Archive for Betsy Palmer

RIP Betsy Palmer (1926-2015)

Posted in Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , on June 1, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Sad news for the horror community was announced last night, as slasher icon Betsy Palmer passed away from natural causes at the age of 88.

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Beginning her career in the 1950’s Palmer is best known to genre fans as the vengeful Mrs Voorhees in the original Friday the 13th (1980), the mother of classic killer Jason. Despite only initially taking the role to pay for a new car and infamously claiming “What a piece of shit! Nobody is ever going to see this thing.” Palmer eventually embraced her role as the deranged if not protective mother who went on a murder-spree, ridding Camp Crystal Lake of all its wayward teenagers in revenge for the careless death of her son. She reprised the role in a cameo for the sequel Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) and took part in documentaries including Camp Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2013) and Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (2006). She attended horror conventions and enjoyed meeting her fans who held a certain enthusiasm for the horror genre and her work in the Friday franchise.

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With Pamela Voorhees, Betsy Palmer was responsible for bringing a memorable and shocking villain to life. Little did audiences know that the knife-wielding maniac was non-other than an unsuspecting, charming former Camp Cook. Palmer gave one hell of a performance switching from sweet-natured lady to all out psychopath at the turn of a hat. If it wasn’t for Palmer’s heart-pumping reveal during Friday the 13th’s finale it may not have reached the level of iconic status that it has. Mrs Voorhees helped lay the groundwork for more interesting roles for women in slashers, not just the final girl type or the vapid cheerleader who inevitably gets decapitated. Having Mrs Voorhees as the killer also contributed to Friday not just being a another Halloween knock-off.

 

Betsy Palmer was and always will be a horror legend that will be sadly missed by all her fans.

Her Legacy will live on.

RIP to an unforgettable woman of horror.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

For more of my work on Friday the 13th and Mrs Voorhees, check out:

Halloween Month: Friday the 13th (1980)

The Top 6 Psycho Mom’s

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**Fourth Anniversary Article** My Top Six Slaughter-tastic Underrated Slashers!

Posted in Anniversary Pieces with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Slasher films; low-budget, gory-fuelled romps; masked killers lurking in the shadows ready to slash n’ hack their sexually charged teen victims who never ever learn their lesson!

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Despite being considered bottom of the barrel when it comes to our great genre especially after the 80’s mass saturation of endless sequels leading to never-ending franchises, there’s something that always brings us back to the slasher film. There’s the entertainment factor, the creative gore effects and on a deeper scale the social messages underneath the surface of all the blood, guts and sex! Let’s not forget that some of today’s most famous actors began their careers getting bloodied up by a super-human lethal killer, there’s that Depp bloke you may have heard of who’s done a few films here and there and that Kevin Bacon guy who is busy selling ‘the UK’s fastest mobile network’ these days; to name a few!

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Most will argue that the slasher reached its peak during the early 80’s; notably as Jason rose from the murky depths of Camp Crystal Lake for the third time. The slasher was  semi- revived in popularity again later in the decade with Child’s Play then most prolifically in the mid-90’s with post-modern hit Scream which has since paved the way for the train of remakes, spoof films and more a brutal type of horror in the shape of Saw, Hostel and The Collection from the mid 00’s to the present day.

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If it wasn’t for slashers I probably wouldn’t be the horror freak (I mean, fanatic!) I am today. It was discovering the Scream/Elm Street/Friday franchises at a young age that aided my growing interest in the genre. There was nothing better than coming home from school and watching the latest taped VHS of whatever slasher had been on TV the previous night instead of doing any of that boring homework stuff! For me, slashers represent nostalgia, escapism and fandom. To this day slashers still maintain a level of popularity, they prove increasingly marketable and continue to be revived. Thanks to films such as The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014), Stage Fright (2014) and the Hatchet series (2006-2013) the sub-genre is alive and well and is slowly being taken in new, fresh directions! Slashers are pretty easy films to watch however there’s plenty lurking underneath the surface to interpret; there’s running themes of murder and revenge, a level of mystery and they are played out as cautionary tales for teenage viewers. There are always consequences for bad decisions. Slashers reflect a universal fear in society that are applicable to their cultural and historical contexts e.g casual sex in 80’s slashers used as a metaphor for the AIDS scare.

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Its been four years since I began reviewing so what better way to celebrate that take a look back at my personal favorite entries from the sub-genre that made me horror obsessed. This list will not contain the typical choices of Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, A Nightmare on Elm Street etc. we all know they are critically-acclaimed and completely awesome and rightfully so! However, this list will contain films that are appreciated by a genre audience and have generated a cult following over the years but are not as well regarded among the mainstream. Some films included also may have been popular on their original release but have since gone under the radar. So here it is, Hayley’s Horror Reviews most beloved slasher films.

**WARNING: Will contain Spoilers!**

6. Prom Night (1980)

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Prom Night is what happens when you capitalize on the popularity and cast the star of hit slasher Halloween in order to create low-budget Canadian horror flick. Filmed over 24 days during 1979, director Paul Lynch struggled to achieve finance for his movie about a massacre circulating around a high school dance; that was until Jamie Lee Curtis who was making a recognizable name for herself as the final girl of horror at the time came on board as Prom Queen Kim Hammond. Paramount expressed an interest in distributing the film however would only give it a limited theatrical release whereas Avco Embassy offered a much wider release in which Lynch decided to go with. Also starring Leslie Nielsen, Prom Night was popular around the drive-in theater circuit and was somewhat financially successful upon its release in 1980, making it Canada’s highest grossing horror movie of the year.  Its a classic tale of revenge, a prominent theme of the Slasher. Six years before the main events take place a young girl is taunted and accidentally killed by a group of mean-spirited kids and the blame is placed on a local pervert who is arrested for the crime, flash forward to the ‘present day’ of the movie and someone has bloodthirsty revenge on their mind; but the question is who saw the “accident” and knows what they did?

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Halloween’s Producer Irwin Yablans advised Lynch to center the film around a seasonal setting, building on the success of the  John Carpenter classic. Lynch opted for the prom scenario and tied the his premise around a story written by Robert Guza Jr. that told the tale of a tragic accident that had come back to haunt the children who were involved several years later. Prom Night has the classic makings of a traditional slasher but it has its own unique tone. What’s most striking is it builds up the characters and plot slowly, introducing us to the self-righteous teenagers who are about to get more than they bargained for. Essentially, its what happens when you cross Carrie with Saturday Night Fever, which is an apt description as there’s plenty of disco galore and polished choreographed dance sequences that sort of stall the carnage but creates a kind of spectacle. If you enjoy blood and dancing, like myself, Prom Night is one for you! While not as popular as its contemporaries, genre fans will take something from it as one of the more underrated slashers of the early 80’s that knew how to exploit the slasher movie marketing machine!

5. Scary Movie (2000)

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Scream set the rules, then generated dozens of copycats. Some really held up prominently I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend while too many to name fell flat. The concept had been taken so far and in the four years since its release, the slasher was dying out once again. Something needed to come along and shake things up and thanks to the comedic talents of the Wayans brothers, that something certainly did! While not the first slasher spoof, Student Bodies (1981) takes that crown, Scary Movie is hip, crude and satirical of the contemporary horror of that period. You will never be able to watch Scream, Last Summer, The Matrix and The Blair Witch Project in the same way again!

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Scary Movie cleverly weaves the fantastical story mainly poking fun at Scream and Last Summer, while being non-stop hilarious throughout. There are some genuinely amusing critiques, the characters ponder about who would be cast to play them if they were in a slasher movie; they comment that actors in their late 20’s-early 30’s would be the most likely candidates, creating an awkward exchange with that being the cast’s actual ages! Shannon Elizabeth’s aptly named Buffy Gilmore possibly has the best death scene, she fails to take the killer seriously, critiquing how a typical death scene in a slasher will go as she’s hacked to pieces until she’s a talking severed head!  Regina Hall equally steals the show in a too funny for words parody of Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Scream 2 murder scene and Marlon Wayans is completely memorable as loveable stoner Shawty. While its a product of its time by today’s standards, who still remembers the “Wassup” Budwiser advert that gets the parody treatment?! For fans you’ll be surprised how hilarious it really is even fifteen years later. A batshit blend of laughs and gore, Scary Movie poked fun but manages to be an entertaining and outrageous comedy that literally slashes the fourth wall!

4. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

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Well what a misleading title! In all fairness, in the documentary Camp Crystal Lake Memories its stated that the intention was to lay the tormented Jason to rest once and for all after this instalment! But if something is profitable then why stop?! The Final Chapter picks up where Part III left off. Jason (played by stuntman Ted White this time around) is presumed dead is rushed to the morgue only for him to rise off the cold slab and brutally slay an unsuspecting nurse and frisky doctor! Immediately The Final Chapter ups the gore spectacularly with each kill proving more blood thirsty than ever before. Some kills come off as repetitive e.g. horror’s fixation with shower murders that inevitably aren’t as shocking as Psycho (1960) was but these are certainly some of Jason’s goriest moments. Its thanks to the return of FX master Tom Savini who effectively returned to finally kill off his own creation. Typically, The Final Chapter does feature a group of self-absorbed, horny teenagers with one thing on their minds but it also shifts the focus to a family staying at the camp. Divorced mother Mrs Jarvis (Joan Freeman), her teenage daughter Trish (Kimberly Beck) and young son Tommy (Corey Feldman) bring in a new dynamic, representative of the changes in familial roles in America that were emerging at the time, notably the father is absent in the film. A metaphorical external fear is present with Jason lurking in the backdrop of the family’s separation and it paves the way for Friday’s original theme of the protective mother figure to be incorporated.

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Corey Feldman is brilliant as the young Tommy Jarvis, establishing his status as one of the franchises most popular characters. He is the first pre-teen to be featured in the Friday series and his character single-handedly breaks the traditional final girl convention by being the one to ultimately defeat Jason and protect his older sister. His performance is genuine and brings in authenticity, he was actually frightened during the scene where Jason grabs him through the window. The Final Chapter is iconic in its own right, it continued Jason’s hockey mask legacy that began in Part III, it also confirmed Mrs Voorhees’s (Betsy Palmer) first name as Pamela, as seen on her graveside as the teenagers drive to Camp Crystal Lake. Finally, Crispin Glover starred as the awkward Jimmy Mortimer pre-Back to the Future fame. The Final Chapter is my favourite instalment for the grizzly gore effects, the shift in dynamics, the return to the Jason POV shots instead of the stepping into the frame style they used in Part III, it bravely having a young boy take on Jason and its ambiguous ending.

 3.The Burning (1981)

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Tom Savini turned down Friday the 13th: Part 2 to bring his splatterific, gory visuals to life in 80’s camping slasher The Burning. Taking inspiration from Peeping Tom and the slew of similar films that were consistently being churned out during the decade (its been debatable that it was in production the same time as Friday 1), The Burning was certainly ahead of its time featuring a killer audiences were able to empathize with. Bizarrely, it found itself banned in the UK under 1984’s video recordings act due to the graphically violent and now infamous raft scene. It challenged typical conventions in regards to pre-marital sex, it was much more self-aware than the films that came before it and also featured a final boy instead of the final girl slasher staple. I wrote extensively about The Burning during one of my Halloween Month specials which can be read here. I also discuss The Burning in the context of the Video Nasties panic in this video:

2. Tourist Trap (1979)

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Stephen King took the words right out of my mouth; in his book Danse Macabre he describes Tourist Trap as an “obscure classic”. J A Kerswell, who wrote my favourite guide to the slasher ever, Teenage Wasteland referred to it as “an interesting sub-genre film”. Both are incredibly valid statements. Unlike Halloween released a year previous, Tourist Trap doesn’t have the mainstream appeal but there’s something so freakish about it you won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen. Possibly used as the primary inspiration for 2005’s non-remake of House of Wax, Tourist Trap sees five teenagers become the victims of a deranged psychopath with telekinetic powers who lures them to his run-down Wax museum located  in the middle of nowhere.

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Aside from the undeniably creepy visuals that see wax figures come to life entering into uncanny valley territory, what’s incredible about Tourist Trap is its use of sound. Italian composer Pino Donaggio creates an otherworldly sense using breathy female vocals for the mannequins that proves effective. The sound effects are the film’s most outstanding factor, a bizarre atmosphere is created placing a sense of unease for the audience throughout, without its strangeness diegetic sound the film certainly wouldn’t have managed the same impact. Tourist Trap has a considerably small core cast creating an isolated and compact feeling. Chuck Connors is unforgettable as the ambiguous Mr Slausen, who is definitely a fascinating slasher villain. We discover his back-story is again cemented in the slasher’s favourite trope of revenge however he is phenomenally creepy in his methods of murder. One victim Tina (Dawn Jeffory-Nelson) meets a painful end by having her face slowly covered with wax, her skin is burned and she is suffocated. The whole film’s tone, including the death scenes has something so mean-spirited about it! Many genre fans will say Tourist Trap needs to be seen to be believed. Its a truly fantastic, bizarre and mesmerizing slasher film that wholly deserves its cult status.

1. Sleepaway Camp (1983)

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Happy Campers gather round as we take a look at the best underrated slasher film of the 1980’s (In my humble opinion, of course!). Instead of a masked maniac slicing and dicing his victims, Sleepaway Camp offers a whole new kind of killer, the mysteriously sweet, thirteen year old and trans-gender Angela (Felissa Rose). A tragic accident occurs in the opening sequence that sees a young child killed, years later cousins Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) and Angela are sent to Camp Arawak for the summer by Angela’s eccentric Aunt (one of my stand out performances in any film of this kind!). At the camp, a bloody rampage begins, which sees a bunch of young teens with enraging hormones and the corrupt staff slaughtered! Sleepaway Camp weaves in some taboo themes which were becoming prominent within society during the 80’s. Both gender and sexuality are explored along with bullying and familial issues. Strong hints are evident throughout the film in regards to Angela’s anxieties and motive with the symbolism of phallic objects used as murder weapons, hair straighteners anyone?! Sleepaway Camp heavily uses POV shots, conveying that the killer could literally be anyone, cleverly masking Angela’s reveal until the shocking end!

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The film is mainly overlooked due to its low-budget feel and hammy acting (more so from the adults!) but this film and its subsequent sequels have an endearing quality to them, even Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008) which is pretty laughable, in a good way! The sequels starring Pamela Springstein as Angela are also amazingly fun to watch, especially Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988).  It pushes the boundaries in regards to actually featuring characters playing their ages, a risky move for the sub-genre at the time having a cast so young in a film of this kind. Sleepaway Camp is pretty much an enjoyable entry in the sub-genre. The killer’s identity is unexpected and fantastically twisted. Angela endures cruelty at the hands of the more ‘well-developed’ campers especially Judy (Karen Fields) who utters the quotable line, “She’s a real carpenter’s dream: flat as a board and needs a screw!” adding to the tension and building on Angela’s insecurities, therefore its no surprise that she snaps! Sleepaway Camp is distinctive in its own right. Its memorable enough to be beloved by its fans and is extraordinarily warped.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my trip down slasher movie memory lane. Here’s a big thank you to everyone who follows and supports my site as well as the other side projects I’m involved in. You’re why I keep on writing about the movies I adore. Here’s to another four years of blood, guts and gore!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Mother’s Day Special: The Top 6 Psycho Mom’s!

Posted in Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Happy Mother’s Day to all the awesome mum’s out there. In the horror film, mother’s have played an integral part in the makings of some of our beloved psycho killers. So, what better way to spend mother’s day than counting down some of my personal top five maniacal mother’s who have created carnage on our blood-splattered screens for several decades. These martriach’s would go to any warped lengths for their children and that’s why we love them! I’d like to dedicate this review to my own mother as a thank you for introducing me to the horror genre at a young age, attending some of the UK’s best festivals with me and for generally being awesome.

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6. Mrs Koffin, Mother’s Day (2010)

  • Played by Rebecca De Mornay

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In a performance uncannily similar to that in 90’s thriller, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (1992); Rebecca De Mornay yet again plays an unhinged woman with maternal instincts. This mother will do all she can to protect her sons, even kill! When a bank robbery goes wrong, the three Koffin brothers turn to their mother for assistance in occupying their old house while taking the new owners and their friends hostage. Initially Mrs Koffin acts friendly towards the frightened individuals, but once she questions them about supposed money her sons had sent her to that address and the group fail to comply in giving back what’s rightfully her’s, things get nasty! With a calm and collected exterior, Mrs Koffin soon shows she’s not to be messed with, permitting her sons to carry out unspeakable acts of violence on the innocent victims. Ambiguous and unsettling, this psychological thriller keeps the audience on edge unknowing what the mother will do next! Mother’s Day was originally a 1980’s exploitation, Troma film directed by Charles Kaufman that has since garnered a cult following, but in this case Darren Lyn Bousman created a glossy, loose re-telling to fit in with today’s Hollywood standard of remakes. That said, Rebecca De Mornay proved to be the perfect casting choice in an overall enjoyable film.

5. Beverly Sutphin, Serial Mom (1994)

  • Played By Kathleen Turner

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Kathleen Turner is superb as the crazed suburban housewife who gets her kicks out of murdering those who don’t comply by her rules! In John Waters warped social commentary on media violence and its effects on society, deranged Beverly Sutphin becomes somewhat of a serial killer celebrity gaining empathy and support from her adoring public. She is most defensive when it comes to her two teenage children Chip and Misty, she brutally runs over her son’s Maths teacher who claims he needs psychological help due to an “unhealthy obsession” with horror movies and graphically impales her daughter’s love interest when she spots him with another girl. Beverly isn’t the most subtle of serial killers, she doesn’t cover her tracks well and is pretty much suspected from the off. She gets her thrills from terrorizing her neighbor with obscene phone calls and isn’t afraid to be vocal about her distaste for others behavior. She is however a lot smarter than first assumed and manages to defend herself in court, getting the backs up of her antagonists and influencing the jury to set her free. In a extraordinary Waters style twist, Beverly’s husband and children are fiercely loyal to her, campaigning for her release while unashamedly basking in the fact their mother has murdered six people with some gruesome methods. In a film very much commenting on the changing society of the 90’s and media influence, Beverly is a glorified serial killer much to do with the fact she embodies what a lot of women could relate to, the fairly normal housewife and mother archetype who is not to be underestimated. The themes in this black comedy such as blame on media violence and the glamorization of murder trials still holds relevant. Beverly is one quirky killing mother not to be messed with. Remember, always recycle and rewind your video tapes!

 

4.  Mrs Bates, Psycho (1960)

  • Played By Anthony Perkins

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Arguably one of the most iconic mother’s in horror, Mrs Bates is integral to son Norman’s psychosis and despite being a rotting corpse she makes a prominent presence in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic adaptation. Driven by jealousy, in life Mrs Bates behaved in a controlling manner towards her only son, forbidding him any romantic involvement and claiming any woman with her as an exception were “whores”. Norman lived isolation with his mother for several years until she embarks on a relationship with Joe Constidine who encourages her to open the infamous Bates Motel. Feeling his mother slipping away from him following neglect, Norman cruelly poisons her and her husband to be in a staged suicide attempt. Unable to deal with his loss with guilt weighing heavy on his shoulders, Norman brings his mother back to life in a sense as she becomes a section of his personality, motivating his psychotic tendencies against women he develops an attraction for. Norman dresses in her clothes while maintaining her mummified corpse. By the film’s end Norman becomes institutionalized with his mother’s personality consuming him. She acts as a justification for his murderous ways. Mrs Bates was heavily influential on one of the suspense genre’s most well-remembered killers. When Hitchcock released Psycho he achieved a hair-raising effect on his audience especially with the reveal of this macabre mother’s decaying corpse and Norman Bates’s disturbed split personality. Her legacy lives on!

3. Mrs Loomis, Scream 2 (1997)

  • Played By Laurie Metcalf.

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In an unexpected twist, the second ghostface killer reveal in the highly anticipated Scream sequel was one menacing mother hellbent on revenge for the death of her equally psychotic son Billy Loomis. Mrs Loomis is extremely crafty in terms of how she goes about getting her vengeance. Following some plastic surgery, she creates a new identity for herself as Debbie Salt, the over eager news reporter who rubs Gale Weathers up the wrong way. Popping up at the crime scene following some of Windsor College’s gruesome murders she has the perfect cover, innocently “reporting” the incidents. Her plan is calculating as she intends to frame college student and partner in crime Mickey Altieri for all the murders while taking out Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers in the process for their part in the death of her son from the first installment. Channeling Mrs Voorhees from Friday the 13th (1980), she is purely motivated by grief and revenge. Billy became a murderer after she abandoned him following her husband’s affair with Sidney’s mother and she continues his legacy. She blames Sidney heavily for the breakdown of her family unit and won’t stop until she has her dead. Mrs Loomis is remembered for killing fan favorite and movie buff Randy Meeks who met his maker from speaking poorly of Billy. When re-watching Scream 2, its clear at which moments feature Mrs Loomis donning the ghostface attire as she is left handed when she takes to the blade. She does not succeed in her thirst for revenge as she is killed by Cotton Weary who was framed for killing Sidney’s mother in the original film. Sidney shoots her in the head one last time to make sure she’s well and truly gone. Mrs Loomis was the first female killer in the Scream franchise making her the original Ghostface Girl before myself and Caitlyn!

2. Margaret White, Carrie (1976)

  • Played by Piper Laurie

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You can’t create a list of Horror’s most psychotic mother’s without the inclusion of Margaret White. With origins in literature through Stephen King’s novel, Margaret White is the fanatical religious mother of telekinetic Prom Queen Carrie. The most memorable portrayal of this character comes in the shape of Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation. With an emphasis on anything to do with sex or the female body as a sin including Carrie experiencing a traumatic first period, Mrs White is the worst mother any teenager could possibly have. She raises Carrie with extreme restrictions, sheltering her from reality. When she becomes aware of Carrie’s abilities she behaves fearfully and deems her a “witch” frequently reading passages from the bible. She meets her demise following Carrie’s blood-soaked rampage at her prom. Carrie returns to her home broken and drained then Mrs White viciously stabs her, this causes Carrie to use her abilities to impale her mother in a symbolic killing mimicking a religious figure. Piper Laurie gives a somewhat hammy yet unsettling performance, this is due to her allegedly perceiving the script as a comedy but it does work well in creating an unhinged, mentally unstable character.  Due to her performance as Mrs White, Piper Laurie achieved some award nominations for ‘Best Supporting Actress’ at the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. Playing this insane mother ultimately relaunched her career.

1. Mrs Voorhees, Friday the 13th (1980)

  • Played By Betsy Palmer

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Channeling Psycho’s Mrs Bates within the films aesthetics, the mother of the iconic, hockey masked wearing, machete wielding killer Jason Voorhees occupies the top spot. Mrs Voorhees is one of horror’s most unforgettable and unexpected twists. In a flip reverse of what Psycho achieved, Mrs Voorhees motivations stem from grief following the death of her son Jason at Camp Crystal Lake. She also has a split personality, bringing Jason through as she commits murder, slicing and dicing sexually charged youths. Like the majority of the mother’s on this list, Mrs Voorhees is overprotective and will do what it takes to shelter her child from harm. She was a teenage mother with a son born with  hydrocephalus (water on the brain), in order to protect him she shielded Jason from a regular childhood, denying him schooling. While working as a cook in Camp Crystal Lake in 1957, Jason was exposed to constant bullying and teasing. While unattended, Jason went swimming in the lake’s murky waters, unbeknown to the camp counselors who were busy with certain other matters. Jason subsequently drowned sending Mrs Voorhees on a murderous rampage seeking revenge on any teenager who sets foot in the aptly nicknamed “Camp Blood”. She reveals herself in 1979 following the camp’s re-opening and several other grisly murders. Final Girl Alice Hardy ultimately decapitates her ending her bloody reign of terror. Mrs Voorhees death is responsible for avenging Jason and beginning a franchise of  gory horror films with an emblematic serial killer at the helm. She has proven influential particularly in the construction of the previously discussed Mrs Loomis. Betsy Palmer initially dismissed the film not expecting anyone to watch it however she created a cult character and a highly memorable performance of a psychotic mother who certainly won’t let things lie when it comes to her only son. Click here for more on Friday the 13th (1980) from this site.

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Hope you enjoyed this countdown. Feel free to comment or tweet (@Hayleyr1989) on your favorite psycho mom’s! Also check out my latest debate with Caitlyn (Scared Sheepless) on Wolf Creek (2005) currently available on moviepilot.com.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

 

Halloween Month: Friday the 13th (1980)

Posted in Halloween Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Thirty-three years following its release Friday 13th has proved to be one of the more influential slasher films of all time. The film kick-started a franchise with a total of ten direct sequels, one spin-off with the Elm Street franchise and one remake. Not only that, it paved the way for the popularity of many others of a similar vein such as the Sleepaway Camp Movies and The Burning right up until the present day with the Hatchet trilogy. While stalk n’ slash movies bled onto 1980’s cinema screens left, right and centre, Friday 13th had something the majority of them didn’t- success! Part of this is down to having Paramount Studios behind them, one of the most well-established, highest-grossing distribution studios of all time, however back in 1980 critics displayed disgust that a big studio would release what was considered a low and violent form of entertainment. Friday 13th was the first of its type to achieve backing from a major studio, resulting in it becoming one of the most profitable films of all time and over the years developing a cult following. Paramount went all out and spent a fortune on marketing the film which lifted the box office figures greatly, providing the slasher film with a more commercial appeal. Therefore if anyone is to blame for endless, over-the-top as they go on sequels, its Paramount Studios. But we’re all horror fans here so we love them!

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Creator/Director Sean S. Cunningham developed Friday 13th, after gaining inspiration from John Carpenter’s Halloween. Cunningham was no stranger to the genre following working with Wes Craven on The Last House on the Left (1972). His intention was to create something truly terrifying which had comical elements at the same time. The film’s original title was A Long Night at Camp Blood during the early writing stages. Cunningham had already set his sights on his gory, upcoming movie as Friday 13th. He did everything in his power to ensure he could secure the title in order to avoid any copyright lawsuits. Eventually he was successful in obtaining it despite being threatened by someone behind a lesser known title Friday 13th: The Orphan, rumour has it that the person was paid off and Friday 13th was shot in the September of 1979. Cunningham now had the opportunity to make his “real scary movie”.

When anyone thinks of Friday 13th, a flood of images come to mind. The main associations come in the form of brutal killer Jason Voorhees, his hockey mask, machete, the sinister whispers of “kill, kill, die, die” and what appears like super-human abilities. Other than Jason, the setting is key to this film series, Camp Crystal Lake, where the body count is high and the blood shed vast, a number of the films are primarily set there, unless you care to remember Jason Takes Manhattan or Jason X. Camp Crystal Lake is what Haddonfield is to the Halloween franchise. However, while the original film is considered the best of the series and most well-remembered, interestingly it barely features Jason and he isn’t even the killer. The nice, humble Mrs Voorhees takes to the blade first time round, out for blood-thirsty revenge on sexually-active teenagers who were too busy fornicating to notice her precious son was drowning to death in 1958. Her reign of terror doesn’t end there as the re-opening of Camp Blood in 1980 causes our favourite female psycho to unleash a new rampage of revenge on a group of unsuspecting teens, including a relatively unknown Kevin Bacon!

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Arguably, Jason could technically still be the killer in the original in spirit, telepathically communicating through his deranged mother.  That, or she’s just completely crazy using a split personality in order to project the grief she has for losing Jason, muttering classic lines such as “Kill her Mommy” over and over, played wonderfully by Betsy Palmer. But that depends how you want to interpret it. Palmer admittedly only took the role in order to purchase a new car and despite not thinking highly of the movie, famously saying “What a piece of shit! Nobody is ever going to see this thing.” she eventually came round to thinking fondly of it and even agreeing to perform a cameo appearance in the sequel the following year. Palmer, without a doubt contributed to creating one of the most iconic female roles in the genre with her unforgettable performance.

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Jason’s iconic image of how we love and know him today didn’t make an appearance until the third film, Friday 13th Part III: 3D (1982). In part one he’s the mutated boy in the lake, in Part 2 he hides his identity by wearing a brown sack over his head. Allegedly Part 3 was intended to be the final film in the series. The filmmakers did not foresee back then that the hockey mask would ultimately become Jason’s trademark nor was it intended to be. The decision was made in production during a lighting check where the hockey mask was placed on Jason actor Richard Brooker as the special effects crew had decided they did not want to apply make up just for the purpose of checking the lighting, therefore the entire thing came as a complete accident. Part 3 did receive generally negative feedback from the critics, despite grossing highly at the box office on its opening weekend. Its pretty fascinating that a well-recognized image, famous in pop culture happened by accident in a film that wasn’t highly regarded or even as well-remembered as its original. However its not unusual to hear people discuss the original Friday 13th with reference to the iconic monster that is Jason Voorhees. In theory, it separates itself slightly from its two big rivals, the Halloween and  Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, where the main killers are established from the first instalments.

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A kind of moral backlash did flare up following the film’s release. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were the most vocal  reviewers about the disgust they harboured for the film, deeming it exploitative against women and a new low in American cinema. Ebert stated that the films portray women in films of this nature as “helpless victims” while Siskel voiced that because more of these sort of films were being frequently generated, that was the principal image of women, tortured, attacked or raped that was being depicted to the country at the time. They were incensed that audiences were identifying with the killer rather than the victims, providing a very disturbing cinematic experience for them and saw it as an attack on the women’s movement. Placing the audience in the same position of the killer had  already been done in earlier films such as Peeping Tom (1960), the difference is, when that film was released there was uproar and it compromised director Michael Powell’s career, however by 1980 this was becoming a more prominent feature of American horror films and a “trend” as Siskel and Ebert described.

Even though Siskel and Ebert raised interesting points against 1980’s horror, their views are problematic when they primarily focus on women’s role in slasher films but don’t take into consideration there are also male victims and female serial killers, especially in our beloved Friday 13th. Mrs Voorhees motive echoes back to Psycho’s legacy with the maternal instinct subtext. A mother would do anything for their child and for me, this is what the film’s ultimately getting at. But for some its hard to see passed the violent imagery in order to dig deeper regarding the film’s message. Friday 13th acted as a fable for the youth, using the horror metaphor to emphasize that actions will have consequences, the main one being sex. Siskel and Ebert felt films were simply exploiting this angle in a sleazy manner. But in Friday 13th’s case it didn’t just capitalize solely on women’s behaviour, it demonstrated how both male and female characters were so self-indulgent that they didn’t notice the death of a child. However nothing had changed from the 1950’s to the 1980’s as the youth were still engaging in the same behaviour. The young people who were oblivious to Jason’s drowning were the camp counsellors and failed to act responsibly in the situation. With the fear of AIDS and teenage pregnancy rife in society at the time, its no surprise that films were fictionalizing people’s fears for future generations and it sort of encourages the practice of safe sex and for teenagers not to be identified solely by it. Therefore I would conclude that Friday 13th is about accepting consequences and to act responsibly rather than exploiting women and their bodies in sadistic ways which is how Siskel and Ebert interpreted the film. Their reaction came across as fearful especially warning prospective audiences from seeing the film which in my view was extreme. By advising against the film and announcing its twist ending in the hope it would affect box office figures was more likely going to drive audiences towards it rather against it. Cunningham’s intention with the film was purely to scare and clearly evoking these reactions demonstrated that he did a good job.

Friday 13th was a film I adored as a gore-curious thirteen year old, however after many viewings over the years, I would argue that overall its not the most well-made film ever. Its possible that from growing up into a generation where CGI was becoming more prominent that myself and those around my age are spoilt when it comes to film. That said, I do appreciate the classics and as a horror fan I did turn to all the older films to get my fill of blood, guts, gore and ghouls even before the surge of remakes unleashed hell upon our beloved genre, the majority I usually avoid. For me old skool FX are far more appealing than CGI as they provide a raw feel and DIY approach. By that point the most recent horror movie I had seen was Final Destination (2000). After re-watching Friday 13th in 2013, I’d say it still has its merits, the glass smashing, bursting the title onto the screen accompanied by the score still gives me goosebumps and remains a powerful title sequence in horror. The kills are brutal and Pamela’s performance just makes the film for me. Its not overly scary however and comes across as comical and campy throughout featuring caricatures rather than actual characters. I don’t feel the same for the characters in this as I do for Laurie Strode, Nancy Thompson or Sidney Prescott. Arguably, Alice Hardy isn’t considered the best final girl in the franchise, Ginny Field from the second instalment occupies that title. Its barely a masterpiece or even unique but enjoyable all the same.

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What does make Friday 13th more popular than other films that came out in the same era in a similar vein?  Well, it stands out for its importance to the slasher sub-genre and the horror genre as a whole. Mark Kermode hit the nail on the head when he emphasized that the reason the film has maintained such a legacy is because it was the type of film that had never been associated with mainstream cinema before or distributed by a successful studio. It transcended seedy, violent horror from grindhouse cinemas to more commercial audiences. Kermode pin points that at the time this was a “novelty” but since then has been done over and over again. But back in 1980 this movie did something special for the genre. Horror wouldn’t be horror without the series as its influence still carries on to this day.

So, why should you take a trip to Camp Crystal Lake this Halloween? Well, for one its a classic and a must-see for any horror fan, its interesting as a film for its significance on mainstream horror cinema, its suspenseful with some cool, memorable death scenes, an arrow through through the throat and the axe to the head are personal favourites and who could forget Mrs Voorhees beheading! It features a female serial killer which was revolutionary for its time and it began a legend.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

SOURCES:

Teenage Wasteland: The Slasher Movie Uncut by J. A. Kerswell (2010).

http://www.fridaythe13th.wikia.com