Posts Tagged ‘Jason Voorhees’

Tell me, where would you put Godzilla in this classification system?

For a while now, I’ve been thinking of the different kinds of antagonists in horror stories. Not divided by type, but by level of threat. What do I mean by this? I mean, aren’t all antagonists in horror stories a threat? I mean, it is horror!

Well, yes. But how big that threat is can vary from story to story, and can even influence what kind of tropes and stakes we can expect in the stories. To further illustrate this, let me categorize the level of threats using Starbucks sizes: Tall, Grande, and Venti. Yes, I know they have a Short size and a Trenta size, but I don’t know anyone who uses them. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the cups for those sizes.

Also, Starbucks, please don’t sue me. I’m just using your sizes to help illustrate a point.

Getting sidetracked. Let’s start talking about the levels of threat, starting from biggest to smallest.

Venti: While all horror antagonists are a threat to the protagonist(s), the Venti-level threats are usually threats to many or all people. Cosmic entities like Cthulhu or the Devil in stories taking place during the Apocalypse usually rank this high. They’re a threat to all life or to all we hold dear, and the suffering they could induce if they succeed would be terrible.

This level can also apply to threats like Pennywise, aka IT. While he’s restricted to the town of Derry, Maine, he’s responsible for countless deaths since the 17th century. Even when he’s not active, his influence over the town of Derry is such that he controls it at all times, causes all sorts of horrors while sleeping. IT is Derry. Thank goodness his children didn’t get anywhere, am I right?

Bughuul from Sinister is a great example of a Grande-level villain

Grande: An antagonist of this size may be a threat to many people, but they’re not as all powerful or have such sweeping implications as a Venti-level threat. Still, you wouldn’t want to cross one of these guys if you ended up in their stories.

An example of a Grande-level threat would be Leland Gaunt from Needful Things. A demonic figure who looks at things from a business-like perspective, any town he comes to faces annihilation once he sets up shop. Half of Castle Rock either ended up dead or blown up because of him, after all.

Another example might be Bughuul from the movie Sinister, a Babylonian deity that eats children. Throughout the centuries, he’s manipulated children into killing their families so he could eat their souls. Anywhere he goes, you can expect blood and death to follow. He’s definitely no small potatoes, though he doesn’t warrant the same level of panic as a Venti-level threat might.

Tall: While they may be the on the lowest level of horror antagonist, that doesn’t mean you should relax. In fact, these villains tend to be much more personal than the likes of Bughuul or Cthulhu.

Tall-level villains may only be a threat to the protagonist and a few others, but they bring with them the power to destroy everything the protagonist holds dear. Demons seeking to possess a soul, vengeful ghosts, stalkers and serial killers focused on one particular victim, cursed objects, etc. They may not be seeking to end the world or blow up a town, but they will destroy the protagonist’s happiness and sanity for their own goals.

I would even include the Overlook Hotel in this category. It may be powerful and evil, but it’s only able to be so in the presence of someone with the shining, and then it only seeks to add the shining to its own power so it can be active more often. In the novel’s case, it breaks down Jack and terrorizes Danny to make them more vulnerable and ultimately to possess the former and kill the latter.

Like I said, what they’re missing in power or scope of threat, they make up for in how personal they are.


This, ladies and gentlemen, is a way to classify the threat level of horror villains.

Where does Jason fit on this scale? It’s not easy to tell.

That being said, it’s not perfect. What villains belong where is entirely dependent on who’s doing the categorizing. Is a slasher villain like Jason Voorhees a Grande because he has a particular hunting area and has killed many over the decades? Or is he a Tall because he’s only a threat if you step into his territory? And this doesn’t even cover stories like Gerald’s Game, where there is no antagonist but a pair of handcuffs and the protagonist’s own psyche. Even the Space Cowboy who visits her doesn’t really threaten her. He’s more of a reflection of her own terrors who turns out to be a real person than anything else.

So why do I write all this, if it’s not a flawed system? I do it because it’s not to categorize the villains themselves, but the stories they belong to. A story with a Tall villain is much more character-focused and can often lean into the character’s mindset. A story with a Venti-sized villain often requires the story to encompass a huge cast, lots of locations, and putting an entire population at risk. A Grande may straddle the line of the other categories, while also having varying kill counts depending on what the story requires.

In a way, The Starbucks Levels of Antagonism (copyright pending), are like the Bechdel or Mako Mori tests: exercises to examine stories, the decisions made while creating them, and how you can learn from them. And given the nature of fiction writing, as well as how difficult it is to categorize fiction like a scientific system, that’s probably for the best.

Thanks for giving me a chance to air some thoughts, Followers of Fear. I’m off to figure out where on this system I belong. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Do you remember Never Hike Alone, the Friday the 13th fan film that was leagues better than the 2011 remake? I reviewed it about two years ago, and I still stand by that review. It is a great film, and way better than that crap remake.* So, I was excited when I found out last month that Womp Stomp Films, the YouTube channel that created Never Hike Alone, were making more Friday the 13th fan films! Even better, the first would be a prequel, Never Hike in the Snow, and was coming out on October 13th, 2020. Yesterday.

Yeah, I watched it. And now I’m spreading the word about it.

Never Hike in the Snow (which I’m told takes place three months before the events of Never Hike Alone), begins with a missing persons investigation in the woods near Crystal Lake. A teenager has gone missing in the middle of the snow and trees, and the only clues are his mother’s car and a pool of blood. While some, like the local sheriff, won’t admit the truth. But some, like Tommy Jarvis, who survived Jason not once but twice, know the truth, and are prepping for the inevitable.

You know, prequels are naturally things people get wary about. People remember all the problems with the (albeit entertaining) Star Wars prequels. But this was really good. The best part was the opening, which depicts the missing teen’s run in to Jason. It’s epic and thrilling, and feels like the best of the classic Friday the 13th chase scenes ramped up to eleven. And the way it ends, you’re so entranced by what’s happened, you ignore how bright and corn syrupy the blood looks!

The rest of the movie shows various characters’ reactions to the situation, especially for those who are in the know about what lives in the woods. It’s a great change from the first fan film, which focused solely on one person’s experience with Jason. And it proves that there’s still plenty to do with this franchise and characters than sending them to New York or to space.

There’s plenty of other stuff to enjoy with this film, of course. The cinematography is beautiful, the actors put their all into their characters, and the finale was bloody brilliant (in more ways than one). And it even has Thom Matthews reprising his role as Tommy Jarvis from both the first film and from Friday the 13th Part VI (yes, they got the actual actor from the film series. How crazy is that?).

This shot says it all about this fan-made film.

That being said, I had a few problems with the film. The film’s only thirty minutes long, and while it has an epic finale, the way it ends makes this feel less like a prequel and more like the first episode of a TV series. Knowing we won’t get an episode two kind of cheapens the effect.

That, and there’s a moment where we see things from Jason’s unique perspective that I didn’t care for. I mean, I like the idea of it, but it was just too sweet. It runs into the same problem with the Rob Zombie Halloween movies: if you humanize these mythic killers too much, you lose their effectiveness as movie monsters. His backstory is enough. No need to pull at our heartstrings.

All in all though, Never Hike in the Snow is a violent and excellent tribute to the Friday the 13th franchise and the place it has in the minds of the fans. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4. Bundle up, sit down and check it out.

Also, can’t wait for the next film in this fan series. Whenever that comes out (probably a decade before an official Friday the 13th film comes out. I mean, how long have they been developing a new film?).

*Granted, that’s not hard to accomplish. Most films are better than that Michael Bay-produced piece of crap that feels more like an excuse to show off half-naked women than anything else (no, I will never waste an opportunity to hate on that film). But there’s being better, and then there’s taking the time to actually create a great film around Jason Voorhees, and Never Hike Alone was the latter.

And welcome to my first review of 2020! As many of you in the horror community are aware, the Grudge film series is famous both in its homeland in Japan, where it is known as the Ju-On movies, and in America, where both the original films and the first remake are considered classics in terrifying people.* However, the sequel to the American remake was only so-so, and the direct-to-DVD Grudge 3 was awful. Thus ten years have passed since the last film was released. When word of a new film got out, people were skeptical, but some were willing to give it a chance based on the trailers. Including me.

2020’s The Grudge begins with a live-in nurse leaving the original house from The Grudge and heading home to Pennsylvania.** However, she brings the curse home with her, and ends up killing her family and herself, making her home and her family an extension of the original curse. Years later, a detective enters the house while investigating a possibly-related murder, setting off a chain of events that will impact her life forever.

So this is technically a side-story to the original Grudge remake, following a new family of spirits and a new community to torment with the curse. The filmmakers did this so they could hopefully reinvigorate the franchise.

And they failed miserably on that front. While the film is told in a non-linear fashion and has plenty of callbacks to the 2004 film, switching Kayako and the Saeki family out for a new family of spirits was a huge mistake. Not only do these new ghosts feel so generic that they could come from any other ghost-centered horror movie, Kayako is an iconic part of the franchise. You can’t separate one from the other. It’d be like calling a movie Friday the 13th and having it focus on Jason’s cousin Matthew Bellman, who wears a football helmet and kills people who enter an abandoned ski resort. It just wouldn’t work.***

Even if you don’t factor that in, the film leaves a lot to be desired. As I said, the ghosts feel like they could come from any horror film, and the rest of the film feels pretty lackluster. Most of the scares derive from jumpscares, which are there and then gone pretty quickly. Most of the plot and acting feels pretty phoned in, and Lin Shaye’s appearance is horribly wasted (good thing she’s had better roles in most other horror films).

Is there anything good about the film? Well, there is a scene where the main character has to defend herself from the spirits in the dark basement of the police station that’s kind of tense, and a bloody scene with LIn Shaye that’s super-freaky. And John Cho as a realtor dealing with a crisis in his marriage is a surprising highlight of the film.

But other than that, 2020’s The Grudge is a poor horror film that was banking more on name visibility than actually trying. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this one a 1.7. Only watch if you want to make a drinking game out of how many times you see the number 4 (which in Japanese sounds a lot like the word for death). Otherwise, watch either the 2004 remake or the original Japanese films, but definitely not this.

I’m off to get the remake from the library. I need my faith in the series restored.

This is a bad start to 2020’s horror films. Hopefully the other ones coming out this month are better by leaps and bounds.

*No joke, when I first saw the American remake, my sister asked me to watch it for her to let her know if she could watch it without getting scared. I watched that movie in our basement, and then I never let her near that franchise until I moved out of the house. As far as I know, she still hasn’t watched any of the films.

**Why a live-in nurse goes from Pennsylvania to Japan for work when her family is still in Pennsylvania is not actually explained, so don’t expect an answer from me. I can only guess that there was a sudden shortage in live-in nursing jobs and they were only available in Japan, because otherwise it makes no fucking sense whatsoever.

***And it would also be worse than the 2009 remake, as hard as that is to believe. Yes, I found another way to blast that horrific movie! Screw you, Michael Bay! Your horror movies are travesties and deserve to be erased from history!

For the past two weeks, I’ve been reading The Best Horror of the Year, Volume VIII, an anthology of horror short stories and novelettes compiled by one of horror’s premier editors, Ellen Datlow (I’ll be taking a break from it to read The Institute by Stephen King, though). As you’d expect from any anthology, some you like, some you don’t, and some you just don’t get. But of those that I like, I’ve been noticing a trend that I’m not sure I’ve noticed before.

These stories are not outright terrifying in a way that’ll leave you screaming or having nightmares for a week or so. But they do make you feel uneasy. Like a voice in the back of your mind is whispering, “Imagine if this scenario were real,” or “Imagine if this happened to you.” And then you shiver at the thought of what is occurring in the story occurring in real life. In your life.

That feeling upsets the zen in your soul, and can put you off your day. It can make you afraid to think of certain places or names because you associate them with something evil and horrible. It leaves you afraid to be in dark places, or alone, or with people, or even in well-lit areas. Because who knows what’s hidden in your blind spot? Who knows what evil is bubbling in your coworker’s heart?

What you are feeling is disquiet. And that feeling drives a lot of shorter horror stories. Understandable: short stories and novelettes don’t have the word-counts to build epic worlds or have intricate plots involving five or six mind-blowing revelations. They’re short for a reason, and meant to be digestible as a way to save time and money. Or to quote Stephen King, “A short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.”

I actually know what that’s like (don’t ask), and I’m not really surprised that King does, either. So I kind of get it: what the story does to you should be unexpected, but leave a powerful impression. The kind of impression where you look back years later and you’re like, “Wait, did that actually happen?” And in short stories, with horror, you do it with fear. You do it with disquiet.

So how does one create disquiet in their story? Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can answer that. It’s like how do you put horror in a story? You already know a monster is necessary, but what more is there? Not an easy question to answer. In fact, I’ve been writing horror since I was a tween, or trying to, and I’m still trying to figure it out. It doesn’t help that I’m better at novels and short stories are still something I’m figuring out how to do well (ironic, considering how many short story ideas I have lying around).

junji Ito will shake you every time.

In the end, all I can recommend is the old writer adage: read a lot and write a lot. In this case, read a ton of shorter works by a variety of different horror authors. Note how they make the story memorable, punchy, disturbing. Is it a specific twist? Is it in the scenario they set up? How do they set it up? Is it in a particular sentence or a paragraph? An element they included? The ending? Then try writing your own works and incorporating what you learned.

It seems obvious, but I guess we reiterate it for a reason.

Anyway, if you’re looking for recommendations, any of the volumes in the Best Horror of the Year series should work, as well as collections by most horror writers. I also recommend story collections from manga artist Junji Ito, if you want a more visual medium. And while it’s not literary, The Twilight Zone is usually pretty good at telling disquieting stories (or so I’ve heard. I really have to get on watching that show).

But tell me, how do you make your short stories memorable and disquieting? What are your thoughts on the subject? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Happy Friday the 13th, and if you see  guy wearing an old-fashioned goalie mask, RUN THE OTHER FUCKING WAY!!!

Since the very first trailer, I’ve been excited for this film. I mean, a horror film led by the phenomenal Octavia Spencer? That should be amazing! And even though I was enjoying myself this past weekend in various locales associated with spirits (more on that in other posts), Ma was never far from my mind. And since I’m still on vacation, I thought I’d go see an afternoon matinee.

Ma follows a group of teens, including new girl Maggie, as they wrangle a veterinary technician named Sue Ann Ellington (aka Ma), into buying them booze. Sue Ann later entices them into partying with her in her basement, and soon her place becomes the place to be. However, Sue Ann starts to exhibit some strange behavior, and it becomes clear that she has a history, one involving the parents of some of the kids. And she’s still upset about it.

There are two things about this film that stand out to me. The first is Octavia Spencer’s performance. She does crazy so well, it’s terrifying. I’m no psychologist, but I’m pretty sure the character of Sue Ann displayed traits of both borderline personality disorder and Munchausen’s by proxy, and it’s convincing. The second is the storytelling, a slow-burn of a story showing a woman twisted by her past out for revenge after several years of keeping most of that anger under wraps. It’s not done with big scares or a tense atmosphere, but small things that eventually grow into a freaky finale.

The one gripe I have–and this is a gripe shared by other critics of the film–is that it could’ve gone farther. Tate Taylor, the director, feels like he’s not willing to lean into the concept and portray more violent or disturbing acts on the part of Sue Ann. I mean, there are definitely some things she does that are chilling, no doubt, but a few more would’ve only helped the film. Certainly the low kill count will trouble some horror fans.

Still, I can see some sequel or prequel potential in Ma. The film sprinkled enough things into it and had an ending that might be conducive for further films. And if done right, Sue Ann Ellington–aka Ma–might join the ranks of great horror villains like Michael Myers, Freddy Kreuger, and my boy Jason Voorhees.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Ma an even 4. If you prefer subtle horror with a focus on storytelling and a compelling villain, this may be the horror film for you. Grab a drink, and check it out.

And while I have your attention, this is another reminder that you have till Friday to sign up to be an advanced reader for Rose, my upcoming fantasy-horror novel from Castrum Press. The story follows a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). Anyone interested should send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. All I ask is you read the book and consider posting a review after the release. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Last week in my review of Us, I speculated Jordan Peele’s new horror movie was making a Friday the 13th reference through one of its characters. It’s been nearly a week since then, the film has made nearly six times its budget back at the box office since its release, and people are still finding reasons to talk about this film. So I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring and further explain my own theory about the film, or to be more specific my theory regarding one specific character.

That being said, I’m going to be going in-depth with this film, so if you haven’t seen Us yet, THIS IS YOUR SPOILER WARNING! STOP HERE IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM YET AD GO SEE IT BEFORE CONTINUING!!

Still here? Good. Let’s begin.

My theory is that the character of Jason Wilson, the son character in the film’s protagonist family, is one big, possibly unintended, reference to the Friday the 13th films and their main antagonist, Jason Voorhees. Let me explain:

1. The character’s name is Jason, and he wears a mask throughout the film. These are small details, but they’re what turned me onto this. Jason Wilson wears a Chewbacca mask throughout the film, something never really explained beyond a statement by his sister Zora that he’s socially awkward. In the Friday the 13th films, Jason is famous for wearing a mask, most notably the iconic hockey mask. Additionally, both Jasons have two-syllable surnames, with the first letters of each surname right next to each other in the English alphabet.

Both Jason Wilson and Jason Voorhees wear masks and are named Jason. Is that a coincidence?

Okay, but that’s just a tiny detail. Is there anything else to back it up? Why yes, of course.

2. Their lives are forever changed around water. This is another small detail, but it’s also important. Jason Voorhees “drowned” in Crystal Lake, and afterwards hunted and killed around that lake. It was a turning point in his life, so to speak. In Us, Jason Wilson first meets the Tethered version of his family at his family’s vacation home, which is right on a lake. Later, his family travels to the Santa Cruz beach, where Jason kills his Tethered and is kidnapped by his mother’s double. Both of these events have a profound effect on Jason, psychologically scarring him, and will probably affect his life growing up. Just like Jason Voorhees when he drowned and when his mother was killed.

3. He and his Tethered. Both Jason and his Tethered, Pluto, share aspects of Jason Voorhees’s appearance and personality. Pluto is physically scarred, which is why he wears his mask. Jason W. is socially awkward, which may play into why he wears his mask. In the Friday the 13th films, Jason Voorhees is said to have been born with a condition that deformed his face, and made his interactions with other children difficult to say the least. You can make a connection between his physical and social problems to Jason W’s social issues and Pluto’s physical appearance.

And speaking of Pluto…

4. Pluto’s name. Pluto is the Roman god of the Underworld, and is one of the few beings who can come and go from that realm at will. Pluto from Us comes from an Underworld of his own. And even before Jason V became a supernatural being who could resurrect himself every few years, his relationship to death was tenuous at best, having died or appeared to have died twice before Tommy Jarvis actually gave him what appeared to be a permanent death in the fourth Friday the 13th film.

Speaking of Tommy…

5. How the killer dies. In Friday the 13th Part IV, young Tommy Jarvis shaves his head to make himself appear like Jason V as a boy, allowing him to eventually strike a fatal blow to Jason V. In Us, Jason W uses his connection to Pluto to compel his doppelganger to walk into a burning car, killing him.

6. The mothers. This is the detail that really made me think I had something with this theory. Both Adelaide Wilson and her Tethered Red are especially close with their sons, as we see through their interactions with them. This connection is so deep that, after Pluto is killed, Red takes Jason W into her underworld instead of killing him in revenge. It’s as if she couldn’t bear to lose her son and would accept his above-world counterpart rather than lose him entirely. Adelaide then follows Red into the tunnels to fight her, kill her, and take back her son, who is scarred forever from this event.

In addition, both women are not what they seem. “Adelaide” is revealed to have originally been a Tethered, and “Red” was from the surface world, motivated by revenge to destroy the above world she was taken from. When we first meet Pamela Voorhees in the original Friday the 13th film, we believe she’s an eleventh-hour Samaritan to the surviving counselor, only to be revealed as a crazed killer seeking revenge for her son–her world–who was taken from her.

At the end of Us, Jason W seems to know his mother is a Tethered, and his reactions seem to indicate he’s going to be watching her from now on, even though he loves her. And in the second Friday the 13th film, Jason V is revealed to be alive, having become an adult and starting his own reign of murder and terror. Which begs the question, if he was alive all these years, why didn’t he find his mother? Why didn’t he let her know he was alive? Perhaps did he know his mother was unhinged and decided to stay away from her because he couldn’t trust her?

Tell me Mr. Peele, did I stumble onto something?

 

Ultimately, this may just be me looking too deeply into one aspect of a film and drawing an entire theory from it. I’ve been known to do that before.* And I may be shouting into the wind with this blog post. But even if I’m totally off-base and making connections that weren’t meant to be there, it’s amazing how much is there to back up my crazy theory. And there’s a theory that the anime movie My Neighbor Totoro is a secret retelling of a murder-suicide in the 1960s. It got popular enough that Studio Ghibli came out and denied the theory.** Perhaps I can get enough people to believe in this theory to get a response from Jordan Peele. Anything’s possible.

But what do you think? Think I’m onto something? Am I crazy? Did I miss something that supports or tears down my theory? Let’s discuss.

And while you’re here, I’m still looking for advanced readers for my novel Rose. It’s the story of a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). If you would like to get an advanced electronic copy, please send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. All I ask is that you consider posting a review with your thoughts on or after the release date. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

*I kid you not, I once saw a ballet based on the Oz books, and came up with a whole time travel theory based on its ending scene. My mother said I was crazy. I say it’s the only way outside of a dream sequence the ballet makes sense, and this ballet didn’t treat Oz as a dreamland.

**No kidding, that’s a thing. Here’s an article that looks into the theory. And Studio Ghibli did have to come out and say it’s bogus. Which is only slightly weirder than the theory about Spirited Away that Ghibli did confirm was legit. The more you know.

I wasn’t able to catch Get Out when it was in theaters, and by the time I watched it on DVD, so much time had passed I didn’t feel like writing a post with my thought. To sum up said thoughts, I thought it was a creepy, atmospheric film that openly explored racial attitudes among Americans, though I felt the main character was less a fully realized character and more of a vehicle for the audience to experience the movie through. So when I heard about Us, I was very intrigued. And then I saw that first trailer. And I knew I had to see what Jordan Peele had cooked up this time. Today, my sister and I went for an early showing, eager to see what people were talking about.

To say the least, the film was surreal. Like Peele was channeling Stephen King when he was writing The Dark Half and created a visual twist on the concept. And it works for the most part.

Us follows Adelaide, played by Lupita Nyong’o, a mother and former ballerina who goes up with her husband Gabe, daughter Zora and son Jason to a vacation home that Adelaide stayed at as a kid in 1986, when she experienced a traumatic episode. That night though, they’re attacked by the Tethered, twisted, animalistic doppelgangers of themselves that seek to murder Adelaide and her family. Thus begins a trial for the family to not only survive, but to find out why this is happening to them.

From the get-go, this is a strange and eerie film. It combines storytelling with atmosphere, music (seriously, the part music plays in this film cannot be underestimated), and action in order to create an intense experience. At some points we were so on edge, a woman sneezing a couple rows behind us caused twenty people to jump out of their seats! And that includes me and my sister.

And the amount of symbolism in this film can’t be understated. A lot of details go into this film that are meant to make you examine the imagery and ideas being presented. From actual twins, symmetry and patterns in objects and pictures, the Bible phrase Jeremiah 11:11, rabbits,* and so much more. All to get you thinking on these themes of identity, duality, being an American, socioeconomics, creative expression, and so much more. I won’t go into what it all means–I’m sure there are bloggers and YouTubers who will do a better job of that than I could–but it will leave you thinking for hours after you leave the theater.

I will take a moment just to say that I think the son character is one big reference to the Friday the 13th franchise. This is mainly because his name is Jason and he wears a mask throughout a good portion of the film for some reason, but there’s plenty in the film I could point to that backs that assertion up. I won’t because I don’t want to spoil anything.

If there’s one thing I didn’t care for, it was the humor in film. Not that it was terrible, but after the main plot of the film kicks into gear, I found how much of it there was, most of it coming from family patriarch Gabe (played with plenty of love by Nyong’o’s Black Panther costar Winston Duke) distracting. Like, there’s this one scene where the family is discussing what to do in light of what they’ve experienced, and they make a series of Home Alone jokes! Takes you right out of the tense, creepy mood.

Then again, this is from Jordan Peele, who’s still primarily known as a comedian. Humor should be expected. But at a certain point, I just would like it if was toned down a bit. That may just be my quirk, but it’s how I feel.

All in all though, Us is a true success for Peele. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.6.  Unsettling, trippy, and memorable, Us will stay with you for hours after you see it. I have no doubt that with time, it’ll be seen as one of the best horror films of 2019, and maybe the first great one of 2019 as well. Take a breath, jump in, and see the madness yourself.

 

And while I still have your attention, I’m still looking for eARC readers for my novel Rose, about a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). If you would like to get an advanced copy, all you have to do is send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. I only ask that you consider leaving a review on or after the release date. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you!

*Fun fact: rabbits are capable of a much wider range of beneficial mutations when they reproduce that cousins or even siblings can mate with each other and still produce a healthy and genetically diverse brood. Take that how you will, but I have thoughts on how that plays into the film.

As many of you know and as the below video demonstrates, I’m a huge Friday the 13th fan.

Yes, that was me with my Jason Voorhees hockey mask. Shouldn’t surprise any of you that I have that.

And as many of you know, I HATE the remake that came out nine years ago. Seriously, what was that film? It was like the director and writer started making a porno because they hadn’t gotten any action lately, added a bunch of swearing and dirty humor to hide it as a raunchy comedy, and then added Jason just because they couldn’t get studio support for the comedy. But what do you expect, when Michael Bay is producing?

Obviously, I would like for a better Friday the 13th film to come out. So I was intrigued when a friend told me about Never Hike Alone, a Friday the 13th fan film that has gotten some good press. And with the day off from work (we’re observing Veteran’s Day today), I decided to watch it and see if it was as good as said.*

Holy shit, why haven’t I heard of this before? That was great!

Never Hike Alone follows Kyle McCloud, a vlogger who records his hikes on his GoPro and then uploads it to YouTube. He goes hiking in the Catskills and comes across Camp Crystal Lake, abandoned and dilapidated due to years of neglect. Exploring the ruins of the camp, Kyle expects only to find some pieces of history that have expanded into a famous ghost story. What he ends up finding is that some legends are very grounded in reality. Especially when they involve Camp Crystal Lake.

First off, I love how much this looks like a professional production from a major studio. From the camera work to the buildings around Camp Crystal Lake, it’s so well done. I also thought the storytelling in this film was par excellence. Using a minimalist approach to focus exclusively on Kyle’s experience, it creates this suspenseful cat-and-mouse mood. For the first half of the film, you’re on the edge of your seat, expecting Jason to appear in frame at any moment. When he finally does make a move, the film smoothly transitions to this thrill-fest as Kyle tries to survive Jason. And while there is plenty of violence, it’s never overly sensational or stupid, but just enough to give the necessary scare. There’s also only a little swearing, and absolutely no sexual or drug content, which I was thankful for.

I guess Womp Stomp Films, the studio who produced Never Hike Alone, also took one look at how those elements were misused in the remake, and decided to go the opposite route. Good call.

The only major issue I have was that the last scene, which goes on about seven minutes, could’ve been cut a bit shorter. I mean yeah, there’s a cool little cameo at the end, but other than that I would’ve preferred five minutes of it be cut so that it didn’t drag.

Other than that though, Never Hike Alone is a great tribute to the Friday the 13th franchise and a possible view as to where the series could go in the future. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a well-deserved 4.5. Atmospheric and suspenseful, you’ll find this satisfies you until we get an actual good film from the franchise, should that ever happen.**

If you’re still unsure, take a look at the trailer below before going to check out the full film on YouTube. Trust me, it’s an hour well-spent.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m not sure when I’ll be posting again, but until I do, I wish you all some wonderfully pleasant nightmares.

*I would’ve waited till the next Friday the 13th, but that’s not till September next year, so I’ll have to settle for Monday the 12th.

**And if that ever does happen, with or without Lebron James, I hope they take example from this film on how to make a good Friday the 13th film. And maybe let me help write the new one. I’ve a few ideas on how to bring back my boy Jason, and none of them involves bringing him to Manhattan.

Halloween (2018) poster

This past weekend, the new Halloween movie was released and eager horror fans, including myself, flocked to theaters to see it (see my review of the film here). At the time I’m writing this, the film has made over 103 million bucks, nearly seven times it’s original budget. This definitely counts as a financial success for the film and its producers, and it’s all but certain at this point that a sequel will be greenlit. This has many horror fans speculating on a particular question: is the slasher genre coming back, bigger and badder than ever?

Now in case you stumbled on this post by accident and have no idea what a slasher is, let me explain: slasher, also occasionally known as splatterpunk, is a sub-genre of horror that focuses on violent deaths and gore, as well as the prospect of those occurring, as the source of its terror and tension. Slashers were really big in the 1980s, but declined as the many sequels kept going for more ridiculous kills and even more ridiculous plots. There were some brief flare-ups of good slashers in the late 90s and early 2000s, with films like Scream, Urban Legend and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and remakes of franchises like 2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Rob Zombie’s Halloween, but for the most part it didn’t stick. Recently, slashers have done well in television format with shows like Slasher and Scream (yes, based on the film I mentioned a sentence ago), but Halloween‘s the first in years that’s managed to satisfy this many fans, critics, and bank accounts.

Hollywood can be a very reactive sort of place: anything that’s proven to be even slightly successful will be copied over and over again by movie studios until long after audiences have lost interest. So with Halloween doing so well and sequels definitely being discussed in boardrooms, can we expect more slasher reboots and remakes on the horizon? Which ones? And is this the first of a slasher renaissance similar to their first wave of popularity in the 1980s?

Well, there are actually a few slasher movies being developed right now based on the older franchises. Child’s Play, which first introduced the character of living doll Chucky, is getting both a reboot and a TV series, and A Nightmare on Elm Street has had a new remake in development for a while now. But with the success of Halloween, there’s a chance the studios producing them will give them more attention and funding than they might’ve had without Halloween.

Please bring back Friday the 13th! Jason and I both want to see a comeback for the franchise!

And I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say other series will be getting new films. There has been talk for years of rebooting Friday the 13th with my boy Jason Voorhees. Recently a court case regarding the original film was resolved, and basketball player-turned-actor and producer Lebron James, who is as big of a fan of the franchise as I am, has come forward saying he would like to help produce the film. And while Lebron’s still new to Hollywood, I would welcome his involvement in a new Friday the 13th film. Sometimes it takes the perspective of a fan, especially one who has more power than expressing outrage through a keyboard, to truly give a character or franchise new life.*

And after the crappy 2009 remake, almost anything would be welcome. Seriously, what was with that film? It felt like the filmmakers were making porn, then making a raunchy comedy, and then remembered to put Jason in it! By the time the final third rolled around, I was bored! I’m seriously considering destroying a copy of the film on DVD when its tenth anniversary rolls around, it’s that bad!

But not just Friday the 13th: there’s room for other franchises to get new films. I think a Hellraiser reboot would be great, as the series has devolved into cheap, direct-to-DVD sequels. A proper remake would give the series’ concept the fresh rebirth it needs. Of course, I’d love to see some new Freddy Kreuger, as there’s still so much to do with that character. And I think given our current social/political climate, a director like Jordan Peele could do something great with the character of Candyman.

But there should also be original works, not just remakes and reboots. As you’re reading this, there are plenty of filmmakers out there with fresh ideas for the slasher genre that should be given a chance. Perhaps with the success of Halloween, studios will be willing to give them a chance. Heck, maybe Jason Blum and Blumhouse, one of the companies that produced Halloween, can use this to recruit some female directors to develop some new projects.**

Perhaps we can see all these dudes, and then some, get new films.

And as for if this is the beginning of a slasher renaissance, we’ll just have to wait and see. One film doesn’t indicate a genre’s comeback. Sometimes several films don’t mean a particular genre or sub-genre is going to be the next big thing (*cough* YA dystopia and fantasy films *cough*). It’ll take several successful films, both originals as well as remakes and reboots, before we can really say if the slasher genre is back with a vengeance.

Still, I’m hopeful. I didn’t think until the trailer that anyone could bring Halloween back. Perhaps with the right writers and directors, we could see the return of the genre. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Until then though, we’ll just have to content ourselves with Halloween, the old classics, and this awesome little video (sorry, couldn’t help but post it. Enjoy).

*And if you do end up producing a new Friday the 13th film Mr. James, can I help? I love Jason too, and I’d love to see him given a film worthy of his franchise. Perhaps I can help write the script? I have ideas.

**Sorry Mr. Blum. I love your work, and I even sent a resume to your company after I graduated, but you really put your foot in your mouth with that “lack of female directors” comment. I mean really? One article found 30 female directors who can do horror! Perhaps Halloween‘s success means a chance to start fixing that fiasco and bringing them on board.

Whenever you hear a movie getting a ton of hype, especially a horror movie, you tend to be a bit skeptical. And when you hear that Platinum Dunes, Michael Bay’s production company for horror movies, is involved, you’re even more skeptical. I mean, have you seen Ouija? Or that crappy, way-too-sexual middle finger to a franchise that was the Friday the 13th reboot (I’m sorry, but I’ll never forgive Michael Bay for that film. Did not understand what made Jason Voorhees or the Friday the 13th films great at all).

I’m glad to report that this film was not only very good, but actually scared me a bit. And I credit that to how much its director, John Krasinski, who also starred in the film with his real-life wife Emily Blunt and co-wrote the script (rather than a certain director who thinks explosions, boobs, and unsteady camera movements make good cinema).

A Quiet Place follows a family–a father (Krasinski), a mother (Blunt), their deaf daughter (actually deaf actress Millicent Simmonds), and hearing son (Noah Jupe)–living in the first years of a post-apocalyptic world where a predatory race of creatures that hunt through sound have exterminated most of the human race. The family tries to survive each day without making a sound, speaking only with sign language and going to extreme lengths to muffle or suppress every noise (which makes you very aware of how much noise we make in our everyday lives). Which is getting more and more complicated because the mother is heavily pregnant (you can understand why that might be an issue). The film chronicles one particularly nasty night, when the mother goes into labor, and what happens afterwards.

This film is a great horror film. For one thing, the emphasis on sound in this film, both in terms of the lack of ordinary sounds like speech, electronics, and whatnot, the sounds we do hear, from nature to the monsters’ roars and growls, to the music, help to create this creepy, unearthly atmosphere. This helps in suspenseful moments, where characters have to be very careful not to make a sound or they’ll get killed, as it heightens the terror you feel. Hell, I was afraid to make a sound during those moments, and I was in the audience! Coupled with a some well-timed jump scares, you get a really scary film.

I also really liked the monsters in this film. Even in broad daylight, the monsters aren’t very easy to make out through most of the film, keeping them mysterious and making their deadliness all the scarier. And when we finally do see them, they are still really terrifying to look at, even if they may look like the monsters from a certain popular science-fiction/horror franchise (those who’ve seen the movie know what I’m talking about). And I love how not much about the monsters is revealed in the film. You learn enough to understand how they hunt and why they’ve been so successful in hunting down humanity, but you never really learn where they came from or how they appeared on Earth. And that, like the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise before Prometheus, just makes them all the scarier.

But the best part of this film are the relationships between the family members. With little to no spoken dialogue, you really get to see how this life has been wearing on them, how little mistakes and arguments, along with the constant need for survival, have given each character their own struggles and fears, and how all that creates tensions between them. Seeing them work together, fight, and try to overcome this life is not only enthralling, but contains a great metaphor for the struggles of a family–any family–during difficult times.

That all being said, the lack of sound and action at times does make it hard to stay invested or pay attention to the story. I also thought that the ending could’ve been darker, which would’ve made it a much more memorable and powerful film. At least in my mind.

All in all, I’m giving A Quiet Place a 4.3 out of 5. This is a scary film that will draw you in not just with its premise and atmosphere, but with its intelligence and depth. Take a look and see why silence is truly golden.