Monday, October 31, 2005

C'est L'Halloween!



And the good news is, this is my last post on Corpse Eaters.

A couple of recent occurrences, all of them positive, have prompted me to reconsider my involvement with Corpse Eaters.

One, my best friends and former roommates have cobbled together a new group blog at The House of Irony. While the blog is as general as you can get, I did manage on convincing the designer of the site to allow readers to visit pages devoted solely to select topics, ie. Horror. So, in addition to the ramblings of mine that you've grown accustomed to, you can also catch the opinions on the topic from five additional deviants, all conveniently located in our horror section. Change your blogroll accordingly.

Two, I've had a horror-related project in mind for a couple of years now but I never quite had the concept nailed down well enough to feel comfortable pursuing it. I recently had the epiphany that I was waiting for, and which my tenure on Corpse Eaters helped me to achieve, and I need all the free time I can get to make this project a reality.

Before Corpse Eaters I had a moderately successful comic-related blog. On average, I received about one-tenth of the hits on Corpse Eaters as I did on that earlier blog, and every time I considered that fact I had myself a good laugh. Writing Corpse Eaters has been a joy that can't be numbered in the amount of readers, but can be judged by the quality. In fact, I appreciate the people who stuck with me even more so then I ever did before. Here's a few of the people whose work I've enjoyed and whose contributions to Corpse Eaters I've valued. Please, if you don't already visit their sites, do so.

Warrenzone - You crazy fucker. It always made me proud that I was one of only a handful of horror blogs linked to on your site. Rock out with your cock out, man.

Carnacki - One of the most fervent supporters of Corpse Eaters, I always regretted that I didn't touch on real-world supernatural events so that I could link to your excellent site more then I did. I hope this makes up for it.

Final Girl - The untamed Valkyrie of horror blogging, she achieved in one day what I couldn't in one month. May the blood on your sword be the blood of a King.

And the last thank you must be reserved for the lovely J. who has gleefully watched every single movie mentioned on this blog in addition to twice the amount that didn't quite make the cut. This silent masked killing machine couldn't ask for a nicer, kinder, silent masked killing machine to be his girlfriend.



Now what's it going to be next, baby? Blood Harvest, Curse of the Devil or Boa Vs. Python again?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The One Where Jason Wears A Potato Sack On His Head Pt. 2

The following examination of the second Friday the 13th, and all subsequent discussion on the series, won't be reviews as such, and will therefore contain numerous SPOILERS. I will be including this warning before each entry. Please read no further if you haven't already seen the movie in question. Thanks.

"Some kind of out of control psychopath? A frightened retard? A child trapped in a man's body?"

It would be hard for me to pinpoint my main reason for being fascinated by the Friday the 13th franchise, but one of the major contenders would be the way it plays fast and loose with its own mythology, and how it seems to be able to get away with it. I think the explanation lies in its shaky beginning. The creators of Friday the 13th have admitted that they had no idea where they were going to go with the second one and the development of Jason was just one of many different possibilities. Compare this organic way of constructing a mythology with any other series. As examples, Halloween and Hellraiser established ground rules and main antagonists right off the bat, and any deviation from that standard, no matter how minor or even beneficial, was considered a form of blasphemy. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. Friday the 13th evades this trap simply by having little in the way of a concrete foundation from the very start, which isn't to say that various installments haven't stretched this dubious advantage to its breaking point. Yes, I'm looking at you The One Where Jason Goes Into Outer Space.

The Godfather II, Empire Strikes Back, The Bride of Frankenstein, Friday the 13th Part 2. Many people feel that this movie is one of those rare jewels, the sequel that is superior to its originator. I'm not sure I agree, but I can see why some would feel that way. Part 2 retains some of the grit of the first film, while finally establishing some of the more popular ground rules. With its transitional sequence from Part 1 to Part 2 out of the way, this installment jumps right in with a noticeable lack of bosomy support and the introduction of some truly scandalous ass cheek-enhancing short shorts. The 80's are just starting to kick into gear, camp counselors have gathered at nearby Camp Packanack for "training" and already the woods are looking more spacious and inviting.

Jason's supposed origin is told to the counselors as they huddle around a campfire. In it, Jason didn't drown as a child but survived and lived in a near bestial state in the surrounding woods. He was, according to legend, an unwitting witness to his mother's demise, which set him on his current path of destruction. To purists, this origin is the true one, preferable to the notion advanced in later films that Jason drowned in the lake and emerged from his slumber upon his mother's death. Truth be told, though numerous indications are made throughout the second film to support the first theory, we never objectively find out what happened to Jason during those missing decades. The head counselor's campfire tale is just that, a tale. If it also happens to be true is pure coincidence.

The inherent isolation of Jason in this situation, if this version is true, adds a compelling twist to his character. Unlike, say, the family in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jason is left without a support system. His motives are entirely clear, untainted by the whims of kin or friends. It's true, as critics have asserted, that Jason's actions are base, but how much thought has gone into the how and why of his rampage? Does he even understand the concept of Death, or what happened to his mother? The time that Jason has spent in the woods scrounging like an animal take up nearly half his life before the events of the first Friday the 13th, two decades worth, and none of it is accounted for. Also of interest is the human weakness shown by Jason in the second film. He hasn't yet developed his purposeful stride, instead varying his step from a slow stalk to a sharp trot to running away instead of towards danger. His hand isn't sure and steady yet, groping around seeking out a vengeance even he doesn't fully understand, but somehow feels compelled to obey. He even sets snares and requires shelter from the elements and his mask is utilitarian, with only one ragged eye hole poked through a dirty burlap sack.

Back to the story, in the evening the majority of the counselors make their way to the local watering hole for a few drinks and necking. This whittles the large group down to a more manageable level, but it's also weird in that they decide not to partake in such pleasures at the camp itself. In fact, at least one of the major characters, Ted the obligatory smart ass, doesn't even return to the camp. He ends up staying behind and we never really find out what, if anything, happened to him. The killings themselves have a few bright spots, including another use of the fake subjective camera where it appears that we're watching through the killer's eyes when really it's just another case of sleight-of-hand. Even the victims are interesting. It's one of the only instances that I can think of in a slasher film where the characters actually state their dreams and aspirations for a future they don't have, almost convincing an audience so used to ciphers that anyone with hopes can't possibly be cut down before they're given a chance to make them come true. It's little flourishes like this that place the first two films up there with Halloween and other more respected slasher fare, despite the heavy and usually well-deserved criticisms that came with later installments.

Now despite my preference for the first one, the second film has what is easily my favourite scene in the entire series, and one of my favourite scenes in all horror films. I'm glad Final Girl pointed this one out as well. I'm talking about the scene where Paul is investigating a dimly lit room in the main cabin and Ginny says "Paul, there's someone in this room," which escalates to "There's someone in this fucking room!" That instinctual knowledge that someone is right there with you, coupled with what seems to be a reluctance to immediately freak out for fear of embarrassment. It's the battle between rational reluctance and irrational certainty, played out in two nearly identical sentences, with the word "fucking" hammering the fact of the matter home. That second sentence pops right out, much more then if Ginny had simply started screaming straight away. It's a punch to the gut, and the perfect signal to start a new round of carnage, because all the last minute warnings in the world can't help you when the killer is right beside you unseen, waiting.

Damn, I'm going to go watch that part again.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The One Where Jason Wears A Potato Sack On His Head - Part 1.

The following examination of the second Friday the 13th, and all subsequent discussion on the series, won't be reviews as such, and will therefore contain numerous SPOILERS. I will be including this warning before each entry. Please read no further if you haven't already seen the movie in question. Thanks.

"I don't want to scare anyone, but I'm going to give it to you straight about Jason."

Two months have passed since the ending of the first film. It's a rainy evening in what appears to be a small town. The first appearance of Jason is of his work boots walking through puddles just vacated by a little girl playing, once again showing how close danger passes over innocence in search of more mature prey. Alice, the survivor of the first film, is still haunted by her encounter at Camp Crystal Lake. As unsubtle as the obligatory flashbacks are, we also get a glimpse of sketches she's produced since that night. Unlike what she showed her boss in the last film, these drawings are jagged, dark and chaotic, an interesting nod to characterization and continuity in a series not normally known for such things.

The use of the camera is especially intriguing in this sequence. There's one shot where the camera, stock still and seemingly objective, begins to follow Alice to the shower in the kind of POV shot typically found in such movies. In fact, this kind of fake-out from objective to subjective is especially evident in the Evil Dead series. Friday the 13th Part 2 goes one better, delivering a double fake-out by making us believe that the camera is subjective when it's really nothing of the sort. Alice parting the shower curtain and staring straight into the camera, which was objective all along, is far creepier then the fake cat scare that comes soon afterwards. In fact, that fourth-wall breaking stare straight at us almost seems to shame an audience that was luridly following along, waiting to see either nudity or violence or both, yet being caught in the act.

Friday the 13th Part 2 starts off very much in the same style as Part 1, though it departs from that look for the remainder of the movie. This prologue makes for a really nice bridging sequence, moving from one aesthetic to another with a very odd and deliberate sense of pacing. The camera lingers on Alice and follows her around for what seems to be an eternity, and with the mysterious stranger having already been established outside, there's no need for a chase scene or a protracted struggle. We cut immediately from the creepy atmosphere of being entirely alone in the house straight to death, with nothing in between.

The death of Alice at Jason's hands underscores the defeatist undercurrent of these films. It goes without saying that the defeat of the threat in a horror film may only end up being a temporary solution, but all too often that threat is actually intensified by the actions of the hero or heroes. Jason is a perfect example. If his mother had continued killing at her leisurely rate of those who were within the grounds of Camp Crystal Lake, then there's a better then good chance that very few, if any, further people would die at her hands. Odds are she would have passed away before she got another chance. Even if she had simply been jailed that would most likely have been the end of it. But because she was killed violently in sight of him, Jason himself has taken to exacting vengeance, and with every encounter he only returns more powerful then ever. It all could have ended years ago if Alice was just a little slower with a machete. Really, she was only delaying the inevitable, and consigning hundred more to death in the process.

I really love this sequence, so much so that I could easily devote an entire post solely to its charms.

Oh.

To be continued...

Friday, October 14, 2005

Friday the 14th

That's How We Roll.



I bought a machete for J. today. While the cashier was ringing up my purchase, another salesperson pulled out a fancier, more expensive model that had just come in and tried to convince to buy it instead. This was the first time I had ever had someone attempt to upsell me on a machete. The new machete was mean looking, with a jagged handle that looked like something a member of Slipknot would approve of. I declined, pointing out that the machete I was already purchasing said "Property of Camp Crystal Lake", and that I'm old school like that.

I'm just glad I decided against the Friday the 13th shot glasses. If they had tried to push the ones with Leatherface based on the 'Saw remake on me I would have lost it.

Corpse Eaters Contest!



Funny but true, I haven't really done much drawing since I started work as an animator over a year ago. To rectify that, I've started forcing myself to free up time to get the artistic juices flowing again. Part of my new regimen involves sketching from movies while watching them. The above is a sampling of skecthes I did last night. As you can see, I'm plenty rusty. To help boost my confidence (or shatter it irrevocably), I've decided to hold a contest. If you can name the famous scream queen depicted above, send me an email at giant_ants@hotmail.com. At the end of the weekend, if any more then one person submits a guess, I'll randomly select one contestant who will win a DVD of the movie which these drawings were taken from. It doesn't get any simpler then this, unless we develop group telepathy or a hive mind of some kind.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Gone Fishin'



I would like to apologize for my absence during this past weekend. I had every intention of posting every day this month, however, we Canadians get our Thanksgiving a week earlier then our American cousins. I had made a last minute decision to pay my mom a visit for the holidays, and though this normally wouldn't deter me from my duties, she had already made alternate plans which took me out of range of internet access for the entire trip. Those of you paying attention may have already guessed where this change of venue. That's right, I spent a chilly October long weekend at my Grandparent's cottage, the one I refer to in my Introduction. The lake, the woods, the dead leaves and the world's longest pathway to an outhouse. The past week's immersion into the Friday the 13th series served as the catalyst for one scary Thanksgiving dinner, let me tell you. I hope the thought of me cowering in terror all weekend will bring you some satisfaction.

On a related note, I've invited some of my friends from the upcoming House of Irony blog to contribute to Corpse Eaters during this month. Years ago the bunch of us would get together weekly to watch and review movies for a horror 'zine we were writing. In fact, Corpse Eaters was conceived as a continuation of that idea. I have no idea when or how much any of them will be contributing, if at all, but hopefully they'll be able to counterbalance some of my own views. If anyone else is interested in writing an alternate review, or has something related to Friday the 13th that they'd like to share that just won't fit in the comments, please feel free to contact me about contributing. I can be reached at giant_ants at hotmail dot com.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

F13-C-64



Most people I've spoken to remember the Nintendo Friday the 13th video game if they remember any, but it wasn't the first and certainly wasn't the best. The Commodore 64 version of Friday the 13th was one of my all-time favourite games for that system for one very compelling reason. You could beat Jason at his own game.

The premise of the game was simple. You and a group of friends are stalked by Jason within the confines of Camp Crystal Lake, with various scenes including a barn, haystacks, and some sort of cathedral. Within these scenes were a multitude of weapons such as a pitchfork, baseball bat, knife, machete and my favourite, the axe. Deviating from the status quo, one of the campers was in fact Jason Voorhees in disguise. It was your job to hunt down Jason and kill him before he killed all the other campers, including you. In order to unveil Jason's identity, you had to run into a camper or attack him, and if you were lucky and it was Jason he would reveal himself and come after you instead, giving you a chance to hack away at him. This is where things got interesting.

If everything were as straightforward as the above, then there wouldn't be much to playing the game, but in our variation you attempted to kill as many campers as you could before Jason got to them. Killing campers enraged Jason, and sent him on a mission to stop you, thereby reversing your roles. If you could whittle the numbers down until only you and Jason were left, then you'd finally face him and try to take him down. Killing campers and Jason was commendable enough, but if you managed the difficult task of getting all the campers before Jason was able to get any, then you'd really be rocking out with your cock out. In a sense, it was the pixelated mixture of Friday the 13th-Jason Goes To Hell and Freddy Vs. Jason, two decades ahead of its time.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Holy Guacamole

O.K., fourth all-nighter in a row trying to get all these scenes done and I'm just too exhausted to even think, let alone write about hockey. Just when I think all hope is lost and I won't be able to post, along comes the wonderful J. to save my hide.

"I'm still working on Stephen King's Skeleton Crew. I'm kind of just reading the stories in random order. It struck me today that Stephen King always has his characters having sex at the most inappropriate times and its always because they can't help it, some force just overtakes them and they become aroused and apparently have no control and who cares if there's a fucking mist with giant bugs ready to eat them, or some big black pool of god-knows-what on the lake that would like to melt their flesh.

Remind me if the zombies come that Bangor, Maine is probably not the best place to go because Stephen King is probably going to be fucking everything on two legs."


Thanks for that pick-me-up, babe.