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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 27: Freddy vs. Jason

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 27: Freddy vs. Jason

For years, horror fans were clamoring for two of the most iconic stars of slasher films to appear in a film together.

Since Leatherface and Chucky weren’t available, Robocop and The Terminator weren’t an option, and Aliens vs Predator would never work, filmmakers opted for the two whose monikers grace the title of todays entry.

The only problem the filmmakers would have, would be how to tie the two franchises together in a way that would satiate the desires of fans of either blade wielding terror.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 27: Freddy vs. Jason

Director: Ronny Yu
Year: 2003
Cast: Ken Kirzinger, Kelly Rowland, Robert Englund, Jason Ritter
Language: English
Country: USA
Specs: 97 mins. / Color / OAR 2.35:1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★/ C

Freddy Krueger, in an attempt to terrorize people whom have stopped believeing in him, seeks the aid of fellow serial killer Jason Voorhees (of Friday the 13th fame) to assist in his never ending assault on the teens of his world.

The opening sequence was well done. Freddy’s monologue, the gutteral sounds he emates as he speaks, and the montage of kills from the previous films in the series all are done in a way to evoke fear and horror once again, bringing a much needed element back into the franchise from the start.

I’m sure the name of the boyfriend (Michael) of the first victim, and the owner of the house on Elm St. (Laurie) was intentional, in a nod to the other classic slasher that fans would have welcomed. Even the inclusion of Jason’s mother, and his reanimation is cleverly done, leading into one of the most interesting opening credit sequences out of both killers solo efforts.

The dialogue, however, is where the film derails, and dives down into mediocrity. The kills that defy science, no matter the strength of Jason and/or Freddy, also play more comical than scary.

Other than Jason Ritter, the acting is pretty bad. In fact, i thought the silicon in EVERY actress had more character than the “hosts”.

All in all, fans of either franchise will enjoy it, if they can get past the fact that the entire film makes no sense if the previous entries in either franchise are cannon.

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Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 26: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 26: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

One, Two
Buckle My Shoe

I will never be able to sing this nursery rhyme the way it was written thanks to the Nightmare on Elm Street series. In fact, I cannot recall any of the verses beyond Three and Four. However, I can recite verbatim the haunted variation of the rhyme from the mind of Wes Craven.

I only wish that when I once spoke with Craven, I had asked him about the history of his version. Perhaps I will forever count it as one of the regrets in life I will take to the grave…

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 26: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Director: Wes Craven
Year: 1994
Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Wes Craven, Robert Englund
Language: English
Country: USA
Specs: 112 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85:1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★/ B

Heather Langenkamp, star of the original Nightmare on Elm Street film, finds she has a stalker who resembles Freddy Krueger, the fictional villain in the same set of films. After events in her life turn deadly, she realizes that the stalker is a demon in the persona of her fictional nemesis.

This entry starts out to be a very intelligent and clever take on the Elm Street series. It mostly presents plenty of scary moments, portraying Freddy once again as evil.

However, the last part of the film dips again into the absurd, with Freddy becoming somewhat of a clown. He stretches, grows, uses a super long tongue to strangle, etc.

Special effects are done well, and minor use of CG is blended in nicely. The makeup and glove are redone this time around, and are welcome additions.

Low on gore also, compared to the others in the series, that is. A clever twist from Craven, rejuvenating a tired series, bringing what would have been closure to the series on a high note.

That is, had tomorrow’s entry not been made.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 19: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 – The Dream Child

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 19: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 – The Dream Child

I love posters that are not photoshopped poses.  Many times, with the painted poster, or the artistic poster that truly was created by a person with talent, a person will talk about the image of the one-sheet many years after they’ve seen the film (or haven’t seen, as it were).

Some iconic posters over the years have been any poster from Saul Bass, Drew Struzan, Boris Vallejo, Richard Amsel, Bill Gold, and Anthony Goldschmidt.  The poster alone from any of these maestro’s would sell tickets to a movie, regardless the pic.

Sometimes it would be as great as the film.  Sometimes….the only good thing about the film.

Today is just one of those instances…

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 19: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 – The Dream Child

nightmare_on_elm_street_fiveDirector: Stephen Hopkins
Year: 1989
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Kelly Jo Minter
Language: English
Country: USA
Specs: 89 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★ / D

Freddy, in attempt to finally destroy Alice, begins to haunt her through the dreams of her unborn child, whom he hopes of possess, allowing for him to be reborn into the world.

What a mess.  The story makes little sense this time around.  Pointless elements that haven’t any justification, laughable makeup and special effects, zero scares, and the most inane one liners delivered from Freddy hitherto.  I actually think every sentence spoken from Freddy is a very UNFUNNY one liner.

Whereas the first and third film in this franchise had a reason, this iteration has no reason whatsoever why Freddy hunts and kills his victims.  The sound effects are completely amateurish sounding.  The film feels like a rejected “Puppet Master” film retooled to be a Freddy pic instead.

Nightmare 5 FoodyTo close it off, the end credits song is perhaps one of the worst songs ever to appear in a film.  Were they serious???

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 13: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 – The Dream Master

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 13: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 – The Dream Master

Every once in a while, it’s nice to return to a storied franchise to revisit characters you connected with in prior entries.  You enjoy the charisma that a certain actor or actress brought to a character, and hope that the filmmakers are able to catch lightning in a bottle, once again.

Sometimes, it doesn’t quite work that way.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 13: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 – The Dream Master

nightmare_on_elm_street_four_xlgDirector: Renny Harlin
Year: 1988
Cast: Robert Englund, Rodney Eastman, Lisa Wilcox, Tuesday Knight
Country: United States
Specs: 93 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★ / C-

Freddy returns to torment the remaining survivors of The Dream Warriors, in hopes to eradicate them from ever having a chance to destroy him, once and for all.

For starters, the return of surviving characters from part 3, yet with the lead being recast from the perfect Patricia Arquette, is a drastic mistake.  Tuesday Knight’s portrayal of Kristen Parker simply lacks any charisma, and fails to explore any added dimensions.

The return of gratuitous and formulaic elements that are all too common in many slasher films are here, as is the absolutely groaning one liners from Freddy.  The fact that the bones of Freddy come back together by way of a dogs urine is reminiscent of the more ludicrous Friday the 13th sequels.

As with other entries in this franchise, they also forgo the continuity of the original and instead invent their own.  In the original, when Freddy kills someone, the effects are seen in their reality.  Not here.  Also, Freddy resorts to comical ways to kill people, instead of the straight finger blades in the original.

The acting is about as ham-fisted as they come.  The plot is rather predictable (the set up of the karate lesson in the beginning of the flick).  There is zero suspense nor frights.  Freddy is a laughable goof.  The dialogues from Freddy are unneeded.  The actions are just plain dumb (as Kristen burns in a bed of flames, everyone just sits and watches, instead of putting out the fire to prevent the house from burning down, let alone save a badly burned girl).

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 12: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 12: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives (1986) had He’s Back (Man Behind the Mask) from Alice Cooper, Pet Sematary (1989) had the Ramones song of the same name, Trick or Treat (1986) had an entire soundtrack, and today’s film had Dream Warriors by Dokken.  It was a good few years for fans of both metal and horror.  I hadn’t seen today’s film in many years, and hesitated revisiting a film that I had fond memories of.  As I committed to going through the Nightmare on Elm Street series for the weekend posts of this month long series, I had little choice.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 12: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

nightmare_on_elm_street_threeDirector: Chuck Russell
Year: 1987
Cast: Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne, Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Craig Wasson
Country: United States
Specs: 96 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★ / B+

A group of youth learn to control their dreams in an effort to defeat serial killer Freddy Krueger once and for all.

A return to form, with plenty of very eery and freaky moments/atmosphere.  I love how we’ve returned to see dreams that we’ve all experienced (running and suddenly the ground is sludge and you cannot run while the bogey man chases you down!).  Very nice sound f/x and music.

Some of the acting is a bit over the top, particularly as they witness the death of the first boy.  Also, Freddy has become a bit more comical in this film, delivering some cheesy 80s one-liners.  Of course, in true horror film fashion, the ways that Freddy kills people gets more inventive and ridiculous from film to film, this film being no exception.

This well written and cleverly directed entry is actual suspenseful, and features some impressive special f/x, making this a smidgen more enjoyable than the original.  I’m guessing the fact that Frank Darabont was one of the screenwriters had much to do with that.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 5: A Nightmare on Elm Street

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 5:  A Nightmare on Elm Street

For these weekend posts during this marathon of horror films, I’ve decided to simply post brief reviews from my files of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. These reviews will likely be shorter than my daily posts, and may even be a bit more unrefined, but they fill the list out on those days when most people, myself included, are doing something other than spending time on the world-wide webs.

After all, this is a great time of year to do more than stay inside watching films. Cider mills, pick up games of touch football, and hay rides at the haunted fairgrounds all are worthy excursions to be had! Enjoy.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 5: A Nightmare on Elm Street

nightmare_on_elm_streetDirector: Wes Craven
Year: 1984
Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund
Country: United States
Specs: 91 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★ / B

Nancy and her teenage friends are being tormented by a serial killer in their dreams, who happens to possess the power to make events that happen in their dream state a reality.  She must race against the clock to figure a way to defeat this menacing figure, before he successfully slays each one of them, one by one.

The original that started it all. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this film, not having seen it for a number of years.

The story itself is a very clever one. If you die in your sleep, you really die. The reason being, there is a killer in there! Now, there are many plot holes, silly exposition, goofy special effects (the tongue coming out of the phone), and rather bad acting (the drunkard mother). However, the film still does a good job of avoiding the norms for films of this type. There isn’t any real nudity, there isn’t any real drug use, and there IS a plot. I especially appreciated how Craven acknowledges that evil can be overcome if we have faith.

Of course, that makes the ending all the more confusing. But I’ll save that for another day.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Movies

 

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The _evil Came Down to Elm Street

This is a review my pal Jason Grasl  sent to me. I’m reporting here for your viewing pleasure.  Enjoy!

What Works In the New Elm Street and Why Fans Won’t Like It

by Jason Grasl

I was eight when the original “A Nightmare On Elm Street” came out in 1984.  As any good parent should do, mine tried to keep me from watching it, and any other horror movies, of that ilk.  In fact, I didn’t actually see the film until years later during Detroit-based WXON-TV20’s “Saturday Shocker” matinees, so what I saw was watered down and interrupted by commercials.  In the meantime, I recall hearing about the movie, its sequels and about Freddy from friends at school.  As a preteen-boy, the gory special-effects and imaginative deaths sounded absolutely titillating to me…I thought “if only I could somehow catch one of these movies at a friend’s house during a sleepover (I couldn’t rent any of them because my dad put a restriction on what I could rent at Blockbuster)”.  “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” came out in 1991, and I saw it at the theater (as I recall, it was one of the first R-rated films I snuck into before I was 17, preceded only by “The Last Boy Scout”…but I digress). My initial thought was that it was odd that Freddy had become comical, with puny-one-liners to go along with the over-the-top deaths.  Deaths that kept getting more outrageous as the series went along (Freddy as a motorcycle, Freddy in a video game, etc).

While that was both funny and campy, it wasn’t what Wes Craven created in the original.  We saw evidence of that when he returned to the series ten years and six movies later, in 1994, by writing and directing “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”.  Using “art imitating life” imitating “art imitating life”, Craven cast the actors from the original Nightmare as themselves, in his New Nightmare.  In the film, they are terrorized by a Freddy that is distinctly NOT the one portrayed by actor Robert Englund in “A Nightmare on Elm Street’s” previous 5 sequels.  Craven, playing himself in the “New Nightmare”, admits as much, saying “Fred Krueger (not the much more chummy “Freddy”) is the manifestation of an age-old evil, not to be trifled with.”  As the series went on, that evil was lost in the translation.  Craven came back to reset the franchise to what he intended  it to be when he wrote and directed the original film that started it all.

But reset it to what?  What is it about the original “Nightmare” that rings true to the fans?  There was inventive death with fire hose-amounts of blood, but that only happened four times.  That’s right.  The body count in the original was only four.  And as far as Freddy’s outrageous personality goes…re-watch it again.  The rimshot one-liners aren’t there.  That happens later on in the sequels when other directors and writers took the helm.  Craven brought a new angle to the teen-horror genre with the element of dreams but he didn’t create the comedy element of Freddy that the sequels did. (John Carpenter’s Halloween and the original Friday the 13th were precursors, but they took place in reality).  What exactly did he create that makes this story so good?  I think it comes down to a very simple tale of good versus evil, through the eye of someone who had studied it and was a by-product of the early 20th century’s drift away from the supernatural.

Wait a second though…before you think I’ve gone and deconstructed and psycho-analyzed your favorite childhood horror movie let me explain…

Wes Craven grew up in 1940s/50s Cleveland, the product of a Baptist family.  He did his undergrad work at Wheaton College; a bastion of conservative Christian thought, where he has copped to issues abiding by the “rules” Wheaton enforced upon the student body.  He went on to get a master’s degree in philosophy from Johns Hopkins, but his worldview was already heavily influenced by his religious upbringing in a time when rational thinking ignored the supernatural for the proof and security of science.  Craven never felt comfortable with that rationality of modernity.  His films often explore the line between what is reality and what is not.  The original “A Nightmare On Elm Street” is a perfect example; bringing the life of our dreams into reality and vice versa.  Part of his inspiration for writing the film was reading an article about Cambodian refugees who died in their sleep after having nightmares.  Had the atrocities, stress, and evil they had experienced caused this?  Craven was exposed to the ultimate battle of good versus evil in his Christian upbringing.  It doesn’t get any larger in scope than God and Satan fighting over the souls of humanity.  Enter the embodiment of evil as envisioned by Wes Craven….Fred Krueger.

The poster for the original…and no signs of a one-liner spewing villain, just the evil out to get us.

In Craven’s conception, the teenagers of Springwood, Ohio are terrorized by the embodied evil of Fred Krueger in their dreams.  This evil, presumed eliminated by the parents (who in a sense have just tried to ignore Fred’s affect on the town) is instead very much alive within the dreams of the children.   The parents might have put Fred out of sight, but certainly not out of mind; evil is not a rational thing.

JUST AS AN ASIDE…this storyline is ripe with (1) parallels to modernity’s ignoring the supernatural…and thus falling prey to it and (2) the successive generations born into post-modernity exploring and embracing the supernatural in whatever real forms they tan it.

Okay, back to my point…The battle between Fred and the parents for the lives of the children does not end with the death of Fred Krueger because Fred Krueger represents something much bigger than the man himself.  He is the devil in your dreams, unrelenting in his desire to take your soul.  Instinctually, we can all relate to that.  We may live in the real world, but are sensitive to the supernatural world all around us.  Evil is relentless and will never stop trying to get to us.  Our dreams are a conduit, giving us the opportunity to release our sensitivities to this realm.  We may not be open to this all the time, but we know when we feel like something is making the hairs on our neck stand on end.  This is an intriguing and mysterious concept and explains why it makes for a good film.

So there’s my theory as to why the story works and, even as a horror story, how there are some serious spiritual implications worth considering, beyond the gore and sadistic indulgence that the franchise became.  Better yet, does the recent reboot that opened last weekend deliver the same relatable story?

As an idea, yes.  At the time I type this, the estimated opening weekend  of 2010‘s “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, from director Samuel Bayer, is about $32 million.  However, reviews have been generally negative on rottentomatoes.com, and cinemascore.com gave it a C+.  One of the predominant gripes with the new film, other than the fact that it doesn’t add much as a remake, is that the exploration of Fred Krueger as a child molester is repelling to the audience.  Interestingly enough, this was Craven’s intent in the original, but the studio made him change it.  It certainly explains more of the motivation and nature of Fred Krueger, but for fans of the series that embrace Freddy as a pop-cultural icon more than as a villain and embodiment of evil, its kind of gross.  (Same theory I have about stories like 2004’s “Closer”.  It’s a brilliant play that makes great points, but it did horribly at the box office, because it makes people uncomfortable.)  So in concept, Freddy the molester works, but in reality, people aren’t ready for this popular villain to really be villainous.

I believe the current film succeeded in casting better actors.  The original has nostalgic value and an original concept, but believable performances…not so much.  At the same time, there’s not really a chance to get to know the teenagers in the remake. The most developed and likable character **SPOILER ALERT** ends up being the second death and from that point on, the story concentrates on Freddy’s background…which appears to be turning people off.

“All of this has happened before and some of it is happening again…only with better acting”

Jackie Earl Haley is grounded in the Freddy role, but that may just be because he played a similar version of this character in “Little Children”.  I personally like the change; Robert Englund’s version eventually became a clown with a burnt face, and even in the first film, Freddy comes off as a bit of an uncoordinated klutz.  That may be part of the camp of the first film, but it comes off lazy and as a break from the supernatural realm that Freddy belongs to.

Overall, I like that the remake didn’t “up the gore” and stayed faithful to the mythology of Craven’s original, but I don’t know that the film needed to be remade.  The memorable scenes were duplicated, but the scare factor was missing.  If it was made to relate to a new audience, I think it will do that…though as I mentioned before, initial reactions to the reality of evil (admitting that Freddy is a pedophile) incarnate have been less than favorable.  People got used to the idea of Freddy as a villain to cheer for…though, as I’ve stated, Craven did not intend for that (and tried to correct with “New Nightmare”).  The new film is subtler in its imagery (Nancy doesn’t cling to a crucifix in multiple scenes,  she’s just given a cross necklace to protect her) and, again, the acting is better.  Otherwise, it’s still creepy, but more thriller creepy than horror creepy.  And that might creep out the fans of the original…because no one likes their nostalgic-childhood memories screwed with.  So while the remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” still deals with good versus evil fighting for our souls in the realm of our dreams, I think it will fail to please original Nightmare fans and fans that got used to the wink-and-a-smile Freddy, titillating the blood-lusting 11 year old inside us all, trying to win our allegiance…rather than the “evil Freddy”, that just wants to take your soul.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2010 in Movies

 

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