Review : Boarding School (2018)

Boarding School is a horror thriller directed by Boaz Yakin. This is his first attempt at a horror film and his lack of familiarity with the genre does come across throughout Boarding School. The film stars Luke Prael as the main character, Sterling Jerins and Will Patton.

Jacob is a young teenager subject to night terrors, which drive his mother crazy. Shortly after the death of his maternal grandmother, whom he never met, and an encounter at the funeral with an intimidating old lady who tells him a story about his grandmother during WW2, Jacob starts having visions of his grandmother’s WW2 traumatic experience. When his stepfather finds him dressed in his grandmother’s ball gown and dancing, he and the mother decide to send Jacob to a boarding school for troubled teens. However, the boarding school turns out to be a really strange place, ran by an even stranger couple.

Boarding School is, in my opinion, a wasted opportunity. The film remains intriguing throughout so it keeps you wanting to figure out what is going on in this mansion, but it seems like the director doesn’t know how to explore the themes he implements. Boarding School could have been great. Unfortunately, it is just an average film from an unexperienced director.

The actors are all obviously talented but what really transpires through their performances is the lack of direction. For instance, Luke Prael, who portrays Jacob, goes from mesmerizing performances to downright bad line deliveries from one scene to the next. Will Patton is having fun playing the scary headmaster / only teacher and it really shows on screen. The other child actors are good at portraying disabilities so the characters are quite believable. The only character I didn’t like is Christine, another teen sent to the school whom Jacob knew beforehand.

There is one aspect of Boarding School that is constantly hinted at but never fully explored and it really hurts the film. Jacob is a feminine boy and people around him keep telling him he is a girl or walks like a girl. The problem is, that’s all that is said on the subject. It seems the director wanted to touch upon the subject of transgender but didn’t know how to incorporate it into the story. It seems the only purpose of Jacob dressing up in his grandmother’s clothing was to make the kid have an interesting look in the climax of the film. I mean, Luke Prael can definitely pull it off but it doesn’t bring anything to the story.

The premise of the film is interesting enough and the reveal of the adults’ real intentions could have been a great twist but unfortunately, an good story doesn’t make a good film without good writing and good direction. Boarding School offers good visuals and a story that never goes beyond the surface.

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Review : Re-Animator (1985)

Re-Animator, directed by Stuart Gordon and released in 1985, is loosely based on a novella written by H.P. Lovecraft in 1922. The film was distributed by Empire Pictures (the company created by Charles Band before Full Moon). Re-Animator has reached the status of cult classic over the years.

Re-Animator tells the story of Herbert West, a medical student who succeeded in creating a serum which can re-animate dead bodies. In Zurich, he manages to bring his dead professor back to life but there are disgusting side effects as the dosage was too high. Accused of killing the professor, Herbert West moves to New England and enrolls in university to further his studies. When he demonstrates to his roommate, Dan, the power of his discovery, the latter joins him to further test the serum. This leaves the students expelled from school with a trail of re-animated corpses behind them.

Re-animator is the perfect example of a horror comedy done right. The mad scientist premise has been used countless times and, on paper, it sounds a bit ridiculous. Instead of working against it, the film completely embraces it and does exactly what should be done : it goes over the top and delivers a gory experience with plenty of dark humor. I loved the tone of Re-Animator and its unique style. It has a good rhythm and is never boring.

The story being a mix of Frankenstein and zombies, it offers a reflexion on the God complex that is often associated on screen to scientists and doctors and the acceptance of our own mortality. Add to that a high dose of blood and gore and gags, and you get the perfect entertaining cinematic experience. Of course, Re-Animator has its flaws and I could nitpick as I often like to do. I also could list everything that doesn’t make sense. I won’t bother because this film has good acting, a fun story, great practical effects and this is all I wanted !

Finally, I just want to write a few words about what is, in my opinion, the greatest strenght of the film : Jeffrey Combs’ performance as Herbert West. It may be the first time I thought an actor acting over the top was brilliant and made the right choice. He absolutely nails the part of the scientist slowly descending into madness. The rest of the cast does a fine job as well but I do believe Re-Animator would be nothing without Jeffrey Combs.

If you love horror, you are bound to love Re-Animator. I have no clue why it took me so long to watch this classic and I can see myself rewatching it several times in the future. Learn from my mistakes : don’t wait any longer, watch it now!

Review : Jason X (2001)

This is it, folks ! I am concluding my Friday the 13th marathon with the final installment: Jason X, directed by James Isaac and released in 2001. It has been close to a decade since the last Jason film and the sole purpose of this new entry was for New Line Cinema to retain the rights while Freddy VS Jason was in development. And what do you do when you run out of ideas ? You send your main character in space, of course !

In the early 2000’s, Jason Voorhees is captured and held by the government in a secret facility, thr Crystal Lake Research Facility (what the hell is that and where does it come from and why do they keep inventing nonsense like this ?). After several failed attempts at killing Jason, a scientist decides to put him in cryogenic suspension. However, the government has other plans and wants to study Jason’s abilities. Of course, Jason escaped and kills everyone except the scientist who manages to trap him in a cryogenic chamber. However, Jason manages to stab her, compromising the integrity of the chamber and freezing them both. This is just the opening sequence and it is quite fun and promises an interesting story. There is also a cameo from director David Cronenberg (what’s he doing here, I have no clue). I genuinely thought it was a good opening sequence.

Fast forward 400 years into the future and we meet a group of archaeology students find the bodies of Jason and Rowan (the scientist) and bring them back to their spaceship, which is on route to Earth II. Withe their super advanced technology, they manage to revive Rowan who warns them about Jason….but it’s already too late. The rest of the film is about Jason killing (almost) everybody on board.

While Jason X is not a good movie by any means, it is a huge improvement over the shitfest that was Jason Goes To Hell. First, Jason is actually in the movie. A lot. A Jason film starring Jason ? Thank you, New Line, for finally understanding that the main character is actually an essential part of the franchise !! Jason X has something that, despite its many flaws, makes it work : it knows what it is and doesn’t take itself seriously. While the jokes don’t always land, the film is filled with humor, sometimes intentional, sometimes not.

While the acting is bad and the majority of the lines is cringe-worthy, the cast seems to be having fun. Unlike the previous entry, Jason X is actually really fun and entertaining. Once Jason wakes up from his stase (for reasons unknown since it took complicated equipment to revive Rowan when Jason simply wakes up), there’s a kill every 5 minutes. While most are very simple, a few do stand out especially the first one on the ship where Jason puts a female scientist’s head in liquid nitrogen and then smashes her face into pieces against the table. This scene is awesome.

The characters, young students all obsessed with sex, don’t have much personality or intelligence. But, there’s so many of them that it gives plenty of victims for our friend, Jason. Unfortunately, I do have an issue with the look of pre Uber Jason. He looked terrible in Jason Goes To Hell but here, they didn’t get anything right : the mask is terrible, there is barely any make-up and you can clearly see Kane Hodder under the mask. He might be the worst looking Jason in the entire franchise. However, when he becomes Uber Jason, get ready for an extreme level of badass Jason. I love the design of Uber Jason, he looks amazing and I wish we got more of him in the film.

There is another scene that stands out, in the final act. The remaining survivors create an holographic simulation of Crystal Lake to distract Jason. There, he meets two female campers who claim to love alcohol, drugs and pre-marital sex. A fun hommage to the famous Friday the 13th formula. Of course, this turns on Jason’s “destroy horny teenagers” mode and he kills both by bashing them in their sleeping bags, another nod to a famous kill in the franchise. The scene is silly but really fun to watch.

Many people despise Jason X, but after watching Jason Goes To Hell, I like this final installment even more. Is it bad ? Yes, absolutely. But at least, it’s extremely entertaining and at this point, this is all I wanted. And there’s Uber Jason. Who in their right mind can dislike Uber Jason ? Check out the film, you’ll have a fun time.

Review : Jason Goes To Hell (1993)

After an unintentional break into my Friday the 13th marathon, here is my review of the worst entry in the franchise : Jason Goes To Hell, directed by Adam Marcus and released in 1993. It was my first time watching the film. I knew its reputation so I was expecting mediocrity…but I didn’t realize it would be beyond mediocre.

First, let’s try to summarize the plot (as if there is one…) : Jason has been blown to pieces (more on that later) but we discover that his body is merely a vessel for a demon and his heart not only keeps beating but also hypnotizes anyone who looks at it into eating it. Confused yet ? Wait for the rest of this stupid story… So, Jason is now an entity (in the form of a weird worm creature) that jumps from host to host. Apparently only a Voorhees can either help him be reborn or kill him for good. And guess what ? It so happens that Jason has a half-sister…I’ll just stop right here because you get the idea : the script was written by morons who never watched a Friday film.

The film actually has a decent opening sequence which makes you believe you’re about to watch a typical Friday film. It opens with a young woman going to a cabin at Crystal Lake, she’s about to take a shower and the lights go out. Jason appears, all rotten, and chases her through the woods. All of a sudden, Jason is surrounded by armed forces who fire a thousand bullets at him…wait ! Are we getting a nice little twist ? Don’t get your hopes high, the fun stops right here. Since automatic weapons were not enough, they blow him up into pieces with air missiles. That’s right, freaking air missiles ! This is the moment you realize what you are watching is not a Friday the 13th film.

The film’s biggest mistake is that Jason only appears in it briefly. This movie is called JASON goes to hell. His name is in the freaking title !! I’ll take A New Beginning anyday over this pile of shit because Part V does have a Jason even if it’s not the real one. And I won’t even debate about it being subtitled The Final Friday when they pulled that crap once before with The Final Chapter (which is forgiven because it’s a great film). This is also where Jason looks the worst and Kane Hodder gives his weakest performance.

The whole mythology they are trying to force feed us is a complete failure. Jason has relatives who come out of nowhere, there’s a story about a dagger which becomes magical when a Voorhees holds it…need I continue ?

I don’t know who thought this was a good idea for a Friday film and I can’t believe Sean S. Cunningham (director and producer of the first film) participated in this debacle. The directing is really bad, the story makes no sense at all, the film is boring and Jason is barely in it. I honestly can’t think of anything positive or a bit redeemable about Jason Goes To Hell. It is simply an absolute piece of shit which shouldn’t have been made.

At least in the previous entries, even the bad ones were at least entertaining. This one has nothing going for it not to mention it lacks any kind of gore or horror. Avoid it at all cost and let me do you a favor. I give you the only shot worth seeing in the entire film :

Review : Friday the 13th Part VIII : Jason takes Manhattan (1989)

Another year, another sequel ! In 1989, Jason takes Manhattan, directed by Rob Hedden, was released. This is regarded as one of the worst sequels in the franchise. While this movie should have been called Jason takes a boat to Manhattan (as he only spends a third of the film in NYC), I don’t share the common dislike for this film. I actually like it. Sue me…actually, don’t, let me explain !

The film opens with two high school graduates aboard a boat on Crystal Lake. Apparently, staying on a lake known for having been the location of multiple massacres is a brilliant idea ! The boat’s anchor damages some underwater cables which shock Jason’s corpse and bring him back to life. The next day, a group of students is getting aboard the Lazarus on a cruise to New York City. An unexpected guest joins the teenagers and gets rid of them one by one until the boat reaches New York City, allowing Jason to…take Manhattan…sort of !

Let’s first address the elephant in the room : the title is misleading and, on the first viewing, will surely be a big disappointment. The majority of the film takes place on the ship and not actually in Manhattan. Jason arrives in NYC in the final act of the film. While I am indeed disappointed that the film is set on a cruise and not in the city, the short time spent in NYC is entertaining enough to be satisfying. I found the shots of Jason in Times Square and in front of a giant hockey billboard quite epic.

Now, with each sequel, the characters seem to get worse. With more sequels comes less character development. However, the main protagonists are a big improvement over Tina from The New Blood. Rennie and Sean are likable enough and not too annoying that you’ll enjoy following them trying to escape Jason. The others are just expendables and, as we are used to now, are just body count for Jason to have fun with.

Jason takes Manhattan has many flaws, several scenes makes no sense and yet, I found it really entertaining. The boat sails from a lake to the ocean…how exactly does that work ? Then, in New York City, apparently it is a common thing to find barrels full of acid in alleyways. These are only two examples of the silliness that occurs in this film.

The ending, while not as bad as The New Blood, is once again impossible to explain rationally. Now that we are on the eighth Friday the 13th film, it is quite clear that none of the directors and writers had any clue on ending any of these films.

I don’t understand the hate towards Jason takes Manhattan. Is it indeed flawed but I thought it wasn’t worse than some previous entries in the franchise. Jason, as portrayed by Kane Hodder, is still a badass and plenty enjoyable to watch. 

Review : Friday the 13th Part VII : The New Blood (1988)

Directed by John Carl Buechler, the seventh installment in the Friday the 13th franchise was released in 1988 and marks Kane Hodder’s first time as Jason Voorhees. He is the only actor to have reprised the role several times.

Jason Voorhees is still chained at the bottom of Crystal Lake. We are introduced to a new family living in area, Tina and her parents. One night, after abusing her mother and chasing her to the lake, Tina, who has telekinetic powers, accidentally kills her father. Ten years later and after years at a mental institution, Tina returns to Crystal Lake with her mother and her psychiatrist to face her past and come to terms with it. However, Tina accidentally (again…) raises Jason from the dead. 

I have many issues with The New Blood and the predominant one is the main character, Tina. She is annoying and constantly whining. First of all, while I understand she would be traumatized by having killed her own father, the degree of grief she demonstrates is unbelievable. We only have one single information about her father : he was violent and abusive. Knowing that, it seems unlikely that she, as she states herself, misses him greatly. While on the topic of her father’s death, the scene made little sense. It seems that he died simply from falling into the water as nothing hit him or trapped him underwater. He simply died…because he fell into the water…really ?

The other two characters surrounding her are just as poorly written : the psychiatrist is an asshole and his sole purpose is to be disliked (and trust me, you’ll hate that guy) and her mother is oblivious to the fact that this man is so obviously mean spirited and after her daughter’s powers. The teenagers next door are textbook slasher characters and I barely remember any of them.

However, there is someone who redeems all these awful characters : our friend Jason ! It is the first time Kane Hodder portrays him and it is clear why he is fans’ favorite. Jason has never been more badass than in The New Blood. It’s a shame Hodder is in the worst entries in the Friday the 13th franchise because he is possibly the best Jason Voorhees. He brings charisma and a menacing physicality to the character like we’ve never seen before. While he sometimes acts over-the-top, it never bothered me. He is definitely the highlight of the film…though that wouldn’t have been difficult to begin with. He still deserves all the recognition for making this movie watchable. His make-up is fantastic as we get to see him unmasked and there are a few epic scenes thanks to our hockey-mask wearing freak !

The New Blood is once again heavily edited and makes me wonder what is the point of watching a Friday the 13th film if we are denied the blood and gore. There is one aspect I didn’t like and it is again linked to the main character, Tina. I simply don’t like the fact that she has telekinetic powers. It feels like cheating ! The other final girls had to find ressources and inner strength to fight Jason, it would have been too easy to have superpowers (what is this, the X-Men ?). To make things worse, Tina doesn’t even use her powers for anything but move an object from point A to point B, which anyone could do without powers. She never does anything amazing or badass. Many have stated that this is Carrie VS Jason…but that’s disrespectful to Carrie.

I can’t say I didn’t enjoy The New Blood because Jason is plenty entertaining but other than him, the movie doesn’t have much to offer. I won’t spoil the ending, but it is the worst in the franchise so far and is impossible to explain because no matter how you look at it, it makes no sense. Watch it if you have 80 minutes to lose.

 

Review : Friday the 13th Part VI : Jason Lives (1986)

Friday the 13th Part VI : Jason Lives, directed by Tom McLoughlin, was released in 1986. After the poor reception of Part V, the producers decided to bring back Jason Voorhees. On two occasions (Part IV and Part V), Tommy Jarvis was set up to be the new villain, they definitely dropped the idea and made him the hero in this new installment.

After the events of the previous film, Tommy Jarvis and a friend return to Crystal Lake to cremate Jason’s body. In an attempt in doing so, they unintentionally bring Jason back to life. Tommy tries to warn the authorities but nobody believes him and everyone thinks he is insane. Soon enough, Jason returns to his old habit of murdering anyone who crosses his path while Tommy is being accused of the murders. It is up to Tommy and the sheriff’s daughter who befriends him to pit and end to Jason’s reign of terror over Crystal Lake.

Jason Lives is definitely amongst the best Friday the 13th sequels, especially upon viewing it right after the mess that was A New Beginning. The opening scene is an hommage to gothic horror, specifically Frankenstein, with the lightning resurrecting Jason. It is the first time, and not the last, Jason is presented as a supernatural being with abnormal strenght and the inability to die. This might even be my favourite portrayal of Jason and I especially enjoyed his undead look. They also made the very smart choice of recasting Tommy Jarvis. Thom Matthews (from Return of the Living Dead) does a much better job than his predecessor ever did. Tommy has to fight on several front in this film : he has to face his childhood trauma but also the authorities who simply won’t believe him. This very frustrating situation makes Tommy a very strong character and a hero worthy of rooting for.

This sixth installment brings back the blood and it feels in the tradition of every other Friday the 13th films, unlike the previous one. I didn’t find any kill to be particularly memorable but they are all entertaining and well-made. They also added a new element which increases the tension : this is the first time there are children at the camp. Though I knew they wouldn’t dare kill a kid on screen, I couldn’t help but fear for the little ones when Jason was lurking around their dorm.

The highlight of the film is its fantastic final sequence. Jason is terrifying and determined to get rid of Tommy once and for all. There is only one thing that doesn’t quite make sense to me : Jason doesn’t mind the water at all ; I expected him to be reluctant and maybe even scared to walk into the lake where he drowned as a child (or didn’t drown, who knows). Apart from this detail, the scene is great. I’ve never been really scared of Jason, that was until I saw him underwater. What a great conclusion ! This is my favourite ending to a Friday the 13th film so far.

I highly recommend Jason Lives as it is one of the best entries in the franchise. I still enjoy The Final Chapter a little bit more but this one is a close second.