Sometime last fall, I was quite nearly scared to death. It was a dusky hour, and I was traveling the stretch of Route 10 that connects Easthampton to Northampton. It's a busy stretch, but one I've driven countless times over the last decade; I was on autopilot. So when I saw the semi parked on the shoulder, it barely registered.
Then I got a little closer, and I saw the thing, hanging by some invisible line so that it hovered just above the steering wheel in the otherwise empty cab. At first it was just a speck of white in the distance, but as I neared the truck it came into clear, awful focus in the darkening gloom: it was a hockey mask. I almost drove off the road.
Whatever trucker came up with that idea, my hat (and almost my head) is off to him. For people of a certain age, that white face mask will always be associated with the grisly if ridiculous deaths of the Friday the 13th series of slasher movies, and the seemingly unkillable being at the center of the saga, Jason Voorhees. Surprisingly, the iconic mask doesn't show up until Part III—and in fact (spoiler alert!) Jason isn't even the killer in the first film: it's his mom who does the deed.
But regardless of who was wielding the machete (or ice pick, spear gun, orwhatever.), it was the mask that froze a generation's blood. This week offers up a chance to relive those hair-raising days when—on Friday the 13th, naturally—Pleasant Street Theater brings in Friday The 13th Part IV (aka The Final Chapter, a subtitle that was quickly proven to be woefully short-sighted) for a one-night only midnight screening on the 28th anniversary of the film's initial release. In this installment, Jason returns from the dead, and, unhappy with the morgue, decides to beat a bloody path back to his beloved Crystal Lake. There he finds that—these kids!—it's been overrun by sex-starved teenagers. Never the best of neighbors, Jason once again turns to his trusty machete (corkscrew, meat cleaver, or whatever). Icons of the era Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman co-star.
For something a bit less gory (and a bit less '80s), Pleasant Street is also offering up Thin Ice, a "dark comedy and delirious Midwestern noir" from director Jill Sprecher. Greg Kinnear stars as Mickey Prohaska, an insurance agent with a plan to break free of the Wisconsin winter and reunite with his wandering wife (Lea Thompson). The key to his plan? A valuable violin owned by an old man who has no idea what it's worth. Billy Crudup co-stars as the fly in the ointment—a local locksmith who insists on sticking his nose into other people's business.
Also this week: The Kid With A Bike won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Riding on the performance of newcomer Thomas Doret, the film, now screening at Amherst Cinema, charts the emotional struggles of a young boy whose father has abandoned him to a state youth farm. Obsessed with finding the bicycle that symbolizes their lost relationship, 11-year old Cyril finds a friend and protector in Samantha (Cécile de France, Avenue Montaigne), a local hairdresser who gets swept up in his predicament. It's moving without being maudlin; directors the Dardenne brothers understand that redemption without pain is redemption unearned.
And finally this week, Amherst will screen Food Of Love on Tuesday as part of the UMass Amherst Catalan Film Festival. Director Ventura Pons' English language debut is the story of the young pianist Paul Porterfield, page turner and lover to his idol, concert pianist Richard Kennington. Based on David Leavitt's novel The Page Turner, it's a story of creative passion, disillusionment, and the growth that stems from life's harsher lessons. The 7:30 screening is free (get tickets at the box office) and open to the public, and Pons will be on hand to discuss the film.
Jack Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.