Tag Archives: Vinny Guastaferro

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.

REVIEW: ‘NEVER HIKE IN THE SNOW’ OFFERS A GLIMPSE AT WHAT ‘FRIDAY THE 13TH’ COULD BE

Ten words have haunted the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise since 1981. Since that time, ten other films have played out on screens the world over, but with the notable exceptions of John Shepherd’s Tommy Jarvis (FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING, 1985) and Jason as human being courtesy Derek Mears (FRIDAY THE 13TH, 2009), the words”let’s think beyond the legend, put it in real terms” have fallen on deaf ears.

One filmmaker heard Ginny Field (Amy Steel), and more importantly, Vincente DiSanti is still listening. Womp Stomp Films dropped its fan effort NEVER HIKE ALONE (2017) three years ago and provided FRIDAY fanatics with something that was much more than a new adventure steeped in “real terms”, it was a glimmer of hope that with the right people driving the RV, Camp Crystal Lake could return to glory.

NEVER HIKE ALONE was the FRIDAY film we’d been waiting for, but it turns out that it was but an appetizer for the delectable, 25-minute dish to come. NEVER HIKE IN THE SNOW takes place shortly before the events of ALONE but writer / director DiSanti takes the time to illuminate the emotional toll this universe inflicts on its residents. In other words, Womp Stomp puts it in “real terms.”

DiSanti introduces us to Mark Hill, a 17-year old aspiring photographer and his mother Diana, played to perfection by Courtlan Gordon and Anna Campbell, respectively, but also reacquaints the audience with a pair of old friends. No longer a deputy, we find Sheriff Rick Cologne (Vinny Guastaferro) investigating a case in Wessex County, and once more Thom Mathews is the punk he wants to punch silly.

Unlike the aforementioned Shepherd in A NEW BEGINNING, Mathews wasn’t afforded the opportunity to display the tax of Tommy Jarvis’ associations with Voorhees in JASON LIVES (1986), but that ended with NEVER HIKE ALONE and rages all ahead full in SNOW. The lingering repercussions of those experiences didn’t end when the credits ran on Part VI, and those demons are still very real in 2017 (when SNOW takes place).

Jarvis knows exactly what’s going on when hikers come up missing, and wants to put an end to Jason once and for all. Cologne, however, remains an obstacle and fans will be thrilled to find that the animosity between the two remains as heated and entertaining as ever. Though it’s cliche to say “never skips a beat,” the relationship between Rick and Tommy may be even more contemptuous than it was 30 year ago and the passage of time hasn’t tarnished the magic.

Beyond the performances (which are stellar), it’s the production value that will leave fans in awe. DiSanti’s writing is clean, crisp and sensible, but the brilliance doesn’t end there. Director of Photography Evan Butka takes the snow and the dark and blends them into something wickedly beautiful, Mike Api’s editing is seamless, and Suzan Jones’ sound mixing brings the picture alive. But what would a FRIDAY flick be without makeup effects? Norah Hewitt and Rachel Lynn Gerwig’s work here is something to behold, with kills that will stay with you long after you’ve walked away from the screen, and it’s all topped off with Ryan Perez-Daple’s foreboding score that clutches with tension throughout.

DiSanti continues to raise the bar for further studio releases. Rehashing the same old story, or worse–rushing the same old story for a cash grab–will no longer be acceptable, and we have Womp Stomp to thank for that.

In fact, it reminds this writer of something Hall of Fame baseball manager Sparky Anderson once said about a fellow enshrinee, “I would never insult another catcher by comparing them to Johnny Bench.” The sentiment holds true for DiSanti and the Womp Stomp crew because referring to the NEVER HIKE entries as fan films ventures beyond insult, it’s downright offensive. Look, there are many well done fan films in existence, but poorly made ones outnumber them 50-to-1 and the NEVER HIKE pictures are more than a group of friends with some camera equipment and a dream, they are a highly motivated and capable team led by DiSanti. Womp Stomp is not a group of uber-fans taking a weekend to pay homage, they are laying the groundwork for the direction the franchise should embark upon once the legalities surrounding FRIDAY are settled.

Womp Stomp has set out create the FRIDAY THE 13TH film fans have been yearning to see since the ’09 reboot, and if we’re honest, even before that. And that is exactly what they have done. Twice.

To take it a step further, several years ago when rumors of a FRIDAY television series began to gain traction there was excitement, but devotees of the franchise had long since been accustomed to disappointment. Would it actually happen, and if so, would it work as a serial? NEVER HIKE IN THE SNOW answers that question with an emphatic yes.

Shudder gave CREEPSHOW six episodes last year and should strongly consider handing a similar FRIDAY run to DiSanti and Womp Stomp because frankly the effect of resurrecting The Last Drive-In would pale in comparison to the flood of FRIDAY freaks rushing to subscribe for a revival of the Jason and Tommy rivalry.

For Camp Crystal Lake to return to its glory days requires three things: the vision of someone who loves (but more importantly) understands the franchise, who also possesses the chops as a writer and director, and then whichever studio ends up with the rights simply needs to get out of their way.

Let’s put it in real terms: that someone is Vincente DiSanti, the most important addition to the FRIDAY family since Kane Hodder.

NEVER HIKE IN THE SNOW went live on YouTube at 9 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, October the 13th.

Jackie Gleason on Acid: How Vinny Guastaferro Landed a Role in ‘Shocker’

Long have we been fascinated with behind the scenes stories that detail how certain scenes came to be, or  parts were scored, but few are as genuinely entertaining as how Vinny Guastaferro came to his role in Wes Craven’s SHOCKER (1989).

Forget that Horace Pinker was supposed to supplant Freddy Krueger as Craven’s next franchise villain, because three years after Guastaferro made “Ya-Bang” a household word for horror fans, he was tasked with making a strong first impression on the legendary director.

Apparently that red dot had reach.

On the 29th anniversary of SHOCKER’s release, we share Guastaferro’s story.

“I’ll start out with a disclaimer saying I blame it on myself because I don’t know if I was in a good mood or a bad mood or if I felt like ‘Oh boy, another horror movie and why is my agent doing this and why should I be going out for a horror movie?’ But then I realized it was Wes Craven, and I knew who he was from his earlier movies, which some of them weren’t really that scary.

He was an excellent writer, and I went in the room, and I looked at this role on paper and I said ‘God, wouldn’t you know it, he’s not havin’ me like read some of the more mundane crap that I have to say at the beginning of the movie, he wants me to do the actual meltdown scene,’ the scene where I am possessed.

Guastaffero ShockerVery early in my career I had worked with Jackie Gleason, who was dominant on television during my childhood and was known as one of the best comedians in the business. He had a very broad comedic style, and when he used to yell and go ‘Pow! Zoom! To the moon!’ and all of that, I used that image of Jackie Gleason getting mad at Alice and having him be on acid.

I went into the audition room for Wes Craven and I just went fuckin’ nuts. I kicked over the coffee table, I laid on the floor and (growling, snarling noises), and did everything that probably you saw in the movie. I squirmed, I laid, I yelled, I fake shot, I did everything (chuckles) that I do in the movie in the audition room. And when I was done–I was having such a good time I got immersed in it–I looked up, Wes was smiling and the two casting people were sitting there with a look of fucking horror on their faces (chuckles). They looked like ‘What did this guy just do?’

The only thing that casting ever worries about is did I bring in somebody who’s gonna make me look bad by doing a bad job, or did I bring in somebody that the director’s going to like and hire? And the casting people were sitting there with that ambiguous look on their faces, Wes was already smiling, and then he went over to Gary Zuckabroad the casting director and he said ‘I want Vinny, so what can we do to get out of this session?’

And I swear, I’m just, I’m not bragging, I’m just telling you this is such a Hollywood story—the casting director had to go to the outer room where there are like six, eight other guys waiting to audition and say ‘I’m sorry everybody, something has come up and the director has to leave. We’ll have to call you again and re-schedule you for this,’ and he sent everybody home. I was called back into the room and he said ‘You’ve got the part. You got it on the spot. I want you to start workin’ on this now.’ And that’s how it went.

I mean, it was a fantastic experience for me because, once again to give you another analogy, what an actor likes to do is go into the room, throw their fastball–meaning whatever choices they’ve made, you don’t go in a room with a guy like Wes Craven and say ‘Well, how do I do this? How do I act crazy and possessed and deadly, and at the same time funny?’–ya know? You gotta go show them your variant of it, so I went in and threw my fastball and ended up getting the part. And that for me, was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. And then to work with Wes was just unbelievable.”