It’s doubtful genre fans, especially of a certain age, won’t enjoy the hell out of “13 Fanboy”; watch and be reminded why you love horror.
I’m kind of an older guy.
Born the year Jaws came out. Turned 10 the year Day of the Dead came out. Weaned on countless horror movies at the drive-in and on cable in the ’70s & ’80s. Took my high school sweetheart, now wife, to Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare on our first date in ’91 (thankfully, we didn’t really pay much attention to the movie), and recorded all the Friday the 13th and Halloween movies on VHS in the mid-to-late ’90s to watch over and over alone and with friends (Jason Goes to Hell is my current favorite, in case you were wondering; Halloween III, respectively).
Over the years, my love of horror never totally faded, but as the father of three girls, Jason, Freddy, and Michael steadily gave way to Barbie, Tinkerbell, and My Little Pony (I know songs I shouldn’t know). That is, till my little Princess, Pretty, and Pupcake got old enough for me to not get in trouble by their mom for watching modern morality plays chock full of boobs and blood with them.
This September, I attended HorrorHound Cincinnati for three reasons:
1. To get a picture with Robert Englund & my oldest daughter;
2. To meet the guys from Death Curse Society, an up-and-coming horror-centric online group that Livestreams every Monday at 8 pm EST; and
3. To meet Deborah Voorhees who played “Tina” in Friday the 13th Part V and check out her new independent film starring a cavalcade of horror stars from my favorite franchises. “Freddy” was great (he stopped a whole line of hundreds of fans just to BS with me about an old Sci-Fi show he was in); and the guys at DCS were awesome, hooking me and my daughter up with tees and going out for pizza. But fanboying out to Deborah Voorhees? Next level.
You have to understand, I have always had a thing for brunettes, since before I could even pronounce “brunette”.
Debi Sue Voorhees was a brunette Playmate who, in her star-making role, showcased what I have always lovingly referred to as “the best set of on-screen knockers in horror movie history”.
It was only natural that I become a member of her Facebook fan page “Deborah Voorhees Shear Horror Group” (fans get the “shear” pun as a reference to her manner of death in Friday 5: garden shears to the eyes).
I had read on Deb’s fan page that she was making an independent horror movie called 13 Fanboy, all about a crazed stalker who goes after the actors and actresses from the Friday the 13th and Halloween franchises. Killer concept, especially with most of the actors playing “themselves”. But what impressed me, even more, was the number of fans totally devoted to making the project happen. The financial and moral support was staggering.
So, there I was, first thing in the morning at HorrorHound Cincinnati where the lovely Ms. Voorhees (now sporting luscious gray locks that would make Emmylou Harris blush) was screening her finished product for a select group of horror geeks and filmmakers.
As my daughter and I walked up to the little room where it was to be screened, we were stopped by event staff. “Sorry. You’re not on the list.”
My heart sank, but I pleaded my case, stating that Deborah herself had stated where the screening was to take place on her fan page and hadn’t mentioned anything about needing a VIP pass or filmmaker cred. Ten agonizing minutes passed as the empathetic HorrorHound staff made a few phone calls and pulled some strings — then the nice lady with the walkie let us in.
It felt like Willy Wonka and the Slasher Factory, walking into a dark room where the fruits of the horror community’s labor were about to transport me to a world of pure twisted imagination…
From the opening cinematics showcasing the eeriness of manmade filters mirroring and distorting creation, Tamer Ciray’s somber score sets the tone like a boss.
A weapon; a mysterious figure descending a dark stair; a drinking glass; as so many names familiar to horror fans appear on the screen — Dee Wallace, C.J. Graham, Lar Park Lincoln, Corey Feldman, Ron Sloan, Deborah Voorhees, Tracie Savage, Jennifer Banko, Judie Aronson — they are accompanied by the symbols and sounds of a profound nightmare.
Suddenly, the high-definition camera focuses on Kane Hodder’s name appearing over a crystalline lake with mountains in the background before cascading past the bustle of a small town then fading, along with the unnerving effects, into a woodland home.
I should feel comforted by such a lovely construct taking center stage as we join a pensive Dee Wallace setting up the plot for us while a fireplace struggles in the background to offer warmth. But Wallace’s bombardier blue eyes move past all the scenery to a place where something awful happened…that is about to happen again.
The sweeping score then shows off 13 Fanboy‘s main theme — a refrain Howard Shore would have been proud to use in The Fly or Lord of the Rings — as the grim title screen comes and goes, like a serial killer taking care of business then coldly leaving the scene of a crime.
We are introduced to the Voorhees Ranch, 13 years earlier, where Deborah Voorhees herself — playing herself, directed by herself – is having a lovely visit with her granddaughter (played by very capable child actress Poppy Gillett), which is cut short by a stalker who freaks poor Deb out by sending her photos of herself – playing herself, directed by herself, as written by herself — with her granddaughter (on a phone that won’t be released for another ten years — oops!).
We are then treated to a bit of stalking before the killer promptly murders the stable hand with a pitchfork in a barn Part 3 style and proceeds to brutally stab Gramma Voorhees to death in front of her granddaughter.
When we got to Lar Park Lincoln, star of Friday the 13th Part VII (and upcoming fan film Roseblood) crying and pleading for her life, I thought, “Oh, shit, this is gonna be epic.” And it was.
Plenty of gore, plenty of twists and turns, and beyond plenty of heart.
After watching the screener, my daughter (who elbowed me several times throughout the movie any time I made any noise at all: “You’re gonna get us thrown out, Daddy!”) told me she had enjoyed it and was really glad we’d had the chance to see it together. It was a special moment where she got to see me jumping, laughing, and even crying while going on a simultaneous nostalgia trip and brand new mystery adventure with plenty of chills and thrills thrown in for texture (not to mention kills).
Next on the agenda was a Q&A led by Ms. Voorhees herself.
She graciously answered questions from the emcee and several filmmakers, showing off just how knowledgeable she is about the industry; but I couldn’t believe no one complimented her work – so, to my poor daughter’s mortification, I raised my hand at the very end.
“I’m sorry, I just have to fanboy out here for a second. I thought you did a wonderful job, and it was really touching to see the credits with so many names of all the people in the horror community, including some members of Death Curse Society, who contributed to what amounts to a Gift to the Horror Community. I just wanted to personally thank you for your gift.”
I was so nervous I thought I was gonna swallow my own tongue, but she immediately, sincerely, and sweetly thanked me and set me at ease.
Then it was off to the vendor booths for a while before Princess and I arrived at Deborah’s table where some dude was having her sign a gigantic French poster of Part V with a bunch of siggies already on it and taking a bunch of selfies. It’s a good thing I went to the bathroom before getting my turn; I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous in my life, and this fan was taking his time with Deborah, who now had a line stretching around the surrounding booths.
THE Deborah Voorhees, childhood crush and director of 13 Fanboy.
Of course, I gushed over the movie and had her sign the poster and a glossy. But the best part, which still gives me a warm, happy feeling inside, was the heartfelt hug she gave me during our selfie (you better believe I savored the moment, realizing and trying not to get too excited about the fact that I was experiencing close proximity and genuine warmth from the greatest pair of onscreen…well, you know).
She signed the autograph “Hugs and Kills!” I was so beside myself with boyish glee that I walked off without my autographs. Thankfully, my daughter noticed a few minutes later and we returned to the table where Deborah had a good laugh and handed them to us with a huge smile.
I was surprised later that evening by Deborah herself sending me a friend request and posting my spoiler-free review of 13 Fanboy as a sticky on her page along with our selfie. A bunch of backers and even some of the actors, including Vincente “Never Hike Alone” DiSanti, also friended me. I was on Cloud 13. And it just got better as the days went, including Deborah posting a link to Morbidly Beautiful on her page which allowed me to pick up the very writing gig that made this review possible.
But at this point, you’re probably like, ‘What review, dude?’
Fair enough. I agonized over how to rate 13 Fanboy and whether or not to include any spoilers in my review. I am usually not almost totally biased about the films I review, but this is the exception that proves the rule. And honestly? I don’t feel bad about it.
You’re getting anecdotes because personalizing the film experience makes it more real. You’ll get a few nits but mostly praise from me for this one. But let me go ahead and give you some bullet points as to what I love about 13 FANBOY, and maybe it’ll help you believe in it as I do:
Deborah was a news reporter for several years and understands the human condition, having seen it up close in all its glorious ugliness and terrible beauty. She has also taught literature and understands the elements of drama better than your average writer. Her previous written and directorial work has involved Shakespeare and lofty concepts that do not normally lend themselves to horror fare, yet with 13 Fanboy she seamlessly incorporates them into what would stand on its own as a slasher but is elevated by drama and suspense.
Add the skill of Joel Paul Reisig who has over a dozen writing credits on IMDb, and what you have is a slick, tight horror-thriller worthy of any studio.
For instance, much of the imagery mentioned in the opening sequence coincides with some important aspect of either an actor or their character in the film. There are also heavier themes — like the effect drugs and alcohol can have on our lives — which are handled with intelligence and class.
More than once, the significant others of the dual protagonists show themselves to be ineffective protectors and emotionally stunted partners by allowing sleeping pills and alcohol to take them out of the most important role they should be serving.
Deborah’s strong grasp of the psychology of trauma shows in her direction of lead actress Hayley Greenbauer whose PTSD is beyond believable, as well as Dee Wallace whose wheelhouse is traumatized characters.
You can either look at it as an admonishment of the patriarchy or a call to action for men, but one of the underlying themes is that when men fail to be responsible, it ruins everything.
The father of the main antagonist decides not to parent his son. The boyfriend of the final girl doesn’t believe her. The husband of the lead actress doesn’t listen to her, forcing her to say the famous horror movie words, “I’m not crazy!” The sleazy producer played by Corey Feldman (who serves as the main comic relief and easily proves he’s still got it) unnecessarily complicates the whole situation with his detestable behavior.
Also on trial is the ineffectiveness of law enforcement procedure, which is put under a microscope in several scenes in which victims are re-traumatized by a jaded and often dismissive police department.
The celebrity crimes division has come under fire in the past for similar failure to take situations seriously until it was too late. This brings us to the second bullet point.
IT’S FAMILIAR…BUT IN A GOOD WAY.
There’s a shower scene right out of the gate.
There’s a kidnapping lair. There are gory kills. There’s a mask which, like it or not (it has become a subject of debate among horror fans) is pretty unique and even serves as a plot device. There’s a torture porn cellar. There’s sexploitation.
There is everything you’d be pissed about NOT seeing in a horror film.
And, there’s my favorite horror trope…
A LACK OF TRUST CAN KILL YOU…OR SAVE YOU.
No one believes anyone in this movie, regardless of how close they may be.
Dee Wallace doesn’t believe her best friend Deborah Voorhees about this particular fanboy being deadly. The police don’t believe anyone. Spouses and significant others doubt their partners. Even the heroine doesn’t believe her grandmother figure when she protests her innocence after coming under suspicion for a heinous crime.
We benefit from the dramatic irony of knowing the truth but also learn a lesson about who we should and shouldn’t trust during difficult times.
“You gotta believe me!” “I know this sounds crazy.”
I swear, one of these days I’m going to add up all those lines from every horror movie I can find them in…it’s gonna be a googol.
HAYLEY GREENBAUER IS A SEXY BADASS.
I jokingly told the three hosts from Death Curse Society after they did their own review of 13 Fanboy (they all gave it above average scores) that I felt really guilty during Hayley Greenbauer’s sexy scenes because I had watched her with my own daughter (who recognized her at the screening) in a children’s classic Barney’s Musical Castle when she was a kid, and I even found out while researching that her character, Penny, is an unlockable, playable character in Super Smash Bros. 1 & 2.
Not only does Hayley showcase some impressive martial arts skills and take her fair share of hard blows from the killer, but she also gives the film some much-appreciated eye candy, including the aforementioned shower scene. And she’s got the chops to be a dual lead with Dee Wallace.
She’s absolute scream queen material.
JUDIE ARONSON IS A VAMPIRE.
Speaking of eye candy, I’m not really going to discuss Judie’s role in this review except to say that she’s ageless. Somehow, she looks better at almost three times the age she was in Friday 4. Nosferhotu!
She also steals the show in nearly every scene she’s in…let’s just leave it at that. (Judie, can I have a friend request? PLEEEEEZ?)
KANE HODDER CAN ACT, GODAMMIT!
There’s an equally touching and hilarious moment in the film when Kane is bonding with Jennifer Banko (who played young Tina in Part VII) and reveals to her that he’s always having trouble getting those dramatic roles he craves because filmmakers just can’t get past his iconic status as “the” Jason Voorhees.
Not long after, the real Kane Hodder gives what is easily the most dramatic scene of his entire life. I mean, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house at the screener…except for my 22-year-old daughter…who laughed. “It went on just a TAD too long,” she said.
But for those like me who knew his struggle already, Kane proved all those naysayers wrong by having the last laugh.
PRACTICAL EFFECTS, ANYONE?
If there’s one thing fans of ‘80s horror bemoan more than anything else apart from all the remakes, it’s the use of CGI over practical effects. There’s a little CGI in 13 Fanboy, but not during the important parts. You know the most important parts, right?
Yeah, the kills are not just brutal but realistic. ‘Nuff said!
VINCENTE DISANTI AND DREW LEIGHTY.
So, not only did they give us Never Hike Alone: A Friday The 13th Fan Film to tide us over till the lawsuit is settled, they’ve also given us incredible performances in 13 Fanboy.
If you didn’t already love these guys, you’ll be fans of these fanboys by the end of the movie.
ADAM MARCUS IS A CREATIVE CONSULTANT.
Did I mention I’m a fan of Jason Goes to Hell? Shit. Just lost half of you.
But seriously, Marcus, who has gone on to do great things himself since directing the most polarizing Friday of them all has stamped his mark on 13 Fanboy, and all the better for it.
When you’re writing and directing your first horror film, it’s wise to borrow all the brains you can get. And after seeing JGTH and the underrated holiday horror gem Secret Santa, his is a brain I would definitely want to borrow for any project.
THE FILMMAKERS ARE FANS THEMSELVES.
The number of Easter eggs and tributes throughout the film, including recognition of each fan-favorite actor’s name and the film they were most famous for appearing in as well as cinematic nods to those actors’ famous roles (such as lightning in the background during an epic fight scene with C.J. Graham who played Jason in Part VI: Jason Lives) are a guaranteed nostalgia-gasm.
So, this is the part where I quickly gloss over the things that didn’t really work.
Okay, some of the music (not the score, but songs from the original soundtrack) didn’t quite fit with the action, coming across as either forced or too loud; and a few of the supporting roles were a bit lackluster, though no one completely phoned it in. There were some minor errors like the previously mentioned time-traveling smartphone. And C.J. Graham had the “Evil dies tonight!” of the film with a one-liner that straddles the line between cringe and parody.
It’s honestly not for everyone, but I don’t know how you could call yourself a horror fan and not enjoy the hell out of 13 Fanboy, at the very least as a chance to see some fan favorites back in action.
Also, my youngest daughter, who went to see it with me in the theater on opening night, thinks I’m the coolest dad in the world because Deborah Voorhees sent me a screener copy for this very review, and I got to see the movie even before a lot of people who were in it! You know what, Pupcake? You may be right!
It truly is a love letter to the fans. God willing, I’ll be watching Part IX with my two-year-old son when he’s 18 (and I’m 60).