31 Days of Knife: One, Two, Freddy’s Comin’ For You

I’m going to make some people very happy – I’m going to praise Wes Craven for a moment. I ripped the guy pretty mercilessly when I looked at Last House on The Left. I stand by that rebuke because I don’t think Craven has the stomach for making a great exploitation movie, i.e. one that really challenges its audience’s sense of decency. I also believe he’s a film maker who is better at capturing specific moments of horror with clarity and acuity, but that generally his narrative chops are weak.

Interestingly, I think of the three big filmmakers we looked at from the exploitation era of the 70’s – Craven, Hooper, and Carpenter – Craven is stylistically the weakest of the bunch, yet both Hooper and Carpenter’s careers fizzled in the late 80’s. In contrast, Craven’s career has gone through highs and lows but it presents an interesting case study – Craven has been present at the birth of the Slasher film (Last House), the end of the Slasher film (Nightmare on Elm Street), and the re-birth of the Slasher film (Scream).

Now, you may be asking yourself, “How was ‘Nightmare’ the end of the Slasher film?”

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31 Days of Knife: The Best There is At What He Does

Marcus Nispel gets a lot of shit for his 2003 Texas Chain Saw remake, some of it coming from your’s truly. That film really failed to capture what made Tobe Hooper’s film such a successful exercise in terror. Nispel relied on a washed-out color palette and abrasive textures to do most of the heavy lifting in that film, never quite getting that what made the original film click was its raw, unrepentant tone of almost documentary realism. In other words, the 2003 TCM was too much sizzle and not enough steak.

Having said that, I’m here to tell you that Nispel’s 2009 Friday the 13th remake is a certifiable success in just about every way. Is it as fun as Friday the 13th The Final Chapter? Nope. Is it as weird as Friday the 13th Part II? No siree. It is, however, a pretty effective re-invigoration of an otherwise dopey franchise using the exact same tricks that made the Texas Chain Saw remake such a disappointment.

It all boils down to the strength (or, in this case, lack thereof) of the source material.

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31 Days of Knife: He wasn’t a very good swimmer

Pamela Voorhees: Did you know a young boy drowned the year before those two others were killed? The counselors weren’t paying any attention… They were making love while that young boy drowned. His name was Jason.

Netflix had the Friday the 13th series streaming for the month of September and I thought it might be fun to catch up with a series that made up a big chunk of my teenage cable viewing habits.

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31 Days of Knife: See anything you like?

LOOMIS: Just try to understand what we’re dealing with here. Don’t underestimate it.

MARION: I think we should refer to ‘it’ as ‘him.’

LOOMIS: If you say so.

MARION: Your compassion is overwhelming, Doctor.

Sometimes you’re just too close.

In the past 22 years, I’ve seen John Carpenter’s Halloween more times than I can count. I have a great memory of seeing it at the theater with John Carpenter himself sitting near-by. It’s a ridiculously effective film, and sometimes I take for granted all the myriad elements that make it such a rewarding movie for me because every scene is so ingrained in my headspace.

I have Rob Zombie to thank for giving me some much needed perspective.

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31 Days of Knife: The Bogeyman

Halloween was always designed as an exploitation movie, a Drive-In movie. A movie that’s going to show about a week or so and be gone.” – John Carpenter

Halloween’s simplicity is both its greatest strength as well as the thing that has made it so ripe for imitation. At the center of the film is Michael Myers, a figure that has gone on to become what I consider the first true horror icon since the Creature from The Black Lagoon, and certainly the first iconic slasher.

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