Saturday, August 11, 2012


The world of high school is one subject that movies love to deal with because well the lives of teenagers are usually so ripe with drama...I should know as I was once a teen in high school only eleven years ago. It depends what you were in high school that defines how your own high school movie would go: drama, comedy or maybe even horror or even a combination of the three. Popularity in high school is something we all either had or wanted but did you ever wonder if that was enough? Maybe being yourself was okay because most of the popular people I knew were either very nice or completely obnoxious and I don't think it was important enough to be popular if everyone hated you but if you could be popular and nice it made the mean girls just hate you even more.

Why do I sound so melodramatic you ask? Because this is basically the premise of why I love this movie we came here to talk about: Jawbreaker. I saw this film when I was sixteen and a freshman/sophomore in high school and it is one of those films that I came to embrace about high school and kind of helped me understand the way popularity worked: either fear or hero worship. Since it it is a black comedy I don't take the lesson seriously but I do take it with a grain of salt.

What's The Plot?
Every high school has its clique of popular girls and at Regan High, The Flawless Four rule the school. There of course is the nice popular girl, Elizabeth Purr, and then the girl popular because of her looks, Julie Freeman, and her closeness with the aforementioned Liz Purr. There is the brainless follower, Marcie Fox also known as "Foxy", and then there is the Queen Bee Bitch who rules with fear behind a mask of deceit, Courtney Shayne. Despite their different personalities, these four girls are friends who enjoy shopping, hanging out by the pool and playing practical jokes on one another until the day one of those pranks goes too far.

"Kidnapping" Liz from her bed on her seventeenth birthday with the prospect of  tying her to the flagpole in her undies before all of Regan High, Courtney, Julie and Marcie discover Liz dead in the trunk of the car instead after she asphyxiates on a jawbreaker that Courtney used to gag her with which is now lodged in her throat. Julie and Marcie are panicked and upset but Courtney, ice queen that she is, decides that they will just return Liz to her bed since her parents are gone on some sort of vacation or retreat and make it look like their friend was the victim of a possible sexual attack. Calling as Liz's mother, Courtney tells the Principal Miss Sherwood that Liz is sick and that one of her friends will bring her homework home. However, the girls get so caught up in their plans to get Liz's body home that they forget the homework and Miss Sherwood gives the task to unpopular, mousy Fern Mayo who literally worships and fanatically adores Elizabeth Purr.

Fern ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and hears Courtney admit to killing Liz (possibly on purpose out of jealousy at Liz's popularity due to her kindness and natural/inside beauty) and when she discovers the body she runs off. Courtney and Marcie get to Fern before she can tell anyone and Courtney offers Fern something in exchange for her silence: popularity. She tells Fern she can take Liz's place and finally be one of the beautiful people she has always dreamed of (which is probably why she had such a fixation on Liz in the first place even though Liz was nice to her once) and of course Fern is easily swayed.

Julie Benz as Marcie "Foxy" Fox

Disgusted at Courtney's actions, Julie leaves the Flawless Four who now become a terror trio with a newly blonde and fashionably dressed Fern who becomes Courtney's creation, dubbed the mysterious transfer student "Vylette". Seems the politics of high school will go on until the death of Elizabeth Purr is announced as rape and Julie knows that Courtney is behind it but can she convince Detective Vera Cruz who is on the case that everything is not what it seems? With her new found popularity at stake, can Fern turn against Courtney or will she become the monster instead...even worse than the queen bee who made her?

The plot of Jawbreaker sounds like any normal high school teen flick but with its dark take at comedy the movie is anything but sweet after school special fluff. The title itself is named after a piece of candy but I wouldn't call this film as anything remotely sugary as I would probably liken it more to Sour Patch Kids instead: bitter with a sweetness underneath which is fitting to the characters. Both Fern and Julie fall to being sour on the outside but truly nice people inside while Courtney is just the opposite: sugary on the outside but bitter within which I guess would make her the true jawbreaker and not just in a metaphorical way either. One of the many things Jawbreaker has going for it is the fact that you can relate to the main characters whether you are a man or a woman because there was always the nice ones, the popular ones, the mean ones, the wannabes and the outcasts in every school and you can remember being one or knowing one in your own youth.

Setting the story aside, another thing that makes Jawbreaker a fantastic film to watch is that it has a very good cast. In a role after her breakout in Scream and before she became part of the Power of Three on the WB's Charmed, Rose McGowan is very good at playing a very bad girl and she is always sexy and cute no matter what she does. Maybe I am biased a little because my name is Courtney but I love to love and hate Rose McGowan as Courtney Shayne because her morals and ethics are non-existent but she is also very cool and icy that nothing gets under her skin and I kind of like that about her.

Rose McGowan as Courtney Shayne

Rebecca Gayheart as Julie is another favorite of mine because she is portraying a character that is actually like a lot of people I know where as she isn't what she seems. She's pretty and it could give her license to be as much a bitch as Courtney but Julie is very nice in a human way as she feels bad for what happened to her best friend Liz and then she becomes concerned for Fern's own well being and genuinely tries to reach out and be her friend.

Rebecca Gayheart as Julie

Speaking of Fern, I love actress Judy Greer in this film and in general as much as I love Rose McGowan in all of her roles. I love how Greer can go from being a nice girl to a bad girl because when she is a nice girl she can be demure or bubbly and when she is a bad girl she can go from being slightly cold to being a down right evil bitch and that takes real acting to pull that off. As Fern, I can relate to being one of those unpopular, geeks who feels invisible and wanting not popularity per se but at least acknowledgement that I am a good-hearted person.

Judy Greer

Julie Benz who plays Marcie "Foxy" Fox is great to watch in this movie as the air-headed sidekick to McGowan's sadistic villain and after watching her portray Darla on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel which is a complete 180 from Foxy, it's clear to me that Julie Benz is so very talented. Charlotte Ayanna who plays Liz Purr has no dialogue in this film but she deserves recognition because I don't know if I could act like a corpse for almost half a film where I have to look dead on at a camera and not blink. I wish she could have had a bigger part maybe in flashbacks or something to show just how nice Liz really was and why she was so popular because I've seen Charlotte Ayanna act with dialogue in The Rage: Carrie 2 and she is by no means without skill or talent beyond being very pretty. Besides the main character cast, there are great supporting actors in this film even if they play maybe not so memorable characters such as Carol Kane who plays the Principal Miss Sherwood (I have always loved Kane with her quirkiness and that distinct voice of hers as well as she is a good actress).

Carol Kane

The late Jeff Conway (known to most as Kenicke from Grease) makes a cameo as Marcie's single dad in a very hilarious scene and the original Foxy...Foxy Brown that is Pam Grier appears as hard ass but cool as ice Detective Vera Cruz. Since I am a Carrie fan, I have to mention that William Katt and P.J. Soles from the 1976 film appear in a very short blink and you will miss it cameo as Liz's parents who only appear to return home and find their daughter dead. (their daughter who's actress also happened to be in the Carrie sequel I might add!) I wish they had gotten more screen time but I guess it would have taken a little bit of the darkness out of the film if we had to focus on the parents' grief for the death of their only child but I would have liked to have seen what Katt and Soles could have done with it.

Jeff Conway

William Katt & P.J. Soles as Liz's poor parents

Pam Grier

The last thing I think that makes me a fan of Jawbreaker is that it has a very kick ass soundtrack! If you are into indie pop, alternative, rock and pop punk then you would love the soundtrack even if the movie was not something to your liking. The Cars and Veruca Salt have songs that only appear in the movie but the soundtrack has Letters To Cleo, The Scorpions, The Donnas and some great maybe not as well known bands such as Shampoo, Transister, Imperial Teen  and The Friggs who have some very good stand out songs in the film that don't appear on the soundtrack as well as tracks on the soundtrack album itself.

So sorry if this blog post was really long winded but when I talk about movies I really enjoy and want to share with you I have to tell you every detail that I think you need to know and should know. Is Jawbreaker a movie for everyone? Probably not. Is it worth seeing? I think it is. Are you going to try and give it a viewing anytime soon or ever? Now I can't answer that because I am not you but if you want to check out something different for a change I highly recommend giving Jawbreaker a taste.

Next Blog: For the next couple of blogs we are going to be focusing on some film franchises which means some more remakes, some sequels and the ever fun trilogies and movie series that refuse to die! So first up: I Know What You Did Last Summer

Friday, August 10, 2012

Prom Night 1980 vs. 2008

A big trend in Hollywood lately is remaking horror movies of the past for a whole new generation of today. The problem with me is I am still a part of that old generation  when most of these movie first came out so I have already seen them and if you don't know me here's something else to know: I am not a fan of change when it comes to my music and movies. Not that I don't own a few remakes of my beloved horror films but what bugs me the most is when you call something a remake and do one of two things:

1) Remake a film and just shoot the exact same film like when Gus Van Sant remade Psycho frame for frame with just new actors. You weren't creative enough to change it just a little so just how did you remake it?

2) Remake a film but you changed the character names is a good start but then the story resembles nothing of the original. Sometimes it works but some times it doesn't like I can watch Rob Zombie's re-imagining of Halloween but that is because it is telling the exact same story with a few changes to make it more mainstream. I can't really explain why I don't like the story to be changed but if you do it right I am hooked but if you don't I am turned off that's basically it.

Anyway enough of the ranting let's get to what you really came here for shall we? Prom Night is one of my favorite horror films and when I heard about the Prom Night that came out as a remake in 2008 I was intrigued. So it comes down to which one I think is the better of the two that I would suggest you watch. Instead of starting with the original, let's start with the 2008 version first.

2008 Version: What's The Plot ?
Donna Keppel is about ready to attend that highlight of the senior girl's life known as prom. She is going with her handsome boyfriend Bobby and her very best friends Lisa and Claire and their own boyfriends, Ronnie and Michael. What's different for Donna about this night is that it is the bright spot in a high school run marred by tragedy because when Donna was a freshman her family was murdered. Her father and little brother were killed and then Donna witnessed the murder of her mother first hand which was committed by one of her very own teachers, Richard Fenton.

Fenton was obsessed with Donna and wanted to make her completely alone so they could be together but all his actions did was get him arrested, force Donna to be taken in but her maternal aunt and her husband and send the poor girl to therapy for constantly dreaming about that horrific night. Donna plans to put that all behind her but the past won't ever rest for her because now Fenton has escaped from jail and he is still just as obsessed with Donna. A night of fun is going to turn into a night of terror for Donna and her friends because Fenton won't stop until he has Donna all to himself and he'll kill anyone that stands in his way...

So since you know the plot for this version let's talk about its pros and cons before we venture backward to look at the 1980 version. First off, you could probably throw this plot onto any occasion besides a prom or on any holiday but you call it Prom Night just because well there's a prom going on isn't there? So the story is less than original and way off from the original as well but I give a point for effort to make it a little different. The only actors that are of note as victim and killer respectively are Brittany Snow and Johnathon Schaech as Donna Keppel and Richard Fenton.

Brittany Snow makes for a great innocent victim but sometimes she flips from being a positive final girl to a less than stellar scream queen. When it comes to the scenes with the murder of her family, Snow gives a good portrayal of what anyone would feel in that moment and the emotion is raw and powerful. Schaech is perfect for Richard Fenton but at times I think he is too good actually because he looks like he could be a killer and his calm tone throughout doing these awful things and not going completely berserk is the most chilling thing imaginable when the person killing you looks like he could be your teacher, your dentist or any person you see everyday.

As for the other characters they don't really stand out to me at all except for actor Idris Elba who plays Detective Winn who was in charge of the case where Fenton murdered Donna's family and comes back into the picture when he learns Fenton has escaped. Elba's character stands out because he is concerned not just because he wants to get Fenton back in jail but because he is concerned about Donna's physical and mental well-being which makes him one of my favorite horror film cops by far.

From a gore stand point, there are murder scenes but they aren't grisly but this is what happens when a horror film is rated PG-13 and no I am not kidding that is its rating but even if you get the unrated version it is not that different and for you horror fans who like nudity or sex you won't get any here and I probably just turned 50 % off horror fans off this version with that one statement. So that's pretty much all I can say about this version so let's go back to 1980 for the original Prom Night...

1980 Original: What's The Plot?
Technically we start off in 1974 with a group of children playing a kind of twisted version of hide and seek/tag (where you hide from a killer and if you are tagged you become one too?...where did these kids come up with this?). Passing by are Kim Hammond and her younger siblings, Alex and Robin. Robin wants to play but Alex says the other children don't want her in their game but Robin doesn't listen as Kim and Alex end up going on without her. When Robin finds Nick, probably the nicest of the four, he turns the game on to Robin making her the victim and along with Kelly, Wendy and Jude they chase Robin around chanting the word 'kill" over and over again (again fun game these kids are playing isn't it?).

Their fun comes to end when they end up backing Robin against a window on the second story and she falls out of it on to the ground below where she is killed by the broken glass. Nick (again the nicest of the group) wants to go get help but Wendy (the meanest and future high school bitch) makes them all swear not to tell or else they will go to jail and the others agree and ride of on their bikes. As you may have guessed, someone witnesses the death of little Robin and their revenge is what will set off the drama and horror of the upcoming minutes of the film.

Six years later, the anniversary of Robin's death falls on the night of the senior prom at Alexander Hamilton High School and this time a real killer is coming. Kim Hammond is now dating Nick and the both of them are about to be crowned as Queen and King of their disco prom and Nick's ex-girlfriend Wendy (yes same little bitchy Wendy) is not happy. As for Jude and Kelly, Jude is going with the resident stoner, van-driving comedic geek Seymour ( " Slick" to his friends) and Kelly is going with her horny hound dog boyfriend Drew who only wants to get up her virginal skirt.

Yep everything seems normal in this high school rite of passage known as Prom Night but someone is going to the prom with murder on their mind. Wendy, Nick, Jude and Kelly have to pay for what they did and ominous calls are the least of their worries when someone has an axe to grind but will Kim also have to suffer for the loss of her sister as well as her brother Alex? Can Nick finally admit to Kim what he did before blood spills on the prom night dance floor? Tonight Prom Night is not about who you come with or who takes you's about whether you will make it home at all.

Pretty different story huh? Well you will be happy to know that there is nudity, sex, drugs and profanity in this version so horror hounds rejoice! I like the revenge plot a whole lot more than the remake's story and I like all the characters a whole lot better even bitchy Wendy. Jamie Lee Curtis is back as a Scream Queen after her success in Halloween and The Fog and she does what she does best in Prom Night : portraying a strong female character as Kim Hammond. Jamie Lee Curtis is one of my favorite actresses and in her third theatrical film role you could tell she was going to be a star. Speaking of stars, another star of note is the underused role of Kim's father, principal of the high school, played by the late great Leslie Nielsen and yes that Leslie Nielsen! If you thought all Nielsen did was comedy and slap stick you are sadly mistaken because Leslie Nielsen was also a very good dramatic actor before he took on his more famous funny man roles.

 As I stated, I like the characters in this Prom Night better because even though Kelly and Jude as children made a very tragic mistake and pay the price for it they aren't bad persons and Nick is just the same. Casey Stevens as Nick McBride is probably one of the most decent characters in the film besides Curtis' Kim and Michael Tough who portrays Kim's brother Alex and when you can make fictional characters dimensional enough to have personalities that you can actually relate to them, love them or hate them then you have done a good job as a screenwriter and director. Another thing about Prom Night is its very highly sought after disco soundtrack which is not really that bad but I am also a closet disco fan so I guess I wouldn't mind having it as well. If you aren't a fan of disco there is original scoring and a kind of touching song that plays over the end credits called Fade To Black which after the climatic killer reveal is poignant and chilling all in one.

So there you have it two movies with one shared title and two very different stories but which Prom Night is best? Well again I do enjoy 1980 Prom Night better than its 2008 "re-imagining" but the 2008 Prom Night is certainly not lacking on originality from its predecessor than taking the same story and characters. As a horror film, 1980 beats 2008 in gore and suspense and even in drama as well as character development. Despite my love/hate mentality on remakes of good horror films I guess it's an honor when a film is picked to be remade for a whole new generation because that means it is a significant and cultural cinematic piece of history...or maybe Hollywood is just running out of good ideas for original horror films, eh?

So in conclusion, if you have never seen either Prom Night, I would check them both out but start with the 1980 version first. If you have seen the 1980 version but not the "remake" I wouldn't bother because you have already seen the best one. If you have seen the 2008 Prom Night and not the 1980 film of which it is loosely based have got to go out and get this movie! If you are a true fan of 80s horror then you won't be disappointed and if you like 80s horror with a cheese factor to it the 1980 Prom Night spawned three sequels that range from good to bad. If I am being vague on these sequels its because they really have nothing to do with Prom Night itself they are in name only sequels but even they have more redeeming qualities than Prom Night 2008.

That's right...I said it.  Guess my inner bitchy prom queen made it to the surface.

Next Blog: Speaking of proms...if you like your comedies a little on the dark side the way I like my chocolate have I got a treat for you! Care for a little Jawbreaker my dears?