of bloodshed and unsettling ambiguity - but will the pieces be put in place so this nerve jangling jigsaw is complete?

I had heard hit and miss reviews about this flick and when combined with the lack of pedigree horror available in these modern times I was hesitant to indulge. After taking the plunge though I can honestly say this is a well thought out film with plenty of guts and impetus that keeps one involved up until the last. Again, I feel it isn't a classic but it does have many polished and applaudable facets to win a nod of extreme confidence.

   

FRIDAY THE 13th - JASON LIVES

1986. Directed by Tom McLoughlin

I am hanging on in here trying to make some semblance of reason as to why this series of films is continuing and why the hell am I still watching. And to think, this is only the halfway mark!

Remember Tommy Jarvis, the kid who had seen so much of our killer in the last two movies where Jason Vorhees was considered put to rest for good? Well Tommy (Thom Matthews) is back, this time starting the movie off by visiting, with chum in tow, the madman's grave just to put his mind at rest that Jason is well and truly dead. He opens the grave, lightning strikes (again) and somehow, in a Frankensteinian moment, Jason is reborn and kills Tommy's friend before setting out on another rampage. Tommy flees and tries to tell the local authorities and is jailed for his trouble but he does strike up a sub-romantic connection with Sheriff Garris' (David Kagen) daughter Megan (Jennifer Cooke) whom both set about sorting the new ordeal. Of course all this happens at the original site which is now called Camp Forest Green and as luck would have it there is a group of paintballers and camping teens all in the area and set up to meet Jason's bloody desires. I know, uncanny isn't it?

A use of humour, an attempt to take the franchise in a new direction and several positive reviews all helped rekindle the series here but for me the lack of originality, the feeble attempts at making the killer something akin to a Universal monster and some really crappy music all make this a throwaway product I can take or leave. Not as bad as suggested but certainly not a horror gem.

   

FRIDAY THE 13TH - THE NEW BLOOD

1986. Directed by John Carl Buechler

Is it lucky seven for the franchise that appears to not recognise its limitations or is it a case of further round the U-bend for a cinematic turd that is spending too much time afloat rather than just sinking into the waters of forgetfulness. I just don't know anymore!

Jason Vorhees was drowned in the last movie, chained to a slab that was thrown in the old infamous lake. Jason still floats below the water and surely cannot be resurrected again. Enter Tina (Lar Park Lincoln), her mum Amanda (Susan Blu) and Tina's psychiatrist, Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser). Tina has been brought to the lake as a retreat so that Dr Crews can deal with the trauma she suffered ten years earlier when her father drowned after Tina's telekinetic powers misfired. Crews is a forceful character and after an upsetting session with Tina we see our heroine flee the cabin and ponder her fathers death on the nearby dock. The stress and guilt release Tinas power which, as luck would have it, breaks the chains around Jason's neck and brings him back to his bloodthirsty life. The terror begins and with a local group of teens in residence due to a surprise birthday party you can almost write the rest yourself. The interesting sub-plot helps things roll along and there is a good reveal of our now worn and ragged serial killer who really his knocking up a fine body count. The rest is however, as you were!

Again the formula is virtually the same, the process and progress of the film as per usual and some of the acting a trifle shoddy to say the least. There must be something in these films though to generate so much interest and so many follow-ons or, as I suspect, are all us horror nuts really perverts of pain and seekers of warped curiosities? I do wonder sometimes, I really do!

   

TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER

1976. Directed by Peter Sykes

Another Dennis Wheatley film put to the screen by Hammer Studios, this time leaving the author outraged and disgusted at a film that in no way met the impact of the written word.

Henry Beddows (Denholm Elliot) places his daughter Catherine (Nastassja Kinski) under the care and supervision of occult writer John Verney (Richard Widmark). Catherine is a nun and belongs to the Children of the Lord, a Bavarian cult group who are led by the seriously cracked heretic Father Michael Rayner (Christopher Lee) who plans to get Catherine back in his grips so as to carry out a planned 18th birthday ritual that will see the young nun become an avatar of Astaroth, the Great Duke of Hell. Verney has help in the form of David Kennedy (Anthony Valentine) and Anna Fountain (Honor Blackman) but in truth is up against the wall as Rayner uses his Black Magic skills to get his evil way and carry out the abhorrent ritual.

A slow paced film that gradually rises to a finale that promises much but falls absolutely flat on its face and mars the whole spectacle. There are one or two revolting moments that work, one or two gratuitous snippets that seem pointless and a few clips of nudity that are used as a cheap trick to entice the more perverse cinema goer. No wonder Wheatley was appalled and felt let down after viewing this film, a real handful of potential let slip away thus resulting in nothing more than an average affair.
   

FRIDAY THE 13TH - JASON TAKES MANHATTAN

1989. Directed by Rob Hedden

Another resurrection, another 90 minutes plus of serial killing and teenage tossology, this time aboard a boat and in New York, as though that will make any difference to the interest factor!

We begin with two sexed up teens on a boat preparing to get all smoochy and beyond. Anchor is dropped, a power line is broken, the escaping source of energy connects to the body of Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) whom comes to life, kills the young lovers and somehow ends up on a cruise ship fill of graduating teens. Biology teacher and general bastard Charles McCulloch (Peter Mark Richman) is on board with his niece, Rennie (Jensen Daggett), who has visions of Jason drowning as a child, which eventually manifests itself as being integral to the plot. Once Jason is on board the body count builds and numerous predictable antics are carried out which will please the obsessed and niggle the more clear of mind. Eventually a small group escape the ship but it goes without saying that our long-tern nut-job is hot on their heels - wow (add sarcasm please).

The horse hasn't just been flogged, it has been beaten to death, raped, beaten some more and then mutilated in all kinds of cheap and nasty ways. How on earth this and several of the other films got the go-ahead to be made is beyond me but such is the way of madness and misdirection. A real turkey this with dud performances, weak killing scenes and a basic storyline - if you, like me, have seen the first 7 films before this you may well be in need of some Prozac. Verdict - tedious!
   

DAY OF THE DEAD

2008. Directed by Steve Miner

Oh yes another Zombie film and another remake and one that uses many old formulas, goes through many obvious routines and which, this time, sees many all out high action onslaughts that leave one...well that would be telling wouldn't it!

We begin in Leadville, Colorado where a virus outbreak is being kept hushed up by the local armed forces. It seems people are going down with flu-like symptoms that are causing a bad cough and a strange nosebleed reaction. A roadblock sees us meet up with Captain Rhodes (Ving Rhames) and Corporal Sarah Cross (Mena Suvari) and privates Bud Crain (Stark Sands) and Salazar (Nick Cannon). Cross decides to visit her sick mother along with Bud (who happens to fall in love with Cross). When she arrives, Sarah talks to her brother Trevor (whom is in the middle of a bit of loving with his girlfriend Nina (Anna Lynne McCord)) and looks in on her mother. She then goes to see Trevor's friend, Kyle (Hugh Skinner), after she learns his symptoms are similar to her mother's. When they arrive at Kyle's house they find Kyle's parents badly mauled with Kyle nowhere to be seen. We eventually see all concerned at a local hospital where Cross looks to get her mother some attention but where she finds many overstretched staff trying to deal with all the new sick arrivals, seemingly all suffering from the same virus. During the fuss the sufferers become temporarily inanimate before coming back to life as the superhuman walking dead - then all hells breaks loose and our small pack of lead players find themselves fighting for their lives.

The action is intense, the effects grotesque and effective but the storyline is weak, the speeded up action scenes a bewildering blur and the overall end result is of a 'cashing in' film not executed to its full potential. There is no atmosphere to speak of and no strong, impressive characters and this can only go down as average fare for those well versed in the continuing conveyer belt of Zombie flicks.

   

FUTUREWORLD

1976. Directed by Richard T. Heffron

A follow up to the classic that is 'Westworld' this film is fortunate in having a good foundation on which to build but unfortunate in having to follow on from an all time gem. Is this going to be a case of another dead duck sequel or will this one outstrip its predecessor - I have my doubts!

Several years on from the disaster at the Delos resort and it seems all recent reviews are gloriously positive and the theme park is doing as good as ever. Despite this one reporter, Chuck Browning (Peter Fonda) is not convinced and after an informant regarding the inside happenings of Delos is murdered our lead man sets about uncovering the truth. He doesn't go alone however and takes with him fellow reporter Tracey Ballard (Blythe Danner) to uncover the truth. At the resort, guests choose from a range of theme parks: Medievalworld, Romanworld, and Futureworld with our two investigators choosing the latter option. Their initial guide is Dr. Duffy (Arthur Hill), a man fully behind the brilliance of Delos and who sets out to prove that all faults are fixed and there is no danger of anything going wrong again. It soon transpires that all staff are indeed robots and certain areas are out of bounds which of course is a cue for a leading duo to go and have a snoop. They uncover more than expected with a full cloning programme in operation, all carried out at the hands of the crazed scientist, Dr Schneider (John Ryan) - there is always one isn't there.

This film tries to take away the direction of the plot from that which was found in the original film and in many respects does just that with some nice surprises thrown in and one or two unsettling moments. The gripe I have though is the lack of depth to the acting and the storyline, the absence of real 'edge of the seat' action and the way the film exploits its predecessor in the most vulgar terms (the use of Yul Brynner being most insulting). Having said that it is an easy jaunt and is far from a turkey but it won't be one you'll be re-watching in a hurry that's for sure!

   

THE FURY

1978. Directed by Brian De Palma 

One of those minor oddities that you watch as a kid, never see for years and wonder what it would be like to see it again. I have chased it up and this is the brief overview and verdict.

Kirk Douglas is a government official (former CIA official) who comes under a surprise attack whereupon his son Robin (Andrew Stevens) is kidnapped by a secret intelligence organization led by Ben Childress (John Cassavetes). Robin believes his father has become a victim of a terrorist attack and is dead but Peter Sandaz is very much alive and trying with much effort to get his much-loved son back under his wing. It soon comes to light that Robin is a gifted child and has extraordinary psychic powers, this being the reason for Childress' sinister interest which takes on a whole new meaning when it becomes clear of his true intent. Robin becomes the victim of numerous experiments thus making him increasingly unstable and before things get totally out of hand it is up to his father to rescue him from the clutches of an-all powerful unit. To add extra interest, a young girl, Gillian Bellaver (Amy Irving), with similar psychic powers joins the same institute as Robin where a Doctor James McKeever (Charles Durning) uncovers a connection and informs his boss, one Ben Childress. The story weaves on, a race against time is the name of the game - will you be involved enough to last the distance?

There should be more to this film than there actually is and the chance to make for a full-on classic is lost I feel and we get, what is, nothing more than a fair romp that all heads to one final explosive seen that does surprise, does excite and does indeed full stop in style. Douglas is reliable, the supporting cast equally so but there is just a failure to cram in more smack in the face effects and all round urgency.  Such a shame and not as impressive as my childhood memory suggested.
   

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