All posts by Landon Evanson

CONSTANT COMPANION: A LOVE LETTER TO ‘JASON LIVES’

Memory can prove an unreliable witness after thirty-five years, but gazing through the haze of recollection I can see with absolute clarity a childhood event that formed the very bedrock upon which I stand as an adult.

Come with me for a minute.

I spent every other weekend at my father’s house during my formative years, and though I didn’t look forward to those visits (my sperm donor was a verbally abusive alcoholic), they weren’t completely devoid of appeal. You see, my dad would put me to work in the yard mowing lawn and trimming bushes, but this won’t be some nonsensical take about adopting a work ethic, rather what I did with that hard-earned chore money once the landscaping had come to a close.

We’d hop in the car and head for the video store. But here again, this will not be where I regale you with stories of a younger me perusing the enticingly hypnotic cover art of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) or THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976), because I knew exactly what rack I was locked in on: Horror section, F.

On Saturday afternoons each fortnight I’d scoop up every FRIDAY THE 13TH VHS Midtown Video had available and my weekend was made. I would return to my father’s, retreat to my room and revel in Camp Crystal Lake, far away from my dad (at least in my mind) to kill the hours until I returned home on Sunday night. A religious routine that never got old.

At that time, we were only up to A NEW BEGINNING (1985), but that singular event was just around the corner, waiting to change my life permanently the following year.

My grandmother was dying of cancer, and not to put too fine a point on it, but my home life wasn’t what I’d describe as stable. Struggling each day to come to terms with losing one of the few people I felt close to (never mind the constant chaos at home), I found myself at the Book Nook with my father and sisters. I distractedly wandered the aisles for a few minutes when my eyes fell upon the cover of a paperback strewn with lightning, a tall, slender machete dipped in blood and a familiar hockey mask draped in shadow. The title made my heart leap: JASON LIVES. And the tag made me dizzy: HE’S BACK. AND YOU WON’T WANT TO BE ALONE.

For the first time my chore money wouldn’t be laid down for FRIDAY tapes, but rather for the novelization of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI (1986).

For the first time I had something to focus on other than my grandmother’s inevitable passing. I had torn through the pages before the weekend was out, an act that was repeated innumerable times, and if I was at my dad’s, the book was with me. It was a friendly and familiar guide through a painful year.

I had yet to see the cinematic version (and regrettably lost that book in a move sometime later), but I knew that it had changed the game. Then I saw the movie.

Director Tom McLoughlin’s immediate nod to the Univeral monsters had me smiling and C.J. Graham’s soldierly portrayal of Jason resurrected by aforementioned lightning left me on the verge of squealing. I was in love with Thom Mathews as Tommy Jarvis and his jean jacket before I even understood why I was so drawn to him, and for the first time a flick proved better than the book.

Look, I know the novelization of a horror franchise’s sixth chapter isn’t exactly Stephen King, but when you experience equals parts ghast and glee as you read about Sheriff Garris being turned into a human folding table only to find that McLoughlin, Graham, David Kagen (Garris) and the effects team had seamlessly translated Simon Hawke’s words into celluloid images, your devotion is lifelong. I watched that scene over and over with a grin that nearly ruptured my skull as I chuckled, “being a cop is backbreaking work.”

It helped me mourn, it helped me get through weekends where I just wanted a time machine to get back home, and it kept its promise from that paperback tag: I didn’t want to be alone, and with JASON LIVES, I never was.

In the decades since, JASON LIVES has not lost an ounce of impact. To call it a comfort movie is insufficient because it is home to me. Whenever I’m tired and need soothing sounds to slumber — JASON LIVES is the DVD of choice. Should I be feeling uncertain or anxious and need to calm frayed nerves — JASON LIVES. Overwhelmed with a sense of loneliness (hello pandemic) or inadequacy (hello losing my job during said pandemic) — JASON LIVES.

While an accurate count would be impossible to tabulate, rest assured that I’ve seen JASON LIVES well over 100 times. And I’m not ashamed to admit that. Growing up as the freak whose favorite holiday was Halloween and no one in my life could wrap their craniums around my love of horror, I had long since come to a peace and understanding of who I am and what I love. And JASON LIVES is my holy grail because it was there for me when nothing else was.

Now that I’m settled into my life, I have plenty of friends, friends whom I consider family, but that doesn’t mean the same old lack of understanding doesn’t crop up now and then.

A few years back I had to have a tooth pulled, and as luck would have it, I got the flu that same weekend. I spent two days in bed falling in and out of sleep, eating popsicles and reaching for a bucket; all while JASON LIVES played on a loop. My then girlfriend would pop into the bedroom from time-to-time to check on me and say “you’re watching it again?!” My head merely tilted from Bob Larkin making eye contact and dropping “some folks got a strange idea of entertainment” like he knew me to peer into hers as I deadpanned “Yeah. I am.” She just shook her head and exited stage left.

Hell, a girlfriend before her once agreed to sit down and watch it with me (her first and last viewing) and at one point she laughed sarcastically and blurted “this is so stupid.” Keep in mind that this was at the exact moment C.J. blew the door off of an upended RV and walked across its smoldering carcass to the badass beats of Harry Manfredini horns. We didn’t last long.

Since, I’ve worked in television and newspaper and dabbled in horror writing, utilizing convenient skills to secure interviews with Graham and Mathews, and Guastaferro (twice). Vinny even lauded me for properly pronouncing “ya-bang” instead of the incorrect “you-bang” he’d heard from many others. I immediately shot back that “you-bang would be a different genre” and he howled for a good ten seconds. It made my heart soar to offer such enjoyment to someone who has meant so much to me, even if it was momentary.

I’ve written about Kagen being the straight-man to JASON LIVES’ self-aware and deprecating humor, and how Jennifer Cooke (Megan Garris) is perhaps the franchise’s finest final girl this side of Amy Steel (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, 1981). Hell, I’m flanked in my office by a “Leaving Forest Green” sign and autographed Guastaferro “ya-bang” as I write this, all while a Jarvis jacket hangs in my closet.

Even this week I’ve watched it twice. Once to prep for this diatribe, and the other as a nap aid.

I have never felt alone because of JASON LIVES. Odd as it may sound, Camp Crystal Lake or Forest Green is my happy place that transports me to serenity. Regardless of how I’m feeling emotionally, from that day at Book Nook to the film’s 35th anniversary that we celebrate today, JASON LIVES has always been with me, a constant companion that shall forever leave me echoing Mathews’ Jarvis:

Landon will return to the area that’s familiar. No matter what you call it, it’s still home to him.

HODDER HAVOC: BEST KANE KILL FROM EVERY FRIDAY AND HATCHET FILM

Five years after Uber Jason and just two after he was inexplicably and shamefully denied his (and we apologize for the term) dream match-up with Robert Englund in FREDDY VS. JASON (2003), Kane Hodder was cast as another woods-roaming killer with parental issues.

In the wake of four turns as the Camp Crystal Lake marauder, Hodder didn’t sit back and feel sorry for himself, nor did he quit, he simply got back to work and redefined himself. As one dream came to a close Kane helped make another come to life, and Victor Crowley was born.

Adam Green first conjured the idea of the Bayou Butcher at the age of eight when (ironically enough) summer camp counselors warned the children to stay away from a particular cabin or “Hatchet-face” would get them. Though they never elaborated further, the idea lived in Green’s mind for the next 23 years until he and his crew took a trip to New Orleans, embarked on a swamp tour and shot a teaser trailer. The rest, as they say, is history.

With Jason so ingrained in the consciousness of the culture, some may have thought it a risk to portray a character that could be considered a ripoff of Jason Voorhees, but those concerns were quickly put to rest because Hodder doesn’t do anything half-assed, and it wasn’t long before Victor Crowley was a beloved symbol of horror greatness.

Not only did Kane claim domain over Jason after the character had been played by six other actors prior, he took the opportunity to establish a character from the ground up and transformed it into a fixture of the genre. For a man who has the word “kill” tattooed inside his bottom lip, it’s only fitting that we celebrate what Hodder does best — lay waste.

Rather than a top ten, we choose to shine light on the most memorable murder from each of Kane’s four turns as Voorhees and Victor, respectively. Eight films, eight finishes. But we’re not going to focus on machetes or hatchets or even gas-powered belt sanders. Nay, because as Hodder told YellMagazine in 2013, his hands are his favorite instrument of death.

“Just anything barehanded because anybody can kill with a weapon,” Hodder said. “I think it’s much more personal.”

So, let’s get to know Kane Hodder a little better, shall we?

8. “I’M KICKIN’ MY ASS! DO YA MIND?” — JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY (1993)

Though it was tempting to go with Creighton Duke here because we feel that Steven Williams’ character was the Darth Maul of the series–one that deserved far more than it got–in the end, it was merely a bear hug and felt a bit too unceremonious. Come to think of it, the same could be said for the entire picture: a fantastic idea poorly executed.

That said, we decided to go with the film’s lasting image. True, Hodder was denied his chance to square off with Krueger, but he did get the chance to slip into the sweater and knived-glove and yank his own mask to Hades.

It’s not a kill, really, but Jason Jason was only around for about 10 minutes and Kane’s security guard was dispatched off-screen earlier in the flick, so the slam dunk of Hodder offing himself was effectively Mutombo’d. New Line took FREDDY VS. JASON off the table, we’re putting it back on.

7. THE CURB STOMP — HATCHET II (2010)

Alright, this one isn’t so much bare hands as pure boot, but it’s Kane eradicating one of Reverend Zombie’s (Tony Todd) makeshift militiamen who just happened to be Leatherface from LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III (1990) in the most brutally badass manner, so top that.

Sorry, R.A. Mihailoff, but as Kane exasperated at the conclusion of the “Raising Kane” behind the scenes featurette for HATCHET III (2013), “quit comin’ in the fuckin’ swamp!”

6. LITTLE MAC FOR REAL — FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKE MANHATTAN (1989)

Look, you’re reading this on a site called Nightmare Nostalgia, which probably means you love the warm fuzzies of yesteryear as much as we do, so it stands to reason more than a handful of you will pick up what we’re about to put down.

Long before Gun Media unleashed Friday the 13th: The Game, there was the Nintendo abomination that left Friday freaks frustrated as hell because they couldn’t play as Jason. We mean, seriously, there’s dropping the ball and then there’s that. In any event, you could hurl all the knives and rocks you wanted (see what we mean about abomination?) but it hardly put a dent into old Jason. But when he wielded that machete/ax/toothbrush it didn’t take long before you were a faceless corpse.

Which brings us to another NES classic, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!. The upstart boxer who had a dream of becoming the champ, only he was undersized so despite all the jump-jabs, it only took one good shot from Tyson for sleepy time. Sound familiar?

Yeah, two years after Punch-Out!! was all the rage, MANHATTAN gifted us with a round of live-action with Julius (Vincent Craig Dupree, as V.C. Dupree) as Little Mac and the man of the hour, Hodder playing Tyson.

Grab a Soda Popinski and have a seat ringside!

5. “IN THE END, THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE” — HATCHET III (2013)

Admittedly, I’m in the distinct minority here as someone who prefers Hodder as Victor as opposed to Voorhees, but then I’m also of the opinion that Derek Mears is the best Jason of all-time. So, when team leader Hawes (Mears) showed with his elite unit to hunt down Crowley, audiences knew his bluster and bravado would inevitably boil down to a knock-down, drag-out heavyweight tilt for the ages.

Those who knew the FRIDAY franchise, however, surely picked up on Mears’ character’s name being a JASON LIVES (1986) reference, so when the buildup of an epic showdown between two Jasons finally came to fruition, Green made it pretty clear whom he felt was the superior slasher. Bit of a twist on the end result, but she was foreshadowed to be sure. But hey, we’ve all been there. The anticipation mounts and mounts till you’re ready to erupt and when you finally crawl into bed and get that chance, erupt is exactly what you do. Quickly. Embarrassingly.

…or, maybe that’s just me. Moving on!

4. THE ULTIMATE FISTING — VICTOR CROWLEY (2017)

“Putting an arm into a vagina, out of the throat? Tricky. Tricky.”

No one could put it quite as eloquently as Hodder did with his Week 10 guest appearance on THE LAST DRIVE-IN this past August, so we’re not even going to try.

Scenes involving genitalia are old hat for Felissa Rose, but her role as Andrew Yong’s (Parry Shen) publicist Kathleen may finally be the one that rivals SLEEPAWAY CAMP’s (1983) final reveal. Look, she’s Joe Bob Briggs’ designated “Mangled Dick Expert” for a reason.

Kills don’t always have to be gory, sometimes they just need to be creative. And when Kane and Green get together, you can safely place money that you’ll lay eyes on something you’ve never seen before. The bonus? Vaginal Verizon never drops a call.

3. THE SLEEPING BAG — FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: THE NEW BLOOD (1988)

The perception of the character was forever altered the moment Voorhees emerged from the icy depths of Crystal Lake on May 13, 1988. From the giddiness of that initial glimpse at a hulking figure with a partially exposed spinal cord to the heaving breaths and absolute brutality that followed, it was clear that director John Carl Buechler’s push for Hodder to don the hock had changed the game, because Kane’s Jason was in all ways a Rubicon.

After six previous films that had turned Voorhees into a pop culture icon, Hodder came along and set the standard by which the character would be judged thenceforth. Anyone who needs further evidence need look no further than the fact that no other actor had (or has) fulfilled the role more than once, yet Kane would return for three more films following Part VII. While Hodder’s first turn in the franchise’s seventh chapter provided several memorable kills, nothing could top Judy (Debora Kessler) thinking that pulling the sleeping bag over her head would ward off the masked maniac like a bad dream. Kane plucked her from the tent and dragged it to the nearest tree with an enthusiastic aggression never before seen, and ensured that the Hodder era had only just begun.

While it’s true that Todd Farmer paid hilarious homage to this kill in JASON X (2001), nothing tops the OG

2. LIQUID NITROGEN FACIAL — JASON X (2001)

This movie has its detractors, but if one simply wants to turn their brain off, grab some popcorn and have a good time, you can do a lot worse than JASON X.

More proof, John Klein? In his final turn as Voorhees, Kane gifted us with his greatest Jason kill. And to bring it kinda-sorta full circle, his victim was named Adrienne (Kristi Angus), which we’re sure is a detail not lost on FRIDAY aficionados.

1, HEAVY IS THE HEAD — HATCHET (2006)

Our introduction to Victor Crowley allowed us some peeks at the bibs-wearing beast, but nothing could prepare us for the big unveiling As the group wandered about Honey Island Swamp looking for a way out, the elder couple decided to go it alone because they were done with the whole scene. Only thing was, they didn’t know just how done they actually were.

Oh, and that whole curiosity about would the character just be a rip off of Jason? That was put to bed in seconds. Hodder emerged from his shed with a roar and ran–yes, ran–toward his prey. He filleted Mr. Permatteo (Richard Riehle) in short order, then set his sights on Lumpkins.

Shannon (Patrika Darbo) tried to flee, but Victor hustled over, grabbed her by the hair and…well, we all know the not-so unfortunate end to that story: the finest Kane Kill of all-time.

So, yeah, it took mere moments for Hodder to prove that we weren’t in Crystal Lake anymore…Toto.

Eight kills in eight films that turned one actor into a two-time icon.

Such matters are always up for debate, so if your favorite kill didn’t make the cut or you take umbrage with the rankings, please weigh in using the comments section below.

Oh, and in honor of Kane’s 66th birthday on April 8, like and share this piece on Facebook and / or Twitter using the hashtag #HodderHavoc to be entered into a drawing to win this 11 x 17 VICTOR CROWLEY movie poster signed by Hodder at HorrorHound Indianapolis in 2018. The winner will be announced on Nightmare Nostalgia’s Facebook and Twitter on April 9.

Still a Dead-Eye 35 Years On: A CHOPPING MALL Interview with Kelli Maroney

When Season 2 of The Last Drive-In opened with a shot of CHOPPING MALL spelled out on the marquee over Joe Bob Briggs’ shoulder last April I nearly squealed. Okay, I might have squealed. But it was only because CHOPPING MALL is perhaps my favorite drive-in movie of all-time, and knowing that Barbara Crampton had already been on the show meant that we’d be getting a dose of Kelli Maroney had me straight up giddy with anticipation.

And judging by the reaction on Twitter, I was not alone. While it’s hard to believe that it’s been three-and-a-half decades since we spent the night with a group of horny teenagers taking on a gang of killbots, it isn’t difficult to understand why the film seems to grow in popularity the further it gets from its original release date of March 21, 1986. It hits the ground running and never stops.

With titles like FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982) and NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984) to her credit, Kelli Maroney is a bona fide queen of ’80s cinema, but CHOPPING MALL holds a special place in the hearts of many, including the star of the film.

“How could you not be delighted that people enjoy something as much as they seem to enjoy CHOPPING MALL? The appreciation and the gratitude is off the charts.”

Our appreciation and gratitude too is off the charts, not only for 77 minutes of awesome, but that Ms. Maroney shared a few moments with us over the phone in early February to discuss her memories of the shoot, her confusion over why no one ever told her Joe Bob was a fox, the status of a possible television series, and she even shared a personal tidbit about the picture that she’d never told anyone before.

Ladies and gentlemen, Kelli f***ing Maroney.

NIGHTMARE NOSTALGIA: Can you believe it’s been 35 years?

KELLI MARONEY: That’s what I always say. If you had told me in 1986 that in 2021 I’d be giving five interviews this week for CHOPPING MALL? (laughs) I would’ve said “What are you smokin’?” because it wouldn’t have been real to me. It used to be more NIGHT OF THE COMET but now it’s CHOPPING MALL. Even Joe Bob Briggs said “What’s the deal with CHOPPING MALL?” and his producer said “Dude, it’s the most popular thing.”

Even I said to (director) Jim Wynorski “Can you believe this? I can’t get over it. I can never get over it.” It never gets old, it’s always stunning. I’m tickled, I’m delighted and really touched because that’s the whole point of doing this is to connect with people and give them something that they enjoy. And this is beyond anybody’s wildest dreams to have done something that people like so much, but I had no idea it was going to be CHOPPING MALL.

NN: It almost felt like the anniversary celebrations began last year when CHOPPING MALL opened Season 2 of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs. We’re not going to rehash that conversation, but give us a peek behind the curtain of being on one of horror’s biggest stages.

KM: It was amazing. First of all, I got a message from (Briggs) on Twitter and I thought “this isn’t really Joe Bob Briggs,” but it was, it was John (Bloom). He’s a lovely guy and he’s extremely smart. And Joe Bob is a character obviously, but it’s just heightened. If John was always in his sense of humor, and it was just heightened and a little more Southern, it’s still him. So, you get there and everybody is so nice. At first I met Diana (Prince) — Darcy the Mail GIrl — and my friend Felissa Rose had been on before, so I reached out because I was excited. If you’re on Joe Bob you’re a horror fixture in that community otherwise you wouldn’t be there.

First of all, I had never met him before, so when he was on MonsterVision I had never seen that so I thought Joe Bob, what is he a big, fat guy with a beer belly that talks about boobs all the time? I had no interest. I didn’t know what he was doing because I’d never seen it, but no one ever told me he was a babe (laughs). Seriously, no one had ever said anything to change that perception that I had.

He’s a very big supporter of the Chattanooga Film Festival, which is lovely, and they gave me an award once, First Joe Bob did a little riff on NIGHT OF THE COMET — well, it wasn’t a little riff because that dude gets seriously in depth and it’s never little, he always gives a full talk — but my award was a paper mache slice of pizza designed by a local artist who is told what the recipient means to the festival and then the artist creates it. And I said, pizza? And Chris Dortch, who owns and runs the festival and presented the award, said “Yes, you’re like pepperoni pizza. You make everything better that you’re in.” I said “awww, that’s adorable. That’s so sweet!” So, I took a picture with Joe Bob, and even with my huge high heels on I am half his size because he’s tall and I”m petite.

So, back to Felissa. I asked her advice on guesting for the show and she said “don’t tell him something you’ve already told everybody else in interviews” So, I took that as don’t tell the same old story about how I wanted to be an actor since I was a little girl. Don’t bore Joe Job. Be entertaining. And Felissa has no problem just saying things, so she set the bar so high.

Sometime as actors you get all serious about things and nobody cares, they want you to be fun. And as you can see, I’ll just talk as long, until you tell me to stop (laughs).

I love when fans feel like they’re a part of things, and that’s what’s so great about The Last Drive-In. The whole Mutant Family gets on Twitter and it’s a lot of fun. But I was extremely thrilled when I found out it was true. In fact, Darcy direct messaged me on Twitter saying “let me know if you’d don’t hear from them because I’m not doing CHOPPING MALL if you’re not there.”

NN: You’ve probably seen tons of CHOPPING MALL cosplay over the years, but has anyone done it better than Darcy?

KM: No. No. And we had a long girl conversation about “can you even find this blouse anymore?” and the shoes that were closest to what I had worn were $100 so we weren’t doing that, but in two million years I never thought I’d be having a set conversation about that outfit (laughs). She had it down. She even had the patch, and she even did the limp — like at the end when I was limping — it was a thing of beauty. You can really tell she doesn’t just do it because it’s in the movie and she sees what they’re wearing, she’s got the whole thing down.

NN: Is it uncomfortable maneuvering around with a flare in your bra?

KM: You know I forgot all about it. It fit perfectly in there and I forgot all about it (laughs). As did Allison, she almost forgot she had it, too! She looks down and she’s like “oh yeah, I’ve got a flare!” I don’t know, it just fit right.

NN: You never know what movies are going to resonate with audiences, and 35 years later we’re still talking about CHOPPING MALL as you said, but did your head kind of explode like Suzee Slater’s when Liam Carroll posted his piece for The Spool (which you shared on Twitter) outlining how the film had helped him through anxiety attacks and depression. When you read something like that about a drive-in , B-movie that obviously means something to people, how does that make you feel?

KM: Through the internet and doing conventions you hear these kinds of stories a lot and that’s why you want to be an actor. You put up with the lifestyle and the uncertainty and everything that goes along with it because we just have that driving need to connect with other people. It’s such extreme validation to hear that back, that something I put my heart and soul into and it comes back in a wave. I wasn’t out there acting into a void, it’s hitting people and it means something to them. I’ve given them something and they’ve given me something, and it means that I didn’t waste my life doing something that didn’t mean anything, people like CHOPPING MALL (laughs).

NN: There were some rumors a few years ago about CHOPPING MALL doing a television series, and unless I missed something, did anything ever come of that or something that might still happen?

KM: Wynorski’s in charge of that. We were getting set to do a tease, and then I’m not sure exactly what happened because I think he had several meetings with Lionsgate but as they say in the industry, put a pin in it, which means put a pin in it like on a bulletin board and save it for later. It’s just a risky venture I would think, so I don’t know I haven’t heard anything about it for quite a while.

NN: We’re not going to ask you what your favorite scene or line from the film is because I know you’ve answered those questions a thousand times, but I am interested to know what your lasting image is. When you’re thinking about CHOPPING MALL and not being interviewed about it, what comes back to you most?

KM: I’m going to tell you something that I’ve never told anyone.

NN: I like to hear that.

KM: Ready?

NN: I am.

KM: Sometimes that song, the CHOPPING MALL theme goes through my head when I’m doing my makeup or driving around (laughs). And that is true, it is absolutely true (laughs).

NN: I introduced a friend of mine to CHOPPING MALL and he appreciates it as a B-movie, but I refer to it as a classic and one day he said “you know what, CHOPPING MALL is not a classic.” So, I said I’m going to be interviewing the star of the movie and we’ll see. His name is Chad, so if you have message for Chad as to why CHOPPING MALL is a classic, I’d love to hear it.

KM: Hey Chad, sorry you got dragged into this, but since you are (laughs), you can like it or not like it but I don’t like THE SOUND OF MUSIC particularly, but it’s a classic so you’re just going to have to eat this one on CHOPPING MALL. I’m sorry (laughs).