Film

Dissecting the 'Friday the 13th' Franchise

He's one of cinema's most endearing 'characters', a figure of fear for nearly three decades. And yet he's not some one-liner quipping child killer or hulking sinister 'shape'. He doesn't wield a chainsaw (usually) and didn't make a pinheaded deal with the devil until sometime later in his creative canon. Indeed, Jason Voorhees and his Friday the 13th films have become the stuff of legitimate legend, forging a VCR fueled fanbase that takes every action of his hockey masked spree slayer and transforms it into the goriest of Gothic gospel. With the 2009 reboot hitting store shelves today (as well as being available on On Demand and ITunes), we here at SE&L thought we would revisit every single movie in the Friday franchise - and sheepishly recognize that this means we indeed own all 12 - to see if the films themselves hold up to critical scrutiny. Even better, from 1980's original slice and dice to the current installment's cruel carving, we can see how Jason evolved, how he grew, and in several cases, how he blew, beginning with:

Friday the 13th

1980

Two things stand out about this original entry into the Voorhees family legacy. First, Sean Cunningham sure takes his time here. This movie feels at least twice as long as its 90 minute running time and not always in a good way. There are far too many pointless pauses between the bloodletting. On the positive side, Tom Savini's make-up work is flawless, and Betsy Palmer's turn as big bad Pamela V. has to go down in history as one of the meanest 'mothers' in the entire horror genre. For those who think it's a classic - think again. Of a type? Absolutely. Of faultless movie macabre? No way.

Friday the 13th, Part II

1981

It's just so sad how the MPAA functions. Strangely cyclical in their concerns, they were in the middle of their anti-violence campaign when the adult Jason decided to show up with a potato sack on his head and a murderous attitude on his brain. This meant that most of the deaths here were severely edited to meet the "voluntary" ratings board's demands, and as a result, they defanged this sequel's potential teeth. Still, as with an origin story, Jason's first journey into spree killing is better than you'd expect. It has a faster pace than the first film, and the ending begins the whole "huh?" aspect of plotting that will perplex the franchise from here on.

Friday the 13th Part III

1982

It's gimmick time for the series, and sans the arterial spray the material dictates, we get another anemic adventure. The need to bring more and more victims to the fray finds a hilariously hack biker gang stalking our teens and no one can deny ole' Shelly's contribution to the mythos (actually - who brings a hockey mask to a weekend sex and drugs make-out party???). Still, the need to play to the 3D set-up leaves many of the murders inventive but strangely passive. Besides, our horror anti-hero gets one of the worst last act send-offs ever/ Hanging? Jason? Please…

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

1984

One of the best entries in the franchise, and a fine slasher film at that. With everyone assuming this was the end - after all, the title even suggests the same - there is an urgency and energy here that's missing from all previous installments. Even better, director Joseph Zito amps up the brutality with the help of a returning Savini. With Corey Feldman poised to be the memorable nemesis to this crazed killer's unstoppable slaughter, a classic battle between good and evil emerges - and the ending is one horrific hack and slash set-piece. If it really were the finale, it would have been a great one.

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

1985

Here are some basic cinematic rules - you can't make a Halloween film without Michael Myers (Part III: Season of the Witch), a Terminator film without a Terminator (Salvation), and you definitely can't make a Friday the 13th film without Jason Voorhees - and no, a plot twist substitute for same just won't work. Director Danny Steinmann argues that studio interference and MPAA demands (again) disemboweled his proposed "reboot" of the series. Perhaps the lame script, lousy acting, and supreme lack of gore gave said corporate interference a run for its mediocrity money. Whatever the case, this is perhaps the worst entry in the entire fright franchise.

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives!

1986

Tom McLaughlin stands as the J.J. Abrams of the Friday the 13th series. Brought in to resuscitate what looked like a dead cinematic staple, the filmmaker injected the return of Jason (in a new, novel "zombie" form) with enough black humor and directorial flare to compensate for the previous entries' lack of excitement. Even the opening, which sees our main monster resurrected by a stray lightning bolt, is giddy in its goofball Frankenstein allure. With a tone that sets it apart from other Fridays, and acting that redefines the term Method, this is what all sequels to the slasher genre should be - fun and flashy.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

1988

Groan. After leaving Jason at the bottom of a lake to basically be nibbled away at by trout, Part VII producers had to find a way to get him back on shore and slicing away. Sadly, they chose a ridiculous Carrie-lite narrative involving a girl with telekinesis. Toss in an unethical shrink, a group of obnoxious teen partiers, enough pot references to choke Bill Maher, and an ending that makes about as much sense as any other Friday entry and you've got nothing but scare flick stupidity. At least the last act psychic showdown between our heroine and Jason has some spark…some.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

1989

It's a decent idea - transport our hockey masked horror to the Big Apple and let him murder a few New Yorkers in the process. Unfortunately, Jason goes about his ripper road trip via a boring ass cruise filled with graduating high schoolers. Yawn. There is nothing really wrong with the boating material. It’s the same old MPAA hampered violence. But once Big J gets to the center of modern culture, this all gets wonky - VERY wonky. The ending remains one of the biggest head scratchers in the entire history of the series - and that included Crispin Glover's "dance" sequence from The Final Chapter.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

1993

In which our icon goes demonic - and immortal - and stupid. Before, we could support a pissed off adult Jason. We even bought the undead fun of his zombie counterpart. But turning our hulking figure of menace into a small prosthetic beastie that "invades" the bodies of others? Huh? We come to Friday the 13th for slashing and high body counts, not voodoo shapeshifting nonsense. Sadly, the promised trip to Hades also doesn't do very much for the fan. It's rather flaccid and ends up playing out like exactly what it is - a poorly realized and though out plot point.

Jason X

2002

Here is the true 'love it or hate it' entry in the Jason mythos. Ignoring practically everything that's happened since Part VI, we get a futuristic twist on the whole serial killer concept. While it’s a kick to see David Cronenberg as an angry bureaucrat eager to use our icon's "limitless regenerative powers" for his own illicit purposes, the rest of the film offers up an Aliens rip-off with Mr. Hockey Mask as the resident xenomorph. In between futile firefights and lots of android titillation, we get a Jason 2.0 that's part monster, part machine. Too bad the rest of the movie is all crap.

Freddy vs. Jason

2003

YES! Finally, someone gets the basics of both Mr. Voorhees and Master Krueger, Esq. Instead random joking and uneven mythology, Hong Kong action king Ronny Yu just unleashes these monsters and lets them do what they do best - murder tons of innocent people. This is a literal bloodbath, the kind of carnal display that will make gorehounds happy while satisfying even the most discerning fright flick purist. From the novel way they get these two together to the last act stand-off that's nothing but pure knock down drag out horror heaven, this was the best installment in the series…that's right, was, until:

Friday the 13th 2009

2009

If Sean Cunningham is responsible for giving birth to this monumental scary movie franchise, Marcus Nispel should be given credit for forcing it to finally grow up. Removing all the stilted trappings of previous installments, and focusing instead on the unbridled cruelty of a disfigured man on a homicidal rampage, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake director delivers the kind of hardcore terror this franchise has sorely lacked. This is what Jason Voorhees was always meant to be - focused, unyielding, determined…and very, very deadly. If you want your slasher fare with an ample amount of comedy and carnality, look elsewhere. This is the moment when Jason became the monster he was supposed to be - and it's mesmerizing. (Our full review of the Friday the 13th 2009: Killer Cut Blu-Ray can be found HERE).

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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