Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Jason Voorhees is an icon of horror movies, one of the most recognizable movie monsters in history. His popularity has adversely affected the quality of the sequels, as fans have seen Jason kill and kill again hundreds of times, why would they pay to see the same thing over and over again? The solution seems to be to provide a gimmick for each film. In a previous review (but later release), Jason took to the stars for Jason X. Here, Jason’s gimmick is a trip to New York. However, the gimmick is short-lived, as most of the movie takes place just getting to New York. It’s Jason on a boat! A boat full of high school punks just aching to die. Only one homicidal madman can put them in their place! Sadly, Jason on a boat just isn’t gimmicky enough. Most of the movie is “Been there, done that,” with little new to add, even when Jason gets to New York, most of the time is spent not killing New Yorkers but chasing after the teenagers. This movie should have been set up like The Warriors, except in addition to the freaky gangs chasing the Warriors, Jason is chasing them as well. That is the masterpiece that is yet to be created. One day, a visionary will rise from the ranks and produce that opus. Until then, horror films will continue to feed sites like mine with cannon fodder by the truckload.
Wheels of Fire
Mad Max and it’s sequels were a big influence on post-apocalyptic action films. They spawned a long string of imitators, mostly created from low-budget film grinding countries like Italy and the Philippines. Hey, amazingly enough, this very film is a knock-off of Mad Max, and it was made in the Philippines! It’s almost as if I prepared the opening sentences for some sort of reason… Not only is this film a low budget rip-off that is nowhere near as good as the film it is aping, the film has a bonus feature not found in the Mad Max series: It hates women. Brutally. This movie takes women and knocks them around like they were Nazis or something. There is more misogyny in this movie than tea in China. More misogyny than bad films made in the Philippines. Hey, directed by Cirio H. Santiago of The Destroyers and T.N.T. Jackson fame, so it’s got to be….just as sub-par.
It’s the future, all cities are destroyed, and everyone drives around in the desert. What country is this? Maybe it’s Australia, which explained the deserts in Mad Max, but everyone is American, except for the non-main characters, who are all Filipino. So not only did all the cities die off, but the world has become a desert wasteland. This would lead one to wonder where food is coming from, except one is instead distracted from wondering where they get all the gasoline they use for their massive fleets of automobiles. Our hero is a man named Trace, the manliest name in the universe. Mad Trace. I can see it! Wait…I just lost it. Trace doesn’t have the screen presence of Mel Gibson, or even Gary Coleman. Mad Max had the Last of the V-8 Interceptors, while Trace has a late ’70s four-door with some painted plywood on the bumper and a fake Batmobile-style rocket engine on the end.
Two Sci-Fi channel movies in 2004 explored the dangers of Snakehead fish becoming gigantic and devouring people en masse. The first reviewed here was Snakehead Terror, and now we move on the the second entry on the Snakehead Double Feature, Frankenfish. Instead of being normal Snakeheads, these snakeheads are big because of Genetic Engineering, thus giving the Franken- part of the title a double meaning. (Frankenfish is a common nickname for Snakeheads, as they can walk on land for a limited time.) The traditional Sci-Fi channel elements are proudly displayed here as well, though in different amounts as the literal deluge of movies forces them to rotate in and out a few of the elements to make the films less cookie cutter, the results being similar to adding different colored frosting to identical cakes. The better cake is the cake with the prettier outward design. Frankenfish holds up better than the competition, though it is a tight race. At the end, there will be a chart for easy comparisons.
In 2002, Northern Snakeheads were found in the wild in the Washington, DC area, in a pond near Crofton, Maryland. The Snakeheads are a non-native species with no known predators in the area, and are considered an ecological menace because they are pervasive carnivores and would decimate fish populations. Snakehead fish are not only predators that eat almost anything, but they can survive outside of water for up to a few days. The original hysteria died down after the lake was poisoned and drain, but the snakeheads have been popping up again more recently. This film plays off of the fears of the original, and turns it into the classic “Monsters Attack!” plotline familiar to Sci-Fi channel movies, as well as Science Fiction movies for the past 80 years. In fact, there are two(!) Snakehead movies running around on Sci-Fi channel, Snakehead Terror is joined by Frankenfish, which we’ll be going over next. (This film was the first part of the double feature) As can be imagined, there are many similarities between these two films. They both share properties with the tried and true formulas of the monster attacks movies, which most, if not all, of the movies produced cheaply by Sci-Fi channel give us again and again.
In an actual neat-looking opening, news stories and newspaper clippings of the snakehead in the lake are glossed over, giving us a crash course background of information, or a refresher for those of us familiar. Then we cut to TWO YEARS LATER. A hunter and his dog (who I think is named Hunter) are in the Maryland forest, when Hunter comes across a mutilated bear. The dog Hunter sees the tail of a fish flopping away, and gives chase into the nearby lake. Old Hunter Guy (later named Ray Wilkins) follows, but he’s too old to keep up. Hunter the dog enters the lake, and is quickly chomped by something in the water. “BOOOO!!!” for the dog death! Hunter Ray Wilkins catches up to what’s left of his dog, and he’s soon chowed down upon as well.
Larry Clark’s perv-tastic remake of the MST3K fodder original Teenage Caveman does what would be once thought impossible: Makes the original look better. Sure, it’s almost a given that remakes are inferior, but in this case the original was made in what seems like three hours, filming people wandering around a park. This one had a budget that would get you more than a used car, yet it still falls apart. Larry Clark is not known for making science fiction, or horror, or even anything that isn’t depressing films based on teenage kids swearing, doing drugs, and having sex. Why he became the natural choice for Teenage Caveman must be simply no one else was available. Instantly, the movie becomes a Larry Clark-type movie. The teenagers leave and instead of slowly getting killed off by dinosaurs or similar monster, they meet some modern kids in an abandoned city, and start up some sex, drugs, and rock and roll.