Monday, September 16, 2013

'Sleepy Hollow'

Possible trend alert for the fall 2013 TV season: Hunky versions of deeply unsexy male historical/fictional characters. Okay, this probably isn't a trend, but next month you can catch the scruffy, smoldering Nostradamus on The CW's Reign, and this week the fall season kicks off with a decidedly debonair version of Ichabod Crane on Fox's Sleepy Hollow. Instead of a schoolteacher, this Ichabod is a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and his battle against the Headless Horseman catapults him 200-some years into the future, to the present day. There he teams up with a skeptical cop in the modern-day town of Sleepy Hollow and fights to stop the Headless Horseman, who also happens to be one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. There's also an ancient coven of witches and George Washington as some sort of grand mage.

So, yeah, it's totally stupid, and unfortunately it plays everything completely straight. The pilot is filled with mind-numbing exposition delivered by a range of stock characters, some of whom exist solely to get killed off (there are two seemingly major characters who don't survive the first episode). There's some lame time-travel comedy with Ichabod (Tom Mison) expressing disbelief at the black, female police lieutenant (Nicole Beharie) he's teamed up with, but in general the camp factor is pretty low. The first episode burns through so much plot that it could have worked as the first two acts of a movie, and I'm not entirely sure how the rest of the season will play out. Will Ichabod and his new cop buddy keep chasing the Headless Horseman each week? Or will they end up solving random other supernatural cases that happen to crop up in the eerie small town? Either way, I don't think I will stick around to find out.

Premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on Fox.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Triskaidekaphilia: 'Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives' (1986)

On the 13th of each month, I write about a movie whose title contains the number 13.

After audiences revolted when the villain in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning turned out to not be Jason at all, the series' producers went out of their way to definitively bring him back in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. It's right there in the title, and the movie opens with doomed survivor Tommy Jarvis (now played by Thom Matthews, replacing John Shepherd, who replaced Corey Feldman) exhuming Jason's grave, ostensibly to make sure that he's dead. A quick lightning strike later, Jason is up and lumbering about again, now a completely supernatural force (which at least explains why he is super-strong and essentially invincible).

Writer-director Tom McLoughlin's greatest contribution is to embrace the silliness of the series; Jason Lives isn't remotely scary, but it's still the best Friday the 13th movie since the first one, thanks to its sometimes clever, often dopey humor. McLoughlin doesn't worry about the mechanics of Jason's resurrection, and he gets rid of all the angst and seriousness of Tommy's life from the last two movies. Instead he focuses on dumb jokes and self-referential one-liners ("Some folks sure got a strange idea of entertainment," says the cemetery caretaker after Tommy and his buddy have dug up Jason's corpse, just as the producers have dug up Jason's corpse for the sake of entertainment by making this movie).

Most of the jokes are lame, and McLoughlin still has to go through the motions of getting Jason to kill a bunch of random people, and that leaves him only so much room for creativity. Jason Lives returns to Camp Crystal Lake (renamed Camp Forest Green by town leaders to distance it from its murderous past) and once again offers up horny camp counselors as fodder for Jason's blade, although this time there are actual kids at the camp (even though they aren't really in danger). Jason Lives also has the distinction of being the only Friday the 13th movie to feature no nudity, which goes along with McLoughlin's throwback monster-movie vibe. None of the clever touches are quite enough for Jason Lives to transcend its sixth-movie-in-a-slasher-franchise origins, but after four straight movies of unrelenting sameness and predictability, a little originality is a pleasant surprise.

Previous Friday the 13th posts:
Friday the 13th (1980)
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)