The City Is Safer: A Corey Feldman Double Feature
A few weeks back, I recently decided to write up a two-part article to present a curated double bill for two teenage 80’s icon actors who were known for their off-screen persona as much as their actual acting chops. The icons I speak of are the two Corey’s, Corey Haim and Corey Feldman. The first one up was Mr. Haim and I ended up choosing two movies that specifically had dealt with him fighting against the archetypal monsters of old, the Universal Monsters more or less. I titled the theme “Haim vs The Monsters” and the choices were The Lost Boys and Stephen King’s Silver Bullet (here’s the link to that masterwork ). Those two movies properly showed what Haim could bring to a movie and I believe displayed the range of acting he was capable of delivering but seldom got a chance to do.
Now we have arrived at the more bombastic, enigmatic and all around troubled of the duo, Corey Feldman. Of these two individuals, Feldman was the more recognizable of the Corey’s, whether it was due to the company he kept (he was good friends with Michael Jackson) or the larger movie he ended up getting cast in (Gremlins, The Goonies). Corey Feldman, as was with Haim, was a teenage heartthrob during his heyday in the 80’s, loved and adored by tween girls all around America, but he also experienced similar turmoil off the screen that usually involved drugs and all-around bad decision making. As I was trying to nail down what movies to pair up to show Feldman at his horror best, I decided to include one movie where he was the main star and one where he was a supporting character. The combination may not make a whole lot of sense initially, but bear with me and I will explain at the end. For your viewing pleasure, here is my Corey Feldman double feature of 1984’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and 1989’s The ‘Burbs.
First up is the film from my favorite horror film franchise, and which also contains what I consider to be the most iconic slasher of all time, Jason Voorhees (I even have an entire wall shelf littered with collectibles, books, movies and video games dedicated to this murdering psychopath). Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, released in 1984 and directed by Joseph Zito (Invasion U.S.A, Missing in Action), was the fourth and supposed final entry in the F13 saga (insert snickering). The plot, which acts merely as an avenue to some bloodshed, revolves around Crystal Lake’s most famous resident, the mass murderer Jason Voorhees, who after being on the receiving end of an axe to the head from the final girl in F13 Part 3, miraculously awakens in the county morgue and reignites his reign of terror (which kicks off with a great throat slit and head twist, with effects courtesy of Tom Savini). As Jason makes his way back to Crystal Lake, we are introduced to a new band of rowdy teenagers renting a lake house for a few days during the summer. This house is also next door to the Jarvis family, which consists of mother Tracy (Joan Freeman), perceived final girl and daughter Trish (Kimberly Beck) and the horror mask making youngest boy, Tommy (Corey Feldman). As Jason rolls back into the lake, people start to get offed one at a time with no end in sight. Will the Jarvis family and the horny teenagers next door be able to survive the night and finally end Jason’s reign of terror, or will Voorhees kill everyone in his path to finally satiate his lust for vengeance?
For the second film, I went into the complete opposite direction. I went horror comedy baby! The ‘Burbs, from 1989 and directed by genre vet Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling), is truly one of my favorite comedies of all time, and probably the best horror comedy period. The movie centers on the typical American suburb, rife with families, children and general suspicions about what the deal is with the new next door neighbors. This is the issue that currently plagues Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks). Ray’s new neighbors, The Klopeks, are a weird bunch. They never go out, no one has confirmation on how many there are, and what they even do for a living, and even his son claims to have seen someone digging in their backyard at night. Along with his neighbors Art (Rick Ducommun), a brash and overzealous oaf, and retired military nutcase Rumsfield (Bruce Dern, in a truly iconic and rare comedic performance), Ray decides to try and investigate about who these people are, what they are doing here, and just try and find out if his new neighbors are normal people or psychotic madmen. As you can guess, insanity and hilarity ensue in spades as their pursuit of finding out just what is wrong with the new reclusive family in the neighborhood. Are Ray’s new neighbors the family from hell, or has the suburban life driven the average working men of this town to suspicious crazed individuals?
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is probably the harder sell of the two, primarily because it’s the third sequel in a slasher series and, honestly, if you are not a fan of this franchise, this movie won’t sway you. I can freely admit that the Friday the 13th series is not exactly high art, and truly exists just to give us some exquisite kill sequences. The Final Chapter is a different beast (as is Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives) and I have a few points to support that. First, the cast of teenage characters that are set up to be slaughtered one by one at the hands of Jason are quite well written and feel like genuine human characters that you end up caring about in some capacity, not basic stereotypes or generally one-note individuals the series is known to contain. I mean, seriously, we get Crispin Glover’s iconic portrayal of Jimmy. He is such a weird and enigmatic actor, and he brings all that craziness to his few scenes in the movie, playing someone getting over a break-up who just wants to get laid again. The pinnacle of his performance is by far the now infamous sequence where Mr. Glover pulls a dance routine he has with a fellow actress completely out of his ass, forever locking himself into horror history (he was apparently dancing to AC/DC’s Back in Black and invented the dance all on his own…of course). This entry also has the pleasure of having the 2nd best actor to play the role of Jason Voorhees (after Kane Hodder) in veteran stuntman Ted White. Ted brings a physicality and general menace to the role that was present in the previous iterations or any of the subsequent takes on the character. Last, but not least, the performances of the entire Jarvis family are quite exceptional for a slasher flick. Kimberly Beck brings some girl next door vibes and delivers a down to earth performance that really makes you invested in her survival and general health. The relationship she has with her younger brother Tommy is developed very well and you truly believe that these two are related and care about each other. And then we have Corey Feldman, who was all of 13 years old when this movie was made, and this film showed everyone what an amazing actor that he was and eventually would become. Feldman delivers a layered performance that is nothing you would expect from a slasher picture, and he gets one of the most satisfying final scenes in any of the F13 films. Corey Feldman commits and delivers in this movie, and to do it at such a young age while surrounded with the bloodletting going on around him is commendable.
The ‘Burbs ended up being a critical and commercial failure upon its release back in ’89, but as with a myriad of other horror flicks, such as John Carpenter’s The Thing, the film began to accumulate a cult following and appreciation from the horror community. Horror comedies are not known as a genre that is brimming with shining examples of greatness, but Joe Dante ends up delivering a masterpiece about what can truly happen to normal people when the banality of everyday suburban life truly drives them to fill their waking hours with….something. Every single performance in this movie is some of these respective actors’ best comedic work. Tom Hank’s Ray, Rick Ducommun’s Art and Bruce Dern’s Rumsfield are three of the most insane suburbanites you would ever encounter and deliver truly hilarious performances. You believe that they believe that they are living on a block with a group of psychos, even if your better judgment should be leaning you in the direction of “these nosy neighbors are fucking nuts”. The supporting turns from Carrie Fisher as Ray’s better half Carol and Wendy Schaal as the sweet natured Bonnie Rumsfield are also fantastic and deliver great comedic timing with their male counterparts, none more memorable than during the scene where a few of the neighbors pay a house visit to the Klopeks with brownies in tow. Schaal’s and Fisher’s facial reactions to situations that arise, Bruce Dern zingers and Tom Hanks slowly pushing a sardine and pretzel combo into his mouth are pure hilarity and always puts a smile across my face. Corey Feldman has an arguably smaller role in this movie, playing freeloader neighbor Ricky Butler, who is literally trying to paint his house during the entire movie. Feldman’s role isn’t exactly meant to flex his acting ability per se, as it really does appear that Feldman is just playing himself, but once again Feldman is clearly able to deliver a charming and charismatic performance. He’s always there with a wisecrack, a joke or just to show off the deft comedic timing that he was mastering throughout the 80’s. This movie rules from beginning to end, and Feldman is just one of the successful pieces that makes the whole work so beautifully.
So, just as I asked myself with my Haim article, why did I choose these two movies? I wanted to show off Feldman in performances before he blew up into a major movie star and at the height of his popularity. I chose these two because it involved terror and evil happening around families living away from the city, living “The American Dream”. In America, it is perceived that we all dream of making it successful in life, moving out of the city to the suburbs, marrying a lovely man/woman, having 2.5 kids and living the good life. These two movies show us that it really doesn’t matter where you are, evil, terror and mortal danger are always prevalent, with these flicks presenting cases where maybe, just maybe, the city is safer than the lawless confines of suburban and rural life. In the end, evil and terror are everywhere, and no amount of safety provided by the walls of your one family house can save you, and that is a truly terrible thought. Then again, it does lead to an awesome masked killer and hilarious neighbor hijinks, so perhaps it’s not all that bad.