Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

A fun directional pivot for the series, and the first appearance of Kane Hodder as the man behind the mask, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, is truth in title and a fun double entendre. New (or fresh) blood: new members admitted to a group, typically as an invigorating force.

There aren’t many ways to go with a stalk-and-slash premise that boils down to “masked guy going on a rampage in the woods.” But here, director John Carl Buechler adds some supernatural / telekinesis elements that bring a fun, Cronenberg-lite touch to the Camp Crystal Lake series in the form of researcher, Dr. Crews.

Jason is rotting on the bed of a lagoon, and this Crystal Lake looks more like a Louisiana bog. Crews is studying young Tina Shepard, a girl with the power to move things with her mind, who’s inadvertently caused the death of her father, as well as reanimated Mr. Voorhees from the lake bottom. He’s an institute-appointment psychiatrist who’s more interested in self-aggrandizement than helping poor Tina assuage her feelings of guilt. And she’s a bit like Charlene in Stephen King’s Firestarter (or Carrie, to acknowledge an oft-cited debt).

The rest of Friday is, of course, Jason getting down to the business of killing once he is broken free from his chains and emerges from his sub-aqueous ecosystem.

Dr. Crews is weed-wacked, and Kane Hodder is a kind of Lucio Fulzi Zombie of a Jason, complete with rotting maggot/worm visage and a hulking physicality.

The second unit director and Buechler shot test footage of the allegedly “too small” Hodder (we should all be that small at 6’2″)  in a mock-up mask and suit and sent it to Paramount. And the rest…is history, at least as far as Hodder in the lead role is concerned (Hodder would go on to play Jason five times).

How does this fare in terms of fitting into the Friday canon?

It’s not the best, but The New Blood is far from the worst: that (arguably) came a year later in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.

*** (out of 5)


Get Out

Get Out can’t get out of its own way, stumbling from outstanding in-group out-group frights to Phantasm body-snatcher silliness.

With an opener depicting upper-crust suburbia as terrifyingly as the original Halloween, a random African American man is suddenly murdered walking  through a gated community. The tension is agonizing, compounded by teeth-chattering musical accompaniment.

Shifting gears to its whiz-bang Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner premise, Get Out reminds us that there’s lots of interesting territory to be mined here, and for the first third of the run-time, it is.

African American Chris (Daniel Kalyuua), and Caucasian girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), are off to meet her parents in a secluded house in the woods. Pops (Bradley Whitford) is a Dennis Hopper-ish glad-hander, who, along with wife Missy (Catherine Keener) are eager to show off their liberal bona fides. They’re both healthcare professionals, she’s a hynotherapist, and convinces Chris to try a smoking cessation session. In the film’s second high water mark, she probes Chris’ subconscious by having him recall childhood trauma, sending him into an abyss.

There’s some wicked simmering racial tension between between Chris and Rose’s slightly-built brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), who drunkenly boasts of the strength and power-negating properties of cerebral jiu-jitsu.

It’s riveting stuff, heightening Chris’ self-doubt about the family’s true intentions, heretofore half-concealed by dad’s “I would’ve voted for Obama for a third-term,” sycophancy and his girlfriend’s steadfast reassurance that they’re all good people.

The rest of Get Out is, however, as un-subtle as Night of the Living Dead was subtle (hell, even the poster is black and white with a line of demarcation down the centre). The family hosts a big party, and spate of new characters appear, diluting the twin-scares of woodsy isolation, doubly felt by a black protagonist who’s isolated-within-isolation.

The party-goers each voice boilerplate bigotry, from “I love Tiger Woods” faux solidarity, all the way to, “is it true, once you go Black,?” etc, etc.

Daniel Kalyuua’s Chris (who isn’t given much to do other than turning the other cheek, while cocking his head) contacts his buddy Rod (Lil Rel Howery) a few times, the latter serving as a plot/comedic device. Rod’s yuk injections about Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims aren’t nearly as “ruthlessly smart” as you’ve been told to believe.

In left-wing circles, Te-Nehisi Coates’ “black bodies” rhetoric is prevalent. But even if you weren’t familiar with the phrase, you’d be able to spot the related denouement a half mile down the road.

Ultimately, writer/director Jordan Peele, known for delivering laughs as half of Key & Peele, delivers half a splendid horror film here. It’s impossible not to be impressed by the opening charged atmosphere and characterization in his debut, just don’t be THAT impressed. He’s more than set himself up as someone to watch out for though.

***1/4 (out of 5)