Daily Horror History: ‘Braindead’ Comes Home; ‘Friday the 13th’ Opens on its Namesake

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A guy walks into a room full of zombies carrying a push mower with the blade facing out. This guy–you’re gonna love this–he walks into the throng of zombies with that mower on and the blade spinning and man, he just chews them up into a slippery shower of blood that has to be seen to be believed. He makes it all the way across the room, and I know, you think this is where the joke ends, but actually…heh heh… actually he turns around to see he’s not even half-finished!

Braindead, aka Dead Alive, is the ultimate “splatstick” movie (apologies to Evil Dead 2; I still love you baby, I swear). This is a movie where a martial artist / man of the cloth “sweeps the leg” in the most comedically brutal (and well-choreographed!) way possible before punting a zombie’s head into the night sky. It’s a movie with the aforementioned lawnmower scene, which is partly interrupted so we can see the upper half of a zombie’s head get kitchen blendered into soup. It’s insane. I’m not really even a “gorehound” but I still find it an unbelievably impressive display. It’s a thoroughly disgusting, very well-made, sometimes creepy, more often humorous full tilt indulgence.

Peter Jackson’s brilliant slice of hyper-violence opened in its native New Zealand on August 13th, 1992.

Ten years prior, Friday the 13th Part III became the first movie in the series to actually open on a Friday the 13th, along with being the first movie in the series in which Jason Voorhees dons his signature hockey mask.

It’s also probably the best of the early 80’s 3D horror flicks, a low bar to clear to be sure, but another notch in its belt to go along with being the highest grossing sequel in the original series (no, I’m not counting Freddy vs. Jason as canonical).

The final sequel in the original series–and one of the lowest grossing movie to bear any relation to the series whatsoever–was also released on August 13th; 1993’s Jason Goes to Hell. 

More remembered these days for Jason-hunter Creighton Duke, possibly the film’s lone bright spot save for the infamous cameo at the very, very end, Jason Goes to Hell is one of the least regarded Friday movies. I mean for one thing, Craig is nowhere to be found and with each new movie it becomes apparent how much Smokey is missed and… wait (checks notes)… wrong Friday series. Although now I wouldn’t mind seeing the franchises mashed together; Jason vs. Deebo & Big Worm couldn’t be any worse than Jason Takes Manhattan.

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Daily Horror History, July 28th: Jason Takes His Sweet Time Getting to Manhattan

The 8th Friday the 13th movie, in which Jason Voorhees will allegedly take on the BIg Apple, is often cited as being either the worst, second-worst or third-worst film in a series that doesn’t exactly have the highest standards to begin with. The other two contenders for worst Friday the 13th movie, by the way, are Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X, aka Jason Goes to Space. The lesson here then, I believe, is that fans of the series don’t care much for Jason’s road trips away from Crystal Lake. It doesn’t help, perhaps, that in two of these movies he spends as little time as possible at the destinations boasted of in the title.

As many a reviewer has pointed out, the overwhelming majority of Jason Takes Manhattan takes place on a boat on its way to Manhattan. The idea of Jason terrorizing New York City might have a bit of promise, but is barely explored in this film. That aside, even by Friday the 13th standards the story and characters in Manhattan are uniquely stupid, with some infamously idiotic moments, such as a random barrel of toxic waste just sitting out in the open in a New York City alley, the video-game-level-spacious New York sewer system flooding with even more toxic waste on a nightly basis, and random supernatural chicanery that goes well beyond Jason simply being a murderous revenant.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan came to theaters on July 28th, 1989, and had the lowest opening for any movie in the franchise save the first one, which was released almost ten years prior and in over 500 fewer theaters. Once you factor in things like per-theater-average and inflation adjustment, it becomes the most financially disappointing opening weekend in the series, save for perhaps Jason X (which barely made more money, opened to more theaters, and was released in 2002, when the value of a dollar was even more depleted).

Looking for a better 80’s movie featuring deranged masked serial killer released on July 28th? Try the 1985 TV movie Blackout.

Originally released at Mystfest in June of ’85, it made its official debut to the masses on television a month later. More police procedural than pure slasher film, and more predictable than it probably should be, it still features some intense and suspenseful moments. It’s the kind of movie that’s so competent it deserves to be seen, but leaves you with comparatively little to say about it. Neither memorably bad nor exceptionally good, it’s simply a quality thriller that’s worth 90-minutes, if you have it to spare, although the dim VHS quality of the film that’s available (either as an overpriced, relatively rare cassette copy, or for free on multiple YouTube channels) isn’t the easiest thing on the eyes. Maybe one day someone will show this movie a little love, enough to remaster it and bring it properly into the digital age.

Finally, on the gaming front, today marks the initial release of Zero: Shisei no Koe in Japan, otherwise known in the English-speaking world as Fatal Frame III: The Tormented.

Like all of the other games in the series, the game centers on characters dealing with ghosts by finding them and snapping photos of them using a spirit-vanquishing camera. I never got around to playing part three, but if it’s anything like the first two games in the series, it’s way the hell scarier than the description I wrote above.

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