Hollywood Horror Nights!
After a particularly hot week in sunny Los Angeles, the weather began to cool. It was October 3rd, 2008 and there was a chill in the air. Luckily, along with my camera person (my sister Judy), we found ourselves in the midst of Universal Studios Hollywood. But this wasn’t for the Waterworld show, or the typical tour across the back-lot. This was far from being your average night of Hollywood fun. It was Halloween Horror Nights, and there were a number of ghoulish thrills as the entire park was transformed into your worst nightmares. Those vicious little pranksters from THE STRANGERS were causing a ruckus. There were strange looking clowns that seemed to be pulled out of a child’s birthday party gone horribly wrong. Hell, even one of my favorites from last year was back, the gun-toting zombie Scarface (I love that guy!). The spooks and the zombies with rotting flesh were on every corner. But deep in the heart of this nightmare, horror royalty was waiting… Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and of course, chainsaw wielding Leatherface. Each one searching for new victims to slice and dice.
When Judy and I arrived, we had red carpet duties for the Eye Gore Awards. We found ourselves talking to some familiar faces. Some of those nice folk included Gunnar “Leatherface” Hansen, Corey Haim and the newest actor to play Jason in the upcoming FRIDAY THE 13th, Derek Mears. We even said hello to one of his newest victims, Arlen Escarpeta. There were a couple of my favorite ladies of horror who stopped by to say hello. Both Cerina Vincent and Christa Campbell were looking as beautiful as ever. And yes, I do realize how lucky I am sometimes. But the highlight of the red carpet had to be the iconic Roger Corman. I have been a huge fan of this gentleman for many years. He has offered up some of my favorite films including ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL and of course PIRAHNA just to name two (the man has produced almost four-hundred films and that doesn’t even count the fifty plus he has directed). I even got to ask him about his thoughts on horror remakes, and damn if he didn’t have a good answer. You’ll be able to see what he said and more coming soon on JoBlo and Arrow in the Head. But the night was only beginning after the Eye Gore awards ended.
That was when the darkness really began to set in and we were set loose among the living dead to see the sights. While that would have been cool enough, we joined Derek “Jason” Meaks himself, along with his victim Mr. Escarpeta and Mark Swift and Damian Shannon, the writers of the newest adventures of our machete carrying anti-hero. As our group took off into the night, we ventured into the wilderness as we were about to come face to face with mayhem and maniacs. But I’ve got to be honest with you, walking through Camp Crystal Lake at “Camp Blood: The Friday the 13th” maze with the current Jason Voorhees… It kind of put a damper on the scares. Seriously, the rest of the “Jasons” just didn’t strike fear in my heart seeing as the real deal towered over most of them. I love Kane Hodder, he really brought this character to life and gave a few nightmares along the way. In fact, I loved all the Jasons. I hold this horror hero near and dear to my beating heart. Yet with that, I am very much excited to see what Mr. Mears brings to one of my all time favorite characters. Ironically, Derek is one of the nicest guys to ever slaughter a group of counselors around. Now I can say that I rode The Simpsons ride next to Jason Voorhees… how cool is that?
There was a ton of fun to be had as we found ourselves victim to Freddy Krueger in the “Home Sweet Hell: A Nightmare on Elm Street” maze which was much better than last year. Then we had to fight off that crazed Hewitt family in “Back in Business: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” maze. My favorite part, which had doubled in size since last year, was the “Terror Tram: The Nightmare Tour”. Once again, you get to walk amongst the ruins from THE WAR OF THE WORLDS crash set and even tread lightly alongside the Bates Motel and that creepy old house from PSYCHO. But we also had the pleasure of going camping at Camp Crystal Lake, and even walking through the Hewitt’s laundry as did Mike Vogel in the 2003 remake of TCM. Luckily, no limbs were lost… at least not from our group. Universal also made their “House of Horrors” maze welcome to the doll-faced Strangers which added a little fright for the whole family… well, maybe not the whole family. This is probably not the best place for the young ones.
Throughout the night, I had the chance to talk a little bit with the Mark and Damian about what it was like to “remake” a classic horror film. The most important thing they want people to know is that they are absolute fans. And you can tell just from seeing them get excited at the many death scenes recreated in the Camp Blood maze. They were just as giddy as everyone else looking to get creeped out that night. While that doesn’t automatically guarantee that the film will be great (or even good), I really feel that they wanted to bring Jason back to what made him scary in the first place. I loved the first four films. They were fun, and Jason was still pretty damn terrifying. The fact is, I’m not the biggest fan of this remaking trend. Most of the time I really hate it. It annoys me to no end that the creativity in Hollywood seems to be about going through a horror fans DVD collection and deciding to remake whatever film they happen upon. Originality seems to be a dying art form.
So remakes don‘t work much of the time, it is absolutely true. I could probably count on my fingers the ones that I genuinely loved. With that, I still find myself really looking forward to seeing F13. The photos look pretty amazing and the small glimpse that was offered up at Comic Con looks damn promising. If you really think about it, pretty much every sequel in this franchise feels a little bit like a remake. Look at part one and three and you will find almost the exact same structure. You could then take parts two and four and guess what… same structure. Hey, Amy Steel is trying to make Jason believe that she is his dead mother, just as Corey Feldman is trying to make Jason think that… well, that he is young Jason. I guess Jason is a little on the slow side, but he can sure make good use of a sleeping bag. Is this great cinema? No, absolutely not. But to me, the Friday the 13th movies are sheer fun with a ton of gruesome kills and even a little T & A. I’ve even seen the ones I don’t like numerous times because I just can’t resist Jason. So yeah, I’m even more excited to see FRIDAY THE 13th, opening on February thirteenth, 2009. Let’s hope this time Jason scares the crap out of us.
At the end of the night, I am still very excited to return to Camp Blood. I am happy that some of the guys who put it together are just as in love with horror as I am. While on the Terror Tram, they showed the trailer for (yet another) remake of THE WOLFMAN. It looked better than I expected, and Benicio seems perfectly cast. I’m still a sucker for the old monster flicks. But after the trailer, one of the guys in our group stood up and started shouting out to everyone to go see FRIDAY THE 13th in February. He was met with laughter and a few of those, ‘… who the hell is this guy?’ glances… but he had fun with it. In fact, we all did. There are few things I look forward to as much as Universal getting spooky as Halloween Horror Nights takes over. And you’ll be able to check it out October 10, 11, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31 and November 1. The tickets aren’t too bad for what you get. This is a horror movie loves dream. But the lines can be truly blood-curdling. So if you can spare it, I recommend getting a “Front of the Line” pass or even the VIP Experience which is a fantastic way to spend your time. The tour guides are terrific and you get to do everything you want to do.
Jason, Freddy or Leatherface? Who’d win in a bar fight? Send questions and/or comments to JimmyO@JoBlo.com.