Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

Director: Tom McLoughlin

Writer: Tom McLoughlin

Starring: Thom Matthews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Kerry Noonan, Renée Jones, C.J. Graham

Rating: ★★★½

After the negative fan reception to Part V, which was intended to be the start of a new trilogy, the decision was made to bring back Jason for Part VI. Writer and director Tom McLoughlin also wanted to bring some humour into the series, and was given permission to do this, as long as Jason wasn’t mocked. It’s a massive improvement on the previous entries to the series, with a really light-hearted and fun tone that’s actually entertaining.

Tommy (Thom Matthews, who replaces John Shepherd from A New Beginning), travels to Jason’s grave in order to destroy his body and send him to hell. In the process, he accidentally resurrects Jason as lightning hits his body. Jason then sets forth to hunt down Tommy and kill him, without letting anyone else get in his way.

In no way does Part Six take itself seriously, while Jason is still a sinister force to be reckoned with, the rest of the film is really silly, in the best way possible. Even the way that Jason comes back is ridiculous, and at the same time makes more sense than Freddy’s return in most Elm Street sequels. This isn’t a scary film, but a really good time to watch. It’s funny, silly and has some great moments of violence and very memorable deaths. Jason folds people up, impales people, and squishes people’s head. There is no holding back when it comes to violence and gore in this film. It’s a lot more extreme than in previous films, but in a more ridiculous way. 

After appearing in the previous two films Tommy is back again. It is a shame that his obvious character arc of becoming the series villain is completely left by the wayside, but it’s still good to see him back. Jason is played by two actors in this film, and both do a good job. Dan Bradley was originally cast, and still appears in the film (although he’s uncredited) in the paintball scene. Bradley was replaced by C. J. Graham as he didn’t have the right look on screen. The change is seamless and not noticeable. C. J. Graham is absolutely great in the role, and Jason looks the best here in the series.

One of the really great things about the film is the amount of horror references and meta jokes. Jason is brought back to life with lighting, harking back to Frankenstein, and then in a following scene the name Karloff is written on a store front, Boris Karloff famously played Frankenstein’s monster in the classic Universal Monster Movies. There is a street named after the first part’s director Sean S. Cunningham as well as a town named after John Carpenter who co-wrote and directed Halloween, a film that the entire Friday the 13th series owes a massive debt to. One of the children who goes to the camp is called Nancy, sharing the same name with the main character of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and has nightmares.

There are also some great jokes throughout. The best of the best is the James Bond reference as the title appears on screen at the beginning. There’s a close-up on the recently resurrected Jason’s eye where Jason walks into his eye like Bond and turns to the camera to slice his machete, in replacement of Bond shooting his gun at the screen at the start of every Bond film. Jason is also given his own theme song in this one, ‘He’s Back (The Man behind the Mask)’ by Alice Cooper, which is a great song in its own right. There are also a few other Cooper songs that appear throughout the film.

Jason Lives is a massive improvement for the series, and definitely the best entry up to that point. Despite its pacing issue, it’s still over-the-top fun that really works.

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Orphan: First Kill – Film Review

Director: William Brent Bell

Writer: David Coggeshall

Starring: Isabelle Fuhrman, Rossif Sutherland, Julia Stiles, Matthew Finlan, Hiro Kanagawa

Rating: ★★★★

It’s been thirteen years since the modern horror classic Orphan was released, with its incredible twist, nail-biting tension, and terror. Now with Orphan: First Kill we get to see Esther’s ‘origin’ story, developing the backstory that was briefly touched upon in the original film. Thankfully the prequel lives up to the high expectations of the original.

Leena (Isabelle Fuhrman) escapes from the Saarne Institute in Estonia and pretends to be Esther Albright, the missing daughter of an American family, who has been missing for several years. Both of Esther’s parents, Tricia (Julia Stiles) and Allen (Roffis Sutherlan) are over the moon to have found their daughter. Slowly, Tricia sees a different side to Esther and starts to notice that she isn’t quite the same as she remembers.

Right from the beginning there is a creepy atmosphere, seeing the Saarne Institute and the other patients there. Esther is just as ruthless and brutal as she is in the original film, manipulating those around her to get what she wants. She is an incredibly sinister character, and this time around there’s no hiding that from the audience, her true colours are on show straight away. In the same way the film starts strongly with its setting, and you’re immediately hooked by the dark and grimy institute and the film doesn’t let your attention go until the tense finale.

There are a few jump scares, but that isn’t the full focus on the film. It never reaches true horror, but instead has a captivating story, and a building tension. Isabelle Fuhrman is incredibly sinister as Leena/Esther, as she worms her way into the lives of the Albright family. There’s also a lot of interesting conflict between Esther and Inspector Donnan (Hiro Kanagawa), who was investigating her disappearance and is suspicious of Esther and her return to America. He notices the mistakes she makes, and you can feel there’s a bad ending coming for him almost instantly.

Tricia is also suspicious of her newly returned daughter but is also incredibly happy to see life back in her husband. Previously he’d been more reserved, not painting like he used to, and not appearing at events, until their daughter is returned, and he is back to his old self. He wants to believe without a doubt that Esther is back, leaving Tricia to deal with the situation alone. Julia Stiles is excellent, becoming more sinister herself as the plot progresses and she will do anything to protect her family

.

While this is a prequel, with all the events taking place around two years before the original film, it would be best to watch the original first if you haven’t already. There are spoilers in this one that will ruin the first film. With that being said, if you have seen the original then there’s still plenty of surprises in store. At first it feels like the story is following very similar plot beats to the first one, and then around halfway through there’s a killer twist that turns everything upside down. It completely comes out of nowhere and works perfectly. Everything is ramped up from there until the final showdown.

In the end, if you’ve seen Orphan, you know pretty much what to expect, and you know how the story must end in order for the original to happen. That doesn’t really matter though, as the journey to get there is definitely worth it. Orphan: First Kill lives up to the original, with its own great twist, creepy moments and a creepy atmosphere running throughout.

Signature Entertainment presents Orphan: First Kill exclusively in Cinemas from 19th August 

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Friday the 13th: A New Beginning – Film Review

Director: Danny Steinmann

Writers: Martin Kitosser, David Cohen, and Danny Steinmann

Starring: John Shepherd, Melanie Kinnaman, Shavar Ross, Richard Young, Marco St. John

Rating: ★★★½

After the success of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, it was inevitable that despite its name, a sequel was on the way. Part V is set a few years after the supposed final entry, with Tommy’s story continued from the previous film. At the time it received a poor reception from critics and fans, with a disappointing box-office return as well. The original intention was to start a new trilogy, but the intended sequels were scrapped due to the reception.

Jason is dead, but even beyond the grave he is still haunting Tommy, who is played this time around by John Shepherd. The original actor, Corey Feldman, also appears in a dream sequence early in the film but wasn’t old enough to play him as this one is a few years later. Tommy is sent to live in a halfway house after being released from a mental hospital. Once he arrives there a series of murders, and the murderer seems to be targeting the halfway house, with Tommy being the main suspect.

Instead of the usual set-up of councillors/teenagers travelling to Crystal Lake to become Jason’s latest victims, this time around the main group is already staying a halfway house. It breaks the usual tropes that the series had followed up to that point and does something a bit different. It’s still a Friday the 13th film and doesn’t stray away that much, but it’s refreshing and injects some much-needed change into the series, which by this point was become very stale.

While some of the previous entries start by introducing a group of forgettable canon fodder for Jason to take out, A New Beginning take things to a new level. Not only is there the group in the halfway house, there’s also a load of characters who are introduced just to be killed off moments later. Strangely, the smaller characters are also a lot more likable and interesting than the main group, so it’s always sad to see them die so quickly, even if you see it coming straight away.

Director Danny Steinmann had made his started his directorial career in porn, and that influence is felt throughout this film, with a lot of pointless nudity and extended shots of naked women. Some of the nudity and sex scenes were cut due to censors, but there’s still a lot of them left in, even for a 1980s slasher film it’s a lot. The violence is also ramped up a fair bit in this one with some memorable deaths, especially the one including the garden shears. There’s nothing being held back this time around.

Finally, going into spoiler territory now, the film not only strays away from the set-up of teenagers travelling to Crystal Lake, but the killer also isn’t Jason. After his death in the previous film, this time around it’s a copy-cat killer. The way this is built up is really well done, with the copycat’s mask having blue markings instead of the usual red, as something for the audience to pick up on. The actual reveal at the end is really well done, and it makes for a great twist. 

The fifth entry to the series deserves a lot of praise for finally altering the formula that the previous films had adamantly stuck to. It starts off slow but has a satisfying twist and is a decent slasher overall. 

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Nope – Film Review

Director: Jordan Peele

Writer: Jordan Peele

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, Brandon Perea, Wrenn Schmidt, Barbie Ferreira, and Keith David

Rating: ★★★★

Jordan Peele’s third film as writer/director, Nope, has finally been released in the UK, a few weeks after its release in America. With all the hype the film has, it’s great to say that it lives up to it. Peele has absolutely nailed it yet again with something that feels completely unique and awe inspiring. Without going into too much detail of the plot (as it’s definitely best to go into this one knowing as little as possible, even the trailer doesn’t give anything major away), Nope is essentially about a brother and sister, played by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, who are trying to keep their family business alive after their father, Otis Sr. (Keith David) dies in a freak accident.

Like Peele’s previous films, Nope is a horror, but this time he brings a sci-fi twist into the story with the main characters trying to capture evidence of a UFO. It does takes a little while to reveal what the film is actually about, with scenes showing an accident on a TV show in the 90s as well as spending a little time with the siblings to get to know them, and then when the main plot is revealed everything is escalated and it just continuous builds from there. While it’s not out right scary, the film has some incredibly tense moments, especially since none of the characters really feel safe at any time. There’s a real sense of danger everywhere and it’s completely engrossing from start to finish. Even with the tension running so high, there’s still room for a few laughs throughout. The comedy works and doesn’t feel forced or out of place.

The best thing about Nope is the characters, which all feel absolutely real. Daniel Kaluuya is as brilliant as always playing OJ, a hard worker, trying to keep his family’s business alive, pretty much by himself. He’s very reserved and a step away from society, living on an isolated ranch, with an older mobile phone that’s at least a decade out of date. He also struggles to communicate with others, not being able to explain the safety precautions as the animal handler on a commercial set, and unable to get his point across when discussing a business deal. He’s an interesting character and one that’s easy to connect with.

His sister, on the other hand, has the exact opposite personality. Emerald (Keke Palmer) is completely outgoing, having no problem being herself and doing what she thinks is best. Palmer is fantastic and both her and Kaluuya work really well with each other, with their sibling relationship feeling very authentic. Joining the mix is Angel (Brandon Perea), a tech expert who sets up the cameras on the ranch. Angel wants to be part of the main story, forcing his way in, despite the other characters objections. He’s a great character that you can’t help but get behind.

There’s an obsession with turning ‘bad miracles’ as well as everything else into profit running throughout the film. The main characters are trying to capture footage of the UFO in order to make a profit and save their family business. Ricky (Steven Yeun) survived a traumatic event as a child star and has turned a hidden room in his office into a shrine to what happened, making money out of people who want to stay there. There’s even a TMZ reporter who turns up close to the finale, who doesn’t care about his own life, beyond wanting to document everything for content. It’s an interesting statement on the real world and how we interact with each other in the digital age.

Nope is a little over two hours, and you do feel its length at points. For the most part everything is really well paced, and as the ending starts to get close, it’s surprising how quickly the time has gone. Even with some pacing issues, it’s still a massively entertaining film, and once it gets to the big finale everything settles back into place and the stunning visuals of the final scenes more than makes up for.

Nope is another triumph from Jordan Peele. An incredibly tense and well-crafted story that harkens back to the golden era of B-Movies, and classic sci-fi stories. There are mumblings about a potential sequel, and whether that happens or not, it’ll still be exciting to see what Peele does next.

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Day Shift – Film Review

Director: J. J. Perry

Writer: Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco, Snoop Dogg, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Meagan Good, Karla Souza, Steve Howey, and Scott Adkins

Rating: ★★★½

Netflix’s Day Shift is the directorial debut of J. J. Perry, who had previously worked as a stunt coordinator on films like John Wick: Chapter 2 and the Fast and Furious series. Day Shift is an all-out action comedy starring Jamie Foxx as Bud, a vampire hunter masquerading as a pool cleaner in the San Fernando Valley. Out on one of his jobs, Bud kills what he thinks is just a normal vampire, but it puts him in the crosshairs of a much more powerful vampire. At the same time Bud is at risk of losing his family if he can’t find enough money to pay for his daughter’s tuition.

Essentially, it’s a buddy cop movie. Bud is a renegade who doesn’t play by the union’s rules, but he needs to be part of the Vampire Hunter Union to get enough money by doing what’s he’s good at, killing vampires. His old friend, Big John (Snoop Dogg), vouches for Bud, getting him one last chance before he’s canned for good. Bud is partnered with newbie Seth (Dave Franco) who is really just there to keep a record of his screw ups so the union can get rid of Bud once and for all. It’s the typical set up, except this time around their hunting vampires, not solving crimes.

The first scene is great, setting the tone for the rest of the film. It doesn’t play all of its cards straight away, instead letting you believe that Bud is a pool cleaner, who then breaks into a house. You don’t know what’s going on, whether he’s a thief or a hitman. Even when he shoots an elderly woman with a shotgun, and she flies across the room, the pieces are only just starting to fall together. It’s a great chaotic action scene as the woman gets back up and we get to see Bud doing his job. The choreography is absolutely fantastic, and it’s one hell of a thrilling scene blending action and comedy together perfectly, as the vampire contorts around her surroundings to fight. From that point onwards it just gets more and more ramped up, with video-game violence, stupid jokes (that work about half the time) and insane action that move around like a dance sequence in a musical. Every fight sequence is more over-the-top than the one previous one in the best way possible.

Everyone in the cast is fantastic. Jamie Foxx is great as the action hero, and you’re instantly on his side. Dave Franco is excellent as the nerdy desk worker who is out in the field for the first time, working perfectly with Foxx, with some of the funniest pieces of the film. Snoop Dogg plays a smaller but equally as memorable role as the cowboy in the union, who everyone loves. The cast are great and really make the film feel like a lot of fun.

For the most part this is a fairly predictable film, you know certain things will happen, but it’s still great while it’s on. It may not be completely original, but it takes the tropes and makes them feel fresh. Overall, Day Shift works really well. The action is awesome, there’s some great jokes, and the cast is pretty fantastic. The plot beats may be familiar, but it all comes together and Day Shift is a simply really good time.  

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