Category Archives: FORGOTTEN GEMS

THE MANIAC COP TRILOGY

Ever wonder what a slasher movie would be like if the guy running about slaying people for whatever half-baked reason was an undead member of the New York police force? NO? Well, someone did and the result was this oddball little film called “Maniac Cop”(1988) produced and written by Larry Cohen. Think “Friday the 13th” meets “The Shield”. What the film lacks in a believable plot, it more than makes up for with gung-ho performances by the lovable and ever-over-acting Tom Atkins, the quite-large and creepy Robert Z’Dar as the titular big-boy-in-blue and a young Bruce Campbell, hot off of his “Evil Dead” success. Some nice dark humor and entertaining action/death scenes make the story of zombie Officer Cordell seeking vengeance on people for, well, varying and sometimes unclear reasons oddly watchable. In an uncommon turn for the genre, both sequels are arguably as good if not better than the original film. It’s a smidge campy and certainly doesn’t hesitate to ask the viewer to suspend disbelief on the regular, but it’s a fun bit of celluloid and if you get the chance to revisit this odd little trilogy you may be pleasantly surprised. Eyes up for the Sam Raimi cameo near the end.

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HARPOON TO THE EYE…

And now for another one our patented golden oldies, yes yes….from the racks and stacks, it’s the best on wax!! Well, actually, now-a-days it would be….like, the best on celluloid, or plastic, or flashdrive, or in the f***ing cloud….eh…..

Alas, I digress!!

Picking up directly after the events of Part II, this defining entry in series finds our hooded killer moving away from one side of Crystal Lake and it’s summer camp where he just killed several counselors, to the other side where he terrorizes teenagers on vacation at Higgins Haven. He offs people in increasingly gruesome ways, he proceeds to take out every single person except one…will our survivor girl Chris Higgins be able to survive long enough to take out the masked maniac or will she be, you know…dead?

Released in 1982 to the largest box office of the series thus far, “FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3” marks the first time the slasher icon dons his trademark hockey mask and boasts a substantially larger death toll than previous entries, with almost as many as Parts 1&2 combined. This is the film that secured Jason’s place as the penultimate camp slasher. Additionally, this is the movie which saw Jason really take up the machete as a favored weapon for the films to come. Originally planned as the end to a trilogy, this film utilized 3-D technology to really get audiences excited. It worked. Seven more films in the original canon alone followed including “Part 4:The Final Chapter” and “Jason Goes to Hell”, neither of which were actually the end of the series. The film had to be extensively trimmed to avoid an X rating from the MPAA. One interesting tidbit: Parts 2,3 &4 all take place within one week of each other while most of the other films have years if not decades between films. Jason is a pillar of the genre and we all pay tribute to house of Voorhees!!

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SEVERING TIES

HERE THERE BE DRAGONS…

Not really, but it got your fickle, hummingbird-like attention for a few fleeting moments, so listen to this rap about an new/old classic from good ol’ ’06. Another overlooked bit o’ celluloid.

A group of sales representatives for a weapons developer go out on a team building weekend getaway to a cabin retreat in the Matra mountains of Hungary. Promised a fun filled weekend of team building in a “luxury lodge”, the trip quickly takes a turn for the worse and soon the group find themselves in a in increasingly unsettling series of encounters involving an unseen enemy in the woods.

Directed by Christopher Smith from his screenplay and released in 2006, “Severance” is a hidden jewel of a slasher flick. While it has very even pacing, once the violence begins, it’s a fairly gory and over-the-top affair. The film currently holds an approval rating of 65% on the film critic site Rotten Tomatoes based on 86 reviews and a score of 62 out of 100 on Metacritic. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone commended Smith’s “mischievous blending of THE OFFICE with Friday The 13th”, awarding the film three stars out of four. Laura Harris of “Dead Like Me” and “The Faculty”, made a noteworthy bid for Scream Queen status with her turn as the ballsy heroine in this comedic take on the slash and hack genre. This is one bloody, f***ed up yet very funny film you likely haven’t even heard of.

We here at F.E.H.Q. say, “WATCH IT!!”

We did. At FACECON III.

That occurred.

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MUFFY AND BUFFY

Here is yet another in a long line of articles you likely will never see…

A group of friends go out for a fun filled weekend at their friend Muffy’s very swank summer retreat. It’s set to be a weekend of fun and partying. But it’s not long before the bodies start dropping and it’s up to the last survivors to either escape from or stop whoever is making their friends die off. But is everything as it seems? Is Muffy’s ne’er spoken of twin sister BUFFY behind all the shady goings-on?

Released in 1986 to capitalize off of the fever pitch popularity of mid-80’s slasher craze, APRIL FOOLS DAY is one of the more restrained horror films to emerge from the subgenre. Directed by Fred Walton and starring genre regulars Deborah Foreman and Amy Steel, this film manages to maintain fairly good tension whilst keeping most of the violence offscreen. It has been lambasted by several reviewers for it’s seeming bucking of genre conventions, including having one of the most unique endings to come from the 80’s slasher movement. With this and “Friday the 13th Part II”, Amy Steel solidified her place as one of the preeminent SURVIVOR GIRLS of the decade. Also, in a neat bit of casting trivia, YES, THAT IS Thomas F. Wilson a.k.a BIFF TANNEN from “Back to the Future” in quite possibly his only other film role of note. It’s a noteworthy genre classic that deserves your full attention, bitch.

BACK, WITH BLACK

In the beginning, there was George A. Romero, and he was good. Very good. So good in fact that he, perhaps serendipitously or perhaps inadvertently, created an entirely new subgenre unto itself and established himself as a preeminent master working within the ever-sophisticated milieu of horror cinema. Following his genre-defining 1969 classic, “Night of the Living Dead”, a whole undead revolution started and a veritable cavalcade of great and not-so-great imitations followed, making the 70’s and 80’s the first golden age of zombie horror. Careers were made, FX revolutionized, tropes established, and the Italians made a ton of the stuff(films, not money).

Fade back on in to 1986 when a small entry in the brain-chomper subgenre titled “Night of the Creeps”, written and directed by genre up-and-comer Fred Dekker becomes an instant cult classic with it’s black humor, meta in-jokes and subverting of genre conventions. The film is a great tilt on the old zombie formula and possesses what could be the best tagline of any eighties horror film: “The good news is, your date is here. The bad news is…he’s dead!!”. The basic plot outline is as follows: A capsule/probe containing some mean-spirited alien slugs is jettisoned by a few gnarly-looking, hairless space dwarves, enters our atmosphere and crashes into the woods where the slimy contents of the container…well…SLITHER out and begin making meaty hosts of a bunch of beefy chunk-heads from the local college, turning them into ravenous walking dead-types who go straight into your standard zombie horde destroy/eat/occupy/end humanity mode. Sound familiar? Indeed it should. That’s because this also almost exactly describes the plot for future “Guardians of the Galaxy” helmer James Gunn’s derivative, yet still quite enjoyable 2006 creature feature, “Slither”. ‘Nuff said on that count. And so with “Creeps”, Dekker had planted his foot firmly in the door with a great first film and knew that he needed to keep the momentum going. To make sure he didn’t let his 15 minutes run out too quickly, he immediately jumped into work on his follow-up feature. In fact, he actually went into pre-production while principal photography on “Creeps” was still underway. The result was another seminal cult classic and easily one of the best horror flicks of the 80’s, 1987’s “The Monster Squad”. All things were going great for the young storyteller, and he seemed destined for success.

But, sadly, ‘twas ne’er to be.

Instead, one small, yet ultimately horrible choice on the part of Dekker saw the promising filmmaker all but completely blacklisted in Hollywood, his promising career never fully recovering. That career ending move came in the form of the rarely-spoken-of-by-name, yet universally reviled(think Voldemort here) bit of celluloid trash called “ROBOCOP 3”. I cannot, in good conscience devote much time to description of the aforementioned mistake of a film. Suffice it to say…OUCH. OUCH A LOT.

You can really only put so much of this on Dekker, as he was working outside of the genre he knew and loved, and the screenplay was an atrocious mess from the outset. Production was reportedly no picnic, and while Nancy Allen returned with her always-somewhat-bland self, Peter Weller got while the getting was good and left the role behind, forcing us to try and buy into another stoic character actor in the role of our metal clad hero. How badly did this film flub and flounder? Let me count the ways…Or not. I said I wasn’t gonna talk about it and I’m not. What I WILL say is that Dekker’s career was totally derailed and he has done not much since. As ever with my cultural musings, you may be understandably asking yourself at this point, “Why should I care?” Here’s your answer…

When Dekker directed “The Monster Squad” back in ‘87, he did so from a script co-written by himself and another young screenwriter named Shane Black. Black, who was notable at that time laregly for his bit part as Hawkins, the glasses-wearing, dirty-joke spouting mercenary who got killed early on in 1980’sjungle sci fi romp “Predator”, went on to be a major player in Hollywood. Aside from writing “Lethal Weapon”, “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” and the first two “Iron Man” films, he also wrote and directed “Iron Man 3”. Recently, reports have surfaced that pre-production has begun on a “Predator” reboot. Insert eye roll? Sure, that likely would be the case if these tidings didn’t contain the happy news that none other than erstwhile writing duo, Dekker and Black would be re-teaming to produce the screenplay with Black himself due to return to the franchise in the directors chair. You gotta love an idustry that sees a dude going from throwaway fatality in the first film to the director of the sixth. Still, anything that has Dekker back in the arena he knows only too well is a welcome treat and we of The Face Eaters cannot wait to see how the finished product plays. At long last, DEKKER LIVES!!

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BLOODY POM-POMS

We love the classics. Just love ’em. So we at FACECON.ORG, we have dedicated this here section, FORGOTTEN GEMS to those overlooked little nuggets of cult cinema that are worthy of, if not begging for rediscovery. Wrote one about “Cheerleader Camp”. Wanna hear it? Here it go.

A completely unappealing group of teen-aged misanthropes , most of whom look to be nearing forty, head off to Camp Hurrah for a fun and competition-filled week trying to prove their meddle as the best cheer-leading squad attending the event. Pretty quickly though, someone or some- thing starts to off the campers in horrific ways, causing red camera dissolves, pom-pom filled nightmare sequences, and painfully cheesy line after painfully cheesy line to be tossed freely about while the body count steadily rises.

Originally titled “Bloody Pom-Poms” and released in 1987, this cheesy slasher film embodies much of the Friday the 13th-created horror tropes that still punctuate and permeate through the subgenre as a whole to this day. Directed by John Quinn, this movie is also note- worthy for having former 80’s teen heart- throb and very bad driver, Leif Garret, Lorie Griffin of “Teen Wolf” notoriety and Betsy Russel as our tortured heroine, Alison Wentworth. Modern genre fans will know Betsy Russel for her turn as Jill Tuck, former wife to serial murderer John Kramer/Jigsaw (Tobin Bell). Also, and most importantly, it has a nice bit of screen time dedicated to everyone’s favorite genre mainstay…resident harmless, albeit creepy old dude, George “Buck” Flower, prolific character actor of such films as this, “The Fog” with Jamie Lee Curtis and “Sundown” with Bruce Campbell. GO TEAM GO!!

A MODEST DEFENSE OF ALIEN 3

It’s a generally accepted belief that while “Alien” and “Aliens” are both iconic, genre defining masterworks, universal in their praise and acclaim, the third and fourth films in the quadrilogy are less loved.To some in fact, they are considered travesties of celluloid. And while it’s hard to argue that the fourth is very good at all(so much so in fact that it boggles the mind to imagine Jean-Pierre Jeunet, director of such cult faves as “Amelie’” and “City of Lost Children” being the man responsible for such a galloping dud), the third seemed to endure an unjust amount of chagrin and hostility from both critics and fans. This writer recently got around to finally watching the so-called “Assembly Cut” of “Alien 3” and like many, it completely reshaped my view of this entry in the series. It is wildly different if not nearly un-recognizable from the original version of the film and that is a very good thing in this case. This is the version we were meant to see and the film that David Fincher wanted us to see all along. Without outlining specifics, I would not exaggerate by saying that with this reworking of the film, it’s now an unheralded masterpiece of sci fi.

So what took so long? Why are there two very different versions of this film? What happened the first time around?

Directed in 1992 by David Fincher, “Alien 3” was a box office success, but was met with mixed reviews. This was the by product of a nightmarish production, fraught with studio interference, several rewrites throughout the shoot and several false starts. Given almost no time to prepare after the first director bailed on the project, producers and exec’s at 20th Century Fox were quite meddlesome of this relatively untested, first-time director who was thus far known primarily for directing Paula Abdul music videos. The shoot was a constant struggle for the fledgling filmmaker. Eventually, the studio required the story to be widely restructured with a full thirty minutes additionally trimmed from the running time. The truncated and even distorted end result was so bad in the eyes of it’s director that he has since completely disowned the film. The rest of us saw it and just sorta-kinda liked it a little bit…or not. Slow dissolve to many years later when the Alien Quadrilogy DVD set is being created and all the original directors are invited to do what James Cameron had already done with “Aliens”, and make a director’s cut of their respective entries. Ridley Scott and Jeunet agreed.

Fincher did not.

That did not stop producer of the Alien Quadrilogy DVD boxset and director of the Alien Franchise making-of documentaries, Charles de Lauzirika, from using Fincher’s original script and production notes along with much discarded footage to create the defining version of the feature. To say there is a dramatic difference between the two is again, not doing it justice. However, here I must just urge you to seek out and watch this cut so as to not spoil any of the surprises(shockingly, yes, surprises) that await. It may have taken a while, but it was worth it. And frankly, Fincher’s career suffered not at all after his negative experience making “Alien 3”. Since then he’s gone on to direct such little known films as “Seven”, “Fight Club”, “The Game”, “Zodiac”, “The Social Network”, and most recently, “Gone Girl”.

So yeah, get on that.

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