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Friday the 13th (2009) (DVD / Blu-ray)

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Friday the 13th (2009) on DVD and Blu-ray (Click here for larger image)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 —

Friday the 13th (2009) on DVD and Blu-ray (Click here for larger image)“We are finishing up on the Unrated DVD this week …”

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.

Friday the 13th (2009) on DVD and Blu-ray (Click here for larger image)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.

Friday the 13th (2009) on DVD and Blu-ray (Click here for larger image)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!

Special Features

  • Bonus digital copy (Blu-ray only)
  • Warner Bros. BD Live Enabled (Blu-ray only)
  • Terror Trivia Track (Blu-ray only)
  • Two cuts of the film (Blu-ray only)
  • Hacking Back/Slashing Forward featurette (Blu-ray only)
  • The Seven Best Kills featurette (Blu-ray only)
  • The Rebirth of Jason Voorhees featurette
  • Additional Slashed Scenes

    Film:

    2 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    3 1/2 out of 5

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    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility

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    Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita

    Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita


    The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.

    The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.

    The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.

    From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.

    The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.

    Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.

    The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.

    • Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
    2.0

    Summary

    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.

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    Satan’s Cheerleaders Blu-ray Review – Sacrifice This Snoozer At The Altar!

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    Starring Jack Kruschen, John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo, Jacqueline Cole

    Directed by Greydon Clark

    Distributed by VCI


    The ‘70s. Satanism. Sultry cheerleaders. Sex appeal. With these tools nearly any low-budget filmmaker should be able to turn out something that is, at the very least, entertaining. The last thing a viewer expects when tuning in to a film called Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977) is to be bored to tears. But that is exactly the reaction I had while watching director Greydon Clark’s wannabe cult comedy. Even on a visual level this film can’t be saved, and it was shot by Dean Cundey! No, unfortunately there isn’t a cinematic element in the world that can overcome a roster of bad actors and a storyline so poorly constructed it plays like it was written on the day. The only saving grace, minor as it may be, is the casting of John Ireland as Sheriff B.L. Bubb (cute), a hard-nosed shitkicker who adds all the gravitas he can muster. But a watchable feature cannot be built upon the back of a single co-star, as every grueling minute of Satan’s Cheerleaders proves.

    The cheerleaders and jocks of Benedict High School rule the campus, doing what they want, when they want, with little else on their minds except for The Big Game. Their belittling attitudes rub school janitor (and stuttering dimwit) Billy (Jack Kruschen) the wrong way. What they don’t know is Billy is (somehow) the head of a local Satanic cult, and he plans to place a curse on the clothes (really) of the cheerleaders so they… suck at cheerleading? Maybe they’ll somehow cause the jocks to lose the big game? When Billy isn’t busy plotting his cursed plans, he spies on the girls in the locker room via a hidden grate in the wall. I guess he doesn’t think being a sexual “prevert” is fair trade enough; might as well damn them all, too. Billy has his own plans to kidnap the girls, for his Lord and Master Satan, and he succeeds with ease when the girls’ van breaks down on the highway; he simply offers them a ride and they all pile in. But when Ms. Johnson (Jacqueline Cole) gets hip to his plan the two tussle in the front seat and Billy winds up having a heart attack.

    The squad runs off in search of help, coming across the office of Sheriff B.L. Bubb (John Ireland), who, as the name implies, may be a legit Satanist. Bubb invites the girls inside, where they meet his wife, Emmy (Yvonne De Carlo), High Priestess of their quaint little satanic chapter. While the girls get acquainted with Emmy, Bubb runs off to find Billy, who isn’t actually dead. Wait, scratch that, Bubb just killed him for… some reason. The girls figure out things aren’t so rosy here at the Bubb estate, so they hatch an escape plan and most make it to the forest. The few that are left behind just kinda hang out for the rest of the film. Very little of substance happens, and the pacing moves from “glacial” to “permafrost”, before a semi-psychedelic ending arrives way too late.

    “Haphazard” is one of many damning terms I can think of when trying to make sense of this film. The poster says the film is “Funnier Than The Omen… Scarier Than Silent Movie” which, objectively, is a true statement, though this film couldn’t hope to be in the same league as any of the sequels to The Omen (1976) let alone the original. It is a terminal bore. Every attempt at humor is aimed at the lowest common denominator – and even those jokes miss by a wide berth. True horror doesn’t even exist in this universe. The best I can say is some of the sequences where Satan is supposedly present utilize a trippy color-filled psychedelic shooting style, but it isn’t anything novel enough to warrant a recommendation. Hell, it only happens, like, twice anyway. The rest of the film is spent listening to these simple-minded sideline sirens chirp away, dulling the enthusiasm of viewers with every word.

    A twist ending that isn’t much of a twist at all is the final groan for this lukewarm love letter to Lucifer. None of the actors seem like they know what the hell to be doing, and who can blame them with material like this? I had hoped for some sort of fun romp with pompoms and pentagram, like Jack Hill’s Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) for the Satanic set, but Clark provides little more than workmanlike direction; even Cundey’s cinematography is nothing to want on a resume.

    Viewers have the option of watching either a “Restored” or “Original Transfer” version of the 1.78:1 1080p picture. Honestly, I didn’t find a ton of difference between the two, though the edge likely goes to the restored version since the title implies work has been done to make it look better. Colors are accurate but a little bland, and definition just never rises above slightly average. Film grain starts off heavy but manages to smooth out later on. Very little about the picture is emblematic of HD but given the roots this is probably the best it could ever hope to look.

    Audio comes in the form of an English LPCM 2.0 track. The soundtrack sounds like it was lifted from a porno, while other tracks are clearly library music. Dialogue never has any obvious issues and sounds clear throughout. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

    There are two audio commentary tracks; one, with director Greydon Clark; two, with David De Cocteau and David Del Valle.

    A photo gallery, with images in HD, is also included.

    Special Features:

    • Audio commentary with director Greydon Clark
    • Audio commentary with filmmakers David De Cocteau & David Del Valle
    • Photo gallery
    • Satan's Cheerleaders
    • Special Features
    1.3

    Summary

    Although the title is enough to reel in curious viewers, the reality is “Satan’s Cheerleaders” are a defunct bunch with little spirit and no excitement. The ’70s produced plenty of classic satanic cinema and this definitely ain’t it.

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    A Demon Within Review – Familiar Possession Beats To A Dreary Tune

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    Starring Charlene Amoia, Clint Hummel, Patricia Ashley, Michael Ehlers

    Directed by Ayush Banker and Justin LaReau


    Possession flicks don’t often hold a long shelf life in the horror community, with Ayush Banker and Justin LaReau’s A Demon Within suggesting why. Hands emerging from the darkness, exorcisms, anxious priests – you’ll see it all again as you’ve seen it before. Early scenes glimmer a polish unlike equal indie products, but that’s just the devil playing tricks on you. Once the film’s main satanic takeover begins, cursing teens and stony glares become the been-here-before norm. Low-budget filmmaking isn’t an immediate detractor like some high-society snobs may believe, yet it’s surely no excuse either. Today’s review being an example of both mindsets.

    Charlene Amoia stars as Julia Larsen, a divorcee who moves into Crestwick, Illinois looking for a clean start with daughter Charlotte (Patricia Ashley). Their dusty toucher-upper is a quaint, aged farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, complete with electrical issues and weird noises at night. Nothing to worry about, right? Julia’s focus is better directed towards town doctor Jeremy Miller (Clint Hummel), who she immediately hits it off with (after almost hitting *him* with a car). She’s eating stir-fry at his place one night, all things going well, and that’s when it happens – Charlotte is possessed by an evil force who enacts its sinister plan. Charlotte may physically be present, but only as a vessel for “Nefas.”

    Without hesitation, A Demon Within lays predictable groundwork as small-town haunters have for decades. Charlotte’s new home is already infested with a spiritual squatter, Jeremy bottles (and drinks down) a blemished past that’s exposed too late, there’s plenty of characters sneakin’ up on one another – never with much “oomph.” Charlotte’s teeny-bopper voice drops to truck-driver deep at the height of possession, but it’s a distracting sound design that alone strikes little fear. Serious scares are attempted, be it a pitch-black basement slashing or Charlotte’s hide-and-seek pounce, just never delivered. An inconsequential failure to unite tone and atmosphere.

    Performances are…well…rigid, to say the least. Amoia and Ashley strike a surprisingly likable chemistry as living humans, but once Ashley goes demonic, chemistry bottoms out. The way A Demon Within positions Charlotte when possessed is utterly dull and undefined; Ashley playing an unenthusiastic harbinger of death. It’s bad enough that Hummel’s tortured doctor masters the emotional range of Mona Lisa and the town’s pastor is hardly a scene stealer – but to have a demon be so vanilla (without a side of nuts, no less)? Getting past the limited lighting and Charlotte’s manly demon voice is hard enough, let alone her mostly relenting threats.

    Making matters worse, the film’s third act is hardly a religious salvation that flows with ease. I had more fun watching Julia stammer over pizza and beers with Jeremy than their final fight against ghastly hellspawns. The truths of Jeremy’s past leak out in flashback form, only to reveal his stubborn inability to comprehend one’s own possession encounter in the very house Julia bought (useful information, eh?). The local priest shows up in the nick of time, a few cutaway jolts attempt cheap thrills, and some holy water mucks up an old painting – but again, minimal notability. Er…not even minimal? Shaky last-minute framing makes it hard to even notice the touch-ups to Charlotte’s face that signify her unholy imprisonment, even worse than blackened CGI mists.

    A Demon Within tries, fumbles, and tries some more, but it’s best treated as a reminder of better exorcism stories that exist elsewhere. Even something like The Vatican Tapes is an improvement over this possessive redundancy, hokier than the honky-tonk love song that plays atop a pizza-chain flirt scene. There’s something to be said about getting out and creating original horror, but herein lies the problem – this ain’t *that* original. With harsher scares and tension, such a fate could be ignored. As-is? It’s hard to see past anything more than a January release placeholder.

    • A Demon Within
    2.0

    Summary

    A Demon Within is a seen-it-before possession thriller that brings nothing new to the conversation. Not the worst, but also not a “hidden secret.”

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