Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Jared Padalecki, Amanda Righetti, Derek Mears, Danielle Panabaker
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Distributed by New Line Home Entertainment
Those of you out there who are familiar with me know exactly how I feel about Platinum Dunes’ remake of Friday the 13th. It infuriates me, but not because it’s bad. Truth be told, it’s not a horrible movie; it just never feels like a Friday the 13th flick. Take a listen to the F13 Dinner for Fiends episode for an in-depth spite-laden discussion of what went wrong.
A week or so after the film was released in theatres, Platinum Dunes producer Brad Fuller wrote this on the official Platinum Dunes Blog:
“We are finishing up on the Unrated DVD this week. That DVD will rock! We have a different cut of movie, that not only has more violence and sex, but it has an additional storyline that is totally different from the movie you will see in theaters. Its not like we just cut a few things differently, the DVD version will feel like a different movie.”
Fans everywhere, myself included, were intrigued. When the product came in for review, I went immediately to my home theatre system to drink it in. Could it be? Would this new “Killer Cut” fix at least some of the problems that existed in its theatrical cousin, and more importantly, would the difference in the cut really be that drastic?
Allow me to be the first to call bullshit. It’s mostly hyperbole. Let me dissect —
The “Killer Cut”, which clocks in at 106 minutes (the theatrical cut was 97 minutes), is still rated R. Curious.
“We have a different cut of movie, that not only has more violence and sex, but it has an additional storyline that is totally different from the movie you will see in theaters. Its not like we just cut a few things differently, the DVD version will feel like a different movie.”
First the good. In terms of sex, yes, there’s more to be found here. Fans who drooled over the chicks in theatres will be happy to know that even more “perfect nipple placement” makes it in, as well as some additional blood spillage and longer looks at some of the film’s kills. It should be mentioned that said kills are still pretty uninspired, but at least they’re a bit, and let me stress the word “bit”, gorier.
Now the bad. The additional storyline. If you don’t want any spoilers, skip this paragraph. We get one scene broken up into two parts: At one point when Jason comes home to his lair, he has another flashback of his mom being beheaded and proceeds to throw a hissy-fit by throwing stuff around. Once he storms away, his captive (since when does Jason take hostages?) Whitney (Amanda Righetti) escapes by picking her lock. From there is a cool little moment as she falls into the room in which Jason stockpiles his corpses and immediately flees for her life, only to have Jason grab her at the point of freedom to chain her back up. That’s it. How in the world this scene can constitute a bold statement like, “the DVD version will feel like a different movie” is beyond me.
In fact, these changes aren’t even close to drastic. I’m sorry, Mr. Fuller, but you did “just cut a few things differently”. Nothing more. Still, I’ll give them this … this cut, if only for the few more seconds of sex and violence, plays better and is a bit more of a fulfilling experience than what we got in theatres.
Yet, in the end, these additions do nothing more than put a band-aid on a gushing wound. The film still has its problems. Instead of faux grit, Nispel gives us blue lens flares by the dozen. The music is miscued. The “captive” storyline is senseless and completely out of character. The kills are too basic … I can go on forever.
Here’s all that had to happen: Kids show up. Kids die. Roll credits. That’s it. It’s really that simple, and how this formula got screwed up is a complete and utter mystery. The Friday the 13th remake is over-produced, over-shot, over-thought, and not over soon enough. But its biggest sin? It’s just not fun, and that’s something that every Friday film, for all of their missteps and misfires, homo-erotic shaving bits and imposters, were.
The only really good thing I can say about it is that Derek Mears was amazing as Jason. He was the only one who seemed genuinely concerned with making a good Friday the 13th movie. It’s a shame he didn’t get more to work with. I pray that in the future he’ll return to the role with a director at the helm who actually understands the series. We shall see.
Now let’s talk supplemental features, shall we? DVD owners? You’re out of luck. All the really good stuff is on the Blu-ray, which I’ll get to in a second. Standard def fans will have two short things to sift through, an eleven-minute examination of what it took to ready the masked one for a new audience entitled The Rebirth of Jason Voorhees, and a few deleted scenes that include the original way Jason got his hockey mask, which was way better than what we got in the theatrical version, and the original way Jason was dispatched, which was pretty pitiful. That’s it.
The Blu-ray has those bits, both in HD, and more. First the extraneous stuff. Included with the Blu are both the “Killer” and theatrical cuts of the film, a standard def digital copy, and Warners’ version of BD-Live, which allows you access to exclusive downloads, etc. Good stuff. From there we get a pop-up Terror Trivia track, which allows viewers to test their knowledge of the franchise as well as dig on some behind-the-scenes footage, all while the movie is playing. Nice. Next up we get the Hacking Back/Slashing Forward featurette, which explores how the cast and crew of this latest entry feel about the Friday franchise in general. This was actually pretty cool because it conjures lots of nostalgia. “Where were you the first time you saw …” type stuff. Lord knows we all have those stories. And finally, we get The Seven Best Kills featurette. Not of the franchise, mind you — just the Platinum Dunes remake. Really what this is, is just an account of how some of the film’s key F/X sequences were pulled off, but it’s presented in probably one of the most masturbatory “Look what a great job that we did” ways imaginable. I’m still kind of taken aback. Whatever.
It should also be mentioned that the Blu-ray looks and sounds amazingly better than its DVD cousin. One thing is for sure, in 1080p, the film looks absolutely jaw-dropping. Rarely do I find myself saying wow, but in this case? WOW!
And there you have it, folks. The bottom line — Friday the 13th 2009 is at its heart a mediocre slasher film that just happens to have Jason in it. If you’re cool with that, you’ll probably love this, but for us faithful extreme Jason fanatics? Our best days with Big J are either behind us or have yet to come. A Part 2 is inevitable, and I, like many, am still keeping my fingers crossed. Please, Platinum Dunes, give us what we want — imaginative kills, gore-a-plenty, and bring back Mears!
2 1/2 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5
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Desolation Review: Campers + Lunatic = Simplicity, But Not Always a Better Product
Starring Jaimi Page, Alyshia Ochse, Toby Nichols
Directed by Sam Patton
I’m usually all in when it comes to a psycho in the woods flick, but there was just something about Sam Patton’s Desolation that seemed a bit distant for me…distance…desolation – I’m sure there’s a connection in there somewhere. Either that or I’m suffering from a minor case of sleep-deprivation. Either way, make sure you’ve got your backpack stuffed, cause we’re hitting the timber-lands for this one.
The film focuses on mother and son tandem Abby and Sam, and the tragic notion that Abby’s love and father to her son, has passed away. The absence has been a crippling one, and Abby’s idea of closure is to take her adolescent offspring to the woods where her husband used to love to run and scatter his ashes as a memorial tribute. Abby invites her best friend Jenn along as emotional support, and together all three are planning on making this trip a fitting and dedicatory experience…until the mystery man shows up. Looking like a member of the Ted Kaczynski clan (The Unabomber himself), this creepy fellow seems content to simply watch the threesome, and when he ultimately decides to close the distance, it’ll be a jaunt in the forest that this close-knit group will never forget.
So there you have it – doesn’t beg a long, descriptive, bled-out dissertation – Patton tosses all of his cards on the table in plain view for the audience to scan at their leisure. While the tension is palpable at times, it’s the equivalent of watching someone stumble towards the edge of a cliff, and NEVER tumble over…for a long time – you literally watch them do the drunken two-step near the lip for what seems like an eternity. What I’m getting at is that the movie has the bells and whistles to give white-knucklers something to get amped about, yet it never all seems to come into complete focus, or allow itself to spread out in such a way that you can feel satisfied after the credits roll. If I may harp on the performance-aspect for a few, it basically broke down this way for me: both Abby and Jenn’s characters were well-displayed, making you feel as if you really were watching long-time besties at play. Sam’s character was a bit tough to swallow, as he was the sadder-than-sad kid due to his father’s absence, but JEEZ this kid was a friggin malcontented little jerk – all I can say is “role well-played, young man.”
As we get to our leading transient, kook, outsider – whatever you want to call him: he simply shaved down into a hum-drum personality – no sizzle here, folks. Truly a disappointment for someone who was hoping for an enigmatic nutbag to terrorize our not-so-merry band of backpackers – oh well, Santa isn’t always listening, I guess. Simplicity has its place and time when displaying the picture-perfect lunatic, and before everyone gets a wild hair across their ass because of what I’m saying, all this is was the wish to have THIS PARTICULAR psycho be a bit more colorful – I can still appreciate face-biters like Hannibal Lecter and those of the restrained lunacy set. Overall, Desolation is one of those films that had all the pieces meticulously set in place, like a house of cards…until that drunk friend stumbled into the table, sending everything crumbling down. A one-timer if you can’t find anything else readily available to watch.
Looking for a little direction way out in the woods? Look elsewhere, because this guide doesn’t have a whole lot to offer.
Children of the Fall Review – This Israeli Slasher Gets Political
Starring Noa Maiman, Aki Avni, Yafit Shalev, Iftach Ophir, Michael Ironside
Directed by Eitan Gafny
Reviewed out of Utopia 2017
Slashers are a subgenre of horror that are often looked down upon. After all, what can a movie about a killer slaughtering multiple people have to say about, well…anything. Those of us in the community know full well that this is nonsense and that any kind of horror movie can be a jabbing (no pun intended) commentary on society, culture, politics, art, etc… And that’s precisely what Eitan Gafny aims to do with Children of the Fall, one of the few Israeli slashers ever created.
Set on the eve of the Yom Kippur war, the film follows Rachel (Maiman), a young American woman who comes to Israel to join a kibbutz after suffering some serious personal tragedies. Her goal to make aliyah (the return of Jews to Israel) is however hampered by some rather unpleasant encounters with local IDF soldiers and members of the kibbutz. Pushing through, she makes friends with others in the commune and her Zionistic views are only strengthened, although they do not go untested. Once Yom Kippur, one of the holiest holidays in Jewish culture, begins, a killer begins picking off the kibbutz workers one by one in violent and gruesome ways.
Let’s start with what Children of the Fall gets right, okay? As slashers go, it’s actually quite beautiful. There are wonderfully expansive shots that make use of the size and diversity of the kibbutz. The film opens with a beautiful shot of a cow stable, barn, water towers, and miscellaneous outbuildings, all set against a dark and stormy night. The lighting of this scene, and throughout the film, is also very good. I found myself darting my eyes across the screen multiple times throughout the film thinking I’d seen something lurking in the shadows.
The kills, while unoriginal, are very satisfying. Each death is meaty, bloody, and doesn’t feel rushed. In fact, the camera has no problems lingering during each kill, allowing us to appreciate the practical FX and copious amounts of blood used. And if you believe that a slasher needs to have nudity, you won’t be disappointed.
The acting is middle of the road. Maiman is serviceable as Rachel but the real star of the film is Aki Avni as “Yaron”. His range of emotion is fantastic, from warm and welcoming to Rachel when she arrives to emoting grief and pain during his Yom Kippur announcement where we learn that he was a child in a concentration camp. The rest of the cast are perfectly acceptable as fodder for the killer.
So where does Children of the Fall stray? Let’s start with the most obvious part: the runtime. Clocking in at nearly two hours, that’s about 30 minutes too much. The film could easily have gone through some hefty editing without affecting the final product. Instead, we have a movie that feels elongated when unnecessary.
Additionally, the societal and political commentary is very in-your-face but the film can’t seem to make up its mind as to what it’s trying to get across. Natalia, a Belarussian kibbutz worker, raises the concept of Israeli racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, her hostility unabashedly pouring out in the midst of IDF soldiers, locals, other kibbutz members, and more. Is there validity to what she’s saying? Undoubtedly. But there is also validity to Rachel’s retorts, which include calling this woman out on her own vitriolic views. This back-and-forth mentality frustratingly prevails throughout the film, as though Gafny was unwilling to just commit.
The dialogue is also quite painful at times, although I attribute this to difficulties with translating from Hebrew to English. Even the best English speakers in Israel don’t get everything perfect and the little quirks here and there, while charming, are quite detracting. Also, why is this movie trying to tell me that Robert Smith of The Cure is a character here? While amusing, it makes absolutely no sense nor does it fit in Smith’s own timeline.
Had this film gone through a couple rounds of editing, I feel like we’d have gotten something really great. Eitan Gafny is definitely someone that we need to be watching very closely.
While Children of the Fall has a lot going for it, it has just as much working against it. Overly long, you’ll get a really great slasher that is bogged down by uneven social and political commentary.
Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club Review – A Charming, Quirky Dark Drama
Starring Keren Mor, Yiftach Klein, Hana Laslo, Ania Bukstein
Directed by Guilhad Emilio Schenker
Reviewed out of Utopia 2017
One of the great joys I have in being a horror fan is seeing horror films from around the world. I view these films as a chance to learn about the fears, folklore, mythology, and lore of varied cultures. Films like Inugami, Frontier(s), [REC], and the like transport me across oceans and into places I might never get the chance to visit otherwise. Hence my interest in the Israeli dark drama Madam Yankeolva’s Fine Literature Club, the feature debut of director Guilhad Emilio Schenker.
The film follows Sophie (Mor), a member of a strange, female-only reading club – who believes that love is a lie – that we soon realize brings men into its midst only to have them killed. The woman who brings the most fitting man is awarded a trophy for her fine taste. When a member reaches 100 trophies, they get to enter a coveted and highly esteemed upper echelon of the reading club’s society, one that includes lavish surroundings and an almost regal lifestyle. Sophie starts the film earning her 99th trophy but her plans towards the all-important 100th trophy are thrown askew when she ends up developing feelings for her latest victim. She must now decide if the mission that has been so dear to her for so many years is something she wishes to see through or if she’s ready to take a huge risk and fall in love.
Now, if this seems like a strange story for a horror website, I don’t disagree. Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is certainly not your traditional horror film. In fact, I’d liken it far more to the more playful works of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The City of Lost Children than something more grotesque and violent. It’s very playful and quite charming, although there are times when the presentation feels amateurish and certain moments when things become wildly unbelievable. That being said, the film aims to be a dark fairy tale come to life, so a healthy amount of “I’m okay letting that go” will not go unappreciated.
The film is shot in such a way that it’s very soft around the edges, almost like we’re constantly in a dream. This is aided by composer Tal Yardeni’s score, which obviously takes inspiration from Danny Elfman, playfully weaving its way through each scene.
While there’s a lot to love about Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club, it’s certainly not a flawless film. As mentioned previously, there are times when it feels quite amateurish, as though no one thought to look at how a scene is being filmed and say, “People, this isn’t how things would go down. We can have fun but this just doesn’t sit right.” Additionally, the story moves very quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of love at first sight. But that’s not how this story plays out, so the wildly strong feelings that develop between Sophie and Yosef (Klein) seem strangely out of place.
All things being what they are, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a charming film that can definitely appeal to horror fans if they’re willing to stretch their boundaries to include films that have absolutely no scares or gore but imply quite a horrific situation.
Charming, quirky, but not without its faults, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a dark drama for fans of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Don’t go in expecting any scares or gore. Rather, anticipate a fairy tale that might be just a bit too gruesome in tone for young children.
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