Posts Tagged ‘Juliette Cummins’

29. Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)

Director: Deborah Brock

Starring: Crystal Bernard, Patrick Lowe, Kimberly McArthur, Juliette Cummins, Heidi Kozak, Joel Hoffman, Scott Westmoreland, Atanis Ilitch

Usually, I have to look overseas to find a horror movie as ridiculous as this! Since “The Slumber Party Massacre” was released five years earlier, the slasher genre had been altered forever by the introduction (and subsequent popularity of) the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series. I mention this, because the existence of that franchise is the only satisfactory explanation I can come up with to rationalize the complete left turn into absurdity that is made by “Slumber Party Massacre II.” I only wish it had sustained the madness throughout its scant 75 minute runtime.

Courtney Bates (Crystal Bernard), the youngest survivor from the first film, is now a young adult who is plagued by nightmares of her earlier traumatic experience. She’s in an all-girl rock band, whose music you would only pretend to enjoy if you were her boyfriend or were looking to date her. The band, which includes Sheila (Juliette Cummins), Sally (Heidi Kozak) and Amy (Kimberly McArthur), go to a condo owned by Sheila’s parents where they intend to have a slumber party for the weekend. Matt (Patrick Lowe) is invited to come watch the band play and get to know Courtney, while Sheila’s boyfriend T.J. (Joel Hoffmann) and his buddy Jeff (Scott Westmoreland) crash the party.

All the while, Courtney’s disturbing nightmares persist. The dreams include the sight of her sister, Valerie, in a mental institution, as well as a man dressed in black and wielding a guitar with a large drill bit attached to the neck. These dark visions start to spill over into the waking world, confusing Courtney, worrying her friends and annoying local police. Finally, the Driller Killer emerges into the real world by killing Matt right in front of Courtney. With song and dance, he kills each of Courtney’s friends one by one until just the two of them are left. Courtney wins the battle, fulfilling the Driller Killer’s wish for her to “Light My Fire” by setting him ablaze. That’s when the movie, which has already been weird enough, takes a turn for the utterly mystifying with an ending that appears to show that the whole movie has been one big fakeout dream. Courtney first wakes up in her condo bed with Matt (which would only have nullified part of the movie) before he transforms into the Driller Killer. She screams, only to find that it is she, not her sister, who is in a mental institution. I give up.

The only real reason to watch this movie is for Atanas Illitch, who plays the Driller Killer. Atanas Illitch, the son of Mike Illitch (owner of the Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Red Wings, and owner/founder of Little Caesar’s Pizza), puts everything he’s got into the role, and what comes out is a terrifically hammy, 100% entertaining performance. Crystal Bernard is the only cast member to go on to anything of any real significance, starring on the hit 1990s TV sitcom “Wings,” but you probably wouldn’t have gauged that future success based on this movie. The sad thing about the Driller Killer is that the mayhem (and the awesomeness) doesn’t get underway until the film’s final 25 minutes. You’re left to either fast forward to that point, or suffer the first 50 minutes, which are excruciating apart from some female nudity. If you’re not into that, then yeah… it’s gonna be a chore to sit through, and all for a payoff that’s sorta/kinda worth it.

Friday the 13th Part V - A New Beginning (1985)

Director: Danny Steinmann

Starring: Melanie Kinnaman, John Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Corey Feldman, Richard Young, Marco St. John, Juliette Cummins, Carol Locatell, Vernon Washington, John Robert Dixon, Tiffany Helm, Jerry Pavlon

Hard to believe it’s been 30 years since this one was first released. Time has certainly been kind to this particular “Friday” sequel. At the time, it was so despised that some critics, I’m sure, must have thought that the people who spent hard-earned money to see it would need to have their heads examined. Many fans probably agreed. While “A New Beginning” will never be seen as one of the better chapters in the long history of “Friday the 13th,” later entries would show just how much worse things could get. For that reason, among others, “Friday the 13th Part V” is looked upon with somewhat greater fondness than it once was.

Speaking of people who desperately need a psychiatrist, Tommy Jarvis is once again the main protagonist. As a child (when he was played by Corey Feldman in “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” and in the first five minutes of this movie), Tommy killed Jason Voorhees in self-defense. In the five years since, Tommy (now played by John Shepherd) suffers from the effects of PTSD. Heavily withdrawn, partly due to the laundry list of drugs in his system, Tommy nevertheless has a very thin threshold for agitation. When pushed too far, he’ll quickly respond with disproportionate violence. No one else besides Jason has died at his hand, mind you… but they’re probably not too quick to look at themselves in the mirror afterwards, either.

At this time, Tommy is making the transition back into society by staying at a Halfway House. There are many other young men and women there who are roughly Tommy’s age, but if you’re looking for an explanation for what brought them there… fill in the blanks yourself. One of them, a big and strong-looking man named Vic, seems like the one person who wants to be there even less than Tommy. They’ve got this quick-tempered goon on wood-chopping duty. Smart. The matter is quickly brought to a head when the halfway house’s resident annoying fat pig named Joey won’t leave him alone. To everyone’s horror, Vic hacks Joey to pieces.

While they grieve, the others at the Halfway House also have to put a figurative leash on two of their members, Tina (Debi Sue Voorhees) and Eddie (John Robert Dixon), who keep sneaking off into the woods to have sex. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that a neighbor, Ethel (Carol Locatell), keeps threatening to shoot any loony she catches on her property. These are threats, of course. Ethel’s all talk. ALL talk. (Her idiot son won’t shut up, either.) It’s someone else who really does mean to dispatch the lot of them. Naturally, once the bodies do start piling up, the sheriff insists that it’s Jason Voorhees. The mayor says otherwise, citing Jason’s demise five years before as the reason why not.

The mayor is correct, and there are clues as to why. Firstly, there’s a secondary character who would remain in the background of most any other “Friday” film, but there are several scenes where the camera holds on him. Secondly, when ‘Jason’ is finally revealed, he looks different from the image of the real Jason which sometimes appears in Tommy’s mind. In particular, his hockey mask is cleaner, and doesn’t have the same decal stickers as the real Jason’s. Thirdly, when he is wounded, false Jason reacts to the pain like a normal human. The real Jason kept going even when his left hand had been split almost in half.

By the film’s climax, only three survivors remain: Tommy, Pam (Melanie Kinnaman) who helped run the Halfway House, and little Reggie (Shavar Ross), the grandson of the cook. Reggie was only just visiting, you see. He discovers three of the victims’ bodies in Tommy’s room, which is supposed to leave the viewer wondering whether Tommy has assumed the role of Jason (something which was teased at the end of “The Final Chapter”). He’s a pretty spunky kid. Not one to simply cower in the corner, Reggie actually does his fair share of damage to ‘Jason,’ as does Pam. Any chance of it being Tommy is put to rest when he shows up and nearly gets himself killed by standing there and gaping like a dumbass. The reveal of the true identity of ‘Jason,’ once it’s made, challenges you on whether or not you’ve been paying attention all this time. Until the connection is made to that murder of the chocolate bar-loving fat boy, I could not have picked ‘Jason’ out of a line-up the first time I saw “A New Beginning.” It’s not Vic, by the way. He’s in police custody. Besides, that’d be too easy.

The “Friday the 13th” series has always been a child of the 1980’s but it wasn’t until this sequel that the franchise had embraced the decade completely. The one place in which this is the most obvious lies with the character of Violet (Tiffany Helm). From the unusual way she wears her hair, to the music she listens to, Vi is totally an 80’s chick. Somewhat of a rebel, but an 80’s chick no less. She also does this incredibly choreographed robot dance to the tune of “His Eyes” by Pseudo Echo. I’m warning you: Listen to this song, and it’s catchy enough that it will stay with you. Kind of like Lion’s “Love Is a Lie” from the previous film was.

The biggest problem I see with “Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning” is not the fact that the killer is not Jason, nor is it that much of the action takes place at a Halfway House. What hinders “Part V” is its reliance on excess. The first four films all thrived on the mantra of keeping it simple. Meanwhile, “Part V” goes for broke in just about every way. There are way too many characters, which means a few deaths too many, and… call me crazy… too much frontal nudity. In a horror movie, the removal of clothing should be an event, but “Part V” damn near turns it into an Olympic sport! (In that case, give the gold medal to Debi Sue Voorhees… if for no other reason than because her last name is Voorhees!) This can be attributed, in part, to the director’s experience in the world of pornography (Steinmann directed the adult film “High Rise”). “Part V” has that same overabundance of nudity and cheesy dialogue one associates with porn. The kills themselves might be more welcome if the MPAA hadn’t stepped in and demanded edits as it always did with this series.

Although a better film than its reputation, the failed experiment that was “Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning” ensured the return of the real Jason Voorhees if the series was to continue on from this point. The sequels that follow largely ignore this one completely, only adding to the criticism. If it’s no longer important to the narrative, what’s the point in watching it, right? Well, when you’re watching the series all in one go, as I typically like to do, it tends not to matter. And that is, in the end, the best way to watch “Part V”; not as an individual film, but part of a greater whole.