All posts by Landon Evanson

Joe Bob Broke Shudder, but Not Our Hearts

If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all suffered through dry spells. Droughts of the romantic variety, which led to withdrawals and yearning, and eventually to copious amounts of K-Y, and inevitably, blister cream. We’ve all been there. Then one night everything falls into place and you hop back on that horse affectionately known as tonsil hockey and your brain can’t handle the overload. “This is amazing! Why did we wait this long?! Let’s never do that again!” as you engage in “the sign of the double-humped sperm whale.”

And make no mistake, that’s exactly what happened this past weekend. We all got some after a hiatus that bordered on abusive.

Yes, it was the one-of-a-kind charm of Joe Bob’s twang that had our hearts aflutter, but more than that, it was the communal experience knowing that we were all watching at the same time. The closest we come to that anymore (beyond live tweets) is AMC’s FearFest, but if we’re honest about that, it’s lost a bit of its luster what with those Walking Dead marathons that eat up large chunks of our beloved October tradition, leaving many of us unsatisfied.

Sure, we had the internet when MonsterVision played out on television screens every Saturday night across America and beyond back in the day, but social media wasn’t a thing quite yet, so we couldn’t really share those experiences in real time.

Then Shudder swooped in to cure the horror community of its collective blue balls.

And it was glorious.

JBBMy Twitter feed was littered with Joe Bob Briggs and The Last Drive-In. All anyone could talk about was how long they’d been up, how much they’d missed this, shared laughs and memories, complete with quoting Joe Bob’s latest “Did ya hear the one about…” Not gonna lie, I shared at least three of them, myself.

But it extended beyond social media. It was an event, and how many of those do we really have in the horror community? Yes, there are movie premieres and Twitter explodes whenever shows like American Horror Story air new episodes, but it’s rare for all of us to be all-in on one thing at exactly the same time.

We’d been counting the days since April, were sure to have our Joe Bob tees clean, fridge and pantry stocked with snacks, and our favorite koozies prepped for maximum consumption of brew. I giddily left work on Friday afternoon to pick up a mess of wings and a 12-pack of Grain Belt (only because Lone Star wasn’t available here) and sped to my buddy’s place with one eye on the clock. Two hours early. We pulled up Phantasm IV: Oblivion and added our own running track. “Fuckin’ Reggie, man. Poor bastard can never seal the deal.” My pal’s wife yelped her way through the Tall Man’s extraction of the silver sphere from Mike’s skull, and we all wore shit-eating grins during Reg-Man’s ice cream commando (kinda sorta) montage. And the hour hadn’t even struck 8 (I live in the Central time zone).

All the more smile-inducing because I knew full well, we weren’t the only ones pregaming.

Even the technical issues that prevented many of us from seeing The Last Drive-In from the beginning became a shared experience. Sure, some bitched and complained and harassed Shudder, but the vast majority knew that the Netflix of Horror would make it right and we’d get our Joe Bob fix. And again if we’re honest, it was a lot of fun to see GIFs of cats hammering away at the keys of a laptop or Andre the Giant in the ring trying his best to hold off a rabid crowd, or @richpatine’s tweet that pleaded “Joe Bob broke Shudder! Add 1 crashed app to the drive-in total please!”

We were all-in, and we were all-in together.

Scrolling through message after message of childhoods relived and resurfaced memories was magical.

TealEventually, though, the sun set on Saturday night. Pieces came to a close and Briggs offered his farewell. Tweets of excitement and laughter turned somber at the realization that this was the end, that we would never experience a night like this again, because no one can ever fill Joe Bob’s shoes. A fact we know far too well.

Yes, there were some tears, but more than anything, we were flooded with messages of gratitude and love. For as long as we’d all held onto our memories of MonsterVision from years before, came the knowledge that it paled when held to the neon glow of The Last Drive-In. This would be a night, a marathon, a borderline religious experience that we would never forget.

While the Drive-In Jedi’s send-off touched on the fact that his “goofy little show” was intended to offer laughter and an appreciation of forgotten films, he also mentioned that it was aimed at the “weirdos” and “misfits” who felt “left out” of the mainstream. Briggs went on to say that he hadn’t realized how many of us were out there until the past few years, which was ironic because Shudder discovered that the hard way when us drive-in junkies feenin’ for Joe Bob obliterated their server.

For all the stories and the rants and the laughs and the memories, that is what I’ll take away from The Last Drive-In – the sheer number of Joe Bob disciples who had suffered and waited. The fact that we broke Shudder is not a testament to the number of horror fiends out there, or that we just had to get one more dose of drive-in totals, but that Joe Bob Briggs means that goddamn much to us. It was a communal experience, yes, but that stemmed from the myriad personal connections that we have to someone who was either directly responsible for or augmented our love of horror cinema.

It wasn’t the kills or the gore that were difficult to watch, but rather those last moments as one-by-one, the lights turned out, and Joe Bob sat in his recliner, hat in hand, as the credits rolled, and a sad guitar took us to that final fade.

The last thing Mr. Briggs said was “I have a Dwight Yoakam hat.” Comforting in a way, because even if this truly was the end for Joe Bob, we won’t find ourselves a thousand miles from nowhere, we will carry Shudder’s magical romp in our hearts forever. Because the drive-in, and our love for Joe Bob, will never die.

Hat

 

Why The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a Transcendent Slasher

Look, we can talk about a clever mockumentary, the smile-inducing horror references, Kane Hodder’s cameo, Robert Englund as Dr. Loomis by way of the Overlook Hotel, humorous lines like scaring the “pooooop” out of someone, or that Leslie Vernon’s mannerisms and mask were truly unsettling, but that would be missing the greater point of Behind the Mask.

What set this film apart was its depth, which extended beyond Nathan Baesel’s indisputably brilliant performance, the palpably conflicted emotion of Angela Goethals, or authenticity that forever accompanies Scott Wilson. Three scenes ventured into territory that elevated The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) to a stratosphere that few slasher films have ever reached.

Within that horror subgenre, audiences adore atmosphere and kills and humor, but few delve into the humanity of a character. That is truly rare. Sure, it’s happened before, we can’t disregard the depth of character and performance provided by Heather Langenkamp in A Nightmare on Elm Street or Neve Campbell in Scream, or the fact that we are likely to be served a heaping helping of it come October when Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as Laurie Strode in Halloween (2018). However, the script pieced together by Scott Glosserman (who also directed) and David J. Stieve, coupled with Baesel’s performance, created a true masterpiece.

Three scenes separate Behind the Mask from the field, but they have nothing to do with kills or gore or one-liners printed on tee shirts, and everything to do with writing, acting and cinematography.

giphyTo begin, we all recognize those moments when we fall in love with a picture. Sometimes it occurs to us as we’re watching, others as we later reflect upon what we’d just witnessed, but the common denominator is one scene where we completely succumb to what is being presented on-screen. For this writer and this film, dinner at Eugene (Wilson) and Jamie’s (Bridgett Newton) fulfilled that romantic moment, simply because of its subtlety and camera work.

This was not a typical get-to-know the characters scene where we are overwhelmed with dialogue intended to convey the notion that “these guys are edgy and cool,” there was no grand monologue about a hidden world we were unaware existed, but rather a gathering of friends, old and new, that felt real – it was believable. Eugene was sharing his thoughts on the way things used to be in the game of creating an evil counterbalance to the world’s good as he chopped carrots for the meal to come. As he went on, he got lost in his thoughts, and past work began to come back to him as he knifed the vegetables with a ferocity that left Taylor Gentry (Goethals) uncomfortable, before he finally slammed the blade into the cutting board that resulted in a yelp from the student filmmaker. Jaron Presant (director of photography) made the decision to film Goethals’ reaction in a close-up of her left profile to showcase how Taylor was now completely immersed in this world, and it was all happening so fast that she couldn’t process it. What made the scene, though, was Baesel’s reaction over her right shoulder. What began as a smirk, turned to a hand over his mouth to stifle laughter, and finally to a glance at Eugene before he covered his eyes because even he thought — this was too much, too soon — and Taylor wasn’t prepared for what she’d just seen because she had yet to grasp the concept of why Leslie and Eugene did what they did.

It wasn’t overt, Glosserman’s direction and Presant’s angle didn’t force feed the audience, they just presented it for what it was, then quickly moved on. It’s rare for a scene to work so well in the slasher genre, to feel so authentic, as though a hidden camera were in the room and we laid eyes on an intimate moment never intended to be seen. And it worked. We felt the fear and the humor, and connected to the humanity of Leslie and Tay.

Which brings us to the most pivotal scene of the film, outside the diner after Taylor had attempted to speak to Leslie’s intended target despite his explicit instruction that Kelly (Kate Miner) was off limits to her documentary.

BTM RenoLeaning against the crew’s van, Leslie asked “You wanna just pretend that we’ve already had the conversation we’re about to have?” Taylor was only able to respond “Leslie” before Vernon grabbed and pulled her alongside the vehicle to ask that she not ruin his life’s work. Presant’s utilization of hand-held cameras, from behind the pair and within the van, communicates Leslie’s instability at this betrayal, as Taylor challenges him not only about Doc Halloran (Englund), but who Vernon really is, before the man who to that point had seemed a bit awkward and giddy turned in a moment. Until that turn, Taylor (and the audience) knew that Leslie was a slasher, but because of his goofy, yet likable persona, didn’t comprehend how dangerous he really was. When Tay brought Reno, Nevada into the equation, however, we discovered first hand that Vernon was not to be trifled with, and in a heartbeat he’d pinned Taylor against the van by the throat. Presant’s cameras once again closed in, highlighting the terror and tears in Taylor’s eyes, and Leslie’s intensity. Hesitating to collect his thoughts, Vernon shared that he would tell her everything that she needed to know, and never broke eye contact as he opened the van door and asked her to please get inside.

The best actors speak with their eyes, and Baesel is next level in that regard. At a glance, one feels his euphoria and confusion and thought process, and in this case, seething anger. Baesel thinks before he speaks, lending authenticity to every line reading, because they feel as though they just came to him before he opened his mouth. In a moment, Leslie Vernon was no longer the quirky guy who wanted to be something that he didn’t appear capable of, transformed into a cold-blooded killer whose mood could turn on a dime.

Immediately after this scene was filmed, Englund took Baesel aside and told him that he reminded him of a young Anthony Perkins, which immediately conjured thoughts of something Langenkamp shared in an interview with this writer years ago. She had mentioned that Englund seemed to be all-knowing, completely in tune with everything around him – literature, music, restaurants, cinema – an assertion cemented with his Perkins sentiment, because that observation was as spot-on as it gets.

BTM That LookFinally, before the events transpired to bring Behind the Mask to a close, Leslie and Taylor shared a calm before the storm moment that Vernon described as his “Christmas.” With the absence of music or sound of any kind, Leslie admitted “I’m so happy.” This was the truest peek behind the curtain at what made a killer tick, as he laid bare his soul, hyper-focused on where he was in his life at that precise moment. Vernon was not just a man who was good at his job, but felt fortunate to be doing it, and broke down at the realization that not everyone was so lucky in life. It’s a moment that we can all relate to, particularly when we share it with someone to whom we have a profound connection, as Leslie did to Taylor. And refusing to break with the theme of the film, Taylor wanted to comfort Vernon, but didn’t make it so far as to put her hand on his shoulder, or hug him, or hold his hand. Despite her affection for Vernon, she still didn’t fully comprehend who he was. That her character stayed true is what made the scene work – even in the happiest moment of his life – Leslie was essentially alone.

And the beauty of the scene was again about the collaboration of Glosserman and Baesel, who had been wandering the grounds in preparation for said scene, which had originally been intended to be lighthearted and funny, featuring the gleeful, excited Vernon we’d seen so much of throughout the film. However, Baesel had come to the realization that he was incredibly happy to be making a feature film that he believed in, doing work that he loved, and it was own feeling of good fortune that led him to the conclusion that Leslie would be having the same epiphany, and that perhaps that emotion would play better. Glosserman agreed to go for it, and Baesel’s talent, and the movie, soar because of it.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is all the things previously stated – it’s clever and funny and gave us a truly worthy slasher villain – but it is so much more than that. The collective talents of Baesel, Glosserman, Goethals, Presant and Stieve produced a transcendent slasher that offered far more than kills and laughs, gifting the world of horror with a beauty and depth of humanity that translated to one shared emotion, love.

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INTERVIEW-FU: Grab Your Tall Boys, Joe Bob Briggs Dishes on “THE LAST DRIVE-IN”

The devoted and demented believers of the drive-in oath have patiently awaited the triumphant return of Joe Bob Briggs since the cancellation of MonsterVision nearly twenty years ago, and thanks to Shudder, that patience is about to be rewarded.

The Drive-In Jedi is set for one last gig as television horror host when Shudder live streams The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs on July 13.

Before life comes to a screeching halt for that 24-hour marathon complete with blood, breasts and beasts, drive-in totals and, of course, the new mail girl, Nightmare Nostalgia had the opportunity to conduct an email interview with the man himself to discuss memorable guests, Briggs’ thoughts on “post-horror,” and the selection process for the big night.

And Joe Bob had us laughing before we even got to the first question, noting “First of all, Landon, I appreciate your doing this, even though being featured in Nightmare Nostalgia makes me a Retro Guy. Retro Guy is one step away from Lifetime Achievement Award, which is the last thing that happens before you go to that Vincent Price crematorium in East L.A..

The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs will live stream on Friday, July 13 at 9 p.m. EST, only on Shudder.

Last Drive-In logoNIGHTMARE NOSTALGIA: Not unlike fans hounding Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell for more Evil Dead (which resulted in three seasons of Ash vs. Evil Dead), your followers had been clamoring for your triumphant return to television since MonsterVision came to an end at TNT. How did this 24-hour marathon come to pass, and why Shudder?

JOE BOB BRIGGS: Many clamor, but few have the key to an executive washroom at a TV network. Many producers, some of them quite mighty, have come to me over the years and proposed a new show, but it’s difficult to get people in television to repeat the past. After all, the show got canceled, there must have been a reason—or so goes the reasoning. (In my case the cancellation was caused by a re-branding of the network.) At any rate, one of those producers was Matt Manjourides, a Troma veteran who is also producing the final film of George Romero, and he approached me in the fall of 2017 and asked if he could promote a MonsterVision reboot to Shudder. I said yes, of course, as I always do, and promptly forgot about it. Then a Shudder executive showed up in New York, met us for lunch, and we were off and running with various ideas of how to do it. We eventually hit on the marathon idea, since fans of MonsterVision were accustomed to a long, unstructured show that kind of ran forever. (At TNT we had no restrictions on length or time, we just had to be finished by 6 a.m.) Hence The Last Drive-In, 24 hours, 13 movies on Friday the 13th, and actually it’s likely to run anywhere between 26 and 28 hours because I talk too much.

NN: Tell us about the selection process for the films. And can you tease any of the titles as appetizer?

JBB: Shudder has a library of about 600 titles, some of which are licensed for long periods, some not so long, and so the first pass through that library was made by myself and Austin Jennings, a South Carolina guy whose normal job is heading up post-production at MTV but he was hired by Matt to direct the marathon. Austin is eminently qualified as a) a pop culture maven, and b) an expert on MonsterVision. (He remembers things I did that I don’t remember doing.) I just marked all the titles that were either intriguing to me or the ones that had personal stories attached to them. (After all these years, I’ve met just about everyone.) Then we tried to make it a mix of classics, cult films, so-bad-they’re-goodies, etc. For example, Tourist Trap is an extremely odd supernatural slasher from 1979 that I’m very fond of, and I thought we could make an attempt to upgrade the film’s reputation. I will be talking about how star Chuck Connors’ plan to become “the modern Boris Karloff” didn’t work out, how director David Schmoeller’s innovative supernatural effects were the inspiration for the later “Puppetmaster” series, and how the performance of Tanya Roberts was completely eclipsed by less famous actresses. But mostly I’ll be talking about how it never should have flopped in the first place. Basket Case has always been one of my favorites, but I’ve never really told the story of how I helped save it from oblivion by sponsoring a world drive-in premiere in Dallas, an event that led to a lifelong friendship with Frank Henenlotter, the Greenwich Village mastermind horror director who calls himself –correctly– “a strange little man.” So the selection process was a combination of the personal and the curatorial, if I can be allowed to use that extremely fashionable but overused word.

NN: You haven’t enjoyed the luxury of unfettered “blood, breasts and beasts” since the days of Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater at The Movie Channel, so how excited are you that there won’t be any “edited for cable” restrictions for the films you’ll be presenting for Shudder?

JBB: Well, fortunately we’ve moved beyond the era of heavy-handed editing of horror films. I’m more worried about the breasts than the blood or the beasts. There seems a ridiculously heightened fear of nudity—especially female nudity—among  programmers, executives, anyone involved with television or streaming, and that’s a regression in a direction I could never have predicted. In a world where they’ve eliminated the bikinis in the Miss America pageant, nekkid bodies are considered “lewd” and gratuitous. We’re just three years away from the 400th anniversary of Plymouth Rock, and yes, the Puritans have never left us.

PiperNN: Over the years, you had special guests stop by to chat about pictures that you were presenting – Tom Savini, Roddy Piper, Linda Blair, and a particularly memorable conversation with Brad Dourif – so, aside from guests’ fear of filming-as-live, give us an exchange that, whether it shocked you or cracked you up, you just didn’t see coming. And who might drop by this coming Friday the 13th? Because we know it won’t be Ted Turner. 

JBB: Landon, you gotta go easy on me, that was an extremely complicated question and I’m a Retro Guy. By the way, that interview was not with Brad Dourif, it was with Chucky the Doll. But the most memorable interview, I would have to say, was Sally Kirkland, dressed in lingerie, and the two of us were in bed together—you may remember we had a bedroom in my set, and for this interview we were partially under the covers so you couldn’t see exactly how nekkid we were. And in the course of the interview Sally said something about sleeping with Moammar Quaddafi, but I wasn’t quite sure what she had said, so it was one of the rare times we stopped filming and I went back to her and said, “Sally, did you just say you had sex with the Libyan dictator?” And she never did quite answer the question but talked about doing her part for world peace. I was never sure with Sally because she tends to talk in these greats waterfalls of verbiage, run-on sentences that can end up confusing you. Gary Busey was another one. He forced me to stick my fingers into the giant dent in his skull so he could convince me that his motorcycle accident had altered his brain. And he was, of course, correct. As to the upcoming marathon, we programmed Sleepaway Camp so that I could bring on Felissa Rose, because I wanted to ask her some basic questions about gender confusion in that movie that, believe it or not, I don’t think have ever been properly addressed.

NN: You once shared frustration with critics who talk about dramas and thrillers with “horror elements,” and wondered why a horror movie couldn’t simply be a horror movie without qualifiers, so it’s clearly not a new issue, but with some suggesting that films like IT (2017), Get Out (2017), Hereditary and (2018) aren’t horror, however, we’re seeing it more and more. In fact, the term “post-horror” continues to surface, so why do you feel so many mainstream critics are so reluctant to offer a tip of the cap to the genre when executed exceptionally well?

JBB: I’m not exactly sure when academic jargon and elitist attitudes started taking over the field of horror criticism, but I hate it. I got a copy of a book on I Spit On Your Grave published by Columbia University Fucking Press. I have nothing against Carol Clover’s Men, Women and Chainsaws, published all those years ago. Carol is a Berkeley professor, which is about as elitist academic as you can get, but she was the first to explain how the transgender killer in slasher films allows the adolescent male to identify with a female heroine, and that single insight has helped to defend these movies against censorship. You mention Get Out. I loved it, but there was a completely ridiculous cover story in the New York Times Magazine essentially calling it the Citizen Kane of our times, and I was just “Really? You’re gonna ruin this one for us, too?” Thank god an out-and-out monster movie won the Academy Award this year, and Guillermo del Toro is not ashamed of calling it that. There’s no such thing as post-horror, just good horror and bad horror.

NN: Not to beat a dead horse about mainstream media, but the past few years have also found critics focusing on social commentary within the genre. Some proclaim such commentary has brought a depth to horror films that, to their thinking, hasn’t been there before. One need look no further than Frankenstein (1931) or George Romero’s Dead films or Saw VI (health insurance) and The Purge franchise of the recent past for societal analysis, so why does it appear acceptable that mainstream critics lack historical knowledge of horror?

JBB: Well, you’ve answered your own question. I would use another example. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was the first true counter-culture film, about the youth of America facing the darkness of the entrenched grown-up way of doing things. Leatherface vs. Sally, and neither of them win, they’re condemned to eternal strife. Without social context horror has no meaning at all, and so it’s kind of weird that they separate out the subtext and dredge it up to the surface and essentially disembowel the film when they talk about it. And after a hundred years they’re just discovering that—gasp!—Mary Shelley was a girl? Yawn.

Briggs podiumNN: You’re not shy about presenting your political viewpoints in your columns, and I have no intention of splitting our readers into red or blue allegiance right now, but I am very curious to gauge your thoughts on how you believe those in our nation can actually begin to converse and view one another as countrymen and women once again?

JBB: I grew up in Texas and Arkansas, but mostly in Arkansas, and whenever I would go home to visit, I would always run into slackers from my youth who had benighted opinions because they’d never traveled anywhere, and so I would say, “Cletis, you really have to go to Europe once in your life, or just go to New York or Chicago or something—you need to meet a few Yankees.” And then we’ve had this complete reversal in my lifetime, because Cletis is no longer the problem. The problem now is that both coasts have no clue about why their fellow Americans became dissatisfied. So today I would say, you people on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and you people in West Hollywood need to get your asses out to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and educate yourselves about the rest of the country. We can’t go on like this, too much hatred on both sides, and the reason I’m called “controversial” is that I often write about issues as a moderate—the guy in the middle—and everybody hates the guy in the middle. One way we can start loving each other is to start calling ourselves Americans again instead of giving ourselves narrow labels like conservative, progressive, black, white, Hispanic, gay, pro-life, whatever, like we’re constantly saying to one another, “Okay, here’s what I am, what the fuck are you?” We’re all Americans. Stop sending me those polls about my race, age, gender, whatever. Stop labeling.

NN: All right, that’s enough of the serious questions. Your glee could be felt through the screen when you presented The Legend of Boggy Creek, which has always left us wondering, of all the films you presented for MonsterVision, how many were you thrilled to talk about, and how many were a struggle to keep interesting?

JBB: The only films I ever had a problem with were the cynical ones, films that seemed to be made by guys who had a contempt for exploitation. The hollowness at their core—just a bunch of kill scenes strung together—make them no fun for anybody. But a film can be totally inept and yet be made with passion, an example being The Howling 7, the movie that killed the Howling franchise but then became a minor cult hit when we kept rerunning it.

NN: Walk us through the process of your host script for a single movie. Did you watch it before writing anything or simply go off of memory from having seen and reviewed it in the past? From start to finish, how much time did it take for you to have a script that was ready to shoot?

JBB: I always rewatch the movie, no matter how many times I’ve seen it, and of course I need the commercial-interruption time codes to know at which points I’ll be talking. It’s a little bit more fluid process than what you’re describing here. I might spend a day and a half deciding exactly what I want to say—I do a lot of background research, and in some cases I know the filmmakers so I have information from them—and then what I end up with is an outline that I can depart from as the situation arises. So two days per movie, but of course I’m doing other things during those two days. I also try to be loose enough to go totally off topic if that’s what will be the most entertaining option. We’re really getting into the weeds here. One reason I hate writers’ conferences is that a) writers are boring, and b) writers talking about writing is boring even to writers.

Briggs pumpkinNN: You once noted that Donald Pleasence made the Halloween movies work, so despite the absence of Dr. Loomis, there’s no way we can have this conversation without us picking your brain to get your impressions of Blumhouse’s return to Haddonfield, due October 19.

JBB: As you probably know, I don’t get too excited about remakes, sequels, or, in this case, a 40-years-later “reimagining.” I would assume that Loomis is dead and that there’s a new quasi-Loomis, but I don’t know anything about it except that there were three—count ‘em—three writers, so I have to assume it’s complicated.

NN: We know you have laughs in store for us, but dare we hope you eclipse your evisceration of the absurdity of Orca (1977)? Just a reminder of what I’m referring to, quoting you: Richard Harris then gets out his harpoon gun, misfires, wounds the female killer whale instead of the male, hauls it up on the ship, witnesses a whale miscarriage, then washes the dead fetus overboard like a heartless abortionist, causing mommy and daddy Orca to both roar like wounded jaguars. Daddy Orca is so mad that he jumps up and eats Keenan Wynn, then gives Richard Harris the big killer whale evil eye before he swims away, signaling ‘I’ll be back,’ with his bloody, wounded fin. Does that about sum it up? Wouldn’t want to exaggerate or anything.

JBB: Wow, you’re really dredging up the classics, aren’t you? And all this time I thought I would spend the rest of my life without ever having to think about Orca again.

NN: Finally, you busted out the Mountain Dew and Starbucks energy drinks for the Halloween dusk-till-dawn Friday the 13th marathon at TNT back in the day, so we have to know, will this Shudder marathon be highly caffeinated, or can we expect your coozie to contain Old Milwaukee Tall Boys?

JBB: We’re going with Lone Star for the full span. We’re sticking to the classics, on screen and off.

From Shudder’s press release for The Last Drive-in with Joe Bob Briggs:

Characterized by an outrageous worldview and trademark “Drive-in Totals” lists, Joe Bob’s film critiques amassed a loyal fanbase through his long-running TV series Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater and, later, MonsterVision. For 14 years between the two shows, Joe Bob was the ultimate fan, a voice of authority with an unconventional, affable approach. Ahead of his time then, Joe Bob is now a legendary voice within the horror community, and THE LAST DRIVE-IN WITH JOE BOB BRIGGS reminds audiences of the host’s singular perspective on the genre.

THE LAST DRIVE-IN WITH JOE BOB BRIGGS is packed with 13 films curated to suit Joe Bob’s signature brand of color commentary. The following is a sneak peek of what’s in store for horror fans during Shudder’s exclusive programming event, with the rest of the line-up to be announced in the coming weeks:

  • Tourist Trap (July 13) Five friends are hunted by a creepy killer after stopping to visit a roadside museum in this slasher that counts Stephen King as one of its biggest fans. After car trouble, the doomed group goes to visit an odd attraction filled with eerie mannequins that seem to be alive. Tourist Trap is an off-kilter thriller that will have you rethinking any stops on your next road trip.

 

  • Sleepaway Camp (July 13) Angela Baker, a traumatized and very shy young girl, is sent to summer camp with her cousin. Shortly after her arrival, campers and counselors meet their ends in a series of grisly murders. This bloody “who done it” features a shock ending that stands the test of time.

 

  • Basket Case (July 14) In a tale of revenge with a demented twist, a young man and his basket-bound, hideously deformed twin brother seek vengeance on the doctors who separated them against their will.

“Joe Bob is a horror icon and raconteur whose signature wit and insightful commentary entertained viewers for 14 years on TV,” said Craig Engler, general manager of Shudder. “We’re delighted to bring him back for this exclusive Shudder event where new fans can discover him, and old fans can rediscover him, as he takes on some of the greatest low-budget horror movies ever made.”

Shudder members will be encouraged join the conversation with Shudder’s Twitter account @Shudder during the marathon, which will include special guests, surprises, and prizes for participation.

Other initiatives centered around THE LAST DRIVE-IN WITH JOE BOB BRIGGS include an upcoming Reddit AMA on July 10th, as well as screenings hosted by Joe Bob at the Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn, NY on July 11th and the Alamo Drafthouse in Dallas, TX on July 12th.

START YOUR FREE 7-DAY TRIAL AT Shudder.com.

Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/YouTube: @shudder

 

 

Can I Borrow Your Imagination?

“Then you really might know what it’s like,

Then you really might know what it’s like,

Then you really might know what it’s like to have to lose.”

We first met the equally gifted and cursed Will Graham in Thomas Harris’ 1981 novel, Red Dragon, the best-seller that also introduced us to Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Outside of our imaginations, however, it would be almost five years before we would see the purposeful-looking profiler in flesh and blood on screen in Michael Mann’s Manhunter (1986), and another 16 before his last theatrical appearance in Red Dragon (2002).

From the novel, and subsequent films, we understood Graham to possess the uncomfortable and unwelcome talent of pure empathy, an ability to assume the point of view of brutal killers. While it was an ability that allowed him to translate evidence in a way that others simply could not, Harris’ words informed us of the toll it took on Graham, but it was a phenomenon that we’d never truly witnessed on-screen.

Until Bryan Fuller resurrected the Lecter universe with NBC’s groundbreaking Hannibal series in 2013.

Do you see?

After more than thirty-one years, two films and a novel, we were finally given the opportunity to truly observe Will Graham for the first time through the brilliant vehicle that is Hugh Dancy.

Prior to the opening scene of the program’s initial episode, we’d only been offered glimpses of what Graham could conjure through his unique imagination. Be it with William Petersen talking himself through the thought process in Manhunter, or the briefest of visions presented through the lens of Edward Norton’s reluctant voyeur, we never truly delved into Will Graham’s mind.

Hannibal set about changing that, and while this writer will be the first to say that Mads Mikkelsen’s Lecter is the finest portrayal of the cannibalistic caretaker, the reason that the television series soared for 39 episodes was the presentation of Will Graham.

As Damian Swift and Mark Shannon were the first to achieve the feat of penning Jason Voorhees (Derek Mears) as not only human, but human being with Friday the 13th (2009), Fuller and company allowed a similar peek behind the curtain. Graham was no longer an edgy, hesitant hero with hundreds of thousands of miles on his engine, but for the first time, the price of Graham’s gift was put on full display.

Dancy’s exhibition of Graham was closer to self-diagnosed Asperger’s and autism than a jaded veteran detective. Interaction was not just difficult, but strained and stressful. Not once was there an I-told-you-so revelation that altered the approach to a case, but rather a sad, reserved interpretation of “the ugliest thoughts in the world.”

The beauty of Hannibal, and of Dancy’s portrayal, was another line from Everlast’s “What it’s Like,” – “God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes” — a lyric that applied not only to Graham, allowing himself into the headspace of a psychopath, but to the audience that embarked on that same journey through Graham’s eyes.

tumblr_inline_ohuslmj6nP1s38ndg_500And Fuller’s Hannibal wasted no time in communicating that we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

That first view found Graham analyzing the surroundings of a crime scene, then rewinding to the very moment he’d summoned the courage to kick the door in and experience the heinous thoughts, actions and sentiments of the perpetrator.

Graham entered the home with confidence, and upon putting down Mr. Marlow (Wayne Downer), emphatically declared “He will die watching me take what is his away from him. This is my design.” Next, he shot Mrs. Marlow (Bernadette Couture) “expertly through the neck,” paralyzing her before she hit the floor, setting up the first true indication that this was not the Will Graham we’d thought we known over the course of three decades.

Graham slowly walked toward the downed victim and said “which doesn’t mean that she can’t feel pain,” his eyes searching for the words, Dancy whispered a tormented “It just means,” before continuing “she can’t do anything about it.”

The empathy of Graham not only allowed him to adopt unwanted points of view, he also empathized with the victim, and the awful thoughts and visions running through his mind.

Graham would go on to point out that the work Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) had recruited him to do was “not good for (him),” as we laid eyes upon the incredibly expensive emotional, psychological and physical tax of Graham’s imagination.

Hannibal’s Will Graham was not a damaged, yet contented family man who didn’t want to look anymore, he was unstable and fractured long before he stepped foot inside the Marlow home. A fragile tea cup whose crevices were sure to weaken every time he opened his eyes. Or closed them.

And it was Dancy who made each new fissure at once agonizing and exquisite, in a beautiful turn that if we’re honest about it, is the very reason fans continue to clamor for a fourth season, almost three years after Hannibal was taken off the air.

Because of Hugh Dancy, there is still a desire, dare I say a need, to borrow Will Graham’s imagination.

Memories Won’t Fade even as Ash vs Evil Dead Says Goodbye

After nearly forty years, we’re sad to say goodbye to a franchise that has given us three films and thirty television episodes. That heartbreak has less to do with Ash Williams, and everything to do with our memories of watching The King ham it up.

Those memories are different for everyone. It could be where you were when you first laid eyes on The Evil Dead, or the people with whom you watched Army of Darkness, or or perhaps the way the splatstick of Ash vs Evil Dead helped you put your troubles on the back burner, if only for 30 minutes. It goes without saying that memories are a very personal thing, but make no mistake, the reason Bruce Campbell and the Evil Dead universe resonate so deeply with fans comes down to individual circumstance.

For me, it was the routine of waking on Sunday mornings after a night of shenanigans and grabbing my phone to pull up the latest chapter of AVED. It’s been my way for three years now, and I’d be lying if I said I weren’t going to miss the hell out of it. To be honest, though, I must admit that it’s been the interactions I’ve blessed to experience with cast members that endeared me most to Ash vs Evil Dead. Hell, I almost set Ted Raimi up on a blind date, but I’ll get to that.

I’m not even going to discuss the interview I scored with the King two days before the Season 2 finale (though it took two years to land, and I was never so nervous in my life), because in a matter of seconds before our discussion came to a close, Campbell provided a gift that can never be repaid.

CampbellSince entering the arena of horror writing, one relationship has towered above all others, and that is my friendship with the owner and operator of Nightmare Nostalgia, Patti Pauley. Many times she’d mentioned that Bruce Campbell was her son’s hero, and I always told her that should I get the opportunity to speak with the man who was Ash, I’d see about getting a personal message for her boy. So when the time came, I asked Campbell if he’d be good enough to share a few words, and he didn’t disappoint.

While the message itself was vintage Bruce — short and not-so sweet — her delight when I told her that he’d agreed to say something had me grinning from ear-to-ear. However, it wasn’t until later that night that I realized that she’d not only shared that message with her son when he got home from school, but on Facebook as well. I watched as her child gasped and faux-fainted when he discovered that a message from Bruce Campbell existed that was for his ears only. Thinking about it now makes me giddy beyond belief, because it’s a moment that doesn’t belong to the masses, but the three of us, to be cherished forever.

Like the conversation I had with Dana DeLorenzo in my kitchen.

It wasn’t that she’d no doubt done innumerable interviews with other outlets, or that she found it funny that I’d been involved with the “Thanks for talkin’” conference call months earlier, but my discovery that she was every bit as charming and hilarious off screen as she was fierce as Kelly Maxwell on. DeLorenzo shared that she couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that she was doing a Q&A with a popular horror outlet in the same room where she’d played with Barbies as a child, before offering exquisite teaser after exquisite teaser.

DeLorenzoI won’t lie, it was a fantastic discussion, but while the thought never crossed my mind that I was “in” with her (and still don’t), it led to a shot in the dark that I’m glad I took. About a week into Women in Horror Month 2017, it dawned on me that securing a true horror heroine to wrap the month would be fantastic, and the first person who came to mind was Ms. DeLorenzo. So I messaged her to ask if she’d be interested in penning a piece for HorrorGeekLife about her experiences in the genre, with zero expectation. To my surprise, she agreed, and shared a beautifully poignant and inclusive piece that left HGL’s editor in tears. Till my last breath, I will never believe that she said yes, but if you ever want to know how incredible Dana DeLorenzo is, look no further than that act of generosity.

Which brings us to her partner in crime, the powerful vagina himself, Ray Santiago.

With a telephone conversation during or prior to each season, Santiago is the only Ghostbeater whom I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with more than once. After Baal sliced and diced Jefe’s right-hand man near the end of Season 2, I chatted with Santiago and wasn’t entirely convinced that we’d seen the last of Pablo, and felt compelled to say that if it was the end, I spoke for Evil Dead fans everywhere in thanking him for the franchise’s finest character not named Ash, and a job well done.

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To my shock, Santiago was touched by the sentiment, stammering through “Dude, you literally just made me…that makes my day.” The thought of that exchange still makes me smile, to say nothing of the shit-eating smirk that appeared on my mug after Kelly and Pablo finally locked lips during the current season which led to my tweet “Can we just agree that Kelly and Pablo are the Jim & Pam of horror?” Santiago responded with a message that was short, but much sweeter than Campbell’s – “Love you for saying this!”

Just because I’ve written for a couple of newspapers doesn’t mean I don’t have occasion to geek out from time-to-time.

Like the summer of ’16, for instance.

When I found out that Mr. Raimi had joined the cast for Season 2 (long before any of us realized that he’d reprise his role as Henrietta, or that Chet housed a monumental secret for three decades), I made it a goal to score the genre legend. Having delighted in his responses and ridiculous, infectious laugh for half an hour, the moment arrived for me to tell him that a colleague of mine at iHorror, Waylon Jordan, wanted me to inform Raimi that he loved Ted in a “totally non-weird way.”

Once again, Raimi cackled, and sans hesitation, shot back “Well, you tell him back that I love him in a completely weird way. Like, I’m just in love with him, and I would very much like his phone number.”

RaimiMy “alright” was met with more laughter and “Tell him if he’s ever available for dates, I’m a great date. And I promise not to be too grabby on the first one.” I cannot begin to describe my elation at sending that clip to a friend.

But that’s what it’s all about.

Look, if you’re still reading this, then you love the Evil Dead universe and probably have similar experiences that you hold dear. And that’s the reason none of us are ready to say goodbye and that this franchise has life almost forty years after it began.

Yes, the films are fantastic fun, but it’s not just about watching and re-watching those movies or the series, but of the times you spent with family and friends as you took it all in, or interactions you’ve had with Campbell or Raimi or DeLorenzo or Santiago at conventions or chance encounters on the street.

More than a scene or a kill or a one-liner, those are the moments that stay with you. We’ll always have three seasons of Ash vs Evil Dead (and, of course, the features), but I will carry the memories that I’ve collected over three years and thirty episodes for the rest of my life.

So I will savor Ash vs Evil Dead’s conclusion with a smile on my face, and maybe even shed a tear or ten.

For irreplaceable memories, both on screen and off, I offer a heartfelt thank you to the cast and crew of the best show on television.

To the Ghostbeaters.

Ghostbeaters 2

Happy Birthday, Crazy Ralph!

Never has an actor done less and been universally adored. While many (properly) laud Anthony Hopkins and Doug Bradley for the icons they fashioned in little screen time as Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Pinhead, respectively, they were featured players compared to the man of the hour. Nearly four decades since last creeping around Camp Crystal Lake, Walt Gorney remains the unofficial mascot of one of horror’s most beloved franchises, and today we celebrate the 106th anniversary of his birth.

Armed with nothing more than a crumpled hat, dingy vest, and a few ominous words of warning, Crazy Ralph endeared himself to Friday the 13th fans everywhere, and has life to this day.

For as much as Friday freaks adore Jason and revere Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), all one need do is whisper “doomed” to rally the troops. Maybe it was the wobbly way he piloted his bicycle, the gleeful, sarcastic taunt of “You’re goin’ to Camp Blood, ain’tcha?,” or that he had occasion to hole up in pantries. Whatever the reason, Friday the 13th aficionados have never tired of a character that last appeared on a screen almost 37 years ago.

Born in Vienna, Austria in 1912, Gorney will be forever remembered for getting liquored up, spouting his gospel, and being a pain in Officer Dorf’s ass. However, we’re not allowed to forget that he had a successful stage career, which included involvement with the Provincetown Players theatrical group in the 1950s, or that he made brief appearances in King Kong (1976) and Trading Places.

Sad, in a way, that Gorney was 68 years old when the original Friday film debuted, because conventions being what they are today, few would be as popular on the circuit as Crazy Ralph. As legendary horror host Joe Bob Briggs once said, “If the old geek says you’re doomed, you’re by God doomed.”

Alas, it’s been 14 years since Mr. Gorney left us, but for as long as Friday the 13th has a following, he will never be forgotten.

So, wherever you find yourself whetting your whistle tonight, raise a glass in honor of the man who is, was, and ever shall be Crazy Ralph – Walt Gorney.

The Office, Horror Digs Deeper than John Krasinski

So John Kransinki’s A Quiet Place raked in over $50 million in its initial weekend, further solidifying the horror revolution that we’ve enjoyed for more than two years. Kransinski was so effective as a father doing all he could to protect his children and pregnant wife, that it occurred to me that Jim Halpert was not the only alumnus of The Office to make a dent in the world of horror.

Here are just a few who’ve also made a lasting impression.

RAINN WILSON

“Question.” No one was as painfully and rudely inappropriate as Dwight K. Schrute, nor could any inhabitant of the Dunder Mifflin branch irritate Michael Scott quite like our favorite beet farmer. Well, maybe Andy. That said, the fact that the Assistant to the Regional Manager’s queries never came to an end, it was altogether fitting that what made Wilson’s appearance in House of 1000 Corpses so memorable (and ultimately sealed his doom), was that his curiosity could not be quenched.

KATHY BATES

She rode in as Jo Bennett,  a no-nonsense southern belle, which wasn’t exactly in keeping with the shenanigans of Scranton, but American Horror Story aside, we’ll never have the capability to see Bates and not think about Annie Wilkes. Don’t get us wrong, Bates’ brilliance allows her to fully embody any role she chooses, but her turn as Paul Sheldon’s biggest fan was, well, a sledgehammer.

LESLIE DAVID BAKER

Let’s face it, Stanley’s monotone aggression and disdainful glances were part of his charm, but every day cannot be pretzel day. At first glance, about the best we could do was note that Baker appeared in an episode of Key & Peele. As we all know, Jordan Peele’s Get Out provided us with the most important horror film since George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), but this isn’t six degrees of Kevin Bacon, so instead, let’s turn to Dwight’s display with the CPR mannequins, because no one was more terrified of that Lecter moment than Stanley.

CRAIG ROBINSON

Big man admitted that he’d be upset if he didn’t at least get a bite of the Milky Way in This is the End, but no one who’s seen Tragedy Girls can say that they A) didn’t absolutely adore the Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp-helmed hit, or B) elicit a squeal upon seeing Robinson on-screen pumping iron and rallying the community.

JENNA FISCHER

Pam’s relationship with Jim felt so real that it has become the goal of everyone who desires to live the dream. The foundation of that love was achieved whilst Fischer sat at her desk taking calls and conspiring with Halpert to mess with Dwight, so it’s rather perfect that Fischer rocked a phone headset as a bunch of creepy crawlers entered the equation in Slither. And don’t call her Pammie.

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TIMOTHY OLYPHANT

Brief though his appearance as Danny Cordray was, Olyphant is part of The Office universe, and as such, we can look past David, the heroic cop in Romero’s The Crazies (2011), and instead revel in his crazy stance that Ewoks blew in Scream 2.

IDRIS ELBA

Charles Miner couldn’t determine what would motivate The Office’s workforce, but for our purposes here, let’s look past his appearance as Roland in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, and instead take pride in the fact that Elba appeared in the Prom Night (2008) remake, as well 28 Weeks Later. And if we could go back to Fischer for a moment, “how do you confuse 28 Days with 28 Days Later?”

STEVE CARELL

In case you’d forgotten.

The Only Word Worthy of Kelly Maxwell

WARNING: If you have not seen “Tales from the Rift,” turn back now. There are spoilers afoot.

Twenty-six episodes. More than two-and-a-half seasons of Ash vs Evil Dead have brought me to the realization that I still lack the vocabulary to capably describe Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly Maxwell.

Thoughts of Ambrose Redmoon’s declaration that “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear” danced through my head, but soon faded because that too, was an insufficient concept.

Do I go with brave or tough, intelligent or loyal? Perhaps referring to her as a leader, vigorous or formidable?

How could a single word encapsulate one of the strongest women in horror history, when so many adjectives apply?

It was a challenge, to be sure, but inspired by Friday the 13th’s finest final girl (Amy Steel), I came to the conclusion that I had to “think beyond the legend,” and “put it in real terms.”

Dana DeLorenzo’s Kelly was uncompromising.

From our “El Jefe” introduction to her epic showdown with Ruby (Lucy Lawless) in Sunday’s “Tales from the Rift,” we watched a young woman grow from grieving daughter to unyielding warrior, and never give an inch.

What set Kelly apart was that she was anything but one dimensional. A badass to be sure, but one who never veered from the deepest vestiges of who she was – loving and loyal to her boys Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Ash (Bruce Campbell) – and always willing to do what needed to be done. Maxwell was the personification of Redmoon’s maxim, tossing fear aside because her new family and the fate of the world were more important than the uncertainty of her own survival.

DeLorenzo stood face-to-face with evil, the cabin, militiamen, cops, demon spawn and finally Ruby, and never blinked. And though Maxwell’s own sense of revenge was the catalyst to forging her own path, that swelled over time.

While ridding the world of Deadites, Kelly took the time to comfort Linda Emery (Michell Hurd), offer tough, motherly words that Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill) needed to hear, and inspire Pablito to believe that he was, in fact, the powerful vagina he was destined to become.

And in the end, with Ruby at the height of her ruthless power, it was Kelly who bore the weight of protector on her shoulders, and her shoulders alone. With no guarantee that she’d endure the day, Maxwell decided to take the battle to Ruby for Pablo. And Ash. And Brandy. And her parents. Because to Kelly’s thinking, no one, not her loved ones or anyone else’s, should have to suffer the pain of loss ever again. And if she could stop it, then she would not hesitate to embrace the opportunity, while sparing those she cherished the danger of putting their own lives on the line.

That was Kelly Maxwell’s identity. An uncompromising fighter and friend, who never altered who or what she stood for, or how she lived her life — for anything or anyone — not anguish, adversity, or evil. She lived, loved and laughed, with an eye forever on the prize of end game; the focused leader to Ash’s reluctant, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants Chosen One.

She went out on her terms, doing everything within her considerable capability to save those who had her heart, while the Evil Dead fandom watched through teary eyes as an uncompromised, almost imperceptible smile turned her lips before she breathed her last.

It was a good death.

Why Jigsaw is my Dirty Dancing

So I’m out with the boys for a few brewskis the other night, and Dustin decides to drop a “Time of My Life” bomb on us. It was only a matter of seconds before someone belted “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!”

Before I go any further, just know that I get songs stuck in my head with incredible ease, and they tend to stay there. I’ve had that goddamn saxophone looping in my grape for days.

Which brings me to sunny point number two: I have had a love affair with the Saw franchise since 2004. It may be no Patrick Swayze, but those annual October trips to the theatre with one of my best friends were bonding moments that I’ll always hold dear.

Now that the table’s been set, I have to come clean – I was so jacked for Jigsaw that I’d built it up like a family function helmed by Clark Griswold — an event that no flick could ever live up to.

And it rang true.

When I made my way to the local movie house, I was disappointed from the outset. In fact, I fell asleep in my seat. Watching Saw. And I know this because at one point my own snore startled me back to the festivities, and I played it off like I was not only coughing, but completely engrossed with Laura Vandervoort’s declaration that “Games can be won.”

tenor

What’s more, after the credits began to run, I remember tweeting something to the effect that for as loyal as I’d been to the world of John Kramer (Tobin Bell), and as long as I’d waited for a new chapter, “It would have been nice to have that faith rewarded.”

So, four-plus months on, and with that sax solo dancing in my head, I decided that I owed it to the franchise I adore another go.

And in the words of the late, great Jerry Orbach, “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.”

Is Jigsaw great? No, but aside from the original, how many installments of this franchise can honestly make that claim?

The issue was that I was expecting an epic continuation of the saga, when I should have just gone into it looking to once again lose myself in that universe, and enjoy the entertaining ride.

jigsaw-2560x1440-tobin-bell-2017-5k-10339Other than Mr. Bell, none of the key players we’d come to know and love were present, and in the theatre, that irked me. Which was complete nonsense, because I knew going in that none were in the cast. That didn’t stop me from hoping there’d be a surprise appearance from Cary Elwes or Costas Mandylor. So yeah, I was the horror equivalent of those Star Wars geeks who got all bent out of shape because their perception of canon was crushed.

Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger were charged with the nearly impossible task of making an eighth film interesting and fresh (sans familiar faces save Tobin), when, to steal one from John Carpenter, the story “had been mined.”

Yes, Detective Halloran was a cliché character, and with respect, Callum Keith Rennie played it that way, and the traps were a bit stale, but let’s focus on what worked.

Regardless of how you feel about any single film aside from Leigh Whannell and James Wan’s brilliant beginning, Tobin Bell has always been worth the price of admission. And though some of us (read me) were hoping one of the finest actors in the genre would play a larger on-screen role, his voice work and brief appearances were as spot on as they’ve ever been. Dude just has a magnetic presence as “Jig-fucking-Saw.”

And while Vandervoort was the one highlight I took away from my first viewing, my take on Matt Passmore’s performance as Logan Nelson has flipped completely.

Cue the sax.

PassmoreI found Passmore to be a bit hammy and over-the-top back in October, but upon further inspection, he nailed it. That’s not to say there weren’t elements of Velveeta and over-acting in spots, but he fulfilled an important role, and for my money, offered a finer contribution to the franchise than Mr. Mandylor ever did as Mark Hoffman.

One thing that Saw has always delivered were convoluted storylines that brought everything full circle when the dust settled, with clues to the truth scattered throughout. Now, keen observers of said universe likely picked them up as Jigsaw played out, but that does not negate the fact that they were well executed, or that we got a little dash of Shyamalan twist for good measure.

Jigsaw was not the epic experience I had hoped for, but that was only because it was not what I’d expected. And that’s just not the way to view cinema. You have to let the creators take you on a journey, and judge it for the adventure they present to you, now rail on it because it didn’t play the way you’d wanted.

So after witnessing Passmore lift Bell with fresh eyes bereft of preconceived notions, I echo Orbach, “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong” – Jigsaw is a fine addition to the Saw saga.

Themes dominate each iteration of the franchise, and Jigsaw’s was simple – confess.

So let me own up, I carried a watermelon.

Ryann

When it Comes to Friday Final Girls, Sometimes You’ve Got to Let it Cooke for a While

Sometimes I’m a little slow.

Example. It was not an uncommon occurrence in my collegiate days to wander around the local Walmart  in a zombie-like state at two in the morning. I’d wrap things up at the library, head over to snag some food, and have a well-deserved gander at the DVDs. One night, I was about to head out when I happened by a stand of sunglasses with “FOSTER GRANT” written in giant letters along its cardboard sides. I just chuckled to myself and made for the registers without even stopping.

You see, at that point I’d considered Midnight Run one of my favorite films of all-time for roughly twenty years, but apparently that was the time my brain needed to catch up to Robert De Niro’s “Agent Foster Grant” line.

Yes, Yaphet Kotto. You make yourself perfectly understood.

Which brings me to another cherished flick – Jason Lives.

Over the course of an exquisite (and recent) three-week stretch, I went from vomiting, to having a tooth pulled, and finally to influenza. You know how we all wish we had the time to just get into bed and never crawl out? How glorious we find that fantasy? Yeah, believe me when I say there are ways you don’t want to live that particular dream.

Anyway, I can be a little slow.

After numerous viewings of Friday the 13th’s sixth chapter while laid up, something finally dawned on me.

Those of you vaguely familiar with me know that I am, in fact, a Friday freak, and believe at a fundamental level that Amy Steel from Part 2 is one of the greatest final girls in horror history, and that I hold every other Crystal Lake heroine, to my thinking, to her unattainable standard.

But there was a hitch in my giddy-up. A flaw in my mindset that I was unaware existed. For thirty-freaking-years.

Jason-Lives-Friday-the-13th-Part-VI-19-1024x576I never truly considered Jennifer Cooke’s performance as Megan from Jason Lives as on par with Steel, or Adrienne King (Friday the 13th), or Lar Park Lincoln (The New Blood), simply because she never ended up squaring off with Mr. Voorhees, or his vengeful mother, one-on-one.

Sure, Jason (C.J. Graham) busted out of a cabin and wrapped the vice grips around her grape for a moment or two, but was quickly distracted by Tommy Jarvis’ (Thom Mathews) siren song.

Because of that one moment of abandonment, I disregarded everything that sat right in front of me, screening after screening, since 1986.

And it’s a laundry list of obvious.

After Megan’s father, Sheriff Garris (David Kagen) had Tommy locked up for suspicion of Jason’s murders, it was Megan who concocted the plan to trick her dad’s right-hand man so that Jarvis could be “unironed.” Then, she hopped in the car and refused to be left behind when Tommy told her that she couldn’t participate in such a dangerous endeavor. What’s more, when they arrived at the camp, Megan immediately ran to see if her friends and the kids were safe. Yes, she had a bit of meltdown calling for her father well within earshot of said little ones shortly thereafter, but when you lay eyes on a room painted with your friend’s blood, only to see another’s cranium bounce out of a patrol car like a forgotten soccer ball, you might have a moment, yourself.

But the resume didn’t cease to be impressive at that point. When Tommy floated to the surface after his underwater scuffle with Jason, Megan wasted zero time leaping into the lake to grab him (and got a far higher score on her dock dive than Kevin Bacon received from the Czech judge six years earlier). In fact, while Tommy may have fettered Voorhees to the lake floor, it was Megan who put the boat motor to good use to “finish the job” and free herself from the clutches of the Crystal Lake marauder.

And though it was painfully clear that she was not CPR certified, Megan gave Tommy just enough nudges to revive him on the beach.

So yeah, Megan may not have been a traditional final girl, but she was independent, confident and strong, determined to go after what she wanted, and while not fearless, certainly wasn’t hesitant to do what needed doing to save those she cared about. Cooke’s Ms. Garris is the Friday franchise’s John McLain – a hero who possessed the ability to think on her feet — whilst in the right place at the wrong time.

All the ingredients required to rival Ms. Steel. Just had to let them marinate for a while.

Alright, three decades.

(Slides shades on)

Like I said, I can be a little slow.

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