365 Film Challenge Part 19: Slashers

It’s the slasher genre’s turn this time around.

Film #76: Friday the 13th

The slasher genre has a big three of franchises- Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street and the series that followed this movie. Of the three, this is the one I’m least familiar with, having only seen Freddy vs Jason and about ten minutes of Jason X (on my list of movies to include on the list, as 10 minutes isn’t enough to count as watched in my book). Bizarrely while the others establish their big bad early doors, and their iconic appearance Jason Voorhees famously isn’t the killer in the first flick, with his mum doing the honours.

It’s standard slasher fare with the vengeful mother bumping off a bunch of teens who happen to work at Camp Crystal Lake, the place her son died in the fifties. She killed two counsellors the following year, as her boy, Jason, drowned because the counsellors meant to watch him had snuck off for a shag. It seems a bit harsh to whack other kids because of this, but that’s slasher movie logic for you.

Early doors for me is that the film moves slowly and is rather poorly done. The first kill is lacklustre, and the second isn’t much better. It’s kinda surprising that this would spawn such a long running and iconic series, because this is extremely poor. It lacks the masterful direction Carpenter showed in Halloween, or the inventive, visually striking fun of Craven’s Nightmare movie. This is just a rather slow and bland affair, notable only really for an early appearance by Kevin Bacon. 5/10.

Film #78: Halloween (2018)

The Halloween series, after an absolute classic opener, would have mixed fortunes as the years rolled by, with half finished subplots, reboots and retcons running wild. John Carpenter, the original director was displeased with the 2007 remake, and returned to the series with this, the 11th film, although it throws out all of the sequels.

Forty years after he came home, Michael Myers is still in a secure psychiatric hospital, having not spoken in all that time. Meanwhile, on the outside, paranoid and traumatised as a result of the events, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a recluse, her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) was taken away from her as a child and their relationship is incredibly strained, and she’s now a borderline alcoholic. A pair of true crime reporters are digging into the case and visit Michael, showing him his old mask, which causes several other patients to freak out and a strange atmosphere, but the man himself doesn’t react at all. They also interview Laurie, who’s happy to see him transferred to a maximum security facility where he will remain for the rest of his life.

Of course, Michael isn’t gonna go down easy and after causing a bus crash he escapes, getting back into his killing groove and heading for Haddonfield and Laurie, who is now tooling up to face the Boogeyman who has cast such a shadow on her life.

The film makes some extremely creepy sequences, including the moment where Michael is shown his mask and the whole yard goes into meltdown while he stands like a statue. They also use a clip of Donald Pleasance’s voice in character as Dr Loomis, which is just magnificent and his calls for termination really ramp up the tension and suspense. And Curtis is phenomenal as an older, emotionally scarred and fragile Laurie.

They also handle Myers extremely well, keeping him as an enigmatic, remorseless force of nature. Loomis’ recording, Laurie and a local deputy who remembers Myers’ original rampage all attempt to explain how dangerous he is, but their words are ignored or dismissed as hyperbole and paranoia. But it’s not long before the bodies start piling up and Laurie has to face her personal demon face-to-face. The final showdown is brutal and scrappy. And it works as a thrilling follow up and conclusion to the story. Of course, this is Halloween, so the story is never really done. 8/10.

Film #80: Trick

A good slasher movie needs to start strong, think Drew Barrymore buying the farm in Scream or the iconic POV opening of Halloween, it’s one of the reasons Friday the 13th felt so flat to me, the initial kill there was super dull. This movie, however, nails the opening. At a Halloween party in 2015 a group of teens play “spin the knife”, all fun and games until one of them, Trick, picks up the knife and goes on an intense five minute spree of vicious hacking and slashing, leaving four dead and a fifth seriously injured before he’s finally overpowered. It’s a frantic, well choreographed opener.

Omar Epps plays Denver, the police detective assigned the case and at the hospital Trick busts out, adding to the death toll before Denver and Sheriff Jayne (Ellen Adair) blast him, causing him to fall out of a window before he falls in a river. No body is found, and looking into Trick they find a lot of unanswered questions, no parents, a fake address, no explanation for why he might have lost it. The case goes cold, and Denver is told to drop it.

A year later at a high school Halloween party in a town downriver six people are killed, and more the following year. Denver is convinced that not only did Trick survive the shooting and the river, but that it is him striking on every occasion. As a result of the weirdness and mystery of the crimes Trick goes viral, with online theories suggesting he is a supernatural force. In 2018 Denver tries to warn two agents that the town they’re in might be the next target, but they are dismissive. Trick strikes, killing both agents and escaping once more.

In 2019, the day before Halloween, with Denver retired and planning to leave town he’s called out by Trick when his name is left in blood at a crime scene. Can Denver finally get answers? Will he finally be able to stop Trick?

I really dug this movie, which is combines traditional slasher tropes with a more mysterious thriller aspect as Denver tries to piece together what’s going on. And the mystery around Trick is well done too, keeping you guessing as to whether he’s just a psycho or if there is something more otherworldly going on. The film does a great job of building the unease and tension, and the final third, where Trick returns for another Halloween is full of suspense and danger.

With everyone running around in masks and a maze, there’s no let up as Denver tries to keep people safe and finally take care of his nemesis. And the final reveal is pretty cool too. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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