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The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…
To present day horror-fans, Cabin In The Woods may seem the pinnacle of Post-Modern horror. It’s certainly good- damn good- presenting on the clichés of the past in a comical and action-packed manner. It’s self knowing but genuine.
To people of my generation, we had a somewhat similar experience with Scream. Thinking about it, some unfortunate generation probably got Scary Movie. Tough break, kids. That was another film that winked to the audience about the familiar trappings of slasher films, whilst still pulling them all off. (Scream even got away with the vastly underrated sequel, which will get it’s own blog soon enough).
There has been a particular rush of excellent Post-Modern horror films in the last few years. Now we live in a ‘youtube’ age where things get recorded, reflected on and meme’d the increase in Post Modernism shouldn’t be a surprise. Sterling efforts in the last decade include Dale & Tuckers Evil, Behind The Mask: the Rise of Leslie Vernon, Feast and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.
Of course neither Cabin nor Scream nor any of the recent efforts are the sole Post-Modern horror films. I am not even going to attempt to pinpoint whichever film could be first said to exactly pull that off. April Fools Day may be a contender. Evil Dead II managed to mock its prequel whilst also developing upon it. Even Peeping Tom studies the idea of watching films whilst being a murderer which went over far too many peoples heads at the time of its release. There are just too many possibilities to pick the ‘first’ Post-Modern horror. But there is one film that was successful enough in its own right, yet it rarely gets the love or respect it deserves. I present now perhaps the most over-looked of the Post-Modern horror film……………….. Jason Lives: Friday 13th Part VI
When Friday 13th is brought up, the thing that comes to mind is Jason Voorhees. An unstoppable zombie in a hockey mask, using a machete to slaughter teens. Well, this was not always the case. The first four films in the series actually tie into each other fairly tightly (at least by Slasher standards). If you can ignore the random ageing of Jason in these entries, there is a clear through line of human killers and human motivations for all the films incidents.
However by the fourth entry, The Final Chapter (yeah, right) the franchise had grown to profitable to let go. So Paramount did what most studios do with profitable horror franchises- they kept the money rolling in whilst distancing themselves from their ‘shameful’ product. In this instance they basically just went ‘Ah screw it’ and had Jason return as a Zombie. There was no build up to this, no explanation of the supernatural into the Camp Crystal lake world. It just happened. Now if this sounds stupid in theory, it is the execution that makes Jason Lives worth re-considering.
Writer/ Director Tom McLoughlin loads the film with all manner of previous horror references, the most obvious being Jason’s resurrection via lightning. Whilst Jason lies in his grave, the man who formerly best Jason, one Tommy Jarvis, digs up Jason and stabs him in the heart with a metal rod- you see, ol’ Tommy sure can hold a grudge. But wouldn’t you know it, along comes a storm, and bam! Pure evil rises again as a modern day (well, 1986) Frankenstein’s Monster whilst his creator bemoans what he has unleashed. Jason’s first time clearly coming back from the dead is done in a way perfectly fitting for horror archetypes, if admittedly incredibly lazily by any other standards.
Remarkably, these nods to the past continue throughout the entire film. Before Scream featured a sweater clad janitor called Fred, or Cabin In The Woods had a message board of killers, Jason Lives featured a grocery store called Karloff’s and a little girl called Nancy who sees a monster in her dreams. But beyond all these sly references, one character even breaks the fourth wall! The local drunk exclaims “Why’d they have to go and dig up Jason?” (looks down camera) “Some folks sure got a strange idea of entertainment.”
What film maker Tom McLoughlin realised was that these films were no longer about an unlucky day before a casual Saturday. They were now all about Jason. So he decided to bring Jason back and just have fun via making a ‘crappy slasher sequel’ that the studio seemed to deem it just that little bit more self-aware. If this isn’t clear in the title- where ‘Jason’ is credited before ‘Friday The 13th’- then it sure is in the actual title sequence.
In possibly my favourite Jason moment ever, the title sequence mocks the famed 007 sequences. Jason enters into a black screen, stops, turns and slashes downwards with a machete. The screen drips down with blood…. clearly McLoughlin knew this film was now a franchise, and consequently logic was out the window so long as all the standard hits were in place- once again like the 007 series. So McLoughlin did his best to bring the series up a level through acknowledging the material’s prior-influences and characteristics.
Now, does any of this make Jason Lives a good film? Well, no. The best Friday film is for my money Part 4. Any film that mixes Corey Feldmen, Crispin Glover and Tom Savini is going to be fun. And Freddy vs Jason gets a nod simply for existing so many years after my child brain craved the concept. And do any of these bold film making choices even make Jason Lives one of the best Post-Modern horror films? Well, once more- no. It is still a bit of a dull slog in places. But I would argue that it is the most overlooked child within the Post-Modern horror discussion. Maybe because, like Jason himself, it is not the prettiest of the ‘slick’ horror films, but it’s still noticed by some people like myself because, like Jason himself, it is a survivor.
The next entry is either going to be a look at of a long lost Kung-Fu flick which features one martial artist who has no legs teaming up with another martial artists who has no arms OR it’s going to be a write-up on why you’re wrong to download films. Yes- you. The one at the back with the eyes.
Thanks for reading,